9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr.Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Sir ELLIOT JOHNSON presented a petition, signed by the president and secretary of the Women’s League to Reducethe Cost of Living, praying the House to take steps during the current year to give effect to the object of the league.
Petition received and read.
– I should like to ask the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson), who presented a petition this afternoon bearing on the high cost of living, what steps he proposes to take to afford relief to the petitioners?
– I am perfectly willing to answer the honorable member’s question if you, Mr. Speaker, give me permission to do so.
– The point raised by the honorable member, whether it is competent for him to reply to an interrogation addressed to him by another honorable member, respecting the petition which he presented this afternoon, is dealt with effectively and finally in standing order No. 92, which reads -
After notices have been given, questions may be put to Ministers of the Crown relating to public affairs; and to other members relating to any Bill, motion, or other public matter connected with the business on the notice-paper, of which such members may have charge.
The petition is not connected with business on the notice-paper. When a petition has been presented to the House, as in this case, it is no longer in charge of the honorable member who presented it, but in charge of the House.
The following papers were presented : -
Inscribed Stock Act. - Dealings and transac tions during year ended 30th June, 1923.
Lands Acquisition Act. - Land acquired at
Julia Creek, Queensland, for postal purposes.
War Service Homes Act. - Land acquired at Peakhurst, New South Wales.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the proposed construction of a railway connecting Canberra with Yass, together with plans, and move -
That the report be printed.
.-I do not think we should allow this motion to go unchallenged.
– It does not suit the honorable member.
– It does not suit me, nor does it suit this House or the people of Australia. The building of Canberra has been definitely determined by a very substantial majority of the members of this House, yet we find a Committee that was asked to investigate a work which is absolutely essential to the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra, placing every obstacle in the way of the building of the Capital.
– Does the honorable member know the nature of the report of the Committee?
– It is quite easy to anticipate what is in the report, knowing that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) is a member of the Public Works Committee. We know that nearly all of the members of the Public Works Committee are definitely hostile to the establishment of the Capital at Canberra. They make no secret of their hostility to it. They are now endeavouring by a subterfuge to block progress at. Canberra, which this House has decided upon. I take this opportunity to enter my protest against the action of the Public Works Committee.
– The honorable member would not permit the report to be presented to Parliament.
– The Committee was asked to consider a proposal for the building of a railway to connect Canberra with Yass. This work is absolutely essential to the establishment of the Capital at Canberra. If there is to be a capital at all, we must provide proper railway communication with it. We find the Public Works Committee, in its hostility to Canberra, deliberately turning down this project.
– I rise to order. The honorable member has said that the Public Works Committee is deliberately hostile to Canberra. I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– If it is regarded as offensive by members of the Committee for which the honorable member speaks it must be withdrawn, but the statement is not otherwise unparliamentary.
– As a member of the Public Works Committee I do not object to it.
– I do not wish to reflect personally on the honorable member for Bass, or any other member of the Public Works Committee. Surely the honorable member is not ashamed of his publicly announced opinions on Canberra.
– Certainly not.
– All that I say is that the honorable member and a majority of the members of the Committee are opposed to Canberra.
– Sensible men.
– That is, no doubt, the view they take; but this House by an overwhelming majority takes a different view, and has decided that Canberra must be established as the Federal Capital. This is not a party question, and I appeal to honorable members on both sides, constituting a majority in this House, to see that their opinion is not flouted by the acceptance of this report from a Committee that loses no opportunity to block the progress of Canberra and prevent its development. The acceptance of the motion will strike a death blow at the establishment of the Capital at Canberra. I ask the House to refuse to accept this report and to send it back to the Committee with a request for a report in accordance with the expressed desire of this Parliament.
– Has the honorable member read the report?
– Has theMinister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) received a copy of the report from the Public Works Committee?
– No, he has not.
– Does the Minister not know that the report is against the, construction of the proposed railway? Will the honorable gentleman deny that?
– I do not know what is in the report.
– If so, the honorable gentleman has been asleep for a very long time.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order, on the motion for its printing, in traversing the contents of a report which we have, not yet received ?
– On the point of order raised by the Minister for Defence,. I think the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), if he believes that the report contains certain statements or recommendations, is in order in traversing it and urging upon the House the advisability or otherwise of printing it, because of what he believes that it contains.
– That isthe view I take. This is the only opportunity which the supporters of Canberra in this House will have to enter their protestagainst the action of this anti-Canberra Committee. If the report is infavourof certain works being done, and we allowed the motion that it be printed to go unchallenged, the Minister could introduce a motion to resolve that the work be. proceeded with, and all we could do. would be to either reject it, or send it back; it could not be amended. This report is purely a negative one, as it turns down the project.
– How do you know?
– Is the Chairman, or any member of the Commission, prepared to say what the report contains? If he does so, the motion to print the report will not be adopted, but the report willbe referred back to the Committee for reconsideration. I challenge any member of. the Committee to tell the House exactly what the report contains. Those members behind the Government who desire the establishment of the Capital at Canberra would, by adopting the motion for the printing of this report, be accepting a very serious responsibility. They would make it impossible for the Capital to be connected with Yass by a railway. Honorable members from New South W ales would have difficulty in explaining their action to their constituents. I intend to vote against the motion that the report be printed, so that the Committee may be given an opportunity to reconsider the whole matter, and to bring in a report on lines consistent with the proper development of the Federal Capital Territory.
.- I accept the challenge of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) to say what is in the Committee’s report.
– The honorable member has probably told him before this what the report contains.
– I have not. The honorable member for Dalley is no prophet when he talks of the Committee haying turned down the Yass-Canberra railway project. They have turned it down, and that without much apparent reason.
– I thought so.
– I am at liberty to speak, now that the report has been presented to the House. I very much regret that the PublicWorks Committee, by a majority decision, has decided not to provide for that needed connexion with the Capital of the Commonwealth.
– Is there a minority report?
– Minority reports are not allowed; if they were I would have submitted one. The Committee were asked to inquire into the question of a railway connexion between Yass and Canberra. After a good deal of investigation, a majority of members decided that the existing railway would suffice, a bridge across the Molonglo, and with a station beyond the civic centre. The railway would go a very short distance beyond the civic centre, and would be a dead-end railway. Whilst that would not inconvenience persons travelling from New South Wales or Queensland to the Capital, those who would come from Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia would be put to considerable inconvenience. It is indeed regrettable that a Committee charged with the responsibility of giving the Capital a proper rail way system should have failed so lamentably. The very members of the Committee who have refused, on the score of economy, to do something that would establish the Capital on right lines for further development, are prepared to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in the erection of houses and buildings. Notwithstanding the opposition of the majority of members of the Public Works Committee, this railway line will be built. But their action will delay matters, as it will take a certain time to refer the question to them again. The Committee’s action will probably prevent the completion of the line coincidentlywith the transfer of Parliament to Canberra. Honorable members and their constituents, as well as others who may have business dealings at the Federal Capital, will probably suffer considerable inconvenience because of the short-sighted policy of the Committee in reporting against this railway.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has taken this action, as it places the House in an unfortunate position. The Public Works Committee, in this case, has followed the usual procedure. A matter has been referred to them for investigation, and, after making inquiries, they have presented their report to Parliament. The next step in the procedure is laid down in the Act which constituted the Committee. The honorable member has asked members of this House to come to a decision on a report which they cannot see until it has been printed and circulated. At all times I have advocated the establishment of the Seat of Government at Canberra at as early a date as possible, and have urged that it should be made easily accessible from all parts of Australia. The honorable member has taken an unfortunate step. The printing of the report will not commit members to the acceptance of one word in it.
– That is just the trouble.
– The honorable member would force other members to give a vote on which a wrong construction might be placed. The proper thing is for the report to be printed and circulated, so that members may judge it on its merits. The printing of the report will enable honorable members to give proper consideration to its contents.
. The statement of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) in regard to the contents of this report may be true, but as the report is not yet available to honorable members, they have not had an opportunity of learning its contents. I claim to be as enthusiastic an advocate of Canberra as is the honorable member for Dalley or any honorable member associated with him, but I think the House is entitled to know what the report contains before ex. pressing an opinion upon it. Until the report is printed and distributed honorable members cannot familiarize themselves with its contents. The document which I saw handed up by the Clerk appears to be in print. If that is so, all we have to do is to formally pass the motion that it be printed, and allow the report to be circulated as quickly as possible, so that honorable members may master its contents and judge whether they should accept or reject its recommendations.
.- The Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom) seemed to suggest that the honorable member for Dalley is not doing his duty as a representative of the people, but the honorable member has been informed of the contents of this report.
– By whom?
– I am not a detective, but it is not necessary for the honorable member for Dalley to tell us that there are members of the Public Works Committee who would move heaven and earth to prevent Parliament meeting at Canberra.
– The House is not bound to accept the conclusions of the Committee.
– The honorable member seems very anxious to do some whitewashing. I advise him to assist in preventing the printing and circulation of a report which is hostile to the intention of this House. Unfortunately the House has got into a lax way of doing its business; members should give more attention fcu* procedure.
– I rise to a point o? order. The honorable member is entitled to say that the Government is conducting the business of the House in a loose way, but he is not in order in reflecting upon the House by saying that its conduct of the business is lax.
– The point of order raised by the honorable member is sound. It is an immemorial rule that members shall not reflect upon the statutes of the House or upon the House itself, and I ask the honorable member for East Sydney to observe that rule.
– I realize that at times there are obstacles in the way of a member who wishes to speak the truth. Once this report is printed and circulated, it will be very difficult to have its recommendations reversed.
– The House is not asked to accept the report, but only to order it to be printed.
– Once the report is printed it cannot be withdrawn, and it will be difficult to reverse its recommendations. A hostile Committee ‘ can seriously prejudice a project, and in this matter the- anti-Canberra members of the Committee have carried their opposition to extremes. The nature and contents of this report having been brought under notice, I hope the House will adopt some method for annulling its recommendations, and will again refer the matter to a Committee composed of gentlemen who are not hostile to the Federal Capital project, and will find justly upon the evidence submitted.
.- I am opposed to the printing of this report because the opinion of the minority is not stated. Notwithstanding what the honorable member for Swan (Mr: Gregory) has said, this is a one-sided report, and when it is printed, the damage will have been done because it will be quoted as the report of the Committee. The fact that the opinion of the minority is ignored will not be understood. I believe that at the next general election three, if not four, of the present members of the Committee, the majority of whom are opposed to Canberra, will not be re-elected to this Parliament; therefore any delay in dealing with this report will be favorable to the desire of the people that the Federal Capital shall be established and occupied as soon as possible. Time was when the minority of any Committee could ‘table its report in opposition to the views of the majority, and I have yet to learn that the House of Commons upon the practice of which, the procedure of this House is modelled, no longer allows a minority report to be submitted. This matter will not come before us again until the Government decides to proceed with the construction of the railway. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has clearly shown that it would be a farce to construct only that portion recommended by the Committee, because it would not enable honorable members to get readily to the Capital. Canberra was chosen as the Capital site as the result of the most extensive political leg-pulling that I have witnessed during my 35 years’ parliamentary experience. I was opposed to that site and wanted to have the Capital established at Dalgety, which possesses an unlimited water supply for power and other purposes. However, by the vote of the representatives of the people of Australia, that site was chosen, and the Public Works Committee will not be doing its duty if it does not recommend the building of a railway which will be of use to those who have to visit the Capital.
– The Committee cannot build the railway.
– The Committee can recommend its construction. My young friend surely does not think that I am such a silly fool as to suggest that the Committee can build a railway. Why, then does he interject in that absurd way ? He has shown us the quality of his work on this Committee - if his constituents are satisfied with that, let him rest content. I shall certainly oppose the motion on the principle that the minority should be given an opportunity to express its opinion.
.- It appears to me a most extraordinary thing that honorable members should commit themselves by their speeches before they have had an opportunity to consider the report. I say advisedly that the time is coming when honorable members will be rather chary of accepting appointment to a Committee of this description if their recommendations to the House are to be challenged in this manner. The statements that have been made in regard to this matter are the most disreputable that I have heard in any Parliament. I do not know whether the honorable memfor Dalley (Mr. Mahony) is a paranoic, or what sort of imagination he has. This is not the first time that he has made suggestions about me absolutely without any justification. The honorable member has sat with me on this Committee. Can he point to a single occasion when I did not try to do my duty ? Did he not, on the other hand, in Perth, say how pleased he was with my efforts to see that every opinion represented on the Committee was treated justly and fairly? The motion is, “ That the report be printed.” We know what the ordinary procedure is. I had no desire, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) knows, to be on this Committee. I am prepared to hand in my resignation immediately. It would be sent in within five minutes if the House supported the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) or the honorable member for Darling. The decision of the Committee on this matter was come to unanimously.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that that is not true.
– Order ! The honorable member for Darling has used an unparliamentary expression.
– I withdraw it, and say that the statement is incorrect.
– Order ! Will the honorable member be good enough to resume his seat while the Speaker is on his feet ? The honorable member said that the statement of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) was not true. He knows that that is an unparliamentary expression.
– Yes, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw it.
– Probably the honorable member for Darling was absent when this decision was arrived at.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that I wanted him and the Committee to recommend an alternative, but that both he and the Committee refused to do so.
– The Committee is out to block Canberra.
– Order ! I have allowed reasonable latitude, and there must be no further interjections.
– For the last three weeks the Committee has sat without fee, and some difficulty has been experienced in obtaining a full attendance. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) attended in the earlier stages. I have a copy of the report, and I can assure the House that the ultimate decision of the Committee was arrived at unanimously. If the report is printed it will be distributed among honorable members, and in accordance with the provisions of the Statute dealing with the matter, the Minister for Works (Mr. Stewart) will subsequently ask the House to give effect to the report. If, after having read the report, honorable members are satisfied that so much bias has actuated the members of the Committee that they have made a recommendation contrary to the evidence, but in accordance with their private wishes, another Committee should be appointed. If the House were to approve of the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Dalley, and the honorable member for Darling, I would not have any association with the Committee foranother hour. This sort of thing is most reprehensible, and the aspersions cast on us have no justification, and are not fair. Presumably the honorable member for Dalley considers that if he continues to throw mud some of it is bound to stick. We on this side do not play that game.
– The report of the Committee proves the truth of what I say.
– Here is the report. All we want is to have it printed so that in the ordinary course the Minister can bring it before Parliament, when it will be for Parliament to decide what action shall be taken. The honorable member for Dalley ought to know that no work exceeding in cost £25,000 can be carried out without first being submitted to the Public Works Committee. If he is not satisfied with the way in which the Committee does its work, he can move that the Committee does not possess the confidence of the House. It might then be possible to obtain the services of a Committee which would adopt a proposal favorable to the views of the honorable member for Darling, and the honorable member for Dalley. I hope that the House will order the printing of the report, and thus provide an opportunity for its discussion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether a report has yet been received from the Committee which was appointed to make an inquiry into the economic losses due to rinderpest in Western Australia? If so, when will it be made available?
– That matter is being considered by the Home and Territories Department. I shall makeinquiries to ascertain whether a report has been furnished.
Examinations for Telephonists
– Under an unfortunate regulation of the Public Service Commissioners, considerable hardship has been created. Under it candidates for the position of telephonist are passed in a greater number than the Department is capable of absorbing. Some of these young people serve in a temporary capacity for periods up to three and a half years, and are then politely told that they cannot be appointed permanently. Another examination is held, and a new crop of applicants receives appointment. Will the Prime Minister take steps to have the regulation altered so as to correct the anomaly?
– I shall go into the matter with the Public Service Board, and ascertain exactly what are the facts.
– In view of the fact that a large proportion of coastal shipping is held up, with the result that Western Australia is almost without means of transport, will the Prime Minister take steps to arrange for the Shipping Board to meet the position ?
– I very much regret the circumstances which have caused a dislocation of the coastal shipping trade. I presume that, by his reference to the Shipping Board, the honorable member means the Commonwealth Shipping Line. I have to remind him that the Line has very few steamers of tonnage suitable for the Australian coastal trade, but I will discuss the matter with the manager of the Line.
– I ask the Treasurer - (1) Has he read the ultimatum delivered by the Prime Minister in Adelaide yesterday, that arrangements must be made at once for the purpose of enabling the Composite Government to continue, otherwise he will have to reconstruct and form a Nationalist Government? (2) Has he given any assurance to the Prime Minister that, if the Government is reconstructed, he and his followers will render subservient support to the new Ministry ?
