8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson’) took the chair at 11 a.m. and read prayers.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and replies will be furnished as soon as possible.
Promotion of Nurses - Memorial at Suez Canal.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Members of the Australian and New Zealand mounted troops in the Middle East have raised a sum of some £5,400 for the purposes of a memorial to fallen comrades, proposed to be erected at Port Said. The Department of Defence has the present custody of the funds, on behalf of the committee which conducted the movement, and is, at their instance, considering the question of inviting competitive designs for the memorial.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Willhe inform the House whether Dr. Hirschfeld and Dr. Herz have yet . been deported from Australia; and, if so, by what vessels and on what dates?
– Dr. Hirschfeld was deported per s.s. Jacatra, which left Fremantle on 6th October, 1920. The question as to whether Dr. Herz should be deported from Australia is now under consideration.
asked the Minister controlling Shipbuilding, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What Commonwealth loans are free from Commonwealth taxation ?
– The answer to ‘ the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Interest in respect of all 4½ per cent. War Loans and in respect of War Savings Certificates is free from Commonwealth Income Tax.
All bonds and transfers of stock in connexion with all Commonwealth War and Peace Loans are free from Commonwealth stamp duty.
– I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Inter-State Commission Act 1912.
– It would be of great assistance to honorable members if the Minister, when moving motions of this kind, were to say briefly what the measures to which they referred propose to cover.
– In this case I propose to introduce a Bill of one clause to repeal the sections of the Inter-State Commission Act which were held by the High Court in the Wheat case to be invalid, and to provide for the Commission making certain declarations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to constitute a Commonwealth Court of Commerce and for other purposes.
I now ask leave to introduce a Bill which should be read in conjunction with that just presented. The High Court held that Part V. of the Inter-State Commission Act was invalid, because under section 101 of the Constitution this Parliament could not vest judicial power in that body. This Bill is to enable Parliament to create a Commerce Court, which will exercise the judicial powers which were thought to be vested in the Inter-State Commission.
– If the High Court says that Parliament cannot vest the Commission with judicial power, how can that be done?
– I shall be prepared to argue that question at a later stage. The Bill provides for the setting up of a
Court which will consist of the President assisted by two assessors.
– Is the President of the Court to be the President of the InterState Commission?
– Yes. This Court, as a Court of Commerce, will exercise the judicial power originally thought to be vested in the Interstate Commission.
– Will the two assessors be the remaining two members of the Interstate Commission?
– Yes. They will sit with the President when he requires their assistance. In 1918, a resolution was passed by the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia affirming “ that it is desirable that the Inter-State Commission Act be amended in such a way as to give the Inter-State Commission a sphere of greater usefulness more in keeping with its cost to the community.” Generally speaking, that is the object of the Bill which I now desire to introduce.
– I have previously voiced, both here and elsewhere, my objection to the continuance of- the Inter-State Commission. It is the most useless body that was ever created by this Parliament. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) cannot point to one useful act which it has performed since its inception. The first inquiry it conducted was an inquiry into the question of the need which existed for Tariff revision. It made certain recommendations in that connexion, but, so far as my memory serves me, not one of those recommendations was indorsed by this House.
– The House has never considered the revision of the Tariff since the Commission submitted its report.
– I am speaking of what took place before the outbreak of war. It is a fact that one of the members of the Commission became so dissatisfied with its work and so impressed with its uselessness that he tendered his resignation - I refer to Mr. Swinburne. Subsequently other work was given to the Commission in order to keep it. going. For instance, it inquired into the question of the Murray waters. But what did it do there? We knew everything that had been done -in connexion with the Murray waters scheme prior to the Inter-State Commission dealing with the matter. I am. therefore entirely opposed to the continuance of the Commission, and suggest that we ought to repeal the Act under which it was constituted instead of attempting to amend it.
.- I understand that the Inter-State Commission is not in existence at the present time. The Act under which it was appointed has lapsed.
-Its members were appointed for a period of seven years. That time has expired, and no fresh appointments have been made.
– I do not agree with the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) that the whole of the work done by the Commission has been useless.
– Will the Minister tell us one good thing that the Commission has ever done?
– I think that the money whichhas been expended upon the InterState Commission hasbeen quite as wisely spent as have other moneys which have been authorized by this Parliament. When the results of the expenditure upon the Commission are compared with the results of our expenditure upon shipbuilding the ‘Commission comes out an easy winner. The Commission was not appointed until about the end of 1913. It began its inquiry into the need for Tariff revision prior to the outbreak of war, and soon after I submitted a Tariff schedule to this House which has never yet been considered.
– You tyrant ! You autocrat !
– I was anxious, as honorable members opposite know, that that schedule should be considered.
– The honorable member knows the reason why it was not considered.
– Yes; the reason was that the war was in progress, and Japan was one of our Allies.
– And the Imperial Government asked the Commonwealth Government of that day not to proceed with it.’
– No. The Imperial Government asked us to postpone the consideration of the Navigation Bill. Some persons, however, were afraid of giving offence to Japan.
– The only reason why the Tariff was not then considered was that the honorable member, who was then Minister for Trade and Customs, would not allow Parliament to consider it.
– No. In those days the Opposition cry was, “ Postpone the consideration of the Tariff and let us get home.” Had the Tariff been considered in the light of the evidence which was tendered to the Inter-State Commission, the reports of that body would have been most valuable. But they will not be as valuable to-day, because seven years have elapsed since then. At that time our manufacturers declared that they would not give certain information to a Labour Minister, but they were prepared to give it to an outside body. In that way they would doubtless be able to conceal a lot of the profits which they had made, and in respect of which they refused to give information to the Minister. I believe that the Inter-State Commission has done good work, and I cannot support the suggestion of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) that it should be wiped out of existence. Regarding the establishment of .the proposed Court of Commerce, I have quite an open mind, and am prepared to consider the matter upon its merits.
– I do not desire to be so ungracious as to prevent the introduction of this Bill. But I am distinctly opposed to the continuance of the Inter-State Commission and to the creation of a Court of Commerce. I am not prepared to go as far as the honorable member for Herbert in regard to the work of the Commission, and certainly I have no desire to reflect upon its personnel. In my opinion, we were fortunate, when it was constituted, in ‘securing the services of capable men upon it. They did excellent work in inquiring into the need for Tariff revision, and they supplied us with much valuable information in that connexion. But, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has suggested, that information is now completely out of date, because of the war which has since occurred, and because of the time which has elapsed since it was collated. Speaking generally, however, I think that the time is a most opportune one for us to relieve ourselves of some of the governmental machinery which, to my mind, is unnecessary. No useful function is being discharged at the present time by the Inter-State Commission. Two of its members have resigned, and, therefore, only the Chairman remains to be considered, and properly treated. Consequently the present is a particularly opportune time to abolish the Commission entirely. I am one of those who originally supported its creation, but in view of our past experience, of the requirements of the future, and of the imperative need which exists for the exercise of the strictest economy, I think that the time has now arrived when we should dispense with this particular branch of governmental machinery. No section of the community will suffer by its abolition. Of course, the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has a perfect right to introduce the Bill dealing with this matter, so as to enable honorable members to judge it upon its merits. But if, as I understand, the object of the measure is to confer upon the luiterState Commission certain judicial powers, I am opposed. to it from beginning to end. I am also entirely opposed to the continuance of the Commission. Furthermore, I protest strongly against the creation of the proposed Court of Commerce.
– What commerce could it deal with?
– That is a perfect mystery to me ; but, at most, it could deal only with questions affecting InterState trade and commerce. The point I wish to emphasize is that no one has asked for the creation of this Court of Commerce, and I defy the Minister (Mr. Groom) to prove any valuable purpose it can serve. There is no lack of tribunals to fulfil the functions which it has been suggested this proposed Court will undertake. Chambers of Commerce have within their own ambit certain tribunals for the purpose of dealing with matters essentially of a commercial character, which can be settled by resort to arbitration, and where they cannot adjust their differences between themselves in that way they go to the ordinary law Courts. And they will continue to do this. They express no desire to resort to any intermediate Court such as it is now proposed to create. If the . purpose be to secure special expert knowledge in commercial matters, I would point out that the Chambers of Commerce have their own expert . tribunals. If this Court is to be created for the purpose of interpreting the law, and for the legal adjustment of differences that may arise in trading and commercial transactions, here again I would point out that trading firms will inevitably refer their differences to the ordinarylegal tribunals. The Minister has made an unfortunate reference to ‘ the fact that a little time ago the Chambers of Commerce passed a resolution in favour of . the creation of a Court of the kind suggested, quite overlooking the fact that, in view of their more recent experience, they subsequently passed a resolution protecting strongly against the creation of such a tribunal as is now proposed. -When the Minister appeals to Chambers of Commerce for guidance or for an expression of their views upon the matter, he ought to quote their latest resolution, and not one which is completely out of date. There is no justification for the creation of a Court of Commerce. In any case, if appointed it will be a surplus tribunal for the creation of which no one has asked.
– But the Government must do something to keep the House occupied.
– But the House could be more usefully employed upon other work.
– Would it not be wise for the honorable member to wait to hear what the Government do propose in this direction?
– The Minister has already given us sufficient information to enableus to understand exactly the purpose of these two measures. If the object of the Ministry is to provide the House with work, it would be a very good idea to devote a fortnight to the consideration of the Tariff, and thus get rid of the main speeches on the first item. Apart from that, however, it is only fair to the Government that I should inform them’ that I shall take every opportunity of opposing these measures. I would go further, and say at once that if possible a Bill should be introduced to repeal the Inter-State Commission Act.
– The honorable member does not know what are the measures proposed, but he is “agin” them.
– If I can rely on the statement made by the Minister (Mr. Groom) I know what these measures contain, and as he has informed us that one object is to endow the InterState Commission with judicial powers, I am taking this opportunity of telling him that I am opposed to doing so, and, in fact, am quite against allowing the Commission to continue to exist.
– Would the honorable member be prepared to submit an amendment to abolish the Commission?
– No. As I said at the outset of my remarks, it would be ungracious to refuse the Government permissionto introduce these Bills. They ought to be introduced so that honorable members may have the opportunity of dealing with them on their merits, but now that the fundamental principles underlying these proposals have’ been outlined to us, I think it is only fair that I should indicate what my attitude is in regard to them.
– Politics are peculiar.. The whirligig of time has brought, our “ brother’s “ chickens home to roost. There was no more ardent advocate of the establishment of the Inter-State Commission than the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Ro.bert Best). The whirligig of time has also brought us strange bed-fellows in this Chamber. We have another “ brand from the burning.”
– Yes; we have had a great “ hallelujah testimony “ this morning in regard to the Inter-State Commission. I agree with every word the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) has said - that it has been one of the most useless creations of this Parliament, and that if abolished to-day no one would be any the worse off. The present Chairman of the Inter-State Commission (Mr. Piddington) was offered a position on the High Court and is the only man in Australia who would have refused such an’ appointment, which he did.
– Why did he refuse it ?
– I do not know, but I have no doubt he has since seen the error of his ways. The Government might give him another opportunity. For instance, he might be asked to fill the position of President of the Arbitration Court which Mr. Justice Higgins has given up. The Government apparently cannot find- any one to take that post. The honorable member for Kooyong has sharpened his lance to have a tilt at the Government, but when he approaches the peg I am sure he will miss it and stick his lance in the ground, unhorsing himself in doing so. That is to say, when a vote is taken on this particular question he will be missing. He will not hurt the Government. He may wound them, but he will not kill them.
– I certainly would not dislodge them.
– What an admission!. Here is another bed-fellow! Here is another “hallelujah testimony”!
– This is not a vital measure.
– For the last’ quarter of an hour the honorable member has been ranting and raving about what the Inter-State Commission has cost this country. The honorable member says this is not vital. Will he say what is vital? The Age and the Argus have whipped the Victorians, and the honorable gentleman has come to heel.” for he is only using the arguments employed by -those great organs of public opinion.
Mr.Ryan. - Will the honorable member accept my assurance that the Government will not go on with the measure?
– Yes, I will accept the assurance of the honorable member for West “Sydney, and I suppose that to-morrow we shall find this item of business well down to the bottom of the notice-paper like so many others, including the Public Service Bill, under which the Government proposed to create a Board of three Commissioners. We shall, I have no doubt, find this “ brother “ alongside that measure.
– -Well, let us get this motion through, and you will see.
-Of course, the Minister can do as he likes. The Go vernment have the numbers, and after the testimony by “ Brother “ Best from Kooyong - perhaps ‘ I should say the honorable member for Kooyong - I am satisfied the Government need have no fear of danger from that quarter. But what I want to know is, who asked for this proposed Court of Commerce? The Minister informed us that the Chambers of Commerce had asked for, it, but the honorable member for Kooyong, who is a strong supporter of the Government, and a strong advocate of commercialism in this House, has told us that the Chambers of Commerce had seen the error of their ways, and that now they do not want it. If, by means of this Bill, it is proposed to confer a benefit on the commercial community, but if the commercial community do not want it, why give it to them? If there is nothing else behind the Bill than this request from the Chambers of Commerce-
– There is more behind it than that.
– After the Minister’s assurance I would like to see what is behind it. I look with a great amount of suspicion upon anything that the honorable member for Kooyong opposes, because he, and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), are the strongest barrackers for the Government in this House, it does not matter how “ tight “ they may be. I am not speaking, of course, in the prohibition sense.
– Then you mean in the continuance sense?
– Not in that sense either, but I know that there are many prohibitionists on that side of the Chamber. ‘ The honorable member for Kooyong and the honorable member for Wakefield are “prohibitionists” against our party, but still we are living, and we shall blossom before long and, I have no doubt, bear good fruit. It is a most peculiar thing that every honorable member for Kooyong has been a very rich Conservative. I do not mean in this world’s goods, but rich in titles. They would have no commoner to represent them in Kooyong. They must have a titled hero, and now they have one in the person of Sir Robert Best.
– I am afraid’ the honorable member is digressing, and I must ask him to address himself to the motion.
– I am afraid of the honorable member for Kooyong, just as you, Mr. Speaker, seem to be afraid of me, because one day he advocates the appointmen’t of this Inter-State- Commission, and now sees no good in it. If this proposed Court of Commerce’ is going to be of any good to the Commonwealth, let us have it; but if, on- the other hand, it is not going to be of any use, the House should cast it on one side. If it is not likely to be of any more value than the Inter-State Com.mission is, or has been, I hope, the House will reject the motion, whether it is or is not vital to the Government.
.- There is just one point in connexion with this matter upon which I should like to touch. I cordially agree with those honorable members who doubt the usefulness of the continued existence of the Inter-State Commission. We have never had a body politic in this community which has been of- less real service than that Commission, and if its life can be judiciously ended now, it would be wise to end it. We are always talking about the necessity for economy. Personally, I am not particularly keen on that aspect of the question, but if we can prevent useless expenditure, we should do so. We are all, more or less, in the dark as to what the Bill, the motion to introduce which is now before honorable members, really means. I should like to know if this proposed Court of Commerce is to be purely a body for getting over little local grievances, or whether its purpose is to be much wider. This, to my mind, is essential at the present juncture. There are great opportunities for Australia in the Pacific and the East, but so far this House has done nothing to take advantage of these new avenues of trade, which are being opened up as the result of the great struggle through which we have come. Other countries are doing a great deal to advance their interests in the East. Great Britain, of my knowledge, has sent out a large number of men of high character, and, in many cases, of high scholastic attainments, to impress the people of the East with the advantages of further trading with the Mother Country; but Australia, which is producing more than any other country in the world of the very commodities required by these Eastern nations, is letting her chances slip by. America, too, has spent large sums of money in opening up fresh avenues of trade, or in further strengthening those already in existence. On many occasions I have suggested to various people in Australia, and more than once to the Government, that something of a definite character should be done in the way of conserving our interests in the East - at present there is very little to conserve - of extending our trade, and getting into closer touch with the people, sp that we may know what is going on. At present we are in the dark, to a very dangerous degree, and we are losing trade which should be coming our way. If this Bill, by the creation of a Court of Commerce, will do anything in the direction of furthering our interests, I shall support it, but if it is merely for the creation of a Court to settle minor differences within the Commonwealth, and if its functions are to be anything like those of the Interstate Commission, I shall oppose it.
.- The Government would be well advised to withdraw this motion. It is evident from the remarks of honorable members on both sides that they see very little utility in the Inter-State Commission. I am in complete accord with the views of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford). The Inter-State Commission was constituted under an Act passed by a Labour Government, and the personnel of the first Inter-State Commission was appointed in 1913. I take it that the friends of the Constitution had in mind that some difficulty would be experienced in regard to the Tariff, and they thought it advisable that an Inter-State Commission should be constituted to help Parliament in that regard. We have to be guided by experience, and experience has taught us that the Inter-State Commission is of very little use in regard to the Tariff. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has stated that the Commission has done very useful work, and that many of its reports will be of service to Parliament. My view i3 that those reports will be of very little use to the House when dealing with the Tariff. Most of them were made some years ago, and in the interim the great war has been fought, and as a result trade conditions are vastly changed. I do not say that the members of the Inter-State Commission have not done excellent work, but although their reports have cost a good deal of money they have no practical value. I recollect that in the initial stages of industrial arbitration a great number of cases were filed, but some of them could not be heard for two years, by which time it was useless to proceed with them, because the industrial position had changed. The same objection applies to the reports of the Interestate -Commission. Their reports are four and five years old, and may not be applicable to the conditions of to-day. The continuance of the Commission must involve a good deal of expenditure. We must reduce our expenses wherever we legitimately can, and this is one opportunity that is presented to us. Two of the Commissioners have already resigned, and only one is now in office. The term of appointment was for seven years ; that period is about to expire, and, therefore, no injustice will be done to any individual if Parliament should decide that the Commission shall cease to exist. The Government would be wise not to persevere with this motion. If the work of the Commission is of no practical utility, why should the time of Parliament be occupied in dealing with a Bill to give greater powers to that body? In regard to the. creation, of a Court of Commerce, I do not know exactly what the Government proposal means.
– Why not wait to see what the Bill means?
– The right honorable gentleman will admit that I seldom speak at this stage of any measure, and I only do so now because I think we should give an indication to Ministers of whether or not we approve of the continuance of the Inter-State Commission. We should not allow them to bring in a Bill to which the Government will be pledged, and which the Ministerial followers may feel obliged to loyally support. If the House gives an expression of opinion at this stage it will be a guide to the Government as to whether or not to proceed further with their proposals. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) pointed out the necessity for developing (trade with the Orient. New South Wales has a trade representative in the Orient, and possibly other States also are represented. I think such representation should be sufficient to carry on trade relations. If the proposed Court of Commerce means the creation of another body which will be a permanent cost to the community I shall be very careful how I vote. I have no desire to create any unnecessary Boards. I will support any proposal that Ministers can show to be in the best interests of the country, but, otherwise, the time has arrived when we should economize as much as possible, in view of the heavy financial burden’ we have to bear.
.- Although debate at the introductory stage of a measure is’ unusual in this Chamber, it is quite justified in the present instance. As one of those who, during the Budget debate, took exception to the continuance of the Inter-State Commission, I think it right to repeat my views now. It would appear from the remarks of the Minister (Mr. Groom) that the proposal to institute a Court of Commerce means giving to the Inter-State Commission some of the judicial powers which we thought we had conferred upon that body, but which the High Court has ruled it does not possess. This is really an attempt to get round the decision of the High Court. The time has arrived when the Inter-State Commission should be got rid of, but I shall not commit myself entirely until 1 hear what the Minister has to say on the motion for the second reading of the Bill- At present I cannot see that a Court of_ Commerce is required. There does not seem to be any demand for it from the trading community, and I think it is time we discontinued the policy of appointing so many Commissions and other Government bodies, and economized wherever possible. Against the personnel of the Inter-State Commission I have nothing to say. I have the greatest respect for all the gentlemen who have served upon that body; but, unfortunately, their work seems to have been of no practical use to Parliament or the people. Therefore, I see no necessity for continuing it. Until the High Court decided otherwise, it was thought that the Commission had a sort of semi- judicial power, the exercise of which would be advantageous to the community. No doubt, when the Constitution was framed it was intended that the Commission should have that power, but T do not know that if it did have such power it would be of great benefit to the community s I shall not go as far as some honorable members have, and declare straight out that the Commission should be abolished, until I hear from the Minister what is involved in the proposed creation of a Court of Commerce. « If I were asked to vote’ now I should decide against the continuance of the Inter-State Commission and against the establishment of the proposed Court. Still, the Minister may be able to make out a good case, and convince the House that the Inter-State Commission, if clothed with the additional powers proposed, may become a useful body. -If he can do that, well and good. At any rate, he ought to be given . a chance to make out his case, and, therefore, should have leave to introduce the Bill.
.- When the Minister (Mr. Groom) rose I asked him to be good enough to give some idea of the proposals contained in the measure. It is very desirable that at the introductory stage Ministers should give the House some indication of the proposed scope of a Bill. Such information is helpful to discussion at the later stages.
– And incidentally it starts a new debate.
– Very often a statement at the introductory stage obviates subsequent debate. At all events, I am very glad that the Minister (Mr. Groom) courteously responded to my request that he should give some information to the House, but I regret that he failed to show any necessity for the measure. It appears to be a measure which is intended to constitute a Court of Commerce. It really does not deal with the Inter-State Commission at all. It constitutes an independent Court, which, of course, will be composed of the members of the InterState Commission. The only commercial matters that they would have power to deal with would be Inter-State commerce or commerce overseas.
– They could not be anything else.
– No. They therefore cannot deal with matters of general com merce. The conclusion I have come to from the introduction of this measure isthat the Government are finding themselves short of business. The Minister is now introducing a Bill for which, admittedly, no one has asked. He has shown no necessity for it, and is merely bringing it in to fill in time. In that respect it is like some other measures that have been on the business-sheet. For instance, we find that the Nationality Bill was put there because of some conference away back in 1911, with the resolutions of which even the Minister (Mr. Poynton) was not acquainted. Now we have measures of a similar type being introduced, so that it is obvious that the Government are finding themselves short of business.
– What is wrong with the Tariff?
– I also ask, “ What about the Tariff?” We ought to be dealing with it. We should be dealing with something of serious import to the public of Australia and not with tiddlywinking measures of this sort. I fully understand that every Minister wants to be in charge of some piece of legislation’ in order to show his importance, and to prove to the public that he is doing something. Consequently the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Groom) has introduced this measure. At any rate, that is how it strikes me, and I think that is how it will strike the general public. I have not seen one piece of evidence of any request for a Bill of this sort. Has there been anything in the press to indicate it? Where is it moved from? Who has requested it? Nobody. There is only one conclusion -to come to. I do not wish to be discourteous to the Minister, or to defeat his motion at this stage, but I hope wiser counsels will prevail and that when this motion is carried that is the last we shall hear of the measure this session.
– It is highly humorous to hear members of this House ‘“‘whipping their joss.” I do not know whether this measure is a sincere attempt to increase or reduce the powers of the Inter-State Commission, or whether it is merely intended to create a Court of Commerce. But it is a fact that to-day we have heard the
Inter-State Commission attacked. Members who were in Parliament when the Inter-State Commission Act was passed, and also members who were not, ought to know the situation exactly. The InterState Commission was intended as a Court to deal with the Tariff and other matters under a form of new Protection. I remember well what happened in the 1913 election, when we asked the people for increased powers, and I know what we intended to do with those powers if we got them. It was understood at that time that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was’ to be the President of the Inter-State Commission, which was to have vast powers. We were to get the powers from the people in order to make this Parliament a real Parliament for Australia, as it ought to be.
– That is the time you “missed the ‘bus.”
