8th Parliament · 1st Session
The Clerk reported the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon.J.M.
Chanter) took the chair at 11.1 a.m., and read prayers.
– Last night, when the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) was addressing himself to the Supply motion, and. speaking of proposing to reduce the voteby £1, to direct attention to the lack of provision for works at Canberra, I made an interjection, and the incident is reported in this morning’s Age as follows: -
When Mr. Marr repeated his threat, the Treasurer waved an admonitory finger at him, and said, playfully, “ Now, now, no threats,” and added that he would hand over £1 straight away if necessary. “ No,” retorted Mr. Marr, “I want my pound of flesh.” Then Mr. Jowett came to light. “ There,” he said, “ the Shylock of Australia.” Mr. Marr sat down amid laughter.
I had not the remotest intention of referring to my honorable, most amiable, and generous friend, the honorable member for Parkes, as “ the Shylock of Australia”; what. I intended to convey by the interjection was that, on present indications,Canberra is the Shylockof Australia.
Mr.Riley. - I submit that the conclud ing’ sentence of the honorable member went beyond the matter of a personal explanation, and was a reflection upon the House.
– I did notunderstand the honorable member to reflect on any honorable member of the House.
– Certainly not. I regret that such an impression shouldhave been conveyed by my remark, and I apologize for it.
Action against Sir Granville Ryrie
asked the AttorneyGeneral,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Full information will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Whoever may lose in these transactions, the Government do not.
Secretary, Victorian National Federation
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What action is proposed to be taken in connexion with the different employees in the Defence Department when the Defence (Civil Employment) Act ceases to operate?
– No decision has yet been arrived at; but the matter is being considered in connexion with the Bill to amend the Public Service Act, which it is proposed to introduce into Parliament shortly.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the managing director of Robert Harper and Company, giving evidence before the Fair Profits Commission, as reported in yesterday’s papers, states that it takes 120 bushels of oats to produce a ton of oatmeal, and as this varies from other sworn evidence given before the same Commission, will the Minister kindly inform the House -
the average weight of oats to produce a ton of oatmeal to make a short ton of 2,000 lbs. weight; (6) the amount of oats to produce a long ton of 2,240 lbs.; (c) what is a fair price for gristing a short ton of oatmeal; (d) what is a fair price for gristing a long ton of oatmeal?
– The information is being obtained.
– I move -
That on each sitting day, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of general business.
In submitting the motion, I remind honorable members of the state of the businesspaper and the position of the House. Many measures of great importance await consideration, and, although Parliament has been in session for some five months, little business has been done. I shall not animadvert upon the causes of this state of affairs, but as it is the duty of the Government to see that the business of the country is proceeded with expeditiously, I would remind the House of some of the measures that have to be dealt with. ‘ First of all, there is the Tariff. Some honorable members have not sat through a Tariff debate, but I am one of those who have done so. If I remember aright, the first Tariff occupied the attention of Parliament for about twelve months.
– For sixteen months.
– At that time my position in regard to the Tariff was different from what it is now, and that may make some little difference in the length of the debates, but a man would be an intolerable optimist who could imagine that the Tariff could be disposed of in a short time. During a Tariff discussion the ordinary party lines are not drawn, and when I had the honour of association with my friends opposite during the last Tariff discussion, it was a common thing, for us to be hopelessly divided on various items. The circumstances in which I now find myself will prevent me from shaking a free leg, so to speak, -when the present Tariff is discussed, but every honorable member who is not a Minister will be free of party ties regarding it. Then there is finance. That is, to say the least of it, a matter that requires consideration by this Parliament. Our position is serious enough, and we should not be doing our duty to the country unless we gave to financial problems that consideration which is due. Then there is the question of the Estimates. An early opportunity to discuss them has been asked for, and a promise has been given that they shall be discussed. That promise will be fulfilled. But clearly one of the conditions precedent to the fulfilment of that or any promise is that opportunity shall be given for the despatch of public business. There is also the problem of defence. Nobody has said anything about that so far. But it is clearly one of those questions that must be faced. There is room for difference of opinion as to the scope of our defence policy, and the amount which should be expended upon it, but I think no one will deny that some policy is necessary. We shall require time to consider that matter. There is the question of the civil administration of the Pacific Islands, and the giving of effect to the mandates. In addition, there is the group of three Bills relating to industrial matters. One is already before the House, and it is to be followed by the Public Service Bill and the Bill for the amendment of the Arbitration Act. Other Bills of great importance must be brought before Parliament. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has brought under my notice a matter which, owing to the unearthly hour at which this Chamber persists in meeting on Friday, had escaped my notice. He reminds me that the business of the House cannot be effectively carried on until the seat of this Parliament is removed to Canberra. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) can argue that matter with the honorable member for Dalley ad lib. We have wasted a great deal of time. We must now make up for our lost opportunities and whilst I should be the last to say that the discussions which take place on private members’ day are not interesting - they are full of interest, and yesterday was a most enjoyable day - yet they do not advance the business of the House. Therefore, I am asking honorable members to allow Government business to take precedence of private members’ business. I am perfectly prepared to pledge myself and the Government to allow a week to private members’ business at the close of the session. Honorable members laugh; I suppose that the contemplation of a whole week is a little too much for them. But I do say, not necessarily for publication, but as evidence of ray bona fides, that I promise honorable members an opportunity before the close of the session to deal with those private motions which now appear upon the notice-paper. Therefore, since the opportunities of honorable members to deal with such business will not be denied, but merely delayed, I ask them to agree to this motion without much discussion. I assure them that there are many measures which they and I alike agree are necessary to be dealt with. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) reminds me that next Thursday is ‘^Grievance Day.” That is an additional reason why honorable members should vote for the motion. I shall not argue the question further. Honorable members understand the position, and I promise those who have notices of motion upon the business-paper that they shall have a week for their consideration at the end of the session.
.- I am surprised that the Prime Minister should have moved’ this motion when most important motions have been placed on the notice-paper by private members. The first item for next Thursday is an urgent motion in the name of the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden) in relation to the Federal Capital.
– Honorable members were discussing that matter on the Supply Bill last night.
– And it can be discussed under cover of grievances.
– The matter was being discussed last night for a few moments, but we desire a serious discussion upon it, and an opportunity for the House to say to the Government that the construction of the Capital at Canberra shall be proceeded with. Honorable members who represent Victorian constituencies may laugh, but they must remember that New South Wales, which provides three-fourths of the revenue of the Commonwealth, will demand that this contract shall be carried out. The notice of motion in the name of the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden) reads -
The discussion of that motion will provide an opportunity to honorable members to decide by their votes whether the compact entered into by the various States with New South Wales shall be honoured. That compact was made, and it is of no use-
– The honorable member may state reasons why the motion “in relation to the Federal Capital should be discussed, but he will not be in order in discussing the question in detail now.
– I. desire only to show the effect of depriving private members of their right to bring before the House most important matters. We desire an opportunity to show reasons why the work at Canberra should be proceeded with immediately, and to inform the House of the action which New South Wales will take if it is to be fooled any longer in regard to this question.
– The question can . be tested just as well on a motion to reduce Supply by £1.
– We should have an opportunity for a full and free discussion on a definite motion. In connexion with a Supply Bill there are many important matters which require consideration
– Why is the honorable member now blocking the consideration of Canberra by delaying the Supply Bill?
– The effect of the motion proposed by the Prime Minister is to block discussion on the motion standing on the notice-paper in the name of the honorable member for Nepean. The Prime Minister’s proposal is brought forward for no other purpose. Cabinet on looking through the business-paper has discovered that the first item of business for next private members’ day is a motion relating to the Federal Capital, and Ministers have decided that the House must not be allowed an opportunity of voting upon the question, because they know that the majority of honorable members are in favour of the contract with New South “Wales being carried out.
– The honorable member is absolutely blocking the op-, portunity which is here now.
– The Treasurer knows that that is not so. Another important motion, in the name of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), relates to internment camps. There are many other motions upon the notice-paper which the House should have an opportunity to consider. The statement of the Treasurer that any of these matters can hediscussed upon the Supply Bill is so much hot air, because he knows that the Government are determined to get the Bill through this House today, and they will take all sorts of care that we are not given an opportunity of discussing these important questions upon the Bill. The proposal to prevent honorable members bringing before the House, upon private members’ day, matters affecting their constituencies, and the welfare of Australia generally, is an infringement of our rights, and the Government should be told clearly that we demand an opportunity to deal with these questions.
– The Prime Minister has promised honorable members a week at the end of the session.
– The Prime Minister, in his usual light and airy manner, dangled before honorable members the promise of a week at the end of the session for the discussion of private members’ business. There will probably be a sixmonths’ recess at the end of the session, and this will give us plenty of time to stay at home and meditate on our foolishness if we allow this motion to pass. It will be useless for honorable members to complain later on that they have had noopportunity to discuss important questions. Every honorable member has his responsibilities just as much as have the Government, and we, therefore, have every right to discuss private business.
– The time has arrived when we ought to seriously consider our position. The measures we have to deal with this session are, perhaps, the most important that have come before the House since I have had the honour of a seat here. A Bill was introduced last night, and if the desire is to murder it in its cradle, the most effective way is to rush it through without its being thoroughly considered by those interested. Then there is the question of finance, which demands our closest attention. I have always been one to stand for the rights of this Chamber, but the. time has come when we ought to put our “ neck to the collar,” and proceed with the business of the country. I shall support the motion on the distinct understanding that those honorable members who have not the opportunity now to discuss proposals which they desire to bring before the House shall be given an opportunity lateron. I am quite certain that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), after the briefest reflection, will see that a much more effective way of dealing with the question of the Capital is that suggested by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr). Knowing what is going on outside, and realizing the feeling on all sides of the House regarding the Federal Capital, I say deliberately that it is time that question was settled one way or the other. Personally, I am opposed to the proposal to remove to Canberra, and would favour the Seat of Government being in Sydney for the next ten years. At present we are spending money in the Federal area in a wasteful manner with no good results. What is the attitude of Parliament in regard to the establishment of the Capital in the immediate future? As I say, I favour the Federal Parliament sitting in Sydney for the next ten years.
