8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Appeal to Privy Council
– Has the Prime Minister noted the deliverance of Mr. Robinson, the Attorney-General of Victoria, regarding the comparatively recent decision of the High Court in respect of State instrumentalities? If so, does the right honorable gentleman think it competent forthe Government of a State to appeal to the Privy Council, despite the refusal of the High. Court to allow such an appeal ? If the Privy Council is appealed to, will the Commonwealth contest the application ?
– The honorable member can hardly expect me to give a considered opinion on this constitutional question until I have had an opportunity to weigh carefully what Mr. Robinson has said. I must ascertain whether an appeal may lie to the Privy Council other than by leave of the High Court. If an appeal is possible, and is made by a State Government, the rights of the Commonwealth will be maintained by this Government. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to defend Commonwealth prerogatives and rights, and that will always be done. It is for the High Court to state what are the powers of the Commonwealth, where these are not clearly set out in the Constitution, as in this case, and should the Commonwealth rights be challenged in any way, the Government of the Commonwealth must defend them.
– As I hear all sorts of rumours about the likely fate of the diggers - temporary hands - who have been discharged from the Defence Department, I should like to know whether the Prime Minister can throw any light on the subject?
– The Assistant Minister for Defence set out the position in replying to a question yesterday. This morning he and I have discussed the whole matter. He has stated that the sum of £40,000, which was available for temporary assistance would be exhausted when the payment for the three weeks’ leave to which these men are entitled had been made, and that, therefore, in view of the action of the Committee of Supply in cutting down the amount available for works, from which it has been customary in former years to supplement the sums needed for temporary assistance, there was no alternative but to give the men immediate notice, and they were, accordingly, to have been dismissed this afternoon. It appeared to me, however, that this was not in the best interests of the Commonwealth, and that honorable members might avail themselves of an opportunity to reconsider their decision. Therefore, on behalf of the Treasury I authorized the advance of £6,000, which is the amount necessary to keep the men in their employment until the end of the year, and asked the Assistant Minister for Defence to suspend the notices of dismissal. The men will remain in the Department until 31st December, and on that date they will, if dismissed, be entitled to three weeks leave. But I hope that honorable members, when they have had an . opportunity to reconsider the whole matter, will vote such a sum as may be necessary to keep these men in employment after that date. We are under an obligation to them of which we cannot disburden ourselves.
The action taken is a reversal of the original decision, and’ the men will remain at work until the end of the year.
– Will the statement just made by the Prime Minister also cover employees of the Federal Taxation Department, Adelaide, who have received notice of dismissal?
– No. My remarks were directed to the soldiers who are temporary employees, and have received notice of dismissal, as the result of the reduction of the Defence Estimates.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence indicate the items in the Defence Estimates for Additions
New Works, Buildings, &c., in which provision was made for temporary labour ?
– The men affected are storemen, clerks, and temporary hands of every description, and provision for the payment of their services was made in practically every item of the Additions, New Works, and Buildings Estimates.
– Recently, when replying to a deputation, the PostmasterGeneral said that an inspection would be made, and a report furnished, upon the settlementsbetween Norseman and Esperance, with a view to determining their postal requirements. When will that report be made, and when will it be available to honorable members ?
– I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know.
– I would like the Prime
Minister to throw some light upon the following telegram which I have received : -
I am leaving Sydney for Melbourne to interview the new Treasurer.Hughes not acquainted with subject. Wife of a New South Wales member has sent dress suit and tall hat.
In view of this message, will the Prime Minister still persist in not telling the country who is to be Treasurer?
– The honorable member should know that he ought not to take up the time of the House by submitting a frivolous question of that kind.
– As I understand that the two 12,800-ton vessels to be built at Cockatoo Island will have no provision for the accommodation of passengers, will the Prime Minister confer with the Minister in charge of shipbuilding, and also Mr. Larkin and the Board of Control, Cockatoo Island, in order to see whether such provision should not be made?
– I can appreciate the point of the honorable member’s question, and in view of the fact that the vessels which are being built for us in England have space for passengers, I shall adopt the suggestion that I should confer with the Minister in charge of shipbuilding and the manager of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers with a view of seeing whether similar provision should not be made on the vessels about to be constructed at Cockatoo Island. ,
– In view of the alow progress, caused by the present divided control of the works which are being carried out on the River Murray, notably at the Hume reservoir, and the consequent unemployment, will the Minister for Works and Railways get into touch with the Government of New South Wales and ask them to hurry on with the passage of that legislation which is necessary to bring about unified control of these works, in order that more of the men who are now idle in the district may be employed ?
– The Murray River Waters Commission visited the works on Saturday, 19th November, and instead of finding unsatisfactory progress, they were of the opinion that satisfactory progress had been made by both the New South. Wales and the Victorian constructing authorities. Of course, the honorable member is aware that industrial disputes have prevented full employment on the Victorian side, but that difficulty, happily, has been removed, and work is now going on. Excellent housing accommodation has been provided for all the workers employed in the area. In regard to the. main part of the honorable member’s question, an amending -agreement has been made between the Commonwealth and the three contracting States - New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia -for the transfer of the control of construction to the Murray River Waters Commission, but the agreement was not to come into operation until it was ratified by the Parliament of the Commonwealth and the Parliaments of the three contracting States. Each Parliament has ratified the agreement with the exception of New South Wales, where certain amendments made by the Legislative Council have had the effect of preventing the ratification of the agreement by the Legislature of New South Wales. Until the State of New South Wales has re- pealed its Act and ratified the new agreement in accordance with the ratifying Acts of the other parties, the necessary agreement transferring the absolute control to the Commission cannot be achieved. Quite recently the Prime Minister, at my request, has forwarded to the New South Wales Government a letter requesting them to take immediate action. to come into line with the other States. No reply has yet been received.
– I notice that in the Queen’s Hall the painting of Mr. Andrew Fisher has been removed to a position where the light will prevent it being seen to any advantage, and it requires to be re- varnished or otherwise preserved, to prevent its deterioration.
– I shall bring the honorable member’s observations under the notice of the Historical Memorials Committee, under whose control the alterations in the positions occupied by the paintings in Queen’s Hall are being carried out.
Charges by Mr. Ashworth.
– In view of the fact that the Joint Committee of Public Accounts has handed in its final report upon the timber purchases effected by the War Service Homes Commissioner, and also in regard to the Caldwell case, and in view of the charges made by Mr. Ashworth to-day, will the Government consider the question of appointing a Supreme Court Judge as a Royal Commissioner to make full inquiries into the charges against the administration of War Service Homes?
– I have already answered the question several times, and the fact that Mr. Ashworth has again written to the press leaves me unmoved.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The Commonwealth has on fixed deposit in the Commonwealth iBank two amounts of £2,000,000 and £5,000,000, bearing interest at 3 per cent. and 2 per cent. respectively. The deposits are for three months. The deposit of £5,000,000 may be broken on giving a week’s notice. These deposits are not ear-marked as against either Loan or Trust moneys, but form portion of the general balances of the Commonwealth, in which are included the sums of £8,496,797 and £2,179,155 above referred to.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What steps are (being taken to secure suitable Australian representation, both in men and materials, at the British Empire Exhibition proposed tobe held in London in 1923 ?
-The matter has received full consideration. A provisional site has been reserved. A conference of the Commonwealth and States has been held, and a draft programme agreed to; subsequently the question was considered at the recent Conference with State Premiers, and the decision arrived at is now receiving Cabinet consideration. An announcement regarding the steps decided upon will be made at an early date.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1.Was the steamerMoruya purchased by the Commonwealth Government?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Time Limit to Speeches
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In order to facilitate the business of the House, and obviate, if possible, the need for all-night sittings, will he consider the advisability of causing the Standing Orders to be temporarily altered in the direction of reducing by one-half the time limit of all members’ speeches, apart from the speeches of the leaders of each recognised party in the House?
– I do not think it advisable that the Government should take action with a view to the curtailment of the time allotted for members’ speeches. I would suggest, however, for the consideration of the House, that the proposal outlined in the question is one in which honorable members might think it desirable to co-operate at the present stage.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice - 1.What are the approximate tonnage and horse-power of the capital ship mentioned by the Minister in” answer to the question by the honorable member for Melbourne on the 29th November?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
Remission of Duty
– On the 10th inst., the honorable member for Dampier asked the following questions, upon notice -
I then stated that the information was being obtained. I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following replies: - 1. (a) None; (b) Five.
Inquiries are being made, and so soon as the Tariff is finally disposed of, a definite decision will be given as to the types of traction engines admissible under the Tariff item mentioned. The necessary by-law cannot be framed until the Tariff is passed by both Houses.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Communication between Great Britain and Australia - Report of Expert Committee appointed by the Air Ministry of Great Britain - Imperial Government Scheme; together with Private Enterprise Scheme submitted by Mr. A. H. Ashbolt.
Wireless Service - Proposal by Radio Communication Company with reference to Wireless communication between Australia and the United Kingdom.
Public Service Act - Promotions of J. L. White, H. C. Hunt, M. H. Marshall, C. J. Sypott, C. C. Green, A. L. Connolly, F. V. Boyle, T. R. Cox, J. A. T. Anderson, W. J. Hannan, Department of the
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 29th November, vide page 13360) :
Department of the Attorney-General.
Proposed vote, £108,000.
.- I ask, with the indulgence of the Committee, that the Estimates relating to the Department of the Treasury may be reconsidered, so that a division may be taken on the amendment moved by the Leader of the Country party to reduce them by £100,000. It was purely owing to inadvertence that a division was not taken on that amendment last night. The Prime Minister was speaking to me at the time in regard to certain, details relating to the business of the House, and the proposed vote was inadvertently allowed to pass without a division being taken. The Country party does not desire to further debate the question; it merely seeks an opportunity to have a vote on the amendment.
– It is not within the power of the Committee to do, at this stage, what the honorable member desires; but when the resolutions are reported to the House, it will be within the power of the honorable member to move for the recommittal of the Treasury Estimates.
.- The only matter that I wish to discuss in connexion with the Attorney-General’s Department has reference to the Public Service Arbitration Court. Honorable members will recollect that some time ago a special Court was created by the Government for the purpose of dealing with the claims of the Public Service. It was urged at the time that it was far better for them to have a Court of their own to which they might resort for the redress of grievances than to continue to have their claims dealt with under the existing Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The House by a large majority adopted that view, and the Public Service Arbitration Court was accordingly created, and has been in operation for some time. Mr. Hunt was appointed Public Service Arbitrator; but I am sorry to say” that, having followed very closely the work of the Court over which he presides, I am forced to the conclusion that he has not given the satisfaction which was expected of its President. Public servants have every reason to complain of the treatment they have received. At -the time of the creation of the Public Service Arbitration Court they were agitating for the payment of the basic wage, and certain increases were claimed - in connexion with several branches of the Service. They were unable to get satisfaction, and we, therefore, determined that they, like every other industrial body, should have the right to go before an industrial tribunal, and there seek redress of their grievances. The Court has now been working for some months, but has not helped in the slightest degree the public servants of the Commonwealth. I have here statements in regard to it by various) organizations representing the Public Service. A fortnight ago there was presented to the House the latest finding of the Public Service Arbitrator. Under the regulations, objection may be taken by any honorable member to any award of the Court, and if the House so decides, an award so objected to may be referred back to the Court’. Every one knows, however, that it is impossible to take such action before we go into recess. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) placed on the business-paper a notice of motion with a view to having this recent award referred back for further consideration. He found, however, that it would be impossible to have the motion dealt with this session, and that if it were allowed to remain on the notice-paper it would prevent any discussion on the Estimates of the question involved. Thus the award would become operative, and public servants would have no chance of ventilating their grievances in this House. I mention this as a complete answer to the point that will no doubt be raised that we have the right to move that an award of the Court be referred back to it. That power at this stage of this session is of no use to us. The Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association filed their plaint with the Public Service Arbitration Court in accordance with the Act, and the Public Service Arbitrator, in giving judgment on their claims, said -
The statements made and the evidence disclose many anomalies, and emphasize the need for reform which undoubtedly exists. Present conditions have undoubtedly created dissatisfaction, and dissatisfaction invariably leads to inefficiency.
That is the statement with which the Arbitrator prefaced his judgment. Under the Act it was his. duty to take the necessary action to rectify ‘the anomalies, and to give the claimant public servants the relief to which they were entitled. Instead of doing so he went on to say that there was a Bill before the Commonwealth Parliament which had a bearing on these anomalies. His reference was to the Public Service Bill, which has been before the Senate for a considerable time and has no chance of being passed this session. It is absolutely impossible for this House to deal with it until we meet, after the recess, some time next year. The anomalies of which the Public Service Clerical Association complained to the Arbitrator will thus have to remain unadjusted until it is the pleasure of Parliament to pass certain legislation. In my opinion, it is the duty of a man occupying the position of a Judge in any Industrial Court to deal with the facts put before him. If those who bring their case before him are able to substantiate their claim, then it is his duty under the Act to give effect to it. It was the intention of Parliament that he should adjust grievances, and he is not justified in saying that their adjustment must stand over until Parliament passes a Bill to deal with them.
– To what Bill did the Public Service Arbitrator refer?
– The Public Service Bill now before the Senate, which provides for the re-classification of the whole Service.
– Was it within the Public Service Arbitrator’s jurisdiction to rectify those anomalies?
– Yes; that is not denied. He does not deny that he has the power, but he has adopted much the same attitude as did the Judge of the Arbitration Court the other day, when, in consequence of the Premiers’ Conference having decided to take certain action regarding arbitration, Mr. Justice Powers decided that the Court was unable to proceed with the cases before it. The Prime Minister correctly said that the Judge of the Court had nothing to do but carry out his duty as set out by Act of Parliament; he had no right to anticipate anything that might be done by this Parliament, but should adjudicate on the cases before him according to the law as it exists. If the Judge of a Court had no right to jib because of certain resolutions of a Premiers’ Conference, neither hasthe Public ServiceArbitrator any right to refuse to adjudicate because of possible future legislation. It is his responsibility to deal with the cases brought before him. What right has he to anticipate what may be done by this Parliament?
– No right whatever.
– His duty is to hear the cases brought before him, and if grievances are proved rectify them as far as possible. The plaint of the Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association was originally lodged with the Arbitrator on the 28th April, 1920, and judgment was not delivered until the 17th of October, 1921. In other words, the public servants had to wait eighteen months for a decision.
– Mr. Atlee Hunt was not in office throughout that period.
– No, but as the public servants had waited eighteen months to get an award, and as this Parliament had removed them from the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court, was it fair for the Arbitrator to say, after their case had been heard, that he would allow the matter to stand over pending certain action by this Parliament ? At the present rate they will never get an award at all.
– What is Mr. Atlee Hunt doing for his £2,000 per annum ?
– I do not know, except that he seems to be endeavouring to economize in behalf of the Government at the expense of the public servants.
– Do I understand that the Arbitrator said that he would not deal with a case because there is a proposed law before Parliament that will affect the claim ?
– He has dealt with the case. He has declared that certain anomalies exist, and should be rectified. But as Parliament has a proposed law before it he will not grant any relief.
– I do not think the honorable member need labour that point. I do not agree with the Public Service Arbitrator at all.
– I am sure the Prime Minister will not agree with him. But if we do not ventilate these grievances the public servants will never get justice.
And the important point is that unless we do give them justice we cannot expect them to abide by the law. This Parliament has given the public servants a special tribunal for the redress of their grievances, and it has removed them from the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court. Surely then, having proved their case, they should be able to get redress. One of the worst possibilities for this country is a discontented Public Service; but if we do not give our employees the right to have their grievances redressed, we cannot expect anything but discontent amongst them. That must mean inefficient service, and instead of a saving, probably a loss to the Commonwealth. As the Prime Minister agrees with my contention, I shall not unduly occupy the time of the Committee, but I remind honorable members that when Mr. Justice Powers dealt with the plaint pf the Civil Service Association in 1919, prior to the appointment of the Arbitrator, he granted a special efficiency allowance of £12 to officers who remained on the maximum of the Fifth Class for two years, and whom the Commissioner certified, were eligible for promotion to the Fourth Class when sufficient vacancies were offering. In 1920, Mr. Justice Starke suspended the operation of this clause of the award, but did not deprive those officers already enjoying’ the allowance of its benefit. In view of the_ expected early appointment of an Arbitrator with the special function of making determinations with regard to the Public Service claims, Mr. Justice Starke referred the matter to him for settlement. I stress the point that that ‘decision did not affect the officers who were already enjoying the efficiency allowance, but it did affect all other members of the Fifth Class.; and Mr. Justice Starke said that he suspended the operation of that clause of the award because another law had been passed to provide for the determination of public servants’ claims. Mr. Hunt was duly appointed Arbitrator, and he has left this matter in exactly the same anomalous and intolerable position as it has been in for over two years. He in tura has referred it to the new Public Service Board without adjustment in any respect. The Clerical Division of the Public Service strongly urges that this matter should have been definitely decided by Mr. Atlee Hunt. This gentleman admits that the anomalies exist and should be rectified , and that he has the power to rectify them, but he delegates that duty to the Public Service Board proposed to be appointed under legislation which has not yet received the sanction of this Parliament. So the public servants must look forward to the very distant future for any redress of their grievances. I am sure this Committee will not approve of that state of affairs. When we deprived the public servants of the right to go to the Arbitration Court, and when we set up a special tribunal to investigate their claims, we did so with the idea that they would get their grievances redressed. As that purpose is not being realized, are we justified in continuing to spend money on this Court ? The Arbitrator says that because of tha present financial position of the country he does not think he is justified in giving a certain award, although the public servants are entitled to it. That is the sorb of decision we get from this Arbitrator. I do not like having to criticise in this Parliament a man occupying the position that Mr. Hunt holds, but we must do right by the people of this country. The Arbitrator must know that the position he occupies is one of considerable importance, and that the welfare of the country depends to a large extent upon an efficient and contented Public Service; and if he is not prepared to do the right thing, Parliament is not justified in continuing his office. I trust that the Prime Minister will take action in this matter. The Arbitrator must deal with the Public Service disputes as expeditiously as possible, and he should be told that he is not justified in anticipating legislation that may be passed by this Parliament, or in refusing to rectify grievances and delegating the hearing of them to a proposed Public Service Board. As the Arbitrator’s salary is appropriated under special Act of Parliament, it is not competent for me to move any reduction of it, but as a protest against what has taken place, and in order to test the feeling of the Committee, I shall later move a reduction by £1 of the proposed vote of £899 for the Public Service Arbitrator’s Office.
suggests such an amendment, for it is one that I must vote against, seeing that the reduction is aimed at a person other than the person, complained of. I am not going to traverse the whole of these departmental Estimates, but I wish to say that I know nothing of this matter but what I have heard from the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and what was stated privately to me by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler). So far as I know, the facts are precisely as stated by the honorable member for Hunter, and assuming them to be as presented, I agree with the honorable member in his complaint, and do not agree with the attitude of the Arbitrator. The honorable member referred to my comments upon the attitude of the President of the Arbitration Court, who seemed to consider that a projected amendment of the Federal or State laws,’ arising out of a. resolution carried by the Premiers’ Conference, would make it impossible for him to carry on. I said, in reply to a question, that it is the business of the Judiciary to administer the law, and that of the Parliament to legislate: and, that being so, the Court should continue the work it was created to perform. The business of the Public Service Arbitrator, as I understand it, is this: He is to consider- plaints brought before him by various associations or divisions of the Public Service, and he is to grant awards which, in his opinion, will remedy their grievances. The Judge may say that the law does not permit him to remedy the grievances; but, while I do not see how any one can set a limit to the discretionary power of an Arbitrator or a Judge, I do not agree with him if he says that the reason, he will not give the public servants justice is that Parliament may at a later stage do what they are asking him to do now. The honorable member for Hunter is right in saying that it is not the business of the Judge to anticipate, or even to inquire, in any way as to what Parliament does. The division between the Executive and the Judiciary is complete; one of the chief advantages, and, indeed, the strength of our present form of government, is that the Judiciary and the Executive carry out their respective functions quite independently of each other. The position, as I understand it, is that certain branches of the Public Service are suffering from what they conceive to be injustice, and’ they seek redress by arbitration.