-That is the time the ‘bus was missed, when the other side controlled business by a majority of one. That was the occasion which will never be forgotten when the other side looked for a double dissolution, and got it in the solar plexus afterwards. The InterState Commission is a ridiculous body at present, because it never ‘received the powers which it was thought would be conferred upon it through this Parliament obtaining further legislative powers itself. Consequently, its members have been handedin the interim other jobs, which they have performed more or less satisfactorily to themselves and to the community in general. I am not saying a word against the ability of the members of the Commission. They might very well grace some body which would enable them to do a great amount of good for Australia.
– There is only one man left.
– I understand so. I do not know whether there is a chance of the High Court reversing its decision regarding the powers of this Parliament in this direction as well as on the question of State utilities, as happened, earlier this year. The High Court told us that we had no power to legislate for State utilities, and that it was never intended that we should ; but now the High Court tells us that we have. When we attempted to fix prices the High Court told us that we had no power to do so.
It is possible that a differently constituted High Court may say that we’ have thatpower; but unless that decision is given it is evident that the . Inter- State Commission will be a useless body, and it is of no avail to go further with it. If this were a civilized Government, or a Government that intended to bring about civilization, they would have looked for further powers in a manner that would warrant the consideration of the whole House. I know, however, that if they do obtain further powers by means of the proposed Convention, they will be useless, because the Government want no further powers. They are too conservative. They want to leave the control in the hands of the sovereign States, as they are called. I hope that when we get the information which the Minister has been asked for, it will not turn out to be anything ridiculous about increased powers for the Inter-State Commission. If it is simply a question of creating a Court of Commerce, I trust that it will not be bludgeoned through by means of the closure. It is getting late in the session, and I hope the House will have a proper opportunity of discussing any Court of Commerce that may be introduced. I hope, also, that there will , be no tinkering with, or attempting to bolster up, the Inter-State Commission, because we cannot give that body the powers for which it was instituted.
– I do not propose at this stage, nor is it usual, to go into all the reasons for the introduction of the Bill. The House made a request, which was reasonable enough, that I should indicate the reason and purport of the, Bill, and I did so. I was rather amused by the speech of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan). He scarcely ever rises here without giving us an interesting chapter from his autobiography. We get from him an analysis of his motives in the past, a description of how he has acted, and how he has conducted parliamentary proceedings, and naturally he immediately assumes that everybody else is actuated by the same motives, and follows the same methods and the same devious ways. I can assure the honorable member that he is quite mistaken so far as this measure is concerned. We can look with satisfaction upon the record of what has already been achieved by this Parliament this year in the way of legislation. If we have been blocked in our legislation, the honorable (member knows the hours and the time that he has wasted - or, rather, I should say, expended - by various want-of-confidence motions, blocking-motions, delayingmotions, and dilatory tactics of every description. If there has been any delay in legislation, the honorable member himself must take the responsibility. There is plenty of business to deal with, and we are anxious to press forward with this Bill. When the Inter-State Commission Act was introduced, all parties absolutely agreed on the necessity for the Commission having the judicial powers proposed. Part 5 of the Act, the part which the High Court held invalid, was regarded as most important, as it enabled the Commission to function and exercise its duties properly. Even in the very early stages of Federation the members of the Federal Convention indicated these powers as necessary, and no one even questioned them seriously until the matter came before the High Court, which, of course, acting judicially, took a different view. The Government is anxious to restore the Inter-State Commission to enable it to function as Parliament originally intended it to do. It has not been able to fulfil certain of its functions because it has not the power.
– How long ago is it since they discovered they had not the power ?
– That was discovered during the war, arising out of the seizure of wheat by the New South Wales Government. The question arose whether the New South Wales Government had the power to apparently flout the provision in. the Constitution regarding freedom of trade between the States. The InterState Commission was beginning to function properly when the decision of the High Court was given, and practically took away all the judicial power that the Commission possessed.
– Parliament cannot give the Commission that power.
– The Government believe that by the exercise of the judicial powers under the Constitution they can in the way proposed restore the power to the Inter-State Commission to be exercised as originally intended.
– That is for the High Court to decide.
– Of course. I shall not argue the matter further at this stage, but simply indicate the intention of the Government. I am circulating a brief statement prepared by the Parliamentary Draftsman, indicating the effect of the legislation we propose to introduce.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to repeal the Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Act 1917-1919.
I see my honorable friend opposite (Mr. Ryan) on the alert for an explanation.
– It is most unfair to make this attack on me.
– However, I shall not insult the intelligence of the House by attempting to explain at this stage what this Bill is intended to accomplish.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This little measure is certainly not new, nor, is it unexpected. It is a modest little proposal for transferring the machinery of the note issue to the control of an Issue Department to be created at the Commonwealth Bank. It introduces no new banking principles; it is, as I have indicated, merely a machinery measure. Anything which approaches a new banking principle is in that clause relating to reserves, which I propose, in Committee, to eliminate.
– What clause is that?
– The clause requiring that banks shall keep a certain proportion of notes in their reserves. Later on, I shall explain to honorable members why I withdraw that clause. In the meantime I repeat that, ever since the institution of the note issue, in 1910, this proposed transfer has been agitated on many an occasion. I have myself always held that the note issue should be a function of the Commonwealth. Bank, and should be removed entirely from purely political control, and placed in the hands of a body, of men with no motives whatever, hut to operate it in the interests of the community generally. I venture to say that that has been the opinion of this House for many years, but the opportunity has not heretofore occurred to make the transfer. There seems to be an appropriate time and place - a psychological moment, shall I say? - when these things come to fruition; and so it has come about, after the lapse of nine or ten years, that we now propose to make this transfer, the advocacy of which, as I say, has always commanded a respectful hearing in this House. There is, therefore, nothing new in the proposal I submit to honorable members.
-Before the Treasurer leaves that point, will be explain when clause 60q will come into operation?
– I suggest that the honorable member wait until that matter is before us.
This Bill practically repeals the Australian Notes Act, and hands over the control of the issue of notes to a separate Department, to be created under the measure, with the sole right of controlling the issue from time to time, and the conditions on which the issue shall be made. I think there can be no question as to the desirability of this course, or as to the advantages which the Commonwealth Bank possesses over the Treasury in respect of such matters. For instance, the Bank has branches all over Australia, -whereas the Treasury has not. The Bank’s interests and facilities are developing day by day, and there is no such expansion possible in connexion with the Treasury. Moreover, as a business concern, the Commonwealth Bank is in closer touch, I venture to say, with the money markets of the world, from time to time, than the Treasury can be. It is in closer touch with the other banks, which are mostly concerned in these issues of notes, and, in addition, is, perhaps, closer to the public generally of Australia than the Treasury Department can claim to be.
This matter of the currency is in itself a very vital one to the community. It has been called the life-blood of trade and commerce, and that is not an inapt simile. It is a matter of the utmost consequence to the community, affecting, as it does so profoundly, its commercial and social existence.
The very essence of a successful note issue - perhaps I should make this point here- and now - consists in its elasticity. Honorable members from time to time criticise the rise and fall of the issue of the paper money of the world, but, really, if the note issue is not to expand and to deflate or contract again, it is of no use whatever to the community. As a banker said the other day, unless the note issue has that quality of elasticity, so as to respond to the needs and financial requirements of the community, it is really of very little use. Here, for instance, is what that banker said.
– Who is he?
-The gentleman who made the statement is Mr. Walter Leaf, President of the County, Westminster, and Parr’s Bank, London, who, when discussing this matter when >the accounts were presented to the shareholders, said -
He was not a believer in proposals for the artificial restriction of the currency. To fix an upper limit would be like trying to cure a fever by plugging . your clinical thermometer at normal, and the only result would be that you would burst your thermometer. The only remedy, he added, was to stop the issue of claims to currency in the form of Government expenditure and Government credits. There is, however, also the partial remedy of raising by means of extra diligence in industry, as expressed in greatly augmented production, the ratio of goods to outstanding currency.
Here is one of the foremost bankers of the world declaring that to place an artificial limit on the currency of the country was like plugging a clinical thermometer at normal. The very essence of the note issue depends upon its elasticity, because it must rise and fall with the volume of the world’s business, and there must be some facile means to adjust it from time to time, according to the requirements of trade and commerce. The proper body to do this must be kept in close touch with the business and commercial life of the community, and all this indicates the advisableness of the transfer to the control of some central banking body possessed of all the requisites which I have enumerated.
The Bill provides that there shall be a separate and. distinct department of the bank, which will have nothing whatever to .do with the hanking portion of the institution. It will not necessarily involve a greatly increased expenditure, and very probably the issue will cost less to operate than at. present, because the whole of the staff and the machinery will be transferred.
It is intended to create a Board of Directors, but not a costly body, such as one generally associates with Boards of Directors and sub-departments of Government. The Governor of the Bank is to be Chairman of the Board of Directors, and it is provided in the Bill that another director shall be an officer of the Treasury, because, I think it well to keep up the liaison between the Treasury and the Bank. The other two members of the Board will be men of high commercial repute from outside, who will devote their time to this work, but they will not be continuously engaged in their duties as directors of the Note Issue Department. They will be in much the same position as Savings Bank trustees.
– Drawing fees for their attendance.
– For their services.
– But only two actually drawing salaries.
– Yes. There will be only two drawing salaries, and not necessarily from the fund at all. Honorable members will, I trust, eliminate from their minds the impression that the creation of this new Department is to involve additional expenditure to the Government or to the Note Fund, as the hope is confidently held that the work can be conducted at less expense than at present, and if not at less cost, certainly without any increase. The creation of a distinct sub-department of the Commonwealth Bank does not, therefore, involve any additional expense to the country.
It must also be remembered that the notes, although issued by this subdepartment of the Commonwealth Bank, will be none the less Australian notes. They are not to be Commonwealth Bank notes, because of the transfer; but will still be national notes, signed by the Governor of the Bank on the one hand and the Secretary to the Treasury, or some other officer appointed for the purpose, on the other. There will be two signatures on the notes, as I have mentioned, thus making them truly Australian national notes.
There is a provision in the Bill that in case of emergency we shall be able to do what every other Government in the world has been able to do in time of emergency, and that is to resume control and. responsibility, if there should be a war or some other upheaval requiring instantaneous action on the part of the Government. In ordinary times in London the Bank of England, which is the Bank of the nation and of the Government, controls the note issue, but on the outbreak of war the control and responsibility of that Bank is assumed by the Imperial Government. During the last war the Government assumed control, and issued notes - Bradbury’s as they are commonly called - to the extent of £362,000,000 sterling. No machinery can stand in the way of a Government financing itself in times of grave emergency, and, therefore, it is provided that we shall have the necessary reserve power to resume control and responsibility should the necessity arise.
– Even in emergencies other than those arising out of war?
– I cannot conceive of any other emergency apart from war, and if there is such a contingency it is so remote that we need not trouble about it. I hope it may never occur, ,but provision has been made for cases of extreme national crisis.
The profits of the Note Issue Department will continue to go back to the Government as at present. The Department will pay for itself, and the ‘expenses of running it, and of meeting the cost involved by the Board. This will come out of a small commission, such as is usually charged for the transaction of such business, and the resulting profits will be paid over to the Treasury. The motives of mere profit-making will thus be removed from the Board controlling the issue of notes, and that is as it ought to be. Our one and only object will be to see that the circulation of the currency of the country ds such as is necessary by reason of the trading activities of the country, and when the Board is exercising its functions there will be no motive in issuing notes for the purpose of profit. Profits, of course, will arise incidentally, and those profits, it is provided, shall not redound to the benefit of those who make them, but shall revert to the Consolidated Revenue.
– Will this Bill give the Board power to issue more notes than we are at present issuing?
– Yes, or less, if they so desire.
– On what conditions?
– On the same conditions as at present. All the existing safeguards are maintained. This Bill involves no new principles and cuts across no old principles. It simply transfers bodily to the Board the whole note issue. It interferes with practically nothing except the control, which it transfers from the Treasury to a new issue Department. That is really the purpose of the Bill. There are some amendments that I propose to move when we go into Committee.
– Is the Treasurer going to deal with the question of reserves ?
– I have already indicated that I propose in Committee to move to eliminate altogether clause 60 (o). After discussing the question with the banks and receiving from them satisfactory assurances, I see no reason for persisting in it. It is a provision which relates after all to new banking principles, and,, therefore, should find its appropriate place in a new banking measure, and not in a mere machinery Bill such as this purports to be. I am not so sure that the time is not near when a new banking Act, designed to bring some of our methods and customs more into line with the advanced banking of the world, would be a good thing for this country. We are still behind, in some measure, countries like America and Great Britain, which have gone far ahead of the existing position here. My reason just now for not tackling the question of reserves is because it will find its appropriate place in the new banking Bill which may at some time or other be introduced, rather than in this simple proposal for transferring the machinery of the note issue to a sub-Department of the Commonwealth Bank.
– Is that the Banks’ objection to the clause - that it should be in another Bill?
– It is one of them. I say quite frankly that this is not a time to get into conflict with the banking institutions of the country. The position of things is far too serious for that. Instead of bringing the matter forward nowit should be left for a more convenient season.
It may not be out of place to show how this Bill will stand in relation to - what is taking place up and down the world generally. Things are moving and have moved through the war with regard to many of these questions, but altogether, I think, we have reason to congratulate ourselves on our present financial position in Australia. In my judgment, there is no country to-day that, notwithstanding all the stress and strain of the war, has its general financial affairs on so sound a basis as Australia. On this question of currency generally, we shall perhaps see the advantage of some of the things we have done if we glance for a few minutes at what is being done elsewhere. I have already spoken of the essential requirement of elasticity in any note issue, so that it may meet the seasonal and other necessities of the country from time to time. Take our present wheat harvest and our wool clip as an illustration of what I mean. In Canada, when her harvests are being gathered in, notes are scattered all over the country. They are not legal tender notes, ‘but notes which are permitted to be issued by the banks themselves. The security for these notes is in the Central Banking Reserve of Canada, and 50 per cent, of that reserve consists of national notes.
– The real security is the wheat.
– In the last analysis the honorable member is perfectly right. However much we may put sovereigns against notes, a pound’s worth of production is equal to a sovereign in substantiality, if not in immediate facility. As my honorable friend suggests, in the final . resort the real backing of the bill is the solid - substantial production of the country. And so it comes about that these notes are. issued by the million in
Canada during the harvest time ; but they are all gathered in again as the harvest is sold, and the exchanges are made up and down the world.
Let us look, first of all, at what is done in Great Britain. We must always turn our eyes to the Motherland when discussing these questions. She has come through crises like these so often in her history - surviving them and revivifying herself in the process - that we . cannot do better than look to such an example.
– She has survived them by repealing the Bank Act, which stipulated for a gold reserve every time.
– I have already said that in times of crises that has to be done in every country; but what we have to do in times of crises is no indication of what we ought to do when the crisis is over. The position is then altogether different.
– Is there any truth in the statement that they want to collar our gold over there?
– We do not propose to let them take it. As honorable members are aware, the Bank of England itself is the banker of the Government of the United Kingdom. It is in its construction a private bank, yet it has so fulfilled its functions in the past as to make it, to all intents and purposes, a Government institution. That is to say, it has always acted with due regard to Government interests first and foremost, and does so to-day, making from time to time appropriate profits, which, however one may criticise them, are in their very nature of the most moderate kind, the balance finding its way always into useful channels for the country’s interest. It may be well to remember that during the war the Bank of England placed upon itself the self-denying ordinance of refusing to make any profit whatever over that which it made in prewar days. One should never forget that example of the great Bank of England. In normal times the Bank of England is the sole issuer of the currency of England. When the war broke out, however, different conditions obtained. The Government issued currency notes to the extent of £362,000,000 over and above the £140,000,000 worth of notes issued by the Bank of England. Against the £362,000,000 of currency notes there is very little in the nature of substantial assets. A certain amount of gold is held. It amounts to-day, I believe, to £28,500,000 in coin and bullion.
– By whom is that held?
– By the Treasury, at Home.
– All modern writers now are agreeing that the gold reserve is very largely a myth.
– By no means. Modern writers agree that, whether you have gold in circulation or not, however much you may load your note issue for the purposes of usefulness in trading activities those notes must bear a definite relation to gold. It must appear strange to the honorable member - holding such views as, apparently, he does - that all the experienced bankers of the world stick to that delusion, if delusion it be; and I cannot believe that it is, since the whole of the banking world hugs it so closely, and has always done so, right down the centuries.
Now, I have indicated the conditions existing in England. There is a total of £362,000,000 in currency notes, and there is very little gold or bullion, to back those notes. But the Bank of England has almost a sovereign behind every one of its notes. While behind the currency notes of the British Government very little gold is held, there is, however, the security of the nation, and there are the trading activities of Great Britain behind that again. I emphasize the point that the security is not based upon any gold issue, and that the reason why no effort has been made to put gold behind those notes is that they were issued temporarily, and that it was hoped to get them in again at the earliest possible moment. That is the problem of the British financial authorities, as it is, indeed, of the whole world.
The United States of America is, perhaps, further advanced in banking reform than any other country of the world. In this regard I shall quote the late Sir Edward H. Holden, who, prior to his recent demise, was one of the leading British bankers. He was chairman of the London Joint City and Midland Bank Limited. This unquestionable authority says -
It will not be out of place to refer once more to the system under which Federal reserve notes are issued. When it was decided by the
American Governnent, after tHe crisis of 1907,” that a new banking system was required in the interests of the country, the framers of the new law kept before them the necessity of adopting a system under which the note issue would be dependent upon the. demand of trade, automatically expanding and contracting according to the real requirements of the country. Their object was to ensure that when trade is brisk the notes will be increased.
I trust that our newspaper financial critics will not be unduly nervous when reading that statement. The man who was perhaps the foremost banker in England voices this view: -
Their object was to ensure that when trade is brisk the notes will be increased.
Sir Edward Holden continues: and when trade slackens the notes will be returned to the Bank. To effect this object the Government agreed to issue notes to the Federal Reserve Banks on the security of commercial bills of exchange and gold,
Will honorable members please note that point - ‘ ‘ Bills of exchange and gold “ ; not, “ Bills of exchange or gold “. Sir Edward Holden proceeds: - and these banks put the notes into circulation. The theory was that additional currency could be obtained when trade required it, by the discount of bills of exchange, but that the bills of exchange, being of short date, their payment, when due, would necessarily cause a contraction of the notes issued against them. A large and increasing volume of trade entails an increased use of bills of exchange, and requires an expansion in currency. To provide for the expansion of the currency an issue of notes against bills of exchange seems to be the simplest and safest way of meeting trade requirements, but the total issue should be limited in proportion to the amount of the gold reserve.
That is fair. Every banker of repute sticks to the fundamental point that whatever loading of paper, above, there may be, there should be a definite relation to the gold, at the bottom and underneath. Sir Edward Holden adds : -
When trade diminishes in volume, and the total of bills of exchange outstanding is reduced, the total of notes outstanding must also automatically be reduced. It will be observed that in this system the currency in circulation is not increased unless there has been a previous increase in the volume of goods produced, as the bills of exchange which are discounted for currency must be commercial bills representing goods. Hence there is no similar effect upon prices consequent on an increase in currency obtained in this way, as would be the case when notes are issued against securities not representing goods, such as Treasury bills.
The point made here is that there is no necessary inflation when a note issue is merely large. That is to say, when there have been goods produced worth ?1, to put a ?1 note against them is not inflation of such a kind as to affect prices.
– Would not that refer particularly to export trade?
– To all kinds of trade.
– What if we eat the goods which are worth the ?1 note? The note is still there, but the goods have gone.
– In those circumstances you will have eaten the note, because it will have been withdrawn. The idea expressed here -is that you shall issue your notes against bills of exchange. When a bill of exchange is cancelled, your note comes in again and is also cancelled. That’ is the true use and function of a note, and the parallel with us would be that your paper issue would go out in ‘ harvest time and come in again when your harvest was over, and sales had taken place overseas, and when your . exchanges had been made all oyer the world. This expert banker pointed out that to have a large issue against a large volume of business, seasonal or otherwise, is not necessarily to inflate the issue in. such a way as to affect prices at all.
– Inflation occurs when more notes are issued than the demands of business require.
– That is so. When we force notes upon the country which the country does not want, for purposes of circulation, down goes their value. They create a fictitious and mischievous credit, and serve no useful purpose. He continues - ‘
As I said last year, the experience of most State banks is that commercial bills of exchange are the best security on which to issue currency after gold.
You can. see the opinion that there must be a gold backing running through every word of this statement. He says in effect, “Make your note-issue as elastic as possible. You need not circulate your gold, but there must always be gold behind the notes, in order to redeem them whenever the public may demand it.” To continue the quotation -
And it has been on this, basis that the Americans have worked, and have built up their Federal Reserve Banks.
He then proceeds to quote a statement made by Senator Robt. L. Owen, in
America, who pioneered the Federal Reserve Bill through the Senate, and summed up the whole purpose as follows : -
The central idea of the system is elastic currency issued against commercial paper and gold, expanding and contracting according to the needs of commerce.
The reserve note is the most powerfully fortified note in the world. There is no probability of any want of confidence arising with regard to this note, and it was intended that there should be none.
Under the reserve system a financial panic is impossible. People will not hoard currency, nor hoard gold when they know that they can get currency or get gold when required. This was an important object of those who prepared theReserve Act.
America no longer believes a financial panic possible, and, therefore, the business men, being perfectly assured as to the stability of credits, do not hesitate to enter manufacturing and commercial enterprises from which they would be deterred under old conditions, of unstable credit.
The system has expanded the use of acceptances and of cheques and drafts, has stimulated industry, provided enlarged emplo3’ment of labour, increased output, and greatly enhanced the financial prestige of American banks.
It has enabled the United States to place gigantic bond issues and-
This is characteristically American - finance the world war.
The Federal Reserve Banks of America are compelled by law to hold a cash reserve of 35 per cent, against their deposit liabilities and 40 per cent, in gold against their outstanding notes. The ordinary banks carry little or no gold, the Federal Reserve Banks having practically all the gold in America. The other banks carry simply the notes issued against this gold. There is a requirement in their Act, just as there is in the latest Currency Issue Act of Great Britain, that everything over a certain amount shall have behind it a national note - in Great Britain a Bank of England note, and in America a note issued bv the Federal Bank Reserve. Thus credit has been mobilized in a way that was never possible before, reserves being controlled and concentrated instead of being distributed among all the banks. The dollar has been made to do several times as much work as- it did formerly. This arrangement, although a useful one to the country, has nevertheless proved a cause’ of the inflation of prices, and even before the war there was a slight increase of prices in America due to it. And, notwithstanding that throughout the war gold poured “into the United States from every other part of the world, prices in that country are to-day the top prices of the world.
In Canada, as I have already said, notes are issued both by the Government and by the banks, the latter being compelled to hold at . least 50 per cent, of their cash reserves in Dominion Government notes. These private banks are allowed to issue notes, but the notes are not legal tender, and they must keep in their cash reserves 50 per cent, of Dominion notes. Behind the Dominion notes is the gold reserve, which is the basis of the whole currency. Thus they mobilize their credit, and permit the banks to issue notes which are really in their nature similar to the certificates which we propose to give to the farmers for the wheat delivered at the railway sidings. These certificates are not legal tender in any sense of the word, but are redeemable by the banks after the wheat and other produce have been sold.
– They are simply advance credit notes.
– That is really what they are, and in essence they are the same as the certificates which we propose to give to the farmers.
– What percentage of gold do the Dominion banks hold?
– There is no legal minimum reserve which must be held against deposit liabilities, but the statements of the chartered banks of Canada for November last show that they then held deposits amounting to 2,104,063,028 dollars, or £420,812,000. against £74,795,000 in gold and Dominion notes. The total gold in the Canadian banks, including the central reserve is, if I remember rightly, about 43 per cent, of the total note issue, as against 77 per cent, in Australia. The cash reserves held by the banks against their current and fixed deposits,- together with the note issue, is equal to about 18 per cent, of their deposits and note liabilities. Therefore, our proposal that the banks should hold 15 per cent, in cash reserves cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be termed unreasonable or extravagant. In other countries this is provided for in a general banking measure, and that is one of the reasons why I propose to eliminate the provision from this Bill, to incorporate it, perhaps, later in a general banking measure when the time is convenient for its introduction.