– Where would it go afterwards ?
– I would leave that to the judgment of the House. I have always advocated Parliament sitting four days in the week. It is not fair to honorable members who come from Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania that we should meet here on only three days, because they practically have to live in Melbourne from the day Parliament opens until it is prorogued. When the House rises at 4.30 on Friday the honorable members to whom I refer have to remain in Melbourne until 3 o’clock on Wednesday; and, now that Parliament, in its wisdom, has increased the salaries of honorable members, it is only fair that we should put in one more day’s work. At the present time there are practically only two days a week for Governmentbusiness, and I am therefore prepared to give up private members’ day, but I do urge that we should meet on Tuesday, the result of which would be to give us as many actual Government days in the week as we now get in a fortnight. The Prime Minister has certainly not over-estimated the important work that awaits us; and it is high time we proceeded with the measures that must be discussed before Parliament rises. I ask the Government to consider very seriously the suggestion to sit four days a week, though not next week, seeing that honorable members must have made their arrangements.
– Is that & threat to the Government ?
– I never threaten the Government, but. I ask them, in view of the great, importance of the measures to come before us, to call Parliament together on an extra day. This would give ample time for measures to be discussed as they ought to be discussed, instead of, as in the past, leaving many to the end of the session only to be rushed through one after the other, thus necessitating amending legislation when Parliament meets again. Let us give the Government the extra day in the week, and hold them fully and completely responsible for both the matter of the business and the manner in which it is conducted.
.- I am in full sympathy with giving the Government and Parliament ample opportunity to deal with measures of such paramount importance as those which are to come before us; but I do not think that the proposal of the Prime Minister is the proper one. I quite agree with the hon orable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) that this House should sit for more days in the week. The present arrangement may be all very well for some honorable members, but it means stringing the session out over the whole year. There are other honorable members who have no opportunity to visit their constituencies or their homes at the week-end; whereas if we sat five days a week instead of two and a half, we might get through our work in much shorter time; and, further, private members’ business would not be put in the quarantine-box. I am not too sure that a week at the fag end of a session would afford any reasonable opportunity for the discussion of private members’ business. For instance, there is the measure which I propose to ask permission to introduce, and which, if accepted, might result in saving sufficient money to pay the first instalment of the cost of the Federal Capital, and that important measure must be delayed by the Prime Minister’s proposal. However, I strongly support the idea that we should sit at least one more day in. the week until we have concluded the work of the country; then, if. honorable members were so inclined, we might revert to the present laissez faire system.
– I move -
That all the words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ this House meet on Tuesday, Wednesday,- Thursday, and - Friday of each week.”
This amendment may not be popular with all honorable members, but that fact does not deter me from moving it. We are sent here to do the business of the country, and as we are well paid, it is our duty to come here and do it. A second reason I have for submitting the amendment is that I have, a motion on the businesspaper for next week dealing with the question of the internment camps. The last time that motion was before the House, the representatives of. the Govern: ment took care not to say one word, but; as it were, hid themselves; and honorable members on the Government side, generally, did not seem inclined to deal with the question. It is remarkable that just when the turn for that motion should have arrived - and it is an important motion to those concerned - we have a proposal this morning to shelve it for the rest of the session.
– The honorable member knows that next Thursday is “ Grievance Day.”
– Quite so; but that would not prevent my motion coming on.
– “Grievance Day “ will give the honorable member an opportunity to bring the matter forward.
– I do not think so. Seeing that my motion is on the business-paper, at any rate I shall not be able to take the question to a vote, as I should under ordinary circumstances. Probably the Government would talk the motion out; if so, that would be exactly what is needed to show them in their true colours. I notice that the honorable member for. Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) is getting a little excited; but I should like his constituents to know where he stands on this question; and there are other honorable members who, by interjections which do not get into Hansard, have tried to “ rub it into “ me. Another important motion on the paper is that by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) for the calling together of a Convention to deal with an amendment of the Constitution. What chance will there be, if the motion before us is carried, of that proposal being considered ? The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) told us that the Convention matter was to be brought up at the Premiers’ Conference; but was anything done? If the Government vote against my amendment, the public will know which members are trying to do the work for which they are paid, and which members are not.
.- I rise to second an amendment which has for its object the providing of an extra day for work.
– The amendment is not in order. The motion is that Government business shall take precedence of private members’ business on each sitting day. The amendment deals with an entirely different matter, that is to say, an extra sitting day, and, therefore, does not appear to me to be applicable or relevant to the motion. It is a matter that should be the subject of a separate motion.
– Could I submit an amendment that Government business shall take precedence on three days a week, while private members’ business is taken as usual ?
– No; that would be a direct negative. The motion specifies no particular days of meeting, but states that Government business shall take precedence of private members’ business on each sitting day. , The sitting days may be three, four, or five a week.
– It is clear that honorable members cannot amend the motion for the purpose of providing an extra sitting day.
– I have already intimated’ that the proper procedure to secure an extra day of sitting is to bring forward a separate motion. No amendment to provide for an extra sitting day is relevant to a motion which states that Government business shall take precedence on each sitting day.
.- Apparently honorable members who desire that the House should sit on an extra day in each week have no choice but to vote for or against the motion. There is a considerable body of opinion in the House in favour of making the Prime Minister’s proposal more effective for the carrying on of business by sitting an extra day, and I would ask the Minister (Sir Joseph Cook), who is, for the time being, in charge of the House, if he is prepared to withdraw the motion at the present stage, and move on a subsequent occasion, not only that Government business shall take precedence of private members’ business, but also that the House shall sit on Tuesdays for the remainder of the session. Otherwise many honorable members who desire to increase the means of getting on with business may feel compelled to vote against a motion which they consider is not sufficiently effective.
– The present sitting days were fixed in 1913, when I was Prime Minister. Previously the House met four days in each week, but it was a very inconvenient arrangement. It was impossible for honorable members living in other States to attend to their businesses at the week-end.
– What is the position of those who are compelled to live in Melbourne the whole year round?
– Then they oan- ‘ not have any businesses in their States to- which they can personally attend. Honorable ‘ members whose homes are in other States found it very inconvenient to have to leave for Melbourne every Monday, in order to attend a sitting of the House oh Tuesday. Those were the circumstances in which the change was made from four sitting days to three sitting days in each week. The question of an extra sitting day is not connected with the other matter of permitting Government business to take precedence over private members’ business. Even when we were sitting four days a week, it was the rule, when the session had been going for a while, and when the notice-paper began to become congested with important business, to wipe out private members’ day.
– As pressure of business is the excuse for the motion, would not it be met by sitting an extra day in each week?
– That is a matter which should be raised as an entirely separate question. If honorable members are anxious to sit on Tuesdays, the- Government must try to accommodate itself to that condition of affairs.
– Yes; bow your neck to the storm.
– I would regard it. as acting in a democratic way. But the honorable member does not believe in Democracy. He believes in the big stick, and in Lenin’s “ dictation of the proletariat.” Long ago he left all his democratic opinions behind him,- and, therefore, cannot understand me when I suggest that the Government should pay some regard to the opinion of a democratic assembly. I suggest that honorable members should accept the motion to-day, as nothing important will happen, even if it is agreed to. Private members’ business is not’ of first-rate importance. At any rate, it is not .so important as Government business is. The question of sitting on an extra day may very well be considered, and, in the face of a congested business-paper, I think the Government will soon be compelled to ask members to sit on an extra day per week, as well as give the additional time for which we are now asking.
.- I am entirely in accord with the motion. I have had considerable experience in a State Legislature, and in the Commonwealth Parliament, but so far I have not discovered that there is any utility in placing private members’ motions on the notice-paper. I have never placed one on the business-sheet, either in the State House, or in the Commonwealth Parliament, because I realized the futility of doing so. The adoption of a motion submitted by a private member leads nowhere. I have never heard of any good being done by it.
– Did not the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) succeed in carrying a motion in favour of the initiative and referendum?
– Yes; but what good has come of it? “What becomes of any motion carried on private members’ day? It is a waste of time for the House to deal with private members’ business when there is no means of giving effect to any resolution adopted unless the Government, who alone can take action to give the necessary effect to it, see fit to do so.
– Honorable members can force the Government to take the necessary action.
– I have never seen it done.
– What about sitting on an extra day?
– Apparently the honorable member, who is so anxious to get on with the business of the country, wants the extra sitting day for the discussion of private members’ business, the futility of which I have just been endeavouring to point out. Has anything been achieved by the Thursday sittings, at which private members’ business is dis. cussed? The answer is “No.”
– Because the Government always talk out private members’ busi- ness
– If the honorable member were on the Government bench he would do the same thing. The Go*vernment are placed in power by a majority, and will give effect to anything, which meets with their approval. I remember the occasion when honorable. members’ made representations to the Government, led by the right honorable gentleman (Sir Joseph Cook), pointing out how very inconvenient it was for honorable members who visited their electorates at the week-end to be obliged to return to Melbourne to attend sittings on Tuesdays. We left it to the Government to increase the sitting days, ifat any time during the course of the session they found it necessary to do so on account of the congestion of business. The same practice should apply to-day. If it is found that we cannot get through all our business before Christmas, the Government, I presume, will ask us to sit on an extra day. My experience is that very little is done in Parliament during the first couple of months of a session. Members do not get down properly to work until towards the end of the session. As’ I regard private members’ day as a waste of time, I support the proposal to wipe it out. The further question of the extra sitting day can be left to the Government for future decision.
– I am entirely in accord with what the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has said regarding private members’ day, but, while I support the motion, I would ask the Government to give earnest consideration to the question of meeting on an extra day. On top of a lot of business of the greatest importance, and the utmost urgency, we have yet to deal with the Tariff. The people want to know what the Tariff will be. We ought not to consider our own interests at a time like this, but should consider the interests of the people of the country, and settle the Tariff as speedily as possible. I hope that the Government will make up their minds, at all events, the week after next, to ask the House to meet on an extra day.
