8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– (By leave.)-I ask the Leader of the Government if any official confirmation has been received of the newspaper report that a settlement has been arrived at on the subject of Home Rule for Ireland ?
– I shall ascertain, and advise the honorable member if official news on the subject has been received.
– I have received the following report from the DirectorGeneral of Health (Dr. Cumpston) on the tests recently made of the quality of the air in this Chamber: -
The result of the bacteriological examination of air made at the House on18th November showed some increase of non-pathogenic bacteria and moulds, compared with the contents of outside air. This result is in conformity with that given by rooms occupied by a number of persons for some time.
The chemical examination of the air willbe necessary before coming to a conclusion as to the character of the atmosphere.
That examination is not yetcompleted. When I get a further report, I shall make it known to the House.
Motion (by Mr. Rodgers) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1020.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Mr. SPEAKER announced that he had received an intimation from the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) that he desired to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent (public importance, namely, “ The unfairness and incapacity of Mr.
Atlee Hunt, acting as Arbitrator in connexion with the Public Service of the Commonwealth.”
Mr.Groom. - I rise to order. I am sorry that I did not know that it was intended to move the motion of which notice has been given. As worded, the notice of motion makes a charge of unfitness against a very high officer, who is, to all intents and purposes, a judicial officer.
The Governor-General may remove the Arbitrator from office on an address praying for his removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour, or incapacity, being presented to the Governor-General.
I submit that the proper procedure should be taken.
– I shallbe prepared to deal with that matter when the question itself is being discussed.- To get over the present difficulty, I would recommend the honorable member for Bourke to amend his notice so that it may deal with the “ unsatisfactory administration of the Public Service Act.” If it cannot bo so amended, the matter will have to be discussed under another motion.
-The honorable member for Bourke is at liberty to move the adjournment to criticise any decision to which he takes exception, but what he now proposes to do is to make a charge of direct incapacity against a judicial officer.
– I am not going to argue the matter. I ask, Mr. Speaker, if the honorable member for Bourke can amend his notice of motionin the manner that I have suggested! If that can be done, the subject can be discussed, and we can then proceed with our ordinary business.
– I am afraid that what the honorable member suggests would be an unsatisfactory method of procedure if the motion involves any contemplated attack” on the conduct of the Arbitrator in his judicial capacity. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has intimated that he intends to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing certain charges, which are mentioned in his notice, against the occupnnt of an important judicial position. The proper way of dealing with a matter of that kind is by submitting a specific motion. It cannot be done upon a motion for the adjournment of the House.
– If the honorable member’s notice were amended in a form that would be acceptable, it could be discussed.
– If the purpose of the honorable member is to review the actions of an occupant of this judicial position, I would have to call to order any honorable member trenching on the line of criticism of that gentleman, so that the purpose the honorable member has in view would not be served any better by adopting that plan. His best course would be to submit a specific motion.
– But there would be no opportunity of having it discussed.
– Is the Public Service Arbitrator occupying a judicial position?
– I have some doubt as to whether the position of the Public Service Arbitrator is analogous to that of an ordinary Judge, but it appears to me that it is so and that the proper course for the honorable member to adopt would be to proceed by a specific motion.
– Evidently the position is that I am permitted to discuss the matteronly in a manner which will not permit it to be discussed this session.
– I am not concerned as to that. My duty is simply to see that the proper procedure is observed.
– A certain course is prescribed by law for the removal of a gentleman who occupies a judicial or quasi judicial position, and the proper course for the honorable member for Bourke to follow is to adopt the procedure laid down by which Judges can be attacked. The judgments of arbitrators are not above criticism, and this House has the right to criticise them as freely as it thinks fit, but under the guise of criticism it is not entitled to bring forward charges of incapacity on the part of the arbitrators.
– The difficulty is that you are forcing us to submita censure motion.
– My duty in the position I occupy is to guide the House as to the lines which should be followed in circumstances which have arisen to-day.
– In regard to the point as to whether the Public Service Arbitrator can be put in the same category as a Judge, I contend that the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) is stretching, to a considerable extent, the law dealing with the matter of protecting Judges. He might just as well say that the House has no right to debate any arbitration award, even one affecting an industry outside the Commonwealth. We have discussed the award of the Coal’ Tribunal over and over again, and we have criticised the awards of other Tribunals appointed by State Governments or by the Commonwealth Government. It is certainly a wide interpretation of the law which the Minister is placing before the House to-day.
– The honorable member for Bourke has submitted his notice in an amended form eliminating the charges against Mr. Atlee Hunt. He has notified me now that he intends to move the adjournment of the House to consider a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the unsatisfactory administration of the Public Service Arbitrator in connexion with the Public Service of the Commonwealth.” I can accept a motion in those terms, where
I could not accept one in the form previously submitted. As to how the debate will develop I am not concerned at the present moment.
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I am sorry that I have found it necessary to move the adjournment of the House to-day, and I would not have done so if I had not felt that the matter which I am raising is one of great public importance that should be debated before the House adjourns. It was touched upon a. few days ago by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), who pointed out that in dealing with a plaint by fifth class officers in the Public Service the Public Service Arbitrator (Mr. Atlee Hunt) had abrogated his functions, and was practically drawing his salary in respect of a position the duties of which he was not carrying out. On being called upon to give an award according to his judgment and good conscience upon the merits of the plaint of fifth class officers, the Arbitrator refused to do so on the ground that certain legislation was pending, and, in fact, was before another place. In reply to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that it was not within his power to deal with the matter, but that if the facts were as had been stated the Public Service Arbitrator was certainly not fulfilling his functions, and, as a matter of fact, could not have properly understood them. However, the right honorable gentleman went on to say that he did not think it was his place to do more than express an opinion on the point. To-day I do not wish to traverse the ground already covered or to reiterate the whole position as set out by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but I have something further to say. If this country pays a gentleman to carry out certain functions, and that gentleman does not exercise them, but practically declares his Court to be a dead Court, and refuses to give the judgments he is empowered to deliver, it is the duty and responsibility of Ministers to tell him that he must either exercise the functions for carrying out which he is drawing emoluments, or surrender his office.
– They did not take that view when Mr. Justice Higgins went on strike.
– If it had been necessary for me to speak on that occasion I should have said exactly the same. In this connexion I put a question to the Prime Minister the other day, whether, in view of his own decision and expressed opinion that the Public Service Arbitrator was not fulfilling the functions of his office, he would refer the determination in regard to the fifth class clerks back to the Arbitrator, and ask him to fulfil the functions of his office and deliver judgment. The answer as given by the Minister who is acting for the Prime Minister was to the effect that what had transpired in this Chamber would be referred to the Arbitrator for his consideration. The other day Mr. Justice Powers, President of the Arbitration Court, expressed an opinion in regard to pending legislation which had been referred to by 1 he Prime Minister. He said -
It would be wrong on my part, in the face of such promised legislation, to commence new work which cannot be completed before this Court is abolished.
In reference to that statement, the Prime Minister declared that it was the duty of the Judge to perform his duty and take no cognisance of legislation by this Parliament. In that proposed legislation, however, to which Judge Powers referred, there are distinct provisions which affect the Court over which he presides, and which, if carried into effect, will certainly destroy the power of the Judge, change his prerogative - practically change the whole structure of the Court. It was from that point of view that Judge Powers spoke, and, although the legislation referred to his own Court, the Prime Minister informed him that bis business was not to have regard to proposed legislation, but to exercise his functions and carry out the law as it exist. If that be true of a Judge of the High Court - if it be true that he must not refer to legislation which actually relates to his own Court - how much more true is it of the Arbitrator .under the Public Service Arbitration Act and his references to the’ Public Service Bill now before Parliament? That Bill is only in its early stages, but if it be carried into effect it will not in any way interfere with the Court over which Mr. Atlee Hunt presides; it will not impinge on his prerogative or power or alter in any way the structure of his Court. Yet Mr. Atlee ‘ Hunt, on the score of this proposed legislation, deliberately refused to exercise Ms functions. Whatever may be said of Judge Powers, he did not suspend the judgments of his Court - he did not drive applicants away because of proposed legislation. But Mr. Atlee Hunt did so, saying, “I shall do nothing because of proposed legislation.” I submit that under these circumstances, since Mr. Atlee Hunt is called upon to administer the law, and, if not to give satisfaction, at least to decide, it is the bounden duty of the Government to say to him, “ You draw £2,000 per annum of public money, and your duty is to administer the Public Service Arbitration Act, or leave the Court over which you now preside.” That is the position so far as I can see it.
But there are other aspects of the case. The Minister for “Works and Railways said this morning that we must not refer to a Judge or make any charges of incapacity against him, but there was no more definite charge of incapacity than that made by the Prime Minister himself. He said that if what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) said was true, the Judge was incapable of understanding the functions of his office.
There is yet another aspect of the case. We. all know that Judges disagree; they may sit on the same Bench, and on the same evidence and facts draw different conclusions; but at least, so far as their own Courts are concerned, they each act upon some definite principle, and have some criterion, which serves as a, guide, even to those who appear before them. That is so well known that applicants know the particular outlook of certain Judges, and frame their cases accordingly. I know that when it is intended to take cases before the ordinary Arbitration Court a great deal is always felt to depend on whether Mr. Justice Powers or Mr. Justice Higgins will preside. The organization to which I belong has decided on occasions that it would be useless to take a particular claim before a certain Judge because of this feeling. Whatever Judges mav be, whether their judgments be good or bad, they, at least, for the most part, in the exercise of their judicial functions, observe definite principles.
My accusation against the administration of Mr. Atlee Hunt is that he has no principle to guide him; he is mere shifting sand. There is no attitude he takes up to-day that is not altered tomorrow, there is no principle he acts on to-day that he does not renounce tomorrow, there is no authority of to-day that he does not repudiate to-morrow. A man who so exercises judicial functions cannot do other than create immense dissatisfaction amongst applicants to his Court. Mr. Atlee Hunt, under the Act, is called upon to do certain things, and I shall givea few illustrations, from which honorable members may form their own opinions. They need no accusation, but simply a statement of facts. The Act clearly and distinctly provides - (1.) The Arbitrator shall determine all matters submitted to him relating to salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment of officers and employees of the Public Service (1.) In relation to every claim or application made to him in pursuance of this Act, the Arbitrator shall act according to equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of the case.
The Commissioner, and the permanent heads and Chief Officers of the several Departments of State, and all persons in the Public Service, shall comply with the provisions of any determination of the Arbitrator made under this Act.
No determination of the Arbitrator made under this Act shall he challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed, or called in question, or bo subject to prohibition or mandamus, in any Court on any account whatever.
Mr. Atlee Hunt dealt with the case of the Fifth Class Clerks, in the early part of last month. I am not objecting to his judgment, but merely say he has no definite principle to guide him; and no satisfaction can be given by a Bench which fluctuates in the way this gentleman does. In the case to which I have referred, he said -
The evidence disclosed many anomalies and the need of reform.
The actions of the heads of Departments in blocking applications for transfer were many. There ought to be no bar of this kind. The right of transfer should be free to all.
Having admitted the wrong, he said he had no power to remedy it because of 6ome proposed legislation. He went on -
There are men in the 5th Class holding University degrees, accountancy certificates, and other qualifications, and doing work involving discretion and initiative.
– What is the honorable member quoting?
– I am quoting from Mr. Atlee Hunt’s judgment in the case of the Public Service Clerical Association -
Many are doing work really more valuable than that represented by the present classification.
I ask honorable members to note these remarks. Whatever might be good for the members of that Association, Mr. Atlee Hunt would not, although he could, take any action. He went on -
Present conditions create dissatisfaction, and dissatisfaction leads to inefficiency.
Why was Mr. Atlee Hunt appointed, if not to decide on the merits of cases? Since their conditions create dissatisfaction, and dissatisfaction creates inefficiency, why did Parliament call him into existence, if not to deal with such cases, and improve the conditions? He said -
There is no case so hard to justify as that where men are doing work of a higher class without receiving the pay of that class.
I ask honorable members to note that, because I propose to show that in connexion with other and higher classes of the Service, he deliberately did that which in this case he said he would not do. Finally he said -
He would have felt justified in increasing the maximum of the 5th Class -
But he would not do so because of the Bill now before Parliament. One would naturally think that the proposed legislation had recently been introduced into another place.
– In any case the Arbitrator had no right to anticipate it.
– He had not, and that is what the Prime Minister said. Then, again, a few days later another body of men was before him. Any man may make errors, even Judges on the Bench, but if Mr. Atlee Hunt honestly believed that the proposed legislation offered an impediment to the discharge of his functions as Arbitrator, one would think he would have treated all applicants alike and refused to act. But that he did not do. After having turned away those other men deliberately, telling them that he would not function, because of the proposed legislation, “what did he do? It appears that Judge Powers a couple of years before, when dealing with the same question of efficiency, had made an award that any man who was regarded as efficient in a particular class,’ and was capable of fulfilling the functions of a higher grade, and had been doing the work of a higher grade for two years, should receive an, extra emolument of £12 per annum, and if he had been doing it for four years an additional £12. When officers who had qualified for thisallowance approached Mr. Atlee Hunt for it, he said - “I cannot give you what you ask, because of the proposed legislation that is now before Parliament.” But along came , the Public Service Commissioner with a counter claim, and what happened ? Surely if the pending legislation was a valid ground for turning down the claims of the offioers, it was an equally valid ground for rejecting the counter claim of the Commissioner. Having put that reason forward in the case of the officers, should he not also have said to the Commissioner that his claim against the officers for the cancellation of the efficiency allowance must be set aside on the same ground as that on which he had rejected the claims of the officers, and must wait until it could be dealt with by the Public Service Board which was to be created under the proposed legislation ? But he did not do that. He rejected the claims of the rank and file, but when the counter claim of the Commissioner was before him. he proceeded to deal with it by saying that all the men at presenten joying the allowance could keep it, but all other men, who were regarded as efficient, and were fulfilling the functions of a higher grade, and to whom he would have awarded an efficiency allowance but for the pending legislation, were denied any increase, and the Public Service Commissioner was permitted to deprive them, of what others were enjoying under the award of Mr. Justice Powers. Such conduct is not judicial, and cannot give satisfaction to the Public Service of this country. It is not in accordance with the wishes of this House, or the instructions governing his appointment.
Later, another class of men, the postal electricians, approached him. Any ground which was valid for the rejection of their claim, should be a valid objection to the claims of all other classes of the Public
Service. It should have been equally valid against the man receiving £1,000 per annum as against the man receiving only £200. On Mr. Hunt’s own declaration, the Court, and he himself, as Arbitrator, were defunct-. He existed not as an Arbitrator, but merely as Mr. Atlee Hunt, who was drawing £2,000 per annum for an office which he refused to exercise. In the postal electricians case, he turned down the applicants, not on the evidence or on the merits of the case, but on the score of public expense. He said -
I cannot divest myself of the fear that the next few years Will he a time of considerable difficulty and anxiety for those intrusted with the care of the finances of the Commonwealth, and I, therefore, decline to approve the increased pay asked for on this ground.
– He has nothing to do with the finances.
– Of course not; the Prime Minister admitted that. In another case when giving judgment to the higher officials, he quoted, with approval, a statement by Mr. Justice Higgins -
I do not know what claims there arc on the nation’s resources which should have priority over the just wages of the nation’s employees. . . . Parliament expects me to say what is a fair thing; andif Parliament has. funds enough it will do the fair thing. Parliament can refuse to appropriate the money if it sees fit. It wouldbe lamentable if this Court were to … . refuse to prescribe what is just on vague, unverified impression as to financial conditions.
Mr. Atlee Hunt accepted that dictum as applicable to himself, and he proceeded to operate accordingly. But having forgotten his previous decision, he immediately swept out of the Court the large body of postal electricians, not on the ground of equity, not on the substantial merits of the case, but on the ground that no funds were available. And he swept out of Court another body of men, numbering thousands, because of impending legislation that may never become law, and the form of which, if it should become law, neither Mr. Atlee Hunt nor anybody else can foretell. How can a man one day give judgment to one set of officials and on the next day say to the postal electricians, “You cannot have an increase, because there is not enough money. Your case is worthy,but there are not sufficient funds to allow me to grant you an increase “ ?
He usurped the functions of the Treasurer in that instance, but a few days later he had before him two cases, one relating to higher officials, and the other to lower officials. The lower officials, of course, he swept out of the Court. After telling them that they could not get judgment on the merits of their case because the funds were not available, three days later he awarded increases of £100 to £200 to the higher officials on the merits of their case. -Having given that increase to the higher officials, he could not then argue to the lower-paid officers that there were no funds available, so he hit upon another excuse, and that was the proposed legislation that is before Parliament.
I do not say his judgment in favour of the higher officials was wrong, but in the case of the rank and file he dismissed one application on> the ground of the proposed legislation, and another on the ground of the state of the public funds. If either of these grounds is valid against the lowerpaid public servants, it is equally valid against the higher-paid applicants. But what did Mr;- Atlee Hunt do ? A body of men who were already receiving large salaries went before him. He raised their salaries by from £120 to £150 per annum, and, in addition, he granted a cost of living allowance of £30 to single men and £50 to married men.
– ‘What salaries were they receiving?
– They were receiving salaries of from £600 to £700. I am not saying that his judgment was wrong,, but I am quoting hia contradictory statements, and showing that he has no principle guiding him, and no policy, and that he is nob consistent or fair. After having swept out of Court thousands of men oh the grounds of the state of the public funds, and in another case on the ground of anticipated legislation, he at the same time gave other higher-paid men increases of salary tup to £150 per annum and a cost of living allowance, which made a total increase in some cases of £200 per annum.
In another case he raised the salaries of many officials by £100 per annum. But in regard to the Fifth Class, to men who had been at the head of their Division’ for a number of years, he said, “You should get tho higher status for which you ask, because you are performing the duties of the next grade, but I cannot award it because of proposed legislation.” Almost within an hour or two he reversed his attitude, and raised another section of officers from their particular class to a higher grade, and gave them the emoluments that attached to the promotion.
Summing up his judgments, there is no increase which he has given to some men on a particular ground that he has not refused to other men on the same ground ; he has put forward no authority to buttress his acts which he has not afterwards repudiated. .When he was dealing with the case of the higher-paid officials he said -
The question I have to decide is whether the salaries paid and the promotion offered are such that good men are likely to be induced to remain in the Service. Evidence was given that the present rates of pay are too low.
Thereupon, so far as the higher officials are concerned, he proceeded to raise their classification. When he came to deal with the lower paid officials, he said that the evidence given showed that their wages were too low, and that, on that evidence, he should raise the maximum of their class, but he could not do so, either because of lack of public funds, or because of some proposed legislation. In other case3 of the higher-paid officials he said that the men were doing work really more valuable than that represented by their present classification, and that after they had remained for two years at the maximum of their class, they should be raised automatically to a higher class. Then he turns round and takes away from the lower ranks what has been awarded to them. Honorable members oan place their own construction on these’ varying attitudes. Mr. Atlee Hunt sinned either in error or in ignorance. The one is as bad as the other. If he erred deliberately, ‘then he is not fit to hold the position of Public Service Arbitrator. If he erred in ignorance he is equally unfit for his office. In my opinion the evidence goes to show that he erred deliberately. On 1st June, 1921, he said -
The Arbitration (Public Service) Act, under which I work, says that I shall act according to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits oi the case.
That was the attitude he took up when dealing with the claims of the higher paid officials, and he acted accordingly. On 12th August he referred to the “ Public Service Bill now before Parliament,” and said -
Whatever may be done in the future I dual only with the conditions now present.
And on that basis he proceeded to operate. He knew of the existence of the Public Service Bill not only in August last when he made that statement, but in June, because the Bill was introduced in the Senate in April last. Did he say in August that the introduction of that Bill was fatal to any action on his part in granting relief ? No; he said that he could not regard these men as being underpaid. He rejected the claim of threefourths of the applicants - the lower paid - on the ground that they were receiving child endowment, but he increased the pay of the higher-salaried applicants, who were also receiving child endowment.
Mr. Atlee Hunt’s administration as Public Service Arbitrator from beginning to end has been entirely unsatisfactory. It has been unfair. It has not been governed by any definite principle. I do not wish to occupy the time of the House longer than is absolutely necessary, but this is a matter of vital importance, and I feel that it is imperative that the House and the country should know the facts. It is of the highest importance that a man who is vested with judicial powers shall deal with every case brought before him on its merits. If he gives a decision against applicants for increased pay, that decision must be on the merits of the case, and for that decision he should be prepared to take the full responsibility. He should not shirk his responsibility because of projected legislation, or in anticipation of a shortage of public funds. He should give his decision in every case without fear or favour, and should not discriminate between those who earn much and those who earn but little in the service of their country.
– Were hot the Arbitrator’s decisions in the earlier cases quoted in the course of the argument in the later cases ?
– Yes. They were repeatedly referred to, but the nien had no standing. Most Judges base their decisions on some definite guiding principle.
– And their decisions are generally quoted in support of an application.
-r-That is so. Public servants have been induced to submit cases to the Public Service Arbitrator by reason of certain decisions given by him, but as I have said he seems to have no guiding principles. Take his decisions in May, June, and July. Men have gone before him and have said, “These decisions were given by you in such and such cases - these are the precedents you have established,” only to find that he shifts his ground. When his previous decisions are quoted he puts forward the condition of the public finances as a reason for not following them, or else advances as an excuse for not observing such precedents the introduction of a certain Bill.
In view of all these facts it is the bounden duty of the Government to tell Mr. Atlee Hunt that if he wishes to continue to draw the salary and emoluments now paid him by the Commonwealth, he must as the Public Service Arbitrator fulfil the functions for which he was appointed ; that he must give judgments which are consistent and based upon commonly understood principles; and that he shall deal fairly as between the highest arid the lowest, lt is the duty of the Government, not merely to refer these matters to Mr. Atlee Hunt for consideration, but to tell him that he must fulfil the functions of his office dr resign.
.- The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has brought before the House in the most forceful manner some of the causes of the (present unrest and dissatisfaction in the Commonwealth PublicService, and has emphasized the glaring injustices which Commonwealth employeeshave suffered. I hope that the House will recognise its responsibility to those who are so aggrieved and will endeavour to afford them the relief to which they are entitled. I desire to bring before honorable members a serious anomaly which has been created under a new regulation under the Public Service Act. I refer to regulation 166 which, provide? for the extension of awards to nonmembers of organizations. Such a regulation is absolutely opposed to all the merits of justice. Those who are not prepared to recognise their obligations to their fellow employees by joining an organization which is intrusted with the work of bringing before the Court the claims of the Service are not entitled to reap the bene- fits of any award so obtained. It is unreasonable that they should secure the advantage of proceedings for which others have been responsible and financially obligated. There can be no more contemptible or more unworthy persons in any community than those who remain outside an organization or union which is endeavouring to improve the standard of wages and conditions of employment in the industry or profession in which they are engaged, yet who are ready to avail themselves of every advantage which that organization or union secures. Such miserable individuals, unfortunately, do exist even in enlightened Australia, always anxious to secure selfadvancement at the expense of their fellow citizens, and without accepting corresponding obligations in such efforts. This regulation extends to non-unionists a consideration of which they are not deserving. We should recognise our obligation’s and see that the conditions of those who carry out their duties and responsibilities in this connexion are improved exclusively. This is the very basis of awards and decisions made by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. I have risen to supplement the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), and to intimate my distinct disapproval of the Government’s intention in respect of this particular regulation. The honorable member made out a case which Ministers cannot fail to acknowledge the importance of, and should immediately recognise as urgent. Such proceedings by this alleged Arbitrator constitute an absolute scandal. They should demand from the official intrusted with the high and important duties of Public Service Arbitrator an explanation, and if unsatisfactory his recall, so that in future justice may be done to the Commonwealth employees who brins! claims before such tribunals. Until they feel secure of that consideration for their claims which is justified, we shall not have ‘ satisfaction in the Public Service, and dissatisfaction tends to inefficiency and is against the best interests of the community. I hope that the Government will give immediate consideration to the statements of the honorable member for Bourke, and will also take note of my request that regulation 166 be disallowed, because it is not in accordance with the principles under which awards should be made.
.- I heartily approve of almost everything said by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) regarding the position of the public servants as affected by the awards of the Public Service Arbitrator. The conditions which apply to any grade of the Public Service, high or low, should be taken as the basis on which an award is given. In a case with which I was connected before the Arbitration Court of Western Australia, it was shown that an Arbitrator ought not to take into consideration the ability of an employer t.o pay an award; that the sole question he has to decide is whether the services of the employees are worth what is asked for them, or whether the conditions which the employer wishes to impose on the employee are fair. The case to which I refer was that of the Northern Gold-fields against the employees of the various mining companies in that area. After we had put our views as forcibly as we could, Mr. Justice Burnside said that the question he had to consider was whether a mine could pay what it was asked. Let me show honorable members how hardly that principle might apply. The Sons of Gwalia Mine was adjacent to the Tower Hill Mine, the division between them being an imaginary line drawn between two pegs, and while the firstnamed mine was paying good dividends, the second was in a hopeless state of insolvency. I contended, speaking for the unions, that the question to be considered was not whether the Tower Hill Mine was profitable, or whether the Sons cf Gwalia. Mine was profitable, but whether the men employed in those mines were rendering services worth the wages they asked for them.. Every one received a shock when the minutes of the award were made known. The Arbitrator declared that because the Tower Hill Mine was not paying, the men employed in it must work for low wages, but he gave no more than the minimum to those employed in the Sons of Gwalia Mine. .1 contend that in that award the Judge went beyond his province and did an injustice to those connected with the Sons of Gwalia Mine. That mine was well managed and .was worked by men who took an interest in it, whereas the Tower Hill Mine was badly managed. The award put a tax on good management and industry. When men or sets of men bring a concern to a state of prosperity by doing good work, they should not be taxed on their efforts, whether they are wage-earners or raine managers. All connected with a profitable concern, whatever their scale of pay, are in common employment. The Public Service Arbitrator has said to those appealing to him for higher wages, “We - meaning the Commonwealth - are unable to pay.” What had he to do with the finances of the Commonwealth? In pronouncing such a judgment he has usurped the position of a member of Parliament, and arrogated to himself a right that he does not possess, and that Parliament did not intend him to have. It is apparent that wages men go down every time in connexion with awards. The Arbitrator has not performed the functions with which Parliament intrusted him. If one buys goods from a certain firm which, on delivery, are nob up to standard, a complaint is not made to another firm, but the firm that supplied the goods is asked why it did not deliver goods of the standard paid for. In this instance the goods that Australia has paid for are not being supplied by the Public Service Arbitrator. If an amendment of the Public Service Act is needed, that is our picnic, not his. If the country cannot pay its way it is we who have to explain the position to the taxpayers, not he. He is not to tak© any of the blame. It is we who have to do that, and he should do his job, and nob interfere with matters which do not concern him.
