10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Proposed Removal of Head Office to New Zealand
– I ask the Prime Minister if there is a proposal to remove the head office of the British Phosphate Commission from Australia to New Zealand? If so, what are the reasons submitted for the proposed transfer?
– There is a proposal to remove the head office of the commission from Australia. It is the result of decisions arrived at at a conference of the three Commissioners which was held at Vancouver. The British and New Zealand Commissioners were in favour of the transfer, and the Australian Commissioner naturally was not in favour of it. There have been negotiations with regard to the matter between the British, New Zealand, and Australian Governments, and these are still proceeding. The Commonwealth Government considers that it is essential that the head office of the commission should remain in Australia, and is taking every step possible to bring that about.
– The Minister for Defence promised last session at my request to table two reports, one on a practicable air route between the mainland and Tasmania, and the other on the trials of the “Widgeon.” When will these reports be tabled?
– The reports referred to are not yet completed.
Use of Australian Materials in Road Construction.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories whether it is correct, as reported, that imported bituminous materials are being used in the construction of roads at Canberra. If so, will the Minister take steps to see that Australian and not imported materials are used in the construction of roads there ?
– The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) asked certain questions concerning materials being used at the Federal Capital, and the Canberra Commission was asked for a report on the matter. The report will be tabled as soon as it is received.
Smalpage Treatment. Dr. NOTT.- Can the Minister for Health give the House any information bearing upon the results obtained by the specialists detailed to test the efficiency of the Smalpage tubercular treatment?
– No information on the subject is yet available. It is possible that we may receive an interim report within the next two or three weeks ; it will be three months before a final report is received. .
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether there is still a shortage of telephone equipment in Australia, and particularly in Queensland. If not, what is the reason for the long, delays in connecting up “would-be subscribers?
– There is no shortage of material, but the amount of work confronting the department is tremendous, and it takes time to make the installations asked for.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What would be the annual cost of -
– The information is beng obtained.
Incandescent Gas Mantles
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Transferof Public Servants
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he make a statement as to the Government’s iproposals in regard to the transfer of public servants to Canberra?
– I propose to make a statement to the House on this matter in the course of a few days.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the representations made by the Federal Public Service officers, who are to be transferred to Canberra, concerning the conditions in regard to housing and other matters, has finality been readied by the Government in regard to same, and, if so, when will an announcement be made?
– I refer the honorable member to my reply to the honorable the Leader of the Opposition intimating that I propose to make a statement to the House on this matter in the course of a few days.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– As soon as it was ascertained that dumping duty in Canada on Australian butter was proposed, a cable was sent to Canada representing the position and protesting against a dumping duty. A reply was received asking for further information, and this will be cabled to Canada without delay.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it a fact that on appeal to a Judge, it was held that the time occupied by trainees in the course of their term of apprenticeship could notbe allowed, as there was no provision in the Defence Act dealing with employer and employee?
– I am awaiting certain legal advice in this matter, and regret that a reply to the honorable member’s question must be deferred for the present.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Board of Trade has not yet furnished a report, but is giving close attention and serious consideration to the matter.
Laboratory at Broken Hill.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
In view of the grave disability of large numbers of workers suffering from pulmonary diseases at Broken Hill, will he establish a laboratory at that city for the prevention and cure of industrial diseases?
– This matter is receiving careful attention in connexion with the complete recommendations of the Royal Commission on Health.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be given to the honorable member’s questions as soon as possible.
The following papers were presented: -
Entertainments Tax Assessment Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 58.
League of Nations -
Correspondence between the Commonwealth Government and the League of Nations relative to the composition of the Council.
Special Assembly (Sth-nth March, 1920) Report of the Australian Delegation.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1926 -
No.9 - Meat Industry Encouragement.
No. 10 - Birds Protection.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 53, 60.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for a proposed law to alter the provisions of the Constitution in relation to industry and commerce.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [2.40]. - I wish to ask a question, but I do not know whether to address it to you, Mr. Speaker, or to the Prime Minister. When the motion for leave is passed will an honorable member’s remarks be confined by the title of the bill ? Industry and commerce is, of course, a very wide subject ; but I wish to know whether sufficient latitude will be given honorable members who wish to move amendments to the bill, or will the title of the bill curtail our privileges in any way ?