– I oppose the motion. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) said that in his opinion private members’ business was of no use, and that the time devoted to it was practically wasted. That may he true; but, on the other hand, the conduct ofbusiness by the Government is such that honorable members have ho opportunity to discuss measures as they should be discussed in an assembly representative of the people. We have recently had illustrations of the petulance of Ministers. The latest occasion was that on which the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), as soon as he had had his say, promptly moved the “gag.”Honorable members have had experience of the Government intimating without warning that a measure is to be regarded as being of urgent importance, and that it must be rushed through within a specific time. Quite a number of measures, before this Chamber and foreshadowed, are of considerable importance to the people; whether they are so recognised by some honorable members is another matter. There are Bills, for example, having to do with immigration, and with passports; and there are several others beside, of which the Government have given notice, which will arouse quite a deal of discussion. It is the duty of those who claim to have the interests of the people at heart to very critically examine all these measures, but that cannot be done in the limited time devoted to the affairs of Parliament at present, I shall certainly oppose any proposition to give precedence to Governmentbusiness, so long as no provision is made for honorable members to adequately discuss matters putbefore them. Only the other day the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), speaking in Bendigo, announced his intention to push through a certain measure without reference to the opinions of honorable members at all. No matter what might be the views of the Opposition, or of critics in any part of the House, the Prime Minister was going to have that Bill through by to-day. So long as that spirit actuates the Government it will not receive my support in the passing of any of its legislation. At various times Bills have been brought down, and even honorable members sitting behind the Government have notknown what the measures contained until they were tabled. That kind of thing makes a farce of the so-called representative institutions of the country.
.-. Any procedure which will afford this House extended opportunities for giving attention to Government business shall have my support. In my brief- experience here I have noted that the closure, whenever it has been applied, has been perfectly justified; and similar methods will receive my support on all like occasions. The matters to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has drawn attention are of such importance that they become the responsibilities not merely of
One side of ‘the House, but of all- honorable members. The Prime Minister referred to the three grave subjects of finance, defence, and the Tariff. During the past four weeks or more, what work has the House done ? What legislation has it passed? If honorable members can only get to the problems ahead of them the interests of the country will be served.
Honorable members have made considerable reference to the Federal Capital. Just now we are asking the people to subscribe to the second peace loan, and the Government are offering a rate of interest which will penalize hundreds of small men who desire to secure private loans, because the rates of interest will correspondingly increase. Then, we are faced at this period with an unprecedentedly heavy financial strain. In view of these facts, I ask the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), and honorable members generally, if there is any wisdom in expending money upon a temporary Capital.
– On a point of order, I submit that the honorable member is not dealing with the question before the Chair, but is entering upon a financial discussion. *
– I have permitted honorable members to allude to various items of business. I have asked, at the same time, that they will not discuss the merits or demerits of any particular measure or phase of legislation, but will advance their reasons why this motion should or should not be. agreed to.
– I quite understand the objection to the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) to my touching upon Canberra.
– All I am interested in is that if you do so - 1 shall be permitted to do the same.
– I feel that I am quite justified in referring to this matter, in consequence of the extremely difficult financial position in which this coun- try finds itself to-day. We are committed in respect of many millions of money, and it is for the Federal Parliament to concentrate its forces with a view to bringing about the utmost efficiency and economy. All endeavours having those objects in view shall receive my consistent support.
Regarding expenditure on defence, there are certain matters which are bound to be taken in hand. The Prime Minister has stated that Australia must have some settled policy. When- we study the cost of the war, and look upon our position in the world generally, we are bound to ask whether it shall be taken for granted that Australia is to remain under the sole protection of the Mother Land for ever. ITo ; we must foot the bill. We must take care of ourselves; and it will cost millions. We must find the money to provide adequate defence, or run the risk of handing our land and our people over to those whom the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) would like to see in control.
I agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that, no matter what Government is in power, it should have support for such a proposition as that now before the Chair. I would stand by a Labour Administration in such a proposal just as readily as I propose to do in the case of the present Government, or as I would do if a Government selected from the Country party were in power - as it will be later on. I shall assist the Government in pushing on with its business in preference to that of private members. We have witnessed wrangling day after day, with no business done. As for the suggestion that this House should sit an extra day a week, and regarding the criticism that the business claims of honorable members in the distant States should be considered, I would remind the House that salaries were recently increased in -order to offset that precise difficulty. We now, more than ever, owe the whole of our services to the country; and, no matter what may be the nature or urgency of our outside affairs, the public duty of honorable members should be regarded as paramount. We cannot do our duty honestly if we are prepared to give only half of our time and the fag-end of our brains to the business of the country. Seeing that there is such an enormous volume of business ahead,. I trust that honorable members, without exception, will assist the Government to the full extent of their abilities. 1 hope there will be noblocking of the important business of the Government which has in it no taint of party polities.
Mr.NICHOLLS (Macquarie) [12.11]. - Do I understand that the amendment of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has been ruled out of order?
– That is so.
– Then I move, by way of amendment -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following: -
On each sitting day save one, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of general business, and that there shall be an additional sitting day on Tuesday of each week.
I feel certain that the amendment will be acceptable to honorable members generally. An extra sitting day is urgently necessary, in order that this House shall adequately carry out its legislative activities. Wednesday in each week is practically gonebefore the House meeets, while our Friday sittings occupy only a small portion of the day. Honorable members resident in the more distant States are compelled to remain in Victoria over each week-end, until the prorogation; whereas those representing electorates in the nearer States, as well as in Victoria itself, of course, are generally able to return to their homes for the week-ends. The position is neither fair nor consistent.
– I second the amendment.
– I have already ruled in connexion with a proposal of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) that an amendment to increase the number of sitting days is not relevant , to the motion, which merely raisesthe question: Shall Government business take precedence of generalbusiness on each sitting day, no matter how many sitting days there may he? I cannot accept an amendment to insert the words “ save one,” as proposed bythe honorable member for Macquarie, because that would merely put us hack to where we are at present, and he equivalent to a negativing of the motion.
– ThenI give notice of my intention to move to dissent from your ruling.
– The honorable member has handed me a notice of dissent in the following terms : -
I hereby give notice that I intend to move that the ruling of Mr. Deputy Speaker - that to insert the words “ save one “ after “ sitting day,” and the words “ and there shall be an additional sitting day on Tuesday of each week,” at the end of the motion is out of order - be disagreed to.
The statement of , the ruling contained in that notice practically accords with what I said, and under the standing order the discussion on the motion of dissent must go over to the next sitting day.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Poynton) read a first time.
-CENSUS AND STATISTICS BILL.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Poynton) read a first time. sliifi
Second Peace Loan - Wak Service Notes - Federal Capital - Defence Expenditure - Invalid Pensions - Economy in Expenditure - High Commissioner’s Office - Ballarat Election: Candidates’’ Expenses and Parliamentary Allowance - Distribution of Anzac Tweed - War Precautions Act: Expenditure.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 29th July (vide page 3120), on motion by Sir Joseph Cook -
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1920-21 a sum not exceeding £2,367,820.
. -The loan of £25,000,000 which the Government are placing on the market will, I believe, be a success so far as the raising of the money is concerned, but I contend that the Government are borrowing on wrong principles. The Treasurer informed us that the bulk of this money is required for soldiers’ homes and for the land settlement of soldiers, and bonds for an amount of £25,000,000 are being issued. Every penny of that amount must be taken from industry, in which it might be/ employed on reproductive work and in increasing business. Therefore the Government .are proposing -to remove from the avenues of industry and labour an enormous amount of capital. The Government are offering 6 per cent, interest for this money, and they have arranged that -any person who -takes up bonds to an amount equivalent to his present holding of old stock may convert the old stock, and receive 6 per cent, on it also. Thus a man who invests another £1,000 will, if he holds £1,000 worth of old 4$ per cent, stock, be able to draw 6 per cent, on ‘£2,000. It is possible that the Government will be called upon’ in -that way to pay 6 per cent, on, not only £25,000,000, but on £50,000,000.
– That might ‘be so if all the holders of old stock convert their stock as ‘the honorable member suggests, but it will not pay them-to do that
– If I hold £1,000 worth of 4-J per cent, stock and take up another £1,000 worth of new stock, I shall be receiving 6 per cent on £2,000.
– But the big holders will not get that.
– There is no difference between the issuing of bonds and the issuing of Commonwealth notes for the purpose of raising money. At present the market is overstocked with Commonwealth bonds, and the stock is selling under par.
– Do not forget that a great deal of this money will be lent again to the States.
– My suggestion is thai the Government should issue £25,000,000 worth of war service notes. In the ordinary course a soldier’s cottage can be built in three months. At the end of that time the soldier occupies the house and commences the payment of interest and principal. If, for the purpose of this repatriation work, the Government issued a special war service note, as the payments came in from the soldiers the loan would be automatically redeeming itself. In this way money would be saved to both the soldier and to the Treasury, The war has exploded the .gold reserve theory.
– My word, it has not.
– Great Britain and France had very small gold reserves in proportion to their note issues. Let us issue special .notes :for waT service homes as they are required, and, .as the homes are completed, and the repayments from the soldiers commence, the notes will gradually be taken out of circulation. Thereby we shall not only save the soldier from the payment of heavy interest, but .we shall .avoid taking an immense amount of capital “from the ordinary channels of commerce.
– This is a .proposal to build homes for nothing.
– It will amount to that in time, because the Government will have the security behind the issue. The Commonwealth Bank - the finest institution of its kind in Australia - was established without any capital other than the credit of the Commonwealth. To-day there is about £55,000,000 worth of notes in circulation.
– The amount is only about £22,000,000.
– If the amount is so small, that is another argument in favour of the issue of special war service notes.
– If we issued £50,000,000 worth of new notes, they would not remain in circulation.
