8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr: Hughes), by leave, agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
– With reference to the request made by the honorable member for Illawarra last night, I have to say that files of all Bills were kept in the chamber for each member for a number of years. It was found that many members did not use them, preferring to avail themselves of the copies of Bills placed on the table. Owing to the shortage of printing paper, it was arranged that fifteen files of Bills be placed in various parts of the chamber in lieu of supplying one file to each member. This has resulted in a considerable saving in printing paper, as well as in the expense of keeping the files in repair. There is still a serious shortage of printing paper, and every effort is made to keep the number of documents printed down to a minimum without inconveniencing members. A file of Bills will be supplied to any member who desires to have them and notifies the Clerk accordingly.
Action to Test Validity
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government intend to be ‘adequately represented by counsel in connexion with the appeal against an award affecting the constitutional validity of portions of the Industrial Peace Act?
-Certainly; we shall defend the constitutionality of the Act.
– (By leave.) - It will be within the knowledge of honorable members that an agreement was made between the Commonwealth Government and Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh for the building of wooden vessels. The firm now asks to be relieved of its contract. Parenthetically, I may add that arrangements were entered into with Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company for the purchase of the ships. The contractors point out that they have met with considerable difficulty and unavoidable delays in the carrying out of the. work, with the result that the cost of the vessels to date has greatly exceeded the amount anticipated, and more has already been spent on them than they should cost when completed. Owing to its scarcity, the cost of certain classes of timber required for the ships has greatly exceeded the contractors’ estimate. They say, too, that the decision of the Government to sell the vessels to Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company in anticipation of completion has resulted in complications and added to the expenditure because of extra work in the way of alterations required by the company, and the omission of the Diesel engines originally specified for has varied the work, and finality has not been reached respecting the reduction which should be made in the contract price by reason of it. There are also certain other matters in dispute.Since the first vessel was launched, a hog has developed, which in all probability will prevent the contractors from obtaining a Lloyd’s certificate for her, which is required by the agreement. As matters stand, there would appear to be little chance of arrivingat a settlement of the various questions in dispute without entering into costly and probably unsatisfactory legal proceedings. The contractors, therefore, ask to be relieved of their contract, and that the whole matter be referred to the Public Works Committee, with a view to a report being furnished and a decision obtained as to the conditions of the release. The contractors say that they are willing to abide by the decision of the Committee whatever it may be. In all the circumstances, I think that it would be in the interests of the Commonwealth to relieve them of their contract, and, therefore, I move -
That the following matter be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report -
The advisability of complying with the request of Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh to be relieved of the obligation to complete the contract entered into by them, on the 4th August, 1910, to build two wooden vessels for the Commonwealth, and the conditions upon which such relief, if deemed advisable, should be granted; and that the Committee be authorized to proceed with its investigations whilst the House is sitting.
I may add that I have seen the two vessels, one of which is within three weeks of being ready for sea, and the other not quite so forward. It was proposed to sell them to Messrs. Burns Philp, and Company, but that firm required certain alterations in them, involving the expenditure of many thousands of pounds. As their demands varied from time to time, I gave them forty-eight hours to say whether they would buy the ships at the price agreed on, and as they stood, without further alterations, which they declined to do, insisting on alterations being made. These vessels will carry wheat, and also copra, and we badly want tonnage for the transport of both commodities. They can be made ready for sea within six or eight weeks. Unless we take the course that I propose, we shall have to go to law with the contractors, and I think it is better to let the Public Works Committee decide the matter. The members of the Committee can be trusted to conserve the interests of the Commonwealth. As the representative of one of the parties, I think that we should be well advised to referthe matter to the Public Works Committee, and thus get it settled. I have taken a great deal of trouble to ascertain the facts, and to straighten things out, and strongly recommend that course. The Committee consists of members of this House and the Senate, and may be trusted to come to an expeditious and righteous decision..
.- Apparently the shipbuilding that has been carried on by private enterprise within the Commonwealth has proved a failure. Honorable members opposite have favoured private enterprise as against Government control, and some of them opposed the building of vessels at the Government yards at Cockatoo Island, Williamstown, Walsh Island, and elsewhere, saying that we could do better, and get ships built more cheaply, if we trusted to private enterprise. Now Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh ask to be relieved of their contract, and the Wallace Power Boat Company have been relieved of another contract. Were I asked to choose between the course adopted in the latter case and that now proposed, I would infinitely prefer the present procedure, because everything will be done in the light of day. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), in whose electorate a great deal of the shipping work has been carried out, knows more of these matters than I do, and, no doubt, will have somethingto say about them. Not only has private shipbuilding failed in the Commonwealth, but the ships which we had built for us at Seattle by private firms came to us in the condition of sieves.
– And cost more for extras than their original price.
– Yes. The following members of this House and the Senate make up the Public Works Committee: - Senators Foll, Newland, and Plain, and Messrs. Atkinson, Bamford, Gregory, Mackay, Mathews, and Parker Moloney; but as this is a special matter, I think it had better be referred to a special Committee, composed of members familiar with the work to be investigated. In saying that, I in no way reflect on the ability or honour of the members of the Works Committee. Messrs.. Kidman and Mayoh say that they are willing to accept the verdict of that Committee, but possibly this House might treat the Committee’s report as it has treated its report on the proposal to transfer the Notes Printing Office from the King’s Warehouse to the Victoria-parade site.
– If you do not agree to my proposal, Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh will say, “As you are insisting on a second voice, we must have the same.” What is needed is finality. Without a decision in the manner I suggest, they will go to law.Some persons think a lot of the law.
– I have not much admiration for the law, except as a costly institution for suitors which benefits the lawyers. The more one knows of the law the less he likes it. I think that there should be a special Committee to deal with this matter.
– The suggestion of a special Committee re-opens the whole case. What I propose is the result of long negotiations.
– I think that the matter should be dealt with by a special Committee. In no case should the Public Works Committee’s decision be final, because its members, like other persons, are capable of making mistakes. It is a gross reflection on private enterprise that it has been unable to conduct shipbuilding satisfactorily either to those engaged in the work or to the Commonwealth.
.- I am somewhat favorable to having a Committee to investigate, not only the matters spoken of by the Prime Minister, but everything connected with the building of wooden ships, both here and in America. So far as referring this matter to the Public Works Committee is concerned, I think it would be a mistake to adopt that course. It would be far better for the House to appoint a Select Committee to deal with it. The members of the Public Works Committee already have quite a number of important questions engaging their attention, and there are other matters which must be referred to that body in the immediate future if our public works policy is to be proceeded with. Consequently, that Committee will be loaded up with work. We must also recollect that the Public Works Committee was constituted by a special Act of Parliament for a specific purpose.
– I was just endeavouring to ascertain whether the firm which is involved in this dispute with the Commonwealth will agree to theproposal that the matter should be referred to a Select Committee. I will accept the finding of the Committee, of course. But there are other complications. We propose to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee, because that body has some legal status.
– Has it the legal status to deal with this matter? It was appointed to inquire into specific proposals for the expenditure of large sums of public money. That is quite a different matter from inquiring into a dispute between a private firm of contractors and the Commonwealth.
– I would point out to the honorable member that it will be useless for us to agree to a motion for a Select Committee if the firm in question will not concur in the course which is being followed.
– I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that I believe the firm will agree to the course which is proposed.
– Then I have no objection. If the honorable member likes, I will accept the suggestion that the matter shall be referred to a SelectCommittee consisting of a similar number of members ofthis Parliament, as compose the Public Works Committee.
– In my opinion, the matter is one which does not require to be investigated by a large Committee. . . It needs a Committee consisting of men who have some grip of it.
– But the Committee must consist of a certain number of members from another place.
– We ought not to rush this proposal through the House too quickly.
– We had better stick to a Committee of nine, composed of six members of this House and three members of another place.
– The Prime Minister agrees that a Committee of members of Parliament shall be appointed to investigate the matter?
– That being so, I should like to know what are to be the functions of the Committee. Will its members be restricted to an endeavour to make an arrangement with the firm of Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh, or will they have an opportunity of investigating the whole of the surrounding circumstances?
– The whole of the surrounding circumstances- the workmanship of the, ships, the specifications, the extent to which the specifications have been departed from, at whose instance they were departed from, whether the vessels are seaworthy, their contract price, whether we ought to be bound by that price, and, indeed, the whole thing.
– Will they also have the right to consider whether the contract for the building of thesetwo weasels ought not to have been cancelled at the time the contracts for the construction of other vessels were cancelled?
– No. After all,we are endeavouring to ascertain how much the Commonwealth oughtto pay.
– Why is it that the Commonwealth is called upon topay anything? Where did the initial error take place?
– There is the contract.
– That is the point. It may be that that was the initial error - thatit was a mistake to enter into the contract. Upon the other hand, it may be that the initialerror was in failing to cancel the contractat the time thecontracts forthe construction ofother vessels were cancelled.
– We want a recommendation as to how much we should pay in order to get these ships. If we didnot want the vessels I would notmove my finger inthe matter, and would allow the dispute to go to law. But we do want the vessels.
– That is all right, so far as it goes.
– That is the whole issue.
– There is more in it than that.
– The honorablemember wants the Committee to inquire into the question of whether we ought to have ordered the vessels in the beginning.
– No. But I want the Committee to inquire whether the Government should not have secured the cancellation of the contract for the construction of these vessels when other shipbuilding contracts with this very firm of Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh were cancelled, and when the firmwas paid £70,000 by way of compensation. The Government then agreed that the building of the Burnside and Braeside, the two vessels which form the subject of the present dispute, should be proceeded with. The Committee shouldbe empowered to inquire why the contract for the building of these vessels was not cancelled when other shipbuilding contracts were cancelled.
– It was not cancelled, because these ships were then in process of construction.
– There were Vessels in process of construction at that time by the Wallace Power Company. At Woolwich to-day, honorable members may see the skeletons of these vessels the contract for the construction of which was cancelled by the Government undertaking to pay that company compensation to the extent of £50,000. The Prime Minister’s contention, therefore, will not hold good.
– Very great headway had been made with the construction of the Burnside and Braeside.
– Now ?
– No, then.
