9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Inquiry by Royal Commission - Loss of “ Sumatra “ - New Guinea Government Steamers - Coastal Shipping.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Royal Commission recently appointed to inquire into the loss of the Sumatra will, in view of the statements made in regard to their condition, be instructed to inquire also into the condition of other vessels in New Guinea ?
– The Royal Commission was appointed to inquire only into the loss of the Sumatra, but the Government are having inquiries made to discover whether there are any vessels in the New Guinea service the condition of which might be usefully inquired into by the Commission. I have not yet received all the information from New Guinea desired with respect to these vessels, and, pending its receipt, no action will be taken to instruct the Royal Commission to inquire into the condition of any vessel other than the Sumatra. Until we are satisfied as to the condition of the other vessels, I have cabled instructions to New Guinea that none of them are to leave the coast.
– In view of the dissatisfaction expressed in seafaring circles with regard to the condition of very many boats, will the Prime Minister extend the scope of the inquiry by the
Royal Commission into the condition of all vessels trading on the Australian coast?
– At the moment, I would not consider extending the scope of the inquiry by the Royal Commission which has been appointed to deal with one specific matter, namely, the loss of the Sumatra, to cover the condition of all vessels trading in Australia. If any evidence is adduced which shows that further action should be taken by the Commonwealth Government, in view of the condition of vessels trading upon our coast, to secure the safety of those sailing in them, the Government will give the fullest consideration to such evidence, and will take any necessary action.
– I wish to repeat a question to the AttorneyGeneral with regard to the Kidman and Mayoh contract. Will the honorable gentleman keep in touch with the matter, and see that a decision upon it is arrived at as soon as possible?
– That is exactly what the Government are doing. They are keeping in touch with the matter, and are doing all that is possible to expedite a decision.
– I have been endeavouring, since the 16th June last, to obtain certain information from the Trade andCustoms Department with regard to the Trade Commissioner in the East. I do not know of any reason why the papers for which I have asked should not be made available. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to see that the papers are supplied.
– The honorable member can see any papers which he desires to see.
– I ask the Treasurer who are the members of the Note Issue Board’?
-I shall be pleased to give the honorable member the information to-morrow.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether the Committee referred to by the Minister, in his answer given on the 13th instant, to the question of the honorable member for Forrest concerning the price of superphosphate, was. in fact a Commi ttee composed largely of members who represented parties to an agreement (since abandoned) concerning the treatment of zinc sulphides at Melbourne, and who had urged the imposition of the duties on sulphur and/or superphosphate prior to the passi ng of the Tariff?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
No. The Committee was composed of the following gentlemen, viz.: -
Representing the Agricultural Interests. - Mr. T. J. McGalliard, President of the Chamber of Agriculture; Mr. W. G. Gibson, M.P. These representatives were not a party to any agreement.
Representing Superphosphate Manufacturers. -Mr. W. A. Cuming; Mr. Burns Cuming. So far as is known by the Department, neither of these gentlemen was, at the time the Committee was appointed, a party to any agreement. Mr. W. A. Cuming, the principal of the firm, recently advocated in the press the withdrawal of the duty on sulphur.
Representing the Sulphur Producers. - Mr. Colin Fraser, Mr. Thomas Haynes. Mr. Colin Fraser represented the Electrolytic Zinc Company, which company offered the agreement referred to when the duty on sulphur was introduced. Mr. Haynes, at the time the Committee was appointed, was using the pyrites of his own company, and was not, therefore, a party to the agreement referred to.
The members of the Committee were chosen as fairly representing all the interests concerned.
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whenwill the conditions be announced for taking up residential leases at Canberra?
– The conditions upon which residential and business sites will be made available will be announced as soon as the construction of the first stage of the Federal Capital is sufficiently advanced to permit of the determination of a reasonably accurate basis of valuation for the leasing of city lands. Whilst it is anticipated that this point will shortly be reached, it is not at present practicable to definitely indicate the date.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the House the report of experts sent by the Government to Electrona,Tasmania, to report on carbide works, and also the recommendations of the Tariff Board on the report?
– A copy of the report of the Tariff Board will be laid on the table of the House. In regard to other reports referred to, they contain much confidential matter,which should not be made public. I am prepared, however, to make the papers available at the Department for the information of the honorable member.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the, honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence; upon notice -
When does he anticipate that the departmental file dealing with the sale of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong will be available and, according to request, will be placed on the Library table?
– In the course of a few weeks. As already stated, however, the file may be perused by the honorable member at any time at the Victoria Barracks.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Steps are being taken to obtain the information required by the honorable member, which will be made available as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’ s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained
– Yesterday the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following questions: -
I promised that the information would be obtained, and now furnish the replies: -
The full service between Geraldton and Derby was established in April, 1922 -
The following information has been furnished by the Department of Defence in regard to questions 3, 4, and 5 : -
Arrangements with States.
– (By leave). - The taxation officers of the Commonwealth and of New South Wales and Victoria have made good progress in the consideration of the arrangements for the State taxation authorities collecting both Commonwealth and State income taxes. These officers have now submitted a draft of a uniform schedule for use by all taxpayers. The schedule is based largely on the forms at present in use for Commonwealth income tax purposes, and is of the same size as those forms. In wording, and arrangement too, the new form is very similar to the Federal forms with which taxpayers are already acquainted. The new uniform schedule is designed to show in a simple manner all the information required to enable both the Commonwealth and the State income tax to be assessed. The form has been approved by the Commonwealth, and is now being considered by the New South Wales and Victorian Treasurers. In all States where this form is adopted, the ordinary taxpayer will be required to make only one return in respect of his income, and will be saved all the trouble he is put to at present in preparing two returns on forms designed on different lines. There will also be considerable saving in administrative costs through the substitution of one return for two returns. The new forms are for use by taxpayers whose incomes are derived from one State only. Where a taxpayer derives income from more than one State, he will forward a return to the State authorities on the new schedule, and will also send a return to the Central Federal Taxation Office in Melbourne.
The taxation officers of Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia reached Melbourne at the beginning of this week, and are conferring with the New South Wales, Victorian, and Federal officers, in order to prepare a Bill suitable for submission to the Commonwealth and State Legislatures for the assessment of income taxes. The object these officers have before them is the securing of as large a measure of uniformity as possible, in order that the collection of the income taxes of the Commonwealth and the States may be undertaken by the State officials in each State. The Prime Min ister has now signed the agreement providing for the collection by the New South Wales Taxation Department of the Commonwealth and State income taxes in that State. Under this agreement the Stateand Commonwealth taxation officers in New South Wales will form one united staff under the control of the State Commissioner of Taxation, who will in future also be the Deputy Federal Commissioner of Taxationin New South Wales. Taxpayers will secure relief under this arrangement because they will be required to furnish only one return, and they will have to satisfy the queries of only one taxation office. The Commonwealth and the State will secure economy not only through the adoption of a uniform form of return, but also because the assessments for both Commonwealth and State purposes will be made by the one staff of officers. The signed copies of the agreement are now in course of transmission to the Government of New South Wales, and it is expected that the agreement will be signed by the Acting Premier of New South Wales within a day or two. On the signing of the agreement by the Acting Premier, copies willbe made available for publication.
– Will this matter come before the House for consideration ?
-The whole matter will be put before the House next week after the Budget speech has been delivered. Copies of the agreement with New South Wales have been sent to other States, and it is hoped that an agreement with Victoria will be finalized in the course of a day or two, and possibly with some ‘of the other States in the near future.
The following paper was presented: -
Audit Act - Transfers of Amounts Approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1922-23- Dated 11th July, 1923.
Debate resumed from 5th July (vide page 751), on motion by Sir Elliot Johnson -
That in the opinion of this House, with a view to removing the uncertainty which exists at the present time as to the authority for the publication of the Parliamentary Hansard, section 3 of the Parliamentary Papers Act should be amended to include Hansard among the documents authorized by Parliament to be printed and published.
– I had intended to speak at some length upon this motion, but my duty to the unemployed may cause me to be called away at any moment. For the time being I shall make only one suggestion in reference to Hansard. I have previously suggested to the House that in future Arabic should be substituted for Roman numerals to distinguish the bound volumes of Hansard,. The Roman characters were adopted many years ago, simply because they were easily sculptured, but to-day the Arabic numerals have been substituted by the majority of civilized nations, and it is the height of absurdity for this Parliament to continue to use characters which very many members have a difficulty in understanding. Even if members do understand the characters, there is not one of them, or any professor of a university, who can multiply nineteen by thirty-nine in Roman numerals. They are now quite antiquated. I therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, to follow the example of the State Parliaments, and issue the instruction that, on the bound volumes of Hansard, Arabic numerals shall be used in future-. I ask leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Reports on Works at Canberra.
Debate resumed from 12th July (vide page 1036), on motion by Mr. Gregory -
That the reports be printed.
Upon which Mr. Blakeley had moved -
That the following words be added : “and that the minority report (as regards the provisional Parliament House), signed by Arthur Blakeley, a member of the Public Works Committee, be also printed.”
– Honorable members will recollect that, owing to the importance of the issue raised in the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), as affecting the rights and privileges of the members of the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts ‘ Committee, this debate was adjourned in order to enable the Government to ascertain the legal position as set out in the Acts which govern these Committees. Section 9 of the Public
Works Committee Act provides that questions arising in the Committee must be decided by a majority of votes, and that the names of the members voting shall be set out in the minutes. The opinion of the Solicitor-General is that there can be one report only from the Public Works Committee, namely, the majority report, but that there is nothing to prevent what is, to all intents and purposes, a minority report being submitted to Parliament by way of an addendum, provided that the majority of the Committee authorize it. An individual member, or a group of members of the Committee, cannot submit a minority report to Parliament unless the Committee itself decides to allow it to be added to the majority report. Of course, it would be within the powers of the House to permit the minority report drawn up by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) to be added to the report of the Committee submitted by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), notwithstanding the fact that the Public Works Committee itself has decided that it shall not be so added. Whether the law as it now stands is proper is another question. It is for the House to determine whether the work of its Committees would be more satisfactorily performed if their members were permitted to submit minority reports to Parliament, along with the reports of the majority. To such a proposal many objections could be offered, but I do not propose to mention them, because there are many honorable members who have been members of these Committees’, and it is for them to give us the benefit of their opinions. . My purpose is simply to point out that no member of a Committee has the right to submit a minority report to Parliament, and that he can acquire that right only if the Committee itself decides that his minority report may be presented with its report.
– Cannot the House give the necessary permission?
– There is nothing to prevent the House from giving an honorable member authority to submit a minority report.
– If my amendment is carried it will give me authority to do so.
– The carrying of the amendment would authorize the honorable member to present his minority report, but it would not be a proper course to pursue. These Committees have been functioning for a very long time, and no doubt, many of their members have felt inclined, at times, to present minority reports setting out in detail their views of ‘ the questions submitted to them for investigation rather than to rely- upon the record of their votes as shown in the minutes of the Committees to indicate their views. The question before the House to-day is whether the honorable member for Darling, who is anxious to present a minority report, should have the right to do so, notwithstanding the fact that the Act provides that no member of the Public Works Committee shall submit a minority report unless the majority of the Committee authorize him to. do so.
– The legal opinion given by the right honorable gentleman is disagreed with in several quarters.
– It is not my legal opinion; I would not venture to express a legal opinion on the subject. I am quoting the opinion of the SolicitorGeneral, by whom I am guided in these matters. The question is, What course will best safeguard the rights of all honorable members irrespective of party feeling? My view is that it would not be proper to allow a minority report to be submitted while the law remains as it is to-day, particularly in view of the fact that in the past there must have been a desire on the part of members of Committees to submit minority reports, and they have not been permitted to do so. If we acceded to the desire of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) we would differentiate between him and other members of Committees whose wishes in this matter have not been acceded to in the past. The other question for, the House to decide is of greater importance - whether it would be better to give members of Committees the unrestricted right to submit minority reports to Parliament? My view is that it would be better not to have minority reports submitted. The Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee are appointed to advise Parliament on matters of vital importance, and their reports should embody the views of the majority of the Committees. The rights of minorities are safeguarded by reason of the fact that members can move motions in the Com mittees, and have the voting on those motions recorded in the minutes. The practice in the Pritish Parliament and in State Parliaments is not to allow minority reports to be submittedwhen reports of Committees are presented, and I think it would be a great mistake for us to depart from that practice, and, instead of having one report to guide us, have one, two, or even more minority reports before us. That would not be helpful to Parliament. However, it is a question for the House to determine. Many honorable members have served for long periods on these Committees, and it is their views the House desires to hear, and not those of Ministers.
– I was formerly a member of the Public Works Committee and was its first Chairman. During my chairmanship the question of the right of members to present a minority report was never raised. When members requested it to be done, their names were recorded when a vote of the Committee was taken. Unless the amendment is carried the rights of minorities on Committees will not be. safeguarded. If the Prime Minister’s view is upheld, the minority on any Royal Commission or Select Committee will not be permitted to present a minority report, and the scope of all Committees will be consequently restricted. A Royal Commission inquired into the electoral system and presented both a majority and a minority report. We shall lose nothing by printing this minority report, nor gain anything by refusing toprint it. It would cover, perhaps, one sheet of printed paper. If I were the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), and were not allowed to present this minority report, I should take steps to have it printed privately and circulated among honorable members.
– No minority report will be allowed if my amendment is not agreed to.
– That is so. It is a test question. I am in favour of printing the Committee’s report with the minority report, and leaving honorable members to decide the merits of the question in the light of both. The honorable member, for Darling, being in a minority on the Committee, has probably not pushed his views so far as to demand divisions of the Committee.
– I have divided the Committee, but that does not give this House the information that I consider it ought to have.
– If divisions in the Committee are not recorded, the House has no means of knowing the views of the minority of the Committee. A Committee might be evenly divided, and an important question might be decided upon the casting vote of the Chairman.
– Members of the Committee have the right to move the motions, and these are printed in its reports.
– A member of a Committee cannot be deprived of that right. A section of the House will be antagonized to the Committee’s report if the minority report is not printed. I have a right to know what is in the minority report.
– Could not the honorable member ascertain that by reading the evidence ?
– The evidence has not been printed, so I cannot read it. If we had the report before us we might take a different view.
– Why has the honorable member changed his views since he was a member of the Committee?
– I have not changed my views. When I was chairman of the Committee, the names of those who voted in a minority on any motion were recorded, but the question whether they should be allowed to present a minority report was never raised.
– The Committee followed the Act.
– Yes. There was no friction, and had any member desired to present a minority report I, as Chairman, would not have objected. I object to asking the Solicitor-General, or any one else, to define the rights and privileges of members of Committees of this House. Our rights and privileges ought not to be determined by paid officials of the Government.
– The Solicitor-General was only asked to give a legal opinion on the subject.
– Honorable members are not boundto defer to such an opinion. A large part of our work is done on Committees, and the public does not knowthe extent of it. The vote of the House overrides any legal opinion.
– It would not override an Act of Parliament.
– That interjection reveals the legal mind. No Act of Parliament is in question. The minority of a Committee should have the right to present a report.
– Then should they not be given that right under the Act?
– The Act does not prevent them. It is silent on the point.
– In the case of an inquiry suchas that relating to the construction of the North-South Railway, there might, be as many as four minority reports. .
– Even if there were, surely honorable members would have enough intelligence to’ enable them to sift the reports and give a decision. I prefer to have before me the views of all sections of the Committee. A Committee would be no good -if its members were all of one opinion. It is only by having the views ofall sections before them that honorable members can arrive at a correct determination.
.- It has been the practice of the. Public Accounts Committee, of which I am Chairman, to permit such of its members as desire to do so to submit minority reports, but that permission has been entirely dependent on the will of the majority of the Committee. If the majority decide against a minority report, the minority is denied the opportunity to present one. Every member, however, can make known his views by means of motions. The report on the Air Service tabled recently by the Committee has an addendum which deals with a motion moved by Senator Buzacott to test the feeling of the Committee. The Committee divided, and the result of the division is given in the report. Prior to taking the vote I suggested that the members who opposed the motion should submit their views in an amendment. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fen ton) said it would be impossible for them to give expression to their’ views within the limits of an amendment. It was then put to the Committee that those who dissented from the proposal of Senator Buzacott should be permitted to submit their views in a minority report. The Committee agreed to that course. The members of the Public Accounts Committee endeavour to bring in unanimous reports, because they realize that the greater the divergence of opinion in the Committee the loss valuable will be the report submitted to Parliament^ To obtain a unanimous recommendation there must be a certain amount of compromise between the members. Matters are discussed and alterations and modifications are proposed with a view to ob* tain a unanimous report, and the majority frequently give, ground in order to obtain unanimity. That being so, it is unfair that the members in the minority should present a report to Parliament without that report being reviewed by the Committee as a whole; If such a course be not followed, the majority of a Committee should prepare its report without compromise. If the minority is to criticise the report of the majority, the majority should also be entitled to criticise the report of the minority. We have not had many differences of opinion in the Public Accounts Committee. On one historic occasion, however, the report of the minority actually became the report of the Committee. The Committee was asked to investigate the sugar position. The majority of the members decided that the time at the disposal of the Committee was not sufficient to permit a proper investigation. The minority of the Committee thereupon prepared a report based upon the evidence which had been taken, and submitted it to Parliament. Whether or not there shall be minority reports is a matter for the members of. the various Committees” to decide; it should not be determined by this House. The Public Accounts Committee permits minority reports subject to their consideration by the whole Committee. That is the only way in which the Committee can safeguard itself. By this arrangement it is able, when minority reports come before it, to insure that no recommendations unsupported by the evidence are made. The member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) > sought permission from the Public Works Committee to present a minority report to Parliament. That privilege was denied him. It is not within the province of this House to dictate how the Public Works Committee shall conduct its business. The Corn- mittee is acting in accordance with its Act. The only way this House should alter the practice is by amending the Act. As long as it remains as it is, the honorable member for Darling has no right to bring up a minority report.