First of all, they made their plaint in the ordinary Court, but, owing to congestion of business, it was not heard. On the appointment of the Public Service Arbitrator the plaint came before him, and, according to the honorable member for Hunter, eighteen months elapsed from the time it was lodged until the hearing. The Arbitrator did not say that he was not satisfied’ that the public servants had made out their case, or that the evidence was against them. But he said, that Parliament had a measure before it which, if it was passed in its present form, would, as he conceived one of its effects, remedy their grievances. I submit that it is not for the Arbitrator to decline to exercise the duties of his office om the ground that tha Legislature intends to provide a remedy for the grievances of the applicants. If I am asked what is to be done, I cannot give the Arbitrator directions, but I may express my opinion, and I do so> quite freely when I say that if he has acted as the honorable member states - and as to this, of course, I express no opinion - but if ha has, then he does not understand his functions. Our functions are quite distinct, namely, to legislate to the best of our ability, and that we propose to do. The Arbitrator is alleged to have said to. the applicants, “ I will’ not deal with your case: There is a measure in another place which may, or may not, become law in its present form. If it does, then it will do what you want.” It may take quite another form, an occurrence that is not unknown to honorable members; we are not able to say what shape that legislation will take, or whether *it will take any shape; it is at present a mere shadow of coming events. If I am asked to say what I conceive is proper for the Arbitrator to do, I say that he ought to hear the plaint, and, after hearing the evidence, give an award on the facts, doing even-handed justice. I hope the honorable member for Hunter will not take the suggested amendment to a division; if he does, he must propose it in some other, form. I am not going to vote to cut down the salary of the senior assistant, or of the typist, ot anything of that sort, under cover of an attack on the Arbitrator. The expression of my opinion ought to carry some weight. If there is a consensus of opinion against the view which, the honorable member for Hunter and I hold, he may, of course, move any amendment, but if Parliament generally supports that view, that ought to be sufficient. If the Arbitrator will not take notice of what I have said, I have no means of making him.
– Except by taking the amendment as an instruction to the Government to give the position to some one who does understand his functions.
– I shall not hold out any threats. We are here to express our opinions. The Judge is there to carry out his duties as best he can. When we differ, we have a perfect right to express that difference, but I object to threats. If I were in the Judge’s place, and Parliament threatened, I should-
– Throw it up!
– I feel sure that if we express our views temperately the Judge will pay attention to them. I shall not use any threats at all. If he thinks our views are wrong, Parliament, ih the fulness of time, can do what it pleases.
– I say with some confidence that if the Public Service Arbitrator is to mould his judicial operations upon what we have heard a member of the present Government say in this House i3 part of the policy of the Government, he is destined to pursue a most erratic course in the future. He is a very unwise person who would assume, from what the Government have said, what they are likely to do in any particular regard. On their late history, if one wished to make a safe wager, it would be that the Government would do something different from , their announced policy. >It is not a matter of surprise, but a natural sequence of Government action and inaction, that the Court should be giving very grave dissatisfaction. That dissatisfaction was prophesied by me.mbers of the Labour party, and well understood by them, before this, if I may so call it, pernicious Court so-called., was brought into existence. It was realized that, in divorcing the mass of Public Service workers from their brethren in other occupations, so far as their right to approach a judicial Tribunal was concerned, we were taking grave risks. At all events, we were doing this great wrong, that we were creating in tense and well-founded dissatisfaction in the ranks of the public servants themselves. All the reasons, therefore, which we urged against the formation of the Public Service Arbitration Court have been proved, during the short history of that Tribunal, to be sound reasons. Little more need be said, then, in that regard. It appears now that the Public Service Arbitrator - to put it mildly - has not been doing his work ; aud there is, in Public Service Arbitration matters, something approaching the congestion of work - at all events,, in kind, if not in degree - which exists in connexion with Arbitration generally. It is upon this question of Commonwealth Arbitration and Conciliation generally that, I wish to say a word or two before .the House goes into recess. It has been suggested by the Prime Minister that my interest in the matter is professional rather than political. I can only say that an imputation of that kind i9 characteristic of the right honorable gentleman who uttered it. But the truth is that my professional connexion with Arbitration, although I have some such, does not weigh with me in the slightest degree in forming the opinions which I hold concerning the understaffing of the Federal Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Honorable members are not at present concerned with the question whether or not it was wise to embody in the Constitution powers in “this Parliament to legislate in respect of conciliation and arbitration at all; and we need not at present consider whether - those powers having been given to this Parliament - it was wise for Parliament to exercise them in the way it has done. There are many honorable members who take a different view from that held by myself as to the efficacy of arbitration, operating, at all events, through the Commonwealth Court of ‘.Conciliation and Arbitration. There is any amount of room for difference of opinion upon that subject. I know that many persons who supported generally the principle of the Federal Parliament having the power to legislate in respect of conciliation and arbitration did not anticipate that this power would be exercised so generally - perhaps, some would .say, generously - as has proved to be the case. That is not at present the question. The facts are that that power was embodied in the Constitution, that legislation was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, that the Court has been constituted, and that it entails a Department and a large number of officers, and that in one measure or another it is performing or attempting to perform, its functions hi all the States. It has been a part of our judicial system since 1904. And, whatever other charge may be made ‘against the Court, it cannot be said of it that it is an unpopular Tribunal, or that it has lacked business, or that those persons qualified to have recourse to it have failed in that direction ; because the truth is, beyond all doubt, that it has been a Tribunal of which those entitled to its use have shown extraordinary readiness to avail themselves. What has been the consequence? It must be remembered that this Court has to deal with .industrial disputes and differences of an all-Australian character, industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of one State. Successive judicial decisions have extended rather than diminished or restricted the meaning of “industrial “; have extended the judicial interpretation of the term, “ extending beyond the limits of one State”; and have given a very wide meaning to the definition of “industry.” Generally, judicial interpretation, from day to day, has very largely extended the actual as well as the possible activities of the Court. It would be quite open to the Government, after the years of experience which they and the country have had, to declare against a system of Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration. If the Government had the. courage of their opinions and really believed that the system was inimical to the best interests of the country, it would be quite open to them to introduce a repealing measure and tell the people what they feel and mean in regard to arbitration. But it is a sinister circumstance that, behind the Government, and keeping them in office, are persons who have been consistently and openly, and, I am bound to say, honestly, opposed to arbitration, since it was brought into operation, while the Government themselves, through their head, have declared themselves to be believers in and supporters of the general policy of conciliation and arbitration. The position is, therefore, that the Government, not wishing to unsay the things that the)7 have said in regard to arbitration, and lacking the courage to declare to the people that they have changed their mind, or. that expediency, if not principle, requires that they should vary their policy t and having behind them: those gentlemen who are opposed altogether to arbitration, have decided, apparently, to pursue the easy line of allowing the Court to end in chaos and confusion. That, in regard to any issue, would be a policy for which the Government might well be censured, but when it is remembered that it involves in the case in point confusion and chaos in the industrial system of Australia, honorable members must seriously consider the consequences, and where we are tending in regard to conciliation and arbitration. The Prime Minister has said that I have a personal, rather than a political, interest in this matter. -I shall tell him this afternoon what my political interest in it is. I tell the House and the country that, knowing what the Government is doing, knowing that it is deliberately preventing the Court from operating, while at the some time inviting thousands of unionists to seek its aid and invoke its decisions, my advice to the unionists who have” cases for which they seek a hearing will be’ to drop them until they can get a new Government, or have new evidence of the good faith of this Government. Direct action may or may not be bad, but it is always better than underhand action, especially if the unionists who have been waiting in their thousands to appeal to a Court which is ridiculously under-staffed, have the courage to say to the Government, “ We have offered to submit our claims for constitutional settlement by means of arbitration; we have waited on your doorstep for weary months to be heard, and during that time you have stood with your back to the door, and inveighed against us for being direct actionists. We are done with waiting.” The Government does not know what direct action is, nor, apparently, what honest action is. Here is a Court with one Judge to preside over it which, to function properly and adequately, needs probably half-a-dozen officers - not necessarily High Court Judges - but wellqualified judicial officers, to deal with its business. The learned President of the Court, from his place on the Bench, has told the Government and the country that he cannot cope with the work. It should be self-evident that he cannot do so. If it .were not, there is the evidence that thousands of men are waiting to have cases heard. When the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) moved the adjournment pf the House the other day, the Prime Minister told him that Mr. justice Powers had said, shortly after tine retirement of Mr. Justice Higgins, that he could now deal with the business of the Courts Yet there are twice as many cases banked up in the Court today as there were when. Mr. Justice Higgins retired. It is to be noted that no other Justice of the High Court will take on this work. I do not blame them; I commend their discretion. We lost the best judicial officer that we have had, or are likely to have, presiding over the Arbitration Court when, the Government forced Mr. Justice Higgins from the position of President which he had graced so long, and where he had reduced the Court’s findings to some kind of understandable system.. When Mr. Justice Higgins retired, Mr. Justice Powers took on the work. The Prime Minister told us that Mr. Justice Powers had informed him that he was able to cope with the work because he had wiped out, he said, thirty or forty cases in a few sittings. The learned and able Judge, of course, entered upon his work with enthusiasm and optimism, and did so at a time when a large number of unionists had made agreements which were ripe for filing. These agreements were based on principles laid down over a series of years “by Mr. Justice Higgins, and in accordance with a system which he had established. As a consequence, they were rapidly filed, and, owing also to the great industry of Mr. Justice Powers, a large number of oases were thus wiped out. And, by the way, it must be remembered that the number of cases litigated in the Arbitration Court is insignificant in comparison with the number which are settled by agreement in the spirit of the Act.
We are approaching the end of the present session of Parliament, and no form of relief has presented itself, nor has any been promised in connexion with this Court. I do not know what the Government expect, but I suggest that when the unions do as I have to-day advised them to do, the Government would, if I had not given this advice, tell the country that we want not arbitration but direct action, being Bolshevists opposed incurably to the maintenance of law and order. In such an, event, the Prime Minister would throw out his chest, and tell his constituents that he was the great protagonist of law and order and arbitration, and that the unionists who had gone on strike, and by a policy of cohesion and direct action were trying to get some of the things which they thought that they should have from their employers, were all for disorder. I say what I am saying now so that the country may understand the true position; so. that it may know that there are thousands of well-ordered men and women who are desirous of taking advantage of this Tribunal, but are deliberately prevented from having access to it. The High Court should not be. the shuttlecock of politics. It is discreditable to the Government that it should try to placate its, critics by breaking down part of the judicial system, in the evident hope that the result must be such loss and discontent as will redound to the discredit of Labour. I assure Ministers that it will redound to their discredit.
I thought that I should not allow this opportunity to pass without saying a word or two on this subject. The Government have made proposals elsewhere in a Conference with the Premiers. These have been published in. the press, and we have been invited to take them as an official statement of the future policy of the Government with regard to arbitration. I need not discuss these proposals. They are like the Convention Bill and a great many other matters that the Government has caused to be published in the press as included in iti policy, a policy that has never borne fruit. I need not discuss these proposals, because, in the first place, they depend on uniform action by all the Premiers, who are one by one disowning them. We need not take them seriously, but if we did so they would reveal this truth: that the Prime Minister has, by virtue of them, turned down every principle regarding arbitration which he has hitherto stated to be vital. In this Chamber he has ably fought, against the establishment of Appeal Courts in connexion with arbitration. He has said that any Court of Arbitration to be effective: must be final; but now he has conceded to the Premiers of the States, by way of compromise, if you please, the establishment of a Court of Appeal which I hardly like to call by the name which occurs to me. This Court is to consist partly of Federal and partly of State Judges, or chairmen of local governing bodies. Heaven only knows what it is to be, except that it will be a cumbrous Court of Appeal. Having, on the platform, and in this Chamber, fought to give the public servants their elementary right to be heard in the Courts of law, the right honorable gentleman now proposes to rob the public servants of the States of their right to arbitration. He does this at a time when, owing to the wider outlook of the Justices who constitute the present High Court, a judgment has been given reversing the narrower view of their predecessors, which has made it clear that the Federal Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has power to make awards binding the public servants of the State and the State Governments. We have waited in the hope that we might have the honour of living until such a time as this, and now the Prime Minister proposes to throw us back a generation. We need say verylittle more about these proposals. Nothing is likely to come of them, and we may take consolation from that. As the Prime Minister is fond of saying, we are faced with the realities of the situation, of which the chief and a most serious one is this, that the chief Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in Australia is forbidden to function by the Government which is largely responsible for its creation. There I leave the matter. I leave it with this assurance that, whatever may happen in the industrial arena, whatever loss there may be, whatever holding up of industrial activities may occur - and there is likely to be some - the blame will lie absolutely at the door of this Government for its treatment of the Court. Ministers know that the Court cannot do the work; they have been told by the employees and by the Judge that it has not enough officers to function with anything like adequacy. Ministers know that this evil condition is becoming more acute from day to day, and that next year it will be critical. They know that the cure is in their own hands. Seeing that they cannot get High Court Judges to take this position, it is known that a simple amendment of the Act would make the position open to qualified men, not necessarily
High Court Judges, but, nevertheless, men well fitted to discharge the functions of a President of an Arbitration Court. For example, I cannot imagine one who would be. better qualified to preside over this Court than would be the present Registrar of the Court, Mr. A. M. Stewart, who has grown up with the system in association with the ablest Judge who has ever adjudicated in it, and who is a man whose usefulness in presiding over one of these Courts would be immeasurable. I do not pretend that arbitration in any circumstances is ‘a perfect instrument. It might have been a very good thing for Labour at the beginning if it had felt itself strong enough, earnest enough, and courageous enough to refuse arbitration. There was a time when Labour on the one side was weak, disorganized, and helpless, and when on the other side capital was organized, merciless, and strong. In such circumstances; Parliament thought that the proper remedy was to arm the weak against the strong by the creation of some intermediary which would be supposed, at least, to have the conscience to see that right was done between the two. However, I think that a truer and better remedy was to be found in action by the mass of the wage earners themselves. Some call it direct action, but I prefer to call it merely organization. To-day I believe that if the persons resisting spoliation stood together, organized not only as they are to-day, but better, as they ought to be - if they stood together determined to realize their rights, and determined to get what is just, and nothing more than just and fair, by a policy of comradeship and solidarity - they would not have to submit to the humiliation of standing cap in hand at the door of an Arbitration Court which this Government is using as an instrument with which to discredit Labour in the days to come.
– I rise to protest against the contemplated expenditure this year upon what is described as the Commonwealth Investigation Branch. Notwithstanding the fact that this year there are fifteen less officers in the Branch, the proposed vote is more than twice the amount expended last year.
– What work does this Branch do?
– We do not know.I think it is the remnant of the Commonwealth Police Force, established during the war, from which the people have derived very little benefit.
– That statement is unwarranted.
– The honorable member may be able to point out the advantages which the people have derived from the Commonwealth Police Force, but it seems peculiar that, although the expenditure last year was only £4,244, it is estimated that £8,477 will be spent this year, although there are fifteen officers less in the branch. Instead of these officers being called members of the Commonwealth Police Force, they are now given the more euphonious title of inquiry officers. There is an inquiry officer in each State, except Tasmania, and in addition Victoria, ‘Queensland, and New South Wales have inspectors. We have heard it said time after time that when a new Department is created it very soon begins to incur considerable expenditure. It remains for the Government to justify the continuance of this Department, which sprang up during the war, and upon which it is proposed to expend in contingencies this year the sum of £1,400 as against £828 spent last year. It is the policy of the Commonwealth Government not to pay the basic wage or child endowment allowance to temporary employees, and seeing that provision is made in the Estimates for this Investigation Branch for the payment of £589 to pay basic wage and child endowment allowance, one must conclude that the officers in this branch have now become permanent burdens on the taxpayers: I feel inclined to move for the deletion of the proposed vote for the Commonwealth Investigation Branch. In any case, I would like to know why the services of an inspector in Victoria should not be considered worth more than £336, although £426 is paid to inspectors in Queensland and New South Wales. I find that the inspector in charge in South Australia is to be paid £432 per year. Certainly the area of South Australia is larger than the area to be supervised in Victoria.
– That is where the honorable member is making his error. It is not a police force matter.
– These are certainly items which should be explained. When the Commonwealth Police Force vote was under consideration last year, we were told that some of the officers for whom provision was made were required for Customs Office work.
– I was under the impression that the honorable member had not heard that explanation.
– I heard the explanation given last year, but if these men are doing Customs work exclusively, why are they not included in the Customs House Estimates, and why should a new Department be created for them?
– I think the honorable member will find that they are not attached to the Customs Office, which has its own staff, but that their duties consist of investigation work for other Departments.
– Well, we should have some explanation of the matter.
– If the honorable member will give me a chance I will explain the position.
– I will give the Minister the opportunity. I may tell him, however, that I feel inclined to submit an amendment to delete the proposed vote for this branch, which seems to me to be an expensive remnant of the Commonwealth Police Force. If this Committee desires to perpetuate such a useless body, it will be a dereliction of duty on its part.
– It is unfortunate that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) should deliberately repeat the statement already replied to several times by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), that the Government are deliberately preventing the Arbitration Court from functioning. The statement is absolutely without the slightest foundation. The Prime Ministerhas pointed out on several occasions that the Government have from time to time taken all possible steps to assist the Court to fulfil its functions. The honorable member’s other statement that the Government forced Mr. Justice Higgins to retire from the position of President of the Arbitration Court is equally unfounded. It is, as I say, unfortunate that the honorable member should repeat such incorrect statements, and let them go out to the public.
However, as the Prime Minister has already fully explained the attitude of the Government upon this question, I shall not deal with it any further. The division relating to the Commonwealth Investigation Branch was discussed last year, and the purposes and work of the branch were then fully explained. It is not a mere continuance of a war activity. For some years the Treasury, the Department of Home and Territories, the Department of Defence, the Department of Trade and Customs, and the Postmaster-General’s Department have had separate investigation branches, and the Government came to the conclusion that economy and efficiency could be secured by consolidating them and placing them under the control of one efficient officer in the Department of the Attorney-General. It has been said that the proposed vote provides for an increase on last year’s expenditure. A cursory glance at the division would’ appear to bear out that statement, but, as a matter of fact, it is not correct. The transfer of some of these investigation officers from other Departments did not take place until late in the financial year, so that only a relatively small portion of their salaries had to he provided for out of this vote. I have only to add that this has nothing to do with the old Commonwealth Police Force. That service has been abolished.
– Are there no Commonwealth detective officers attending public meetings?
– There are no Commonwealth police, but we have investigation officers who perform the functions of detectives.
– All this is humbug! I have seen these Commonwealth detectives at public meetings.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to reply.
– Do not misstate the facts. These men are wasting their time by attending public meetings as spies and informers on behalf of the Government.
– If any persons are offending against the law of the Commonwealth, surely the honorable member does not object to their detection and prosecution.
– I object to political informers and spies.
– The honorable member has some political reason for his attitude. I repeat that the Commonwealth Police Force has disappeared, and that, instead of a new and growing Department having been created, the opposite is the fact. We formerly had thirty-two investigating officers, whereas there are now only seventeen.
– Then why has the vote for salaries gone up?
– It has not. I have, already explained that a number of *es officers were not transferred from other Departments until a considerable portion of the financial year had passed, so that their salaries in respect of the whole year had not to be paid by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. This year, however, their full salaries will have to be paid out of this vote. Instead of there being any increase in the cost of this service, an enormous saving has been effected’.
I have been asked to explain the functions of officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Branch. My answer is that the Commonwealth Parliament has passed a large number of laws, the proper enforcement of which involved the appointment of a certain number of investigating officers. The Department of Home and Territories, for instance, administers laws relating to aliens, naturalization, immigration restriction, and other activities; and the proper carrying out of those laws has an important bearing on the welfare of this country. Then, again, the Treasury administers a large number of laws affecting revenue, and in connexion with them important and- confidential investigations have to be made. As the result of one or two investigations alone the officers of this Department have secured for the Commonwealth revenue amounting to more than one-half of the total proposed vote for salaries. We must have Commonwealth officers for the administration of Commonwealth laws. The transfer of investigation officers from other Departments has not been yet completed. We have still to transfer to this branch investigation officers associated with the Department of Trade and Customs and the Post and Telegraph Department.
– Are there fewer officers employed in the Departments from which these officers have been transferred?
– The offices held by them in the other Departments have been abolished. It has been said that we have made new appointments. That is not so. We have simply transferred officers, mostly permanent, of other Departments to this new branch, and have so consolidated the investigation staffs of the Commonwealth.
– Were the fifteen men whose services as investigating officers have been dispensed with only temporary hands?
– They may have been transferred to other work in Departments where they were formerly acting as investigation officers. They are, at all events, no longer holding those offices. It would be absurd to impose on the Treasury the responsibility of administering all the laws relating to the collection of revenue without making a provision of this kind for their effective operation.
– The Government must keep an eye on its political opponents.