In Australia the banks throughout the Commonwealth, exclusive of the Commonwealth Bank, had on deposit, both by way of current accounts and fixed deposit, during the quarter ended the 30th June last, an average amount of £214,243,000, against which they held in coin, bullion, and Australian notes, £51,126,129, which is equal to 23.86 per cent, of the total deposits actually held, as against 18 per cent, in Canada, again showing that our position is a very strong one. The ordinary Australian banks, including the Commonwealth Bank, held during the June quarter of 1920 an average amount in Australian notes, in round figures, of- £34,500,000, and, in addition to this, held gold and bullion to the extent of about £19,500,000. Of the £34,500,000 worth of Australian notes,, approximately £23,500,000 were in £1,000 notes, and I am informed by the banks that they find these notes very handy for clearing purposes, in place of using gold certificates, which were formerly in use between the banks for this purpose. In order to ascertain the true note circulation of the Commonwealth, the amount of £34,500,000 held by the banks, or most of it, should be deducted from the total issue. The notes actually in the hands of the general public, amounting to £22,000,000, represent the true circulation.
InFrance, another country with a highly inflated paper currency, the issue is made wholly by the Bank of France, which, although a private corporation, and privately owned, is, like the Bank of England,so intimately connected with Government activities and.operations, that it has come to be regarded as the actual Bank of France in fact as well as in name. The Bank of France has no fixed legal reserves of gold, but the total note issue must be covered by gold, silver, securities, and commercial papers. As a matter of fact, it carries very large metallic reserves, composed of both gold and. silver, and, since it may lawfully pay its obligations either in gold or silver, it can always protect its gold holding when necessary. The latest figures of the Bank of France, published under date the 8th January of this year, show that the actual note circulation at that time, converted into pounds sterling, was £1,520,396,000, against which the following reserves were held:-
The same conditions apply to other countries. Perhaps the following table of figures, showing the note issues of the world towards the end of 1919, will be interesting to honorable members: -
Similar figures in . 1914 showed a total note circulation of approximately £799,000,000, so that during the war period the note issue of the combined European countries expanded practically tenfold. This world-wide inflation, which no doubt has sent prices soaring, has affected prices in Australia in common with the rest of the world; but when we are discussing our own note issue we should never forget that, although we are. susceptible to the effect of the world’s issue of notes upon prices generally, our own issue is but a mere drop in the bucket.
Now, may I go on to remark that instead of the note issues of the world going down, they are still going up.
– Not during the last twelve months?
– Yes, even since I delivered the Budget speech.
– Our own note issue has gone up since then.
– No. It is less to-day than it- was when the Budget speech was made. I have some very instructive figures which I should like honorable members to hear. During the present year the note issues in European countries have increased as follows : - Italy by £86,000,000, France by £30,000,000, Great Britain by £25,000,000, Germany by £500,000,000. On the other hand, our note issue has gone down a little. At any rate, it has not gone up above what it was nine months ago, and since the Armistice it has steadily declined until to-day it shows a 10 per cent, decrease on the amount of the issue at that time. In every other country of the world there has been a sharp increase, and the upward tendency does not appear to have been checked. Of course there are reasons for this. The world is still upside down. Production is still dislocated. “Wars and rumours of wars still prevail. The time has not yet come when -
The common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe.
Unsettlement continues with the resultant adverse effect on trading activities. In the meantime, people must live by getting commodities to keep them alive and by getting capital to establish new industries or revive old ones, and, in order to do so, they must create fictitious paper credits, which can only be deflated subsequently and finally when the production of the world has overtaken consumption. Until that time comes these shifts and expedients, for they are only such, must continue to do duty in order to save and secure the trade and business of the world.
The point thatemerges from all this is that nearly every country in the world has some issuing agency, which acts for all the other banking agencies contained in the various States in which they are located, and what we are proposing to do here is only in keeping with the best experience and opinion of the banking world. I believe we are on the right track in transferring the Note Issue Department from the Treasury and placing it in the hands of men of experience and knowledge, who, being outside all intruding political influences, will have no motive whatever but to operate it in keeping with the legitimate trading requirements of the country. It will lead to a great deal more contentment with the note issues to know that they are being operated for no political reason, and that no political consideration whatever enters into the adjustment and manipulation of them, but only considerations of public trading and business activities, which are the final and determining causes of the movements, up or down, of the note issues of the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– I was pointing out that elsewhere the note issues have increased, and that no successful effort has yet been made to reduce the paper currencies of the world. The very latest figures I can find on the subject indicate that since I delivered my Budget speech, at the beginning of September, France has increased her note issue by nearly £1,000,000; Spain, which was not in the war at all, by £3,136,000 ; Sweden, another neutral country, by £2,000,000 ; and Norway by £1,000,000. In the six months from 31st December, 1919, to 30th June last, the following increases have taken place: -Germany, £899,000,000, estimating the mark at par value, which, I admit, is fictitious; Austria-Hungary, £319,000,000; the United Kingdom, £20,000,000; and the latest figures show that for this year alone the total increase is over £25,000,000; United States of America, £17,000,000; France, £11,000,000; Belgium, £16,000,000; Roumania, £13,000,000; Portugal, £11,000,000; Australia, £345,956. Since that date our note issue has decreased by about £2,000,000. The outstanding fact is that, notwithstanding the pinching up of credits, as far as the banks could possibly do it, all over the world it has been found necessary to still further increase the note issue.
– What has been the result in those countries?
– Soaring prices; that is inevitable. The two countries, which, to-day, are living absolutely on fictitious credits in the shape of paper- money are the places where paper money is practically valueless. I refer to Germany and Russia. There is no doubt whatever that inflation of any kind, even of the gold issue, beyond the ordinary requirements of solid stable business must necessarily express itself in disordered prices.
– In the countries to which the Treasurer has referred is the note issue under absolute Government control, or do the private banks please themselves ?
– Nearly all those note issues are .under Government control. That is certainly the case in Great Britain and Germany through the Reichsbank. The explanation is that the world is hungry for goods, and has no money with which to pay for them. It has, therefore, to create these paper issues, which are really IOU’s, and until the Government can return to a stable, steady, normal basis the increased note issues of the world must express themselves’ in increased prices. The great problem of to-day is the deflation of the currency. It is all summed up in a statement I read last night, by Senator Harding, the prospective President of the United States of America, that “we inflated in haste, and we must deflate in deliberation.” We hear every day demands that the note issue shall be deflated at the earliest possible moment. I admit that that is our problem, but can we deflate the note issue in a night? We inflated it, as we had to do, during the war period for reasons which are quite apparent. First of all, we made up our mind at the beginning of the war that we could not shut down the public works of - the States. Therefore, in order to continue those works, £20,000,000 worth of notes was issued to the State Governments against the public works of the States. Will any one suggest that we can instantly call in those notes?
– There is a very solid asset behind them.
– There may be, but that is not the kind of asset that ought to be behind them. That issue of notes may be said to be due solely to war emergencies; nobody would be justified to-day in handing £20,000,000 from the Notes Fund to the States for public works. That is the very thing we should avoid; we ought not to tie up the assets which are placed behind the notes. AH the banks of the world adopt the policy of putting their notes behind their trading bills, so that as the one cancels, the other also automatically cancels. The note goes out and does its work, and when it comes back it is destroyed. But our note issue is tied up in assets which are not immediately realizable, although I have no doubt that as time goes on we shall be able to realize on them. This is how the note issue is invested at the present moment : -
Victorian Government debentures are redeemable five years after the end of the war, but not later than 1925. So it is with most of this debt ; it does not mature before 1925. It is that kind of locked up security against which our notes were issued during a period of war and upset. Therefore, the bulk of our note issue today is set against a kind of security which is not immediately realizable. Under normal conditions that is not a sound basis on which to issue currency. The note issue increased only because a war was in progress, and it was necessary to take extraordinary measures to continue public works, just in the same way as the currency notes were issued by the Imperial Government. The ordinary banking conditions appertaining to the Bank of England could not meet the extraordinary conditions that had arisen in the Mother Country. So the Imperial Government issued notes of its own to the amount of £362,000,000. The Imperial Parliament recently passed a Bill which provided that the issue, as it then stood, namely, £320,000,000- it has since been increased - should be the standard for the issuing of notes in the subsequent year. If the issue exceeds that amount, for every note issued a corresponding Bank of England note is to be set against it. There is no gold or bullion backing at all, but just the Bank of England note, which, of course, is almost equal to gold, because behind every Bank of England note is about a sovereign.
– If the Bank issues a note against every sovereign, and the Imperial Government issue other notes against the Bank of England notes, there will not be a sovereign to back each note:
– That is what I am pointing out. England to-day has issued £362,000,000 worth of Treasurybills, which have very little bullion backing at all. There is some parallel between them and our note issue during the war. Therefore, when people outside Parliament ask airily and thoughtlessly why we do not reduce the note issue, the main answer is the reason I have stated, namely, that the note issue has been set against an asset which will not be realizable for some time. Every effort ought to be made to get the paper currency reduced ; but I frankly confess that there does not appear to be very much prospect of making any appreciable onslaught on the present bulk of the note issue, having regard to the immediate requirements of our trade and commerce. We propose to issue wheat certificates almost immediately. The banks are going to honour this promise with an immediate cash payment of 2s. 6d. per bushel.
– Will that be an addition to the present circulation?
– No. But, in order that the banks may carry on their ordinary customers, and meet these wheat certificates at the moment, they may have to ask the Government for a further temporary issue of notes until the wheat sales can be realized.
– It only means that you want a little more credit to enable you to do a bigger business.
– That is exactly the position. Having regard to the tremendous wheat harvest, we may see the note issue even higher than it is to-day. That, after all, will not mean any inflation of the issue, since behind every note that may be issued there is a solid and almost immediately realizable asset, which will cancel it the moment the realization is made. And, therefore, as Sir Edward Holden points out, as long as you have your note issue set against your trading- bills - the one automatically cancelling the other - no increase in prices results from such an issue. In other words, if your note issue is set against your trading bills and gold -for gold is the basis beneath it all the time - there is no necessary inflation. Inflation does not mean bigness or volume of issue. It occurs only ‘when paper money is being forced on a country which does not want it, and, therefore, depreciates accordingly.
In addition to the £20,000000 of which I have spoken, there is another item of £3,500,000’, which consists of advances to banks for financing wheat, wool, war loans, gratuities, and such-like things. All that is realizable, and as the money comes back, unless, in the meantime, the banks want more for the purpose of financing the present harvest, it should lead to an automatic reduction of the note issue. It looks, however, as if the banks will want more, and not less, until . the tremendous harvest has been dealt with.
– What will the Government charge the hanks for such advances ?
– Five and a half per cent. For every note that they may want to finance the harvest, they will pay 5½ per cent., just as we have to pay them 6 per cent, for any accommodation we may require.
There is yet another item, “ Issue to banks in exchange for gold, and for the purchase of gold through the mints.” Most of that gold is in the Treasury. There is no inflation in respect of that item, since we have a sovereign behind every note. We need not worry about the effect it will have upon prices, because the effect will be practically nil. We have also issued £6,600,000 to ourselves to provide for the construction of our own public works during the war. That, again,, honorable members will see, is . tied up, and will be for some time to come.
– That is in addition to the £20,000,000 and the item of £3,500,000 to which the Treasurer has referred?
– Yes; there is as nearly as possible £30,000,000 of these notes set against the public works of Australia.
– A non-liquid asset.
– Non-liquid, and non-realizable for the present.
To deflate this. note issue, one or two things would have to be done, and when I mention them, honorable members will see that after all the deflation would not really be a deflation. If we were to attempt it, it would be only a bluff. Par instance, we could immediately return to the - banks the £10,000,000 in gold that we got from them at the beginning of the war, and cancel the note issue to the extent of £10,000,000. But would that make any impression on the prices ruling in this country? The mere taking of the gold out of the Commonwealth Treasury and putting it into the coffers of the banks would not express itself in any shape or form in the prices of the country. We could also float another loan, and deal with the public works item in that way. But if we were to float another loan of £20,000,000 we shouldsimply change an inflation of credit for an inflation of currency. The one would immediately cancel any benefit arising from the other. And so the whole process would go on. All that we can do in regard to these war emergency notes is to make a systematic and bond fide effort to appropriate’ these moneys, when they are repaid, for the cancellation of the notes. A great consideration to be looked to always in the issue of this paper money is that it shall be issued in terms of a definite contract, and that that contract cancels itself when the date of maturity comes round. Your note goes out to do the specific kind of work to which it is specifically allotted When that work is done, the work of your note is done, and it is automatically (destroyed. That is one reason why the public cannot be accommodated at once in the destruction of our large note issue.. For the same reason it cannot be done in any other part of the world.
We may, on a comparative review, congratulate ourselves that while the issues of every other country, neutral and belligerent, during the late war have gone up, our issue has gone down in the same period.
That reminds me of another point, which I shall mention in conclusion. We are hearing to-day of the stress and strain on credits in London. As honorable members know, the position there is’ very acute, and we are trying to deal with it. I have had several conferences with the bankers, but it is not we so much as the banks themselves who are in trouble in London. They have permitted large purchases to be made by their customers. Those large purchases are now being delivered, and temporarily there is a dearth of credit on the part of the banks in London. They are setting up the plea there that we should export our gold for the purpose of establishing these credits there. That would be a very easy way of doing if, but it would not be fair to Australia to permit it to be done, for the reason that our gold in Australia to-day is £54,000 less than it was when the war began. Do honorable members realize what that means? It (means that all’ the current gold that has been won in this country during the war has been shipped away - for the last two years, of course, through the Gold Producers Association - -so. that there is an export of gold . going on all the time. Last year gold to the value of £4,500,000 was exported through . this medium. In addition to that, one or two of the banks here, and also the banks in London, want us not only to ship this gold as we are doing, through the Gold Producers Association, but to ship our reserves of gold through the banks. I do not see my way at the moment to permit that to be done. Moreover; the bulk of the bankers of Australia are opposed to it, for the simple and sufficient reason that, although we have at present plenty of gold cover, we have not too much for our expanding requirements. Our deposits in the banks are 55 per cent, more than they were at the beginning of the war, and we have practically. the same gold reserves against them. That is one reason why we cannot permit the depletion of this gold reserve as suggested; and, having regard to our immediate commitments in the shape of the harvest and to the other developments going on in Australia at present, we want the best basis we can get to cover tho circulation of trading activities in Australia. Thus, while it would be easy in this way to relieve ourselves in London st the -moment, I am afraid the position will resolve itself into what is taking place in every country as well as in our own, and that is that we shall have to cut our voat according to our cloth. If we have not the money to pay for abnormal importations we shall have to slacken off importations, and do without that for which we cannot pay in the ordinary normal way.
Meantime the position here is absolutely sound, and we may congratulate ourselves upon it. In my judgment, however, there will be no deflation of prices in any country until the supplies of. the world have overtaken the demands of the world.That is the real basic cause of the present increase in prices. It is not so much our currency-
-Much of the increase in prices that has taken place can be accounted for by the fact that a lot of men were diverted from productive to nonproductive industry.
– The upset of war has, been the chief reason. The note issues of the world but measure the necessities of the world. The moment those necessities’ havo been relieved,but not till then, thenote issues of the world will begin to decrease. That is the basic cause of the trouble, and it is there that we must seek the remedy. Meanwhile, in handing over the control of the note issue to an independent Board in the Commonwealth Bank, I think we- are taking a step in the right direction. At any rate, when it is taken the critics will not have to criticise the Treasurer-
-That is not a sufficient reason for passing the note issue over to the Board.
– I admit that, but I have given, I hope, sufficient additional reasons for our proposal. The reasons . are that the Bank is in closer touch than the Treasury could bc with the requirements of the community. It has better facilities for operating the note issue, for securing the notes, and seeing that they are placed against bills which are self-cancelling in their character. . I am proposing to take out of the Bill the clause which provides that the funds of the note issue may be invested in the ordinary business of tho Commonwealth Bank, because I do not think the Bank in that regard should be given privileges which other hanks do not possess.
– Why not ? It is our ownbank.
– I am speakingof ordinary businoss transactions.
– I would put every facility in the way of the Commonwealth Bank.
– So should I, but I would not give it advantages which would unnecessarily handicap other banks.
– I would.
– I know the honorable member would, but I do not see. the necessity for it. If the Commonwealth Bank indulges in ordinary trading activities, it can afford to do so on the same terms and conditions as the other banks.
– I am not going to buttress up. the private banks as against the Commonwealth Bank.
– Nor am I. “Why does the honorable member put the matter in that way? I do not.
– Since this Bill was introduced it has been amended to suit the private hanks, to the detriment of the Commonwealth Bank.
– That is not so. I hope the honorable member will point out the facts whioh he thinks support that statement. I may say that, at the proper time, I intend to insert a provision to the effect ‘that the resulting funds from the note issue shall’ he placed against ordinary trading bills of not more than 120 days. That will be providing, in the case of our own Bank, exactly what may be done with respect to every other bank.
– Then in a similarcrisis to that . through which we have , just passed, we would be unable to do what we did for the advantage of Australia during the war?
– That would not be so, because the Treasurer in similar circumstances would resume control and responsibility for the whole business. There is provision to that end in the Bill. All I am here suggesting is that, when the Commonwealth Bank goes outside to compete with other banks for ordinary business, it shall do so on the same terms and conditions; which, of course, is the essence of fairness. And even under such provisions the Commonwealth Bank still has many advantages over the other banks. . I want to see the Commonwealth Bank increase and prosper as the years go by, and that in doing so it. shall minister to the financial stability of the country. I want to see our currency and reserves removed from any possible political interference, and to see the whole scheme placed upon a proper banking footing, such as obtains in other parts of the world to-day. I commend these proposals to the consideration of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 26th October, vide page 5976) :
Clause 5 -
Any person entering the Commonwealth, who is required to be in possession of a passport, shall, if required, give up his passport to an officer, before leaving the vessel in which he has entered the Commonwealth.
.- This is the first clause which makes mention of any person entering the Commonwealth being required to be in possession of a passport. There is no legislation on our statute-book demanding a person’s possession of a passport upon entering this country. This measure makes provision for persons who are about to leave Australia being required to possess themselves of a passport for the reason that without one they will be unable to enter any other country. But from what source do the Government derive the right to demand that a traveller shall have a passport upon entering this country?
– No person could leave another country without having one.
– I am opposed to this system entirely.
– Does the honorable member wish to let any one come into the Commonwealth without let or hindrance?
– There are other Bills about to come before this House for consideration, including the Aliens Registration Bill and the Immigration Bill. ‘ In those measures the Government propose to take to themselves, by enactment, powers which they wielded under the War Precautions Act and its regulations. At the proper time I shall oppose those proposals and indicate my reasons for doing so.
– Does the honorable member wish to make Australia a dumping ground for all the derelicts of the world?
– I do not; but I do not forget that there are members of the Government who, because of a man’s political opinions, would seek to prevent him from coming into Australia. If the Government intend that no man shall enter this country without being able to furnish a passport, let them make specific provision in this or some other Bill.
– No one can leave any other country without a passport, unless he stows away.
– Many better men than the Minister or myself have stowed away. In this Bill we are proceeding upon wrong lines, and I strongly protest against it.
– I have already indicated that any person who desires to leave another country with the intention of entering this must first procure a passport. That passport is examined upon the arrival of the individual in Australia. In some cases it may be collected, while in others it may be retained by the party concerned. If the views of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) were adopted, there would be no control over the type of individual who sought to come into Australia.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 -
A passport or permit or pass to leave the Commonwealth, issued by or under the authority of the Government of the Commonwealth, may be cancelled by the permanent head of the Department controlling the issue of passports, or by some person thereto authorized by him, and the passport, permit, or pass, as the case may be, shall’ thereupon be void.
.- Power is here given to the permanent head of a Department to cancel passports. Is the term “ permanent head “ defined in this measure, or specifically anywhere else?
– He would be the de facto permanent head.
– Whom would the honorable member call the de facto permanent head? The Minister is the head of a Department.
– But he is not the permanent head.
– I understand that, of course. I am raising the point concerning whether it is desirable to place such power in the hands of such a person.
– Actually, in every instance, the Minister himself is meant.
– No. Then the Minister is responsible to Parliament, but the permanent head is not. Why not give this power to the responsible Minister? I invite an explanation upon this matter.
– I move -
That the words “ permanent head “ be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word- “ Minister “.
No permanent head should have the right to say who shall come into or go out of the Commonwealth. The Minister is the person responsible to Parliament.
.- The amendment is very necessary. The permanent head of a Department is, of course, a responsible “ official ; but he is not answerable to this Parliament, while the Minister is. The clause is defective in another respect. No explanation is provided to be given to the person whose passport is cancelled. He should be entitled to hear the reason. The clause may be made an instrument of great injustice. There should be some provision, either here or in some other part of the Bill, for the rendering of an official explanation, and to provide also for the right of appeal to the Government.
– Does the honorable member mean an appeal to the Cabinet ?
– Yes, if necessary. Of course, one can appeal to the Cabinet now, I take it; but there should be specific provision that, while it may be within the discretion, of a Minister to cancel a passport, he shall be required to furnish reasons for so doing. As tha Bill stands, he may refuse to give any reason at all. His attitude may be due to personal pique, or to political considerations, or he may be actuated by motives which could not bear the light of criticism. I think that we should provide against the abuse of this power..
.- I am inclined to vote f or the amendment unless the Minister can show why this power should be given to the permanent head of the Department. It ie rather anomalous that ‘a passport issued with the authority of the Government should be liable to cancellation by the permanent head of the Department.
– I accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr Poynton) agreed to-
That the following words be added : - “ and any person having in his possession or under his control any such passport, permit or pass shall, on demand by an officer, forthwith deliver it up to the officer.
Penalty : Fifty pounds, or imprisonment for three months.” “ 2. The vise or indorsement on any passport may be cancelled by the Minister of the Department controlling the issue of passports or by some person authorized thereto by him, by notice in writing given to the person to whom the passport was issued, and after such notice has been served on the person to whom the passport was issued, the vise or indorsement to which it refers shall be void. “ 3. Any officer may take possession of any passport bearing a vise or indorsement in respect of which a notice has been served under this section, and any person having in his possession or under his control any such passport shall on demand by an officer forthwith deliver it up to the officer.
Penalty : Fifty pounds, or imprisonment for three months.”.
.- The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon) has suggested that the Minister should furnish his reasons, for the cancellation of a passport. That seems to me a fair request, and I hope that the Minister will accept the honorable member’s suggestion, at all events, in regard to cases in which the persons whose passports are cancelled require reasons for the cancellation. The cancellation is a’ different matter from the refusal of a passport. If the honorable member moves an amendment, I shall support it.
– The action of the Minister could be challenged on the floor of the House, and an explanation demanded in any particular case.
– Parliament might not be sitting.
– I cannot accept the suggestion.
.- If the Minister will not provide for the giving of reasons for the cancellation of a passport, should they be demanded, he might at least agree to an amendment providing that a list of cancelled passports, together with the reasons for their cancellation, should be laid before Parliament at the beginning of each session.
– Parliament can at any time demand of any Minister a statement regarding “any of his actions. I see no need for” a provision such as the honorable member suggests.
– There is a similar provision in the Immigration Restriction Act. A minority in Parliament cannot compel a Minister to do what he does not wish to do.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Any person who-
Penalty : One hundred pounds, or imprisonment for six months.