-No, but they would serve the Government’s purpose. If the Government follow the old system of borrowing money at interest, thus taking capital from the avenues of industry and employment, they will not help the country, and the new bonds will merely help to depreciate the older stock. Under the system I suggest, so many thousand pounds’ worth of notes would he withdrawn automatically every few months. That system has been followed elsewhere, and it could be adopted with advantage by the Commonwealth.
– What provision does the honorable member propose to make for withdrawing the notes?
– A house is built for £600 or £1,000. As soon as the soldier occupies it he commences to pay to the Treasury rent and principal. At the end of six months he has paid in, say, £20 or £30. Thousands of other men have done the same, and the Government then withdraw from circulation war service notes to the amount of the aggregate.
– In the meantime where are the notes, and who has them?
– They are in circulation ; there is no difficulty about that.
– The suggestion is worthy of the serious consideration of the Government. These specially ear-marked notes could be redeemed each year to the amount of the rent and principal that has been repaid.
– Where shall we find a lot of contractors who will accept these notes?
– They will be legal ten der. War service notes will be no different from ordinary notes, but they will have their own identity, so that they can be gradually withdrawn. By this scheme the Government would make money, and I am sure that if the Labour party had an opportunity they would give it a trial. I move -
That the sum be reduced by £1.
I do this with the concurrence of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), who forecast such an amendment. At the last general election the Government announced as part of their policy the honouring of the constitutional contract made withNew South Wales to establish the Federal Capital at Canberra.. The Prime Minister has since assured deputations that he is prepared to keep that pledge. Now is the best time of the year for building operations; if we wait until the Budget is brought forward, and the Estimates are approved, we shall have lost six months of the best portion of the year for building. The majority of honorable members are anxious that a sum of money shall be made available at once for commencing the erection of buildings and other works at the Federal Capital. I believe the Government are sincere in regard to this matter. The Prime Minister has given his promise, and I believe that he will fulfil it. My only fear is that the commencement of operations will be unduly delayed. At Canberra there are 1,000,000 bricks ready to be laid; there is £20,000 worth of timber lying idle, and there are complete water supplies and power and lighting services. When so much expenditure has been already incurred there, we are not justified in staying our hands any longer. The people of New South Wales have been long-suffering, seeing that the time specified was ten years, and that it is now twenty years since the Constitution came into operation. There is no doubt that the political life of this country is influenced by the city where the Seat of Government now is.
– It will he influenced just as much at Canberra - if ever we get there!
– That is not so, and I trust that members who believe in carrying out the compact will vote for the motion as an intimation that we wish to know what the intentions of the Government are. I voted for the construction of the transcontinental railway, and also for the payment of a lump sum to Tasmania, because I regarded these as part of the Federal agreement.
– Tasmania did not ask for any compact - Tasmania only got what it was entitled to. .
Mr.RILEY. - A previous representative of Bass made a great fuss aboutthe payment to Tasmania; and, in any case, New South Wales is entitled to have the Capital within its borders.
– You want the Capital in Sydney.
Mr.RILEY. - No; our only desire is to carry out the Federal compact. In the Federal Territory there are 900 or 1,000 square miles of beautiful country, which, as soon as the Seat of Government is removed, will return a revenue. The whole influence of Melbourne and of certain members of this Parliament is bent on preventing the move to Canberra. I have here a report of the Public Works Committee on the proposed construction of a notes printing office, and the desirability or otherwise of placing that office at the Federal Capital; and it only shows the parochial spirit of those members who signed the document. It is pointed out that there are 211 employees in the printing office, and the report says that for their needs it would he necessary to erect 100 houses and two hotels; further, that for seventy single women, 100 cottages would be required. ‘I notice that amongst the signatories there is not one New South Wales member. The report is signed by exSenator Needham and Senator Henderson, of Western Australia; the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) - who is thoroughly antagonistic to removal to the Capital; the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) ; the ex-member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) ; and the present Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), of Tasmania. The only member of the Public Works Committee who voted for the erection of the building at Canberra was the ex-member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair). How could we hope for a fair deal in such a matter from men with ideas so parochial? We have an opportunity on this Supply Bill to intimate to the Government that an early start is desired with the parliamentary buildings at Canberra; and I hope that honorable members will vote for the amendment.
. -The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) talks about a compact made twenty years ago, but I do not regard the arrangement then made as a compactthat ought to be carried out. There is, however, one compact which means more to Australia than any that may havebeen made in regard to the Federal Capital; I refer to the construction of the northsouth railway. Although this work is not provided for in the Constitution, there was certainly a compact regarding it. If we have to spend any money - and, goodness knows, we have not much to spend - we should spend it on some reproductive work; and in view of the difficulties encountered through lack of railway communication in the Northern Territory, it is certainly the duty of this House to take some steps in the direction I have indicated.
Mr.Riley. - What have we lost on that railway already ?
– I point out that the railway at present does not finish anywhere in particular.
Mr.Riley. - That was because South Australia and Western Australia did not carry out their compact.
– However that may be, I oppose this motion, because the removal of the Capital is a matter which may be left over for a number of years, until our financial position is stronger. To make a first loss is sometimes more profitable than to try to recover it by spending millions, as suggested in the present case.
– Not millions.
– It is suggested that we should spend £300,000 a year, which would soon amount to millions. Does the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr.Riley) think that the fact that he voted for the transcontinental railway, and for the grant to Tasmania, will cause me to vote for a proposal which I regard as a wrong one?
. - Many arguments can be advanced why the work of removing the Capital should be proceeded with at once; but I shall only attempt to advance one or two We are often told that this or that cannot be done under the Constitution, which must be strictly regarded. But, in the present instance, it is proposed to depart from a solemn compact embodied in the Constitution itself - a compact any departure from which means a violation of that Constitution. Ido not think that New
South. Wales has been treated at all fairly in this connexion. It is time that a Commonwealth of this importance had its Federal Capital and its Parliament properly housed. As to the work being unproductive, I submit that it would prove reproductive from the very first. The whole of .the land there belongs to the Commonwealth, and the leasing of it for building and other purposes would return more than the interest on the money invested. The building of the Capital would also tend to solve the serious problem of unemployment, if the Government would only boldly tackle the job. There would not be much trouble in getting the initial capital, even if we resorted to the old system of borrowing, because I believe that New South Wales itself would contribute sufficient.
Although I see nothing in the Estimates to provide for works at Canberra, I notice a very large amount is provided for the unproductive purposes of defence and the military establishment. It seems to me inconsistent to raise the cry of “No money,” when evidently we can raise any amount for the Defence Department. I protest against this enormous expenditure because I believe a system is being organized that will eventually Prussianize Australia. Not long ago, I saw a cartoon by an eminent English artist, depicting, in the other world, the shades of a German soldier and a British soldier. The German soldier is saying to the Englishman, “ They told me I died to Prussianize Britain”; and the British soldier is saying to the German soldier, “I died to liberate Germany,” and then they both say, “Let us congratulate ourselves on our success.” We have been victorious in the war which was to crush militarism and end wars, but it seems to me that it is the other nations which are going to get the freedom from militarism This military system, and the piling up of huge expenditure every year, Wil prove too great a burden for a small population of 5,000,000; and for that reason I think it will be well to effect some reasonable reduction. Of course, a certain expenditure is necessary, but, in my opinion, we are spending too much in building up huge defences which are unnecessary, seeing that to-day there are practically no enemies who could attack us. Amongst the countries of the world,
Japan is the only one which may be regarded as a military power; as to the other countries, I believe that the social and political organization which will grow up will prevent militarism getting any hold there in the future. Really, the only/ nations which are piling up defence expenditure are the Allied nations.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the Treasurer to a very unfair provision in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, whereby applicants for the invalid pension are refused on the ground that the total income for the family averages £1 per head per week, an amount which, as we all know, is not nearly sufficient in the present high cost of living for the maintenance of any person. Many such cases have come under my notice, but I have in mind one in particular, that of a young lady who has been invalided practically from birth. Medical men certify that she is incapable of doing any work, and her parents are obliged to provide expensive medicines and treatment for her. The father is a boilermaker, whose earnings happen to be more than an average of £1 per head per week for the family. If the parents refused to keep the girl in the home, and threw her out on the street, the Commissioner for Old-age Pensions would be obliged to grant her a -pension, but those who are humane enough, and have sufficient love for their offspring to maintain their invalid children in the family circle, are heavily penalized. -Such a glaring anomaly ought to be rectified at once, and I hope that the Treasurer will see -his way clear to bring down an amending Bill to do 80. We “have no greater unfortunates in the land than those who . are permanently invalided and unable to follow any occupation.
The moment one touches upon the question of carrying out the solemn compact entered into with New South Wales, that the Federal Capital should be built in that State, there is a :howl of -derision from honorable members representing Victorian constituencies, and, in some cases, Tasmanian divisions. This morning we had the remarkable spectacle of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) condemning the proposal to carry out this compact because, as he said, it was wrong; yet, in the next breath, he was advocating that the contract with South Australia to build the north-south railway should be honoured.The honorable member approves of the action of this Parliament in coming to the financial aid of Tasmania, making it possible for the State to exist in a solvent condition, and he would build the north-south railway in order to carry out a contract entered into with South Australia, yet we find him opposing any proposal to carry out a compact entered into with New SouthWales.
– I oppose any compact when it is wrong.
– Does not the honorable member realize that this arrangement was made with New SouthWales twenty years ago?
– Does the honorable member believe that the Commonwealth, ought to build the north-south railway?
– Certainly. I am a strong advocate of the carrying out of that work at the very earliest opportunity. I stand to the principle that the Commonwealth should observe any compact it enters into with a State, andI would not oppose a work being carried out in South Australia merely because I am a representative of a New South Wales constituency. The people of New South Wales would not have entered into the Federation if they had understood that representatives of Tasmania and Victoria were prepared to go back on the compact entered into to build the Federal Capital in New South Wales.
– If the people of Tasmania had known as much as they know now, in all probability they would not have entered into the Federation.