– I resent that slander on my political opponents, who, I am glad to say, do not need to be kept under surveillance. Investigations, many of them of a confidential character, have necessarily to be made in connexion with the enforcement of our Commonwealth laws. Honorable members would not deny to the State Governments the services of such officers in connexion with their various activities. It is our duty to look after the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth to the extent to which our legislation goes, and it is to that end that these officers are employed. This is an honest attempt on the part of the Government to effect a saving and, at the same time, to secure increased efficiency.
.- I indorse a good dealof what the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has said with regard to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. I agree with him that the industrial community is sadly disappointed with the way in which the Act has been administered. Like him, I have no complaint to make concerning the learned Justices who have adorned the Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration
Court. I believe that the ex-President, Mr. Justice Higgins, and the President. Mr. Justice Powers, have rendered good service to the country, and that, if their efforts had been backed up by the appointment of Deputies, we should have had a much greater measure of industrial peace. When men who are labouring under injustices seek a legal means of redress, when they incur great expense in preparing a plaint for the Arbitration Court only to find, after waiting for twelve or eighteen months, that there is no likelihood of an early hearing of their case, it is hardly surprising that they should become soured, and that strikes should occur. One of the chief causes of the delay is that the Courtis wrongly constituted. There should be associated with the President a representative of the employers and a representative of the employees. If we had sitting with the President on the Bench two practical laymen, the work of the Court would be greatly facilitated. These men would be familiar with the technicalities of the trade that was being inquired into, and would be of great assistance to the learned Judge in framing his awards. The work of the Court would thus be made more effective. There might be appointed, as President of the Court, a man of high legal training but having, perhaps, no industrial experience. What an advantage it would be to such a man to have sitting with him a representative of the employers and a representative of the employees possessing an intimate knowledge of the technicalities of the industry being inquired into, and so able to give him material assistance in dealing with the evidence. The old Arbitration Court of New South Wales was so constituted, and my experience, as the representative of the employees in that Court, was that it did splendid work. For the first three years of its existence the industrial difficulties of the State were dealt with so expeditiously by it that general satisfaction was given, but as soon as lawyers were allowed to appear before it, and to take points as to its jurisdiction and so forth, delays ensued and dissatisfaction arose.
– That sort of legal flummery is not required.
– I agree with the honorable member. If this country is going to progress as rapidly as it should do, we must do everything possible to eliminate strikes and industrial disputes. We can best avert serious industrial trouble by requiring the aggrieved parties to a dispute to appear before a Judge who has the confidence of the people, and whose decision consequently will be loyally observed. I stand for arbitration all the time, and would deeply deplore the turning down of the principle because of the failure of the Government to provide for the number of Judges necessary to facilitate the work of the Court. I believe that arbitration is the salvation of the world. We have sitting in Washington to-day a Conference at which representative men of the great nations are arbitrating with regard to naval disarmament. We have the League of Nations urging arbitration as a means of preventing war, and we look forward hopefully to the result of the deliberations of those two bodies. If it is possible for the countries of the world to cease strife by submitting their differences to arbitration, surely we can by the same means prevent warfare in the industrial arena. If one Judge is not sufficient to handle the work of the Arbitration Court, it is a reflection on the Government if they do not appoint other Judges to assist in doing the work and so preventing strikes and lockouts. I feel confident that if a change of Government did take place - we members of the Opposition say that the only way to save the country is a change of Government - steps would be taken to make the Court function more expeditiously and efficiently. By establishing good feeling amongst the industrial classes, and confidence in the arbitration system, I believe that peace and harmony can be brought about. I hope that the Government will appoint additional Judges to the Arbitration Court, and if they propose an amendment of the Act, make provision for representatives of the employers and employees respectively in the industry concerned to take a seat on the Bench. If that were done I believe that both parties would be more satisfied with the awards.
In regard to the Public Service Arbitrator, this Parliament is the direct employer, of the large number of men engaged in the Public Service. Those men have the same rights as other citizens, and it is our duty to see that they are given the most complete facilities to have their grievances adjusted. If they are to have confidence in the Arbitrator, he must show that he is capable of doing his work. So far, the present Arbitrator has not gained the confidence of the public servants, and if they cannot rely on him to deal out even-handed justice to them we shall have a discontented Service, from which it will be impossible to get the most efficient work. Mr. Atlee Hunt has shown by the decisions he has given already, that he is incapable of carrying out his duties, and should be removed from office. If a man refuses to do the work for which he is appointed, what right has he to continue to draw his salary of £2,000 per annum? He has passed over his duties to another body, and has the audacity to say that he does not think the financial condition of the country warrants him taking a certain course of action. One public servant dictates to the other public servants by saying that the state of the finances does not justify an increase of their salaries, although he admits that they are suffering injustices. What sort of an authority is he on the financial condition of the country? If there is a crusted Conservative in this country it is the gentleman who has been appointed Arbitrator, and he cannot have the respect of the Public Service.
– He is a good man.
– Does the honorable member mean good, or good for nothing? I hope the public servants will refuse to go near Mr. Atlee Hunt. Let him continue to do nothing; he is doing it well. If they adopt that attitude this Parliament will then have to devise some other means of getting the claims of the public servants adjudicated upon. We were told that the Arbitration Court was congested ; and to relieve it and bring speedier justice to the public servants we created a special tribunal to deal with their cases. They have been locked out of the Arbitration Court, but the Arbitrator appointed to deal with their claims declines to do his work. When I read some of his judgments I, as a member of this Parliament, felt ashamed that such injustices should be heaped upon the public servants. Mr. Atlee Hunt is unsuitable for his position, and if the public servants will make up their minds not to go before him Parliament will be forced to do justice to them by other means.
– Would the honorable member believe in this Court if it were presided over by a satisfactory Arbitrator ?
– I believe in the principle of arbitration generally, but its success depends upon the appointment of a man with an. open mind and a sense of his duty to the country and Parliament. It is no part of the Public Service Arbitrator’s duty to defer consideration of claims simply because of some proposal that is before this Parliament for dealing with the Public Service. Mr. Atlee Hunt has refused to work; he is going slow on his job, and his salary should be stopped. I hope that before this discussion concludes we shall receive some assurance from the Government that this individual will be instructed to ‘barry out his duties or resign his position. The Prime Minister has told the Committee that Mr. Hunt has no right to refuse to adjudicate, that he should carry out his duties, and give decisions in accordance with the evidence adduced before him. I hope that the right honorable gentleman will give an instruction to that effect so that this Tribunal may function and do something to allay the unrest that is developing in the Commonwealth Public Service. I feel confident that after the speeches of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and the plain speaking by the Prime Minister, the Government will devote their attention to the appointment of more Judges to the Arbitration Court, and will instruct Mr. Atlee Hunt to carry out his duties regardless of what is happening in another branch of. this Legislature.
.- I wish to move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £1.
This amendment, if carried, will be an intimation to the Government to get rid of the Arbitration Court as soon as possible, with a view to the introduction of a more effective and expeditious method of bringing about industrial peace. If there is one institution which, more than another, has outlived its usefulness, it is the Arbitration Court. It does not conduce to industrial peace, and it does not bring about quick settlement of the disputes referred to it. I cannot agree with the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) that the remedy is the appointment of more Judges:
– Can the honorable member imagine any Court discharging its functions if it has not officers adequate to the work?
– No, but I do not think that the Arbitration Court is the proper method of tackling industrial problems. Its tendency is to keep the parties at arm’s length, whereas in nine cases out of ten all that is needed is to bring the disputants together at a roundtable Conference, when they can discuss their differences, and, as reasonable men, strike a fair compromise.
– The Industrial Peace Act provides for that.
– I desire the Government to introduce legislation that will make that procedure compulsory. Having passed the Industrial- Peace Act there is no need for the Arbitration Act also. What is required is that the employer and employee shall be brought together so that both may realize that it is to their common interest to keep the industry going. We do not desire to see works stopped; we desire the wheels of industry to be constantly revolving, because by that means employer and employee and the general public get their daily bread. In all these industrial troubles there is no consideration for the general public. Who suffers most during a big maritime strike? Do the sailors who are on strike, or the ship-owners,? No; the biggest sufferers are the masses of the general public. Not only shipping, but all the industries of the country are affected. During a big coal strike industry throughout the Commonwealth is paralyzed after a month or so. It is about time we devised some quicker means of dealing with these disputes. The Arbitration Court is cumbrous and expensive, and generally by the time a decision is arrived at the executive of the union is inviting its members to say if the time has not arrived to demand another rise in wages, or some other improvement in working conditions, and, to that end, make another appeal to this very slow-moving Tribunal. The Prime
Minister and the State Premiers met recently and came to an agreement in regard to industrial arbitration.
– It does not seem as if they did.
– They are supposed to have come to some arrangement, and it surely is possible to devise machinery whereby certain disputes can be declared to be Federal in character, and therefore must be decided by a certain tribunal, and other disputes can be declared to be local,’ and capable of decision by some State authority. In this way overlapping would be prevented, and the award of the State Court would not be overruled by an award of the Federal Court. Today it is very hard for people to know whether the State or Federal award applies to their industry, or whether they are governed by some conditions in both awards. The time has come when we should return to a system by which the workers can be allowed to make their own contracts. It is absurd to make awards which are as rigid as rods of iron, and which prevent people getting employment because they cannot earn the minimum wage prescribed. In many country districts in the various States to-day, a Wages Board may fix the salary of clerical assistance at £3 10s. a week, and, in consequence, many girls lose their positions. They are quite willing to work for £2 10s. or £3, but the award compels all to be paid alike. The employer may say to a girl, “ I am sorry, Miss Smith, but the business will not stand the increased wage ‘ ‘ ; and Miss Smith knows as well as he does that such is the fact. Why should not employees be allowed to make their own contracts, provided that some means of protecting them from unfairness is devised ? I dare say that if the Arbitration Court were done away with now, and there were nothing in its place? organized labour would be in a better position than it is now to demand what wages it desired ; but there is no need to fly from one extreme to the other; means could be adopted to secure fair play, at the same time allowing more scope than at present to employers and employees in fixing wages. Whatever is done, however, some consideration must be given to the third party, who is never represented on bodies or tribunals of the kind, but who does the chief part of the paying - the general public. We shall never have industrial peace while it is open to men to get an award to-day, and, in the course of a short time, simply ask for another rise. If employers and employed were allowed to make their own contracts, the fact would be borne in on all concerned that sooner or later, if things do not improve, wages in Australia must come down.
– No - -we hold what we have !
– That is a sectional cry, which means the sacrifice of all but those immediately concerned. I have a better opinion of the working man of this country, of whom I, perhaps, know as much as any other man in this Parliament, than to think they would take up such an attitude. The workmen do not hold such selfish ideas, but are prepared to do what is fair. When, however, thousands of unionists are represented by three or four executive officers, who, in many instances, fight their own “ game,” instead of looking to the interests of those they represent, we must have industrial turmoil. The result of the present system is that when these three or four executive officers come to a decision, thousands of men who do not believe in it are obliged to abide by it. Australia, if it is to make any progress, must stop that sort of thing. If the Government would seriously face the industrial question, and abolish the Arbitration Court in favour of the policy Ihave suggested, there would be far more liberty on the part of the workers and others in making their contracts. It is my belief that nine out of every ten workmen take a similar view, and it is time that the necessary machinery to carry it into effect was devised by the Government. It is incumbent upon us to produce more and more wealth, but that cannot be done if employer and employed keep each other at arms’ length, with the inevitable result of discontent and unrest. The public ought to be given a lead in this matter by the Government, and I am sure that it would result in more amicable relations between employer and employed. It is desirable and necessary in as many businesses as practicable to have some form of co-operation or profit-sharing. It has been demonstrated that this is quite practicable, not only in this country but elsewhere; indeed, systems of the kind are practised all over the world. Sir George Livesey has said that he never could have carried on the London and
South-western Gas Works if he had not come to some such arrangement with his men; and many businesses in Australia are falling into line.I understand that the firm of which the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) is managing director have adopted a scheme under which their employees share in the profits, or, at any rate, are given some form of bonus. The idea is to change the workman’s point of view in regard to those by whom he is employed, so that he may drop the policy of obtaining as much as possible in return for as little work as possible. Too many in Australia are encouraged to take this latter view, and encouraged by those who ought to know better, and who are not rebuked, as they ought to be, by the Labour party.
– Is the honorable member going to connect his remarks with the vote beforeus?
– I am giving a reason for doing away with the Arbitration Court, and devising another system, in order to bring about more beneficial conditions in Australia. I am urging that an appeal must be made to the enlightened selfishness of people, without which no proper economic action is possible. When a man is assured of his wage, and knows that he has a chance of sharing in the profits, he endeavours to make the business as successful as possible; it is an ordinary economic law that increased industry and efficiency should be rewarded. Under such circumstances a workman uses his brains, and produces the best results with the least possible waste. He will not care whether he works eight hours and a half to-day and seven and a half to-morrow; it is not possible always to work exactly eight hours a day, and, in my opinion, it is enough if that average is maintained. I have no desire to see men work longer hours; but we observe a tendency to reduce the day to six hours, although we know that, in many industries, the full working day is not excessive labour.
– The honorable member must see that he is out of order. He is deciding the case for himself, though he is not the Arbitration Court.
– My desire is to move that the total vote be reduced by £1.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the honorable member does so, he will preventany other honorable member moving an amendment in regard to the divisions. The honorable member can submit such an amendment later if he likes.
– I am quite willing to postpone my amendment, though I do not see why the Committee cannot dispose of it now. It would then be open to honorable members to move any other amendment.
– No. If the Committee negatives the honorable member’s amendment to reduce the total estimate, no honorable member could move a reduction in any of the divisions.
– Then I shall postpone my amendment. My suggestion is that the Arbitration Court, which is at present doing no good, should be abolished. If the Government were to earnestly apply the Industrial Peace Act, without considering 1,000 votes here and there, and have due regard to the interests of the community, many people in Australia would favour a more enlightened policy than prevails at present, and adopt the profit-sharing principle, which is the natural remedy for industrial unrest. In my view, the Arbitration Court is a quackremedy at the best. I was not in Parliament when that Court was instituted, but I was then a greater reader of Hansard than I am now, and 1 am familiar with its history. I remember that,at that time, numerous changes took place in the Government in consequence of the introduction of that legislation. I never did believe in the Arbitration Court; at any rate, it has now outlived its usefulness, and neither employers nor employed favour it.
– If that be so, how is it that the business of the Court is congested ?
– There is no other body or tribunal to which appeal can be made. But it would be very easy to have councils, on which not only employers and employed, but also the general public, would be represented. We have had cases of the most barefaced bargaining in the Arbitration Court; we have heard employers agreeing to a rise in wages because, as they said, they could pass the increase on to the general public. But why should itbe possible in every instance to pass on the increase? Why should not the general public have fair play? Frequently matters at issue have been settled by employers and employees putting their heads together and “ passing it on.” But there must be an end to that procedure, for it involves a mere perambulation round a vicious circle. The employee, although he has been awarded more pay, quickly finds himself in the position of having to pay more for the necessaries of life-. His extra wages have been “ passed on.” In the complex state of society as it exists today no great business can be harmed without consequent reflection upon the community at large. As civilization further develops, the relationships between each unit in a community must become more and more closely knit, and the whole scheme of life, to such an extent, made more and more complex. It is time the Government told the people what is really intended. If the Government would agree to act in the general interests of the community I am confident that both employers and employees would find that on innumerable occasions they could come together and settle their differences without loss of time or mutual regard.
– I direct the attention of the Committee to the proposed expenditure upon the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, in regard to which the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has furnished an explanation. I do not suggest that the Minister intended deliberately to mislead the Committee: but without doubt, his statements misrepresented the actual position. Probably the Minister was furnished with incorrect information. The Committee was informed that the Department is made up of that class of investigation official which has been conducting similar inquiries in various Departments. That is to say, the investigation officials attached to the Department of Trade and Customs, of Pensions, of Taxation, and the like, have been taken out of those branches of the Public Service and brought together under one head in a. central branch, with a. view, no doubt, to effect economy. I dare say there would be a saving, if the facts were as the Minister has alleged. Upon an examination of the Estimates, however, honorable members will find that these various investigation officials have not been drawn to a centre, as alleged, from all the various Departments which formerly employed them. At any rate, it is a fact that sums have been set down in the Estimates for the various Departments for the payment of the salaries of investigation officials, special inquiry officers, detectives, and the like, just as has been the. case in previous years. For example, in respect of the Department of Trade and Customs, Parliament is asked to authorize a vote of thousands of pounds by way of payment for the very class of work which this relatively new branch of Commonwealth activities is supposed to perform.
– I specifically mentioned that the Customs officials had not been taken over.
– Then why should Parliament be asked to authorize expenditure upon this Special Inquiry Department if the Customs inquiry officials are to be retained and paid as part of the Customs machinery?
– I stated that the Post Office and Customs inquiry officials had not been taken over by the branch.
– Well, there still remain the investigation officials attached to the Taxation and Pensions Departments. That is to say, honorable members must assume from the interjection of the Minister that the inquiry officials formerly attached to those Departments have been absorbed in the Commonwealth Investigation Branch. So far, so good. Now I invite honorable members to turn to the items set out in the Estimates concerning those two Departments. There they will see that exactly the same sum is being asked for in respect of the departmental investigation officials as has been paid in previous years. I invite the Minister for Works and Railways to name the men who have been appointed to this special investigation branch. I have nothing personal to say against any one of them. I know of nothing whatever against the gentleman who has been placed in charge. I refer to Major H. E. Jones.
– A very useful man.
– I do not doubt it. He was an intelligence officer in the Defence Department during the war, and he probably carried out his very im- portant duties effectively. But surely, now that the war has ended, the need for this special secret service must also have passed? It cannot be said that Major Jones has been transferred from an ordinary Department. He was a special intelligence officer, performing useful war work in war time. “Where is the need for the retention of his services in a specially created branch? What is the purpose of the specially appointed staff which he controls? With one exception, every individual among those officials was engaged in secret service work during the war. Are we tofollow the example set by the older countries of the world, which have built up about their governmental machinery great secret service establishments ? As an outcome of the great war, are the people of Australia to be burdened with a secret service - one, too, which can be used for that most dangerous and sinister intent of all, namely, the political purpose?
– Might not the employment of this branch be the means of preventing trouble?
– In what way?
– By discovering it in its early stages.
– Have we not our State Police and Criminal Investigation Departments? If there is any danger of a breach of civil or criminal law, are there not the whole of the Police Forces of the States immediately available, and at the command of the Commonwealth Government, to undertake investigations?
– Are the police really available? The States are now asking me for £20,000 to cover expenditure in connexion with police inquiries concerning alien registration.
– The Minister’s observation surely implies that the State police have been able to do the work ; and, therefore, that there is no need to place that specific line of investigation in the hands of the Commonwealth branch. As a matter of fact, whenever there has been required a special investigation in the interests of the Commonwealth authoriities, these Federal officials have not been intrusted with the job. It has always been referred either to the State police or to a certain detective agency, the name of which I do not desire to mention publicly. The Minister for Home and Terri tories (Mr. Poynton) must know the detective to whom I refer. He stands high in his profession in this city, and I know that when there is any delicate and important investigation to be undertaken in the interests of the Commonwealth he is given the commission.
– I do not know whom you are alluding to.
– I refer to Mr. Burvett. When the Central Wool Committee desired an investigation to be conducted into a matter which ended in criminal proceedings, the task was not handed over to an officer of the Commonwealth branch, but to this private detective, who was paid a fee, I understand, of about five guineas a day.
– This is the first I have ever heard of it.
– Perhaps; but that does not affectthe facts of the situation. In almost all of the Commonwealth Departments there are very necessary investigation officials. Why should this new and special branch be maintained at a considerable cost to the public? If there is a reason why, it is beyond my comprehension. What is the nature of the work which its officials are required to undertake? What work is there for them which those investigators attached to the various Departments do not perform or which the State police cannot undertake?
– Why should the honorable member object to Commonwealth officials performing such work ?
– I do not object; but I do resent the fact of the people of the Commonwealth being asked to throw good money away on a useless Department which has suites of offices in every capital city. I invite honorable members to go down to Queen-street and inspect the central offices established there. A huge concern has been built up since the war; since the Prime Minister suffered hurt to his dignity at Warwick. It is idle to say that this branch is not, in fact, the Commonwealth police. It is so, under another name. The whole of its officers, with one exception, were in the Commonwealth police force during the war.
– In every State?
– The honorable member is wrong.