– I am afraid that the matter will have to be raised when amendments are proposed. I cannot give a vague general interpretation of the effect of this motion; I can only rule on some specific question when it arises.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
Mr.BRUCE (Flinders- Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs) [2.42]. - (By leave.) - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill relates to a proposed amendment of the Constitution, and deals with matters falling under the heading of industry and commerce. Those matters cover industrial relations generally, the regulation and determination of the terms and conditions of industrial employment, and the vesting of state authorities with powers for the regulation of trusts and combines in relation to trade unions and associations of employers and employees. In introducing this measure I appeal to honorable members to recognize that this is in no sense a party question, but one which fundamentally affects the present position of Australia, and the future happiness and prosperity of our people. I ask every honorable member to consider this subject without political or party prejudice, and to have regard purely and simply to the great responsibility that rests upon our shoulders as member’s of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. I am confident that honorable members will approach the subject in that spirit. We all recognize that in modern society, especially in a young country like this, unless industry and commerce progress, development is retarded, to the prejudice not only of the people of to-day, but also of generations to come. Without this progress we cannot realize the great ideals that we have placed before us as a nation. There is to-day no more vital need than to find some way by which our industry and commerce may progress smoothly, and better relations may be established between all sections of the community, so that we may have industrial peace, progressive development, and an enhanced degree of happiness among the people. This measure is designed to accomplish those ends. But it is not an ordinary piece of legislation which, if a. mistake is made, can be amended at the instance of the Government responsible for it, or some succeeding administration. It is an alteration of the Constitution, which is the fundamental governing ordinance of this country, and can be altered only at the will of the people after an express appeal to them. It is only on a great question vitally affecting Australia that such an important step as the alteration of the Constitution under which we live should be undertaken. The Government, with a feeling of full responsibility, asks the House to refer to the people a proposed alteration of the Constitution to enable us to deal more effectively with a great question affecting industry, namely, the industrial relations between different sections of the community. I believe that the people of Australia to-day recognize that this question, which we now propose to submit to them, above all others affects the future prosperity of Australia, and the realization of our ideals. It is of paramount importance. We have a country of great potentialities, a country that is the envy of every other nation. But nations, like individuals, are judged by the manner in which they take advantage of their opportunities, and it is for us to realize to the fullest extent the possibilities of this wonderful country. This we cannot do unless we solve the industrial difficulties which are facing us to-day. We can ‘ develop this country only by bringing people here, and economically absorbing them, so that they may live according to our standards of living. We must therefore develop our resources, building new railways and roads, and giving every opportunity to our people to settle our present .great unpopulated spaces. We cannot bring migrants to this country unless we establish great secondary industries, which, by manufacturing our own raw material, will ultimately make Australia a self-supporting nation, The well-being of all our secondary and primary industries is dependent upon the solution of this industrial problem; we cannot otherwise increase the country’s capacity to absorb population. Increasing population and industrial development necessitate increased production, if the newcomers are to become efficient units of the community. The first essential to increased production is that we should be able to dispose of what we produce. Practically for the first time in the history of Australia we have to find a market overseas, not only for the wool and wheat for which the world is clamouring, and which have been our staple products in the past, but also for those commodities which have to be sold in competition with the products of other countries. We shall be able to compete successfully in the markets of the world only if we establish healthy relations between employer and employee, so that the whole of our population may work contentedly, with the knowledge that, so far as is humanly possible, every class and every section is getting a fair deal, and a reasonable opportunity. “Under existing conditions that ideal cannot be achieved. The maintenance of the White Australia policy, and of the living standards of our people, are involved in the solution of this difficulty. Because we have progressed so far, we must not deceive ourselves with the idea that we can continue indefinitely to advance the standards of our people without ensuring increased production on an economic basis.- One factor that is bringing us to a standstill is the state of affairs that has developed in industries generally throughout Australia, and the lack of co-ordination under the idealistic economic system we have tried to establish. Australia has attempted something which no other country has tried to the same extent. The Commonwealth started, 25 years ago, to give effect to an ideal expressed in the Constitution in the words “ conciliation and arbitration.” It sought to bring about the peaceful settlement- of industrial disputes within the law. The framers of the Constitution, and those who subsequently sought to put into operation the industrial powers it contains, conceived it possible that Australia might by conciliatory processes avoid the industrial conditions existing in other countries, and might afford its people opportunities to enjoy a decent standard oi living and to work under conditions which would effectively protect the worker against exploitation by the employer. That was a truly great ideal, especially if we consider it in the light of the social and economic condition of the world 25 years ago. This Parliament has progressively sought to realize it, but unfortunately in practice many things have happened to make us lose sight of the original conception. To-day every thinking man, no matter what his convictions in regard to ordinary political questions, must recognize that something is radically wrong in the industrial sphere. The Commonwealth and State Parliaments have evolved systems for the settlement of industrial disputes, and for the regulation of wages and conditions of