– I can see nothing wrong with the amend- ment moved by the honorable member for Darling, lt is reasonable, and should be agreed to by ‘the House. The Public Works Committee has most important powers of inquiry into all public works estimated to cost more than £25,000. Many public works are “now under construction in Australia which have had consideration by this Committee. The Committee is at present constituted of two representatives of the Opposition, and five representatives of the other side of the House. It is impossible to secure a unanimous opinion from these members on every question which affects our public works policy. ‘I can see no reason, therefore, why members of the Committee should be denied the opportunity to submit minority reports to . Parliament. . It appears to me that honorable members in the majority on the Public Works Committee wish to keep something back from this Chamber. Why should we not have before us the whole of the evidence? The honorable member for Darling desires to place before us certain evidence which some members of the Committee consider to be unimportant, but which he considers most important. All the evidence given” before the Committee should be placed before us. The representatives of the twenty-eight members on the Oppositionside should ‘have a right to lay on the table, through their representative, any views that they have of matters which come before the various Committees of -which they are members. The honorable member for Darling is most anxious that constructional operations at Canberra shall proceed with all possible expedition. Possibly some members of the Public Works Com- mittee desire to thwart his efforts in this respect. He may desire to throw the light of day on what is being done. He wishes to have his minority report attached as an addendum to the report of the Committee. I, as a representative from Queensland have the. right to expect that that will be allowed. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) admitted that the members of the Public Accounts Committee consider that what the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) proposes is a reasonable practice, and that Committee permits the addition to its report of a minority report. Why should not the Public Works Committee do the same) Is it that the other members of that Committee do not desire that the views of the honorable member for Darling should be put before this Chamber? It is not in the best interests of the House that the opinions of any member of the Public Works Committee should be denied publication. Power should not be given to the majority of the Committee to say that the minority shall not be heard. If the members of this House do their duty to the electors they will see that money spent on public works is expended in the best interests of the country. We have ample evidence from the operations of the public Departments, such as the War Service Homes Department, the Post and Telegraph- Department, and the Works and Railways Department, that in the past public money has been wasted, because sufficient interest has not been taken in the administration of those Departments by the elected representatives of the people. We should guard against any repetition of that kind of thing. Honorable members have an opportunity now to cast a vote to see in black and white what the honorable member for Darling desires to put before the House. It is a reflection upon the majority of the Public Works Committee that they should refuse the printing of the report of the honorable member for Darling. Why should we appeal to the SolicitorGeneral and others in connexion with this matter? Honorable members should see to it that their fellow members are heard. I am keenly anxious that works at Canberra shall be carried out expeditiously, and it is in the interests of this House that we should know what the honorable member for Darling has to say on the matter. I hope that honorable members will not consider this question in a party spirit, and will not take the advice of the Prime Minister to turn down the honorable member for Darling and his views. I hope they will take a national view of the matter, and will vote to enable the honorable member to submit his views. They will then be in a position to decide whether the opinions he wishes to express are in the best interests of the country or not.
.- One would think to listen to the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) had not the slightest opportunity to put his views before the Public Works Committee or this House.
– I have never heard what he has to say.
– The views of the honorable member are set out in the report of the Public Works Committee. I regret that the report has not been circulated so that honorable members might know exactly what has taken place in the Committee. The honorable member for Capricornia has said that the Committee has endeavoured to stifle the honorable member for Darling, but that honorable member had every opportunity to express his views in the Committee. ‘ The report will show the motions he moved, some of which did not even find a seconder. If seven out of eight members of a Committee refuse to agree to a motion submitted by another member, he should bow to their decision. I attended practically every meeting of the Public Works Committee, and I believe that the honorable member for Darling received the most reasonable treatment from his fellow members. Had the report been published, honorable members would have seen what the honorable member attempted to do, and the reasons for the objection of the majority of the members of the Committee to the course he wished to follow. I think the Committee adopted the right course, and I believe that almost every member of this House will agree with me on the matter when he sees the report.
– I wish to say a word or two on this matter. We should consider the practice of this Parliament in connexion with its own Select Committees, because, after all, the PublicWorks Committee has been appointed in much the game way as a Select Committee. In the practice of the Senate no provision is made for minority reports from Select Committees, though there is provision made for expressions of dissent. In the practice of the House of Representatives, Select Committees have not the right to present minority reports. The practice of the House of Commons appears to be the same. A case dealing -with the matter is referred to in May’s Parliamentary Practice in these terms -
There have been instances in which the Chairman of a Committee, after the Commit tee had reported, has published his own draft report, which ‘had not been accepted, accompanied in some cases by additional arguments and illustrations, and no objection had been urged against such application. But, on 21st July, 1858, it was brought to the notice of the House that the Chairman of a Committtee had published and circulated in the form of a parliamentary proceeding, a draft report which he had submitted to the Committee, but which had not been entertained by them, accompanied by observations reflecting upon the conduct and motives of members of . that Committee. No formal vote was sought for on this occasion, but it was generally agreed that the proceeding was irregular, and contrary to the usage of Parliament.
That appears to be the procedure of the House of Commons with respect to Select Committees.
– Why go outside Australia !
– I have given our own practice, and have shown that the practice of this House is the same as that of the House of Commons.
– We want something. Australian.
– Is not the Commonwealth Parliament an Australian Parliament ? I have stated the practice of the Senate and the House of Representatives, but the honorable member wants something more.
– The honorable gentleman- has gone outside Australia for an example.
– Order ! I have warned the honorable member for Capricornia three times during this debate. I trust he will obey the ruling of the Chair.
– The honorable member asks for further illustrations, and I may inform ‘ him that I have made inquiries with regard to the practice of the New South Wales Public Works Committee, constituted . under the Public Works Act of that State. I have ascertained that there the presentation of minority reports is not allowed. I find that minority reports are- not presented by the Victorian Railways Standing Committee, constituted under the Railways Standing Committee Act of that State. So far as I can ascertain from these sources, the general practice seems to be that minority reports are not allowed. Under our own Public Works Committee Act the practice laid down is definite and clear, and a later Act of 1920 brought the Public Accounts Committee into line in this regard. According to our Public Works Committee Act, the procedure as regards appointment is set out in section 3 as follows: -
As soon as conveniently practicable after the commencement of this Act, and thereafter at the commencement of the first session of every Parliament, a Joint Committee of nine members of Parliament, to be called the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works (in this Act referred to as “ the Committee’”) shall be appointed according to the practice of the Parliament with reference to the appointment of members to serve on Joint Select Committees of both Houses of the Parliament.
So that the appointment of members of the Committee is according to the method of the appointment of a Joint Select Committees. The Committee having been appointed, proposed words are referred to it for investigation. Sub-section 5 of section 15 provides -
The Committee shall, with all convenient despatch, deal with the matter, and shall, as soon as conveniently practicable, regard being had to the nature and importance of the proposed works, report to the House of Representatives the result of their inquiry.
On receipt of the Committee’s report the House acts. Section 9 thus prescribes the procedure at meetings of the Committee : -
Honorable members will see that the Act itself defines the powers of the Committee and lays down its procedure. It. is competent for any member of the Committee to submit any motion or amendment for consideration by that body.
– And the decision must appear in the report.
– Yes. If a division is taken in , the Committee, the names of the members voting must be recorded. A mere resolution of this House cannot alter a statutory provision. We cannot by resolution vary anything done by the Committee, and we have no right to add to the Committee’s report. Even if this House authorized the print- ing of the minority report, it could not make that report part of the proceedings of the Committee, and I think itwould he wrong to attempt to do so. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) is appealing indirectly from the decision of the Committee, whereas he should accept the rules, practice, and procedure laid down for the determination of matters before the Committee.In the circumstances, I do not consider it advisable for the House to authorize the printing of the minority report, thus making that document appear part of the report of the Public Works Committee.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The House divided.
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 12th July (vide page 1048), upon motion by Mr. Prowse -
That in the opinion of this House a -Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into and report upon the effect of the operation of the Navigation Act upon Australian trade, industry, and development in the various States and Mandated Territories of the Commonwealth.
.- I do not propose to add much to the arguments I advanced on Thursday last in support of this motion. I am sure that the reasonableness of the proposal will appeal to honorable members on all sides, for this is certainly a non-party matter. I have previously quoted the report of the Tariff Board, which Parliament appointed to watch and guard trade and industry in the Commonwealth, regarding the cost of shipping certain goods between Australian ports, and the risk of our primary producers and manufacturers being unable to obtain a full share of the markets to which they are entitled. That statement in itself calls for inquiry, and I am satisfied that no honorable member will oppose an investigation intended to ascertain the facts. If the operation of the Navigation Act does place a burden on Australia it should be inquired into. No matter what may be said by either the representatives of Labour or the Australian ship-owners, it is our duty to safeguard the interests of Australia. Let a Committee report to the House as to where the shoe pinches, and why Australian producers are not able to compete with those of other countries. It may be that the ship-owners have formed a combine, and are strangling Australian industries. I hope that investigation by a Committee will “discover where and by whom the stranglehold is being placed on our shippers. The shipping of a great continent like Australia is as important as its railways. The operations of railway systems are frequently inquired into. Comparatively recently an inquiry was held into the working of the Victorian Railways, and it is pleasing to note that as a result of that investigation, the system last year showed a credit balance instead of a loss as in the preceding years. There is no need for me to labour this question ; I am satisfied that the House will accept the motion. In order to assist the House, I suggest that the Committee shall be representative of all parties, and shall comprise the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey), the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis), the honorable -member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), and the mover.
– I second the motion.
.- One phase of this matter to which the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) did not refer, but which, to my mind, is as important as the question of freights, is the exclusion of shipping from certain ports of the Commonwealth. I have had a great deal of correspondence with the Department of Trade and Customsin regard to the restrictions placed on shipping calling at Thursday Island. On occasions the residents there have been short of food and other commodities, and in such circumstances it must be aggravating to them to see ships passing frequently and unable to come to their aid. Vessels of the Japanese and China lines, and, I think, of two other lines, pass Thursday Island regularly, but without a permit from the Minister for Trade and Customs they are not allowed to carry goods or passengers between Thursday Island and other Commonwealth ports, no matter what the necessities of the residents may be. I am glad that the proposed Committee will include one representative of Queensland, and I urge that honorable member to see that this phase of the Navigation Act, as well as the subject of freights, is investigated.
.- I am very pleased that the honorable member for Forrest has submitted this motion, because shipping is one of the most important questions agitating the public mind of Australia to-day. Australia is suffering in many ways from the operation of the Navigation Act, and I say,’ without fear of contradiction, that the island State of which I am a representative suffers more than does any other part of the Commonwealth. A good deal of shipping has been completely driven out of Australian waters by the Navigation Act, and we are deprived of the advantage of competition. A few years ago New Zealand was one of the best customers for Tasmanian timber, but at the present time there is not one vessel trading from the Dominion to Tasmania. One steamer, carrying passengers and cargo, comes from Sydney, and there are a few small boats running between Melbourne and Launceston. In 1914, the freight on timber between New Zealand and Tasmania was 4s. 6d. per 100 feet; to-day it is 8s. 6d. per 100 feet, due to the fact that the Navigation Act has driven shipping out of the trade. But as I am advised that there is no opposition to the motion, I shall defer my further remarks on this subject toanother occasion.
– It is like a breath of old times to have before us again the Navigation Act, which took many years to pass through this Parliament. I am disposed to agree with the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) that more light is needed in regard to the operation of this Act, and that a Committee of this House would probably furnish the Government with a great deal of the information it needs before it can bring in a Bill to amend the Act on lines that would prove beneficial to Australia. The personnel of the Select Committee, as indicated by the honorable member, is satisfactory. There will be on the Committee a representative of each State, with the honorable member himself as Chairman. The Government offer no opposition to the proposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the Committee consist of Mr. Josiah Francis, Mr. A. Green, Mr. Lacey, Mr. Paterson, Mr. Seabrook, Mr. Watkins, and the mover, five to form a quorum, with power to send for persons, papers, and records, and to adjourn from place to place, and have leave to report from time to time its proceedings and the evidence taken, and that such Committee do report this day five months.
– I understand that the honorable member has not secured the consent of all of those whose names he has mentioned to act on the Committee.
– I have not obtained the consent of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins).
– I suggest that the name of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) be substituted for that of the honorable member for Newcastle.
– The desire is to have one representative from each State. Tasmania is already represented on the Committee by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook).
– Then I suggest that the name of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) be substituted for that of the honorable member -for Newcastle.
– I accept the suggestion.
Question amended accordingly, and resolved iu the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 5th July (vide page 754), on motion by Mr. O’Keefe -
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the necessity for the Commonwealth Government making provision for an adequate direct shipping service between Melbourne and Hobart.
.- As there is very little time allowed under the Standing Orders for the discussion of this motion to-day, and as a fortnight ago- 1 submitted to the House the facts and figures which had prompted me to move in this direction, I shall add very little to what I have already said upon this subject. Hobart is to-day, and has been for many years past, absolutely without any direct shipping communication with the mainland. For that reason over 50,000 people in the city itself, and up to 30,000 persons who reside in its vicinity, and especially the primary producers in the southern portions of Tasmania, suffer considerable inconvenience. If the figures I have taken from statistics published by the Tasmanian Government do not induce the Government to agree to my motion, I do not know what will do so.
– The Select Committee which has just been appointed can secure all the evidence which could be obtained by the Committee which the honorable member proposes.
– Apparently the Minister for Trade and Customs is not in favour of appointing the Committee for which I am asking, but I hope he will keep an open mind on the question. His interjection shows that he has missed the point I am attempting to make. My object in asking for the appointment of a separate Select Committee is to have, the matter of providing an adequate steam-ship service between Melbourne and Hobart treated as urgent I do not want to wait for five months until the other Committee chooses to make a recommendation on the subject, after which the Government would take a- considerable time to make up their mind to initiate the service, which is so urgently needed. The Committee I propose could proceed to Hobart at once; spend, say, two days there in taking evidence; and then return to Melbourne. It might possibly spend another day in taking evidence in Melbourne, but in any case its investigations should not last longer than a week, and therefore its cost would be very small in comparison with that of the Select Committee just appointed to inquire into the operation of the Navigation Act. I submit that the Minister has just as much ground for agreeing to my proposal as he had for accepting the motion submitted by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). I am aware that if the Committee I suggest reported in favour of my proposal, the Government need not carry out its recommendation. But if investigation convinced the Committee that there was need .for the Commonwealth Government to establish a line of steam-ships between Melbourne and Hobart, the Government would naturally adopt the finding. The appointment of the Committee would commit the Government to nothing. It would simply mean that a Committee of this House would be intrusted with the task of making an investigation into the necessity for the establishment of a steam-ship service between certain parts of Australia, and coming to a determination as to whether the establishment of a line of steamers to undertake this service was a responsibility which the Commonwealth Government should undertake. When the Committee submitted its report, if it should happen to be favorable to my proposal, it would then be the duty of this House to decide whether the service between the mainland and Hobart be owned and controlled by the Commonwealth, or be run by private enterprisesubsidized by the Commonwealth. Already the Commonwealth Government spends £52,800 a year in subsidizing private shipping companies to carry passengers, mails, and goods between various parts of the Commonwealth and the Mandated Territories and the Pacific Islands. The people of Tasmania do not object to bearing their per capita share of that expenditure, but at the same time they think it only fair that the Commonwealth Government should provide them with a similar service between the mainland and Hobart. No private company runs services between Melbourne and Hobart. The people in the south of Tasmania are worse off in this respect than they were thirty years ago, when there was a service from Melbourne to New Zealand, vid Hobart. The private shipping companies have left Hobart out of their scheme of things, and “ Hobart “ means southern Tasmania. As the Commonwealth Government is already spending a large sum of money in shipping subsidies and for the carriage of mails and cargo between one port of Australia and another, and between Australian ports and the Pacific Islands, and as Tasmania is part of the Commonwealth, I submit that the Government should not raise any objection to the motion. I have not suggested the per sonnel of the Committee ; under the Standing Orders that is not necessary at this stage, but if the motion is carried I shall consult with the Government on that point. It is not a party matter, and I am not seeking any party advantage. If the Committee consist of seven members, I am willing that four of them shall be nominated by the Government. I would like the three parties in the House, and each of the States, to be represented. All the population of the southern part of Tasmania is behind me in this request. I do not say that they support my view that the service should be Commonwealth owned and controlled. The honorable member for Darwin “(Mr. Whitsitt) may not agree with that, but he does agree that nothing but good can come from the proposed investigation as to the necessity for a direct service between Hobart and the mainland, the Government taking the responsibility for it, either by running the ships or subsidizing a private company. The motion does not seek to commit the Government or any honorable member to either of those methods, but only to the appointment of a Committee to investigate the circumstances, and to determine whether the figures which I placed before the Committee a fortnight ago were accurate. I know that my figures can be substantiated by official Tasmanian statistics.
.- I support the motion for the simple reason that Tasmania, through its insularity, has been deprived of shipping facilities, which are its life-blood. For years while I was a member of the Tasmanian Parliament I advocated that the State Government should provide shipping in a business-like manner on behalf of the State. Unfortunately, it has not done so, and now the Commonwealth is asked to take action, so that Tasmania will be attached in fact to the rest of the Commonwealth. Tasmania groans under many disabilities, and staggers under numerous blows resulting from the Federal compact, and I urge that it is time Parliament took up this question in earnest. I trust that all the facilities asked for will be granted. If Tasmania had been portion of the mainland, does any one suppose . that it would not have been connected with Melbourne by a railway costing, perhaps, £1,000,000, for a distance of 170 miles? An enormous amount of money .has been spent in building a railway from Port Augusta to Western Australia, and Tasmania is paying its ‘share of it. That railway is not paying working expenses, but Tasmania does not growl or grumble on that account. The limit of our endurance, however, is almost reached, and we ask Parliament to mete out justice to us. The rights of minorities in the smaller States are as sacred as the rights of majorities in the larger States. If we cannot get justice in the Federal sphere, the time may come when we shall regretfully have to take other -action. The Government should take steps to insure that Tasmania, which has been made to pay all the time, and has derived little benefit, receives its deserts at no distant date.
.– As one of the representatives of Tasmania, I cannot see how any benefit will be derived from’ the appointment of the proposed Committee. The Select Committee that has been appointed on the motion of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) will investigate all these matters, and- there is therefore no need for another Committee. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) said that Tasmania was not supplied with shipping from Victoria.
– I said there was no shipping service between Hobart and Melbourne.