.- It seems to me that this clause may work hardship when read in conjunction with a previous clause. The crew of a vessel may be discharged in Australia, or have good reasons for leaving the ship here, or may be landed after a shipwreck, but if they have not provided themselves with passports they cannot remain here. It has frequently occurred in Newcastle that crews have been discharged, or have left their ships because of the treatment they had received, and, under the law as it stands, they have been able to get employment ashore, and have probably, proved worthy citizens. But in future that will be prevented should they not have provided themselves with passports. Provision should be made for dealing with the exceptional cases which will arise from time to time. Hitherto men coming to Australia in this way have often remained here and become good citizens, frequently getting naturalized after the necessary period of residence.
– The clause applies only to alien seamen who could not get into Australia except on the production of passports.
– It is to alien seamen that I am referring. Under the clause as it stands men who, because they did not foresee that they would he discharged or would leave their vessels in Australia, did not provide themselves with passports, will be sent out of the country. . We ought not to put obstacles in the way of increasing our population.
.- It seems to me that there is a good deal in the contention of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), and that a reply should be made by the Minister. Is there means for remedying the fact that the men have not passports, in cases where it should be remedied ?
– The object of the clause is to prevent aliens from getting into the country as seamen, who could not get into it under other conditions. The practice is to meet such cases if, on examination, it is proved that the persons concerned are of good character, and that the circumstances justify it.
– Do I understand the Minister to give the assurance that this will be done in all cases where it should be done?
.- The Minister’s defence of the clause is that we ought not to allow alien seamen to come to Australia without running the gauntlet of the passport system which ap~ plies to other aliens, because, if we did, aliens wishing to enter without passports would do so by coming here as seamen. It must be remembered, however, that a crew of alien seamen might be shipwrecked on our coast.
– Would not a shipwrecked crew be dealt with considerately by any Minister?
– But in other cases men who have signed on for the round voyage from the United Kingdom or the Continent to Australia and back again may, for some reason or other, wish to break their contract and land here. There is no provision in the Bill to meet such cases, and if these seamen are not possessed of passports they will be compelled to carry out their contracts and return to the ports at which they signed on. These men ought to be placed in the position of being able to appeal to some tribunal which would enable them to escape from’ the present system, which is certainly not fair to the average alien sailor.
– The Immigration Restriction Act provides that aliens must be of good health, and must comply with certain conditions before they are eligible to land in Australia. Unless some check is provided quite a number of alien seamen, who might not prove to be good citizens, could be dumped down here. The usual practice in the case of alien seamen discharged in an Australian port and permitted to remain here is to inquire whether they are of good character and are in good health and so forth.
– If that practice will apply in the case of seamen who, although not possessed of passports, wish to leave their vessels and remain in Australia, I am satisfied.
.- Will the Minister be willing to reduce the penalty for this offence, which does not seem to be a very serious one? As it is now £100 or six months’ imprisonment, it will make the offender liable to have his certificate of naturalization withdrawn, under the provisions of the Nationality Bill.
– Although the penalty provided is not the minimum I am prepared to meet the honorable member. I move -
That the words “ One hundred “ be left out and the word “Fifty” inserted in lieu thereof.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to -
That the word “ six “ be left out and the word “ three “ inserted in lieu thereof.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Any person who acts in -contravention of this Act or the regulations made under this Act, or who is reasonably suspected of having so acted or being about so to act, may be taken into custody without warrant by any officer of Customs or police, or by any person authorized in that behalf by the Minister.
,- I would like the Minister to inform me who are the police referred to- in this clause who have power to arrest any person without warrant?
– They are the State police.
.- The Minister is fairly entitled to tell us under what criminal legislation an officer is authorized to arrest a person on suspicion that he is about to commit an offence?
– If you find a man in your back yard, you know that he is about to commit an offence.
– There is no back yard to a ship. We are giving too much latitude to a policeman or a Customs officer in authorizing him to arrest a person whom he thinks is “ about “ to commit an offence.
– A similar provision has been in operation in the Immigration Restriction Act since 1905, since which time the honorable member has been a Minister administering the Act.
– I should be pleased if the Minister would ‘favour the Committee with that particular section. If it does exist it is not with my connivance or approval. I suggest the omission of the words “or being about so to act.” It would be more graceful if the Minister would agree to their omission, but apparently as he does not seem willing to do so, I move -
That the words “ or being about so to act “ be left out.
A policeman might he possessed of a suspicious temperament or turn of mind, or might have a grudge against another person, and if that person shows any intention of committing an offence he has power to anticipate that a crime is about to be committed and effect his arrest.
– Section 14a of the Immigration Restriction Act provides -
Every officer may without warrant arrest any person reasonably supposed to be a prohibited immigrant offending against this Act, and no person shall resist or prevent such arrest.
– I do not take exception to the words “reasonably suspected of having so acted,” which are analogous to the words “ reasonably supposed to he “ in the section which the Minister has quoted, and I do not propose their omis- sion. I simply move to omit the words which give an officer power to anticipate the commission of on offence.
– Would you ask a burglar caught on your premises to wait while you went somewhere else to get authority to act?
– There is no parallel between the two cases. In the ono case a man is on premises where he has no right to be. In this case a man may he on hoard a vessel where he has a right to he. In any case the Minister has the power to act where a person is “reasonably suspected of havingcommitted an offense, but I object to giving an officer power “to arrest . a man on suspicion that he is about to commit an offence, . because for one thing it might be grossly abused,I submit my amendment in good faith, and with a view to making the measure as perfect as possible.
– It would make it impossible to administer.
.- The Minister has taken rather a wrong view of the point put forward by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon). The offences that can be committed against the Act are those of leaving Australia without a passport and, coming into it without a passport. The words ‘ “ reasonably suspected “ can only apply to persons wanting to land from a ship without a passport, because . there is an actual contravention of the Act when a person has landed without a passport, which he is not allowed to do, and if an officer has a reasonable suspicion that an offence is about to bc committed there will always be plenty of time for him to get an information signed, and a warrant issued upon - which the arrest can take place. The view of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie might be . met by providing that any person committing the offence or about to commit it is liable to arrest without warrant. The legality of the arrest would then depend on whether in fact the person arrested was about to -commit an offence, and not on the ground that there was mere suspicion that ho was about to do so. At any rate, the amendment could be accepted without in any way weakening tbe securityrequired by -the Minister.
Clause agreed to.
Penalty: One hundred pounds, or imprisonment forsix months.
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to -
That after the word “passport,” line 2, the following words be inserted “or a vise or indorsement of a passport”.
– The Minister was very reasonable in agreeing to reduce the penalty in an earlier clause, and I hope he will . agree to correspondingly reduce the penalty in this clause.
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to -
That’ the words “ One hundred “ and the word “ six “ be struck out and the words “Fifty” and “three” be inserted in lieu thereof.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to,
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to -
That the Bill be recommitted for the further consideration of clause 3.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 3 -
Subject to this Act, no person who is, or appears to an officer to be more than sixteen years of age; shall embark at any place in Commonwealth fora journey to any place beyond the Commonwealth unless -
Penalty: One hundred pounds, or imprisonment for six months.
Sub-section (1) of this section shall not apply to
If any such exemption is granted. subject to any condition, and the person to whom it is granted fails to comply with the condition, he shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: One hundred pounds, or imprisonment for six months.
Amendments (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to - ‘
That after the word “journey” in paragraph (b) of sub-clause 1 the following words be inserted “ and the vise or indorsement) has not been cancelled”.
That the words “ One hundred “ and the word “six “ in gnb-clause 1 be struck out and the words “ Fifty “ and “ three “ be inserted in lieu thereof.
That in sub-clause 2, after paragraph (c), the following paragraph be inserted: - ” (ca) any natural-born British subject leaving the Commonwealth for New Zealand.”
That after the word “ person “ in paragraph (d) of sub-clause 2 the following words be inserted “ (other than a natural-born British subject) “.
That the words “ and if he travels in a vessel trading solely between the Commonwealth and New Zealand”, in paragraph (d) of sub-clause 2, be left out.
That after the word “person” in paragraph (a) of sub-clause 2 the following words be inserted “ (other than a natural-born British subject) “.
That the words “ One hundred “ and the word “ six “ in sub-clause 4 be left out and the words “ Fifty. “ and “ three “ be inserted in lien thereof.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments; reports adopted.
Standing Orders suspended and Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill he now read a second time.
For a considerable time there has been inquiry as to when the Government proposed to get rid of the regulations under the “War Precautions Act. This Bill proposes to repeal a number of them, namely, Statutory Rules Nos. 176, 216, 232, and 281 of 1916, Nos. 7, 97, 107, 125, 156, and 260 of 1917, and Nos. 155 and 270 of 1918. But it substitutes legislation enacting many of the conditions contained in those regulations. The purpose of the Bill is to control the registration of aliens in the Commonwealth. Registration has been in force for some time; as a’ matter of fact, 72,000 aliens are now registered, and the Bill will not require them to reregister. According to a statement made by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) when in charge of this measure in another place, one of the greatest difficulties experienced by Great Britain in dealing with the foreign element in time of war was the absence of any scheme for the registra- - tion of aliens. In America they had a scheme in operation whereby the authorities could ascertain the locality in which an alien was residing, and this assisted them very materially on the outbreak of war. In Great. Britain, the Government were at a great disadvantage, as they had no records, and the consequence was that- a long time’ elapsed . before a complete list of their alien population could be compiled. Our experience was very similar to that of Great Britain ; . and, in the absence of registration, great difficulty was experienced in ascertaining the exact locality of the aliens in our midst. The Bill provides that every alien who arrives in the Commonwealth shall immediately register; and in this connexion I may mention that we do not propose’ to go as far as the English law. In Great Britain, the alien has not only to register, but the keepers of boardinghouses, hotels, and all residential establishments, have to keep a register of the aliens residing therein, and have also to report to the authorities their arrival and departure. “We make provision, however, that all aliens arriving in the ‘ Commonwealth, whether by boat or by other means, shall register, and that masters of vessels shall provide the authorities’ with particulars concerning aliens travelling on vessels of which they are in charge. It is also mandatory on the part of an alien to advise the Department of any change of. abode. In the Bill as originally introduced it provided, as in the English Act, that, in addition to registering, the keepers of residential establishments should keep a record of all aliens living insuch establishments; but that provision was deleted by the Senate. The Bill also provides that the master or member of . a crew of a vessel who is an alien, and who enters the Commonwealth, unless he is exempt, shall register. The responsibility is thrown on the captain of a ship, unless it is a public vessel, of granting every facility for the officers of the Customs or Immigration Departments to ascertain who is travelling on a vessel, and their nationality. The Bill does not apply to tourists, and the conditions that obtain to-day will remain in force. It is not intended to create a new Department.
– How do you intend to distinguish a tourist?
– The tourist has to make the necessary application to travel in the Commonwealth for a certain period.
-For how long?
– The time varies; but it is usually from six to twelve months. Instances have arisen where an extension of time has been sought and granted. Any extension of time is determined by the Minister; and, since I have been in charge of the Department, there have not been many cases of this character. In the English law, there are some very drastic provisions; and in section 1 of the Statutory Rules and Orders relating to aliens, it is provided that an alien coming from outside the United Kingdom shall not land in the United Kingdom except with the leave of an immigration officer. It also provides that leave shall not be given to an alien to land in the United Kingdom unless he complies with certain conditions set out in the Statutory Rules and Orders. He has, for instance, to be in the position to support himself and his dependants. Section 5 provides -
The master of any ship landing or embarking passengers coming from outside the United Kingdom at any port in the United Kingdom, shall furnish to such person, and in such manner as may be prescribed, a return giving the prescribed particulars in respect to any passengers who are aliens, and any passenger shall furnish to the master of the ship any information required by him for the purpose of the return.
There is a similar provision in this Bill, and it enables the authorities to record the aliens arriving in Australia. The English Statutory Rules and Orders also relate to the registration of aliens, the responsibility of boardinghouse-keepers and others, and make it mandatory for them to report the movements of aliens residing in their establishments; but our Bill does not go as far as that.
– From which Act is the Minister quoting?
– The ‘Statutory Rules and Orders relating to aliens, dated 18th August, 1919. There is an amending regulation . dealing with the continuance of emergency powers for controlling the employment of aliens on ships, deportations, temporary restrictions regarding employment on British ships, and quite a number of other matters. The regulation has been framed to prevent the dumping of persons who cannot be regarded as desirable citizens. The Bill is one consisting of only a few clauses, and I think its provisions can be more fully explained in Committee.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
This Bill was introduced into this House last session, and honorable members will recollect that it had fair consideration. I refer honorable members to the speech delivered on 20th August, 1919, by my predecessor (Mr. Glynn), who gave a long and interesting history of our immigration laws. The Bill passed the secondreading stage, but did not pass the Committee stage in consequence of the session terminating. The Bill now before us, and which has already passed the Senate, is an exact copy of the Bill introduced last year, with the exception that what was regarded as the objectionable term “ anarchist “ has been deleted by the Senate. It is a machinery measure designed to improve the working of the Immigration Act, and includes some new provisions, which, in the -opinion of the Government, are necessary to meet the present condition of affairs in the world. The Bill considered last year included a list of persons whose admission into the Commonwealth was prohibited; and it is. now proposed to add to that list, as we are now asking for power to keep out of Australia persons who are advocating the overthrow by force of the Government of the Commonwealth or other civilized country, or who are opposed to organized government, or who advocate the assassination of public officials, or .advocate or teach the unlawful destruction of property, or who are members of any organization which proclaims these doctrines and practices. In Australia we live under a form of government which is exactly what the people of Australia make it, as our citizens can vary the system of government through the exercise of their powers at the ballot-box. We do not desire to have in our midst any of those who wish to bring about changes by violence ot force. In the debates last year it was urged “ that, under the provisions of the measure as originally introduced, which included the word “ anarchist,” the Government would be entitled to prohibit the admission of a man of high ideals who would seek to abolish all laws and substitute a system in which there was no Government and no law, because all the people in the country would be actuated by the highest motives of honour and justice. Honorable members know, of course, that that i3 merely a specious objection, but we have met it by agreeing to withdraw from the Bill the word “anarchist.” As it now stands, we are asking simply for the right of exclusion of persons who would be a real danger to the community. Similar laws exist in other countries; in fact, in the United States Act, the section dealing with this matter is much more drastic than is the clause in the Bill which I now place before the House.
We propose, secondly, to keep out of the country, for five years at any rate, all citizens of the nations who were our enemies in the recent war. While there may be a great deal to be said for individuals, even for individual Germans and Austrians, still, the hard thoughts engendered by the war, the sorrows and bitternesses which were created, are vet too fresh in our minds and hearts for us bo desire to welcome any Germans, Austrians, or Turks as our fellow-citizens. The years may mellow our feelings in this regard, and for that reason this prohibition is to apply for- only five years, and may then be withdrawn by a proclamation issued by the Government.
Thirdly, we want to take formal power to prohibit the admission of persons who have not passports. All recognised Governments of the world at present issue passports to their citizens going abroad. If a person has not a passport he must be taken to be regarded by his own Government as an undesirable of whom they are glad to be rid, and we do not want the discards of other countries to come here. In regard to this prohibition the Bill permits of an arrangement being made with any other country similar to that for which provision was made in the passport law recently passed by us, and which deals with persons going out of the Commonwealth. In other words, under this Bill it will be open to any other country at any time to come to an arrangement with us for the abolition of passports so far as concerns our respective citizens. It is not the desire of the Government to maintain the passport system any longer than is necessary, and it is hoped that under the authority of the clause to which I refer we shall in time have such a set of arrangements that the passport system will be practically abolished.
The fourth class whom we want- to exclude comprises persons who have been deported from Australia. It would be farcical if we had the right to deport any objectionable person and that person were to have the right of free admission once more to our community. Take, for instance, the principal Act, which gives the right to deport an alien who has committed’ a crime of violence against the person. We exercise our power ,of deporting such a person because we regard him as a menace to the community, and we claim, as a natural consequence of the power of deportation, the power of keeping out any persons we have sent out.
Later in the measure we have asked for power to deport certain classes of persons. Notwithstanding the precautions that we may take, it may happen that undesirable persons will obtain admission. They may not have been known to be undesirable when they came, but if, within three years after their arrival, they prove that they are unworthy of Australian citizenship by having been convicted of criminal offences, by living on the prostitution of others, or by advocating the overthrow of civilization by force, then we claim the right to . send such persons out of the country. If we take the power to exclude certain classes of, peoplewho, despite our precautions, succeed in getting in, it is only logical to say that, as soon as we find out that they . belong to these objectionable classes, we should have the right to send them out. We do not claim, however, to be allowed to exercise that power of deportation in an arbitrary manner. First of all, the Minister has to be satisfied that an individual of whom complaint is made is one of the objectionable classes. If he is so satisfied, he may appoint a Board to inquire into the allegations, and, on receipt of the report, of that Board, which must be an entirely independent and; semi-judicial body, the Minister may order deportation.
The rest of the Bill, as I have said, consists of technical amendments which have been found necessary in the working of the principal Act. We are amending section 3’ of the principal Act, which prohibits the immigration into the Commonwealth of certain persons by adding to the list of prohibited immigrants -
Any idiot, imbecile, feeble-minded person, epileptic, person suffering from dementia, insane person, person who has been insane within five years previously, or person who has had two or more attacks of insanity.
Then, again, we have added to the list - Any person who advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the established Government of the Commonwealth, or of any State, or of any other civilized country, or ofall forms of law, or who is opposed to organized Government, or who advocates the assassination of public officials, or who advocates or teaches the unlawful destruction of property, or who is a . member of or affiliated with any organization which entertains and teaches any of the doctrines or practices specified in this paragraph.
The Bill also proposes to amend section 4- of the principal Act, by providing that the owners, agents, or charterers of the vessel, by which an undesirable has arrived here - may at any time within three years after the person entered the Commonwealth be required by notice in writing given by on officer to provide a passage for him from the Commonwealth to the place whence he came.
There is also an important amendment of the principal Act providing for an exemption from the passport provision in the case of countries with which arrangements have been entered into on the lines to which I have already referred. Subclause 2 of clause 7 deals -with the de portation of certain persons, and provides that -the Chairman of the Board before whom the person accused is required to appear shall be a person “‘who holds, or has held the office of Judge, or police, stipendiary, or special magistrate.” I need’ not go into further details at this stage, since the measure is essentially one which can be more readily dealt with in Committee.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Mr. Speaker . reported the receipt of a message from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made in this Bill by the House of Representatives.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In Committee of Supply (Considera tion resumed from 20th October, vide page 5837) :
Divisions 25 to 36, £1,109,899
.- We recently passed a Bill _ introduced by the Treasurer amending in certain respects the Entertainments Tax Act. That Bill went to another, place, and, although it was a measure dealing with the imposition of taxation, the motion for its second reading was there negatived. Wo have heard nothing from the Treasurer regarding, that matter, and I wish to know what attitude the Government intend to take upon it. I have read in the newspapers that honorable members opposite., eliminating members of the Country party, attended a party meeting at which, a full explanation was given of the reason why the Entertainments Tax Bill was rejected by the Senate, and why the proposal by certain senators that the sum of £250,000 thus saved by the Treasurer, should be utilized to enable a larger exemption to be granted to taxpayers with children under sixteen years of age, was abandoned. I would like to know the reasons, which actuated the Government in making this Chamber subservient to the Senate, seeing that this is the only branch of the Legislature which has the power to impose taxation? Of course’, I know that what has been done suits wealthy honorable members opposite, who have no objection whatever to £250,000 being exacted from the poorer sections of the community who patronize our cheaper classes of entertainment. The effect of the action of the Senate in regard to the Entertainments Tax Bill. was to impose taxation upon the people. Later on the Government induced its followers in that Ohamber to withdraw their proposal to increase the deduction allowable to taxpayers on account of children under sixteen years of age. I object to the Estimates of the Treasurer being passed in the absence of a full explanation upon this matter. - The Senate rejected the Entertainments Tax Bill.
– It is still upon the business-paper.
– It is not. Save upon these Estimates, honorable members will have no opportunity of protesting against the action of the Government in this. connexion. Unless the House of Representatives takes up a very definite stand in defence of its exclusive right to impose taxation, the time may come when the Senate will assume that it possesses the power which it recently arrogated to itself. Those honorable members who were present in the first Common wealth Parliament know that objection was raised in this Chamber to the action of the Senate in seeking to make . alterations in the first Tariff schedule. I regret that the Treasurer is not in his place to offer an explanation of this matter, but I hope that ‘honorable members will insist upon an explanation being forthcoming.
.- I desire to voice a complaint in regard to the provision of postal facilities in the important town . of Cessnock, in New South “Wales. I have waited patiently for a number of years to ventilate this grievance, because during the war period, in common with other honorable members, I thought it inadvisable to embarrass the Government by giving local needs undue prominence. But at Cessnock to-day the postal accommodation is altogether inadequate. I. understand that the reason why urgently-needed improvements, are not effected is that the Treasurer has cut down the Postal Estimates. Cessnock is, perhaps, one of the largest inland towns in New South Wales from the stand-point of population.
– I would remind the honorablemember that there is no vote upon the Treasury Estimates in respect of the matter to which he is referring.
– Then I shall not discuss it. I understand that the Treasurer has consented to amend the Invalid Pensions Act in the case of blind pensioners. In that, I am entirely in accord with him. But I would remind the right honorable gentleman that at the present time the Act does not operate in the way that it operated when the Miners’ Accident Relief ‘Fund was in’ existence. That fund conferred certain benefits upon men who became disabled while following their ordinary calling. If, unfortunately, one of thoir number was compelled to apply for a pension, the assistance which he received from the fund was not taken into consideration in determining the amount of his pension. The Statute under which that fund was created has, however, been superseded by the “Workmen’s Compensation Act. The result is that when a man becomes incapacitated, and applies for a pension, the amount which he receives under the “Workmen’s Compensation Act is taken into considera- - tion in assessing the amount of his pension. Thus, if a man who has a family of six or seven to support is in receipt of’ £2 per week under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, the invalid pension granted to him is cut down considerably. . When the Treasurer looks into this matter, I ask him to put the. workers in our mines in exactly the some position that they occupied prior to the Miners’ Accident” ReliefFund becoming defunct. I hope that the Act will be amended before Parliament goes into recess in such a way as will do justice to those who are suffering from blindness.
I also desire to urge upon the Trea-. surer ‘the necessity for impressing upon’ the Taxation Commission the need for expediting its labours, with a view to arriving at finality as early as possible, Irecognise that the field of inquiry which has to be covered is a large one; but if the investigation is to be an effective one so- far as the collection of next year’s tax is concerned, it must be completed quickly. To my mind, the general exemption under our Income Tax Act should be very much higher than it is. Instead of being £156 it ought to be in the vicinity of £300. I know that the Treasurer has promised to consider the recommendations of the Commission at the earliest possible moment. Personally, I am very doubtful whether effect can be given to those recommendations in connexion with next year’s assessments ; but if relief can be granted to the poorer sections of the people, a very great benefit will be conferred upon them.
I notice in the Estimates for this Department an item of £214,815, in connexion with the Postmaster-General’s Department,
– That is for interest upon transferred properties.
– It does not matter what it is for, I can discuss my grievance regarding the postal facilities at Cessnock under that heading.
– I think that the honorable member had better defer his remarks in that connexion until we reach the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– I would prefer to discuss the matter upon the Estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department. But time is running on, and the Treasurer may be able to reconsider his decision in regard to this matter, and to place a sufficient sum of money at the disposal of the authorities to provide the necessary postal accommodation at Cessnock.
– I will tell the honorable member what I can do,, and what I promised’ one of his colleagues that I would do. If I find that the work which he mentions is one which should be gone on with, I can get it carried out without reference to the House, and get my action indemnified afterwards.