employment. But these systems overlap, with resultant duplication and confusion in industry, and, that worst hindrance to industrial progress, uncertainty. In almost any industry men doing exactly the same work are receiving in different States varying rates of pay, and possibly working different hours, because through the operation of this unscientific system, they are subject to the jurisdiction of different industrial tribunals. One man under a State award is working certain hours aud receiving certain pay ; another, working by his side in the same industry is under a Federal award. How can we hope to have industrial peace and contentment while such varying conditions obtain throughout the community ? To-day there are seven different industrial systems in operation. Each of the six States has its arbitration court or wages boards, and above them all is the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which, however, is unable to co-ordinate or harmonize the conflicting State awards. Questions vital to the workers are being determined upon different principles in different States. The basic wage is fixed by various tribunals upon differing statistical bases. Dissatisfaction and irritation are bound to be created by such anomalies, and this Parliament has to consider, as a matter of urgency, how these evil conditions can be remedied. When the ideal of Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration was ‘ first formulated, duplication of jurisdiction and conflicting awards in the same industry were never contemplated. Such things have happened largely because of the limitation of the Commonwealth’s industrial power under the Constitution. Paragraph xxxv. of section 51 fixes the Federal Parliament power to make laws as to conciliation and arbitration only. One would think that the words “ conciliation and arbitration “ gave all the powers that the federal authority required to remove causes of industrial trouble, but in practice they have been found wanting. Those words pre-suppose a difference between parties, and 1 ne Commonwealth Court can deal only with disputes between parties, and its awards are binding upon only the actual parties. Only a person or company cited before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is bound by its award. In one plaint there were 4,000 respondents, and I have heard recently of a pending case in which there will be 11,000 respondents, everyone of whom must be served with notices, and all other processes in connexion with the proceedings of the court, or they will not be bound’ by its decisions. That defect in the federal power places an intolerable burden of expense upon applicants and leads to irritating delays. An even worse result flows from this system. When an award which was binding upon, say, 4,000 respondents becomes out of date, and an application is made to the court for a variation of it, only the parties cited in the proceedings for variation will be bound by the court’s decision. Some of the original respondents may be omitted from the new citation, and new employers may have come into the industry since the original award, and may not be cited before the court. If notice is not served upon them the court’s award is not applicable to them. Thus some employers continue to be bound by the first award, and pay the rates of wages it imposed. Others are bound by the award as varied; whilst some are not bound in any way.
– The basis upon which the whole structure has been raised is faulty. The High Court has decided that the matter is one between parties, and every party must be served. Whilst the -limitation imposed by the words “ arbitration and conciliation “ exists, only those who are parties to the proceedings are bound by an award. A further difficulty which faces the Commonwealth Court is that it can deal only with those disputes which extend beyond the limits of any one State. It has no power to give an award in respect to an industry before a dispute actually exists. The practice has, therefore, grown up of creating artificial disputes embracing more than one State. The serving of a log is sufficient evidence to prove the existence of a dispute. That is certainly better than what is implied by a strict reading of the Constitution, but it is, nevertheless, hopelessly artificial. The High Court has given innumerable decisions interpreting the meaning of the Constitution, and those decisions have limited the powers of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court far beyond anything that was contemplated when the Constitution was framed. At the present time it is possible for employees or employers to approach both the Commonwealth and State Arbitration Courts and to adopt from the award of each that which best suits themselves. Look at the position which existed prior to the recent decision in regard to the 44-hour week. Whether it still exists I do not know ; that is a matter which I leave to the lawyers to settle. But certainly until that decision was given a union could obtain from a’ State court an award giving to its members a minimum wage of 90s. for a week of 48 hours and from the Commonwealth court a minimum wage of 85s. for a week of 44 hours. It could then “ pick the eyes “ out of the two awards, accepting the wage of 90s. from the one and the working week of 44 hours from the other. It was able to do that because the High Court had decided that, except so far as there was inconsistency between the two awards, the Federal award did not override that of the State. It will be realized that when one court fixes 44 hours and the other 48 hours as a maximum week’s work, all the requirements are satisfied by the adoption of the 44 hours. Similarly, if one court fixes the minimum wage at 85s., and the other’ at 90s., .both are satisfied by the adoption of 90s. That position has arisen because of the limitation imposed upon the powers of the Commonwealth. The latest decision of the High Court apparently lays it down that there is inconsistency when the Commonwealth award purports to cover the whole field. But these conflicting interests have led to hopeless and endless confusion. The further feature which has made the position almost hopeless is that the Federal court has no judicial power. We propose to remedy that under a bill that we shall bring down immediately. Lacking that judicial power, the Commonwealth court cannot impose any penalties, and is unable to interpret its own awards. In the original act we purported to provide that the Commonwealth court could by injunction prevent a State tribunal from giving a conflicting decision, but it has been decided that that power does not exist. These differences have led to such uncertainty that a spirit of unrest has been fostered in the minds of the workers, and the effect has been detrimental to the best interests of the community. Some remedy must be found for the duplication and overlapping of the two tribunals. The remedy urged by some persons is to abolish arbitration. I say that that is unthinkable. I challenge those who contend that the system has been an absolute failure to prove the truth of their assertion. We have difficulties, but they can