– Oneof these vessels, so far as actual construction is concerned, is nearly complete. Whether she is fit to proceed to sea, is another matter. But the Burnside was not in being at the time of which I am speaking.
– Why waste more time?
– I resent that suggestion by the Prime Minister. Thecontract for the construction of these vessels has cost the Commonwealth some hundreds of thousands of pounds, and I have a right to standup here and talk about it. Neither the Prime Minister nor any other honorable member has a right to suggest that I am wasting time.
– Are we not proposing to refer thedispute to a Select Committee?
– But I desire to see aCommittee appointed which will be empowered to investigate the matter fully.
-The honorable member wishes to make it a political inquiry.
– I do not. The Prime Minister may appoint whoever he chooses upon the Committee. The Government have the power and the numbers to place upon the Committee just what members they may think fit. This matter ought to be investigated by a Select Committee, and the Commonwealth ought not to be forced to go to law.
– It should be investigated by a Royal Commission, and not by a Select Committee.
– I want something more than is proposed by the Prime Minister. If the right honorable gentleman is prepared toagree to the appointment of a Select Committee which shall have power to conduct an inquiry upon the lines I have suggested, I have no objection to his proposal.
– I am willing to amend my motion so as to make it provide for the appointment ofa Select Committee of seven members of this Parliament - five from the House of Representatives and two from the Senate.
– How will the Prime Minister apportion representation upon the Committee ?
– I shall not attempt to do that now. I shall do it only after consultation with the honorable member and with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams).
– May I suggest that a Royal Commission should be appointed instead of a Select Committee?
– Order ! It is almost impossible for me to follow what is being said owing to the frequency of interjections and the general hum of conversation.
– How many members of the Committee does the Prime Minister think should come from the Opposition side of the chamber, how many from the Government side, and how many from the Corner party?
– When the actual personnel is brought here, the honorable member will be able to scrutinize it, and to say whether it is satisfactory or otherwise.
– But in matters of this sort there is usually an arrangement made.
– I will bring along the names of the members whom it is proposed to appoint, and the honorable member will then be able to say whether they shall form the Committee or not.
– It is not a question of names, but there must be a fair representation of the different parties in this Parliament.
– Will not the names show from whence the proposed members ofthe Committee come ?
– I must ask the honorable member for Dalley to address the Chair, and not to continue a conversation with the Prime Minister.
– I am anxious to do so, but this is a very important matter.
– It is not proper for the honorable member to carry on a private conversation with the Prime Minister across the table.
– Very well. I consider that a Select Committee should be appointed to deal with this matter-
– It should be a Royal Commission, and not a Select Committee.
– That is so. I am very glad the honorable member has reminded me of that fact, because he and I have recently had rather an unpleasant experience of the difference between two such bodies in connexion with an inquiry which we were conducting as members of a Select Committee. We discovered that, because we were a Select Committee, our powers werevery limited. I think, therefore, that a Royal Commission should be appointed.
– I cannot agree to that. I brought forward this motion, but I shall withdraw it and let the matter go to law if there is to be any further objection.
– If the Prime Minister chooses to exhibit temper in regard to the matter, that is his affair, but it will involve a loss to the country. If the Commonwealth has to submit to a loss of thousands of pounds merely because he chooses to lose his temper, the Commonwealth will know what to do.
– I give way to the honorable member in everything he wants, and yet he keeps on asking for more, and more, and more. Oliver Twist was a fool to him.
– Will the Prime Minister agree to the Committee being vested with the power for which I have been contending?
– I will give it all the power that I can.
– Order! This conversation is absolutely irregular, and must not be continued.
– I desire that the Committee shall have ample powers to, inquire into this matter, and shall not be restricted in their investigations.
– I have said that they should have the power, and they shall. We will give them all the power that we have.
– All the power that we have?
– Can I give them any more?
– If the Prime Minister will agree that the Committee shall have all the power which this House can conf er upon it, I will accept the proposal.
– There is only one point to which I desire to refer. It seems to me that this is an inquiry which should naturally fall within the province of the Public Accounts Committee, and, that being so, I fail to understand why the Public Works Committee should be asked to undertake it.
– They are not now going to inquire into the matter at all.
– Why is it necessary to appoint a Special Committee when this House has already appointed one which should properly deal with the question?
– I saw the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (Mr. Fowler), who told me that it was busily engaged on another urgent matter. That is why it is not to go to that Committee.
– But the inquiry on which the Public Accounts Committee is now busily engaged is not to continue indefinitely. Why, then, should we create Committee on Committee?
– This is an urgent matter.
– If this is an urgent matter, demanding immediate inquiry, I shall not protest against the proposal ; but in bringing.it before the House, the Prime Minister, did not make it evident that the, question was so urgent that the Public Accounts Committee could not take it in hand.
– To the suggestion that the matter should be referred to a Committee of inquiry there can be practically no objection; but, having regard to the recent experience of the Select Committee on Sea Carriage,I think a Select Committee under the Standing Orders is exceedingly restricted. A proper inquiry into this matter can be made only by a Royal Commission.
– In what way is a Select Committee restricted under the Standing Orders?
– In the first place, it mustobtain the consent of the House to meet while the House is sitting, and must also secure permission from the House if it desires to make inquiries in the several States. The greater part of this inquiry willundoubtedly take place in New South Wales, and, that being so, the proposed Select Committee will be far more hampered in its operations than a Royal Commission would be. A Royal Commission would be bound by the terms of its com mission, and could not go outside them. As one who has sat on various Select Committees and Royal Commissions, I unhesitatingly say that, in order that this matter may be thoroughly investigated, it is absolutely essential that the Committee of inquiry should have the powers of a Royal Commission. If the Government will not accept that view-
– I do not accept it.
– Then I move-
That the words “ the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “Royal Commission consisting of members of this House.”
.- I understood the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) to say that he would move an amendment-
– I have done so.
– And before the honorable member says another word, we know that he will agree with the amendment.
– I am not going to be “bluffed” by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook). I wish to state briefly how the matter presents itself to my mind. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) came down to the House this morning, asked leave to move a motion without notice, and having obtained that leave moved what, in my opinion, is a very important motion requiring careful consideration by honorable members. This is not a matter that can be determined by conversations across the table. It is one in which every honorable member is interested. I, for one, want to know what necessity there is for this reference to a Committee. It may be that there are sufficient reasons. Apparently the Government let a contract to Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh for the construction of certain ships, and Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh now desire to have that contract cancelled. That is what I gather from the Prime Minister’s statement, and he says, in effect, to the House, “ If you do not allow this reference to a Committee which it is proposed to appoint to act as arbitrators, there must be a resort to the law.” If the Government conducts its business properly it should not be afraid of any law in regard to the carrying out of a contract, provided that the contract was in definite terms.
-Who drew up the contract?
– I do not know; and before I shall be prepared to refer a matter of this sort to some Committee, the majority of which will consist of supporters of the Government, I shall want to know why it is necessary for the Government not to insist upon the performance of the contract, whatever it may be. Is not the contract a definite one? If it is a definite contract, then what need can there be to refer it to a Committee? “Why this rushing of the whole matter? Why all this urgency? This work has been going on for quite a long time, but the Prime Minister suddenly finds it necessary to rush in with a motion concerning a matter which I am sure not one-fourth of the members of the House fully understand. Before I agree to any motion I want to understand exactly what it is proposed to do, and why it is necessary to carry such a motion. Why should it be necessary to refer to a Select Committee the question of whether or not a particular firm shall be compelled to carry out its contract? The whole position should be clearly and definitely stated in the contract as between the Government and the contractors. That being so, I am not prepared to agree to the reference at all, until something more definite is put before the House.
If there is to be a reference, then I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that it should be to some body that is clothed with full power to investigate the whole subject.
– It is really a Board of Arbitrators that is suggested.
– Then should not the Government be able to say on what grounds they should refer the dispute to arbitration ?
– Under the contract, the contractors can go to arbitration on all these points, and defy us. We are entirely at their mercy. If they say they want to go to arbitration, then there must be a resort to arbitration.
– Where is the contract ?
– It is in your office. At least it should have been had you been alert in your business.
– It is useless for the Prime Minister to joke about this matter.
If the contractors have the right to refer the question to arbitration-
– They have.
– Then why not refer it to arbitration ?
– The contractors have selected this form of arbitration.
– If that is so, it is for the Government to take the responsibility of any reference, and not to come down to this House and try to shuffle the responsibility on to honorable members.
– The honorable member is suggesting that we should go behind the back of Parliament?
– No; but while I am a member of this House I am not going to allow the Prime Minister to shuffle on to it a responsibility which is properly that of Cabinet Ministers. The Tight honorable gentleman has a habit of doing that sort of thing. He rushes into the House, obtains leave to move a motion without notice, and shoves on to some one else’s shoulders responsibilities that are properly his own.
– And if we undertook that responsibility the honorable member would say that we ought not to have done so..
– Not at all. If we accept this proposal the Prime Minister will be able to say, later on,” I referred the matter to theHouse. This is a matter with which the Public Works Committee, the Public Accounts Committee, or some other Select Committee has dealt.” If that sort of reference is to bemade, it should be provided for before a contract is entered into. In that event, the responsibility would from the beginning rest upon the Committee. But what the Prime Minister does is to come to the House, and to shuffle off his responsibility when he is getting into a hole.
– We have not got into a hole.
– The right honorable gentleman tries to put on the shoulders of the Committee what is properly the responsibility of the Cabinet. In the circumstances, I take it that the Government will not rush this motion, but will give time for its proper consideration.
– It makes no difference to me. If the wheat-growers want ships to carry away their produce- .
– More bluff! The right honorable member threatened just now to withdraw the motion. That, too, was pure bluff. I do not care whether he withdraws it or not. There is always an excuse offering for shuffling out of Government responsibility, and covering up any particular transaction. . If there is to be an inquiry into this matter, then by all means let it be carried out by a Royal Commission. As suggested by the honorable member for Franklin, a Royal Commission would have full power to investigate the matter. I agree with that, and will support the amendment.