– I am not. The Commonwealth police were either Defence
Department intelligence officers or certain specially appointed men whom the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) added.
– The two men who have been appointed to the Investigation Branch in Western Australia were at the war practically from beginning to end. Certainly, they were there when the Commonwealth police force was established.
– What are their duties ?
– That is not the point. I have replied to the honorable member’s incorrect assertion.
– The honorable member’s remarks show the truth of what I am saying. These men were not taken out of existing Departments. They are an addition to the investigation officers of the separate Departments. I have asked the responsible Minister to make a full statement to the Committee-. The necessary information can be obtained, and.1 should be provided in complete detail. The amount asked- for is £8,477, and the amount that was formerly provided for the Commonwealth police was £9,000. The Minister tells us that inspectors and other officials have been taken out of other Departments and put into this branch.
– As a matter of fact, it is the Police Force under another name.
– It is not.
– Then can the Minister explain why we are asked also to vote sums to pay salaries for men doing this class of work in the Departments ? What investigations has °this branch to carry out? What work is done by it? No doubt, when the Labour party get into power, the branch may be as useful to us as it is to the present Government.
– What are the men doing?
– It is for the Minister to tell us that. I assert that they are used for political purposes.
– That statement is incorrect.
– ‘Officers are told off to follow the political opponents of the Government, and are paid big salaries for that work.
– The honorable member is attacking the wrong Minister. He should attack the Minister for Defence. These men belong to the Military Intelligence Branch.
– The gentleman in charge of the branch, and pretty well all the officers of it, were members of the Military Intelligence Branch. A particular statement should be given of the services of the branch. In generalibus dolus; we must be told exactly what work these men do. When I am addressing a meeting in my electorate, I object to a man, paid by the Commonwealth, annoying me by taking notes of what I am saying.
– No one does that with the honorable member.
– They are not game. But the money of the Commonwealth should not be spent in paying men to take reports at public meetings. The Minister should explain the purpose of this branch.
– And what officers have been transferred to it from other Departments.
– It will be readily admitted that inspectors and investigators are needed to insure honesty under certain circumstances; but such investigation is provided for separately in each Department. When ordinary criminality is suspected, the services of the trained detective forces of the .States are at the command of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister or the Minister for Works and Railways should give us a full explanation. When special investigation work has to be done, it is given not to this branch, but to a private detective agency in Melbourne.
.- I have listened with much interest to the statements made about this branch, and about the Department generally. My objections to the branch are not those which have been urged by previous speakers; but I should like to know if there is not here a duplication of police effort - if work is not being done at Commonwealth expense which could advantageously be done by the State police. I wish to know what special function this branch performs. It came upon us suddenly at first, like a thief in the night. We have known it under different headings in various Estimates during the past three or four years. Its personnel, according to the Minister, is always varying. I should like to know whether its functions could not be performed efficiently by private agents, whom, it is asserted, are also employed now, or by the State police. In the absence of definite information on the subject, I shall be compelled to vote for any proposed reduction in connexion with the branch.
There is another sub-Department about which I wish for information, the Court Reporting Staff, which makes its first appearance in these Estimates. The persistence with which the Investigation Branch has clung to official life despite the fact that the Prime Minister, in almost the first speech that I heard him make in this Chamber, declared that the Commonwealth police were disappearing for good and all, will probably mark this branch also. I should like to know whether the new Court Reporting Staff is needed. Will it save money, and will it provide a better system of reporting than that which is being superseded ? Hitherto, I understand, the reporting of Commissions and similar inquiries has been done for the Commonwealth by men residing in the various capitals, whose services have always been available to the Government. It is evident that last year the outside reporting was heavier than usual, because of the sittings of the Basic Wage Tribunal and of two or three other Commissions. This work is not of annual occurrence. I wish to know whether we should not be better served by continuing the old system, under which good men were always obtainable in various capital cities, instead of appointing a new permanent staff. The new staff apparently increases the cost of Commonwealth reporting by about £3,000. Last year the expenditure on this branch was £458, and the cost of shorthand notes for the Arbitration Court was £2,509. This year £500 is set down under this head, and there is a further item of £400 to pay for shorthand notes for the Public Service Commission. I ask the Minister for the explanations which I seek. I wish also to know whether the changes made will result in increased efficiency?
.- The increased expenditure on the investigation branch is only apparent and not real. Much of it was formerly provided for under other Departments. There were men attached to the Customs Department, the Post Office Department, and to other Departments, who are all now grouped in this branch, which naturally shows an increased cost; but against that can be set off the deductions from the cost of other Departments. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) seemed much in earnest when demanding an explanation of this matter, but his thirst for information was apparently ephemeral, because he is not now in the Chamber. He objected to persons attending his meetings and taking shorthand notes of his speeches. I do not know whether that objection was a sample of Dalleyan humour. So far as I know, if there has been any such reporting of his speeches, it has not been with departmental authority. Some honorable members seem under the curious delusion that reports may involve them in trouble. But the overwhelming majority of members of every party are, I think, only too pleased to be reported. Generally, members of Parliament complain, not that they are reported, but that they are too often not reported. I do not pretend to understand what it is that a few members fear may be made public, or why they object to reports of their speeches being taken - if they are taken, which I do not admit to be the case - by departmental officers.
– They are not made public.
– My honorable friend knows very well that there are persons in this country who make most extraordinary statements. I cannot give their names to the Committee, because they have names which I cannot pronounce. These men go about the country threatening it with fire and slaughter, and preaching Sovietism, Bolshevism, and various other isms. The New Jerusalem, according to them, is to.be a land whose streams will run not with milk and honey but with blood. The Commonwealth authorities are censured because they think it advisable to send men occasionally to take notes of what is said by these speakers. When foreigners who have been hospitably received by us abuse our hospitality, and conspire against our laws, making all sorts of threats, it is quite right to take these precautions. These speakers are paid. They do not do their speaking for nothing. I say, without hesitation, that there are in this country people who are kept here to carry on a propaganda for which they are paid in Soviet gold.
– Oh ! Turn that down.
– Despite these Hibernian cacchinations, the statement is correct. When men engage in these little diversions they must not expect the Government to do nothing; but where people go about their lawful processes the State has no concern. The explanation of the proposed vote for the Investigation Branch is very simple. In the first place, it does not provide for a greater expenditure than was incurred last year. The greater part of this expenditure is due entirely to work, now placed under the control of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, but which was formerly distributed amongst other Departments. It is necessary to have the investigation officers who are detailed especially for this work. I have nothing further to add so far as that Branch is concerned. The facts are as I have stated.
Coming to the point raised by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) with regard to the new Reporting Branch, I wish to make a brief addition to what my honorable colleague (Mr. Groom) has said. This new Branch has been created as an experiment. It was formerly the practice of the Department to let out its reporting work. As honorable members are aware, a great deal of reporting work has to be done for this Department, which is charged with the business of obtaining reports of High Court judgments, Arbitration Court proceedings, Royal Commissions, and so forth. The work is costly, since it has to be carried out by men of special skill. Last year the expenditure of the Department in respect of reporting in the Arbitration jurisdiction alone amounted to £3,125, while on the reporting of Royal Commissions we expended £4,875, making a total of £8,000. This year we are doing the work for ourselves. It appears that the Reporting Branch, when its revenue from the sale of copies of evidence is taken into account, will not only do the whole work without any cost to the Commonwealth but will actually earn a considerable profit. Instead of letting out the work to professional reporters, we are providing for it by our own staff. We are engaging competent men, and hope to effect a saving. That being so, this must be regarded not as an increased but as being in effect a decreased expenditure. Here are the earn ings of the Reporting Branch: Sale of copies of reports of the different proceedings on which the staff is engaged,. £1,874 15s. 6d. ;revenue from other Departments, £507 10s. 4d. ; savings to theArbitration Court, £731 ls. 7d. ; savings to the Public Service ArbitrationCourt, £335 15s.; or a gross total of £3,449 2s. 5d. I submit, therefore, that the sub-Department requires no defence. A mere statement of the work it is doingis sufficient. If there is any other point that requires explanation I shall be glad to supply it.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in endeavouring to defend his private system of espionage in relation to honorable members and others in this country, has said that there are in Australia people who are in receipt of Bolshevik gold.
– Not gold, but notes; I withdraw the word “gold.”
– Does the right honorable gentleman want a Bolshevik note?
– I shall be very glad to receive one if I can get anything for it.
– The Prime Minister has said that he is aware that there are in this country people who are not carrying on certain propaganda work for nothing - that they are in receipt of money from a foreign country in return for pushing Bolshevik propaganda.
Mr.Brennan. - He does not believe that.
– I suppose not; but there may be some stupid people who pay some attention to the Prime Minister’s statements. If he believes the statement he has made to be true, then he and those associated with him, whoare supposed to govern the Commonwealth, are incompetent, because there is no record of action having been taken against any of these people. If there is any evidence that certain people are in receipt of foreign money to carry on seditious and other propaganda in the interests of some otherunknown people, then why is not the offence sheeted home to them?
– In other cases the Government have not been slow to take action from mere lack of evidence.
– I do not know to what the honorable member refers.
– He is referring to the case of the ex-member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon).
– The incapacity of the Investigation Branch which the Prime Minister has been defending was shown in that case, since it was unable to bring forward any evidenceagainst Mr. Mahon. The Government relied upon an alleged report of his utterances by the Argus. This Commonwealth Service, which is supposed to be necessary for the protection of the Empire, the Commonwealth Government, the Prime Minister, and all connected with this great edifice, was absolutely lacking in that instance. The Government could not produce from the Investigation Branch a tittle of evidence with regard to statements alleged to have been made by Mr. Mahon. That is one case where the Branch has failed.
– The honorable member could tell us a lot as to where it has failed. If he would only come over and give us a little information we would do very much better.
– I quite believe that, because any change on the other side would be an improvement. In another instance this precious Investigation Branch, about which the Prime Minister is so much concerned, went to a lot of trouble to hound out of Australia a man who was killed lately in a railway accident in Russia. I refer to Paul Freeman, who was persecuted in a way that would be a disgrace to any civilized country. The most elaborate precautions were taken to get rid of him, yet, despite this Investigation Branch, he came back to Australia a few months after his deportation, and remained here for some time. The Investigation Branch was either ignorant of that fact, or, if it was not, then the Government were lacking in their duty to deal with the serious menace to which the Prime Minister has referred.
– They did not send Freeman back to Russia on the second occasion.
– No, but they took the trouble to deport him three times. We all remember his detention on the Sonoma, and the references in the newspapers to “ the man without ‘a country.” After being kept for some time in the military barracks, Sydney, where he went on a hunger strike, and was treated as if he were the vilest of criminals, he was forcibly deported as a German, and was landed in Europe. Despiteall the elaborate precautions taken by the Go vernment to get rid of this man and to keep him out of the Commonwealth, he returned, visited his friends here, and moved about freely. He came back with a passport from the British Government, and having executed his mission he returned to Europe.
– Then the honorable member thinks we need more investigation officers ?
– I do not mind any sort of investigation. I have not the slightest objection to the investigation officers reporting my statements. My complaint is that, although they report them, they do not publish them. I may be lacking in some respects, but when I see sitting in front of me at a public meeting two individuals from the Military Intelligence Department, with their note books open before them, I am not such a consummate fool as to make statements ‘that I do not want to utter merely to provide them with evidence against me in some subsequent proceedings.
– Tell me privately.
– I do not want to tell the honorable gentleman privately what I have to say. He cannot deny that the officers of the Investigation Branch, who attend various meetings, were not present on the occasion of the famous meeting at Richmond out of which arose the proceedings taken against Mr. Mahon. The Prime Minister has not explained their absence on that occasion. There is only one explanation-
– It was their day off !
– No; the explanation is that they were engaged in watching the “ agitators “ on the Yarra Bank, who, it was feared, might subvert the Empire.
– The honorable member must keep us better informed.
– I know these intelligence officers very well. At meeting after meeting that I address I see the same two men scribbling away during the whole time that I am speaking. So elaborate are the precautions thus taken to protect the Empire that these officers and I are now getting along fairly well as friends. But when the Prime Minister, at the next general election makes his policy speech at Bendigo he will point to theConsidines and others as being the sort of fellows who want to wreck the Empire. He will talk ad nauseam of the terrible things that would happen if we had our way; and will say that we tried to get this vote wiped out so that we might be free to work our evil plots against the King and Empire. That reminds me of an incident that occurred when I was assisting in the Kalgoorlie by-election campaign. One of the honorable members opposite was at one end of the town denouncing me as an Empiresmasher and a disloyalist, similar to Hughie Mahon, and I, at the other end of the town, was stating reasons why the electors should return Mahon to Parliament, and I instanced this case. I said that when the campaign was over, and we returned together to Melbourne, the man who had denounced me as an Empiresmasher and disloyalist would say, “ Come along, Considine ; have a drink ; “ and so he did. That illustrates the kind of make-believe with which the public are gulled.
– Did the honorable member say he would not have the drink?
– I said I would. I am puzzled to know why any sensible man, claiming to have any responsibility at all, can be gulled by such statements as the Prime Minister has just made regarding the necessity for spending £8,477 upon this service. One could understand it if there were any foundation in truth for these feverish imaginings to which the Prime Minister has given expression regarding the great danger to this country and the Empire at large from individuals who are in receipt of foreign money, whether it be non-negotiable roubles or gold. But the truth is that the Prime Minister is simply ringing the changes on the speeches he made during the war about German gold and Sinn Fein money. To-day, the bogy is Russian money, and it will not be long before it will be Yankee dollars. Sensible people are asked to believe that this expenditure of money is for the purpose of safeguarding the Empire. I cannot see any justification for it at all, because itis obvious to any person who gives the slightest thought to the subject that, if any honorable member on this side intends to do anything to the detriment of “ the King, his crown, and dignity,” &c., they are not likely to make public statements to that effect in the presence of these shorthand writers, who are probably as well known to other honorable members as they are to me. My reading of history teaches me that the most dangerous conspirators are not those who on public platforms make speeches in front of Government agents who are well known to them, thus providing the authorities with an excuse to put them behind the bars. That is not the way conspirators work, so far as I have been able to ascertain, but the Prime Minister may have better inside information on the subject than I have. If these Government agents ever get anything out of me they will be very clever, unless they manufacture evidence, as they did in an historic case in Australia. Of course, no honorable member can be immune from that sort of thing. The authorities may, as they did when prosecuting me, put manufactured statements into a witness’ mouth, although the witnesses in that instance were not the private investigation agents employed by the Government. If people intend to enter into conspiracies, industrial or political, this method will not prevent them, and, therefore, the practice of sending well-known agents to public meetings for the purpose of taking notes of the speeches is absurd on the face of it. I could understand the Government employing agents to become members of an organization, and let them know what that organization is doing; that takes place in every country, but is it not certain that those organizations have not agents similarly employed to tell them what the Government are doing? The Prime Minister will admit that that is a well-known phase of Continental! diplomacy. The right honorable gentleman has said that the officers who are included in this investigation branch have been transferred from other Departments. Have they been transferred from the Military Intelligence Branch, controlled by Major Lempriere?
– He has nothing to do with this branch. I know nothing at all of him.
– There is a branch of the Defence Department which deals with matters similar to those with which this investigation branch deals, according to the Prime Minister’s statement, and the individuals who take notes at meetings which I address are attached to the Military Department and are controlled from the Victoria Barracks, and not by the Attorney-General’s Department. Does the Military Intelligence Department still operate apart from the branch in the Attorney-General’s Department ?
– I do not know anything at all about the Military Intelligence Department. I have never heard of it.
– The right honorable gentleman has justified the employment of the officers in this branch by saying that they are necessary for reporting speeches at meetings in order to protect the country against disloyalists, &c. Apparently he does not know whether or not those activities are being duplicated by the investigation branchof the Defence Department. The position is absurd.
– The whole thing is absurd, but not more so than some of the honorable member’s political organizations; they meet and talk a lot of nonsense.
– The Prime Minister is free to make a public statement about any organization with which I am connected. If he knew anything against me he would have made it public long ere this.
– The honorable member belongs to a number of organizations.
– Yes, I belong to a number of organizations similar to those with which the right honorable gentleman was formerly connected.
– Order! This cross-firing must cease, and the honorable member must address the Chair.
– The Prime Minister, by interjection, implied that I would not like my association with certain organizations to be made known.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said those organizations were absurd.
– They are not absurd. The only organizations I am connected with are industrial or political bodies of the same character as those with which the Prime Minister was formerly connected.
– They certainly are not.
– The Prime Minister is welcome to point to any organization with which I am connected that is not similar to those with which he was associated. The fact is that this precious branch in the Attorney-General’s Department cannot be justified by any other means than by attempting to convince the people that there is some subtle and nefarious conspiracy in progress which necessitates the employment of these investigation agents. If there were any such conspiracy or organized effort to do what the Prime Minister suggests, the methods adopted by his precious agents are absurdly inadequate to cope with it. The right honorable gentleman has admitted that he does not know whether or not this branch is duplicated in the Defence Department. I have said, and he cannot deny, that the detectives whom I have seen taking notes at public meetings which I have addressed, and at others when I was amongst the audience, are attached to the Military Intelligence Department, and not to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. Therefore, if the Prime Minister’s explanation of the reasons for continuing this branch be correct, the work is being duplicated, and this branch is therefore unnecessary.
– I do not admit that at all.
– The right honorable gentleman cannot deny it, whether he admits it or not. Therefore, on the grounds of duplication and of the absurdity of its continuance, from whatever angle it is regarded, I say that this branch ought to be abolished.
– The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) has raised the important subject of the present position of the Arbitration Court, and it is a question that this House will have to face in the very near future. I was a member of the House when the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was passed, and when high hopes were entertained of its results. It was regarded as the panacea for all the industrial troubles of Australia. Then, as now, there were throe parties in the House. The Deakin Government were in power, the Reid party sat in Opposition, and the Labour party were in the Government corner, and all united in believing that the measure would practically prevent strikes for all time in Australia.
– It was hoped so.
– Exactly. The honorable member who interjects, and other honorable members who were then in this House, will bear me out when I say that no measure was ever introduced on which such high hopes were built, or which, on its broad principles, was so generally accepted. What has been the result? The Conciliation and Arbitration Act has not stopped strikes, in some cases it has absolutely created industrial trouble. In Tasmania, at the present moment, the position is an exceedingly disastrous one. Practically every saw-mill in the southern portion of the island, and the greater number in northern Tasmania are closed, because an award of the Court does not enable the proprietors to continue operations, the price obtained for the timber not covering the cost of production.
– Is that because of the wages?
– It is not only because of the wages in the mills, but also the cost of transport. Those interested in the timber trade demand a higher price for their timber, and the increase in the price has had a most serious effect on another important industry. Before the war, the price of the material for making a bushel case for fruit was 4d. During the war, owing to the difficulty of transport, Arbitration Court awards, and other costs, and also to one of those “gentlemanly” understandings amongst the mill proprietors themselves, the price of box material was raised to1s., making a difference of 8d. per case. If we work that out with an average crop of apples, it leaves a tax of £8 per acre on the orchard of the fruitgrower. The point I am trying to make is that we must be careful when fostering and encouraging one industry not to crucify another, which may be equally, if not more, important to the life of Australia. The mill men themselves are quite aware of the fact that the price of timber in Australia to-day does not enable it tobe cut at a profit. There is one mill, just outside Port Phillip Heads, on which a Tasmanian company spent £40,000 in buildings and installing machinery. A statement has been made on good authority that the cost of the f reight and handling from that mill to Melbourne was practically what was received for the timber, leaving nothing for the cost of the timber and the cutting. The result is that the mill has been closed, many men have been thrown out of employment, and the vessel engaged in the trade has been diverted to another direc tion. Another brutal result of the operation of the Arbitration Court has been most disastrous in the case of the milling industry. I am referring to the awful system of allowing wages to accumulate, through deferred awards granted by the Court, in one case, for eighteen months. When the plaint which I have in my mind was filed, the case could not be heard, through no fault, I believe, of the Court.
– Through the fault of the Government.
– I am not trying to place the responsibility on any one, but simply to give a plain statement of the facts. Owing to the delay of eighteen months, and the necessity for paying the wages which had accrued under the award, some of the mill-owners have been absolutely ruined. One proprietor, a friend of mine, had to pay something like £4,000 for back wages - more than his mill was worth.
– Why do you say it was through no fault of the Court?