– For some years, I have been endeavouring to get an uptodate building in this particular district, which is a very important one, and one which fully justifies the erection of such an office. Cessnock possesses the largest population of any inland town in Australia. Its population is growing rapidly. That being the case, I take exception to. - the way in which the Department proceeds to erect a building there. An office is built in a neighbourhood where it is obvious that there willbe rapid expansion, yet that office is constructed in keeping with the requirements of the moment, and with no thought even to the immediate future. I do not wish to go further into details, but, in view of the fact that consideration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department may be very limited, and at the close of the session, I bring this specific matter before the Treasurer, and ask if he will see whether the sum set down for the requirements’ of Cessnock is really sufficient.
– I will promise to look into the point.
.- Can the Treasurer say how the proposals for the co-ordination of the State and Federal Taxation Departments are proceeding? The estimated expenditure in connexion with the Federal Department grows year by year, and last year the expenditure exceeded the Estimates by a considerable sum. Seeing that each State has its separate Taxation Department, a large amount could be saved and greater efficiency brought about by co-ordination.
– The inquiry is proceeding. Mr. Ewing has been in Western Australia during the past fortnight examining the position there; and I hope it will not be long before the Government are informed of a concrete proposal with which to go to the State Premiers. The sooner that stage is reached the better. As for the increased amount shown on the Estimates in respect of this Department, it is quite deliberate, and if any further increases of the same character are sought I shall authorize them. I am informed that at present we have no trained body of investigators. The result is that we are losing hundreds of thousands of pounds every year. Every individual who escapes taxation throws an added burden upon those who- do not. We desire to make matters as fair as possible. Ifby placing an additional £30,000 on the Estimates I can secure a return of £300,000, it will be agreed that I am making a very good bargain. .
.- . The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) raised an important question regarding the action of another place in rejecting certain proposals of this Chamber having to do with the partial abolition of the entertainments tax, and he asked that the views of the Government be made Known to honorable members. I would be interested to hear the Treasurer upon the point. It is one of very great importance not only to this Committee, but to the country generally. How do the Government view the action taken elsewhere in regard to the rejection of their financial proposals, and what are their views upon the- specific subject itself?
I desire to introduce the question of making negotiable soldiers’ war gratuity bonds. A debate was initiated in this chamber last week, and some very cogent arguments were placed before honorable members ; but, for some reason’ which was not explained to honorable members or to the country, the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lomond) secured the adjournment of the debate. The honorable member’s action may have been taken with one of two purposes in view, namely, either to shelve the subject, or to have the debate continued at some future date. I wish to know if, and when, a further opportunity will be given to debate the question of making war bonds negotiable,
– On the 18th December.
– Or in the Greek Kalends.
– Probably the latter was in the mind of the honorable member forIllawarra when he moved the adjournment of the debate. I trust that the Treasurer will state whether an opportunity will be afforded honorable members of coming to a conclusion upon the subject.
It is known to honorable members that the time has arrived when the old-age pensions should be increased. The sum of 15s. is not sufficient in view of the high cost of living. I trust that the Government will take steps to have the Act amended in the direction of increasing the amount to £1.
.- The subject last raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) is one which I had determined to advance had no other honorable member doneso. Abnormal circumstances, reflecting upon one’s ability to live, prevail to-day, yet inadequate provision has been made to assist old-age pensioners. There are people in Australia who ore amassing, fortunes, and it is only right that their wealth should be drawn upon for the: assistance which it is desired to render to our indigent old folk. While every sympathy is exercised by the Department in the matter of claims, conditions exist which should not be permitted. An injustice is often done to people having legitimate claims for consideration. It is ‘possible for one to be a penniless invalid and not be entitled to receive a pension. I have in mind a case of a young man, about twenty.-eight years old. who was living with his father and mother. He applied for, and received, the invalid pension. Later, he thought he would endeavour to do something towards the maintenance of the home. His father paid down a deposit upon a motor, in order that the son might ply for hire. Unfortunately, the efforts of the latter were not so successful as had been anticipated, and the car was sold.. Before setting out on the venture, the son had acted with commendable honesty in notifying the Department that, as he was setting out to work on his own behalf, it was his desire that the pension be suspended. It was suspended, and when the young man found his venture unsuccessful he made application for its renewal. I may say that renewal had been promised, in the’ circumstance of Lis making application in that direction, After a few weeks, however, he was’ informed that, since his father was receiving an amount in wages which averaged more than £1 a week for each member of his family, he would not be entitled to benefit by the invalid pension, and the sum was withdrawn. I made personal investigations, and learned that, although the son was an adult citizen, enjoying the usual rights of citizenship, he was still regarded as being dependent on his parents. Thus his invalid pension was stopped. Had he lived anywhere else but in his parents’ homo, he would have been entitled to the invalid pension.
– What is the matter with the young man?
– He is a tubercular invalid. In other cases persons entitled to the old-age pension are deprived of its enjoyment on some mere technicality. For instance, aged people, who, on account of increasing feebleness, decide to live with perhaps a married son or a married daughter, find, immediately they make the change, that some deduction is made in their pension allowance, owing to the home which has become their own property by thrift, which sometimes entailed in earlier periods of life constant sacrifice to accumulate the amount sufficient, now by non-occupancy having a rental value. The scope of the Act might very well be widened to cover all such cases and remove hardships which at present are being inflicted upon some of these aged people. The Commissioner should have greater discretionary power. I pay a tribute to the manner in which the Pensions Department is carrying out their work. The Deputy Commissioner of South Australia has always evinced deep sympathy with the position of pensioners, but I know that he is circumscribed in, his administrative acts by all kinds of technicalities, and the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners have not sufficient discretionary power. It is with the desire of helping these people that I urge upon the Government a reconsideration of many of the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act-. As a young Australian I realize what we owe to our pioneers. I realize how much I owe to my own parents for “having passed down to me such a rich heritage as I find in this country, and if I can do anything to make the portion of the aged and invalid people easier than it is, I shall be only too glad to do it. There is another matter, the position of the blind pensioners, which I have brought under the notice of the Treasurer on other occasions. I hope that the present restrictions upon their ability to supplement their income will be removed. I think the Treasurer is sympathetic in regard to this request. Permission should be given to them to earn money without having their pension rights interfered with. Blindness is one of the greatest afflictions, and we should see to it that pensions are given as a right, and not as a favour, to all who are invalided or aged. I also wish to impress upon the Government the necessity for increasing the amount of pension allowances, . owing- to the increasing difficulties due to the high cost of living and other abnormal conditions that are prevailing. In this way we may substantially help these afflicted and aged people over the present very difficult times.
.- I desire to protest, as briefly as possible, against the position of the Commonwealth Bank. Nominally it belongs to the people of Australia, but if one may judge from the answers furnished me by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), it belongs to the Governor of the Bank (Sir Denison Miller). I am in a quandary. I believe that if he cared to do anything in connexion with the Bank this Parliament would have no power to prevent him.’ The original idea was that the Commonwealth Bank would be owned by the nation. What check have we upon Sir Denison Miller ? I do not, of course, impugn his honesty. Luckily for Australia he is an honest man. If he were otherwise this Parliament could do nothing. This is, I believe, the most serious charge that has ever been made against any national bank in the world. So far as I am aware no other country in the world would allow such huge sums of money to be under the sole direction of one man, as is the case with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. Why should a certain firm of architects have the sole benefit of the Bank’s building activities? Not only are the firm of Kirkpatrick & Co. established , in the Commonwealth ‘ Bank premises of Sydney, but they seem to be able to do as they like. I am not impugning their ability, but I do say that there are other and better architects in Australia, including returned soldiers, who are not getting a “ dog’s show “ in the way of competition for the Bank’s business. And what a record the architects of Australia have ! I do not know of any other profession with a better. I may perhaps be permitted again to mention that when those belonging to the profession returned from the war, the architects who, because of age or invalidism, had remained in Australia, became their hosts, and every host had four returned soldier architects as his guest. In the case of the President of the Institute of Architects, every member of the firm offered his services; and even the brave typewriter girl went to the Front as a nurse. Notwithstanding the sacrifices which our architects made during the war, they came back to find that this firm of Kirkpatrick and Company were given a monopoly of all the work in connexion with the war service homes. I have been unable to get an answer from the Treasurer as to how much money has been paid to this firm. In all my thirty years of political life, I have never seen anything so nearly approaching nepotism. Why cannot our brave returned men of the profession have an opportunity to compete for the design of the proposed new Commonwealth Bank in Melbourne? Why should this work be given to one particular firm? I asked if any member of that firm had offered his services during the war. The Minister could not tell me. I do not say that he did nob want to know, but, as head of the Department, I should like to know why he did not make an inquirv and find out.
– Because under the terms of the Bill which ‘your party put through, the Governor of the Bank is made independent of the Government in all matters.
– And quite right, too.
– I am glad I erred in the company of the late Lord Forrest, a former Treasurer of the Commonwealth. I do not know any financial man in Melbourne or Sydney, and I have interviewed many, who is prepared to say it is right that the Commonwealth Bank business should be under the dictatorship of one individual.
– That is the whole secret. All these banking friends of yours are envious of him. That is what is the matter.
– Has the Governor of the Bank of England the power that is vested in Sir Denison Miller ? Absolutely no. I invite honorable members to read the report of the greatest Commission of banking experts that ever went to Great Britain from America. The report, running to many volumes, is available to them. The affairs of every bank were investigated. Not one single bank has made the progress that this bank has made. Now we are to hand over to it the issuing of notes. Is this man to have uncontrolled power in regard to the notes issue?
– No; he will be one of the Board of four.
– I compliment the Government on having made that arrangement. This Government is not to blame for the state of affairs that I am criticising. It is the silly fool Parliament, of which I was a member, that passed the Bill authorizing the establishment of the Bank, and the foolish Government, of which I was a supporter, that introduced ithe Bill, that are to blame. A few financial members - the late Lord Forrest was one of them - warned us against doing what was done. To Mr. King O’Malley most credit is due for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, but had his ideas been carried out, Mr. Denison Miller- would not be the autocrat that he now is. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page), who served in the Imperial Army and risked his life with the bravest in the Zulu war, will admit that Australians should have a chance to compete for work to be done in Australia. I am sure that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), whose financial knowledge I recognise, does not approve of one man having sole control of a mighty enterprise like this.
– You cannot say that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank is not managing it well.
– I have never said otherwise; but the honorable member cannot point to an instance in which any other bank started with the same advantages as our Bank had in the beginning.
– One of its greatest advantages was being in charge of the man appointed to control it.
– If the honorable member studies the report to which I have referred, he will admit that my. contention is right. In any case, he will, I think, agree with me that Australian architects, especially those who went to the war, should have the right to compete for the designing of the bank that is to be erected in Collins-street. I should like every public work that is to cost above a certain sum, say, £20,000, or whatever might be the amount fixed upon, to be open to the competition of local architects. Dozens of architects have resented the injustice that is now done to their profession.
I desire to add to what has been said by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) about the old-age pensions.
Is is hard to chink that anyone can exist nowadays on 15s. a week. I have known what it was to live in London on 10s. a week, but that was long before the war. I lived there also on £10 a week - a mighty different state of affairs. But there seems to be a mad feeling abroad in regard to economy, and, unfortunately, economy at the expense of those least able to bear it. It must not be forgotten that every penny which is paid in pensions is spent in Australia. Denmark gave, twenty-five or thirty years ago, a pension of 10s. a week, and then ls. there was equal to 2s. in Australia. In Switzerland there has not been a pauper buried for the last twenty-five years. They have removed that stigma on Christianity, a pauper burial; but we have not reached the same stage of civilization. When it was proposed to pass a Bill to give the late Chief Justice of Australia a pension of £5 a day, I said that I would be glad to have as much as that a month for -the old-age pensioners. The money paid in pensions is not provided by us, or by the high society of Australia ; it is the people who provide it. Those who belong to the upper classes contribute, but in accordance with their numbers, not in accordance with their wealth. When I applied for an old-age pension I was turned, down. Mr. Watt suggested that I should see the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions.
– Doubtless the honorable member’s application was refused because he did not look old enough.
– Lord Chesterfield will never die while we have the honorable member with us. I asked Mr. Watt to provide for me as he had done for Sir Samuel Griffith by means of a special Bill. It was not that I needed the money, but that I wanted to show every old man and every old woman in Australia that there was no disgrace in applying for a pension. At the present time an old-age pensioner possessing a home worth £5,000 receives the full pension; but a pensioner with £300 in the bank has to suffer deduction from his pension.
– Those who remain idle get the full pension, and those who earn for themselves have the amount of their earnings deducted from their pensions.
– A man who had put £400 into war bonds to help his country would have the interest deducted from his old-age pension, but a man with double that sum invested in a home would have mo deduction. I think that every man and woman on arriving at a certain age should be at liberty to draw a pension. Wealthy pensioners we could still get at by taxation.
A few words about the invalid pension. Why should it be given only to those who are sixteen years, or more, of age? An invalid of fifteen years and eleven months, or of twelve years, may be equally necessitous. . There are many persons not too well blessed with this world’s goods. who have a great struggle to provide for invalid children, and I cannot understand why assistance should not be given to them. As a Victorian, I am ashamed of the present Treasurer of the State, Mr. McPherson, who has been little enough to do away with the compassionate allowance’ which used to meet cases untouched by our Federal pension system. When he opposed me for the Melbourne seat he was a straightforward opponent, ibut he was not then a rich man, whereas to-dayhe is very rich, and is making very large profits. When the Federal authorities could not assist, I used only to have to write to the Sub-Treasurer of Victoria, saying that the case was serious, to get an inquiry made, and assistance given. Mr. McPherson has saved the State a few thousands a year, but it is at the expense of the very poor.
No country can call itself civilized which permits blind persons to beg in the streets. We, who have wasted millions of pounds upon war, should give pensions sufficiently large to prevent that.
– It would have to be a big pension to keep some blind men from begging.
– I would give a fair pension, and would prohibit begging. I have received from a . blind man whom I knew as a splendid journalist a letter which has impressed me with a sense of the misery of the blind. It is written in pencil, and honorable members may see it. The writer is too old to learn a trade, and cannot do anything to add to his pension, which is only 15s. a week. I have known this man for thirty years.
I have known him to be a straightforward, honest, good man, but he cannot possibly increase his 15s. a week. “Will the Treasurer get one of his officers to obtain, through Mr. Knibbs, the number of those who are blind, and what it would cost the community to double the pension ?
– I know that.
– I do not believe that any blind man who receives a sufficient pension should be permitted to beg in our streets. A great philosopher said that no country could call itself civilized until it spent more on education than on war and warlike preparations. . Switzerland, for one brief period, was the only nation that could make that claim. At one time she did spend more on education than on preparations for war ; but, unfortunately, the disturbance in Europe terminated that desirable state of affairs, and at present, like all otheT nations, Switzerland must waste money on the cursed policy of preparing for war. Any honorable member may read this sad letter, which, I am sure, must appeal to every one. There are laws against begging, but’ no laws against begging by blind people. It may be said that they receive large sums of money; and some may have done so. In the bank that I was in, a blind man had deposit receipts running into hundreds of pounds; but that does not justify us as a civilized community, in allowing the stigma to remain on us. H hope that the Government which leads our Commonwealth civilization, just as in many matters the Commonwealth leads the world, will decide that from a certain date no beggars shall be allowed in our streets, but that a fair and just pension shall be given to the blind, whose numbers after all, comparatively speaking, are so few.
– I am, of course, entirely sympathetic as to the last point raised by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), but the trouble is that I cannot get any guarantee that the whole question will not be re-opened. I have had thoughts of throwing myself upon the House in this matter, and paying the money in anticipation of parliamentary approval. I do not like doing that, but it is the simplest way out of the difficulty. The difficulty, as far as I see, is a very real one. However, the question will not be lost sight of. If. I do not reply in detail to all the hard cases mentioned this afternoon, it is because they will be recorded in Hansard, and will receive attention, to-morrow morning.
– The question of the blind ought to be dealt with specially, and at once.
– I agree.
– There are other cases equally bad.
– The honorable member’s interjection shows the difficulty I am in. He has a hard case to bring forward every day. He brought me one yesterday, on which, however, I think I blew him out. I am always glad to consider these cases as they come up, and I hope that when I leave the Treasury, I shall not have a bad Tecord in the way of compassionate allowances. We have to get through the technical details in some way or other, and a Treasurer is sometimes justified in expecting the House to indemnify him in these hard cases.
– You ought to have the power.
– ‘No, I think it is wise to have appropriate statutory restrictions on the Treasurer.
I shall refer to one or two of the other matters of policy, as well as of cash referred to by honorable members. The first relates to the entertainments tax. My position is a very strange one; but what can a man do when £250,000 is thrown at his head ?
– What are you going to do when the Senate takes the power to deal with money Bills? It has no right to do so under the Constitution.
– The Senate has no right whatever bo impose taxation, but nothing can be done in the meantime, whatever my honorable friend may sav about it. No Bill has been returned, and no Bill, therefore, can go up in its place for at least three months, under the ‘Constitution. With all these limitations about him, what can a poor. Treasurer do? In the meantime, the money is flowing in, and is very welcome, and as it flows in my honorable friends are asking that it shall flow out. So have we not got the balance amongst us, and why need we worry so much over a little matter of that kind?
However, the whole question is still under the consideration of the Government. I hope the Leader of the Opposition will believe that, whatever happens, the Government will do the right thing in the matter of the entertainments tax. Does that satisfy him?
– It certainly does not satisfy me when you hand over to the Senate the right of taxation.
– I think it is not a case of that kind. I suggest that the honorable member should leave the matter until he is able to criticise the sequel to all this business. In the meantime, we can do nothing. The Senate has thrown the Bill out, and so disposed of it as it is entitled to do under the Constitution.
– You can refuse to collect the tax on those amounts, and then see what the Senate will do.
– Can we ? Catch a Treasurer refusing to collect a tax to which he is entitled ! I have never been disposed to adopt, those cyclonic methods in connexion with the finances of the Commonwealth. I had better tell the honorable member that we are saving this tax so that he can get all the credit of remitting it by-and-by. He is pledged up to the hilt to sweep it all away.
– Just the same as your party were.
– Scarcely. The matter has gone for the moment, and I do not intend to refuse to collect the tax until I am authorized by this Parliament to so refuse. I am a Constitutionalist upon the question of the entertainments tax, and I feel that I must do the right thing.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) mentioned three things that he wants me to do. He asks: Will I remit taxes and refuse money that is being given to me on the one hand, and will I hand it out by the scores of millions of pounds on the other? That is the proposition which the honorable member puts to me.
– I never said that.
– That is precisely what the honorable member not only suggested, but emphatically said.
– The honorable member is under a misapprehension.
– For instance, the honorable member wants an increase to £1 per week in the old-age pensions.
There is £3,000,000 per annum. That is a .very modest beginning. He persists, also, in wanting to know when we are going to make the war gratuity bonds negotiable. To make them negotiable is a very serious matter on all grounds - serious in the interests of the soldier, and also serious to the community as a whole. We are cashing bonds every day to a very serious amount, and early next year £10,000,000 will have to be raised on this account. That is an obligation which this Parliament may be able to discharge, but which it rightly ought not to undertake to discharge further than the amount I have indicated. It is of no use to bring forward this, that, and the other desirable thing, and suggest that they ought to be done; all things are lawful, and appropriate, and desirable, but they do not happen to be expedient.
– Members on the Opposition side know that they cannot be done.
– I would not say that. I am afraid that my honorable friends on the Opposition side would not hesitate a minute to start the printing presses going and reel off paper money, and scatter it round the country in pursuance of their objectives.
– You have the paper scattered round the country now. I only ask you to make it negotiable.
– I have other views of this matter, and cannot consent to any such free-and-easy way of paying our debts. This matter was very effectually disposed of the other day. The honorable member asks when it is going to be dealt with further by the House, but it is a well-known rule of Parliament that the same subject cannot be brought up twice in the same session. This question, therefore, cannot come on again until we have had a recess.
– That must have been the purpose of the honorable member who moved the adjournment of the debate.
Six JOSEPH COOK. - I do not know what his purpose was. One never knows the motive behind the action of the honorable member for Illawarra.
– I am a practical man, and I like something definite to result from talk.
– The honorable member for West Sydney has his answer. Whatever might have been the motive of the honorable member for Illawarra, the effect of his motion is evident.
– I merely wish the public to understand what was the effect of his motion. Presumably, he knew what effect it would have.
– The honorable member’s only concern is that . the public should know that he has done something.
– The honorable member for Illawarra moved the motion with the connivance of the Treasurer.
– Idid not say a word to the honorable member about it. At the same time, I do not mind admitting that I was not altogether displeased with the action taken. However, I think I have said enough to get the Estimates of the Department of the Treasury through.
– I want to make an appeal to honorable members. There is not an honorable member who has not had brought under his notice the hard case of blind persons, from whose earnings deductions are made under the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. I consider the Treasurer (Six Joseph Cook) has made a very fair offer, and that is to bring in a Bill immediately to relieve the blind in this respect if honorable members will agree to deal with it on its merits, and not introduce any other issue. There are many matters in connexion with the administration of pensions upon which I would like to say something when a proper opportunity arises, but I appeal to honorable members to allow justice to be done to a class of people whose affliction is already great enough. The Bill which would deal out this justice is held up because honorable members will not refrain from loading up the measure with other matters. First, let us do this act of justice to the blind, and then let us take the first opportunity afterwards of dealing with other cases of hardship that certainly do exist. Therefore, I appeal to honorable members to allow this measure of relief to become law before the House adjourns, so that relief may be given to a class which is more deserving of our sympathy than any other section of the community.
– The statement made by the honorable member is not correct. In spite of the possibility of being charged with lack of consideration for the blind, I maintain that there are many invalids in the community who are more worthy of our consideration than the blind, some of whom are young and vigorous. I know that there is a feeling among honor-, able members that immediate relief should be afforded to the blind, but I hope that it does not mean that the consideration of the cases of other invalids will be put off for any lengthy time. There are some tubercular cases which have been brought under my notice more often than I like, and which are more worthy of our attention than those of any other class of invalid.
.- I have taken a great deal of interest in the question of allowing blind persons to earn more than they are at present permitted to receive in wages and still draw the full amount of the invalid pension, and as I brought the matter forward during last Parliament, I would like to know what the Government actually propose to do in this direction.
– The suggestion is that we should allow blind persons to earn, including their pensions, up to the basic wage, and I have agreed to do so provided the House will permit the Bill to go through without the introduction of other matter.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 37 to 43, £86,273
– I want to draw attention to an expenditure which, now that we have become more sane, ought to be abolished. For the Commonwealth Investigation Branch we are asked to vote £6,634. I want to know if this is the same old Commonwealth Police Force which was brought into existence by the Warwick egg. Provision is made for officers in the Central Administration and in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. In New South Wales, for instance, a sub-inspector under the Professional Division is to be paid £372, while under the General Division provision is made for an inspector at £360, and two first-class detective sergeants at £292 each, and under the Clerical Division, for a clerk who, by the way, is under paid, at £198. In Queensland, apparently, the staff is even more numerous. I do not know whether it is to be maintained there for the protection of the Prime Minister on his next visit to the State, but, if so, it is a waste of money, because the right honorable gentleman does not need protection. Why is it necessary to maintain an Investigation Branch in each State to carry out work that may never occur ? I have gone out of my way and strained my party’s opinion of my loyalty to them in order to defend the Government against the charge of wasting money; but surely this is an instance in which money should not be spent? Why should we spend this amount of money every year upon a Department which was created during the wildest period of war scare, when the Prime Minister was afraid to go through Australia because of his fear of attacks which might justly have been made upon him jn consequence of the horrible language he employed against those who differed from him politically? He has survived those possible attacks; he has even survived the hooting he experienced during the visit of the Prince of Wales, because he had moved, in this House to increase the salaries of honorable members. In connexion with this question of increasing the allowance of honorable members I draw attention to the fact that, although honorable members were formerly permitted to enter theFlemington Racecourse on exhibiting their railway passes, the Victoria Racing Club has withdrawn this privilege , because the Prime Minister took steps to” raise our salaries. But the Prime Minister also raised his own salary, yet he accepted the charity of the Turf Club on Saturday and again on Tuesday. He “scabbed” on -the union. For an action like that he requires police protection, but should not get it. We are talking of economy. The Government have been attacked, wrongly on occasions, for not practising economy, but here is a legitimate opportunity for reducing expenditure. I. hope that this force will be discontinued as soon as possible. The war scare is over and nobody in Queensland would bother his head today if the Prime Minister passed through the State. There will be no more Warwick eggs.