be surmounted. A study of the history of labour throughout the world during the last 25 years will show a steady and progressive advancement. The great mass of the people the world over has come to a greater realization of what their rights are. Will anybody suggest that the standard of the workers of Australia would have reached its present stage if during the last quarter of a century we had not had some system for the regulation and settlement of industrial disputes? Not for a moment do I accept the view that because we have had difficulties Ave should scrap the whole machinery of arbitration and conciliation and revert to the old system for composing our differences. In the widest sphere, that of international affairs, efforts are now being directed towards the ideal of having disputes arbitrated upon by an international tribunal. If that can be attempted even in the international sphere, it is obvious that it can be achieved in the much smaller sphere embraced by the industrial affairs of one nation. If the Commonwealth Government scrapped the Arbitration Court our troubles industrially would merely be accentuated. Another suggestion is that we should revert to the distinct line of demarcation between the Commonwealth and State spheres which was thought desirable when the Constitution was framed. At that time there were very few industries with ramifications throughout Australia - I suppose that shipping and shearing were the only industries of that nature then - and it is said that the arbitration powers of the Parliament were framed to allow the Commonwealth to provide for the settlement of disputes in such industries, because they could not be satisfactorily dealt, with by the States. We are told that it was clear to every one at the time that it would be most undesirable for the Commonwealth to have anything to do with the . regulation of industry, or with the settlement of industrial disputes except those extending beyond any one State. While that may have been the general opinion when the Constitution Act was assented to, it “disappeared very rapidly, for on the 28th June, 1901, within two months of the first meeting of the Commonwealth Parliament, Mr. Higgins moved in this chamber -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient for the Parliament of the Commonwealth to acquire (if the State Parliaments see fit to grant it under section 51, sub-section (37) of the Constitution Act) full power to make laws for Australia as to wages and hours and conditions of labour.
Mr. Barton, who was then Prime Minister, suggested that the motion be amended by substituting the word “ accept “ for the word “ acquire.” His suggestion was agreed to, and the motion in its amended form was carried without a single dissentient. Therefore, even so early in the life of this Parliament, it was realized that the idea of a distinct line of demarcation between Federal and State authority in regard to the control of industry would have to be abandoned, and the change of outlook has now become more general. Since federation, there have been at least twelve attempts to deal with this matter in Parliament, and on three occasions proposals to amend the Constitution in respect to industrial legislation have been submitted to the people by way of referendum. On each of these occasions, however, the people decided against any alteration. In 1911, the figures were 483,000 for and 742,000 against; the majority against being 259,000. In 1913, the figures were 961,000 for and 987,000 against; the adverse majority being 26,000. In 1919, the figures were 911,000 for and 924,000 against, a narrow adverse margin in a vote of that magnitude. The defeat of these proposals for the alteration of the Constitution has been due, to some extent, to the number of other questions submitted to the people at the same time; but it may also be attributed in a degree to the innate conservatism of the people, irrespective of their political views. Whenever a great question involving a change in the fundamental basis of a people’s national life is submitted’ to them, they are naturally hesitant about adopting it. We have to remember also that there were very differing conceptions of what Commonwealth arbitration meant when an arbitration bill was first introduced into this Parliament. It was not at all universally accepted then that the industrial sphere of the Commonwealth embraced only two or three big industries. When the late Mr. Deakin, as AttorneyGeneral, introduced the bill, he said -
We now substitute a new regime for the reign of violence by endowing the state - which in itself posesses a strength greater than that of either or both contestants - with power to impose, within the limits of reason, justice, and constitutional government, its deliberate will upon the parties to industrial disputes.
If he was visualizing only one or two industries, it is difficult to explain why he made that statement. I have taken a good deal of trouble to investigate this matter, and it is quite clear to me that early in the history of federation it was realized that the Commonwealth would have to play a greater part in industrial affairs than some people understood would be the case when the Constitution was passed. Ministers believe that this great problem will not be solved by drawing a line of demarcation between State and Federal authority, and declaring that three, four, or five industries are federal in their operation, all others being such as should be controlled by the State authority, and be altogether outside the Commonwealth jurisdiction. We are convinced that the only satisfactory solution of the problem is to equip the Commonwealth with greater power, to bring about a system of correlation of industry, with regard both to the regulation of wages and conditions and to the settlement of disputes. The first proposal of the Government is that the words “ extending beyond the limits of any one State ‘ ‘ be deleted from paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution. Although the deletion of those words will not do all that is necessary, it will remove many of the objections to the present system of conciliation and arbitration. It will give the Commonwealth authority over intra-state as well as interstate disputes, and remove the necessity for artificially extending a dispute over two or more States in order to bring a matter within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. We intend to retain all the power that we have at present, because a great many legal decisions have been given in regard to the exercise of it, and it is undesirable that we should interfere with those authoritative determinations. The new powers which the Government proposes to take are contained in the proposed new paragraph xl. of section 51. If that paragraph is added the section will read -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to - (xl.) Establishing authorities with such powers as the Parliament confers on them with respect to the regulation and determination of terms and conditions of industrial employment and of rights and duties of employers and employees with respect to industrial matters and things.