– What is his explanation of apparently conflicting judgments?
– God only knows. He has no line of reasoning, because he has changed his ground on so many occasions.
– You cannot criticise him unless you have read his judgments.
– I have read his judgment in some cases. The honorable member for Bourke. mentioned two cases. No one has had more experience of legal procedure than has the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). He knows that he cannot take any line of defence unless it is in conformity with the laws under which his client is being tried, and those laws are well known to the Judge, to the prosecutor, to the defence, and to the country. But since Mr. Atlee Hunt has occupied the position of Public Service Arbitrator we have* not had a basis for the awards which he has given, lt is his duty to provide such a basis. Then we shall know whether an amendment of the law’ is needed to bring about fairer conditions. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) referred to a regulation which is in opposition to the principle of compulsory unionism; but ever since I have been able to express an opinion on the subject I have been against compulsory unionism.
– 1 do not think we can go into that matter.
– I am speaking of a regulation under which the Public Service Arbitrator has given an award, and it is expected that (he will give another decision very shortly.
– If a judicial decision is pending there is all the more reason why the matter should not be alluded to now.
– Then I have only to say that I trust that some results may be achieved by this motion and the speeches that have been made, and that the basis on which awards are given will be made clear.
– I regret that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) was unable to notify me of his intention to move thi9 motion this morning, so that I could look into the two or three judgments to which he has referred. The honorable member suggests .that the Government should dictate to the Arbitrator what he should do in his own particular Court.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member said that we should direct him that it is his duty to consider a case without paying any reg’ard to what Parliament may or may not do.
– The Prime Minister said that he should do that.
– Parliament, which had full control of the Public Service, determined to appoint a Public Service Arbitrator, whose duty would be to determine the rates of wages, terms and conditions of employment in the Public Service. It is his duty to carry out the terms of the Act and do justice between the Public Service and the Commonwealth according to the law. It is not the duty of this House or of any Government to dictate to a Judge who is carrying out his functions as to the manner in which he should do so, because that would be practically setting aside the Act, falsifying the judicial position, and assuming functions that this Parliament or a Government ought not to exercise.
– TheGovernment are not asked to do that. They are simply asked to request Mr. Atlee Hunt to carry out the Act.
– The honorable member brought this matter before the House the other day, which he was perfectly entitled to do, although I do not think that it is open to question whether he should do so, because this Parliament should not be made a Court of . review as to any decision or award given in an Arbitration Court. At the same time, however, Parliament should always retain the right to criticise the judgments of any one acting in. a judicial capacity, so long as the criticism does not take the character of an attack upon the Judge’s conduct, capacity, integrity, or honour. The law provides the method by which a member of the Judiciary can be removed from office. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has criticised the action of the Public Service Arbitrator in regard to a very big plaint he had under consideration, and upon which he delivered a comprehensive judgment covering twenty-three ox twenty-four different claims and covering very many different phases. I understand that in the course of delivering that judgment the Arbitrator, speaking particularly in regard to the claim that he should undertake certain classifications, said that as he understood that a Public Service Bill was before Parliament which would probably lead to reclassification at a very early date, and in view of certain other considerations, he thought it inadvisable to attempt the reclassification he was asked to undertake. He took up that attitude in the free exercise of his judicial functions, but honorable members have criticised him for having done so.
– What evidence had Mr. Atlee Hunt before him that there would be a speedy determination of that legislation?
– I could not say, but knowing that the terms of employment of the claimants depended upon a contract based upon the provisions of an Act of Parliament, he felt that it was his duty as an Arbitrator paying regard to the position of public servants and their relation to the Crown to exercise hia own judgment and express an opinion upon the situation. His opinion was criticised in this House, and the Prime Minister, instead of doing what the honorable member for Bourke suggests he ought to have done, took the only proper course open to him, and undertook to forward to the Arbitrator the opinions expressed by honorable members in this House so that he might enlighten his mind upon them. The Prime Minister could not dictate to the Arbitrator and tell him how to exercise his functions.
– I do not ask the Prime Minister to do that.
– What the honorable member suggests in substance, if not in actual words, is that the Arbitrator, who should be left to exercise his judgment without paying any consideration to what Parliament may do, should be told howto exercise his functions or his judgment. The honorable member has been unfair in his criticism. He forgets that Mr. Atlee Hunt has given quitea number of decisions in his capacity as Public Service Arbitrator. The honorable member complains that he has not settled upon some ruling principle or guiding line of an unswervingcharacter. It is the Arbitrator’s duty to exercise his judgment according to equity and good conscience.
– And the substantial merits of the case.
– Yes. He has to deal with a large number of claims, but because dissatisfaction has been expressed in regard to one particular case the honorable member comes here and makes a sweeping condemnation of the decisions of the Arbitrator.
– The honorable member alleged that whenever the lower paid servants have been before him the Arbitrator has refused to deal with their claims.
– I was about to reply to that aspect of the case. The charge is not correct. Quite a number of claims, I am informed, presented by the lowerpaid public servants have been considered and dealt with. It is the duty of the Arbitrator to deal out even-handed justice to all parties, and I believe that he is striving to do so under considerable difficulties.
– How can that be if he admits that a certain section of the
Public Service are not being properly remunerated and that their conditions of employment are not correct, and yet refuses to remedy them on the plea that the Government cannot afford to pay the higher wages?
– The Arbitrator has not quite taken up that stand. If a claim is presented by a body of public servants, and it can be shown that if it is granted it will impose a heavy expenditure upon the Commonwealth, for example, amounting to £500,000, it is the duty of the Public Service Commissioner to direct the attention of the Arbitrator to the probable consequences of any award he may deliver so that he may realize the significance of acceding to the request of the claimants.
– So that if a large body of men are concerned in an application their claim cannot be met because it will involve many thousands of pounds, whereas the higher grades in the Public Service can get big increases because their numbers are few ?
– That does not necessarily follow. The Arbitrator did not approach the claim of the higher-paid officials in that way. He held that they were underpaid in relation to the positions they occupied.
– But he also held that the lower-paid officers were underpaid.
– At the same time, he had to take a general view, and he took it. It is wrong to say that in all cases he refused to deal with the claims of the lower-paid men. The allegation made by the honorable member for Bourke in his general sweeping statement to the effect that the Arbitrator proceeds to deal with cases without any method and without any general principle is equally incorrect.
– It is correct.
– The honorable member is entitled to his opinion, but I contend that the Arbitrator is, as far as possible, proceeding on definite lines and principles. It would take a longer time than I have at my. disposal to review his decisions and point out the principles he observes; but I ask honorable members to read these judgments for themselves, andsee how carefully Mr. Atlee Hunt has weighed . his decisions and endeavoured to do justice between the public servants and the Crown. The Prime Minister has done all that he could do under the circum stances, and I deprecate the attempt to pick out certain aspects of judgments for criticism.
– I can assure the Minister . that I do not wish to do so.
– I admit it, but it has been done. On the other hand, no reasonable objection can be raised to criticism.
– This matter was raised in the House the other day. Has the. Arbitrator furnished any report or reply in respect to the criticism then offered?
– No. In the circumstances, I ask honorable members to negative the motion at the earliest possible moment.
– This matter has been before the House previously, but its importance is such that honorable members, although they are anxious to get away at the earliest possible moment, cannot object if one takes time to express an opinion upon it. It is a curious fact that, in connexion with industrial arbitration, an attitude has been adopted by the Judiciary that, fortunately, has been absent in other Courts. In my judgment one of the most valued possessions we have is the remoteness of the Judiciary from politics, and I would be the last to ask the Government to take any action that would interfere in the slightest degree with the exercise of the judicial functions of a Judge who is doing his duty. But, some time ago, the then President of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, Mr. justice Higgins, entered into an acrimonious political discussion with the head of the Government (Mr. Hughes), and at one stage of this controversy announced that, owing to certain contemplated action, he would not hear cases that were brought before him. From that started this unhappy admixture of the Judicial ‘and Executive functions. Mr. Justice Higgins was followed by Mr. Justice Powers, who quite recently announced that, having read something in the newspapers - as though any man of experience would guide his course in accordance with what he read in the papers - he had decided to close his Court to a number of applicants who, under our laws, were entitled to go to it and receive his judgment upon the claims presented. And nowwe have another Arbitrator declaring that, because it has come to his knowledge that there is certain legislation contemplated, he will refuse to adjudicate upon the cases brought before him. I am astonished that we should be able to find in Australia three men of legal training who should make so grave a mistake as to where the Judicial and Executive functions meet. Mr. Atlee Hunt should be in no way concerned as to the proposed legislation in this Parliament. If he investigated the matter, or sought to inform his mind upon it, he would find that of the Bills introduced into Parliament a very small proportion ever finds a place on the statute-book; and he would have found also that it is beyond the power of a Judge to say in what form any Bill that comes before this House may become an Act. To agree to the contention of Mr. Justice Powers that because a Ministerial statement is made that the Government contemplate certain action, the Court is then to close it doors to all cases that may be affected by the suggested measures, should they become the law, is to my mind so absurd a proposition that I marvel that any judicial “mind should entertain it. And while I think that Mr. Hunt has made a very grave mistake in refusing to give justice on the merits, as he is sworn to do, of the cases before him because of legislation pending before this Parliament, I consider that he is only falling into the error through following the precedent set by gentlemen of higher judicial attainments than himself, who ought to be exceedingly careful in following the examples they set in the Courts over which they preside.
I am equally at variance with the contention of the Arbitrator that he is in any way the custodian of the finances of the Commonwealth. Let us look at the position the Minister put before us just now. He came almost to contend that the Arbitrator is bound to consider how much money is involved in the decisions he gives. I have never, in this House or out of it. contended that the higher, officials should have their salaries cut down. I believe that one of the causes of inefficiency, when there is inefficiency in the Public Service, is that the higher officials are not paid sufficient for the skilled work they do. But it is repugnant to my sense of justice that a Court, set up for the purpose of dealing fairly with the different sections of the Public Service, , should declare that it will do justice to a small number of men when it means a cost of only a few pounds, and refuse to do justice to thousands, because to remedy their grievances will cost a large sum. I do not think any reasonably-minded man can approve of such a contention. The duty of the Arbitrator as set put in the Act is to do justice to all sections according to good conscience and equity - that is his job.
– Has it been proved that he has not done justice?
– We have his own assertion that with regard to a section of the Public Service, equity and good conscience demanded that they should receive more pay, and he refused it, because he presumed to judge of the ability of the Commonwealth to meet its just debts. I resent, as a libel, the statement that the Commonwealth is unable to pay its public servants properly for the work they do. We are continually resenting similar libellous statements published in the newspapers at the other end of the world; but .here we have our own Commonwealth officer declaring that, while in his judgment certain sections of the Service ‘are entitled to better pay and conditions, the Commonwealth is so poverty-stricken that it cannot afford to pay them. No more libellous statement has ever been published; and coming as it does from a quasi-judicial source, it is likely to- have more weight with those who attach importance to statements affecting our finances. I should be the last to. say that the Government should issue directions to any Judge, or any person exercising the functions of a Judge; but if a Judge publicly declares that he will not administer the law that this Parliament has made, there must be, somewhere in the Constitution, some power to direct him to do so.
– There is power to remove a Judge.
– I do not think that in either of the cases cited it is necessary to remove the Judge. What seems to me to be quite proper for the Attorney-General to do is to direct attention to the fact that the law requires the Judges to adjudicate in the cases before them, and that, unless the law is altered, a Judge’s duty is to proceed with his work, irrespective of what Parliament is doing. The Judges might also be reminded in an unofficial way that it is not for them to consider what Parliament is doing, and that the more carefully they confine themselves to their judicial functions, the easier the way will be for both the Judges and the Parliament. .
.- When the Bill for the creation of this Arbitration Court for the Public Service was before Parliament I gave it my most strenuous opposition. I maintained that there was already in existence a Conciliation and Arbitration Court to which an appeal could be made by the public servants in exactly the same way as by other employees in Australia. The Arbitrator is a Crown servant, appointed by the Crown to adjudicate on Public Service cases; and, under the circumstances, he cannot be other than a political Judge. Events have justified my forecast when the measure was1 before us to create this Court. Mr. Atlee Hunt has done no more than intimate that the condition of the Treasury is such that it cannot pay the emoluments to which our public servants are entitled; and this is. an illustration of what I mean when I say that whoever occupies the position of Arbitrator must act in accordance with the ideas of the Government of the day. Otherwise, he would simply be a useless appanage. He cannot act in accordance with equity and good conscience, because he has to keep the Government position in mind, and this Mr. Atlee Hunt has done. I do not know whether he asked the Treasurer for information as to the state of the public finances, but if not, he evidently got the information somewhere, or he would not have acted in the way he did.
There is before this House for approval a regulation to the effect that public servants who are not members of organizations shall be regarded as in the same Position as are members of organizations. I cannot understand this proposed regulation, in view of the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has in the past, on more than one occasion, declared that a man who does not belong to the organization of his calling, whether in the
Public Service or outside, is a mean creature not worthy the respect of his fellow men. Yet we are asked to pass a regulation which I should be ashamed to support. The honorable member for Fawkner belongs to the legal profession.
– I am proud to belong to an honorable profession.
– And does not the honorable member think that every member of his profession should belong to the same organization as himself ?
– What organization is that?
– Not only have lawyers , been compelled to organize, but even the newspaper reporters have banded togetherin order to liaise the status of their profession, and safeguard themselves for that period of life .when it is impossible to change one’s vocation in order to improve one’s position. It is remarkable to me that this Parliament, should be asked to give this privilege to blacklegs and scoundrels, persons who are too contemptible to join with their fellow men for their welfare. Personally, I have been a nember of a union ever since I was apprenticed at fourteen years of age, and when I became an employer I continued a member. Every industry and profession is now organized, and unionism is a -sound, solid principle making for the progress of the country. In the Public Service, under such a regulation as that proposed, we may have one non-unionist working at the counter with five or six unionists, and that one man cannot expect to be treated with anything but contempt. At any rate, I know that under such circumstances I should assist in putting him outside. I cannot conceive that there should be contentment in the Public Service under such a regulation, which is a contemptible proposal to submit to a National Parliament or any other body of men.
As I have. said, Mr. Atlee Hunt’s appointment is based on the idea that he is a servant of the Crown. I can see no reason why the great expense involved in creating this Court should have been incurred ; there is not the slightest doubt that, as time goes on. this new institution will grow in both size and cost. There never will be peace and contentment in the Service until this new Court is abolished, and public servants left free to appeal to the ordinary tribunals of the country.
The trouble is that some people do not understand the meaning of Democracy. I do not blame Mr. Hunt. No honorable member has known him longer than I have, and I rather pity him. But he should have decided the cases before him according to the principles of equity and justice, and allowed the Government to say whether or not the country could afford to pay the salaries which he awarded. It is not for the Public Service Arbitrator or the Arbitration Court to say what the country can afford. It is the duty of such Tribunals to give judgment according to the evidence and regardless of the cost, unless, of course, the Arbitrator’s position is political rather than judicial. If the evidence in the case of the Fifth Class clerks were submitted to the judgment of any ordinary citizen, he would admit that the Arbitrator’s decision was not in accordance with the evidence. I will do anything within my power to destroy this Tribunal, because it is founded upon a wrong basis, and it is impossible for truth and justice to reign in connexion with it. The Government - and not the Arbitrator - should decide what the country can afford to pay. There should be greater control of the Public Service by Parliament, but, little by little, that control is drifting away from us. By many people the management of the Public ‘Service isregarded as too big a matter to be dealt with by Parliament, but I do not consider that there is any question on earth too big for me to deal with. I suspect that the appointing of the Public Service Arbitrator was made from ulterior motives.
-Order ! The honorable member is not in order in imputing motives. In any case his time has expired.
.- I do not know in what way the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr, West) regards the Public Service Arbitrator’s Court as political. One of the principal ideas Parliament had in mind when it created that Tribunal was to make it free from political influence of any sort, and, therefore, we should be very careful of any action we take in regard to the issue that has been raised to-day. The reasons for the creation of the Court are perfectly well known to honorable members, and cannot have been forgotten by the honorable member for East Sydney. The Arbi tration Court was very much congested, partly because of the number of applications from the Public Service, and in order to give the public servants the justice to which they are entitled, this special Tribunal was set up. The idea of Parliament was that if any of them were underpaid, their salaries or wages should be placed upon a proper basis, and if their classification was wrong, it should be rectified. I regret that the Arbitrator has adopted a certain attitude. A Judge who says in effect to any party who comes before him, “ All the merits of the case are with you, but I must proceed according to the logic of expediency,” is acting as we do not desire or require the Public Service Arbitrator to act. No matter how dark the way may be, it is never so dark but that we can see the right thing to be done. We cannot in all cases see what is the expedient course to follow, but I do believe that in the long run the right course proves to be the expedient one, and if the public servants who applied to the Court had right on their side, the Arbitrator, by doing the right thing, would have done the expedient thing. It is notorious that many men in the Fifth Grade are underpaid for the work they are doing, and whilst that state of affairs exists, we shall have dissatisfaction in the Service. When the Tribunal we appointed to settle the claims of the public servants, while admitting that their claims are fair, declines on some other ground to grant them, dissatisfaction in the Service must increase. Whether or not the granting of the claims is justified by the financial position of the country is a question of which the Arbitrator should not take cognisance. I admit that the Public Service Commissioner is perfectly justified in telling the Court what will be the financial consequences of any increase in wages that may be granted; but if an increase is justified I do not think that, merely because it will involve an increased expenditure, this House desires that the Arbitrator should decide that it cannot be paid. As the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) pointed out, the natural inference to be drawn from such a decision is very patent. An increase of emoluments in the lower grades of the Service, which include many thousands of employees will alwavs involve a large amount of money, wihereas in the higher grades,in which fewer officers are employed, the amount involved by an increase of pay will not be very large; and therefore there will be a tendency’ for that line of reasoning to operate unfairly against the men in the lower grades to whom we wish to see justice done. The Commonwealth, is always in . need of money, and, whilst we should be economical in our expenditure, true economy consists in the proper expenditure of money rather than the saving of it by improper means. Therefore, the economy cry, when directed against the payments to the Public Service, is very unfair. If the Arbitrator decides that a certain wage is fair this House has still the right to say that the country cannot afford it; we can refuse to pass the Estimates, and until the money is voted it cannot be paid. Thus, Parliament will always have a certain amount of review over the decisions of the Arbitrator. But. we do want from him an independent determination, free from political influence, of what is a fair rate of pay for the men in our employment. Having got that, Parliament will be in a position to do its duty. The argument that the work of the Court cannot be done because of proposed legislation is dangerous. It might be justified when the Arbitrator has been asked to reclassify the whole Service, at a time when he knows that a Bill before Parliament provides for the reclassification to be dealt with in another manner. In those circumstances he might very well decide that it would be better for him to ©proceed with the more important work of assessing the rates of pay, and leave to the new authority to be created the duty of reclassification. But when the Arbitrator declares that he will not deal with questions of classification because of impending legislation, and that he cannot award increases of pay that are justified because the Commonwealth cannot afford the money, he throws aside the work that he is paid to do. I hope that the opinions of this House will be placed before the Arbitrator, so that he may know that we desire that the matters referred to him shall he finally settled, and justice done to the employees of the Commonwealth.
.- I desire to record briefly my views on this question, which was raised so admirably and eloquently by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey). The wellconsidered case which the honorable member made out, evidently as the result of very careful study of the declarations by the Arbitrator, merited a more complete reply than it received from the representative of the Government. I propose to direct my few observations to one or two matters of principle. The first of these is the right, which the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) seemed to challenge, that undoubtedly rests in every honorable member to bring before the House the decision given by any Arbitrator or, for that matter,- by any Judge, and the reasons as expressed by him, for that decision. That is not only our undoubted right, but is clearly a duty. Judges - and the gentleman whose work is now under consideration is largely in the position of a Judge - should not be lightly or captiously criticised. Personal animadversions should not be passed upon them in a spirit of pique arising from the fact that their decisions are against one’s interests or anything of that kind. But where a Judge is considered to be acting upon wrong principles there rests upon honorable members the very serious duty of bringing that matter before the House for consideration and discussion in the confident hope that such a condition will be cured. I take this opportunity to point out that, as I mentioned once before, we have in the dissatisfaction with the decisions of the Public Service Arbitrator the consequences which honorable members of the Labour party foresaw when the position was created. We were against the creation of this office. We were opposed to depriving members of the Public Service of . the right of access to the Tribunals which were created for the use of the public generally. Just as we were bitterly opposed to an old Act of Parliament which segregated members of the Public Service, making them a class apart, with representation of their own in Parliament, so we were against this attempt, on the part of the Government to segregate the Public Service and to deprive it of the right to approach judicial Tribunals on an equal footing* with others. I do not go the length of saying .that this Arbitrator, necessarily, has -any political leanings, or that he is biased against one class or one party in cases that are heard before him. I do not accuse him, at all events, of any intentional bias, but I say, with some confidence, that his is necessarily a bureaucratic Court. The present Arbitrator was at the head of a large Department of the Public Service-
– Does the honorable member know that this House once refused to give him an increase of salary?
– That may have been rightly or wrongly dome. I point out that he was for many years a member, of the Public Service, and that he has grown up as a Public Service disciplinarian and manager. Those of us who are acquainted with the ways of the Public Service know that heads of Departments very often, if not always, win their positions of prominence by strict economy and the exercise of discipline over their subordinates. While it is feasible that an. officer of the Public Service may prove a satisfactory Judge-
– What is a satisfactory Judge - one who) pleases both sides 1
– A satisfactory Judge is one who enjoys the confidence of all sections of the community. If the honorable member will examine the personnel of the various Courts of this country he will find that by far the greater number, if not all our Judges, are in that sense satisfactory. I do not wish, however, to be diverted from the point that I was seeking to make - that a gentleman who is taken from the Public Service - who has risen up in the Service - is peculiarly unsuited to act as a Judge over the Public Service. That is one of the weaknesses iri connexion with the Arbitrator whose work is now under consideration. It has been suggested that it is no part of the Arbitrator’s business to consider the means of the Commonwealth to pay. It is the right of a Judge, as between private contestants in arbitration proceedings, to consider the power of an industry to pay a wage; but the principle has always been laid down that an industry which cannot pay a living wage has no right to exist, and that as between the right to live and the right to carry on an industry, the pre-eminent right is the right of the individual to live under decent conditions. It is quite evident that the Arbitrator here has’ not adopted that principle. No one denies - and the Arbitrator himself would have no right to deny - the power of the Commonwealth to pay a fair wage. Having de clared that these men were entitled to a certain wage on the merits of their claims, his statement that he had to apply the logic of expediency to their case and that they should, therefore, be paid something lees than they were entitled to receive, constitutes on the face of it a very grave departure from his public duty.
The other point which the honorable member for Bourke made deserves a very serious answer, and, I hope, will have it from the Arbitrator himself. I refer to the statement made by the honorable member that, in dealing with men in very large numbers, the Arbitrator said, in effect, “Your claim is sound on the merits, but we cannot grant it because of the numbers affected and the hundreds of thousands of pounds that would consequently be involved in giving effect to your claim. We can, however, grant the claim of those who are few in number, because, in the aggregate, the amount to be paid is so much less.”
It is only to matters of principle that I wish, to address myself, and not to any personal attack upon the Arbitrator, especially as I have not carefully read the judgments which have been brought under our notice to-day. I make that admission quite frankly. I have addressed myself to this question in the light of the deliberate expressions of principle to which the Judge has undoubtedly given utterance, and I say that the honorable member for Bourke has been well justified in bringing this matter before the House. His case, prima facie, at all events, is a strong one, and is deserving of a far more serious reply than has been made by the Minister this morning.
.- I think thehonorable member for Rourke (Mr. Anstey), who brought this matter before the House, is entitled to have his case considered both by honorable members and by the Public Service Arbitrator, On the whole, I do not think any exception can be taken to the manner in which he set it out. He is of the opinion that the Arbitrator (Mr. Atlee Hunt) has not been consistent - that he has failed to deal with the claims of the lower paid servants, while he has undertaken to grant increases to a numerically small number of officers in the Service who are receiving from £600 to £800 per annum.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.30 p.m.
