9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Treasurer, in connexion with the alleged disappearance of Australian notes, what is the amount involved in the supposed frauds? Is it a fact that the Notes Issue Board has ceased to register £1 and 10s. notes designed for cancellation and destruction ?
– I have a statement here, which I have obtained from the Acting Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, in which he says -
Close investigation has not disclosed any fraud, though it is possible there have been some minor irregularities, but the amount in’ volved cannot be large. The alarmist press reports are quite unjustifiable. The AuditorGeneral concurs in the above remarks.
I have the following letter also from the Auditor-General, addressed to the Secretary to the Treasury:-
In reply to your memorandum of this day’s date, I have to say, for the information of the Treasurer, that inquiries have been made on my behalf by an Audit Inspector with respect to the alleged abstraction of cancelled notes and of the placing againin circulation uncancelled notes in substitution for the cancelled notes. No evidence whatever has been produced, so far asI am aware, that such action’ has taken place, nor that any notes were missing.
The whole matter is one merely of suspicion, it having been stated that one of the officers engaged in the supervision over the destruction of the notes appeared to be living beyond his income.
Another supervising officer, namely, the Audit Officer, representing myself at the burning, was charged with being temporarily absent on occasion when burns were commenced or in progress. This charge Mr. Mills, the officer referred to, denies andsays that on one occasion he had to attend to the telephone.
– Will the Treasurer say who were the gentlemen who made the inquiries with regard to. the alleged disappearance of Australian notes?Were they interested parties employed by the Bank? If so, will the honorable gentleman have inquiries made by independent persons ?
– The reports I read were received from the Acting Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and the Auditor-General.
– But who made the inquiries refer red to?
– Is the Treasurer yet in a position to answer a question I put on the 21st May as to whether any report has been received from the Committee appointed to inquire into the economic loss due to the outbreak of rinderpest in Western Australia?
– The report is not yet to hand.
– On the motion for adjournment on Friday last the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) mentioned the matter of the plaint of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, the Australasian Society of Engineers, and the Blacksmiths Union. He suggested that there was dissatisfaction owing to delay, and a probability of strikes in consequence. I have made inquiries, and I am informed by the President of the Arbitration Court that the matter is going on quite satisfactorily. The date for the hearing has been fixed. The unions concerned have made no complaints to the Court and do not ask for precedence over other unions, and before leaving for Darwin the President was assured by their accredited representative that there was no probability of a strike.
Cancellation of Contract
– By way of explana tion of a question I propose to ask, may I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that some considerable time ago the House approved of the building of two ships for the Lighthouse Service. Recently steps were taken by some one to cancel the contract for the building of one of these ships. A tender was called for in a public way, the Cockatoo Island Dockyard was the successful tenderer, the contract was allotted and the agreement signed. I should like the Prime Minister to tell the House why the contract for one of the ships was cancelled. If he does not know, will he have inquiries made to ascertain the reason for the cancellation of the contract?
– I shall have the facts looked into, and shall advise the honorable member later.
Aircraft Depot at Laverton.
Mr. GREGORY, as Chairman, brought up the report of the Public Works Committee, together with minutes of evidence, on the establishment of an aircraft depot at Laverton.
Ordered to be printed.
– In view of the fact that wheat-growers are awaiting a decision on the subject, will the Prime Minister make an early announcement of the Government’s intention with regard to a guaranteed price for wheat for a voluntary pool for the current year ?
– A similar question was asked me on Thursday or Friday of last week, and I then indicated that the Government would announce its decision on the subject at the earliest possible moment.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the imposition by the Customs Department at Fremantle of a dumping duty of £55 on £133 worth of English wire netting, equivalent to £11 per mile, although the invoice value is only £7 per mile less than the price of Australian wire netting? In the circumstances, will the Government seriously consider the repeal of the Tariff Board Act, and the introduction of legislation for the imposition of an absolute embargo upon the importation of manufactured goods into Australia ?
– My attention was drawn to the facts in this case by the honorable member himself. With regard to the second part of his question, the Government cannot state its policy in reply to questions asked in this House.
-In view of the importance of the establishment of a Commonwealth Laboratory at Broken Hill, will the Treasurer sympathetically consider the making of sufficient money available for the carrying out of that work?
– The matter will be considered when the Estimates are being dealt with.
– I desire to inform the House that the British Government is referring certain difficulties under constitutional law, which have arisen in connexion with the Irish Boundaries Commission, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and the Lord Chancellor is most anxious that Dominion Judges should sit as members of that Committee. An invitation has been issued to Australia to consent to the services of the Chief Justice of the High Court being made available. It is understood that a similar invitation has been issued in regard to the Chief Justice of Canada. Although it is extremely difficult to make the services of the Chief Justice of the High Court available, the Government has felt that there is an obligation to comply with the wish of the British Government in this matter, and it has accordingly cabled agreeing to Sir Adrian Knox serving up.on the Committee. He will leave for Great Britain by,.the Moldavia, which sails on the 10th June.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that the British Government promises a statement regarding wireless developments, and of the fact that by the beam method the possibility of transmitting the human voice between England and Australia has been successfully demonstrated, he is in a position to make an announcement on the subject of wireless telegraphy generally?
– I assume that the honorable member’s question refers, not to broadcasting, but to wireless telegraphic communication generally. During the past week-end, not merely was telegraphic communication possible, but the human voice was actually heard by the beam method of transmission. It is evident from this that the discoveries which have recently been made in further advancement of long-distance wireless transmission, suggest the very greatest prospect of some satisfactory arrangement by which we shall have direct communication with the Mother Country in the near future. At the moment, however, I have no statement to make, although I am in communication with the British Government in regard to the matter.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) been drawn to the serious disclosures being made in The Labour Daily, of Sydney, in connexion with the administration of the mandated territory of New Guinea? If so, has any action been taken in consequence thereof?
– My attention has been drawn to the newspaper articles referred to by the honorable member, and the fullest inquiries are being made into them. I hope, during the course of the day, to be ina position to make a statement to the House.
– Some days ago I asked the Prime Minister if he could inform the House who are the censors charged with the duty of inspecting and passing cinematograph films, and if their practice is to examine the films them- solves, as they are thrown upon the screen for public inspection, or if they are satisfied with the synopsis of the story of pictures? The Prime Minister was good enough to say that he would make inquiries and let me know later. Is he now in a position to make a statement ?
– I certainly feel that I owe the honorable member an apology. The information he has asked for should have been available already. I have not it by me now, but I shall certainly get it for him in the course of the clay. I regret the delay that has occurred.
– Prior to his departure to attend the Imperial Conference the Prime Minister promised to get certain details concerning Australia’s funded war debt to Great Britain of £92,000,000, and to say what he accomplished at the Conference. It is an important matter for me, as I want to make up my balancesheet.
– What is the question?
– I asked the Prime Minister, some time ago, in reference to the £92,000,000 owing by Australia to Great Britain, and he promised to make a statement to the House. I thought this a convenient opportunity to revive his memory.
– That is not a question.
-I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing an urgent matter of definite public importance, namely, “Incorrect and misleading information deliberately supplied to honorable members of this House and others by departmental officers in connexion with the case of exPrivate William Holland, No. 3088, 38th Battalion, to the detriment of that exsoldier.”
Five honorable members having risen
.- The motion is a formal one, and is moved for the purpose of discussing a matter of the greatest importance, which you, sir, have just stated. I am only sorry that, notwithstanding my desire to compress my observations into the smallest reasonable compass, it will be, I am afraid, impossible for me to deal with the whole subject in the short space of half an hour. I shall, therefore, have to ask the indulgence of honorable members for a slight extension. I take it that it needs no argument to establish the seriousness of supplying misleading departmental information to this Chamber, to its members, or to representative organizations outside. The case is much more serious when the misrepresentations are considered and deliberate, as in this case. Honorable members know perfectly well that Ministers, for the information they give to this House in answer to questions, are largely dependent upon the good faith and integrity of our public Departments. Honorable members know, equally, that the House itself is largely dependent, in respect of its legislation for the whole of Australia, upon information so received. I am happy to be able to say that it has been, I think, our general experience that the trust which we have placed in our public Departments has not been abused. It would be a very grave matter if we had in this country a secret bureaucracy, working behind closed doors and acting in, contempt of Parliament. I undertake to prove that this case is an exception to that good record to which I have referred and admitted. I undertake to prove that the members of the Repatriation Commission, and at least one senior officer of the Department, have deceived and misled members of this House in circumstances that show conclusively wilful deliberation on the part of one or more of the persons concerned. I am in the happy position of being able to base my case upon records already published in Hansard, and upon written communications bearing the signatures of the officers concerned. Some few gaps I shall fill in during this address. The persons to whom these misleading statements were deliberately made - the case goes back a considerable time - were Mr. W. M.
Hughes, the present member for North Sydney and then Prime Minister; our late colleague (the late Mr. Frank Tudor), then Leader of the Opposition; last and least, as far as this House is concerned, myself; and, outside the House, members of the Fairfield Branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Association, members of the Fathers Association, and others. The substance of the deceit, for so I call it, is -
In this case Holland is not the defendant ; the defendants are the Repatriation Commissioners and their officers, and I do not want honorable members to be sidetracked into a detailed investigation of the merits’ of his claim. I am satisfied that he has been cruelly wronged, but if I refer to the details of his case it is merely for the purpose of establishing the proposition I have set out to prove, which is a much more serious matter than the wrongs of any individual case could possibly be. The following is a short history of Holland’s case.: -
Now living at 57 Gotch-street, Northcote South. Enlisted, 8th January, 1917, at Melbourne; embarked on s.s. Ballar at, which was torpedoed and disabled; and, whilst being transferred to a destroyer with other troops, he slipped off the ladder and was drenched. He spent five or six hours on the deck of the destroyer, and a night in a shed at Plymouth, all of which resulted in a bad cold, which developed, and, after four weeks’ training, he was sent back to Australia and discharged medically unfit. 22nd December, 1917.
Tuberculosis had not manifested itself as early as that date, but now Holland is at an advanced stage of that disease. I do not guarantee the accuracy of minute details which are not essential to my case, but I guarantee the accuracy of every essential detail. On the 8th July, 1920, the late Mr. Frank Tudor wrote to the Repatriation Commission as follows: -
Ex-private W. Holland, 2088, 57 Gotch- street, Northcote South. - Enlisted on 8th January, 1917; embarked on 19th February, 1917; and returned on 22nd December, 1917. He was. on the Ballarat when she was torpedoed, and later contracted asthma. He has been in the hospital on and off ever since. Only recently he left the hospital after being there ten months. Mr. Holland is in need of assistance. Will you kindly look into his case to see what canbe done for him?
I ask honorable members to note the fact - although they may not see the importance of it for the moment - that the letter contains no request for a pension for Holland, but is simply a kindly inquiry from a man who is now dead, but who was grossly deceived in the reply he received from the Repatriation Department on the 13th of July, 1920. That letter, which was signed by Major Ryan, Deputy Commissioner, was as follows: -
Re ex-No. 3088, Private Holland, William, 38th Battalion. - Enlisted, 6th January, 1917; discharged, 22nd December, 1917; served, England; disability, over age; pension, nil. In answer to your communication of 8th July regarding the above-mentioned man, I have to inform you that Holland served in England only; he continued camp training until 2nd August, 1917, when; on account of his age, he was medically boarded and returned to Australia. He was not in hospital during this time, and on his return was medically boarded at No. 11 Australian General Hospital, and discharged immediately for senility. His incapacity due to war service was assessed as nil. He was 60 years of age when he enlisted, but gave his age to the Defence Department as 44 years. Several Medical Boards have examined this man between 2nd August, 1917, and 4th February, 1920; on behalf of the Defence, Pensions, and Repatriation Departments, and their opinions are unanimous that military service has not caused nor aggravated his present physical condition, which is due to age and constitution.Re s.s. Ballarat. - His claim that he suffered from the torpedoing of the Ballarat is not feasible, in that he continued training without any hospital attention, nor has he claimed his Ballarat experience as a cause of his asthma until last March. It is noted that the troops disembarked from the Ballarat into boats, and were not subjected to extra hardships or immersion. Mr. Holland’s ease has been fully considered by this Department and the honorary medical consultants, and also by the Commission, which body has decided that, as his present trouble is not due to nor aggravated by his war service, repatriation benefits cannot be granted in this case.
At this stage I acquired certain information from Mr. Ratcliffe, secretary of the branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League to which I have referred, acting for his organization, and from Mr. Clayton, president of the Fathers Association. Too much credit cannot be given to these gentlemen for their services in this case. Mr. Ratcliffe, in particular, has displayed not only remarkable perseverance, but also marked ability in laying the foundations of the case which I am presenting to the House. As a result of the information which these gentlemen supplied to me, I wrote to the Repatriation Commission on the 11th of February, 1924 - this is more modern history - asking for the production of the file of the Holland case, and on the 13th of February, 1924, I received a reply from Major Ryan in the following terms: -
I am in receipt of your letter of 11th February, 1924, requesting that you be allowed to inspect the file relative tothe above named. I regret to state that your request cannot be acceded to, as all the records of this Department are confidential. I am, however, prepared to answer any questions relative to Mr. Holland’s applications for benefits from this Department which you may be pleased to ask verbally or addressed to me in writing. Perhaps, however, the necessity for further action on your part may be obviated by perusal of the attached copy of letter addressed to the late Mr. F. G. Tudor, M.P., who made representations on behalf of Mr. Holland in July, 1920.
Thus in the most solemn manner did the Commission, on the 13th of February, 1924, confirm the letter written on the 13th of July, 1920. The deliberately incorrect and misleading statement in that letter was contained in the following passage : -
Several medical boards have examined this man between the 2nd of August,. 1917, and the 4th of February, 1920, on behalf of the Defence, Pensions, and Repatriation Departments, and their opinions are unanimous that military service has not caused nor aggravated his present physical condition, which is due to age and constitution.
That statement was false in all material particulars, but, recognizing that these gentlemen were in the place where they were demanded of conscience to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, the communication from the Department was falser inwhat was suppressed than in what was incorrectly expressed. On the 3rd of February, 1920,. which date falls within the period deliberately chosen by Major Ryan, a Board, consisting of Lieutenant-Colonel Embling, . who was Holland’s commanding officer, Colonel W. Summons, and Major H. Irving, all eminent medical men, reported on Holland’s case as follows: -
Private Holland is suffering from chronic asthma and bronchitis. He is at present requiring further hospital treatment, and is totally incapacitated. His disability was aggravated by military service, and the Board recommends that he be granted extension of halfpay.
That statement alone destroys the validity of Major Ryan’s letter in regard to the unanimity of the declarations of the medical men. But it is by no means all. Major Ryan has taken the period from August, 1917, to February, 1920. When he wrote to me he had before him another report, submitted on the 11th of March, 1920, about a month later than that above quoted, by a Board presided over again by Colonel Summons, and of which Major H. Irving was a member. That report stated -
Has been in hospital continuously for last four months. Suffering from chronic bronchitis and asthma, and is lately much improved. Aggravated by war service. Present condition weak, and still suffering from chronic bronchitis and asthma. Disability is permanent; 100 per cent. incapacity. Recommend hospital for one month.
I am told on excellent authority that these Boards were brought about in this way. The first Board was constituted by Lieut.-Colonel Embling, who, I have already said, was Holland’s commanding officer. He had had this patient under observation for no less than two years. He associated himself with the two other doctors as a Board, and it found as I have said. As the result of that, the Principal Medical Officer, Dr. Sturdee, constituted what is known as a Finalization Board. That was the second Boards As a result of its finding, Holland was detailed by the Principal Medical Officer for a pension, and the whole matter was minuted by General Brand, the State Commandant for Victoria, so that in the most solemn way possible these medical men, who knew best, declared that Holland’s condition had been “ caused by or aggravated by his military service.”
– What was the date of that last Board?
– The 11th March, 1920. But that is not all. On the 17th November, 1919, between the dates arbitrarily selected by Mr. Ryan, Dr Ronald G. Stott, a medical officer at the Australian General Hospital, Macleod, reported as follows regarding Holland: -
I certify that he is complaining of dyspna - cough due to asthma - which was, in my opinion, caused through his employment . in war-like operations.