That will give power to the Commonwealth Parliament not to determine all questions relating to industrial employment, but to create the authorities to determine them.
– Will the power be confined to industrial disputes, or will it be exercised generally ?
– It will, subject to the explanation I have just given, be an absolute power, as wide as any one can desire. I wish to stress an aspect of the question on which there may be a divergence of opinion. There are sound reasons for proposing that Parliament shall have the power to create authorities, but not the power to decide industrial questions itself, and I wish to state those reasons frankly and fully. If full power to determine industrial questions were given to this Parliament it would have to deal with many complicated industrial problems in an atmosphere of political contention. It would be required to legislate with regard to hours of employment, the basic wage, and other vital industrial questions, and the determination of such questions by the contending parties in a political arena would be most undesirable. Furthermore, the Parliament would spend almost the whole of its time in dealing with industrial questions. It would have to pass factory acts applicable to the whole of Australia, and acts for the protection of the workers in dangerous industries, for the safeguarding of machinery in factories, for imposing conditions of apprenticeship, for fixing the closing hours of shops, and the like. All such ramifications of the industrial problem should be left to the’ State Parliaments, because this Parliament could deal with them only to the exclusion of all the great national tasks that it should undertake.
– Is it proposed to take power only to interfere if the Commonwealth Government objects to what a State may do?
– It is proposed to take power to create authorities to regulate the terms and conditions of industrial employment. The Government’s proposal does not mean that honorable members will be required to legislate for the regulation of every industry in this country.
– Would the decision of a competent Federal authority under the proposed law override a conflicting State law?
– I shall endeavour to show how the proposed law will bring about uniform industrial legislation, but my immediate answer tothe question is, “Most certainly.” The final authority will be the Commonwealth Parliament, which will override every other authority. Leaving out of consideration for the moment the comparatively minor questions I have referred to, such, as factory and apprenticeship acts, I wish to deal now with the fundamental industrial question of hours of labour. That is probably the most burning question in Australia to-day, and thedifficulty of determining it has brought home to the people a full realization of the duplication that exists, and the impossibility, under the Constitution as it stands, of evolving order out of chaos. I ask honorable members to consider the effect of giving full powers to this Parliament instead of to authorities created by it. I should like to direct attention to an undesirable political argument which I hope will not be obtruded into the discussion of this subject. I ask honorable members to take a view somewhat wider than the political view. It may be suggested that the Government is proposing to create authorities to defeat the determination of the Governments of certain States to enact a 44-hour week, and that the bill is a device to ensure that the 48-hour week shall become the standard working week in this country. I hope honorable members will use their political sense in dealing with a political question. If that were the Government’s intention, would it not have proposed to give direct power of interference to this Parliament, instead of to specially constituted authorities? If that were done, there would be nothing to prevent any Commonwealth Government that happened to be in power from fixing by legislation the number of hours in a working week. Honorable members should recognize that, and concede my point that the Government’s objective is not political. We say that it is improper to deal with a question so vital to Australia as one of political controversy, allowing its settlement to be affected by political passion. If we are to come to a right decision, the question must be determined in a non-political atmosphere. The interests of the workers and their opportunities of employment depend upon its right deci sion. The question can be rightly decided only after the fullest possible investigation and examination of the economic results of the fixing of a new standard of working hours in this country. Honorable members must bear in mind all the time that the same considerations apply to the settlement of such questions as the basic wage, child endowment, and others vitally influencing the life of the people. How could Parliament determine whether men in this country should work 48 or 44 hours as a standard working week without the fullest possible investigation and examination of the whole of the economic and industrial results that would flow from its determination? If Parliament were to do its duty conscientiously and properly, it could only determine such a question on the facts after a full examination and the hearing of all the evidence which could be submitted on the subject. I have tried to set out some of the facts which would have to be taken into account. There have been inquiries into this question in different parts of the world, and, generally speaking, they have been conducted by economists, and have involved the consideration of very lengthy and complicated references to the productivity of industry and such matters, the bearing of which the ordinary man is not competent to appreciate. I have, therefore, tried to set out in the simplest way the points which must be considered before it is possible to determine what is a proper standard working week. I put them in this way: It is necessary to determine the effect of any decision of the question on the amount and the cost of production ; how far it would hinder or assist the expansion of industry, or the establishment of new industries; what effect it would have on the sale of Australian goods and products in overseas markets; and what effect it would have on the competition we are subjected to from imported goods and products in the Australian market. It would be necessary to determine generally its effect on employment and unemployment ; on the condition and health of the workers; on the cost of living: whether it would reduce the value of the’ wages which the workers receive, lower the standard of living, and reduce the opportunities of employment. Will any member of this