Bill . presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 6th December (vide page 13854), of motion by Mr. Greene -
.- Honorable members, on reading paragraph E, will see that under it the Minister is first tobe satisfied that the exchange value of the currency of the country of origin or export of any goods has depreciated, and, secondly, that owing to the. depreciated exchange position goods are being imported into Australia from that country at prices which are detrimental to an Australian industry. Having been satisfied on those two points, the Minister may specify the goods in regard to which theubfair competition with Australian industry arises. This specification of goods will be duly gazetted, and from that date until that notice is repealed, alT goods of the kind specified coming from the country to which the notice relates will be liable to the exchange dumping duty. I wish it to be thoroughly understood that the exchange dumping duty will not be applicable to all goods coming from countries with a depreciated exchange, and that it need not necessarily apply to all such countries. It will apply only to the goods and to the countries specified in the notice. In no case will the exchange dumping duty be applied except in regard to specified goods which are landed in Australia at prices which create unfair competition with an Australian industry. This is a subject upon which one could speak for hours, going over a great deal of ground which, though interesting, I think need not be covered this afternoon. The theory which I had the honour to advance in this Chamber some eighteen months ago, that owing to the extraordinary conditions of international exchanges some foreign currencies have a dual value, the value of the currency being relatively higher in the country itself than the international exchange value. That theory has been abundantly proved by the course of events.
Mr.Fenton. - Is not the exchange position to-day better thanit was?
– Generally speaking, it is worse, and, in some cases, very much worse.
-Will you base the value of goods on the exchange rate at the time of their purchase, or on the exchange rate at the time of their being landed here?
– On the exchange rate at the time of their purchase. One could give a very large number of instances to prove this theory, with which I know now practically all the leading economists of the world agree. I could quote a very large number of them, but I do not wish to do so thi3 afternoon. I say “practically all,” because there are a few who do not agree with it, though I have not seen anything that they have written which attempts to controvert the facts. In this morning’s newspaper the following cablegram was published, giving the views of a gentleman well known to all, and even intimately known by some honorable members, Mr. Donald Mackinnon. That cablegram says -
Mr. Mackinnon’s general impression is that Germany is rapidly recuperating. Employment is plentiful, and no poverty is noticeable. The principal sufferers from the economic conditions are former military officers, who find it difficult to obtain a living owing to the whole- sale disbandment of thearmy. As the result of advantages of exchange, Mr. Mackinnon, his wife, and daughter, were able to live at first class hotels, equal to the best in Australia, for 7s. a day. They travelled 300 miles, first class, on tho railways for 9s. each.
That shows that the value of the mark in Germany itself has not depreciated in anything like the same ratio that it has depreciated for the purposes of international exchange.
– It may show that the hotelkeepers of Germany are contented with reasonable prices.
– Yes, but it demonstrates, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the value of the mark in Germany has not depreciated to anything, like the extent, or in the same ratio, that its value in international exchange has depreciated.
-With the mark at 1,000, I do not think that any one will worry about that.
– The whole of this exchange dumping duty is based on the theory that the depreciation within the country is not the same as the depreciation affecting iuternational exchange, and, consequently, that the people manufacturing in countries with a depreciated currency have an undue advantage. The following letter was received from a gentleman well known throughout Australia, and eminently fitted to express an opinion on this subject, Dr. Wunderlich, who writes : -
A startling instance of the way in which a debased circulation will retain its nominal value in its own country is seen in the case of newspapers. In Switzerland the local paper costs 10 or 15 centimes, and the French edition of the Daily Mail is 33 centimes. The Berlin morning paper is 30pfennig, whilst the Hail is 5 marks. Allowing for freight and distribution, the foreign paper in Switzerland is about the same value as the local paper; but in Germany its value is ten to fifteen times higher. A similar thing is seen in the case of foodstuffs. Wines which formerly would have had approximately the same value in Germany and in Switzerland are still sold in the latter country at about 5s. a bottle, while in Germany, atthe present rate of exchange, they would, even in the best hotels, cost only1s.6d.; and if such discrepancies exist on the big lines of traffic, how must it bc in the more remote parts of the country? A pint of excellent Austrian beer costs 11 kronen; and when I state that I casually changed a Swiss 5 franc note and received 1,720 kronen for it, it follows that I could have obtained 120 pots of beer for less than 5s. The swaggic’s ideal universe would thus have been reached, and he would no longer have occasion for a tap - thebeer would flow all the time.
– These facts seem to show that Germany very nearly won the war.
– There is something in that contention, from the commercial point of view. The facts of the case are beyond question. We know that in Germany there are, for all practical purposes, no unemployed. Her factories are working night and. day, and she is in a position to put her goods on the markets of the world at prices which other countries are unable to look at. There seems to be no doubt whatever that this arises very largely, indeed, from her peculiar position in regard to international exchange. There is. hardly a country in the world now that is not trying by some means or other to grapple with this situation, and to prevent countries with a depreciated exchange from practically swamping their industries.
– Do you think that this Bill will enable us to do so?
– I think that it will go a long way in that direction. Every country is trying by some means or other to grapple with this question. Canada has adopted a method which, when we were discussing this matter previously on the occasion on which I introduced these resolutions, I ventured to suggest, would lead to the complete cessation of trade between Germany and the Dominion. Canada’s law permits the recognition of the depreciation of currency to the extent of 50 per cent. only. That means that for the purpose of ascertaining the duty on goods coming from Germany, the invoice value is converted into marks, and the value of the mark is assessed at 6d. for duty purposes instead of something less than¼d., which is the actual value of the markto-day.I have not had official information on the subject, but I have been informed by people who know what the true position is that the result of the operation of the Canadian law has led to a complete cessation of trade between Germany and Canada; that is to 6ay, German goods are not going into Canada under the operation of the law. America is adopting a different method, which, I think, it will find extremely difficult to operate. Great Britain has adopted the hard and fast rule of applying a duty of 331/3 per cent, to specified goods comingfrom specified countries with a depreciated exchange.
– It applies to a limited number of commodities only.
– As a matter of fact, recently the list was enormously expanded, and I have noticed grievous complaints from importers in regard to the extent to which the law is applied on the class of goods brought under its operation. It has been discovered in. Great Britain that in some cases this duty of 33^ per cent, is tod high and that in other cases it is too low. Belgium has passed a special law to deal with this particular trouble from its immediate neighbour, Germany, and’ New Zealand is following on the lines of our present Bill, though not going as far as we do.
If honorable members will turn to the schedule, they will see that it has a progressive application, starting at a low rate of duty, if the exchange be depreciated to a small extent only, and rising to a peak of 75 per cent, when the currency has depreciated twelve times. I should be very sorry to dogmatize and declare that it is sufficient, but I think it will be. One difficulty in this connexion is that the extent to which Germany can take advantage of the depreciation in the exchange to place her goods on the foreign market at a low figure is not known. It may be a profitable thing for Germany to use a great deal more than she actually does, the advantage she derives from the depreciated condition of the exchanges in selling her goods on the markets of the world, and one hesitates, therefore, to declare whether or not the schedule to this Bill will prove sufficient; but generally speaking, I think, it will. One can only determine finally whether that is so or not by definite experience in regard to the goods actually shipped to this country. I have no desire to labour the question. I shall be very glad to hear what honorable members have to say. I am hopeful that the provisions we are making will .prove effective, and that while they will, not be prohibitive in their incidence, that is to say, they will not prohibit trade altogether, they will reasonably protect our manufacturers. There are two other paragraphs to which I wish to refer.
– The paragraphs may be interrelated, but the Committee has already declined to allow other than one paragraph at av-)time to be taken into consideration.
.- This is as difficult and thorny a subject as one can get in 1 touch with. I was concerned with a similar question on a former occasion, and in view of the action I then took, I am very interested in the present proposal, and, if I am to be consistent, must support the Minister’s proposal and should be perfectly agreeable to something being done in the direction he has suggested. On the previous occasion the question was in regard to exchanges. The Customs authorities in Australia ‘ took up the attitude that the depreciation of exchange did not affect the cost of production in the country of origin, and that, consequently, it was perfectly fair to continue charging duties on the mint par rate of exchange. I suggested at the time that when the exchange of a country depreciated inevitably some part of the depreciation was reflected in an increased cost of producing the goods in that country.
– To some part of that contention I have already agreed.
– The Minister, then, agreed to make an alteration from the mint par rate of exchange to the commercial rate of exchange, but there is the further difficulty that the depreciation may go on at such a*pac- in one country that there is no possible relation between the depreciation of exchange, and the increase in’ the cost of production in that country. We have had an example in the case of Germany, where, since August last, the rate of exchange has fallen from about 300 marks to 1,000 marks to the sovereign. It ‘is impossible for a depreciation of that character within1 two months to find its reflection in the cost of production in the country. It isi perfectly obvious that a hopelessly artificial position has arisen, and the facts which we have heard in regard to Mr. Donald McKinnon’s trip, and as to how far a .sovereign . will go in Germany, are what inevitably happens in such circumstances. There are certain points which are perfectly obvious, but I will only stress one, that is, that where the exchange has depreciated steadily and quietly over a certain period, and is probably the result of the actual position of the country, being in no sense due to panic in regard to the stability, or otherwise, of the nation, it is found, sooner or later, that the depreciation ‘ of the exchange is reflected in the cost of the production of the goods. While it may not go the whole way, if the depreciation is ordinary and genuine, it is, generally speaking, only a matter of time when all, or at any rate the greater part of it, will be reflected in the cost of production.
– What is the position of Italy and France?
-I shall deal with Italy and France later on. The point I took on a previous occasion was that the depreciation in those countries, with which I was particularly concerned, and which, to my mind, were not getting reasonably fair treatment from Australia, had been fairly steady, and was, so far as I could judge, to a great extent reflected in the cost of production. Having taken that view, I said that I was quite clear that these countries were having to pay more to produce, and were not getting a fictitious benefit of any material moment from the exchanges. There is nothing in this Bill to injure the attitude I took up on that occasion, because no penalty is to be imposed on any country unless it can be shown that the exchange position is not being reflected in the cost of production in the country itself, and that it is thereby” deriving an advantage over other countries. No one could have any complaint against that. My view-point on the previous occasion, was that we were taking no notice whatever of this depreciation, and not admitting that any part of it went into increasing the cost of the production of goods in the country under review. Take the case of Germany, the position cannot actually be stated as a fact. It can only be set out on calculations based on what are called statistics. There are three ways of lying, one by affirmation, one by negation, and the other by statistics. . Personally, I think statistics win easily. However, these facts are worth putting before the Committee as constituting the best basis that could be arrived at. In August of the present year, it was calculated that the wholesale price in seventy trades in Germany had increased to sixteen times the pre-war cost of production. Taking 100 as the pre-war figure, it was, in August of this year, calculated for seventy industries to be 1,628.
– That is in marks.
– It does not matter how you consider it, it was sixteen times the pre-war cost. As against that, rather curiously, the exchange position was exactly the same. The rate of exchange in August was about 320, so that it had also increased sixteen times. Taking these facts, it means that Germany has an advantage, for while in Great Britain the cost of production had increased from 100 to 180 it was exactly the same in Germany as it was before the war. That is to say, the increase in the cost of production had gone up sixteen times, and so had the rate of exchange to the same extent. These two factors, therefore, bring one back to the starting point, that in Germany they can produce at the exact prewar figure, while Great Britain’s cost of production is 80 per cent, above it. That is an obvious advantage to Germany. Now the German exchange is in the region of 1,000, indeed, I think it has been over 1,100. That simply means that the whole position is artificial, and certainly no duty on the basis that Great Britain has dealt with the matter will have the slightest effect while that position prevails.” But the position cannot prevail indefinitely, because, to-day, while the wholesale price is calculated at sixteen times, wages are only eight times the pre-war rate. That means, broadly speaking, that the German workman, with all the talk of his prosperity, is just a’bout half as well oil as he was when the war started. All these figures are very mysterious and difficult to follow. The cost of living is about eleven time3 the pre-war rate, taking the standard goods into consideration - that is 1,100 as against 100. But then the wholesale price is sixteen; and how comes that mysterious difference? We can only suggest that the difference creeps in through the adverse rate of exchange, affecting purchases of raw material. Though the figures are hopelessly confused, they establish two facts. One fact is that the cost of production does increase in the country if there is a depreciated .exchange, and the second, that this depreciation has no relation to the actual cost of production when there is a very rapid and very steep decline in the basis of exchange. Sofar as Germany is concerned, it seems beyond question that she is in a position to put goods into any country where the exchange is against her, on a better basis than can the local manufactures.
– Is it possible to maintain that advantage?
– I do not think it is. If we take the figures of to-day we can show that Germany can produce articles as against Great Britain at a difference in cost almost impossible to calculate, if the exchange is at 1,000 ; but although at 320 there is a very material difference, it is not of so startling a character. The difference of 320 is not of impossible magnitude, for the reason that the cost of production has risen with the depreciation of the exchange. If, by any chance, German exchange is going to stay down in the region of 1,000, it is inevitable that in the country itself the cost of production will have to increase. It cannot be held where it is unless there is an appreciation of the value of the mark. This is going to hit Germany sooner or later.. There is also the fact that the position cannot go on indefinitely. There may be an advantage for a certain time, but it is inevitable that, in the end, the difficulty of meeting the position, and the internal obligations must be faced. The Germans have to run their country and pay the war indemnity in some shape or form. Taxation must be increased, and the whole position must eventually work back against Germany. When in England, I took great trouble to discuss the question of exchange, particularly in relation to Germany, in an effort to get a clear vision of what it means. I talked to bankers, economists, and business men, and the impression left on my mind wheu I had finished was that the whole of them were absolutely fogged, and could not say what was going to happen.
– At the same time, they are all agreed that there is a dual value of the mark.
– Undoubtedly, and I have maintained that all along; there must be where there is rapid depreciation. But to come back to the actual proposal before us. As I see the position, there is no objection to trying the proposal, and seeing if it will have any effect. So far as countries are concerned where the depreciation is a reasonable one, I think that the more legislation of this character that goes on the statute-books of the world, the more difficult it will be to readjust exchanges, and get the peoples of the world to trade with one another on a basis satisfactory to all. But the exchanges of Germany present an impossible position, and a proposal of the kind presents a possibility of doing something. Personally, I think that these penalties, certainly in the case of France until the franc is something over 50, are quite unnecessary. That is, however, for the Committee to decide. We have recently passed a Tariff to give certain protection to this country. That protection may be undermined by the exchanges. We have to bear in mind that this proposal will not come into operation unless we can establish that the country is going to get an advantage from the fact that its cost of production has not increased in the same ratio as its exchange has depreciated. I think the Minister (Mr. Greene) will agree with me.
– That is right.
– It is only fair to put the matter to the Committee in this way.
– Are not cheaper methods of production another method of undermining the Tariff?
– That has nothing to do with exchanges.
– It is another mode of attack.
– Yes, but there is a further resolution to deal with that matter; at present we are dealing with exchanges. For myself, I do not like much this proposal, and I admit the fact frankly; but I do say that, having passed the Tariff, we have to take some action. I think that the Minister’s method of dealing with the matter is better thought out than that of anybody else who has tried his hand. The Minister’s method has a more logical basis for its operation. If we feel that there is a danger notwithstanding the Tariff that our industries may be undermined through the exchanges, the Minister’s is the best way in which we can attain what is now attempted. For my part, I do not propose to vote against the proposal. I do not like it, I admit; but I do not think that anything we may dot will stop the re- establishment of a proper basis of exchange between all countries. I do not believe that the volume of trade we are going to deal with is of such a character that it is really going to imperil the stabilizing of the world’s exchanges.
There is one point that I wish to raise, and raise very seriously. It seems to me that the wording of the resolution might be amended with advantage. The resolution says -
If the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that the exchange value of the currency of the country of origin or export of any goods has depreciated and that by reason of such depreciation goods have been or are being sold to an importer in Australia at prices which will be detrimental to an Australian industry.
The following are the words I should like to amend : - at prices which will be detrimental to an Australian industry.
We may have all the confidence in the world in the Tariff Board and the Minister, but this resolution leaves them with no indication of what we mean; it merely says that if they take the view that goods are being sold at a price detrimental to Australian industries they may impose the heavy penalty duty. We might have a Board, the members of which have slightly run mad on the idea of Protection, and there might be an industry in Australia in which the cost of production was five times what it ought to be. But if somebody was producing goods at three times the cost in another country, the Board could say that the importation of those goods was detrimental to an Australian industry. On the other hand, we might have a Board composed of members with Free Trade tendencies, and it would be left to them to decide, no matter what the case was, that no trading was detrimental to an Australian industry. It seems to me that we must get much closer to facts, and give the Board some basis, such as the cost of production of similar goods in Great Britain. The Board could not take .the price of production here: and the suggestion I have made, if carried out, would, I think, cover the whole position, because there are very few goods which come into competition with goods produced in Australia, that are not also produced in Great Britain. This would give the basis of a reasonably fair price, enabling the Board to see whether Australian goods were being under-so”ld through depreciation. Under the Tariff, as I understand it, we have given Protection of certain percentages to Australian industry; but if that is not enough, and people by legitimate methods can produce cheaper elsewhere, they are entitled to come in here. The suggestion I have made would not, I think, do the slightest harm, and would make the resolution more explicit and easier of administration.
I have tried to make clear what my view is. The whole subject is a very dangerous one. I do not quite see what is going to happen under this legislation with regard to German exchanges now, because they will have to come back to 240, or we get no more than 75 per cent. However, that is a point with which the Minister will perhaps deal. But having regard to the fact that we have a Tariff under which we have undertaken to protect our own manfacturers in a certain way, and that there is certainly a possibility of our goods being under-sold by unfair means, through the exchange position where it is unduly depreciated, I am quite prepared to support the resolution provided that there is a definition of the basis on which the cost of these goods is to be calculated, in order to discover whether they are coming in at an unduly low figure.
, - Honorable members are exceedingly desirous that goods manufactured in Australia shall not be exposed to any form of undue competition, whether that form referred to in an earlier paragraph, or in the portion that is now immediately under consideration. The only object we have is to ascertain what is necessary to give adequate protection to Australian industries, and what is fair as between manufacturers and consumers in this country. We have had several debates on the depreciated exchanges of the various European countries, and the legislation necessary to meet the difficulties that have resulted. It has become apparent to all who have followed the debates that there is very little danger of goods being dumped* in this country at low1 prices owing to the depreciation “of the exchanges of France and Belgium. As has been frequently pointed out, and confirmed to-day by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), immediately the currency of a country commences to depreciate there is set in operation a compensating factor by means of which the cost of manufacturing in that country rapidly adjusts itself to such depreciation of currency. The fact that the manufacturers have to import large quantities of material which has to be paid for with greater amounts of their own currency tends to bring about a perfectly natural and fairly rapid increase in the cost of production, as measured in the currency of that country,
– What happens if the raw material is in the country and has not to be imported ?
– Even then their own raw material becomes more costly to produce, and the cost of manufacturing also increases. Therefore, it must be quite apparent- to the Committee that so far as France and Belgium are concerned there is little to fear regarding the effect of the depreciated currencies of those countries, and for all practical purposes this clause is an unnecessary precaution against them. There is no doubt, however, that the position as regards Germany is very serious indeed. The mark fluctuated from 262 to the .£1 sterling on 8th July last to 1,100 to the £1 a little time ago, and it has now recovered to 920. It must be obvious from this that for a considerable time the manufacturers in that country have enjoyed a great advantage in being able to produce and export at low prices as measured in the currency of this country. Therefore, a strong case can be made out in favour of this proposed legislation as regards imports from Germany, and possibly some other countries in which the currency has depreciated very considerably, even during the last six months. We desire to arrive at a fair means of protecting our industries from the effects of these depreciated exchanges, and I think the Minister (Mr. Greene), in his opening remarks this afternoon, provided the solution. I agree with the honorable member for Flinders that the words in paragraph E “ are being sold to an importer in Australia at prices which will be detrimental to an Australian industry “ are open to a very wide and variable construction. But the Minister stated that “ the exchange anti-dumping duty will only apply to those goods which enter into unfair competition with Australian products.” If the words “ at prices which will be detrimental to an Australian industry “ were deleted and something to the same effect as the Minister’s statement were inserted, I think everybody would be perfectly satisfied, a~d I, at any rate, would offer not the slightest opposition to this proposal. Failing that, I would be satisfied if it were clearly understood by the Committee, and; therefore, by the Board, that this duty should apply only to those goods that- enter into unfair competition with Australian industries.
– I have followed with a good deal of interest the remarks of the honorable members for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) and Grampians (Mr. Jowett). One would be a fool to contend, and I have never done so, that the depreciation of exchange against a country was caused solely by the depreciation of that country’s currency. What I have always contended is that the depreciation of the currency, which necessarily is reflected in the cost of production, is ‘one of the causes which lead to the depreciation of the exchange. The extent to which the currency is depreciated must necessarily be reflected in the added cost of production in that country. But the difficulty is to determine the exact amount of that depreciation and the effect it has on the international exchange position. There are other factors which produce depreciation of exchange, and ona has only to point to the rapid fluctuations that take place in international exchanges to see that the depreciation of the currency is not keeping pace with the movements of exchange. If one were the exact measure of the other, as some economists contend, it would be necessary to get an internal improvement of the currency before there could be any improvement of the international, exchange, and a corresponding depreciation of the currency would follow every time the exchange turned against a country. To my mind, there is a very marked difference between the depreciation of currency and the depreciation of exchange. The one is not the measure of the other, although one is a very big factor in producing the other.
– They are always influencing one another.
– I do not say that the movements of international exchange have any effect upon the currency, but a depreciation of currency must have an effect upon the international exchange. The honorable member for Flinders asked a question as to the stage at which this duty would be applied in the interpretation of the words “which will be detrimental to an Australian industry.”
– Would it not be possible to insert the words “below a reasonable price as ascertained under paragraph B”?
– I shall show in a moment what would be the effect of doing that. If honorable members will refer to the regulations, they will find that in every one of these paragraphs we have used similar terms - in A, “ that detriment may thereby result to an Australian industry “ ; in B, “ that detriment may thereby result to an Australian industry”; and in E, “which will be detrimental to an Australian industry.”
– But in A the home consumption price also is mentioned; and in B the “ cost of production “.
– But the only reason for the imposition of this duty is that these goods may cause detriment to an Australian industry. We do not concern ourselves with goods that are dumped into Australia and do not result in detriment to an Australian industry.
– It is a decided advantage to get them.
– At any rate, the only goods with which we are concerned are those which are imported at prices which, from their very nature, create unfair competition, and thereby result in detriment to an Australian industry. I refer honorable members to the anti-dumping legislation of other countries. The New Zealand Act reads: -
If such concession will, in the opinion of the Minister, have an effect prejudicial or injurious to any industry or business established or carried on in Kew Zealand…..
The American law includes these terms - Whenever the Secretary to the Treasurer, hereinafter called the Secretary, after such investigations as he deems necessary, finds that an industry in the United States is being or is likely to be injured or is prevented from being established…..
All through this class of legislation similar language is employed. The honorable member for Dampier has suggested that we might incorporate in this proposal the words “ below a reasonable price as ascertained under paragraph B “ ; but the honorable member will see that that paragraph refers to the cost of production in the country of origin. That is the very thing which we are trying to avoid in this paragraph. It relates to a country which, by virtue of its depreciated’ international exchange, can, and does, produce goods at a very low cost; but if we take the cost of production as the standard by which we are to judge whether or not this dumping duty is to be imposed, it willnot be imposed at all. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) has suggested as a basis the cost at ‘which similar goods are produced in Britain. We know that the manufacturers of Great Britain are importing very many goods from Germany and Belgium. For instance, iron and steel is being imported very largely because, owing to the international exchange position, British manufacturers can buy those goods very much more cheaply than they can produce them.
– Have they not put those goods on the list?
– Not only have the British manufacturers closed down most of their blast furnaces - there are hardly any blast furnaces working in England - but they are importing blooms, rods, bars, &c, and using them in their manufactures, so that they are able to produce these goods at a very much cheaper rate than, would be possible if they used their own material.
– Does nob the honorable member think that it would be a good thing for us to do what the Mother Country does?
– I do not agree that because the Mother Country is doing that sort of thing, it necessarily follows that we should.
– Will not the honorable member’s argument apply to the use of the words “ cost of production “ in paragraph B.
– No. I think I can see my way out of that difficulty. The position in regard to quite a number of things is that which I have just stated, and I an afraid that if we decided to judge by such a standard the prices at which the goods were sold in Australia, we should not achieve our object. For these reasons, looking at the whole matter by and large, I do not think it is possible to set up a standard, below which we could say the cost must fall, before the duty should operate. It seems to me that, in matters of this kind, we must assume that those charged with the administration of the Act will administer it equitably, and endeavour to give expression to the intention which Parliament itself Eas declared in these resolutions.
– Would it not be well to strike out paragraph E ? It is very difficult.
– If we were to turn aside from everything that is difficult in this world, we should accomplish nothing. Whilst I do not for one moment contend that this in itself is a perfect way of dealing with the matter - I do not feel altogether satisfied that it is a perfect way of dealing with a difficulty that we can see and sense better than we can understand-
– The honorable gentleman has been steering to every point of the compass in this proposal.
– We are endeavouring to throw around Australia a mantle that will protect her from rough and stormy industrial weather. Having regard to the peculiar set of circumstances with which we are trying to’ deal, I think that we cannot get any better test than that which we have laid down in the Bill itself. It has been suggested that it may be that an Australian industry is struggling along, and charging for its goods three or four times more than they ought to cost. In reply to that, I would say that we have the best possible guarantee that no such Australian industry exists since, in the schedule of duties, there is no item which provides for a duty that would allow anything approaching that sort of thing to be done. If an Australian industry, owing to its inefficiency and ineptitude, was charging three or four times more for its goods than the price at which it should be able to turn them out, if it were efficient, is it not reasonable to suppose that its output would immediately come into competition with goods from all parts of the world, and that it would not be able to carry on? Is it not a fact that every Australian industry to-day has to compete with the products of other parts of the world, subject only to such protection as we have given them under our Tariff?
– And there are some that the Tariff does not protect.
– There are some that we do not protect and some to which we have given a very high measure of protection. I would remind the honorable member, who has always the wheat farmer in mind, that under the Tariff we have just passed many Australian primary interests are given the highest protection.