The doctor went on to say that Holland needed hospital treatment.We have in Dr. Hiller an eminent physician. On the . 10th December, 1919, he was Senior Medical Officer at the Australian General Hospital, Macleod. With Dr. Stott he had this man under personal observation, and he declared and certified that, so far as he could ascertain, the bronchial condition was not present before the claimant went on service, and was directly the result of service abroad. In addition to that, if further support of this part of my case is needed, on the 17th October, 1923, Dr. MacGillicuddy, the Commonwealth Medical Referee, after a perusal of the whole file, and careful examination of the patient, reported -
From a careful inquiry regarding his history, and from my examination, I am of opinion that his present condition of ill-health dates from the exposure to which he was subjected after the torpedoing of the Ballarat on the 25th April, 1917.
At the time Mr. Ryan wrote to me, when he had had three yearn to consider the matter, and the Commission had had special reasons to consider it, the recorded opinions of six highly qualified medical men were against him. Those opinions were contrary to what he reported, when he had the audacity to tell me that “several medical Boards had examined the claimant, and their unanimous opinion was that military service had not caused or aggravated Holland’s present physical condition.” I have established to demonstration that the letter of the Deputy Commissioner contained grave mis-statements, and I say that these were deliberate and wilful, because there was correspondence on the file which directed the attention of this gentleman and the members of the Commission to the reports which I have quoted as favorable to Holland. At this stage I propose to refer to a communication addressed to Mr. Hughes. I may note in passing that poor Holland, having been refused a military pension, applied for an invalid pension. His application for a military pension was rejected on the ground that his invalidity did not arise outside Australia or while on military service, and his application for an invalid penson was rejected on the ground that his invalidity was occasioned outside Australia. I, therefore, leave it to the House to say where the invalidity arose. Mr. Ratcliffe addressed a letter to Mr. Hughes, who at this timewas famous as “ The Little Digger.” After formal inquiries by Mr. Deane, representing the Prime Minister, we have a letter from Mr. Deane to Mr. Ratcliffe, detailing the result of his investigation, in these terms: -
Further to my letter of the 27th February regarding the case of ex-Private William Holland, 38th Battalion, I desire to inform you that the Chairman of the Repatriation Commission advises me to the following effect : -
Ex-Private Holland enlisted at the age of 60 years, although when he enlisted he gave his ago as 44 years. He served only a few months in England and was not admitted to hospital whilst there. He was returned to Australia because of his enlistment over age, and was discharged solely on account of senility which, however, was in no way attributable to his war service. Since he first claimed a pension be has been medically examined ona number of occasions, but, in the opinion of the medical officers, his health is in no way impaired as a result of his service in the Australian Imperial Force. The Commission cannot admit Mr. Hol land as being eligible for a war pension.
It is regretted that, in view of the finding of the Commission (and it should be borne in mind that the Commission includes a representative of the soldiers) it does not seem possible to accede to the request contained in your letter of the 21st February.
I ask the House to consider the supreme irony of the remark about the Commission including a representative of the soldiers.
– Was this the first challenge of the rejection of a military pension ?
– No. The representative, so-called, of the soldiers, is Mr. Teece, to whom I shall refer later. This communication refers to the Chairman of the Repatriation Commission, and I have been quoting also a letter signed by the Deputy Commissioner for Repatriation, but I say that there is the strongest possible internal evidence that the man responsible in this case, the manwho is deeply involved in it, is Mr. Teece, the Deputy Chairman. I declare, without the slightest hesitation, that he continually prevaricated in connexion with the matter, sometimes audaciously and extravagantly, and sometimes with subtle’ hypocrisy, but where he had to choose between candour and its opposite, he shunned the truth, and deliberately went the way of those who, by tradition, are required to have long memories. The sentence beginning with the words “ Since he first claimed a pension “ is an audacious perversion of the truth. To prove it, I turn now to the answers to questions which I asked in this House. When I asked for the names of the members of the various Boards, and details of the medical opinions upon which the Commissioners relied for the statements they had made in the letter just quoted and in the letter of the Deputy of the 13th July, 1920, I received this reply -
The Boards, whose finding were relevant to the claim for war pensions, and which were referred to in the letter mentioned, were as follows : -
On the 21st November, 1917, Drs. W. B. Vance and H. S. Forrest reported -
On the transport Borda - disability over age, emphysema, complained of nothing. Discharged as permanently unfit, present incapacity nil.
On 7th December, 1917, report by Lieut.Colonel H. W. Bryant and E. Buller Allan reads -
Discharge recommended, over age, incapacity nil.
Honorable members will observe that these reports were made before Holland’s discharge and application for a pension, and also before he had any serious ailment. . The reports are negative in character, and colourless. I do not blame the doctors; they were no doubt quite correct in saying that the man’s incapacity was nil. At that time his disease had not developed, and it was not possible to diagnose the condition in which he would be one, two, or three years later. One of these Boards, with a supreme burst of humour, said that his disabilitywas over age, and it added “not due to war service.” For the reasons I have mentioned, these reports may be disregarded; but I beg honorable members to remember that I am not now attempting to show conclusively that the balance of evidence is in Holland’s favour. I ask members to bear in mind that the officials denied that there was any evidence on his side, whilst I am proving that there is very little evidence on their side, and a great deal on the side of Holland. There is one other report on which the Commission relied, and surely that will be revelant, because it relates to a much later time. It is a report by Lieut.-Colonel C. C. Macknight and Major G. E. Deravin, both medical men, and was dated 4th February, 1920 -
This man could only have been in Britain for a few months (and those summer months), as he enlisted 8th January, 1917, and was boarded as “ unfit and over age,” in August, 1917. Complained of nothing on discharge, 7th December, 1917. In our opinion his present condition is not due to war service.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Charlton) agreed to by an absolute majority of the members of the House -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the honorable member to continue his speech.
– I thank honorable members for their courtesy in granting me an extension of time. The report I have just quoted is relevant and definite, and within the time when Holland’s incapacity developed. Unfortunately for the gentlemen who regarded this report as their sheet anchor, the doctors who signed the report did not see the patient. Of course, I am told by certain departmental officers that the doctors saw the file, and those gentlemen of the Department are worshippers of the file; indeed, I am assured by some of them that I should not take notice of anything but the file, but curiously enough these same worshippers of the file have disregarded about three-quarters of its most important contents. Let it not be thought that I am casting ridicule upon Drs. Macknight and Deravin. Those gentlemen were, and arc, discharging a useful office in connexion with repatriation, and I have no doubt that their report was honest, and, to a certain extent, it may have been useful. One of those gentlemen I personally know to be the soul of honour and efficiency ; but note what follows. I find a letter addressed by Mr. Ryan, Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation, to Mr. Holland, on the 5th of March, 1920-
I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 1st March, and in reply to inform .you that your presence was not necessary when the honorary consultants considered your case, the medical evidence on the file being sufficient to show that your present disability is neither due to nor aggravated by your war service. Honorable members will see that the officials have disregarded the last report, pointing out that the medical men merely concerned themselves with what was already on the file.
– A layman could have done that.
– Exactly ; though possibly not so well. .The gentlemen who depend upon that report admit by letter that the examination by Drs. Macknightand Deravin meant little in that it was merely retrospective, and that the application was governed by what had taken place earlier. We, therefore, get this amazing result, that whilst the Commission referred- to the examinations that took place after the man applied for his pension, the startling truth is that after making his application he was never examined by a Board of medical men who gave a report adverse to his claim. In other words, whilst the officials declare that the medical evidence is unanimously on their side, as regards the statements they made relating to the period subsequent to the application, the medical evidence is unanimously in Holland’s favour. Mr. Ryan added in his letter, “ This decision -must be regarded as final.” Then, of course, fol.loved formal expressions of regret from Mr. Hughes that in the circumstances nothing could be done, but Mr. Ratcliffe and his League, with exemplary .perseverance, persisted in their efforts to get a pension or other redress for Mr. Holland, and their activities drew from Mr. Teece a letter dated the 19th May, 1922, in which he said - “” The Commission has now made .a complete perusal of Holland’s file, and has decided that it cannot admit him for treatment at Macleod Hospital as there is no evidence to show that bis present condition is attributable to war service, either by “way of origin or aggravation.
I can find no new words to describe that letter, but I shall make an attempt by saying that it would be difficult to compile a communication of six lines more fully charged with the elements of deceit and suppression. Mr. Ratcliffe continued the correspondence on a certain aspect of the invalid pension claim, and an alleged compassionate allowance which he was endeavouring to get for Holland. Curiously enough, even in this matter, Mr. Teece broke faith and distorted the obvious meaning of the language which he had used in regard to a promise he had made. In a further letter dated the 13th June, 1922, Mr. Teece wrote -
In reply to your letter dated the 11th June, I have to advise you that, on the medical evidence submitted to it, the Commission had no option but to refuse Mr. Holland the pension which he claimed.
Mr. Ratcliffe pursued the matter, and directed Mr. Teece’s attention to the reports. He wrote asking if he had seen them, or had had them before him when arriving at his conclusion. Mr. Teece, in a characteristically evasive communication, replied -
The Commission lias .again carefully considered the .case of Holland, to which previously it had given careful scrutiny, and can do no more than set out in my letter dated the 13th June, 1922.
He was asked a simple question. There is a. well-known distinction between the suppression of the true and the allegation of the false.; and Mr. Teece’s reply can best h& described as -an unmixed falsity of suppression. On the 19th July, 1922, Mr. Ratcliffe repeated by letter the straight-out and simple question, in perfectly polite language, whether the Commission, when the letter wa.s written, nad had before them the three medical reports already referred to, and, if they had, on what ground they had disregarded them. Really, the way that Mr. Ratcliffe hung to his quarry in this pursuit almost converts me to the truth of the well-known refrain about “ boys -of the bull-dog breed * ; Mr. Ratcliffe is certainly one of them. On the 1st August, 1922, Mr. Teece wrote this letter, another masterpiece of, must I say, disingenuous”ness -
In reply to your letter of the 19th July, I have to advise that the ‘Commission has disrewarded none of the medical reports which were in the possession of the Department in connexion with the application of the abovenamed for pension. When Holland first applied for pension, the Medical Referee Board stated - “ In our opinion his present condition is not due to war service.” The present grant being made by the Commission is purely of a compassionate nature, and is certainly not an admission that Holland was eligible in the first instance to receive a pension.
That letter reveals Mr. Teece practising dishonesty more carefully than hitherto. He raised a mean little quibble, which, however, has no legs, to which I shall refer in a moment. His passion for inaccuracy is shown by the statement that when Holland first applied for a pension, the medical board reported : “In our opinion his present condition is not due to war service.” That report was made, not when Holland first applied for a pension, but two years afterwards, if the answers given by the Commission to my questions are correct.
– Who made that report?
– It was made by medical gentlemen who had not seen the patient. Mr. Ratcliffe pressed the matter farther, and Mr. Teece, finding himself lost in a maze of inconsistencies and evasions, eventually took sanctuary in the safety zone of the prevaricator, by declining to answer anything further. It would have been much better for him if he had refused to do so earlier. Some questions will naturally ‘ suggest themselves to honorable members. They will ask, why should these deliberate statements be made when the file is on record to disprove thom? The answer to that question is happily at hand. Through the courtesy of Colonel Luscombe, of Base Records, the Defence files were made available to Mr. Ratcliffe and Mr. Clayton, of the Soldiers’ Fathers’ Association, and they took copious extracts from them. The Repatriation Commission at first did not know this. Had the file not been thus revealed, this sad case would have been still embalmed in the archives of the Repatriation Commission, and nothing would ever have been heard of it. One wonders how many such cases there are of unfortunate returned men, who have not had the friends that this man has had to fight his case untiringly. One wonders what the records would disclose if some single-minded Commissioner of honest pur-pose were appointed to make investigation into these matters. When I asked for the file of documents, the Treasurer immediately over-ruled the Deputy Commissioner and, very properly, I think, made it available for my inspection in the library. Then Mr. Teece and his confreres, knowing that other men had inspected the file, had no option bub to surrender, and make the best excuses they could. I shall be asked whether these gentlemen conspired together. I do not think so, as it will be possible to show that both Colonel Semmens and Mr. Ryan knew little about the matter. The case was in the hands of one Commissioner; it was his case - he was dealing with similar cases - and he knew all about it. I do not allege conspiracy. It is important to consider the excuses that were made by these gentlemen, and I ask honorable members to bear with me a moment while I examine them. The questions show that reliance is placed on a pitiful quibble. It is stated that no medical board “ with access to all files has considered this man’s condition as due .to or aggravated by his service,” and running through the answers is the suggestion that none of the medical evidence I have quoted was worth even mentioning, because, although the Board had access to it and had it, it was not incidental to Holland’s application for a pension. For that reason, apparently, the. Commission thought that what I have quoted this afternoon was not only unworthy of mention to honorable members of this House, but so worthless that it could not be extracted from them by Mr. Ratcliffe. It was so unimportant that when Mr. Ratcliffe called attention to it, Mi1. Teece would do anything rather than disclose its worthless existence. I remind honorable members of the sweeping phrase in Mr. Ryan’s letter, which reads -
Several Medical Boards have examined this man, between 2nd August. 1917. and 4th .February, 1920, on behalf of the Defence, Pensions, and Repatriation Departments, and their opinions are unanimous that military service has not caused nor aggravated his present physical condition.
Honorable members will notice that Mr. Ryan there surveys the whole field of this man’s military history. He is not concerned merely with his application for a pension; he mentions the date of his enlistment, throws doubt upon the fact that he was ever cast into the sea, points out that he was older than he said he was when he enlisted - though that was not regarded as a very great offence during the war - and that he served for only a short period in England. In a word, everything connected with this man’s military history, from the time he enlisted to the present day, has been carefully paraded if in the remotest degree it is calculated to throw discredit on the man; but nothing in his career, however significant, or from however exalted an authority it might come, which tends in any way to establish his reputation or. the sound basis of his claim, is in any circumstances to be admitted or disclosed. It must be remembered, also, that two of the three reports upon which the Commission rely to bolster up their excuses were made prior to Holland’s application for a pension. I have already shown that those reports are negative in character, colourless, and of little avail. Honorable members well know that the Repatriation Commission took over the Defence records. The Pensions Branch was first administered bythe Treasury. In 1920, the Repatriation Commission was established by an Act of this Parliament, and it became the bounden duty of that Commission to have before it the record - and especially the medical record - of every man with whom it had to deal. If anything further on that point is necessary, it is supplied in the fact that the Commission had before it these records on this man’s file. They were there when the file was shown to me and when it was examined by Dr. MacGillicuddy, the doctor who made the latest examination of the case. I do not expect honorable members to assimilate the whole of these facts in a moment. I do not expect the Government to act - I am sure it will not - upon ex parte statements made by me in this House. But I do say that I have made a most searching examination of the merits of this case, and of the relevant documents, and I have come deliberately to the conclusion that, not only is Mr. Teece utterly unfit for the position which he holds, but that he is unfit to hold any position in the Public Service of this country.
– The honorable member has stated that one Board reported favorably on this man’s case, and stated that his condition was due to war service. Was that a departmental Board?
– Certainly. Two Boards and at least three independent medical men reported in that way. I once heard the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie), whilst he was a Minister, say, from his place in this House, that “ somebody had sold him a pup,” and that he had inadvertently deceived the House. I have often, in debate, had occasion to cross swords with the honorable member; butI assure honorable members that I would, nevertheless, cheerfully leave it to him, if necessary, to decide whether, on the documents, I have not absolutely established my case. The truth is that somebody started off by practising deceit. He forgot the adage -
Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practise to deceive.
He went from bad to worse, until he reached the position that is now disclosed by the records. I do not anticipate that in a reply lasting fifteen minutes or half an hour the Minister can deal adequately with the matter. I do not expect honorable members, at a moment’s notice, to measure the truth of my statement of the position; it would not be fair to ask them to do so. I remind them, however, that if ever there were a matter from which the party aspect was absent this is such a matter. It will become a party matter only if the Government, because of a mistaken sense of its duty and of the position which it occupies, stands behind officers who have deceived honorable members. We may, indeed, “ throw up the sponge,” if we are to be supplied by the Departments with distorted reports, and cannot rely upon the probity of our public servants. We may say harsh things about each other, but we have always confidently believed that at least we have been and are being honestly advised by the officers of the Departments. I leave the matter where it is, for the Government to take whatever action it thinks fit. If it does not take action, I shall endeavour to take such action as commends itself to me.
