9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read the prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister yet come to a decision on the requestmade by the fellmongers to par ticipate in the wool profitsnow in the hands of Bawra?
– No decision has yet been arrived at. I have received very full representations from the fellmongers, those interested in skin wool, and also the growers. The matter is still under consideration by the Cabinet.
Exemption of Material from Customs Duties.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he has perused the papers in connexion with the action of the Tariff Board in exempting certain material to be used in the construction of the North Shore bridge, Sydney, from Customs duties. If so, will the honorable gentleman make a statement of the position to the House?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– I deeply appreciate the cordiality with which I have been received by honorable members on rising to make a statement in connexion with the first question put to me as a Minister of the Crown. In the circumstances, I hope I may ask my honorable friend to put his question onthe notice-paper.
” Flaming Youth.”
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs seen the report of the strictures passed by Archbishop Duhig upon the picture “ Flaming Youth,” now being shown in Brisbane, published in the Age of Monday? If so, will the honorable gentleman call for a report from the censors in justification of their action in passing such a disgusting picture for exhibition in Australia?
– I have seen the report referred to. Anticipating the honorable member’s question, I am in a position to say that there seems to be some confusion in the Archbishop’s mind of the picture “Flaming Youth” with the volume bearing the same name.
– Not on your life.
– The film is allegedly based on the book, but before the film was passed extensive cuts were made in it by the censorship here.
– Then I should liketo see the cuts !
– The Archbishop’s remarks cannot apply entirely to the film as it was shown in Australia, as he, and possibly the honorable member, would doubtless admit were they to compare the film with the book. The Archbishop may also have been misled by advertisements which cannot be said to describe the film accurately. I have issued the instruction that films shall be handled by the censorship in such a manner that there will be no possibility of misinterpreting them. If the posters or advertisements of films are objectionable, future films will be judged by the standards which the showmen themselves set up.
– In connexion with the unrest amongst business people engaged in the wireless industry, due to the delay in the publication of regulations governing broadcasting, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has yet come to any conclusion as to the nature of the regulations, and if so when will the details be made public?
– Putting wireless broadcasting upon a satisfactory basis is a difficult and complicated matter. I regret the delay necessarily involved in trying to find a satisfactory way out of what is unquestionably a most difficult position. The matter has been very fully considered by the Cabinet, and ft final decision should be given in the course of the coming week.
Cost in Australia and England.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether we are to accept the statement in the press, in connexion with the construction of two cruisers, one in England and one in Australia, that that to be built in Australia will cost approximately a little over 100 per cent. more than that to be built in England, and that its construction will take a considerably longer time. Will the right honorable gentleman, when submitting the proposals of the Government, inform the House of the fundamental reasons why there should be such a discrepancy between the cost of construction in Australia and in England ?
– I have not seen the references in the newspapers to this matter of which the honorable member has made mention, but certainly, at the present moment, no one has any information of a reliable character as to the facts purported to be given. With reference to the second part of the honorable member’s question, whether the Government when introducing its proposals will explain the fundamental reasons which have led them to their conclusions, whatever they may be, I can assure the honorable member that the Government will do so.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
From what official documents did the Auditor-General derive the knowledge that the British Government would receive a share of the £275,000 paid to the Central Wool Committee ?
– The AuditorGeneral has furnished me with the following reply: -
From a perusal of the minutes of the Central Wool Committee of date 3rd October, 1923, by the audit inspector, who examined the Central Wool Committee accounts in the ordinary course of the audit of those accounts.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Utterances in London.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Commonwealth - £200 diminishing by £1 for every £3 by which the income exceeds £200, vanishing at £800.
New South Wales- £250
Victoria - Where the income does not ex ceed £500, £150.
Queensland-£200, less £1 for every complete £4by which the total income exceeds £200. The amount of the super tax on the amount abated for income tax (computed at the rate at which the income tax of the tax payer is computed) is deducted. The exemption vanishes at £1,000.
South Australia - £150
Western Australia-£250 for elderly persons with personal exertion income only (males, 65; females, 60). £200 if the taxpayer is married or has a dependant, the exemption diminishing by £2 for every £ of income in excess of £200, vanishing at £300. £100 in the case of single, &c., individuals, diminishing by £2 for every £1 of income in excess of £100, vanishing at £150.
Tasmania - Married persons and persons with dependants, £156, diminishing by £1 for every £3 by which the income is less than £500. Single persons £125, less £1 for. every £6 by which the income is less than £400.
The figures are not available as at 1st January, 1919.The comparisons for the debt as at 30th June, 1919, and 30th June, 1923, are as follow: - Per capita - 1919, £140 4s. 2d.; 1923, £160 14s. 7. (a) Increase in debt from 30th June, 1919, to 30th June, 1923, £150,302,106.
The Commonwealth has already urged reduction in the rate of Government borrowing. The measures taken by the Loan Council, which was appointed at the suggestion of this Government, and which consists of the Treasurers of the States and Commonwealth, have already imposed a check on loan raisings.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– It is not clear what information the honorable member desires. The law in regard to weights and measures generally is under the jurisdiction of the State and not of the Commonwealth. Possibly the honorable member is referring to the weight of ingots handled at smelting works. If so, the matter may conceivably be one for consideration by the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mr. CUNNINGHAMaked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will he give consideration to the establishment of a Commonwealth Laboratory at Dubbo, New South Wales, in order to serve the needs of the whole of the Western Districts of that State?
– The claims of Dubbo for the establishment of a Commonwealth Laboratory are under consideration in connexion with a programme for the future.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Included in the revenue are earnings of the Nauru-Australia and coastal freights, when the vessels on the Java run were so engaged.
West Adelaide Exchange - Esperance to Grass Patch.
– On the 13th June the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the following question: -
When is it expected that the question of the construction of theautomatic telephone exchange for the West Adelaide suburban district will be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Works.
I am now able to furnish the following reply : -
It is expected that the proposal referred to will be placed before the Standing Committee on Public Works within the next three or four months.
– On the 13th June, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following , questions : -
I now furnish the following replies : -
Cancellation of Contract
– On the 4th June the honorable member forDalley (Mr. Mahony) asked me a question with reference to rumours that the contract for the construction of one of the lighthouse steamers at Cockatoo Island Dockyard had been cancelled. I promised to make inquiries into the matter, and I have now ascertained that the rumour mentioned is not correct. Two steamers for lighthouse services are being constructed at Cockatoo Island. Delivery is expected of the first vessel in about twelve months, and that of the second shortly afterwards.
– On the 13th instant the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) referred to an alleged “ hold up “ of vessels trading between the Eastern and Western States, which was said to be detrimentally affecting Western Australian trade and commerce, and asked whether the Government had official statistics which would show what proportion of men engaged in Australian ships were British subjects, and what proportion were foreigners. I promised to obtain the information if possible. I have since ascertained that of the seamen engaged in Australian ports for service in British ships, including vessels trading overseas, during the year ended 30th June, 1923, 91.8 per cent. were British born. The great majority of these seamen are employed in Australian ships.
– On the 30th May, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) asked the following question : -
Has the Treasurer received a report from the Repatriation Commissioners who visited Adelaide to inquire into the complaints regarding the Bedford Park Sanatorium?
I then replied that the report had not yet been brought under my notice. It has now been received, and I have made arrangements to lay a copy on the table of the library.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Sir Austin Chapman), on the ground of ill health.
– (By leave.) - On Friday last, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) made some complaint about the vessel Port Lyttleton. In accordance with the promise made by the Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom), I submit the following report, which has been made to me : -
The Port Lyttleton, a British oversea steamer owned by the Commonwealth and Dominion Line, while leaving the Tamar, stranded on the Middle Bank on the 22nd January, 1924. She was detained by the Marine Board of Launceston, and, after steps had been taken to support the bulkheads and tank tops in Nos. 1 and 2 holds, by means of shoring, and to install extra pumps, was released by them on 9th February, on the report of the detaining officer, which reads - “ After perusingthe report furnished by Mr. A. McCowan, Lloyd’s surveyor, to the master, J. Ferriss, of the British steamship Port Lyttleton, official No. 114854, now lying at Beauty Point, River Tamar, together with the report of survey made by Mr. E. Smith, engineer surveyor, and also from myown observations, I am of the opinion that the above-named vessel is in a fit state to proceed to Sydney, N.S.W., for the purpose of docking and undergoing repairs.”
An inspection was made on behalf of the Federal Navigation Department by the local engineer surveyor, who reported that he was satisfied that the precautions taken, as far as the shoring up of bulkheads and tanks, and in connexion with pumps, &c., were adequate for a coastal voyage to Sydney for docking purposes.
Lloyd’s principal surveyor from Melbourne, who represented the underwriters, remained at Beauty Point with the vessel from shortly after her stranding till shortly before her departure, and issued the necessary certificate for her departure on behalf of the underwriters and Lloyd’s Register of Shipping.
The Director of Navigation visited the vessel at Beauty Point on two occasions, and made an exhaustive examination of the measures taken to strengthen the bulkhead of the No. 1 compartment, in which the leak existed. Had this compartment filled during the passage to Sydney, the vessel would still have had an ample margin of reserve buoyancy. Two 8-in. centrifugal pumps were fitted in No. 1 compartment, and a special test was made at Launceston. This compartment was allowed to fill, and the pumps were then started. They cleared the water in an hour and a quarter, and one of them working at half speed was then able to keep the hold clear of water.
As a further precaution, a 6-in. motor pump was installed in No. 2 compartment, but was not used.
The vessel was about to make a coastal voyage, in chosen weather; she was equipped with wireless, and hadefficient life-saving appliances. The lifeboats had been examined and placed in the water during the stay of the vessel at Beauty Point. Every precaution which foresight could suggest had been taken to enable the ship to reach Sydney for docking.
The following persons, who were responsible for the reinforcing of the No. 1 compartment and for the pumping arrangements, travelled with the vessel: -
The Marine Superintendent of the Commonwealth and Dominion Line.
The Surveyor to the Marine Underwriters Association of Victoria.
On the voyage to Sydney some loose grain got into the pumps, and, as a measure of seamanlike precaution, the vessel was anchored at Marshall’ s Bay for the purpose of clearing the pumps and jettisoning the remainder of the wheat in the No. 1 compartment.
It should be noted that a vessel might be in a suitable condition to justify the usual sea risks of a coastal trip in selected weather, whereas it would not be justifiable to allow the vessel to make a long sea voyage. The term “ seaworthy,” as applied to a ship, indicates that she is, in every respect, fit for her voyage.
From the evidence available I am satisfied every reasonable precaution was taken to protect the interests of the crew of the vessel.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to make a short statement ?
– I cannot allow an irregular debate to develop. Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to make a short statement?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– (By leave.)- The Port Lyttleton was allowed to leave Beauty Point in an unseaworthy condition, and the proof of that lies in the fact that after being twelve hours at sea she was making water at the rate of 100 tons per hour, and was compelled to put into Flinders Island, in Bass Strait. On arrival there she had 14 feet of water in her hold. Subsequently, in Sydney Harbor, she was condemned as unseaworthy by the officials of the Navigation Department. Her condition to-day is no worse than it was when she was allowed to leave Beauty Point. This matter is too serious to be allowed to drop, and the officers responsible for allowing the vessel to proceed to sea in such a condition shouldbe compelled to give a more satisfactory explanation of their action, or they should be suitably dealt with.
The following papers were presented: -
Arbitration(Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 19 of 1924 - General Division Officers’ Union, Trade and Customs Department.
No. 21 of 1924 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 23 of 1924 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Audit Act - Transfers of Amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - - Financial year 1923-24 - Dated 11th June, 1924.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Port Noarlunga, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Stockton, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1924 - No. 14 - Dingo Destruction.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the action of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), and the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) in signing cheques for the payment of money from the Government Advance to the Australian Meat Council, is a contravention of section 44 of the Constitution., which provides that any person who has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth shall be incapable of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
I offer no apology for adopting this course. As a well-known resident of Sydney, my attention was called to what appeared to my informants an infringement of the Constitution. I do not know why those gentlemen approached me in particular, unless it was because last year I took action to have an honorable member’s vote upon another measure disallowed: Having been informed of an apparent irregularity, I asked these questions of the Prime Minister -
The replies which I received were very unsatisfactory, and for the sake of the honorable members concerned, ;and to preserve the honour of all members of this Chamber, I have been obliged to submit this motion. The answers were -
I do not know when those honorable members were appointed members of the Australian Meat Council ; they may have been appointed prior to their election to this House. On their election they should have resigned from the Meat Council. I am neither a detective nor the Crown Prosecutor, and in this matter have considered first principles only. I endeavoured to get the fullest information possible, and therefore consulted the report of the Auditor-General. In his report that officer stated -
On the 25th September, 1922, the Cabinet approved of a proposed scheme in connexion with the Australian meat trade, and that, on the Treasurer being satisfied as to assurances for repayment, the Commonwealth Government would guarantee an advance up to £50,000 for the purpose of organizing the scheme. An account was opened at the Commonwealth Bank, Sydney, styled the Australian Meat Council Advances Account, into which account the advances made by the Commonwealth were paid and held by the Bank as a guarantee against an overdraft account, which was separately opened under the name of the Australian Meat Council Account and which was operated on by the Council.