House contend that he has so examined the question, sifted the evidence, and considered the economic and industrial effects of the determination of the question in any particular way, that he is prepared conscientiously to go before the people of Australia and say, “ I know that this will be for your benefit, because I have so examined the whole matter”? Unless an honorable member could claim to have made so exhaustive an examination of the subject, he would be untrue to his position if he commended to the people the adoption of a particular standard. It would be impossible for this Parliament to call and consider the evidence, and come to a determination on the facts so adduced. To-day, in Australia, the question of what is a right working week is not a social question. In the days when men worked 60 or 70 hours a week, excessive hours beyond human endurance, and so undermined their health and destroyed their lives, the question was not an economic, but a social, one, to be determined by the representatives of the people. But here Ave have now advanced beyond that stage. We have reached standards which have solved the social problem of the past, and we have to determine by examination of economic and industrial effects how much further we can go on the social side. I have shown what would confront honorable members if the question had to be considered in this Parliament. It has been obvious for some time that it is one of the most difficult and fundamental to be considered in Australia. It has been brought to a head recently, because the New South “Wales Parliament has passed a la’w declaring that the maximum working hours shall be 44 per week. But a number of men in New South Wales work under Federal awards, by which the maximum working hours per week are laid down at 48, and we have had a recent decision by the High Court that an award of the Federal Arbitration Court overrides the act of a State Parliament. That is the position under the Commonwealth Constitution. We are thus faced with a very serious problem. I suggest that the whole of the people of Australia recognize the troubles towards which we are drifting, and that they want this question of working hours - and other great fundamental questions also - to be authoritatively dealt with and determined. During the last election campaign I told the people frankly that the question was one upon which a decision must be reached.. Since the election the Government has been considering what decision will satisfy the mass of the people. We wish to remove the feeling of unrest, and the apprehension that possibly men are giving too many hours to labour, to their own detriment, and to the advantage of some one else. We must secure an authoritative finding as to the hours of work which will give the greatest benefit to the mass of the workers. Many suggestions have been put forward. One was that there should be a conference between representatives of employers and employees. When that was put to me, I said that it would achieve nothing, because the two sides would come to the conference prejudiced, and would fight for what they had previously contended to be right, without coming to an agreement. It was suggested that there might be a conference between representatives of the State and Commonwealth Governments, but they could not possibly examine the whole of the evidence, and determine the economic and industrial effects of a particular decision. Then it was suggested that the judges of the Arbitration Court with its existing powers should be called together, and directed to investigate and determine the matter, but the fact that such a body would have no authority to give effect to its decision precludes the adoption of that course. Such a body might arrive at a decision which would meet with the approval of the people as impartial and proper; but no effect could be given to it. The same objection would apply to a -decision by a royal commission, with the additional objection that there would be great difficulty in selecting the personnel of a com”petent commission without some of its members having been associated with the question on one side or the other in the past. The Government came to the decision that the only way is to refer the question to the Arbitration Court. I would remind the House that this question was once previously considered by the Arbitration Court under Mr. Justice Higgins. It was considered for 20 days, and the court heard a tremendous amount of evidence given by representatives of the workers. They put the fullest possible case for their side, and had obviously spent weeks and months in its preparation. The case was properly put, but, owing to a decision that the question could only be dealt with by three judges, the whole proceedings were abortive. However, that hearing showed clearly that it is possible to present the case fully and get all the evidence dealing with the economic and industrial questions involved placed before the court if employers and employees, after the necessary preparation, are prepared to go before the court and present their case. We have accordingly decided to give an opportunity to the two sides to present their case to the court. To enable this to be done an amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is proposed. As I mentioned earlier, under the existing law, questions heard by the court can only be those between the parties to a dispute. But we are trying to obtain an authoritative finding upon the broad question of the proper standard maximum hours of work per week, and we must, therefore, have all possible interests represented. To enable that to be done, and to enable the court to hear the case free from the atmosphere of a dispute between two parties, with only those parties present, a bill will be introduced to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, so as to give power to the Attorney-General to intervene in a case, in which the question of hours is being considered. As soon as he does so, it will be open to any interested party to appear before the court and ask to be heard. I know that the representatives of labour are in a position to present a full case, and to deal with the matter exhaustively from every angle. I know also that employers are in a position to do the same thing. I venture to say that if the parties are willing, we can