– A few days ago, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked me, as the Ministerial representative of the Repatriation Office, certain questions, and I gave him very full replies. I point out that since I have been administering this Department I have made available to honorable mem- bers, without any reservations, whatever files have been asked for by them. All I ask, as a medical man, and as one who knows exactly the point of view of patients, is that a man’s private medical history should not be made public if to do so would be prejudicial to him. It was for that reason that, last year, I proposed the appointment of the Soldiers’ Committee to deal with these cases. The files are always available to honorable members when they make application for permission to peruse them. I am indebted to the honorable member for Batman for drawing my attention to this case. I confess that a perusal of the files to enable me to prepare a reply to the honorable member disclosed stupidity in the handling of the matter that was beyond my ability to comprehend-. It had been held, on the one hand, that this man was not entitled to a war pension, because his invalidity had not been caused by war service; while on the other hand he was refused an invalidity pension because his invalidity had occurred outside Australia !
– There have been similar cases.
– I know of no other similar
– I brought one to the honorable gentleman’s notice.
– When I found how the matter had developed, I at once asked the Commissioner for Invalid and Old-age Pensions to tell me exactly what the position, was, and to make certain that, at any rate, an invalidity pension was granted to this man, who had gone overseas and shown a willingness to fight, even though he had not fought abroad. I found that, some two years previously, the Departments themselves had realized what a. stupid position had arisen, and instead of giving an invalid allowance - which, technically, it was not possible to give - the Repatriation Commission had made available to Mr. Holland a compassionate allowance equal to the invalidity pension of 30s. per fortnight. That allowance was giver to him on the 5th May, 1922, and it has since been increased by the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Board to 35s. a fortnight. Accordingly, during the whole of this year, he has drawn an amount equal to the present invalidity rate. The fact that the Repatriation Commission took action to secure that the invalid pension should not be withdrawn from Mr. Holland discounts to a great extent the charge of animus on the part of the Commission towards this “unfortunate soldier, which has been suggested by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) .
– Holland is charged with having given false testimony.
– We must remember that the Repatriation Commission has to administer an Act which was passed by this Parliament after due deliberation. That Act contains a provision for the making of regulations. Whatever the desires of its members may be, the Commission can consider only the Act and the regulations made under it. Officers of the Department -have been charged with having made false statements, but what are the facts? Altogether six Boards have deliberated on Mr. Holland’s case. Of these, four were appointed for the purpose of ascertaining his right to a war pension. The other two were military Boards, quite inde-pendent of repatriation, their object being to determine his capacity to- remain permanently in the home Forces. All the four Boards which inquired into the question of a pension were unanimous, as the letter of Mr. Ryan states, that his disabilities were those of old age - emphysema and asthma.
– Can the honorable gentleman give us the dates of those reports?
– The first Board, consisting of Captain E. McKenzie’ and Captain Roy Dunn, reported on the 2nd of August, 1917. On the 21st of November of the same year the second Board, comprising Drs. W. B. Vance and li. S. Forrest, furnished its report. The third Board, consisting of LieutenantColonels H. W. Bryant and E. Buller Allan, presented its report on the 7th of December of that year. The report of Lieutenant-Colonel C. C.
MacKnight, and Major D. E. Deravin, who comprised the fourth Board, was received on the 4th February, 1920. The two military Boards were those conducted by Lieutenant-Colonel W. Summons and Major H. Irving. Their purpose was to determine whether Mr. Holland was capable of continuing in the home service. The first four Boards had before them Mr. Holland’s whole medical history, as well as his application for a pension, or for discharge. They had access to the whole of the files, and their conclusions were based on that evidence. The Boards which inquired into his capacity for further service did not have regard to his past war service. They were not concerned whether his injuries were due to war service or not. They merely had to determine whether he was fit to remain in the service in the future. There is a material difference between the objects sought by the two Boards. It is admitted that this man was over age when he was accepted for military service, although he gave his age as 44 years.
– How old was he at the time ?
– I do not think his birth certificate has ever been produced to the authorities, but on various occasions he has given the year of his birth as 1857, 1863, 1864, 1865, 1867, 1868, 1869, 1872 and 1873.
– Was he examined all those times?
– Those are the different years stated by him on various occasions as the year of his birth. One can understand that a man who was anxious to go to the Front might set his age down at 44. It is also conceivable that, having reached the other side, and having had a taste of the effects of the climate there on his weak chest, he should omit to dye his hair and moustache and endeavour to make himself appear his correct age.
– Could not a medical man have told if his hair and moustache were dyed ?
– That might not always have been considered politic. The Ballarat, on which Holland was travelling to the Front, was torpedoed, but he did not apply for medical treatment on that account. Instead, he went into training on Salisbury Plain, and it was not. until a period of a month or six weeks had elapsed that he made application for treatment, because of the effects which he said the torpedoing of the vessel had had on him.
– That shows he is not a schemer.
– It is not suggested that he is. I regret the stupid bungling which has taken place in connexion with his application for a pension. The torpedoing of the Ballarat had practically no effect on him at all. All the medical statements of his condition while in the Forces are conclusive evidence to me, as a medical man, that he was suffering from chronic bronchitis and asthma, and that the conditions existing on the other side of the world were the cause of his return to Australia. I understand that, at present, although he is not a tubercular patient, he is suffering from chronic asthma and emphysema.
– Had the Government his medical history before enlistment?
– Were those four Boards asked to report regarding his continuance in the service, or regarding his pension ?
– The first two inquired regarding his fitness to continue in the Australian Imperial Force, and the others regarding his pension. Their reports, which may be read by honorable members, show that there was no necessity for further examination, and that in December, 1917, Holland was in a condition which, in my opinion, was permanent, . for whatever he might do, or wherever he might go, his chest condition would get worse. They dispose of the suggestion by the honorable member for Batman that the medical evidence regarding this man’s condition was obtained, not by personal examination, but from files, and they prove that his capacity for further service was practically n.l. I am not able to-day, with the limited material at my disposal, to answer the charges made against Mr. Teece, a member of the Repatriation Commission. Although the honorable member for Batman spoke about the “ bias “ of Mr. Teece, he did not establish against him any definite charge of intent to interfere with Mr. Holland’s rights. Although Mr. Holland, under the Acts which control pensions, was technically not entitled to a pension, the Repatriation Commission did what lay in its power, by granting him a compassionate allowance, to meet the special circumstances of the case.
– The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The House is indebted to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) for bringing the case of Mr. Holland under notice. If inquiry is made it will be found that this case is typical of many others. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has endeavoured to cover up the shortcomings of his officers rather than to answer the statements made by the honorable member for Batman.. I am pleased to say that in the Departments of the Commonwealth generally we have very competent and reliable officers, who try to give honorable members all necessary information for their guidance. It would appear, however, that there is room . for a searching investigation regarding the action of the particular officer referred to by the honorable member, who stated that he did not charge officer’s generally with conspiracy, but that he charged only one officer. That man, I understand, is the representative on the Board of the returned soldiers.
– He was.
– It is as well that he is so no longer. The honorable member for Batman charged that officer with giving misleading information to honorable members and to the House. When a case is presented to honorable members they should be able to obtain reliable information from officials controlling the Department concerned. It has been shown that the late Mr. Tudor was misled because he was not supplied with the complete information, and the honorable member for Batman has been similarly misled. Even the Treasurer, when he answers questions in the House, is not in possession of the fullest possible information. He has stated that at least two Boards out of four reported that the man was not suffering from any disability due to war service. The other two Boards were asked to report upon his ability to continue in the military Forces. As against that, the honorable member for Batman has shown that two other Boards, making six in all, have also reported on the case, and that they reported that he Was suffering from incapacity resulting from war service.
– Those Boards examined him with a view to determining his fitness for home service.
– Of the four Boards referred to by the Treasurer, two reported against the man, and two in favour of him. In addition, there are four opinions by doctors stating that the man is suffering in consequence of war service. There are two Boards opposed to two Boards, and four medical testimonies in favour of the man. His disability occurred some time after he was discharged. Every member of the House has had similar cases brought under his notice. Men known personally to honorable members have been discharged as fit, but one, two, or three years afterwards, have become, as a result of their war services, physical wrecks.
Sir Elliotjohnson. ; I have in my pocket particulars of two such cases.
– And I have presented many others to the Government. It is one of the most difficult things in the world to get a medical Board to testify that their condition is due to war service. It does not matter whether this man was over age when he enlisted. I can recall the time when we applauded men who were over age and enlisted, for it was argued that their action was evidence of their anxiety to serve their country. The question is, “Were they fit for active service ? “ If a doctor appointed by the Government passed an applicant as fit to go abroad, that man surely has a claim upon this country when his health is impaired by the service he rendered. If he was accepted for active service, if he went abroad, and if, as a result of active service, he is incapacitated in any way, how can we shirk our responsibility?
– The misstatement as to age in this case has not been used against the man.
– No, and it should not be. There are many more who, like him, enlisted when they were over the age limit. I have a case in my mind of a father of seven sons. He and four of the sons went to the war, and one of the sons was killed. The father was over age when he enlisted, and upon his return to this country he was discharged from the forces as fit. Within twelve months, as a result of shock received at the front, he became an inmate of an asylum.
He received no recognition from the Government, notwithstanding the services that he and his family had rendered. The time has arrived when, in justice to such men, the Government should issue an. order providing that when there is any doubt about the cause of an ex-soldier’s incapacity, he should be given the benefit of it. I am quite certain that honorable members will agree with me when I say that there are many young and middleaged men who have come back from the front and, with large hearts, have commenced to work, who, after a year or two, when they have found themselves partially incapacitated as a result of their war services, have had their applications for pensions rejected because their incapacity was held not to have occurred as a result of war service. Is it likely, that the health of these able-bodied men would have broken down except as a result of war service ?
– The conditions of war service contributed to their breakdown.
– The honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) expressed a similar opinion.
– Yes. This Department should be administered sympathetically. Such a man cannot legally be granted an invalid pension under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, because the disability arose overseas. The authorities, however, have granted a compassionate allowance of 10s. a week, which is a “munificent” sum to pay to any person in such circumstances. I question very much whether the Board has the power to grant even a compassionate allowance, although it has done so in this instance. In addition to the paltry sum just mentioned, this man is allowed an invalid pension of 5s. a week, and, as the incapacity occurred overseas, even that amount cannot, I think, be legally paid. This unfortunate man is receiving a paltry 15s. per week when the invalid pension is 17s. 6d. per week.
– He is now receiving 17s. 6d.
– That is. a. ridiculous sum to pay a man. against whom the only charge that can be laid is that he enlisted when over 45 years of age. Whatever his age may have been at the time of enlistment, he rendered good service to his country, and, prior to enlistment,’ was passed by the doctor as sound. Subsequently he became incapacitated, and the Board, which is supposed to treat such cases sympathetically, has declined to recognize his claim. This case is similar to many others, and, although it is necessary to reduce expenditure in this Department as far as possible, such expenditure should only be reduced legitimately, as Parliament or the Australian people do not want an injustice to be done to any man who served in the Great War. When we were seeking recruits, it was said, from every platform, that we would stand by those who offered their services, and would see that they were provided for. We have now no right to quibble in regard to matters of this kind, and to deny sustenance to the man who has perhaps a wife and family to keep, and who rendered excellent service at the war. This case is so glaring that it demands immediate attention. Every one disregards the question of age. It must be admitted that an incorrect age was given, not for the purpose of deriving any benefit, but simply with the desire to serve.
– And the country connived at it.
– Yes ; and the action of such men was applauded. I do not think the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) should endeavour to protect the officials by covering up their conduct. A searching inquiry should be made, not only into this case, but into others of a similar character, so that justice may be done ‘to those who have been unduly penalized. It is heartrending to listen to the stories told by many similarly placed. The case of a married man with a wife and two children has been brought under my notice. When he came back from the war, he returned to his employment at the ‘ Newcastle Steel Works. He had some trouble in his left knee, which he thought was due to a bump, but which afterwards extended up the left arm, and is to-day so acute that he cannot work. This man is receiving only one-half the full pension rate, as he is regarded as 50 per cent, incapacitated. He cannot work at all, and his claim for a full pension is turned down on the ground that his incapacity is not due to war like operations, although he was 50 per cent. incapacitated when he returned. One could quote dozens of such cases. Although we wish to reduce the heavy repatriation expenditure we should not deny justice to these men. I trust the Government will see the necessity of acting promptly in an endeavour to clear this matter up, and if any one in the Service has been guilty of misleading Ministers or honorable members that person should not be allowed to remain in the Public Service. I do not say that any one has wilfuly misled Ministers, but if it can be proved that that has been done the guilty person or persons should be dismissed, as such action would be a deterrent to others. The Department of Repatriation should, as I have said, be administered sympathetically and on the same lines as the Invalid and Old-age Pensions branch. I doubt very much whether the time has not arrived when the Repatriation and Invalid and Oldage Pensions branches should be amalgamated and placed under the control of those now administering the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, as the officers in that branch know how to deal with these cases. Something should be done immediately, and a decision should be arrived at in order to prevent cases such as that mentioned by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) being brought before this House. Nearly one-third of our time is occupied in discussing repatriation matters, and the Government should decide to recognize the claims submitted in this and other similarcases; and thus put an end to the controversy which prevails in regard to men who have become incapacitated after being discharged, and whose incapacity is undoubtedly due to war services.
– I am very glad the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has brought this matter before the House to-day, but I am extremely sorry that there should have been any necessity for doing so. As, however, there appears to be a necessity, it is just as well the case has been ventilated in order that we may know exactly the attitude the Government intend to adopt in regard to the numerous complaints submitted. I know the individual concerned, and if he had been one of my constituents I should have brought the matter forward myself prior to this. Knowing what I do of the case, and having read a good deal of what is contained in the files in connexion with it, I can come only to the conclusion arrived at by the honorable member for Batman, that there is an urgent need for the appointment of either a Select Committee or a Royal Commission to make the fullest inquiry, not only into this case, but into scores of others of a similar nature. Most honorable members will admit that they, too, have heard of cases, perhaps not so glaring as this, in which the injustice shown to returned soldiers and their dependants has been very marked. I have had personal experience in connexion with a number when it has been necessary to ask that the files be brought to the House for perusal, and I have been amazed at the apparent lack of sympathy which has characterized the decisions of those in authority. Reference has been made to the fact that this man incorrectly stated his age when he enlisted; but, as other honorable members have said, he was only one of many.
– There were thousands.
– Yes, there were probably thousands. I know a member of the remount section of the Light Horse who, after the doctor had questioned him very critically regarding his age because of a breakdown overseas, admitted to me that he would be 70 years of age on his next birthday, which was then only a few months ahead. By reason of a clean and industrious life he appeared to be at least fifteen years younger than he actually was. That man answered his country’s call. If Holland had been drowned when he was submerged in the torpedoed Ballarat, would the Government have questioned the right of his wife and dependants to a pension? Ithink there would have been no question whatever. They would have been granted a pension immediately
– And there would have been no mention of Holland’s age.
– Although Mr. Holland survived his immersion, medical testimony proves that he is suffering in consequence of it. In those circumstances, the Government cannot relieve itself of its obligations. Holland was accepted for service at the time he offered for enlistment, and the Government then accepted responsibility which it cannot now shed. A careful consideration of hundreds of cases of war-service pension claims in Australia would prove to the satisfaction of any unbiased person that many returned men are suffering from injustice because adverse decisions have been given in their by departmental Boards.
– How can we get over that position ?
– The only way to overcome itis to appoint a Board of Inquiry ofpersons outside of the Department-. The Treasurer referred to a recentlyappointed Committee of ex-soldier members of this House. If the members of that Committee spent all their time in quiring into cases which could be put before them within a few. weeks, they could not keep up with the work.
– They are practically powerless.
– They have the right to examine departmental files, and if they see anything in the file which is contradictory to the report furnished to the Minister by the departmental officials, they may draw the attention of the Minister to the discrepancy. In such acase, the Minister would be bound to give attention to file case. Medical testimony, sufficient to satisfy any body of reasonable men, is available to prove the justice of Private Holland’s claim. A Special Board, composed of Lieut. -Colonel Embling, Colonel W. Summons, and Major H. Irving., inquired into his case on the 3rd February, 1920, to determine whether, whilst he was on home duty, he was entitled to an extension of halfpay during his continued hospital treatment. The following is a copy of the finding : -
Private Holland issuffering from chronic asthma and bronchitis. He is at present requiring further hospital treatment, and is totally incapacitated. His disability was aggravated by war service, and the Board recommends that he be granted an extensionof half-pay.