– The State of Tasmania, and some of the other States, would he in a very insolvent position if it were not for the revenue obtained by the Commonwealth from the people of New South Wales. While the people of New South Wales would not have entered into the Federation if they had imagined that the other States would go back on them, let me inform honorable members that when they discover that the representatives of other States are going back on them they will take steps to throw off the incubus of Federation.Honorable members representingVictorian constitueneiesmay laughat that remark,but when the people of New South Wales realize that the other States are not prepared to carry out the arrangement made with them by the people of those States, whose word they relied on, they will find good means of getting out of Federation.
Mr.Prowse. - If the treatment . of Western Australia is much worse, we will join you.
– I am glad that the honorable member, who represents a Western Australian constituency, sees the force of my argument.
– Western Australia has the east- west railway, at any rate.
– Yes. No question was raised against carrying out the compact with Western Australia for the building of the east-west railway, although the State has since failed to carry out some of its obligations in respect of that line. We shall never have a national spirit in Australia until the Federal Parliament is established in its own capital at Canberra, away from State influences. It is undeniable that a Parliament, sitting in any State capital, is consciously or unconsciously under the influence of ideas prevalent forthe time being in that particular State. For the future welfare of Australia, it is necessary that we should get into our own Capital as soon as possible. I ask honorable members to hesitate very seriously before they attempt to tear up the solemn treaty made with New South Wales.
Mr.BELL (Darwin) [2.28].- In spite of what has been said by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) and others, and in spite of the assertion that representatives of Tasmania are desirous of tearing up a certain compact, and unwilling to give to the State of New South Wales what is due to her, I must oppose the proposal to spend such an enormous amount of money as will be involved in building the Federal Capital at the present juncture. I take second place to no honorable member in advocating expenditure that will be for the benefit of Australia as awhole, irrespective of State boundaries; hut it is obvious that, at the present time, we cannot afford to spend money in the direction contemplated by the amendment. When first I went to school, I learned that “he is idlewho might be better employed.”We can amend that aphorism, and say that money is idle when it might be better employed. If we were to find money to carry on the building of the Federal Capital, it might become necessary to withhold urgent expenditure in other directions. It has not been proved that if this Parliament were removed into the desert Capital, Australia would benefit. It is mainly upon the question of finance that I lodge my protest, and I intend to continue to strongly protest against any and every effort to authorize further expenditure on the Federal Capital. It has been argued that Australia has already laid out £1,000,000 at Canberra, and that it is lying idle so long as nothing further is done. There is another aphorism to the effect that it is bad policy to send good money after bad. It would be improper to spend another £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 simply because £1,000,000 is lying idle in the Federal Capital. Honorable members who employ the argument that the Federal Parliament should be removed from the influence of Australia’s large cities are merely condemning themselves. Surely honorable members come here with some other point of view than that of representing merely parochial interests. Surely they have some thought for the welfare of Australia as a whole. Is it inevitable that honorable members who travel to Melbourne to carry out their legislative duties should be influenced by their immediate surroundings?
– The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) wants to send us to West Sydney.
– I protest . against the statements of certain honorable members who have alleged that Tasmania has received her share of the benefits arising from the expenditure of Federal money; they are under a misapprehension. It has been pointed out that Tasmania has been receiving £90,000 per annum. Honorable members know the circumstances in which it was agreed to pay that sum, and they know that there was no question of bargaining or of that amount being regarded as Tasmania’s dole. Public money was paid to that State following upon careful inquiries. It was rightly held that Tasmania, owing to the leakage of Customs revenue due to so much of .her goods having come into the mainland first, was entitled to. an amount estimated to balance the annual leakage. When the island State entered the Federation she made no bargain. It has been submitted by certain honorable members, however, that a compact was made in the case of New South Wales. And, by’ way of emphasizing that point, it has been stated that had it been realized that, twenty years later, New SouthWales’ bargain would be repudiated, that State would not have come into the Federation. I have always taken the view that the Federal Capital compact came about largely because of the childish jealousy existing between the two leading cities of Australia. To-day, however, we are twenty years older. Melbourne and Sydney have grown ; the people of Australia have developed, and should have grown in wisdom. After another twenty years our jealousies should have altogether disappeared, and our outlook should have become truly Australian.
– Where is Tasmania, anyhow ?
– Is it a fact that it has been torpedoed?
– It is a striking commentary upon my own statements that, after twenty years of Federation, there should be members of the Commonwealth Parliament who find it. necessary to ask “Where is Tasmania?” I take it that they do not know. They must possess very little interest in Australia as a whole, even though they may claim to represent national, interests in this Chamber. The honorable member for. Bass (Mr. Jackson) has stated that if Tasmania had known as much twenty years ago as she does now, she probably would not have entered, the Federation. I do not say that; but, perhaps, if Tasmanians had been as keen as the representatives of some of the larger States, she might have driven some hard bargains.
– I do not think the other States would have agreed to Tasmania securing any hard bargains.
– Probably not, for the reason that they are more powerful. The threat that New South Wales might draw1 out of Federation if the Capital is not speedily built at Canberra is, of course, a joke. Despite the gibes so frequently heard concerning Tasmania, I am pleased that I represent a small State in the Federation. It is always the big fellow who has plenty of friends. The little fellow generally has to look to himself. I prefer the honour of fighting for the little fellow; and, although I may not be successful, 1 can at least do my best; and my best at this stage is to enter an emphatic protest against expenditure of money on the Federal Capital in the near future.
Honorable members will be pleased, no doubt, with the assurance of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) that the Budget is to be brought down before the end of August. They will be still more pleased to learn, when the Budget is under review, that the Government have proposed various means for bringing about economy. I desire to refer particularly to the matter of ‘the High Commissioner’sOffice. During my election campaign I announced that I stood for economy in all matters. It is hard for a private member to be able to place his finger on any specific item, and to say that expenditure can there be cut down. Here, however, is an item upon which economy can be effected without reduction of efficiency. Last week the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) presented some information concerning the cost of the High Commissioner’s Office. The figures were rather startling. They would not have been so unpleasantly surprising had honorable members been satisfied that Australia was securing a beneficial return from the representation of the Commonwealth in Great Britain. When the Prime Minister made his statement a few weeks ago regarding the resignation of the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Watt) he remarked that the result of Mr. Watt’s resignation was that Australia would be left absolutely without representation at certain highly important Conferences. If Australia has been left without representation the High Commissioner should now be on his way back to Australia, and a successor should be outward bound. I understand that there is at present a gentleman in England who is going into the matter- of the reconstruction of Australia House. Upon what lines his investigations are being conducted I do not know. But, when it can be said that Australia has been left without representation, although we have a High Commissioner in London, the Government should apply the lesson which it has learned ; it should appoint a young ‘ and vigorous man to take up the Commissioner’s duties in London, and remodel the High Commissioner’s Office along the lines of highest efficiency. I trust that, when the Budget is presented, it will be shown that there has been a great reduction in the cost of it, for I am of opinion that that would not retard the efficiency of our representation in the Old Country. Indeed, the expenditure could be very well cut down by half, without the High Commissioner - whoever he may be in the future - having any qualms concerning the’ maintenance of the dignity of his position.
.- It is not a new thing to hear in this Parliament complaints made against the Federation by the representatives of a particular State. New South Wales is now complaining that she has not received fair treatment, but the same complaint has come from Tasmania ; from Western Australia, where not so long ago there was a secession movement; and from Queensland - when our white labour legislation’ was enforced; from South Australia; and from Victoria. That every State has in turn complained is, to my mind, proof that the Federation has dealt fairly with all of. them.
I have risen to refer to a matter which is of importance to all honorable members, the judgment of Mr. Justice Isaacs in the recent Ballarat election case. Let me read a portion of the Argus report of the case, which appeared on the 3rd June -
Mr. Justice Isaacs scathingly criticised some of the official methods in the conduct of the election, which took place on December 13, 1919…… Mr. Justice Isaacs, in the course of his judgment, said that the case raised several extremely important points of electoral law, and revealed a great number of official errors, causing disfranchisement of electors. In some cases these errors were due to almost incredible carelessness on the part of local presiding officers. He agreed that two of the votes had been properly allowed, and went on to refer to a number of cases in which, the petitioner alleged, persons had been wrongly ^refused a vote. Petitioner claimed that these and other votes refused vitiated the election.
Speaking of a Mrs.. Franklin, Mr. Justice Isaacs said. -
Clearly she was deprived of her vote by official error. Alfred Season, enrolled for Ballarat East, and Alfred Crowther, enrolled for Buninyong, went to Duverney polling booth outside the electorate to vote as absentees. They were told that no blank absentee ballot-papers were left. The presiding officer was asked to alter some ballot-papers he had, but the suggestion was not acceded to, and the men, after waiting a considerable time, left without voting. Seven persons, duly qualified to vote, were, by official error, prevented from voting. There could not he any doubt that, but for that official error in omitting the surname of McGrath, that vote would have made the numbers equal. In such case the D.R.O. would have been called on to decide by his casting vote. The official errors appearing in the Ballarat section of the case placed the matter beyond question. It was clearly proved that they affected the result, and it was the duty of the Court, in compliance with the. Act, to declare that Edwin Thomas John Kerby was not duly elected for Ballarat, and that the election was absolutely void.
No costs were allowed. After the 1903 election, two petitions were lodged - Dr. Maloney petitioning against the return ofSir Malcolm McEacharn for Melbourne, and Mr. Chanter against the return of Mr. Blackwood for Riverina. Subsequently, in an Appropriation Act - No. 21 of 1905- Parliament voted £100 each to all four gentlemen as an allowance towards their expenses, and in 1913 a grant of £250 was made to Mr. Chanter. In regard to neither of those elections did the presiding Judge make such a pronouncement against the electoral officials as was made the other day by Mr. Justice Isaacs in regard to the conduct of ‘the Ballarat election. -In all probability official errors have been made in connexion with the return of practically every member of the House, but the voting is not generally so close as it was in the Ballarat division. Probably, were the difference between the candidates only five votes, almost any election could be upset on that score. But when an election is upset through no fault of the candidates,they should not bepenalized. I understand that an applicationhas been made on behalf of Mr. Kerby that, as the election was declared to be invalid because of the mistakes made by officials, he should not ‘be required to pay the expenses incurred in contesting it. I have also seen the MinisterforHome and Territories(Mr.