– In saying that Hobart was not supplied with shipping, I assume the honorable member referred to passenger ships, seeing that cargo steamers touch there every week. The honorable member in his speech suggested that the Commonwealth Government should run a line of steamers between Hobart and Melbourne. The Commonwealth Government owns only cargo steamers and the “Bay” Line, and it is an absolute absurdity to suggest that the “Bay” steamers, of 13,500 tons, should be employed on a weekly run to carry passengers and cargo between Hobart and Melbourne. The “ Bay “ Line carries third class passengers only, and the amount of cargo available between Victoria and Hobart every week is only about 1,200 tons. It will cost at the lowest quite £500 a day to run a “ Bay “ Line service to Hobart, and if there is only 1,200 tons of cargo available both ways, and a few passengers, the undertaking must be a fiasco. One honorable member suggested that a cargo boat should be put on. We have cargo boats to-day, and the Commonwealth Line of cargo boats would not be of any greater benefit than those which are now running. The honorable member for Denison has mentioned the sum of £52,800, which is paid by the Commonwealth to subsidize shipping services to other places. If the Government would subsidize a shipping line which would be suitable for the Hobart trade, I would go so far as to support a request for such a service. I am opposed as a rule to any Governmentowned ships being run on that route. I do not believe in the Government entering into competition with private enterprise.
– The honorable member has misstated the position. He has deliberately quoted wrong figures.
– Order! The honorable member must not accusethe honorable member for Franklin of “ deliberately “ giving wrong figures. The accusation is unparliamentary, and must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it. The honorable member has only a few more minutes to speak, and he is talking the question out. If he had given the correct figures, I would not have interjected. He said 60,000 tons instead of 80,000 tons a year.
– I said that 1,200 tons of cargo a week were taken by steamer between Hobart and Melbourne. I stand by that figure, and I assert again that it is an absolute absurdity to propose to use a 13,500-ton boat on a run of a few hundred miles between Hobart and Melbourne, at a cost of at least £500 a day. Tasmania is suffering under many disabilities inconnexion with shipping, caused more by the Navigation Act than by anything else. That Act has driven out of Australian waters almost all the ships that were trading with Tasmania. I will give the House some figures to show how the freights have increased. In 1914, timber freight from Hobart to New Zealand was 4s. 6d. per 100 feet. At present it is 8s. 6d. To-day, if Tasmanians wish to send a cargo of timber to New Zealand, they must charter a special ship. The Navigation Act is responsible for that. In 1914, one firm in Tasmania exported 2,100,000 feet of timber to New Zealand. That firm now exports only 227,000 feet per year. A decrease of 70 per cent. has occurred in the timber shipments of another firm. The timber freight from Hobart to Victoria in 1914 was 3s. 3d. per 100. At present it is 5s. 3d. Freight from Hobart to Sydney by timber steamers was 15s. per 100 feet in 1914. An increase of 10 per cent. was announced in 1919, and a further rise of 20 per cent. followed in 1920. The increases were permitted by the Shipping Control Board. The Navigation Act is chiefly responsible for these great advances, though Arbitration Court awards have something to do with it. I cannot see that any good can come from carrying the motion proposed by the honorable member for Denison (Senator O’Keefe).
.- I am in sympathy with the desire to put Tasmania in a better position from a shipping stand-point. I did not hear the speech by the mover of the motion. Therefore, I cannot say whether he dealt with the unenviable position of the large population in the northern part of the island. Those people are only catered for now by an infrequent service. Tasmania often suffers from a terrible isolation because of coal strikes and trouble with the seamen. Immediately a little difficulty occurs, the island is isolated. As the motion of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has been carried, I think it unnecessary that a second Committee, which would cover the same ground, should be appointed.
– You need a quick decisionabout Tasmania’s position.
– We certainly need improved treatment for the north of the island. The greater portion of Tasmania’s production comes from northern districts, and an improvement in the service between Melbourne and Hobart only will not be beneficial to the people I represent. I do not know whether the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whit- sitt) considered that the motion contemplated any benefit to such ports as Burnie and Devonport. I am not favorable to the centralization of shipping at Hobart. We do not want the same experience in shipping as we have had in postal administration. It was my misfortune to have to fight for the north of Tasmania against the south in postal matters. If the purpose of the motion is achieved, we may still have to fight for shipping facilities. In the last five years we have had three strikes, and the isolation of Tasmania, in consequence, has cost the country several millions sterling through loss of markets for produce. I would not agree to a direct servicebetween Hobart and Melbourne. If vessels are put on such a route I should want them to call at the northern ports.
– I would be pleased to help the honorable member for Denison in. any way possible because I realize that Tasmania is isolated, and is entitled to special consideration. I think Tasmania has always received sympathetic treatment. When the question of a special vote for Tasmania is before the House neither party nor State lines have been drawn, and the amount asked for has generally been granted. I hope Tasmania will receive the same consideration in regard to shipping. If a profitable trade is possible, there is no reason why vessels should not go to both the north and the south of the island.
– I stressed the need of the south because there is no direct service with Hobart at present, while Launceston has a direct service by a private company.
– The honorable member for Denison is an experienced Parliamentarian. As such, I ask him whether there is any necessity for two Select Committees working on practically the same subject to sit at the same time. When two honorable members attempt to address the Chair in this chamber at the same instant it may save time, but it causes confusion. I am afraid that that would be the result if we had the Committee he desires working at the same time as the Committee on the Navigation Act. Therefore, I fail to see that any useful purpose will be served if we carry his motion. Tasmania will have a representative: on the Navigation Act Select Committee.
– But that representative will not represent Denison, and I do.
– If we reach the position that we must have a representative of every constituency on every Select Committee it will become an expensive businessto appoint Committees. The honorable member has assured me that no expense will be incurred if the Committee he desires is appointed. That would be exceptional for Select Committees. I ask the House to permit me to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, in order to meet the convenience of electors in the country districts, it is desirable that, whenever possible, Commonwealth general elections should not be held during the period from November to February, inclusive, and that the carrying of this resolution be an instruction to the Government to bring in the necessary measure to give effect to it.
I appreciate the kindness of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr Maloney) in permitting me to move my motion to-day. Unfortunately, I was absent last week through a severe attack of influenza, otherwise I should have introduced this matter then. There should be little opposition to my proposal. I believe it will appeal to all the members of the House. Party politics do not enter into it. Again and again we have had evidence that it is desirable to conduct elections at other than harvest periods in the various States of the Commonwealth. Doubtless it was the intention of those responsible for granting adult suffrage to the people of Australia that every possible opportunity should be afforded the community to exercise their votes to secure the return of the candidates whose policy was most acceptable to them. We have evidence on every hand of apathy on the part of the people. It is a most deplorable feature of our national life. The exercising of the franchise should be regarded as one of the most sacred duties of a citizen, and Parliament should make every possible provision for conducting elections in the most satisfactory manner. Several reasons occur to me to account for the apathy of the people. One of the most important of these is the attitude adopted by the press of the country towards Parliament as an institution, and members generally. “Unfortunately, Parliament has been held up to ridicule by the press. I understand that during the last elections instructions were issued to the country representatives of some of the metropolitan daily papers that they were not to send reports of speeches to the newspapers unless the candidates attacked the Government or made references to the “ salary grab,” or to the £25,000 presented to the ex-Prime Minister. Things have come to a pretty pass when the press of this country takes no greater interest in the affairs of Australia than is indicated by such an instruction.
– What bearing has this on the motion ?
– I shall connect what I am saying with the motion. I am giving reasons for the political apathy of the people of Australia. I say that it is due to some extent to the fact that the press has been in the habit of belittling this and other Parliaments. There is another reason which might be mentioned. The general prosperity of the country is accountable to some extent for the indifference of electors. We know from experience that if people are hurt they squeal, and if any burning question is before the electors they take advantage of the opportunity when it is given to make their views known. I believe that the principal reason for the small polls recorded in the last Federal election was that it was held at a time which was very inconvenient for the electors, and particularly those resident in country districts, who do not enjoy the facilities to record their votes that are enjoyed by people in the cities. The fact that the elections are held near the Christmas holidays affects the voting of city people to some extent, but of country electors to a very much greater extent. I know of no reason why, under normal conditions, the date of our elections should not be fixed at a more convenient time than that fixed for the last two Federal elections. We know the position of the farming community, and how inconvenient it is for the farmer, in the middle of the harvest, to have to down tools and lose valuable time in order that he and his family may go to a polling booth. They have not motor cars to take them there, and in a changeable season it is no wonder that they are very reluctant to give the time necessary to record their votes on the day of an election. In the statement which each honorable member has received to-day from the Electoral Office, the political apathy of the people is very clearly demonstrated.
– They vote all right in Queensland .
– Queensland is the only State in which the percentage of votes to electors enrolled was high.
– That was because there is compulsory voting in that State.
– I take it from the interjection that the honorable member favours compulsory voting.
– I do.
– So do I. I consider that it is only fooling to compel the people of the Commonwealth to enrol, and at the same time permit voting to be optional. We should make voting compulsory, and should give the people every possible facility for recording their votes. If we did that we should get a better expression of the opinion of the people than we can look for under the existing practice.
– Would the honorable member compel the electors to vote for the right man ?
– Some of us think that they do not do that now.
– So far as this House is concerned they have done very well.
– That is so. We must all regret the fact that there is not one member of this House who represents half the number of the electors enrolled in his constituency. The honorable member who can be said to do so most nearly is the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay). A reference to the statistics furnished to-day will show that he received 4-8.78 per cent, of the votes of those enrolled in his constituency. The highest poll in New South Wales was for the electorate of Eden-Monaro. the present member for which electorate (Mr. Chapman) received 38.09 per cent, of the votes of the electors enrolled. In Victoria, the honorable member for. Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) received 38.38 per cent, of the votes of the electors enrolled in his electorate. In Tasmania, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) received 23.62 per cent, of the votes of the electors enrolled. It is only fair to say that there was quite a number of candidates for that seat. In South Australia the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) received 34.89 per cent, of the votes of the electors enrolled. In Western Australia the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) received 31.17 per cent, of the votes of the electors enrolled”. We cannot say that these figures disclose a satisfactory state of affairs. I contend that if we were to hold our Federal elections, whenever possible, at , any time other than the months of November, December, January, and February, we should have a much larger poll recorded than has been recorded when elections have been held during those months.
– The complicated system of voting keeps some people, away from the polls.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. I do not think it is necessary to further labour the question, as I am sure that my motion must appeal to honorable members generally.
– I second the motion for a reason which, in my view, is stronger than any given by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister). The honorable member probably desired not to take up too much time, and that is why he did not mention this reason. Last year, and three years before, the Federal elections were held in
December, and as a result a most remarkable and foolish situation arose. Senators elected in December were really not senators until the ‘1st of the following July, and were not able to take part in framing the laws of this country. At the same time senators defeated in December had still the right to continue to sit in the Senate, and assist to make laws at any meeting of that Chamber held between the date of the election and the 30th of the following June. That is the most absurd situation that could be conceived. I will not speak of trickery, because that might not be considered parliamentary, but the situation was due to the remarkable astuteness of the right honorable gentleman who was Leader of the Commonwealth Government three years ago last December. He considered that it would suit himself and his party better that Parliament should go to the country in December than wait until the time of the year in which Federal elections had previously been held, that is, at the end of April, or near to the time at which, under the Constitution, half the members of the Senate should retire. He induced his party to agree to hold the elections in December instead of waiting until the following April. We are not supposed to know what transpires at a Caucus meeting. At the time to which I refer a meeting of the National party was a meeting, but a meeting of the Labour party was a Caucus. To-day the newspapers use the same term to describe meetings of each party. At a meeting of the National party it was decided to follow the astute , lead of the then Prime Minister, and hold the elections in December instead of four or five months later. We have been told that there was not unanimity at the meeting, because quit-e a number of honorable members believed that it was wrong to send them to the country five months before their constitutional term had expired, and thus bring aboutthe remarkable situation which has arisen, and which was foreseen. At the election a number of senators were defeated. I happened to be one of them. The people thought it would be good for my health to give me a rest. The Parliament had to meet within a certain number of days from the’ return of the writs, and senators who were defeated at the election had the right to go into the Senate chamber ‘ and help to make laws for this country, although the people of Australia had told them that they did not want them or their policy. I took the stand that having been turned down by the electors of my State, whilst I would attend the Senate to listen to the debates -I shouldnot give a vote on any vital question. The same condition of affairs arose as the result of the elections in December last, and gentlemen who were senators by the wish of the people of the States had to wait for six months before they could take their places in theSenate chamber. They could only sit in the Senate galleries and watch men who had been defeated at the election filling the seats they were elected to fill. It is quite time we remedied that state of affairs. If, in accordance with the motion submitted by the honorable member for Corio, the elections arenot held between November and February, that will minimize the absurdity of the position created by the holding of Federal elections within that period. There is no reason why the date of the elections should not be put forward to a time near to the date upon which, under the Constitution, a certain number of the members of the Senate have to retire.
– They might be delayed for six weeks after the 26th of February.
– I am informed by an honorable member, who can speak with some authority on the subject, that the elections might be delayed until six weeks after the 26th February, which would bring us to the beginning of April, and fairly close to the time at which rejected senators would retire under the Constitution, and newly-elected senators could take their seats.
– Will the motion have any binding effect upon the Government?
– I hope it will. At any rate, the carrying of the motion will show that this House realizes the absurdity of the present system.
– I do not think the present Government would be returned under the system the honorable member suggests.
– It is a foregone conclusion that they will not be returned again under any system; but, irrespective of what Government may be in power, we cannot too strongly stress for the information of the electors the anomaly of electing in December men who cannot take their seats for seven months, and of men rejected in December continuing to legislate until the 30th June following. I hope the motion will be carried.
– The question with which the motion deals is not new to this House. In 1906 the House, having a recollection of the difficulties experienced in connexion with elections held during the months of November and December, almost unanimously agreed to a Referendum Bill for an alteration of the Constitution to make more elastic the provisions regarding the fixing of dates for the holding of elections. I, as a Minister in the then Government, introduced the Bill to amend section 13 by substituting “ July “ for “ January “ as the month in which the service of newly-elected senators should commence. This alteration was carried. Members of the Senate are elected for a period of six years, half of them retiring every three years. Under section 28 of the Constitution members of the House of Representatives are entitled to sit for three years from the date of the first meeting of the House following their election. For instance, the present Parliament first met on the 28th February of this year, and according to the Constitution the expiry of Parliament by effluxion of time will occur three years from that date. But early in the working of the Constitution it was found desirable that the election of senators and members of the House of Representatives should take place on the same date in order to save the cost of two elections. The result is that in such conditions as have prevailed in the past the House of Representatives expired, not by effluxion of time, but through the exercise by the Crown of the prerogative of dissolution. Thus honorable members were deprived of a certain amount of the time for which they would otherwise have been entitled to sit. In the last Parliament the prerogative of dissolution was exercised earlier than was necessary under the Constitution. But (here seems to be a unanimous opinion amongst honorable members that the present Parliament should continue for the full period of three years from the date of its first meeting, terminating automatically at the latest possible date, namely, three years from 28th
February, 1923. That would enable the elections to be held during the months of March and April. Those who have been members of Parliament for a long time know that the months most convenient to the general public for the holding of elections throughout Australia are March, April, and May, preferably April, because in Queensland the summer season is then past, and the harvesting in that and other States is completed. I suggest that the House might adopt the motion, subject to the deletion of the final words, “ and that the carrying of this resolution be an instruction to the Government to bring in the necessary measure to give effect to it,” be omitted. What the honorable member proposes cannot be done without an alteration of constitutional practice. The Crown is entitled to exercise the prerogative of dissolution at any time on the advice of its responsible Ministers. A dissolution is often the outcome of the exigencies of the political situation, and it is not advisable that this House should pass a measure to provide that, no matter what constitutional difficulties may arise in Parliament, the Crown shall not exercise its prerogative of dissolution except to permit an election in a certain month of the year. That prerogative is exercisable whenever the Crown is so advised by its Ministers.; the necesssity for a dissolution is governed by conditions in Parliament, and political developments and complications. There is a further obstacle to giving effect to the honorable member’s proposal. Section 5 of the Constitution provides! -
The Governor-General may appoint such times for holding the sessions of Parliament as he thinks fit, and may also, from time to time, by proclamation or otherwise, prorogue the Parliament, and may in like manner dissolve the House of Representatives.
AFter any general election the Parliament shall be summoned to meet not later than thirty days after the day appointed for the return of the writs…….
The election, under section 32 of the Constitution, and sections 62 and 63 of the Electoral Act, must take place within two months after the proclamation of a dissolution; it ‘cannot be further delayed. Parliament could not be dissolved, say, in May, and the election of the new Parliament deferred until the following April. The elections must be held . shortly after the issue of the proclamation of dissolu- tion. I agree with the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) in regard to the unsuitability of certain months for the holding of elections; and the Government will be influenced if $his House expresses its strong opinion regarding the desirability of holding the elections in the month of April. I suggest to the honorable member, therefore, that he should content himself with moving merely an abstract motion, and eliminate that portion of his proposal which <<b constitutionally impracticable .
– I accept the Minister’s suggestion.
Motion, by leave, amended accordingly.
– I thought that the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) was sincere in making this motion, and I hoped that the carrying of it would have some effect upon the Government. But by accepting the suggestion of the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) to amend the motion, the honorable member has asked the House to pass a mere pious expression of opinion, that will place no obligation upon the Government. Elections are always held at a time suitable for the Government of the day. I am inclined to move a further amendment, that the elections shall take place at a specified time, and that, in lieu of the preferential system, we revert to the old method by which the member who receives the highest number of votes on the first count is returned. The honorable member for Corio complained that at the last election only half the people voted. That was because they were compelled to exercise a preference in regard to the whole’ of the candidates for the constituency of which they were electors, and for the Senate. That method of voting, led to a great deal of informal voting in connexion with the election of the Senate, and those votes may be interpreted by the outside world as indicating a low standard of intelligence on the part of the Australian electors. If honorable members are anxious to confer some benefit upon the electors and to purify elections, they will instruct the Government to bring in a Bill to provide that ‘ the candidate who secures the highest number of votes at the poll shall be elected. That is a democratic principle, and it is the object of the amendment I would like to submit.
– The amendment outlined by the honorable member would not be in order.
– The honorable member for Corio has accepted the Minister’s assurance. What good will be gained by carrying his motion without an instruction to the Government? They will not take the slightest notice of it.
– There is not the slightest doubt that if things continue as they are the Government will observe implicitly the requirements of the motion.