.- I move -
That the item “ Solicitor-General, Secretary, and’ Parliamentary Draftsman, £2,000,” be reduced by £1.
If the amendment is agreed to it will.be a direction from the Committee that the Commonwealth Police Force shall be disbanded. We are dealing with the Department as a whole, and if I were tomove the amendment on the first item- relating to the Commonwealth Investigation Branch it would shut out discussion on any of the preceding items. Before the last election the Prime Minister promised that the Commonwealth Police Force would be abolished. If there is one form of expenditure that could be dispensed with it is that in connexion with this unnecessary body. The whole of the State Police Force and judiciary are at the disposal of the Commonwealth.
– After the States have done with them.
– That is a nasty interjection.
– That is justified by our experience in Queensland.
– Queensland is not Australia, and even if the people of that State during the war did something of which the honorable member did not approve, that would not justify him in saying that the continuance of . this force is justified. A few years ago the honorable member would have applauded the Queensland people for what they did on the occasion to which he refers, and would have caused articles to be written which would have set the whole country in flames, but since he has entered the respectable company of flag-waggers and God-Save-the-Kingers, Queensland has become to him a terrible place. Some honorable members recently visited Queensland for the first time, and I ask them if they have returned with the impression that my countrymen are such scoundrels as the honorable member would have us believe them to be.
– I object to this misrepresentation.
– The honorable member may object, but I shall not allow him to run down my State.
– The honorable member gave Tasmania a bad time.
– If the Tasmanian representatives cannot look after their own State they deserve all that is said against it. The vote ‘for the Commonwealth Investigation Branch provides an’ opportunity for giving effect to the promise which the Prime Minister made that . the Commonwealth police would he abolished.
– The Commonwealth police are needed in Queensland.
– The people of that ‘State pay their taxes, and obey the Commonwealth laws.
– Taxes are never imposed by the Queensland Government!
– The State Government will make those pay who can afford to do so. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) aptly described the formation of the Commonwealth Police ‘Force when he said that the greatest miracle performed in the twentieth century was when the Prime Minister developed a police force out of a rotten egg! That force is a mere excrescence, and its continuance is to gratify a fad- that the Prime Minister had. An amount of £10,000 is being thrown away on a body which consists solely of officers as did the Queensland Defence Force prior to Federation. The Estimates do not make one reference to a:n ordinary policeman; all the members of the force are officers.
– Have the Commonwealth police ever arrested anybody or done anything to earn their money?
– The honorable member should be the last to ask such a question, having regard to the fact that tie Commonwealth Police Force put him in “ the boob.” They framed up a case against the honorable member, but the magistrate dismissed it as frivolous in the extreme.
– He was a State magistrate.
– Surely the honorable member does not wish to frame up the bench as well as the police! What the members of this force are doing God only knows, and He will not tell us. The Minister cannot tell the Committee what the police do. I ask honorable members to embrace this opportunity of saving £10,000 of the taxpayers’ money.
It may not seem a large amount in proportion to the total expenditure, but for heaven’s sake let us start economizing somewhere. Here is our opportunity. This force is absolutely Gilbertian; it exists just to comply with the whim and fancy of the Prime Minister.
– The word. Gilbertian might more properly be applied to the honorable member’s attack upon a police force that is non-existent. The promise of the Prime Minister that the Commonwealth Police Force would be reduced has been carried out. While the right honorable gentleman was in Europe I. as Acting AttorneyGeneral, took steps to gradually reduce the Commonwealth police until they were practically wiped out. This force was first brought into being for a very good reason. The Commonwealth must carry out certain investigational and inspectional work in connexion with the administration of its laws in the various Departments, but a police force such as the honorable member for Maranoa has described, does not exist. For instance, the Home and Territories Department administers the Immigration Restriction Act in connexion with which investigations have to be made from time to time.
– Was not the work efficiently performed before?
– It was, and much of it by officers who are now transferred to this Department. Investigations were also carried out for the Department of the Treasury and other Departments. In addition, there are many Acts under which special investigations have to be made. What is happening is this : With a view to preventing the multiplication of the work done in different Departments there has been established, in connexion with the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, a special staff of officers who have been transferred from various Departments to the Attorney-General’s Department so that the work may be carried out more effectively and efficiently than before.
– And more economically.
– Yes. There are many cases for investigation that arise in connexion with breaches of the law, and that is why the vote is placed where “it should be, under this particular Department. Even in connexion with the Repatriation Department, investigations have to be made from time to time. If honorable members will refer to the Estimates they will see that £1,248 was expended during the last financial year on this particular item, and the reason for the increase is that officers have been transferred to the Attorney-General’s Department., Reference has been made to the office of inspector, and one honorable member said that we were “creating a new position of Inspector of Commonwealth Police. That is not so, but the officer is given the rank of inspector, because his duties involve investigation and inspection in connexion with the enforcement of our Commonwealth Acts.
– Are you transferring the detectives from the Customs Department to your Department?
– So far that has not been done, but the intention of the Government is to group them together in a Central Investigation Branch to enable the work to be more economically and efficiently carried out. Commonwealth laws have been increasing in number, and naturally the Government must see that its laws are enforced. ‘This matter was debated at a Premiers’ Conference, where it was suggested that the Commonwealth had no powers in this regard; but that is absurd. Surely honorable members would not render the Government so impotent that it could not create a staff to enforce its own laws? The position would be ridiculous, . as the Commonwealth must have that power. Honorable members are continually urging the need for economy, and it is with that object in view that the present practice has been adopted. I remind . honorable members that during the war particularly important investigations had to be made in connexion with many of our Acts.
– The Government did not require this staff before the Warwick incident.
Mr.GROOM.- The Commonwealth Police Force has been dispensed with,, and I have already repeated that several times. That force was created under the War Precautions Act at a time when it was absolutely necessary, and although that force -is not now in existence, it is still essential to have an in vestigation staff for the reasons I have mentioned. I remind honorable members that there are investigation officers in connexion with the Post Office, and it is the intention of the Government to bring such officers together under the Department of the Attorney-General. Very important inquiries are being made from time to time at the request of the Treasury.
– Have you always had these officers?
– All the officers being transferred to the Attorney-General’s Department have been employed in other Departments, and they are now being taken over to form one Central Investigation Branch.
– Including those in the Post Office?
– They are to come in later, and the representatives of different Departments will then form the Investigation Bureau. That is a common-sense and practical thing to do, as it saves time and money, and secures efficiency.
– And you are creating a new Department.
– I have already said sufficient to show that we are doing nothing of the kind.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) asked for some explanation in regard to the increased expenditure in connexion with the patents and trade marks vote. During the war there was a suspension of patent operations; but now there is an immense accumulation of work, which necessarily increases the expenditure in connexion with the adminis,tration o’f that Department. It is solely for that reason that the additional expenditure has- been incurred.
.- In regard to the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, my views axe in accord’ with those of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page), because I believe that we should, not indulge- in any expenditure that cannot reasonably be justified. The Minister has endeavoured to do that by saying that the Government must have the assistance of officers to make certain investigations in carrying out the legislation passed by this Parliament. I am not going to advance as my protest the claims of economy in this connexion - although .-some honorable members believe in economy at all costs - because there is sometimes economy at the expense of efficiency. I am in favour of expenditure when we are getting a quid pro quo for our outlay. The Minister has said that the Commonwealth Police Force does not now exist. I have been making a comparison between the salaries shown in this and last year’s Estimates, and find that the totals differ very little. The total of the division for the Commonwealth Investigation Branch in 1919-20 was £7,102, and the estimated expenditure for this year is £6,634. The total estimated expenditure in salaries in 1919-20 was £6,722, and this year it is estimated at £6,254. If the Commonwealth Police Force has been disbanded, as the Minister says, it does not appear to be so from the figures appearing in the Estimates; and it is quite evident that if we do not call it by its former name it is in existence under another designation.
– The members of the present Investigation Branch have been employed in various Departments, and have been transferred, as the Minister has already explained.
– I am not in a position to challenge the statement of the honorable member.
– The Minister has already fully explained the position. We have always had investigating officers in the Postal Department.
– I «m not offering any objection to the employment of officers where investigation is necessary.
– The intention of the Government is to bring all such officers into one Department instead of following the more cosily method of having them operating under separate Departments.
– Does the Minister definitely state that a Commonwealth Police Force does not now exist?
– The force to which the honorable member refers was created under a War Precautions Regulation, which is not now in force; and those officers have gone.
– That certainly removes my objection, to some extent,
– Officers have to be employed to make investigations in connexion with the Post Office, and the Customs, Taxation, and Immigration Departments.
– That may be so; but I had in my mind a measure that we were discussing this afternoon, in which provision was made for the State police to operate on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– We always co-operate where we can; but the responsibility of seeing that our own laws are observed rests upon the Commonwealth, and we should have officers to make investigations when the occasion arises.
– I was under the impression that if the Commonwealth Police Force was still in existence, and the State police were being utilized in connexion with the enforcement of certain Commonwealth Statutes, there was a grave inconsistency somewhere. I rose particularly to record my protest against the expenditure on a Commonwealth Police Force, as I cannot see any useful service that could be rendered by such to the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 8 p.m.
– I am very anxious to learn the intentions of the Government with regard to the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. It is well known to honorable members that Mr. Justice Higgins, who has been the President of that Court for something like thirteen years, has announced thathe intends- to resign, and we ought to have from the Government a statement as to what steps they intend, to take to enable the work of that tribunal to be carried on. .Whatever may be said of Mr. Justice Higgins - whether honorable members approve or disapprove of his politics - it must be admitted that in many cases he has carried -on the functions of the Court in such a way as to keep the wheels of industry going where there was grave danger of their stopping. Many of the workers of recent years have not been satisfied with arbitration. That dissatisfaction .is world-wide. In this evening’s issue of the Herald it is mentioned that in the coal-mining industry of Great Britain - one of the largest in the Old Country - the consent of a twothirds majority of the workers has to be obtained to declare a strike. It is of the utmost importance that we should have
Borne tribunal in which the workers have confidence for the settlement of industrial troubles. Although some industrial organizations have decided not to avail themselves of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court,, many of them continue to appeal to it. The Builders LabourersUnion and the Australian Workers Union - both very large organizations - have stood by the Court for years, and are. standing by it to-day. When a Bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was recently before us, I expressed the opinion that certain provisions in it would have a very bad effect, and from the point of view of the Court itself I look upon the contemplated resignation of Mr. Justice Higgins as being in the nature of a calamity. It is useless for us to bury our heads in the sand, ostrich-like, and to profess not to recognise the fact that a great number of the workers prefer direct action rather than an appeal to arbitration, and I should like to know what the Government intend to do in regard to the Court. I know of organizations which have been waiting for a number of years to get before it. Some of the awards under which industrial organizations are working are four years old, and need to be reviewed. If the principle of arbitration or the Wages Board system stands for anything, it is for the protection of the weakest in every industry. The more highly skilled men in every industry are able to command a fair wage, which in many cases is above that fixed by the Court.
– Have not some of the more important unions decided during the last year or two not to avail themselves of the Court ?
– So far as I know, the coal-miners’ organization has alone come to that decision.
– Are not members of the Australian Workers Union demanding their own special rates, entirely apart from the award of the Court?
– I believe that they obtained improved conditions under an award made by the Queensland Arbitration Court. They are probably using that award as a lever to obtain better conditions elsewhere. I do not think, however, that the Australian Workers Union has departed from the existing award of the Commonwealth Court.
The Government should tell us what they intend to do in regard to the Court, and whether they propose almost immediately to appoint additional Justices to cope with the congestion of business. The whole of the High Court Justices have shown great reluctance to take on the work of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Mr. Justice Powers, Deputy President of the Court, is now on leave. Mr.. Justice Isaacs, who has dealt with certain arbitration cases, is about to enjoy twelve months’ leave of absence; Mr. Justice Rich has dealt with one or two Arbitration Court cases; and Mr. Justice Starke has heard some ‘Public Service cases. All disputes relating to organizations of public servants will now pass to another tribunal, but in view of the fact that the High Court Justices show a disinclination to sit on the Arbitration Court Bench,we should be lacking in our duty if we passed these Estimates without obtaining from the Government a definite statement as to the action they propose to take consequent upon the contemplated retirement of Mr. Justice Higgins.
– The special tribunals for which the Industrial Peace Act provides should also get going.
– Compulsory conferences are convened under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and in many cases have proved successful. I think that a dispute in which the carters and drivers’ organization was concerned was settled in that way. That organization comprises thousands of men, and if they went on strike many other industries would be affected. Whether we represent town or country, constituencies, we are all equally interested in keeping the wheels of industry going, and we should insist upon a statement from the Government in regard to this matter. I do not know whether it is optional for the High Court Judges to sit in the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
– It is.
– Then, in view of the recent amendment of the Act providing for certain cases to be dealt with by three Justices instead of one, additional appointments must be made.
– Mr. Justice Higgins has not yet resigned.
– I do not know whether the . Government have received his resignation.
-We have not.
– Those who know Mr. Justice Higgins will say that he is not the’ man to depart from any definite pronouncement that he makes. I hope that he will remain on the Bench, because I believe that as President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court he has rendered invaluable service to Australia. Although the system has not, perhaps, lent itself to expedition in dealing with disputes,, it must be admitted that the Court has done excellent work.
– Does the honorable member think that Mr. Justice Higgins is the only man in the Commonwealth who, can properly fill the position of President of the Court?
– I do not think that any man, no matter what position he may fill, is indispensable, but some men are better fitted than others for certain positions.
– Is it not a fact that the Conciliation and Arbitration Court has been a lamentable failure?
– If that is the view of the Government - if they say that they intend to wipe out the Court, - the industrialists will know where they are.
– It is only a few weeks since we passed an amending Conciliation and Arbitration Bill contemplating future action.
– The honorable member refers to the Bill providing that certain cases shall be heard by three Justices instead of one. An amendment which, was inserted in that Bill will remove from the Court about . 80 per cent, of - the organizations which now avail themselves of it. , Mr. Justice Higgins, I repeat, has done good work, many organizations still stand by the Court, and it will be a bad day for Australia if the majority of the workers declare for direct action and for the arbitrament of force rather than for conciliation and arbitration.
– I am sure no section of the people in Australia desire that.
– There are far more than many people think in favour of direct action. There are members of the Opposition who have said that they have no time for arbitration. On the other hand, I have stood for the principle ever since the original Act was passed, and it is because of that fact that I want a definite pronouncement from the Government. We should be told whether organizations which have loyally stood by the Court and have waited for years to have their claims heard by it are to be denied an opportunity to obtain an early decision.
– Legislation that we have recently passed is a clear indication of the intentions of the Government with regard to the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. This House has but recently approved of amendments of the principal Act which contemplate the continuance of the Court, and are designed to expedite its business. Many of those amendments originated from the Court itself, so that it is mere moonshine to suggest that there is any intention on the part of the Government to wipe out the Court.
– When is it intended to get ‘the tribunals going, under the Industrial Peace Act?
– That measure provides for the appointment of tribunals to deal with disputes of an emergency character as they arise. One such tribunal has already been appointed, and its award is now being challenged in the High Courts The Act does not contemplate the appointment of tribunals in anticipation of disputes.
– Such a tribunal can act only when both sides agree to its creation.
– Both sides of this Chamber agreed to that measure.
– That is not what the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) means.
– I know that. These tribunals can be brought into existence when both parties to an industrial dispute agree to the adoption of that course. But the Act has been passed, and the machinery provided, to enable these classes of disputes to be dealt with effectively. One tribunal has already been appointed, and has given an award.
– And the constitutionality of that award has been challenged in the High Court.
– So long as we are a fighting race people will inevitably strive to uphold what they conceive to be their rights and privileges. The only other point raised by the honorable member has reference to the appointment- of Judges to the High Court Bench. May I point out to him that no vacancy has yet been created there. Should such a condition arise, the Government will take steps to deal with it.
– Is not the. fact that no vacancy has yet occurred due to the determination of Mr. Justice Higgins to complete the hearing of cases which have already been commenced before him?
– We cannot deal with a condition which has not yet arisen. Mr. Justice Starke is assisting in the disposal of Arbitration Court work, and the Government are considering the appointment of a third Judge under the existing Act in order to enable that Court to properly function. The honorable member may rest assured that every action will be taken to properly staff the Court, in order that there may be no undue delay in dealing with industrial cases.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to the appeal, to which reference has already been made. In connexion with that appeal, I hope that the Government will be adequately represented by counsel.
– It is the intention of the Government to ask leave to intervene.
– The other day when I was asked whether upon that appeal the Government would be represented by counsel, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) replied that, so far as that was constitutionally possible, they would be so represented. But may I point out that there are matters involved in that appeal which do hot touch the constitutional question at all.
– Is not the only question that before the Court?
-No. There are a number of questions involved in addition to the constitutionality of the Industrial Peace Act. I hope that counsel will deal with the whole of the circumstances which are placed before the Court. If the award of the Special Tribunal appointed in connexion with the coal industry be set aside, the result may be disastrous. Consequently the Government are in duty bound to do all that is possible to uphold the constitutionality of the award. But, quite apart from the Industrial Peace Act, the Arbitration Court has a lot of work to do. I think that the Prime. Minister stated that no tribunals would be established under the Industrial Peace Act in connexion with cases which have already been listed before the Arbitration Court, because it would be regarded as an attempt to undermine the Arbitration Act. If that be so, it behoves the Government to see. that whatever Justices are necessary to preside over that Court are appointed. Three Justices of the High Court are necessary to hear any appeal in which the question of hours is involved, and there are few appeals in which that question does not arise. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will do everything that is possible ‘to uphold the Industrial Peace Act, under which an award’ has been made in connexion with the coal-mining industry.-
– I have not been able to recognise that such overwhelmingly good work has been done by the Arbitration Court during the past few years. Some of the awards given by that tribunal have been positively ridiculous. Take, for example, an award which was given by it only a few days ago. Honorable members know that all over Australia there are river boats, the captains of which are not sailors, and do not possess sea-going certificates. They merely obtain licences from the local Marine Boards. -Yet under an Arbitration Court award which was recently given, they are to receive the same wages as are the captains of sea-going vessels. The result is that these boats are being tied up all over Australia, to the very great inconvenience of the settlers, to whom, they have been of considerable service.
I agree with some of the statements which have been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). It is simply deplorable that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and a Judge of the High Court should be bandying words in the press. When we find these gentlemen accusing each other in the daily newspapers of deliberate falshood, the spectacle is not one which is calculated to elevate the public life of Australia or to add to the dignity ‘ of our High Court Judges. I hope that we shall hear no more of it.
– The controversy has scarcelv started yet.
-I hope that it has ended, and every honorable member will echo that hope. Mr. Justice Higgins has already declared his intention of resigning his position. In view of the fact that cases have been listed before the Arbitration Court for nearly two years, and have not yet secured a hearing, we have a right to know what steps are being taken to’ keep the machinery of that tribunal in action. An amendment has been moved to reduce the vote upon these Estimates by £1, in order to test the question of whether this Parliament intends to sanction the creation of another new Department, namely, the Commonwealth Police Department. I intend to ‘vote for that amendment. The members of the Country party have previously done their utmost, though without success, to secure a reduction in these Estimates. I recognised then, as I recognise now, that the only way in which we can achieve our object is by preventing the creation of new Departments.
-When it was proposed to transfer the Pensions Branch, which had been satisfactorily administered under the Treasury Department, for the purpose of keeping the Repatriation Department in existence, how did the honorable member’s party vote?
– The Repatriation Department is entirely removed from ordinary proposals to effect retrenchment.
– The honorable member’s party made two Departments grow where only one grew previously.
– We are now asked to sanction an entirely new departure, because the Government propose to establish a new Department under another name.
– The honorable member says that it is a new Department; but will he be good enough to prove his assertion ?
– Take the head of the Department, Mr. Brown. He was at the head of the Commonwealth Police Force.
-No; the man who was at the head of the Commonwealth Police Force went long ago.
– Then, why does he appear as a police inspector?
– There is no doubt that the Force to which I refer is a Police Force. It has been stated that certain officers are required for the Customs Department, for the Postal Department, and for other Departments. But in each of these Departments we still have special detectives. They are departmental officers, and, as far as I can gather, not one of them has been removed from his office. It is clear, therefore, that the only way in which we can prevent a steady increase in our annual expenditure is by checking the existing mania for the creation of new Departments. There has not been a single occasion upon which the Commonwealth has applied to any State Government for assistance, and upon which it has not received a prompt response. I do hope that the Committee will take a resolute stand against the establishment of this and every other new Department. We discussed one of these proposals to-day, and I hope that we have heard the last of it. Now we are invited to sanction the creation of a Commonwealth Police Department. In precisely the same way we have unnecessarily duplicated State activities in connexion with our Savings Bank and our Taxation Department. The state of our finances is very serious. We know of the difficulties of the Government in connexion with, their wheat guarantee. In regard to every loan, pressure has to be brought to bear upon the people and financial institutions to secure the necessary money; yet we ‘are piling on expenditure in Department after Department, and, so far, all our efforts have secured no retrenchment. Here is an opportunity. For the reason that this is the old Commonwealth Police Force under another name, and that no good purpose can be served by the creation of such a Force, I shall vote for the amendment.
– The honorable member says that this is the old Police Force over again. I informed honorable members, before the suspension of the sitting this- evening, that the whole of the Police Force which had been created under the War Precautions Act had been absolutely disbanded, and that there is not an individual now in existence as a member of that Force.
– How many of the men who were in the Commonwealth Police Force are in this present organization ?
– I do not think there is a single individual. My information is that there is not one. The office of Commissioner of Police was vacated long ago. The Commissioner resigned, and, thereafter, one officer of the Department, who had been conducting certain investigations, continued to act as Commissioner. But that position is now ended. The Force, which is now being created is not a Police Force in the sense in which the State Police Forces are conducted. I may say that this was explained in the House last year.
– How can you say that when you “ gagged “ the Estimates through last year ?
– I assure the honorable member that these facts were explained a year ago.
– We had not a chance to discuss them.
– I say they were explained.
– You are not going to ram a lie like that down my throat !
– Order! The honorable member will please withdraw that expression.
– I can only assure the honorable member-
– You are not going to tell me a lie!
– Order ! Will the Minister please resume his seat. I call upon the honorable member for Maranoa to withdraw.
– Withdraw what? Am I going to sit here and let the Minister tell me that? I will not take a lie from him.
– Order! I again ask the honorable member to withdraw.
– I will not withdraw; because it is a lie, and the Minister knows very well that the Estimates last year were “ gagged “ through, and we had no opportunity to discuss the Commonwealth Police or anything else.
– I ask the honorable member once more to withdraw his offensive expression. He knows that it is unparliamentary,, and I ask him to assist the Chair rather than defy it.
– Very well, I withdraw.
– I said that this item was explained to the House before, namely, that the Commonwealth Police Force had been abolished, and that we were setting up in its place an Investigation Branch.
– The same thing under another name.