Poynton) on the subject, and on the 1st of June wrote this letter to him -
Melbourne, 12th June, 1920.
With reference to my interview with you on the 5th instant, regarding the petition for the Ballarat seat, I have to request that the question of the Electoral Office paying the costs of this suit on both sides be favorably considered.
As you know, many difficult points in connexion with electoral law have now been settled.
According to the judgment of Judge Isaacs, the voiding of the election was due to mistakes made by electoral officers, and not to either party or candidate.
The Judge ordered, that a shorthand writer be appointed to take notes of the evidence. This cost each side £60. In my opinion, the Department should pay for this.
Section 197 of the Electoral Act provides that no counsel or solicitor should appear unless the parties consent, or the Judge orders this to be done. Mr. J. Kean, who appeared for Mr. McGrath, would not consent to this. The other side applied to the Court, and Mr. Justice Starke ordered that the parties be represented by solicitor and counsel.
I shall be glad if you will favorably consider this matter.
– Have you received a reply to that letter?
– I have told the honorable member that the request has been referred to the Crown Law Department. We are entirely in sympathy with the application.
– Furthermore, I understand that, in the cases of Mr. Palmer and Mr. Chanter, who succeeded in unseating, by their petitions, the gentlemen first declared elected, the parliamentary allowance was paid as from the date of the original election. I do not say that the gentleman who was in December last returned for Ballarat, and sat here for some time, should be asked to refund what was paid to him by way of parliamentary allowance; but Mr. McGrath, who unseated him, and was kept outof the seat for a time by thefault of the officials,should be paid the allowance from the 13th December- the date of the original election. I trust that the Government will give favorable consideration to this matter, so that justice -may be done to all parties concerned.
– There is much to be said for the contentionof the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor).Clearly,the candidates for theBallarat seat were not responsible for the mistakes which invalidated the first election, and should notbe penalized for them.
– The matter will he put right.
– I rose to address a few words to the Committee on the. amendment. Many honorable members opposite seem to regard the establishment of the Seat of Government at Canberra as a fetish, and they have raised alb sorts of bogies by way of argument tosupport their proposal to move the Parliament to the Federal Capital. For them to suggest that this assembly is influenced by its surroundings, or by the press of Victoria, is to do themselves an injustice. They know well that they are not influenced in that way, either directly or indirectly.
– Does not the Age rule you ?
– Quite the contrary. Some of my honorable friends hardly know when they are well off. The people of Victoria have no feeling on this question ; and, in my opinion, the people of New SouthWales do not care a snap of the fingers about it. I cannot find out who it is that wants this Federal Capital.
– It is the representatives of N ew South Wales,
– I admit that a few of the representatives of that State wish us to move to the Federal Capital; but the people offew South Wales have not demanded the move, and to them the matter is of no moment.
-Take a broad view.
– That is what I am doing, and what my honorable friend is incapable of doing. The people of few South Wales realize that they are heavily burdened with taxation, and their chief concern is to be relieved of the excess. They have to contribute to the expense of government as much as, and perhaps more than, any other part of Australia. When we again reach normal conditions so far as taxation is concerned, my honorable friends will have a right to ask that the building of the Federal Capital be proceeded with. But, to prate about economy, and at the same time to waste money deliberately on a hush Capital, is the height of hypocrisy.
– That is what they said here before the war.
– I urge my honorable friends, who profess an anxiety for economy, to look at this matter sanely.
– We would like to make you travel a bit.
– The matter does not concern me personally. But my electors are anxious that they shall be released from excessive taxation, and not that they shall he further burdened. That is the question that is involved at the present time. When we are in such desperate financial straits, to deliberately set to work to waste money in the way suggested would be little short of madness and criminal folly. If honorable membersbelieve that there is any feeling in any of the States, even in few South Wales, in favour of this Federal Capital project, I suggest that, at the next election a referendum be taken as to whether the Capital shall be proceeded with immediately or deferred until taxation has been reduced to normal dimensions. Everybody is ready to assist in the establishment of the Federal Capital when we can afford to do so,but there is no urgency about the project. Parliament dare not overlook the ultimate financial liability; we must consider, not merely the erection of buildings at Canberra at the present time, but also the construction of a railway from Jervis Bay to Canberra. It was realized from the very beginning that there must be a Federal port at Jervis Bay. I quite indorse that view. Without a Federal port and a railway connecting with Canberra we should travel to the Capital merely by the grace offew South Wales, and’ on railways belonging to that State. Therefore, we must realize that, in voting for the construction of the Federal Capital, we are committing ourselves also to expenditure on a railway from Jervis Bay. I do not delude myself with the hope that I shall make any impression upon the members who representfew South Wales, but I say that, if they were really earnest in their desire to represent the wishes of the people, they would take a referendum upon this question. The desire of my electors to be relieved of taxation to the greatest extent possible is common to the people of all States. As soon as our financial position enables us to deal with this matter we shall have a right to take it into consideration. But to-day, when our finances are in the direst condition, and when the people have demanded that Parliament shall take every opportunity of exercising economy in every direction, we have no right to contemplate expenditure such as is proposed. It must be remembered that if money is wasted at Canberra other works more useful, and more necessary, must be neglected, and important matters which demand consideration will be sacrificed.
– I have not heard the honorable member raise his voice once against all the expenditure that is taking place in Melbourne at the present time.
– Melbourne is not securing any greater expenditure than it is entitled to. But if the honorable member can prove that any unreasonable or unfair expenditure has been incurred in Victoria, I shall join with him in condemning it. It has been established that the creation of even a temporary capital would involve the expenditure of millions of pounds, which the community ought not to be called upon to pay at the present time. I challenge any honorable member to refer to any Federal expenditure unfairly incurred in Victoria. Inquiry will establish the fact that, as a rule, all expenditure of the kind has been incurved on the recommendation or order of a Minister from another State. In regard to the report recently furnished to the House by the Public Works Committee, only two members’ of that body are Victorian representatives, whilst three are from Western Australia. The Committee endeavoured to frame an impartial report, and their recommendation should be received in good faith. I join with other honorable members in protesting against the wasteful and flagrant expenditure at Canberra which is suggested by the supporters of the amendment.
.-There are two ways of avoiding the payment of debts, and we have had illustrations of both this afternoon. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) told us quite frankly that he advocates a policy of repudiation, so far as the debt to New South Wales, as specified in the Consti tution, is concerned. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) gave an indication of the other way of avoiding payment, namely, the constant postponement without a distinct repudiation of the debt, the suggestion that it is inconvenient to pay at the present time, but if the bill is renewed for another three months the debtor may be in a better position to meet his obligation. I honestly and sincerely believe that it will be better in the interests of the Commonwealth and of Federal legislation that this Parliament should not meet in any of the great centres of population. We hear slighting remarks about people being influenced by associations. But there is, and always must be, a very great indirect influence through the associations of people in big centres. That influence is felt in this House, consciously or unconsciously.
– Would not the same objection apply to small centres?
– No. In a big centre we have no chance of creating a Federal atmosphere in place of the State atmosphere which preponderates in a big State capital. The honorable member for Kooyong, said that he did not know what influence was behind the agitation for the removal of this Parliament to Canberra. But he told us over and over again that his electors do not desire that this expenditure shall be incurred, and therefore he is opposed to it. The best answer to the honorable member’s argument is the feeling reflected by the representatives of New South Wales. As a general rule, honorable members do not support projects which are not favoured by their constituents. We would not be in this House if we were out of harmony with the views ‘ of the majority of our constituents. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) said that, so far as he knows, the Federal Capital is not regarded as an important question in any part of New .South Wales. The fact is that every candidate in New South Wales had to face on the public, platform the agitation for the removal of the Federal Parliament to Canberra.
– That is because there is a Federal Capital League in New South Wales.
– Not necessarily. I do not think I addressed one meeting at which I was not questioned regarding my attitude towards the Federal Capital.
– Because the League instigatedthe electors to ask the question.
– If Victorian members have no better argument than insinuations of that character, they have a very weak case. No talking can evade the fact that a contract to establish the Federal Capital in New South Wales was deliberately inserted in the Constitution. I do not care whether or not people call it a bad bargain, or whether they say that New South Wales acted unfederally in insisting upon that condition; but the fact remains that a definite compact was made. The original enabling Bill was not carried in New South Wales by the requisite majority, and the section in regard to the Federal Capital was insertedas an inducement to New South Wales to join in the Federation. If New South Wales had stood out, Queensland would not have joined, and there would have been no Federation. It is certain that the required majority in favour of the enabling Bill would not have been obtained in New South Wales if the Federal Capital compact had not been inserted in the Constitution. I fought to secure the adoption of the original enabling Bill, and I know the opposition that we had to meet. When the ‘ second enabling Bill was placed before the people, I was one of those who went before the electors and said, “You have now obtained from the other States what you asked for; give us your support.”
– Why did you play such a confidence trick on the electors?
– I played no confidence trick on the electors, although the very people to whom I put that argument now say that they have been misled, and that Victoria never meant that the agreement should be carried out.
– Do not the New South Wales people understand the principle of equity that you must come into Court with clean hands? If their object was unlawful or immoral, we are not bound to honour the compact.
– I quite agree with the honorable member; and if he can show that this compact is either immoral or unlawful, then it need not be honoured. But the compact is neither immoral nor unlawful. .
– Nor unmoral.
– Nor unmoral. After twenty years of delay and constantpostponement the time has come to carry out the agreement. The argument that we have no money has been used over and over again; but so far as members from Victoria are concerned there never has been a time when there was any money to spend on the Federal Capital.