I may be wrong, but I consider that the Auditor-General put the full agreement in his report with the special object of drawing attention to it. It ia not right that certain honorable gentlemen who are members of this House should have the right to operate on a Government account. The account cannot be operated on without their signatures. Such a power should not have been placed in the hands of members of this House. The Attorney-General will not deny that the agreement was drawn- up by the Crown Law officers, yet that agreement contains the following provisions : -
That means that the chairman of the Meat Council signs a cheque in the same way as the chairman of an ordinary business directorate, and that the two other gentlemen, who have the power to sign, and who have a pecuniary interest in the meat business, axe in the same position as if the concern were an ordinary company. The persons concerned in this agreement have absolute control of the meat industry. Recently I looked up the report of a sale of cattle in Queensland, and found that prices had increased considerably on the rates previously obtaining. The rise was said to be due to the benefits accruing from the transactions of the Government with the Meat Trust. The honorable gentlemen who have the power to operate on the account of the Meat Council are men who themselves are directly connected with the meat industry. And they have looked after their interests very well. Remove from those honorable gentlemen their connexion with matters affecting the meat industry, and, so far as legislative action is concerned, they axe left almost naked. ‘ I am proud of our parliamentary institution, and shall, therefore, do all in my power to maintain its purity, when I feel that its good name is in jeopardy. What power and influence I had I used to advocate Federation, and, from an intimate acquaintance with those who framed the Constitution, I know that they were keenly desirous of preserving inviolate the integrity of Parliament. They knew that the large land-holders, and those connected with cattle-raising and other primary industries, were the men who had done most to injure the reputation of Parliament in the various States. The framers of the Constitution endeavoured to provide protection against such men, and against the formation of breeding grounds for the ill things which are found in every community, particularly in connexion with its banking, insurance, and commercial life. One-half of the inmates of our gaols would not be where they are were it not that opportunities were afforded them to do the things which led to their imprisonment, and, in the framing of the Constitution, every effort was made to provide against opportunities being given for the good name of Parliament to be sullied. Not one of the men responsible for the Constitution would condemn me for my action this afternoon. Section 44 of the Constitution contains the wOrds “ direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth.” The words “ direct or indirect “ include, to my mind, every possible transaction that could be engaged in by the honorable member for Macquarie and the honorable member for Riverina as members of the Australian Meat Council. There is no need to stretch the imagination to realize that. The honorable member for Macquarie and the honorable member for Riverina could not have had a greater power of control over public money than they had over this money, and the words of section 44 to which I have referred could scarcely be more fittingly applied to any actions than to theirs as members of the Australian Meat Council. Let us consider for a few moments the meaning of the word “ pecuniary.!’ Some honorable members may imagine that it may be applied only to payment for such services as blacking one’s boots or brushing one’s clothes. As a matter of fact, it is derived from the Latin word pecunia, which means ‘ ‘ money ; originally property in cattle.” The definition given by Webster is “ relating to or pertaining to money.” In the Oxford Dictionary the definition is “ belonging to, or having relation to money.” Still another definition is, “having regard to money; of which money is the object.” Those definitions indicate that the word has a larger meaning than that which honorable members, as a rule, ascribe to it. It is a good thing that it is in the Constitution, and I offer no objection to it being there, because, after all, we are only frail human beings, and are apt to err. Such a provision is necessary for the general protection. I trust that no effort will be made to minimize the full meaning and intention of section 44 of the Constitution. To do so would not add in any way to the security and protection of our Parliament. I do not profess to be addressing honorable members as a legal man. I am taking a common-sense view of the circumstances of the case. I trust that honorable members generally will act in the same way. It appeared to me that the only way in which I could offer an effective objection to the honorable member for Macquarie and the honorable member for Riverina, being members of the Meat Council, was to move this motion. My action is taken in the interests of the purity of parliamentary life. It seemed necessary to me to act in this way. I have a notion that our governmental affairs are being conducted on loose lines, and in consequence I feel that serious consideration should be given by all honorable members to their responsibility for maintaining a pure and unblemished national life. I assure the honorable members mentioned in my motion that .1 bear no malice towards them. I bear no malice towards any man. I love parliamentary life, and . I love this Parliament. It is for those reasons that I intend to do all that I can to remove any possible opportunity for belittling our Parliament - the pride of our race. Par- liament is our greatest national institution, and anything which has a tendency to throw it down from the pedestal upon which it stands in public estimation should be resisted.
– Honorable” members have listened with attention to the mover of the motion to hear what justification he had for submitting it to the House. To challenge the integrity of any honorable member of this House by such a motion is a very serious thing, for its adoption would result in the expression of our opinion as to the disqualification of the members concerned . Having heard the speech of the honorable member for East. Sydney (Mr. West) I think the House is quite at a loss for the real grounds on which his motion rests. The honorable member’s procedure is quite contrary to that laid down in the Statutes of this Parliament. When the first Commonwealth Parliament assembled no means had been provided for trying questions affecting the validity of elections or the qualifications of members, and on the 5th June, 1901, an Elections and Qualifications Committee was set up. In 1902 this House affirmed its opinion that any question affecting the validity of elections should not be tried in the atmosphere of party politics, and such questions were deliberately referred to the Court of Disputed Returns, which’ is the High Court of Australia. After 1904 no further Elections and Qualifications Committees of this House were constituted, but in 1907 certain differences arose in connexion with a Senate election, and Parliament then went a step further and laid down a definite procedure to be followed in cases affecting qualifications of members or vacancies. In volume 20 of the Statutes for 1922, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-22 will be found. Section 203 of that Act, on page 274, reads as follows : -
Any question respecting the qualification of a senator or of a member of the House of Representatives, or respecting a vacancy in either House of the Parliament may be referred by resolution to the Court of Disputed Returns by the House in which the question arises, and the Court of Disputed Returns shall thereupon have jurisdiction to hear and determine the question.
When any question is referred to the Court of Disputed Returns, the matter is sent on to the Court by the President or Speaker, as the case may be, and, under section 205, the Court may allow any person who, in the opinion of the Court, is interested in the determination to become a, party to the refer ence. I need not give further details to show that Parliament has definitely settled the point that, when any question arises respecting the qualifications of a member of the House of Representatives or senator, or respecting a vacancy, it should be submitted to tie Court of Disputed Returns. The issue which the honorable member has asked the House to determine goes beyond a disputed return. It affects the qualification of two honorable members to sit in this House.
– Because they have done something which is contrary to the Constitution Act, and is not covered by the Electoral Act.
– The Electoral Act provides that, if any question arises under the Constitution concerning the qualifications of an honorable member, it may be referred to the Court of Disputed Returns for determination - obviously because the proper atmosphere in which to determine questions affecting the qualifications of honorable members is that surrounding a judicial rather than a parliamentary body. Experience has shown that such questions, when dealt with by Parliament itself, are liable to be decided on party and political lines, rather than on the substantial merits of the cases. I speak with knowledge of such a case. The motion submitted by the honorable member for East Sydney should not be entertained, because Parliament has laid down’ a definite legal procedure to’ be followed by any person who challenges the qualifications of a member of this Parliament, and because it is quite opposed to the spirit of the Statute governing such matters. The determination of the qualifications of an honorable member depends upon the sifting of facts as well as upon the interpretation of the law; yet the honorable member has asked the House to pass judgment upon the. facts as he has presented them. He invites the House to express an opinion. The question for consideration - whether the honorable members concerned had a pecuniary interest in an agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth - is one to be determined in a proper legal way, in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Electoral Act, and only after the facts have been sifted in a proper atmosphere. I am not putting a party aspect upon this matter ; I am merely showing why Parliament adopted the procedure I have outlined, and asking the House to consider the proper course to be followed when in a proper case a question arises concerning the qualification of honorable members to1 sit in this Chamber. The course taken by the honorable member for East Sydney, in asking the House to come to a decision upon the matter by agreeing to his motion, is unprecedented in this Parliament. The Constitution is clear. Under section 44, any person who has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth is incapable of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives. Section 45 goes a step further, and declares that, if a member becomes subject, to any disability mentioned in the preceding section, his seat becomes vacant. The legal position is, if a member is found, upon a proper determination of the question, to have committed a breach of section 44, his seat becomes vacant. I shall now refer to the second aspect of the issue raised by the honorable member. If we entertain his motion, we are asked to form an opinion upon certain facts as submitted in the first place in the motion itself, and in the second place in the speech with which he has supported his motion. A fact set out in the motion itself is that the honorable members for Riverina and Macquarie have signed cheques for the payment of money from a Government advance. The honorable member regards this as a contravention of section 44, the disqualification provision of the Constitution, which provides that -
Any person who has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth . . . shall be incapable of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
The motion itself does not allege that there “ was any agreement with the Public Service’ of the Commonwealth.”
– That is implied.
– No. The motion simply refers to the signing of cheques. In- his speech the honorable member said that a Meat Council had been constituted, that the honorable members for Riverina and Macquarie were members of that Council, that an advance had been made by the
Government to that Council, and that a certain agreement had been made and signed by five persons. The honorable member contended that because cf that advance, and because an agreement had been signed by five persons, the honorable members for Riverina and” Macquarie were involved in an agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth, in which they were directly or indirectly pecuniarily interested. I think that is how the honorable member put his case to the House. Section 44 of the Constitution provides that three points must be established - -First. that the honorablemembers in question were pecuniarily interested directly or indirectly; secondly, that there was an agreement; and thirdly, that that agreement was made, with the Public Service of the Commonwealth. Now, the two honorable, members in question were not parties to the agreement which the honorable member has put in evidence. The AuditorGeneral, in his report for 1923, states that this agreement was made and signed by five persons, the signatories being George Fairbairn, R. H. Edkins, John B. Cramsie, W. Angliss, and J. W. Durack. Clearly the honorable members for Riverina and Macquarie were not parties to the agreement on which the honorable member for East Sydney based the whole of his case. Mention is made in the agreement of a credit to’ be operated on by Mr. John B. Cramsie in conjunction with Mr. A. G. Manning and Mr. W. W. Killen, but that is merely to provide machinery for operating the account. The honorable members in question were not specifically made parties to the agreement, the purpose of which was to establish at the Commonwealth Bank of Australasia a credit to be used by the Australian Meat Council. The parties to the agreement agreed that prompt action should be taken to give effect to the scheme proposed for organizing the meat industry and advising the Commonwealth Government in a manner to which I will advert presently. The Australian Meat Council was to take the necessary steps to obtain from each State Parliament legislation authorizing levies on stock for the purpose of the scheme. All amounts which the Commonwealth might pay or become liable to pay to the Commonwealth Bank in respect of, or in connexion with, the establishment of such credit, were forthwith to be repaid to the Commonwealth out of moneys to be collected under the levy, and were to be a first charge upon the moneys so collected. For this purpose, a levy was to be made in all the States. They agreed that each State Legislature should pass an Act sanctioning a levy sufficient for the purposes of the scheme. The agreement was to establish credits with the Meat Council. These were to be repaid out of levies made under legislation passed by the State Parliaments, constituting State Boards to make the levies. In the next paragraph of the agreement, the signatories agreed -
That, .if the Parliament of any State or States does not, within twelve months from the date hereof, grant the said legislative authority, we and each of us will use our best endeavours to collect from the stock-owners of each State or States sufficient moneys to make up any amount by which the moneys collected by the levy are insufficient to reimburse the Commonwealth all amounts which the Commonwealth may pay, or become liable to pay, to the Commonwealth Bank as aforesaid, and will promptly pay to the Commonwealth all moneys collected from stock-owners as aforesaid.
That agreement was signed by five men, and the two honorable members of this House who have been referred to were not parties to it. The Constitution and the authorities upon it lay it down that in these cases, to justify disqualification, the’ contract must be one made with the Public Service of the Commonwealth. In this case, the two honorable members referred to were not signatories or parties to the particular agreement to which the honorable member for East Sydney has referred. This is not a party question, and I am merely, in accordance with what is my duty, trying to assist the House to come to a correct decision in regard to it. I am therefore analyzing each step carefully. There must be “ an agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth “. The member challenged must be pecuniarily interested in the agreement. I have shown that these honorable members were not parties to the agreement that was made. Further, I submit to this House that they’ have no direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a contract made with the Public Service. What is the evil which this particular section of the Constitution is intended to meet? It is intended to meet the evil of the Crown, having at its disposal sums of money, entering into contracts with men who are members of Parliament and in that way influencing them improperly in the legislation of the country. May lays down the practice of the House of Commons in these words -
Government contractors being supposed to be liable to the influence of their employers are disqualified from serving in Parliament.
The English law lays down the conditions under which members of Parliament holding or enjoying contracts in the United Kingdom may have their seats declared vacant. I am dealing now with the policy of disqualification, and with the practice in England, where th» law may differ in some particulars from ours. In a case in England, heard in 1917, one of the Judges said -
I think the enactment refers to the case of a man having a contract under which he is to derive some future benefit from dealing with the Government, in respect of which they might control him - as for instance, by directing their officers not to look too closely to the sort of goods he sent in or the like.
The principle set out in that case is clearly that to come within the disqualification, a member must be a contractor, he must have. entered into contract with the Public Service under which he will get some pecuniary advantage from the Crown, and in consequence of which he may be influenced in carrying out his duties as a legislator. I have dealt with the position as put by the honorable member for East Sydney, and I now ask honorable members to consider the facts in this particular case as I see them. Honorable members are aware that the meat industry in Australia was in a very parlous condition during the year 1922, and probably in the preceding year also. There was a general desire on the part of members on both sides of this House to assist industries generally and stimulate production. A meeting was held in Melbourne of representatives of the Commonwealth, the State Governments, stock-owners and meat-works. The meeting had to consider the organization of the meat industry in Australia. As the result of the important conference that took place, a general scheme was drawn up. That scheme practically consisted in the formation of a Federal Council which was to have certain advisory powers. It was to be supplemented by State Boards in each State. These State Boards were to have the power to levy charges upon owners of stock. The moneys so collected were to go into a central fund, and out of that central fund the Meat Council, as constituted under the authority of an Act to be submitted to this Parliament sooner or later, had the power to devote the funds for the purposes generally of the industry. Honorable members will find in the Commonwealth Gazette published on the 16th February, 1923, a notification under the signature of the Minister for Trade and Customs -
It is notified for general information that the following persons constitute the Australian Meat Council, the functions of which are those hereunder specified.
– If the list is not long, the honorable gentleman might read it out.
– I did not propose to read out the whole list. I was paying honorable members the compliment of assuming that they carefully read the Commonwealth Gazette. Some names I think were added later to which I need not refer, but the following is the list of names published with the notification : -
Representatives nominated by producers -
Victoria. - L. J. Weatherly, E. Jowett, and T. J. McGalliard.
Western Australia. - (Not yet nominated.)
Tasmania. - B. H. Edgell and A. K. McGaw.
Representatives nominated by meat-works -
Western Australia. - (Not yet nominated.)
Representatives nominated by Commonwealth Government -
New South Wales. - J. M. Davidson (Chief Commonwealth Veterinary Inspector in New South Wales) .
Queensland. - R. Grant (Chief Commonwealth Veterinary Inspector in Queensland) .
Western Australia. - (Not yet nominated.)
Tasmania. - (Not yet nominated.)
Northern Territory. - (Not yet nominated.)
Representatives nominated by the State Governments -
Western Australia. - (Not yet nominated.)
Northern Territory. - (Not yet nominated.)
The names include representatives nominated by the producers in all the States and in the Northern Territory. The New South Wales producers nominated Mr. Manning, the honorable member for Macquarie, and Mr. Killen, the honorable member for Riverina. The Council includes representatives nominated by the meat-works, by the State Governments, with the exception of two, and by the Commonwealth Government, whose representatives were official. The functions of the Council are set out in the notification, and I hope that honorable members will note them carefully.
The Meat Council has been operating and has dealt with many matters. It has, amongst other things, considered the reduction of ocean rates of refrigerated freight, the reduction of freight to the United Kingdom, the acceleration of the speed of stock trains, the reduced charges of meat-works, the improved handling conditions, the standardized grading of meat, improved methods of cutting for nodules, improved shipping facilities, advertising, display of meat in London, exhibits of meat at the British Empire Exhibition, reports on Argentine, South Africa, India, and also on eastern countries. These headings give some idea of the work which the Council has been doing.
– The honorable member has stated that these men have pecuniary interests in the agreement. I have shown that they were not parties to the agreement. Now I am contending that they have no more a pecuniary interest in the agreement than a member of a trade union has a pecuniary interest in advocating the establishment of an Arbitration Court which may make awards increasing the wages of members of his union. Such a man would be perfectly justified in advocating the establishment of such a Court. No one could question his right to do so. Now, what is right for one side is right for the other. If honorable members will analyse the facts in this case they will -find that the two honorable members who have been referred to had no contract with the Public Service, and no direct or indirect pecuniary gain accrued to any member of the Meat Council. As members of the Council they were not promoting any contract to which they were parties, or anything affecting their own personal gain any more than an honorable member who votes upon an item of the Tariff for or against a duty, or who votes for a reduction of income tax may be said to be voting on anything personal to himself. They were on the Meat Council for the purpose of encouraging generally the meat industry throughout the Commonwealth. They were not there to do anything, so far as the work of the Council was concerned, to secure individual gain for themselves. That is clear on the facts I have been able to gather.