– I am very pleased to be able to tell the honorable member that, up to the present, I have not received any ultimatum from the Prime Minister. If I do I shall, of course, inform the House.
– I have been requested to ask the Prime Minister a question concerning a statement he made on the present position of the Composite Ministry. Will he inform the House whether any attempt is to be made to reconstruct the Ministry; and, if so, whether it will be made before or after the Budget is presented ? This is a serious matter.
– I have no knowledge of any proposed alteration.
– In connexion with the report of the flotation of a further loan of £10,000,000 in Great Britain, will the Treasurer state if it is for the purpose of redeeming short-dated bills, and, if so, when were they issued ? In regard to his statement that £5,000,000 of the loan money is to be used for carrying out certain works authorized by Parliament, will he state to what works he referred ?
– The Treasurybills referred to were issued on the 1st of April of this year. The public works were passed by this House in the Loan Bill presented last year.
Australian Tomato Sauce
– Some time ago I asked the Prime Minister, in regard to the report that 36,000 bottles of Australian tomato sauce had been sent as part of the consignment of goods for the relief of the starving people of Japan, could he inform me if any of the sauce had gone into consumption, and, if so, how much. He promised to get the information. Is he in a position now to make a statement on the subject?
– I regret very much that I have not yet received the information which the honorable member desires, and I remind him that, as it is necessary to communicate with Japan in order to ascertain if the sauce has gone into consumption in that country, this must necessarily take time.
– The week before last the Minister for Trade and Customs informed the House that when next he was in Sydney he would endeavour to finalize arrangements with the New South Wales Government for the utilization of the fund voted by this Parliament for the purchase of wire nettingfor farmers. Can he now inform the House of the result of his interview ?
– I have had an interview with the Secretary for Lands in New South Wales, and I hope to be able to inform honorable members of the result, which I believe will be satisfactory, during the coming week.
’ CANBERRA FREEHOLDS. ‘ ‘
Agents at Australia House.
– Last week I asked the Prime Minister if he could give the names of the land agents occupying offices in Australia House, London, who are reported to be offering in England freehold land at Canberra. Is he in a position to supply the information now, and can he say how long those agents are likely to remain tenants in Australia House ?
– I must apologize to the honorable member for my inability, at the moment, to give him the information. A statement on the subject has been prepared, but I have just returned from Adelaide, and have not had time to obtain it. I shall present it to-morrow.
– (By leave). - Members will recall the recent outbreak of rinderpest in Western Australia and the measures that were taken to restrict the spread of and to eradicate the disease. I desire to take this opportunity of informing honorable members of the entire success which has attended the efforts of the Commonwealth and State authorities, in co-operation ; and of announcing that the disease has been completely stamped out and quarantine restrictions lifted. On the outbreak of rinderpest, towards the end of last year, a proclamation was issued under the Quarantine Act prohibiting the removal of any animal, carcass, fodder or fittings from the State of Western Australia to any part of the Commonwealth unless the consent of the Minister was obtained. The action taken to prevent the spread of the disease included the quarantining of the district within 30 miles of the infected area, and the clearing of a belt 5 miles wide on the border of this area by driving all stock inwards. All movement of stock within the area was prohibited. Every animal within 2 miles of any infected farm was seen and reported on by a special patrol under the supervision of a veterinary inspector, and reports were made on every sick animal outside the quarantined area by a vigilance committee and by the police. A mobile inspection staff was maintained for rapid diagnosis in connexion with such reports. All animals, except horses, within 1 mile of the infected premises were slaughtered, and the carcasses were buried. These precautions, together with the prohibition of the removal of any animal, carcass, fodder or fittings from the State or to any other part of the State were strictly maintained. From the 29th January a steady reduction of the quarantined area took place each fortnight, and on the 20th March all quarantine restrictions - both within Western Australia and in relation to traffic and goods leaving Western Aus.tralia - were removed. No developments have occurred since that date, and the Commonwealth can therefore be considered as having been entirely free from rinderpest since the 18th December, 1923. I am sure that this announcement will give great satisfaction to honorable members.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Formal Motion of Adjournment
– I have received from the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), an intimation “hat he proposes to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public business, namely, “ The failure of the Commonwealth Government to take steps to deal with the serious menace to public health caused by the unrestricted and unregulated use of white lead in industy in Australia, and other matters relating thereto.”
Vive honorable members having risen in their places -
.- I make no apology for moving the adjournment of the House to discuss this most important question, as a motion for the adjournment is the only means afforded a private member of directing public attention to an important matter. In my opinion, anything that affects national health or industrial hygiene overshadows in importance any other matter that may from time to time be submitted to this House. All the members of the Labour party take up that attitude. This Parliament has discussed recently several questions affecting national health contained in the reports of Sir Neville Howse. The Commonwealth Government is directly concerned with the effect of white lead on public health, and must accept its full share of responsibility for neglecting to protect it. Honorable members may ask in what way the Commonwealth Government is concerned. The subject was discussed at the International Labour Conference held at Geneva in 1921, at which Australia had her full representation allowable under Article 380 of the Treaty of Versailles. Two Government delegates, an employers’ delegate, and a workers’ delegate participated in those proceedings on behalf of Australia. The discussion which then took place about the effect upon health of using white lead was of supreme importance. It occupied several days, and was, at times, of a very bitter nature. The Conference ultimately agreed on a draft convention, but not before several divisions had taken place. It is important for us torealize that, with one exception, the whole of the workers’ delegates from every country represented at that Conference favoured the absolute prohibition of the use of white lead in industry. The dissentient was the Australian workers’ delegate, Mr. T. B. Merry, who, I feel competent to say, did not truly represent the organized workers of Australia. The Conference compromised by agreeing that the use of white lead in painting should be restricted, and that regulations should be framed to control its use. This was adopted unanimously in the form of a draft convention, and the Australian representatives unanimously voted for it. The Treaty of Versailles, under the terms of which . these International Labour Conferences are held, provides that such conventions shall be ratified, or at least considered, by the Parliaments of the countries represented at the conferences. The convention to which I am directing attention is a somewhat lengthy document. It provides for the prohibition of the use of white lead and sulphate of lead in internal painting. It also provides for the prohibition of employment in the industry of males under the age of eighteen years, and of all females. The convention was to become operative six years after the closing of the third session of the International Labour Conference, but it provides that each member of the Conference which ratifies it shall make Articles 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7 operative not later than the 1st January, 1924. The draft convention is as follows : -
Bach member of the International Labour Organization ratifying the present Convention undertakes to prohibit, with the exceptions provided for in Article 2, the use of white lead and sulphate of lead and of all products containing these pigments, in the internal painting of buildings, except where the use of white lead or sulphate of lead or products containing these pigments is considered necessary for railway stations or industrial establishments by the competent authority after consultation with the employers’ and workers’ organizations concerned.
It shall nevertheless be permissible to use white pigments containing a maximum of 2 per cent. of lead expressed in terms of metallic lead.
The provisions of Article 1 shall not apply to artistic painting or fine lining.
The Governments shall define the limits of such forms of painting, and shall regulate the use of white lead, sulphate of lead, and all products containing these pigments, for these purposes in conformity with the provisions of Articles 5, 6, and 7 of the present Convention.
The employment of males under eighteen years of age and of all females shall be prohibited in any painting work of an industrial character involving the use of white lead or sulphate of lead or other products containing these pigments.
The competent authorities shall have power, after consulting the employers’ and workers’ organizations concerned, to permit the employment of painters’ apprentices in the work prohibited by the preceding paragraph, with a view to their education in their trade.
The prohibitions prescribed in Articles I and 3 shall come into force six years from the date of the closure of the Third Session of the International Labour Conference.
Each member of the International Labour Organization ratifying the present Convention undertakes to regulate the use of white lead, sulphate of lead, and of all products containing these pigments, in operations for which their use is not prohibited, on the following principles : -
I. (a) White lead, sulphate of lead, or products containing these pigments shall not be used in painting operations except in the form of paste or of paint ready for use.
II. (a) Adequate facilities shall be provided to enable working painters to wash during and on cessation of work.
III. (a) Cases of lead poisoning and of suspected lead poisoning shall be notified, and shall be subsequently verified by a medical man appointed by the competent authority.
The competent authority shall take such steps as it considers necessary to ensure the observance of the regulations prescribed by virtue of the foregoing Articles, after consultation with the employers’ and workers’ organizations concerned .
Statistics with regard to lead poisoning among working painters shall be obtained : -
The formal ratifications of this Convention under the conditions set forth in Part XIII. of the Treaty of Versailles and of the corresponding Parts of the other Treaties of Peace, shall be communicated to the SecretaryGeneral of the League of Nations for registration.
This Convention shall come into force at the date on which the ratifications of two members of the International Labour Organization have been registered by the Secretary-General.
It shall be binding only upon those members whose ratifications have been registered with the Secretariat.
Thereafter, the Convention shall come into force for any member at the date on which its ratification has been registered with the Secretariat.
As soon as the ratifications of two members of the International Labour Organization have been registered with the Secretariat, the SecretaryGeneral of the League of Nations shall so notify all the members of the International Labour Organization. He shall likewise notify them of the registration of ratifications which may be communicated subsequently by other members of the Organization.
Each member which ratifies this Convention agrees to bring the provisions of Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, into operation not later than 1st January, 1924. and to take such action as may be necessary to make these provisions effective.
Each member of the International Labour Organization which ratifies this Convention engages to apply it to its colonies, possessions, and protectorates in accordance with the provisions of Article 421 of the Treaty of Versailles and of the corresponding Articles of the other Treaties of Peace.
A member which has ratified this Convention may denounce it after the expiration of ten years from the date on which the Convention first comes into force, by an Act communicated to the Secretary-General of the League of Nations for registration. Such denunciation shall not take effect until one year after the date on which it is registered with the Secretariat.
At least once in ten years the Governing Body of the International Labour Office shall present to the General Conference a report on the working of this Convention and shall consider the desirability of placing on the agenda of the Conference the question of its revision or modification.
The French and English texts of this Convention shall both be authentic.
That convention was unanimously agreed to by all the delegates representing all the nations, including Australia. Under the convention each member of the International Labour Conference agrees to make hygienic regulations controlling painting, and thus reduce the evil effects of white lead upon the health of those engaged in the painting industry. The report of the Australian delegates was presented to the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) on the 31st March, 1922, but it was not presented to this Parliament until a long period of time had elapsed. On the 7th July, 1922, the then honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) asked Mr. Hughes whether he intended to give effect to the convention with regard to white lead. The reply of the Government was that the matter was under consideration. The printed report of the delegates was not tabled here until the 2nd August, 1922, and then with a number of papers of no great consequence, and no time was given for its consideration. In my opinion, the reports of the International Labour Conference, of which the White Lead Convention is the most important, have been shelved. Parliament has been given no opportunity to discuss them, and yet they are of the utmost importance, not only to Australia, but also to the work of the League of Nations. The League of Nations in itself has discussed many hypothetical and nebulous questions, which has brought us not much nearer to world co-operation and economic stabilization, but the work which the International Labour Conference has accomplished in the interests of humanity has been concrete and material, and would be of lasting benefit to humanity if the Governments of all the countries represented thereat had attempted to treat its reports seriously. The work of the International Labour Conference, not only in regard to white lead, but in the direction of restricting the employment of juveniles in industry, and raising the standard of low-wage countries, has tended to bring about world economic stabilization and to equalize world competition, and thus eliminate factors which lead to wars, trade rivalry, and industrial strife. The failure of the Government to give this House an opportunity to deliberate upon the work accomplished by the International Labour Conference shows that either it ignores its responsibility or fails to recognize the importance of the decisions of the Conference. Not only this particular convention, but other conventions as well have been contemptuously thrust aside. I have to-day dealt with the White Lead Convention because it is a matter which directly affects the wellbeing of Australian workers, and is a very live question in industry in this country at the present time. The Government might very well be accused of cynical disregard of the health of operatives in the painting industry. I admit that we - the Labour party - do not necessarily claim to be bound by International Labour Conferences any more than we will consent to be bound by Imperial and Economic Conferences, but we do maintain that Parliament should be given an opportunity to deliberate upon these matters, and to determine whether the proposals of the Conference are in the best interests of Australia. I contrast their inaction in this matter with the attitude of the Government in regard to trade matters and the work of the Imperial and Economic Conferences. They view the decisions of those Conferences as of supreme importance, and have maintained, perhaps indirectly, that we are morally bound to adopt all that has been done at those Conferences. But when it comes to a matter affecting the working class of Australia, a proposal of real live interest, dealing with the use of an article which is responsible for a large amount of sickness and mortality amongst painting operatives, its consideration is thrust aside.
– That is my point. This report and various other reports of our delegates to International Labour Conferences have been tabled in an obscure manner, and Parliament has never been given an opportunity to discuss them. On the other hand, time has been wasted in this House in the discussion of nebulous matters dealt with by the League of Nations, which lead us nowhere. Of course it may be said that owing to the limitations of the Federal Constitution the present Government and itspredecessor were powerless to give effect to the Geneva Convention. In that case the Federal Government should have made its position in the matter perfectly clear long ago. That has not been done. I have made very exhaustive inquiries into the white lead question. From the perusal of Hansard I have found that in South Australia Sir Henry Barwell, whilst Premier of the State, was asked by a Labour member of the South Australian Parliament whether the Federal Government had advised him of the Geneva Convention on the subject. His answer was that it had not. A similar denial was made in Western Australia, and also in Queensland. This is a matter of live interest to the people who are represented in this and other Parliaments of Australia. Although the Federal Government may have no constitutional authority to legislate in regard to matters affecting health, and particularly in reference to the use of white lead, it is morally responsible to the International Labour Conference to see that its conventions are carried into effect by the various State Governments. If the State Governments will not take the necessary action it is for the Federal Government to inform the International Labour Conference to that effect. So far as I can gather, neither the present Federal Government nor its predecessor approached the State Governments on these matters, and I shall be interested to hear, when the Minister replies, whether that assertion is correct or not. It is of no use for the Government to say that the use of white lead is not a menace to health. The mere fact of the Australian delegates voting for this International Convention proves conclusively that it is. I admit that in the report of Mr. Robinson, one of the Government delegates, it is implied that the effects of lead poisoning are exaggerated, and that the workers of the world are being fooled by the zinc interests. Zinc oxide is supposed to be a substitute for white lead in paint, but opinions differ as to whether it is an effective substitute. Yet the fact remains that our delegates voted for the White Lead Convention, which has been treated as a scrap of paper, and has never been discussed or deliberated upon. The use of white lead is a matter of very great importance to Australian industrialists. Medical opinion throughout the world recognizes that plumbism or lead poisoning is a very serious menace to health. I recognize that the white lead industry in Australia is a very important one, but, after all, the health of the workers is on a much higher plane than the sordid question of commercial gain from the development of an industry, if that industry is likely to result in ill health to the persons engaged in it. That is the principle upon which we stand, and if the manufacture of white lead is recognized as a menace to health, it should be swept out of existence in this country. I am not saying now that it is a sufficient menace to health to justify prohibition at present, but I am asking that the Government shall take steps to ensure that the health of painters shall be safeguarded by the adoption of this Convention, or by bringing about some regulation of the industry. The Operative Painters Union of Australia asked me to bring this matter before Parliament, and I propose to quote from their letter to show that this is a live question, and is not something which I have. brought forward in a captious and insincere manner. The secretary to the Operative Painters Union writes to me -
The restriction of the use of white lead in painting is of vital importance to my members, ns hundreds of them are suffering to-day from the evil effects of lead, and we as a union have found it necessary to incur considerable expense in the inquiry conducted by the New South Wales Board of Trade on this matter, . and also in the distribution of literature warning our members of the attendant dangers and the need for the utmost care and hygiene in the course of their work. Our union would he glad if you would take the earliest opportunity of ventilating the subject on the floor of Parliament, as we consider the continued and unrestricted use of this deadly commodity a matter of national importance, and one which is responsible for great mortality.
– Do they consider that its use should be safeguarded?
– The Geneva Convention provides for its use under restrictive conditions, and proposes the pro hibition of dry rubbing down, which is a menace to the lives of operative painters mainly through inhalation. The Government have afforded us no opportunity to consider the convention, with the result that Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world in this matter. Practically every other country in the world has legislated in regard to the use of white lead. I am given to understand that India, Japan, South Africa, Brazil, Bulgaria, Spain, Switzerland, France, Germany, and even Tunis, a country occupied by coloured people, have adopted the Geneva Convention in regard to white lead, or legislated to restrict its use. In England, legislation has existed for many years past restricting the use of white lead in the painting industry, and steps have been taken to give full effect to the Geneva Convention. I cabled the present Prime Minister (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) on this subject some weeks ago, and have received the following reply -
Your telegram lead paint protection against poisoning. Bill to carry out provisions of Convention has been introduced into Parliament, but not yet passed into law. Ramsay Macdonald.