.- This matter was mentioned to me a few days ago, and I understood that it was of very great urgency. I gathered that a contract had been entered into; that trouble had arisen in connexion with it; that a resort to arbitration would mean indefinite delay, and that it was extremely desirable that these vessels should be available at the earliest possible moment. I was asked whether the Public “Works Committee would undertake an inquiry, so as to be able to make a recommendation to the Government.
– Who approached the honorable member?
– The Secretary to the Prime Minister. So far as I know, there is no suggestion of anything that would require investigation at the hands of a Royal Commission. There is nothing demanding a special investigation other than can be secured under the Statute controlling the Public Works Committee. The Committee has full power to take evidence on oath. In ordinary circumstances the reference should undoubtedly have been to the Public Accounts Committee. That Committee, however, is engaged upon a special investigation, which it is estimated will occupy its attention for three weeks or a month. The House was particularly anxious that the Public Accounts Committee should immediately undertake the inquiry upon which it is now working. I had no desire to have anything to do with this inquiry, because I thought that the questions involved were very intricate. Iwas told that the matter was one of urgency, and on looking up the Public Works Committee Act I found that such a referenceclearly comes within the powers of the Committee. As Chairman, I promised that the Committee would undertake the work, though personally I had not the slightest desire for it.
– Did the honorable member consult the members of the Works Committee?
– One or two.
– The members on this side say that they were not consulted.
– I do not think the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will say that.
– This is the first I have heard of the matter.
– I said that if the matter was referred to the Public Works Committee I, as Chairman, could see no objection to our undertaking the inquiry, but we had no great desire for it. The Government were very desirous of coming to some finality so that the ships could be either disposed of or fixed up and put into commission. For that reason I consented to the Committee undertaking the inquiry. If Parliament is agreeable, there is ample power for the Committee to make the inquiry, provided the reference is complete enough to allow us to make every investigation. It is for the House to say whether the Committee is competent to prepare a report that will be satisfactory to Parliament, and enable the Government to carry out whatever is determined in relation to the contract.
– We are in a peculiar position. I understand that what is required is more in the nature of arbitration than an inquiry, and it was suggested that the Public Works Committee should be the arbitrator. My opinion is that the members of that Committee arequite as competent to consider the matter as would be any other Committee appointed by the House, despite the fact that honorable members may be attacked individually.
– Do not forget that the Committee has power to appoint assessors; I omitted to mention that fact.
– Peculiar attacks are made on members of the Works Committee, but everybody is liable to that sort -of thing, and must pui. up with it. Personally, I am not hanky-ring after this job. The Works Committee already has plenty of work to do. Bui I do think that if the matter is not referred to the Public Works Committee it should be referred to the Public Accounts Committee. I can see no necessity for the appointment of a special Select Committee. If an inquiry into the whole question were desired, and there were any suggestion of something, shady in the transaction, a Boya! Commission should be appointed.
– There is nothing of that at all.
– I understand that the proposal is simply to appoint a Committee as arbitrator. If* the House does not think that the Public Works- Committee is competent to deal with the matter the inquiry should be intrusted to the Public Accounts Committee. If neither of those bodies is acceptable, Parliament should abolish both of them.
, - The honorable member who has j-usc resumed his seat has dealt with thu mutter very fairly. The points to be settled are perfectly clear and arise out of the attempt of the contractor to carry out his contract. The Government, through its departmental officers, made, repeated demand? for variations, additions, and alterations to the vessels, some of which the contractor said were outside the scope of the contract. The Government said they were not. The Diesel engines were taken out of the vessels, and the contractor claims an allowance for them. The Government say that he has an allowance, inasmuch as he has the engines. Still, the amount is in dispute. Then i t was suggested that the ships be sold to Burns, Philp and Company for a certain price. Burns, Philp and Company asked that some alterations should be made. The contractor made the alterations at a cost of £13,000 to £15,000. Burns, Philp and Company then asked for further alterations, and the contractor asked who would pay him for them. Thus there is a dispute between the parties as to how much is owing to the contractor. All the. Committee has to do is to arbitrate in that matter. In order to give the House an opportunity of expressing its view, I shall adhere to the motion I. submitted. If any member of the Opposition moves that the reference be to ‘ a Select - Committee, the honorable- member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) may move to substitute a Boya]* “Commission. The matter can be decided in- that way. If the- House thinks that the matter should be referred to a Select Committee, I shall offer no objection, but I shall take exception to the appointment of a Royal Commission, because such a course would be absurd. No witnesses need be heard other than the parties themselves. We have only to appoint an arbitrator, and the whole of the information is available. All the Committee need do is to consider that information and look at the ships to see if they are seaworthy and the work done to them is worth the money that is claimed by the contractor.
– May not we move- an amendment to the motion?
– The Prime Minister has replied, and it is too late for an amendment to be moved now.
– The Prime Minister certainly gave me to understand that he would move for a Select Committee, and I accepted that.
– That is all right, but no sooner did I accept that, than another proposal was made for the appointment of a Royal Commission. I will not agree to that.
– There is only one proposal before the Chair, and that is the motion to refer this matter to the Public Works Committee. If honorable members desired to substitute any other proposal, they should have moved to amend the motion according to the Standing Orders.
– Mr. Speaker-
– The honorable member may not speak now, the Prime Minister having replied, and thus closed the debate.
– What about the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams)?
– There is no amendment before the House. An amendment must be moved and seconded, and submitted in writing, duly signed, before it can be proposed from the Chair.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Repatriation whether further consideration has been given to the eligibility ofblind, tubercular, and limbless and maimed soldiers to participate in the benefits conferred by the War Service Homes Act.
– As members of the Australian Imperial Force, all those soldiers are eligible for participation in the benefits of the War Service Homes Act. Provision has been made outside the Act for temporary treatment in institutions, such as hostels. While soldiers remain inmates of those institutions, they are not eligible; but if, in the opinion of the Commissioner and the soldier himself, it would be more effective to provide a home, that may be done. No disability is placed upon the individual soldier, but each case is considered on its merits.
– Has the Minister for the Navy seen in the press of last night and to-day a statement, apparently issued from the Navy Office, dealing with naval prize money, and the participation by Australians therein? As the Minister knows, I have been in conference with him on this matter, and with his knowledge put on the notice-paper a question concerning it. I now desire to ask him whether the statement appearing in the press was issued with his authority instead of being made on the floor of the House in answer to the question which I put on the notice-paper ?
– As the honorable member’s question appears on the notice-paper, I doubt whether I shall be in order in replying to it now.
– The question now put by the honorable member for Wentworth is not identical with that which appears on the notice-paper. I understand that he is asking the Minister why a certain course was taken, and if it was taken with his knowledge.
– I gave no authority to the officials of the Navy Department to give the information to the press.
-I wish to ask the Treasurer, without notice, a question regarding the payment of pension’s to the blind. In Queensland recently the minimum wage was raised for blind workers from 35s. to 40s. per week, and in consequence a reduction of 2s. 6d. per week was made in the pension payable to those workers. That is, it was reduced from 7s. fid. to 5s. per week. Will the Treasurer have the amount restored to 7 s. 6d.?
– I am glad the honorable member has brought this subject up, because it gives me an opportunity to say that the other day I received a deputation from all sides of both Houses regarding it. My inclination was then, and is still, to permit the blind pensioner, who is otherwise hale and well - his only disability being his blindness - to earn up to the minimum wage, including his pension. I asked honorable members who were on that deputation to ascertain if the opinion of the House would be favorable to putting through a very short measure, dealing with that subject only, without any delay. I regret to say that I have been informed that the honorable member’s side of the House will not agree to an arrangement of that kind.
– That is not true so far as I am concerned.
– Nor so far as I am concerned.
– I am informed that it is the intention to load the Bill with other amendments if I bring it forward.
– Who told you ?
– That is quite right. Some of our fellows said they would object.
– I -am surprised at the Deputy Leader of that party raising this question. He ought to know, if he does not, exactly what the position is.
– The matter should be threshed out on the floor of the House, and not settled by private agreement.
– I am suggesting that it should be threshed out here; but I asked for an undertaking, to which I think I am entitled. When I try to meet the difficulty arising out of the position of blind soldiers alone, I may fairly ask for a guarantee by the House that the whole question of pensions will not be raised.
– You may have a guarantee from this party that it will not be raised.
– Thanks; but I cannot get it from the Opposition.
-May I ‘ask the Treasurer a question arising out of’ his recent statement? I am sure he was not anxious that any person should be misrepresented. I was one of the deputation that waited on him, and I informed him that I would consult the members of my party. I did consult them. Did I not inf orm him that they said they desired to obtain the same treatment for invalid pensioners in certain cases as was proposed for the blind, and to amend the Bill in that way, not that they were going to overload it with amendments ?
– It is quite true that the honorable member did tell me that members-
– Then why did you not say so ?
– I did say so. I said distinctly that I had been informed that they would not give this simple Bill a clear passage, but intended to load it with other amendments, opening up new ground. That is the statement I made, and that now receives confirmation at the hands of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I think “you have gone very much wider than my statement.
– I assure the honorable member that I have not.
– Drop the killick; you are drifting.
– May I ask the Leader of the Opposition a question, to clear this matter up?
– ‘Order ! I should not have allowed the Leader of the Opposition to ask the question, because it disregarded the well-known rule that questions arising out of the answers of Ministers to previous questions must not be put. I thought in this case that it might be allowed, as the House was interested in the matter, but I see that I should not have relaxed the rule. Hon- orable members see how the matter has developed into an irregular debate. ‘ It cannot be allowed to go further.
– Is the Treasurer prepared how to bring in a Bill to deal with the question of blind soldiers’ pensions?
-4If I have the assurance of the honorable members of the . House. particularly of the Opposition, that they , will not “broaden the scope of the ‘ proposal to deal with the blind soldiers, I shall bring it in at once. ‘
– You will get no assurance from me that I will restrict my right to discuss a Bill in this House. When the Bill comes before the House I wall consider what its object is.
– As reports are being freely circulated in the country that it is contemplated to place restrictions on the importation of potash into Australia, will the Minister for Trade and Customs say if any such restrictions have been imposed, and, if so, for what reason?
– There are no restrictions in regard to the importation of potash so long as it conies from the deposits in Alsace.. There are restrictions on its importation if it comes from Germany, but outside of that there are none. I understand that ample supplies can be obtained from the deposits in Alsace.