– When we assemble here next year, after the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) returns with his Imperial policy, the Government will be put out, and in all probability we shall go to the country. Without an instruction to the Government the honorable member’s motion is not worth the paper on which it is printed. I am anxious to afford those who work on farms an opportunity to vote at the proper time. The Government should not shirk their responsibility to make provisions in this direction. In the past, Governments have not considered the interests of the people, and. have compelled those farmers who desired to record their votes to lose a day’s harvesting. I have no desire to talk the motion out, but I hope that the Minister will not insist on* the honorable member for Corio altering his motion.
.- It is useless to pass a resolution instructing the Government to do what we have no right to ask them to do. When we know that it would be absolutely impossible to carry out what is proposed, we can only do the best in our power, and that is to express our unanimous opinion that it would be better to avoid holding elections in the months of December, January, and February. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) can visit his electorate every week, but honorable members who represent Western Australian and Queensland divisions cannot visit their electorates while the House is sitting. If the House does not prorogue until within a very short period of polling day, it imposes a very heavy task on those with large electorates to carry on a campaign during the heat of summer. My electorate is, I think, 250 miles long by 180 miles wide, and it is essential for me to visit numerous small townships in order to tell the electors whatlegislation has been passed and the reason for passing it, and to explain matters of policy. To do so in the time at one’s disposal it is often necessary to hold at least three meetings a day at different centres, and when a midday meeting is held in a hall covered with galvanized iron it is a very unpleasant and trying experience. A campaign in the heat of summer imposes a great tax on any man, no matter what his age may be, and I trust that elections will be avoided in the months of December, January, and February. I hope that the Government will take the motion into serious consideration and realize that it is the wish of the House that unless it is absolutely unavoidable elections should not be held in December, January, or February.
. - I thought at first that the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) was serious in submitting his motion, and that he was in earnest in trying to do something which people in country districts most ardently desire. I do not know why he has accepted an invitation from the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) to strike out that portion of his motion which makes it mandatory on the Government to avoid holding elections at a certain period of the year. Without this instruction the motion will simply become a meaningless pious resolution.
– Perhaps the honorable member could help the honorable member for Corio by telling him how his motion could be made effective.
– It could be done by restoring the words which the honorable member has agreed to strike out, namely, those which convey an instruction to the Government to bring in the necessary legislation to give effect to the decision of the House. If the motion is carried without those words, the Government can hold an election at any time they choose on the ground that they have had no instruction from the House to give effect to any resolution which would prevent them from doing so. The practice in this House is that honorable members add to their motions words which oblige the Government to give effect to them, and I cannot understand why the honorable member for Corio can allow himself to be bulldozed into agreeing to the suggestion to omit these words from his motion.
– He has done so because circumstances may arise rendering it impossible to give effect to the motion.
– I do not know why the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) should choose to apologize for what the honorable member for Corio has done. He knows that the people in his electorate have been asking for something to be done on the lines suggested by the honorable member for Corio. As a matter of fact, I believe he advocated this very thing on the platform at the last election, and claimed that it was not fair to those who were engaged in harvesting operations to have an election thrust upon them at the busiest time of the year.
– If a dissolution takes place in August, how can the Government fix the subsequent election for April?
– The honorable member is trying to sidetrack me. The honorable member for Corio does not suggest that his motion should be made applicable to a dissolution. He confines its application to general elections, and in that regard proposes that they should not be held at a time when the farmer is busily engaged on his harvesting operations. The last election was held at a most inconvenient time for people in country districts. However, we all know the arguments in favour of the honorable member’s proposal. I simply rose to point out that the honorable member made a mistake when he agreed to excise certain words from his motion. It has spoiled the purport of it, and, as altered, it will lead him nowhere. If the Ministry are agreeable to the proposal they cannot take exception to the request that the words should be allowed to remain in the motion. .
– I can assure the honorable member that, as far as the Government can do so, they will give practical effect to the motion.
– Whilst I place great reliance on the word of the Attorney-General - I like to think well of every one - I must treat this matter in a business-like way. If the AttorneyGeneral were making a hard-and-fast agreement he would not take another man’s word, but would have it drawn up in black and white. In the same way I’ think we ought to ask for some reasonable guarantee that effect will be given to what we desire. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has told us of what most honorable members engaged in a campaign are confronted with in the hot months of the year. Those who are obliged to participate in election campaigns in country districts know that no work is more strenuous than that whichthey have to perform. There are lots of things to be done by them about which the man in the street knows nothing. An honorable member who is a candidate for re-election has not only to think about his campaign, about what the other fellow is saying, and about what he himself will say in reply; he has also to carry on his correspondence and keep in touch with the Departments just as if he were in Melbourne.
– And he gets no pay for doing so.
– The honorable member has struck a very sore point. It is an important feature of an honorable member’s work - I was going to call it a detail, but it is hot a detailthat very few people outside know about. During the roughest time that an honorable member has, when he is engaged in campaigning, he is obliged to answer his correspondence and keep in touch with the Departments just as if he were at the Seat of Government, but he gets no pay for it.
– It is wrong.
– It is a phase of an honorable member’s life that I had for the moment forgotten. The man in the street knows nothing of those things. It is thought that members of Parliament sit on well-upholstered seats and enjoy all the privileges of life. An election is bad enough when the weather conditions are good, but at other times it is not only inconvenient to members, but unfair to the electors in country districts. I am sorry that the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) amended his motion. In its original form it would have provided more assurance that the Government would give effect to it. I hope the motion, such as it is, will be carried, although it will not be so effective as it would have been in its original form. I accept the promise made by the’ Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), and be lieve that he will live up to it, in which event we shall not again go to the electors during the months referred to.
.- I support the motion. In the last Parliament representatives of the Country party made a special appeal to the Government to alter the date of the elections so that they would not occur during the period of the year when the agriculturists of the country were gathering their harvests. For some reason, the date we did not want was the one selected. I feel sure that every honorable member realizes that it is not fair to the primary producer to have an election on a date which will cause the greatest possible inconvenience to him. I feel pleased that the Minister has indicated the Government’s approval of the motion, and I am quite satisfied to take his word and the word of the Government for it.
– I support the motion, but I assume that it applies to general elections only. Members of the Opposition are not prepared to say that the next election should be held as late as the date mentioned in the motion. We have, during the present Parliament, moved no-confidence motions in the hope that the elections would be held earlier than that. I support the motion on the understanding that it applies to general elections, but not to any extraordinary election that may be held. I agree with other honorable members that not only the electors in rural districts, but also those in other parts of the country, should not be hampered in recording their votes. Not only should the motion be carried, but during the present Parliament alterations should be made in the Electoral Act. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) said the press of this country was largely responsible for the small vote recorded at the last elections. That may be true, but no party in this House has more right to complain of the press than that which sits on this side. No other section is so much misrepresented by the press. It has also been said that the dates of the last two elections were altered for political reasons from the time originally fixed. I have been wondering whether there is any political significance in the motion. In any case we, on this side,- have nothing to fear, because we realize that the formation of the present Government from two parties opposed to each other will give the Labour party an increased vote in rural districts. I am sorry that the honorable member for Corio altered his motion by deleting the last part of it. As it stood, it was mandator)’. It ordered the Government to do something. Even if the motion is carried, the Government - can maintain that it is not compelled to act in the direction suggested. The date of the election did not keep so many people away from the polling booth as did the system of voting. No one who recorded a vote for the Senate knew the value of it when he registered it. Now, after the order of deletion of the candidates has been disclosed, the value of a vote can be calculated, but that could not be done when the votes were recorded. The same disability existed in those House of Representatives constituencies where more than two candidates were in the field. .1 hope that, in addition to carrying the motion, Parliament will alter the system of voting, so that the electors will be able to record their votes without losing valuable time in doing so, and without, being afraid of voting contrary to their intentions.
– I believe the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) voiced the opinion of every member of the House when he stated that March or April is the best month in. which to hold elections. It would be futile to give an instruction to the Government regarding an election following a dissolution, because the Electoral Act provides that an election must, be held within a certain period after a dissolution. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has expressed the hope that elections in future will not be held except in March. I hope that is an indication that he and his colleagues will not attempt to create a crisis and precipitate an election at any other time. Many reasons could be given why elections should not be held as early as on the last occasion. Whenever the Government can do so it should hold elections at a time convenient to the people in country districts. I have every confidence that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) is in earnest when Ikassures the House that the instruction contained in the motion will be given effect to whenever possible.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, all Government work should, as far as possible, be carried out by contract.
I do not need to apologize for a motion of this kind, because the Government’s policy of economy is intimately bound up in it. A large sum of money has been wasted in the past by the system of day labour.
– In Government works.
– Name them.
– I shall give instances. Most honorable members will agree that, human nature being constituted as it is, the average man needs an incentive to do his best, and that he has not that incentive under the day -labour system. Millions of pounds that could have been saved if works had been carried out by contract have been wasted annually by the day-labour system. A few years ago the Liberal Government in New South Wales called for tenders for a line of railway from Moree to Mungindi. That Government went out of office about the time tenders were returned. A Labour Government- succeeded it, and decided to do the work by day labour. The amounts of the tenders received were published at the time, so we knew what Ihe contractors would have done the work for. The railway was constructed by day labour, with the result that it cost about two and a half times as much as the amount of the lowest tender, and eighteen months longer was taken in building it than the time the contract stipulated for the completion of the work. The building of the wheat silos in New South Wales is another argument in favour of the contract system. The terminal silos in Sydney were built by contract.The Labour Government decided to build the country silos by day labour. A firm of contractors offered to construct them for £1,000,000. The Government replied that it could do the work byday labour for£800,000. The work was put in hand, and it was still incomplete when the Labour Government went out of office. In answer to questi ons in the New South Wales Parliament, it was ascer tained that up to eight or nine months ago the amount spent on the work was £1,250,000, and the work was not more than half done. It is still proceeding, and it is estimated that it will cost at least over £2,000,000 before it is complete. Thus £1,000,000 will be thrown away. If the contractors had been given the job, the silos would have been finished in time to receive last season’s wheat harvest. It is quite probable that had tenders been called for when the contractors made their offer the price would have been still further reduced. The clearing of land for soldiers on the Murrumbidgee irrigation area is the third case I shall quote. The policy of the Government-controlled Commission which has charge of this work is day labour. Consequently, the preparation of the farms on which soldiers are already settled, and on which others will be settled in the future, has cost far more than would have been the case had the work been done by contract. I believe the day-labour policy has resulted in the clearing of these farms costing three or four times more than necessary. The unfortunate soldiers are loaded with this extra cost, and it will be a heavy burden to them. The additional handicap imposed will possibly compel some of them to abandon their holdings. Another matter which touches this question is not as clear as I would like it to be. I inquired of the Government to-day the cost of War Service Homes. I understood that a number of the houses had been built by contract, though I knew the majority of them have been built by day labour. The reply given to me was that all the War Service Homes have been built under the day-labour policy. I did not expect this motion to be considered today, and, therefore, I have not at hand the figures I intended to give the House. Those figures show that the War Service Homes have cost an enormous sum. Soldiers in everyState have complained of the excessive charges they have to meet. They allege that the houses have cost 20 per cent. or 30 per cent. more under the day-labour system than would have been the case under contract. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) has made improvements in the postal administration by having work done by contract instead of by day labour. Some of the works he has put in hand would have cost a great deal more by day labour than they will by contract. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) has also adopted the contract system in many cases. I believe the Government is applying the policy as far as possible. We. shall strengthen their hands if we carry this motion. I do not intend it to be an instruction exactly, because 1 ‘know there must be exceptions. The Government may call for tenders for certain works and receive only one or two at excessive prices. In such cases, of course, it might be advisable to do the work by day labour. I do not wish to bind the Government by any hardandfast rule. This Parliament should set an example to the other Parliaments in Australia by deciding that public works shall be carried out by contract as far as practicable. Millions of money would thus be saved to the people of Australia.
.- I second the motion. It is not calculated to injure any section of the community. The labourer is protected by Arbitration Court awards. If the Government adopt this policy generally there need be no fear that the working men will suffer. In fairness to the public, it is necessary to construct public works by contract. A great deal was said in this House the other day about the sale of some parts of a ship in New South Wales. It was contended that the greatest publicity should have been given to the proposal to sell. The discussion was chiefly by members of the Opposition. To insure that the public work of the community shall be done at a reasonable cost, public tenders should always be invited. Those who tender will know that they are obliged by Arbitration Court awards to pay their employees certain wages. The adoption of the contract system will not in any way interfere with the wageearners, but it will save the Governmentlarge sums of money. A big saving could have been effected if the contract system had been applied to the building of War Service Homes. It must be manifest, of course, that it is possible under certain circumstances that better work may be done under the day-labour policy than under the contract system. The trouble is that the administration and supervision is in uncertain hands. Who is to say that every man shall do a fair day’s- work under the day- labour policy? If the contract system is adopted the contractor will see that the men working for him do the fair thing. I do not suggest that workmen are dishonest, but we know human nature.” Our experience in building War Service Homes has been paid for by the public. To call for open tenders for all public work will insure that the public are given a fair deal.
– I oppose the motion. The honorable member fox Riverina (Mr. Killen) has not given us any concrete cases to prove the necessity for adopting the contract system, nor has he produced any figures or documents to support his proposition. He has said so many times that workmen go slow that probably he now believes it to be true. Statistics prove the contrary. Workmen are not going slow. The honorable member discussed the question of personal contract. That system should not be countenanced in any community. lt means the survival of the fittest’. All workmen to-day receive a wage based - on the cost of living. Possibly the honorable member for Riverina desires to set such a pace for workmen that only the fastest and fittest will be able to earn the basic wage. If that position is reached the man who has become old at his work and is unable to do as much as he once could, may not be able to earn the basic wage. The day-labour system provides that men who work fast make up the wages of those who have grown old in industry.
– Men are not allowed to work fast.
– They are allowed. That statement has been made in this House recently in connexion with bricklaying, but the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), who is a bricklayer, repudiated it on behalf of the bricklayers’ organization. He denied that that organization would not allow a man to lay as many bricks a day as he was able to do. Under the personal contract system, as the honorable member has said, men have an incentive to work harder, and certain men, having this incentive, overexert themselves. I have seen men not as old as I am, who have grown to look and feel very much older, because they have always worked under the contract system. The hardest work is always done under that system. The purpose of the system is to get as much as possible out of a man, and men’ break up under it. This is true particularly of the mining industry. Men are sent to work in unsafe and unhealthy places, and their human nature causes them, to work at top speed, with the result that their health soon breaks up. From this point of view, if from no other, we should not approve of the contract system. Let us consider now. whether th’ work done under contract is as good as that done under the day-labour policy. Experience has taught us that we get. shoddy work from contractors. The aim of contractors is to do work as cheaply as possible and get paid as much as possible for it. The reply to the statement of the honorable member for Riverina, that certain organizations will not allow their members to work under contract is that it may be true of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. That organization has adopted that policy because it desires all its members to do efficient work, lt is jealous of the good name of its workmen. It objects to all shoddy work. The only reason it has for refusing to allow its members to speed up in their work is that it will not tolerate inefficiency. It is from that point of view only that it refuses to allow any of its members to work under the contract system. I wish to deal with the letting of works to contractors. It really means that the Government confess that they have not men in their service competent to carry out those works. When a work is let to a contractor, he has to make a profit, which the Government does not have to make, and he should carry out the work as efficiently as it could be carried out by the Government by day labour. I do not know what the position may be in this State in regard to wages, hut in South Australia the contractor invariably pays a higher rate of wages than is paid by the Government. This is because the contractor knows that by doing so he is able to secure the best men, and to get the best work from them. When the contractor has to pay higher wages for the same work, and must also make a profit on his contract, the Government, paying lower wages, and under no obligation to make a profit from the work, should be able to carry, it out much more cheaply than it can be done by the contractor. This is why I am opposed to- the motion, and I hope that honorable members generally will consider it from that point of view. The honorable member has said that contractors are carrying out work more cheaply than it can be done by day work, and I want to show that that is not the case. Mr. Robinson, who is a member of the South Australian House of Assembly, is Chairman of the Railways Standing Committee of that State. He is a member of the Liberal Party, and an ardent follower of the Barwell Government. The Railways Standing Committee was brought into being by a Liberal Government, and in 1920 Mr. Robinson, in moving the adoption of the report of the Committee in the House of Assembly, dealt with this question of contract versus day labour. He said -
What has hampered the Committee has been the excessive cost of -railway construction, and this brings me to the methods we adopt in building new railways.
Because his political opinions were known to the other members of the House of Assembly, he went on to justify his position in advocating day labour as against contract labour. He said -
Sir Richard Butler suggested, during the AddressInReply. debate, that the Committee had yielded to the influence of Messrs. Gunn and Jelly in recommending the construction of railways departmentally, rather than by contract. I want to tell him that he is wrong, and that lie doe3 the Committee an .injustice in suggesting that party considerations influence its findings.
It .was not party considerations, because a majority of the members of the Railways Standing Committee were followers of the Barwell Government, which honorable members know is not a Labour Government. Mr. Robinson referred to the evidence given before the Railways Standing. Committee by Mr. Stephen. This gentleman was asked -
Do you think that with improved methods your Department could undertake work more cheaply than the contractors ?
The answer was -
We have done it in the past. The last two and a half miles of the Gawler to Angaston line was constructed departmentally. The highest tender, that of Messrs. Smith and Timms, was ?28,048. The next was by Mr. Power, ?22,853, and the departmental tender was ?18,967. The Department carried out the work at under the amount tendered. That was the heaviest part of the line.
Mr. Stephen was asked how did the completed work compare, and his answer was -
I need say nothing but that the work would be done faithfully and well.
The same gentleman when asked -
On which contract would subsequent expenditure be first likely to take placet
And his answer was-
On the contractor’s work. Our work would be better and more thoroughly done than theirs.
When he was asked whether that was a general thing, his answer was -
Decidedly, because we are not out to make money for ourselves. Every engineer, however, is actuated by a desire to do his work as cheaply as he can.
Mr. Robinson reported that Mr. R. J. Anketell, a competent and candid witness, supplied the Committee with a great amount of useful and detailed information. He was an engineer who very much impressed the Committee when they visited Western Australia. He was asked -
What is your opinion of the departmental system of construction as compared with contract ?
And his answer was -
I favour construction departmentally.