From that telegram it is evident that the Imperial Parliament, which generally lags behind us on questions of industrial hygiene, has taken steps to honour an international agreement by adopting the Geneva Convention. Australia lags behind the rest of the world in this matter. Articles 409 to 412 of the Versailles Treaty make provision for the International Labour Office to take cognizance of public or private complaints, either from a member State or an organization of employers or workmen. That complaint can be that another State is failing to give effect to its ‘treaties and conventions. It certainly would be ludicrous if Japan, China, or Tunis were to lodge the complaint with the League of Nations or the International Labour Office that Australia is not treating her international obligations seriously, and is lagging behind them in this matter. Not only is the use of white lead involved ; it is also a question whether or not the League of Nations is to be effective. I believe that at the League of Nations Conference treaties in connexion withcommerce and arbitration were also drawnup. These reports are tabled in this House year after year, but nothing is done with respect to them. If we are not prepared to do anything, we should withdrawour delegates from the Conference, and not send them on a picnic costing thousands of pounds. We should not treatthe recommendations ofthese Conferencesas a joke.In spite of the failure of the Federal Government to take steps to securetheadoption of the recommendationsof the Conference respecting white lead, action has been taken in certain States.In Queensland theLabour Governmentintroduced a Bill to amend the HealthAct, which was passed in 1922 in theabsence of any request from the Federal Government. That action was takers inorder to safeguard the health of the painting operatives and others in that State. During the debate in the Queensland Parliament, reference was made to the fact that the Federal Government had not even proffered advice. In Western Australia also the matter was dealt with, oh the motion of Mr. Alex. McCallum, a Labour member. In his speech, Mr.McCallum said -
Surely it was for the Commonwealth Government to advise the State Governments to give legislative effect to the decisions of the Conference.
Thatproves that the Western Australian Government had not been acquainted by the Federal Government with the decisions of the Geneva Conference. The introduction of the Bill in Western Australia was due to the establishment of a white lead factory in that State. As a result of a questionnaire issued through the Federal Government by the League of Nations, the Labour Government in New South Wales in 1921 - prior to the
Geneva Convention - asked the Board of Trade to conduct an exhaustive inquiry into this matter. In their report the Board of Trade said -
Vital statistics show that for every nineteen miners who die from lead poisoning in a series of years there are 22 painters who die from the same cause. They also show that whatever the degree of exposure in the case of the painter, the joint effects of exposure and toxity of the carbonate of lead dust make his position distinctly more sinister than that of the miner.
This was the final conclusion of the Board -
Regulation of the use of white lead in the painting industry is immediately necessary, both in the interest of painters and the community. The Board does not recommend either prohibition or restriction, but regulations may imply one or the other should further study of the painters’ circumstances prove it ultimately to be expedient or necessary. Two things must follow upon the adoption of a scheme of regulations : the prevalence of the disease must be progressively reduced in such a way as to give promise of its complete prevention, and meanwhile the damage caused must be measured, and all the victims of the disease, without exception, must be adequately compensated. If regulations fail to produce either of these results they must give place to prohibition.
Our delegates to the Geneva Conference went there armed with that report, and, although they opposed the prohibition of the use of white lead, they ultimately agreed to the regulation.
– In quoting from the report of the Board of Trade the honorable member omitted to mention that the Board said, “The case for prohibition, the Board agrees, is not made out.”
– Exhibit No. 16, page 736, of the Board of Trade’s report is a table showing the excess of deaths from certain diseases among painters over the percentage among those in other callings : -
In the light of those figures, we must conclude that this is a serious matter. In spite of its seriousness and the recommendation of the New South Wales Board of Trade, nothing has been done to regulate the use of white lead in New South Wales. The Labour Government was removed from office before it could carry into effect the Board of Trade’s- recommendations. There is another phase of this question to which I desire to draw attention : the opinions of medical experts such as Dr. W. Gelman Thompson, and Drs. Kober and Hason, the authors of the work, Diseases of Occupation and Vocational Hygiene. There is also the evidence of Sir Thomas Oliver who represented the Australian Government at theGeneva Convention. I have already stated that many nations have taken steps to regulate the use of white lead. In England, the painters - both employers and journeymen - have agreed to the basis of the Bill now before the House of’ Commons to adopt the recommendations of the Geneva Conference. The Painters’ Union in New South Wales consider this matter to be of such importance that they have issued a special pamphlet to the operatives engaged in the industry there, in which they point out the dangers arising from the use of white lead. They urge operatives to take the precaution of changing their clothes, washing carefully, and keeping their food and drink away from contact with white lead. I ask the Government to honour its international obligation to the League of Nations, and to the International Labour Office, by giving this Parliament an opportunity to consider these questions as they arise, and also to refer them to the State Governments. If theGovernments of the various States should fail to introduce the necessary legislation we shall know where the responsibility lies. At present, we know nothing.. Like Mahomet’s coffin, the matter is suspended between Heaven and earth. I object strongly to Australia spending thousands of pounds in being represented at conferences if not one moment’s consideration is to be given to the recommendations of those Conferences. I regret that I have had to condense my remarks on this important subject owing to the limitation imposed by the Standing Orders, and I also regret that more time is not available for its discussion by the many members desiring to speak, but I hope that the Minister will recognize the importance of this question, and will give to this House a well-considered answer to the questions I have raised, so that not only the painters, but the peopleof Australia, as well as the League of Nations and the International Labour Office, may know exactly where Australia stands in regard to this matter, and that action will follow.
.- No one can complain of the action of the honorable member in bringing this matter forward, nor of the manner in which he has presented his case to the House. He is correct in saying that the subjectmatter of the complaint is indeed an important one. But, as I shall presently show, the question is a complicated one. This subject was set down for discussion at the Third International Labour Conference. Prior to that Conference the Commonwealth fulfilled its obligation respecting this matter, by getting into touch with all the States, and gathering all the information possible to be placed before that Conference. Dr. Cumpston, of the Health Department, wasspecially asked to make a careful and complete investigation so far as was possible. In his report, he said -
In my opinion, it must be concludedthat the evidence which is available is altogether insufficient to justify such a sweepingchange as is advocated by the InternationalLabour Conference.
That is to say, prohibition. Honorable members are aware thatlarge centres of population, such as Broken Hill and Port Pirie, are largely dependent on the lead industry,and that Australia supplies a large proportionofthe white lead used throughout the world. They are, therefore, conscious of the importance of the industry to Australia, and the serious effect prohibition would have. Dr. Cumpston . continues -
The evidence available, at least in Australia, certainly does not justify the total prohibition of white lead in painting. It may justify certain measures of regulation in the use of white lead, which, in my opinion, is very likely to be indicated by the evidence when the latter is fully marshalled; but it would only be possible to give a reasonable pronouncement on this aspect after careful and complete investigation of the whole evidencewhich can be obtained.
This would probably take from six to twelve months to collect and arrange and might perhaps be entrusted to the Commonwealth Department of Health as a function of their proposed .activities in the direction of industrial hygiene.
In the meanwhile, if I might be allowed to suggest it, it would be desirable to inform the International Labour Conference that the evidence available is altogether insufficient to warrant the proposed sweeping reform, involving the total prohibition of the use of lead. Even the most advanced advocates of the control of lead, viz., the medical profession of Queensland, have placed it on record that the total prohibition of the uSe of white lead is unnecessary.
A letter from the Premier of Western Australia was as follows : -
The Engineer-in-Chief and the Principal Architect of the Public Works Department are pf the opinion that the injurious effects suffered by members of the painting trade are only partly attributed to white lead, the greater part being ascribed ‘ to the use of volatile oils, and they consider that a draft convention prohibiting the use of white lead in the painting trade should not be submitted to the Conference.
The Premier of Tasmania wrote -
I am of the opinion that prohibition should not be imposed on the use of white lead until research has definitely proved its injurious effects; and, from the economic point of view, until such time as proof is forthcoming that reliable substitutes are available.
The Premier of South Australia stated that the Government could not, after the inquiries made, see its way to support legislation to prohibit the use of white lead, as the evidence available did not warrant the interference with such an important industry. The New South Wales Board of Trade, which conducted an inquiry at the request of the Government of that State, reported, after “the examination of many witnesses, that neither restriction nor prohibition is necessary or desirable, but that proper regulations are sufficient.
– That inquiry was held before the Geneva Conference made this recommendation.
– The report was received by the Government and I am under the impression that it was sent on to our delegates after they had left for Geneva. The continental hostility to the use of white lead, would, if effect had been given to it, have been disastrous to certain industries in Australia. Our delegates said that they did not believe that a case had been made out for prohibition. Sir Thomas Oliver, the delegate of the Commonwealth Government, speaking at the Conference, said : -
Speaking as one of the Australian delegates, I am authorized to say that the Government -df ‘the Commonwealth of Australia is opposed to prohibition and restriction of lead in the matter under discussion. It recognizes that the health of the workers must be a first consideration, and it will welcome and carry out loyally any recommendation or resolution which make for improving the conditions of labour and for safeguarding the health of the workers.
The Labour delegate from Australia, Mr. Merry, a most conscientious and capable man, who did very fine service, said -
On the Commission I said openly and fairly - I did not go behind any one’s back - I was opposed to prohibition, but I favoured regulation. I have heard nothing in this or the Conference to change my opinion. … I will give place to nobody in my desire to uphold the health and the well-being of the workers of the world, let alone Australia.
Mr. Robinson, another delegate, said ;
The Government of Australia is opposed to either prohibition or restriction; it favours regulation. I desire to affirm that the first consideration of the Australian Government is the preservation of the life and health of the worker, and I say definitely that commercial considerations “do not stand in the application of that policy in Australia. Australia’s record in this direction, I am sure it will be admitted, has been equalled by few nations in the world. YJrile we will not accept prohibition, either partial dr complete, we win give our wholehearted support to any regulations which are shown to be necessary to safeguard the health and lives of the workers. But these regulations, be it understood, should cover the use of all paints, -whatever may be their base.
Ultimately the French demand for a prohibition was defeated, and a convention was agreed to, our own delegates supporting it. Anybody who looks carefully into the evidence must admit that no case had been made out for prohibition, but there is a case for regulation, and for the consideration of this convention by the competent authorities. Even now investigation is proceeding in Australia. Many cases which were said to be due to lead poisoning have been found to be due to other causes. Past statistics were open to question. Scientific investigation’ is now taking place in various countries, as is proper in connexion with a matter affecting the health of the community. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) has discussed the action that should follow the adoration of the convention regarding white lead . The .whole of the conventions and recommendations, numbering nearly 40 since the inception of the International Labour Conferences, have been carefully analysed quite recently. The position of the Commonwealth is compli- cated by the fact that we are under a Federal Constitution. The treaty recognizes the special circumstances in certain countries and provides -
In the case of a Federal State the power of which to enter into Conventions on labour matters is subject to limitations, it shall be in the discretion of that Government to treat the draft Agreements to which limitations apply as recommendations only, and the provisions of this article in regard to recommendations shall apply in each case.
The duty of the Federal Executive is to forward these recommendations to the competent authority. We have found that some of the matters that are the subject of conventions are partly Federal and partly State, and the others are purely State concerns. So far as Federal Departments and Territories are concerned, the conventions and recommedations are being submitted to them, and already some reports are awaiting consideration by the Government. The recommendations of the first Labour Conference have been forwarded to the competent authorities, the policy of the Government being that the obligations incidental to membership of the conference must be fulfilled. We are taking action accordingly, and I hope that within a short period the whole of the conventions and recommendations will have been submitted to the proper authorities. If honorable members will consult the official journals regarding the extent to which other countries represented at the Conference have acted upon its recommendations, they will find that Australia’s action has not been singular. In regard to many conventions and recommendations, Australia has more than fulfilled its obligations in its existing legislation. Of course, the object of these conferences or conventions is to lift all the countries of the world to the same plane, so that in the competition of life and the interchange of commerce all shall operate on fair terms. In some respects Australia is ahead of many other countries, and, therefore, no legislative action is required. The honorable member for Reid referred to what Great Britain has done in regard to white lead, but an official publication of last year shows that the convention in regard to white lead had, at the time of publication, been ratified by two countries only, namely, Czecho-Slovakia and Esthonia.
– That does not dispose of our moral obligation.
– No. The same publication shows that Czecho Slovakia and Switzerland have Bills in preparation to apply the treaty, whilst Bulgaria, Chili, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland and Spain have recommended its ratification. The Commonwealth Government will treat the white lead convention as a recommendation, because all the conditions laid down in it are matters within the purview of the States. The Commonwealth has no power to give effect to the convention by legislation.
– Has the Commonwealth any power with regard to public health?
– It has certain powers, but it has no power to impose by legislation prescribed duties on persons carrying on industries within a State. Therefore, this convention with others will be forwarded to the State authorities.
– Have any of the other conventions been forwarded to the States?
– Five conventions and six recommendations have been sent on to the States within the last few weeks. The Commonwealth is endeavoring to give effect to its obligations as soon as possible.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
– I would be very glad if I could agree with the Attorney-General that in this matter the Government is doing everything that can be expected of it, but I cannot admit that this Government or its predecessor has fulfilled its obligations in regard to the conventions of the International Labour Conference. That view is supported by the statement of the Attorney-General. It should be understood distinctly that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) does not at this stage advocate the prohibition of the use of white lead. Such a step would have a serious effect upon one of the great industries of Australia, and, whilst I believe that a certain amount of regulation is desirable, I have not yet seen sufficient evidence to justify the prohibition of the use of white lead, especially having regard, to the fact that in connexion with the mining of the raw material and the manufacture of the commercial article, regulations can be applied which will make those industries reasonably safe for the workmen engaged in them. But the honorable member for Reid wishes to see effect given to the resolution of the International Labour Conference regarding the regulation of the use of white lead, wherever danger to human beings may result. Those resolutions were unanimously agreed to by representatives of both employers and employees, and the report of the conference was tabled in this House on the 2nd August, 1922. Yet the Attorney-General admits that the convention has not yet been forwarded to the States. We are glad to have his promise that in the near future the constitutional obligations of the Commonwealth will be fulfilled, but we have Ms amazing confession that up to the present time the Government has not seen fit to take any action in this matter. The very fact that this resolution was carried unanimously at the Conference should have impressed upon the mind of the Government the importance of this matter, even although honorable members opposite, as a party, are not very much concerned about safeguarding the health and lives .of industrial workers. The duty of the Government is not. only to send these recommendations to the States, but also to exert the whole of its influence in seeing that the States give some effect to them ; otherwise, the conference becomes a mere farce so far as Australia is concerned. We know, of course, that the States occupy a strange position in’ relation to the International Labour Conference. Nevertheless, that is the duty of the Commonwealth Government, and unless it acts accordingly it does not fulfil its obligations as one of the signatories to the Covenant of the League of Nations. I think the Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom) will agree that the Government has been amazingly dilatory in the matter. He has admitted that this convention relating to white lead has noteven been passed on to the State Governments. I do not think that such delay should have occurred. The recommendations ought to be sent along, not in the order in which they are dealt with by the Labour Conference; the importance of the matter should decide the despatch with which a recommendation is sent to the States, with the request that they give immediate consideration to it. More than that, of course, we cannot expect the Commonwealth Government to do. It appears to the industrial workers that while this Government has been so dilatory in the matter of securing legislation for the protection and extension of their rights, it and the Governments of the States have shown extraordinary activity in proposals aiming at. the limitation and restriction of those rights. We hear continually of conferences of the Attorneys-General and, other Ministers of the Commonwealth and the States being held to consider the : taking away of’ such rights as resort to Federal arbitration. Some persons in New South Wales appear to be obsessed by that idea. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) has stated that this matter possesses importance as showing the attitude of the Government towards resolutions passed at the International Labour Conference. I agree with the honorable member that this is a most important matter. There are honorable members opposite as well as honorable members on this side who> believe in the League of Nations, and many wish to further its will. This convention appears to me to be one of the most important of the League’s decisions. It has been said that the greatest fear is that the League of Nations may become simply an instrument in the hands of the rulers of the different nations, and the greatest hope is that it may become a real people’s body. This is one way in which to make it in the minds of the people a real live institution. . If the recommendations of this great Labour Conference can b.e transmuted into legislation that will benefit the workers in every country, those workers will take in it that interest which honorable members wish to see them take. The’ International Labour Conference is an institution which, I believe, will confer as much benefit upon the people of Australia as upon those living in what are considered to be backward countries. It is going to raise the standard of the so-called backward countries. I believe in the general raising of the standard of the workers of every country. Australia has, perhaps, more to gain, indirectly, from this than any nation in the world. We are, very largely, a food-producing people. To-day we lose a great deal because our customers have not sufficient purchasing capacity to take our commodities in such quantities as would bring us additional prosperity. If, through the medium of this institution, we can raise the standard of living in those other countries, and thus create a greater consuming and purchasing power in their people, Australia inevitably will te able to sell to them more of her products, and thus reap immense benefit. Since the Labour Conference can confer these benefits, not only directly upon the individual workers, but also indirectly upon the whole of the people of Australia, it behoves the Commonwealth Government to use its utmost influence to see that the resolutions of the Conference are passed on to the State Governments with the earnest appeal that they shall consider them as favorably as possible.