secure an authoritative decision upon this question. One weakness in the present position is that whilst we may secure after the fullest investigation and hearing a decision from the court which all would be prepared to accept as authoritative, the court has no power under the Constitution to give effect to its decision. This proposed amendment of the Constitution will allow that power to be given to the court. I should, however, like to clear up a misunderstanding which is evident in the minds of a number of people. They seem to fear that the fixing of a standard working week must apply alike to every industry and trade irrespective of its conditions. Such a condition of affairs does not exist in Australia to-day. Quite 50 per cent, of the workers do not work for 48, or perhaps for 44 hours, per week. The only question that has to be determined is what shall be the standard basic working week in ordinary employment not subject to peculiar conditions. The court will have power, for example, to determine on a different basis the hours to be worked in tropical parts of Queensland and those fixed for the more temperate and possibly more healthy parts of Australia. The Federal Arbitration Court does that today. It does not lay down a decision applicable to every one, no matter where he may be employed: It only operates to co-ordinate the terms and conditions of employment of all men employed in similar circumstances. I wish people to get rid of the idea that what is proposed is that any decision arrived at shall, automatically and uniformly, apply throughout Australia. I have dealt with the question of hours of work, because it is a burning question at the present time, and affords a good example of the kind of questions to be determined by authorities created by the Parliament. Honorable members will realize the position in which we may eventually find ourselves. We have seen the question of hours of work made the outstanding feature in the political arena in the different States. In saying this, I am making no comment, but merely stating a fact. Human nature being what it is, it is inevitable that this political card, which has been successfully used before, will be played again and again. But may not some one arise to declare that the principle of 44 hours a week is wrong, and that men should work only 40 hours? May not such’ a politician lead his battalions to combat those who advocate 44 hours a week ? And if he succeeds, ma)’ not some one else suggest 36 hours a week ? This intolerable state of affairs will come about unless we take steps to prevent it. If the offer of fewer hours is to be continuously used in the political arena, as an incentive to electors to vote for a particular party, it will strike a vital blow at organized labour, and breed dissension throughout the whole movement. I have had an opportunity of speaking to a great number of industrialists upon this subject. There are in this country to-day a great number of men who believe that the principle of 44 hours’ work a week, if applied throughout Australia, would give the best results, helping development, and promoting employment. They honestly and conscientiously believe that, and I pay respect to their conscientious convictions; but they undoubtedly believe that a working week of 40 hours or 36 hours would be too short, and would injure the working classes. Although I disagree with some of the views of those men, yet I believe that they are doing their utmost to lead Labour along the road of reasonable progress. The ranks of Labour will surely be weakened if the question of hours of work is to be used in the political arena, and the passions of the workers stirred by men advocating a working week of 36 or 30 hours. In such an event what hope would there be for the staunch industrialist who contends that men should work 44- hours a week? We should consider that argument seriously. If the question of hours of work remains in the arena of party politics, it will give great power to the extremists, who care nothing about the result to the people so long as they snatch power from the honest leaders of Labour, who are trying to benefit the class that they represent. This amendment links up to a certain extent with the second amendment, which will give the Commonwealth Parliament power to make laws - (xli.) Investing State authorities with any powers which the Parliament, by virtue of paragraph (xxxv.) or paragraph (xl.) of this section, has vested or has power to vest in any authority established by the Commonwealth.
It may be asked, seeing that the Government wants full power to deal with industrial relations between employers and employees, how shall we exercise these powers when we get them? It may be said that as the Federal Arbitration Court has a long list of eases before it that cannot be dealt with for some time, the additional powers, if granted to the Commonwealth, will only mean greater centralization, greater delays, and greater difficulties in settling disputes. I want to clear the mind of anybody who takes up that position. It will, of course, be for this Parliament to determine what authorities it will set up and what machinery will operate the powers that may be given to the Commonwealth. If the Commonwealth obtains these additional powers, we do not propose to do anything to increase centralization. What we have in mind is decentralization and an easier method of dealing with industrial matters. A bill is to be introduced at once to amend the Arbitration Act, and under it full judicial power will be given to the judges, but apart from that- and one or two minor things, we do not intend to deal with the Arbitration Act or the arbitration system, until we know whether we have additional powers. But under any system we must have the Arbitration Court acting as a full judicial tribunal with judicial powers,, but reserved chiefly for the consideration of great and fundamental questions, regarding industry, such as the basic wage, the standard hours for industry, and the basis under which child endowment will operate throughout Australia. It would be the final tribunal in the land on all industrial matters. It is possible that there would be a right of appeal respecting certain questions from the lesser tribunals to that court, but that right of appeal would have to be strictly safeguarded, because nothing is more destructive to a system designed to establish industrial peace than to allow the right of appeal to hold up final settlement and to keep industry in a state of unrest.