That Board went very carefully into his case.
– After he had applied for a pension.
– It was really a Board of review.
– Other Boards investigated the case on the 21st November, 1917, the 7th December, 1917, and the 4th February, 1920. A report was also made in March, 1920. It stated that Holland -
Has been in hospital continuously for the Inst four months. Suffering from chronic bronchitis and asthma, and is lately much improved. Aggravated by war service. Present conditon weak, and still suffering from chronic bronchitis and asthma. Disability is permanent; 100 per cent. incapacity. Recommend hospital for one month.
The Board of the 3rd of February recommended that Holland should be granted’ a continuation of half pay, but the, later Board determined that he was 100 per cent. incapacitated. Possibly it recommended that he should undergo hospital treatment for one month so that he could be under observation. I have seen Holland recently, and one has only to look at him to realize that the Treasurer spoke truly when he said that there was. no possibility ofhim recovering from his disability, which undoubtedly has been aggravated by war service. I sincerely trust that the Treasurer will cause a careful inquiry to be made into this case, and that he will also make provision for inquiry into similar cases in which returned soldiers or their relatives claim to be suffering from adverse departmental decisions. I hope that it will not be necessary much longer to bring such cases before this House.
.- I do not think that the general question of the treatment of returned soldiers should have arisenin this debate. The most important element in the speech by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was the serous charge he made against an officer of one of our Departments. I suggest to the Treasurer that it is his duty to promise the House that a proper investigation will be made into this matter. If the Government does not appoint a Committee of Inquiry, honorable members will be given an opportunity to say whether or not such a Committee should be appointed. The Treasurer endeavoured, but failed lamentably, to answer the serious charge made by the honorable member for Batman. He quoted three dates in 1917, and one in 1920, on which inquiries were made into the case of Private Holland. The first three inquiries were made before the man applied for a pension and the last one mentioned by the Treasurer was made by a Committee which did not even see him. The Treasurer gave us what he said was the unanimous finding of this Board, that Holland, was not entitled to a pension. Judging from the speech of the Treasurer, one would think that the inquiries ho mentioned were the only ones made into the case.
– I mentioned Holland’s home service, and quoted the dates - the 3rd” of February, 1920, and the 11th of March, 1920.
– The Treasurer quoted the decisions of three Boards which considered Holland’s case before he applied for a pension, and one other Board which met on the 4th of February, 1920, and decided against him without even seeing him. The honorable member for Batman produced the opinion of the two medical Boards, after the date on which Private Holland applied for a pension, that his inability was aggravated by war service. How can the Treasurer get over the opinions of those Boards, and also the opinions of four different medical officers? Although two Medical Boards and four doctors declared that Holland’s condition was aggravated . by his war service, the Repatriation Department wrote, stating that Boards appointed under the Defence, the Pensions, and the Repatriation Departments were unanimous in the decision that this man’s condition was not due to war service, nor was it aggravated by it. What is the answer to that ? It is of no use to say that the honorable member for Batman has suggested animus. He did not say that there was animus, but that there was deception. The Treasurer says that the honorable member has not made a definitecharge, but he has made several definite charges, and has produced the official replies of the Department. If ever a case for investigation was made out in this House, surely this is one. I direct attention to something significant in the reply by the Treasurer. . He said that it was found that a very stupid position had arisen. He said that this man was refused a military pension because his disability was not due to war service, and was refused an invalid pension because his disability did not arise within Australia. It was admittedly due to war service. When the Government discovered this stupid blunder, did it make good this man’s loss? It promised that he would be given back pension. The amount due was something like £30, but such was the animus of some one against the man that he was given none of this money. They said that as his condition was not due to war service he was entitled to receive an invalid pension, but he was not given an invalid pension because the officials knew full well that his disability occurred outside Australia, and consequently he could not be given an invalid pension under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. That was the reply given to the man when he made his application for an invalid pension. The Repatriation Department, of which the Treasurer is the head, just as he is the head of other Pensions Departments, had to get out of the difficulty as best it could. The Government had said that it could not give this man an invalid pension because, his disability occurred outside Australia, but that he would be given a. compassionate allowance under the War Pensions Act, admitting that the disability occurred through war service outside Australia. The case, as presented by the honorable member for Batman, was one of the most carefully prepared that I have listened to. I commend the honorable member for his industry, and for the courage with which he has faced -the position, because it is not a pleasant one. Nor is it pleasant for honorable members to have to support this charge. I have received numerous replies from officials, and have accepted them in good faith. Most honorable members are in the habit of doing so. Whatever our differences of opinion may be we accept communications from the heads of Departments as honorable and straightforward statements of the matters with which they deal. It is clear, from the facts presented by the honorable member for Batman, that the reflection upon one officer in particular is a serious one, and the matter should not be allowed to rest where it is. If the Government desiresto face the position in a proper manner it will have an investigation made into this case, or the House will be asked to do so by specific motion.
,- I commend the honorable member for Batman for bringing this matter before the House. It affords an opportunity to the Treasurer to give practical effect to a suggestion made last session. The Soldiers’ Committee of members of this House, appointed to consider these cases, has not yet been clothed with sufficient powers to give effect to the wishes of honorable members generally. That Committee would be amenable to this House, and would be more likely than officials to give a decision in each case based upon the facts as it found them. The fault in these cases does not lie entirely with the Repatriation Commission, but with the policy of the Government in 1921, when it made a drastic out into pensions all round. There was an outcry everywhere against that action. One case was brought forward by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) when I was not present owing to the misleading report supplied to the House with regard to me. In connexion with that report, some person who ought to have been removed is still holding his job. He unfairly assailed my honour and courage, and, though I do not wish to parade them, I can say that my work, so far as my limits permitted, was equal to that of any other man. In the present case, in all probability, Mr. Teece will continue to hold his job, although he has been responsible for doing a man out of his rights. The man towhose case I refer was paid a pension for four years because of disability due to rheumatism contracted in Egypt. He was a navvy on the East-West railway when he passed the medical officer and went overseas to fight for the country. For four years he was paid a full pension, but at the close of the year, 1920, he received this reply to an application he made -
I have to advise you that the Repatriation Commission, Melbourne, having considered all the facts of the case, decided that your disability was not due to war service, and cancelled your war pension, but the principal departmental medical officer recommends that you apply for an invalid pension, as you are apparently eligible for same.
When this man was joining up to fight for Australia he left a job of navvying on the Nullarbor Plains, which only a physicallyfit man could carry on. He contracted rheumatism in Egypt, and on his return was paid a pension. As a result of the policy adopted by the Government there was a drastic and cruel revision of pensions, and this man was informed that he was not incapacitated through war. service, although he had been paid a war pension for four years. He was told to apply for an invalid pension, and he is now to be seen with the members of theFig-tree Club opposite the post office in Adelaide, where the derelicts of the city are accustomed to . gather. Apart from his rheumatism, he is an able-bodied man, and, if the Treasurer doubts the statement, he can see him marching about the streets of Adelaide to-day, an illustration of the generosity of the nation to a man who gave service overseas as a soldier. The case was ventilated by the honorable member for Angas away back in 1921, and the facts are’ as I have stated them. If he had so desired, Mr. Teece might have interviewed this man personally in his native town of Adelaide, and might have seen for himself whether the doctors had made a mistake in his case or not. He did not choose to do so. The only way I see out of the difficulty is to clothe the soldiers’ committee of members of this House with authority sufficient to deal with these cases. It would be an independent authority which would decide upon facts outside the records, and, if necessary, interview applicants, and it would be responsible to this House for the decisions at which it arrived. If that course were adopted this case, as well as others which may arise in the future, might be satisfactorily and justly dealt with.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 119.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– I have telegraphed to Western Australia to ascertain the facts, and upon receipt of a reply will give the matter immediate consideration.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether it is the practice of the Department to maintain against an old-age pensioner the surrender value of an insurance policy, which has been assigned for the benefit of his children, indefinitely?
– If the surrender was made recently, and without consideration, the value would be maintained against the pensioner, but not in all cases indefinitely.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Liability of Soldiers’ Memorial Clubs
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whetherhe will give favorable consideration to the matter of including among societies, associations, &c, specially exempted from taxation under section 14 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, No. 37, of 1922, Soldiers’ Memorial Clubs which arc not carried on for the profit or gain of individual members?
– The matter will receive consideration.
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) this afternoon asked me for information concerning the censorship of cinematograph films. I am now able to inform the honorable member that the members of the Commonwealth Censorship Board are as follow : -
Every film is actually projected upon the screen in the presence of one or other of these Censors.
– On the 29th May, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to inform the honorable member as follows: -
The cost of the land with the old buildings was £15,290. The amount expended on the new buildings to date is £62,280, and of this latter sum the architects have received £3,375, as their commission to date on the new buildings.
– On the 7th May, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) referred to the recent murder of a seaman on the H.M.A.S. Brisbane, and I stated that instructions had already been given for a departmental inquiry to be held. I have now received the report of the Court of Inquiry, which shows that a strict and careful investigation into the circumstances attending the deaths on board the Brisbane of Ordinary Seaman George Ritchie, and Cook George Brown, was made. The Court is of the opinion that Ordinary Seaman Ritchie met his death at the hands of some one unknown, but that, from the circumstantial evidence produced, Cook Brown, who afterwards committed suicide, is indicated strongly as having been the murderer. No motive was apparent, but some evidence goes to show that Brown was a man of low mentality. The Court is further of the opinion that a considerable amount of rumour was going through the ship that the man Brown was suspected of having been responsible for other assaults, and it is considered that a lack of initiative was shown by petty officers in not bringing it under notice that these rumours were current in the ship. The finding of the Court is concurred in by the Commodore Commanding H.M.A. Fleet, who considers that while no actual blame is attributable to those who failed to report the rumours, they should have taken more energetic action to investigate them. The whole matter was considered by the Naval Board, which recognizes that where only rumour or bare suspicion exists it is difficult to present a case officially, but in view of other acts of violence with which the name of Cook Brown had been associated, the Board considered that the Petty Officers concerned should have taken further action than they did in bringing to the notice of the officers of the ship the feeling that existed in regard to Brown, although in the entire absence of evidence it is difficult to see what could have been done except to take care that the suspect was kept under observation. In view of the fact that in the case bare suspicion was the only thing the Petty Officers had to go upon, the Naval Board concurred in the report of the Commodore Commanding, and no further action was considered necessary. I concur in the opinion of the Naval Board.
The following papers were presented: -
Excise Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1924, No. 74.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Bute, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Claremont, Tasmania - For Postal purposes.
North Geelong, Victoria-For Postal purposes.
Pakenham East, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
The Entrance, Tuggerah Lake, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1924, No. 77.
Spirits Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1924, No. 75.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 30th May, vide page 1038) :
Clause 7 -
There shall be a Land Board of the Northern Territory consisting of three members appointed by the Minister, of whom one shall, if the pastoralists of the Northern Territory nominate, in the manner and within the time specified by the Minister three persons, be appointed from among those persons nominated.
Upon which Mr. Nelson had moved, by way of amendment -
That all the words after “ members “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ one of whom shall be a pastor alist elected by the pastoral lessees in the Northern Territory, two to be appointed by the Minister.”
– I was hoping that the Minister (Mr. Atkinson) would give the Committee some information concerning this clause. The attitude of the Government in this matter is in marked contrast with their attitude when the constitution of the Federal Capital Commission was under consideration. Honorable members were advised as to the cost and duties of the Commission. This Board will, in all probability, incur an expenditure of £10,000 per annum, and yet the Minister has given no information as to its duties. The language of the clause, so far as the appointment of a pastoralist of the Northern Territory is concerned, is indefinite. The machinery to set up such an important Board should be precise and definite. We should know where we stand. The other day the honorable member forBass (Mr. Jackson) stated that a section of the Board had already been appointed.
– I did not say that.
– In effect the honorable member did. He said that the names of three persons who had been nominated by the pastoralists were already in the hands of the Minister.
– I said they had been sent in. That is different from saying that men had been appointed.
– Those referred to are not representative of ‘the pastoral industry in the Northern Territory. The secretary of the Pastoralists Association of the Northern Territory has just informed me by wire that the small men have had no say in the selection of the Board. Surely the honorable member for Bass admits that they should not be ignored.
– I do not admit that they represent the majority of the pastoral lessees of the Northern Territory,
– They will not be ignored.
– Does the Minister say that the small men will have a say in the selection of the Board ?
– I cannot state what the precise language of the regulations will be, but I can say that everybody will have a chance. No appointment has yet been made.
– These people to whom I refer represent the backbone of Northern Territory pioneering, and are entitled to some voice in the selection of the Board. There must have been some foundation for the statement made by the honorable member for Bass.
– There was.
– -Then I say that members of the Pastoralists Association of the Northern Territory should not be overlooked. The Minister has given us an assurance that they will have a chance. They will not, because, according to paragraph d of clause 11, a member of the Board will not be permitted to hold any interest in land apart from that which may be necessary for his home. In this matter the Government are not consistent. There was no suggestion, in connexion with the appointment of the Federal Capital Commission, that the two members who might draw in fees as much as £2,000 per annum should not engage in any other occupation. Likewise, there should be no restriction upon the business or occupation of members of the Northern Territory Land Board, because we want on that Board men who have done the pioneering work, and are in the best position to advise as to the policy for Northern Territory development.
– It might be worth a man’s while to give up his interests in pastoral leases in order to obtain a seat on the Board.
– Is it likely that a person nominated would dispose of his interests merely on the chance of receiving the appointment?
– I think the Minister means that a person nominated would be able to relinquish his holdings after appointment.
– That is different. If the Board is to be so constituted as to be able to advise as to the development of the Northern Territory, these men should not be shut out. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) hinted that one man might assume control of the Board. That is absurd. It is not likely that the two persons appointed by the Minister would be overruled. If the Board is constituted from the persons who met at Scott’s Hotel it will not be conversant with the details of Northern Territory pioneering.
– I think there ought to be more members present to hear the honorable member for the Northern Territory. [Quorum formed.]
– The Bill acknowledged the right of pastoralists in the Northern Territory to representation on the Board, but this clause is so framed that it will be impossible for those who have spent a lifetime in pioneering the Northern Territory to be directly represented. The Minister has stated that the Bill is not a developmental Bill, but when it was introduced honorable members were led to believe that it was to serve that purpose.
– I said that the Government contemplated a policy of development collateral with the passing of this Bill.
– The Minister stated that it was not a developmental Bill. He also admitted that the Government were trying to break down certain monopolies now existing in the Territory. I fail to see how that end can be achieved. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) claimed that the election of a member of the Board would take too long. I remind him that, in the election of a parliamentary representative of the Northern Territory there was only six weeks between the issue and the’ return of the writ. As a matter of fact, very little time would be occupied in electing a representative of the pastoralists on the Land Board, because the opinions of the pastoralists could easily be ascertained by making use of the telegraph.
– If the honorable member’s desire is to have a leaseholder in the Territory elected, his amendment does not show it very clearly.
– The person elected need not necessarily be a leaseholder, bub if the people of the Territory wish one of the small leaseholders to be appointed to the Board, they should have the right to nominate him, and the person so chosen should be given time to dispose of any property in the Territory in which he might be interested. There are many leases in which there are fourteen or fifteen persons interested, and, if one of those persons were chosen, it would be an easy matter for him to dispose of a fourteenth or a fifteenth interest in a lease. The Bill, as it stands, prevents such a person from being a member of the Board. The choice of a man who knows the Territory from A to Z will obviate the necessity for the Board spending many months ingoing over the Terriritory to become acquainted with it. There will be no chance for the representative of the pastoral industry to dominate the Board, seeing that the Board will contain two Government nominees. The honorable member for Bass referred to the possibility of a surveyor being chosen. I am not enamoured of the idea of having a surveyor on such a Board. As a rule, a surveyor is one who has specialized in his own profession, and honorable members who have had any experience of surveyors’ reports on pastoral areas know that they are far from being reliable, and are often misleading. No one is more qualified to furnish a report upon the pastoral capabilities of the land than is a man who has a knowledge of the pastoral industry, and practical experience in it. When the honorable member for Bass declared that Mr. Playford knew more about the Territory than any other man I took exception to the remark, because, although I know that Mr. Playford is a very able man. I am also aware that there are other men who know more about the Territory than he does. Clause 11, which precludes any Northern Territory pastoralist from occupying a position on the Land Board, is inconsistent with the principle accepted in the constitution of the Canberra Commission.