– Has the Minister sought the opinion of the Solicitor-General ?
– Yes, but I am giving not his opinion, but .mine. I am giving the House an impartial statement of the facts upon which my opinion is based, so that honorable members may be able to give a correct judgment. The money has been advanced to the Meat Council, and will be repaid in the way I have indicated. It is not advanced for the gain of the members of the council, but is held by them in trust. The council exists, not to benefit any individual, but to give advice and promote measures which will tend to the general advancement of the meat industry throughout Australia. If that industry succeeds, not only the owners of the cattle, but also the thousands of workmen engaged in the industry, will benefit. The workmen are just as much interested in the success of the industry as are the cattle-owners. There are towns which live on the big meat works near them. There are large meat works, for instance, at Gladstone, Townsville, Rockhampton, and Brisbane, and many hundreds of workmen are dependent upon them for their living. The promotion of the prosperity of the meat industry will benefit all classes in the community. In those circumstances, how would it be possible, even if the agreement had been signed by Mr. Manning and Mr. Killen - and it was not - for them, as members of the council, to derive any pecuniary benefit from it? The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) must admit that the honorable members did not sign the agreement-
– The Minister does not say what those honorable members knew about the agreement.
– To find out what the honorable member for East Sydney knows is much more difficult. It is clear that the two honorable members referred to have not been parties to the agreement that has been spoken of, and there is no other agreement in existence. The case put forward by the honorable member for East Sydney, therefore, fails hopelessly. There is no contract to supply anything- to any Government Department.
– What is the date of the agreement ?
-The date is nob mentioned by the Auditor-General, but it is stated that the purpose of the agreement was to bring into operation a scheme of organization agreed to at a meeting convened and held in Melbourne in September, 1922. In conclusion, I purpose to sum up my arguments. First, the procedure followed by the honorable member for East Sydney is wrong. On a matter that may be referred to a Court it is idle for this House to pass opinions, and it is improper for us to do so. Secondly, as we have an Act of Parliament that lays down the proper procedure and constitutes the High Court a judge of these questions, the proper authority to decide the question is the High Court, and not this Parliament in a party atmosphere. Thirdly, even if the question could properly be dealt with by this Parliament the honorable member has not made out even a prima facie case against these honorable members.
– Does the Minister know anything of the circumstances in which the cheques were signed.
– I assume that the statements made in that connexion are correct. . I understand that a question was answered in this House. The agreement provides the method of operating the credit, but the mere signing of a cheque does not constitute the person signing a party to the agreement. If a man signs a cheque he has not necessarily a pecuniary interest in doing so. The Meat Trust was constituted not for individual, but for general, purposes. I would like to add that the honorable members who have served on this council have done so in an honorary capacity; no fees are payable to them. They have given their services in a loyal desire to help the industry. I have shown that there is no possibility of their deriving any pecuniary gain, for there are no individual contracts by which they can benefit, and I say further that these honorable members have’ not even had their expenses paid.
– Will the Minister inform the House what the effect was of both members signing the agreement before they became members of this House ?
– They have not signed it.
– The agreement was drawn up before they were members of the House.
– If they were parties to an agreement before they entered the House, and if the agreement continued after they had become members of this House, they would still be liable. There is a continuing liability. A member cannot escape . the consequences of his action in that way. That would be an evil that the section in the Constitution aims at preventing. It has been held in England that if an honorable member is a business man, and some one in the Customs Department, without his knowledge, buys goods from him for cash, that does not constitute a contract such as is referred to in the section. But if a man was a party to a continuing agreement with the Public Service, from which agreement he derived a pecuniary interest, he could not be elected to, let alone sit in, this House. It is to the credit of the honorable member for East
Sydney that he has treated this matter impersonally. He has tried to keep malice out of it, and to that extent has achieved his purpose. He has stated his case temperately.
– Has the Government paid the money when there is no agreement?
– I have not said that there is no agreement. I have said that there is not in this case an agreement which these honorable members have signed. They are . not parties to the agreement in the sense that they are signatories to it. They are members of the Meat Council, and I have shown exactly what their functions are on that Council, and that they are not parties to an agreement such as that at which the section of the Constitution aims. The House, in the circumstances, should not have the slightest hesitation in rejecting the motion.
. - I do not agree with the suggestion that the honorable members who sit on the M’eat Council sought a pecuniary gain, but the facts show to what a pass the Government has come, for it has allowed money to be taken out of the Treasury to organize a union to raise the price of meat and protect the meat growers. A Bill will be introduced later, provided the State Governments pass similar Bills, to give the meat growers power to strike a levy upon themselves according to the numbers of cattle they possess. We shall then be paid back the money the Government has advanced. If the representatives of a working man’s trade union came to this House and said, “ We want a federation of labour, and we ask the Government to advance monthly the cash to carry on the propaganda,” they would be laughed to scorn. I was anxious. to hear the names of the men who are members of the Meat Council. They are not poor men. I am always willing to help poor men to organize to get justice, but these men are all wealthy. Yet they are mean enough to ask the poor man to pay for their propaganda.
– They represent the poor man.
– They asked the Government to lend them money so that they could stabilize the meat industry of the country. I do not approve of money being paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance to further the interests of any organization. I have tried to get information about this matter from the Treasurer, but I have always received evasive replies. A gentleman is employed to do organizing work for the Council, and he draws the large salary of, I believe, over £1,000 a year. Why should public money be lent, without security, to such an organization, to be returned only if the Governments of the States pass the necessary Bills? We have no security except the names’ of the men who have attached their signatures to the agreement. It is nonsense to say that they have no pecuniary interest. If they organize the business properly and effectively control the meat market every man in the organization will derive pecuniary benefit. I do not accuse those honorable members who signed the cheques of doing anything against the interests of the country. Their object is to place the meat- industry on a proper footing; but I protest against the Government advancing money out of the Treasurer’s Advance Account, free of interest, and without any security except the honour of the men who signed the agreement. It is not fair to ask the taxpayers of the country to pay for propaganda work for this organization. The propaganda, work is all right from the stand-point of the organization, but why should the country be asked to pay for it ? Among these men are Henry Jones, of Tasmania, and Edmund Jowett. Some of them are millionaires, and yet they ask the Government to advance money to enable them to build up their industry. I take this opportunity of lodging my protest against the Government’s action. I am not entering into the question of whether the honorable members whose action has been questioned acted legally or not. I leave that to their sense of honour.
.- I have listened attentively to the debate, and have been unable to gather that anything has been done by either of the honorable gentlemen referred to in the motion which has given them a disqualifying interest in the contract between the Commonwealth and the Meat Council. It’ is quite true that under section 44 of the Constitution, any person who has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service is disqualified from sitting in this House. The agreement which has been read to the House provides for tho administration of a scheme established by the Commonwealth. I have not read the agreement; I have heard only portions of it read by the Attorney-General, and I do not say that I have heard enough to enable me to pronounce definitely whether or not the pecuniary interests of the honorable members for Macquarie and Riverina were directly or indirectly affected thereby. It appears to me that they were not, but this is a legal question which can be satisfactorily determined only by a legal tribunal. Pecuniary interest , in contracts arises in various ways. There is a law, of long standing, which disqualifies for membership of a municipal council a person who is directly interested in a contract with that council, and several decisions have been given interpreting -the significance of that provision. One of the leading decisions _was that given in a case decided about the middle of last century, ‘ in which the Court determined that the having of a pecuniary interest in a contract means the having of a pecuniary interest in the business or bargain, or at least some interest therein whereby the person’s legal rights, or liabilities are affected. It does not appear that this House, .is -a suitable tribunal to determine’ whether the legal rights or liabilities of the honorable members for Macquarie and Riverina are affected by their connexion with this agreement. As I understand’ their positions, they have merely been portions of an administrative machine; they have, not been parties to the agreement, and, therefore, they plainly did not acquire any direct interest in the- agreement. At the same time, a person may be indirectly interested in an agreement to which he is not himself a party. For instance, AB might make an agreement with the Commonwealth and assign the benefit of that agreement to CD, giving CD an interest in the agreement, although he was not a party to it. However, it does not appear from the facts which have been related that the honorable members mentioned did, by reason of the agreement acquire any pecuniary interest therein, directly or indirectly. As potential meat exporters they were, perhaps, interested, as any other citizen of the Commonwealth was interested, in the general scheme for the payment of a bounty upon the export of meat, but that interest arose under the Statute, and not by virtue of the agreement.
– Suppose that those honorable members were meat exporters?
– If they were actual - exporters of meat, and participated in the bounty, they would receive the money by virtue of the Statute, and not by virtue of the agreement. It appears to me that nothing has been done which even approaches a breach of section 44 of the Constitution, but, in any event, I, although only a comparatively new member of the House, venture to suggest that the Attorney-General is perfectly sound in urging that legal questions such as this cannot properly be determined by a vote upon the floor of this House. If anybody seriously thinks that disqualification has been incurred by any honorable member, the proper course to follow is to move a reference in terms of section 203 of the Electoral Act 1922. If that be done, the matter will be determined by the Court of Disputed Returns; a legal question will be decided by legally-qualified men, and free from the influence of party feeling. Doubtless the honorable member for East Sydney, who submitted the motion, has closely examined the facts of this case, but except him and the Attorney-General, no honorable member has made a sufficient study of the matter to be qualified to cast a vote upon the motion. I am not able to support a positive motion of this character; and if a proposal were made to refer the matter to the Court of Disputed Returns I should require to study it very carefully and to have the facts placed before the House more fully than they have been to-day.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) has raised a very interesting question, which may well be described as a mixed question of law and politics, and as such it is a very fit and proper one to be discussed by this Legislature. I cannot join with those who appear, in matters of this kind, to regard the High- Court - which is the creature of this Parliament - as a tribunal superior to and controlling this Parliament. I remind honorable members also of the fundamental fact that Parliament is the guardian of its own honour, and in a very summary way has more than once exercised its right to expel members - sometimes, as many of us think, very arbitrarily, harshly, and wrongly - but we have never denied the right of Parliament to determine in this way its own personnel, subject always to appeal to the electorate. In regard to the issue raised by the motion, I do not pretend that there are at present sufficient facts before the House to enable us to declare definitely that the honorable members mentioned have disqualified themselves to hold seats in this Chamber. I have already said that the question is a mixed one of law and politics, and the fact that emerges from the discussion is not so much that these gentlemen have acquired a pecuniary interest by reason of an agreement in which they are assumed to be indirectly interested, or an agreement with the Public Service - that, I think, is not perfectly clear - but that this Parliament itself by statutory means has enabled those honorable members to obtain certain pecuniary benefits which are not open to the general mass of the community. In that sense this is purely a question of politics, and if the honorable member for East Sydney has done no greater good he has done very useful service in calling attention to the partisan character of the legislation under which this Meat Council has been created, and some of the most safely-placed members of the community have benefited so greatly. The AttorneyGeneral (Sir Littleton Groom) looked at the question from the academic rather than the practical view-point, and followed the mover’s arguments in detail to show that, technically, he had not sustained his case. Although the honorable member for East Sydney asserts the absolute right of -this Parliament - superior to that of any legal tribunal - to discuss questions of this kind, he does not deny that the High Court has its proper functions, and that ultimately questions of law considered in relation to appropriate facts might be submitted to that tribunal. For the present he quite properly raises this question as a political issue, which, if this House thinks proper, might later come before the High Court for consideration. That stage has not yet been reached. The honorable member has seen in this matter an important question affecting the honour and privileges of honorable members, and he has thought fit to place upon the notice-paper, as he undoubtedly has the right to do, a motion for discussion. Although I do not feel free to record a vote which would have the effect of declaring that the two honorable members mentioned were disqualified from occupying their seats in this House, I think the honorable member for East Sydney is to be congratulated upon the care he has taken in adducing evidence that shows, as many other things have shown, that there are a number of gentlemen who have, if not directly, at least indirectly, profited by the legislation introduced by their friends on the Ministerial benches.
.- I did not intend to take up the time of the House in replying to the charge made by the honorable member for East Sydney, because it seemed to be obvious that the charge had failed. I realize, as clearly as does any other honorable member, the seriousness of a charge of this character, and how essential it is that we should keep members of this House above suspicion. I appreciate the way in which the honorable member for East Sydney stated his case. It was as refreshing as it was unusual for a matter of this nature to be placed before the House with such moderation. The honorable member has taken, upon himself the unenviable responsibility of custodian of parliamentary morals, and if there was in the minds of honorable members generally a suspicion such as that which the honorable member for East Sydney has voiced, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) and I are glad that he brought the matter before the House. I would not care for any honorable member to entertain a suspicion of that nature against me and not give it full publicity. I have already stated in this House that with the exception of the officers regularly employed, no person connected with the Australian Meat Council has received any payment beyond bare travelling expenses. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) and I have given our services gratuitously, and have not received even out-of-pocket expenses for the work we have done. Until the report of the Auditor-General was handed to me this afternoon I had never read the agreement to which reference has been made. I desire to say a word concerning the action of the Government in accepting the responsibility of financing, temporarily, an organization such as this. The honorable member for ‘South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) said that the men on the
Meat Council are wealthy men. I wish that were true. He said also that assistance had been given to an industry - a strong union he called it - which was not entitled to it, and that similar assistance would not have been granted to a trade union. The honorable member would not . have made that statement had he possessed any practical knowledge of the industry of which he was speaking. The meat industry is one of the main industries of Australia.; but at the time that this council was formed it was practically in an insolvent position. A Government which would allow one of the main industries of the Commonwealth to fail for want of temporary assistance would not be worthy to remain in power for an hour. The Labour Government of Queensland realized that. The Queensland Parliament is the only State Parliament to pass an Act under which the Meat Council is’ likely to become a permanent institution. It realized the desperate condition of the meat industry, and lowered the rents for the cattle stations. The Queensland Arbitration Court, under Mr. Justice McCawley, also lowered the wages to be paid to the employees on the cattle stations, because the meat industry could not afford to pay the living wage.
– The employees voluntarily gave up a portion of their wages.
– The employees at the meat works voluntarily agreed tq have their wages lowered, in order that the works might be carried on. Application was made to Mr. Justice McCawley, and the wages of the employees on cattle stations were lowered. The statement has been made frequently that the cattleowners of Queensland, immediately prior to the slump, had passed through a period of great prosperity. During the war, the output of the Queensland cattle stations was sold to the Imperial Government at 4fd. per lb. The Queensland Government itself had some cattle stations, but those stations were not subject to any taxation. The cattle-owners were compelled to deliver to the Government 12,000 tons of meat, for which they were paid only 3£d. per lb. But not 1 lb. of the meat from the Government stations went into the State butchers’ shops. That meat was all sold to the Imperial Government for 4&d. per lb.