– We can raise the money in New South Wales to build the Capital.
– That is an argument that I have not used, but New South Wales will find the money. It is not a great amount that is required, though honorablemembershavetalkedabout millions and millions, -and it will be a gradual expenditure. If this Parliament would do the sane and proper thing, and sell the freehold of the land in the Federal Territory, we would obtain all the money we require. The difficulty arises simply because Parliament in its wisdom decided that there should be only leaseholds; and at the present time no man can take up a leasehold for building, because there are no regulations. There are men in Sydney who would undertake to build an accommodation house at Canberra if they could get the land, but they can get land neither on a ninety-nine-year lease nor on freehold. A great deal has been made of the “burden of taxation,” and it has been said that this taxation the people of New South Wales do not desire. I remind honorable members that, of any expenditure on the Capital, New South Wales willbear quite one-half, as it bears one-half of all other expenditure.
– No, it does not.
– New South Wales produces one-half of the revenue of the Commonwealth.
– The revenue returns are misleading. Sydney happens to be a terminal port, and much revenue that should be credited to Queensland is credited to New South Wales.
– At any rate, New South Wales would practically pay onehalf of the cost. I think I have said enough to show that the request made by myself and others is not an unreasonable one, namely, that Parliament should honour the Federal obligation. The Parliament has been asked to honour other promises made at the inception of Federation. It was asked by Western Australia to honour a verbal promise made by Mr. Deakin and others to build the transcontinental railway, and the promise was honoured, although it was. not part of the Constitution. Other States have also been treated very fairly.
– What about South Australia?
– South Australia understood that the north-south railway would not be built immediately.
– But we expect it before the year 2000!
– And so does New South Wales expect to have the Federal Capital; and I submit that all these promises should be honoured in the order in which they we’re made.
.- The question, as it appears to me, is not of very vital importance to the great bulk of the people of Australia, who are the wage-earning men and women.
– The people who really matter?
– Of course. It is immaterial to the working men and women where the Capital is situated. What benefit is any particular situation for the Capital going to be to them? What bearing will it have on their lives? As one who was sent here to represent the interests of working men and women, I fail to see how all this agitation for a specific site for the Seat of Government vitally affects the interests of the people as a whole. For all practical purposes, the Capital might as well be in Rabaul as in Canberra. What effect can thesituation of the Capital have on wages or the general conditions of the working men and women of the country? If any influence of that kind could be shown, there might be something in the argument for a change in the Seat of Government. The only argument I have heard in favour of any action is the influence of the Victorian press.
– Do you not think that that influence would follow the Parliament ?
– That influence, in my opinion, is a very negligible quantity.’ The men and women of Australia are beginning to think for themselves, and have more sense than to take any notice of either the Victorian or the New South
Wales daily press; at any rate, to the extent they may have done hitherto.” The only other argument worth consideration is that the removal of the Capital to New South Wales was arranged when Federation was established, and that that arrangement was made part and parcel of the Constitution: I am surprised that honorable members, who aresuch blatant supporters of constitutionalism and strong advocates of adhering to written promises and honorable understandings, should advocate any departure from the Federal compact. We were told that a reason for the world’s catastrophe was the repudiation of certain documents or guarantees - that the world was engulfed because of the tearing up of a “ scrap of paper.” We are now told by the same people that the understanding between one State and a number of others when Federation was inaugurated does not matter - that though New South Wales may have been promised the Capital, the promise does not matter, and we are very comfortable in Melbourne. The only reason I can see for supporting the removal of the Capital is that it forms part and parcel of the Federal Constitution. The people of New South Wales, through their representatives at the time, agreed with the other States that the Capital should’ be within the borders of New South Wales, and Parliament subsequently decided that it should be at Canberra.
– Have it in Sydney, and save expense.
– The honorable member has as much opportunity as any one else to take steps to have the Capital removed to Sydney, but he must do it in a “ constitutional “ way. There does not seem to be any adverse movement worthy of the name, or any organized objection to keeping the agreement, but there has been a sort of concerted or organized inaction.
– Sort of “ go-slow “ business.
– Yes; the honorable member is participating in that evil practice.
– We are “ going slow “ in squandering money.
– The honorable member is “going slow” in carrying out an agreement made by his political progenitors. There is no reason why that agreement should not be carried out. If there is a desire to repudiate it, the only honorable course is to have the understanding with the people of New South Wales reviewed, and another one substituted, with the consent of New South Wales and the other States. It makes no difference to the working man of Australia whether the Capital is at Broken Hill, Canberra, Newcastle, or Melbourne.
.– Since T last had the pleasure of addressing honorable members, I have had the privilege of travelling a little in Northern Queensland. I also saw something of New South Wales and lower Queensland, and wherever I was I took the opportunity of entering into conversation with all sorts and conditions of men and women, with a view to seeing how far Federal matters interest the citizens of the Commonwealth, especially in regard to the question of the removal of the Seat of Government to Canberra. The impression left on my mind was that there is not the slightest interest taken in this matter, outside a narrow circle of interested people. Were I convinced that it is the wish of the citizens of Australia, who will be called upon to pay the piper, that the Seat of Government should be transferred to Canberra I would undoubtedly vote for it, but I am satisfied that the people of Australia, staggering under a tremendous debt, are not desirous of adding to that financial obligation and are perfectly content to wait for the transference of the Capital until some more favorable season. Generally speaking, I believe that the way in which we comport ourselves in this House, and the time we waste over trivialities, as we have been doing to-day, are to a large extent responsible for the lack of interest shown in Federal matters. The boat in which I was travelling was delayed at Townsville for an hour or two, and I had the opportunity of walking about the town. As I was anxious to gain some in. formation about some of the trees I -spoke to an intelligent-looking middle-aged man who was passing, and put some questions to him. Afterwards I got into conversation with ‘him about Federal matters, and said, “ By the way, who is the Federal member for Townsville?” He said, “ I think he is a man named Dooley.” I said, “-I am perfectly certain it is not Mr. Dooley, because there is no Mr. ‘Dooley in the Federal House.” Then he thought for a little while, and said, “If it is not Dooley I believe it is Ryan.” I replied, “ lt is not Ryan. There is only one Ryan, and he is the member for West Sydney.” The man scratched his head, and then said, “If it is not Dooley, and -is not Ryan, I do not know who our member is.” That is about the extent of the interest taken in Federal matters by the people in those remote districts. There is a feeling among them that the Federal Parliament neglects their interests. It would not matter to them where the Federal Capital was situated so long as they got decent legislation.
– Does the honorable member think that the fact that they do not know their representative’s name amounts to much? Does he believe that 2 per cent, of the people in Victoria know who represent them in the Legislative Council?
– In answer to my friend, I am sorry to say that I believe it is only too true that very little interest is taken in Federal matters outside certain circles. And this House is very largely responsible for that lack of interest. People, generally, are becoming so absolutely sick of the way in which it deals with business matters that they do not care practically who are elected to represent them or where their representatives sit.
– The honorable member ought to be the last man in the House to make that statement.
– I am saying what I believe. When we, as business men, act and deal in a common-sense and businesslike way with the matters that come before us the people will begin to take an interest in what we do. So long as we fritter away our time and waste it upon trivialities, they will not care a snap of the fingers ‘what happens.
– After this controversial debate, I hope that we shall get the Supply Bill through. My concern is to get the money with which to pay the Federal public servants, and, incidentally, ourselves. It is about time we came to a decision on the matter of the transference of the Seat of Government to Canberra. Of course, there is absolutely no feeling about it, nobody cares very much about it : but somehow or other, accidentally, and incidentally, I suppose, we have this spectacle: Nearly all the representatives of New South Wales are in favour of the Federal Capital being begun immediately, while nearly all the representatives of Victoria are against it, and, of course, honorable members representing both States look at the question from a national point of view. However, that is how the matter stands to-day, and how it has stood for twenty years past, and I am afraid that is how it will continue to stand.
– What we object to is that it has remained too long in that’ position.
– The point I wish to make is that it is not quite fair to enter into a highly controversial question of this kind when a Supply Bill is before the Committee, the very essence of which is that it should not contain any controversial subjects. Everything has been excluded from this Bill that could lead to party feeling or controversy of this kind. Of course, it goes without saying that there should be ventilation of grievances before granting Supply; but may I suggest that the present is not an appropriate time for testing this matter by a vote of honorable members. Other occasions will be available when such a step may be taken. For instance, next Thursday is Grievance Day.
– That will be of no advantage to us because the matter could be “ talked out.”
– It would depend absolutely on the honorable member whether the matter was “talked out” or not.
– There might be enough Victorians to “ talk it out “ all night.
– The matter could not be ‘ ‘ talked out ‘ ‘ unless the House permitted it. That, I suggest, would be the proper way in which to submit the question to the arbitrament of the House. However, the Government, through the mouth of their Prime Minster (Mr. Hughes) made certain pledges on this subject at the recent election, and those pledges they will endeavour to carry out. When the ‘Budget is presented I hope it will contain an earnest of the Government’s intention in regard to Canberra; but I remind honorable members that the House is the tribunal which must ultimately decide the matter. Much as some members of the Government may feel with regard to the question, it is one which is not to be decided absolutely by Ministers without reference to the House.
– What is the Government’s policy in this regard?
– The Government policy is to proceed with the development of the Federal Capital ian the terms of the constitutional agreement entered into twenty years ago. In pursuance of that agreement, and m consequence of the votes and deliberations of this House, large sums of money have already been spent at Canberra. I -do not wish to discuss the merits of the question - the time for that has gone by; but I ask the honorable member for South Sydney, now that he has ventilated the question, and honorable members have had a field day over it, to let it go for the present, with the undertaking on the part of the Government that within the next few weeks the House will be asked to give a decision upon it. I have already told honorable members that I hope to introduce the Budget within the month of August, and I shall do my best to carry out that promise.
– Will you promise to place money on the Estimates which will enable the work to proceed at Canberra ?