When he was asked for what reason, he said -
I think, all round, we do better work. There is no incentive to slum work, and, working on the same methods as a contractor, we should do cheaper work.
He gave the following evidence in answer to a member of the Committee: -
You have doubtless heard it said that a contractor can always get more work, and better work, from his men than a construction department under the Government? The Government engineer knows what each labourer is capable of doing, and gets it done.
Evidence was given by the Hon. W. T. Paget, who was Minister of Railways in the Benham Government of Queensland, and Mr. Robinson made the’ following statement in connexion with it: -
Tlie Minister of Railways, Hon. W. T. Paget, in the Denham Government - a Liberal, an’T not a Labour, Government - made a most complete statement of railway construction costs on 25th September, 1912. He gave a list of twenty-two railways constructed by private contract, and thirty-six railways constructed departmentally, and by a coincidence the milea”p -“<i.r 1.144 in both cases. The total expenditure on private contracts was £5,491,720, or £4.793 per mile. The day-labour expenditure was 3,413,249, or £2,982 per mile, showing a difference in favour of day labour of £2.078.471. nr £1.814 per mile. Mr. Paget gave a complete description of the conditions which applied to the two sets of figures, and showed t’nt wages and the price nf material were higher in the day-labour period.
That report can be seen in the Queensland Hansard. It has been suggested by the mover of this motion that the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) should carry out works in his Department under the contract system. I wish to point out to the honorable member that in 1914 Mr. Jos. Timms offered to complete the construction of the East-West line for £2,000,000, but the work was done departmentally for a great deal less than that amount. I have the facts before me, and can quote them. If the work had been given to Mr. Timms for £2,000,000, that would have been £970,000 more than the line was constructed for. The fact that the work was done departmentally instead of by contract meant a saving to this country of £970,000. This is proved by the following information, which Mr. Robinson obtained from Mr. Bell, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner -
Some time since, I had a statement taken out showing approximately the work that would be involved in Mr. Timms’ offer, and what pit actually cost the Department to carry out. The enclosed table shows the work which, presumably, Mr. Timms offered to carry out for £2,000.000 waa completed departmentally for £1,022,786- a saving of £977.214.
– Tenders were not called at the time, and there was no proof that Timms’ offer would have been the lowest.
- Mr. Timms at the time was held up’ as a public benefactor for making the. offer. The newspapers of Australia contended that the work should be left to him, and that he would save the Commonwealth £3,000,000. However, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) has asked for a case in which tenders were called, and I can quote such a case. Mr. Robinson, in his statement, said -
In 1914, tenders were called for earthworks and certain waterways from about 122 miles to 200 miles west of Port Augusta. Four contractors tendered. Mr. Joseph Timms was the lowest, his price being £150,626. The Railways Commissioner represented to tlie Govern ment that he would do the work more cheaply by day labour, and his recommendation was accepted. A most careful record was ‘maintained of the actual cost of this section, and a saving of £37.137 was effected on Mr. Timms’ tender.” If the whole of the earthworks ind the concrete work in the waterways from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie had bonn carried nut at Mr. Timms’ prices, an additional expenditure above the departmental cost of at least £300,000 would have been entailed. Early in 1914, ‘before Mr. Bell was in charge pf the work, the Commonwealth Government did make a trial of a private contractor on the Transcontinental line. They entered into a contract with Mr. Teesdale Smith for 14 miles of earthworks between 92 and 106 miles west of Port Augusta. The next 14 miles were carried out departmental ly, and a comparison between the two sections is a sufficient reply to all critics of theCommittee and their report. The total cost of Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract was £48,023 3s. 6d. The total cost of the construction of earth-works by the Government day-labour system was £5,703 13s. 2d. There wag a greater quantity of cuttings in the Teesdale Smith contract, the figuresbeing 112,325 cubic yards, and 4,252 cubic yards. It is in the details that the true comparison is made. Mr, Smith’s price for cuttings was 4s. 6d. per cubic yard. The Government did it for 2s. 3½d. Mr. Smith charged 2s. 6d. a cubic yard for side cuttings; the Government did it for 1s. 4½d. There was 232 chains of surface forming in Mr. Smith’s section, and his price was 60s. per chain for a formation 18 feet wide; the Government did 457 chains 17 feet wide at 42s.1d. per chain. Mr. Teesdale Smith was also paid 2s.6d. per cubic yard for embankments that were more than1½ chains from the end of cuttings, but the cost of embankments made by the Government is included in the cost of cuttings and sidings.
That should convince the honorable member for Riverina that the cases he quoted ‘this afternoon are very exceptional. In the majority of cases, contract is more expensive than day labour.
– Does not the honorable member know that Mr. Teesdale Smith offered to build the whole line by contract ? Compare his tender for the whole line with the actual cost by day labour.
– The figures I have quoted this afternoon are authentic, and are based upon information collected by the Railways Standing Committee of South Australia. Mr. W. W. Andrews, who built a railway in South Australia, giving evidence before the Railways Standing Committee, was asked how the costs of his earthworks and those done by the contractor compared, and he replied -
On the Mount Pleasant line our cuttings were costing us 3s. 6½d. up to the time we stopped, but of course that was very heavy cutting close to Balhannah. It was very heavy a few cuttings beyond that, between thereand Oakbank. For that the contractor got 4s. 6d., and we did it for 3s. 6½d.
In the same report Mr. Robinson said : “ This State is the happy hunting-ground of the railway contractors.” That comment was made, not by a Labour man, but by a man who holds the same political opinions as does the mover of this motion. Mr. Robinson was in favour of the con tract system, but having heard evidence throughout the length and breadth of South Australia, he recommended that in future the contractor should be eliminated and all construction work be done departmentally . I hope that honorable members, irrespective of party differences, will vote against the motion, and not let it be said that at this stage in our history we have taken such a retrograde step as to revert to the contract system. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) spoke of War Service Homes that had been built by day labour. I have seen War Service Homes built by a contractor through the walls of which, before they were plastered, one could push his hand. One house was built with clinker and cement, and in some places the cement had fallen away to such an extent that one could put his hand through the walls. That is the class of work that we are always liable to get from a contractor, because he has the incentive of profit, to complete the contract as quickly as possible, and get his money. That system may appeal to the mover of the motion, but I hope that honorable members will not support him in affirming that public works should be carried out by contract.
.- I expected that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), after hearing the convincing arguments advanced by the last speaker, would have withdrawn the motion.
– I have no intention of doing so.
– Hear, hear!
– I am sorry to hear the Minister’s indorsement of that statement. The first evidence I desire to quote in support of the day-labour system is a recent experience of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. With the possible exception of the Water and Sewerage Board of Sydney, no public body in Australia has used the contract system more extensively than has the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. I do not remember it having carried out any work for many years except by contract. Recently the Board widely advertised for tenders for big works in connexion with reservoirs and water services near the Plenty Ranges. The honorable member for
Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has said that the contract system is all right if the jobs are well advertised, and the greatest amount of competition is invited. In this instance those conditions were complied with, for the Board can never be accused of adopting half measures. It has a good staff of officers and workmen, and is well managed. The tenders received were so high that the engineer was not satisfied. The Board decided to re-advertise the work. Once again the tenders were excessive, in the opinion of the experts. The consequence was that the works committee of the Board at its last meeting recommended that the work be done by day labour. I feel positive that if the contract system were all that it is claimed to be, the Board would not have reverted to day. labour. Iam confident that, if the supervision is all right, this job will be carried out at a cost far below the lowest tender submitted by the contractors. Do not honorable members opposite know that, over and over again, there has been collusion between contractors in tendering for jobs ?
– If the Department also submitted a tender, collusion would be most improbable.
– Repeatedly, when tenders have been opened, the prices quoted by different contractors have been found to be marvellously approximate.
– In those circumstances fresh tenders could be invited.
– I have already quoted the experience of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, which twice called for tenders, and then decided to do the work departmentally.
– I admit that that may be necessary at times.
– You, Mr. Speaker, if on the floor of the House, would probably be able to give valuable testimony in regard to the Victorian policy of railway construction. I do not know of any railway work carried out in Victoria during the last twenty years for which tenders have been invited. Mr. Kernot, the Engineer for Railway Construction, in his annual reports to Parliament, has shown conclusively time after time that the taxpayers of Victoria have been saved many thousands of pounds through railway construction being carried out by day labour instead of being let to contractors. The Department now has a quarter of a century’s experience to guide it. I quite admit that when a Department initiates the daylabour system, no matter how brainy the Minister and his officers may be, it will not do the work very efficiently for a few years. Any successful contractor takes years to organize his forces. The most prominent contractors in Australia are those who have been able to gather the best workmen into their employ, have organized their industry in a proper manner, have competent supervision, and are prepared to pay wages even higher than those awarded by the Arbitration Court. The successful conduct of construction work is a matter of organization. The Victorian Government were very successful from the very commencement of the day-labour system, but with the organization they have been able to build up they are able to more than hold their own against the cutest contractors in the Commonwealth. Recently a loopline of about 10 miles was constructed in the district in which I live. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) would have “ taken a fit “ if he had seen the preparations made by the Department for the carrying out of that work. Tents were provided for the men, arrangements were made for regular supplies to be delivered by the butcher, the baker, and the grocer, and a good cook was engaged. All this was done for the comfort of the men engaged upon the job, and notwithstanding the cost of such preparations, the Department built the line more cheaply than any contractor could possibly have done.
– I do not believe that.
– Would it not be fair for the Department to tender as a check on the private contractors ?
– I would not mind that. The honorable member for Grey has pointed out what happened when tenders were invited in South Australia. Why should the Government spend money in advertising for tenders when they know that the departmental organization can beat the con tractor in hollow fashion ? The constructing authority of the Victorian Government never advertises for tenders for the building of any railway line, because it is known that the contractor cannot compete with the Department. Of course, I admit that day labour badly supervised will not do the work cheaply or efficiently. The honorable member for Forrest seeks to place the blame upon the workmen. Honorable members will agree that, industrially, America is one of the most highly organized countries in the world. If honorable members refer to the last report of the Institute of Science and Industry they will find there quoted the report of a committee of engineers in the United States whose verdict was that, in 60 per cent. of cases, the managers and not the workmen are to blame for waste and lack of expedition. This proves that with proper organization and supervision contract work is not to be compared with work done under the day-labour system.
– Has the honorable member had any experience as an employer of both systems?
– I have not; because, practically, all the work I require is done by day labour.
– The Trades Hall Council of Perth calls for tenders for. its works.
– If the honorable member doubts what I have said as to the costs of railway construction, I suggest that, to-morrow, he call at the railway offices in Spencer-street and ask to be supplied with the reports of the responsible officers of the Department for the last twenty years, when he will obtain stronger evidence than I can offer of the truth of’ my statements.
-We do not know what the railway works would have cost by contract.
– The contract system was tried in Victoria for forty or fifty years, and when it was found that the contractors were getting the best of the bargain day labour was given a chance, with the result that during the last twenty-five years or so thousands of pounds have been saved to the taxpayers.
– There is something wrong in the calculations.
– The results have been exactly as described by me. On a recent occasion, when a similar topic was under discussion, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) submitted that the only difference between contract labour and day labour was that contracting was day labour plusthe contractor’s profits : and that is a true description of the position. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) may shake his head, but he knows that in the case of the East-West Line there were some strange stories told about contractors, and, in this connexion, the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) has quoted figures which I think fairly non-plussed the honorable member for Riverina. On that work Timms and other “ top-notchers “ amongst contractors were engaged, and it was found that day-labour work proved the more economical, giving an advantage of as much as £900,000 in a £2,000,000 contract. The honorable member for Forrest, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, must know that some of the most disgraceful work ever turned out under contract was found in War Service Homes at Goulburn; so bad was it that the honorable member expressed the opinion that the contractor concerned ought to be sent to gaol
– Will the honorable member quote what I said about the daylabour work at Hobart ?
– In Victoria all locomotive construction work is done in the Government railway shops at Newport, and that policy has been successfully pursued for years. Australian workmen at Newport can beat contract work every time. When a workshop is properly organized, and the men are under proper supervision, day labour can always rival the contract system.
– That is just the point.
– Whatever work we may be engaged in we should do it honestly, and I undertake to say that the workers engaged on our great construction enterprises show far more honesty than do the contractors. I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8p.m.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, the following works be referred to the Committee for investigation and report, viz. : -
Wharfage accommodation and shipping facilities, including sheds, railway, and vehicle approaches. &c, Darwin.
Establishment of oil depots. Darwin.
The present wharf at Darwin was constructed about 1898, prior to Federation, and is in the shape of an “ L.” Representations which have been made from time to time show that owing to the form of the wharf it is necessary for all trucks of goods coming from and going to vessels at the wharf to pass over a turntable worked by a steam winch ; drays or other vehicles cannot come anywhere near the vessels at the wharf, and have to load and unload at a sorting shed near the shore end of the wharf, the goods then being conveyed some hundreds of feet between this shed and the vessel by means of railway trucks, entailing additional handling, both at the shed and at the vessel. Shipmasters complain that as the wharf is in the wrong position, certain winds and tides cause their vessels to bump against the wharf a great deal, and that it is difficult to get their vessels in and out. It is also stated that the fact that the wharf is partially, constructed of timber makes the cost of maintenance heavy. All these disabilities make the handling of cargo difficult and expensive, and as the high charges which it is essential to make have to be added to the cost nf the goods which pass over the wharf, the result is a serious interference with the development of trade in the Territory. The Sectional Committee of the Public Works Committee, which visited Darwin two years ago, inspected the wharf and its approaches, and the tenor of their report was that the position was unsatisfactory, and that better facilities should be provided. The Government being anxious to take a step that would serve to remove any barrier to the more rapid development of the Territory, asked Admiral Clarkson to furnish a report upon the best means of improving the wharfage facilities at Darwin, and I now lay on the table a copy of his report. He condemns the present wharf and the present method of handling goods arriving at Darwin from overseas, and he recommends the construction of a concrete wharf, as shown on a plan which I now table, to provide a berth for steamers of greater draught than can now be accommodated. A wharf such as he suggests will enable carts and other vehicles to take cargo from the ships’ slings, and enable large steamers to discharge fuel oil and petrol directly into shore tanks. It will also permit of the shipment of frozen meat with despatch under modern conditions. Admiral Clarkson estimates that the cost of this scheme of wharfage should be about £120,000.
A very vital matter in connexion with the development of the Northern Territory is the provision of cheap fuel. The price of coal is almost prohibitive, and petrol, which is brought up from Sydney, is far too costly, by the time it reaches Darwin or gets inland, for ordinary usage. Its price at Darwin is about 4s. 6d. a gallon. It is thought that if petrol could be obtained at a moderate price motordriven vehicles would be more freely used, the present prohibitive cost of transport would be lessened, and the development of the Territory would be assisted. Admiral Clarkson proposes to bring fuel oil and petrol in bulk from Borneo, which is about four or five days’ steam away from Darwin, at an estimated cost of about 60s. a ton, and have it pumped from the steamers to large reservoirs at Darwin, from which reservoirs Naval, Government, and private requirements would be supplied. He estimates that the cost of establishing two reservoirs with the necessary pipe line should not exceed £12,000. -
Question resolved in the affirmative
In Committee (Consideration resumed from the 18th July, vide page 1274) :
Postponed clause 4 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “Active service” ‘has a meaning corresponding to that of the same words as used in sub-section (.1) of section one hundred and eighty-nine of the Air Force Act defining the expression “on active service”; ….
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) had moved as an amendment -
That all the words after “service” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ means service in or with a Force which is engaged in operations against the enemy.”
– I understood that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) was to make a statement in regard to the decision of the Government.
– That statement was made last night, and the Minister has already circulated an amendment of the definition of “ active service.”
– My amendment must he taken first?
– I am disappointed that the Government have not gone further. When honorable members of the Opposition consented at a late hour last night to allow this clause to stand over, and permitted twenty-six clauses to pass without amendment, it was on the understanding that the Government would consider the views expressed by honorable members, and bring forward an amendment to meet the wish generally expressed that our Air Defence Bill should be a purely Australian measure solely designed for the defence of Australia. The war has shown that an island continent can best be defended by having a strong Air Force supplemented with submarines. We consider that Australia should have such a Force governed toy the Australian Parliament, and maintained by the people of Australia; but the Government would rather rely upon a British Act for the control of an Australian Air Force. They would have it that any alteration which takes place in the British law should automatically change an Australian Statute. On the other hand, we contend that an Australian Parliament should lay down the conditions under which an Australian Air Force should work. We are supposed to come here for the purpose of passing laws for the guidance and protection of the people of Australia, and it is a reflection on our intelligence to suggest that we should rely upon the British Parliament to do_ that work for us. If the Bill passes in its present form, the Australian Air Force will be governed by the British Air Force Act.
– What has that to do with the definition of “active service”?
– The Government cannot bluff us. We know exactly where we are. It is our duty to protect the people of Australia, and there is no need for us to rely upon the British Parliament, to make regulations for the protection of the Austral -an people. We have always been opposed to the application of some of the provisions of the British Army Act to Australian soldiers.
We would not permit our troops to be sentenced to death, and they did their duty well without the fear of that extreme penalty being imposed upon them. At any rate, now that we are building up a new branch of our Defence Force, we should insist on its ‘being governed by a purely Australian Act. I do not discredit what the British Parliament chooses to do in regard to the British Air Force. It has a right to do whatever it likes, and in the same way we have a right to say that the Australian Parliament, intrusted with the responsibility of protecting the interests of the people of Australia, should draw up whatever provisions are necessary for the establishment oF an Australian Air Force. Of what use is the Commonwealth Parliament if it is merely to echo the British Parliament? We have led the British Parliament in many reforms, and I object to copying its Air Force Act for our Air Force. The representatives of the people of this country, in this Parliament, should make the laws to govern our Air Force. When the Opposition consented to allow the clause to be postponed, it did so with a view to giving the Government time to draft a new clause to meet the wishes of the Committee. I believe a majority of the members of this Committee want the Bill to be purely Australian.
– So it is.
– We hope to make it so, but it is not at present. It takes large slabs out of the British Air Force Act. The Bill is too large and too complicated. It needs simplifying. No layman could understand it. It is not desirable that a man who joins the Air Force should be liable to be transferred overseas, and become part of the British Air Force. This Parliament should say whether a member of the Australian Forces should be sent oversea. If the Australian Air Force is governed by the British Act, no man joining the Force can know the conditions under which he will have to serve. The conditions may be altered any week in the British Parliament, and this Parliament would not have a “ say “ in the matter. Surely the Government, although it has a majority, will not be tyrannical, and force this Bill down the throats of honorable members. No part of the British Air Force Act should apply to the Australian Air Force.