.- It is, I think, a matter for sincere regret that the Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom) has been unable to give a more satisfactory answer to the questions asked by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) or one more honorable to this Government and its predecessor. The question before the House is, not whether .the use of white lead should be prohibited or restricted, but whether this Government and its predecessor have observed the. plain obligation which rests upon the Government of the Commonwealth to pass on to the competent authorities the recommendations of the International Labour Conference. The predecessor of this Government did not pass on to any authority a single recommendation, nor did it take any action either in this House or elsewhere to give effect to Australia’s promise that the draft conventions would be sent on as recommendations to the competent authorities. Last session I asked the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) whether any recommendations had been sent on to the State Governments, or any action taken in this Parliament upon any convention, and the answer was “ No.”
– There are, at least, about 30 of them.
– I asked him, also, whether steps would be taken to have these matters attended to in order that
Australia might observe the promise she had solemnly made, and the answer was, “Yes.” I confess that it was a disappointment to me to hear this afternoon that after this lapse of time only some of the recommendations had been sent on. It is perfectly plain that the restriction of the use of white lead is a matter for determination by the States; this Parliament has no power either to prohibit or restrict in any way the use of white lead in paint or otherwise in Australia. . Accordingly, the only thing the Commonwealth Government can do, . and that which it ought to do, is to send at once the recommendations to the State Governments. I suggest that this is not a matter upon which it is necessary for the Commonwealth Parliament to make up its mind, because, even though this Government and this Parliament entirely disapprove of a particular recommendation, the plain duty of the Commonwealth Government is to send all recommendations to’ the proper authority, in accordance with the undertaking into which we have entered. It is, therefore, unnecessary for the Government to spend a great deal of time in determining whether or not it approves oi a recommendation about white lead or anything else. It has often been said in Australia that this country is so advanced in industrial legislation, and in conditions of employment generally, that it is unnecessary for us to take action upon these recommendations, or even to consider them. I venture to dissent entirely from that view. We have undertaken to submit these recommendations to the proper authorities, and we ought to do it without any argument.
– Even though we know that the recommendations have already been carried out?
Mi. LATHAM.- Even though those recommendations have already been carried out, we ought to observe our undertaking to submit them to the proper authority. Friends of mine associated with the League of Nations at Geneva have written to me asking, ‘* Why is it that Australia, which professes to be an advanced industrial and democratic country, is conspicuous among the nations of the world in paying no attention whatsoever to the recommendations of the draft convention of the International Labour Conference 1” It has already been said - by, I think, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) - that every improvement in the standard of the industrial conditions of other countries is beneficial to Australia. Surely, then, it is obviously desirable that Australia should set an example of respect for the decisions of the International Labour Conference. As a matter of fact, that Conference has already produced, in India and Japan in particular, very important and far-reaching results. It is by no means a body which has simply passed resolutions that end in words and never issue in action. Very great changes have already been made in those countries, which are going to be our industrial competitors at no very distant date, and it behoves Australia to carry out her obligation - the first international obligation she ever undertook - to the letter, without delay or argument.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister lay on the Library table the whole of the papers in connexion with the dismantling of H.M.A.S. Australia?
– Many of the papers in regard to the disposal of H.M.A.S. Australia are confidential communications, and cannot be laid upon the table as requested. The file of papers relating to the sale of the vessel is complete, and will be made available to the honorable member at my office at Victoria Barracks at any time convenient to him.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will state -
The amount of duty paid on reapers and binders, and parts for same, imported into the Commonwealth during each year since the last Tariff schedule on these items became operative?
The number of establishments manufacturing these items in the Commonwealth ?
The value of these items manufactured in the Commonwealth during the same period ?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Agreement with Ellerman and Bucknall Steamship Company.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Salary - Advocacy of Singapore Base
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whetherhe has taken any action as a result of the letter which he received from the Provisional Executive of the Queensland Cotton Growers Union?
– The Conference on cotton growing in Australia which was held in Sydney on 12th May affirmed the principle of co-operation as between the Commonwealth and State Governments in connexion with the industry, and agreed upon the constitution of a central organization to co-ordinate the activities of the several Governments concerned, but delegated to a sub-Committee the task of formulating detailed proposals as to the methods by which the objects in view should be attained. The proposals formulated by this sub-Committee are to be discussed at a further Conference, to which it is intended to invite representatives of the cotton growers and the other interests connected with the industry. The views expressed by the Provisional Executive of the Queensland Cotton Growers Union will then, and at the proper time, receive the fullest consideration.
Number of Cadets, Students, or Trainees
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will supply the total number of cadets, students, or trainees at Duntroon Military College, Jervis Bay Naval College, Point Cook Flying School, and. Flinders Naval Base, for the years 1921-22, 1922-23, and for the present year?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Cadets on strength of Royal Military College, Duntroon - 1921-22, 81, including 13 from New Zealand; 1922-23, 44; 1923-24, 41.
Cadets at Royal Australian Naval College, Jervis Bay- 1921-22, 84; 1922-23, 58; 1923-24, 46.
Flinders Naval Depôt- 1921-22, 1,074 trainees; 1922-23, 1,315 trainees; 1923-24 (to date), 1,633 trainees.
No. 1 Flying Training School, Point Cook - 1921- 22, 14, pilots and other officers’ courses; 1922- 23, 34, pilots and other officers’ courses; 1923- 24, 55, pilots and other officers’ courses.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Bullot Meat Process
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
It is presumed that the majority of these would be entitled to Repatriation benefits within the meaning of the Act in some form, as distinct from war pensions.
As to the number of appeals granted, no special record has been kept, but it is known that approximately 30,000 appeals have been dealt with since the Commission, took office on the 1st July, 1920. This number includes appeals of all descriptions, such as appeals against reductions of pensions, existing rate of pension, rejection of claims, cancellations, &c.
– On the 3rd of April the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) asked the following question: -
Will the Prime Minister have a return furnished showing the names of members of all
Boards, Commissions, and Committees in existence since January, 1923, with particulars as to the cost of each to date?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the information, which is as follows : -
– On the 15th of May the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 8th of May the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 15th of May the honorable member for Forrest, for the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson), asked the following questions : -
The answers given were as follows: -
The information contained in paragraphs 2 and 3 is incomplete, having inadvertently been limited to the acquisitions proposed to be made during the financial year 1924-25. The following answers should have been given : -
Removal of Names - Prosecutions
– On the 15th of May the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) asked the following questions : -
What amount was spent last year by the Electoral Department in each Federal electorate in Victoria for -
How many persons have been prosecuted in Victoria during the past year for failure to enroll or to notify change of address?
I am now able to furnish the following answers : -
No names are added to, or removed from, the roll except by the Divisional Returning Officers or the Registrars. Additions to the rolls arc made only in pursuance of claims signed by the electors concerned and duly witnessed. Removals from the rolls are effected only by reason of objections duly determined by the Divisional Returning Officers after notification to the electors concerned, transfers of enrolment, death of electors, and duplications. Apart from the salaries of the permanent staff, the only payments for services in connexion with the rolls are made to -
The amounts paid, in each division in Victoria, for these services during the twelve months ended the 30th April, 1924, were as follows: -
Particulars as to the proportion of the above amounts paid for information relating to -
Removal of names from rolls; is not available.
“Biloela” and “Kurumba.”
– On the 16th May the honorable member for Boothby, for the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), asked, with reference to the fleet auxiliaries Biloela and Kurumba, will he give the following information : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
The following voyages were carried out by Biloela during the period: -
During the same period Kurumba carried out three voyages from Sydney to Borneo for oil fuel for shore stocks, occupying 33, 41, and 33 days for these voyages.
All overtime has been paid in accordance with awards governing the crew of the vessel.
The principal reasons necessitating overtime are shipkeeping, watchmen after ordinary hours in port, cargo work, shifting ship after ordinary hours, curtailed and late meal hours.
The exigencies of the service required the presence of some of the officers and crew in the ship.
Cost of victualling -
Royal Australian Navy -
Officers,1s. 9d. per diem, to which is added 2s. per diem contributed by each officer.
*These figures were ascertained in 1921, but cost for year ended 30th June, 1923, would probably be lower.
During periods not in commission the majority of the mercantile crew would be discharged. R.A.N. personnel would need to be drafted to other ships or-dépôts.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Atkinson) read a first time.
In Committee (consideration resumed from 16th May, vide page 753) :
Clause 6 - (1.) The Commission shall consist of three members who shall be appointed by the GovernorGeneral. (3.) The Chairman of the Commission, and any member of the Commission remunerated solely by way of salary, shall devote the whole of his time to the duties of his office.
Upon which Mr. Charlton had moved by way of amendment -
That the word “ three,” line 1, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ one.”
.- At this stage in our history we should proceed very carefully in the matter of public expenditure. The Bill gives too much power to the proposed Commission. It is undesirable that in such an important business as the development of the Federal Capital, control should be taken from the responsible Minister. The Bill proposes to vest the Commission with power to impose taxation, to manage tramways, to control sewerage, waterworks, lighting, and all the manifold activities of a modern city. In my opinion there is no possibility of Canberra attracting a large population for many years. There is no port, no coal or timber resources, and not a great deal of agricultural land. The area is principally a grazing proposition, and necessarily the land must be occupied in large holdings. Manufacturers, with all the advantages of big cities like Sydney and Newcastle available to them, are certainly not likely to pay freight on raw material to Canberra, and on the manufactured product from the Federal Capital to the sea-board. The appointment of a Commission will, undoubtedly, lead to expenditure over and above the £7,000 per annum for the remuneration of its members, for it is certain that the Commissioners will soon have round them a staff of officers to assist them in their duties. Our financial position is such that we should mark time for some years. We certainly should not launch out on heavy expenditure at the present time. I know nothing that is likely to attract a population to Canberra within the next fifteen years:
-There i3 .a salubrious climate.
– I believe the climate is very good in summer, but extremely cold . in. winter. However, . I am not saying anything against - the site at all. Rightly or wrongly Canberra ha3 been selected as the Seat of Government, and we must abide by the decision. We are from 30 to 50 years ahead of our time. The Government cannot very well at this stage drop the Bill, but I think it would have been -wise had it decided to delay proceeding with the measure until Canberra was actually the. Seat of Government. We are not justified in appointing a Commission at present.
– The Committee has agreed’ to the appointment of a Commission. The question is whether there shall be one Commissioner or three.
– I realize that we are now discussing whether there shall be a Commission of one member or of one fulltime and two casual members. I cannot conceive of any two gentlemen capable of filling the position of Commissioner accepting casual appointments. Only qualified men should be appointed, and I do not believe that such men will sacrifice their present positions to undertake casual work. A Commission is unnecessary, but if it is to be appointed it certainly should consist of one Commissioner only.
.- This amendment has been moved to test the sincerity of honorable members opposite, who say that they favour one Commissioner rather than three. I hope, however, that the Committee will yet show its wisdom by refusing to agree to Commission -control of Canberra. If it votes against the clause, it will kill the Bill, and that is the best thing that could happen. A number of honorable members have not expressed their honest beliefs in this debate. The honorable mem ber for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) has just stated that we are 50 years ahead of our time. I have looked up the debates which occurred in this House a few years ago, when the Minister then administering Canberra affairs sought for authority to proceed with additional sewerage work there. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) voted against anything being done, and similar action was taken by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), who said last Friday ‘that, as the House had decided upon the appointment of a Commission, he would vote for the clause. A few years ago he voted against any work being done, notwithstanding that the decision had been made long before to proceed with the construction of Canberra. He was not then prepared to accept the view of the majority. He is inconsistent. On that occasion the Minister, speaking’ in favour of the continuation of the work, said that the additional sewerage provision proposed would serve the city for the next 50 years. The present Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) interjected, “ For the next 200 years.” Yet to-day he is a member of a Government which is prepared to hand to three Commissioners its responsibility for work which, in his opinion, will not be necessary for 200 years. I protest against the lack of sincerity in this debate. Honorable members with views such as those to which I have referred will not be doing the fair thing to the taxpayers if they support the Bill. I shall not enlarge upon my previously expressed opinion that Canberra will be a “dud” city, but I must remark that it -will have no means of support apart from revenues which the Commonwealth Government obtains from other sources. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) on Friday supported this Bill with considerable vigour, because he said that it would make for efficiency. The Bill was also supported by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes). I wish to draw the attention of those honorable members to a leading article which appeared in the Adelaide Register on the 13th May. That newspaper, as a rule, enunciates the policy and creates the opinion of the section of electors represented by those honorable members. The article indicates clearly that in supporting this Bill those gentlemen are not reflecting the view of the people who voted for them. The Register is opposed to the proposal of the Government to give the control of Canberra to a Commission.
– Where are the South Australian supporters of the Government ? They should be here.
– I would prefer them to hear my remarks, and also what ;the Register has to say on the subject. The quotation is as follows: -
Government by Commission.
The month’s adjournment of the Federal Parliament enabled opposition to develop to the foolish proposal of the Government to control the Federal Capital by a permanent commission, and when the debate on the second reading of the Seat of Government (Administration) “Bill was resumed on Thursday, the measure was subjected to heavy criticism from both sides of- the House. The main objections to the project have already been stated in the Register. Chief among them is the fact that the Bill represents a continuation - indeed, an extension - of the pernicious system of handing over the business of Government to commissions which are only remotely responsible to Parliament, which involve the creation of additional billets, and which, being largely independent of the Minister, may be used by him as a means of evading responsibility for extravagance and inefficiency.
I emphasize the point that, in the opinion of the Register, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) will not be supporting economical administration if he votes for this clause. He should give heed to the remarks of that journal, for it is the mouthpiece of the organization to which he belongs. It states in unmistakable terms that Commission control means inefficient control. The Register article continues -
What happened in connexion with the War Service Homes Commission is well and unfavorably known to the public, yet the Government proposes to clothe the Canberra Commission with even greater authority than that enjoyed and misused by the former body - the power, for instance, to raise, loans for unlimited amounts. Not only are the principles of the Bill bad, but the Minister for Works, in introducing it, gave ample reasons why the creation of a new and expensive administrative body was entirely unnecessary, the work, as Mr. Stewart, candidly admitted, already being efficiently performed, under Ministerial supervision, by the Advisory Committee and the officers of the public Departments.
The concluding sentence is as follows: -
The Bruce-Page Government will be well advised to drop the Seat of Government Bill, and continue the system of departmental construction, which has admittedly worked well.
That indictment of Commission control should cause the South Australian representatives in this Chamber to whom I have referred, to reconsider their position. They have the opportunity to do so while this clause is before the Committee. I remind them that the Register is a maker of public opinion, and the creator, in the main, of conservative policy in South Australia. They will be failing in their duty if they disregard its opinions. They should accept the smaller of two evils, and vote for the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and, later, they should vote against the clause. The effect of such a vote would be to destroy the Bill. Those honorable gentlemen have not supported their expressed opinions with very logical arguments. They said that a Commission would be efficient, and that the mistakes of - past Commissions would not be repeated; but we have no assurance whatever that that will be so. They will be making a serious mistake if they vote in favour of handing over the responsibilities of Parliament to a Commission of one, two, or three members, which will not be amenable to the will of Parliament, and which will be only partially under the authority of the Minister. I hope that we shall shoulder the responsibility we bear to the taxpayers of Australia, and retain parliamentary administration of the Federal Capital Territory..