– On Wednesday I asked the Postmaster-General a question regarding the establishment of a radio station on one of the islands of the Willis group, off the coast of Queensland. He promised to make inquiries and let me know the result as early as possible. Has he any information yet to give? I would press him to treat the matter as urgent, because it is very serious, and if anything is to be done, it should be done at once.
– I have not received the information yet.
– Can the Assistant Minister for Defence inform me if any action of a disciplinary nature has been taken in the case, to which I drew his attention, of an assault by a military officer on a cadet at Broken Hill ?
– Yes, action was taken by the Defence Department. The officer who assaulted a cadet was relieved of his position, and has since been refused employment in the Defence Department.
– The Prime Minister made me a promise some time ago to bring the question of the extension of the moratorium before the State Premiers. I understand that the Premiers will be meeting here this weekend. Will the Prime Minister bring the matter before them, in view of the fact that there are a number of distressed people vitally concerned? I have letters from farmers in New South Wales who, if they could get an extension for a little while, say, until the wheat payment was made, might be able to carry on. Cannot something be done to bring this matter forcefully before the Premiers, in order to save many of these people from disaster? In the particular case of which I hold the particulars in my hand, the mortgagor has only until the first of next month to pay up or be turned out on the road.
– Order ! The honorable member is entitled to ask a question, but not to make a speech.
-I will bring the matter up.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to make a statement, on behalf of the Government, that we will be able to resume trade with Germany and our other late enemies ? All the other countries are doing it.
– I do not know what other countries are doing, and I do not care. This House can have an opportunity of expressing an opinion on the matter whenever it likes. I am not in favour of opening our arms to our dear brothers, the Germans. They can have a fair deal. The Germans in this country will have a fair deal; but I amnot in favour of resuming trade relations with Germany.
– Are you against it for all time ?
– No ; certainlynot. Let the question come before me again, say, in another year.
– Order ! Business of the day. Questions upon notice.
– I rise to a point of order. I do not quite understand my position. I rose several times for the purpose of asking a question towhich I desired an answer, but I did not get the call. I make no complaint about that; but, greatly to my surprise,when I rose the last time, I understood you to call on the business of the day. I should like you to explain why that was done.
– I had already called on the business of the day when the honorable member rose to ask his question. I direct his attention to the wellestablished rule of Parliament that only questions of an urgent nature, which cannot conveniently go on the businesspaper, should be asked without notice. It cannot be said that any of the questions which have been put this morning are of that character; yet it is now twelve minutes past twelve, and the business on the notice-paper has not yet been reached. In the circumstances, seeing that the House was getting into a very disorderly condition, and that irregular debates were developing under the guise of questions, I told the Clerk to call on the business of the day.
– I rise to order. I submit that I have a perfect right to state another point of order.
– Order! I have already given my decision, and the honorable member cannot debate it.
– I rise to a new point of order.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to discontinue argument with the Chair.
asked the Minister for the Navy; upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
As the Finance Committee of the Sydney Municipal Council has refused to call a meeting of the mayors of municipalities and shires to consider the distribution to them of the war trophies, and having in mind the urgent representations of the mayors concerned, will the Government take the necessary steps to have this urgent matter finalized ?
– I have arranged for this matter to be specially submitted to the New South Wales Trophy Committee, of which a meeting will be held within a fortnight.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the reduced allowance on the Estimates for rifle clubs, and the expected visit to the Commonwealth of an English rifle team, the Minister will grant an increased supply of ammunition to enable Australia to give a good account of herself in the forthcoming contests ?
– Consideration will be given to the matter; but it may be stated a quantity of ammunition has already been provided free of charge to rifle associations in connexion with the State matches at which the British team is to compete.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he can make any statement as to the possibility of securing shipping space for oats, seeing that many farmers are desirous of exporting same, in order to as far as possible avoid the slump in prices which it is alleged is almost certain to come about in view of the extraordinarily good harvest anticipated?
– Inquiries are being made as to the prospects of space being made available for oats, and I shall inform the honorable member of the result as soon as possible.
Extension to Buildings and Equipment at Geelong.
Debate resumed from 27th October (vide page 5993), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following works be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report thereon, viz.: - Extension to buildings and equipment of the Commonwealth Woollen Cloth Factory at Geelong, Victoria.
On which Mr. Charlton had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following words be added : - “ or erection of buildings at Canberra, New South Wales.”
An Order of the Day is a Bill or other matter which the House has ordered to be taken into consideration on a particular day.
A matter can only be made a.n Order of the Day by permission of the House ; that is laid down definitely. The Government or a Minister cannot, of his own volition, place a matter on the noticepaper as an Order of the Day without first asking the leave of the House. If the House grant leave, the business can be placed on the notice-paper as an Order of the Day in whatever position the Government may think fit. But in this case the adjournment of the debate was moved by an honorable member ; no permission has been given by the House for it to be made an Order of the Day. I therefore, ask your ruling, sir as to whether it can appear on the noticepaper as an Order of the Day.
– I think the honorable member is mistaken when he says that this motion was interrupted under standing order 119.
– I corrected myself as to that, and said that the adjournment of the debate was moved.
– In that case the motion became an Order of the Day.
– Does a matter become automatically an Order of the Day? Has it not to be specifically made an Order of the Day?
– I moved that the adjourned debate be made an Order of the Day for a later hour of the day.
– The mo.tion, as the Minister says,, was that the business be made an Order of the Day for a later hour of the day.
– Very well, we shall “ catch “ the Government on the next motion.
.- I listened with deep interest to the debate on this motion for the extension of the Geelong Woollen Mills. The amount required f for the work is small ; and, in view of the fact that we already have at Geelong the necessary land, buildings, and plant, the proposal of the Government is judicious, more particularly when we take into consideration the great shortage in supplies, and that those supplies can be increased very considerably by means of this project. Under the circumstances the motion shall have my support.
It is generally supposed that there are three parties in this House, but if the discussion on this motion be any indication, it would appear that there are at least seventy-five parties, each member, apparently, being desirous to have woollen mills erected in his constituency at the cost of the Commonwealth.
– Here is one that does not desire such a thing.
– And here is another.
– Then I must make an exception of those two honorable members. What would it cost the country if the various members who have spoken on this motion had their requests granted? I venture to say that to equip a mill, equal in every particular to the existing Commonwealth Woollen Mill, would cost, at the present time, at least £500,000.
– Who told you that? You are not dealing with butter now; this is a matter of which you know nothing.
– Possibly the facts I am relating are strange to the honorable member, but, however that may be, I intend to deal only with facts. There seems to be a desire on the part of some honorable members for sole Government control of the woollen business; but no such proposal shall have my support. It is recognised that there are great openings for this industry in Australia, but what is required for its development is the encouragement of co-operative effort and private enterprise. No doubt Government assistance, both State and Federal, is necessary. By that I mean that it is probable the Commonwealth may have to finance the States, but it is for each State to finance such industries within its boundaries. In different parts of the Commonwealth there are several pro posals for the establishment of woollen mills; quite a number of companies are on the verge of flotation, and in my constituency at least two are ready for registration. Those concerned in these enterprises do not desire any “ spoon-feeding,” nor, indeed, any assistance without offering tangible security. The feeling in my district, and I trust in other districts also, is that those immediately concerned should find as much of the necessary capital as possible, say 50 per cent., the balance to be advanced by the Government on first class security. There is no idea of raiding the Treasury in any shape or form; they ask for no advances which they do not intend to repay. All they desire is, as I say, some assistance on good security.
In my opinion it will be many years before the necessary labour for a woollen mill could be obtained in the Federal area. If the Government have money to spend in this direction, their wisest course would be to wait until the housing and general conditions in that part of Australia are more congenial; at present, I regard the amendment as outside practical consideration.
As to the woollen industry generally, I have collected some information from the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, of which Mr. Stirling Taylor is the Director. We are told that the establishment of this industry must have many advantages for young Australia. This country, we are told, should not only grow wool, but should manufacture it, at least, to such an extent that the Australian people may be clothed with Australianmade woollen goods, the making of which would find employment and wages for Australian workmen, and for other population which is so much desired, and is offered. It is generally agreed that we require population ; and, taking into consideration that we are such an extensive wool-producing country, the wool industry offers great opportunities, indeed, for a most desirable class of immigrant. Quite a number of people are of opinion that the Bureau is desirous that there shall be a huge socialistic Government venture. That is not so; and, I, for one, am very much opposed to any such idea. In reference to the proposal that the industry should be under Government control, the view is expressed by the Bureau that it is essential that the development of the manufacture of woollen goods should be left entirely in the hands of private enterprise, backed up, of course, by any reasonable financial assistance the Government are prepared to give. In my opinion, this is the safest and most economical way of carrying on the industry. At the present time, it is pointed out, the’ output of woollen and worsted goods from Australia is only 15 per cent, of the requirements of the Commonwealth, which is a shocking state of affairs, taking into consideration the fact that Australia produces something like one-fifth of the world’s supply of wool. It is estimated by the Bureau that £14,000,000 would be required during the next ten or fifteen years to establish complete up-to-date woollen mills in each State. Seeing that the BritishAustralian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited has a capital of £5,500,000, Howard Smith Proprietary Limited a capital of £5,000,000, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company a capital of £4,000,000, the three companies having a total capital of £14,500,000, there ought not to be any difficulty in raising sufficient money to establish the manufacture of woollen goods in each State, particularly when we realize that even to meet the present requirements of the population would necessitate the treatment of at least 2,000,0*00 lbs. of greasy wool per annum. The suggestion of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry is that a company should be formed in each State on the basis of the wool produced within the State, and it is estimated that the capital required to finance the scheme would be approximately £5,000,000 for New South Wales, £3,000,000 for Victoria, £2,000,000 for Queensland, £1,000,000 for South Australia, £1,000,000 for Western Australia, and £250,000 for Tasmania. The best indication that the development of the industry would prove profitable is the fact that our existing mills do not produce more than 15 per cent, of our requirements ; but there is no doubt an enormous increase in population would follow, and that a great impetus would be given to the development of kindred industries, such as fertilizers, tallow, candles, soap, glue, tanning, leather, boot3, bags, harness, building motors, and electrical. There would also be an increased demand for food products. All this expansion which would follow would certainly justify the amount of expenditure involved. 1 would be very sorry to see the woollen industry nationalized, and the scheme suggested by the Bureau of Science and Industry is not on those lines. An attempt to nationalize it would not only deliver a serious blow at private enterprise, but also retard the development of the Commonwealth considerably. I trust that honorable members who are anxious to ‘promote the establishment of the manufacture of woollen goods will consult Mr. Stirling Taylor, the Director of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, because he has the latest data on the subject collected from all parts. His information is thoroughly reliable, and beyond contradiction, and if honorable members would avail themselves of his advice, they would find it most valuable. In conclusion, I trust that the woollen industry will be developed, not only in the interests of the wool-grower or the consumer, but also in the interests of the general welfare of Australia.