– I informed honorable members earlier this evening that the intention of the Government was to create an Investigation Bureau, under the Department where it properly should ‘be, namely, that of the Attorney-General. Instead of having each Department with its own separate detective agents and investigating officers, it was rightly deemed more economical, and in the interests of higher efficiency, that all should be grouped. I have already said that, from time to time, we have been transferring these officials to the control of the AttorneyGeneral. There is no intention here to create a new Department. I hold in my hand a list of names of officers which has appeared in the Government Gazette. Every one of the individuals is an officer who has been transferred from some other Department to that of the Attorney-General.
– Who are these men?
– Honorable members may peruse the list, but I have no objection to reading it. The first name is that of Harold Edward Jones, Senior Clerk, Department of the Treasury.
– Who is the Director?
– Major Jones was placed in charge.
– Have the Government filled the vacancies created by the removal of those officers?
– They have been merely transferred. They have come from the. Department of the Treasury, from the Home and Territories Department, and from other branches of the Commonwealth Service, where investigation has been necessary and is still proceeding. Our intention is solely to prevent duplication, and to concentrate this work of investigation under the one head, which is proper and economical.
– But is not that said of every new Department?
– The honorable member may put up that kind of stunt if he likes. He has said that this is an entirely new Department, and that he knew all about it. I am showing him that these officials are being transferred from one Department and another to that of the Attorney-General. The proposition is sound and business-like. I would quite expect the honorable member to protest if he saw investigation branches growing as excrescences upon each Department throughout the Commonwealth Service. I emphasize that there is no intention here to create an ordinary police force whose duty it would be to keep the King’s peace.
– That was never suggested.
– The honorable member said so. He said that there were the State Police, who had not refused to do our work. This is not the kind of work that the State Police Forces are doing. It is independent work; it is work arising from responsibilities createdby our own Statutes and their administration.
– And it is the kind of work which the ordinary police could not do, in that it requires skilled investigation.
– Quite so. Numbers of these officers have been engaged in investigation work for the Commonwealth practically since the inauguration of Federation. As soon as the Immigration Act was passed officers were appointed to perform a particular class of investigation work; and then there were Customs officials who were given a peculiar line of duty to perform.
– You have got these officers still on your lists.
– We are making provision for their transfer as the occasion arises. The process of transfer is in operation, and provision to that end has been made in the Estimates. Finally, this is an endeavour to perform effective administration, and I am convinced that the right line of action is being followed.
– It is rather peculiar that this effort to secure economy should centre around one of the few proposals to be found in the Estimates which have for their objective the cutting down of redundant expenditure. I am afraid that the whole discussion is biased by apprehension on the part of some honorablemembers that that wonderful egg which was hatched at Warwick has produced a Force which will remain for ever on the pay roll of the Commonwealth. The explanation furnished by the Minister (Mr. Groom) proves that fear to be groundless. This proposal is one which I would like to see copied in relation to several other departmental activities where there is an unnecessary and more or less expensive tendency towards duplication. I am glad that the Government are making an effort to place the . whole of the work of Commonwealth investigation under the control and guidance of one skilled officer, in the one Department. That official, supported by a united and a trained staff, should be able to perform good service. The proposition, altogether, is one of which honorable members should approve.
– The Minister (Mr. Groom) stated, both before the suspension of the sitting and after,, in reply to the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), that this was not the old Commonwealth Police Force at all, and had nothing to do with it. Yet, in the Aliens Registration Bill, introduced only this afternoon, there is to be found the phrase, “ ‘ Officer ‘ means a member of the Police Force.”
– Of course; a member of a State Police Force.
– Then, why does not the Bill say so? If he is a State officer, why not make it perfectly clear, because we are dealing with a Commonwealth measure ? The definition clause also states - “ Officer “ means a member of the Police Force, or an officer of Customs, or an officer of the Department administering this Act, or a prescribed officer, or any person authorized by the Minister to exercise the powers conferred on officers by this Act.
– When the Customs Bill was passed, the same terms were employed, so we are acting in a perfectly consistent manner in our references to the operations of the State Police.
– No, you are not. What about the War Precautions Act ?
– What has that’ Act to do with this?
– This is all so much panic legislation as the result of the War Precautions Act regulations. The honorable member for. Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) spoke about the efficiency of the Department under the proposed new system of control. I should like to know how we are to get greater efficiency than at present, because all the various Departments have their own detectives in the different States.
– And they are well known to everybody.
– I do not know that they are so well known. Speaking of the Customs Office detectives in Brisbane, I can. say that they know where to find the contraband on every boat that comes down the coast.
– Not all.
– They find a great deal. I have the greatest faith possible in the Customs officers who examine the vessels that come down the coast from the East.
– Under the new scheme, the same men will be doing that work. The Minister says sou
– But we shall have half-a-dozen officers doing the work of one or two. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) was quite right when he said that we must watch the creation of these new subDepartments. The Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Groom), if he had his way, would run the’ whole of the Commonwealth by means of these subDepartments, and give honorable members no end of reasons why they should be created - with him, of course, at the head. He puts me in mind of an Indian Prince going to a durbar with the whole of his retinue around him. This new scheme will not make for efficiency. Take the detectives who work in the post-offices of the different States. I can speak of them, because I know what they are doing. In Brisbane, one man does the whole of the Post Office detective work. The State detectives will not take up investigation work in connexion with postal matters unless they can get this special’ officer, who knows the ropes, to work in - with them. The sub-Treasury Department in Queensland has a detective officer whose duty it is to see that the Treasury is not robbed. He is an expert at finding out . all about invalid and old-age pension claims, the. maternity bonus, and other Treasury .accounts.. . All these men are specialists in their, particular spheres. And what does the Minister want to do ? He wants to place all these men in a subDepartment, and, perhaps, some of them will be put on to the work of examining vessels. He wants to make a “ hotchpotch” of the whole business, giving these officers all sorts of fancy names - inspectors, sub-inspectors, first class inspectors, second class sub-inspectors, and so on.
– What would you suggest calling them?
– Nothing at all. These men do not want their photographs to be published in the papers. Let them go on working in the future as they have worked in the past. The Minister said a little while ago that all these items were passed last year. No one knows better than you, Mr. Chairman, that the whole of the Estimates were put in globo, and by means of the “ gag “ millions of money was voted in a . few hours without any honorable member being able to say one word about the various items. It was the Government, not the House, that passed the Estimates. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) put his finger on the spot when he said that we should watch carefully the crea-tion of these sub-Departments if we want to avoid unnecessary expenditure.. I do not know whether the Ministry intend to create positions for “ gone-bung “ politicians or not, but up to the present the Government have had such a “doing” that I do not ‘ think they will go any further with these proposals.
– Do you think the Public Service Bill is “up the spout ‘’?
– On the contrary, I think it has gone down to the very bottom of the “ spout,” judging by its position on the notice-paper, and I hope this proposal .will be alongside it. I have no objection to men occupying these, positions, but I do object to the creation of those sub-Departments, and,, in the words of. the Assistant Minister for. Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers), making two blades of grass grow where one grew before. The purpose of this Bill is to create two. Departments where one sufficed before, and I hope, therefore, that the Committee will support my amendment.
Question - That the item “ SolicitorGeneral, £2,000,” be reduced by £1- put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I understand that on last year’s Estimates the sum of £3,087 was voted to pay the expenses incurred in America in the law case of Merton v. Hughes, and I ask the Minister what amount of money has been spent on this case?
– The Committee cannot discuss the resolutions of a previous Committee.
– I do not propose to do that. What I ask for is a full account of the expenses in the litigation between Merton and the Commonwealth. I take it that we are now at liberty to discuss anything done by the Attorney-General’s Department since its inception. What were the expenses of the Merton case in England ? Did the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) succeed, or were the costs of Merton paid by the Commonwealth Government ?
– The sum- that the honorable member has mentioned was voted last year, and we are not entitled to refer to it now. There is nothing in these Estimates connected with the matter of which the honorable member is speaking.
– In any case we are entitled to discuss the administration of the Attorney-General’s Department, and I ask what expenses have been incurred in connexion with the Merton litigation? I wish to know, too, the terms on which the case was settled? I saw the statement that the case had come before the Courts in England, that it was adjourned, and, finally, that it was settled. We are entitled to know the terms of the settlement. I ask for the information in the interests of my constituents, and while I do not wish to use threats, if the Minister will not give it, I must try to find means of having the matter discussed. It cannot be suggested that the people of Australia, with whose money the expenses of the case were paid, . are not entitled to know exactly on what terms the action was settled. The Prime Minister made certain accusations against the Merton Company, in consequence of which an action for defamation was brought against him which the Commonwealth’ Government undertook to defend, and public money was spent in the defence and settlement of the case. I hope that the Minister will let us know how much was so spent.
– I regret that the Minister in charge of the House (Mr. Groom) will not give the information asked for by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan).
– ‘They would give the information if they had not something to hide.
– If there is nothing to hide, why should there be any secrecy about the matter? Surely the Minister does not suggest that members and the people have no right to know these things ! It is the people who have had to foot the bill, and they should know what has been spent, and how it has been spent. It is remarkable that they have been kept in the dark so long about this case.
– We want to know how much it cost to “ square “ Mertons?
– I do not know whether they were “ squared,” but there has been considerable discussion of this case in the newspapers, and it is remarkable that we have had no information about it from Ministers.
– Apparently we are not paying anything, so why should we worry about it?
– I dp not know that we are not paying anything.
– The Minister says so.
– He did not say anything of the kind.
– I say that there is not a penny provided in these Estimates for the case. ,
– Will the Minister say that not a penny has been paid by the Commonwealth in connexion with it? What were the terms of the settlement? If the Commonwealth has had to pay, we should know how much has been paid; and if nothing was paid, we should know that, too. The Prime Minister,, however, has never seen fit to tell the country what was done in the case. I do not think that the Minister at the table (Mr. Groom) desires to cover anything up ; if there has been any covering up it has been done by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). Should Ministers persist in withholding this information, the Committee should force them to disclose it.
– The expenditure was not provided for in last year’s Estimates, but was paid out of the Treasurer’s
Advance. It was paid without parliamentary authority.
-If it did not appear in last year’s Estimates, and does not appear^ in these, there must be a desire to cover something up. Is it a fact that the money was paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance without any authority from this House? If so, how much was paid ?
– The honorable member is now going too wide of the question before the Chair. I cannot allow a general discussion of last year’s Estimates.
– I hope you are not going to keep me down to those narrow limits. The sum is not on last year’s Estimates.
– It is in last year’s expenditure.
– The Estimates for the current year are now before the Committee, and in a separate column is shown the expenditure on various items for last year. That expenditure has taken place, and the Committee that dealt with it was responsible for it. This Committee cannot revise it. The honorable member may make inquiries from Ministers regarding it, but he must not go beyond that.
– Am 1 not in order in discussing the general policy of the Attorney-General’s Department?
– You are discussing a specific item.
– I am discussing the general policy of the Department in connexion with a certain matter. The expenditure was incurred in connexion with this Department, and no provision was made for it on this year’s or last year’s Estimates. If it was unauthorized, and the payment was made out of the Treasurer’s Advance, we ought to know about it. If we do not know about it, it is a reflection on the Department. If the Department will do work in that slipshod manner, we have a right to know it. I am sure the Minister at the table (Mr. Groom’) will not stand for that kind of thing. The expenditure took place, and the payment, whether authorized or unauthorized, must have been made, but no provision is made for it on the Estimates. Why?
– To which item on the Estimates is the honorable member referring?
– I am discussing the total of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) will not be able to confine me to such limits as will debar me from mentioning the matter at all.’ I am sure that if this matter were connected with the Department for the Navy, the Minister would expect to have his Department criticised in the same way. If the AttorneyGeneral’s Department is accustomed to carry on its business in this way it is time that Parliament had an opportunity of discussing the Department’swhole policy. Such a slipshod manner of doing business would be a reflection on any Department. The Prime Minister, who is also the AttorneyGeneral, should not have the power and privilege to do this kind of thing. It should not be his special right to carry on business in that slipshod manner. “We want to know the terms on which the action was settled, and what the amount was. We have no idea of the terms or conditions. Instead of answering or endeavouring to answer the question, or even admitting that the matter is important, the Minister at the table (Mr. Groom) politely asks us to pass on to the next business, as if this thing meant nothing, and was of no consequence to the people. We should not be doing our duty to the people who sent us here if we consented to do business in that way. I sincerely trust that other honorable members will express their opinions about a transaction of this kind, because if it is allowed to pass in one instance there will be no end to it. It does not matter whether the amount was large or small ; it is a matter of principle. If that kind of thing can be done by one Minister, because he happens to be the Prime Minister and Attorney-General, who, under the War Precautions Act, has been able to do very much as he liked during the past four or five years, it is time the House pub a stop to it. It is a method of doing business that no other Minister would stoop to. It could only be done by one who has become so accustomed to do things in his own way that he practically turns his back on the people and tells them that he will continue to do just as he likes. The Committee should take the opportunity of saying that it does not indorse that line of’ conduct. It is surprising to find so many Government supporters ready to let it go on and pass it over as if it meant nothing. I do not stand for the principle of the country protecting the Prime Minister, or any other Minister, in any litigation that he allows himself to be dragged into and then telling those who have to foot the bill that they have no right to know the terms upon which the action is settled. Those of us who are here to protect the peoples’ interests have a right to protest. We should be failing in our duty if we did not compel the Government to give some explanation of this business. I hope the Minister will give the Committee an opportunity to know something about it. If not, we shall have to do as the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) suggests, and take some other means of finding out the facts. The matter has been clouded, and the people of this country have been kept in the dark too long about matters of this kind.
.- The request made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), and supported by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), is most reasonable, and I cannot understand why the Minister (Mr. Groom) refuses to give the Committee the information that has been asked for. He has admitted that a certain amount of money was paid. I understand it came out of the Treasurer’s Advance. Why cannot he tell the Committee how much was paid and what arrangement was entered into ? The money paid may have represented damages, for all that we know. The case may have been settled out of Court, and Australia may have had to pay a very substantial sum on account of the Prime Minister’s adventures on the other side of the world. For all we know, the country may have been saddled with a large expenditure. All we are given is a vague statement that a certain sum was paid. That payment was never authorized by this Parliament, because Parliament was never consulted. It does not appear on any of the Estimates. When the Minister is asked to explain to the representatives of the people the circumstance of the payment of alarge sum of money, no proper reply is given, and no justification is offered for the payment. No attempt is made to defend the action of the Government. I want to know why the Government paid the money. Why was the Commonwealth saddled with this expenditure? If the Minister will not give the information, we shall have to create an opportunity for him to do so. . In order to give him that opportunity, and as a protest against hie action in refusing to tell the Committee the reasons for the payment and the amount actually paid to Merton and Company, I move -
That the item “ Crown Solicitor, £ 1,250,” be reduced by £ 1.
The Ministry have done some very highhanded things in their time, and Parliament is being reduced more and more to a mere echo of Ministerial acts. The Ministry have arrogated to themselves the right to do various things without consulting Parliament; and, judging by the meek spirit in which their followers have received their actions from time to time, for all practical purposes this Parliament might as well not exist at all. This , is the most recent example of the high-handed way in which . the Government have conducted the affairs of Australia. The Prime Minister went to Great Britain and became involved in a law suit. After all the spectacular stuff which appeared in the newspapers about the great fight that was to be made in connexion with the case, we now learn that the matter has been hushed up, that Merton and Company have been bought off, and no information is vouchsafed to the taxpayers or their representatives. Apparently, all the use they are is to find the money, and all the use we are is simply to say “ yes “ to whatever the Government do. Otherwise we are expected to be like dumb dogs. If members are content to acquiesce in this kind of thing, they might as well stay comfortably in their homes and enjoy themselves, instead of bothering their heads to come here.
– Why do they not?
– I dare say that would suit the Postmaster-General, but I do not know whether it would suit his constituents. I do not know whether the people’s lack of interest in parliamentary proceedings has reached the stage at which they are content to “ pay, pay, pay,” without any inquiry being made or any discussion taking place of the Prime Minister’s vagaries on the other side of the world. I am not prepared to acquiesce in that line of conduct, or to act like a dummy here. I agree with the honorable member for West Sydney that, if Ministers are going to treat us in that cavalier fashion,, and refuse even to have the courtesy to reply when a question of vital importance concerning the payment of a large sum of ‘money is asked of them, it is time we knew what was behind it all. Why do the Government want to hush this thing up? What is it that they want to cover up? It would seem that more than actual expenses were paid in this business. If not, why do the Government persist in refusing to divulge the information asked for? One would have thought that, if there was anything peculiar about this particular case, the item would have appeared on the Estimates in the ordinary way, and been duly authorized by Parliament; but, in this case, the money has been paid out without the people’s representatives being consulted, and when they dare to ask a question on the matter it is ignored and nothing is done. As a protest against this high-handed procedure I submit my amendment.
– The position is extraordinary. I have had a fairly long parliamentary experience, but I have not known of an instance like this to occur before.
-You have never heard a question like this asked before on the previous year’s expenditure.
– According to the information given to the Committee this item did not appear in last year’s Estimates..
– That is correct.
– Then it is useless to say that we are discussing last year’s Estimates. But what course is open to us if the money was spent last year without parliamentary sanction and we are prevented from discussing it on this year’s Estimates ? I “ have never known a case like this to occur before, and I doubt if there has been any instance of the kind in any other British Parliament. An item of £3,087 appears in this year’s Estimates as having been expended last year in America, in connexion with the action brought by Mr. Merton against the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), but no particulars are given in regard to it to indicate whether it is the total amount involved, or whether it was paid for law costs or in liquidation of damages. Nor do we know that next year we shall not be placed in exactly the same position. I presume that this money has been paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance Account, but, if so, it has been verv improperly paid out of it.
– If the case has cost £3,087 in America, how much more is it likely to cost in Great Britain where the proceedings were commenced ?
– Quite so. The Minister (Mr. Groom) in charge of these Estimates should be frank with the Committee. The question put to him was quite a pertinent one. In fact, honorable members would have been neglecting their duty if some one ‘had not asked it. It is historic and proverbial that the Crown shall not spend money without the consent of Parliament, but the practice is that, if in extraordinary circumstances this is done, a Minister, immediately the House meets and the Estimates are introduced, points out to Parliament the reason for the urgency of the expenditure during the recess, and explains the nature of it. To smuggle an item through in this way is unfair to honorable members.
– How can it be said that we are attempting to smuggle- the item through when it appears in print?
– It is certainly in print, but the Minister has asked the Chairman to rule that it cannot be discussed, because there is no item of expenditure appearing in this year’s Estimates in connexion with the matter.
– The honorable member is in error in stating that the Minister asked me to give that ruling. He did no such thing.
– The Minister made the statement that the matter was not contained in this year’s Estimates, and you, Mr. Chairman, ruled immediately afterwards that’ it could not be discussed, because it was not in the Estimates.
– I ruled in . that way of my own volition, and not at the instance of the Minister.
– I did not intend to convey the impression that I held you had ruled as you did at the instigation of the Minister; at the same time, I contend that the Minister raised the technical point that as the item was not in this year’s Estimates, it could not be discussed. This is the first opportunity honorable members have had of dealing with this expenditure of over £3,000, which was not on last year’s Estimates. It is most improper to place last yearns expenditure in this year’s Estimates and make it appear that the Committee, in passing the Estimates, has given its consent to it.
– No Estimates have been brought down to this House except in the first year of Federation without references in them to expenditure in previous years.
– If the Minister had placed the item in the Estimates of expenditure for this year, and had explained it, honorable members would have been in a position to deal with it; but it is not fair to Parliament to spend money in this way without its consent, and then place it in the Estimates as an item already expended, thus preventing the Committee from obtaining information in regard to it. As. the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has pointed out, as the case originated in Great Britain and was settled there, it is only reasonable to suppose that a considerable portion of the total expenditure incurred in this, regard took place in Great Britain. At any rate, it is a monstrous proposition to contend that because this expenditure was incurred last year, although it appears in print at the bottom of a page in this year’s Estimates, it cannot be discussed by this Committee. It is a position that should not be tolerated by any responsible Parliament. I shall vote for the amendment. I hope that honorable members will always resent expenditure which is incurred without opportunity being afforded to Parliament to discuss it; and I am afraid that unless we protest most vigorously, we shall have a repetition of this method of conducting affairs when the next Estimates come before us.
.- I was very surprised to learn that this item of expenditure did not appear in last year’s Estimates, because I had hardly opened my mouth to speak upon the matter when the Minister (Mr. Groom) declared that it was on la6t year’s Estimates. However, what concerned me most when I first mentioned it was not so much the amount showing as having been Expended-, but the extent to which’ the Commonwealth has been committed in connexion with this legal action. If it is the ‘practice of the Department of the Attorney-General to pay amounts like this; perhaps even larger sums, out of the Treasurer’s Advance Account, or in any other .way, without this Parliament having the opportunity of discussing or authorizing them, we are drifting into very dangerous channels. If the Minister would tell us the total amount in which the- Commonwealth has been involved in thi? unfortunate business, and the exact terms of settlement, we might be able to take proper steps to see that this kind of thing does not occur again. Certainly, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was’ not acting as AttorneyGeneral’ when action was taken against him by Mr. Merton ; and I understand that some other Minister, who was, administering the Department, took steps to indemnify him to the full1 amount of the costs in which he would be involved in respect of some of his utterances in Great Britain. But this method of. covering the expenditure would seem to indicate that there is something sinister about it. In another case ‘in which ‘a Government have just recently undertaken to pay the legal expenses of a Minister in a certain action, they were quite frank in telling Parliament what they proposed to do. I was concerned about the case against the Prime Minister, because repeated questions have been asked in the House regarding it, and one night the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) had to refer the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) to the Attorney-General for the information he required, because he knew nothing about this expenditure of £3,087. I wonder if m’any similar amounts, about which he knows nothing, have been paid out of his Advance Account. What i§ agitating honorable members mostly is their desire to have some definite information as to the terms upon which this case has been settled. They want to know whether this item of £3,087 represents legal expenses only, or covers damages, or whether it is the whole of the expenditure in which the Commonwealth has been involved in this case, or only part of it. Perhaps the Prime Minister (Mr, Hughes), who is now in the chamber, will supply the information.
This matter , could not lave been fixed up without some- documents being in- existence. What are they? Is this amount to which the Commonwealth has been committed to be paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance, as other expenditure has been? The Prime Minister may laugh; but, to my mind, playing fast and loose with the taxpayers’ money is no laughing matter. It is all very fine for the Prime Minister, with his servile majority behind -him-
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that expression.
– I withdraw the word “servile.” It is due to the people of the, country, who have to foot the bill, that they should be told exactly to what amount the Commonwealth has been committed in connexion with this matter. I ask the Prime Minister to give the Committee a full explanation of this item. I support the amendment. If honorable members are faithful to the trust reposed in them by the people, they will jealously guard the public funds, and demand from the Government an explanation of this expenditure.