– I do not feel content to observe in silence the subordination, at the expense of conviction and consistency, which has been shown during this debate by followers of the composite Ministry. I say “ followers “ advisedly, because those honorable members appear to have neither the quality nor the capacity to form an opinion of their own. If they have that power, it is quite evident that they have not th,e courage to advocate opinions so formed. This debate has revealed a woful inconsistency in some honorable members opposite. Early in the discussion a number of them intimated that they favoured the appointment of a Commission, but were opposed to a Commission of three members. Some of them were opposed altogether to Commission control . We have been given a demonstration of the discipline enforced on the supporters of this composite Government in their party rooms. Never again will they be able, honestly, to criticize an opposing party because its members hold uniform views. No greater measure of uniformity has been shown, nor. has there ever been such an illustration of the control exercised over individual members of Parliament by their parties/ than that displayed on this occasion.
– The Government have not been so successful in securing uniformity as has the Leader of the honorable member’s party.
– The inconsistency that has been shown is aptly illustrated by the actions of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), who has just interjected. It is remarkable that honorable members opposite who a few days ago were against the appointment of three Commissioners, and even, in some cases, against the appointment of any Commission, are prepared now to support the Government. Those honorable members who held decided views are now required to throw consistency to the wind and support the Government. Honorable members opposite must do as they are told, and they axe now prepared to adopt an attitude which is not in keeping with the views which they previously expressed. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) definitely said that he would vote against the appointment of a Commission of three members, but, with other honorable members opposite, I have no doubt that he will be found supporting the Government proposal, and we shall know whether they are influenced by a desire to serve the interests of- the Government or those of Australia. I direct attention to the important fact that the day-labour system has been in operation at Canberra, to the disadvantage of the private friends of honorable members on the Government side. They wish to .change that system which has been operated so successfully, but they wish also to be in a position to put the responsibility for the change on the new administration of Canberra to be undertaken by the Commission. The history of the operations of the War Service Homes Commission is not very far behind us, and it shows that public interests were subordinated to those of private con- tractors, who waxed fat upon the opportunities afforded them by the Commission in connexion, not only with the building of War Service Homes, but also with the disposal of the various stocks of material held by the Commission. The Commonwealth has suffered heavy losses as a result of opportunities provided for profit-making by contractors and others associated with the building trade. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) waa called upon to set right the mistakes made by the War Service Homes Commission, and yet, although he is the one man who should be best able to appreciate how very desirable it is to prevent responsibility for public works being placed in the hands of a Commission, he now advocates handing over the responsibility of this Parliament for the construction of the Federal Capital to such a body. Let us hope that, even at this eleventh hour, the honorable gentleman and those supporting him will recognize that this proposal will not lead to true economy, and will not save Australia from becoming a prey to greedy, selfish, and unscrupulous contractors, whose existence in this community has been amply demonstrated by the history of the operations of the War Service Homes Commission. I should like to ask the Minister whether he believes that the appointment of a Commission of either one or three members to administer affairs at Canberra will in any way relieve the responsible officers of his Department now carrying on work in the Federal Capital Territory. One of the Minister’s strongest arguments in support of this proposal has been that it will meet serious difficulties at present existing in the Department over which he presides. There is no one who stands higher in that Department than the Director-General of Works, Colonel Owen. He is a most efficient officer, whose work is entitled to our unstinted praise; but will the appointment of a Commission to administer affairs at Canberra relieve this officer of his duties in the Territory? It will not. Colonel Owen will need to be on the spot to continue his supervision of building operations at Canberra ? Will the appointment of the Commission relieve Mr. Goodwin, the Surveyor-General? I am sure that it will not; nor will it relieve any other official of equal standing at present engaged at Canberra. The proposed Commission will merely create an additional supervizing authority that will be likely to bring about confusion in the building of the Federal Capital. It is evident that it will not bring about economy, and will give no relief to officers of the Works and Railways Department, and thus the Minister is deprived of one of the principal arguments he submitted for the appointment of a Commission. The honorable gentleman and his supporters must justify their attitude, and must try to reconcile their advocacy of economy, on the one hand, with their support of a proposal which is calculated to lead to lavish expenditure of the people’s money without an adequate return. We are being invited to-day to follow a most undesirable course in the conduct of public affairs. The Government are proposing that the responsibility of this Parliament shall be handed over to a Commission that will not be responsible to this Parliament, or answerable to the people. What does this mean Only this afternoon I endeavoured to elicit information regarding a great public undertaking which has been placed in the hands of a Commission. During the whole of last week I endeavoured to secure certain information concerning this undertaking, but without result. That which I received to-day was incomplete and unsatisfactory. We find that responsible members of this Parliament are unable to secure information in connexion with an important Commonwealth activity whichthey have a right to expect. This has been proved in the case of the Commonwealth Shipping Board, and it will be proved again in the case of the Federal Capital Commission. If I occupied a position similar to that held by the Minister, and did not feel inclined to accept the responsibility attaching to it,I would be honest enough to say that I desired to be relieved of my office, and would allowsome one who had thecapacity and the inclination to undertake the responsibilities and obligations of office to take my place. I cannot reconcile the attitude of the Government towards this matter with my views of responsible Government. The expenditure which we are asked to incur certainly is not justified. The Minister has admitted that the work has been carried out most successfully under the guidance and direction of the Department now controlling it.
– Be fair, and say that I said that the arrangement had worked satisfactorily to date, but that the problems of the future would be such that the existing machinery would not enable satisfactory work to continue.
– I have been perfectly fair, and the former part of the Minister’s interjection amply confirms my statement. Some of the greatest public utilities which will be required in the Capital City have already been completed, or are nearing completion. I ask the Minister to say what more important undertakings are contemplated than those of the water supply, the sewerage, the power plant, or even Parliament House itself. Those works have been successfully carried out under the Works and Railways Department. If given the opportunity, the people of Australia would show that we on this side have correctly interpreted their views in relation to this matter. I hope that the Minister will recognize how indefensible is the attitude adopted by the Government. As the work, so far, has been successfully carried out by the Works and Railways Department, especially where the day-labour system has operated, the Minister should not pass his responsibilities over to Commissioners. To do so would permit the intrusion of those features which, in connexion with the War Service Homes Commission, proved so disastrous to the Commonwealth. The Minister should remember the lesson taught by that Commission, and even at this late hour, in the interests of the whole of Australia, reconsider this matter.
.- It is evident that members on the other side are determined to have a Commission. I do not agree with them, but if a Commission is to be appointed, it should consist of one member only. I have taken an active part in the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra, and have come in personal contact with the men in charge there. They are serving their country well. That being so, why is this measure now introduced ? Last week two members of the legal profession - the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Littleton Groom) - spoke on this Bill, but they failed to touch the real question. The substance of their remarks was that a mistake having been made, it must be perpetuated, however great the cost to the people of Australia. You, Mr. Chairman, know as well as I do that even if a Commission is appointed, the real persons in control will be those officers who up to date have carried out the work at Canberra so faithfully and well. The professional men who have been in control of this work in the past would still remain in control if a Commission were appointed.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– The Commissioners, if appointed, would act solely on the advice of their professional officers, in the same way as the directors pf a bank adopt the recommendations of their managers. The action contemplated by the Government would be an injustice to men who have put their heart and soul into this work - men who desire to leave behind them a monument to their ability and foresight. I place these men in the same category as those responsible for the construction of the Assouan Dam and the Panama Canal. The foundation of the Federal Capital has been well laid, and it now remains only for the super-structure to be erected thereon. Are we to pay £7,000 a year to Commissioners, and salaries to messengers, and typists, and incur other huge expenses, merely to have a Commission to finish work so well commenced? The people of Australia should be proud of the Labour party, because by their criticism they have compelled the Ministry to acknowledge that it has made an error. If greater efficiency were to result from the increased expenditure, I would not call the extra cost extravagance, but as that will not be the case, I am justified in asking honorable members on the other side to assist in defeating this measure. It should not be made a party matter. When the Labour party was in power in 1910-13 they were neither so blind, nor so stupid, as to think that no one outside that party knew anything. They accepted suggestions from any quarter, so long as they were in the best interests of the’ country. And in this matter we are asking only that the best thing for Australia should be done. The Opposition, by its criticism in the present and preceding Parliaments, has saved the country millions of pounds, and honorable members should not withhold their support from proposals which emanate from this side simply for fear that those proposals may reflect credit upon us at the next general election. They should consider their duty as representative men, and place the interests of the country before those of their party. In advocating the appointment of one Commissioner we have- no particular candidate in mind. I believe that one military gentleman, who has had a succession of public appointments ever- since the conclusion of the war, is at present out of employment. I do not know whether .anybody has him in mind for a seat on the Commission. If a Commission of three men is appointed, the present professional officers of the Works and Railways and Home and Territories Departments will have lo lay their proposals before the Commission for endorsement; and what a humiliating position they will occupy if their- recommendations and advice are set aside by a body of laymen! If the Government had found that the work at the Federal Capital was badly managed and required supervision by a responsible body of professional men, there might be some justification for the creation of a Commission. But the good work clone by the existing departmental officers is admitted by the Government. Therefore, this Commission will involve an unnecessary expenditure of money, with no prospect of better results being achieved. As one who was for many years a contractor and a sanitary engineer, I inspected very carefully the work done at Canberra, and I was satisfied that it could not have been done better. Moreover, I found all the officers and men animated by a fine spirit; they desire their work at Canberra to be a monument to them. The pioneering work of the new city has been done, and the casting aside of the existing officers at the eleventh hour will be a cruel wrong. Are honorable members opposite so lacking in humanity as to be unable to realize the injury they are doing to a fine set of officers? I should not be discharging the trust reposed in me by the electors if I did not protest against such an injustice to those men and to the Australian people at large.
.- Having regard to the manifold duties to be performed by the Commission, it seems to me that it will be impossible to find any one Commissioner qualified to control so many diversified operations. Clause 14 includes, amongst the powers of the Commission, the control and management of Crown lands, the levying and collection of rates upon land, the construction, maintenance, and operation of tramways - whichwe hope will be a big work in the future, when a settled population has been established there - the construction and control of roads, bridges, culverts, levees, sewers, drains, and watercourses, the provision of gas, electricity, water, and sewerage - these are works which are usually controlled by a Board - the protection of public health, the construction of all works and buildings, and generally the municipal government of the Territory. In addition, they have to arrange for the financial dealings of the whole of the Capital Territory, and the raising of loans for the carrying on of necessary works. Details of that nature are too cumbersome to entrust to one man. It would not be possible to obtain the services of a man possessing the necessary qualifications to carry out the whole of those duties. On the one hand, Parliament would be delegating far too much authority to one officer; and on the other hand, from the point of view of the man selected, it would be unfair to expect any one man to accept so great a responsibility. For that reason I favour the appointment of a Commission of more than one member, and shall vote to have three Commissioners.
.- This clause is the kernel of the Bill, and if it were cut out there would be no serious objection on the part of the Opposition to the remaining provisions. It is strange that the Government, certain members of which a little while ago professed to be very enamoured of the idea of economy, should now contemplate what we consider to be useless and unnecessary expenditure in the appointment of this Commission.We on this side have always contended that the Home and Territories Department and the Works and Railways Department are quite capable of carrying on this work. Anything that might not be considered to come within the purview of those two Departments could be delegated to some other body without incurring very great expense. I think it is generally acknowledged that excellent work has been done by these Departments. The officers and Ministers have been eulogized, and every one has agreed that that eulogy has been well deserved. The only persons who propose to pass what amounts to a vote of censure upon the Departments, are the Ministers and the members of the Government. Those who, a little while ago, preached economy, are not now willing to practise it. It is said, of course, that this work has become so great that it cannot be continued by Ministers, or by the . Departments. I remind members of the Government, however, that during the last Parliament consideration was given to the appointment of a Public Service Board to deal not only with promotions, punishment, transfers, and matters of that description in the Public Service, but also to do a great deal of other work, such as devising better methods of calling for and accepting tenders, supervising various works, and undertaking other duties, the ramifications of which extend not over a small area like Canberra, but over the whole of Australia. Quite a number of honorable members opposite, some of whom to-day are Ministers of the Crown, contended in those days that one man should be quite competent to undertake the whole of that work. Now they say there must be three commissioners to carry out work of much less magnitude. When objection is taken to that they make what is called a compromise. They say, “ We must have one commissioner at £3,000 a year, and two others to act in an advisory capacity, these two being entitled to draw fees up to £2,000 a year.” The position in which this compromise will place the people of Australia will be much worse than we should have had if the original intention had been adhered to. I cannot understand how those honorable members opposite, who previously would not agree to the appointment of three commissioners, can now say that in the public interest they will accept one commissioner and two advisory commissioners. The adoption of that proposal will run Australia into as great an expense as would the appointment of three Commissioners, who would be asked and expected to devote the whole of their time to the service of the Commonwealth. It appears to me that this new proposal is as extravagant as the original one, and that Australia willlose a good deal by it. Human nature, being what it is, it almost assuredly means that these persons who are to act in an advisory capacity will sit each year until they have drawn £2,000. The position of those honorable members opposite who formerly would not agree to the appointment of three Commissioners, is a most remarkable one, and one which, I think, needs some explanation. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hurry) detailed the duties that are to be allotted to the Commission in order to show the onerous nature of the work that is to be entrusted to it. Heading this amazing Bill,it will beseen that a very great array of duties is to be performed by the Commissioners. Some people, reading the list of those duties, may say, ‘ ‘ You will need more than one ordinary human being to carry out these duties. If you cannot have three, you must have one extraordinary man assisted by two others acting in an advisory capacity.” But, after all, many of the duties that are enumerated could very well be performed for many yearsby the officers who are now permanently employed in the Departments of the Commonwealth. There, again, I join issue with my friends opposite. Not so long ago we heard a good deal from them about the duplication of State and Federal Departments. I ask the Minister (Mr. Stewart), seeing that we have a Health Department, why could he not find it convenient to take from that Department an officer or officers who would give advice relating to the protection of public health and the maintenance of sanitation at Canberra? Is it necessary to appoint a Commission to see that that is done? Is not that duplication of work and of Departments ? The same argument applies to practically the whole of the other duties set out. The public will want to know why, when we have a Works Department, it is suddenly found necessary to form a new branch to carry out work which should be performed by the Works Department. No matter how earnestly we may desire to see Canberra the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth, we cannot disregard the fact that this proposal means unnecessary expenditure. I yield to no one in my desire to see the national Capital built at Canberra. I voted for the motion moved some little time ago by the honor able member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). I did not consider it to be a motion binding upon the next Parliament, or upon the Governor-General, to whom it was sent. Had I thought at the time that, in order to carry out the terms of the motion, it would be necessary to go to the extravagance of appointing this Commission, I certainly would have given long and serious consideration to the matter before casting a vote in its favour. Although we wish the compact with New South Wales to be honoured, the rate at which work has been proceeding at Canberra is very satisfactory; and even though a delay of six, nine, or twelve months might be necessary for the sake of economy, I do not think a single person in New South Wales would grumble, much as the people of that State desire to see Canberra established.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I now desire to direct attention to certain remarks made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. I have no desire to do the honorable member an injustice, but as I was not in the House when he spoke I have to depend on the newspaper report of his speech. In the course of his remarks the honorable member declared that any waste that had occurred in adminstration at Canberra had been during the Labour regime. Of course, if he gives me his assurance that he was incorrectly reported, I shall have no more to say.
– The report was quite correct.
– But the honorable member cannot substantiate his statement.
– As my friend the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has remarked, the honorable member for Wakefield is not in a. position to substantiate his statement in regard to any waste. I know of no great scandals due to faults in administration at the Federal Capital. The great foundation work which was done there by a former Labour Government stands a monument to its credit. In any case, it ill becomes him as a member of a former Government that was associated with so many grave scandals in administration to talk of waste of public money at Canberra.
– The honorable member for Wakefield cannot point to one item of extravagance.
– Yes, I can. Read Hansard.
– If I were permitted to go outside the scope of the debate on this Bill, I could point to perhaps a dozen grave scandals in administration on the part of the Government of which the honorable member for Wakefield was a member. His attitude, his reproof of waste of public moneys, recalls to my mind Burns’s inimitable satire on that most rigidly righteous man - one of the “ unco-guid “ - referred to in Holy Willie’s Prayer.
I bless and praise Thy matchless might,
When thousands Thou has left in night,
That I am here before Thy sight
For gear and grace :
A burnin’ and a shinin’ light
To a’ this place !