– There is nothing in the definition to that effect.
– We want to make it clear in the definition clause that the Australian Act cannot be varied by an alteration of the British Air Force Act.
– The clause is only applicable when the Force is on active service.
– That is the only time the Force is needed. It is not kept for ornament. The Government gave a pledge to the Committee last night, and yet has not made a statement on the subject to-day. Its policy is to do whatever the British Parliament dictates.
– And pay for it.
– I expect the expense will be heavy. I, at least, register a protest against the Government shirking its duty, and I believe the electors will do so as well when they get an opportunity. The Government has shown that it has no initiative. It says that the object of the clause is to secure uniformity.
– There is nothing in the Bill which was not in force during the last war.
– There were some things done in the war of which I did not approve. Although the object is now said to be to secure uniformity, there was no uniformity in rates of pay in the last war. The Australian soldiers received more than any others, and there was also a difference in punishments. No shooting by court martial was allowed in the Australian Forces. Still, our soldiers did their part. The people of Australia pay for the upkeep of the Australian Air Force, and they, through their representatives, should have the right to make the laws to govern it. The Government is making a mistake, as it will discover at the next election, when the people will have an opportunity to express their opinions.
– What is the honorable gentleman’s objection to the alteration proposed by the Government?
– I do not want it to be said that our Act is a copy of the British Air Force Act.
– What has that to do with the amendment before the Committee ?
– My honorable friend is not now in Court cross-examining witnesses. I stand here on equal terms with him, and am not to be cross-examined or brow-beaten. I invite him to speak and explain the matter. How is it that the Government’s supporters do not rise and champion the Bill. They are afraid to do that. When the division bells ring they will come in and vote, and they will not even know what the definition clause means. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition will make the position clear.
.- Before the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) goes to a vote, I desire to give my reasons for supporting it. Clause 4, as proposed by the Government, is anti-Australian, and isnot in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the people of this country. The Opposition is doing its duty in strenuously opposing it, and trying to have inserted in its place a provision by which Parliament shall say what is really meant by “ active service,” instead of relying upon the British Air Force Act or the British Army Act.
– Parliament should speak with its own voice.
– That is so, and we, as responsible representatives of the people, surely have sufficient initiative and resource to make intelligent proposals “ off our own bat,” without relying on Acts of Parliament passed by the British Parliament. Surely the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) could find in his Department men capable of framing a clause which would meet with the approval, not only of Parliament, but of the people of Australia. What influence is there behind the Minister in this matter? Is the officer class dictating to the Government? Had the Minister for Defence been discreet he would have accepted the amendment. He will find that the people of Australia prefer it to the clause in the Bill. This should not be a party question. The Leader of the Opposition explained that he was not opposed to the Bill. He said that he recognised the necessity for some form of defence. His amendment is an endeavour to improve the Bill. He voiced what he believed to be the wish of the majority of the people of Australia. It is a pity the time of the Committee has been wasted by such a pernicious measure, full of antiAustralian sentiments. The Minister for Defence should have accepted the amendment. He would then have escaped the severe criticism both he and the Government have received from members on this side of the Committee, and also by the press outside. . The Melbourne Age discussed this matter in its leading article this morning. That article reads -
The Bruce Government, which has done very well thus far, was employed yesterday in its first work of self-destruction. Its Ministers publicly contended that this country’s defence forces should be governed and managed when on active service according to laws, present and future, prescribed by British authorities, and passed by the House of Commons. They attempted to surrender in an important degree Australia’s rights of self-government, and to destroy the Australian character of our forces.
This is not the first time that Conservative parties have endeavoured to take away the self-governing rights of the Australian people. We had an experience in Queensland recently. The Conservatives there sent a delegation to England to prevent the Queensland Government from borrowing money. They endeavoured to change the venue of the fight to England. There isa marked tendency to filch our rights of self-government and framing our own laws by adopting Acts passed by other Parliaments than our own. The Melbourne Age referred to commen ts made by the Opposition in this debate. It said -
These statements may possibly be criticised on the ground that they are too sweeping. Nevertheless they indicate fairly the outrageous principle Ministers arc trying to force upon a free self-governing people.
The Age also discussed the attendance in the Committee while the debate was in progress. Its comment on that was as follows: -
It was notable that when this grave matter was under discussion the attendance on the Ministerial benches was so small that the bells had to be rung repeatedly to summon a quorum.
The article then discussed the definitions which were under notice by the Committee. It said -
If the two definitions are read together, it will be seen that, instead of setting forth its own definitions, the Bill adopts those of the British Act, and enforces any amendments that may be made by the British Parliament. Maybe, the definition of “ active service “ is not of great significance. Nevertheless, there is a principle involved that subordinates Australian law and Australian citizens to Imperial laws, in the making of which they can have no voice.
-For once, the Age is right.
– It is. Possibly it is coming to a sense of its responsibility, and is prepared to criticise the actions of public men irrespective of party. The article continued -
The Government’s defence proposals are riddled with a type of Imperialism which this country was understood to have outgrown twenty years ago. The rights of Australia and Australia’s citizens are subordinated to the enactments of another country - laws which even Ministers themselves do not understand, but which are adopted wholesale in a way abject enough to be intolerable to an overwhelming force of Australian opinion.
Is it any wonder that honorable members on this side of the Committee indignantly have fought against such proposals in this century of advanced Democracy ? We should have failed to do our duty if we had not so fought. If a vote of the Australian soldiers were taken, I believe 90 per cent. would be against the provisions of clause 4. They would favour the amendment by the Leader of the Opposition. The Age article further said -
Were the British laws by which it isproposed to bind self-governing Australians of the most benign and acceptable nature, the practice of embodying them in Commonwealth legislation would still be open to indignant protest. It is the duty of an Australian Parliament to frameits own legislation.
Of course, it is the duty of this Parliament to frame its own legislation. Possibly the Government imagined that its definition of “ active service “ would go through without criticism. It might have thought we would not take the trouble to see what the effect of the clause would be, or that by rushing legislation through in this way we would not really know what was going through. In criticising the British Army Act, the Age remarked -
These brutal old-world military laws are not for the people of a. real democracy. It is no exaggeration to say that if British Army Acts are to be fastened upon Australians, because of the cheap Imperialism, ignorance or laziness of Australian Ministers, the growth of a reasonable Australian system of defence will be choked in its beginnings.
No doubt the Minister is worried over what has happened. I feel sure that there is division in the Nationalist ranks on this question. The Minister has called to his aid the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and other legal luminaries in this Committee, as well as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory).
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Capri- cornia (Mr. Forde) is delivering a fine speech, and I draw attention to the fact that the Minister for Defence and the honorable member for Fawkner are engaged in an argument about this Bill. Let the honorable member for Fawkner give his argument to the Committee, and let the Minister listen to the honorable member for Capricornia.
– I think the honorable member for Capricornia is not experiencing any difficulty in making himself heard.
– I ask the Chairman to suppress the honorable member for Capricornia while I listen to the conversation between the Minister and the honorable member for Fawkner.
– I sympathize with the Minister for Defence. He realizes by this time that he has made a blunder. Early in his Ministerial career he has brought to the Committee an anti-Australian proposal which will be opposed by the Australian people. It is natural, under the circumstances, that he should seek help from the legal men in his party and endeavour to influence them to defend the pernicious principle embodied in the Bill. I forgive him for discussing the matter with the honorable member for Fawkner. No doubt he is arranging with the honorable member for Fawkner to get up and defend the measure. The Age cannot be said to be a Labour paper. Nevertheless, it strongly denounces this measure.
– At any rate, it is Australian.
– It is, and it sees eye to eye with the Australian Labour party on this question. It believes that the Australian Parliament should be capable enough to provide its own defence proposals, and that it should not copy the Acts of the British Parliament. Surely, we have sufficient initiative and intelligence to transact our own business. After discussing the remarks of the Minister for Defence in the debate, the Age observed -
Mr. Groom said much the same. It was necessary to have “ uniformity of conditions on active service. … If the English Act were amended our Act will automatically follow that “ By that last sentence the AttorneyGeneral supplied the reason for the utter condemnation of the whole proposal. “ Whypass an Act here at all?” asked a Labour member. The question was directly pertinent. Australia’s citizens should be governed only by Australian laws.
That is our contention. ‘ We believe the Government proposal is not acceptable to the Australian people, and I am astonished that the members of the other side have opposed the amendment. Suggestions from this side of the Chamber should not be looked upon in a party spirit. This one, particularly, should have been accepted. Senator Elliott, who led the Australian troops during the war with great success, cannot be said to be “ in the bag “ with the Australian Labour party. He is in the opposite political camp. In criticising the Defence Bill before the Senate, in 1921, which contained similar proposals to those in clause 4 of this Bill, he is reported, in volume XCV. of Hansard, to have said -
One of the greatest objections is the attempt to import into our defence legislation the whole of the Army Act which relates to the British Standing Army, and to make it applicable without the Senate or Parliament having a chance to discuss it, to our Citizen Force, a Force which absolutely differs from the regular British Army. . The British Army is recruited from men who volunteer, who are presumed to know what are the conditions of the service they enter, and who accept with their eyes open, the yoke of militarism ; but in Australia, on the other hand, every man, irrespective of his position or class, is compelled to submit to military discipline for a certain period. It is essential therefore that, before (imposing this yoke on our young manhood, Parliament should examine every separate detail of the legislation dealing with this particularmatter.
That is a very proper attitude. Senator Elliott knew full well how much the Australian people differ in character and psychology from the English people, and he realized they would not accept the provisions of the British Army Act.
– He had suffered from the British Army Act.
– Probably. The honorable member for Ballarat also knows the pernicious contents of the British Army Act. Senator Elliott, later on in his speech, said -
Quite apart from that, it is wrong to introduce into this Parliament which has the widest of self-governing powers, legislation to allow any other Parliament to make laws for us in matters of this kind. That undoubtedly is what the people who are responsible for this measure are aiming at. Apparently they do not want too” critical an examination of provisions which they desire, rightly or otherwise, to introduce for the more effective discipline of our young manhood in military affairs. No doubt it would suit themmuch better if they could insure that legislation passed by the British Parliament should automatically .become operative in_ the Commonwealth, although, as I have pointed out, the British legislation Applies to Forces entirely different in character from those of the Commonwealth.
Of course it does. The Australian Force is entirely different from the Force controlled by the British Army Act. The citizens of this great Commonwealth will never submit to the servile discipline imposed upon the regular army of England. We stand for Australian laws for an Australian people, and are against any legislation that will enable the Government to send our airmen outside Australia against their will to fight. An Act that ‘ applies to the British Army should not be applied to the Australian soldiers. I hope the Government will accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, which, I believe, meets with the approval of 80 per cent, of the people of Australia. The honorable gentleman is a man of the world. He has come into touch with many of the soldiers who have served at the Front, and he knows their feelings in regard to this matter. He has submitted his amendment after careful deliberation. The present Government are prepared to go to the House of Commons to borrow legal provisions that are diametrically opposed to the Australian spirit. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, and thus put an end to further discussion and condemnation by honorable members on this side.
– We are listening to the same begging of the question this evening that we had last night. The definition proposed by the Government does not involve the incorporation of the British Air Force Act. Nor does it involve conscription in any way. Everything under the Bill so far as enlistment is concerned is perfectly voluntary We are dealing with the definition of “active service.” The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has proposed a definition in these terms–” A man shall be deemed to be on active service when he is attached to or forms part of a Force which is engaged in operations against the enemy.” He takes certain words from the definition proposed by the Government, and stops at the point I have indicated. ‘ So far as that part of the definition is concerned it is not confined to operations in Australia. Any force on active service anywhere against an enemy would be on active service under this definition. The honorable gentleman does not confine his definition to operations in Australia. There are other sections of our Forces which might be outside Australia in the same way as the section which the honorable gentleman has included in his definition, but which might not be employed in active service at a particular time. I can give an instance from the late war. After the Germans in New Britain had surrendered there was no war going on in New Britain. We had men there who were not engaged in operations against the enemy ; they were merely holding what was then a foreign country. They were in military occupation of it, and the question arose whether they were under any Act at all. Our Defence Act was altered in such a way as to include them within £he definition of active service from 1917 onwards.
– When they .occupied Rabaul this definition did not appear in the Defence Act.
– That is so. While they were fighting they were under the Army Act, but when they came into occupation of the territory and’ were not fighting, there was some doubt whether they were under the Army Act, or our Defence Act, and whether they could be convicted of a crime of any sort.
– Some were convicted all the same. Some men got five years for conduct in Rabaul.
– The Defence Act had to be altered by this Parliament to bring those men under the- definition of active service. If our Defence Act had not been altered to cover the case of the men at Rabaul, all sorts of difficulties might subsequently have arisen in connexion, for instance, with the . gratuity payments which were made on account of active service. We are not necessarily saying in the definition we now propose that the men of our Air Force shall be subject to any Act other than the measure now under consideration.
– Then the Government are accepting the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition.
– We are proposing to add to that amendment. The honorable member’s interjection reminds me that I promised to look up for him what has been done in this connexion in Canada. In the Canadian Air Force Act I find this definition -
The expression “ on active service “ as applied to a person subject to these regulations means, whenever he is attached to or forms part of a Force which is engaged in operations against the enemy or is engaged in warlike operations in a country which is wholly or partly occupied by the enemy, or is in the military occupation of a foreign country.
– What is the date of that’ definition ?
– The 21st August, 1920. That is the definition of “ active service “ applying to the Canadian Air Force at the present time, and it is the definition we propose here.
.- If the Minister had been discussing a naval instead of a military question, I would be inclined to say of him that he was making somewhat heavy weather. As it is, I am obliged to use another figure of speech, and declare that he seems to be exceedingly uncomfortable in the strategic position he has taken up in -regard to this particular clause. If anything were necessary to demonstrate the futility of “his position, he has supplied it in the speech he has just delivered. I had not intended to contribute anything to this, aspect of the debate until the Minister rose to justify his attitude. He has been good enough to inform the Committee that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) would carry us quite as far as the amendment he has submitted himself.
– I did not say that.
– The Minister did say that the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, would cover, as it does’ in fact, operations against an enemy anywhere. It is capable of that construction. There might be in a certain sense, I admit, as wide a construction of the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition as of the definition proposed by the Minister. Before going further on these . lines, if there is anything sinister in the reference in the definition to warlike operations in a foreign country, why does not the Minister excise those objectionable words from his amendment, and let us get on with the consideration of the more important phases of the Bill? The definition submitted by the Leader of the Opposition is a wide definition, because it is intended to define the term “ active service.” It does not commit the people, or any of them, to active service in places where there might be active service in accordance with this definition. It is a wide and even a generous definition of the term “ active service.” We take this stand on the definition clause because we recognise’ that, as the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) said, it is not a question of discretion or indiscretion on the part of the Minister when he presents this Bill with these definitions in the forefront of it. We recognise that we have to challenge this Bill ab initio, because it proposes to transfer the conduct and control of an Australian Force from this Parliament and country to another Parliament and country altogether. We think that we cannot too soon, or too emphatically, register our opposition to a proposal of that kind. I would impress upon the Minister that, unless he is opposing the amendment for the sake of opposition, or unless he has received instructions from another quarter to press his own proposals, he should take the plain words of the amendment proposed by the Leader of -the Opposition, and ask himself how they limit the Australian Air Force, and what restriction they impose which he would have otherwise. He has told us that the definition proposed by the Leader of the Opposition would ©over active service abroad, and might cover active service almost anywhere. As an illustration the honorable gentleman has suggested that we might have a condition of affairs such as that which arose in Rabaul when it was in occupation hy an Australian Force. His trouble seems to be that he wishes to declare that there is active service in a place where there is really no active service. He says that there was a condition of mere occupation at Rabaul. There were no warlike operations going on. There was merely a peaceful possession of the Territory. If there was no military occupation, why does the hon.orable gentleman want ito extend the definition of “active service” to make warlike operations out of peaceful operations ?
We oppose the definition of the Government as a matter of vital principle, and not merely in order to quibble as to the meaning of words. We are determined that at every stage in the passage of this Bill, if it should pass - and if I had my way it would pass rapidly into the wastepaper basket - we shall make it as innocuous as it can possibly be made. We want to rid it of the very objectionable features to be found in our Defence Act. We want to prevent the introduction of this new spirit of Imperialism which is being created and fostered outside, and which is being merely registered in this Chamber by the servants of the Imperial party outside. Weobject, as the honorable member for Capricornia has said, to this spirit of cheap Imperialism, which would tie us to the tail of every Imperial Act passed with regard to either peace or war, Acts which make usbut a cypher in the scheme of things, which make us willing or unwilling captives of the Juggernaut of war, whenever the diplomats,so called, or war makers, more properly called, on the other side of the world sound the clarion for us to rush to arms. That is the spirit that permeates this Bill from end to end; that is the spirit that attaches an Old World scheme of punishments to an Australian scheme of defence. There is no other country in the world that does not declare its inalienable right to apply its own laws to any people within its borders. But we are invited by these sycophantic representatives of Imperialism to say that a British airman, serving in Australia, shall be subject to Australian law only so far as that law is not inconsistent with the British law governing his occupation. I suggest to the Minister that if he maintains his present attitude throughout the consideration of this Bill, the Prime Minister will find, on his return from what the honorable member for East Sydney has termed his trip round the world, that the Committee has just reached the last definition in this clause, for there will be no hope of the measure being translated into law earlier unless by the iron hand of the guillotine. I. invite the Minister to reconsider his attitude, and to exclude the military occupation of a foreign country from the definition of “ active service.” Let me remind the Committee of the definition of “ active service “ in the Defence Act of 1903-1910- “ Active service “ means service in or with a force which is engaged in operations against the enemy, and includes any naval or military service in time of war.
Even that is not nearly as objectionable as is the definition proposed in the Bill. The amendment proposed by the Leader of the . Opposition is wide enough for anything. I should be very sorry to think that the acceptance of it. meant the consent to our citizens to being conscripted for active service wherever there might be Avar.