.- As, apparently, one will be obliged to record a vote upon this proposal, and also upon the locality where the expenditure is to take place, I want to say a few words with regard to the whole question. I am in favour of the money being spent at Geelong in extending the woollen mills already there; but, during this debate, I have suffered more shocks than I have ever experienced in the House previously. For instance, many honorable members who have strenuously advocated that this money, and possibly more, should be spent in their own electorate on this State enterprise are gentlemen who, when candidates, spoke upon every platform against any form of State enterprise or State industry. Generally speaking, I am opposed to State control of ventures of this nature; but I hold a rather different view in regard to the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, because they have been in opera- tion, and in the past have served a very useful purpose, and I, therefore, am prepared to vote in favour of spending this money at Geelong in extending existing mills. I am perfectly certain that if the money were to be spent in establishing another mill in another part of the Commonwealth, it would only be a prelude to the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds more, because woollen mills cannot be erected and run nowadays at anything like the figure set down as the estimated cost of this extension of existing mills, and it would mean the creation of a new administrative and governing body for the conduct of the work. As that would be a very serious proposition to consider, I am perfectly clear upon the point that if money is to be spent in this direction, the only purpose for which it should be spent is in extending existing mills..
While I am prepared to accept a proposal to extend an existing State enterprise, I think some more efficient system of control should be applied to it. At present, the Geelong Woollen Mills are controlled by a Commonwealth Department, through a manager. .Is there one honorable member who would be prepared to hand over his own money to the manager of a concern over whom he would have no efficient control, or against whom he would have no protection so far as his interests or rights were concerned?
– A regulation has jus: been gazetted for the appointment of a Board to look after the enterprises which are conducted by the Defence Department.
– I have not seen that regulation ; but if that is the case, it is certainly a great advance. I welcome it most heartily, because it is essential that there should be a Board of this nature, such as exists in every other industry, to control general policy, and really act as controller over the manager. “Necessarily, the manager is obliged to devote a great deal of his time to details, and to the technical running of the enterprise, and he certainly ought to have some one to assist him, preferably a Board such’ as I am informed it is now. proposed to create. The enterprise would then be more carefully and .seriously criticised; in fact, would be given, that consideration which a private individual exercises in respect to the investment of his own money. In any case the proposed Board ought to give careful attention to the production of a commercial balance-sheet in respect to its venture, just as any individual business man is obliged to do.
– I have been asking for. that for the last three years.
– I have heard that statement previously from the honorable member, and it seems to me it is a matter that should be pressed for. It is not a question of whether State enterprise is right or wrong, but is a question of applying ordinary business-like methods to Government undertakings. Even those who are enthusiastically in favour of the State embarking upon such ventures should be most insistent in pressing for these balance-sheets, because if we have not each year that supervision which is suggested by the requirement to produce annual balance-sheets and trading accounts, indicating the position of an industry, it will only be a matter of time for inefficiency to creep in and for charges and costs to rise above those of outside enterprises; and then the whole idea of State enterprise would be damned. I am prepared to vote for this further money being spent in extending existing woollen mills, but not in the creation of a new plant in some other part of the Commonwealth. In casting my vote in this way I am not to be taken as being enthusiastically in favour of the State control of enterprise. Such is not the case.
.- The most entertaining couple of hours the House has had this session was experienced the other afternoon when the Minister (Mr. Groom) submitted this motion. Practically every honorable member who spoke asked that money should be spent upon mills in his own electorate. As thisis not a proposition to erect new mills, but is simply a project to spend £60,000 in the extension of an existing plant, I shall support the proposal of the Minister, and, of course, vote against the amendment.
– Why confine the Public Works . Committee to one particular locality?
– Because it is deemed absolutely necessary to extend the-present mills. A proposition to erect new mills would be an entirely different proposition. If such a project were put forward, I would immediately advance the claims of Launceston, which, when Geelong was selected as the site of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, was the Committee’s second choice.
– In reality Launceston was its first choice.
– Well, I am prepared to accept the verdict of the Committee which chose Geelong after inspecting no fewer than thirty-three possible sites throughout Australia.
– Why does the honorable member say Launceston was the second site favoured ? Did Mr. Smail say so ?
– Yes. For the benefit of honorable members who take a delight in despising the little island, I would remind them that we have ample industrial power available, and are not dependent upon coal supplies. We have the water power, and it has already been availed of as a great asset; but it will become far more so in the future. Industries are being conducted upon a very big scale. There is, for example, the Electrolytic Zinc Company, in Hobart, which employs 1,000 hands. That is an entirely new industry. Cadbury’s and other world-famed firms have inaugurated extensive factories also. With respect to the suitability of Launceston as a site for Commonwealth woollen mills, this fact should be sufficient, namely, that Messrs. Kelsall and Kemp, of Yorkshire, who are among the largest manufacturers in the world, are now erecting woollen mills at Launceston, involving an expenditure of £200,000 upon plant, machinery, and buildings.
– But you have no coal there.
– We do not need coal. Our industries are freed from coal troubles. Despite all the strikes and the shipping hold-ups of the past few years, never once has the electric energy been turned off in Tasmania. I am pleased to hear so many honorable members advocating the claims of Australian industries, and I trust that the motion will be agreed to.
– I desire to amend my amendment by leaving out all the words after “ or,” with a view to inserting, in lieu thereof, the words -
Alternatively, the erection of suitable woollen mills at Canberra, New South Wales.
Amendment amended accordingly.
– I wish to inform the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who desired certain information, that duly accredited balance-sheets of these factories are presented to Parliament, and are open to examination; and that, in addition, a Board of Control has been established.
As regards the motion itself, it should be clearly understood that it is for additions and extensions to the existing mills at Geelong. The Government have no intention of entering upon a general policy of establishing mills all over the Commonwealth to engage in private enterprise. There is nothing in the motion to suggest that. Much of the debate, while it has been informative, has been scarcely relevant. The need for the motion was due to the fact that the Government undertook to supply returned soldiers with a quantity of material. Being well stocked with equipment after the war, the factory at Geelong has not been solely employed upon the needs of the Navy, the Defence, and the Postal Departments.
As much of its capacity as possible has been devoted to supplying requirements of returned men. Something like 480,000 yards of material is still to be supplied to the soldiers, and there are growing needs in respect of our own services. To deal with that problem, and to do justice at the same time to returned soldiers, it is essential that the works be extended. This extension will be very much more economical than if we were to attempt to start fresh works at other places.
– How long will the Government continue to supply solely to returned soldiers?
– That is a matter of policy for the future. I am dealing with present needs. The question of where the factory ought to be established was settled when Mr. Smail was appointed to travel all over the Commonwealth in the search for sites. He made a fair and impartial report, covering thirty-three sites; and, of these, he chose Geelong. His selection does not mean that Geelong is the only place in Australia where first-class materials can be manufactured; but, in the best interests of the Commonwealth, he decided upon Geelong. The additions are absolutely essential; and it is, of course, cheaper to build additions than to construct a new factory somewhere else, however suitable may be the site. At Geelong the land has been acquired, the power is available, and the administrative organization is complete. The additions merely involve an extension of a going concern. If we were to begin again somewhere else, serious delay would be incurred; and, besides, there would be the factor of all the initial costs having to be met afresh. With’ regard to erecting a factory at Canberra, Mr. Smail’s report is phrased favorably. He says -
My first visit was to Yass-Canberra, the site of the Federal city, embracing from Quean- beyan to the junction of the Cotter River with the Murrumbidgee, Duntroon, and Acton. Although the climatic conditions are not up to my idea of the requirements it would be quite wrong to say that a woollenfactory could not be established there, because, with the development of the city, it is certain to have factories of all descriptions, and, no doubt, conditions will then prevail whereby cloth manufacture could be fairly successfully accomplished.
We are faced, not with a future programme, but with a present need. I do not wish to anticipate the judgment of the Public Works Committee, but the House should authorize the inquiry, and I am not prepared to accept the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Charlton’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from1.4 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 28th October (vide page 6043), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work: - Erection of Note Printing Office, Victoria-parade, Fitzroy, which, said work was referred to the Public Works Committee, and the Committee has duly reported to this House the result of its inquiries thereon.
, I wish to state that I have already shown the necessity-
– I rise to a point of order. This matter, I submit, is not properly before the House. Yesterday it appeared as a notice of motion, the debate upon which was interrupted by standing order No. 119, which provides -
If all motions shall not have been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate thereon shall be interrupted, and, unless the House otherwise order, the Orders of the Day shall be taken in rotation. …
This question was the subject of a motion under discussion, and, after the lapse of two hours, the debate was interrupted. We now find it on the business-paper as an Order of the Day.
– It is no longer a notice of motion.
– I take the point that it cannot be an Order of the Day except by leave or direction of the House, as provided for in standing order 147 -
An Order of the Day is a Bill or other matter which the House has ordered to be taken into consideration on a particular day.
We find, on reference to the Votes and Proceedings of yesterday, that no action was taken to place this motion on the business-paper for to-day as an Order of the Day, and I contend that it cannot be taken as an Order of the Day until the House has given a direction to that end.