– Order ! That is not within the limits of the motion.
– I was endeavouring to answer the statement of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), that an unfair advantage was given to the growers, and was attempting to show that, on the contrary, they were in a position which required sympathetic action by the Government if the industry was to be protected. Instead of making undue profits during that period, 80 per cent. of the excess profits was taken from them under the War-time Profits Act. Yet the Government stations, which paid no taxation, are practically insolvent today. I do not ask for any consideration at the hands of honorable members. If I were in a position to pass judgment on other honorable members, I would deal with their case on its merits. I feel sure, however, that honorable members generally realize that the honorable member for River ina (Mr. Killen) and myself have received no pecuniary benefit from the money which has been advanced to the Meat Council, and which will be repaid when the necessary legislation is passed.
.- I do not regret my action in bringing this matter before the House. In his speech, the Attorney-General very ingeniously tried to show that I had no power to deal with this question in this House, but that I should go to the High Court with it. I was well aware, when I brought this matter forward, of the provisions of the Electoral Act mentioned by the honorable member, because during my first election campaign I had the opportunity to upset the election of my predecessor owing to irregularities at the poll. I did not do that, however, because he was a personal friend of mine, and I was not so anxious to get into Parliament. It would be a sorry day for Parliament if the time ever arrived when it could no longer be entrusted with the reputation of its members. It was in that spirit that I brought the matter forward. I expected that when those honorable members who are members of the Meat Council saw the motion on the notice-paper, they would realize their responsibility, and intimate to the House that they had withdrawn from the Meat Council. When they failed to do so, I thought their action was prompted by a feeling that had they done so it would have been considered equivalent to a plea of guilty. I hope it is not yet too late for the honorable gentlemen to see the wisdom of withdrawing from what can only be described as an untenable position. They should do so for the honour of Parliament, for their own good, and because of the possible effect of their action on the community generally. I feel sure that such a course of action on their part would be approved by honorable members generally, who realize that my action this afternoon has been solely in the interests of the purity of Parliament.
Question resolved in the negative.
In Committee(Consideration of the Governor-General’s Deputy’s Message) :
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to approve the further agreement made between His Majesty’s Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the AngloPersian Oil Company Limited.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Sir Littleton Groom do prepareand bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill has been introduced to obtain the authorization of Parliament for an agreement which is embodied in its schedule. The Bill itself is a short one, requiring only approval of an agreement entered into by the Government with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, subject to the ratification of Parliament, for an increase in the capital of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries. This increase in the capital is required to enable the Commonwealth Oil Refineries to conduct their own distributing operations. Thecapital provided under the original agreement, which was made the capital of the company when it was formed, is not sufficient to enable the company to carry out its own distribution. To make the position clear to honorable members, it will, perhaps, be convenient if I remind them of the circumstances in which the original agreement with the company was entered into, and which led to the formation of- the Commonwealth Oil Refineries. The original agreement was sanctioned by this House on the 29th May, 1920. At that time the whole position was dealt with at great length in this House, and I do not, therefore, propose to repeat all the reasons which were then advanced for the Commonwealth having an oil refinery within its own borders. Nor do I propose to. refer to the necessity for obtaining supplies of oil and having it refined in Australia, in view of the increase in the use of oil in commerce, industry, defence, and other departments of social activity. Honorable members are aware that during the past ten’ or fifteen years there have been tremendous developments in connexion with the use of internal combustion engines, and in the use of oil as fuel for steamers. Mineral oil, both unrefined and refined, has become an absolute necessity to any country which is té develop with any degree of rapidity. All these matters were discussed when the original agreement was presented to Parliament, and any honorable member who desires to inform himself about them might well refer to the debates that then occurred. He would thus ascertain also all the circumstances’ surrounding the original agreement. A statement of the oil supplies of the world was made at that time, but I think it will be interesting to honorable members to learn the world’s crude oil production of the last 30 years. The figures are: - 1910, 328,000,000 barrels (seven barrels go to the ton) ; 1914, 400,000,000 barrels; 1919, 545,000,000 barrels; 1920, 695,000,000 barrels; and 1923, 759,000,000 barrels. Those figures show that there is a constantly increasing market for oil and its products. Imports of petrol into Australia in the last few years have also increased greatly. In 1915-16 our imports totalled 16,723,000 gallons. The figures for succeeding years were as follow : - 1918-19, 20,749,000 gallons; 1919-20, 24,891,000 gallons; 1920-21, 35,944,000 gallons; 1921-22, 31,963,000 gallons; 1922-23, 41,338,000 gallons; 1923- calendar year- 49,754,000 gallons. In the first four months of 1924 the importations of petrol have totalled 6,000,000 gallons per month. If that rate is maintained for the remainder of the calendar year, our imports will total 72,000,000 gallons. Oil must now be considered a vital necessity, and if we are to advance our commercial, industrial, and agricultural interests we must make it possible for our people to avail themselves of it to the fullest possible extent, at a price reasonably cheap. It was stated when this matter was previously before Parliament that the oil supplies of the world were dominated by certain great interests. Most honorable members are familiar with the operations of the Standard Oil Company and the Royal Dutch Shell Group. On many occasions it has been said that the Standard Oil Company controls all the oil interests in the new world and that the Royal Dutch Shell Group controls all the oil interests in the old world. That subject also was dealt with in the debate to which I have already referred. Information was given on the same occasion of the way in which the prices for this essential commodity had advanced, and it was stated that the increases could not be justified. On this aspect of the matter I shall content myself by quoting from a speech delivered by the First Lord of the Admiralty in the British House of Commons. He said -
We have experienced, together with private customers, a long, steady squeeze by oil trusts ail over the world, and we have found prices and freights raised steadily against us, until we have been forced to pay more than double what a few years ago we were accustomed to pay.
In consequence of that position the British Government felt that it must acquire a controlling interest in some oil fields to secure its supplies, particularly for naval purposes, and to protect itself from the domination of the great oil interests. In. 1914 it succeeded in acquiring such an interest in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the main oil fields of which are situated in the Persian Gulf. I shall give honorable members a few facts about that company, because it is the company with which the Commonwealth Government entered into the original agreement, and with which it is now proposed to make another agreement. From time to time it has been more than suggested that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company is a great Trust operating for the benefit of certain individuals. I shall place the facts before the House. The capital of the company is £20,000,000, of which £19,450,000 has been issued in the following way : - Eight per cent, cumulative first preference, £7,000,000 ; 9 per cent, cumulative second preference, £3,500,000; and ordinary shares, £8,950,000; total, £19,450,000. The company has also outstanding £4,500,000 of 5 per. cent, first debenture stock. The British Government, in June, 1914, acquired 2,000,000 ordinary shares and 1,000 preference shares, and in 1919 a further 3,000,000 ordinary shares, and other shares since, and although those shares do not give it anything like half the total capital interest in the company, they give it voting rights greater than the remaining voting rights of the company.
– It was recently stated that the British Government was disposing of those shares. Is that so?
– No. The British Government now has a predominant voting power in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. That position arises in this way : The 5 per cent, debentures are a debt owed by the company, and so, naturally, carry no voting power; preference shares only carry one vote per share, and the ordinary shares carry two votes per share. The British Government, by reason of its holding of ordinary shares and preference shares, has more votes than all the other shareholders. It is perfectly clear, therefore, that the British Government has the predominant voting power in the company. The ordinary shares not held by the British Government are held by the Burma Oil Company, with the exception of a few, which are held by the executors of the late Lord Strathcona and Mr. Knox D’Arcy, who was an Australian, and was concerned in the development of Mount Morgan. He was the pioneer of the Anglo-Persian field. The preference shares not held by the British Government are held by the British public. I now wish to indicate to honorable members the basis of the original agreement made between the Commonwealth and the Anglo-Persian Company. It provided for the formation of a’ company with a capital of £500,000, made up to 500,000 £1 shares. Of these, the Commonwealth Government subscribed for 250,001 shares and the Anglo-Persian Company and its nominees for 249,999 shares. The material point is that the Commonwealth Government holds the greater number of shares and has the greater voting power. There are seven directors on the board of the company, three of whom represent the Commonwealth Government’s interests and four the Anglo-Persian Company’s interests. The basis of representation on the board of directors was carefully considered when the original agreement was submitted to Parliament, and it was definitely determined then that it was essential that the business control of the company should be in the hands of men who were thoroughly experienced in the oil business. Provision was made in the agreement and articles of association, however, that the three Commonwealth Government representatives should have a power of veto in regard to certain matters set out in the agreement. It is interesting to note that the Anglo-Persian Company, in which the British Government invested over £5,000,000, has fourteen directors, only two of whom are Government representatives. Those two directors also possess a power of veto in regard to certain defined matters. The objects of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries, defined in the agreement, were to develop the oil-refining industry in Australia, to erect and operate a modern oil refinery or modern oil refineries, and to sell or dispose of the refined products. I draw particular attention to the words “ sell or dispose of the refined products,” because the new arrangement applies to that part of the original objective of the agreement. The Bill is introduced for the purpose of providing the necessary capital to enable the company to carry out its own distribution arrangements. The underlying purpose of the original agreement was to Tree Australia from the stranglehold of foreign corporations, and provide in Australia a refinery for the purpose of refining crude oil which might be brought from overseas, but more particularly so that the Commonwealth should have a local refinery should we be fortunate enough to discover oil in Australia, or in any of our Territories. Without such a refinery a discovery of oil in Australia or in any of our Territories would be of very little advantage to us, because the oil would be useless until refined. The establishment of an Australian refinery was, therefore) really a step in provision for what we all hope will happen, namely, the discovery of oil here or in one of our Territories. The agreement provided that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company would make available each year200,000 tons of crude mineral oil until oil was found in Australia or in any of its Territories, and that even after indigenous oil was found this quantity would be made available each year if oil was not found in sufficient quantity to supply 200,000 tons a year. The Commonwealth was also given the option of purchasing the interests of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in the refinery fifteen years after the refinery was actually started. I remind honorable members of these facts because, unless they have a knowledge of the original agreement, it will be a little difficult for them to follow the new arrangement. When the Commonwealth Oil Refineries were established, in pursuance of the agreement, large fuel oil bunkering accommodation was provided at Sydney, Melbourne, and Fremantle, making it possible for large oil-driven vessels to replenish their stocks of oil at those ports. In view of the recent general development in oildriven ships, this is an important thing for Australia. Large oil-driven vessels are now trading between here and Great Britain for which such bunkering facilities must be provided, and there are now in the world 3,000 large steamers driven by oil for which bunkering facilities must . be provided if they are to trade on the Australian coast. Every modern naval vessel is now being fitted with oil-driven engines. The refinery has been completed, and is actually in operation at Kororoit Creek, near Williamstown. A bunkering tank has been constructed on the Yarra close to Spotswood, and a pipe line connects it with a tank at Port Melbourne from which bulk oil can be supplied to ships, or distributed for other purposes. Distributing depots have been established in various capital cities of the Commonwealth. When the original agreement was discussed in this House the question whether the company should distribute its own refined products or depend upon agents for their distribution was left in abeyance, although I think the general impression among members was that the company would certainly do its own distributing. But the £500,000 which was subscribed as the capital of the company has nearly been absorbed in the construction of the refinery, the wharf, the depots, and the pipe-line, and the company has now no capital available to enable it to become its own distributor of the refined products. To-day I re-read the debate which took place when the original agreement was before this House, and I found that, as a private member, the amount of the company’s capital caused me some anxiety. I then said -
It is contemplated that this company shall have a capital of £500,000. I cannot agree that that can conceivably be the capital required to run a concern of the magnitude of the proposed refinery. It must be remembered that it has to establish its refinery, its dépôts, and its whole distributing organization, and that it will have to carry, week by week, book debts, because all its transactions cannot be upon a cash basis.
– Has the company no call on the Anglo-Persian Company’s capital overseas to carry on operations here ?
– The Commonwealth Oil Refineries are absolutely distinct from the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, although the latter has subscribed half of its capital, and proposes to contribute half of the contemplated increase of £250,000, which is needed to provide funds to enable the company to distribute its own refined oil products. The Commonwealth, as I have already explained, will provide the other half of the additional capital. Another statement I made in the previous debate was -
This refinery company, I presume, will do what the Vacuum Oil Company and other companies have done, namely, become its own distributor. I do not think that any of us would become parties to that agreement if that were not so.
I make these quotations in order to show that, when the agreement went through this House, it was contemplated that the company would do its own distributing, and that it certainly was in the minds of some honorable members that the amount of capital then provided would not be sufficient to enable it to establish a refinery and also provide for the distribution of the refined products. Experience has shown that that is the case. The company has had sufficient capital to make its refinery, its wharf, and its pipeline, and to reach a position in which it can refine the crude oil, but it has not the necessary capital to become its own distributor. I should imagine that every honorable member would agree that it is essential that the company shall become its own distributor.
– Is it not distributing now ?
– No. It has not the machinery to enable it to do so.
– Is it proposed that tanks for filling ships shall be established at ports?
– That has already been done for the purpose of supplying fuel oil, but I am now speaking of the refined products, and discussing whether the company, should distribute these products. ‘ The Government directors on the Board advise unhesitatingly that it is essential that the company shall do its own distributing, and Ministers take exactly the same view. I should be indeed surprised to find the House not agreeing that the company should be so self-contained as to be in a position to do its own distributing in competition with the other suppliers of the refined products of oil to the people of Australia. It is estimated that the amount of additional money required will be £250,000, one-half of which will be provided by the Commonwealth and the other half by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, in accordance with the intention of the original agreement, that the Commonwealth should be entitled to maintain its present position in respect of any increase of capital, by continuing to have a predominant share in the company. I cannot follow the reasoning of those who claim that, in some way, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries will secure a monopoly in Australia. There are no possible grounds for such a claim. The company will be obliged to meet the competition of all the companies trading here and selling the refined products of oil. Indeed, it is very desirable that the people of Australia shall have this additional competition, ensuring that prices shall be kept at the lowest possible rates compatible with a reasonable margin of profit to the people who are supplying. According to my study of the statistics, the Australian price of motor spirit is to-day for the first time substantially down to the price at which such spirit is sold in Great Britain. I make no comment upon this beyond reminding honorable members of the significant fact that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries has just reached the point ‘at which it is able to offer its products in competition with those of other suppliers.
– Is the right honorable gentleman satisfied that £250,000 will be sufficient additional capital?
– I have gone into the figures, and I am satisfied that that sum will give the company all the capital it needs to do its own distributing on the basis of the refinery as already established. Of course, if several refineries should be needed, “ and the. production of refined oil increases enormously, additional capital will have to be provided, not only to build the additional refineries, but also to provide for a greater distribution. It is for honorable members to form their own views asio the desirability of the Commonwealth providing the additional capital required. I have reminded them of the terms of the original agreement, because it appeared to me desirable to revive their recollection of how the company came to be established. The question is whether it is desirable that this additional capital shall be found to enable the company to do its own distribution, or whether it is preferable to leave matters as they stand at present. The Government declare unhesitatingly that it is desirable that the company shall do its own distribution, thereby ensuring that it is done at a minimum cost to the people of Australia. I commend the _ Bill to the House. It will be of considerable assistance to those who require petrol and other refined products of oil in their businesses and every-day life. It is the Government’s unhesitating opinion, and also that of the Government’s representatives ‘ on the Board, that it is absolutely essential that this additional capital shall be provided to enable the Commonwealth Oil Refineries to do its own distributing.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Blakeley) adjourned.