– The definition of “ active service “ in the existing Defence Act is - “ Active service “ - has a meaning corresponding to that of the same words as used in sub-section ( 1 ) of section 189 of the Army Act defining the expression “ active service.”
Mr.BRENNAN. - I quoted the earlier Defence Act in order to show by comparison that we have been proceeding from bad to worse - that whereas in the beginning we showed a little independence, and realized the necessity for making our own laws for our own people, we have since pursued a policy of progressive deterioration, and havebeen handing over to another Parliament - I will- not say a foreign Parliament - the responsibility of legislating for Australia.
– The definition of “active service” has been discussed from almost every possible aspect. As originally drafted, the clause contained certain words which made that definition dependent upon the terms of the British Air Force Act. The Leader of the Opposition, and many other honorable gentlemen, took exception to the method of embodying British legislation by reference, and said it would be preferable toinsert in the Bill a straight-out definition of “ active service.” The Minister has accepted that view, and has submitted an amendment to give effect to it. The Leader of the Opposition prefers another definition. The relative merits and demerits of the two definitions have been fully discussed, and I suggest that the Committee might now very suitably decide which of the two shall be adopted. The tendency of the long discussion upon clause 4 has been to make this particular definition the ground for fighting out a very large and broad issue. The Bill applies to the Australian service some portions of the Imperial Air Force Act. Certain honorable gentlemen disapprove of that procedure, and are of opinion that this Parliament should be able to draft a complete measure for Australia. I shall not now discuss that contention. I suggest that this is not the stage to Jo so. The Committee will be afforded an opportunity on a specific clause in the Bill to thresh out and decide that issue, and the remaining clauses may then be dealt with according to such decision. The ground upon which the debate upon this definition originated has completely disappeared by reason of the Minister’s willingness to insert a precise definition. The only question that the Committee has to decide at this stage is whether the words suggested by the Minister or those suggested by the Leader of the Opposition shall be accepted. I do not say that the broad question of principle which has been raised should not be fully discussed, but this isnot the proper place or time to discuss it. If the same issue is to be fought upon every definition in the clause, I shall probably return from England to find, as the honorable member for Batman threatened, the consideration of the Bill by the Committee still in progress. Our duty is to pass a Bill which representsthe wisdom of, at any rate, the majority of the Committee, and we shall certainly not do that without an unnecessary waste of time if the big issues are to be fought out on the definition clause. Letus now take a vote as to which definition of “active service” is to be inserted, then proceed with the other clauses, and when we come to the particular clause in which the broad issue we have been discussing is involved, debate the matter further, and come to a determination. We “shall then have a better opportunity, after all aspects of the case have been presented, of giving effect to the wishes of the Committee than we have now when dealing merely with a definition clause, a decision upon which cannot have the slightest effect upon the principles embodied in the Bill. If at the proper stage the principle of incorporating the Imperial Air Force Act is not accepted, the related definitions will consequentially disappear.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) put -
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - resolved in the negative.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Charlton’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Bowden) proposed -
That at the end of the clause the following sub-clause be inserted : - “ (2) For the purposes of this Act, a person subject to this Act shall be deemed to be on active service whenever he is attached to or forms part of a force which is engaged in operations against the enemy, or is engaged in warlike operations in a country or place wholly or partly occupied by an enemy, or is in military occupation of any foreign country.”
.- I object to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) moving that this new sub-clause be inserted at the end of the clause, and I hope that I shall be supported by every fair-minded man in the Committee. Here we have another trick being played. I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) will not move the application of the “gag,” because I desire honorable members to thoroughly understand the position. This is very keen business on the part of the Government.
– I object to that.
– If the action of the Government is not quite the “ confidence trick,” it is something very like it.
– I must object to such statements.
– Then I withdraw them.
– The amendment has been circulated.
– Quite so; but I wish to put my own view of the proposal of the Minister for Defence. The “ gag “ is bad enough, but this latest move is worse. During yesterday and to-day we have been debating the definition of “ active service,” and now the Minister for Defence solemnly proposes to make this amendment at the end of the clause, thus precluding any further discussion on the clause as a whole.
– No, no!
– The honorable gentleman is only showing that he does not know his business, and it is time he did know it.
– Do not talk like that!
– After the”gag” I am entitled to talk in this strain. I always desire to be fair, and it will be admitted that I have given the Government a “ fair run “ during the past two weeks. I asked the Minister for Defence whether this amendment was to be inserted in the definition of “ active service,” and his reply was that he proposed to insert it at the end of the clause.
– That is what I say now ; it is according to the notice of motion.
– What will be the position if the amendment be made as proposed by the Minister? It is clear that if it be made at the end of the clause there can be no further discussion of the remaining definitions, although one of these defines the “ Air Force Act “ as the Imperial Act. If this amendment be made at the end of the clause that definition will remain.
– What is the honorable gentleman’s trouble?
– Let me put my view first. The Minister can put his afterwards. We have our rights and should stand by them, and every honorable member will see that we retain them. Clause 54 provides - (1.) Members of the Air Force, whether on war service or not -
Clause 55 provides -
The Air Force shall at all times while on war service whether within or without the limits of the Commonwealth be subject to the Air Force Act save so far as it is inconsistent with this Act and subject to such’ modifications and adaptations as are prescribed, including the imposition of a fine not exceeding Twenty pounds for an offence either in addition to or insubstitution for the punishment provided by the Air Force Act, and the increase or reduction of the amount of a fine provided by the Air Force Act:
Provided that the regulations shall not increase the fine for any offence so that it exceeds Twenty pounds.
The Air Force Act referred to in these clauses is the British Air Force Act which embraces the British Army Act. But the point I make is that once we accept thedefinition of “ active service “ in its amended form and place it at the end of clause 4, all discussion on other definitions in the clause is precluded.
– If I had not been alive to the position honorable members would have found themselves in that difficulty. They have to thank me for drawing attention to it. The Minister said distinctly that his amendment was to go at the end of the clause.
– Granting that that isso, the honorable member can submit any prior amendment.
– That is a climb down.
– No; I state what is the practice.
– I appeal to the common sense of honorable members. “Were we not all day yesterday discussing the definition of “ active service “ ?I moved an amendment, and the Minister also suggested one. When a definition is altered, is it not the practice to insert the alteration at the place occupied by the definition ? Every honorable member knows that the whole of the discussion yesterday took place on the definition of “ active service,” which is the first definition in clause 4, and it is sharp practice on the part of the Minister to propose an amendment to this definition and have it inserted, not in the place in the clause now occupied by the definition, but at the end of it, thus shutting out all discussion on other definitions in the clause which refer to the Air Force Act which incorporates the British Army Act.
– That is the whole point. Does the Minister’s amendment have that effect?
– It does. We do not want to bring our Air Force under an Imperial Act about which we know nothing. Very few honorable members in this Parliament know what the British Army Act contains, and I undertake to say that there are very few in the British House of Commons who do. Yet we are solemnly’ asked to bring our Air Force under the provisions of that Act. If honorable members of this Committee vote according to their consciences they will not permit the Australian Air Force to be brought under the British Army Act.
– The honorable member has made his point. I am with him.
– I believe that I am right in what I am saying, and I am surprised at the Minister’s action in moving to insert the altered definition of “ active service “ at the end of clause 4. It should be inserted in place of the words already deleted at the beginning of the clause.
– The whole point is whether the Minister’s action, in moving as he has done, will prevent discussion on the other definitions contained in this clause. If it does so the Leader of the Opposition will find honorable members on the Ministerial side supporting him.
– It was my duty to point out that the Minister’s action will have that effect, and yet, when I did so, I was twitted by the Government with endeavouring to block business. If ever a Ministry has had fair play, from a Leader of an Opposition, it has had it from me during the last couple of weeks.
Yet this is the treatment I receive. The Minister knows the procedure as well as I do. He knows that if his amendment is inserted at the end of clause 2 the Committee cannot go hack to any other definition in that clause.
– Does the honorable member desire to go back to any other definition?
– Yes. For two days we have been debating the question of placing the Australian Air Force under the British Army Act, and several of these definitions contain references to the British Air Force Act, which incorporates the provisions of the British Army Act. I believe that the consensus of opinion among honorable members is against the Government’s proposal in this regard, yet the Minister, by a device, seeks to retain these references in other definitions.
– It was distinctly understood that what the Minister was proposing was purely a definition of “ active service,” and that later we should have the opportunity of discussing the question of placing our Air Force under the British Army Act.
– The whole position has arisen through a misunderstanding.
– Honorable members agree that the position I have put before them is absolutely correct. If this amendment is agreed to and inserted at the end of clause 4 honorable members will be prevented from going back to discuss any other definition in the clause. Why do not the Government meet the wishes of the Committee?
– Last night the Minister promised definitely to draft a definition of “ active service “ on the lines of that which is in the British Air Force Act. He has circulated his amendment. It has been on the table all the afternoon and is exactly what he promised last night it would be. It is necessary, for drafting reasons, however, for him to have it inserted, not in the position the definition of “active service” occupied in the Bill, namely, at the beginning of clause 4, but at the end of the clause. The Leader of the Opposition says that if the Minister takes this step it will block the Committee from debating everything else in the clause. There is no occasion for heat.
– It is sharp practice.
– It is not. I am surprised at the honorable member.
– Such a thing has not been done before.
– It has been done on many occasions. The whole of the clause is still open for discussion. When the Chairman stated that the question before the Committee was “ That the clause be agreed to,” the Minister notified his intention to move this amendment, and it was open to any honorable member to move a prior amendment. In such a case the practice is for the Minister to withdraw his amendment to enable any honorable member desirous of moving a prior amendment to do so. The Minister is still willing to withdraw his amendment to enable a prior amendment to be moved.
– That is not what he said.
– I asked if there was any other amendment before mine.
– I think we understand the situation now. Harmony is restored; let us get on with the business.
– I shall certainly move a prior amendment; but I have no recollection of the Minister saying anything of the kind. I asked him very plainly, in the hearing of many honorable members, where he proposed to insert his amendment, and he replied, “ At the end of the clause.” I immediately took exception to that.
– I asked the honorable member if he wished to move any amendment in front of mine.
– Why is the Minister shifting the definition from the beginning of the clause to the end of twenty other definitions?
– So that it may be inserted in the clause in its alphabetical order.
– The position is misunderstood. ‘We have eliminated certain words from the definition of “ active service,” leaving the words “ active service “ standing by themselves.
– That can easily be rectified later on.
– It only shows the muddle into which the Committee has got because of the way in which the Government are managing their business. I shall submit an amendment prior to that of the Minister’s. In this clause we find - “ Air Force Act “ means the Imperial Act called the Air Force Act, and any Acts amending or in substitution for it, and for the time being in force.
This is the very thing we have been debating. Honorable members say that they want an Australian Air Force, but that they do not want it to work under an Imperial Act. That being the case, why should we leave this definition in the Bill.
– The honorable member must realize that this will all come up for discussion on clauses 54 and 55, when I shall vote against that portion of the Bill.
– The honorable member says he will vote against the proposal when we reach the other clauses. If members object to bringing our Air Force under the Imperial Act, why should we allow the definition to pass? It is only begging the question when they say that they will vote against other clauses.
– If the amendment is accepted, the definition of “ active service “ will be completely altered.
– Exactly, and “active service” will be defined at the end of the clause instead of the beginning. But there is a previous paragraph which says - “Air Force Act” means the Imperial Act called the Air Force Act and any Acts amending or in substitution for it and for the time being in force.
If honorable members are opposed to bringing the Australian Air Force under the Imperial Act, they should not allow that definition to pass. The fight should be put up when we meet an objectionable clause, and not later.
– The definition must be there if it is carried.
– If there are sufficient members of the Committee like the honorable member the Bill can be altered. But the place and time to test the question is here and now. The honorable member knows that if we agree to this clause, and subsequently reject the other objectionable clauses, this one will have to be recommitted. Why should we pass a clause of which we do not approve knowing that later we shall have to recommit it ?
– It is the Minister’s Bill, not the honorable member’s.
-The honorable member is nothing but an apologist for the Minister. He did a lot of that in the last Parliament, and he is doing it still. He has shown by his statements yesterday, and by his interjections to-day, that he is opposed to bringing the Air Force under the Imperial Act.
– If the definition be struck out, the clause becomes worthless.
– I am surprised at the attitude of the honorable member.
– The attitude of the Opposition is sickening.
– If the honorable memberwere in Opposition he would be sickened to see the clause changed as it has been. The amendment leaves the words “ active service ‘’ standing by themselves, and proposes to put the definition at the end of the clause.
– Suppose the Committee decides not to alter clause 55, the definition must still stand.
– I am quite prepared to regard the vote now to be taken as a test vote. If honorable members want to bring the Force under the Imperial Act, now is their opportunity.
– Will the honorable member’s party agree to that?
– I do not know, but I believe that is the right procedure. The honorable member evidently does not want to test the opinion of the Committee on the question.
– I do.
– Then let us have the test at once.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Charlton) proposed -
That the definition of “ Air Force Act “ be omitted.
– I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) regarding the undesirability of having an important test vote upon a definition clause. Honorable members know quite well that even if the definition is struck out clauses 54 or 55 will not be affected. The real issue will have to be fought out on those clauses. If the Committee, when it reaches those clauses, decides to strike them out, it will have to recommit the definition clause. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is trying to force the issue upon what is merely an interpretation clause.
– The Minister tried to avoid the issue by altering the position in the clause of the definition of “ active service.”
– The honorable gentleman is not right in saying that. I do not want to avoid the issue. The Committee must decide it, but the proper time and place to do that will be on the’ clause which provides that in time of war the Australian Air Force shall be under the Imperial Air Force Act. If the Committee does not want to pass that’ clause, it can delete it, and, if it does that, the fact that the Air Force Act is defined in the definition clause will not make any difference. If the clause is not struck out the definition will be needed. The real issue will arise on clause 55 and that issue the Leader of the Opposition is trying to shirk, because he does not want to meet it fairly and squarely at the point where it ought to be met.
– After what has happened, the Minister should be the last to say that.
– Clause 55 provides-
The Air Force shall at all times while on war service whether within or without the limits of the Commonwealth be subject to the Air Force Act save so far as it is inconsistent with this Act and subject to such modifications and adaptations as are prescribed, including the imposition of a fine not exceeding Twenty pounds for an offence either in addition to or in substitution for the punishment provided by the Air Force Act, and the increase or reduction of the amount of a fine provided by the Air Force Act.
Provided that the regulations shall not increase the fine for any offence so that it exceeds Twenty pounds.
That clause is exactly the same as the section in the Defence Act referring to the Army Act. The question at issue is whether in time of war our Air Force shall come under the Imperial Air Force Act, and the Committee can decide that issue on clause 55 . It was for that reason that I suggested yesterday that we should leave the definition clause until we had dealt with the rest of the Bill.
– Why did the Minister put his amendment at the end of the clause ?
– Because the clause is arranged alphabetically, and the draftsman worded the amendment in such a way that it naturally came at the end.
– How does the Minister make a “ Z “ out of an “ A “?
– The definition does not commence with “ active service,”.’ as did the paragraph for which it is substituted.
– That is the cunningness of it.
– It still seems to me that my suggestion to postpone the definition clause was reasonable. The Leader of the Opposition has intimated that there are three clauses which he wants to fight, namely, those relating to the suppression of domestic violence, the application of. the Army Act, and courts martial. I suggested that the definition clause might be postponed until the Committee had had an opportunity of deciding those three large issues. It is not an unusual proceeding. In all British Acts the interpretation clauses are placed last, for that reason.
– Will the Leader of the Opposition agree to postpone the definition clause now?
– The objection is to the Imperial Act being included in the Bill. My complaint is that while we debated the subject all day yesterday, the definition is now placed at the end of the clause, apparently for the purpose of shutting our mouths.
– That is merely because of the way in which the Solicitor-General has drafted the amendment.
– The Government has in that officer a good friend for preventing debate.
– I have never known an instance in which an honorable member has desired to move an amendment prior to another which was before the Committee when the mover of the first amendment has not willingly withdrawn it.
– That is not the point. The point is that the Government has removed the definition of “ active service “ from the beginning to the end of the clause. That is the cause of the whole trouble.
– The alteration is merely due to the form in which the definition is now drafted. There is nothing sinister or underhand in it.
– This is clearly the place where we must fight the issue.
– I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw his amendment and allow the definition clause to be postponed, so that we may get to the material clauses of the Bill and settle the issues which are involved ? If he will do that it will bring us to the main points quickly, and he will not in any sense prejudice his position. The issue now before us is not whether the Air Force Act of Great Britain shall be applied to our Air Force in time of war. When we reach the clause which deals with that matter, honorable members will be fully appraised of the position, and will be able to debate the question more intelligently.
– I understand the Prime Minister wishes us to postpone dealing with this definition until we reach clause 55.
– That is so. In that clause we shall deal with the substance of the matter.
– Our view is that the substance of the matter is here.
– The position of the Opposition would not be prejudiced by the adoption of the course I propose.
.- We think it would. That is my view, and it is the unanimous view of this party. We are prepared to support the establishment of an Air Force on this continent whether for the extension of the blessings of civilization in time of peace, or for the defence of the country in time of war. Certain principles are involved in this legislation, however, and we intend to uphold those principles. One thing we are definite and decided upon is that if a system of aviation is adopted, the laws and regulations to govern it must be Australian. They must be made by the representatives of the people of Australia. We arc definitely and distinctly hostile to the imposition of any British legislation on the Air Force, whether directly or by reference. That is clear.
– Australia first!
– We have already discussed the definition of “ active service.” The original proposal of the Minister - or more likely of the military officers behind his back - was that whatever definition of “ active service “ the Imperial Parliament cared to pass should be the definition to govern the Australian Force. As the discussion proceeded, the Government, in accordance with the opinion expressed by its followers, agreed to include in the Bill the definite language which was to define “ active service.” The language was not what we desired, but was suggested by the other side. We have fought our fight on that subject. The battle is now concentrated on whether or not the Air Force Act of Great Britain shall be applied to the Air Force to be established to defend Australia. The definition the Minister wishes to include is - “Air Force Act” means the ImperialAct called the Air Force Act and an)’ Acts amending or In substitution for it and for the time being in force.