– This was a notice of motion on the business-paper for yesterday, and it was partly discussed. It is quite true that the time limit had been reached without any instruction having been given by the House as to the disposal of the motion; but this position has occurred before, and it has been decided by a predecessor in office that motions under discussion at the time fixed for the interruption of debate by the Standing Orders referred to, become Orders of the Day for the next day of sitting. The last occasion upon which this action was taken was in connexion with a motion submitted by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) for the appointment of the Sea- Carriage Select Committee. In that case the motion was under discussion when the time came for the interruption of the debate by standing order No. 119. I observe, by reference to the Votes and Proceedings, Of 25th March, 1920, that-
The time allotted for general business having expired, Government business was called on.
No action was taken by the House on that day; but on the following day the motion appeared on the business-paper as an Order of the Day.
– Was a point of order taken on that occasion?
– No; the point of order had been taken, I think, on a previous occasion, and in the case of the motion for the appointment of the Sea Carriage Select Committee, the established practice was being followed, in pursuance of a ruling given by my predecessor. I am merely relating the procedure on an occasion subsequent to the ruling referred to - the last time, I believe, that a similar position arose. The practice was thus established to give honorable members a chance to have their motions dealt with, rather than have them arbitrarily expunged from the paper. The first Order of the Day on 26th March, the day following the sitting of the House when the debate was interrupted, was -
Sea Carriage Select Committee. Resumption of debate upon the following motion of Mr. Mcwilliams: - “That a Select Committee, consisting of seven members of this House, be appointed to inquire into and report upon the conditions of the Australian overseas and Inter-State sea carriage.”
The practice followed on that occasion is identical with the action now being taken.
– I gave notice of dissent from your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
– I was desirous of speaking to the motion, and of moving an amendment to refer it back to the Committee.
– The honorable member is too late. When the Order of the Day was called on, I looked around the chamber, and, a* no honorable member was, apparently, prepared to continue the debate, the Minister rose to reply.
– All I wish to say is that the circumstances to-day are altogether different. We have decided to hand over the note issue to the Commonwealth Bank, so the argument that the Note Printing Department should be near the Treasury does not now hold good.
– It does not make a bit of difference.
– I think it makes a great deal of difference.
– If the honorable member desires to establish the Note Printing Department at Canberra-
– I am not suggesting that at all. I am merely suggesting that, in view of the altered circumstances following the decision of the Government to hand over the note issue to the Commonwealth Bank authorities, there is not the same reason now for the Note Printing Department to be near to the Treasury.
– The notes have to be printed. We cannot continue any longer in the present premises without grave risks. This is an urgent proposition. We have been in the present premises too long already, and it is impracticable to establish this Note Printing Department at Canberra at the present time. The Committee has reported as to the impossibility of finding temporary premises in Sydney, and it is utterly hopeless to attempt to get temporary buildings in Melbourne. It is a good business proposition, even if we erect a building and have to remove the note printing three or four years hence to Canberra.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 28th October, vide page 6078):
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Definitions) - (1.) In tins Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Disability “ means the status or being a married woman, or a minor, lunatic or idiot; (2.) Where in pursuance of this Act the name of a child is included in a certificate of naturalization granted to his parent, or where, in pursuance of any Act repealed by this Act, any child has been deemed to be a naturalized British subject, by reason of residence with his parent, such child shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed to be a person to whom a certificate of naturalization has been granted.
.- I desire to draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that in the definition of “disability the status of a married woman appears to be the same as that of a minor, a lunatic, or an idiot. Many honorable members have taken exception to this already. “Naturally, married women object to it. Is it not possible to allow a married woman to retain her nationality, instead of taking that of her husband?
– It is desirable to have uniformity, as far as possible, with the British Act, and I suggest that the clause be passed, and that we make representations to the Imperial authorities concerning certain amendments which may be thought necessary, and give effect to them later.
.- I direct attention to sub-clause 2. A child is deemed to be naturalized by virtue of his father’s naturalization. I presume this refers to Australian naturalization; but will a child also have the right to British naturalization, or will a separate claim be necessary?
– I think it would, but I am not quite sure. Before the measure is finally disposed of, I will make further inquiries, and, if necessary, recommit the clause to give effect to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Will not that interfere with the uniformity which the Minister is anxious to preserve?
.- With reference to what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has said concerning the status of married women, I indicated in some remarks I made on the second reading that I would move an amendment to test the feeling of the Committee in that regard. I do not know whether the definition to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred is necessarily or entirely objectionable from my point of view, and for that reason I do not intend to raise the point here.
– If the honorable member allows it to pass, it will prejudice his position at a later stage.
– It might have that effect. It may be that if the amendment I propose moving for a new clause were adopted this part of the definition would have no meaning at all, so far as it relates to married women, but I could not be prevented from moving in that direction. So far as I could understand from the Minister, I believe he wishes this measure to be uniform with the British Act.
– That is so.
– From 1903 onwards, precisely the same objection has been raised every time we have moved in this direction. I addressed myself to this matter in 1917, and also prior to that.
– This is the first time the Commonwealth Parliament has had before it a Nationalization Bill so comprehensive in its scope and in conformity with an Imperial Act. It gives Empire naturalization.
– That is so, and to that extent it is an improvement on what we have had before. But I point out to the Minister that naturalization is a matter upon which we have necessarily more or less been bound up with Empire laws and reciprocal laws of other nations, and it is in that aspect rather than from the point of view that this is an Empire measure that we have been asked not to interfere with the status of women.I propose later on to move for the insertion of a new clause, and to register my view in this matter, which will provide that no woman born in Australia shall become an alien or forfeit her nationality by reason of her marriage with whomsoever it may take place. It may be that if we carry it - which, of course, we shall not - this part of the definition which refers to married women will be meaningless.
– If an amendment of that character were carried, we would have to re-draft the whole Bill, and make the necessary amendments to give effect to it.
– It would be much better to strike out the words “the status of married women or”.
– I cannot agree to that.
– Then I shall be satisfied at a later stage to move in the direction I have indicated.
.- I should like to have an explanation from the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) as to which particular portion of this measure gives Empire naturalization.
– The whole of it.
– But it must be in some particular clause or some particular part of the Bill. What was the effect of naturalization in Australia prior to the introduction of this measure? How were our naturalization certificates regarded in Great Britain? Did they facilitate the naturalization of any person who went from Australia to the United Kingdom?
– I presume they would have some effect; but, legally, they were valueless.
– We have been told, in a vague kind of way, which did not carry much conviction, that some great advantages were being conferred by this measure because it gave Empire naturalization. Is that so?
– Then, before we can say with certainty, we should be in a position to know what was the position of a person who went to the United Kingdom, and who was naturalized in Australia under the existing law. Had he any status in Great Britain? Do the authorities in the United Kingdom recognise our naturalization certificates at present?
– No, and not even in New Zealand.
– Then they carried no weight at all.
– No legal weight, but a moral weight in assisting men to become naturalized in Great Britain.
– Can the Minister tell us exactly what weight they did carry?
– I believe the question of Australian naturalization was discussed in the Courts last year, and I understand it was held that our certificates had no effect at all.
– Did they not have any effect in assisting naturalization in Great Britain ?
– I presume an Australian certificate would assist a man to some extent.
– If this measure becomes law, it will not be possible for a person to get naturalization in Australia on conditions that now exist as distinct from naturalization in other parts of the Empire.
– That is correct.
– Then it takes away that advantage ?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
The Governor-General may grant a certificate of naturalization to an alien who makes an application for the purpose, and satisfies the Governor-General -
In the case of a woman who was a British subject previously to her marriage to an alien, and whose husband has died or whose marriage has been dissolved, the requirements of this section as to residence shall not apply, and
.- Without labouring the arguments I have already addressed to the House, I move -
That the word “ five “, line 7, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ two “.
That will bring the period of probation back to what it was under the existing law. We are providing in this Bill for very drastic and absolute powers of revocation in granting letters of naturalization. If we take that unlimited power of revocation, and read it with the fact that a person is to be domiciled in this country for not less than five years before he obtains his letters of naturalization, it seems that we shall be creating conditions so uncertain and precarious that no selfrespecting man will settle here. I would not go to a country and attempt to make myself a useful citizen if I were told that I had for five years to remain unprotected by any citizen rights at all, with all the dangers that are involved in alienage in case of war or international disturbances of that character. If it is right, which I do not admit, that this unlimited power of granting or withholding should rest with the Minister representing the Crown, I contend more strongly still that it is not right that a person should have to live in a country unprotected by nationality in that country for not less than five years. If we agree to this we shall be discouraging desirable men from coming to this country, and will be assuring them that they will have no protection as citizens in the country which they adopt. It is a churlish and niggardly, way of treating people who may desire to come to the Commonwealth, and it is not likely to encourage immigration. Well informed thinkers are abundantly satisfied that if we aTe to populate Australia we must make up our minds that we cannot hope to rely solely upon members of the British race. Our past history shows that the increase from overseas, and our natural increase, is inadequate, and that it is preposterous to throw difficulties in the way of populating a country equal in size to that of Europe. I am not aware, even in the light of prejudices arising from the war, that -we have given citizenship to any appreciable extent to undesirable persons. On the contrary, persons we have enlisted, by virtue of our laws of naturalization, in the majority of cases have turned out to be useful and law-abiding citizens. In these circumstances, I think that we are taking a retrograde step by increasing the period that a person must serve by way of probation before he can become naturalized, and I trust my amendment will have the support of the Committee.
– I ask honorable members to allow the clause to remain in its present form. If they refer to the first schedule they will find that similar wording appears in the British Act.
– I am well aware of that.
– The measure has been drawn up in this way so that it will be uniform with the British Act, and I ask the Committee to reject the amendment.
.- I can quite sympathize with the solicitude of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) in his endeavour to liberalize the measure. But to my knowledge, a great many Germans have not valued the privilege Of naturalization. I have known such persons to enjoy f07 years the benefits conferred by our laws without troubling to apply for naturalization until they required an old-age pension, or a land transfer, or something that they could not get without being naturalized- Our naturalization law has been, in my opinion, too liberal in comparison with those of other countries.
– No country receives more immigrants than America, and there an alien cannot be naturalized until he has been a resident for five years.
– In the Transvaal the period was, I believe, twenty years, and that did not prevent many Britishers from going there.