Here we have the honorable member for Wakefield a “ shinin’ light “ and an example to “ a’ this place.” I shall leave it at that. But the Sydney Morning Herald also reports the honorable member for Wakefield as having said -
He supported the appointment of a Commission, because it would ensure that the administration at Canberra would never come under the irresponsible control of the Labour party.
If the honorable member for Wakefield gives me his assurance that he was not correctly reported, I need not pursue this matter further.
– I referred particularly to the industrial side of the administration.
– Did the honorable member say that the industrial side of the administration shall not come under the control of Labour when in office ?
-In this House.
– Did the honorable member mean that ?
– I did, and I do.
– The honorable member’s interjection is typical of his attitude. Of course, he is quite at liberty, as ‘we are, to hold an opinion on all these matters. I do not know whether his attitude is endorsed by members of the Government or their supporters. I should like to know.If I am right in the assumption that it is - I ask the question and they give no sign of dissent - then pehaps we have the reason for the introduction of this Bill. It is strange, however, that a Government which has always preached economy - pretended, in fact, to be enamoured of the principle - should bring down a measure which will involve Australia in entirely unnecessary expenditure, ostensibly for the appointment of a Commission to expedite work at the Federal Capital, but really for some other purpose. It would seem, as the honorable member for Wakefield has indicated, that if there is any purpose in the Bill at all, it has not been frankly stated in this House. According to the honorable member, the purpose of the measure is to ensure that, in industrial affairs at least, and perhaps in other matters too, when the Labour party comes into power it shall not have control. The honorable member for Wakefield has said so.
– I did not. I was referring to the industrial side. If the honorable member wants to know, this was mentioned by an eminent Sydney King’s counsel sitting as a Royal Commission.
– The honorable member for Wakefield now wants to confine his references to the industrial side of the Canberra administration. If he will say that on this point he was misreported, I shall let the matter drop.
– I only repeated what I have said in this House a hundred times.
– Then all I can say is that in his attitude upon this question the honorable member is striking a blow at our system of parliamentary government. He has admitted that one of the reasons actuating him in supporting the Bill is that, when the Labour party comes into office it will not have power to deal with Canberra affairs. That is the principle ; confined to, or not confined to, matters industrial.
– The honorable member can put it in that way if he likes. I shall put it in my way.
-I am simply interpreting the honorable member’s remarks and endeavouring to reach a logical conclusion.I repeat that his attitude strikes a blow at constitutional government in Australia. Parliamentary government, as we understand it, means that the will of the majority shall prevail, and that any party in power with a majority shall control legislation and administration. According to the honorable member forWakefield, this Bill is designed to prevent the Labour party, when it gets into office, from having any authority at Canberra. The honorable member should know something about its purpose, because he is a supporter of the present Ministry. He attends the Caucus meetings of his party. He was a Minister in the last Government, and I have no doubt that, but for the intrusion of the Country party, the other wing of the Coalition, he would be a. Minister in the present Government. No doubt he was consulted in the preparation of the Bill. He understands our system of parliamentary government. There are, however, a number of people in Australia who do not believe that our system of parliamentary government can remedy the social and economic injustices under which they suffer. They contend that this form of parliamentary government is determined by the economic system, and since theparty to which the honorable member belongs have been in control of that system, they have been able to manipulate it to their own advantage, and will continue to do so. The attitude of the honorable member will confirm them in their belief. He is determined that when Labour returns to power it will not be able to effectively exercise control. On this question, the honorable member stands on exactly the same plane as those who talk about the dictatorship of the proletariat. He allies himself with those who have lost all faith in the parliamentary system of government. The Australian people, however, believe in our present parliamentary system of government, and do not wish it tampered with. They are loyal to the great cardinal principle that the wishes of the majority of the people must prevail in all cases, and to that principle the Labour party is loyal. Personally, I do not intend to swerve one iota from it, and I know that the party to which I belong does not hold ideas contrary to those which I am now advocating.We have been accused, time after time, of disloyalty
– The honorable member is not discussing the question before the Chair.
– I am replying to the arguments of the honorable member forWakefield (Mr. Foster), and showing that we cannot vote for a Bill which, after all - if what the honorable member has stated is correct - implies disloyalty, because it is subversive of the principles of representative government, in which we believe. I think I am entitled to do that. Loyalty to such principles is, after all, as necessary as loyalty to the King. If the honorable member is not going to be loyal to those great principles upon which the power and authority of His Majesty is founded, and he should know that that authority rests in the sovereign will of the people expressed through the Parliament, he is himself one of the greatest disloyalists in the Commonwealth.
– I ask the honorable member how he intends to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair.
– I shall not be long in doing that. We have been taunted with disloyalty to the Sovereign, and I wish to show how the two forms of loyalty are related by again quoting Bobbie Burns, who said -
Who will not sing God Save the King
May hang as high’s the steeple;
But, while we sing God Save the King,
We’ll not forget the people.
I trust the honorable member for Wakefield, when he next appears before the people, will not vilify the party to which I belong, but will remember that these two forms of loyalty are closely entwined. He should remember that one cannot be loyal to the King and, at the same time, disloyal to the great principle upon which parliamentary practice is founded.
– Order ! The honorable member has reached his time limit.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Charlton’s amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the words “and any member of the Commission remunerated solely by way of salary “ be left out.
When we reach clause 7 I propose to move to insert after the word “members” the words “ which shall be by way of fees as prescribed,” and to omit sub-clause 2 of that clause. The effect of the amendment will be to provide for one Commissioner on full time and for the other two to be remunerated by fees. As this matter has been fully discussed, honorable members are fully conversant with what is intended.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 - (1.) The remuneration of the Chairman of the Commission shall not exceed Three thousand pounds per annum, and the remuneration of each of the other members shall not exceed Two thousand pounds per annum. (2.) The remuneration may be by way of fees or salary, or partly by fees and partly by salary.
.- The clause, as drafted, provides that the Chairman of the Commission shall receive £3,000 per annum, and the other two members £2,000 per annum each, but an amendment foreshadowed by the Minister will provide that the two Commissioners, who were to have received £2,000 per annum, shall be paid prescribed fees, though they may each receive up to £2,000 in that way. I am not opposed to paying any man a fair remuneration for his services, but I think that £3,000 per annum is altogether too much to pay the Chairman of this Commission. One might think that very important duties, requiring most careful attention, will have to be discharged by him, whereas the fact la that the Federal Capital must be built according to plans already agreed upon. The Chairman of the Commission will simply have to supervise the work, and, under the Bill, he will have two other Commissioners to assist him. I consider that £1,500 a year would be quite a sufficient salary. Why should we pay him £3,000 a year when the salary of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth is a much less sum? I can see nothing whatever to justify us in paying the Chairman of the Commission such a high salary. The revenue he will have to handle will not exceed £30,000 a year, we are told. Honorable members of this Parliament, who have to do much more work than will fall to the lot of the Chairman of this Commission, receive only £1,000 a year, and are supposed to be adequately paid for their work. Why then should the Chairman of this Commission receive three times that amount? The amendment which the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) has foreshadowed is to be introduced simply to appease honorable members on his own side of the Committee, and it will not reduce the expense of the Commission. I have no desire to delay the passing of the Bill, but I consider it to be necessary in the public interests to find out exactly which honorable members of this Committee are prepared to pay £3,000 to an individual who, probably, is pretty well known in some quarters, simply to provide him with a comfortable and lucrative position. The proposed salary is altogether out of proportion to the importance of the position.
– Will the honorable member agree to £2,000 a year?
– Well, I will meet the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), although I think that £1,500 a year is ample. It is a handsome salary for the work to be performed. I do not forget that the Chairman of the Commission will have to carry a certain amount of responsibility, but £2,000 a year will be quite an adequate remuneration for the service that he will render to the country ; it is more than I personally would offer. I move -
That the word “ three “, line 2, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ two.”
– I must ask the Committee not to agree to this amendment. There seems to be a total misapprehension of the very important duties which will have to be discharged by the Chairman of this Commission. Clause 14 of the Bill sets out those duties in detail. The Chairman of the Commission will have control of millions of public money.
– Will his responsibility be greater than that of the Prime Minister?
– That may be an argument in favour of increasing the salary of the Prime Minister ; it is not an argument for decreasing the salary of the Chairman of the Commission.
– Would the Minister for Works and Railways vote in favour of increasing the Prime Minister’s salary?
– That is not the matter under discussion at present. The object of this Bill is to co-ordinate the activities at Canberra by placing them under the control of a Commission with the wide powers outlined in clause 14. We shall not be able to get a sufficiently capable man to discharge those duties unless we offer a salary commensurate with the responsibility. If there is one mistake we make more frequently than another in this country it is that of adopting a cheeseparing policy in regard to salaries offered for important positions. In nearly all the wide-awake countries of the world, including the United States of America, the tendency in modern business concerns is to secure big men for big positions, and to pay them well. In view of the responsibilities which the Chairman of this Commission will carry, the Government consider that £3,000 a year is only a fair remuneration.
.- I support the amendment by the Leader of the Opposition. I have always regarded the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) as a careful administrator, and, judging by his attitude before he became a Minister of the Crown, I considered that he was opposed to increasing the expenditure of the country unnecessarily. I thought that he believed in economy. I am astounded, therefore, that he has introduced a measure of this description. I have recently visited Canberra, and in consequence of inquiries I made, I think that what the Minister proposes to do now is just what should not be done. He knows very well that the actual sewerage work at Canberra is costing only one-third of the total outlay, the other two-thirds being accounted for by heavy overhead charges caused by the payment of high salaries to officers, and it is now proposed to increase the highly paid appointments. The cost of various works at Canberra has been enormously increased, not because of the way the men work, nor because of inefficient machinery, but because of the high salaries paid to officials. In Fremantle, a progressive city engineer is employed, and he supervises the whole of the work of that important municipality at a salary of £600 a year. I admit that for an officer having special qualifications - for instance, Sir John Monash, whose administrative capacity probably could not be equalled in Australia - it is necessary and desirable to pay a large salary; but the feeling throughout the Commonwealth is that while the States are in difficulties financially, the Commonwealth is paying enormous sums of money to men who do very little for it. The Government have a capable officer stationed at Canberra who could satisfactorily superintend the work there. Nevertheless, I say without hesitation that brick houses at Canberra that have cost £1,200 each, should have been built for £800, and houses for which 25s. per week rent has been charged are not worth more than 15s. per week. The wooden huts let at 11s. a week are a disgrace to the Commonwealth.
– Eleven shillings is the rent of the new cottages built for workmen. The charge for the ex-internment camps at Molonglo is1s. 6d. per room per week.
– I am speaking of the five or six-roomed wooden buildings along the route of the sewerage works. I was informed that those premises were already booked up far ahead. A member of Parliament and his wife will have to pay £5 per week each at the hostel at Canberra, and goodness knows what he will have to pay for his family.
– Where did the honorable member get that information from ?
– At Canberra. I estimate that the population of the Federal Capital will not exceed 50,000 in the next ten years. What municipality near Melbourne or Sydney likely to have a similar population in the next ten years would propose to pay its leading officer a salary of £3,000 per annum? The proposed Commission, like the War Service Homes Commission, will react to the discredit of the Government and the Commonwealth generally.
Question - That the word proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause (Mr. Charlton’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- The clause provides that, in addition to the Chairman of the Commission, there shall be two members, each of whom shall receive remuneration at a rate not exceeding £2,000 per annum. When the Bill was before us on a former occasion, many honorable members expressed dissatisfaction with the proposal to appoint a Board of three Commissioners, and the Government, in order to meet their wishes, framed an amendment which the Minister intends to submit. It is now proposed that the members of the Commission other than the Chairman shall give only part of their time to the work, but may still receive £2,000 each per annum. The Minister is to prescribe their fees, which may be £10 or £15 per day, but there is nothing to prevent them from absorbing the amount of £2,000 each, although they may not be employed for more than three or six months in the year. I point out to honorable members that the amendment suggested by the Minister in this clause will not necessarily reduce the expenditure which may take place under it. As a matter of fact, the Bill as first presented was far better than it will be if amended as now proposed by the Minister. I cannot, for the life of me, see how honorable members who were opposed to a Commission can accept a proposal of this kind, under which the Minister, or, in reality, the Chairman of the Commission, may employ the two additional members of the Commission for just as long as he feels inclined, at an allowance per sitting which may give them each £2,000 per annum.
– That is the amount proposed for their full time.
– The honorable member should be under no misapprehension with respect to this clause as proposed to be amended by the Government. It will not provide for the Commissioners Other than the Chairman giving their full time to the work of the Commission. Under the clause, as proposed to be amended, two of the Commissioners may receive £2,000 each per annum, although they may not be employed on the work of the Commission for more than three or six months in the year. I could understand the Minister saying that, as honorable members are not favorable to the appointment of three permanent
Commissioners, and it is necessary to curtail expenditure as much as possible, he would propose that £3,000 should be divided between the two part-time Commissioners. His present proposal is that each of these Commissioners may receive in prescribed fees up to £2,000 per annum. This is really a subterfuge to enablehonorable members oppositeto justify their support of the measure on the ground that something was done to meet their objections. If honorable members can justify the payment of £7,000 per annum to these Commissioners for the administration of the Federal Capital Territory, we should not have much difficulty in justifying a considerable increase in our own salaries. I think we receive fair remuneration, but each of us does far more work than any of these Commissioners will be called on to do.
– And they have not to face an election.
-They have not to face an election, and the expense it involves, but they may receive under the clause, as proposed to be amended by the Minister, as much as £2,000 for three months’ work in the year. I intend to test the feeling of the Committee on this matter, and I therefore move -
That the words “ of each “ be left out.
The result of the amendment, if carried, will be to make provision for an expenditure of £2,000 per annum, to be divided between the two Commissioners called upon to give only part of their time to the work of the Commission.
.- On the second reading of this Bill, I expressed myself in very plain terms with regard to it. I intimated that if the House decided upon the appointment of a Commission, it would not be possible to find one man who could successfully carry out the whole of the work. I am in accord with the amendment which has just been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). I believe that greater efficiency, and, after all, that is what we desire to obtain, might be secured through an advisory committee, but we should determine here the fees to be paid to the members of that committee. The Leader of the Opposition, in his amendment, has been more generous than I, personally, am prepared to be. In view of the condition of things in the Federal Capital Territory, the work to be done there, and the fact that one Commissioner is to be constantly employed, all that is required is an Advisory Committee, the members of which should be prepared to devote, say, one day per week to the duties of the Commission at a fee of, say, £10 per day. Under such a proposal, I think we could obtain the services of a much better type of men than we could secure by paying full-time men on a job of this kind £2,000 each a year. There are patriotic men in the community who are ready to render service to Australia. They are men of very high standing in their professions, and I am sure such men, for a comparatively small remuneration, would be prepared to give a reasonable amount of their time to carry the work at the Federal Capital to a successful issue. We are not desirous of wrecking the Bill. We have met the Minister in connexion with the appointment of a Commission, and I hope that he will now see the wisdom of accepting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I have expressed myself very strongly on this measure. In my opinion it would be well for the Government to try to meet the views of the Leader of the Opposition to some extent. Personally, as I have mentioned before, I think it would be much better if the clause were made to read “ the remuneration of each of the other members shall be by fees as prescribed.”
– Without any limit ?
– Yes, I do not like a limit. I feel confident that fees sufficiently generous to secure the services of the very best men in the community might be provided for the two subordinate Commissioners, and we should even then require to pay not more than £500 a year to each of them. This measure has created a lot of mistrust outside. People object to the payment of £3,000 to the Chief Commissioner and £2,000 each to the subordinate Commissioners. The Government have now proposed that the subordinate Commissioners shall be paid by fees, but they propose that the amount of £2,000 should remain as the maximum amount payable per annum to each of them. That will not remove the distrust outside, and the objection to the clause. I have pledged myself in a good many places to vote against a payment of £2,000 each to the subordinate Commissioners.
– I ask honorable members to consider the very important nature of the work which the Commission will have to do. The Government are as desirous as honorable members generally to economize. Honorable members opposite have voted for every proposal calculated to lower the value of the Commission with the object of securing its inefficiency. They frankly admit that those are the lines upon which they are proceeding. But other honorable members have accepted the Commission, and are honestly striving now to secure the best Commission they can. It is idle to point to what is done by municipal councillors, and to tell us that a shire engineer can be secured for £600 a year. Quite apart from the justice of paying professional men an adequate fee, I would point out that the problems of Canberra are not merely those of a shire engineer. They involve the administration of the whole of the Federal Territory, including the administration of land, the initiation of a system of leasing such as is not in existence in any corresponding city of the Commonwealth, the gradual introduction of private enterprise, the construction and supervision of all public buildings necessary, not only for to-day, but for the future, and the responsibility of municipal government. If, as the Statistician says, in six years after its establishment the population in the FederalTerritory will be 12,000, the problems of municipal government will need to be solved by a man of conspicuous ability, and with a wide knowledge. In the early stages, the Commissioner will require the assistance of experts to advise him respecting architectural, engineering, and financial problems, not the least being the raising of money and the provision for repayment. We have to decide whether we shall have one all-time man, with the right to call in two expert men to assist him. In one year their services may be needed almost constantly; in another year few sittings may be necessary.