– I moveThat for the remainder of the session, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall have precedence over all other business, except on that Thursday on which, under the provisions of standing order No. 241, the question is put “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.” This resolution shall take effect as from the beginning of the next day of sitting of this House.
The effect of passing this motion will he that, instead of private members’ business having precedence on every Thursday, one Thursday in every three will be devoted to private members’ business, under the standing order which makes provision for what is commonly known as “ Grievance day.” I think that honorable members generally will agree that it is desirable that this course shall be followed. There is a great deal of work to be done, and many measures to be brought forward which it is imperative should be passed with as little delay as possible. If one day in every week is to continue to be devoted to private members’ business, we must . have an additional sitting day in each week. At present, the Government does not think it necessary to ask the House to consent to that, but it must take that’ course unless it can secure the additional time for Government business which the carrying of this motion will give. I think that honorable members will be satisfied if they have one Thursday in every three upon which they can consider private business in which they are interested, especially in view of the fact that we have now reached the time when financial measures must be introduced, upon which they will be able to discuss matters which they desire to bring under the. notice of the House. I feel sure that, in the circumstances, honorable members will not consider that the Government is proposing unduly to curtail their privileges by asking them to pass this motion limiting the time now available for private members’ business.
.- I was somewhat amused at the Prime Minister’s references to financial measures, in view of the way in which such measures were dealt with last year. I should not mind sitting an additional day in each week if the extra time was to be devoted to the proper consideration of the Estimates. I should like to get the promise from the Prime Minister that he will not this year bludgeon the Estimates through, as he did last year. If he will make that promise, I shall have no objection to the passing of this motion. It has been evident since Parliament met this year that the Government have nothing to bring forward. It is to be hoped that, if the extra time asked for Government business is conceded, the Government will submit some measures of vital importance to the country. I am aware of the difficult position in which the Government is placed. Before Ministers can bring forward any measure, it has to be considered at a meeting held in a room upstairs in this building, and then at a meeting held in a room downstairs. Until these meetings have been held, it is impossible to say whether any proposal made by the Government shall be gone on with or not.
– Is the honorable member referring to the Country party?
– I should like to describe it as the Country party, but I am satisfied from some of its actions recently that it is not a Country party. As a’ matter of fact, it has never displayed any desire to do anything in the interests of country residents, though it has been successful in using the Government to extract something in the interests of a section. So little has really been done during the present session that I am very much dissatisfied with the progress that . has been made. Measures have been dealt with to promote the interests of a section, but no progress whatever has been made with measures for the welfare of the community generally.” Sooner or later we must give consideration to serious business in connexion with the finances of Australia. We shall be called upon next year and the following year to make provision for the redemption of loans for- sums that are almost fabulous in view of the small population of the Commonwealth. We must have time in which to properly consider the best way out of the financial difficulties which we must face sooner or” later. I hope that this chastisement of the Opposition will have a salutary effect upon the Government and on honorable members on the other side who say nothing and think less. If this motion is submitted with a view to bringing forward serious business for discussion it will have my approbation, though its adoption may be attended with some inconvenience.
.- I do not oppose the motion, but before it is passed I should like ‘ to make a few observations upon the position in which honorable members will find themselves. I ask honorable members to consider the position in which the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) will be placed by the carrying of this motion. Only to-day the honorable member gave notice of a, motion that a grant should be given to Tasmania, and that it should be continued for a period of ten years. The honorable member gave this notice of motion with his tongue in his cheek, knowing that it was nothing but rank hypocrisy.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in imputing motives in the way he has done ?
– I was not imputing motives but stating facts.
– The honorable member should withdraw.
– I will certainly withdraw the statement if the Prime Minister thinks that I should do so. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) this afternoon gave notice of a motion to help a State that is in desperate financial straits, although he knew that there was on the business-paper notice of the motion which the Prime Minister has just moved, and which,if carried, would prevent the motion of which he gave notice ever being discussed in this Chamber. The sinister aspect of the matter is that the honorable member for Bass knows well that the advisability of making a grant to Tasmania cannot be discussed by this House until his motion is dealt with. What a piece of political trickery this is ! It is done to tickle the ears of the men and women of Tasmania. The motion is a placard for them to read, and it says, “ I intend to move that this assistance be given to the people of Tasmania,” but the honorable member for Bass knows that his action in putting the notice of motion on the business-paper sentences to death, as it were, the claim of the people of Tasmania for financial assistance. I ask him how he will vote upon the Prime Minister’s motion? If he votes in favour of it he will deprive himself of an opportunity to move his own motion; he will prevent, not only himself, but the Prime
Minister and every other honorable member as well, from submitting any motion to give financial assistance to Tasmania.
– If this motion be carried the notice of motion by the honorable member for Bass can be withdrawn.
– It can be withdrawn only with the consent of the House. No notice of motion can be removed from the business-paper except by the consent of the House. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), who has been a member of this House for several years, ought to know that. I am speaking on this question in order to bring home to honorable members the position in which they have been placed. It is useless for them to try to dodge the issue. The honorable member for Bass, and every other honorable member who represents a Tasmanian constituency, has a responsibility to the people of Tasmania. We know the dire straits in which that State finds itself, and are we to be prevented by the motion of the Prime Minister, and by the vote of the honorable member for Bass, from giving to it the relief it desires?
– May I ask where the honorable member’s tongue is now ?
– Where the honorable member’s is. I challenge any honorable member to refute my statements regarding the procedure in this House. I am supported by all constitutional authorities, who agree that when a notice of motion has been placed on the businesspaper the subject to which it refers cannot be debated except on that motion. The object of the honorable member for Bass in giving notice of motion was to prevent anything being done. It cannot be otherwise, for I cannot accuse him of ignorance. He is a highly intelligent person, and that is all the more reason for condemning his action. I could understand an irresponsible person doing such a thing, but I cannot understand his doing it. I know very well what happened. The Government did not want to give assistance to Tasmania.
– That is not true.
– Look at the way it treated the Premier of Tasmania in Melbourne the other day. It treated him in a most scurvy and shameful manner. In order to cover up the actions of the Government Ministers put up - perhaps I should not say “put up,” for they would not do it so crudely - but they suggested to the honorable member for
Bass that he should place on the businesspaper this notice of motion, knowing full well that the Prime Minister would move that private members’ day be abolished. They knew that the motion of the honorable member for Bass would not be discussed, and that no other opportunity would be given to honorable members to vote on the subject. I ask the honorable member for Bass how he proposes to vote on the Prime Minister’s motion ? There is an important notice of motion on the business-paper relating to the granting of titles, and upon that, too, if the motion of the Prime Minister be carried, honorable members will not be able to express an opinion. Honorable members need have no qualms of suspicion about my wishes in this matter. The title I now have will satisfy me for the rest of my life. It is remarkable that almost immediately an honorable member had given notice of a motion opposed to the granting of titles in Australia, the Prime Minister took action to abolish private members’ day. Honorable members’ mouths will be closed on the subject of titles; they will not be able to express their disapproval of the present practice. The Prime Minister’s motion should be postponed until the notice of motions of the honorable member for Bass, dealing with the granting of financial assistance to Tasmania, and of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), dealing with the granting of titles to people in Australia, have been dealt with. It would not be parliamentary for me to say that the action of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) is rank hypocrisy, and I confess that parliamentary language fails me when I try to express my feelings about his attitude. He has on the business-paper his evergreen motion, for. leave to introduce a Bill to reduce the Parliamentary allowance to honorable members. Notwith- standing this political placard, he will shortly vote with the Prime Minister to “ gaS “ his own motion, and to prevent members of this House from having an opportunity to reduce their own salaries. I am dying for an opportunity to record a vote upon that motion, but he will vote to deprive me of the right and privilege of voting against him. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) has a motion on the business-paper dealing with the important question of finance. He has now been taken into the fold, but how long it will remain a close corporation the Lord and Dr. Earle Page alone know, and I do not expect that even Dr. Earle Page will tell us anything about it. The speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs on that motion was one of the finest we have listened to for many a day. Will he now vote to apply the closure to his” own motion ? Surely not ! I leave the argument at that, in the knowledge that honorable members, especially those from Tasmania, and particularly the Assistant Minister (Mr. Atkinson), will have something to answer for to the people of that State. I ask them to remember that Tasmania is in dire financial straits, and I urge them to hesitate before recording a vote which will prevent this House from giving it financial assistance.
.- The honorable member for Dalley (Mr.’ Mahony) has been very entertaining, and would have given honorable members- a gre’at deal of pleasure if he had not made such a decided attack upon the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson). I hope that he will repeat his statements later, when there is an opportunity to assist Tasmania. The honorable member for Bass, probably with a full knowledge of what was on the notice-paper, gave a notice of motion for the next grievanceday. His notice of motion will appear on the notice-paper for that day’s proceedings, and it is possible, though notcertain, that some notices of motion in advance of it will prevent its-‘ being reached ; unless the honorablemember has been speaking for a majority of the members of the Opposition, and we may hope that, if there are notices of motion prior to that of the honorable member for Bass, they will be postponed so that his may be discussed. It does not come within the knowledge of the honorable member for Dalley that there is a prior notice of motion, and he thinks that in ordinary circumstances the first question for consideration will not be the motion of the honorable member for Bass. He was most unfair and unjust to that honorable member. It is quite possible, and very probable, if the honorable member for Bass can get the assistance of. honorable members opposite, that the question of granting financial relief to Tasmania will be discussed and decided in this House on next grievance day.
– It cannot be.
– The honorable member should realize that- “ a little learning is a dangerous thing.” He naturally assumed that no notices of motion could be dealt with on our next grievance day. I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to say whether a notice of motion for next grievance day will not take precedence over other business until 6.30 p.m.
– The Prime Minister has a right at any time to substitute other business.
– Not on grievance day.
.- This motion, having been submitted by the Prime Minister, will no doubt be carried, but I register my protest against it. During last session, when the right honorable gentleman submitted a similar motion, I and several other private members who had business on the notice-paper asked him to afford an opportunity for a vote to be recorded on those questions which, in the opinion of the honorable members in charge of them, had been already sufficiently discussed to enable the House to express its judgment on them. The Prime Minister promised that, if time allowed, he- would provide such an opportunity, and I was very disappointed when that was not done.. I believe that one motion standing in my own name, for the appointment of a committee to report upon the advisability of the Commonwealth instituting a steamer service between Melbourne and Hobart, would have been carried. I suppose that the right honorable gentleman was so busy in preparing for his trip abroad that he forgot his promise, but even in the hurry and rush at the end of the session time could have been found for votes to be taken upon several motions sponsored by private members. Now a similar position has arisen, and, if the Prime Minister’s motion is carried, private members will be deprived of an opportunity of ascertaining the sense of the House upon the business which they have placed upon the notice-paper. I do not think it is necessary at this early stage of the session to take away the only chance that private members have to bring forward matters of particular interest to their constituents. It is not only the business promulgated by the Government that the country regards as important; the con stituencies think that there are other matters within the purview of this Parliament which are equally as urgent as Government business. The Prime Minister said that the alternative to this motion is to sit on Tuesdays, but the right honorable gentleman rightly construes the opinion of the majority of members to be averse to an extra sitting day at this stage of the session. Unlike the Victorian, New South “Wales, and South Australian members, Tasmanian members, in common with the representatives of Western Australia and Queensland, are unable to return to their respective States each week-end; and, if I were to study my own- convenience, I should prefer the House to sit on Tuesday rather than that the opportunity for dealing with private members’ business should be taken away. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has mentioned a matter which is of vital importance to the State of Tasmania. I do not know what was in the mind of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) when he gave notice of a motion for the next grievance day, which is two or three weeks distant. I do not impute motives; the honorable member assists to represent Tasmania in this House. ‘
– The only door open to him was private members’ day, and now that is being closed.
– I do not know whether the honorable member will be prevented from submitting his motion on grievance day.
– A private member’s motion cannot be dealt with on grievance day.
– Private member’s business can be dealt with until 6.30 p.m.
– -The definite statement is made by honorable members on this side, who have been members of this House longer than I have, and who, therefore, should know the Standing Orders, that there will be no opportunity to discuss the motion of which the honorable member for Bass has given notice. If that is so, the carrying of this motion to-day will place a very serious disability upon Tasmania, and particularly upon the State Government, which is waiting anxiously to know what steps this Parliament intends to take to relieve the State’s financial difficulties. In view of the negotiations between the Prime Minister, the Commonwealth Treasurer, and the Premier of Tasmania, I had intended to give notice, to-day, of a motion in similar terms to those of the motion of which the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) has given notice. Apparently, there is truth in the saying : “ Great minds think alike.” I was very pleased to hear the honorable member read his notice, and I would willingly support it if an opportunity to deal with it were presented. I understand that the Prime Minister has promised that the requests of Tasmania shall receive sympathetic consideration, but the Commonwealth Treasurer was even more emphatic. I was a member of the deputation which waited upon him some months ago-
– Order! Thehonorable member’s remarks are outside the motion.
– The motion, if carried, will defeat the desire of the Tasmanian representatives to bring before the House, at the earliest possible moment, a matter that is vital to their State. We shall have no opportunity to discuss the question of granting financial aid to Tasmania until the Estimates have been submitted, and they probably will not be under discussion before the end of July. Until it knows the attitude of this Parliament, the Tasmanian Government is helpless.’ I would like the Prime Minister to promise that he will let the State Government know, without delay, the proposals that will be embodied in the Estimates.
– The honorable member is overlooking the fact that until 6.30 p.m. on grievance days, private members’ business takes precedence. The honorable member for Bass has given notice of a motion for next grievance day, and that motion will be first on the list.
– And the Prime Minister overlooks the fact that his motion will prevent that happening.
– That is not so.
– I am of opinion that the Prime Minister’s motion will prevent the consideration of the motion of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Bass.
– Government business is to take precedence, “ unless otherwise ordered.”
– I know perfectly well that the Leader of the Government will otherwise order. Last year the Prime Minister practically promised that if there was opportunity, and if time allowed, he would permit a vote to be taken. But he did not make the opportunity, and time did not allow. Probably the right honorable gentleman will follow the same course this session. I feel it to be my duty to assist in securing the earliest possible discussion of questions of importance to the State J represent. I do not know whether we shall get any intimation of the intention of the Government, but the reports of the interviews between the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, on the one hand, and the Premier and the AttorneyGeneral of Tasmania, cm the other hand, indicate that it is not the intention of the Government to make any statement’ at all, either to the Government of Tasmania or to this House, regarding the request for financial assistance to Tasmania until the Estimates are submitted.