– To what items does the honorable member refer ?
– To raisins, currants, prunes, apples, onions, maize, tobacco, and quite a number of other lines. I do not wish, however, to open up a general debate on the Tariff. All that I want to suggest to honorable members is that the supposititious case which the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) has referred to - the case of an Australian manufacturer who, owing to inefficiency, may be charging three or four times too much for his goods - cannot as a matter of fact exist. Australian industries have to compete with those of the world at large, subject only to such protection as we give them under the Tariff. Consequently if this question arose in respect of any particular class of goods those charged with the administration of the Act would need to have regard to the conditions under which the local industry had been carried on in competition with the world. They would have then to determine whether the goods coming in from countries with a depreciated exchange created, of themselves, a competition which was unfair and something greater than the competition which the rest of the world brought to bear. These are matters which they would have to determine for themselves. Then, with all these facts before them, they would have to say whether, in the circumstances, the prices being charged for the goods were detrimental to an Australian industry. I fail to see that it would be possible to get away from that position. I do not think that we could set up any satisfactory standard by which to determine whether the particular duties as set out in the schedule should or should not be applied.
.- I do not altogether agree with the views which have been expressed by the Minister (Mr. Greene). As I said when speaking earlier in the debate, I cannot accept, without any limitation, the words “ which will be detrimental to an Australian industry,” as set out in this paragraph. They are far too wide. My suggestion is that we should insert the words “ are below the cost of production of similar goods in
Great Britain,” so that the paragraph would read -
If the Minister is satisfied . . . that by reason of such depreciation goods have been or are being sold … at prices “which are below the cost of production of similar goods in Great Britain and “ which will be detrimental to an Australian industry - and so on. That would overcome one difficulty that has been raised. I come now to the other point which has been raised, as to the standard of measurement. The Minister has said that the suggested standard of measurement would be of no avail, because material is being imported into Great Britain from countries with depreciated exchanges, and being worked up into the finished goods, so that the cost of production of these goods in Great Britain would not be the proper measure. If that is so, then he is faced with the same difficulty in connexion with paragraph B, where we have the words ‘ ‘ below the cost of production in the country of origin.” There is a later paragraph - whether the Minister will succeed in carrying it or not remains to be seen - which would help him a good deal in carrying out paragraph B, but if that paragraph is capable of adjustment it appears to me that my suggestion is equally capable of adjustment. That being so, I move -
That after the word “ which,” line 9, paragraph E, the words “ are below the cost of production of similar gcods in Great Britain and which “ be inserted.
– Has the honorable member taken into consideration the importation into Great Britain of raw material from Germany and Belgium, and the manufacture of that raw material into finished articles ?
– The same trouble arises in connexion with paragraph B.
– That stands entirely by itself.
-I fail to see how the two provisions can be separated. Unless a more satisfactory means can be devised than that of merely giving this power to the Tariff Board., which can take any action it likes, so long as it can satisfy its own conscience that something is detrimental to the interests of an Australian industry, I am not prepared to agree to the passing of paragraph B as it stands.For that reason I submit this amendment.
– I hope that the Minister (Mr. Greene) will maintain the position thathe has from the first taken up. By the insertion of the words proposed, we should, to a large extent, tie the hands of the Minister and the Tariff Board. The Minister has consulted the authorities to a greater extent, 1 think, than has any otherhonorable member. He has made himself familiar with what has been done in this direction in other countries, and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) has admitted that this suggested legislation is better than that which is now in force in other countries. We are living under an extraordinary set of conditions, and in order to meet them have to pass extraordinary legislation. Experience will prove whether or not this legislation is of any benefit to the Australian manufacturer and the Australian taxpayer. As I said last night, I have not very much faith in this proposed anti-dumping legislation, but meagre as is the measure of support that it extends to Australian industries, I am prepared to accept it rather than have nothing at all. Too many definitions in a Bill often mean too many limitations.
– If we are not careful, we shall make the material required for manufacturing so expensive that our manufactures will not be saleable.
– The honorable member is again running off at a tangent. Experience alone will prove the wisdom of this legislation, but, with all respect to others who have lucidly discussed the intricate question of exchange, the Minister has shown such a grasp of it that I am prepared to put confidence in his proposals.
.- The effect of the amendment of the honorable memiber for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) is that if the price of goods, duty paid, in Australia be less than the cost of production in Great Britain without the duty, no duty is to be levied on them. Not only is the Australian manufacturer’s protection of the British duties to be swept away, but goods coming in at the depreciated exchange rate, duty paid, must be less than the British price without the duty, before the exchange duty is levied. It seems to me abundantly clear that every Australian industry has to be carried on in competition with the world, its only protection being that given by the Tariff. This provision is effective only when goods are coming in at prices below the competitive world’s price. If goods so come in, surely the detriment to the Australian industry is obvious.
– You can strike out the words “ detrimental to Australian industry” if you say that the provision is abundantly clear without them.
– Those wards are used to prevent the general application of the exchange duty. I do not know any set of words that can be used which the honorable member would consider a satisfactory form of guidance for the Board. The words he has proposed would create a position which would destroy, to a very large extent, the value of this provision, and, therefore, I cannot accept the amendment.
Paragraph agreed to.
Paragraph F -
If the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that, by reason of the depreciation in exchange value of the currency of the country of origin or export of any good’s, in comparison with the currency of the United Kingdom, goods exported to Australia, which have been produced or manufactured in any country other than the United Kingdom, and are of a class or kind produced or manufactured in the United Kingdom, have been or are being sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than the fair market value of goods of like character or quality made in the United Kingdom, when sold for home consumption therein in the usual and ordinary trade course, plus the ordinary free on board charges therein (in this paragraph referred to as “ the fair market value in the United Kingdom”) - a dumping preference duty on those goods imported into Australia which are specified by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette as being goods as to which he is so satisfied, the amount of the dumping preference duty being in each case the sum, which represents the difference between the fair market value in the United Kingdom and the export price.
.- ‘This paragraph seems to be too complicated and too difficult to be carried into effect. It is really paragraph E’ over again; but instead of it being an Australian industry that we are trying to safeguard, it is a British industry. “We are trying to make absolutely certain that effect is given to our British preferential Tariff.
I am in favour of doing everything we can to preserve the preference to British goods;but this provision seems too complicated to administer. Britain has not tried to do this sort of thing for herself; she has been content with a duty of 331/3 per cent, for the protection of certain key industries, and, in my view, Australia need not attempt to protect Great Britain where that country has not attempted to protect herself.
Paragraph agreed to.
Paragraph G -
If the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that goods have been or are being sold to an importer in Australia, whichwere manufactured wholly or in part from material supplied from any country whose currency has depreciated by comparison with the currency of the country to which the material was Supplied, and that the manufactured goods have been or are being sold to an importer in Australia at a price below the price at which the same goods could have been manufactured in the country of manufacture if made from material of such country of manufacture, and allowing for a reasonable profit - a dumped material duty on those goods imported into Australia which are specified by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette as being goods as to which he is so satisfied, the amount of the dumped material duty being the sum equal to the difference between the price at which the goods were or are being sold to Australia and the price representing what would have been the fair market value of the same goods if the goods had been manufactured wholly in the country of export from materials of that country.
– If, as the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) has stated, paragraph F will be very difficult to administer, paragraph G will be absolutely impossible to administer. How can we determine the cost of goods manufactured in Great Britain of which part of the material has come from some foreign country whose currency has depreciated?
– My officers inform me that there will not be any difficulty. They say that the amount of information at their disposal is sufficient to enable it to be done.
– The responsibility, of course, lies with the Minister. . I should like to know how the Department could determine, in the case of an imported locomotive or other piece of machinery, how much of it was made from material imported into Great
Britain from some other country? I shall vote against the paragraph.
Paragraph agreed to.
Paragraph H, clauses 2, 3, and 4, and schedule, agreed to.
Paragraph E recommitted and verbally amended.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Greene and Mr. Laird Smith do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Greene, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill incorporates the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means, and contains in addition two or three machinery clauses necessary to give effect to it, but there is nothing in it new in principle.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or deiiate.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 13479), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I shall deal with the measure as briefly as possible, in view of the fact that there is so much business we are desirous of getting through by the end of the week.
– And in view of the fact that the Bill is already as good as dead.
– I did not like to sky that. It is a pity to intervene with it now when we have so much important business to deal with. Its consideration could have been left with advantage to a later date. In moving the second reading of the Bill, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that he had not heard any expression of approval of it, and that he was under the impression it had not a friend in the House outside himself. It was a unique position for a Minister to find himself in. When a measure is introduced by a Minister, it has, usually, the support of honorable members sitting behind the Government, but the Prime Minister seems to think that this measure has no friends at all.
Several attempts have been made to secure greater powers for this Parliament by an amendment of the Constitution, but so far they have been unsuccessful. It is a very difficult matter to secure an amendment of the Constitution, because it is necessary not only to get a majority of the people of the Commonwealth in favour of any alteration to the Constitution, but also to get the approval of a majority of the States. However, the fact that we have not hitherto succeeded in getting the people to approve of any alteration to the Constitution in order to give the Federal Parliament greater powers is no reason why, at the present stage, we should depart from the constitutional method of submitting such questions to the people at a general election”. I believe the people have become educated to the necessity for amending the Constitution.
– It does not look like it.
– I believe that the next appeal to the people will be successful.
– That was said on the last occasion.
– It will be successful if it is made in the right way. Honorable members in this House have been very much divided on this question, but iet them decide definitely what powers it is necessary for this Parliament to have and then submit the matter to the people with determination and as the unanimous wish of the House. If they do so, I believe the effort will succeed. The time has arrived when we should come to a definite conclusion on these matters. The men in this Parliament are the best judges as to what is necessary. We have had experience of the legislation already passed, and of what we find it necessary to pass, and also of the effects of the limitations of the Constitution upon our activities. We are, therefore, in a position to advise the people as to the powers they should give us, and if we do that with some degree of agreement on our part, I am sure the people will give us what we ask.
– Does the honorable member believe that unanimity can be secured here?
– I do not see why we should not get it.
-We certainly have unanimity in regard to this Bill.
– If we can secure unanimity in regard to this Bill, it should be a precedent to guide us in regard to the other matter, because if we can get unanimity in one case, there is no reason why we should not be able to accomplish it in the other.
– Why should not an experienced member from each party get together and see if they cannot agree as to what should be submitted to the people ?
– The suggestion is a good one. I do not care how it is done, so long as we can come to an agreement as to what proposals should be submitted to the people.
The defects of our Constitution have been brought about because its framers slavishly followed the American Constitution. We know the disabilities under which we are now labouring, and it is therefore unnecessary for me to take up much time in going over the past. In this particular connexion it is sufficient for me to say that the trade and commerce, monopoly, industrial, and State instrumentality powers of the Commonwealth are unsatisfactory.
I want now to deal with the Bill before us. It provides for a Convention of 111 representatives. The Federal Parliament is to have the privilege of appointing eighteen delegates, twelve from this House and six from the Senate. The State Parliaments will also appoint eighteen delegates, three from each State. There will also be seventy-five delegates elected in the Federal electoral divisions, which means that there can be no escape from a fight on the part of each honorable member in this House. Every honorable member, whether he desires to attend the Convention or not, will be compelled to fight an election; otherwise he will be placed at a considerable disadvantage when the next general election takes place. Thus we shall have in each constituency the sitting Federal member making out the best case he can for granting extended powers to the Commonwealth, and opposed to him a State Righter, if I may use the term, making out the best case he can against ‘ the granting of additional powers to this Parliament. In the event of the Federal member winning - and I do not think that there can be any doubt as to what will happen in the great majority of cases - the seventy-five elected delegates to the Federal Convention will largely consist of honorable members who are now sitting in this House. It means, therefore, a fight in the constituencies at great cost, not only to the individuals concerned, but also to the taxpayers, because the Prime Minister says that it will cost £200,000 to defray the expenses of the Convention.
– Irrespective of any payment to those who attend the Convention.
– Exactly. The ordinary’ cost ofconducting the election will absorb £200,000. When we are talking of economy and cutting down expenditure in all directions, it is questionable whether we are justified in expending £200,000 in the seventy-five Federal constituencies when we know that the result will be that the great majority of honorable members now sitting in this House will be elected to the Convention, whether they want to attend it or not. No man who desires to live in public life can afford to ignore his constituency if there is to be a fight in the electorates on this issue.
– The matter might just as well be left to the Federal Parliament straightway.
– Exactly. That is the point to which I was coming. If we are to do all this, why not let the Federal Parliament do it straightway? The only difference between the proposed Convention and this House will be the fact that there will possibly be eighteen representatives of the State Parliaments at the Convention. When this Convention has sat and come to a determination as to the questions that ought to be submitted to the people, the members of the Convention having been guided largely by the experience gained here of the very limited powers exercised by this Parliament, and by their knowledge of what should be done to overcome the difficulties they have experienced here, the
Convention’s recommendation as submitted to this Parliament will assuredly reflectthe opinions of honorable members sitting here at the present moment. This Parliament will then, in turn, consider what has been recommended by the Convention
– And it will be the same body of men?
– That is so. The same body of men will reconsider the decision solemnly arrived at by them sitting as a Convention, at Canberra, or somewhere else. . If we can justify spending £200,000 for a purpose like that, we can justify anything. The position would be different if it could be shown that something would be gained by holding a Convention, if it could be shown that such a gathering would lead us anywhere, or give satisfaction to the States. I venture to say, however, that no State Parliament which is opposed to the giving of greater powers to the Commonwealth Parliament will be satisfied with the proposed Convention. It will contend that it is a Federal body which has been forced on the States, and when the final appeal is made to the electors it will fight strenuously against any recommendation that may be submitted. In fact, we could put no better weapon in the hands of the States to defeat our proposals than by agreeing to the Prime Minister’s proposals. It is idle to say that, because the States have eighteen representatives in the proposed Convention, they will be satisfied. They will not be satisfied in any case. Therefore, the Convention will be a most unsatisfactory method of dealing with thequestion if it is, as the Prime Minister says it ought to be, elected. He says that he is prepared to drop everything in the Bill, lock, stock and barrel, with the exception of the provision that the Convention must be elected by adult suffrage.
– He ought to drop the Bill.
– That would, perhaps, be the better thing to do.
– Do you think that the Bill was really meant to be taken seriously?
– One cannot think that it was meant to be taken seriously; but, nevertheless, it is now before us, although it is unfortunate that we have to deal with it at a time when we expected to be considering matters of greater importance.
Mir. Blundell. - It would not be here long if a vote were taken.
– I would prefer to take a vote as to its fate at once, so that we might get on with, other business; but as other honorable members wish to speak, I propose to continue my remarks.
Those who are concerned with the interests of the States would complain bitterly if this Parliament decided to elect the Convention, but I would have no objection to taking that course if it were necessary, although I agree with the Prime Minister that the more democratic way of dealing with a matter of this kind is to have the representatives to the Convention elected by the people. However, in view of the fact that if this were done it would really mean an election for the Federal Parliament, and that the body elected, which would be for all practical purposes the Federal Parliament, would have to make recommendations to itself, and, later on, fight for its recommendations in the constituencies, I do not see why we should not decide straight away to deal with the amendments to the Constitution in the way we have hitherto done, that is, to send the proposals to the people at a general election, and fight them out in the constituencies. It would certainly save the country £200,000, plus any amount that would need to be paid to the delegates to the Convention. The Prime Minister has already stated that he does not expect the delegates to act without some emolument, and that it is a fair thing that they should at least have their expenses paid. In these circumstances, the expenses of the delegates would be saved in addition to the £200,000 which it would cost to hold an election, without taking into account the cost of the necessary machinery for the conduct of, and reporting of the Convention debates, and so forth.
– Surely the Prime Minister has calculated all that in his estimate?
– No; the Prime Minister stated that the £200,000 is for the election, so it is quite possible the total expenditure may run to £300,000 or £400.000. Are we justified at this juncture in expending even £100,000 on a project of this kind?
– Especially when the job is our own!
– That is so. The question of amendment could be submitted to ,the people at the general elections, which must take place within twelve months from now. The Convention, according to the Bill, has to report in four months, and by the time Parliament had dealt with the Constitution amendments, it would, be time for the elections. Under all the circumstances, I see no need for a Convention. If delegates are elected to the Convention, it should be on the adult franchise; and if the constituencies have to be fought, I repeat that the men who compose the Convention will be members of the Federal Parliament. Very few others could succeed in the constituencies against the sitting members; and that being so, why should this measure be persevered with? Why not submit the matter, as I suggest, to the people twelve months hence?
– Do you not think that the people would sooner accept the recommendations of a Convention than the recommendations of Parliament?
– I think quite the opposite. I think there would be less chance of success if a Convention be held, than if the questions were submitted to the people in the ordinary way at the elections. I know the hostility there is amongst those taking a prominent part in this movement in the States, to granting additional powers to the Commonwealth, and if there is a Convention we shall be accused of so fixing the matter up that it might be composed principally of members of Parliament. In order to prevent injustice to themselves, sitting members will be compelled to offer themselves as candidates for the Convention; and I venture to say that seventy out of the seventy-five here will be elected. Then those who are hostile to additional powers being granted to the Commonwealth, or who may approve of some powers and disapprove of others, will fight most bitterly on that question, because, as I say, they will accuse us of having arranged matters in our own interests.
– The trouble is that thi3 House is not equally representative of the States.
– That does not matter when an election is on the adult franchise, which the -Prime Minister says he is prepared to accept. However, there can be only one result, and that is the bitter hostility of those opposed to the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth.
– You are arguing on the assumption that the provision made for direct State representation will be deleted.
– What I have said will happen even if that provision is not deleted; in any case there will be eighteen representatives, who will find themselves in a large minority, and will complain. It is proposed to spend a large sum of money without adequate return. If we can agree here as to the additional powers that are necessary, I am sure that a direct appeal to the people in the same manner as in former years, will have a much better chance of success. People are now beginning to realize the necessity for the exercise of great powers by the Commonwealth. I suggest to the Prime Minister that this measure should stand over, or that a test vote be taken to ascertain whether the House desires to proceed with it. We have a large number of important measures to deal with before the end of this week, and it will be impossible to do justice to them if we are to discuss the Convention question also. I do not suggest that these other measures are of more importance than the amendment of the Constitution, but, in my opinion, the Convention will not overcome our difficulties and is not urgent.
– It would be better to lengthen the sittings than to have no discussion on this important matter.
– Personally I am prepared to vote after the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has spoken.
– I have no objection if the Prime Minister is willing to do so.
– Yes, I am prepared to do that.
– I am speaking only for myself.
– I hope that some understanding will be arrived at. There is not an honorable member anxious to support the Bill as presented; indeed, I am doubtful whether manycould be found to support it if it were amended in any shape or form. At this juncture we ought to avoid unnecessary expense, especially in view of the fact that in twelve months we have to go to the constituencies. Let us have a’ vote on the question immediately, and decide it once and for all. The Bill has no possible hope; even the Prime Minister says that it has not “ a feather to fly with.” It should be postponed until we return after recess, when, perhaps, we shall have forgotten all about it. I desire that the consideration of the Bill be postponed for six months. I therefore move -
That the word “now” be left out and the words “ this day six months “ added to the motion.
– I also desire to move an amendment. I understand that the honorable member proposes to add some words to the motion, and I should like to know what the question is.
Mr.SPEAKER.-Standing orderl61 provides, in relation to amendments of the motion for the second reading of a Bill-
Amendments may be moved to such questions by leaving out “ now,” and adding “ this day six months,” which, if carried, shall finally dispose of the Bill: or the previous question may be moved.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has moved that the word “now” be struck out, and the words “this day six months” be inserted. That amendment has been seconded, and is now before the House.
.- Something must have happened to the Labour party, which once boasted throughout Australia that it stood for progress, when it is found lined up with the reactionaries who are trying to kill the proposal that is now before the House. Throughout constitutional history the reactionaries have always been found ranged against every proposal for change. No matter what name a party may give to itself, its arteries may get into such a state that, although the outside appearance of the body may carry the same old sign of health and progress, internally it is as a whited sepulchre. What has been the history of constitutional progress throughout Australia? Every endeavour to bring about constitutional reform seems to have been under a cloud.
– The members of the honorable memiber’s party are not supporting this Bill.
– Some of them are not, but others are. Even Federation was delayed for a score of years by reason of certain vested interests that existed in the various State Parliaments; and, even when the union was accomplished, the anti-national interests were able to secure compromises which, at the present time, are interfering with the national development, and which would have completely spragged Australia’s effort during the war,but for the practical abrogation of the Constitution by means of the War Precautions Act. But now, when an opportunity of reforming the Constitution is presented, we find the Opposition in this House opposed to it. Even the Prime Minister, who on many occasions has ranged himself with the people who desire reform, has allowed himself tobe led away from his intention, and has brought down a Bill which, in its present form, is condemned to death. It is difficult to say whether the measure was actually alive. I propose to move certain amendments, which may resuscitate it, or, if that be not possible, I hope to get an assurance from the Prime Minister that other measures will be proposed to enable the great and growing dissatisfaction of the people in many of the States with the present state of affairs, to be alleviated at an early date. In answer to a question a few days ago, the Prime Minister rightly confessed that his star must have been under an eclipse when he conceived and drafted this Bill. The elements in the community who have looked to him for leadership, and have followed him loyally in many respects, are gravely disappointed with his failure to act up to their expectations in this regard, and must feel that his old-time flair for discerning the needs of the nation has disappeared. In a speech on his return from Europe two years ago the Prime Minister pointed out the necessity for constitutional changes. He said that we could not deal with the problems of reconstruction which had arisen out of war conditions unless there was a constitutional change; and at a meeting of Premiers convened by him it was definitely decided to submit certain suggestions to a referendum of the people, with a view to bringing about those changes which he said were imperative, and should be carried through at the earliest possible moment. He placed before the country certain referenda proposals, on the definite understanding that if they were carried a Convention would be called within twelve months to deal with the permanent constitutional changes which would be necessary to give effect to the alterations. Since that time has anything happened to suggest that the necessity for holding such a Conference, or for amending the Constitution to enable the- industry and commerce of this country to resume its full sway, no longer exists? Does anybody suggest that?
– The people would not have the changes that were proposed.
– They would not agree to those changes; but it does not follow that because changes which were not really a cure for existing conditions, but were practically a wooden patchwork on a steel engine, were not acceptable, the necessity for a complete overhaul of the governmental machine is riot evident to them. The lime to do that is now, before we get deeper into the mire. Since the referenda a census has been taken, and we find that the rural districts of Australia are being depleted at a greater rate than ever. In Victoria alone, the voters in the metropolitan divisions have increased by 122,000, and those in the whole of the Tura! divisions by only 5,000. An even worse condition is found in New South Wales. We know that the present system of government and the methods of taxation that are adopted are the greatest cause of population leaving certain places to live in others, and of people preferring urban occupations to those in the country.
– We talk about getting immigrants to settle on the land, when we cannot keep our own people there.
– No, and we never shall do until we have a Constitution enabling us to deal with these matters as they must be dealt with if Australia is to advance. Financial statis tics show that all the Australian Governments are finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet, and at the same time many activities are duplicated by the State and Federal authorities. The ex-Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) said in his Budget speech -
The economy that counts can host be obtained by a review and re-adjustment of Federal and State functions. Overlapping, misunderstanding, and want of co-ordination lead to much waste and lack of efficiency. Two sets of taxing authorities with two staffs and establishments is a Gilbertian proceeding. Similarly, two sets of electoral officials for the same people is absurd. Two kinds of debt management in one market for one people and seven competing borrowers is disastrous. The Convention to be called will furnish the opportunity, which should not be lost, of compelling reform in these and many other similar cases of unnecessary duplication, waste, and inefficiency.
– Could that not be done without a Convention?
– No; and I shall explain why. Many attempts have been made without success to secure an alteration of the Constitution by the methods suggested by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), or by the other method of dealing direct with the State Premiers. Apparently the most vital policy at the present time, that of increasing our population by means of immigration, is to be conducted on a gentleman’s agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, but about it there is no certainty, because one Government cannot bind any other by the arrangement it makes, and no effort is being made to overcome the duplication and friction which exist in various Federal and State activities. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) said in the course of an article about a fortnight ago-
I have every desire to see the new State movement successful, provided it is accompanied by that measure of constitutional reform which I think is necessary in the interests of the nation.
In view of these statements I cannot understand why, if the Ministry are honest in their desire to have constitutional reform, they should have introduced such a Bill as that which is before the Chamber at the present time. They lay themselves open to the charge of being indifferent to the desire, which my travels throughout practically the whole of Australia during the last twelve months have taught me is widespread and very insistent, that something shall be done to lessen the cost of government, and give more sympathetic and intelligent administration, particularly in respect of the needs of the more remote parts of the continent. I could quote statements from newspapers in every capital city in Australia, and also from the provincial press, in which they keep on insisting that constitutional reform is necessary, urgent, and overdue. In these circumstances, I cannot understand the attitude of the Prime Minister in bringing down this Bill in this form, which he admitted had no friends at all in this House; he said that the Government could* not find one honorable member who was in favour of it. Why ? One can scarcely say that the Bill is still-born; it is not premature, because it is already too long delayed. Even if its congenital defects would permit it to live, the very method of handling it- its introduction only about a fortnight ago, and the resumption of the discussion upon it within a day or two of the end of the session - gives it no chance at all of surviving.
– May I. suggest that the honorable member should bring down a Bill embodying his ideas, and then listen to my criticism of his proposals for amending the Constitution.
– I shall put before the House to-day certain suggestions, and I shall be pleased to hear the Prime Minister’s criticism of them before Parliament adjourns.