– Will it rest with the Chairman as to when the other two members shall be called upon 1
– To a great extent it will rest upon regulations, but the Chairman must have the right to fix the time to confer with the others. In one year, when considering fundamental problems, the Commission may be constantly sitting, and if £1,000 is fixed as the limit of remuneration, we shall be unable to obtain the services of the best men offering. We might possibly save £1,000 in one year, but we might lose £100,000 by adopting a cheese-paring policy that would prevent us from obtaining suitable men. The Capital city has been commenced, and we desire, with the assistance of independent advice to carry on the work efficiently. The best advice cannot be obtained unless it is paid for adequately, and the Government will, at the proper time, consider the amount of the fees to be paid. I have no objection, providing the Committee is unanimous, to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) to fix no limitation. Such an amendment would not necessarily lead to unlimited expenditure but. would allow a certain, amount of elasticity. In one year £1,000 might be paid, in the next, £1,500, and so on. Although the Bill provides a limit of £2,000, I ask honorable members not to unduly limit the amount. It docs not follow that £2,000 will be paid to ‘each man every year.
– It usually does follow.
– Not necessarily.
– A limit of £2,000 will scare the people.
– If the people knew what was involved there would be no scare.
– I explain that to the people who complain to me.
– It has happened that when a business expert has been appointed to inquire into Government Departments, instead of a recommendation for lower payment for competent men, the principle of adequate payment for competent .men has been adopted. I do nob believe that the limit of £2,000 will be reached ; in fact, it may reach only £1,500. I ask honorable members not to fix a limit so low as to prevent the Government from obtaining the services of the best men offering.
– We are prepared to trust the Government.
– We are all anxious to obtain the best men for the position, and we differ only in the method of accomplishing this object. I ask honorable members not to impose the limitation suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, as it would deter is from obtaining the best results.
.- The Attorney-General seems to spring into the breach whenever a difficulty arises. The amendment’ by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has torn the veil aside from the scheme that emanated in the Government Caucus room. The cracking of the whip has already met with success, but we shall now see how it acts. The number of Government supporters opposed to the appointment of three Commissioners was undoubtedly sufficient to have defeated the Government on that question. What happened ? The Minis;ter (Mr. Stewart) camouflaged the situation by agreeing to the appointment of a chairman who,, he said, would occasionally call in advisers .to assist him. In this way, we were told, a large expenditure would be obviated. When, however, the Leader of the Opposition moves an amendment that the fees, which are not now prescribed, shall be limited to £1,000 per annum for each adviser, we hear the thunders rolling from the Government side. That, the Government say, is a very different proposition. I invite honorable members to remember the Government’s attitude last week, when they effected a compromise. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) said it was obviously a compromise. The Government, instead of sanctioning an expenditure of £7,000 a year for three Commissioners, climbed down, and decided to appoint one Commissioner at a fixed salary, and two other gentlemen, who -would occasionally give their assistance, and receive a fee for their limited service. If the Government are sincere, why do they fight against the amendment? Why do they require the right to pay to each of these two advisers fees up to £2,000 per year for part time ? Why did they not stick to their original proposition ? I invite honorable members opposite, who were opposed to the payment of £7,000, andwho excused their vote on clause 6 because they were voting for one Commissioner only, to reconsider their position, and see where they stand with their constituencies and the country generally. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) said that the services of these men would be required only two or three times a year.
– I did not say that. I said that they would be required for a week possibly.
– The honorable member was emphatic that under the Government’s proposal the expenditure would be small.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– The honorable member said that the other members would occasionally be called in to assist the Chairman. Thus were allayed the fears of honorable members opposite who opposed the proposed expenditure as a waste of money. The Ministry were progressing marvellously when the Leader of the Opposition moved his amendment providing that the fees - which are not prescribed, and can be fixed at anything from £2 2s. to 20 guineas per sitting - shall not exceed in the aggregate £1,000 per annum each. The Government propose that the total amount of fees shall be fixed by the Commissioner. The fees, not being prescribed, can be paid right up to £2,000 per annum for each member. The Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom) is prepared to accept the suggestion made by the honorable member for Wakefield.
– The fees are too vague to be prescribed.
– We will learn of the fees after the Bill has been passed. If they are to be prescribed, now is the time to prescribe them. Is this Parliament not to be consulted on anything? Is the day never coming when the control of the affairs of this country will be restored to Parliament? The Attorney-General has said that the Minister in control of the Bill is prepared to accept the suggestion made by the honorable member for Wakefield.
– That is so.
– It is worse than ever. The Chairman is to receive £3,000 per annum, and the other two members prescribed fees, on which no limit will be placed. In the Bill is provided a limit of £2,000. a year each, but now no limit is to be fixed at all. The AttorneyGeneral says that the Chairman will fix the amount of the fees.
– I did not.
– Is not the Chairman to fix the number of sittings?
– That is a different matter.
– It is no use quibbling. I repeat that the amount in fees to be drawn will rest with the Chairman, as the two outside members will be paid according to the number of sittings convened by him. Neither this Government nor any other will have control. We were previously asked to fix the limit at £2,000 per annum for each person, but now the Chairman will receive £3,000 per year, and the others may receive the same amount, or perhaps more. The Leader of the Opposition has put forward a reasonable proposition. The Government were able to pass clause 6 on the pretence that the fees would not reach the amount set down for salaries. As soon as a suggestion is made to limit the fees to £1,000 per annum a storm arises, and the whips are again cracked. If those honorable members opposite, who preach economy, wish to save their faces in this discussion, they will vote with the Opposition.
– I agree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) that the fees for the two outside members of the Commission should not be limited to any fixed amount as was originally proposed, but should be prescribed by regulations. By these means, the fees will be under the control of Parliament, because the regulations will have to be approved by this House. They could be disallowed by this House. The idea underlying this proposal is to obtain the most expert advice available. The men who would be called in to assist the Chief Commissioner would be of the type who would not be attracted by the fees, but who would be prepared to give their services gratis if they felt that their assistance would benefit the country.
There is no fear that their fees would amount to any considerable sum, and the Committee need not greatly concern itself on that score. Their services would only be required occasionally. The Committee would be well advised to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Wakefield.
– I was rather surprised to hear the suggestion of the honorable member for Wakefield(Mr. Foster) that it was better not to fix the amount of the fees, as in that way we would allay discontent in the community. That is only throwing dirt in the eyes of the electors of Australia. I hold here the extract from the Adelaide Register which I quoted this afternoon. That paper criticized the Government for proposing to give this work to a Commission. Now one of the supporters of the policy of that paper suggests that, in order to allay the discontent which would be caused if the amount were known, we should not fix the amount of the fees. What sort of a business undertaking is that? Would the honorable member for Wakefield do that with his own business? He should be ashamed of his suggestion. But probably it is a case of “an old dog for a hard road.” In the original Bill the Government placed an estimate on the value of the work to be performed by the Commissioners, but, because their liberality was attacked, a hybrid proposition is now suggested. If the duties of the proposed Commissioners are known, it should not be difficult to fix their remuneration. If it was a case of a man driving a machine into the rock face to provide the city with sewers, the Government would know what he should be paid, and, if he did not shift sufficient rock, the honorable member for Wakefield would have no hesitation in saying that he was “ going slow “ and “ loafing on the job.” When, on one occasion, there was a reference to” going slow,” the honorable member said, “That is not the right term to use; it is loafing.” That is a term the honorable member would use when referring to these men who delve into the bowels of the earth and risk life and limb in order to make a city beautiful for us. But when it comes to some one who would be supposed to manage those workers, but who, in reality, would attend at his office at 10 o’clock and ask the chief officer, “How are things going?” and add, “ If I am wanted, 1 will be at such-and-such a place,” the honorable member is prepared to pay that gentleman ten guineas per diem. I hope that, notwithstanding the “ whipping “ that has gone on, honorable members will vote in accordance with the dictates of their conscience, and in the interests of the people who sent them here. If we are able to regulate the hours of labour and the wages of men who do the work, we should be able to fix the remuneration of their managers. We should not delegate our powers to some one else. The Register says the proposal means the creation of a billet for some one. Have the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron), who support the policy of the Register, seen that statement? We should decide this matter to the best of our ability, and be prepared to accept the consequences, instead of seeking to do something for the purpose of allaying the unrest which might otherwise be caused. We should be able to say that we are to get value for the money which we propose to pay. The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) said that the regulations could be objected to. Can the honorable member tell us when that has been done? The power to make regulations is the greatest power possessed by a Ministry. By regulation they can squander millions of money. Shame on us if we allow them to do so !
– I cannot accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition.
– It aims at true economy.
– The amount suggested is too rigid; the limit is too low. There may be rush periods of work, such as will probably occur when the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra takes place. In one year the amount of work may be two or three times that of another year, and some elasticity is necessary. I appeal to the Committee to negative the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. If the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) will put his suggestion in the form of an amendment, the Government is prepared to accept it.
– What is the Government prepared to accept?
– We are agreeable to the fees being fixed as prescribed.
– Is there to be no limit ?
– The fees of the part- time Commissioners could amount to £10,000 per annum.
– It is not likely that the two part-time. Commissioners would receive £10,000 between them, when the Chairman would receive but £3,000.
– I wish I could stretch my imagination to the extent that seems possible to the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom). He spoke of the engineering work still to be done. That work- has already been planned. Another honorable member referred to the leases of land at Canberra. The Public Accounts Committee has already set out the conditions under which those lands should be leased. Now the Minister informs us that when Parliament moves to Canberra there will be some work to do. The only work will be the shifting of the books, and the transfer of the housekeeper from Melbourne to Canberra. If the Minister accepts the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition, the Commissioners will each be able to draw £83 per month. Even if three Commis’sioners were appointed, it would not be necessary for them to meet more than twice a month, as the officers of the Department would continue to do the work. There is no justification for this measure, as the Advisory Committee now operating has done good work. Mr. Sulman, a patriotic gentleman, who takes a great deal of interest in town planning, would not be one of the Commissioners.
– Who told that to the honorable member?
– Members of the Melbourne Club can tell the honorable member who is to be the. Chief Commissioner. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has strenuously opposed the Government’s proposal. His motive is to serve not individuals, but the country. He wants to save the useless expenditure- of public money on ornamental people. As a member of the Finance Committee, as one who has travelled often to the Territory and knows it as well as any member of this House, and better even than the Minister, I have to admit that I have found no justification for the expenditure proposed. The Committee ought to compliment the Leader of the Opposition upon his persistency. I cannot understand the mentality of honorable members opposite. Their action justifies the assumption that they have personal interests to serve. Were it otherwise they would not be so persistent. Every time an attempt is made to amend the Bill, . the Government rallies its supporters. The Leader of the Opposition seeks to limit the cost of the Government’s proposal. Those honorable members who allow the Bill to go through without a provision definitely fixing the cost of the management of the Territory, will be traitors to their country, and will be unworthy to take part in the proceedings of this House. If, at any time, it is found that the services rendered by the Commissioners justify it, the salary can always be increased. Compare the proposed salaries of the Commissioners with the allowances provided for members of this House. We have to pay election expenses, to provide donations for hospitals and other charities, to travel backwards and forwards from our electorates to Parliament, to support our families in other States, to make ourselves presentable, and to keep up our dignity, on a sum of only £83 a month. The Government’s proposal is enough to make every member of this House dissatisfied with his remuneration. Members of the Commission, which will sit not more than ten or twelve times a year, will draw £2,000 each. Members of Parliament have their constituents worrying them, and they have to attend to a large amount of correspondence, and do their best to make this country a place to be proud of. What will the electors say if they learn that we have passed a Bill without knowing what it will cost? Why cannot we know what it will cost? Why did the Government fix a sum in the original Bill? If that sum was too high, why could not a lower one be fixed? The Government is borrowing £17,000,000 this year, and will . use £3,500,000 out of it to pay interest. Is there a public company that would do that? The last thing a commercial man or a banker would do would be to pay interest out of loan money. Notwithstanding this, objections are raised to fixing the salary of a Government servant. Even if we do not succeed in securing the desired amendment, I hope we shall at least make such a demon- stration that the Government will consider very seriously before framing a similar Bill in future. In the interests of Australia and Australians, the life of this Government ought to be very short. I could go further in illustrating its stupidity - I am perhaps not allowed to use the word “ robbery,” but if any one in a public company or corporation did what honorable members opposite are proposing to do, they would be brought before a Judge and placed where they would not be seen for at least twelve months. To “ play ducks and drakes “ with the people’s money is a very serious offence. The representatives of those States which cannot meet their obligations will be coming to this Parliament for financial assistance. The people of New South Wales, a State which is not in the same impecunious position, will be asked to assist the necessitous States. The representatives of those States ought now to assist us in preventing the proposed misuse of public money. The Commission will do nothing without the advice of the departmental officers who are now at Canberra. I do not know any similar instance in which ornamental men have been foisted on the public. They will not be able to alter a lineor a comma in the reports of the professional men who will advise them. Any body of men outside, if it had the opportunity, would smite the Government hip and thigh for its action. It would be difficult to find three men in the community who wouldagree to the proposal. The only appointment that need have been made was that of a Director of Works in the Territory at a salary of £2,000 per annum. We all are aware of the character of the Director-General of Works, the worry and trouble he has experienced over the establishment of the Federal Capital, and the extent to which he has brought his abilities to bear upon the works that have been carried out there. Now he is to be supplanted by a Commission of three men, but he will still be their mentor and guide, for without him they will be able to do nothing. For this proposal of the Government there is some ulterior motive. I appeal to the Committee to follow the advice of the Leader of the Opposition so that money may be expended in the Federal Territory wisely, and the extravagance of creating an ornamental body, the probable personnel of which has not yet been disclosed, avoided.
Mr.R. GREEN (Richmond) [10.5].- The purpose of the various amendments that have been submitted by honorable members opposite is to kill the Bill, but the Committee has decided that a Commission shall be established, and the Minister has agreed to appoint only one full-time Commissioner, and two other consulting Commissioners to be paid per sitting a fee to be prescribed. That wording is altogether too vague. The Minister gave the Committee no indication of what the probable expenditure in fees will be. I suppose he can hardly estimate the number of sittings of the full Commission, and no doubt the fee per sitting will depend upon the calibre and patriotism of those men who are chosen to act as consultants. I cannot support the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Wakefield which the Minister is prepared to accept. I ask him to either adhere to the limit of £2,000 per annum for each of the two subordinate Commissioners, or to accept the proposal made by the Leader of the Opposition. Some maximum must be stipulated, otherwise Parliament will have no control over the amount to be paid in fees. If the fee wore fixed at, say, £10 per day - I am not suggesting this amount, but am using it as an illustration - and the Commission met twice weekly, each of the subordinate Commissioners would receive about £1,000 per annum, but if the Commission met every day - which would mean full time - each would receive about £3,000 per annum. That is the amount the Chairman is to receive. A fee of £10 per sitting for a man of high professional capacity is not at all exorbitant if the Commonwealth is to receive the full benefit of his knowledge and experience, but I appeal to the Minister to propose some limitation of the amount to be paid per annum to the part-time Commissioners.