– I have already told the honorable member that the policy of the Government is to proceed with the development of the Federal Capital, and there I hope the matter will be allowed to rest.
– The right honorable gentleman also said that an earnest of that policy would be found in the Estimates.
– I hope that it will be found there, and with that understanding I trust that the honorable member will withdraw the amendment. We can gain nothing by pressing it to a division, except that perhaps some honorable members might have to vote against it who, in o’ther circumstances, wouldprobably vote for it.
.- I am prepared to wait a few weeks until the Budget is produced, on the distinct understanding that the Government will carry out its promise, and as I do not wish to force the matter at the present time, I ask leave of the Committee to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I think the time has come when there should be a thorough overhaul of the position in connexion with the office of High Commissioner. Matters are unsatisfactory to-day, not only to the gentleman holding that office, but to the Government and to the people of Australia. We are getting virtually no return for the money laid out. There are continual complaints in Australia that the High Commissioner is doing practically nothing. I understand that Mr. Fisher’s view is that, whenever there is anything important to be done, a Commonwealth Minister is sent to London to do it. I do not wish to utter a threat, but merely to intimate to the Government that, unless a complete statement is made before or on the introduction of the Budget, I will test the feeling of the House upon the question whether or not the High Commissionership is to be retained as at present. Australia is certainly getting no commensurate return for the money expended in London, and it can scarcely be a matter of the men who have been appointed to the High Commissionership, for both Sir George Reid and Mr. Fisher have been leaders of Australian public opinion, and have occupied with honour the highest office in the Commonwealth, namely, that of Prime Minister. If Mr. Hughes had gone Home as High Commissioner, and Mr. Fisher had remained here as Prime Minister, the latter, no doubt, would have journeyed to London to transact Australia’s business, and Mr. Hughes would have been permitted to do nothing.
– That is very unfair to Mr. Fisher.
– It is, and I want it clearly understood that I am not raising the matter in any personal sense. If Mr. Fisher is not competent to carry out the duties of his office the fact should have been made known long ago, and a successor appointed. At any rate, the time is rotten ripe for a change.
– It is about time we had one Australian representative in London instead of a High Commissioner and six Agents- General.
– It is.
– The only answer necessary at the moment is that Australia sends very many less representatives to London than almost any other Dominion.
– Then, all I can say is that the various Dominions must despatch a power of men to London.
– Canadian Ministers are continually coming and going.
– Canada is very foolish to allow such a state of affairs to continue.
– And has Canada its various State Agents-General?
– I am utterly dissatisfied with the manner in which the High Commissioner’s office is conducted, and I emphasize that I am not making this a personal matter, for when Mr Fisher was in this Parliament I differed with him politically, but always respected him as a man. It is now for honorable members to say whether the High Commissionership shall be continued as at present or not. If the High Commissioner is to be retained in London, let him do the work for which he is highly paid, and let us put an end to this perambulation of Ministers back and forth between Melbourne and London.
– I believe that Tasmania has sent as many Ministers to England as the Federation; and more, in fact.
– That is certainly not the case.
The attitude of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), I take it, is that the High Commissionership should be retained, but that the gentleman holding that office should be a Minister of the Crown. That is precisely the view which I propounded when I returned to. Australia. I found, in London, that Mr. Fisher had no powers whatever, and that every little question as it cropped up had to be referred to Australia so that he might secure advice and instruction. I saw for myself the necessity for a High Commissioner in London, and for the establishment of Australia House.
– In normal times there are always 3,000 or 4,000 Australians in London.
– I quite believe that. No one who has paid a visit to Australia House, particularly if he were there during the war years, can question the necessity for the representation of Australia in the capital of the Empire; but it is unnecessary to incur the expense of having Commonwealth Ministers continually travelling to and from Great Britain. If a Minister were appointed to the High Commissionership, with power to .act in all circumstances, considerable trouble and expense would be saved the Commonwealth. I trust that the Government will favorably consider that point. If a Minister is sent to London, he will be representative of the Government of the day, which reflects the opinions of the majority of the people of Australia. An enormous amount of work was done in Australia House throughout the war. People who remained in the Commonwealth will scarcely credit, and can hardly be expected to appreciate the facts. In one branch alone, namely, the Pensions Branch, there was tremendous activity. It may be news to some honorable members that, of our first and second Australian Imperial Force Divisions, fully 30 per cent, of its personnel had their next-of-kin in Great Britain. The result was that a vast amount of pension work had to be conducted in Australia House. The building of . that structure was a very fine business deal.- Upon the establishment of a branch of the Commonwealth Bank in London during the war, no suitable premises were available except a portion of Australia House. To-day nearly one-half of that building is occupied bv the Commonwealth Bank, and during the war years its activities were conducted mainly to suit the convenience of our soldiers abroad. Any one who spent some time in London, and witnessed the operations of the. Commonwealth Bank in Australia House, must have been gratified to know that Australia had reared such a fine structure in London, and that it was housing our own Commonwealth banking institution. Still, there is a good deal of waste in Australia House. There is a considerable amount of frill, which ought to be cut out. There are many officials housed in various corners of that building who seem to be making a pretty good living out of Australia, but who are entirely out of touch with Commonwealth conditions. . In the office of the Victorian Agent- General there is not a single individual, except the Agent-General himself, I believe, who has ever been in Australia; and there are many other persons ‘employed in Australia House who have no knowledge whatever of Australian life, and who are not competent to speak of the ‘Commonwealth, or, for example, to answer questions of those who may be thinking of emigrating. Now that a fresh appointment is about to be made, I ask the Government to consider- the question whether it is wise to simply appoint an agent who has no power whatever. I understand that Mr. Fisher still has to ask for instructions upon any and every matter that crops up. If, however, a Minister were appointed, he could deal without delay with such important matters as negotiations in connexion with war loans, and he could represent Australia at International Conferences. It would then be no longer necessary to send any one else overseas.
I wish to refer, also, to the distribution of Anzac tweed. In a reply which the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) gave to an honorable member, it was stated that the tweed manufactured at our Commonwealth Mills was being sold to the public at 15s. a yard. I regretted to hear that statement. If any one should set an example against profiteering, it should be the Government of the day. As a member of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League, I was able to purchase the cloth for the suit which I am now wearing for £1 9s. 9d. I obtained it through the’ League. It is splendid material, and I ask the Government not to seek to make a profit from the operation of the Commonwealth Mills so long as they pay expenses. The people should be permitted to enjoy some of the benefits arising from this public activity, and should be able to secure this excellent cheap tweed which the Commonwealth Mills are turning out. Its distribution should not be confined to returned soldiers alone. Surely the widows and children of fallen -men should be entitled to some of the material at cost price. I know that the Returned Soldiers’ League is not supplying Anzac tweed to others than members oft the -League. It was understood that this cloth was to be available to all soldiers for their services abroad, irrespective of whether or not they belonged to the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League. However, T can quite understand the position of the League. In conducting its distribution, it has to incur expenses of salaries and rent, and it is not fair to ask that body to distribute the cloth to non-members. The tweed should be distributed through the Repatriation, or some other such Department; and it should be made available to all returned soldiers, to all returned nurses, and to all widows and children of deceased soldiers.
.- Through which Department are the expenses of administering the War Precautions Act paid?
– I think, through the Attorney-General’s Department.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported. Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means covering Resolution of Supply reported and adopted.
That Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Greene do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Joseph Cook, and read a first and second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
There shall and may be issued and applied for or towards making good the Supply hereby granted to His Majesty for the service of the year ending the 30th day of June, 1921, the sum of £2,367,826 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund’ for the purposes and services expressed in the schedule to this Act, and the Treasurer is hereby authorized and empowered to issue and apply the moneys authorized to be issued and applied.
.- I wish to test the feeling of the Committee on a matter of very great importance, and, therefore, move-
That after the word “Act” the following words be inserted: - . “ Provided that no moneys shall be expended or applied under the authority of this Act for the purpose of effecting any further deportations of residents of Australia without first being found guilty after having a charge laid against them and being afforded the opportunity of a public trial by jury in accordance with the principles of British justice.
I think that public feeling is sufficiently aroused to make it imperative that we, as representatives of the people, shall take effective action in Parliament to pre vent the trampling under foot of Magna Charta, as has been) done by this Go- . vernment of late, and also its adoption of Star Chamber methods. I do not debate the question now, because I do nob. wish to delay the Committee.
Sir JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta-
Treasurer) [4.5]- I am sorry that the honorable member has raised this matter in connexion with a Supply Bill, because it is most controversial.
– It is very important.
– I admit its importance, and for that reason it should not be raised in connexion with a Supply Bill which has been carefully framed to avoid matters of a controversial nature.
– I wish to prohibit you from expending money in administering the War Precautions Act. If you are hamstrung in the way I propose, you cannot do it.
– The Government will carry out deportations if they are found to be necessary, no matter what the honorable member may move.
– The people demand it.
.- The right honorable gentleman must bear it in mind that the Government cannot do these things except with the support of the majority in Parliament, and I wish, every member of the House to say where he is in this matter.
– Weshall be delighted to have the opportunity ofdoing so.
-Are honorable members in favour of having persons deported from this country - and my amendment refers to future deportations- without a specific charge being laid against them, and without a fair trial? I am against that sort of thing, and the people of Australia will want to know what attitude each member is prepared to adopt in regard to it.
– The honorable member professes to be anxious to line up every member of this House on the subject, and yet has waited until twothirds of the members have left before he decides to do so.
– The Minister is most unjust. I have refrained from speaking a ward on any of the questions discussed during the day in order that I might the sooner have an opportunity to move this amendment, which I consider affects a matter of more importance than some of those that have been discussed.
– The vote covered by the clause has already been twice approved to-day.
– This is the only oppor tunity that I have had of dividing the. Committee on the subject of my amendment, and, therefore, I insist on a division.
Question- That the words proposed to. be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Schedule, preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reportedwithout amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Sir Joseph Cook) read a first time.
House adjourned at 4.15p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 July 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200730_reps_8_92/>.