– Under clause 11, paragrapha, a member of the Board may engage in other business with the consent of the Minister.
– But paragraph d of clause 11 provides ‘that a member of the
Board shall be deemed to have vacated his office if - he, in any way directly or indirectly is interested in any land, other than as a place of residence for himself or his family, in the Northern Territory, or in any matter which may arise in connexion therewith under this Ordinance, or engaged in any live stock transactions for the sake of gain or any other business.
The only persons in the Northern Territory who are interested in this Bill are those referred to in this paragraph, and they will be unable to become members of the Board, although they are the best fitted to give advice to it. Although my amendment will not be agreed to, the discussion upon it has served the purpose of showing conclusively that the best advice and the best men will not be obtained under the method set out in the Bill.
Mr.GABB (Angas) [5.30]. - I move-
That at the end of sub-clause (5) the following words be added : - “ and one other member to be the deputy chairman.”
Sub-clause 5 provides -
The Minister shall appoint one of the members of the Board to be the chairman of the Board.
My desire is that the Minister shall also appoint one other member to be deputy chairman. Sub-clause 6 provides that in the absence of the chairman the members of the Board present shall appoint one of their number to act as chairman, and exercise at the meeting all the powers and functions of the chairman. But neither of the other two members of the Board may be willing to appoint his fellow member as chairman, thus giving him a casting vote and the opportunity to decide all questions at issue. In the circumstances, the Board may not be in a position to transact any business. I am not enamoured of the Bill, but, seeing that the House has given its approval to the second reading, it is my desire to make it a good workable measure, and therefore I submit my amendment.
– I accept the amendment.
– I fail to see that the amendment will got over the difficulty. It will be necessary to prevent plurality of voting. In the event of the voting being equal, the presiding member should not have a second or casting vote.
– That matter is dealt with later in the clause. It does not arise in connexion with the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Gabb) agreed to-
That sub-clause (6) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “ (6.) The Chairman of the Board shall, when present, preside at meetings of the Board and in his absence the Deputy Chairman shall preside.”
That all the words after “votes” to the end of sub-clause (8) be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ Provided that at any meeting of the Board, at which only two members arc present, any question upon which those members disagree shall be reserved for determination by a full meeting of the Board.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 8 (Officers of Public Service of Commonwealth, State, orNorthern Territory appointed members of Board).
.- It is provided in sub-clause 2 that on the termination, other than for misbehaviour, of the appointment of a member of the Board, who was, immediately prior to his appointment, an officer of the Public Service of the Northern Territory, he shall be entitled to re-appointment “to a position in the Public Service of the Northern Territory.” Would it not be advisable to add the words, “ and the Commonwealth Public Service”? Subclause 1 provides that, if an officer of the Public Service is appointed to the Board, he shall retain all his existing and accruing rights. Can the Minister assure me that such an officer, on ceasing to be a member of the Board, would be able to return to his former position in the Public Service?
– The clause provides for it.
Clause verbally amended and agreed to.
Clauses 9 and 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Vacation of office).
– According to paragraph d of this clause, a member of the Board shall be deemed to have vacated his office if he, in any way, directly or indirectly, is interested in any land, other than as a place of residence for himself or his family, in the Northern Territory. I have a recollection of provision recently being made in a Bill to enable the Chairman of a Board to hold an interest in a company. I know men who would be highly suitable for appointment to a Board such as is contemplated under the Bill, but their land interests, though small, would render them ineligible for appointment. Will the Minister make the clause more elastic?
– The object of paragraph d is to ensure that members of the Board are not interested parties, but are men able to render impartial service’. Their duties will be of an important nature, and the Government’s wish is to secure the best advice possible on pastoral matters in the Northern Territory. The clause does not exclude a pastoralist, provided he has no interest in pastoral properties in the Territory.
– He may be a good pastoralist in Victoria, but may know nothing of the conditions in the Territory.
– The Minister would have to be satisfied as to his qualifications.
– The object is to have a disinterested Board.
– Yes. The Government always has the making of appointments to Boards of this nature, and if the selection were made by a particular section of people in the Northern Territory, the person so chosen might have greater regard for the welfare of that section than for the interests of the Government. It might be worth while a small pastoralist abandoning his pastoral interests in the Territory for the sake of taking a position on the Board.
.- Paragraph d is, unfortunately, narrow in its construction. All the mistakes made in the Northern Territory in the past - and they have been many - have been very largely due to the Government of the day deciding to appoint strangers to administer the affairs there, instead of employing men with experience of the country.
– Would the honorable member appoint to the Board a person interested in Northern Territory lands?
– I would certainly appoint a land-holder of character, just as State Governments usually constitute their Land Boards of two Government servants and a man selected by the Government from among thefarmers. A Board of three persons, which included no man of extended experience of the Northern Territory, would be at the greatest possible disadvantage. What confidence would the lessees of a Territory have in the Board if they were not directly represented by a man who understood pastoral conditions in that country.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) argued that whereas the members of the proposed Federal Capital Commission will be permitted to have an interest in a firm doing business with the Commission, interested persons will be disqualified for a seat on the Board to be appointed under this Bill. There is no analogy between the two instances. The Bill relating to the Federal Capital Commission does not debar a Commissioner from having a shareholder’s interest in certain business transacted by the Commission, whilst this measure provides that a member of the Board shall not have a direct interest in the land which the Board will be required to administer.
-I agree with the suggestion made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), but I do not think that this clause precludes a man who knows a great deal about the Northern Territory from becoming a member of the Board. Such a person may be a lease-holder, or a station-manager. The honorable member has mentioned the name of one man who knows as much about the [Territory as does any other person whohas been there, and he would be a suitable person to appoint to the Board, but he could not, if appointed, retain his present position. There are in Northern Central Queensland, and North-western Australia, many men who would be qualified to help in the administration of this Ordinance, because they are familiar with country and pastoral conditions almost identical with those in the Territory.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 consequentially amended and agreed to.
Clause 19 agreed to.
Clause 20 (Deposit).
– Will the Minister give the Committee some indication of what amount of deposit will be required from an applicant for a lease?
– I have no definite information on that point, but I understand it is usual to require a year’s rent in advance.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 21 (Board to decide applications) .
.- This clause contains an unusual provision. It empowers the Board to reject the application of persons who are deemed unsuitable, and then provides that the Board shall, at the request of the applicant, furnish its reasons for being satisfied that the applicant is unsuitable. There might be many reasons why a Board considered an applicant unsuitable, but if they stated those reasons to the applicant their stay in the Territory . might be as brief as was that of some officials who were hunted out of the Territory. Sub-clause 3 should not be allowed to remain unless there is very good reason for it. An applicant might be suspected of cattle duffing, and it would be awkward for the Board if they were required to explain that that was their reason for rejecting his application. I have never known a magistrate to be required to give the reasons for his decisions on the Bench.
– Magistrates are usually advised not to do so.
– I would not care to be a member of this Land Board, and be obliged to give reasons for rejecting an appli cation for a lease.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 22 to 25 agreed to.
Clause 26 (Reservations in leases).
Amendment (by Mr. Atkinson) agreed to -
That the following new sub-clauses be added : - and (e) a reservation in favour of the aboriginal inhabitants of the Northern Territory shall be read as a reservation giving to all aboriginal inhabitants of the Northern Territory and their descendants full and free right of ingress, egress, and regress into, upon and over the leased land and every part thereof, and in and to the springs and natural surface water thereon, and to make and erect thereon such wurlies and other dwellings as those aboriginal inhabitants have before the commencement of the lease been accustomed to make and erect, and to take and use for food birds and animals ferae naturae in such manner as they would have been entitled to do if the lease had not been made.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to,
Clause 27 agreed to.
Clause 28 consequentially amended, and agreed to.
Clauses 29 and 30 agreed to.
Clause 31 - (1.) Where any land leased under pastoral or agricultural lease in pursuance of this Ordinance has been mortgaged . . .
Amendment (by Mr. Atkinson) agreed to-
That before the word “Where”, line 1, sub-clause 1, the words “Subject to the next two succeeding sub-sections “ be inserted.
– I move -
That the following new sub-clauses be inserted : - (1a.) Where any land included in any lease issued in pursuance of section fifty- eight of this Ordinance has been mortgaged to the original lessee as security for the payment of the balance of the amount due in respect of the transfer of the subdivision, and the mortgagee enters into possession of the land, he may, subject to the terms and conditions of the lease,remain in possession for a period of three years after the date of entering into possession and for such further period (if any) as the Minister thinks lit. (1b.) If the mortgagee referred to in the last preceding sub-section fails to assign or transfer the lease within the period during which he is, in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section, allowed to remain in possession, the Minister may by notice in the Gazette forfeit the lease.
One of the chief criticisms levelled against the Ordinance is that it permits of “dummying.” The object of these subclauses is to ensure that the mortgagee must, within a limited time, deal with the land as prescribed, or else, if the Minister thinks fit, forfeit the lease.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 32 to 34 agreed to.
Clause 35 (Appeal against reappraiseinent) .
– I wish to ask the Minister (Mr. Atkinson) why it is that the appeal is purely to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory? This seems to be a rather unusual provision ; because, for instance, section 44 of the Land Tax Assessment Act provides - (1.) Any taxpayer or person may, within the prescribed time, appeal to the High Court in its original jurisdiction, the Supreme Court, or a County or District Court of a State, or such other court as is specified in that behalf by proclamation, against any assessment by the Commissioner with respect to his land, on the ground that he is not liable for the tax, or any part thereof, or that the assessment is excessive. (2.) When the appeal is to the High Court or a Supreme Court, it shall be heard by a. single Justice of the Court.
My observations apply, not only to clause 35, but also to clause 61. I am ata loss to understand why the lessee of land in the Northern Territory should not have the opportunities of recourse to law that are given to lessees in other parts of Australia. It appears obvious that there should be an ultimate appeal to the High Court from the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, and I should like the Minister to explain why such an appeal is not provided for.
– In framing this clause as it stands, it was thought that a Judge of the Northern Territory Supreme Court would have a better knowledge of local conditions than would a Supreme Court Judge in one of the States. The appeal that the honorable member contends is denied by this clause will, under the Northern Territory Supreme Court Ordinance, lie with the High Court. But it was thought that it would be a better procedure, and one less expensive, to allow pastoralists to appeal against a re-appraisement to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory instead of having to approach the High Court.
– I think that a provision allowing an appeal to the High Court should be included in the Bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 36 to 38 agreed to.
In addition to the matters provided for in Division 1 of this Part, pastoral leases shall contain reservations, covenants, conditions, and provisions as follows : -
Amendment (by Mr. Atkinson) agreed to-
That the following new paragraph be inserted : - ” (aa) a reservation in favour of the aboriginal inhabitants of the Northern Territory;”
.- I move -
That the following new paragraph be inserted : -
A covenant by the lessee that he will fence the land as prescribed.
In all the existing Commonwealth Acts and Ordinances, and also in the South Australian Acts, there are covenants for improvements such as fencing. For quite a number of years they have not been enforced in the Northern Territory, and in many cases I agree -with the attitude that has been adopted by the Minister in control in not enforcing them. We know that in untimbered country, without railway facilities, it is very costly to fence, -and, from 1899 onwards, those administerthe Territory have seen fit to exempt lessees from the fencing conditions. What it was competent for Governments to do in tlie. past it will be competent for them to do in the future, until the enforcement of these conditions is warranted by the provision of a railway or other means of -transport. This proposed paragraph -should be included in the Bill, but remain inoperative, until such time as its enforcement is warranted. If a railway were constructed through timbered country, and thence through the heart of a station, there would be no reason why that holding should not be fenced. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment. I do not think it fair that the Commonwealth should be asked to spend millions of pounds on railways through these particular leases if improvement conditions are not to be enforced. Of course, I am aware that the Bill contains a provision under which the Board can impose conditions on subsequent lessees, but I fail to sec why exemption should be granted to those who at present hold absolutely the best of our land in the Northern Territory. It appears to me that this is not a developmental Bill, and it ought to be made developmental by the insertion of the amendment. I am unable to see in what way the settlers would thereby be harassed. If suspension be possible under existing Acts, it should be possible under this measure. I believe that, by agreeing to the amendment, we would be safeguarding posterity, and would obviate the possibility of repudiation by future Governments. I know that repudiation is abhorred by members of the present Government. Ministers should, therefore, tackle this matter in a logical manner, and thus prevent any possibility of it. The Minister will probably attempt to argue that the stocking clauses will determine the extent of the improvements effected. I fail to see how they will prove advantageous in that direction. We have had something like .50- years’ experience of stocking conditions, and improvement of the holdings has not resulted, nor has the stock become better in quality. Clause 41 reads -
Honorable members must see what will happen under that provision. The Territory is to be divided into four sections, each comprising something like 125,000 square miles. In each of those there is good, bad, and indifferent land. The Board will compute the average carrying capacity, and consequently the capacity fixed for the good areas will be no greater than that of the poorer land. I do not, therefore, anticipate that any material benefit will result from the stocking provisions. We know, also, that at present consideration cannot be given to what the land can actually carry. Take a run embracing 10,000 square miles; permanent water is to be found in certain parts, but there are thousands of miles of country on which water is. not procurable. I contend that the Board will have no power to estimate the carrying capacity of the land when improved; it must make its estimates in the light of existing conditions. Speaking on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) stated (Hansard, page 930) -
In South Australia, pastoral leases are issued under the Pastoral Acts for terms of 42 years, at rentals fixed by the Commissioner of Crown Lands. Re-appraisements are made after fifteen years. The lessee must expend 1.0s. per square mile per annum on improvements, as recommended by the Pastoral Board, and certain conditions are made in respect to stocking. : . . I submit to honorable members that the conditions which prevail in other parts of Australia must, necessarily, be the basis that this House must accept in fixing the conditions which should apply to leases of the Northern Territory pastoral lands. We should not be justified in disregarding the long experience of the States of Australia in respect to leasing pastoral country.
If we adopted the practice of requiring the expenditure of 10s. per square mile per annum on improvements, the annual expenditure of the lessee of an area of 12,000 square miles would be £6,000. If we intend to proceed with the development of the Northern Territory, we should provide the machinery in the Bill. If that duty is neglected, a subsequent Parliament will be forced, in the interests of- Australia, to repudiate these covenants, and insist that the making of improvements shall be one of the conditions.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– Before the adjournment I was pointing out that the Treasurer had supported my contention, in that he said he must be guided by the experience of the States. His exact words were: “We cannot disregard the long experience of the States.” That statement followed a reference to the improvement conditions. In another place the Treasurer said, “ And, a3 I have already pointed out, the best of the lands in the Northern Territory are held under South Australian Acts. They are closer to railways already constructed, and are likely to benefit most by railway construction in the immediate future.” That is my chief contention - that these properties will benefit most by the construction of railways in the future. We should have some provision whereby the Board may impose conditions upon the holders of land which benefits from the construction of railways. The Treasurer said that there was nothing in the Ordinance itself to prevent improvement conditions from being imposed in any new lease, if the Government saw fit to do so. Paragraph b of clause 39 provides that pastoral leases shall contain reservations, covenants, conditions, and provisions as follows : -
It is not fair to give a total exemption to those persons who, the Treasurer admits, are holding the very best of the land, while at the same time improvement conditions are imposed on the new lessees. It is the more unfair when we realize that subsequent leases will be for very inferior land to that held by the present big landholders. Yet, under the conditions of this Ordinance, new lessees can be forced to fence their holdings. The present leases are fast expiring. By their surrender the present lessees will secure a great concession, as they will obtain another 42 years’ use of the land. I fail to see the justice of imposing on new lessees conditions from which the- present land-holders are exempt. I would like the Minister to throw some light on clause 89, which reads -
Notwithstanding the repeal of the Northern Territory Crown Lands Act 1890 of the State of South Australia, the Fences Act 1892 and the Fences Act Amendment Act 1903 of the State of South Australia shall continue to apply to all freehold lands, and all lands held under agreement or lease from the Crown, in the Northern Territory, and in the application of those Acts the word “ fence” or the words “ dividing fence “ wherever used therein shall bo deemed to mean any fence ordinarily, sufficient or capable of resisting the trespass of cattle or sheep.