– Order ! The honorable member is again wide of the motion.
– I was trying to connect mystatement with the question before the Chair by giving my reasons why I must vote against this proposal. At this stage of the session, I think it is absolutely unnecessary to take away from private members the only opportunity they will have to get motions of great importance to the States they represent discussed by the House.
.- Most honorable members recognize that when a Government is anxious to get more time to discuss its proposals, that time is taken from an almost defenceless body of men - the private members. It is very rarely that a private member gets a motion passed. During a period of about seven years, I know of two motions only in the names of private members which have been passed. One had reference to Home Rule for Poland, and the other dealt with the referendum, initiative and recall. I would rather see the Prime Minister follow the course he adopted prior to his visit to the Homeland last year, and bludgeon measures through, than allow these important questions to be shelved. During my long parliamentary life I have never known an honorable member to change his views because of any speech made in the House. I made inquiries in the same direction from the proprietor of the Age, the late David Syme, and the directors of the Argus, and they informed me that they had never known of a case where that had occurred. There is, therefore, something to be said in favour of bludgeoning proposals through this Chamber, and that example will not be forgotten. I have always protested against the curtailment of private members’ business; and if a division is called for on this occasion I shall follow the same course of action.When a member of the Parliament of Victoria, I advocated the setting aside of one night in thesession to be called a “ division night,” when a vote should be taken, without debate, on any question on the notice-paper. I place that suggestion before this House. By that means a good deal of discussion would probably be avoided. There are some important questions on the noticepaper, which, if this motion is carried, will go by the board. The notice of motion in the name of the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson), dealing with affairs in the New Hebrides, is one worthy of consideration by this House, as is also that of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) relating to the granting of titles. One wonders whether the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) is in earnest about his motion for a reduction of honorable members’ allowance. The connexion of Canberra with the southern line by railway is an important question which should be decided. An opportunity should certainly be afforded honorable members to discuss the authorization of the publication of Mansard, on a motion in the name of the honorable member for Lang. It would appear that honorable members are not privileged respecting some statements published in Hansard. If that is so, it is a very serious matter for every member. It is a constitutional rule that a member is at liberty to speak in the House what he believes - even though it be against the highest or the wealthiest person in the land. That question should be settled one way or the other; but, unless the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) can see his way to be obliging to the honorable member for Lang, I do not know how finality can be reached concerning it. The construction of the Oodnadatta-Alice Springs section of the North-South railway is a matter which should not be set aside. The promise to South Australia, which has so long remained unfulfilled, should be kept. The motion in my own name, referring to the destitute allowance, deals with a matter which is both pressing and urgent. Few persons, excluding the Reverend Mr. Yeates, can have any idea of the poverty and misery existing in Melbourne to-day.
– It is the same in Sydney. People are lying in the Domain.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) will find that his action in moving an amendment to that motion will require a lot of explaining to his constituents. The proposal for a shipping service between Melbourne and Hobart requires no word of mine to emphasize its importance. I pass by the motion of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) dealing with the carrying out of Government work by contract so far as possible. Every honorable member who professes sympathy with returned soldiers should support the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) in his attempt to have a Select Committee appointed to inquire into the dismissal of an unfortunate returned soldier.
– Randall is not a returned soldier.
– I understood he was. The motion in the name of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), for the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate and report upon the administration of New Guinea, deserves the support of every humane member of the House. The Prime Minister might yet see his way clear to set a day apart for that motion to be discussed. It is too serious a matter to be allowed to stand over. I cannot move along Collinsstreet without having men occupying high professional positions in this city speak to me in approval of my motion relative to private architectural competition for Government and Commonwealth Bank works. The eldest son of Mr. Kirkpatrick, has approached me, through a senator, desiring an interview. I stated that if it could be shown that any of my statements were not based upon truth, I would withdraw them in this House, and make public acknowledgment of my error. But though that was said some days ago, I have receivedno further communication from Mr. Kirkpatrick, junior.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
InCommittee (Consideration resumed from 13th June, vide page 1303).
Clause 52 (Rental of leases exchanged for lease existing at commencement of Ordinance),
Upon which Mr. Nelson had moved byway of amendment -
That paragraph a be omitted with a view to inserting in paragraph (b), after the figures, “ 1912-18 “, the following words “ or leases granted in exchange for a lease granted under an Act in the State of South Australia.”
– I pointed out to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), when this clause was previously before the Committee, that if this amendment were negatived it would prevent him from moving another amendment of which he had given notice.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 53 and 54 agreed to.
Clause 55 -
When it is intended to make any resumption under section fifty-three . . . the Board shall determine the resumption in accordance with the following rules: -
The part or parts which may be resumed shall not comprise the head station, or any of the leased lands within five miles thereof, or the principal watering place upon the land; and
The rules mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (e) of the last preceding sub-section may be departedfrom in whole or in part if the Minister and thelessee so agree, or if the Board determines that the resumption cannot otherwise be made effectively, or if it appears to the Board to be necessary in the public interest so to do.
Clause verbally amended.
– There are questions involved in this clause on which I desire some infor mation from the Minister. Paragraph d of sub-clause 1 reads -
The part or parts which may be resumed shall not comprise the head station, or any of the leased lands within five miles thereof, or the principal watering place upon the land.
Many of these holdings have river frontages, which are certainly the “ principal watering places,” and it will be impossible to resume them if the clause is agreed to in its present form. Another aspect of the matter is that numerous holdings in the Northern Territory consist of a number of small leases, and holders of these leases will be able to retain the head station and principal watering place in each lease if we agree to the clause as it is drafted. I submitted that view to the House in making my second-reading speech, but, though the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) disagreed with my interpretation, he did not convince me that I was wrong. I cannot see anything in the Bill to prevent a man who has a holding made up of a number of small leases from retaining the permanent watering place in each lease. If that is possible, it will mean that only dry land may be resumed under the provisions of the Bill. That will be a serious matter from the point of view of settlers in the Northern Territory. Permanent water is essential on every holding. I am afraid that the practice of amalgamating leases, which is at present adopted by many land-holders, will defeat the objects honorable members have in view. On many runs there are eight or ten, and even more, permanent watering places, and they may be on land which is held under a number of separate leases.
– But there can be only one head station.
– Honorable members should not confuse themselves in dealing with this matter. Leaseholders may contend that there is a head station on one lease and a principal watering place on every other lease so held.A careful reading of the sub-clause will show that a head station has application to land only, and not to water. My argument is supported by clause 57, which reads -
Where two or more leases held by different lessees are worked as one run the Minister may, upon application made by the lessees within six months after the date on which notice of the resumption has been received by the lessee or within such extended time as the Minister allows, and on the recommendation of the Board, make a consolidated resumption from the lands included in leases so worked instead of separate resumptions from the land included in each lease.
Under the provisions of that clause it will be optional for the lessee to surrender the whole of his leases or particular leases. I ask the Minister to give us an explanation of the intentions of the Government. We should be very careful in dealing with all these clauses, because permanent water is essential to the successful settlement of the Northern Territory holdings. Additional support is also lent to my view of the position by sub-clause 1 of clause 62, which reads -
Where two or more leases granted under this Division are held by one person and worked as one run, the lessee may surrender the leases for a single lease, including all the lands included in the surrendered leases.
It will be optional under that clause also for a lessee to surrender the whole of his leases and receive one lease in exchange or to surrender particular leases and obtain other leases for the same areas. If that practice is followed it will mean that practically none of the valuable river frontage areas in the western district of the Territory will be resumed. Lessees will also be enabled to retain lagoons, lakes, and billabongs. The clauses I have cited will certainly prevent a large area of valuable land from being made available to new settlers. It. would be advisable, in my opinion, to stipulate that a certain area shall be included in each lease issued under this measure, and that the intending lessee may indicate which watering place shall be included. The area which a lessee may retain should be, say, 1,000 square miles surrounding the head station. Then we should know definitely what water was to be resumed. In other words, I ask the Minister to make this compulsory in’ a case where one lease will comprise a number of surrendered leases which are now managed as one station.
– A subsequent clause deals with the consolidation of leases.
– Yes; but the lessee will have the option of consolidating, and it is quite possible that under consolidation the area to be resumed may be the worst portion of the large run from which it is excised. However, the clauses dealing with the consolidation of leases are not applicable to my claim that the lessee should be obliged to nominate his principal watering place. Otherwise I can see no hope for future settlement in the Northern Territory without the expenditure of huge sums of money in conserving water or sinking bores.
– Does the honorable member contend that miles of river frontage may be regarded as the principal watering place ?
– That will be quite possible under paragraph d. At any rate, I want to know whether the whole of a river frontage or a large lake may be regarded as the whole of the water on a lease. A dozen leases may be depending upon certain rivers or certain lakes for their water supply. The paragraph provides that no permanent water on any holding is to be resumed, but I am pointing out that the holding may be made up of a number of leases.
– All that is intended is that the lessee shall not be deprived of his chief watering place. He will retain his head station, an area 5 miles around that station, that is to say an area containing 78$ square miles, or, roughly, 52,000 acres, with the head station in the centre, and his chief watering place.
– On each lease?
– No; on one lease only. If he holds 10,000 square miles of country he will retain only the chief watering place.
– Does the Minister, realize that the big runs are composed of a num- ber O’f 1©3(S63 ^
– Yes, and the Lands Board will see that they are consolidated for this purpose, and that the lessee is given his chief watering place. It will be incumbent upon the lessee to declare, at the Board’s request, which” watering place is to be considered the principal one for the purposes of the Ordinance, and that is all that he will get.
– Supposing the lessee says that his chief watering place is the whole of a river ?
– He will be allowed to retain a portion of the river frontage only.
.Honorable members will best understand the position by an illustration. The waterhole alongside the head station of the Victoria Downs property, on the Wickham
River, is 15 miles long. Theriver itself is 75 miles long, but in the dry season it becomes a series of water-holes from 5 miles to 15 miles long, from 100 yards to 50 yards wide, and from 30 feet to 40 feet deep. But the Victoria Downs station may regard as its principal water -hole a hole at Longreach, 40 miles from the head station. I take it that the lessee will retain the head station with its waterhole, an area with a radius of 5 miles from the head station, and the water-hole at Longreach. I think the Committee should agree to this.
.- It is provided in paragraph d that no land within 5 miles of the head station shall be resumed for closer settlement purposes. I do not know much about the Northern Territory, but I think I am safe in saying that every head station will have a decent watering-place within 5 miles. As I am not satisfied with the interpretation put upon paragraph d by the Minister, and as I wish to avoid the possibility of the whole of a river front being claimed as the principal watering place of a station, I move -
That the words “ or the principal wateringplace upon the land,” sub-clause (1), paragraph (d), be omitted.
I am sure that within 5 miles of every head station there will be at least one good watering-place.
.- I was at first inclined to agree that the paragraph was very reasonable, because no one would suggest that in resuming land from a station the lessee should be deprived of his principal watering-place; but there is no doubt the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has pointed out a serious difficulty in that it would be quite possible for a lessee to retain quite a number of wateringplaces within 5 miles of his head station, and, as the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) has pointed out, also avery large watering-place, perhaps 40 miles away from the head station. There is nothing wrong in accepting the amendment, because it will not compel the Government to resume the principal watering-place on a station, but it will mean that the Lands Board will be given the power to allow the station-owner to retain whatever watering-places can fairly he allotted to him. The retention of the words which the honorable member for Angas seeks to have omitted would tie the hands of future Administrations. There is no reason why we should do so. We are protecting the rights of the lessee very admirably by preventing the selection of. any part of his holding within 5 miles of the head station, an area which unquestionably must include a very important watering-place.
– Not necessarily.
– I have not known a head station where there is not a decent water supply.
– But it may not necessarily be the best water supply for the station.
– I do not say that it would be, but I have not known a squatter in any part of Australia to select his land and build a homestead without having an adequate water supply near that homestead. As a matter of fact, an adequate water supply is the first consideration in choosing a site for a homestead. The settler usually selects the best water supply.
– He may select the best water supply for homestead purposes.
– But unquestionably he selects for his stock as well. The horses which graze around the homestead require water. Stock also graze near the homestead. I should like the honorable member to indicate one station where a homestead has been put up without a good water supply. I donot know of any, and I am acquainted with a goodmany stations. The omission of the words from the paragraph will not rob the station holder of his water supply, but will give to the Administration the chance to resume land upon which there is a good water supply.
.- The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) says he knows nothing about the Northern Territory, and yet he proposes to make the paragraph simply ridiculous. The paragraph is as clear as noonday. The areas which may be resumed shall not comprise the head station, or any of the leased land within 5 miles thereof. It expresses just what is intended, and then says, “or the principal watering place upon the land.” In an enormous area such as there is in the Northern Territory, is it likely that the biggest water supply will not be within 5 miles of each head station?
– Will the Minister say that the honorable member’s definition is correct ?
– At any rate, the paragraph is as clear as noonday, and if the words are omitted the inducement to a lessee to surrender portions of his lease will be removed.
– The honorable member for Bass has said that the principal watering place may be 40 miles away from the head station.
– I understood the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) to say that the station owner would not put his biggest supply - that is, if it were in the shape of a dam - within 5 miles of the homestead.
– You cannot have cattle more than 10 miles from water.
– The lessee would not necessarily have his chief water supply within 5 miles of the head station. No lessee would dream of surrendering his lease to come under this Ordinance if he knew that he would be compelled, under this clause, to forfeit his best water supply.
– The Minister should give the Committee a little information about this clause. He has said that the Lands Board will see that these holdings are consolidated.
– I did not say that; I said that the Board would consider them as if they were consolidated, and permit the lessee to retain only one chief watering place.
– The honorable gentleman is arguing upon assumptions all the time. It would assist the Committee if he could explain the provisions’ on which he bases those assumptions.
– I say that paragraph d of this clause does not, in any way, controvert my assumption.
– In common with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and other honorable members, I do not believe that upon a resumption the principal watering place of the lessee should be taken from him, but I point out that many of the big runs in the Northern Territory comprise up to a dozen different leases, and, under this clause, the lessee in such cases will be able to retain the chief watering place on each separate lease.
– He will not.
– On what does the honorable gentleman base that statement?
– The honorable member’s interpretation of the clause is quite wrong.
– The paragraph reads -
Thepart or parts whichmay he resumed, shall not comprise the head station, or any of the leased lands within five miles thereof, or the principal watering place upon the land.
– What land?
– The land comprised in any lease which the lessee proposes to surrender.
– The honorable member contends that it means land within 5 miles of the head station, but I quite fail to see how he can interpret the clause in that way. The land referred to is the land held under any lease to be retained by the lessee. If honorable members will look at clause 57 they will see that it is entirely optional with lessees coming under this Ordinance to apply for a consolidated lease. They can go on as they have done in the past, and apply for the renewal of a number of smaller leases. If they adopt the latter course, each of the leases must be treated separately, and then, under the clause we are now considering, paragraph d will operate in respect of each of the separate leases. If honorable members can show that that interpretation is not correct I shall be satisfied, but the Minister’s bald assertion to the contrary is not sufficient for the Committee. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) told us that the principal watering place on the Victoria Downs station is 40 miles away from the head station, but he did not say how many separate leases are comprised in Victoria Downs. In that station, in Wave Hill station, Woollaroo, and others, there are a number of separate leases. Each of these leases will be taken into separate consideration when resumption is proposed, and the principal watering place on each lease will be exempt from resumption under this clause.