– What I say is that, owing to the congestion of business, the Court was unable to reach the ease; and, speaking from memory, retrospective wages for eighteen months had to be paid. I know of mill proprietors in Western Australia who have had to pay many thousands of pounds; and one firm in Tasmania has paid something like £8,000, though this happened to be the case of a wealthy company, and the result was not so serious. To some of the smaller mills, however, this accumulation of wages became a matter of life or death. Any system which enables wages to accumulate under an award, involving thousands of pounds, means that a man has to mortgage all he has, in order to cope with the situation. As I say, the result is that some mills are closed down.
– You do not blame the Court, but somebody else?
– I am blaming no one; but simply putting the facts before the Committee - facts which, I take it, are familiar to most honorable members.
With considerable hopefulness we passed the Industrial Peace Act, which, I think, will prove much fairer, more satisfactory, and less expensive than the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The
Industrial Peace Act has a great advantage of getting to close quarters by bringing a certain number of employers and a certain number of employees round a table. Such men are thoroughly conversant with every detail of the industry in which they are engaged, and can arrive at a fair determination much more quickly than any lawyer sitting in Melbourne or Sydney, who has had no possibility of attaining the training necessary to deal with such matters. Without reflecting on any Judge, I say there is no man more unsuited to deal with the technicalities of a bush industry than a lawyer who has spent his whole life in the city. The training of such a man has certainly not fitted him in any respect for adjudicating on such matters, and he must hear evidence which is entirely conflicting, and then make a choice. I supported the Industrial Peace Act, not as an adjunct to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but as a measure which would entirely supplant’ the Arbitration Court. The Government could do nothing better in the interests of the industrial life of Australia than put the Industrial Peace Act into operation in every corner of Australia where it may be required. I am quite certain that if that Act were applied to the Huon mills, in Tasmania, the employers and the men would come to an agreement within a week.
– You are making the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) look quite sad.
– I may say that I know many of the men employed in those mills, and I also know several of the owners. One owner put all he was worth into the mill, and now he has been compelled to close down. Then the men, with their responsibility for their little homes and families have been, forced to seek work elsewhere. It is a heartbreaking experience on both sides, and all because of a stupid arbitration award.
– Hear, hear!
– It is all because of a stupid arbitration award, which has placed on this industry a cost that it cannot possibly bear. One high official has said that any industry which cannot pay what is regarded as a proper rate of wage, should “go.” If that be true, we shall have to be very careful that most of our industries are not compelled to “ go “ in consequence of awards that are more than they can bear. Of course, the position was different during the war. When prices were high for Australian products, high wages could be paid, but now conditions are approaching the normal. The value of products is falling all over the world, and in no place more than in Australia, and values and prices must be reduced in ratio. Awards, however, are given which cripple, stifle, and wreck industries, throwing thousands of our best type of manhood out of work. It is time that we got to close grips with this question. There is nothing sacrosanct about the Arbitration Court, and nothing: should be allowed to stand in the way of production in this country. I grieve to say that there are at the present time more men out of employment in Tasmania than has ever been the case in my experience. A night or two ago the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) told us that there is a serious risk of the closing down of the steel industry in New South Wales. I should say that at least 5,000 workers are dependent on this industry, with all its ramifications.
– There are 5,000 employed in the works alone.
– If that be so, it is safe to say that 7,000 workers will beaffected by any stoppage of the industry.
– Probably 8,000.
– That will be so if we consider the men employed in South Australia, and in the Tasmanian mines.
– We have also to think of those employed on the vessels which carry the ore.
– Unless there is considerable improvement in the prices of the primary products of Australia, many thousands of men are going to be thrown out of work in those industries all over Australia.
– Does the honorable member think that if the arbitration award is abolished, the industry will go ahead and prosper?
– I believe that if the arbitration award were abolished in reference to the saw-milling industry
– I was thinking of the steel industry.
– I do not know what the award is in the steel industry; I am merely endeavouring to show that the industrial position in Australia today is far from hopeful or satisfactory. Any Court or any Act which is having the effect of creating unemployment, of crippling industry, and of preventing capital from being used in remunerative directions, ought to be dealt with drastically by Parliament. The best remedy for industrial trouble in Australia to-day consists in the abolition of the Arbitration Court and the substitution, in full working order, of the provisions of the Industrial Peace Act.
– Then, God help us !
– That Act was founded on a basis of compromise between employer and employee. The parties themselves must surely know the conditions of their industry far better than any Judge can be expected to do. If, in the early stage of a dispute, responsible representatives of the workers and of the employers could be placed around a table to discover for themselves a way out of their troubles, in the light of their inner knowledge of the facts of their industry, far more good would be done than can ever be conferred by the Arbitration Court. In Tasmania the Wages Boards have operated very much more satisfactorily than has the Arbitration Court. If the Arbitration Court award could be abolished in the case of the saw-milling industry, and if the Industrial Peace Act could be put into operation in its stead - thus allowing the two sides to the existing dispute to come together amicably - the whole of the mills would be working again within about a month. It is a serious state of affairs when, in a small community like Tasmania, there are thousands of men out of work through no fault either of their own or of their employers.
– If the fault is due to neither party, why cannot they come together in conference?
– Because the Arbitration Court award prevents any arrangement of the kind being made.
– That is nonsense.
– The parties went to the Arbitration Court of their own accord, when the conditions of the industry were totally different from what they are to-day. There is stacked in Tasmania to-day millions and millions of feet of timber, warping on the wharfs, with no market available. The greater part of that timber, when it is sold, will have changed hands for considerably less than the cost of production.
– If the conditions are such as the honorable member describes, whatever the Arbitration Court or the Industrial Peace Act might do in respect of the adjustment of wages and conditions, would the mills re-open before that surplus timber had been got rid of?
– If the award of the Court were altered or annulled,so that employers and employees could come together at a round-table discussion, the mills would be re-opened practically at once. I have the authority of both sides for saying that.
I desire briefly to refer to the Commonwealth Investigation Branch. If the Prime Minister had not spoken, I would have been tempted to cast my vote for the authorization of the payment of the sum set out in the Estimates in respect to that branch. But the Prime Minister and the Minister for Works and Railways furnished to the Committee two entirely differing statements. The Minister responsible (Mr. Groom) stated that the officials of the Investigation Branch are engaged in carrying out duties which were previously undertaken by officers in the Customs House and in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I find, however, on reference to the details of the Estimates, that inquiry officials attached to those Departments are still separately employed in their old positions. While my mind was still in doubt about the matter, the Prime Minister gave his version of the duties of the officials attached to the Investigation Branch. The right honorable gentleman said, not that they were engaged in performing tasks hitherto undertaken by the investigation officers of the Departments already named, but that they were really a secret police force. During the war I supported the creation and maintenance of this Investigation! Branch, because I believed that its operations were essential to the welfare of the country. But all my reading concerning She secret police of Great Britain, and of Europe generally, impresses upon me the fact that in many cases these gentry create occasionally more crime than they unmask. Is it possible to imagine a greater farce than that which has been presented to the Committee by the clashing statements of the two Ministers? Members of this branch are well known to the public men of Australia. They have been going out, night after night, attending public meetings, taking notes in their books, scribbling down shorthand records of speeches. Is it any wonder that, in view of the publicity given to their activities, there has not been a single instance of a public man having been prosecuted as an outcome of their endeavours?
– But some have been insulted and persecuted by these secret service people, which, after all, is the main thing.
– To the best of my knowledge, no one has been prosecuted as an outcome of any discoveries made by the officials, or following upon their reporting of public utterances. Any prosecutions instituted have been based upon press reports or on information privately given. However, in view of the announcement of the Prime Minister that the members of this branch are, in effect, secret service police, I shall vote against providing funds for the branch. I do not believe that conditions existing in Australia are such as to necessitate the maintenance of the force.I opposed this vote last year, and the year before, also, I believe. But I defended the creation and maintenance of the branch during the war, for reasons which I have already indicated. From that moment when the Armistice was signed there remained no need for its retention. The branch might actually be a source of danger to-day, a medium of political impropriety, which ought not tobe permitted to exist.
– The Prime Minister did not say that the branch is a secret police force.
– The Prime Minister said it was necessary to maintain this force in order that it might keep an eye upon certain classes in the community who are a danger to Australia and the Empire. If duties such as those are not the functions of a secret service, I do not know what the term means. I shall vote against the authorization of payment of the sum involved. And, further, if and when a vote is taken in the direction of abolishing the Federal Arbitration Court - provided that a certain period is given for winding up its operations - I shall support the proposition.
– I have already intimated my intention to move for the deletion of the division embracing the Commonwealth Investigation Branch. I now move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £8,477.
The effect of my amendment, if agreed to, will be to abolish this secret service business. If there were no other justification for saving the amount indicated in my amendment the diverse statements of the Prime Minister and of the Minister for Works and Railways should be sufficient to impress honorable members.
– I desire to remove a misconception from the mind of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams). He has misapprehended the Prime Minister if he is still of the opinion that the right honorable gentleman said that the Commonwealth Investigation Branch is only a form of secret service police. I have already explained the nature of the duties of the officials. I have pointed out that they are undertaking investigations hitherto carried on by special officers in other Departments. I have emphasized more than once that their duties amount to taking over inquiries on behalf of various Departments.
– The Prime Minister said exactly the reverse.
– That is not so. The Branch is now performing special work for the Treasury Department in connexion with taxation matters - questions, for example, relating to evasion of payments, and the like. The officials are also engaged in inquiries having to do with bank notes, coinage, and inscribed stock. They are making investigations relating to payment of maternity allowances and pensions. These officers, I repeat, have been transferred from the Treasury. Formerly they carried on the same special tasks in their various individual departments; they have now been grouped in the Commonwealth Investigation Branch. They are now employed on work for the Department of Home and Territories in connexion with the Immigration Restriction Act, the matter of passports, aliens registration, naturalization, and the like. All these matters are now being attended to by the officials of the Investigation Branch. They are also required to render service in connexion with the criminal law, relating to various Commonwealth Acts. I have before me a list giving the names of the members of the Branch. Their work is essential, and I appeal to the Committee to permit it to be carried on.
– I understood that the discussion was a general one, covering the whole of the Department. I wish to know, Mr. Chairman, whether, if a vote is taken upon the amendment, the effect will be to preclude any further reference to, or amendment upon, preceding divisions.
– The effect of carrying the amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) will be to prevent the discussion of, or the moving of an amendment upon, any of the preceding divisions. The best plan to follow if honorable members wish to move amendments will be to take the Department by divisions. I suggest that course to the Committee.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– As honorable members appear to accept my suggestion, I will, if the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) will withdraw his amendment, submit seriatim the divisional votes.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Division 40 (Secretary’s Office), £17,430; division 41 (Reporting Branch), £5,030; division 42 (Crown Solicitor’s Office), £20,518; and division 43 (High Court), £12,556, agreed to.
Division 44 (Court of Conciliation and Arbitration), £6,354.
.- I move -
That the proposed votebe reduced by£ 1 as an indication to the Government to abolish the Federal Arbitration Court as soon as practicable, with a view to introducing a more effective means of securing industrial peace throughout the Commonwealth.
I do not intend to say more on the subject than I have said on previous occasions. I am willing that the question shall go at once to a vote.
Question put. The Committee divided
Ayes . . . . . . 13
Noes . . . . . . 41
Majority . . 28
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 45 (Public Service Arbitrator’s Office), £2,179, agreed to.
Division 46 (Commonwealth Investigation Branch), £8,477.
Amendment (by Mr. Fenton) proposed -
That the division be left out
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 47 (Patents, Trade Marks, and Designs), £40,900
.- The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has directed my attention to the fact that in this division provision is made for a supervisor and an assistant supervisor of publications. I do not like the look of the item. I am wondering whether these officers are in any way auxiliary to that other class of officers with whom we dealt in the last division and whose duties, according to the Minister forWorks and Railways (Mr. Groom), have nothing to do with attendance at public meetings, whereas, according to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), they have practically nothing else to do but to attend public meetings.
– The item in this case relates only to supervisors of the Patents J ournal.
– They may simply be officers associated with the library of the Department.
– The supervisor of publications has been holding his present office for years.
– In connexion with patents ?
– Then I am glad to give a modified approval to the division.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 48 (Copyright Office), £914, agreed to.
Home and Territories Department.
Proposed vote, £771,788.
.- I do not intend to occupy the time of the Committee at any length in dealing with the Estimates of the Department of Home and Territories, but I wish again to draw the attention of the Government to the position in the Northern Territory. As the people living there are without representation in . this Parliament, we have to be guided largely by reports that we receive from time to time in regard to what is going
On there, and it is necessary, in the circumstances, that we should give f air and reasonable consideration to such representations. There has been for a considerable time a good deal of discontent. The Minister (Mr. Poynton) visited the Northern Territory some months ago, made a report to the House, and took certain steps designed to improve the position of affairs there. Action was taken, amongst other things, to restrict the franchise for the purpose of preventing what the Minister described as the unruly element- from controlling local affairs. It seems strange to me that, notwithstanding that restricted franchise, when an appeal was made to the people to elect their representatives to the local council, those who it was contended were chiefly responsible for the prevailing discontent were returned. Their election suggests that there must be some good reason for the agitation that has been going on from time to time, and, having regard to the fact that the people of the Territory have no direct representation in this Parliament, I think we should be especially anxious to do everything possible to allay the feeling of dissatisfaction which exists. After all, if we are to have a well-governed country we must have a contented and satisfied people. The people of the Northern Territory have been agitating for representation in this Parliament, but under the Constitution have not been able to secure it. That very disability under which they labour imposes upon us a special obligation to consider their interests and to see that no injustice is done them. I make reference to this matter so that the Minister may know that things are not as satisfactory in the Territory as we have been led by the Government to believe. “We are constantly receiving telegrams from the mayor of Darwin with regard to local grievances. A man who holds so high an office must have the backing of the people, and I have come to the conclusion that there must be some justification for his complaints. Our experience is that in order to be elected to the position of mayor of a city, town, or borough in any part of the Commonwealth a man must have the good-will of the majority of its citizens. Holders of such an office are in that respect very much like ourselves.We can secure return to this Parliament only by the expressed will of the people themselves, and I think, therefore, that attention must be given to the complaints made to us from time to time by the mayor of Darwin.
I would draw special attention to the reports as to the large number of the relatively small population of the Territory who are unemployed, and who are urging the Government to do something that will enable them to obtain work. The Minister has told us that inquiries are being made, and that he is endeavouring to carry out certain railway works in the Territory so as to provide work for the unemployed. I wish to impress upon him that this is an urgent matter. Many of these men are in need, and something should be done, and done quickly, to help them. Employment should be found for them at the earliest moment, so that they may have at least two or three weeks’ work before the Christmas season. I have not visited the Northern Territory, but from what we are told it is by no means the best part of the Commonwealth in which to live. A man has no hope of leaving it unless he is in steady employment, and is thus able to save a little money. Many of the men up there have no regular work. Dissatisfaction has been expressed in regard to the internal administration, and in the interests of the whole of the people of Australia we should do our utmost to bring about contentment in that part of the Commonwealth. I ask the Minister to state now whether there is any likelihood of this
Work being started in the near future in order to afford the people of the Territory some employment. I am sure that if we make an honest effort to meet the wishes of the people residing there, and give them reasonable conditions and facilities there will not be so much discontent amongst them, notwithstanding that they hove no representation. Nobody should be taxed without representation, and steps should be taken to give representation to the people in the Northern Territory, but pending that being done the duty devolves upon the Government of seeing that work is provided for them, and that conditions of life are made as comfortable as possible, especially at this season of the year.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and other honorable members have brought under my notice the necessity for providing work in the Northern Territory to relieve the unemployment there. I promised to see what work could be put in hand quickly. During my recent trip to the Territory I saw that the railway from the terminus to the Katherine River where the bridge will cross is incomplete. The unbuilt section is only about two miles, but it involves a considerable amount of earthworks and other construction. I have had an interview with the Minister for Works and Railways and the Commissioner for Railways, and the Commissioner promised three days ago that he would get the work started as quickly as possible. The necessary tools are available on the spot, and everything possible is being done to expedite the commencement of the job.
It is quite true that I have altered the conditions under which the members of the Darwin Town’ Council are elected. The franchise is now based on the ratepayers’ roll. It is equally true that at the election which took place subsequent to that alteration the three Labour candidates were returned, but I advise honorable members opposite not to take too much credit for that result, because I found that for one little tin shanty four people voted - on the same qualification.
– How did they cast their votes ?
– They classed themselves as owners and voted for the Labour candidate.
– How does the Minister know that?
– The persons concerned were the editor of the local paper and others connected with it, and the assumption is that they voted for the Labour candidates. In respect of another vacant block of land one person voted as the owner and another person as the occupier. I have always understood the Labour movement to be opposed to plural voting. However, I assure honorable members that peace reigns in Darwin at the present time, and I have every reason to believe that things will go on more smoothly in future.
– How many men does the Minister expect to employ on the railway works?
Mr.POYNTON. - I suppose the job will provide employment for one hundred men for from four to five months.
.- I was glad to hear the Minister say that there is some prospect of employment being given to the unfortunate people in the Northern Territory who are out of work. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that it was quite wrong to deprive the inhabitants of the Territory of their right to representation. There is no possible justification for the present state of affairs. The people of the Northern Territory should be entitled to vote in the same way as do the people in Central Queensland and in North-western Australia, and I suggest that by some electoral redistribution portion of the Northern Territory should he attached to the far western division of Queensland and another portion to the far northern division of Western Australia.
– A proposal to that effect was contained in the Bill for the purpose of giving representation to the inhabitants of the Northern Territory, but the honorable member’s proposal cannot be carried out under the Constitution.
– When next proposed amendments of the Constitution are submitted to the people the present unfair position in regard to the Northern Territory should receive attention. I hope the matter will not be lost sight of.
– Has a successor yet been appointed to Mr. Knibbs as Government Statistician?
– I understand that Mr. Knibbs now occupies the position of Director of the Bureau of Science and Industry,, but owing to lack of funds, the Bureau will not function completely for at least twelve months, and, possibly, two years. If the Bureau is notdoing very much work, could not Mr. Knibbs still retain the position of Statistician, and so obviate the necessity for appointing another highly-paid officer to that position ?
– That is a very valuable suggestion.
– The Government should pause before making a new appointment. The Estimates include an amount of £850, which, a foot-note indicates, is for portion of the year only. I assume that that amount covers the portion of the year when Mr. Knibbs occupied the position of Statistician, because the salary for the previous year was £1,250. If Mr. Knibbs is not fully employed at present owing to the restriction placed on the Bureau by lack of funds, could he not continue to keep an oversight of the Statistical Department whilst paying casual attention to the work of the Bureau?
.- Like other honorable members, I am. of the opinion that the men and women of the Northern Territory should have representation in this Parliament, but I am not in agreement with the proposal that that representation should be in the Senate. If they are to’ be represented anywhere, it should be in this, the people’s, Chamber and I do not see why we should not adopt the practice which, has operated so long in the United States of America. Territories like Oklahoma and Arizona, until they attained statehood, had the privilege of electing members to the House of Representatives at Washington. Such members took their seats with the other members, but had not the privilege of voting. I suggest that a Bill be prepared to allow the people of the Northern Territory to send to this Chamber a representative who should not have the privilege of voting until such time as the number of electors in the Northern Territory approximates to the number in the more settled electorates in other parts of the Common wealth.
.- I fully indorse the remarks made by the honorable member for Oxley. It is a slur upon the escutcheon of Australia that any men or women of this nation who have agreed to live under the conditions which prevail in the Territory should be robbed of their right to vote. I suppose that many of those who are seeking the rights of Australian citizenship have in the past voted for the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton), and,I feel sure that if he were not a member of the Government, but were sitting on this side of the House, no voice would ring out louder than his in denunciation of the present unfair system. We have been friends too long for me to wish to say anything that would hurt the honorable member’s feelings, but I say with regret that I do not think he has shown that amount of energy on behalf of these people that he would have shown had he been differently circumstanced. When the Commonwealth took over the Northern Territory from South Australia the largest constituency in Australia (Grey) had as its representative the present Minister” for Home and Territories. At that time the people of the Northern Territory had the right to vote for him, and they chose a man who represented them well and truly. They had at that time votes for the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the South Australian Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly, but by a stroke of the pen - I care little whether it was my colleagues or others who were responsible for it - Australian citizenship was taken from those men and women.
– Who was responsible for that action ?