I should like, first of all, to examine the defects in this Bill with” a view to suggesting amendments which may help to insure its passage, at any rate, through this House, although I fear that its passage through another place would be a stormy one. I expressed that view recently elsewhere, and my statement was called into question. The first thing that strikes one on examining this Bill is that it ignores the Federal principle of equality of State representation. I agree absolutely .with those State Premiers who, in addressing themselves to the question of the necessity for a Federal Convention, have urged that since it may have to discuss changes affecting the very basis of the Constitution, it should be similar in composition, and in the proportion of its membership, to the original Convention that drew up the Constitution Bill. We shall not be able to secure the support of the people to such changes as not only the Prime Minister, but other honorable members, and, indeed, the great mass of the community desire, unless we have a Convention which in its composition has regard to the Federal principle of equality of State representation. The Convention is to be, not a governing, but simply a deliberative, body. If its decisions were to become immediately the law of the land there might be some excuse for ignoring the Federal spirit in regard to the equality of ‘State representation. The Prime Minister, however, proposes, in this Bill, that the recommendations of the Convention shall be submitted to this Parliament, which is elected on the basis of adult suffrage, and that very fact, from my point of view, renders it unnecessary to insist on the Convention being elected on the basis of adult suffrage throughout the Commonwealth.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the equal representation of the States?
– Yes. It should be our endeavour to secure such proposed amendments of the Constitution as will have a reasonable chance of being carried by a majority of the people in a majority of the States. They should be amendments such as will find many advocates in every State.
– If the Convention suggested a reduction of the Federal power, would the honorable member support anything of the kind?
– What I desire i. such an amendment of the Constitution as will more clearly define the Federal and State powers. That is a matter which gives me more concern than does any question as to the reduction or extension of the Federal authority. Dealing with this question of equality of representation of the States at the proposed Convention, I would remind honorable members that proposed amendments of the Constitution that have hitherto been submitted to the people have met with serious opposition in some of the smaller States, which have voted against them. If we could carry back from the Convention to the States a large number of advocates of the proposed amendments - advocates who have heard the arguments for and against them at the Convention itself - we should have a much better chance of securing their acceptance, especially in the smaller and more sparsely populated States, which are always suspicious of any encroachment upon State rights.
The Bill also provides for the exercise of the nominee principle in the creation of the Convention. I object to that principle, on the ground that it is undemocratic and that nominees from a State Parliament would not necessarily represent the vieAvs of the people of that State with respect to constitutional questions. It has been pointed out, that in many cases the State parliamentarians are much less Federal in their outlook than are their constituents. That, necessarily, must be so. Then again, the Bill provides for the election of one delegate from each Federal division. I do not propose to enlarge on the disadvantages of such a proposition) since the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has already dealt fully with it, except to say that it insures the opposition of each representative to the Bill.
We have in the Bill a very remarkable provision as to the way in which nominees shall be chosen. We find that they are to be selected after the date for the return of the writs, so that the Senate and the House of Representatives, after the result of the election has been ascertained, may choose as members of the Convention men who have stood for election and have been rejected by the people.
– Does the honorable member believe in the nominee principle?
– No; I want a wholly elective Convention.
– The two operations could not be simultaneous if we are to have this dual method of selection.
-My objection to the provision to which I refer is that under it a senator, or a member of this House, who had stood for election and had been placed by the people at the bottom of the poll, might be selected as a nominee member of the Convention. If the principle is to obtain, then nominations should be made by the Parliament before the date fixed for the election.
The3e grave defects in the Bill justify the attitude which the various. State Premiers have adopted, and justify also the opposition that has been displayed towards the measure by honorable members who say that in its present form it is unacceptable.
– As against all that the honorable member has said, there remains the fact that I have offered to put the Bill into any shape that the House may desire. I cannot do more than that.
– I am going to adopt the right honorable gentleman’s suggestion, and to show how, in my opinion, the Bill may be made acceptable to the House. Before doing so, however, I should like to stress the point made by the Prime Minister as to the necessity for holding a Convention at the present time. I propose to show later on what should be done to insure an equitable means of representation. I agree with the Prime Minister that a time limit should be imposed, and that the Convention should be required to report within a certain period. Every honorable member, I think, will agree that some alteration of the Constitution is necessary. We all admit that invaluable work was done by the framers of the Constitution. We recognise that they devoted to their work much care and study ; but the fact remains that, within two or three years of the consummation of Federation, even many of those who had taken part in the framing of the Constitution admitted that, in actual practice, it was creaking in many places and needed amendment. Quite early in the history of Federation the fact that it was necessary to hold every year a Premiers’ Conference suggested that we had not attained that which we had hoped to secure - one nation, one flag, one destiny - and that there were many features of the Federal instrument that needed revision before this could be regarded as a really National Parliament. In 1908, Mr. Deakin, who at thetime was Prime Minister ‘ of the Commonwealth, was asked by South African statesmen, who at the time were engaged in working out a Constitution for the South African Union, in what respect he thought they could improve on the Constitution of the Commonwealth. He pointed out that there were several directions in which it should be amended, and, amongst other things, advised them as follows: -
Avoid the splitting up of one subject-matter of legislation between Commonwealth and States, e.g., the Federal Parliament in Australia has power, with respect to trade and commerce’ “ with other countries and among the States,” arbitration with respect to industrial disputes “ extending beyond the limits of any one State.” This complicates legislation and leads to very difficult questions of construction as to the limits of Federal and State powers. Avoid limiting Federal powers by words descriptive of means and methods, e.g., the Australian power relating to “ Conciliation and Arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes,” &c. Power to legislate “ for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes” would have included conciliation and arbitration as ‘well as other means to the same end.
Take power to legislate as to corporations and companies generally, our limiting words “foreign corporations, and trading and financial corporations,” raise difficult questions of construction as to the extent of the power.
Federal power as to those industrial matters which bear a close relation to Tariff legislation is very desirable, e.g., industrial arbitration, Wages Boards, organization of employers and employees, regulation of wages and conditions of labour.
Finance. - Desirable to have Federal and State finances as much independent of each other as practicable.
He went on to explain that -
The limitation to Inter-State and external commerce bisects the subject of trade and commerce, and makes a hard-and-fast division of jurisdiction of which it is difficult to determine the boundaries, and which does not correspond with any natural distinction in the conduct of business.
He then proceeded to point out the directions in which amendments of the Constitution were necessary in respect of Conciliation and Arbitration. Professor Berriedale Keith, writing on this subject in Imperial Unity and the Dominions, points out that -
Unless the authority of the Parliament can bo precisely defined in such a way as to leave no doubt as to its powers, there must be a Waste of power. The time occupied in considering problems of ultra vires must divert attention from greater issues, and the burden of reform must be imperfectly borne from doubt as to the legal means of executing the reforms aimed at.
Since that time, we have had many .instances of the defects in our Constitution. At Conference after Conference the State Premiers have occupied the greater part of their time in discussing the question of what should bo the ambit of our indus trial jurisdiction. At times it almost seemed as if, by the surrender of certain State powers to the Commonwealth, a satisfactory agreement might be arrived at. But what happened? On two occasions the State Premiers, in Conference, have agreed to surrender certain powers to the Commonwealth. In 1915, and again in 1919, an agreement was arrived at, but the State Premiers were unable to induce their State Parliaments to pass the legislation necessary to give effect to it.
It seems to me we have on every hand a duplication of governmental activities. So far, two only of the States have unified their electoral systems. All the States continue to have an Agent-General, and in respect of taxation and health matters, there is a constant overlapping of State and Federal administration. Not only does unnecessary expense and difficulty arise from this overlapping, but often, because there is no definite line of demarcation between the State and Federal authority, loss of life has occurred. We had an example of this in connexion with the influenza epidemic some eighteen months ago, when hundreds of lives were lost for lack of proper control of the epidemic. Yet honorable members of the Labour party say that this matter is not important, and can be postponed indefinitely!
– The Government has sufficient power now, but it is not strong enough to use it.
– No Government that the Federation has yet had has been able to do what needs to be done. The war showed the Constitution to be insufficient’ to enable us to concentrate our national effort as it should have been concentrated. The lessons of the war were so pointed that it behoves us now to take up the question of constitutional reform, and to make such alterations and amendments as have proved to- be needed against the time when we may be confronted with similar difficulties. Australia would do better in its immigration, repatriation, and soldier settlement if there were a better definition of constitutional powers.
– We could provide successfully for immigration if the Government were determined to do it.
– As matters stand, every Government is able to make excuses and say it is the other fellow; but if the constitutional position were clear, and the people knew how things stood, they would apportion the blame correctly, whether to the State or Federal Government. The experience of the past twenty years has proved that the alteration of the Constitution is inevitable, and, therefore, the sooner it comes about the better. Any postponement simply means allowing the ruts in the path to become deeper and more difficult to get out of. The Treasurer, in a quotation which I have already read, has shown that constitutional reform is imperative. Within the next six years we shall have to find something like £390,000,000 to redeem loans. What is needed is some method that will enable us to deal with the financial problem as it should be dealt with. The Prime Minister has proved that a change is necessary, and I have added illustrations in support of his arguments.
– Could we do more than provide for the transfer of all public debts to the Commonwealth?
– We could also deal with the question of State borrowing.
– Suppose the States will not agree to what is proposed ?
– An agreement is more likely to be arrived at after the discussion of these matters in a Convention than after their discussion in this Parliament. Change is a proof of life. An organization that is not changing is practically dead. All Federations have found changes to be inevitable. No original instrument of Federal government has remained unaltered. Every Federation has applied its experience to the amendment of its Constitution for the more satisfactory performance of its functions. Canada, when it federated, had the Durham report to work on and its experience of its working, and the United States of America, in drawing up its Constitution, had the experience during the War of Independence, gained during the loose federation of the States between 1776 and 1789. Yet fifteen amendments have been made in the American Constitution, many of them far reaching. The dispute about State as opposed to Federal rights had to be fought out in a civil war. Switzerland, which has had centuries of experience in the working of a federation, radically altered her Constitution four times in the nineteenth century. The first alteration was made in 1815, shortly after the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars. Changes were made again in 1832. In 1848 the war of the Sunderbund was caused by constitutional questions, and in 1866 amendments vitally changing the Constitution were agreed to. We should take the opportunity that now lies to our hand and remould our Constitution while the people ‘are looking anxiously for changes as a result of the promises by the Prime Minister at the last election.
There are practically only three methods by which our Constitution can be amended. There is, first, the method provided in the Constitution, the adoption of which has been suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). We have had experience of that method, which has failed to secure alterations, except in regard to State debts.
– There has not been unanimity in regard to what was proposed.
– There is not likely to be unanimity on any question; but if we submitted the subject of constitutional amendment to a body specially elected to deal with it, we should get better results^ In America, a body of practice has grown up in connexion with the alteration’ of the Constitution which is used on all occasions when constitutional questions are to be decided. Here, however, a proposal for a constitutional change at once becomes a party matter, and is fought in the constituencies as such. But if a Convention were elected to consider the Constitution, it would be much freer than any “present legislative body, because there would be no cracking of the party whip. The life of a Government would not be at stake, and the members of the Convention would be free to vote wholly in accordance with their opinions. An objection to the constitutional method advocated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that the reports published in the newspapers of the proceedings of this Parliament are never very full, so that the public interest on a constitutional question is not properly aroused. The electors are conservative, and usually attend to only one thing at a time. Generally, a proposal for the amendment of the Constitution is submitted by way of referendum at the time of a general election, and it is the election that focusses the attention of the electors. Being uncertain, for the most part, and not fully informed of the effect of the constitutional amendment that is proposed for their acceptance, they generally err on the safe side by rejecting it. It was only at the last referendum that a number of proposed constitutional changes were submitted separately to the electors. Previously, they have had to deal with such proposals as a whole. Certain amendments of” the Constitution would, of course, be dealt with together, such as those providing for the creation of new States and contingent constitutional reform. There are thousands of electors who would favour the creation of new States if they were sure that the system of government would not thereby become more extravagant, who would oppose the proposition if placed by itself.
The second method for securing alterations of the Constitution is that of agreements between the Commonwealth and State Parliaments; but the success of that method has not been remarkable. The first attempt at an agreement was made in 1915, and I think that only one House of one of the State Parliaments passed the measure necessary to give effect to the resolution arrived at in the Conference between the Commonwealth and State Ministers.
The third method of providing for constitutional changes is that which, to my mind, is the proper one, the election of a Convention. Viscount Bryce, in his book, The American Commonwealth, points out that-
In America it is always by a Convention (i.e., a representative body called together for some occasional or temporary purpose) that a Constitution is framed. . Recognised in the Federal Constitution (Art. V.) and in the successive Constitutions of the several States as the proper method to be employed when a new Constitution is to be’ prepared, or an existing Constitution revised throughout, it has now become a regular and familiar part of the machinery of American Government - almost a necessary part, because all American Legislatures are limited by a fundamental law, and therefore when a fundamental law is to be repealed or largely recast, it is desirable to provide for the purpose a body distinct from the ordinary Legislature. Where it is sought only to change the existing fundamental law in a few specified points, the function of proposing these changes to the people for their acceptance may safely be left, and generally is left, to the Legislature. Originally a Convention was conceived of as a sovereign body, wherein the full powers of the people were vested by popular election. It is now, however, usually an advisory body, which prepares a draft of a new Constitution and submits it to tEe people for their acceptance or rejection. And it is not deemed to be sovereign in the sense of possessing the plenary authority of the people, for its powers may be, and now almost invariably are, limited by the statute under which the people elect it. It is worth while to indicate certain advantages which have been found to attach to the method of entrusting the preparation of a fundamental instrument of government to a body of men specially chosen for the purpose instead of to the ordinary Legislature. An American Constitutional Convention, being chosen for the sole purpose of drafting a Constitution, and having nothing to do with the ordinary administration of Government, no influence or patronage, no power to appropriate revenue, no opportunity of doing jobs for individuals or corporations, is not necessarily elected on party lines or in obedience to party considerations. Hence men comparatively indifferent to party are sometimes elected; while those who seek to enter a Legislature for the sake of party advancement or the promotion of some private gainful object, do not generally care to serve in a Convention. When the Convention meets, it is not, like a Legislature, a body strictly organized by party. A sense of individual independence and freedom may pre-‘ vail unknown to Legislatures. Proposals have, therefore, a chance of being considered on their merits. A ‘ scheme does not necessarily command the support of one set of men nor encounter the hostility of another set because it proceeds from a particular leader or group. And as the ordinary party questions do not come up for decision while its deliberations are going on, men are not thrown back on their usual party affiliations, nor are their passions roused by exciting political issues. Having no work but Constitution making to consider, a Convention is free to bend its whole mind to that work. Debate has less tendency to stray off to irrelevant matters. Business advances because there are no such interruptions as a Legislature charged with the ordinary business of government must expect. Since a Convention assembles for one purpose only, and that purpose specially interesting to thoughtful and publicspirited citizens, and since its duration is short, men who would not care to enter a Legislature, men pressed by professional labours, or averse to the “rough and tumble” of politics, a class large in America and increasing in Europe, are glad to serve on it, while mere jobbers or office-seekers find little to attract them in- its functions. Thus the level of honesty, even more than of ability, is higher in Conventions than in Legislature. The fact that the Constitution when drafted has to be submitted to the people, by whose authority it will (if accepted) be enacted, gives to the Convention a somewhat larger freedom for proposing what they think best than a Legislature, courting or fearing its constituents, commonly allows itself. As the Convention vanishes altogether when its work is accomplished, the ordinary motives for popularity-hunting are less potent. As it does not legislate, but merely proposes, it need not fear to ask the people to enact what may offend certain persons or classes, for the odium, if any, of harassing these classes, will rest with the people. And as the people must accept or reject the draft en bloc (unless in the rare case where provision is made for voting on particular points separately) more care is taken in preparing the draft, in clearing it of errors and repugnances, than a Legislature capable of repealing or altering in its next session what it now provides, bestows on the details of its measures.
I have read that quotation in full, first of all, in order to have it on record in Ilansard, and in the second place, as an answer to the argument that has been raised here, that a Legislature is better fitted to deal with these matters than a Convention would be. This is not one man’s opinion; it is founded on the universal experience of America for many years past, and is the method they have found to be the most expedient for dealing with questions of constitutional alteration.
Having shown the necessity for a Convention, I would like to deal now with the method of electing delegates. I have already set out my reasons for objecting to the nominee system. I favour a Convention that is wholly elected, and I have advocated a big Convention which would permit ‘>f wide representation of many interests and enable representative men from all over Australia, and especially from the sparsely-populated States which are poorly represented in this Parliament, and many of which have a definite grievance against Federation - there is a distinct anti-Federal feeling in “Western Australia - to meet men from other parts of Australia and appreciate their points of view. Furthermore, it would increase the number of advocates for the changes agreed upon at the Convention, particularly in those States in which there is likely to he the greatest difficulty in securing the adoption of those changes.
– Many of the members of the first Conventions opposed the
Bill when chey did not get their own way. Mr. McMillan was one of those.
– I know of one prominent New South Wales delegate who opposed the Bill on the first occasion, and afterwards came back to the fold. I think it will be found, however, that men who have had an opportunity of meeting one another and discussing one another’s points of view, will be more likely to become advocates of the changes agreed upon, probably as the result ofa compromise, than they would be likely to be if that opportunity for interchange of thought and views is not freely extended to the sparsely-populated States. I recently suggested that the number of delegates should be ninety, of whom each State should choose fifteen.
– Is the honorable member in favour of equal State representation ?
– I have already dealt with that question. I am in favour of it, because of the Federal principle involved.
– I think it would kill the possibility of the Convention serving any useful purpose.
– I have already dealt with that aspect of the question also.
– It would put the “kibosh” on the matter which the honorable member is particularly in favour of.
– Even so, it is the only just method to adopt. I support the principle of equal representation, because it is right.
– But why should not the views of the majority of the people of Australia be heard at the Convention?
– I have already pointed out that the Convention will be a deliberative, and not a legislative, body, and that its conclusions will have to come back to this Parliament, which is elected on the basis upon which the honorable member evidently desires to have the Convention elected. It seems to me that opportunityshould be afforded to the more sparsely-populated States to ventilate their difficulties, and I cannot see what possible damage could be caused by their doing so; because any amendment decided on at the Convention, which is not agreed to by a material majority, will have no chance of being adopted in this House, or of being accepted by th» people. However, as there seems to be hostility to the proposal for a big Convention, I suggest that the number should be seventy-two; and, in order to obliterate the disadvantages of the Government’s proposition, I suggest also that each State should be divided into four electorates, each returning three delegates on a proportional system of voting. This would insure that a senator would be able to stand for one of these divisions without having to contest the whole State, and without having to pit himself against a man who might possibly beat him in his own’ electorate, which, of course, is the State itself. At the same time, it would permit a member of the House of Representatives representing any of the electorates included in the division to submit himself for election, and as the division would not be coterminous with the boundaries of his electorate, if he were defeated he would not feel that he had been rejected on his own “heath,” and would not have reason to fear that he might not be able to hold his own at the ensuing general election. If my suggestion were adopted we could secure in each State divisions permitting of the representation of community of interests. For instance, in the State of Victoria, the metropolitan area, which practically contains half the population, would comprise two electoral units, leaving two for the extra-metropolitan areas of the State. The same could be done in New South “Wales, “Western Australia and South Australia; and it would not be a very difficult mat’ter to divide Tasmania into four constituencies. My desire for a numerous Convention is to have as many different interests as possible represented, and putting forward their points of view. A Convention of seventy-two men would not be unwieldly. When we: examine what took place at each of the previous Conventions we find that most of the work was not done by the main body of delegates, but was carried out by Committees into which the Convention divided itself. The Convention of 1897. met on the 22nd March. There was a general debate for seven days, and then the Convention was divided into three Committees, constitutional, financial, and judicial, just as I think it will be found necessary to appoint three Committees at the forthcoming Convention to discuss the masters submitted. On the 8th April the Committees reported, and on the 12th April the whole Convention went into Committee, and reported on the 22nd April to the full Convention. The report was adopted on the following day, and the draft Bill was then ready for submission to the State Parliaments for their approval. It was found necessary to do this in a Convention which numbered sixty delegates, and of the reports brought up by the various Committees only one finding was rejected ‘by the Convention sitting as a whole.
– But -the Convention added to the findings of the committees. For instance, it added the old-age pensions power and the industrial power.
– But the findings of the Committees were not altered except in one instance. The point is that the back of the discussion was really broken in the Committees.
– How are we to determine what matters are to be dealt with at the Convention?
– I shall deal with that aspect of the question if I am permitted to proceed. When one realizes that the mere carrying of. a resolution by a majority in -the Convention is not sufficient to carry it through this House or the succeeding referendum, unless it has behind it strong support in the Convention, it seems superfluous to introduce one, seeing that the Convention is more likely to reject it than allow it to be carried by a vote or two.
I object very strongly to the provision for nominee members from the State Parliaments. I understand that a promise has been made by the Prime Minister with regard to this matter, but, though that may be binding on the right honorable gentleman himself, it is not necessarily binding on this Bouse. I object to State parliamentarians taking part in tha Convention unless they are directly elected by the people after an exposition of their views. A State Government and Parliament will always be found more anti-Federal than the constituencies by which the Legislature is elected. Of this there was a striking illustration in the Convention of 1891, which consisted of seven nominees from each State Parliament.
Sir Henry Parkes, who prepared the memoranda to be discussed, brought forward certain motions which were national, Australian, and continental in their scope. With one of those motions I have a great deal of sympathy, and in connexion with it Sir Henry Parkes found it to be true indeed that a State Government and Parliament is always more anti-Federal than the constituencies. I quote the following memorandum, for submission to that Convention from Sir Henry Parkes’ book Fifty Years in the Making of Australian History : -
That it shall he reserved to a High Commissioner, representing all the Federated Colonies, to inquire into, consider, and recommend for adoption an equitable scheme for the distribution of the public lands, and the satisfying of existing territorial rights, such scheme keeping in view both the necessary strength of the National Government and the just claims of the respective Provinces. The report of such High Commissioner to be made to the Governor-General within two years from the date of its appointment, which shall be by a majority of at least two-thirds of the Federated
Colonies._ The final settlement to be made by a Bill of the Federal Parliament, approved, before being presented for the Royal Assent, by a majority of the Provincial Parliaments.
Mr. Macrossan, one of the members cf the Convention, had previously spoken on the necessity for the subdivision of States, and Sir Henry Parkes, following him., said -
In that general view I entirely concur, though I have been, and am still, quite prepared to leave territorial divisions as they now exist, rather than create new obstacles . to Federation. As a matter of reason and logical forecast, it cannot be doubted that if the Union were inaugurated with double the number of the present Colonies, the growth and prosperity of all would be more absolutely assured. It would add immeasureably to the national im- #portance of the new Commonwealth, and would * lie of immense advantage to Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland themselves, if four or five new Colonies were cut out of their vast and unmanageable territories.
That was the attitude Sir Henry Parkes adopted, but, after discussion and owing to the fact that all the members of the Convention were nominees who gave their first consideration to provincial rights, it was decided to alter the original memorandum as follows: -
That the powers and privileges and territorial rights of the several existing Colonies shall remain intact, except in respect to such surrenders as may be agreed upon as necessary and incidental to the power and authority of the National Federal Government.
Dr. Earle Page.
No new State shall be formed by separation from another State, nor shall any State be formed by the junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned, as well as of the Federal Parliament.
– Do you think that the “State Righters “ are as strong now as they were prior to Federation?
– I am certain that they are not so strong, if for no other reason than that Australia during the war fought as a nation, and not as separate colonies. Throughout Australia to-day people think, not as New South Welshmen, Victorians, or South Australians, but as Australians; and if a proposal can be put before them that makes for the rapid progress and increased prosperity of this Commonwealth I venture to say that the vast majority, no matter what the State Parliaments may desire, will support its incorporation in the Constitution.
I thoroughly agree with the Prime Minister in his proposal to limit the duration of the Convention, especially as the rep out has to come up in this Parliament for .discussion.
– I think it will be largely like the Convention reporting to itself !
– And that will be a good thing; in any case the report will also contain the views of other men, who, leaving their own business, placed their time and abilities at the disposal of the Australian people.
– It will not require a calculating machine to number those men !
– If that is so the public will be satisfied, for we shall be able to see how much work these armchair critics can do in a matter of the kind. In my opinion, the scope of the Convention should be defined before the Convention is called. First of all, there should be a definition of the Commonwealth and State spheres in taxation and finance generally. This is a matter in regard to which, before Federation, there could only be guesswork, and the guesses in regard to Commonwealth expenditure proved to be wrong; and this necessitated the haphazard temporary arrangement which is in operation, now. The Convention should devise some equitable means of insuring to both States and Commonwealth complete control over their financial resources.
– If we in this House define the scope of the Convention it will involve a discussion of the whole of the proposed amendments.
– That is so, and it should be so.
– We might as well complete the work.
– Such a discussion will help to inform the Convention, and also give a lead to the public as to the attitude; they should adopt towards delegates.
– It is no good providing for a Convention if we limit its scope.
– The Constitution i3 thrown into the melting pot.
– That is what will happen.