– But it brought about a war.
– It was one of the causes, together with the refusal of Kruger to allow the compound system in the Transvaal which existed at Kimberley. There are many Germans still in Australia who have not taken out certificates of naturalization. While I sympathize with the desire for liberality, I do not think it in the best interests of the country to shorten the term of residence.
. -There are other reasons besides want of interest that have prevented many Germans from becoming naturalized. Cases have been brought under my notice in which Germans have paid to secure naturalization, but have been swindled through their ignorance of our language and our law.
– I have had any number of such cases brought before me.
– Then, many persons believed that the law of South Australia is the same as that of the other States, and that they were naturalized by virtue of the naturalization of their parents. They found out their mistake only on going to vote, when they discovered, to their great surprise, that their names were not on the roll. I shall support the amendment. I recognise the difficulty to which the Minister (Mr. Poynton) alluded. He wishes to make the term of residence under the Bill the same as that provided for under the British law, in order to obtain reciprocity.
– After all, what difficulty is created? It seems to me that there is only the desire to copy British precedent.
– Reciprocity, I understand, is to be obtained only under certain conditions, and one of them is that our law shall be similar to that of the countries with which we reciprocate. When the Passports Bill was before the Committee recently, I moved an amendment to increase the life of a passport from two to five years, but that was defeated. Now, a foreigner’s passport is valid for two years only, so that if he remains longer than that in this country he cannot return to his own, even though he may not have been naturalized here, and he cannot be naturalized here until he has lived in Australia for five years. I think that the term of residence required for naturalization should be the same as that for which a passport is valid.
I wish to know whether the Government intends to deal in the same way with all aliens, whether they have been at war with us or not.
– You mean, whether their country has been at war with us or not?
– The honorable member will see that “ alien “ is defined as a person who is not a British subject.
– The same conditions apply to Belgians and Frenchmen as apply to Germans.
– A person of German origin who wishes to be naturalized must have twenty years’ continuous residence in Australia, and unless there are special circumstances must not be under fifty years of age, it being held that younger men must be regarded as dangerous. Younger men cannot be naturalized unless they or their brothers served on our side during the war, or their parents gave large donations to patriotic funds, or showed their patriotism in some other way. I hope that all aliens will be put on the same footing.
– At the present time there are restrictions on the naturalization of aliens belonging to the nations with which we have recently been at war. When I took office, such persons could not be naturalized without Cabinet approval in each individual case; but I suggested that, subject to good behaviour and character, persons of a certain age, and with a certain length of residence, might be allowed to be naturalized without the reference of their cases to the Cabinet ; and that being agreed to, I have authorized quite a large number of naturalizations. There is no doubt that, in the very near future, a further variation will be made in the term so as to permit of the naturalization of aliens within Australia. When once this Bill has been disposed of, I intend to put it to the Government whether we ought not to treat all aliens upon their merits.
– The Minister is now referring to aliens within Australia?
– Yes. Of course, it is rather a remarkable circumstance that although many of these men had resided in Australia for years, and had had every opportunity to become naturalized, they did not attempt to take advantage of their opportunities until after the outbreak of war.
Mr.Gabb. -Many of them were not aware that they were not naturalized until they attempted to vote at the Federal elections.
– The honorable member for Angas has never brought any case of that kind under my notice. But if he will submit to me any case in which an. alien of good character has resided within the Commonwealth for years without becoming naturalized, I will look into it; and if I feel that the facts justify me in so doing, I will immediately ask Cabinet to approve of letters of naturalization being granted to him.
.- This clause provides that the Governor-General may grant a certificate of naturalization to an alien who has either resided in British Dominions for a period of not less than five years, or who has been in the service of the Crown for not less than five years out of the eight years immediately preceding his application.
– I would remind the honorable member that we are now dealing with the amendment.
– Then I shall refer to this matter at a later stage. I shall certainly vote for atwo years’ residential qualification. Upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I pointed out that the pretext under which war was waged against the South African Republics was that the Boer authorities compelled all Britishers to reside in their country for an unduly long period before enfranchising them. (British subjects demanded that they should be enfranchised at the end of a two years’ residence. In my opinion, citizens of Australia are as much citzens of the British Empire as if they had been born within the sound of
Bow Bells or in any other part of the British Isles. At the same time, I hold that we shall be acting unwisely if we impose upon aliens a residential qualification of five years instead of two years.
.- I understand that the objection of the Minister to the amendment is based upon his desire to secure uniform naturalization legislation throughout the Empire.
– If the amendment be carried, the Bill, so far as Empire naturalization is concerned, will have disappeared.
– The honorable gentleman desires uniform Empire naturalization. But the difficulty which he stresses may be overcome by providing for a two years’ residential qualification within Australia, and a five years’ residential qualification outside of it.
– That would mean the issue of two classes of certificates.
– We can permit aliens within Australia to become naturalized after a two years’ residence here, and make the Bill conform to the British legislation upon this matter by providing fora five years’ residential qualification outside the Commonwealth. It is quite true that this would necessitate the issue of two classes of certificates. The first class of certificate would enable an alien to become naturalized within Australia after a two years’ residence here. Then, when he had completed a residence of five years in the Commonwealth, he would be able to make an application for a certificate of naturalization which would cover the entire British Empire. In that way, we could obviate any conflict between this measure and Imperial legislation. I think, therefore, that the amendment might well be agreed to. There are many things which have to be considered in dealing with a measure of this character, because to a large extent its provisions will govern the future of all aliens in our midst.
– It will affect their right to hold property.
– Exactly. The Minister (Mr. Poynton) may reasonably agree to an amendment of the clause in the direction of providing for a two years’ residential qualification within the Commonwealth, seeing that he can still retain provision for a five years’ residential qualification within the British Empire. The adoption of such an amendment would improve the Bill, and would, I think, meet the wishes of the Committee generally. The difficulty which the honorable gentleman has urged in regard to the issue of two classes of certificates is not an insuperable one. The Department could have two sets of certificates. A certificate of naturalization in respect of Australia could be issued to a person who had resided here for two years, and at the end of the five years’ period that certificate could be withdrawn if desired, and a certificate of Empire naturalization issued. This, I think, is a very fair proposal, and I hope the Minister will agree to it.
.- I have pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by the honorable member for’ Batman (Mr. Brennan) to omit the word “ five,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ two.” I also support the contention that has been advanced by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). This is a matter to which I referred last evening when speaking on the motion for the second reading of the Bill. It is admitted by the Minister (Mr. Poynton) that this measure1 will take away the right of those who are not British subjects to become naturalized under the existing law on a residence of two years in Australia. Tinder this Bill a man will not be able to secure naturalization except on a residence of five years.
– I hardly know of a case in Australia that would be adversely affected by this provision as to five years’ residence
– It will not prejudice those who have been residing here for at least five years; but in regard to those who come here in the future the whole policy of the Government in regard to immigration is affected by this proposal. At the present time a person who is not a British subject, on coming here from abroad, may become naturalized after a residence of two years. The Commonwealth for quite a number of years has thought that to be a sufficient residence. There is ‘ nothing in our experience to show that such a policy was wrong. On the contrary, I think most of those who have become naturalized in Australia have proved, as the honorable member for Batman says, to be very useful citizens. In so far as naturalization in Australia is concerned, why should we depart from a policy which we deliberately adopted at the beginning of Federation, and have found to work out usefully? The only reason advanced for the change is that it is suggested that our naturalization should be Empire wide. That could be secured, as the honorable member for Hunter says, by allowing those who become naturalized in Australia to make application, after five years’ residence if they so desire, for Empire-wide naturalization. But why should we, a selfgoverning Dominion, depart from what we have found to be the right policy for Australia? We are departing from it in regard only to those who have been our Allies in the recent war, because clause 7 provides that the Governor-General may naturalize them if they have been resident in the Dominions for five years. If they have not been he will have no power to naturalize them. In addition to that, he may refuse to naturalize them, and the Minister has admitted that he does not propose to naturalize, even after a residence of five years, persons coming from countries which were recently at war with Great Britain.
– As a matter of fact, such persons cannot come here.
– Some of them are already here, yet the Minister tells us deliberately that he does not intend to naturalize them after five years’ residence.
– I have not said that.
– The honorable gentleman has admitted that the policy of the Government at the present time is not to admit to naturalization persons from countries which were recently at war with the British Empire, even if they have five years’ residence.
– I have not admitted that. What I have said is that every case will have to go before the Cabinet.
– But surely the Government has some policy in regard to the matter. Has not the Cabinet a policy? If it has, we ought to know what it is.
– I have said what it is; apparently the honorable member was not listening.
– I listened carefully to the honorable gentleman, and heard him say that, shortly put, each case would be dealt with on its merits. I should think every case would be so dealt with.
– I did not even say that.
– But I heard the honorable gentleman make that statement.
– The honorable member misunderstood me.
-Then will the honorable gentleman be good enough to let me know what residence in Australia will be necessary to the naturalization of persons from a country which has been at war with the Empire.
– I have already told the honorable member.
– The Minister says that I misunderstood him. Surely he will again give me the information. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has said that twenty years’ residence will be required, and that the applicant must be fifty years of age. That is not denied.
What I am arguing is that in the administration of the measure this clause, requiring, as it does, five years’ residence, will apply only to those who were our Allies in the recent war, or to citizens of countries that were not at war with us. In respect of all such persons, so far as our own Dominion is concerned, we ought to be able to allow the law to stand as it is, and to permit them to become naturalized after two years’ residence here. I am not going to consent to the Government’s proposal. They may, and probably will, pass it without my consent; but I am not going to assist in placing obstacles in the way of French and American citizens becoming naturalized on the same terms as were open to them before the war. That is contrary to international sentiment, and certainly contrary to the spirit that should exist between those who fought side by side in the recent war. Here we tell the people of such countries that we are going to set up a barrier against them, and that we are not going to admit them to citizenship on the terms on which they were admitted before the war. The position in regard to Empire naturalization is different. If the Imperial Parliament thinks that there should be a longer residence in order to secure Empire-wide naturalization, that is its right, and I am not questioning it. But it is our admitted right-Great Britain does not challenge it - to say that, so far as Australia is concerned, after a residence of two years or such other period as we decide upon, a person may become naturalized under our law, and be entitled to the full rights of citizenship. For these reasons I am supporting the amendment, and I agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that the Minister, with the assistance of his officers, could easily so amend this clause as to enable Australian naturalization to be given on the existing conditions, and Empire naturalization on the condition of five years’ residence, which the Imperial Parliament itself lays down in its Naturalization Act.