– This blessed House. I am sure the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) would be the last to allow one of his constituents to be deprived of his rights of citizenship. The Minister mentioned that for one Territory shanty four municipal votes were cast; but in Melbourne, within an area of halfamile from this Parliament House to the General Post Office, from there 1,000 yards to Victoria-street, and from Victoria-street for 1,200 yards up Springstreet again to Parliament House, there were cast more postal votes at one Federal election than in the whole of Western
Australia, and, on other occasions, more than in Queensland and in Tasmania. Surely the Minister would not use the fact he spoke of as an argument to prevent his fellow Australians from exercising the rights of citizenship? Even the course of justice is besmirched in that faroff place. A Judge, to his eternal infamy, used to consult the Administrator beforegoing into Court, and those who had not the money to take cases to the higher Courts suffered in consequence. How often in history do we read of men in England who fought nobly for the franchise, which, however, is not yet completely exercised in the Old Land. The fight for the franchise in England . frequently resulted in bloodshed : but, even with its decadent franchise, there is not a single instance of British electors being deprived of their votes. The fight there has been one continual march of progress; it is only here in Australia that British citizens are robbed of their rights. Who are the best men, other things being equal - those who stay in the cities and towns, or those who go out into such places as the Northern Territory? The man or woman who goes there and tries to make good is worth a dozen of those who hang around the towns. The remarks I make apply equally to every Australian man and woman in the Federal Territory and in Papua. In the latter case, they face the dangers of malaria, by which every person is surely attacked in those unhealthy regions. Yet all the white people in those possessions are denied the right of voting. I do not know who the English writer was who declared that taxation without representation is an infamy, but whoever he was he penned a. sentence that will live. The Government, who are in a majority of one in some divisions, and are kept in power by the kindness of the Country party, ought to take some action in regard to the Northern Territory that will redound to its honour.
– I thought I saw this afternoon-
– Does the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) support a policy which robs his fellow citizens of the franchise?
– I was not making any reference to that.
– Then I may take it that the honorable member does not support the policy. Had he done so, I should have been astonished; but will he continue to support a Government which proposes to take away the right of trial by jury in the. Northern Territory, which proposes law and justice by proclamation? All I can say is that if the right of trial by jury is taken away, this Ministry will be stamped with infamy.
– They are already that!
– Then they will be branded with further infamy.
– An infamous Government supported by an infamous Country party !
– These interjections are disorderly, and the personal reflections on Ministers and parties are, if anything, more so. I ask the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) to withdraw the words he has just uttered.
– I withdraw the words, Mr. Chanter.
– I am sure that the Minister will acquit me of having said anything personal regarding himself; and I ask him, as a man who has represented the largest constituency in Australia, and occupied himself for considerably over a year in traversing it, to try and impress on his Cabinet, in these the dying days of the session, the necessity to restore the rights and privileges of citizenship to those Australians who have dared to take up their residence in the Northern Territory, Papua, and the Federal Capital Territory.
.- I am very pleased to hear the statement of the Minister (Mr. Poynton) as to the commencement of the works which will eventuate in the construction of a bridge over the Katherine. Honorable members may not be aware that in the rainy season this river rises over 80 feet.
– The works I referred to are those necessary as a preliminary to the construction of the bridge.
– In that part of Australia there are about 1,000 white inhabitants cut off from civilization for three or four months in the year owing to floods, and proper means of communication are absolutely necessary. The authority to construct this bridge, which is to cost some £80,000, was given as far back as 1916, but since then the project has lain dormant. For the sake of those people who have gone into the wilds of Australia, at the expense of their health in many instances, I trust that the work will be proceeded with immediately the preliminary works are completed. Whatever route the railway line to the Northern Territory takes, this bridge across the Katherine must be built, and until it is built the inhabitants are penalized.
Another matter to which the Government must give consideration is the provision of a water supply for Darwin. I understand that a report is to be presented shortly on this project, which in itself, when it gets under way, will afford considerable employment to the inhabitants of the district. Every year estimates are presented here for repairs to artesian bores, wells, and dams at Darwin, and this expense will be obviated when a proper scheme is carried out. Owing to the absence of a proper water supply, Vestey Limited had to spend about £30,000 on the provision of extra water storage.
– Similar work cost more than that at Flinders Naval Base.
– And probably the expenditure at Flinders is not of as much use as the expenditure will prove at Darwin. Another important need is that of hospital accommodation in our outback places. In my pocket I have the photograph of a nine-months’ old Australian who was taken to the Territory from South Australia when he was two months old, and is now living 460 miles away from a doctor. Iask honorable members to seriously consider what this means to that infant and his parents. On the route that I have in my mind there is a stretch of 300miles, where there are settled 100 men, three white women, and several children; and twelve good Australians died there in twelve months from malaria. This, the people of the district told me, was due to the lack of nurses to give ordinary care, for malaria is not so much a matter for a medical man.
– I understand that two of Vestey’s managers died from want of such attention.
– That is so. I should like to say that the Australian Presbyterian Inland Mission, called the A.I.M., is endeavouring to supply the want to which. I refer, hut I understand the work is hampered owing to the expense entailed. Honorable members must not run away with the idea that this mission is a psalm-singing expedition, for nurses have been sent’ to Port Hedland, in Western Australia, Hall’s Creek, Maranboy, in the Northern Territory, and to Oodnadatta and Beltana, in South Australia. Another hospital is being erected at Alice Springs, also another one in the Northern Territory. I have been at Beltana and Oodnadatta, and I have seen what is done by the nurses there, and also at Maranboy. One of the drivers during our recent trip suffered from an injury to his arm, and had to bc attended to.
– The Government ought to subsidize such a work as that.
– U,p to the present, the Government have done very little.
– Up to the present, there has been no application from the mission for assistance.
– The residents have pointed out their needs in this respect to the Administrator, but whether their representations have reached the Government, I do not know. I appeal now particularly on behalf of the people on the Victoria River route. This is a most important track. If a hospital were placed at Victoria Downs, the most central position, it would be only 37 miles from the main stock route from Western Australia to Newcastle Waters and thence across to Camooweal, in Queensland, or south to Adelaide. It is when travelling along those routes that drovers are apt to pick up malaria; and when they go down with malaria they need urgent and constant attention. The Department of Home and Territories* would be doing a wise and humanitarian act if it placed a sum on the Estimates so that the matter of hospital provision could be proceeded with. If .there is one place which can be developed in the Northern Territory it is the Victoria River district. The party with which I travelled called at the telegraph stations on the overland route, and at each we heard complaints from the officer in charge that the medicine chests .previously supplied by the Home and Territories Department were now withheld, and, further, that these officers had been asked to pay for the medicines out of their own ‘pockets. Only those who have had experience there or have passed through those regions know what the medicine chests really mean. I met the mail man who conveys the mail to Newcastle Waters from the Katherine. He told me that he had had to buy quinine to give to drovers whom he found lying on .the side of the road almost dying of malaria. But, he added, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department would fine him if he was late in delivering his mail, even though his lateness was due to his refusal to leave men lying sick, and possibly dying, on the roadside.
– I have just been informed by departmental officers that the honorable member was not correct in remarking that postal officials are charged for medicine. The medicine chests are still forwarded to the telegraph stations. There was at one period some little delay in maintaining supplies owing to wartime difficulties; but there has been no alteration of the policy. I think the honorable member must have been misinformed.
– I hope, at any rate, that if there have been reasons for the complaints of the officers indicated - and I am confident, that there have been - they will be speedily removed. Certainly the officer in charge of the post-office at Powell’s Creek assured me that he had been refused medicine and had been asked to pay £3. I actually saw a letter from the chief medical officer in Darwin dealing with that point.
– I think the medicine must have been obtained from an outside source.
– In view of the fact that no medical attention is provided from as far south as Oodnadatta to Marranboy, a distance of about 1,000 miles, I emphasize that, until hospitals are established, the Department of Home and Territories should make every effort to see that the medicine chests are duly furnished and maintained.
– I assure the honorable member that supplies will be sent on as hitherto.
– I hope so, at any rate. I suggest also that the Department should make a sum available for keeping roads clear of such obstructions as ant hills, and for making low-level crossings over sandy creeks. There are scores and scores of streams throughout the Territory, most of which, however, are very shallow, and run dry very rapidly. If low-level crossings were made, the overland route to Darwin could be easily accomplished by motor car in a matter of about twelve days. I intend to suggest to the Minister a method whereby this task of smoothing the way could be carried out with a very small expenditure. If nothing can be done this year I hope that a specific sum will be placed on next year’s Estimates so that the track from the south to Darwin may be rendered negotiable. I might mention that two cars followed the party with which I journeyed. In one of them, Mr. and Mrs. Dutton, of South Australia, were travelling. The two motors made a relatively comfortable passage after our party had prepared the way in such a manner, for example, as by cutting down boughs to provide corduroy tracks across the sandy creek beds. If motorists do not journey right through to Darwin in the near future, numbers will certainly travel as far as the Macdonnell Ranges, which will become shortly a health resort.
I desire to bring under the attention of the Minister an unsatisfactory condition of affairs arising from the letting of a contract for the cartage of Government supplies from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. The conditions, as a matter of fact, are .little short of scandalous. Some time ago the Government called for tenders for the transport of materials, and stipulated that white labour only should be employed. By the ordinary camel teams, freight to Alice Springs from Oodnadatta is £17 per ton. A certain firm secured the contract at £37 per ton, tho basis of the contract being the employment of white labour. Later, the firm communicated with the Department, to the effect that white labour could not be secured; which, by the way, was a deliberate lie. The contractors then intimated that they would be prepared to put a half-caste or an Afghan on to the job, in consideration of which they would reduce their tender to £28 per ton. To-day the Government are in the ridiculous position of having their supplies conveyed for £28 per ton, while ordinary settlers pay only £17 to have their goods conveyed upon the same camels. A returned soldier, whom
I met’ in the interior, told me that he had had the honour of fighting in Palestine with the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell). In that campaign he had become familiar with the handling of camel trains. He is an expert cameldriver. Now, although this contracting firm had been paying a previous driver £5 10s. per week, it offered the returned soldier only £3 10s. to take a camel team up to Alice Springs. Only those who have been in the interior can appreciate just what the job would mean at that wage.
– I have ascertained that the contract of which the honorable member has- been speaking has nothing to do with my Department.
– At any rate, a Government Department is involved.
– The Home and Territories Department certainly sends up rations to the natives.
– Then those supplies are conveyed by the same camel team, belonging to the same contracting firm to which I have been alluding, and the fact of the differential rates charged stands unchallenged.
The Northern Territory must be populated. I am quite satisfied, after having met many people resident in the Territory, that it is a white man’s country. I had some conversation with a police officer who was returning from Anthony’s Lagoon, and who had resigned from the Police Force. I asked him why he was leaving the service, and he made the remarkable statement that, although he had offered to pay the travelling expenses of his wife-to-be in order that, after their marriage, she might go out and make a home for him in the Territory, the Police Department had refused him permission to marry. Such an attitude does not appear to me an earnest - at any rate, on the .part of the police authorities - of their desire to encourage womenfolk to settle in that country. The development of the Northern Territory is not a question of the white man, but of the white woman. If the Government would make it safe for womenfolk to live in the Territory by establishing hospitals at various points, wives would follow their husbands.
The Home and Territories Department has done good work during the past few years in regard to boring for water supplies.Splendid servicehas been rendered in the establishment of a chain of bores, only about 20 miles apart, and varying from 50 feet to 300 feet in depth, all the way from Newcastle Waters to Camooweal, across the border. Thus, the great cattle route has been made absolutely safe for stock. Across the tablelands there is very little surface water, and in the dry season what little there is is utterly filthy. Considerable expense hasbeen involved in boring; but a magnificent return is already showing. Plentiful supplies of beautiful water may be obtained. At one bore 250,000 gallons were pumped straight into an earthen tank, and upon a measurement of the bore being taken, it was found that the supply had not been reduced by more than 6 inches. I had the pleasure of carrying the news to Mr. Peacock, who is the contractor for Government boring operations, and who was working at the time near Anthony’s Lagoon, that his son had struck a fine source of wateron the old Murrinji stock route at a depth of 350 feet. The significance of my information lay in the fact that the Murrinji has been a very unsafe track. Many a drover and many thousand head of stock have perished along that track for lack of water. I trust that the Government will place a larger amount on the Estimates next year for putting down bores upon blocks of land, and making them available for settlers. No settler, however willing and experienced, can make a proper start in that country unless he is provided with permanent water.
– I entirely agree with the honorable member. The Department has been pushing on with these bores.
– If the Department will undertake to provide blocks with a permanent water supply from bores, there is bound to be a marked increase of settlement. Every experienced man with whom I spoke said that he would be willing to pay rental, interest, and sinking fund in addition, in respect of the cost involved in boring, but that the immediate cost of the boring itself could not be met by private individuals. The Barkley Tablelands are among the richest in Australia, and the people renting that country are amongst the most fortunate individuals in that part of the continent. In many instances settlers on the Queensland side of the boundary are required to pay £1 per square mile, while those on equally good land, just across the boundary, are required to, pay to the Commonwealth only 3s. 6d. per square mile. I make no complaint of the low rental charged, for it is well that this encouragement should be offered to settlers.
– The land was originally let by the South Australian Government. The Commonwealth authorities have increased the rental by only 50 per cent.
– I am confident that, if the Department enters upon a bold campaign of boring upon settlement blocks, the problem of the empty north of Australia will have been solved. I desire to refer briefly to the departmental subsidy to various mail services. I understand that the Department of Home and Territories pays certain subsidies in order that mails may be carried reasonably often and regularly.
– I have authorized the running of extra trains. Hitherto a train has been despatched only once in a fortnight. A third train is now run at the cost of my Department.
– I suggest that a grant should be made to the Postal Department to institute a buggy mail service instead of the present inordinately slow camel mail service between Alice Springs and Oodnadatta. The time occupied in conveying mails between those two points at present is ten days.
– It is very unfair that my Department should be compelled to bear the expense of conveying mails.
– If the Postal Department will not do it, and this Department will, I believe that the Committee will pass the vote.
– I have been carrying it on now for some months.
– I ask you to extend the system. The Postal Department has refused the service. A sick woman at Alice Springs had to ride for. ten days on a carnal to get medical treatment, because no buggy service was available, though it would cost the Commonwealth only £200 or £300 a year to maintain one.
– What about a motor car service?
– I doubt its practicability, because of the expense of maintenance.
– The honorable member’s party got through.
– Yes, but it was a very expensive trip. One has to pay up to £40 per ton, plus 50 per cent. as special freight, to have petrol brought up from South Australia, and the evaporation from the small tins is very great. Many of the tins when they reached us were absolutely dry. A buggy mail service would increase settlement, and would enable residents in the district who needed medical attention to make a comparatively comfortable journey to the doctor’s.
– Does the honorable member say that petrol evaporated out of sealed tins? I have never known that to happen, even right out-back.
– I speak of 2-gallon tins which are soldered, not of 8-gallon drums. Many of the tins when we got them were dry. I am glad that it is the policy of this Department to open up the country by extending its boring operations, and I commend to the consideration of the Minister my suggestions about hospitals and buggy mail services.
. -I desire to speak of some matters connected with the administration of the Northern Territory, the first of them being the dismissal of Dr. H. I. Jensen, who was at one time Geologist to the Territory. He’ is one of the most eminent geologists in Australia, and, for that matter, in the world ; but not long after he went to Port Darwin he fell foul of the dual administration. Dr. Jensen has initiative and ability, and was considerably hampered by the then Administrator and! the staff generally. He made certain charges against the Administration - eighteen or nineteen, I have been informed by the Minister - and his charges were practically tried by those against whom they were levelled, the trial being virtually an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. The men responsible for Dr. Jensen’s dismissal were unsparingly condemned by Mr. Justice Ewing, who was appointed a Royal Commissioner to investigate the administration of the Territory, a few of whose observations I shall quote. Mr. Justice Ewing said -
Dr. Gilruth is an able man, and, in my opinion, within the sphere for which Providence intended him, very much above the average. Unfortunately, he was called upon to rule a democratic people, a task for which he apparently is unfitted. Mr. Conacher, the managing director of Vestey’s Company, who in his evidence paid the highest possible tribute to Dr. Gilruth’s ability, knowledge, and capacity, and spoke of him as a personal friend, ended a letter to his principals by saying that Dr. Gilruth’s downfall was a direct result of methods. He continued - “ One would naturally like to use a strong hand, but I don’t see anywhere in the world to-day where that is making men work satisfactorily . “
Dr. Gilruth had little toleration for any person who disagreed with him, and was temperamentally unfitted for filling the office he occupied. There canbe no doubtbut that his general method of administration and conduct was one of the factors directly contributing to the unsatisfactory condition of affairs which I found existing.
Of Judge Bevan, who during the strike worked on a wharf, scabbing, and received pay from a local company, the Commissioner said -
During a strike Judge Bevan worked as a labourer upon the Darwin wharf, and received the pay of the company - an incident which the industrial section of the community never forgot or forgave. Judge Bevan admits that his conduct on this occasion was most unwise. I would add that it would appear to me as most improper, particularly in view of the fact that he was the only Judge in the Territory. Judge Bevan’s suspected association in mining transactions with Dr. Gilruth, his close friendship with that gentleman, and’ the existence of a private telephone, not connected with the exchange, between his chambers and Dr. Gilruth’s office, all tended to bring about suspicion. Judge Bevan also, to the knowledge of the people, took active steps to secure the abolition of trial by jury in the Territory-
The Minister has carried on the good work by completely depriving the people of the Territory of the right to trial by jury, except in certain cases- and the residents thought this another stage towards their passing completely into the hands of the Administrator and the Judge. . .
Dr. Gilruth seems to possess none of those qualifications which fit him for the exercise of almost autocratic powers, except personal courage.
With regard to the Arrino lease, the Royal Commissioner found that -
Hope was a partner of Dr. Gilruth and Judge Bevan from the beginning to the end of the transactions in connexion with this mine.
That Judge Bevan was perfectly open in his association as a partner with Hope, but that Dr. Gilruth, the Administrator, was a secret partner.
The report contains a scathing indictment of Carey, which I shall not read now because of a case which is before the Court. Dr. Jensen made certain charges against the administration of these men, and practically every one of those charges waa proved during the investigation of the Royal Commissioner some years later; but he was, nevertheless, dismissed, and for twelve months ‘afterwards was without employment, having at last to accept a minor position under the Queensland Government. He received noi compensation for his dismissal by the gang that was condemned by the Royal Commissioner, and I think that the Government, even at this late stage, should recompense him. Dr. Jensen was a Labour man.
– It was Mr. Barnett, stipendiary magistrate, of Sydney, who held the inquiry into Dr. Jensen’s charges.
– The fact remains that practically the whole of those charges were found by Mr. Justice Ewing to be proved. Because of Dr. Jensen’s Labour tendencies, he was up against Messrs. Gilruth and Bevan and the others of whom Mr. Justice Ewing spoke so scathingly, and they were responsible for his dismissal. The present Minister was not in office at the time, but he should take steps now to compensate Dr. Jensen.
Another instance of the extraordinary manner in which affairs were conducted in the Northern Territory by the incompetent autocracy there was the pirating of the steamboat Maggie, which belonged to a Mr. Sam Green. That vessel was left at Port Darwin by Mr. Green while he went to Melville Island, where he had timber concessions and a mill. During his absence, Dr. Gilruth took possession of the vessel. Green had no agents at Port Darwin, and the fact that permission to use the boat could not be obtained did not deter Dr. Gilruth from commandeering it. He, or persons acting under his instructions, took the vessel, piled it on a reef, broke its keel, burnt out its trailers, and damaged it to the extent of about £1,000. When Green returned to Darwin, he found the boat to be a wreck, and was informed by Dr. Gilruth that an allowance of £200 would be made to him for the damage done, it being intimated that he could take that sum or leave it. Mr. Green had certain timber contracts with the Government, and had done work for it, and because of his economic position he was practically compelled to accept the offer.
– The vessel was seized by an officer of the Navy. I told the honorable member that, about a fortnight ago, in reply to a question.
– The Maggie .waa requisitioned by a naval officer, with the concurrence of Dr. Gilruth. The Minister knows perfectly well that Dr. Gilruth was right in it, and was responsible for the taking of the vessel. That he paid compensation for the damage done is evidence of his complicity in the affair. Had it been a matter for the Navy, he would have taken no action.
– Dr. Gilruth was appointed to his position by the Labour party.
– Of which the Minister was, at the time, a member.
- Mr. Green did not get a fair deal from the Administrator, or from the Government, and I ask the honorable gentleman if he will pay compensation to him for his loss ?
– The Government have compensated Dr. Gilruth and Judge Bevan, despite their record.