– The Minister does not intend that:
– I do not think that he does for a moment.
– The clause does not say that either.
– There is nothing in the Ordinance to provide that on surrender a lessee shall be granted a consolidated lease, unless with his own consent. I shall be better satisfied if the Minister will give the Committee the assurance that persons holding large runs in the Northern Territory, when surrendering their leased and making application to be brought under this Ordinance, will be given a single consolidated lease for the area they will continue to retain. Under the clause as it stands, the Board will have to take into cognizance the water on each particular lease. The Minister confirms the statement that permanent water is that within a 5-mile radius of the head station. That is what the honorable member for Wakefield has read into the clause.
– I do not say that it shall be, but that, as a matter of fact, it is.
– In many cases, the permanent water on a station may be 15 or 20 miles, or more, from the head station.
– What I said was that you must have water at least within 10 miles of where cattle are grazed.
– Five miles to water is the recognized distance for cattle. The Minister has not yet shown the Committee that, in the case of resumption under this Ordinance, the whole of the leases comprising a run will be treated as one lease.
– Is the honorable mem ber sure that the clause means what he says it means?
– I am sure that the “ land “ is the land contained in the separate leases which make up a big run.
– Put in “ the area within 5 miles of the head station.”
– It would be absurd to do that. Does the Minister in charge of the Bill suggest that this clause means the watering-place within 5 miles of the head station?
– If the honorable gentleman were to provide machinery under which, when a run was surrendered, in order tobe brought under this
Ordinance, the separate leases comprised in it would be consolidated and regarded as one lease, the clause could be operated intelligently.While it remains as it is, it will be impossible to resume any of the principal wateringplaces on any of the leases comprised in a run.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) contends that, if a lessee has a number of blocks, upon their resumption he must be allowed to retain thechief wateringplace on each block.
– The clause does not mean that. It means that the lessee shall be entitled to one chief wateringplace for the whole of his run. That is the way in which the clause will be interpreted by the Land Board.
– Where does the Minister get that ?
– From the wording of the clause.
– The Minister could get over the difficulty by inserting another paragraph providing that, when resumptions are made, the run shall be regarded as a, consolidated lease for the purposes of resumption.
– There is power under the Ordinance as it stands to do that. If honorable members will look at sub-clause 2 of clause 50 they will find that it reads -
A lease granted under this section may include adjacent lands in two or more surrendered leases, whether in actual contact or not.
I explained that to the Committee before.
– But that is optional with the lessee all the time.
– It is optional with the Board, not with the lessee.
– Clause 50 does not deal with options.
– Under sub-clause d, the Lands Board would treat all the land as if it was one lease, and would ask the lessee to state which was the principal watering place.
– If a paragraph were put into clause 55 similar to that in clause 50, it might meet the case. Clause 50 deals with the granting of leases, and clause 55 with their resumption. Consolidation is providedfor in the granting, but not in the resumption, of leases.
– The only point raised by the honorable member for the Northern Territory was whether the lessee could retain one or more watering places. I say that the lessee is entitled to only one principal watering place.
– Clause 57 proves that it is optional for the lessees to consolidate theirleases.
– The lessee is entitled only to one chief watering place.
– On each lease!
– No; one watering place for the whole of the land he holds.
-Will the Minister make that clear in an addendum to the clause?
– Honorable members should realize that almost all the natural waters in the Northern Territory are included in lands held under the South Australian leases. The clause is framed as an inducement to the South Australian lessees to come under the Ordinance. That is why the principal watering places are reserved to them. If they do not come under the Bill, they will continue, as they are at present, under the South Australian leases, in which case we should not be able to touch them for twenty years. In many instances they hold the best areas.
– I am not satisfied with the Minister’s explanation. The honorable member forWakefield (Mr. Foster) said that I did not know anything about the Territory. That is partly correct. I have not been to the Territory, and the difference between me and some honorable members is only that they have touched the bottom of the Territory and think they are authorities on it. But I know something about stations, and experience has taught me that head stations are never far from a good watering place. Everything hinges upon the definition of “principal watering place.” Seeing that the honorable member for Wakefield is such an authority on the subject, I ask him to say what is the principal wateringplace in 20 miles of country that has a river running through it. He will not answer me, and he will be a smart man who can. When it came to surrendering the lease, the lessee would argue that the principal watering place was the whole river, and if he had the money he would have a good case to take to court. Great cases have been won on worse grounds than that. If I can get only one other honorable member to support me, I shall vote against the loose clause as it stands. If it happened that lands were tied up in the way I have suggested, I should feel that I had shirked my duty in allowing such a loose clause to pass. The honorable member for Wakefield contended that, as the clause had been prepared by officers who knew something about draftsmanship, it was infallible; but I can point to three amendments that I have successfully moved in this Bill, made necessary because of loose drafting. It is our duty, if we see anything that is loose, to try to tighten it up. When we are proposing to leave to the lessee 5 miles of country round the head station, I am not prepared to give him a chance of claiming that the principal watering place is the whole of a riverrunning through the other portion of his land.
.- Honorable members appear to be agreed that the lessee should be allowed to retain the homestead, 5 miles of land round it, and one watering place. If the word “ run “ were substituted for the word “ land “ in paragraph d of subclause 1, it would meet the case. It is arguable that the word “land” would mean the land included in each lease, and if the run included ten leases it might be contended that the owner could have ten watering places.
.- The clause is satisfactory as it stands. I feel that it is imperative to offer the station-owners a definite security, and water is one of the principal securities. I suggest the substitution of the words “ such lands “ for the words “ the land.” In my opinion there is no difference between “ run “ and “land.”
. -There seems to be a confusion of thought among honorable members in the Corner. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) have argued on the assumption that the “principal watering place” means the principal watering place on the land that is within 5 miles of the homestead.
– The Government does not intend that.
– But honorable members do.
– If we said “ the land so retained “ it would meet the case.
– The honorable member has not grasped the idea of the Bill. The intention is not to allow the lessee to retain only the principal watering place on the land within 5 miles of the homestead.
– Allow the owner to retain so much land and the principal watering place on that land.
– If that is done every objection raised on this side disappears; but the Minister does not propose to do that. The paragraph can be read in three separate sentences, as follow: -
The part or parts which may be resumed shall not comprise the head station.
The part or parts which may be resumed shall not comprise any of the leased lands within 5 miles of the head station.
The part or parts which may be resumed shall not comprise the principal watering place upon the land.
A striking illustration was given by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) of the effect on the Victoria Downs station. He said the lessees of that would reserve the head station, all the land within 5 milesof it, and the principal watering place, even if it was 40 miles away.
– That might be so.
– I said that was the most they could expect, and that they would certainly not get more. I did not admit that the Bill provided for it.
– But the Minister did, and we must take his interpretation. It would be absurd to make any provision for watering places if the clause were read as honorable members in the Corner interpret it. If the lessee retains the head station and all the land within 5 miles thereof, surely he will retain also all the watering places within that radius.
– And it may also mean that he cannot retain water over 5 miles from the head station.
– I do not think the clause says that, but it is vague. It is clear that the clause reserves the head station, a 5-mile radius round it, and the principal watering place, wherever it may be on the land. Is that clear ?
– And the principal watering place cannot be reserved unless we reserve land to get to it. The reservation, therefore, may include. 40 miles of country from the head station.
– That is not likely in the case of a resumption.
-When we resume land against the wishes of the lessee we must be prepared to face every obstacle that he can place in our way. The State of Victoria has had considerable experience of compulsory resumptions, and the cost and delay have been so great that the Act is not now put into operation.
– Would the honorable member accept the substitution of the word “ run “ for “ land “ ?
– The difficulty would still exist. The word “ run “ is colloquial, and I think it would mean “ the land.” The principal objection of the honorable member for the Northern Territory has not been met.
– Could the difficulty not be met by defining the exempted land as “ one block, and one only “ ?
– That is a very sensible proposition. The Minister has said that the Board would regard the leases as consolidated, but there is nothing in the Bill to suggest that they would.
– Sub-clause 2 of clause 50 suggests it.
– That clause deals only with the granting or surrender of leases. We are not now dealing with the granting or surrendering of leases.
– If the leases are not surrendered under clause 50 they will not be governed by the Ordinance.
– I draw the attention of the Minister to clause 57 which provides for the resumption of leases held by separate lessees but worked as one property. The Boardmay consolidate those leases for the purposes of resumption only if application is made by the lessees, and that limits the powers of the Board. A number of the leases that are worked in common are held under separate names, and if the Government wishes to resume the land each one of those leases must be regarded as separate, and a principal watering place reserved for each. That difficulty could be overcome by omitting from clause 57 the words “ upon application made by the lessees within six months after the date on which notice of the resumption has been received by the lessee, or within such extended time as the Minister allows, and on the recommendation of the Board.”
– That clause deals with leases held by different lessees but worked as one property.
– Will not the Government be resuming some of these leases?
– It may be.
– All the big leases on the one run are not held by the same owners.
– The largest leases will be held by the same lessee but under different names. Do Ministers actually believe that in the absence of the words in clause 33 relating to the principal watering place, any Lands Board would, in the process of resumption, takeaway water which the head station required? By inserting those words to protect the lessees the Government is tying the hands of the Lands Board and creating legal difficulties. I suggest that this clause be postponed.
– I am prepared to agree to that suggestion.
– As the clause has been amended, it cannot be postponed.
.- If the clause is allowed to remain as drafted a great deal of trouble will be caused toany authority in charge of the subdivision of large leases in the Territory. We should not give away our rights to the principal watering places in these leases. There may be in a lagoon or billabong adequate water to serve ten or twelve lessees if they can have access to it, or the right to install pumping plants. But if that water is reserved to the head station the whole of the land adjacent thereto, although not required by the original lessee, will be useless. There is no necessity for such a provision as is contained in the clause. The Board should have a free hand in regard to the disposition of the water when carrying out resumption for subdivision. If the water on a property is sufficient for only one lessee it is useless to subdivide the land, but the principal watering place may be a water hole or billabong 10 miles long and capable of serving 100,000 people. Why hamper the Board with a restriction the effect of which no one can estimate? Surely the Board can be depended upon to act fairly by the original lessee, who should have preserved to him access to water on any lands he holds, but not to the exclusion of new settlers who come into the district as a result of resumption and subdivision. If the provision in the Bill is allowed to remain, the original lessee may say that a water hole adjacent to the area which the Crown wishes to subdivide is his principal watering place, and the reservation of that water to him may render useless 100 miles of country. It is ridiculous to offer a man a block of land if it has no access to an adequate water supply. I remember that in the district of New South Wales in which I was born there was a good deal of corruption in the surveying of blocks in consequence of the squatters exercising their influence with the surveyors. After a person had applied for a homestead selection, the surveyor would mark out a long narrow strip of land away from water and facing the stock route, and forming a buffer between the squatter’s land and the stock route. Many people, amongst them my father, had that experience, and it caused a great deal of discontent. I hope that the Minister will not hamper the Board by any restriction with regard to water.
– The original lessee will be entitled to only one watering place outside the 5-mile radius.
– The Minister’s intention should be clearly stated in the Bill.
– The Bill does clearly state our intention.
– The Committee would be doing wrong to give away the rightof the Government to control the water. The water should be conserved to the people. I hope that the Minister will not adopt a cast-iron attitude with regard to this matter, but that he will give consideration to the suggestions put forward. We all want to do what is best in the interests of the present lessees, and of the future development of the Territory. We cannot make conditions attractive to new lessees if the old lessees hold the right to all the water.
.- This is a matter which can be dealt with from a non-party stand-point. The meaning of “ watering place “ should be made clear. We should know whether it means a river, a bore, or a billabong. I have no objection to the clause so far as the water on the homestead lease is concerned. If a man goes to the expense of putting down a bore within 5 miles of his homestead, he has a perfect right to expect that watering place to be protected. No other person has any right to use that water. Paragraph d of clause 55 reads -
The part or parts which may bc resumed shall not comprise the head station, or any of the leased lands within 5 miles thereof, or the principal watering place upon the land.
I suggest that instead of the words “ the principal watering place upon the land,” the words “ the principal watering place upon the homestead lease “ should be inserted. The words “ the land “ may mean anything. The watering “place might be 10, 15, or even 20 miles from the homestead, and yet it would be the principal watering place. I would prevent any one, other than the lessee, from using the principal watering place on the homestead lease.
– Suppose it was an artesian bore ?
– If a man goes to the expense of putting down a costly bore, no other person has any right to use the water from that bore without paying for it.
– The lessee may refuse to grant water from that bore, and the Government may refuse to grant permission to sink another.
– It is the duty of the Government, and not that of the lessee already on the land, to provide water for the new settlers.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). To give the lessees power over the Government and the Board, instead of giving the Government and the Board control over the lessees, is a reversal of the usual procedure. This Board will be subject to the Minister, who, in turn, will be responsible to Parliament. Public opinion, as well as the opinion of the majority in this House, would be against the Board, or the Minister, if an attempt were made to take away from a lessee any portion of his water supply. For that reason, I cannot see why the Minister adheres to the clause as printed.
– Why does not the honorable member suggest an improvement ?
– I am supporting an improvement which, has been suggested by the honorable member for Angas.
– The Government cannot accept that.
– It is absurd to think that the Minister, or the Board, would adopt the attitude of depriving the people of water. The Minister has said that he does not know where the principal watering place might be. But to say that it might be 40 miles away from the homestead, and to reserve it without any land around it, would be an absurdity.
– The Land Board would do the cutting up of the land.
– And probably they would do it in a manner similar to that mentioned by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham). There is no provision in the Bill to consolidate a number of leases into one. If that were done we would know where we were.
– The Government would accept an amendment to make it mandatory that when a number of leases held by one man come under this Act, they shall be consolidated into one lease.
– If that were clone, I would be satisfied.
.- In considering this matter it is necessary to go back to sub-clause 2 of clause 50, which reads - ‘
A lease granted under this section may include adjacent lands in two or more surrendered leases, whether in actual contact or not.
Honorable members seem to fear that that may not be done. If the word “shall” were substituted for’ “may,” making it mandatory where the holder of two or more leases applied to come under this Ordinance, for one lease only to be issued in lieu thereof, the meaning of the term “ principal watering place “ would be quite clear.
– The sub-clause referred to deals with a lease granted under this section, but it does not say that a lease which is resumed may include other leases.
– A lease cannot be resumed until it comes under this Ordinance. I think that the substitution of “ shall “ for “ may “ would ‘ meet the wishes of the Committee.
– But there would still be the present loose definition of “ watering place.”
– That could be dealt with in the regulations.
– It should be settled in the definition clause.
– If one new lease only is issued for eight or ten surrendered leases, there can only be one principal watering place.