.- I hope the Minister (Mr. Poynton) will agree to the amendment, which is in no wise contrary to the uniformity of practice which he desires to insure. There is no reason why he should not insert in the Bill a clause providing for a residence of five years to qualify for Empire naturalization, and continue the existing law with respect to two years’ residence qualifying for citizenship in Australia.
– I am not going to have duplicate certificates scattered all over the country. There are many misapprehensions under the existing system, and these would be multiplied.
– There is no reason why there should be any misapprehension on the subject. I do not think we ought necessarily to copy word for word a provision in a British Act. We want uniformity in mining legislation, but are we to secure it at the price of accepting all the Tory ideas of Great Britain? Because the Imperial Parliament has provided for a residence of five years in order to qualify for naturalization in the United Kingdom, I fail to see why we should make the same error in regard to Australian citizenship. During the war we had thousands of Australian soldiers in France, and many of the friends they made there are anxious to come to Australia. Our troops also made friends in Belgium and Italy. These people were told that they could secure naturalization after two years’ residence in Australia, but if this Bill be passed, they will find, on coming here, that they are to be treated as foreigners until they have resided in Australia for five years.
A lot of ill-feeling has been aroused in connexion with this matter of naturalization. Many Italians who came out here before the war thought they would find safety under the British flag, and they found, to their dismay, that the Australian Government permitted them to be conscripted, and their wives and children to be starved. Those men were taken from Broken Hill and other parts of Australia at a moment’s notice. Those facts are fairly generally known throughout the world. Whilst the Government are crying out for immigrants, they propose to take away from those who have already arrived in Australia one of the rights which new arrivals had prior to the war, namely, to be naturalized after a residence of two years. I cannot vote to make naturalization more difficult. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) spoke of the persons who had not been naturalized, although they had been in the country many years, and only sought naturalization when they desired to qualify for an old-age pension. I admit there is a good deal of truth in that statement; but the honorable member must know that most foreigners have to go to a lawyer to become naturalized, and the process often costs a good deal of money. It is generally because of ignorance that people do not become naturalized. We are anxious to get more immigrants, and the Government propose to spend thousands of pounds per annum in sending back to Europe, as immigration agents, young men who recently arrived in Australia. The best immigrants we can get are from Northern Europe, whether they be Danes, Scandinavians, or Germans. It is not long since Australian Ministers of the Crown went to Germany and urged the people there to emigrate to Australia. A good deal of the people’s money was spent in connexion with that propaganda.
– They will do the same again, and wonder why the immigrants will not come.
– I wish the immigrant to feel, when he arrives here, that he is at home, and that he may enjoy the full rights of citizenship as soon as possible. For that reason I support the amendment.
.- Whilst I support the amendment, it appears to me to be not so urgent or vital as some of its supporters think it is. This piece of legislation is designed to dovetail with earlier legislation in regard to immigration which gave the party in office power to hand-pick the immigrants. The consequence is that the immigrants who are likely to come here will not be such as will get any sympathy from me if they have to wait for five years in order to get the inestimable boon of becoming British citizens. We must remember that naturalization did not protect the Italians who were in this country during the war.
– Yes, it did.
– It did not.
– In Hansard may be found the names and addresses of naturalized Italians who were seized and deported.
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) was in this House when the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and others raised this question, and he must know that the great boon of British citizenship conferred upon those Italians was treated as a mere scrap of paper.
– Their ownConsul would not acknowledge it.
Mr.CONSIDINE. - So the Australian Government was subject to the whims of the Italian Consul!
– This discussion is out of order.
– Our naturalization legislation in the past has not protected Italians who, though they were in possession of certificates of naturalization, were conscripted either at the instigation of some foreign Power or by design of the Defence Department. Therefore, it seems to me immaterial whether the period of residence is to be five years or two years.
– Then, why bother about it?
– I am glad the honorable member has grasped my viewpoint. It is immaterial whether the period be five years or two years, because if the party at present in power continue in possession of the Treasury benches naturalization will not protect those whom honorable members opposite do not wish to protect. Immigrants have first to get into the country; and there is another piece of dove-tailing legislation which will enable the Government to take care that the people who come here are those from whom they may expect very little trouble. Probably this legislation is designed to’ populate Australia with people who have shown in their own countries no spirit of protest against the old regime, and who are not likely to cause any inconvenience to the ruling class in this country.
– It would be difficult to find those people in Europe now. The people of all countries are waking up.
– The Government cannot exclude the objectionable individual who is born a Britisher. They must confer upon him the privileges to which he is entitled by reason of his birth; but so far as immigrants from foreign countries are concerned, even when they have managed to pass through the legislative sieve which the Government are preparing, the inestimable boon of citizenship, whether it be gained after two years or five years, will be no good to them. They may have all the duties, but none of the privileges, of a British citizen, when it suits the honorable gentlemen who to-day rule the country.
Question - That the word “ five,” proposed to be omitted, stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- Sub-clause 5 is as follows: -
In the case of a woman who was a British subject previously to her marriage to an alien, and whose husband has died or whose marriagehas been dissolved, the requirements of this section as to residence shall not apply, and the Governor-General may, in any other special case, if he thinks fit, grant a certificate of naturalization, although the four years’ residence or five years’ service has not been within the last eight years before the application.
Thathasreference to the question of the effect of marriage on nationality. I propose to move later that a woman shall not forfeit her nationality by marriage with an alien.
– You have no objection to this sub-clause?
-Only that it would be inconsistent with my later amendment,because it refers to a woman who was a British subject prior to her marriage with an alien. It will have no meaning if my later amendment is carried.
– If you are successful later on, this clause can be recommitted.
– Do it now.
Mr.BRENNAN.- As these words will have no meaning in the light of the new clause I shall propose afterwards, I move -
That the words “In the case of a woman who was a British subject previously to her marriage to an alien, and whose husband has died, or whose marriage has been dissolved, the requirements of this section as to residence shall not apply, and “ be left out.
The rest of the clause will still make good English.
– I do not think this is thebest time to raise the question of the effect of marriage on nationality.
– I shall raise it in a direct way later on.
– I want to be sure that the question of making aliens of Australians who marry foreigners can afterwards be raised, if the amendment which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has now moved is rejected. If it cannot be raised later on, we ought to have the debate on it now. The Minister should agree to postpone this clause until we have had the discussion on that very important question.
– The honorable member for Batman’s new clause deals with the whole subject; but this sub-clause covers only a phase of it.
-This subclause would be entirely unnecessary if the proposed new clause were carried.
– It will be easy to take this sub-clause out if the other is carried.
– I want the direction of the Chair as to whether, if the Committee decides that this clause is to stand, we shall be precluded from raising the bigger issue on a later clause.
– That will depend on whether the later clause is in conflict with what the Committee has already decided.
– That is the point; and I submit that if we allow this clause to stand we shall be precluded from raising the important and broader question later on. Under the circumstances I think the Minister . ought to agree to a postponement of the clause. I do not go as far as does the honorable member for Batman; but if we desire to consider whether Australian women who marry aliens are to abandon their Australian nationality, it is a matter that, at any rate, merits consideration, and the discussion should not be ham pered by any purely technical point such as that suggested by the Chairman.
– I have already promised to recommit the clause if necessary.
-That does not meet the case. According to the Chairman, if a later amendment is contrary to what the Committee has already decided, we shall have no opportunity to debate the wider question. The Minister would be in no way prejudiced by the postponement of this clause; indeed, he would save time, because otherwise, I shall debate the matter now. The clause before us provides that under certain conditions a British woman married to an alien may resume her nationality; and if we pass this, we shall be, it seems to me, deprived of an opportunity later of discussing the whole question of the nationality of women who are married to foreigners. Will the Minister agree to a postponement?
– I do not think so; we have been all the afternoon over this matter, and I do not see that this clause affects the discussion on a later clause dealing with quite a different matter.
– It is the same matter, but the clause before us deals only with a portion of it. If the Committee decide later that Australianborn women, or British subjects, are to carry their nationality, despite their marriage, then the portion that the honorable member for Batman proposes to omit is meaningless and worthless. The Committee should be able to approach the greater question unrestricted by anything done previously. If the Minister will not give way, it will only mean two debates instead of one. I move -
That the consideration of this clause be postponed.
– There is an amendment before the Chair, which must first be disposed of.
– I am not in favour of the proposal of the honorable member for Batman, and would move an amendment on it, but I cannot do so now.
– If the honorable member for Batman asks leave to withdraw his amendment, and the Committee sanction that course, the honorable member will be in order in submittinghis motion; but until the amendment is disposed of he cannot intervene.
– My only difficulty about withdrawing the amendment is-
– The Minister has suggested to me that progress be reported.
Final report of Select Committee presented by Mr.McWilliams.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr.groom), proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to draw attention to an important matter that may probably come up for consideration at the next Premiers’ Conference. I refer to the establishment of a uniform railway gauge throughout the Commonwealth. There are a great many difficulties surrounding this question which are now being dealt with by the engineering experts of the various railway systems, but I have not been able to ascertain whether consideration has been given to the possibility of linking up the coastal railways of Victoria and New South Wales, which would afford the readiest and cheapest means of securing a standard gauge at the earliest date between Melbourne and Brisbane. I am informed that an expenditure of about £3,500,000 would fill the gaps in the coastal system of the three States, between Brisbane and Melbourne. These are lines which must necessarily be constructed before very long, and the amount of expenditure involved would be but a small fraction of what will eventually be required for the purpose of unifying the gauges of the lines at present being operated between the two capitals.
Mr.Groom. - I have noted the honorable member’s remarks.
– I call attention to the state of the House.
A quorumnot being present,
Mr. Speakeradjourned the House at 3.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 October 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201029_reps_8_94/>.