– They have been paid something like £1,000. Dr. Jensen, who was victimized by the same lot, received nothing. There is only one other matter to which I wish to refer. Mr. Toupein, secretary of the North Australian Industrial Union, in a letter to me writes, among other things -
Enclosed please find a copy of an opinion re a compensation matter. This will show you the obsolete conditions prevailing in the Northern Territory concerning compensation. The only employees whom there is an Act covering are those under the- Federal Government by the Commonwealth Compensation Act. The N.A.T. Company (Vesteys) mutually insure their employees, so that the conditions as set out in the Commonwealth Act shall apply in cases of accident. Outside the Government and Vesteys, no provision is made whatsoever. This is a deplorable state of affairs. The life of the bushman in this country is a very hazardous one, with the handling of cattle on those huge runs that see white men only on rare occasions, the dangers entailed in the crossing of rivers and creeks in flood time, men often being drowned. Then there are the dangers from blacks, and sicknesses indigenous to the back country - various fevers and berri berri, the latter caused by hard living on scanty and stale foods. Both these sicknesses are very prevalent. In the existing agreements with Vesteys and the Government covering pastoral employees, provision is made for payment of full wages for a month or any part thereof for sicknesses other than those caused through intemperance or venereal. Another important matter is that of men falling sick or meeting with accidents often several hundreds of miles away from medical aid. Some provision should he ‘made for the conveyance of such cases to medical aid, and for payment for their conveyance, and for the time lost in going to such aid and returning to their work.
He then goes on to speak- of the opinion, which I have already forwarded to the Minister. In view of the short time at our disposal and the volume of business to be transacted, it is impossible this session to pass an amendment of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, which will apply to those in the Northern Territory who are outside the Commonwealth Service and the arrangement made with Vesteys.
– Ifr is only a few days since the honorable member supplied me with the opinion to which he refers, but he has already received from me a letter stating that I am going into the matter and will do what I can to remedy the grievance. That can be done by an amending Ordinance.
– I have not yet received a reply from the Minister, and even if I had I should have brought this matter before the Committee, believing that it is necessary to ventilate all such grievances. We are governing the Territory, and one of the first laws to be passed by a Parliament controlling any State or Territory should have for its object the protection of the workers. I urge upon the Minister the necessity of preparing during the recess a Bill which will supply this much-needed want. I hope that such a Bill will be passed early next session.
.- I should not have risen to take part in this debate but for the informative speech made by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), who, as the result of a trip through the Northern Territory, has been able to supply us with some very interesting facts. I would point out that the honorable member’s suggested solution of the difficulties associated with the settlement of the back country, although apparently easy, does not go to the root of the matter. As a boy, I lived in the Western District of New South Wales, where there were then no railways, and where we were as far removed from medical aid as are many of the people in the Northern Territory of whom the honorable member has spoken. I can recall two or three incidents which go “to show of what stuff were the people who lived in that back country in those days. I can remember a youngster who when amusing himself, as youngsters do, with a penknife, cut “his wrist very severely, severing the sinews. A doctor was not available, but the boy’s mother, who was the wife of a grazier, sewed up the wound. Nothing more was done, but the boy recovered and grew into’ a strong man. I can remember another case where a boy while climbing a tree fell on a broken bough and sustained a wound in the leg which required nine stitches. Those stitches were also put in by the mother. The boy was not seen by a doctor, but, like the other, he recovered and is to-day a strong man. Still another incident is that of a- man who as the result of an accident sustained while moving between two mustering camps had his leg badly shattered. The manager of the station removed 5 inches of bone from the injured limb, with the result that the man recovered and was soon as good a stockman as ever he was. He, too, was not seen by a doctor. The point I wish to make is that in those days there were more people in the western division of New South Wales than there are to-day, notwithstanding that at that time it had none of the present-day facilities. We had few hospitals, and practically no doctors within call or telephones, and none of the present facilities for making life easy; yet the population there was greater than it is at the present time.
The honorable member for Bass has told us that the problem of settling the Northern Territory relates not to the settling of men, but rather to the settling of women. In the days of which I speak - over thirty years ago - in the western division of New South Wales there were more women than are now there. We have to. go very much deeper than the honorable member has suggested. He has touched only the surface. We have to consider the- real causes of progression or retrogression in ‘ the back country districts. The chief drawback is the lack of understanding that has obtained in this Parliament, and the lack of sympathy which has always been shown here for those who are living in the back country. The honorable member for Bass has advocated the sinking of more wells, the establishment of hospitals, and the erection of telephones in the Northern Territory. All these services wouldbe of great use and would render life in the . back country more pleasant and advantageous; but unless we go to the root of the matter and deal in this Parliament with the more important questions of settlement those mere surface attractions will not people our back country and make it as productive as it should be. We have to develop the mining and pastoral industries in the Northern Territory before we can really people that part of the Commonwealth. To do that the Government must send out men who will remain at their posts. On these very Estimates provision is made for compensation which, I think was obtained, in open Court, by one of the men who ran away from the Northern Territory. This compensation is to be paid to one of the men, who, in the time of trouble, left the people up there and hastened to Melbourne for protection. We shall never people the back country, never make Australia the producing nation that it ought tobe, and never settle our far back empty spaces, unless the Government send out men who are capable of doing the work allotted to them, and prepared to stand to their posts. It seems to me that the management of the Northern Territory prior to the administration of the present Minister (Mr. Poynton) - because I do not think these things have happened since his appointment to his present position - has been such that we cannot anticipate that men, women, and children will go into that part of the country unless the Government will choose, as its representatives there, men who are capable of understanding the back country from the pastoral and mineral points of view, and men who, above all things, are prepared to hold on in time of trouble.
– And we must give them more power.
– That is so. When officers of the Commonwealth are sent into the far back districts they must be given as much liberty in the discharge of their administrative duties as can safely be allowed them. We have had too much of the system under which references have constantly to be made to the Central authorities, and too little of that necessary liberty on the part of local officers to meet the immediate needs which are constantly arising in the far away interior.
I want again to impress upon the Ministry that we shall never be able to develop the back country of the Northern Territory while we continue to follow the present lines of administration. As far back as 1916, we passed a Bill providing, amongst other things, for the construction of the Katherine River bridge; but the honorable member for Bass, who has just returned from that part of the Territory, tells us that not even a start has been made with the work. When that Bill was passed in 1916the people out there naturally thought that they would speedily be brought into closer touch with civilization. Five years have elapsed without anything being done. They have had all that time in which to lose faith in the Central Administration and to lessen their belief in the future of the Territory. When the Government passes a measure designed to develop the back country it should at once give effect to it. Its object should be not only to develop Australia in the ordinary sense, but to establish confidence on the part of the people who are breaking in the new lands. If we are to develop the country as we should do, we shall have to establish on the part of the people in the back country a more complete confidence in this Parliament than has yet been created. We ought certainly to give the people of the Northern Territory some sort of representation. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) this evening threw but a suggestion which is well worth the consideration of Parliament. I would impress upon the Minister, who knows something of life in the back country, that it is time we showed the people of the Northern Territory that when we promise to do a thing we will see it through. The Katherine River bridge should be built as soon as possible. We should establish on the part of the pioneers up there a feeling of reliance upon rather than a feeling of doubt in representatives here. Little surface undertakings such as the honorable member for Bass has suggested will not settle the north of Australia or bring into its full fruition that magnificent country which has been so much decried in this House. “We must get down to fundamentals and prove to the people up there that we are prepared, not only to talk in their favour, but to pass measures to assist them and to see that they are at once put into operation.
.- It was not my intention to address myself this evening to the question of the Northern Territory, but after listening to those who have spoken on the subject one finds it difficult to refrain from joining in the debate. I agree, to a certain extent, with the remarks made by the honorable member (Mr. Fleming) who has just resumed his seat. In some respects he is right and in others he is wrong. His proposals, plus those made by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), will help materially to develop the Territory. We are faced there with great problems, and have to solve them. . We must settle a large population up there if for no other than defence reasons. The honorable member for Bass is to be congratulated on the excellent address, containing so much information of use to us, that he made this evening. We could not have had a better illustration of the necessity for the people of the Northern Territory being represented in this House than was furnished by the honorable member’s speech, and I think that henceforth the people up there will be able to say that they have in him a representative here. The trouble is that we are too far removed from the people of the Territory, and they are too far away from us. What would have happened to the Australian Imperial Force but for that close contact between officers and men on the spot - heart talking to the heart, beat for beat? It is exactly the same with the Northern Territory; we are too far away to appreciate all the troubles of the people up there.
– We know nothing about them.
– That is absolutely so. They have our sympathy, and that is about all. I know that there are contented men on the ships of our Navy, because the Minister (Mr. Laird Smith) is close to them, he understands their grievances, and he can settle them. But with the Northern Territory the position is different. During the course of the day I have had the privilege of several hours’ conversation with some gentlemen who have just arrived from the Territory, and I heard from them facts exactly as they were stated by the honorable member for Bass. He is perfectly right; he has come right down to the human level. We shall not get white men to go to a place to which they cannot take their wives. These gentlemen told me that women up there have given birth to children 400 miles away from the nearest doctor and nurse. That cannot continue. Women will not risk their lives in that way unless . they are assured of proper medical attention. To-night, I have to take part in a deputation to the Prime Minister to ask for a subsidy by the Commonwealth Government for that fine organization, the Inland Mission, which to-day is fighting for its financial life, to enable it to keep up its small nursing centres. It must have financial assistance if it is to carry on; and I am sure that, when the facts are put before him, the Prime Minister will give them every consideration, and I know that the request will have the support of this Committee. If we can, we should assist this body by a subsidy of £2 for £1, or £1 for £1, of the money privately contributed, to send nurses and doctors to within reasonable distance of the settlers. I think that the advance in flying machines will, to a certain extent, get over the difficulty of getting doctors and nurses quickly to the spot where they are required, but the doctor and nurse cannot be quickly summoned unless we establish wireless stations or telephone services. Perhaps the Minister might suggest to the Postmaster-General that he should consider the possibility of establishing wireless telephones at. certain centres, or a small wireless plant, which, I understand, can be driven by a motorcar engine, if necessary.
– The PostmasterGeneral has already that matter in hand.
– I am very glad to hear that, and I hope he will get a Yankee spurt on, and have something done. We talk a good deal in this Chamber, but nothing more is heard about our proposals. I trust, however, that we shall soon hear something more about the provision of representation for the Northern Territory. How can we expect people to pay taxes and play the game if we do not give them a. fair deal? It is only human nature to fight, and I think we should consider this matter of representation at the earliest possible moment. If there were only two dozen people in the Territory, they should have somebody in this Parliament who could speak for them. As I said before, the heart must talk to the heart j we must get closer to those people. I know that the Minister (Mr. Poynton) did his best when he went to the Northern Territory, but he walked into a pretty hot shop. I do not know whether the fact that writs were about to be issued at the time he arrived had anything to do with his reception, but he- did hia best. I know, however, from men who have just arrived from Darwin, that the people there are not n happy community, and we must do something to improve their lot. I again ask the Government to give every consideration to the provision ot nurses and doctors, in order to give assistance to the people, who are trying to populate the Northern Territory. Again I congratulate the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) on having placed before us a lot of facts of which we knew nothing ‘before. The visit of that parliamentary party which recently made the trans-Australian trip will be of very great benefit to honorable members, for we can go to them and learn at first hand of the troubles which the people in the Northern Territory have to face.
.- In 1912 I had the privilege of paying a visit te- the Northern Territory. That was at the beginning of the administration of the late Administrator, which closed somewhat ingloriously a few months back. When we went there, having instituted a newt regime, there was every promise that a new era of progress and prosperity for the Territory would set in, and I shared the optimism that appeared to be general at the time. Those hopes have not been very fully realized, but, so far as the settlement of the Northern Territory is concerned^ I arn not one of those who entertain any high hope that this vast area can be settled in advance of the rest of Australia. In other words, we cannot transplant a large and progressive population to a Territory which is so many hundreds of miles away from the present centres of population while there is abundance of rich territory much nearer to the coastline- and more easily accessible. I rose particularly to refer to the fact that we have left the people in the Northern Territory during all these years without representation in this Parliament. I think that that conduct’ on the part of the Government, because the responsibility rests with them, is utterly inexcusable. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) complimented the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) on the speech he made in the House this evening, and he said that at all events, for to-night, the Northern Territory was represented in this House by the honorable member for Bass. That serves to illustrate the fact that every time same gentleman of leisure from this Parliament finds it convenient to make a flying visit to the Territory he returns to this Parliament to give us the latest information as to what he saw and heard and felt during his flying journey across but a small part of this vast Territory. The truth is that such a trip as that, and such a speech as that of the honorable member strikingly demonstrate! how shamefully we have neglected those people. At long intervals some one pays a visit to the north, and at long intervals discussions on the Northern Territory take place in this House ; but we have very little first-hand knowledge concerning the actual conditions. If we are candid we must admit that. As one who has visited the place, I admit having only a slight knowledge, and any one who has made only a flying visit, if he .is candid, must make a similar admission. ‘ This is a vast Territory, comprising about 335,000,000 acres, or 520,000 square miles, of land, and if we pause to consider how that area compares in size with some of the most progressive countries in Europe, we shall have a better idea of its extent. Our first duty is to see that the Territory is represented. One would suppose that we had reached a stage in our history when it was no longer necessary to argue against taxation without representation. One with any knowledge of history realizes that disturbances are bound to follow, and political and industrial unrestis sure to exist in a most acute form where there is no outlet for the opinions of people through representative spokesmen.
– Would it be possible, by means of a special arrangement, to attach the Northern Territory to one of the Northern Federal electorates?
– I think so. I believe there is more than one way by which the people in the Northern Territory could have a representative in this Parliament. Probably the just and proper way would toe to attach it to one of the Northern Federal electorates.
– That was suggested in the Senate, but it could not be done constitutionally.
– If that is a fact, does it really end the matter? Are we to resort to deportation and imprisonment as an alternative? Have we no greater resources than simply to say that there are constitutional difficulties in the way which prevent Australian citizens enjoying fundamental rights ? Surely that is a weak answer. There are no insuperable constitutional difficulties, but, of course, I do not profess to express the last word on the constitutional aspect of the question. There was a proposal that the people of the Northern Territory should have direct representation in the Senate or in this Chamber. Of course, I do not believe that mere territory, as distinct from people, should necessarily have representation. I have had occasion to fight very strenuously against the grossly unfair system of representation in the Victorian Parliament, wherein representation is given to land rather than to people. I do not view with complacency the suggestion to give representation to territory irrespective of voters. While one should be opposed to giving representation to mere territory, without regard to the paucity of numbers, one should be equally as insistent that every adult in the Commonwealth should have the right to become articulate by virtue of a parliamentary vote. These people are neglected, and the result is as we see it. We find there are virile men with strong convictions and pronounced views upon political and social questions taking a firm stand because they have no voice in shaping the laws which they are required to obey. I may say at once that all the best rebellions - and there have been many justifiable ones - have been founded on the same wise principle, and one with which I entirely agree. I propose, in order that we shall not merely repeat these platitudes every time we pass the Estimates, and then go away for our Christmas holidays feeling satisfied that we have said and done the right thing, to ask the Committee to adopt an amendment. As an expression of opinion on the part of the Committee that representation in this Parliament should be granted to the residents of the Northern Territory, I move -
That Division 55, “(Northern Territory - general services), £104,346,” be reduced by £1.
– From some of the speeches delivered one would think that I was the culprit, and was responsible for not attempting to give the residents of the Northern Territory representation in this Parliament. It is a remarkable fact that, although the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has been a member of this Parliament for many years, he has never before raised his voice on this question, even when Governments which he was supporting were in office. Some time ago a request was made for the people of the Northern Territory to have representation in the Senate. Did I shirk my responsibility? The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) promised them representation in another place, and a Bill was acceptedby Cabinet and introduced in the Senate, where it was rejected, but it was suggested that the Northern Territory should be attached to a northern Federal electorate, probably in Queensland or South Australia. I then consulted constitutional authorities to see if that could be done, and I was assured that we had not the constitutional power. I then made inquiries as to the position in other countries where the population was small, particularly in some of the American States.
– Is the amendment in its present form in order, in view of the Constitution ?
– The amendment is quite in order.
– I made inquiries, and I found that in the case of some of the sparsely-populated territories in the United States of America provision is made for representation, but the representatives, while having the right of speaking, and all the privileges and emoluments of other members, have not the right to vote. At the earliest opportunity I intend to bring the matter before the Cabinet. Personally, I believe that the Northern Territory ought to have some kind of representation; but it amuses me to hear members of a party who were in power for so many years complaining of lack of attention on my part to the needs of the Northern Territory, seeing that I have been a member of the Ministry for only a very limited time. No proposition in this regard was made while the Labour Government was in power. On the whole, I venture to say that I have done more than any previous Minister to, obtain representation lor the residents of the Northern Territory.
– Canberra has no representation.
– That is so. As to a Darwin water supply, there is no doubt great necessity for some scheme of the kind. When I was there I made inquiries, and I have obtained reports regarding a water supply from two or three different places. These reports, I presume, are now under the consideration of the Department of Works and Railways.
There is no one more keen than myself to provide hospitals and kindred facilities for the residents of the Northern Territory. It is only a question of money, and we have already spent a considerable amount in the improvement of roads and inother directions. Anything that can be done within the prescribed amount will be done; we must remember that the Treasury governs the position to a great extent. The expenditure on boring for water is perhaps the wisest that could be undertaken. There is an abundance of feed, but the surface is dry, and unless a man who goes to that country has a considerable capital he is hampered by lack of water. At the present time, under the auspices of the Government, boring is going on in certain localities, and if water is found settlers will follow, and themselves make what additional provision they require. These are the lines on which I am working, and I regret that there is not more money on the Estimates this year to enable me to extend my efforts. However, we have been very successful in the boring which has been undertaken, nearly every bore yielding from 30,000 to 32,000 gallons per hour in a flow that cannot be reduced. I may explain that this is not artesian, but sub- artesian, water, and it is of good quality. Open tanks are being fixed, and windmills are used to pump the water into them. It is said that some of the tanks are not large enough, and I propose shortly to send an official up there to report on the whole question.
– You are on the right track now !
– I am quite sure I am, and I trust that honorable members will now enable me to get my Estimates through.
.- I was pleased to hear the report made by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), who has just returned from a visit to the Territory as a member of the Public Works Committee. His report is only a corroboration of many other excellent reports we have heard regarding this part of Australia. Some time ago Mr. Lindsay reported that on the Macdonnell Ranges there are 80,000,000 acres with a 16-inch rainfall, suitable for growing wheat. Many people were rather sceptical as to that report, but the speech of the honorable member for Bass to-night, which we may regard as a forerunner of the report of the Committee of which he is a member, shows that we have a valuable asset in the Northern Territory, and that only a railway from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges is required in order to open up some of the finest areas in the whole British Empire. It is said by some people that we cannot bring immigrants to Australia because we have no land for them, but we now knowthat the need in that regard is not nearly so great as has been represented, and the available land in the Territory is such that it can be utilized to the fullest extent. Like the Temporary Chairman (Mr. Fleming) I was born and reared in the country, and therefore we both have some sympathy with all people who have to live out-back. The Government are certainly on the right track now, and the account we have heard of the bores, from which water is secured at 50 feet to 300 feet on excellent land, is most encouraging. We seem to have been asleep for many years in regard to the Territory; but now that we are awake we realize that all that is necessary is to build arailway.
We can find money for other purposes, and surely we can find money for this. The only question is whether the line should run straight from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek - which I consider the proper route - or whether the line should cross to the east. The late Lord Kitchener told us that we ought to divide Australia with one big trunk line from Oodnadatta to Darwin, subsequently constructing feeders as needed. We have the finest stock-raising country in the world in Central Australia, .
– Who says so?
– I do, and everybody who has been there knows that it is horse and cattle country. But what are we in this Parliament doing? We do nothing but fight as to on which side of the House we shall sit; and we shall continue to do nothing if we do not realize our responsibilities. The Presbyterian Mission, which ‘the honorable member said is doing such good work, is very short of funds.
– Did you ever know a mission that was not?
– That mission spends its money wisely and well, and I am pleased that the Government intends to extend to it a little help. If we cannot send telephones to that part of the country, let us provide railways, wireless stations, and aeroplanes. I feel quite sure that the report of the Public Works Committee will be very valuable. We ought to do everything we possibly can for the Territory from this hour on, for if we do not settle those lands, some one will settle them for us - and settle us as well. I hope the speech of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), and the report of the Public Works Committee will result in very great benefit to Australia. I also wish to have the support of the honorable member for the Grampians (Mr. Jowett) in regard to the construction of the North-South railway. This work would be of advantage, not only to the whole of Australia, but to the British Empire.