– There should be a definition of the spheres of the States and the Commonwealth in ail matters regarding which there is any doubt. I should like to see some amendment in that portion of section 128 which at present prevents alteration in the ordinary way of Chapter VI. of the Constitution, which was not’ inserted by the Convention, but as a result of a subsequent meeting and agreement of State Premiers after the Convention Bill had been carried by four States. This part of the Constitution was not submitted to the people on the first referendum, but only subsequently. [Extension of time granted.’] I thank honorable members for their consideration, and promise not to detain them much longer. There is one matter connected with elections to this House that I should like to see discussed, both in this House and in the Convention, and placed before the people for decision. There ought to be some alteration of the system which obtains at present by which the number of the members of the House of Representatives must be “ as nearly as practicable” in a certain proportion to the Senators. It seems to me, from what happened at the first redistribution of seats, and what is going to happen at the next, that the States which are small in area, and without the capacity for expansion enjoyed by the larger States, will gradually have their members filched away. At present the position in Victoria is grossly unfair. The fact that Victoria loses one member now makes the quota that is applied to that State some thing like 3,000 or 4,000 greater than the highest for any other State. I have carefully investigated the Constitutions of every Federation of which I could gain any knowledge, and they are all alike with regard to the method of election. Every one of the Federations takes a certain definite quota for one member, and as the people of the nation increase the number of members automatically increases periodically, while at stated intervals the Parliament decides whether the quota shall be altered to prevent numbers becoming unwieldly. We know the drift to the cities that is going on every day in Australia, which has resulted in Melbourne gaining 124,000 electors in ten years, as against a gain of 5,700 over the rest of the State. There have been two new electorates created in Melbourne, while two have been destroyed in the country. That may not be such a serious matter in Victoria,_ where country electorates are not excessive in area, but in States “like New South Wales, Queensland, or Western Australia, the enlargement of already huge electorates makes the task for Parliamentary representatives truly herculean.
To make the Convention effective it seems to me that it is necessary to do something more than make provision for its election. If it is decided to proceed with the Bill, and, indeed, in any case, I think it would be wise for Parliament” to have preliminary Committees of three to bring down reports to this House for submission to the Convention dealing with the working of the financial provisions, .including public debts, and also regarding the amendment of particular sections of the Constitution.
– Parliament could draw up resolutions and submit them to the Convention.
– I have already explained that my desire is to have publicity, in the interests qf the public education. I shall vote for the second reading of this Bill, in the hope that it will be amended in the directions I have indicated. The points I have submitted have reference to the equality of representation of the States; the adoption of the proportional system of voting; a wholly elective Convention; and preliminary Committees to prepare data, somewhat on the lines of that important non-partisan body which prepared the frame-work for the South African Convention. I shall see what amendments are made in the Bill before I undertake to support the third reading; but whether I do so or not, I shall not cease to fight continuously and persistently for definite constitutional reform, and for local autonomy in the large remote areas of Australia. I should like to express the deep disappointment that will be felt by the rural people of Australia in every big State, and in some of the smaller ones, if this chance of securing local autonomy is withdrawn owing to the hostility that certain provisions of this Bill has engendered. The future development and safety of Australia depends on some constitutional change which will facilitate the subdivision of existing huge States. The fight that is being waged at the present time in northern New South Wales and Riverina, Queensland and Western Australia, is for a principle which has been the guiding principle of British colonization throughout the ages; it is that whenever a body of pioneers shall have colonized a remote part, and shall have decided that they have advanced to a stage at which they are capable of controlling their own affairs, they have always been able to appeal beyond the local Parliament to the Imperial Parliament for a grant of selfgovernment, and that appeal has never been denied when those people have been able to establish their claim beyond doubt. We ask for a restoration of that principle at the present time. If time permitted, I could produce to the House abundant evidence that this movement is not merely a movement of isolated districts, but that it has support in almost every capital city, as indicated by the metropolitan press, and by the statements of men who have not only local interests to serve, but, in the highest sense of the term, have the national welfare at heart, and desire to see the Commonwealth progress and prosper. It is the opinion of myself and thousands of people throughout Australia, that only by the creation of new centres of administration, which will be close to the work of development, shall we be able to stop the decay that is going on throughout the rural areas at the present time, as is shown by the fact that there is not one big provincial town in the Commonwealth that has not remained stationary, if it has not declined, during the last ten years. It is essential for the success of our immigration policy, for the increase of production, and for the stabilization of our finances, that some provision should be made to enable that national development, which was brought to a sudden close fifty or sixty years ago, to be resumed. Because I hold that opinion, I ask the Prime Minister to promise that, if the sentiment of the House should be against this Bill, he would introduce early next session a proposal embodying such amendments as may be suggested by various public bodies to secure such machinery for subdivision, and so enable this House to determine the constitutional amendments that are required to be submitted to the people at the nextFederal election in order to bring about an alteration of the existing machinery for the purpose of creating new States and giving the people who are trying to pioneer the back parts of Australia an opportunity of controlling their own destiny, and being masters of their own fate.
Motion (by Mr. Bowden) proposed -
That thedebate be now adjourned.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 42
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
. I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill for an Act to ‘authorize the paying off, repurchasing, redeeming, and converting of loans and for other purposes. Honorable members are aware that a large number of Commonwealth loans will mature ‘at definite dates. The first of these to fall due is one for £4,000,000, which was raised to provide money for the States in accordance with an agreement made between them and the Commonwealth during the period of the war. That loan will full due in August next. It is most desirable that the Treasurer should be given a standing authority to redeem loans. It is often advisable that redemption operations should be undertaken some time prior to a loan reaching maturity. Therefore we desire to pass this Bill, which will give the Treasurer general authority to raise money for the purpose of redeeming loans. Honorable members will realize that it is not always advisable to indicate the exact date on which it is proposed to raise money for redemption purposes, because by doing so the Treasurer might be hindered in getting the best terms. If the Treasurer is given a general authority he can go upon the market at any time to raise money for the purpose only of redeeming loans. This Bill gives him authority to raise money to pay off bondholders, or to arrange with them for the conversion of their holdings. It does not authorize the Treasurer to increase the capital debt in any way. He will be able to borrow in order to substitute new loans for old, as and when he thinks convenient.
– The new loans may be raised at a higher rate of interest.
– That is inevitable, but on the other hand the Treasurer may be able to raise the money at a lower inter est than is borne by the loan he is redeeming, and thus he will reduce expense.
– Does the Bill contain any limitation?
– The limitation is the amount of loans that are outstanding. This authority will apply to all loans as they fall due, and will obviate the necessity for ‘asking for specific authority in connexion with the redemption of any particular loan. We need this authority in order to be able to make arrangements for the redemption of the loan that will fall due in August next.
– It applies only to redemptions.
– Yes; and is designed to enable the Treasurer to take advantage of a suitable market. At page 28 of the Budget-papers, honorable members will find a list of the loans, and the dates on which they mature.
– I think that statutory provision of this kindis requisite, in view of the early necessity for considering the redemption of some substantial part of our loan indebtedness. A point which the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has not made quite clear is as to whether this Bill will give the Treasurer authority to increase the public debt, should it be necessary to do so in the conduct of these conversion operations. For example, if, in respect of our earlier loan redemptions, we cannot issue at par, but have, perhaps, to issue at 96 in London or Australia, the principal sum will be added to if the difference has to be paid out of loan money. If, therefore, this Bill does not give sufficient authority to increase the public debt for all conversion purposes, the Treasurer will be obliged to find out of revenue the difference in the principal sums.
– Might not that make the Treasurer more careful?
– It might not be possible for him to pay that difference out of revenue without disorganizing the finances of the year.
– Would it do any harm if he had to make good the difference out of revenue?
– Not if the necessary funds were available; but if they were not it might lead to extreme difficulty. In 1923, I think, loans amounting to something like £79,000,000 fall due. If the Government were to lose 3 per cent, or 4 per cent, by discount on those loans, the finances of the year might be very seriously disordered if the difference had to be found out of revenue.
– I think the Bill enables the Treasurer to borrow such amount as will be necessary for redemption purposes, even if it exceeds the former principal.
– The lawyers ought to agree on that point. If this is to be a genuine conversion authority, the Treasurer should have the most ample power to convert either at a premium or discount without loading the revenue in the way I have mentioned for the particular year in which a conversion is made.
– We give him power under this Bill to borrow money for redemption purposes. That covers the point raised by the honorable member.
– It may do so. Honorable members, who have had the advantage of a legal training, with all its obvious disadvantages, can advise the Committee later on as to whether or not that is so. The Minister ought to see that there is no doubt in that regard, otherwise the Treasurer may find himself, in a big conversion year, faced with very serious difficulty.
.- The title to this Bill is “ A Bill for an Act to authorize the paying off, repurchasing, redeeming, and converting of loans, and for other purposes.” It is usual, in connexion with Bills of this class, and, in fact, all Bills, to use the words “ and for other purposes connected therewith.” I wish to know whether the title in this case is sufficiently definite to bind the Treasurer, or whoever is administering the Act, solely to the repurchasing, redeeming, and converting of loans. The words “ and for other purposes” would seem to cover anything.
– The use of the words “ and for other purposes,” does not in any way extend the scope of the Bill, which is really covered by the order of leave. Coming to the point raised by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), which is really one to be dealt with in Com mittee, I think that by implication the authority for which he asks is given. The Bill was drafted in the belief that by implication it gave such authority, but since the honorable member has expressed a doubt on the point I am prepared, in Committee, to move the insertion of a word in clause 4 that will place the position beyond doubt.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
The Treasurer may from time to time, under the provisions of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1918 . . . borrow money for the purpose of paying off any loan in accordance with this Act.
– I move -
That after the word “ money,” line 3, the word “necessary” he inserted.
That will make it perfectly clear that this is an authority to borrow all moneys necessary to pay off a loan.
– I should like to know why the insertion of the word “ necessary “ will give authority to. do something which otherwise could not be done.
– The clause would be better without it.
– Yes. It inserts in the clause a word that is arguable in respect of every transaction. It does not seem to me to do what the right honorable member for Balaclava. (Mr. Watt) desires.
– By implication we have authority to borrow whatever money is required for these purposes. The only money which the Treasurer can borrow under the clause is money “necessary” for the purpose of paying off a loan. The word “ necessary “ is really implied, but for greater caution I am moving its insertion.
.- By inserting this word, may we not give rise to the question of whether it is necessary to borrow any money for the purpose of paying off a particular loan ? It seems to me that if the amendment be made such a question may arise.
– The Government must accept the responsibility for the amendment.
– Quite so.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Moneys paid to States to be applied in redeeming States’ loans).
.- We should have from the Minister an assurance that this Bill will not in any way affect what I may describe as other “ purchasing Acts “ which stand upon the statute-book. For example, we already have provision to set aside from revenue certain sums for what is really a sinking fund, or amortization operations. In addition, we have power to purchase our own stock to “ prop” the market, as we familiarly say. I ask for the Minister’s assurance that there is nothing in this Bill that will affect the powers of the Treasurer in respect of such matters. This, I take it, is an added power which it is proposed to confer upon the Treasurer, because of the early approach of necessary conversions; but I am anxious that it shall not withdraw from the Treasurer any of the existing powers which have proved so useful.
– This is an added power, and does not restrict the other powers to which the honorable member refers.
– It adds to the powers already given?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– The Loan Appropriation Bill, which was recently passed, provided for an estimated loan works expenditure of £9,039,650 during 1921-22. Honorable members will recollect that included in that amount was a sum of £3,000,000 for the redemption ofTreasury bills, while discount expenses in connexion with the borrowing of the sum necessary will probably amount to £400,000. It is therefore necessary to obtain this authority to borrow £4,500,000 in order to provide the total amount required to carry out the works authorized by that Bill.
– The Minister is asking, roughly, for £9,000,000 in respect of the Loan Works programme. The Treasury has some unexpired authorities ; will they, together with this authority to borrow £4,500,000 give the total of £9,000,000 required for this year?
– Yes. The authorities we have already obtained, together with this authority, will give us the £9,039,650 that is necessary. I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Authority to borrow £4,500,000).
.- The Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Groom) has indicated that the unexpired authorities which the Government already possess, added to the authority now sought by means of this Bill, will provide sufficient to cover the whole ofthe works programme, the appropriation for which has already been passed by the House. I do not know what the figures are at this date, but the Minister should tell us under what Act these unexpired authorities were given, and what is the amount in each case. 1 do not think we can spend anything like the £9,000,000. It is of no use to vote an authority which will remain unavailed of for a long while. We might well do with £2,500,000, if the authority is complete enough, up to the 30th June of next year. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has naively asked whether any other Loan Authorization Bills are likely to be requested of this Parliament for the current financial year. Every honorable member must know, of course, that that is not probable. I can see the Government, with their full appropriation from Consolidated Revenue, and with ample loan authority for all purposes - public works, soldiers’ housing and settlement, pensions, and the like - keeping themselves so busily engaged from the end of this week until the first week in July, that Parliament will not be able to meet before that month of next year. That, indeed, appears to be inevitable.
– And natural.
– Yes; one might say, almost a matter of practice. All depends, however, upon whether the Customs Tariff Bill is passed ; upon there being no clogs on the wheels of progress, or any other factor developing which is likely to disturb that harmonious relationship between the two Houses which, happily, has distinguished the fair fame of Australia for the past twenty years. I shall not ask the Minister (Mr. Groom) to confess whether what I have suggested is correct or not. It would not be proper for me to do so, even if he were the Treasurer; but I apprehend that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) - no doubt, before the closing hours of the session - will inform honorable members of what is in his mind. My purpose in rising was chiefly to ascertain whether there was not really an excess of authority asked for, in view of the unexpired authority still retained by the Government, and of the prospective commitments.
– Previously, authority was given to raise a sum of £5,000,000. This proposal was introduced by the ex-Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook); and that amount, added to this total of £4,500,000, makes up the whole sum under discussion. The purpose of the Bill is merely to ask for the moneys required for works to be put in hand this year. Whether or not the exact amount, to the last penny, will be spent, it is impossible for me to say, of course.
– I mean, within £1,000,000.
– I cannot speak definitely.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– This class of Bill is one which comes fairly regularly under the attention of honorable members. Its purpose is to make available out of the Consolidated Revenue a further sum of £10,000,000, to be devoted to the Invalid a.nd Old-age Pensions Fund, which has been created. Moneys are voted into this trust fund, which is then available to be drawn upon for the payment of pensions; and, also, the Government are able to ear-mark any surplus revenue for that fund. The existing appropriation will have been exhausted by about the middle of April next. The estimated expenditure for the purpose of paying pensions during the financial year is £5,200,000. A larger appropriation is asked for, however, in order to carry on until the 30th June, next year. Thus there will be provided appropriation which may be availed of right up to the close of the financial period. Imove -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the Billbe considered as a whole?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
.- I received a letter to-day having to do with an application for a pension, which, however, has been refused. The party in question is a native of India, hailing from Peshawur, I understand. He has been in this country for forty years; he is recognised as a British subject. Even so, he has been refused a pension on the ground that he is an Asiatic. I understand that the Treasury, in cases of hardship, where persons are prohibitedby Statute from benefiting from the pensions fund can make available an amount which is really a kind of compassionate allowance. I should like to be informed, first, whether it is impossible for the man to whom I have referred to receive a pension; and, secondly, whether there is not some fund which can be drawn upon in the circumstances I have just described.
– The specific provision in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is as follows: -
The following persons shall not be qualified to receive an old-age pension, namely;. -
Asiatics (except those born in Australia), or aboriginal natives of Australia, Africa, the Islands of the Pacific, or New Zealand.
Thus, the prohibition is a statutory one. The Treasurer has no funds which may bo made available, as the honorable member suggests. In. order io overcome the disability in the cases of natives of India, for example, it would be necessary to amend the Act.
– Have the Government any such intention?
– It is not so proposed. I understand, moreover, that there is no fund which may be drawn upon for distributing compassionate allowances.
.- I desire to mention the hard case of a former British soldier who came out to Australia, under the Imperial immigration scheme, I understand, in company with his wife and four of his children. Shortly after reaching Australia he broke down in health. Tubercular trouble developed, I am informed, and the man has been unable to earn a living. As he has not been in Australia sufficiently long to become entitled to a pension, the circumstances of his family are very hard. There are four older children still in England, and the parents are anxious to return with the younger members of their family, so that they may be assisted by the children who are at work. Is there a fund available from which money can be drawn to provide these people with immediate help? Cannot something practical be done in the direction of affording them passages back to England? Certain vessels of the Commonwealth Fleet are returning practically empty. Possibly the Government can assist the family in that direction.
Another matter upon which I desire to touch has to do with a promise of the ex-Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) that he would investigate the matter of asylum pensions. Inmates should all be treated alike in respect of the receipt of pension money. To-day, some are allowed 2s, while others are paid nothing whatever. That is because certain persons were entitled to receive pensions prior to their entrance into the institutions. In respect of those latter, the State Government concerned receives 13s., and the asylum pensioner 2s. weekly. There are pensioners who have friends or relatives who look after these unfortunate people for certain periods when they are per mitted to leave the institutions. While they remain outside they are given the full amount of the pension; but, upon their return, they receive 2s., and the State Government concerned is paid the balance of the weekly pension allowance. There are patients who have been in asylums for many years, and who can never hope to get out. Numbers are bedridden. Unhappily, these poor folk cannot be made to understand why certain of their fellow inmates receive 2s. each week from the Government, while they themselves get nothing. Even the small sum of 2s. goes a long way in the asylums. Bedridden folk, if they are in receipt of their weekly portion, are able to purchase the assistance of others. They receive certain little attentions from their fellows by paying a very small sum, or by giving goods - tea, tobacco, and the like. Women inmates of asylums in New South Wales who receive no pension money or financial assistance from friends feel their deprivation very keenly. ‘ Those who are paid the 2s. a week are regarded as the aristocrats of the institution. These relatively fortunate women are able to afford their afternoon tea, and are able to provide themselves with other humble comforts. I repeat that it is impossible to make the inmates understand the reason for discrimination. Some arrangement should be made, in the name of humanity, by which a weekly pittance may be given to all inmates. This could be brought about by arrangement with the State Governments, by an adjustment in respect of the weekly payments of the portions of pensions. If there could be established a fund - call it an Asylum Income Fund - it would help to ameliorate the pathetic circumstances of people, many of whom are old and feeble. And that is the very least that should be asked from the Government.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
Creation of Irish Feee State
– (By leave.) - I propose to read to the House the substance of a telegram which I have just received from the Prime Minister of Great Britain in relation to the settlement of the Irish question. It confirms the reports that have already appeared in the press. As the telegram itself is a secret document, I shall read only those portions of it which are relevant. It is a telegram from the Prime Minister of Great Britain sent directly to me -
Articles of Agreement for the settlement of the Irish question were signed this morning.
Article No. 1 reads as follows: - Ireland shall have the same constitutional status in the community of nations known as the British Empire as the Dominion of Canada, Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa, with a Parliament having powers to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Ireland, and an Executive responsible to the Parliament; and shall be styled and known as The Irish Free State.
Under subsequent Articles the relations of Ireland to Great Britain are to be those of Canada in practice as well as in law, subject to certain special exceptions, such as facilities for Navy.
The oath is amplified to include allegiance to King, fidelity to the Irish Constitution as by law established. Commonwealth citizenship with Britain and membership in the British Commonwealth of nations.
The Irish share of national debt and war pensions is referred to arbitration; arbitrators must bc British subjects.
Subject to further consideration five years hence of Irish claims to coastal defence, and protection of Customs and Fisheries, defence of British coast is permanently referred to the British Navy, together with all powers in peace and war essential thereto. Strength of military forces controlled by the Irish Government is limited by the ratio of Irish to British population.
Ulster may maintain a militia subject to the same limitation. Ireland secures absolute control of Customs and Excise. Ships of Great Britain and Ireland will enjoy equal rights in each other’s ports.
Compensation isprovided for officials and police retiring by reason of the changes proposed.
Ulster is given complete freedom of choice between two alternatives - either she can retain her existing position under the Government of Ireland Act or she can enter the All-Ireland Parliament on terms which are left to herself to negotiate. If she elects to remain apart, anomalies in existing conditions are to be rectified by a Commission, having regard to the wishes of the local population and geographic and economic conditions.
Minority rights in North as well as South are protected by an Article invalidating laws which interfere with free religion or education, or with endowment of schools.
The rights of Southern Unionists are further secured by an understanding made between their rejpresentatives and the Irish signatories to the Treaty as to representation of minorities in constituencies, and in the Upper House, which will be embodied in the Constitution when drafted.
Effect will be given to the Agreement when ratified by Parliament and the Dail by legislation, pending which a provisional Government will be established for Southern Ireland by Orders in Council. In effect, the Irish leaders will become Ministers of the Crown as soon as Treaty is ratified.
This news is perhaps the most welcome that we could have. By the agreement which is outlined, there has been ended, let us hope permanently, a quarrel now some 700 years old. A problem, seemingly insoluble, which has baffled the wisest statesmen of England for centuries, has, through the genius, tact, and tenacity of purpose of Mr. Lloyd George, been happily solved, and a country which under other circumstances would have been our enemy has become our friend.
I desire, on behalf of this Government, to offer sincere and hearty congratulations to the British Prime Minister and his Government on the success of the protracted negotiations which have ended so happily. Australia extends to Ireland, her new sister Dominion, the heartiest welcome. She bids her God-speed, and asks her to accept the best wishes for her future. We rejoice with her that she has at length secured that measure of self-government which we ourselves enjoy. This is for us, for the Empire, and for the whole world, as well as for Ireland, a very happy event.
Honorable members rose in theirplaces and cheered.
– Cheers for those who died fox Ireland.
– And for those who died for England.
.- MayI join with the Prime Minister in expressing the pleasure of members on this side of the House at the news that the Irish negotiations have at last been attended with success? Personally,Ifelt throughout that success would eventually attend them, but great credit is due for this happy ending to the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and to the representatives of Ireland.
– To them much greater credit.
– Credit is due also to all others who have taken part in these proceedings. Very often while the negotiations were pending the comment was heard that too much had been asked, and that the Conference would break down; but I have said to various persons that, from my experience in smaller mat- ters of the kind - the Prime Minister will know from his experience that this is so - when negotiations were entered upon in the right spirit, and with the intention to achieve some result, even though what might appear to the outsider to be too much was asked for, there was, in the end, a mutual giving and taking, until the difficulty was finally solved. Those who have taken part in these negotiations deserve the praise of the people of the whole civilized world, because they have at last brought to an end Ireland’s long continued dissatisfaction at her want of self-government. Now that country is in a position similar to our own, and I feel sure that her people will extend the right hand of friendship to tha members of the other Commonwealths within the Empire, and at all times do their best to further the common cause. I am pleased that we have reached finality in this matter. This position having been reached, let us hope that all may sink their national differences, and whatever the political questions that may divide us, set them apart from National matters, and fight them out on their merits. If we do that, it will be the better for the Empire and for ourselves.
.- I desire, on behalf of my colleagues of tie Country party, and for myself, to join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), in expressing satisfaction at the good news that has just come to us, which is a fine Christmas box for the Empire. It is gratifying to know that the tact and skilful negotiations of our statesmen have been able to heal differences that were centuries old. I trust that the settlement of this question, which has been so long delayed, may be as sure and certain as the delay was protracted, and that affairs may now proceed without any hitch. I extend, on behalf of my party, congratulations, not merely to the Irish people, but to the Imperial Government and the other Dominions, on this happy event.
Honorable members, rising, sang “ God Save the King.”
– May I send to. the Prime Minister of Great Britain the best wishes of this Parliament on the settlement of this question ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– Provided you send a message to Mr. de Valera as well.
In Committee (Consideration . resumed) :
.- I trust that the brevity of my remarks will not detract from the results I desire to achieve in respect of the requests which have been made to responsible Ministers on behalf of those who are unfortunately circumstanced, and who, because of their invalidity, have been unable to secure that measure of consideration which is due to them in. a civilized community such as we claim to have in Australia. The matter has been brought under the notice of Ministers on previous occasions, but little or no direct attention has been given to repeated requests put forward on behalf of invalids who, by reason of the fact that they live with their parents, or in the same homes as their parents,although they have reached their majority in years, are unable to secure the benefits of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. I could cite cases that have previously been mentioned by other honorable members, but there is no need for me to go into details, the circumstances are well known to the Government, and I recognise the urgency of other matters honorable members will be called upon to consider. I trust that the Government will have some measure of compassion for the unfortunate circumstances in which many of our citizens are situated, go that the long-standing grievance which these invalids have, through being deprived of the pension they have a right to receive, will be removed. A week or so ago the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) cited special instances ofhardship among the class of people who are subject to conditions I have mentioned, and I hope that the Government will recognise the country’s obligation to them.
The request brought forward by the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden) has my heartiest support and indorsement. It is time that the unfortunates who are in institutions or asylums were placed on an equal footing in regard to participation in allowances made by the Commonwealth, because differences of treatment now prevailing among the inmates ofthese institutions only tend to create feelings of antipathy and distrust. It may not be competent for me to deal at length with certain phases of the question, but I trust that the Government will realize the hardships to which many of our pensioners are subjected, and that many of the anomalies which are acknowledged to exist, and by which on technical points many people are deprived of pensions, will be overcome by an amendment of the Act, which will enable even-handed justice to be bestowed on those whom the measure was intended to assist.
I pay a special compliment to the officers in that branch of the Treasury which is intrusted with the administration of invalid and old-age pensions, not only for the sympathetic manner in which they deal with all cases brought before them, but also for the despatch with which they consider the various requests submitted to them. If there are people who are unfortunate enough not to be drawing pensions, I am confident it is not because of any desire on the part of officials to deprive them of this allowance, but is owing to the fact that the Act does not provide for their cases. However, I hope that before long these difficulties and anomalies will be removed, and that those who are approaching the eventide of their life, the pioneers of this country, and those who are, unfortunately, regarded as the invalids of our community, will receive the fullest measure of assistance at the hands of a sympathetic Parliament. I trust, also, that before long the Government will, in accordance with the request of honorable members generally, do what is possible to increase the amount of the pensions.