That clause seems fairly definite. Both the Minister in charge of the Bill in this Chamber, and the Minister who introduced it in another place, stated definitely that land-holders were being encouraged not to improve their holdings. The Committee should be informed whether clause S9 will be applicable to all leases, whether under the new Ordinance or not. That would probably save a lot of unnecessary discussion. It is quite obvious that the Fences Acts are not to be repealed. In the event of a railway being constructed, or the conditions being made such that people, without any great hardship, could improve their lands for the better rearing of cattle or sheep, it would be possible for this clause to be put into operation. The statements to date have been very confusing. There is nothing in the covenants to the effect that the improvement conditions are to be continued. The Minister said that the covenants in respect’ to. improvements were the most stupid ever provided in an Ordinance. I desire to know whether the provisions of this clause could be enforced on subsequent lessees, as well as on the present ones. The Minister said we must first get rid of the big land-holders, but if we have not the power to force them to improve their leases, we shall never get rid of them. I would like the Minister to give us dome information respecting clause 89, as it applies to the various leases in the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) desires to insert in every lease a covenant requiring the lessees to fence as prescribed. In the original Ordinance there was a clause to that effect, but the Department ‘found it was’ -impracticable. Instead of causing the land to be used, it proved a bar to settlement. The effect was particularly hard in the case of the small settler. The object of the Ministry in leaving out of the Bill any obligation on the part of the lessees to effect improvements, is to encourage settlement. We have endeavoured, by indirect means, to secure the same result. For instance, the Bill contains stringent stocking conditions. If the lessees are to put the land to its proper use, improvements will be necessary. But they will have the right to say what those improvements shall be, and will notbe subject to dictation from some one outside. Experience has taught us that that is the best way to proceed. If we accepted this amendment now, we should be working against that principle. If the honorable member will look at clause 39, paragraph b, he will see the provision with reference to stocking. In paragraph c there is a covenant requiring the lessee to comply with the laws for the destruction of vermin. If the lessees are to keep sheep - as we hope they will - such a covenant will force them to provide some form of vermin - proof fencing. The object of the honorable member will be attained by the Bill in its present form, but it will be done by different means than he has suggested. In 1922 the Queensland Act was amended, with a view to improving the fencing conditions. Section 40, paragraph e, of the Land Act Amendment Act of 1922, reads-
Clause 25, paragraph j, of this Bill provides that leases under this Ordinance shall contain reservations, covenants, conditions, and provisions, as follows: -
All leases which come under this Ordinance will be subject to that provision, so that the Land Board will have power to impose improvement conditions, should it think fit to do so. That applies only to leases which come under the Ordinance; the provision could not be made to apply to the leases until the lessees elected to come under the Ordinance.
– The provisions can be made to apply only to leases granted subsequent to the passing of this Bill.
– It will apply to leases which are brought under the Ordinance by surrendering them. As soon as they come under the provisions of this Ordinance, this clause will apply. The South Australian leases were tak en over subject to the then existing conditions. Seeing that the object of the Bill is to do away with the harsh improvement conditions, which have proved a bar to the progress and settlement ofthe Northern Territory, it would be better if the honorable member did not press his amendment. The Government cannot accept it, as it is in conflict with the idea embodied in the Bill, that we shall not press for improvements on rigid lines, but shall obtain them by other means.
– Does clause 89 apply to all these leases ?
– I have not had time to study the position closely, but I understand that that clause does not affect the position we are considering. It does not apply between the Crown and lessees, but solely between lessee and lessee.
.- The Minister (Mr. Atkinson) has not given the Committee much information. He certainly said that clause 89 had no bearing on the leases.
– I said I understood that that was so.
– The Minister ought to be in a position to inform the Committee accurately. We are asked to endorse a certain clause, and we have a right to look to the Minister in charge of the Bill to give us the necessary information. I believe, with the Minister, that the clause has no bearing on existing leases, but in the conditions to be imposed upon pastoralists there is nothing relating to fencing. I refer the Minister to those parts of the Bill relating to cultivation, under the head of “ Agriculture.” Clause 68 says that agricultural leases shall contain reservations, covenants, conditions, and provisions as follows: -
If it is reasonable to enforce such stringent conditions upon the agricultural section of the community, it is fair to enforce them also upon other sections. The agriculturist has to build a home, he has to fence his land and reside on it for a period of the year, and, as prescribed by the Board, he has to cultivate certain portions of its The Minister did not explain that in all leases issued under Commonwealth Acts there are provisions for improvements.
– I said there were such provisions.
– But the Minister did not explain why the Board had power to grant exemption from those improvement conditions. I want the Government to be safeguarded in the future, after it has spent millions of pounds on the building of railways. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) is reported on page 933 of Hansard to have said -
As I have already pointed out, the best of the lands in the Northern Territory are held under South Australian Acts. They are closer to railways already constructed, and are likely to benefit most by railway construction in the immediate future.
If these men will benefit by the construction of a railway, it is logical to have a covenant so that they can be made to improve their land according to scientific requirements and the progress of pastoral development. I admit that in many instances, under present conditions, it would be impracticable and unfair to. ask people to make improvements, but with the advent of railways that objection could be entirely dismissed. The railways will go through timbered country, and it will be to the advantage of the pastoral industry as a whole to have the land fenced.When a man holds 10,000 or 12,000 square miles of country he will hesitate as long as possible before fencing it. There should be a clause in the Bill so that when the railway is built lessees can be compelled to improve their land. It is idle for the Minister to say that they will naturally do these things. Some of them have been there for 50 years, and have done nothing to improve their land. It is very significant that the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) has not spoken on this Bill, although he went through the country. Is the Minister in charge of the Bill afraid that the Minister for Works and Railways, being a practical man, may tell the Committee what he has seen? I am satisfied that if he would tell the Committee what he saw on his recent trip, a different complexion would be put on the matter. Apparently he has been designedly prevented from speaking. Some of the holders will not. even put a pick in the ground to conserve water. They rely entirely on the. permanent waters, and will continue to do so until the end of their leases. The Minister has told us that the stocking conditions will force them to make improvements. I reiterate that it is impossible for any one to form an intelligent estimate of the stocking conditions of any lease of 10,000 square miles of land without an ounce of. water on it. When dealing with such land one must say- that its carrying capacity is nil, but the Minister for Works and Railways knows that a little expenditure of money and energy by the station owners would so improve.it that it would be capable of carrying thousands of stock.
– The improvement conditions have driven people away from the Territory.
– The improvement conditions have never been complied with; so how can- they have driven people away? The Minister’s statement, on. the face of it, is absurd.
– If the lessees had been pressed, they would have had to leave the Territory.
– Some of them have been 20 or 30 years there, and have not been “ pressed.” It takes a long time to press them. Seeing that these people have been exempted from making improvements, the Government could continue toexempt thorn until the provision of railway facilities makes improvements practicable. I fail to see any logical reason why I should withdraw the amendment I have submitted.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) should be able to see that his proposal would not make leasehold property in the Northern Territory more inviting. Even now the tendency is not for people to go there, but for them to leave. If the improvement conditions were enforced, many people would have to leave. The honorable member has had much to say about the smaller man. I suppose the smaller man would be the holder of not more than 400 square miles.
– The average is from 700 to 1,000 square miles.
– Under the covenant that the honorable member proposes it would be possible for a lease to contain a provision to compel the holder of 400 square miles of land to erect 80 miles of fencing. The Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) has recently approved of the erection of 40 miles of fencing by the lessees of Avon Downs Station.
– That is in the tablelands country, and that station has no timber on it.
– The fencing consisted of posts, three wires, and droppers, and it cost £50 a mile. In other parts of the Territory fencing may not be as dear as that, but the figure I have quoted will convey to honorable members an idea of what the proposal would involve for the small man.
– That statement refers to existing conditions. The Minister knows that he is misleading the House, there being not a stick of timber on the tablelands country. With railways in the Territory, the proposition would be quite different.
Mr.ATKINSON. - In view of the immense cost of cartage in the Northern Territory, the small man, if compelled to fence his. property; would be driven out of the Territory. ; He could not possibly stand theexpense.
– That is so, under present conditions.
– When present conditions are altered it will be time enough to alter the Ordinance and to come into line with the honorable member’s proposal.
– Even if the amendment is carried, will it not be possible for the Board to waive the condition in the lease until such time as it considers the enforcement of it would be practicable?
– I dare say it would, because the honorable member’s proposal says, “ Covenant to fence as prescribed.” If the Board and the Government of the day so decided, it need not be enforced. That is another argument for not inserting an unnecessary clause. I cannot see my way to accept the amendment on any grounds. In the South Australian leases the Government do not guarantee the correctness of the boundaries, but retain the right to correct them when surveys are completed. If the land is not surveyed, why should the Crown be put to the expense of making a heavy survey to delimit the boundaries to be fenced? When the leases are granted they are granted approximately, and are worked out from a given point. Our main endeavour is to attract settlers to the Northern Territory, and this Bill is more likely to achieve that end than if we were to impose harsh improvements conditions since those which arc in operation at present are not working satisfactorily.
– They have never been enforced.
– If settlers are not attracted and those who have settled there are threatening to leave when such conditions are not enforced, howmuch worse would it be if they were enforced?
– Whatwould be the position if a railway were constructed’?
– It is intended to construct railways anddevelop the Territory.
– During this century, or the next?
– Whatever this Government say they aregoingto do will be done as soon as possible. As the proposalof the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) is im- practicable and contrary to the principles embodied in the Bill, it cannot be accepted by the Government.
.- I trust the Minister (Mr. Atkinson) will adhere to the Bill in the interest of the development of the Northern Territory, The provision desired by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) is impossible under present conditions.
– That is the honorable member’s opinion.
– No, it is the opinion of every one who knows anything of a practical nature concerning the development of such country, and it is the experience of the Lands Departments of several States in the Commonwealth which have interior areas to be developed. The enforcement of such a provision would retard the development of the Northern Territory and would interfere with the settlement of large tracts of back country in several of the adjoining States.
– Men who are conver sant only with the conditions in the metropolitan area do not realize the reason. It is the outcome of 50 or 60 years’ experience.
– Whose experience?
– Of the Lands Depart ments in several of the States, including South Australia. In the early days South Australia had a similar provision, and it was in every sense a dead letter, or even worse. Instead of insisting on improvements in the outside country, we should impose stocking conditions, which’ would mean that the country would be used. If improvements are insisted upon the successful development of the country will be impossible. I ask the honorable member for the Northern Territory if he will not agree that fencing conditions would be an absolute bar to anybody taking up new leases, and would make it practically impossible for the present holders to continue?
– Under present conditions, the answer to the honorable member’s question is, Yes.
– I should like to place the assurance of men who understand the position in the Northern Territory against that of ‘the honorable member who does not. He has not had sufficient experience to enablehim to understand it.
– That statement is made in total ignorance of, the facts. I said that under present conditions improvement conditions were impossible, but with the advent of a railway they could be enforced.
– Very well. With the advent of a railway there would be a little more reason in it, but in other States which have inside country to develop and where railways have already been provided, it has been found that if improvement conditions had, been enforced the lessees would have been compelled to throw up their holdings. The first requisite is the occupancy and use of the land by stocking. There is no occasion to enforce this exacting condition, which if given effect to would desolate the Territory.
– It is practically desolate now, is it not?
– The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) knows a little of the country within a radius of 100 miles of Adelaide, but nothing concerning the land 500 or 600 miles to the north of that city, which would not be returning the wool it is to-day if such an absurd provision as that proposed had been enforced. If some of the leases had. to. be fenced, it would involve the expenditure of a sum which even those with ample capital could not afford, and if that is the case, what would be the position of smaller holders with limited capital? They would be starved out, and would have to abandon their leases.
– Does the honorable member mean the men who met at. Scott’s Hotel ?
– I am speaking common sense, and donot intend to commentonthe rubbish spoken concerning the meetings at Scott’s Hotel. Stocking the land means utilizing it, and those who can command a certain amount of capital will, so soon as it is a payable proposition, fence their holdings. If we compelled them to provide such improvements today, it would cost them ten times more than the country is worth.
– My amendment does not make it compulsory.
– The honorable member said a little while ago that improvement conditions could be enforced if a railway were . constructed. We should first construct a railway, and then talk about fencing. We. shouldnot ask the settlers to do what is practically impossible. The honorable member could not render a greater disservice to the Northern Territory than to advocate such a provision. The men of limited means, who cannot command the necessary capital, are holding their leases until a railway is constructed.
– My amendment is, “ as prescribed.”
– If the conditions are reasonable, they will be able to hold on, and possibly some day make money. I ask honorable members to consider the proposal of the honorable member, who says that his amendment includes the words “ as prescribed.” What does that mean ?
– What the Board prescribes.
– No. Parliament, and not the Board, will prescribe. Does the honorable member think that Parliament will allow the Board to lay down the conditions affecting the development of the Northern Territory? TheBoard is to administer what Parliament provides. Assuming the Government prescribed that a boundary fence had to be erected, what is a boundary fence in the Northern Territory ? What would it cost ? “ Fencing conditions as prescribed.” What does it mean ?
– What it says.
– The honorable member has only a vague conception of what it means, because such things cannot be learned in the metropolitan area. The Government have been sinking bores for some years, and it costs a good deal more to cart and erect a boring plant on the site than it does to sink the bore.
– What has that to do with boundary fencing ?
– The honorable member is yet another who is more conversant with the conditions in the metropolitan area than in the way-back country. If it means the expenditure of more capital to provide and transport a boring plant to the site than to actually sink a bore, it would necessarily cost more to supply and cart the fencing material to the site than to erect the fence.
– The cost of transport is 2s. 9d. per ton per mile.
– Yes. Will honorable members agree to the inclusion of such a, ridiculous provision in the Bill, which would be the mean’s of seriously retarding development? It will drive men out rather than encourage them. “ Fencing as prescribed “ may mean not only boundary fences, which would be bad enough, and useless enough in cattle country, but also fencing into paddocks. The more one looks at this amendment the more ridiculous, absurd, and. impossible it becomes. The day will come when sheep will take the place of cattle in the Northern Territory, and honorable members will find then that the men who occupy the land will put the improvements there.
– You are quite right there.
– The honorable member for Adelaide is improving wonderfully this session. When I have educated him a little more in the ways of the Never-Never, he will be a most valuable member of the House. When men with capital find that it will pay to improve the land, they will improve it, and they will not do it before. The history of the development of our pastoral areas shows that the greater the improvements, the , greater is the carrying capacity of the land, and, therefore, the greater are the profits. Men who command capital will put sheep on the Territory land, or subdivide it into smaller areas for cattle, as soon as they find that it will be profitable to do so, and they will do it without being asked to do it. Itrust that the Committee, for the sake of its reputation for common sense, will not agree to such a wild and silly amendment.
– I am afraid that the Minister in charge of this Bill (Mr. Atkinson), and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) have entirely missed the point of the argument advanced by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). While we may admire the enthusiasm of the honorable member for Wakefield, we cannot help realizing that he fails to visualize the position that may arise if leases are granted without improvement conditions. I strongly support the view submitted by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. The argument is frequently used in this chamber that the construction of railway lines in new country leads to development and closer settlement. We are legislating tonight for the years that are to come. The leases which will be granted under this measure will not expire until 1965. In the meantime the North-South railway line may be built. Several undertakings that were made at the time of Federation, such as the building of the Federal Capital, and the construction of the East-West railway line, have been, and are being, honored, and it is quite within the bounds of possibility that the next five or ten years may see the completion of the North-South railway line. Honorable members have, therefore, to take cognizance of the position that will then arise respecting the leases which will be granted under the provisions of this Bill. We should provide that the lessees must improve their holdings after the construction of the railway line.
– The lessees will do it themselves.
– The view of honorable members on this side of the chamber on that question is different from the view held by the honorable member for Wakefield. The electorate which I represent should be closely settled. Our experience has been interesting. Over 30 years ago railways were built in the outlying country in that electorate, in order to increase the settlement on the land, but closer settlement has not followed.
– What sort of “ mugs “ hold the country, that they do not use it?
– The sort of “ mugs” who support the honorable member. Because of these experiences many complaints are heard to-day about the drift of population from the country to the city. Large areas of land in Australia are not available for the young Australian, and therefore he cannot remain in the country. I defy any honorable member to say that there has not been in every State in Australia a huge expenditure of public money on railways which have been built practically under false pretences.
– That has certainly happened in New South Wales.
– And also in Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) is not in a position to cast reflections upon the Legislatures of the mainland States, for he represents a State that comes regularly cap in hand to the Commonwealth Treasurer for financial assistance because the Government of his State has not taxed its wealthy squatters.
– That is not right. Figures do not bear it out.