– That would be making it mandatory only in the case of leases granted in lieu of surrendered leases.
– A lease could not come under the Ordinance until the old lease was surrendered. If the clause is recommitted, and the Minister substitutes the word “ shall “ for the word “ may,” I think it will meet honorable members’ objections.
– I have no objection to taking that course, if it will satisfy the Committee, but it does not satisfy me altogether. I believe that we are all aiming at framing a provision Which will enable a lessee to retain one “ principal watering place,” but not more than one, on his holding. I consider that the Bill, as drafted, achieves that object. However, I am quite prepared to recommit clause 50, with a view to moving an amendment along the lines suggested by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart).
.- I also believe that we are at one in our desire that a lessee should have one permanent watering place, and that he should be able to retain all the land within 5 miles of his head station, and have access to the principal watering place, but I think that the objection to the language of the Bill taken by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr.
Nelson) is a good one. There may be several leases in one holding, and a principal watering place in each lease which the lessee may be able to retain.
– I do not think that the language of the Bill is capable of that interpretation.
– I suppose that the opinion of the Minister in charge of the Bill should carry considerable weight, but I cannot help feeling that his view is wrong. We have to face the position that certain lessees may not choose to surrender their leases in accordance with the provisions of the Bill.
– The provision with regard to the chief watering place is being made as an inducement to lessees to accept the Ordinance.
– I have no doubt that if a lessee considers that he will be able to retain the chief watering place in each lease that he holds he will be very ready to accept the Ordinance, and we shall find that valuable river frontages are entirely locked up. I had some experience of a happening of that kind in Western Australia. I suppose that the finest pastoral land in that State is along the Gascoyne River, 200 miles of the frontage to which is held by one company. The back country there is somewhat arid, and because there is no right of access to the river it has not been developed. That is a serious position. Both the Minister in charge of the Bill and the Minister for Works and Railways are sincere in their belief about the meaning of the verbiage of the Bill, but we are in grave danger of locking up land if we make it possible for lessees to retain a principal watering place on each lease that they now hold. Our experience with pastoralists is that they will risk their whole fortune to contest at law a point such as we are now discussing, and, as some honorable members have said, whatever may be reported in Hansard will be of little avail in a court of law. I do not think any Land Board would expect a man to accept a lease of land which had not a good watering place upon it.
.- This clause does not satisfactorily deal with the matters to which it has reference. The Bill provides that the Minister may resume an area not exceeding a quarter of the total area in any lease. That means, in my opinion, each separate lease constituting a man’s holding.
– That is my contention.
– It also provides that, as far as possible, the whole of the resumed area shall be taken in one block, and, where practicable, shall be separated from the remainder of the land included in the lease by one straight line, and that at least one of the external boundaries shall coincide with the original boundaries of the land. It provides, further, that the average qualities and capabilities of the resumed part shall, as far as possible, be the average qualities and capabilities of the whole of the land. Paragraph d of the clause appears to be causing all the trouble. It provides, first, that the land resumed shall not comprise the head station. I do not profess to be an expert in pastoral affairs, but I have had some experience in construing Acts of Parliament, and in the light of that experience I say that unless some expression is inserted to define the boundaries of the head station the Administration may be caused serious trouble. It may consider that the head station Includes the station buildings and 100 acres surrounding it. The lessee may contend that it includes the station and 10,000 acres surrounding it. How is the matter to be determined ?
– The Land Board will settle that point.
– But some provision must be made for determining it. That provision may assume various forms. We could, for instance, define .” head station.” Both the lessee and the .Crown would then be protected. A difficulty also exists in regard to the meaning of the words “ principal watering place upon the land “, in paragraph d. There is uncertainty as to what ‘ ‘ land means. It may mean all the land in the holding; but it is quite arguable that it means non-resumed land. It is quite clear, in my opinion, that each lease will have to be considered separately if the clause is passed as drafted. It will be a matter for the Crown to determine, in issuing new leases, how it will prevent any person from taking undue advantage of the provision respecting the principal watering place. Both “head station” and “ principal watering place “ should be defined in the Bill. The head station must have some area of land surrounding- it, and so must the principal watering place, otherwise neither would, be of any use to the lessee. Therefore, it seems to be wise to settle these matters in the Bill. We could fix the boundaries which should enclose a head station, and we could compel a lessee to state within a certain period after his taking up residence on the lease what he considered to be his principal watering place. As matters stand at present it appears to be possible for the Crown to resume &- quarter of a man’s lease and leave him his head station and a principal watering place a considerable distance from his land, and in such a position that it would be of no value to him. If we inserted in the Bill a definition of “head station “ and “ principal watering place,” the difficulties with which honorable members are wrestling would disappear. It does not appear to me to be possible to deal in this measure with all the circumstances which will arise in the surrender of leases. Some matters will have to be left for administrative action. The Department must take the responsibility of issuing new leases in such a way that both the head station and principal watering place are accessible. It would would be absurd to do otherwise.
.Honorable members seem to overlook the fact that pastoral leases in the Northern Territory cover immense areas, but taking a lease of 400 square miles - the average holding is very much larger - paragraph d will allow the lessee to retain an area with a radius of 5 miles from his homestead; that is to say, an area of 50,240 acres, which may not include more than one good watering place. Honorable members opposite are quite correct when they declare that the homestead is usually alongside a good watering place, but on a holding of 400 square miles there are at least twenty watering places, and the lessee would assuredly., require one good watering place other than that which is alongside his homestead. The paragraph would enable him to do so, whereas the amendment would leave him with three parts of his holding and possibly only one watering place used by the few stock he usually keeps at the homestead. I am sure no one would wish to put such a restriction upon a lessee. I agree with the honorable member for
Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) that we should not give away our rights to water, but at the same time the man who has borne the heat and burden of the day is entitled to at least one good watering place in addition to the homestead watering place. Our aim should be to get the large areas in the Northern Territory settled. There are millions of acres for which there is no rush of applicants. In fact more land is being thrown up than is being taken up in the Territory. If we want to have the country settled we must offer the best possible inducement to settlers.
– Is the Minister asking that the whole clause be agreed to without further consideration?
– If honorable members will agree to the clause as already amended, I am agreeable to having it recommitted.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Gabb’s amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
.- I am surprised at the vote taken upon the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). I thought that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) would have crossed to this side, because the amendment would have made clear what he thought the paragraph did, namely, that the’ principal watering place should be within 5 miles of the head station. It is quite evident that honorable members voted not according to their convictions but under the crack of the whip. I am also inclined to believe that some honorable members have no idea of the meaning of. the clause. For instance, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) spoke of paragraph d as if it applied to new lessees, but if he had understood the Ordinance he would have realized that the principal watering place was to be retained by the surrendering lessee and not by a lessee going to the country for the first time. According to the Minister, the Land Board will do this or do that, and in order to ensure that his wishes in this respect are carried out, I move -
That in sub-clause 2, after “paragraphs a,” the letter d be inserted.
If this amendment is agreed to, subclause 2 will read -
The rules mentioned in paragraphs a, d, and e of the last preceding sub-section may be departed from in whole or in part if the Minister and the- lessee so agree, or if the Board determines that the resumption cannot otherwise be made effectively, or if it appears to the Board to be necessary in- the public interests so to do.
If the Board is to administer this Ordinance as effectively as the Minister presumes it will, . it should be given statutory authority for its actions. My amendment would giveit power to define in any case the principal watering place, and would not leave that to legal luminaries in subsequent litigation. It would also prevent the whole of a river or an extensive billabong from being regarded as a watering place and exempted from resumption, to the disadvantage of intending new lessees. As a rule, the principal watering place is nearest to the head station, and the head station is established on the best part of a lease. It is clear that the existing lessee would not be disposed to surrender the best part of his lease, and not only the best part of a lease, but the best watering place would, under the clause as it stands, continue to be locked up and unavailable to persons desiring to take up new leases. My amendment would give the Board power, in the case of the surrender of a lease for purposes of resumption, to deal with the matter in a way which would not hamper new settlement. I agree with the honorable member forRiverina (Mr. Killen) that there may be a dozen different watering places on a lease, and my amendment would give the Land Board authority to say which watering place should be reserved to the original lessee. The Board would have the power to say whether the principal or any other watering place should be resumed for the benefit of new settlement. I do not see how the Minister can refuse to give this power to the Board or suggest that it is a power which the Board should not possess. Legal gentlemen take different views of particular matters, and I remember that on one occasion Chief Justice Way, of South Australia, considered that a law, as passed, was not sufficiently definite, and he adjourned a case, went down to the State Parliament House, and read the debates upon the Bill when it was under consideration to discover the intentions of the legislators in passing the law, in order that he might give a correct decision. I believe that Chief Justice Way was a legal luminary who could claim that fewer of his judgments were upset on appeal than those of any other Judge.
– He had no right to do what he did. He had a right to decide the case according to the wording of the Act.
– He wanted to satisfy himself as to what the law meant in the minds of the men who passed it. No doubt the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) is right in contending that he should have interpreted the law as he found it, but when it is a question of dispensing justice I think that Judges should have the power, which juries possess to a certain degree, of saying that a law is unjust. I hope that the Minister, in replying, will show me how any harm could follow the adoption of my amendment, which would merely give the Land Board wider powers to conserve the interests of the Commonwealth.
– I cannot accept the amendment, which, in my opinion, would only furthercomplicate the clause. Under sub-clause 2 the Land Board may depart from the rules laid down in previous paragraphs, with the consent of the Minister and of the lessee. We can be sure that the lessee would not consent to have his principal watering place taken away from him. In that case the Board would have to come to the conclusion that it was necessary in the public interest to resume it, and if the lessee thought that the Board would do that, he would refuse to come under the Ordinance at all. It would be better if the Committee would accept my offer to recommit the clause, so that it may be altered in accordance with the generally expressed desire that the lessee shall be allowed to retain only one chief watering place.
– The Minister might consider also, in the meantime, what is meant by “ head station.”
– I do not propose to insert in the Bill a definition of “ head station “ or of “ principal watering place,” because until one knows how the land will be cut up it is impossible to frame suitable definitions. I believe that it will be very easy to determine which are the head stations in the Northern Territory, because I am informed that there are not a great many of them. The head station is the place where the majority of the station buildings are located.
– It may mean many thousands of square miles.
– I think not. Paragraph d states that the part or parts which may be resumed shall not comprise the head station or any of the leased lands within 5 miles thereof.
– The owners might fight the Government on the definition of “head station.”
– If the Committee does not accept my offer it will be useless for me to recommit the clause.
– The Minister’s suggestion is a good one, for instead of having a number of leases included in one run, there would be a consolidated lease. Then when it came to the resumption or non-resumption of the principal watering place upon the lease there could be only one watering place. As the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) has pointed out, if the alteration suggested by the Minister were not made it would be difficult to determine which was the principal watering place, because each individual lease in a given run could be claimed to be a separate entity, and to have a permanent watering place.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . … 14
Clause 57 -
Where two or more leases held by different lessees are worked as one run the Minister may, upon application made by the lessees within six months after the date on which notice of the resumption has been received by the lessee or within such extended time as the Minister allows, and onthe recommendation of the Board, make a consolidated resumption from the lands included in leases so worked instead of separate resumptions from the land included in each lease.
– If it is the intention of the Committee to alter clause 50, so as to give effect to the contention put forward regarding principal watering places, it will be necessary to alter this clause also. I move -
That the following words be left out: - “ upon application made by the lessees within six months after the date on which notice of resumption has been received by the lessee or within such extended time as the Minister allows, and on the recommendation of the Board.”
If the amendment is carried, the clause will read -
Where two or more leases held by different lessees are worked as one run the Minister may make a consolidated resumption from the lands included in leases so worked instead of separate resumptions from the land included in each lease.
That brings me back to my previous arguments. Evidently the clause was framed with a full knowledge of those arguments. . It was realized that it would be impossible to make a consolidated resumption in existing conditions, because there were so many separate leasee in the big runs. If it becomes necessary for a lessee to take out a consolidated lease, it is essential that this clause shall be altered in conformity with the alteration to be made in clause 50. Sub-clause 2 of clause 50 reads -
A lease granted under this section may include adjacent lands in two or more surrendered leases, whether in actual contact or not.
When the alteration suggested by the Minister has been made, the sub-clause will read -
A lease granted under this section shall include adjacent lands in two or more surrendered leases, whether in actual contact or not.
When surrendering their leases under existing Acts and coming under this Act, lessees would apply for one lease to cover the whole of their areas. It would not be advantageous to take small pieces of land out of a number of leases while, under clause 50, as proposed to be amended, the resumed leases would be consolidated under one lease.
– This clause applies to land held by different lessees.
– That is so; but, in the Northern Territory, leases covering 300 or 400 square miles, held under different names, are often worked as one run by one firm. It could be successfully argued that they were different leases; but, with the amendment suggested by the Minister, if they were worked as one run they could be brought under a consolidated lease. I contend that it is essential that an alteration should be made in clause 57 to meet the alteration which will be made in clause 50.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 58 - (1.) The Minister shall, on the request of a lessee, made at least two years before any date of resumption, in lieu of resuming any lands held under a lease, permit the lessees to subdivide, for closer pastoral settlement purposes -
Amendment (by Mr. Atkinson) agreed to-
That after the word “lessee” the following words be inserted : - “of a lease granted under this Division in exchange for a lease existing at the commencement of this Ordinance.”
Mr.NELSON (Northern Territory) [10.30].- I wish to move-
That sub-clauses 1 and 2 be omitted, and that in sub-clause 3 all the words after the word “shall” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ in regard to expiring leases, make the land available in living areas, subject to a ballot of applicants.”
The clause at present vests in the lessee the right to nominate his successor.
Motion (by Mr.Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- During my absence this afternoon the matter of the seaworthiness of the Port Lyttleton was brought to the notice of the House. I have since received a wire, signed by the secretaries of three unions in the Newcastle district, asking that an inquiry be instituted into the facts of the case. They point out that this is a very important matter, inasmuch as, if a boat is allowed to go to sea in an unseaworthy condition, life is endangered. There appears to be no doubt that the Port Lyttleton was unseaworthy, because, during her journey, she had to jettison a quantity of wheat on account of the volume of water she was making. It is unreasonable for departmental officers to permit a vessel to go to sea in an unseaworthy. condition, and thus endanger men’s lives. We cannot treat such a matter lightly. I urge the Government to take action.
– This matter was this afternoon the subject of a full statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten). That statement traversed the whole of the circumstances, and showed that every reasonable precaution had been taken, and that no lives were endangered in taking tho Port Lyttleton from Beauty Point to Sydney to have certain necessary repairs effected. The facts regarding the wheat, as I understand them, are that certain pumps which were installed as an additional measure of safety became clogged to some extent by the wheat that was in the hold, and as an act of good seamanship the vessel was taken to an adjacent port, where the wheat was discharged in order to prevent the recurrence of this clogging. The wheat was certainly not jettisoned to safeguard the lives of the people on the ship. I shall discuss the matter further with the Minister for Trade and Customs, and let the honorable gentleman know what view the Government takes of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 June 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240618_reps_9_106/>.