Bill reported without amendment; Standing Orders suspended and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
.- I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The object of this Bill is to ratify an agreement made between the Commonwealth Government and the British Government with respect of the funding of our indebtedness to the British Government. During the progress of the war the Imperial authorities not only advanced cash to the Commonwealth to the extent of about £50,000,000, which, of course, was all devoted to war expenditure, but also made numerous payments on our behalf for the maintenance of our Forces in the field, for supplies to the Australian ‘Navy, for the transport of troops, and for other services. Repayments have been made from time to time by the Commonwealth, but there has always been a large amount outstanding and owing by us to the Imperial Government. No arrangement was made in regard to the cash advanced, or in regard to the payments made on our behalf, as to the time at which’ the balance should be repaid. As the war went on the balance was simply carried forward, various payments being credited to us, and various other advances being made. Of course, in the absence of any such agreement as to the period of repayment the British Government would be entitled to payment on demand, but one of the objects of Senator Millen’ s visit to Great Britain last year, apart from his attendance at the meeting of the League of Nations, was to negotiate with the British authorities, and endeavour to come to some final arrangements in regard to these large sums of money which were owing. He succeeded in making a very satisfactory agreement, by which Australia was to pay the British Government 6 per cent, for thirty-six years. This 6 per cent, was to include interest and sinking fund towards the redemption of the debt.
– What is the amount of the sinking fund?
– It is 1 per cent, on the greater portion of the indebtedness, but is slightly higher on certain advances. However, 6 per cent, is sufficient to cover the interest payments and pay off the debt during the period I have mentioned. Considering the high rates of interest prevailing to-day I think the British Government have treated us, as usual, in a very fine spirit. There were certain amounts about which no complete settlement had been come to by the time Senator E. D. Millen had to return to Australia, and it was arranged that Mr. Collins, the Secretary to the Commonwealth Treasury, who was in London at the time, should hold a further conference with the Imperial authorities at a later stage. This was done, and the arrangement was finally completed. When Senator E. D. Millen was negotiating it was ascertained that our indebtedness was’ at least £86,982,058, but further investigation showed that there were other matters outstanding, and these Mr. Collins adjusted, bub they brought up our total indebtedness to £92,480,156. The arrangements made by Senator E. D. Millen and Mr. Collins have been embodied in agreements which are contained in the schedule to the Bill. I think we can say that a very satisfactory settlement has been made, and I ask the House to pass the second reading of this Bill, thereby ratifying the agreement by both Governments.
– I hope that this will be the last of these moneys that Australia will be obliged to pay. During the war I endeavoured to ascertain how much money we had obtained from Great Britain.
– There were difficulties in ascertaining the amount when we were still carrying on operations.
– Surely the honorable member is not reproaching Great Britain for having lent us money !
– I am not waving the flag just now, and I want to say ‘a few words in my own way if the honorable member has no objection. I am condemning, not the fact that it was difficult to supply the information I required, but the fact that we could never get an admission that it was an enormous sum we had borrowed in this way. We have often been told how little the Australians did during the war. In fact, Australians who waved the flag so much had decried the efforts of Australia. When I hear it said how well the British Government are treating us, I smile. It ought to be understood that this is the only Dominion in the Empire that has paid such moneys. I was very nearly gaoled on one occasion for making a statement of this sort, so that it is well to know where I am. This £92,000,000 is in payment for shot and shell and other material essential on the war front.
– Half of it was lent to Australia in the early days of the wax.
– Even at this stage the honorable member does not understand the position, although he ought to, because’ in Australia to-day tlhere are large mobilization stores in four or five of the States, full of material paid for by a portion of this money. It is said that we are being treated very well in being permitted to pay 6 per cent, for interest and sinking fund, but I repeat that this is an obligation that was taken on by no other Dominion, and it is Australia rather than Great Britain that should be thanked.
.- The remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) should not be allowed to pass unchallenged. Some £40,000,000 of this money represents what we borrowed from the British Government in the early stages of the war. I remind the honorable member that this arrangement with the British Government was made by the Labour Administration which the honorable member supported, and, apparently, he is now complaining because he is asked to pay his debts. Personally, I felt it was rather discreditable on the part of Australia, instead of paying’ its debts, although we had time after time promised to pay, to go to the Imperial Government and give them a bill at 36 years. This money was used in the payment of wages and salaries, and in the care and upkeep of our troops.
– Nothing of the sort.
– Wlhat I say is quite correct. When the British Government was desirous of paying a portion of its great debt to the United States of America, we were asked to pay £10,000,000 of what we owed, but instead of that, as I say, we made an arrangement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and, Standing Orders having been suspended, passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
The following paper was presented: -
Wireless Communication - Agreement with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited (in substitution for paper presented on 24th November).
Direct Communication with Great Britain.
– (By leave.) - I move -
That this House approves of the execution by the Prime Minister of the agreement proposed to be made between the Commonwealth and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, a draft of which has been laid upon the table of the House.
Honorable members have a copy of the draft agreement, which, in substance, is that which was laid on the table of the House some time ago. On the 5th October I dealt fully with the question of wireless communication, to which this draft agreement specially refers. Honorable members will recall the fact that I pointed out that there were two schemes before the Imperial Conference, one known as the Norman system of relays, and the other the scheme that is covered by the document that is in honorable member’s hands. The two schemes that I dealt with when makin? my report to the House on the Imperial Conference, differ fundamentally. As I have said, one is a system of relays and the other a system of direct communication between Australia and Britain and every part of the civilized world. The Norman scheme provides for stations to be provided at Oxford, Cairo, Poonah, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia, and to cover South Africa from Nairoli and Wyndhoek. The estimated capital cost of the Norman scheme is £1,243,000; Australia’s share of the initial cost, £185,000; the annual charge for Australia, £60,000; the estimated revenue, £40,000; and the annual loss, £20,000. I pointed out the objections to this scheme other than the financial ones, which are fairly obvious, and to which I shall again refer. First of all, we get direct communication with Hong Kong only under special atmospheric conditions, and for a limited number of hours per day. The messages are sent in relays, and necessarily the outlying stations, of which Australia is the most remote, will be delayed by any congestion at any one of the intermediate stations. Thus, all messages from here to England may be held up at Singapore by Hong Kongmessages, which take precedence; at Poonah, by Hong Kong and Singapore ; at Cairo, by Hong Kong, Singapore, and Poonah, and so on ; there is this objection of delay and lack of direct communication. If we ask ourselves what we are to expect from wireless other than what we get from cable communication, the answer is obvious. Wireless communication furnishes us with the most effective mode of propaganda that now exists. Honorable members may ask what we ‘ have to do with propaganda. In these days, I submit, Australia and every nation has everything to do with propaganda; without it nations cannot hope to meet the intense competition for trade, and all up-to-date nations resort to this method. It is, perhaps, not necessary to remind honorable members of the extent to which Germany influenced public opinion during the war by wireless propaganda. It is safe to say that to Germany it . was worth more than many legions. By skilful manipulation she sent distorted stories abroad that have not yet been overtaken; and to-day she is still relying on wireless for her overseas communication. The United States of America, perhaps the most up-to-date nation in the world, has, since the Imperial Conference met, established long-distance wireless. And yesterday a press message was received, the first direct wireless that has been sent from Europe to Australia, and that which at the Imperial Conference we were told could not be relied upon has been done. The Norman scheme, then, is useless for the purposes for which we require it. We wish to advertise Australia in the East and in America. We wish, above all things, to have direct communication with Great Britain. Australia is’ a country geographically remote, but happily, owing to Britain’! command of the sea, the cables were not cut during the war. But little imagination is necessary to understand what the severing of the cables would have meant to Australia, cut off, as it was, from Europe, and without an effective system of wireless. Australia is an integral part of the British Empire ; but what do we know of what is going on in England? Very little. What do the people in Britain know of what is going on in Australia? Still less. It is not for me to speak of the cable charges - the press is able to speak of them with authority - and I am able to say that the whole of the press of Great Britain, and I think I am accurate in saying the whole of the press in Australia also - at any rate, the daily press - is behind the scheme I have the honour to put forward to-night.
– Does the honorable member mean that they are in favour of the details of this scheme, or that they are in favour of the idea of direct wireless communication?
– They are in favour of this scheme for direct communication with Europe.
– What will the press contribute towards the cost?
– The honorable member might as well ask me what the press contributes towards the cost and maintenance of the Pacific cable. The press will contribute towards the cost of this wireless system by using it for pres3 purposes, and will be amongst our chief customers; but it is not suggested that the newspapers should establish the scheme. In fact, I think the honorable member for Robertson would be one of the first to register his vote against allowing the press to establish its own wireless system in Australia. I should, at any rate. The benefit of wireless will be to enable us to communicate directly with other countries, and, for propaganda purposes, it is essential that we should communicate direct. The Norman scheme would not enable us to communicate direct with Canada or South Africa, or England. It would enable us to communicate direct with the East, but there would be possibilities and probabilities of great delay in the transmission of messages. The financial side of the Norman scheme must not be overlooked. The present position of wireless in this country is well known to honorable members, for I stated it a few days ago. There is a net loss now on the system of £57,068 per annum, without including interest on capital or allowance for depreciation of assets. That is to say, the Commonwealth now loses nearly £60,000 per annum on its present system of wireless, and from the point of view of business men that is not very satisfactory ; nor would a statement of accounts which did not take into consideration interest on capital or depreciation be considered satisfactory by any business firm. It is fair to say that if we do take into consideration, interest on capital and depreciation, the present loss to this country is easily from £70,000 to £75.000 per annum. It is proposed, under the Norman scheme, to add £20,000 to that, which would mean a net loss of £80,000 per annum on a system that would enable us to communicate directly with Hong “Kong, but would not enable us to utilize the main wireless for the main objects for which wireless exists - propaganda - which would cut us off from Great Britain, and would not enable us to send messages direct to America, the East, Canada, or South
Africa. The benefits of the Norman scheme were stated by me. It was alleged by the Norman Committee that because the relays extended only over 2,000 miles that scheme could be relied upon, whilst the long distance communication could not. But it is only fair to repeat what I said when speaking .on this matter before, namely, that honorable members may go to any of our receiving stations and hear Bordeaux or Lyons or the long distance wireless in America speaking. Those messages are being received, and, therefore, so far as covering the distance is concerned, there is proof positive of which every honorable member may satisfy himself, that it is possible to send messages from England, or America, or France direct to Australia. And, of course, they are received with the rapidity of light, which is exactly the rate at which wireless travels; for all practical purposes it Hs (instantaneous. The advantages of direct communication are so obvious that it is sufficient to set them out. They do not require any argument.
The Norman scheme would be controlled wholly by the Governments of Great Britain and the various Dominions, and it would be run by the Postal Department. It can hardly be expected of me that I should say anything against the Post Office, because it is perhaps one of the most cherished of the Departments over which I have the honour to preside, and it is a veritable jewel in the diadem of Great Britain. But, nevertheless, it is a fact that Mr. Donoghue, of the Daily Chronicle, and the representative of the British press, said that the press of Great Britain had grave doubts as to whether wireless under thecontrol of the Postal Department would be quite satisfactory. Those honorable members who from time to time express grave doubts as to the wisdom of governmental enterprise may now be able to couch a lance in favour of it, but on this occasion I am to be counted on the other side. In my opinion, if we want an efficient system of wireless, we must look for it in quarters where we shall have at our disposal men with scientific training and business capacity, and above all those in quarters that have control of those patents and apparati without which it is impossible for wireless to be successful. Please do not forget that wireless is not a thing that begins and ends in Australia. There must be reciprocity. The company with which we propose to make this agreement guarantees not only to erect a wireless transmitting system in Australia, but also to make arrangements for the receipt of the messages in England and elsewhere.
– What will become of the present Australian wireless system?
– The company will take it over, and it shows that it expects not only to prevent the continuation of the present loss, but ta give the Commonwealth a return of 10 per cent. The present business of Amalgamated Wireless relates to all merchant ships voyaging about the Australian coast; it is well established and profitable, and the company is offering its services and its business to the Commonwealth, and is seeking our co-operation in order to establish long-distance* wireless, which shall include its and our present wireless operation, grouped under one control in which the company and we shall be partners, we providing half the capital and the company the other half.
I shall deal now with the proposal in detail. The shareholders of Amalgamated Wireless are mainly Australian, and the company is now operating at a profit. It owns its own workshops, and has its own staff of mechanics and operators. It has the Australian rights over all Marconi patents. I must say, in order to be fair, that I had to complain at the Imperial Conference that those who were responsible for the Norman scheme seemed more anxious to pursue their feud against Mr. Godfrey Isaacs than to further the interests of wireless telegraphy. We have nothing to do with Marconi or with Mr. Godfrey Isaacs. But there is no doubt whatever that in the world to-day wireless is what it is mainly because of Marconi. Australian Wireless owns rights over all the Marconi patents. It is in line with all the latest advances in wireless, and, as I have said, the proposals of the company are fully set out in the draft agreement, copies of which honorable members have in their hands. The agreement follows in all essentials the lines of the agreement with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company - that is to say, the Commonwealth will take £501,000 worth of the shares, and will have a proportionate amount of control over the scheme.
– This agreement does not give the Government the measure of control that it would secure by means of the same number of shares in an ordinary company.
– It gives us exactly the same control that we have under the agreement with “the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. In order to control a specialized business of this character we must have trained men. Governments come and go - I admit that some of us do not - but that is the idea, and we could not run a commercial concern on those lines. That being so, a majority of the directors are to be nominated by shareholders other than the Commonwealth Government, but a majority of those shareholders - nearly all of them - are Australians. That is to say, they are our own fellow-citizens. The company is to increase its capital to £1,000,000, divided into 1,000,000 shares of £1 each. Of these the Commonwealth Government is to take up 500,001. It will pay on allotment 2s. per share, or £50,000. The further calls are limited to 6s. per share not earlier than the 1st July, 1922 ; 6s. per share not earlier than 1st January, 1923, and 6s. per share not earlier than 1st July, 1923. Thus during the present financial year our expenditure will be £50,000. In the next financial year there will be an expenditure of 12s. per share, and in the following financial year a payment by us of 6s. per share. The Commonwealth is to have at all times a majority in number and value of the shares. As to the safeguards, paragraph i. of clause 3 provides that -
On any increase of capital the Commonwealth shall he entitled to subscribe so much capital, and be allotted so many shares that at all times the Commonwealth will hold a majority in number and value of the shares in the company.
It is further provided that every shareholder shall have one vote for every share held by him. Paragraph iii of clause 3 provides that -
So long as the -Commonwealth or its nominees continue to hold a majority in number and value of the shares, of the total number of directors of the company (including the managing director, if he has a vote, threesevenths in number shall he nominated by and represent the Commonwealth, and four-sevenths shall be elected by and represent the holders of shares other than those allotted to the Commonwealth under this agreement.
The company also undertakes under this clause to, forthwith alter its memorandum or articles of association so as to pro vide -
That no action or question or decision relating to or affecting -
Under clause 4 it is agreed that -
The company shall forthwith proceed with the development, manufacture, sale, and use of apparatus for wireless communication and for the wireless transmission of energy within the Commonwealth and its Territories, and in ships and aircraft owned, registered, or trading within the Commonwealth or its Territories, and for communication with the countries overseas, and the erection of wireless stations and the conduct of wireless services for the purpose of such communications.
The companyfurther agrees that it will forthwith undertake the following programme : -
Proposed WirelessRates -
Full-rate messages, 2s. per word.
Deferred messages,1s. per word.
Week-end messages, Gd. (minimum, 10s. per message).
Government messages,1s. per word.
Press messages, 5d. per word.
Deferred press messages, 3d. per word.
It will thus be seen that this is a contract providing not only for the erection of highpower and feeder stations in Australia, but to arrange for corresponding stations in the United Kingdom. Provision is also made for the erection and operation of a station in Canada capable of commercial communication with the high-power station in Australia. The agreement further provides that -
In time of war or public danger the company shall, if required by the Commonwealth, hand over to the Commonwealth the control of. its stations, its apparatus, its services, and its manufacturing plant.
Then there is a provision that the Commonwealth may take over the business of the company as provided for under the constitution, namely, on just terms.
I have here a list of the principal shareholders of the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd. I cannot say what is the total number, but they are all Australian citizens, and domiciled for the most part in the various State capitals of the Commonwealth. It is an Australian concern with which we are dealing. It is under the control of the Australian law. It is a business concern which is run at a profit, and contrasts very favorably with our own wireless scheme, which is not a business concern run at a profit, but, on the contrary, shows a loss, as I have said, of nearly £60,000 per annum.
-What is the present subscribed capital of the Amalgamated Wireless ?
Mr.HUGHES. - It is, I believe, £200,000. The company will, of course, have to bring up its capital. We come in and subscribe £500,000,’ and become shareholders in. this business. The present business is profitable. It is proposed to extend it, and to take over that part of our business which is notoriously unprofitable. We are buying into this profitable business at par. It is not a new venture, nor is wireless a mere experiment. It has demonstrated its utility. It is one of the miracles that have been wrought by science. The other day we received from President Harding a message at the very moment that it was sent from the United States of America. At present we can receive any such message, but can send none. As soon as we -get our high-power station we shall be able to send messages to every part of the world. (Let me tell the House what other nations are doing. The people of other countries are not fools. France is in great financial straits, yet she has spent over £1,000,000 on the Bordeaux Station, and is erecting a still more powerful one. In the United States of America there has been erected one of the most, if not the most, powerful stations in the world. Still further sums are to toe expended there. The people of the United States of America are flooding the world with news. They are sending out radio messages which are picked up gratuitously, and which set out the news of the world as seen through American spectacles. Britain alone is doing nothing in this regard, and it is a reflection on us and upon Britain, too, that in this respect other countries are showing us the way. On the 8th ultimo the following appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald: -
The New York Radio Central is equipped to work with five different countries simultaneously, for instance, England, Prance,. Norway, Denmark, and Poland, with the possibility of extending its commercial services to ten countries.
The inauguration of this huge new station in America has its lessons for us. It emphasizes once more the fact, as is demonstrated i by President Harding’s historic message, that Australia can be linked direct with any country in the world without any difficulty. It is just a matter of putting up a suitable station. There will be nothing, then, in an ordinary commercial way, to prevent a man from getting into touch with London in one-fifteenth of a second, the while his typist, probably, is spending half-an-hour trying to got a business house a few yards off by telephone.
The Postmaster-General has gone out! Before I resume my seat I must refer to another proposal by the Radio Communication Company that Avas laid on the table.
– Before the right honorable gentleman does so, will he give us a little further information? Under this agreement the Commonwealth is to contribute £500,000, and also bring in its assets in the shape of its wireless telegraphy plant here: What amount does the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited bring in?
– It brings in its profitable business, whereas we bring in a business that is losing £60,000 a year. That can hardly be described as an asset.
– We are bringing in £500,000 in cash as well as our wireless plant.
– The company already has a subscribed paid-up capital of £200,000. It is now going to subscribe a further sum of £300,000, less £1, making a total of £500,000, while we shall subscribe £500,000, plus £1.*
– But what about our plant ?
– As I have already said, we are losing on it. The company is not acquiring it; it is only going to work it.
– But is the company going to allow us any compensation for our wireless stations and plant?
– The company will not have possession of our stations and plant.
– But will our plant represent part of the £500,000 to be brought in by us ?
– Then what, is going to happen to our plant?
– I will tell honorable members what will happen and what is happening to it. We are now losing money om it, and will shortly have to spend a good deal in replacements. Depreciation is going on. As an insufficient amount of money has been set aside to bring it up to date, more will have to be spent, and that very shortly. The property in that plant does not pass from the Commonwealth to the Wireless people. The Commonwealth will be entering into an arrangement with them in order to set up high-power telegraphy. In addition, they say, “We will take over this business of yours and run it for you. We will convert it from a losing to a paying proposition.” If the property is to pass, we must have value for it. I shall see to that; but honorable members will find that there is no mention of a sale to them. The property will remain vested in the Commonwealth.
– But there is nothing in this agreement covering that matter.
– As a lawyer, the honorable member will know that property cannot pass, under the terms of a document, unless specifically covered therein. There is no mention in the proposed contract of any transfer of any property rights by the Commonwealth in its wireless plant. If the plant were to pass the Commonwealth would have to be paid for it; and, since its transference is not covered in the agreement, the property will remain in the Commonwealth.
I desire to refer briefly now to a third offer - that by the Radio Communication Company Limited, which has its head Australian office at 38 Pitt-street, Sydney. The company offers to form a company with a capital of £700,000, to be contributed over three years, one-half plus one share by the Commonwealth, and one-half minus one share by the Radio Communication Company. The company so formed would undertake to erect, equip, and operate a high-power station capable of direct communication with Great Britain, and such other oversea countries as might be made the subject of agreements. Further, the company would undertake an arrangement with the Imperial Government for the erection of a high-power reciprocating station in Great Britain, and so on. I point out, however, that this company is not able to guarantee to Australia a high-power station in Great Britain. It says it can, and will, erect a high-power station here. No company can carry out contracts for erecting wireless stations unless it has control of the patents covered by the Marconi rights, and others of a like nature. For all practical purposes, therefore, this proposal must be ignored. There remain the two before the House. One is the Norman scheme, and the other is that of Amalgamated “Wireless. The Radio Communication Company’s proposition fails for many reasons. One is that, to my mind, the company cannot make good. It certainly cannot guarantee a reciprocal arrangement with Great Britain.
I hope honorable members will not -overlook the fact that the Imperial Conference discussed this matter at great length. The Amalgamated Wireless in terests had their representatives present; and Mr. Lloyd George, after a very long discussion, agreed thai* Australia should have the right to choose either of the two first indicated schemes. There is no doubt but that either one of them will be given the support of the British Government, in so far as it is necessary to insure to Australia reciprocal arrangements. The Marconi system has already, at Carnarvon - apart from whatever else it may have - a high-power station. Two years ago Sir Joseph Cook and I sent the first message from England to Australia from that station.
The questions for the House to consider are these : Are we to accept the Norman scheme, with its system of relay, and Its annual loss of £20,000, on top of which would be the annual loss of £60,000 which the Commonwealth is now incurring, and which is inevitable, must continue, and is bound to grow worse? Are we going to link up with the Norman interests, and, in return, get a scheme which will not put us in direct communication with Great Britain, Canada, the United States of America, South Africa, and the East? On the other hand, we may secure a scheme in which the Commonwealth will be the principal shareholder, and in which practically all the rest of the shareholders will be Australians domiciled in this country; a scheme which has rights over the Marconi patents, has at its command trained experts, and which is managing a profitable business here, in glaring contrast to that which the Commonwealth is managing.
Australia, more than any other country in the world, because of its remoteness, needs advertising. What is the great handicap under which we suffer? It is represented by our remoteness. We are part of an Empire. We depend for our livelihood upon the sale of our goods in overseas markets. It is, therefore, vital that Australia should be able to communicate with the whole world by the most direct methods. It is true, as was. suggested, I think, by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), when referring to the matter at an earlier stage, that wireless is not secret. That applies, of course, to both the schemes under consideration. The factor is one which has not escaped the attention of any of the other nations. France knows it; America knows it:
Germany also knew -that wireless is not secret. But, at the same time, I do not know that it is secrecy which Australia wants. We need publicity. We want to let the whole world know where we are. We want to send our news to Great Britain, to advertise ourselves there; and we want to know more of what is going on in the world. Honorable members complain sometimes because the press of this country does not set but in amplitude such of the news of the world as they may desire to read. Do honorable members know what the press of Australia spends annually upon its news services; and, vice versa, what the British press spends upon the gathering of Austalian news? Lord Burnham, proprietor of the London Daily Telegraph, told me that his people spent thousands of pounds a year upon the Australian news services alone. Anybody reading the Daily Telegraph, however, would see only occasional and meagre reports concerning Australia. Those are all that Lord Burnham gets in return for the money he spends in this direction. Lord Northcliffe’s services are very complete. The amount of money paid by his interests for Australian news is out of all proportion to the return which they get. The whole of the press of this country, I feel sure, would join with me in demanding that this Parliament assent to some scheme which will provide opportunities for securing cheap news.
That is one consideration. Another is that we shall have means of advertising ourselves; and, above all, that we shall have some sure and effective medium, which no one can touch or break, of contact with the Mother Country. .What with the possibilities arising from the outcome of the Washington Conference, and with one consideration and another, we may be left very much to ourselves, and thrown more and more upon our own resources. It will be well that we should have the means of calling across the great distances upon the only power in the world that could help us should trouble ever again arise.
I ask honorable members to take their courage in both hands, and to have a little faith in the future of this country. It was not in any timid, shirking spirit that our pioneers went out and made Aus- tralia what it is. They had faith, though they had far less reason for its exercise than we -have. I hope honorable members will agree to the motion, and will let the whole world see that Australia has confidence in her future; that now, since she has been admitted into the community of nations, she intends to assert herself and act as a young, virile, and progressive nation should act.
.- Most honorable members will agree with the Prime Minister concerning the need for wireless communication between all parts of the Empire and the civilized world. Honorable members will be quite prepared to take their courage in both hands as they have been exhorted to do; but, in doing so, they must be permitted to give the fullest consideration to an important proposition of this character. Honorable members cannot be expected to decide such a big matter in so brief a period as is available. The subject is one which should have been brought before Parliament sometime ago, in order that ample opportunity might be afforded honorable members to test and consider in detail the various offers.
– But you have had more than two months, you know.
– We have had a similar statement made in regard to other matters, but it was the duty of the Prime Minister to bring a definite proposal before the House. Had he dome that two months ago we would have had an opportunity to analyze it, and would probably by now have reached finality regarding it. The control of the businesspaper is with the Government, not with private members, and mere statements by the Prime Minister, or other Ministers, are not to be regarded as opportunities for the consideration of the subjects on which they speak. That is not the parliamentary method of dealing with matters of this kind. Definite proposalsmust be placed before us, so that we may have au opportunity to consider them.