– I am sorry I was not in the chamber when this matter was first mentioned. I should have been very glad to give honorable members all the information I possess. The facts are very simple. During my last sojourn in Great Britain I found it necessary to make ‘some observations with reference to a certain’ firm. To my remarks the firm took exception, and, as a result, my words being, as the firm alleged, actionable, the case was referred to the Courts. I had made similar statements in this Parliament long before I went to England, as I believed, and still believe, them to be true ; and as I thought it very necessary that I should repeat them when I did, I communicated with the Government, telling them that Merton and Co. had taken action against me, and asking whether- 1 should defend the action personally, or whether the Government would defend it. The Government replied that they would pay the expenses of the action.- Although I was in England for a long while after the action was started - I should say the best part of twelve months - the case was not. called on until after I left for Australia: Honorable members know what legal actions are. I was a long way off. . Juries are much influenced by the demeanour in Court of the .plaintiff and the defendant. I was not in England to exhibit my demeanour, and my counsel thought that that fact would prejudice the case very materially. A: gentleman whom I do not know, but who had been a director of the company, indicated that if I would declare that I had not intended what I had said to apply to him personally, he would be prepared to proceed no f furtherI was perfectly r.eady to say that I had not intended to refer to him personally; I referred to Merton and Co. He was npt Merton ; . as a fact, he was, I believe, a Scotsman. Thereupon it was suggested that we should compromise, each party paying his own costs. As a result of my, experience of the law as a litigant, I thought it a wise course to follow, and I am a little surprised that the lay members of this Committee, especially honorable members opposite, should censure me for a course which has saved this country tens of thousands of pounds. Had I been one of those litigious persons who insist upon proceeding with a case, whether I had won or lost, or whether it had arrived at one of those Inconclusive decisions which are not unknown to the law, and by which both parties retire to “lick their wounds,” and the lawyers to count the “ boodle,” the Commonwealth would have been very much to the bad. The- honorable member for “Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) wants to know the details of this expenditure. I am sorry I cannot give them. I do not know how much more, if any, is to be paid. The whole of the money has gone to the lawyers. It was necessary to work up the case in America. We had some very valuable information, and the case was in the competent hands of a most reputable firm of lawyers in the United States of America’. As the honorable member knows- or if he does not know I hope he will never live to learn from bitter, experience - the law is a very costly thing, and the expenses incurred in America were all absorbed in the preparation of our defence. To-morrow, if the information is in the possession of the Department, I shall be prepared to let the House and the country know the total amount of money that has been paid, So far as I am aware, the case is quite settled, but the item to .which reference has been made is apparently .wholly in liquidation of the expenses .in America alone. More than that I am unable to say. I am sorry I have not fuller information with me. I did not know that the case was to be called on, or otherwise I should have been prepared. ,It is a little hard that honorable members should ask me these questions in regard to a case which I ami satisfied was one in which ninety-nine out of .a hundred Australians would have supported me. Of course, I would have no objection to giving the information if I had the facts ready. I took up the metals question at the beginning of the war, and in this House, when I had the’ honour of leading the Labour party, I made the first attack on the Merton, group. I repeated’ in England what I said here, and I thought there were good reasons why my statement should be repeated. Only the other day I- was asked whether I was iri favour -of re-opening trade with Germany. T replied that I was not, although some of these very firms, under different names, -are now trying to re-establish their hold on the metals industry. I shall be very glad to supply the information asked for directly it ‘ comes into my possession.
– :The objection taken by honorable members on this side is not to the defending of this case, but to the fact that thisexpenditure appears on the Estimates for the current financial year as having been expended - last year, although it was nob shown on last year’s Estimates. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) will agree that if he were on this side of the House, and expenditure incurred in one year appeared for the, first time in the Estimates for the year following, he would desire to know the reason.
– So far as I can recall, this -case was settled some months after I returned. The ‘ money could not have been paid a very long time ago.
– The accounts could not have been presented when the last year’s Estimates were prepared.
– The Treasurer said that the item was in last year’s Estimates. I have looked up: last year’s Estimates, and the- item- does not appear there. There-fore, the money ‘must have been paid out of the Treasurer’s advance.
– That is quite right.
– The House had no opportunity to discuss the item last year, and when we try to discuss it now we are told that as it was expenditurefor the last financial year it is not open to discussion. A different course should have been followed. At the close of each year certain amounts for payment are submitted to Parliament. It was not done in this case, and this is the first opportunity we have had of. ascertaining the amount expended. The Prime Minister must admit that the position is somewhat unusual.
– As soon as we ascertain the position full particulars will be given setting out the details of- the expenditure.
– I am pleased to learn that the Prime Minister is in that spirit, because his colleague the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) was not prepared to give any information when the point was raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). When they were endeavouring to deal with it, the Chairman pounced down on them’ and said the amount was expended last year.
– Order! The Chairman did nothing of the kind. I decidedly object to any member of this Committee making an incorrect reference to the action of the Chair. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) proposed to remove the item altogether, and moved an amendment dealing with an amount that was expended last year. I intimated that he was quite out of order, and could not move in that direction, because the matter had already been dealt with by another Committee, and the money expended. I explained that he could not reduce that sum by any amount, however small, and I did not restrict honorable members in any way, or prevent them from referring to the question, and that is proved by the fact that the matter has been under discussion for the last hour or so. I gave honorable members the fullest possible latitude, and I trust the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) will not further reflect upon the Chair.
– I was not reflecting upon you, Mr. Chairman, or con demning your action, because you could not have taken any other course but the one you _ did. Honorable members may laugh, but it is no laughing matter, because this, is the only occasion on which we have had an- opportunity according to the rules of the House, of discussing the question, and we should not be placed in this position.
– It is anomalous,’ and I shall endeavour to clear the matter up in the morning.
– Now we are being met in a different spirit, and if the Minister for Works and’ Railways had adopted that attitude we would have known where we were. It was the duty of the’ Minister to have given some explanation to honorable members on this side of the chamber.
– In justice to my colleague, I must say that he was not a party to the case, and really could not be expected to be conversant with the details. I do know something about it, as I was one of the parties. I have not the particulars before me, but I shall supply them.
– We want to know the total.
– I do not know what it is, but I will supply it as soon as it is available.
– The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) admits that the position is anomalous, and I want to be sure that this practice will not be adopted in this House again. It is quite possible that the members of the Opposition may not have noticed the item, and nothing more would have been heard of it. That is not the correct way of conducting business, particularly when the members of the Opposition have to fight an overwhelming majority, and cannot get justice.
– My colleague informs me that it will come down on the Supplementary Estimates.
– Why not leave it until we can clear it up?
– How can it appear on the Supplementary Estimates when it is on last year’s Estimates, and has already been paid ?
– It may have just been included on last year’s Appropriation Bill.
– It says distinctly that the money has been paid, and this House has never had an opportunity of dealing with it. We were prevented from discussing it, because the item appeared on last year’s Estimates, and I trust honorable members will not be placed in a similar position again.
.- I have not spoken on this vote, apart from referring to an item relating to the Arbitration Court; but I think it is only fair that I should state what actually happened. When this item was called on - as I mentioned in a somewhat lengthy interjection - it was stated that the amount appeared in last year’s Estimates. I immediately sent for a copy of those Estimates, and found that it did not appear there. I said that it must appear in some Estimates, and probably it would be found in the Supplementary Estimates. Honorable members probably realize that they will in all probability be called upon to discuss the Supplementary Estimates and pass a million or two at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, when they are very tired, and when such an item would probably be overlooked, as that has been the case in the past.
– Why did not the Minister for Works and Railways make a statement?
– If he had done so, I think we would have disposed of this vote an hour ago.
– Honorable members opposite wanted to discuss more than that.
– That is not the point. The Estimates cover fifty pages of detailed matter,, and it is quite possible that certain items may be overlooked. I believe the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) have done right in directing attention to this matter, and have not done more than the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) would have done had he been in Opposition. Probably, if the Treasurer had been on this side of the chamber in similar circumstances, he would have. written a second edition of The Financial Carnival, and shown how expenditure was incurred without the authority of Parliament. T am: glad to have the explanation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and I- trust, that the < total amount expended will be supplied ‘ at an early . date to enable honorable members to as-, certain our full liability in this con,nexion. When a Government has to stand behind Ministers who make irresponsible statements, such as those made by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) in connexion with another case, we should be supplied with the fullest possible details, because the people have to pay.
.- The explanation is simple. This amount has been paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance, and later the Supplementary Estimates will be submitted to Parliament containing this item.
– What is the total amount ?
– I do not know; but the amount set down at the time it was placed there was the total at that time. There is an item which is precisely the same under the Prime Minister’s Department in connexion with the visit of the Prince of Wales.
– That is for last year.
– Yes. There is an item of £17,301, and also an amount of £37,700 to be voted this year on the ordinary Estimates, as it could not be placed on last year’s Estimates, but had to be spent, and this will have to be included in the Supplementary Estimates to be presented to Parliament. It is the invariable practice adopted when emergency expenditure arises, and when it cannot be included in the ordinary Estimates. It will, however, have to come before the House.
.- I have listened with . interest to the explanation of Ministers, but I am still under the impression that this matter can be discussed whether any particular item on the Estimates is mentioned or not, because it involves the policy of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. The question of the terms of settlement in the action against the Prime Minister, in which he was indemnified by the people of Australia, is a proper subject for discussion on these Estimates. There would have been no trouble if the Assistant AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) had given the in”formation that was subsequently supplied by the Prime Minister (Mr; , Hughes)
Instead of . attempting to give any explanation, however, he absolutely ignored the. request that was made by the honorable member forWerriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) and myself to have information given on the subject. Had not the matter been pressed, as it ‘was pressed by us, honorable members would not now be aware of the terms of settlement in that action. The public of Australia would also have been unaware of them. For some reason or other, they were kept entirely in the dark upon the subject at the time the action was settled. I remember asking the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) what were the terms of settlement, and was referred by him to the AttorneyGeneral. That happened, I think, on one or two occasions. The people of Australia are now for the first time informed by the Prime Minister of the terms of the settlement, and we find that it. involves a considerable number of thousands of pounds to the Commonwealth. At a time convenient to the Prime Minister, I should be glad to hear what the total amount is ; but the fact remains that the action has cost the Commonwealth several thousands of pounds.
– It was a good investment.
– It may be that it was a better investment than would have resulted from fighting the case. I do not know that the defendant’s case would have been improved by his demeanour in the witness-box. I am not so sure that, in that event, the Commonwealth might not have been mulcted for many thousands of pounds.
– The honorable member was in London at the time, and will recollect that the people there wanted to subscribe £40,000 to defray the Prime Minister’s costs of the action.
Mr.RYAN.- This is the first I have heard of that offer. It is a pity it was. not accepted. I am merely commenting now on the statement that the settlement was a good one. When you have a very bad case it is a good thing to induce both sides to pay their own costs, even if you have to climb down as the Prime Minister did.
– The honorable member must not’ say that. ‘ That is a very mean and contemptible statement.
– The Prime Minister’s own -statement this evening was-
– That is. not true.
– Will the right honorable” gentleman listen to what I have to say? The Prime Minister, in his own statement this evening, admitted that, in order, to get the matter settled, he made a state-‘ ment which, I’have no doubt, is recorded,’ and was made openly in Court, that he did not refer to a particular individual.
– Quite so. I said that the case was Merton v. Hughes, and I didnot withdraw what I said against. Merton.
– Did the Prime Minister withdraw anything? That is the point.
– The honorable member, has been at the bar a good while, has he not?
– I have; and I know that when a defendant makes a statement in Court that he did not refer to a particular individual personally, that statement must have been a condition upon which the plaintiff insisted, and he. musthave had a right of action. If the plaintiff had not any right of action, and the words complained of were not construable as referring to him, there would be no need to say that they did not refer to him.
– He had a right of action; he was a director, and I did not refer to him as an individual.
– Then the statement complained of must have been open to’ the construction that theright honorable’ member did refer to him. I do not wish, however, to discuss now the meritsof the settlement. I merely pointout that if the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) had not moved hisamendment, and if we had not insisted ‘ upon the course that was subsequently taken by us, this Committee would not now be aware of the terms of the settlement.
– And if the honorable member had not refrained from putting a question on the subject to the Attorney-General, as he was asked to do, when, according to his own state ment,- he” questioned the Treasurer on the subject, the public would haveknown all about it long ago.He said just now that he let the matter drop.
– Thehonorablemember is always prepared to step-in andtodraw the nuts out of the fire, just as he did when he moved the adjournment of a certain, debate in this House a few weeks ago. He was interjecting to the Treasurer that our returned soldiers were entitled to have their bonds made negotiable; but, as soon as he got the opportunity he moved the adjournment of the debate in order to defeat the motion.
– Order ! That is not the question before the Chair.
– It is just as well that we should let the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) know thetruth in regard to himself when he interjects in this way. To return to the subject under discussion, I am glad that we have obtained this information, and I hope that at some time in the near future the Prime’ Minister will supply the remaining particulars that he has promised to give us. We shall then be able to form an opinion as to whether or not the matter should be further discussed.
.- It has become quite apparent that, had riot this amendment been moved, no explanation would have been given to the Committee concerning the terms of the settlement. The Minister in charge of these Estimates (Mr. Groom) absolutely refused even to answer the questions that we put to him on the subject. Now that the amendment has been moved, we have the spectacle of the honorable gentleman seeking reinforcements, and Ministers tumbling over each other, so to speak, in their anxiety to explain that the information was not withheld for any particular reason, but that the ‘ whole matter will be submitted to us when the Supplementary Estimates are introduced. If the Minister in charge had made that statement at the outset, as he could very well have done without going into details the time of the Committee would have been saved. Now that we have been given an assurance that we shall be able to further discuss the matter when the Supplementary Estimates are before us, and the Prime Minister has promised us that full information as to the cost of the action to the Commonwealth will be given, we may well defer until then the further consideration of this, famouscase.
. -I have very much pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), because to my mind this item of expenditure should not have been incurred. I do not see why the people of the Commonwealth should be called upon to pay for the mistakes of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) when he was not acting in an official capacity. He was not acting in an official capacity when he made the statements complained of.
– No mistake was made.
– The statement made by the Prime Minister was that Merton and Company were disloyal, and had done something against the interests of the British Empire. They immediately entered an action against the Prime Minister, and he showed that they had sufficient grounds to go on when he withdrew from the position he had taken up. The people are now asked to pay for a mistake made by the right honorable gentleman when he was not acting in an official capacity. I object to that. The Prime Minister in his usual way, clawed the air, and accused every one else of being disloyal because they did not believe in him. He has such a warped vision of these matters that, although the rest of the British Empire is trading with Germany, he admits that he is not prepared to do anything. He has this mania, and he cannot see as others do. He is very much like the boy in the squad, who thought that every one except himself was out of step. And now the people of Australia have to pay for the wind blowing his tongue about and for his inability to control his utterances on the other side of the world. Thepeople of Australia ought not to be called upon to pay one penny of this expenditure, and it is a disgrace to the Government that they are asked to do so. The Prime Minister admitted by his attitude in Court that he had no justification for the statements which he had made. What quibbling it is to say that he accused Merton and Company of being disloyal, but did not include Mr. Merton himself.
– I did not say that at all.
Mr.CUNNINGHAM.-What is the difference? If I accuse the Government of being careless and negligent, do I not accuse every member of it of being careless and negligent? Of course, a very fine point of law may be involved. It may be a mere splitting of straws, but the Prime Minister will not get the people of Australia to recognise it. It is all very well for gentlemen who are trained in the subtleties of the law to raise these fine points, but the taxpayer has a right to inquire what justification the Prime Minister had for making these statements, seeing that he was not prepared to defend the attitude which he had taken up. If he had any justification for his statements, would he not have defeated Merton and Company in a Court of law? Does he suggest that he would not have received justice in a British Court ?Why did he withdraw,, why did he back down, and why are we now asked to put this burden upon the shoulders of the people of Australia?
– Let me ask the honorable member one question-why did he not go to the war?
-Why does not the Prime Minister mind his own business ?
– That got you the first time.
– That is my concern. I ask the Prime Minister how much he contributed towards the early conclusion of the war?
Mr.Hughes.- The honorable member ought to be ashamed of himself.
– I am not ashamed of myself.
– Of course you are not, but you ought to be.
– Order! Will the honorable member be good enough not to proceed in that strain?
– I will stand up and defend myself in this chamber against the attacks of any honorable member, and I look to you, sir, to protect me from the insults of the. Prime Minister or anybody else.
– Does the honorable member call the asking of a question as to why he did not go to the war, an insult?
– Where are the Treasurer’s medalsfor having fought for the Empire? . He is one of the “ Would to Godders” who were too old to go.
– Order ! If the honorable member continues in’ that strain, I shall order him to discontinue his speech.
Mr.CUNNINGHAM.- I will not. I have nothing to apologize for. Why do not Ministers set an example to honorable members in this Chamber?
– Order ! Will the honorable member confine himself to the discussion of the amendment?
– I am merely defending the taxpayers of this country by urging that they ought not to be asked to carry this burden which has been imposed upon them by the windy speeches of the Prime Minister, who cannot control himself.
– Order ! I insist that the honorable member shall not indulge in these personalities.
– Cannot he answer an interjection ?
– Order! The honorable member for Hume is now out of order.
– You will let honorable members interject from the other side of the Chamber.
– Order ! The honorable member for Yarra is out of order.
– Well,you nameme.
-Ilook to the honorable member to assist me in the preservation of order.
– I will give you fair play when you extend fair play to us.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
-Oh! I withdraw. You allowed the Prime Minister to interject, and also the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond).
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw his remark unreservedly.
– I will withdraw it and state what I think.
– The honorable member is the Leader of a party and the Chair has a right to look to him to assist it in maintaining order.
-And he ought to get fair play.
– The Prime
Minister is also the Leader of a party.
– If the honorable member for Hume interjects again I shall name him.
– Name, and be damned to you.
– I ask the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to withdraw that expression and apologize to the Chair.
– I apologize, and crawl on my stomach all the way up to you.
– If the honorable member insists upon taking up that attitude I shall have no option but to name him. I ask him to assist me in maintaining the dignity of the Committee.
– You have not any dignity.
– I name the hon orablemember for defying the Chair.
– I never saw a more unfair thing in my life. You allow honorable members opposite to do just what they like. You call yourself a Chairman. Iam damned if you are fit for the positionafter to-night’s exhibition.
At this stage the honorable member forMelbourne Ports retired from the Chamber.
– The retirement of the honorable member makes no differ - ence. The motion for his suspension must be moved.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) be suspended from the service of the Committee.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In the H ouse:
– I have to report continued defiance of the Chair on the part of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), and that the Committee has agreed to a resolution suspending the honorable member from the service of the Committee.
Question- That the honorable member for Melbourne Ports be suspended from the service of the House- put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is suspended for the remainder of the sitting.
– I register my emphatic protest against the payment of any money in circumstances such asare now under discussion, because I consider such payments unjustifiable to the people of Australia. They should not be required to find money for a purpose indicated by the Prime Minister himself when he used the phrase, “ lawyers have got away with the boodle.” It must be enlightening to the people to know that, as the result of the failure of the Prime Minister to hold his tongue, they have been called upon to pay away “ boodle “ to lawyers. There has been an expenditure of thousands of pounds. Nobody knows what the total amount is going to be. The Prime Minister contends that the secret diplomacy about which we have heard so much of late years should be wiped out; but there has been more secret diplomacy and more smotheringup in . connexion with this Parliament than in connexion with any other Parliament in the world. It is like drawing back teeth to get even the most meagre information in regard to matters of the greatest concern to the people of Australia. To-night we had an example of this. It took a couple of hours of strenuous fighting to get a statement from a responsible Minister. There is altogether too much of this going on in Parliament. Owing to the operation of the War Precautions Act, discussion has been stifled both inside and out side of Parliament, and the people of Australia have not been able to ascertain what has been done with the money to pay the costs of this case, all due to the bungling and blundering of this National Administration.
– When are you going to stop your abuse?
– The Treasurer, as a representative of the Government, does not like to be reminded of these facts. Let me also tell him that, so far as interjections are concerned, he is the worst offender in this House. He sets a very bad example.
– Order !
– The Treasurer does not like to be reminded of the fact that the people of Australia have been “bull-dozed,” because he has not exercised proper control over his Department.
– More abuse!
– It is because of thissmothering-up that honorable members on this side of the House have to fight, in order to see that justice is done, and in order that the people may ascertain what is the real position. Nobody knows whatis the state of our finances to-day, because of the keepitdark policy of this Government, backed up by the great majority of members who are not prepared to give a fair deal in regard to many matters that come before this Parliament. Nobody can say what this Merton versus Hughes case has cost the people of Australia. Nobody knows what it is going to cost. I feel very strongly in regard to this matter, because there has been a continual smothering-up of public expenditure, and we have never been allowed to know what is going on. We have never been able to find out how this expenditure has been incurred, and who benefits from it. This is altogether wrong. An assault was made on my character to-night by the Prime Minister, and I tell him-
– I tell the Prime Minister that I come into this House with a clean name, and a clean record. There are no Senate scandals behind me, and-
-Order! The honorable member must not indulge in these personalities.
– I tell the Prime Minister that I am not goingto take this attack upon my character-
-Order ! I have asked the honorable member to keep away from personalities, but he has deliberately referred to the Prime Minister again.
– But the Prime Minister started it.
– Order! The honorable member for Hume is out of order.
– Of course, I know that.
– I again appeal to honorable members to preserve the dignity of the Committee. I ask them not to continue making defiant statements when called to order by the Chair, and not to indulge in personalities.
– I have no desire to defy you, Mr. Chairman, or to infringe the rules of this House, but I tell you, sir, that no man is going to make an assault on my character without my defending it.
– Order !
– I have to take up this attitude because of the attack made on me by the Leader of the Government.
– Order! I direct the honorable member to discontinue his speech. The question is,” That the item be reduced by£1.”
– I can understand the . disappointment of honorable members opposite at the discovery of this mare’s nest on last year’s Estimates.
– It is not on last year’s Estimates at all.
-Their suggestion that there has been an attemptto conceal and cover up certain expenditure is entirely spoiled by the admission of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) that when some time ago he asked a question of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) with regard to this matter he was told that it was in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. He then allowed the matter to drop.
– No, he did not.
-There is no record, at all events, of his having asked the question of the AttorneyGeneral, and that only involved the writing out of the question and handing it to the Clerk.
– That is quite incorrect.
– So that the first statement that all this has been discovered because of some action which had occupied a couple of hours of the time of the House to-night is entirely misleading, on the statement of the honorable member for West Sydney himself. If he had pursued his question he would probably have got then as much information as we shall get to-morrow as the result of what has happened to-night. The debate to-night is reminiscent of a good deal we heard in the last Parliament in connexion with the War Precautions Act, which has nothing to do with the case.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion that progress be reported, agreed to.
– Before reporting progress I should like to appeal, as calmly as possible, to honorable members-
– What is this, an apology?
– The honorable member for Hume has immediately become offensive again.
– I did not hear what you said.
– I am asking honorable members of the Committee on both sides of the House, and particularly the leaders and ex-leaders of parties, to assist the Chair in the conduct of business. They may believe that they are in a position to judge as well as the occupant of the chair what is taking place, but that is not so. The Chairman is in an altogether different position. It is his duty to preserve order in debate on both sides, but it is impossible for the Chairman to do that and preserve the dignity of the Committee if he is to be treated as the Chairman has been treated tonight. I have had thirty-five years of parliamentary experience, and never before have I heard language used, unrebuked by the leaders of parties, such as that which I had to listen to to-night. I therefore make an appeal to honorable members that, when we resume our Committee work on the next day of sitting, they refrain from interjections and personalities, which always lead to disorder. I hope that we shall have no more such scenes as that we have witnessed tonight, and for which one honorable member suffered the penalty.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.-I wish to hear from the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) a statement regarding a case about which I have spoken to him, the person concerned being,I understand, a constituent of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), who is absent with the finance Committee. A man named Shroeder was interned in 1915, and because of his internment his wife is taking proceedings against him for divorce on the ground of desertion. He is being deported, and thus being prevented from defending the case. I ask the Minister whether, in view of this fact, his deportation may be suspended for a time to allow of him making a defence.
– There is no chance of the deportation decision being reversed. Shroeder’s case has hung on so long, because he has made excuses from time to time for remaining in Australia. He has been on parole to report himself, and has broken his word. Now, at the last minute he asks to be permitted to remain longer in Australia, because of the proceedings taken against him in the Divorce Court by his wife. I know some of the facts, which I shall not discuss here, and I assure the honorable member that there is nothing to warrant us in allowing Shroeder to remain in the country any longer. It would not be to any one’s benefit for him to stay here, and he will be deported within the next few days.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 November 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201104_reps_8_94/>.