– Before a vote is taken, the Committee should thoroughly understand the position. The clause limits the amount payable to each junior Commissioner to £2,000 per annum. My amendment proposes to strike out the words “ of each,” and thus fix the amount payable to the junior Commissioners at £2,000 for the two of them. The Minister admits that, during some years, the work may be heavier than in others, and that the
Chairman of the Commission will decide at how many sittings he may require the attendance of the other two Commissioners. He may call upon, them to sit frequently and regularly during any one year. If no limit is placed upon the amount -each Commissioner may draw, and if the fee for each sitting is left to be prescribed, as suggested by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Poster), each Commissioner may draw, as the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) has just pointed out, as much as £3,000. ‘ There will be nothing definite as to the amount payable to the two part-time Commissioners. Parliament will bo practically giving to the Chairman of the Commission and to the Government a signed blank cheque on which to fill in the amount to be paid. The position will be worse than it is at present. Instead of stipulating that the amount payable to the second and third Commissioners shall 110 t exceed £2,000 per annum, the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Wakefield provides that these Commissioners shall be paid fees as prescribed. What will these fees be ? How much will it cost the country? How often will these junior Commissioners be asked to sit? The whole thing will be in the clouds. Can we pass such a proposal? Honorable members who consider that a total of £2,000 per annum is sufficient for the two junior members of the Commission to draw, seeing that they will only sit for half the year, should support my amendment. If they cannot do so, they cannot salve their consciences by following the Minister, who proposes to accept the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Wakefield, because the position will then be worse than it is at present. It will be far better to allow the payment to remain at £2,000 for each Commissioner than to accept a proposal that the fees to be paid shall be such as are prescribed, thus leaving it to some one outside Parliament to decide how much money is to be paid in connexion with this Commission. The honorable member for Richmond is absolutely wrong in saying that all the amendments submitted have been intended to kill the Bill. I made my position clear on the second reading. I said that I did not want a question of such national importance as the building of the Capital to be made a party question. I ask the Committee now to do what is right. I absolve all honorable members from making this a party question, and call upon them to express their conscientious opinions as to the amount that should be paid to these Commissioners. If they consider that £2,000 each per annum is too much to pay, let them support my amendment, and thus limit the amount payable to £1,000 a year for each Commissioner. But they should vote for a salary of £2,000 for each Commissioner rather than accept the proposal of the honorable member for Wakefield, which would certainly place every honorable member who does not approve of the clause, as drafted, in a wrong position. Now that the Government Whips have sounded honorable members, I do not wonder at the Minister, accepting the proposal of the honorable member for Wakefield. It will give the Government more power than they would have under the clause as it stands. Some honorable members may imagine that every time a compromise is arrived at they are warranted in accepting it. That is thenown concern. My concern is to do my duty, and it is my duty to indicate the position as I see it. No one can controvert my argument, and therefore I ask the Committee to vote for my amendment, and in any case not to accept that which has been foreshadowed by the honorable member for Wakefield.
.- The general tenor of remarks, particularly from the Opposition side of the Chamber, is that the Government are desperately anxious to pay away in fees as much public money as they can. The whole matter has been approached from an altogether false angle. Any fees payable to the part-time Commissioners will be the responsibility of the Government of the day, who, iri their turn, will be responsible to Parliament for the administration of the financial affairs of the country. Honorable members can rest assured that the present Government will pay to the part-time Commissioners whatever remuneration they are justly entitled to’ receive, according to the work they do, and the responsibilities imposed upon them by the Bill. If, on the other hand, by the fortune of political war. the Government are removed from their present position, surely honorable members opposite who are now lecturing Ministers upon their responsibilities, can be trusted when they are in power not to fling away public money indiscriminately, and pay those 20 guineas or 30 guineas fees making up the fanciful £10,000 a year referred to by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin).
– I said that the Chairman of the Commission could pay his fellow-Commissioners £10,000 a year in fees and no one could prevent him from doing so.
– The Government have not the slightest intention of paying the part-time Commissioners £10,000a year, or anything like that amount.I appeal to honorable members to accept my assurance that the Government will act fairly by the taxpayers, and pay only such fair remuneration as the part-time Commissioners will be entitled to expect. I ask them to negative the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, and vote for the amendment which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) intends to move.
– If one Commissioner is to be appointed for four years, will the fee prescribed at the beginning of his engagement be the fee payable throughout his term of four years ?
– Not necessarily. Of course, that will be a matter for regulations.
– Then his position will be different from that of the man whose salary is fixed for a term?
– The honorable member does not expect the full-time Commissioner’s remuneration and conditions to be the same as those of thepart-time Commissioners.
-no, but I think everything should be stipulated in the Bill.
.- I have hadvery little to say on this measure. I spoke very briefly on the second reading, and so far I have not contributed anything to the debate in Committee, but I am not disposed to allow a vote to be taken without uttering some protest against the proposal which the Minister has now put to the Committee in indicating an amendment which he says he is willing to accept. The opposition of honorable members on this side has been not to Canberra, but to the unnecessary expenditure of £7,000 a year on this Commission. That opposition proved effective to some extent, because a number of members on the Government side also began to feel uneasy. They evidently believed that the people of Australia would not countenance the proposal of the Government, and they told the Minister (Mr. Stewart) that they would expect him to meet them when the Committee stage of the Bill was reached. The Minister then came down with what purported to be a compromise to meet the objections raised by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and thehonorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). The impression which the Minister intended to convey to the House and the country was that the cost of this Commission would not amount to £7,000 a year, as was originally proposed in the measure, but that he would agree to the appointment of one full-time Commissioner and two part-time Commissioners. He, however, still left in the Bill the provision that each of those two Commissioners should be entitled to draw in fees a maximum of £2,000 per annum. He would not have been giving away very much, nor would he have lost any Ministerial dignity, had he accepted the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that the maximum fees to be drawn by those two Commissioners should not exceed £1,000 a year each. If he believes that the cost of this Commission will not exceed £7,000 a year, he must accept that amendment. Otherwise, what becomes of his protestations, which prevailed with the honorable member for Fawkner, the honorable member for Swan, and several other Ministerial supporters and induced them to vote in a way different from that in which they intended to vote ? Those honorable members clearly gave the House to understand on the second reading that they were opposed to the Commission on the score of the expense that would be incurred, and that they must have some compromise. Under the proposal now put forward, the country will be very much worse off than it would have been had the Bill passed in its original form. Under the amendment put into the mouth of the Minister by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) there is absolutely no limit to the cost of this Commission. We want the country to know that. If we deal with the people’s money in this loose manner, if we do not make some estimate of the cost of this Commission, the people will be quite justified in telling us that we are not fit to hold our positions. The Minister ought to be able to give us some idea of the duties that these part-time Commissioners will be required to carry out, and the approximate time that they will be occupied.
– If the honorable member could arrive at some estimate of the number of people likely to go to Canberra, and of the wealth of the city in future years, I possibly would be in a position to supply him with the information he desires. Lacking that estimate, no one can give him the details he seeks.
– That furnishes a stronger reason for the acceptance by the Minister of the reasonable amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.
– £1,000 may be too much in some years, and too little in others.
– The Bill, in its original form, was very loosely drawn.
– It was very carefully drawn.
– The Minister brings down a proposal that the cost shall be £7,000 a year. He then accepts an amendment by the honorable member for Wakefield, which means that the cost may exceed £7,000 a year. It is as well that the country should know that. The position is made so vague that the people of Australia are entitled to tell us that we do’ not know what we are doing. Honorable members on this side must be absolved from any share of the blame if the Committee accepts the proposal of the Minister.
.- The honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) was slightly in error when he said that I took up a certain attitude during the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill. I did not speak to that motion, nor did I indicate in any way my attitude towards the general principles of the Bill. I spoke shortly on clause 6, and pointed out that the amendment that the Minister was prepared to accept was obviously a compromise to meet the views of those who believed that £7,000 a year was too much to spend on this Commission.. The suggested amendment to this clause does not give the faintest indication of the probable amount. At present, we do not know how much of the assistant Commissioners’ time will be required to discharge the duties to be entrusted to them. Neither have we any knowledge of the character of the work to be done. My difficulty arises out of the answer given by the Minister (Mr. Stewart) to a question which I put to him concerning the appointment of the two assistant Commissioners for four years and three years respectively. I asked if the prescribed fees to be paid per sitting would be payable throughout the whole term of their engagement, and the Minister replied that the fees, as originally fixed, would not necessarily be the fees to be paid throughout the full term of their engagement. If this be so, then Parliament will have some control.
– We will have no control at all. The Chairman of the Commission will control the situation.
– Unless the fees are fixed for the whole term, Parliament will have control as to the amount to be paid. If the fees prescribed will not necessarily be paid throughout the whole term of engagement, we may express the view that the fees being paid are too high and order amodification of the arrangement. With regard to the number of sittings, we are in an extraordinary position. The Commission as a whole will be saddled with the responsibility for the proper development of the Federal Capital, and yet, according to the Minister, the Chairman will determine when the Commission will sit.
– And in that matter he will be guided largely by the work to be performed.
– But the Chairman will really be responsible for the number of sittings.
– He may call his colleagues together every day in the week if he likes.
– He might do that, but if the fees to be paid are not fixed for the whole term of their appointment, Parliament will have control. We shall have the right to step in and say that for the character of the work being performed the amount being paid is too high, and must be reduced.
– What will we know in this House about the character of the work to be done at Canberra)
– It will be the duty of this House to ascertain what is being done there.
-How can we do that? The Chairman of the Coimmission will present his report. Actually he will be the man to employ his fellowCommissioners.
Mr.MAXWELL. - At present we are utterly in the dark as to the character of the work likely to be required of the Commissioners. That constitutes our difficulty in fixing the remuneration. If we knew the amount and character of the work to be done, it would be a comparatively simple matter to fix not only the remuneration, but also the length of time necessary for the performance of the duties.
– The last clause provides that the Governor-General may make regulations accurately defining the powers to be conferred on the Commission.
– Without that clause there would be no power to make regulations at all. In the circumstances I think that the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Wakefield might well be accepted. Parliament will have power to modify the regulations, if necessary.
– I am opposed to the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), because we are more likely to have economic administration without it. I am prepared to trust the Government, more particularly as we shall have power from time to time to exercise control over the amount of remuneration to be paid. If we fix the amount at £2,000, or £1,000, we may be sure that that sum will be spent.
– The honorable member’s idea of economy is to abolish the limit altogether.
– The honorable member knows quite well that I did not want the Commission at all. I voted against the proposal.
– But is it not better to have a limit of £2,000 than no limit at all.
– I do not think so. We may be sure that, if we fix the limit at £1,000, the assistant Commissioners to be appointed will get as near to that amount as possible. That has been our experience throughout the Public Service. It is possible that, at certain stages in the development of the Federal Capital, the Minister may find it desirable to appoint highly skilled men at big fees to assist the Commissioner. I am prepared to trust the Government.
– The honorable member will really have to trust the Commissioner, and from our experience of the War Service Homes Commission we know what will happen. The Minister will disclaim responsibility.
– But we have agreed to the appointment of a Commissioner, and now have to decide upon the amount of remuneration to be paid to the two gentlemen to be appointed to assist him. It would be far better to pay them fees as prescribed by regulations.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Charlton’s amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . …. 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by Mr. Foster) proposed -
That all the words after the word “ members” to the end of sub-clause 1 be omitted with a view to insert, in lieu thereof, the words “ shall be by way of fees as prescribed.”
.- I am astounded at the audacity of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) in moving such an amendment. It goes beyond the bounds of all political decency. This honorable gentleman prides himself on being the high priest of efficiency and economy, but a little knowledge of his history in South Australia gives one very good reasons to doubt his sincerity. Nobody knows the financial obligations involved in the proposition he has put before the Committee. Even the honorable member does not know or understand the extent to which this Commonwealth would be financially involved. It passes my comprehension how he could move such an amendment. It is quite evident that he is not prepared to face the criticism which his action will justly cause, for he leaves the Chamber without giving a single reason why we should agree to his proposal. The effect of his proposition will be to enable the friends of this Government, who doubtless will be the members of the Commission, to extract excessive fees from the Treasury. When I realize that the political text-book which the honorable member reads every day of the week, and, the Saturday issue, three times on Sundays - I refer to the Adelaide Register - severely condemns the attitude which he has adopted, I am more than ever astonished at his audacity. To put it in the vernacular, it is “ the dizzy limit.” The Register newspaper does not generally subscribe to the views held by members on this side of the Committee, but it strongly supports the Labour party view on this question.
– I can see nothing in the clause about the Register newspaper.
– That newspaper has given expression to views on this subject which are in accord with the views that I hold. It states that the Government proposition is - an extension of the pernicious system ofhanding over the business of government to Commissions which are only remotely responsible to Parliament, which involve the creation of additional billets, and which, being largely independent of the Minister, may be used by him as a means of evading responsibility for extravagance and inefficiency.
The honorable member for Wakefield this afternoon charged previous Labour Governments with extravagance, although when challenged by me he was unable to give one single instance, and at various times he has charged the workers of Australia with inefficiency and with going slow on the job. In view of those facts, he merits the strongest condemnation for moving this amendment. Honorable members who know the record of the honorable member for Wakefield do not find it difficult to understand why he is known in South Australia as “Wobbly Foster.” I do not use that term in an offensive sense, but it is characteristic of the honorable member. He and other honorable members who represent South Australia, and hold views similar to those expressed by him, will find it very difficult to reconcile their vote and the view held by the official organ of their parties. If the South Australian representatives supporting this composite Government follow the ignoble example of the honorable member for Wakefield and vote for this proposition, they will deserve to suffer the consequences. The Leader of the Opposition has given . an assurance that this is not a party question, but one upon which every honorable member is free to give rein to his own convictions. It cannot be contended that the fate of the Government is involved. On that account I trust that honorable members opposite will not agree to this outrageous proposal. It might truly be called a scandal if this responsible institution authorizes a body, the personnel of which is yet unknown, to’ determine the fees it shall be paid and the frequency of its sittings, and no limit whatever is placed upon the ultimate liability of the Commonwealth to finance the personnel of this Commission. In the future, whenever I hear the honorable member for Wakefield speak upon what he calls the extravagance of previous Governments and the methods adopted by the workers of Australia to attain their ends, I shall remember the insincerity and hypocrisy which he has displayed in connexion with this Bill.
.- I am. sorry that I have to rise again to speak on this clause. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) moved his amendment without giving a single reason for it, and immediately left the chamber. No doubt he recollected the old adage -
He that fights and runs away
May turn and fight another day.
His attitude also reminds me of the remark of Lady Macbeth : “ Give me the daggers.” The Minister was timorous of the task set him, and the honorable member for Wakefield jumped in and saved the skin of the Minister by performing the deed himself. I suppose the honorable member has gone away to hide his head in shame. I dare say that he proposed this amendment on the spur of the moment as the idea flitted across his mind. I would not say that he was inspired, for inspiration connotes something good and fine. One of his evil spirits has doubtless prompted him in this matter. The Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom) knows that this amendment will suit him better than that suggested by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), because it gives unlimited latitude for expenditure on fees. Rather than allay the public unrest, it will foment further dissatisfaction over the growth of Boards and Commissions. The wretched story of Commissions that have been brought into existence by the party opposite is fresh in our minds. The Minister for Works and Railways has had to clean up the work of the War Service Homes Commission. Government supporters know well enough that if they were spending their own cash, instead of toying with the money of the people, they would not leave the door open for unlimited expenditure as the honorable member for Wakefield does. Now that he has returned to the chamber, let him tell us. why he has submitted the amendment, and how it is to lead to the efficiency and economy of which he prates. What is injuring the Commonwealth is not the Arbitration Court, as the honorable member would have us believe, but legislation such as he now proposes. The mess brought about by this Government will not be satisfactorily cleared up until a Labour Administration is returned to power. I hope that the journal in Adelaide that controls the actions of the honorable member for Wakefield will publish another leader concerning his “ economy.” The honorable member must have had a remarkable brain-wave when he conceived the language of the amendment providing that the Commissioners shall be remunerated “ by way of fees as prescribed.” The electors will require a fairly strong prescription to cure the evil that the honorable member, aided by the Attorney-General and the Minister for Works and Railways, is ready to inflict on the Commonwealth. There is no justification for the proposal. It cannot be shown that existing Commissions are giving value for the money expended on them. The fees of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee amount to £7,129 per annum. The Tariff Board has not been doing its job properly, for it has been urged that it has crippled Western Australia, and is killing the Commonwealth by reason of the duties it has imposed. For the mess into which it has brought the country the Government has had to pay it, up to date, £10,048. The Repatriation Commission for one year costs £5,058, and the Shipping Board involves an expenditure of £8,780, making a total of over £20,000 per annum for the Commissions in existence. It will remain for a Labour Government to remedy the trouble that will be created by the appointment of a Commission to control the Federal Capital Territory. Honorable members opposite who repudiate the suggestion that they are under party domination now have a golden opportunity to do something in the best interests of the Commonwealth .
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Foster’s amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. Foster’s amendment) be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Stewart) agreed to-
That sub-clause 2 be omitted.
Question - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority….. . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
House adjourned at 11.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 May 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240521_reps_9_106/>.