– It is essential to make provision for the development of the Northern Territory leasehold lands after the North-South railway line is constructed. That railway line will be built by public money, and - as in the case of the East-West line, which is operated at a loss of about £60,000 every year - the electors all over Australia will have to bear the loss which its working will incur. In those circumstances itis only right that the people who reap the benefits from it shall improve their land. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has not made a revolutionary proposal. Every lease that is granted in New South Wales has attached to it improvement conditions prescribed by the Minister, on the advice of the surveyors.
– So have the leases granted in every State that has inside land.
– By the time the North-South railway line is built a good deal of development may have occurred in the Northern Territory. Mineral deposits may be discovered, for instance, which will cause land to become very valuable. It is most significant that the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), who journeyed through this country a few weeks ago, has not spoken during this debate. As a member of the Cabinet he cannot oppose his colleagues on the measure, and he is man enough not to stand up and tell deliberate lies to the Committee. If he opened his mouth he would have to support the views expressed by the honorable member for the Northern. Territory.
– The honorable member has no right to say that.
– I have. The honorable member for the Northern Territory stated deliberately that during the visit of the Minister for Works and Railways and himself to the Territory scarcely a man spoke to them who did not ask for improvement conditions to be put into the leases.
– The honorable member knows that it is not the custom for several Ministers to speak on one Bill.
– I challenge the Minister incharge of the Bill to bring the Minister for Works and Railways into the Chamber.
– There is no need to do so, for there is nothing to reply to.
– The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) had to be brought in to make a speech on this measure the other day, so where is the Minister’s consistency? The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) and myself quoted in this House recently innumerable instances of damage done to the western division of New South Wales, by the “Kidman blight.” Miles of fences in those out-back areas were deliberately torn down because unpatriotic Australian land monopolists refused to pay the wages and to observe working conditions awarded by an independent tribunal. They said, “No longer will we be at the mercy of the Australian Workers Union. We will cut out sheep and run cattle on the land.” The price of cattle has dropped, however, and these gentlemen now come to the Government, cap in hand, to ask for help. We should not barter away the birthright of the people in dealing with the Northern Territory lands. When the railway is built, it will be possible for the Northern Territory leaseholders to make reasonable improvements. Only reasonable improvements would be asked for by any Minister. If we are not careful, we shall find the same state of affairs in the Northern Territory that exists in some of the States. Public money will be spent on gigantic railway projects, and the Jowetts and the Kidmans, through whose land these railways will go, will notbe under any obligation to improve their holdings.
– Mr. Jowett has spent immense sums of money in improving his holdings.
– And he has got immense profits from them.
– But have these people yet paid their land tax?
– No. They have repudiated taxation placed on them by this Parliament; but that, of course, is beside the question. Because some of the leaseholders occupy 10,000 square miles or more of country, the Minister has told us that fencing would be impossible. I must remind him that these men receive enormous profits from their enormous holdings, and that when the railway is constructed it will run through their country for hundreds of miles.
– We hope it will soon be built.
– I think that the great majority of honorable members on this side of the Committee are in favour of the Government doing its duty with respect to any promise that may have been made to the people of South Australia, in the same way that it kept the promise made to the people of Western Australia. No one could have supported the building of the East-West railway line as a business proposition, but honorable members supported it because an understanding was entered into with the people of Western Australia that it would be built. The same kind of understanding is supposed to exist with the people of South Australia.
– It does exist.
– The understanding with the people of Western Australia was not nearly so definite as that with the people of South Australia.
– I remember reading a report of a debate in another place in which it was vigorously contended that there was no understanding.
– That was entirely wrong.
– From the point of view of honorable members representing South Australian constituencies, I suppose everything that is detrimental to the interests of that State is wrong. It is generally accepted, however, that an obligation rests upon this Parliament to Construct the North-South railway line. I donot think, therefore, that we should handicap ourselves in respect to these leases by failing to make provision that they shall be improved after the railway is built. The honorable member for the Northern Territory is not asking for anything unreasonable. He has pointed out that the improvement conditions may be waived until the proper time for their enforcement. I presume that the Minister who will have the administration of this measurewill seek the advice of the Board before attempting to enforce any improvement conditions. We know that all the Governments of Australia have treated the large land-holders very well - much better, in fact, than they have treated the small land-holders. The holders of large areas of land are being treated better in this Bill than the holders of smaller areas. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has rightly pointed out that drastic conditions are proposed formen who will occupy land for agricultural purposes. They will be obliged to cultivate certain areas, and to construct certain fences. The honorable member for Wakefield made no complaint about that. He is not fighting for the small landholder.
– I will tell the honorable member for Gwydir presently how ridiculous that provision is.
– Why did not the honorable member tell the Minister about it when he was speaking? If the land is worth holding the Government should see that proper safeguards are included in this Ordinance to ensure the improvement of these holdings.
– There are proper safeguards provided for in clause 25.
– The Government relies upon the fact that certain stocking conditions are provided for, and the Minister contends that it would be ridiculous to make the provision for improvements which the honorable member for the Northern Territory suggests.
– I have already said that in paragraph j of clause 25, we do provide sufficiently for improvements.
– Under the paragraph to which the Minister refers, it is provided that leases under the Ordinance shall contain amongst other things - any other reservations, covenants, conditions, and provisions which are prescribed, and which are considered by the Board tobe necessary under the circumstances of any particular case.
But the Minister is not likely to prescribe a condition for a lease which he now says is ridiculous. Unless the provision is specifically included in the Ordinance we cannot expect that the Government will prescribe it. I am confident that the successors of the present Government will, after public money has been expended in the construction of a railway through the Northern Territory, bitterly rue that expenditure if no provision is included in the Ordinance to enable them to force leaseholders in the Territory to improve their leases; and I am speaking as a land-holder possessing the freehold of agricultural and grazing land, which is taxed at the rate of1s. per acre.I venture to say that no other section of land-holders in Australia pays taxation as high as that paid by holders of agricultural and grazing land in the district in which I live. I am not speaking without experience in this matter when I say that what is retarding the progress of country districts in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia, is the fact that men are allowed to hold large areas of land without adequately improving them. Many of these large holders of land will not even build a decent house for their employees to live in. It is most difficult to induce the holders of the largest areas tocarry out improvements. These are held very often by companies whose shareholders are in Great Britain and other parts of the world, and are represented here only by managers. The passing of this measure andthe possibility of the construction of the North-South railway will probably lead to speculation in land in the Northern Territory. Big companies, represented here only by managers, will probably be formed to take up the country. They will put a few stock on the runs, and let them roam at will. They will not bother to fence or otherwise improve the areas they hold. They will carry out only the most meagre improvements, as is done by those holding land in the western district of New South Wales, which is at present suffering from the evil effects of the “ Kidman blight.” So long as these people make profits, Australians may starve. The reason the large holders in the western district of New South Wales have changed from the grazing of sheep to the grazing of cattle is because they are disloyal to their own people. They employ only one or two boundary riders, and three or four gins on a station. These are the pioneers, and not the Kidmans and Jowetts and the pastoralists who meet at Scott’s Hotel. These gentlemen are the persons who believe in private enterprise, but yet, on every occasion when they think they can get a little out of the Commonwealth, they come to this Parliament with their hats in their hands. They will not pay the legitimate taxation imposed by this Parliament, and the present Government is assisting them to avoid its payment. We on thisside desire that the birthright of Australians yet unborn shall be preserved for them. I am supporting the amendment because I believe that those who will reap the benefit of immense expenditure upon railway construction in. the Northern Territory later on should be prevented from allowing the country to remain a wilderness during the currency of their leases. If the land is of the quality which the honorable member for the Northern Territory has led us to believe it is, I do not think that holdings in the Northern Territory should be as large as they are’.
– Everybody knows that, but leases have been granted for them.
– The honorable member desires to perpetuate that condition of things, and, by opposing a condition for improvements in the leases, would hamper the efforts of any Government in the future to alter it. The amendment is not moved with any view to personal gain, because it is very unlikely that any honorable member on this side will have any interest in the Northern Territory except to legislate for its advancement. We are here, however, as representatives of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, who will be taxed to pay for the construction of a railway through the Territory, and, once leases are granted under this Ordinance, we will have no power to force the lessees to improve their holdings. The railway, when constructed, will go through large areas utilized only for the grazing of cattle, and they will provide but very little revenue for the line. If the Government of the day is in a position to compel lessees to improve their runs to fit them for the grazing of sheep, a much larger revenue can be expected from the line. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) tells us that there is good country there, capable of supporting a great many people on smaller areas than are now held, but the big lessees will hold their country under this Ordinance, and, if any attempt is made later on to vary the terms of their leases to secure the adequate improvement of the runs, they will raise the cry of repudiation. I hope that the Minister will, by accepting the amendment, take the necessary steps now to safeguard the future interests of the people. If the amendment is not acceptable in the form in which it has been submitted, the Minister might draft an amendment which he would consider satisfactory. He could take the power to prescribe from time to time certain area’s which must be “ fenced or otherwise suitably improved.” Honorable members should bear in mind that we are dealing with Crown lands, and are contemplating the expenditure of millions in railway construction in the Territory which will greatly improve the value of the lands held by the pastoral lessees. That being so, we should have the right to force those lessees to carry out improvement conditions which will tend to make the railway pay.
– I hope that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) will press his amendment. It is simple, and would be very effective. Notwithstanding the perfervid remarks of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), I believe that it would be beneficial in years to come. The honorable member challenged my knowledge of the Northern Territory, but I may inform him that I learned to swim in the Alberta River. I doubt whether the honorable member knows where that river is.
– I do. That is about the only thing the honorable member did in the Northern Territory.
– I do not mind the honorable member twitting me with being a representative of what in South Australia is known as a “ gaslight area,” but I remind him that, when matters affecting industrial areas are under discussion in this House, he always rises in his place and professes to know more about metropolitan areas and industrialism than we do on this side.
– I know one side of the industrial question.
– The honorable member takes a very “ cock-eyed “ view of it. Though the honorable member questioned my knowledge of the Northern Territory, I suppose that he knows little of it himself, beyond what he has read on the subject and what came under his notice as a member of a Government in South Australia. His career for the last 20 years is well known in Adelaide, and I doubt whether during that time he has been very much outside the metropolitan area.
– I have not been very long inside it.
– I am afraid that the honorable member did not properly carry out his job as a representative of the Newcastle district in the South Australian Parliament.
– It extends right up to the Northern Territory.
– I doubt very much whether the honorable member went in the direction of the Northern Territory beyond Oodnadatta.
– I did.
– Then we may grant the honorable member a little knowledge of the subject. He has told us that men with only a little money cannot make improvements on their holdings, and that those who have a great deal of money will make improvements when they believe they are needed. I challenge the honorable member to say whether it is not a fact that Tom Butterfield, the present member for Newcastle in the South Australian House of Assembly, who, I presume, does know something about the northern areas of South Australia, moved for a Royal Commission last year to go into the question of the non-compliance by lessees in that part of South Australia with the conditions of their leases. He complained of their neglect to keep improvements made with the taxpayers’ money in a proper state of repair.
– The improvements were made by the lessees themselves.
– The original lessees may have made the improvements, but the leases fell in to the Government with the improvements, and were released to others who have neglected to keep them in proper repair.
– And why?
– Because the “Kidman blight “ has extended over a certain portion of South Australia, as well as over the western portion of New South Wales. Some such safeguard as the honorable member for the Northern Territory proposes should be included in the Ordinance as an evidence of the fact that in this Parliament we look forward a little. Some of these leases will extend for 42 years.
– And the present lessees will be given a preference for their release after that time has expired.
– That is so. The honorable member for Gwydir reminded us that the railway would be built before the present leases mature. An immense sum of public money must be expended on that undertaking, so it is desirable that the lessees should be required to do something, in view of the added facilities for profit-making which will have been furnished at the public’s expense, to conserve the interests of the general taxpayer. It is only a reasonable safeguard, and one which, I am sure, the honorable member for Wakefield would provide in the case of his own business. But the railway has not yet materialized. Why has not the honorable member for Wakefield displayed more energy in this matter, seeing that he represented part of the Northern Territory in the South Australian Parliament for many years, and has been in this Parliament ever since he was turned down in his own State ?
– I fought tooth and nail against the proposal to part with the Territory.
– I want to see more of this tooth-and-hail fighting on the part of the honorable member. I am afraid he cannot scratch very deeply, or he would have moved something before now. More Ministers for Home and Territories and Works and Railways have come from South Australia than from any other State, yet we have not got what Western Australia secured within a few years, simply because that State was represented by a man who fought tenaciously for its interests.He played the “ Pear’s Soap “ trick in this Parliament, and got what he wanted. As a representative of a metropolitan area., I want this Parliament to realize its responsibility, and build the North-South railway, not because I have anything to gain personally, but because I think it is about time we began this big national undertaking. If I were in the position of the honorable member for Wakefield, I would be asking this Government, in season and out of season, why the railway was not being built. When the Government policy was brought down without any reference to this national undertaking, I suggested that the honorable member for Wakefield should move, and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) should second, the Address-in-Reply, in order to be able to twit the Government with not having recognized their obligation to South Australia in respect of the NorthSouth line.
– The Hughes Government adopted the North-South railway as part of its policy.
– I am aware of that, but the honorable member did not “prod” the Hughes Government sufficiently.
– The honorable member should do some “ prodding “ now.
– I am” prodding “ the honorable member, because I want to see the consummation of his efforts before he passes hence. I should not like . him to be disappointed. He was present at the ceremony of turning the first sod for the East-West railway at Port Augusta, and as an honoured guest and one of the speakers, he expressed the hope that the’ wheel-barrow used on that occasion would be preserved and used again for the turning of the first sod of the North-South line.
– I hope so still.
– I wonder where the wheel-barrow is now ?
– Order! I must ask the honorable member for Adelaide to confine his remarks to the clause.
– I hope I am doing so, Mr. Chairman. If that wheel-barrow is still in existence it may be used for turning the first- sod of the North-South line, which will improve the values of these pastoral . leases. Unfortunately, the South Australian members representing the northern districts have nob put forward their best efforts to see this project carried through to completion. Can they say what has become of the machinery used for the construction of the East-West line ?
– It is all there still.
– Yes, and it has been rusting for years, notwithstanding that we have had many National or Economy Governments in the Federal Parliament.
– The honorable member is again digressing.
– I am sorry, Mr. Chairman, that you do not follow the ramifications of my argument. I can assure you that it is connected with these Northern Territory leaseholds. However, I shall pursue this subject at a more opportune time. The amendment submitted by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) asks that the Government shall call upon the lessees to fence the land as prescribed by the Board.
– The Board will not prescribe, as the honorable member suggests.
-Then the Government will prescribe in the regulations tobe promulgated, and I suggest that when the next Labour Government are in power I hope I shall be supporting them from the Ministerial benches - they will see to it that the regulations are of a beneficial nature.
– And they may build the North-South line, which the previous Labour Government failed to do.
– The previous Labour Government built the East-West line, the only railway in Australia that is owned, not by the British bond-holder, but by Australia. I can assure the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) that, as a supporter of the next Labour Government, I shall not fall down on the job in urging the Government to bisect Australia with a railway running north and south. Turning to the amendment, it is, I submit, right that the lessees should be obliged to do as suggested. It will not hamper the Government in their dealings with the pastoral lessees of the Northern Territory. Surely the Government are entitled to prescribe the manner in which leaseholds shall be fenced ? With regard to land held under agricultural leases, there is no hesitancy on the part of the Government. . The conditions proposed are more drastic than those suggested by the amendment in respect of pastoral leases. Clause 68, which deals with the terms and conditions of agricultural leases, provides -
In addition to the matters provided for in Division 1 of this Part, agricultural leases shall contain reservations, covenants, conditions, and provisions as follows : -
A covenant, in the case of lands for mixed farming or grazing, by the lessee that he will stock the land to the extent prescribed by the regulations, and will keep the land so stocked ;
A covenant by the lessee that he will establish a home on the land within two years after the commencement of the lease, and, subject to any exemption granted by the Board for cause shown, that he will thereafter reside on the leased land for a period of six months in each year in the case of land for cultivation, and four months in each year in the case of the land for mixed farming and grazing.
– Those conditions are in all closer settlement, leases.
– I suggest that the habitues of Scott’s Hotel, Melbourne, who evidently will be represented on the Board, never . live in the Northern Territory. The honorable member knows them. One of those who attended the meetings there was Senator Greene. Has he ever seen the Northern Territory?