.- I am very pleased to have heard the remarks of the honorable member for Bass. If every honorable member visited the Northern Territory their sympathies would be with the residents - men, women, and children. When I was on the Pearling Commission I had the pleasure of meeting the Bishop of Carpentaria.
– A fine man, too.
– Yes . Bishop White stated in our presence that after thirty years’ residence among the aborigines, he had never known a single instance of a native attacking a white woman. He said that he only wished he could say the same of the white men. He also informed us that, for many years, Government after Government had been most niggardly in the provision of drugs for the welfare of the natives. He stated that he, and all his missionaries, were pleased to provide drugs wherever possible. It is infamous that any Department should refuse the paltry quantity of drugs that would be required for the treatment of venereal disease among the natives. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) made representations in the matter to the Government of that day. We hope that some benefit has resulted, but we are not quite sure of it. The members of the Commission heard of a case in Western Australia where a doctor tried, by telegraph, to instruct a layman, 200 “miles distant, how to perform a dangerous operation. The instructions were carried out splendidly under the circumstances, and with the courage of a brave heart, but the unfortunate patient passed away. When we have established an aerial defence system, with stations surrounding Australia, it will be possible to attend to such cases.
It is sometimes contended that women cannot live in the Northern Territory. An instance was brought under my notice in Sydney of a mother who had come down from Darwin to find a wife for her son. He was a stalwart fellow, 18 years old, 6 feet in height, 13 stone in weight, and with a chest measurement of 42 inches. I have never seen a finer specimen of humanity.
– I have never seen a man there with fine development.
– If the honorable member said that in the presence of this young man he would suffer for it. I have a portrait in my possession of a mother of ten children, two of whom were born in the Northern Territory, and I cannot imagine a finer family. Dr. Gilruth, who is in disgrace to-day - where he deserves to be - hounded this woman out of the Territory, having sold up her farm and stock, the money for which had been advanced by the Government. Her husband was drowned and buried twentyfour hours before the unfortunate woman received any news about it. This brave souI bought a couple of horses and a dray and carted firewood into Port Darwin in order to support her children. The police authorities there and in Melbourne, be it said to their eternal honour, assisted this woman. She is endeavouring to raise a little money from her father’s estate, and she merely asks to be treated the same as the big landholders were, and be charged rent on the same basis. The woman hopes to return to the Territory, notwithstanding her misfortunes, and I refer to the incident merely to show that women can be useful settlers there.
It has been stated by the Minister (Mr. Poynton) that the parliamentary representation sought by residents of the Northern Territory could not be constitutionally granted.
– Representation was refused in the Senate, but it suggested that the Territory could be added to a present constituency.
– I can follow* that; but I would like to point out that there is only a difference of 209,200 between the population of the Northern Territory and that of Tasmania. The population in the Territory, according to the last official figures, is 3,800, and, in Tasmania, 213,000; yet Tasmania has no less than six representatives in the Senate. The difference in the populations of Tasmania and Victoria is 1,300,000, and between Tasmania and New South Wales 2,095,000. Yet each of the three States have the same number of senators, viz., six. Where, then, is the common sense in refusing our fellow citizens in the Northern Territory the right to representation? If the Government see their way clear, let them add the Territory to one of our present constituencies. I feel sure the Minister would not object to its being added to his electorate, nor would the honorable member whose district is so close to Canberra object. I do not suppose, either, that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) would mind the Territory being tacked on to his elec torate. If Parliament had the power to take away the electoral rights of the people of the Northern Territory, surely it can restore th,em.
Strong complaints have been made regarding the treatment of patients at the Hospital in Papua. A certain medical man there will not allow people in tha hospital to be treated by their own medical man when they wish it. As the institution is wholly and solely supported by Government grants, and is really a national hospital, it should be used for the benefit of the community, and if a patient desires the services of an outside doctor, surely the medical officer in charge of the hospital should not be permitted to stand in the way. The patient would have to pay the fee of the outside doctor, whereas if the resident physician attended to him, there would be no fee. Faith cures more than half the cases of illness. A patient who will get well under a doctor in whom he has confidence would, perhaps, sink into the grave under the attention of another physician in whom he had none. The Government hospital authorities should not forbid another medical man to attend patients in the hospital, at any rate, unless he has been proved to be incapable. To one gentleman who has wielded authority in the Territory praise should be given for his services. I refer to Mr. Staniforth Smith. In a lecture which he delivered in these buildings that gentleman said that the Territory was the only part of Australia which had. been free from labour troubles for fifteen consecutive months. He indicated that lies had been circulated throughout the Commonwealth when it was alleged that labour conditions were responsible for the closing down of Vestey’s meat works. The reason ‘why Vestey’s works ceased activities was that sufficient coal supplies could not be secured owing to the disturbance of shipping during the war.
I understand that the Prime Minister once definitely gave his word that the people of the Northern Territory would be afforded representation in the National Parliament. I plead with the right honorable gentleman to keep his word, and I plead with the Minister for Home and Territories not to . continually nag at the residents of the
Territory. The withholding of the franchise is an infamous scandal almost unprecedented in the recent history of the world. Only in Australia are there civilized people whose undoubted rights and privileges as free citizens are being withheld. Now they are actually being robbed of the right and privilege of trial by jury, thanks to an infamous Judge, who ought to be put in gaol for the rest of his life. I refer to Judge Bevan. If that fine stamp of Australian worker which is to be, found in the Territory had not retained a respectful awe of the law, those three- officials would have been hanged instead of driven out of the Territory. Would the manhood of many parts of the United States of America, or even of Canada, have suffered the domination of three such vile men as those to whom I refer ? Among them was Dir. Gilruth, who hounded a woman out of the Territory. She had gone to Darwin to1 take a. position in an hotel, but she was ordered to return south in the steerage because she would not obey Gilruth’s orders. She was told to take up meat intended for the table and shake it so that the maggots would fall out, and then put it on a plate and serve it in the hotel. She refused to do so. She was brought before Dictator Gilruth, who said, “ If you do not obey orders, I shall send you for 150 miles into the interior.” That plucky Australian girl said, “ I will not go. My contract would not permit you to send me there.” Then the dictator said, “You shall be sent back south by steamer in the steerage along with the Chinese.” I looked into this matter, and called upon the then Secretary to the Home and Territories Department, Mr. Atlee Hunt. He told me that Dr. Gilruth was in Melbourne, and happened to be in the Department at the time. I saw the gentleman. I asked him, “Do you want to claim the steerage- fare from this girl?” He said, “Yes; she will have to pay.” The workers in the Territory, learning that the girl was to be sent back south in the .steerage, had subscribed sufficient money to give her a saloon passage; but this man, Gilruth, wanted to claim from her the equivalent of a steerage fare. ‘I said to him, “ How would you like to have your wife or daughter sent on board among the Chinese and other occupants of the steerage?” I have been a medical officer, journeying to and from Japan on the type of ship in question, and I know something of the steerage condition^. Following my interview with Dr. Gilruth at the Department of Home and Territories, I asked certain questions in this House. I wanted to know how long Dr.Gilruth had been in Melbourne, and how much he was drawing per diem by way of expenses. It appeared that he had been in this city for some six months. Here was the dictator of the Territory, managing the Territory from Melbourne, and drawing £2 2s. daily for travelling expenses while remaining here.
– That was not during the term of office of the present Minister for Home and Territories.
– No. My point is that, within ten days after I had asked my questions, Gilruth was packed off to the Territory again. What a brilliant type of a gentleman he is, to be sure! Dr. Gilruth had a friend and crony and fellow-conspirator in Judge Bevan - the man who talked over cases before they came before him in Court. He is another of those who ought to be in gaol for the rest of his life; and I repeat that if the Australian workers at Darwin had not been a fine, self-contained type, even though they were smarting under the infamies of the vile three, they would have strung each of them up. And, if they had done so, I would not have been very sorry, remembering as I do the manner in which an unfortunate woman, together with her large family of fatherless children, suffered at the hands of those brutes.
.- The whole policy of administration in the Northern Territory ha3 been, and is still, wrong. Arising from the experience of settlement in Australia, it has been found that a certain period or extent of leasehold conditions - particularly pastoral leasehold - has been the forerunner of closer settlement. No one can say, however, that the States have yet been fully settled. As a matter of fact, they are still so sparsely occupied that the cost of working them is far too great. We are hot land-poor. The great object of Australian
Parliaments ought to be to settle the people more closely and insure the more intense cultivation of the land. I am “ quite satisfied that if we make any attempt at the present time to settle the Northern Territory permanently, we shall be making a great mistake. We are making very costly blunders now. If we carry on the present policy we must anticipate further troubles. I think there ought to be some conditional arrangement whereby the Territory could be annexed for franchise purposes to adjoining electorates. The whole matter might be investigated, and pastoral leases granted under reasonable conditions for the whole of the Territory. What the Minister (Mr. Poynton) has said to-night strengthens that idea in my mind. Water is available over the whole Territory, and pastoral leases could be given for twenty-five, thirty, or forty years. This would be better than the present occupation of the Territory by a huge Civil Service, the members of which are always quarrelling with one another: The question of the representation of the Territory in Parliament - rests more on sentiment than anything else, and although sentiment is a shadowy thing, we cannot kill it.
– I have been told of a .station on which there are 112,000 head of cattle.
– I know the country is capable of carrying large numbers of cattle on big stations. In Western Australia we have a large territory of a similar character. It is settled naturally, and we have law-abiding citizens all over it. It is gradually becoming more closely settled, and the Western Australian Parliament is steadily reducing the size of the holdings in such a way that time will work out the solution of the problem without friction. By that means much increased wealth .will be brought into the exchequer of the State. We have no unreasonably dissatisfied people in the Western Australian territory adjoining the Northern Territory. Is there any reason why there should be any difference in the Territory % Western Australia has no troubles, but the Northern Territory has, for the simple reason that it is a “ Pooh Bah “ State with a Civil Service over which the Government has no control, and the members of which develop laziness, and subsequently quarrel with the people. The people are as much inclined to quarrel with them as they are with the people. A condition has now arisen in which the residents refuse to submit to any kind of authority. That is why the Minister is seeking to take away the right of trial by jury. The trouble is a result of the faulty system, and it will only become worse if we continue the system. I recommend the Government to bring down a proposal to Parliament for ratification, if it is within our constitutional powers, to annex temporarily the Territory to the adjoining States for the purpose of franchise and land settlement under pastoral leases. If that is done it will save the Commonwealth from a huge burden of expenditure that serves no useful purpose. The Northern Territory is the most costly appendage we have in connexion with Commonwealth administration. Let us utilize these vast fertile lands for theraising of stock. The stock-raising areas of Australia are gradually coming under cereal cultivation. We are using for closer settlement the areas that bred the merino sheep which have made Australia famous, and opportunities should be given to pastoralists to extend into the Northern Territory. They would not require so much spoon-feeding as is needed when the Government attempts to create a hot-bed State with no authority except in Melbourne, which knows nothing about the local conditions. “Under the present system there will be trouble to the end of the chapter. I urge that we adopt a line of policy the value of which has been proved for over a century in Australia. It was a mistake to take the Territory away from South Australia. I would make the size and conditions of the leases reasonable, and I would give an opportunity to more people to obtain leases. The areas of land leased might be 70,000, 80,000, 100,000, or 300,000 acres, in accordance with the fertility and watering facilities of the land.
– Boring is the forerunner to everything the honorable gentleman has advocated.
– That is exactly so. There may be a certain area around. the Macdonnell Ranges which can be associated with South Australia, and for a period can go into other occupation; but I recommend strongly that the Government should seriously consider the ques- tion along the lines I have suggested and rid itself of this interminable, quarrelling burden.
.- I understand that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is not pressing the amendment which he has moved. If he will withdraw his amendment, I propose moving another.
– Does the honorable member for Batman . propose to withdraw his amendment ?
– In view of what the Minister (Mr. Poynton) has said, I do not propose to press the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move-
That the proposed vote of £104,346, Division 55, Northern Territory - general services, be reduced by the sum of £1 as a protest by this Committee against the abolition of trial by jury for offences other than those carrying the death penalty, and provisions for deporting residents of the Northern Territory.
I have had to sit listening to honorable members talking on matters which were of much less importance to me than the item to which I am addressing myself. I am prepared to stay here as long as the rules will permit to make my protest, even if I am the only one in the Committee who makes a protest, against the iniquitous administration of the Northern Territory. In theCommonwealth Gazette of the 20th October last, Ordinance No. 13 of 1921 was published. Sections 6, 7, and8 of that Ordinance read -
Provided that where a person is charged with an offence for which the punishment is death, nothing in this section shall prevent or render illegal -
a sentence passed upon that person for the offence of which he is so found guilty. 7. (1) Where a person, liable to pay income tax or land tax fails, within the time provided by law, to pay the tax, and in a suit for the recovery thereof judgment is given against him and remains unsatisfied, the Minister may cause a notice to be served upon that person calling upon him to satisfy the judgment.
Penalty: Fifty pounds or imprisonment for six months.
– These gentlemen did not hesitate to remove from the Territory certain persons to whom they objected.
– It is refreshing to hear a responsible Minister justify his Ordinance by the illegal proceedings of those against whom it is directed.
– They should not complain, anyhow. The honorable member was not one of them.
– Had I been there, I probably would have been one of them., because I claim to possess as much manly spirit as most people. The agitation in the Northern Territory for representation in this Parliament brought about this Ordinance. There has been no riot or disorder there; but passive resistance has been resorted to, as in other parts of the British Empire, to bring under the notice of the governing junta the grievances under which the people are suffering. The residents of the’ Territory have declined to pay certain taxes, claiming, as the American colonists did, when they rose against the British Government, that there should be no taxation without representation, a cry which had been raised in Great Britain itself a century and a half earlier, by Pym and Hampden. The people of the Northern Territory say that without representation they will not pay taxes, and claim that they are acting according to the best traditions of British liberty. Because they have done this, the Minister has provided that when offences other than those carrying the death penalty are charged against them they shall be tried without a jury. They are thus still further deprived of citizen rights which are enjoyed in every other part of Australia. A person refusing to pay income tax or land tax may be seized and deported, not to the other States of Australia merely, but to New Guinea or other remote Territories under the control of the Commonwealth. If such an Ordinance does not make the men and women of the Territory who are possessed of spirit protest, I do not know what would do so. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) compared the Northern Territory with Western Australia; but I remind him that never yet has there been a demonstration such as that which occurred at Fremantle. Yet it was never proposed to deal with the people of Western Australia as the people of the Northern Territory have been dealt with.
– Western Australia can conduct her own affairs.
– Yes, and I am prepared to leave the Government of that State to the mercies of its people. I congratulate the workers of Fremantle on having brought that Government to its senses. The reason for the Ordinances I have read is the alleged terrorism at Darwin; but nothing has occurred there, so far, which compares with what has happened in Western Australia. In my opinion the residents of the Northern Territory have displayed commendable restraint under extreme provocation. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) smiles at that statement. He has expressed his disgust at the action of certain officials in the Northern Territory recently, because he believes in a man sticking to his post. If I am any judge of the honorable member, his voice would be amongst the loudest in protest if he were treated as residents of the Northern Territory are treated under the Ordinance to which I take exception, and were denied the right of trial by jury. He would strongly object if he were denied representation in this Parliament for what it is worth, or if he were called upon to suffer the disabilities under which residents of the Territory at present labour.
– I raised my voice in support of their claim to parliamentary representation.
– That is so. But during the debate there has been no mention of the possible deportation of people from the Northern Territory, and only the most casual reference to the denial to them of the right of trial by jury. These matters have arisen directly out of the refusal of parliamentary representation to the residents of the Territory. I take this opportunity to make my protest against the action of the Minister for Home and Territories in promulgating this Ordinance, and especially the odious provisions to which I have referred, denying the right of trial by jury to residents of the Northern Territory, and rendering them liable to deportation to the States, or to other lands under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. There is no justification for any such Ordinance. I have no land, and, therefore, run no risks, because I pay no land tax; but if I refuse to pay income tax I may be dealt with under a law which makes no provision for my deportation to some other part of the Commonwealth or a Territory under its jurisdiction. A man who commits an offence in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, or Broken Hill has a right to be tried by a jury. Why should men who commit similar offences in the Northern Territory be denied that right? The obvious reason for the Ordinance to which I refer is that public opinion in the Northern Territory is so strongly against the Administration that it has been found impossible to find a local jury who will convict a man for these semipolitical offences. I have no desire to introduce another debatable matter, but honorable members are aware that in certain portions of Ireland coroner’s juries brought in verdicts repeatedly against the British Army and the British Government, and the coronal system was suspended in these districts because the people were found to be so much against the ruling authorities that they would not bring in verdicts acceptable to them. The residents of the Northern Territory are so incensed at the injustice that they are suffering at the hands of the Administration that the Minister for Home and Territories recognises that they are heart and soul with those who have refused to pay taxes, and will not bring in a verdict against them. He seeks to deprive them of the onlymeans they can employ to direct the attention of the rest of the Commonwealth to the injustice under which they labour. I do not know whether other honorable members intend to protest against this Ordinance, but I hope that at least one member of the Committee will be found to support my amendment, so that the people of the Northern Territory may learn that their grievance in this matter has been brought under notice, and honorable members may have an opportunity to say whether they approve of residents of the Territory being deprived of privileges which they would not dare to deny to residents of any other part of the Commonwealth. I hope that honorable members will not permit these Estimates to go through without marking their grave disapproval of the action of the Minister for Home and Territories in the promulgation of such an iniquitous Ordinance as that to which I have directed attention.
. -I do not wish to delay the Committee, but I should like to say something on the question of the representation of the Northern . Territory in this Parliament. I think that a great deal of the trouble that arises there might be obviated if the people of the Territory were able to make their voice heard in this Parliament.
– I have given the Committee the assurance that I will ‘bring the matter of the parliamentary representation of the Northern Territory under the notice of the Cabinet.
– I am very pleased to get that assurance from the Minister. I would not ask that the representative of the Northern Territory should he given a vote in this House, but I think that the people there should be represented in this Parliament by. some person who would be aw fait with the conditions in the Territory. Any proposition brought forward to give the residents of the Northern Territory such a voice in this Parliament will receive my support.
I should like to ask the Minister what is the position regarding the administration of Papua. There is a vote of £50,000 on the ‘Estimates, which is apparently a subsidy towards the cost of the administration. Does this vote represent the amount by which the revenue of Papua falls short of the <-cost of its administration, or is .the position of Papua really better than appears on the surface?
.- The position in Papua up to this year was that the Administration received a subsidy of £30,000 from the Commonwealth. Prior to the Commonwealth taking over Papua, it received from the Imperial Government and the State of Queensland a subsidy of £15,000 per annum. When I went up there recently, I took with me, at the request of the Administrator, an officer, of my Department who had gone into the accounts of the Northern Territory. That officer made a full examination of the financial position of Papua; and, as the result of that investigation, I recommended to the Cabinet, through the Treasurer, that the subsidy should he increased by £20,000 per annum. I recommended that that increase should date back to the 31st December last, so that the Territory should receive an additional £10,000 in respect of the last financial year. New Guinea is passing through a very critical period. Copra, as honorable members know, is at a very low price. Large quantities of rubber are also held in stock, and are almost unsaleable. Until the present great slump took place, the lowest price at which rubber from either German New Guinea or Papua was sold was ls. 2d. per Jb. The .planters now have great difficulty in selling it at 6$d. per lb.
– Is that why rubber goods are so dear here?
– I cannot explain the reason for the high price of rubber goods; but the position in New Guinea is undoubtedly very critical.
Earlier in the evening I gave the Committee an assurance that I would place before the Cabinet a recommendation in regard -to the representation of the Northern Territory in this House. I told the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) of the promise I had made, and he approved of my action. It will be remembered that I caused to be introduced in the Senate a Bill providing, for the representation of the Northern Territory in this Parliament. That Bill, however, was rejected, and a suggestion was made by another place that the Northern Territory should be attached to an existing Federal division. The Crown Law authorities advise that that suggestion cannot,, under the
Constitution, be carried out. I shall place before the Cabinet a proposal that the Northern Territory shall have in this House a representative, who, however, will not have the right to vote. In making that recommendation I shall be following a precedent relating to the representation of a number of territories in the Congress of the United States of America. In this respect I have no sins of omission or commission to admit.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Considine’s) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the negative,
Proposed vote agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 November 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211130_reps_8_98/>.