I am not against doing whatever may be necessary to bring Australia into closer touch with the outer world. We cannot progress with the times unless we take advantage of all the improvements- in methods of communication. But thatdoes not warrant me in accepting a proposal which I am not certain is the best offering. I should have my doubts- cleared up before definitely committing myself. I agree with the Prime Minister in regard to the discarding of what is known aa the Norman scheme. That scheme was not at all satisfactory, and cannot be compared with that embodied in the agreement before ns. It provided for a service at a capital cost of £1,243,000, and our share of the initial cost would have been £185,000, and our annual charges £60,000, with a loss of £20,000 each year. That scheme is not comparable with the scheme recommended by the Prime Minister. An argument that will carry weight with many honorable members for the adoption of the proposal of the Government is the fact that the company with which he wishes to make an agreement is an Australian company. I have before me the list of ite shareholders, which is a long one. The company is already established, but its operations are on a limited scale in comparison with’ what is projected. The company has a capital of £200,000, and the Prime Minister tells us that it has been a financial success. It offers to us fairly liberal terms. The project means an investment of £1,000,000, of which the company will have to find £300,000 in addition to the’ £200,000 subscribed capital which it now possesses, and the Commonwealth £500,000. That is provided for in clause 2 of the agreement. As the Commonwealth will provide more capital than the company, it should have a controlling interest in the concern, but paragraph in of clause 3 of the agreement says-
That so long as the Commonwealth or its nominees continue to hold a majority in number and value of the shares of the total number of directors of the company (including the managing director if he has a vote), threesevenths in number shall be nominated by, and represent, the Commonwealth, and foursevenths shall be elected by and represent the holders of shares other than those allotted to the Commonwealth under this agreement.
– We find the money, and they call the tune.
– That appears to be the position. We are to have a smaller voice in the management of the affairs of the company than the present shareholders, whose directors will decide the policy of the concern. Paragraph n of clause 3 says -
That every shareholder shall have one vote for every share held by him, provided that a holder of shares allotted to the Commonwealth under this agreement shall not be entitled to vote in respect of the election or removal of directors representing the holders of shares other than those allotted to the Commonwealth under this agreement.
Thus, while we provide the larger part of the capital, only three-sevenths of the directors are to be nominated by and to represent the Commonwealth, and a holder of shares allotted to the Commonwealth will not be entitled to vote in respect of the election or removal , Ul directors. Thus, the directors nominated by the present company will run the whole show. I am surprised that such an agreement should be put before us for ratification. Would any member in his private capacity enter into such an arrangement ?
– Furthermore, we are giving the company a monopoly.
– Yes. What is the use of declaring that we shall have a full say in the management of this company if that is not provided for in the agreement, if, in fact, the agreement provides that we shall have a representation of only three-sevenths on the directorate! If. is said that the Government should conduct its affairs on business lines, but this is certainly not a. business proposition. Are we justified in giving control of the concern to the existing company, although we shall find the greater part of the capital for the new project?
If this project is carried out, we cannot, I suppose^ continue to work our wireless stations, on which we now lose about £57,000 a year. They represent, I suppose, plant worth £100,000. We should know exactly what is the value of that plant, and what is to be done with it; whether those with whom we are making a bargain will have the benefit of it. It is not entering into this agreement. But when the agreement has been ratified, what shall we be able to do with it? These are pertinent questions which should be answered. I am not willing to vote for the motion until I see my way clear. Too many undertakings have been carried out unsatisfactorily of late, and I wish in this matter to keep my eyes open in order to prevent mistakes. I say that the strictest inquiry is needed. This may be the best proposition possible; but we are not justified in voting for its acceptance until we have been able to investigate it.
The Prime Minister alluded lightly to a third proposal. It is contained in the following communication to the Prime Minister from the Radio Communication Company, dated 3rd December -
Following my letter of 28th inst., in which proposals were made to your Government in respect of direct wireless communication with Great Britain, my company now instructsme by cable to submit further proposals which may, at your option, be regarded as. alternative.
These proposals are: -
The formation of. a company with a capital of £700,000, to be contributed over three years, one-half plus one share by the Commonwealth, and one-half minus one share by theRadio Communication Company; the Board of Control to consist of three members appointed by the Commonwealth, a like number appointed by theRadio Communication Company, these six members to agree upon a seventh member as chairman.
It will be seen that under this proposition the Commonwealth would not’ be called upon to provide more than £350,000, so that if the offer should prove satisfactory it would lead to a saving of £150,000 to the Commonwealth. However, I do not say that the proposition would prove satisfactory.
– Those people have no stations in England.
– Yes; I am informed that they have the right from the British Government to use the stations in England. The letter continues : -
The company so formed to undertake -
In regard to (f) and (7c) above, I might say that the works proposed for establishment would bc on similar lines to the company’s works at Barnes, near London. These works - with scientific laboratory attached - are equipped with the most modern plant for the manufacture of every type of wireless apparatus, and the duplication in Australia of this plant would, I submit, represent a very notable addition to the technical instrumentalities of Australia. Such a plant would be available not merely for the manufacture of wireless requisites, but could also be utilized for the production of telephone and telegraph parts and other auxiliaries required from time to time by the Post and Telegraph Departments, should such activities officially commend themselves.
In regard to (h) I would point out that the automatic watch-keeping apparatus (the world patents of which are owned by my company), is suitable for installation in even the smallest of towns, and is capable of respond ing to any pre-arranged signal from distant land or ship stations. In its working the apparatus is entirely automatic, practically eliminating the human factor altogether. It can be so arranged that when an alarm is given, both the station and the class of signal are at once determinable. It is also capable of operating a tape machine, so that any one with a knowledge of the Morse code could read the message in course of transmission. By this means every town supplied with this instrument could . be notified if necessary in a few moments. The outstanding merit of this instrument lies in the fact that it makes possible wireless communication with small centres throughout the Commonwealth, a condition otherwise out of the question because of the cost of apparatus and personnel. Applied to sea work, the instrument enables a continuous wireless watch to be maintained although one operator only be carried. This fact alone’ would place the proposed company in a dominant position in relation to all ship installations, which form so large a proportion of Wireless business.
In requesting your consideration of these outline proposals, I venture to emphasize the following points: -
We cannot turn down such a proposition without giving it consideration. I do not know that it is worth anything, and I do not stand for it -at the present time, but I stand for the fullest investigation in regard to any proposition before we take any action in regard to it. We are not justified at this late hour of the session in agreeing to commit the Commonwealth to an expenditure of £500,000 in connexion with any offer under an agreement which on the face of it is far from satisfactory. If we agree to the motion submitted to-night the Government will regard it as an instruction to them to sign the agreement with the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd., and go on with the work. If the House is to take any action in the matter it must be done now, and as I think that further inquiry into the matter is necessary, in order that the Commonwealth may be safeguarded, I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “the whole question of wireless be referred to a Committee of this House for investigation and report.”
.- I agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) as to the importance of wireless communication to Australia, not merely for the purpose of communication with other countries, and particularly with the heart of the Empire, but also for utilization in the wide spaces of the Commonwealth in order to eliminate to some extent the isolation of the bush as it exists to-day. If this proposition will improve facilities for communication in our far-back settlements, I shall be willing to support it to the utmost of my .ability, but I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that there is some need for inquiry, although I do not think that the report of the proposed Committee should be delayed for any length of time.
– Hear, hear! I quite agree with that.
– The Committee’s report should be made available at the earliest possible moment, and if it be favorable, the Government should be empowered to complete the negotiations involved. The solution of the problem of wireless should not be regarded as a party question.
– But do not forget that “ big business “ is in it.
– There is big business in this matter, as I hope to indicate in a second or two. A proposition that really would have more support from me than the honorable member’s amendment is one that would not bring the Government into the business at all, but would permit all wireless communication, under proper guarantees and safeguards, to be in the hands of private enterprise, which I am sure would handle it much more satisfactorily from every point of view than any half-bred companies we can form, one of which, according to our experience, has not proved an unchallengeable success. I agree with the Prime Minister that the Post Office should not be called upon to handle this matter of dealing with wireless, because we are already showing a loss of about £57,000 per annum on our radio activities; and wireless development is controlled, to a large extent, by patent rights, without which no company could carry on. In the circumstances, I think we are wise in getting into touch with a company that is in a position to acquire and use these rights in the freest possible way. Already installations that have been established by certain companies have proved unsatisfactory because of the absence from some of them of a small improvement patented by Marconi. It is quite an inexpensive matter to install that improvement; but the fact that it is not available to these companies prevents their installations from being as satisfactory as they otherwise would be.
Of the three proposals before us, the Norman proposition is not worth considering alongside, that which has been submitted by the Amalgamated “Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The first cost of relay stations would be very considerable, and would involve a definite loss of at least £20,000 per annum, which, on top of our present annual loss of £57,000, would practically mean that, at the end of ten years, we would need to capitalize close up to £1,000,000, and our interest^ bill by that time would overburden the whole proposition.
The difficulty in regard to the Radio Communication Compan’s offer is that it is a new company, and for the last twenty-five years the various Marconi companies with which the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is associated have been building up their business, getting together a staff of experts, and setting up a series of workshops and installations throughout the rest of the world; whereas the Radio Communication Company have been established for only a couple of years. In these circumstances, it seems to me that if they are not in a position to offer us more satisfactory installation than the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited can supply, the Commonwealth Government could do the work themselves from the very inception. However, I do not think that that is possible.
The proposition of the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is one that deserves favorable consideration from this House. It should not take a great deal of time to investigate the bona fides of the company and see exactly where we stand. It is a concern which has been established in Australia for several years. Its balance-sheets have been open for investigation. Its paid-up capital is £180,000. Its nominal capital is £200,000, against which there are patent rights; wireless installations on various ships, worth from. £450 to £500 each - practically, £100,000 in all; and workshops, plant, and machinery, roughly valued at about £50,000. The Bulletin, in September last, pointed out that the company was handling its reserves, which amount to £40,000, in a most conservative way. In any amalgamation which is formed, the company will, undoubtedly, be in a position to provide practically £1 for £1 for every share the Commonwealth is asked to subscribe. I would much prefer an arrangement under which the Commonwealth was left out as a partner. I understand that before the agreement before us was submitted a suggestion was made that the company was prepared to undertake the whole of the work if it were given some guarantee that it would not be interfered with over an extended period. There was no desire on the part of the company for a monopoly; all that was required was a guarantee and licence to operate. It is really for the purpose of examining the relative merits of the two propositions that I suggest there should be some delay. The question is whether there should be an arrangement by which the Commonwealth becomes a partner, or whether the company should be permitted to undertake the work itself; and it is one that should be. thoroughly threshed out.
– We shall be able to settle the matter when we return after the recess.
– That is rather a long delay. Australia is remote from other parts of the world, and it is essential that we should take action before all the big wave lengths are commandeered by other countries. Already, many installations have been arranged for by other countries nearer Europe, and if we fail to secure those wave lengths our service will lose in efficiency. I think the arrangement made with reference to the directorate is one that can be indorsed. It provides that the business men connected with the enterprise shall have thecontrol of the business side, the rights of the majority being conserved by the condition that each share carries its own voting powers.
– That is not so.
– The shareholders have exactly the same power in this company as in the Anglo-Persian and all other companies.
– I should be sorry to be the cause of any long delay in the settlement of this matter, but, in my opinion, it requires more investigation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Marr) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to repeal and re-enact with modifications, section 70 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1919, and for purposes relating -ereto.
Bill presented by Mr. Poynton, and read a first time.
That the Supplementary Estimates and Supplementary Estimates for Additions, New Works. Buildings, &c, 1920-21, be considered asa whole.
– I move -
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1919-20 for the several services hereunder specified viz. : -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1919-20, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, a further sum not exceeding £32,641.
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1920-21, for the several services hereunder specified, viz. : -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1920-21 for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, Sea., a further sum not exceeding £34,466.
These are Supplementary Estimates for the two years, 1919-20 and 1920-21. The amounts included in these Estimates for 1919-20 represent expenditure out of Treasurer’s Advance. These Supplementary Estimates cannot be prepareduntil the year’s accounts have been audited. The practice, therefore is that as soon as the AuditorGeneral’s report is presented to Parliament, the Supplementary Estimates are printed. Last year the AuditorGeneral’s report on the finances of 1919-20 was presented to Parliament on the 25th November - a day before the House rose. It was, therefore, not possible to present the Supplementary Estimates before the end of the session. Full particulars of the expenditure in these Supplementary Estimates were, however, included in the finance statement which was presented with the Auditor-General’s report in November, 1920. Though the expenditure for 1919-20 was £988,180 in excess of the Estimates, it is necessary to appropriate a sum of £1,691,612 for ordinary services, and £32,641 for additions and new works. This difference is accounted for by the fact that though there were considerable savings on some votes, the total of the expenditure made out of the Treasurer’s Advance must be included in the Supplementary Estimates. The principal sum included in these Estimates is £484,039 for the Postal Department. This amount was chiefly required to meet the higher wages awarded by the Arbitration Court and the general rise in the cost of material used by the Department. The sum of £16,7S1 was also paid by the Postal Department to mail contractors owing to drought conditions, and £11,154 in excess of the original vote was paid for the carriage of oversea mails. Under the Treasury Department £216,713 is provided for refunds of revenue - mainly refunds of direct taxation; £112,673 is also required for the ordinary votes of the Taxation Office, the main item being £80,263 for temporary assistance, due to increased numbers of returns and to delay in making permanent appointments. Against this item there is a set-off of £40,685 voted for salaries, but not spent. The Treasury Estimates also- include an additional sum of £19,676 for the maintenance of persons admitted to charitable institutions in accordance with the Invalid and Old- age Pensions Act. Throughout the Supplementary Estimates sums are included in the salaries votes for increased salaries payable under Arbitration Court awards. The total amount so provided is £251,273.
– I think these Estimates ought to be considered by Departments.
– All the money has been spent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means covering resolutions of Supply reported and adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Greene do prepare and bring in Bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
The following Bills were then presented by Mr. Groom, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate : -
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1919-20.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1919-20.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1920-21.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1920-21.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This short measure has been proved necessary by the working of the Public Works Committee Act. Under the existing law works, involving an expenditure of £20,000 and upwards, are in the first instance referred to the Committee by resolution of the House for investigation and report. The Committee investigates the proposal and reports to the House, which subsequently passes a resolution that it is or is not expedient to carry outsuch work. The next point is that Parliament has to appropriate the necessary money to enable the work to be carried out. Parliament has been in practically continuous session for some years, and, therefore, it has been easy to refer projects to the Public Works Committee for investigation. But this Parliament may get back to the normal condition under which Parliaments generally work, viz., a six months’ session in every year. In fact, when, at the inception of Federation, I was urged to contest a Federal seat, I was told that I need not bother to transfer my home from Queensland, because the Parliament would sit for only four months in each year. Instead of that, Parliament has remained almost continuously in session.
– Sir George Reid said the same thing.
– That was the general expectation.. I hope, however, that Parliament will return to normal conditions, and sit five or six months for legislation, leaving the balance of the year for administration.
– Surely the Minister has referred enough works to the Public Works Committee to keep it employed until Parliament re-assembles.
– Many of these can be grouped together, and should not take a long time to investigate. The Estimates are usually submitted to the House about September or October, and they include amounts for various works and buildings. It often happens in respect of some work, the cost of which is expected to exceed £25,000, that after the money has been appropriated the investigation by the Public Works Committee takes place. The result is that, although the money has been made available by Parliament, a long delay takes place before we can get a resolution of the House that it is expedient to proceed with the work after it has been recommended by. the Public Works Committee. I am anxious that there shall be, as far as possible, atn investigation of, and report upon, these works by the Committee before they appear on the Estimates, so that honorable members, when asked to vote money for them, will have, in addition to the recommendation by the Minister, the report of the Public Works Committee. Such a procedure would tend to keep our Estimates for works and buildings down to the actual proposals that we can immediately proceed with. Often the difficulty is that the Department supplies us with requests for works and buildings before they have been properly investigated, plans’ and specifications for them prepared, and the actual estimates made. We are suggesting that when Parliament is net in session the Governor-General - actually the Executive Council - may refer proposed works to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report.
– Without the consent of Parliament?
– All that we ask the Committee to do is to investigate and report. A reference of any proposed work to the Committee does not involve the expenditure of one penny upon the work. This amendment of the principal Act will enable the Government, when preparing its Estimates, to . provide for public works which have undergone the criticism of the Public Works Committee. When the report of the Committee has been pre- ,sented to Parliament two things still remain to be done before any work which it recommends can be carried out. . A specific resolution has to be submitted that the House approve of the expediency of giving effect to the recommendation. Then we have the further safeguard that the money required to carry out the work must be appropriated by Parliament. What further safeguards could be desired? This amending Bill will merely enable the Administration to expedite the construction of public works, and I hope the House will agree to it.
.- No doubt there is a good deal of force in the arguments advanced in support of this measure by the Minister (Mr. Groom), hut, so far as I know, it constitutes a departure from the ordinary procedure of both the Commonwealth and the States.
– This procedure is followed in one State, and the result is quite unsatisfactory.
– In Tasmania.
– It has proved quite satisfactory in ‘South Australia.
– We thus have testimony on both sides. I do not offer any objection to the Bill. I agree with the Minister that we have safeguards against any improper expenditure of moneys on public works.- I should not expect the Minister, under this measure, te refer to the Public Works Committee, while Parliament was not in session, any proposed work that was not urgent. At the same time we must realize that, while Parliament is in recess, matters of urgency may crop up, and that in such circumstances the Government should have power as provided for in this Bill to refer them to the Committee without reference to the House. Even after the Committee had reported, the work would still have to be approved by Parliament and the necessary appropriation made, so that we are still safeguarded against any unauthorized expenditure.
.- Some years ago I suggested to the Government the amendment of the principal Act for which this Bill provides. I also put before them certain other amendments which I thought desirable.
– That is so.
– On one or two occasions an effort was made by Ministers to induce the Committee to inquire into proposed works which had not been referred to it by the House. I strongly objected to any such procedure, and the Committee wrote to the Government refusing to inquire into any matter unless the requirements of the Act had been complied with in relation to it.
– ‘The Committee on one occasion inquired into certain proposed works at Canberra on a reference, to it by the Prime Minister.
– I subsequently advised the Government that the Committee would not consider any reference that was not made to it in accordance with the terms of the Act.
– And since then we have followed very closely the procedure laid down by the Act.
– That is so. I am supporting this Bill, not because of a desire to have works referred to the Committee for inquiry, but for the reason that I wish to facilitate the carrying out of public works. Occasion might arise, while Parliament was in recess, for the speedy carrying out of a work involving an expenditure of over £20,000, but under the law as it stands nothing could be done to push on with that enterprise until Parliament had met and the work had been referred by it to the Committee for investigation and report. Under this Bill the Government will be able, of their own volition, to instruct the Committee to inquire into and report upon any’ urgent work, but the carrying out of that work cannot be undertaken until the Committee’s report has been furnished and approved by Parliament.
– This amended procedure may avoid a delay of two or three months in carrying out a work..
– That is so. I rose ‘ principally to refer to another matter on which I reported confidentially to the Government some time ago. In my opinion, it is not necessary to have so large a Committee as we have at present. The work of the Public Works Committee and the Public. Accounts Committee ought to be exceedingly valuable, and the Parliament should be particularly careful in determining their membership. I think that it would be sufficient to have six members on each Committee. If that reduction were made, each Committee, when required, could be divided. We could have sectional Committees of three each inquiring into different works at the same time, and thus a great deal of time could be saved. What is more, the Com- .mittee’s printing bill would be reduced, and the cost to the country made considerably less. I am sure that the reports of a Committee so constituted would be quite as satisfactory as those secured from the larger Committee. I hope that the Government, when considering next year the exercise of economy in the administration of the public Departments, will give attention to this suggestion. In advocating economy of administration we should see to it that that principle is applied to the Committees that are appointed to carry out the requirements of Parliament. I strongly support this- Bill. It will not mean any increased expenditure. As a matter of fact, the Public Works Committee has an annual appropriation of some £2,000, and the year before last I do not think we expended more than £900. Last year, but for the Kidman-Mayoh Inquiry, there would have been a big saving also. I think that this amendment of the Act will prove advantageous to Parliament.
– I do not approve of this Bill. I had the honour of originating the original Public Works Committee Bill, and securing its enactment, and I believe that that Committee has done good work. The suggestion just made by the Chairman of the Committee (Mr. Gregory), that its membership should be reduced, is an exceedingly good one. The probabilities are that if such a reduction were made the work would be carried out more expeditiously, and even better, than it is now. The principal Act provides that the Committee shall inquire into and report upon only such works as are referred to it by the Parliament; so that this Bill involves an entirely new departure from that principle. It gives the Minister power to refer to the Committee for inquiry any work that he thinks fit.
– Only works estimated to cost more than £20,000 can be referred to it.
– This, however, is a dangerous procedure. It will allow the Minister to spend money without the approval of Parliament-
– Not on any proposed work, but every reference by him to the Committee will entail some expenditure. When the original Bill was before Parliament it was considered that the provision that no work should be referred to the Committee except by direction of the House constituted an important safeguard. That safeguard is now to be removed. The system for which the Bill provides has not proved satisfactory in some of the States. I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill, and I hope that it will be rejected.
– The order of leave is too limited to permit me to move an amendment which I had in mind, but I desire an assurance by the Minister (Mr. Groom) that if the Bill passes, the Public Works Committee will not have the power to set out upon excursions beyond the boundaries of Australia in connexion with any of its investigations unless the sanction of Parliament has been first obtained.
– It has not the power now.
– Nevertheless, it has done so. The latest investigation of the Committee must have run into manyhundreds, if not thousands, of pounds. It is possible that any future work submitted to that body may involve equally great expense. The present practice should be adhered to of Parliament first being required to approve of all works submitted before the Committee is authorized to incur the heavy expenditure which the investigation of some matters must necessitate. Further, there should be a definite assurance that investigations shall not be permitted to extend beyond the Commonwealth without the sanction of Parliament.
Question resolved in. the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section fifteen of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914 is amended by adding at the end thereof the following subsection: - “ (7.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section the Governor-General may, at any time when the House of Representatives is not in session, or is adjourned for a period of one month or upwards or for an indefinite period, refer to the Committee, for inquiry and report to the House of Representatives, any proposed work required to be sanctioned as provided in this section, and, upon receipt of the report, the House of Representatives shall deal with the matter as provided in the last preceding subjection.”
Amendment (by Mr. Hector Lamond) proposed -
That the following words be added: - “Provided that the amount to be spent in any one investigation so submitted shall not exceed the sum of Two hundred pounds.”
.- No matter what may be the merits of the proposal of the honorable member, I suggest that he will not be wise in insisting upon his amendment. There are bound to besome investigations which will entail an expenditure of £300, and possibly more, but without the waste of one penny. Many other inquiries, however, will not cost more than about £50.
– A number of the investigations which have just been referred to the Committee will certainly not cost more than a few pounds each, as some work has already been done upon them.
– Quite so. And there is the further safeguard, that the Committee may not spend more than a given sum in any one financial year.
– If the amount so permitted to be spent is exhausted, say, in six months, is the work of the Committee held up for the remainder of the year?
– No; it must be completed, but without payment.
– In the circumstances, there can be no fear of waste of money.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill- reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time;
canterbury, South Melbourne, Box Hill.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act. 1013.-1914, the following works be referred to the Parliamentary StandingCommittee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz.: - Automatic telephone exchanges and equipment at the following places in Victoria : - Canterbury, South Melbourne, Box Hill.
It is proposed to erect a new telephone exchange building on a site which has been acquired for the purpose, fronting Bank, Green, and Crown streets, South Melbourne; and) to install therein automatic equipment. The purpose of the establisliment of this automatic exchange is to relieve the Central Exchange switchboard, and. to obviate the necessity for an expenditure of approximately £11,000: which in the event of an. exchange not being opened in South Melbourne, will be required for the laying of additional cables. If the latter course were adopted, however; the services rendered would not be satisfactory. The estimated annual revenue is as follows -
The next project is to erect a telephone exchange building on a site which is Commonwealth property, at the corner of Canterburyroad, and Maling-street, Canterbury; at the rear of the existing PostOffice, and to install therein an automatic telephone switching system, having an immediate capacity of 4.000 subscribers’ lines; and an ultimate capacity of approximately S.000 subscribers’ lines. It is estimated that the existing switchboard’, 1,160 lines, will meet the ultimate limit to which it can be extended by January, 1924. To meet the prospective development in the Canterbury area, and to increase the general efficiency of the Melbourne metropolitan network, it is necessary that automatic equipment be installed. The estimated annual revenue is as follows : -
The third proposal of the kind is to erect a. new exchange building on Commonwealth property immediately in the rear of the existingpost-office building at Box. Hill, and to install therein automatic equipment. The Box Hill Exchange is of the magneto type, and is in the postoffice building.. Extension beyond the capacity of the present equipment would not be justified, and would unduly restrict the accommodation in the post-office. In addition to this, the type- of switchboard now in use is uneconomical for an exchange of this size, and unsuitable for a large telephone network such as the Melbourne metropolitan area. The estimated annual revenue is as follows : -
The proposed building will be a singlestory brick structure, of simple design. The total estimated cost (not including site, valued at £142) is as follows : -
I lay upon the table the plans and information required by the Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1013-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz. : - Provision of additional quarters at Point Cook, Victoria, for Staffof the Royal Australian Air Force.
The proposal is to erect, on the site of the existing Plying School at Point Cook, additional mechanics’ quarters, diningroom, and recreation rooms, and married non-commissioned officers’ quarters, and to provide the necessary accessory accommodation. The proposed work is required for the accommodation ofthe personnel of the School,which hasbeen increased as a result of the operation of the Defence scheme recently approved by Parliament. The buildings are simply designed, and will be constructed with hardwoodframing covered withweatherboards, and roofed with iron. They consist ofthe following: - 1.Single Mechanics’ Quarters. - Two-story building, to accommodate forty men.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.s3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 December 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211207_reps_8_98/>.