Mr.Foster. - Does the honorable member think that the rubbish he is talking will help the Northern Territory?
– I hope it will help the Committee to a proper understanding of the rights of posterity, as the honorable member for Gwydir so aptly put it just now. Clause 68 provides, further, that an agricultural lease shall contain -
– They will never get any one to take up the land.
– I do not know, but I am optimistic enough to think that the members of the Board, as common-sense men, will hot impose unreasonable provisions upon the holders of agricultural leases, or do anything to drive people off the land. The provisions of clause 68 will not frighten prospective ‘ leaseholders, especially if they have reason to believe that the North-South railway will be constructed. We have spent many thousands of pounds on developmental railways, but, unfortunately, in many cases, land for miles along railway lines is being held but of use. Consequently, those railways are losing propositions. Unhappily, owing to the conditions under which the land is held there is no power to resume it, except by paying exorbitant prices. The experience of the Queensland Government has demonstrated that we cannot get money from London unless we ‘ ‘ come to heel “ in regard to the conditions under which pastoral areas are held under leases made many years ago. Notwithstanding what may be done to develop the Northern Territory, even this Bill provides that any re-appraisement of leasehold values must not exceed the rentals paid prior to the re-appraisement by more than 50 per cent. We are assured by honorable members supporting the Government that the lessees would not remain on their holdings unless these concessions were granted.
Paragraph d of clause 68, already referred to, also requires an agricultural lessee to fence the land “ as prescribed”. This is all that the honorable member for the Northern Territory is asking in respect of pastoral leaseholds. The agrarian will be called upon to do what the Government are not prepared to make the pastoralists do.
– Does the honorable member assume that many agrarians are likely to go to the Northern Territory?
– That is a question I will answer without notice when I become a Minister. Paragraph e requires a covenant by the lessee that he will observe and comply with the regulations under the Ordinance. Those are the restrictions placed on the agrarians. The Government do not mind putting the iron heel on the poor “ cocky,” but for the habitues of Scott’s Hotel the straw must be put in the drink every time. The amendment is not asking for more than ought to be done. The Minister should not oppose the honorable member representing the Northern Territory, who has seen the country and knows the leases there and the opportunities there are for extension of settlement. Last week’ the House listened attentively to the honorable member for Bass, advancing reasons for building a railway through the Territory, and I think every honorable member acquiesced in the conclusion that he had made out a good case on the knowledge he had gained through one trip through the country about which he was speaking. As a matter of fact, honorable members generally were prepared to accept his advice, but here we have the Minister opposing the advice of a man who has spent his life in the Territory, who knows the land about which he is talking, and who indicates what he in his wisdom thinks will bring about that development we all hope to see in the Territory in the future. The Minister really could not put up any argument to the contrary, and the honorable member for Wakefield, who attempted to do so, merely spoke in broad generalities, saying that the “ shy bird “ would take flight. I once read that Sir Joseph Cook made the remark that we must be careful of that shy bird, the capitalist, or else he would fly away from our shores, yet almost immediately afterwards we found capitalists standing on chairs to get in through the windows of the offices of the Metropolitan Board of
Works, so anxious were they to subscribe to a loan which was over-subscribed in two hours. As a matter of fact, one has only to hold out a bait and capitalists come at it like hungry fish. I want the Minister to show a little statesmanship and a broad outlook and to accept an amendment which is designed to improve the Bill and benefit Australia.
.- We have had a long, earnest, and, at times, eloquent discussion upon the rights and wrongs of this Bill, but I want to know whether it is a measure that cannot be altered except by the deliberate’ act of this Parliament, or whether it is merely an Ordinance subject to alteration at any time at the will of the Minister. The Northern Territory is now governed by Ordinances.
– The Ordinance contained in this Bill will be issued as an Ordinance. It was introduced as a schedule to a Bill in order to give the House an opportunity to discuss such an important subject as a land policy for the Northern Territory.
– Clause 6 of the Bill reads -
The Ordinance may be amended, added to, or repealed by, Ordinances made under the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910, as if it were an Ordinance made under that Act.
In spite of the long schedule of amendments submitted by the Minister, and the very earnest discussion we have had clause by clause in order to do the best we can for the Northern Territory, the measure before us is nothing more than an Ordinance that can be altered from time to time by the Minister.
– The Northern Territory is governed by Ordinances, and not by Acts of Parliament, but this Ordinance was introduced as a schedule to a Bill in order to give Parliament an opportunity to settle the terms of it. When it passes the Committee stage it will be issued in the ordinary way as an Ordinance for the Northern Territory.
– If it is an Ordinance it is not a Bill, and if it is a Bill it is not an Ordinance.
– What has that to do with the terms of the measure?
– No Minister can break the spirit or the letter of an Act of Parliament, but an Ordinance can be amended, added to, or repealed by Ordinances made under the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910. Therefore, whatever this House may decide, if the Minister in his judgment determines to issue an Ordinance to the contrary it can be done in the usual way by laying the amending Ordinance on the table of the House for the prescribed time, after which it becomes operative, unless, in the meantime, objection is taken by a majority of the House.
– Cannot this Parliament alter an Act of Parliament as often as it chooses to do so? In any case, the Government cannot break the leases given.
– I thought that I had the Chair.
– I thought that the honorable member was asking for information.
– I was asking for information. I was anxious to know whether we were considering a measure that could only be altered by the deliberate act of this Parliament, or whether it was merely an Ordinance that could be altered by the Minister in the usual way in which Ordinances are issued. If the Minister can, on the recommendation of his officers, or for any other reason, alter any of the provisions of this measure by issuing an Ordinance and laying it on the table of the House for the prescribed time, we are now, to a large extent, beating the air. The Minister now assures me that this will not be an Act, but that it will be issued as an Ordinance which may be amended, added to, or repealed by Ordinances made under the Northern Territory (Administration) Act, so that whatever amendments we pass, or whatever discussions we may nave, will go by the board if, in the opinion of the Minister and his officers, it is necessary to amend anything we agree to now.
– This is a Bill embodying an Ordinance, and was introduced into this House on the 30th July, 1923. The Government had issued an Ordinance, and it had been lying on the table almost up to the day when it would automatically become law, before objection was taken to it by the honorable member for the Northern
Territory (Mr. Nelson), who took the opportunity afforded to him to criticize it. As a matter of fact, the terms of this Ordinance were settled by the Hughes Government, and, as the present Government had no desire to score an advantage over any one, it took the course of introducing a Bill embracing the Ordinance as drawn up by the previous Administration, and giving the House an opportunity to thoroughly debate what should be the land policy for the Northern Territory.
– It was introduced last year by the present Government as an Ordinance, and I protested very strongly against it as an Ordinance.
– The honorable member is quite right in saying that he protested against the Ordinance, but if he had known as much about it then as he knows about it now, he would not have said a word against it, because now he says that the Ordinance is a commonsense arrangement.
– The conditions are; but I still say that it should be a Bill, not an Ordinance. We should have a Land Act for the Territory.
-I differ from the honorable member in that regard. Although it may not be the best system, we always govern territories “by Ordinances, and it would be peculiar to have Ordinances on some subjects, and Acts on others relating to the same Territory. However, when the Bill was introduced in July last, I said -
The Bill now under consideration comes before the House in a somewhat unusual form. The Ordinance to which I have referred appears as a schedule to the Bill. It is not proposed to pass the measure as it stands into law. It is proposed that when honorable members have had an opportunity to determine the terms of the Ordinance, the Bill shall be withdrawn, and the Ordinance as finally determined thereupon promulgated in the ordinary way.
The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten) seems to think that if this measure is promulgated as an Ordinance the Minister can. alter it as he chooses. Such is not the case. Leases or agreements made under the Ordinance will be in just the same position, from the point of view of good faith, as if they were made under an Act of Parliament; and if a Minister wishes to amend the Ordinance he will be obliged to issue a new Ordinance, and lay it on the table of the House for a specified time, after which, if it is not disallowed, it will automatically become law.
– What is the use of objecting ?
– I have seen an Ordinance disallowed by this House. The first Ordinance brought in by the Labour Government led by Mr. Fisher dealing with the Northern Territory was objected to, and the Opposition of the day induced the Government to withdraw it.
– That is the exception that proves the rule.
– On other occasions honorable members have raised objections to Ordinances laid on the table. I do not know that the House has actually disallowed those Ordinances, but honorable members have had the opportunity to deal with them. The unfortunate position, at present, is that this Ordinance was lying on the table of the House, and no one took objection to it until practically the last day before that on which it would automatically become law, and then the honorable member for the Northern Territory was given the opportunity to discuss it. I think that the Government has acted very fairly, for it has given an opportunity to all members to discuss the whole matter. It was made clear that when the terms of the measure had been settled it would be embodied in an Ordinance and promulgated in the usual way.
.- I intend only to deal with salient facts, and not with rambling statements that have nothing whatever to do with the Territory. The Minister was quite in error in saying that Territories are always governed by Ordinances. If he looks at the schedule to the Bill he will see a reference to the Northern Territory Crown Lands Act, which South Australia passed in 1890, and a number of amending Acts. A territory extending over half a million square miles is too great to be governed by means of Ordinances, which are laid on the table of the House for a given period, and which, if not disallowed, then became law. There should be a Land Act for an enormous area like the Northern Territory, so that people may become accustomed to the conditions of land tenure. South Australia has had a Crown Lands Act for the Territory for the last 50 years.
– In practical effect, there is no difference between an Ordinance and an Act.
Mr.FOSTER. - People made a great stir because they did not know what the Ordinance, as originally introduced, provided. When they asked to see the Ordinance, it was found that only three copies existed. I managed to secure one of these, and took it to South Australia. A great deal has been said by way of criticism of Mr. Jowett and Sir Sidney Kidman. As the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) interjected, Mr. Jowett has spent an immense sum of money on the country held by him, and, but for that fact, he would not have made money out of wool. The greater part of his land was taken over from men who walked out bankrupt. He did not pay a penny for improvements which had been insisted on by a Government that subsequently enforced stocking conditions instead of improvements. What led to the ruin of those land-holders was, in the first place’, the low price of wool, and then the rabbit and wild-dog pests. It will require the expenditure of a fortune to bring such holding’s back to a productive condition. The Government cannot put up the improvements, but, it will have to help finance the land-holders.
– It will be necessary to fence land in the Territory to keep back the rabbits.
– It will be impossible to erect fences until railway facilities are provided. I hope that honorable members opposite will be reasonable, and realize that we cannot have closer settlement and small land-holders in the Territory until big men havegone well into the interior and have spent half, a lifetime in blazing the track. Reference has been made to the visit of the Minister for Works and Railways to the Macdonnell Ranges, but we need have no misgivings concerning that country. There will be no occasion for 42 years’ leases in that district, for it is blessed with the finest climate imaginable, and has an annual rainfall of from 10 to 22 inches. It is the sanatorium of the Territory, and Will make ‘the development” of that portion of Australia further north certain. Had South Australia not parted with the Northern Territory there would have been a railway to the’ Macdonnell
Ranges ten years ago, and the country would have been populated to-day. I urge the Committee not to insist’ on improvements being carried out before railway communication is provided.Extensive improvements will come when a railway makes them possible.
– Will they be possible with a railway?
– That is all that we ask.
– Big land-holders in the Territory say that the wealthiest of them will go in for sheep-raising when it is possible to do so.
– The honorable member has come back to my argument.
– If the honorable member desires to desolate the Territory, he cannot advocate a more effective method than that of enforcing improvement rather than stocking conditions when stocking involves absolute use of the land.
.- I. f eel that I have more than an ordinary member’s right to discuss this question, since I represent the whole of that part of Western Australia which has pastoral territory within its borders. A large portion of the Northern Territory is similar to the pastoral country in my own electorate. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) stated, in reply to an interjection, that fencing would be practicable if a railway were provided. I yield to none in my desire to see the outback portions of Australia settled, and I trust that, in order : todisarm the criticism of honorable members opposite, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) will agree to substitute for his amendment the following paragraph, which I shall move, later on, to insert: -
A covenant by the lessee that he will fence the land within a period of five years after railway facilities have been provided within 25 miles from his holding.
That seems to me to be a fair compromise.
– That would not touch the fringe of the Territory.
Mr.A. GREEN.- If the honorable membersuggests that I should say 50 miles instead of 25, I shall consent Without fencing it isimpossible to keep sheep, and theMinister forHome and
Territories (Senator. Pearce) has declared in another place that he desires to see the Territory carrying sheep. Experts agree that a great deal of the country is suitable for the purpose. We know what has happened to theerstwhile beef barons,” who only ran cattle on their big pastoral areas without raising sheep.
– Now they are ruined.
– They had to ask Parliament to grant them a bonus on the export of beef. We voted for that bounty. I shall not be prepared to vote for such a bonus again this year. The whole of the country in Western Australia north of the Tropic ofCapricorn is held by 6,000 people, because the pastoralists there have devoted their energies solely to cattle-raising.I admit that there is a difficulty in raising sheep in the Kimberleys - which is different country from the Barkly Tableland - because the grass seeds make it impossible to run sheep there. It is our duty to see that the Northern Territory is put to its best possible use, and that involves the running of sheep. If we allow pastoralists to hold land for 42 years without any obligation to fence it, they willcontinue to do as Sir Sidney Kidman and others have done - simply stock vast areas with cattle, and have the stations worked by a few blackfellows under the direction of one or two white men. Apart from the problem of settlement, we have to consider the question of defence. The only way to defend our northern shores” is to have a large white populationthere. We have been told that twelvemen in the Northern Territory hold an area of 90,000 square miles, which is larger than Victoria. In Western Australia 24 men have between them an area representing 1,000,000 acres each, and it is by no means the least rich portion of the State. On that basis, 55 men would control an area equal to the whole of Victoria. We should be lacking in our duty to posterity if we did not protest against these huge tracts of country being held by men who do not put the land, to its best use. Neglect to erect fences and make other provision for carrying sheep is not a policy that will commend itself to the people, and if, when the railway has been built, ‘ the -lessees arenot prepared to do something., to stock the land with sheep,
I do not think any honorable member will be justified in voting to allow those men to retain their vast holdings. It may be true, as the Ministor has said, that population is leaving the Northern Territory; but, on the other hand’, land grabbing is increasing from year to year, as these figures prove : In 191 7, 103,000,000 acres was held under pastoral . lease; in 1918, 114,000,000 acres; in 1919, 117,000,000 acres; in 1920, 133,000,000 acres; and in 1921, 136,000,000 acres - an increase of 33 per cent. in four years. Do not honorable members realize that if we do not insist upon the land being put to its best possible use, this land grabbing will continue to increase, and no genuine settlement will be possible? I am not opposed to the pastoralists. I recognize that they pioneer remote areas, but this ‘Parliament has a sacred trust - one might almost say, a trust reposed in it by Providence - to develop the 500,000 square miles of country in the Northern Territory. It is our duty to insist that instead of the laud being monopolized by a few men, who make little use of it, it shall be developed to its utmost capacity.
– The covenant which the honorable member suggests cannot be imposed upon existing leases.
– The Ordinance in this Bill already proposes several- new covenants, and I assume that the Minister knows what he is doing.
– These new conditions can only apply to leases that are brought under this Ordinance. Thebest land is supposed to he held under the South Australian Acts, and the lessees who hold it will not come under this Ordinance unless they elect to do so. We aretryingto get sheep on the land by methodsother than those which the honorable member proposes.
– The methods that the Minister is proposing are similar to those which have failed in the past, except that, in addition, a railway is to be built, at vast expense to the people of the Commonwealth! This Parliament should see that the people get a quid pro quo for such expenditure, by insisting that the men who hold the land shall do something to improve and settle it.
.- If we desire to induce people to settle in the Northern Territory wo should notburden the leases with irksome conditions.Ifa man intends to raise sheep he will be obliged to fence his land; no legislative compulsion will be necessary. Another man may engage in the raising of cattle, and they will be kept within his boundaries by water supplies. It would he infinitely better to allow the settlers to expend their money on the provision of water for cattle than to compel them to waste their substance in fencing the land, where fences are unnecessary. The lessees will fence when they find it necessary, but to compel them to do so would retard settlement.
Amendment (by Mr. A. Green) -
That the following paragraph be added to the clause -
Ayes . . . . . . 16
Noes . . . . . . 29
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 40 agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 June 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240604_reps_9_106/>.