We are opposed to that on a fundamental principle. It is not merely a definition that we are discussing, but the general principle of whether the Air Force shall be governed by legislation and regulations made in some country other than our own. That is the situation without any proviso or qualification. We say our Air Force shall not be so governed. If honor - orable members on that side say it shall, this is the time and place to say it. If the majority of this Committee stands clearly and distinctly for a purely Australian Act to govern the Air Force, the only thing the Government can do is to withdraw this Bill and remodel it in accordance with the decision of the Committee. Amendments will then be required all through the Bill. Clauses 55, 63, and 72 will certainly need redrafting. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said the fight was on clause 55. I say it is on all these clauses. What are the terms of the British Air Force Act? Let honorable members read sections 17, 18, 23, 25, 29, and 30, and they will see something of what is contemplated. Under section 17 a man may be tried for half-a-dozen different offences, and suffer penal servitude. Under section 18 he may be tried for any fraudulent practices. Section 23 makes him liable to punishment for accepting fees or commissions. He is liable to punishment under section 25 if he makes any false report or false muster roll or pay list, or makes an excuse to relieve anybody. These sections are serious, and the fight must be waged now, because their adoption is contemplated in the definition of “ Air Force Act.” This is the ordinary way in which to proceed. If the Leader of the Opposition had not acted as he has done, we should have been blocked from discussing this matter. I do not say that one of the Ministers who is in charge of this Bill - for there are really three who are responsible for it, by what we can see - is to be blamed with bringing this matter forward in the sly way in which it is before us. I believe the officers behind him are guilty. It is an utterly contemptible trick. When we were discussing last night the clause dealing with military occupation, we had an illustration of what these military officers will do. It was shown that these advisers of the Government are prepared to use their legal knowledge to inflict grave injustices on large sections of the community. The Minister said last night that the Defence Act of 1917 had to be amended because the definition in the Act of 1912 was not sufficient to cover our military occupation of New Guinea. If that was so, our military occupation of New Guinea was illegal for four years. The advisers of the Government must have known full well that it was illegal, yet they caused a large number of men to be thrown into Darlinghurst gaol for offences supposed to have been committed in New Guinea. This definition, which they knew not to apply, was used to keep the men in gaol for a number of years.
– They were not then on active service, in a technical sense.
– That is not the position, either. They were on active operations in New Guinea at the time. Everybody knows what happened in the Rabaul incident. Soon after the’ outbreak of the war, military officers were getting away with loose material, but they were prosecuting other men for doing the same thing.-‘ Some of those men were sent to gaol for five years under a section which was known not to apply for doing the same thing that the officers were doing. Whether the power that the military officials had was properly theirs or not, they were prepared to use it. That shows how we must watch these military gentlemen. We are prepared to assist the Government to do what we believe to be right, but we shall take every opportunity to affirm our principles, and we shall certainly express our opinion on all matters which are vital to the future of this country. The point we are now considering is fundamental. We believe a dirty and contemptible trick is being played by the use of the language in this definition clause. Is the Minister prepared to accept responsibility for this ? If he is not, he should tell the legal gentlemen behind the curtain who are advising him, and who are drawing emoluments from the revenue of the country, that he will not justify such conduct. I assure him that we shall fight every clause in this Bill which has the slightest reference to placing the Air Force of Australia in any way under the laws and regulations of any other country. We draw a clear distinction between the Naval and Military and Air Forces. We say that our Air Force shall not be available for the military occupation of any other country. We do not favour spending the revenue of Australia to train men for the defence of the country, only to find in a time of national crisis that they have been dispersed to the four corners of the world. This Force will be built up by material that comes from the factories of Australia, and by our own Australian citizens, and it must be used only for the defence of this country. We object strenuously to any suggestion that it may be sent outside the territories of Australia, and we shall oppose any move which’ has that object.
.- The amendment is that the definition of “Air Force Act” be omitted; but the real substance of the discussion is the application of some provisions of the Air Force Act. The definition, as a definition, is perfectly accurate. It only says what must appear in the Bill if the provisions of the Air Force Act are to be embodied in it. The most important of the provisions as to the Air Force Act is in clause 55. It appears to me, with all respect to senior members of the ‘Committee, that, at present, honorable members are spending a great deal of time in discussing when they are going to discuss the question, instead of getting through the purely formal matter, and fighting the big issues on the subsequent clauses of the Bill on which they arise. The real issue must arise on clause 55, and when we reach that clause, whatever is done at this stage, the Committee will still have to determine the question of the application, to any extent, of the Air Force Act to the Australian Air Force. Therefore, I suggest it would not be unreasonable to consent to the course proposed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and allow this clause to be postponed.
– We shall put the matter to the vote. If the honorable member wishes to vote against his own convictions, he will be given the opportunity. Make no mistake aboutwhat we shall do. We shall not wriggle in the way proposed.
– The Leader ofthe Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has just said that I am voting against my own conviction. I am not aware that that is in accordance with parliamentary usage, but I am perfectly safe in saying that the honorable gentleman’s statement is utterly inaccurate. I spoke on this Bill yesterday, and I said plainly why 1 agreed that, as a general rule, legislation by reference v/as a wrong form of legislation. I also stated why, in this case, I thought it was a right form. If the Leader of the Opposition is sincere in his statement that he is unable to follow my reasons, I can only express my sorrow for his mental capacity. When I am charged with voting against my convictions, I take the liberty of resenting the accusation whoever makes it. This question is being debated as if what is proposed were something new. It is ‘being debated in a most amusing fashion. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) exhibited a very high degree of indignation at the suggestion that there should be any legislation presuming that our Air Force might operate beyond Australia. It really is amusing, and almost amazing, to hear it seriously suggested in a deliberative assembly that the law should change in relation to a man in an aeroplane when he passes over the 3-mile limit from the coast which marks the boundary of Australia. The thing is so absurd and ridiculous as to be hardly worth talking about. To suggest that ail laws are to cease in relation to our Air Force beyond the 3-mile limit round the Australian coast is to reach very nearly the limit of the ridiculous. Let us look at the position as it has been for many years in the Commonwealth. Honorable members are discussing this question as if it were an unheard of thing to apply in Commonwealth legislation any of the provisions of the Army Act, subject to our own Act, and to such regulations as are made from time to time. From the year 1903 that has been the position in respect to the Australian Military Forces. I am quite well aware that it is open to honorable members from every point of view to say, “ We do not agree with such and such provisions of the Army Act. We desire a clause in this Bill to exclude those provisions.” That would obviously be a fair line of criticism. But these provisions to which objection is now taken have been in operation, in the same limited manner as is proposed by this Bill in relation to the Air Force, in relation to the Army ever since 1903, when the first Defence Act was passed by this Parliament. What I am dealing with now is the suggestion that this is something new and unheard-of. In section 4 of the Defence Act of 1903, “ Army Act “ is defined as meaning -
The Imperial Act called the “ Army Act “ and any Act amending or in substitution for it and for the time being in force.
Section 55 of the Defence Act of 1903 is a provision which has remained the law ever since the passing of that Act, and is to the following effect: -
The Military Forces shall at all times, while on active service, be subject to the Army Act save so far as it is inconsistent with this Act; but so that the regulations may prescribe that any provisions of the Army Act shall not apply to the Military Forces.
That is to say that, so far as the Army is concerned, the law under all Governments of the Commonwealth has been and is to-day just exactly the same as this Bill proposes to make it in relation to the Air Force. Then, under the Naval Defence Act, in the same way, there is a reference, and always has been, to the Naval Discipline Act. In our Naval Defence Act the Naval Discipline Act is defined in section 3 as meaning -
The Imperial Act, called the “ Naval Discipline Act,” as amended from time to time, and includes any Act for the time being in force in substitution for that Act.
Then section 36 of our Naval Defence Act provides, and always has provided, under all Governments of the Commonwealth, that -
The Naval Discipline Act and the. King’s Regulations and Admiralty Instructions for the time being in force in relation to the King’s Naval Forces shall, subject to this Act and to any modifications and adaptations described by the Regulations, apply to the Naval Forces.
What is sought to be dome in relation to the Air Force is exactly what has been the law and is to-day the law of the Commonwealth ‘ in relation to the Army and the Navy. Our Defence Act and our Naval Defence Act contain many provisions which are inconsistent with the Army Act and with the Naval Discipline’ Act.- In the same way, the Air Force Bill under consideration is legislation which sets up a different scheme in many respects from that which is “applied in the Air Force Act of the Old Country. Our Act is law absolutely, and our own regulations made from time to time are law absolutely. It is only the residuum of the Air Force Act which this Parliament chooses to leave standing which would have any application under this Bill, just as in the same way, in the case of the
Army and Navy, it is only the residuum of the Army Act and the Naval Discipline Act which this Parliament has desired to leave standing that applies, and has applied since their inception, to our Military and Naval Forces. It is quit© open to argument that this is not altogether a satisfactory method of legislation. That is a point upon which I said something yesterday. I said that, as a general rule, there would not be justification for supporting a system the lines of which were determined by another Parliament. The reasons why this case does not fall under that obvious rule are that our Forces at present are designed, and I hope they will always be designed to act in conjunction with Forces from the other parts of the Empire. It is, perhaps, not absolutely essential, but it is certainly desirable from the standpoint of efficiency, that there should be the same general organization of the Forces, so that they might act efficiently in co-operation, subject to the local modifications that we desire. That is the only effect of these provisions. I am particularly addressing myself to the point. that it appears to be thought by some honorable members that this is a new and outrageous departure. Whether outrageous or not, it is not new. It is, on the contrary, something which a large number of the honorable members who sit in this Chamber, and who have spoken upon this subject in this debate, have supported and voted for in the past without then seeing the iniquities that are now suggested. There is an effective way of dealing with the matter, and it is this: The Bill proposes that the Air Force Act shall apply except in so far as this Parliament makes other provision in this measure, or in so far as it may be inconsistent with regulations made under our law, to our Air Force. If there is anything in the Air Force Act which is objectionable it is the duty of those who object ,to it to say to the Government, “W.e will not allow you to include that provision in the Bill,” and they should then propose the inclusion of a clause in this Bill which will prevent what they regard as objectionable sections of the Imperial Air Force Act applying to Australian Forces. That is the way to deal with the matter. If there are objectionable provisions in the Imperial Air Force Act let them be pointed out, and let a new clause be proposed for insertion in the Bill to exclude the application of those objectionable provisions either in express terms, or by making a different provision in the Bill. When the defects of the British Air Force Act, if some exist, are pointed out, if I consider that they should be excluded I shall unhesitatingly vote for necessary amendments, but I shall judge each ‘amendment on its merits. “Up to the present we have heard only generalities which have been founded upon the reiterated suggestion that what is now proposed is something which was unheard of before, whereas, as a matter of fact, it is well known to all of us that many of the members of the Committee who have been most voluble in their denunciation of the Bill have, in fact,, lived quietly under, and in many cases helped to enact legislation so far as the Navy and the Army are concerned which contains provisions which, if they are not identical in form with those to which they now object, are absolutely identical in substance.
– I wish to offer one or two suggestions for the consideration of the Committee, and, perhaps, particularly for the consideration of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), for whose opinion in matters of law I naturally have great respect. I would submit to the honorable member the simple question whether he has ever heard, in the interests of Imperial solidarity, and to promote the safety of the Empire, of the Imperial Parliament adopting as a part of its legislation in globo an Australian Act of Parliament. Because if he has not, then it appears to me that that is prima, facie a strong argument why we should not adopt in globo an Act of the Imperial Parliament. The honorable member made a very curious suggestion.. He pointed out that this Parliament can affirmatively legislate, and has done that, so far as it thinks fit, in regard to Australia’s defence, and that its Act, so far as it goes, is absolute. It is absolute, and the regulations made according to law are in themselves absolute. Having pointed out that this Parliament has’ gone so far, and that its power is absolute, he said that nothing remains but the residuary clauses in this legacy of power to legislate. He then placed upon the Opposition critics of this Bill the responsibility of pointing out to the Government, who have the duty of governing, what they regard as objectionable in the Imperial Act, which is not before us for consideration. That seems to be quite an inversion of the duties of the Government and the responsibilities of Parliament. In other words, it is the duty of the Government to legislate affirmatively upon those matters that we want dealt with affirmatively, and to say: “Here we have the residuum, and we want you to understand what is in it, and to give you an opportunity of declaring to what you object in that indefinite residuum.” The honorable member, after pursuing his argument up to a certain point with customary lucidity, dismissed the matter by saying: “There is nothingwrong with this proposal except this indefinite residuum, and God knows what is in that.” He further said that it was impossible, in any Imperial policy of defence, to create a division of power by passing laws which will cease to affect our Forces as soon as they get beyond the territorial limit. I am not impressed by the honorable member’s argument, for it applies in greater or less degree to all conflicts of law between self-governing territories. We can say with perfect safety, that when the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) appears for the Government, and makes out so poor a case for them, the objection of the Opposition is, ipso facto, much strengthened. We adhere to our objection. We have now reached the concrete question of this Parliament being invited, and expected to accept in globo, the Statute of another Parliament external to our own, and, in respect . of our inalienable right of self-government, foreign to our own. Honorable members opposite have their sentiments and fetishes, and Imperialism is one of them. I am prepared to make some concession to their Imperial spirit, but when they ask me to concede to the Imperial Parliament the right to make laws for the government of the people of Australia, I know I shall have considerable support in opposing such a policy. If ever there was a slogan which should arouse the Australian voter to a sense of his position, it is that of Australia’s right to make its own laws. It isnot a matter of word splitting; it is not merely a question of a definition; it involves the eternal principle of the right of self-government, and on that we should stand; but in this Bill it is being assailed by the Government, who are the chosen trustees of the country. It is the business of the trustees to point out to the people, through the Legislature, exactly the extent to which we shall be committed by this Bill. But does anybody give Ministers credit for knowing to what extent we shall be committed? They do not know what is contained in those heavy volumes known as the Air Force Act and the Army Act. They take them on trust, in the spirit of the Treasurer’ (Dr. Earle Page), who from his place in this Chamber said last year that he believed that it was not the part’ of this Parliament to have any say in the foreign policy of Australia.
-i did not say anything of the sort.
-I heard the honorable gentleman say that it was not the part of this Parliament to even offer & suggestion to the Imperial Parliament in regard to Australia’s foreign policy.
– The honorable member never heard me say that.
– Yes; “right or wrong.”
– It was not the Treasurer who said that Australia should accept Britain’s policy “ right or wrong.” That is an expression we must attribute to the former honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best). I have a friendly feeling towards a fellow worker, and I give the present representative of that constituency a friendly warning not to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor. What did the Treasurer say upon the question of foreign policy? Was it not that Australia should not even make a suggestion to the Imperial Government?
– That is absolutely in correct.
– Times have changed. The leader of the “ paralytic “ party has been led to the altar by the leader of the “ looters,” and the “ looters “ and the “ paralytics “ have produced this Bill, casually incorporated with which is the British Army Act. On reference to Hansard of the 19th September, 1922, I find that the Treasurer said -
It is the settled policy of the British commonwealth of nations for the Imperial Government to determine and carry out foreign policy, and while that is the position it is Australia’s duty to assist the Imperial Government.
That is not quite as I quoted the honorable member, but my quotation was substantially correct.
– Read the whole passage.
– No. Some of it would be irrelevant, as it reflects horribly ok. the Nationalists; but the honorable member said also in the same speech -
I am very pleased on this occasion the Dominions have been consulted by the Imperial Government. The cablegram, the substance of which the Prime Minister read, asked for a deliberate opinionfrom the various Dominions as to their attitude in connexion with this important issue.
The important issue was the sending of troops to the Near East at the request, not of the Imperial Parliament or the English people, but of a Prime Minister who a month or two later was summarily removed from the Treasury bench. The Treasurer continued -
And I regret that theLeader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) should to some extent have weakened the position of the Imperial Government and the whole Empire in their proposed effortsby suggesting that Australia would not be unanimously behind the Imperial. Government in an endeavour to secure world peace.
We were to secure world peace by sending an army to the Near East! While Europe was strewn with the bones of those who gave their lives in the world’s war, we were asked to send another Army to the Near East to support the supposed claims, and to achieve a similar result. They were not the claims of the Empire, and I hardly know what claims they were. One hardly remembers whether we were to fight Turkey or Greece, for our friends the Allies were somewhat divided in opinion. We were to support Greece, and a recent Ally was to supply the fighting materials for Turkey, and we were to cement the entente with France at the same time. That was the policy of the Government as declared by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) when he was Leader of the Country party, and before the later entente was so happily established on the Treasury bench. The latter entente, in matters of defence, gives effect to the views of the Leader of the Country party, and the consequence is that we find this Government more militarist, more imperialistic, and less Australian than even its predecessor. I could hardly make a more damning criticism of any Government than to say that it was worse than the last one we had. I may be accused of using the language of extravagance, but I am sure that you, Mr. Cook, as Temporary Chairman, will not so accuse me, seeing the wide interpretation you are giving to the Standing
Orders in regard tothe right of members to speak on this clause. That wide interpretation is unprecedented, but I hope that your example will be followed. I leave this matter to the good sense of the Committee. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) is at the present time considering whether he will move the “ gag “ before I sit down or immediately , I do so. He is entitled to such pleasure as he can get out of. his own reflections, though for my part I think they are. unworthy of the position he occupies. However, let that pass, for it is a serious question we are discussing. We are not opposing the proposal of the Government in any light-hearted mood. In it we recognise the cloven hoof, and I am in a sense glad to feel that it is so daring an attack on Australian rights of self-government that we, as a Labour party, are certain to have, as we deserve, the support of the great body of public opinion outside. Men and women who perhaps have not hitherto always voted with us will support us when it comes to a question of Australia’s right to make her own laws. In my opinion, this Bill will never receive, or deserve to receive, the indorsement of the Australian people in its present form.
– I wish to state as briefly as possible how I stand in regard to the clause under discussion. We are asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) to delete a certain definition. When, later on, we come to the clauses with which is involved a very great principle, we can decide whether all references to the Imperial Air Force Act shall be deleted, If every reference to that Act is deleted, then the definition of “Air Force Act” will be altogether unnecessary. If, on the other hand, the references to the Imperial Act are allowed to remain, some definition must be retained. I am not anticipating what I shall do when we reach the main clauses. In my opinion, the best course would be, as suggested by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), to postpone this clause.
– There must be a vote on this clause, one way or the other.
– I do not intend on a definition clause such as this to declare my views on the principle involved, but will wait until the clauses actually affecting it are before us.
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230719_reps_9_104/>.