– Will there be an appeal from the Arbitration Court to the High Court ?
– That will have to be determined. The court would really be the co-ordinating authority for the whole industrial system, and would deal with fundamental questions. The Commonwealth would have power to appoint in the various States commissioners attached to the court to deal with individual industries. For instance, the parties concerned in a dispute may be called to a round-table conference. We have at present, no power to embody this principle in the arbitration system. It is intended to obtain the settlement of disputes by the parties concerned meeting together and talking round the table instead of having to go before the court with the full panoply of legal procedure. The Government recognizes that a round-table conference is an effective method of dealing with industrial troubles, but we know that there are inherent and grave dangers even with round-table conferences when applied to industry, without appeal to a tribunal and without co-ordination between it and other industries. The proposal is to have a central Arbitration Court. It may be that in certain States we shall have to appoint a court with its own judge, but that remains to be seen. It may be necessary, in order to bring about decentralization, to establish a court in a State so* far away as Western Australia ; but the central court will really be the controlling body, and the system operating under it will embody the principle of the round-table conference. If these powers are given to the Commonwealth it is not proposed to wipe out immediately the machinery established in the other States for the settlement of industrial disputes. We are taking, not an exclusive power, but a concurrent power, and until we exercise it the State tribunals will continue to exercise their powers. It will be. a matter of evolution. We could not possibly wipe out the present arbitration system and start afresh without disastrous results, but we would have power to evolve a better system in co-ordination with the State tribunals, which, if necessary, would be vested with power under Federal authority. We must proceed carefully and wisely. The main thing is that with additional powers we shall be able to get rid of overlapping and duplication of awards, to bring about steadily a coordination of the whole system, and to deal with fundamental and vital questions such as the basic wage, the standard hours of work, and child endowment. The next amendment - paragraph xlii. - gives power to legislate for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth in relation to trusts and combinations in restraint of trade, trade unions, and associations of employers or of employees for industrial purposes, including the formation, dissolution, regulation, and control thereof.
– That does away entirely with State control.
– Not until we legislate to that effect. The clause simply gives power to legislate. It is necessary to take that complementary power in order to round off our proposals for ensuring industrial peace and generally regulating the relations between employer and employee. If a great trust or combine is acting directly in restraint of trade, or an association of employers or employees is taking action that is detrimental to the whole community, some authority must have legislative and administrative power to intervene. The tendency of modern industry is towards combination, which often proves the most effective method of maintaining and expanding an industry. There is no objection to combinations that are functioning reasonably and giving better and cheaper service to the community. But society must protect itself against combinations which obtain a stranglehold upon the community and proceed to exploit it for their own benefit. It is essential that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have some power to deal with an evil of that kind. There is need also for statutory power to deal with the trade unions and associations of employers. Trade unionism has gradually developed into one of the most powerful forces in the community, but for some reason, possibly the opposition and dislike of many reactionary employers, it has never received complete legislative recognition. To-day there are no statutory provisions to safeguard the rights of individual members of trade unions and ensure that their moneys arc employed as they desire. Many members of unions may have no certain knowledge of the use to which the funds they contribute are being applied, and. I think that the average unionist is beginning to recognize that he is entitled to the same protection as other sections of the community enjoy, and a guarantee that the affairs of his organization are conducted within the law. Each of the States has some legislation for the control of trade unions, but the power to legislate on the lines I have indicated has never been exercised . To those members who are sceptical regarding the Government’s intentions I give an assurance that I have no desire to interfere with trade unionism. On many occasions I have made it clear that I do not wish to hamper the unions in their legitimate function of collective bargaining in order to improve the conditions of their members. Any action the Government may take under the proposed law will be for the purpose of assisting trade unionists, by giving their organizations the same legal status as any other great organization. The Government seeks power to legislate for the compulsory auditing of union accounts and the conduct of secret ballots in certain circumstances, and generally to ensure to the mass of trade unionists that in the management of their organizations they shall be safeguarded by law against any improprieties or abuses. Whatever individual views may be held on the general questions to which this bill relates, I believe that the overwhelming majority of the people recognizes that some steps must be taken to lift the community from the impossible industrial position into which it has drifted. There are many persons whose innate conservatism will make them oppose any alteration of the Constitution. Such people seem to think that the Constitution is sacrosanct; but it is not. Its framers contemplated that with the passage of time and change of circumstances amendments would become necessary, and they incorporated in the Constitution machinery by which it might be altered. It would be impossible for even the wisest of men to frame a Constitution that would meet the requirements of a progressive country for ever. This proposed amendment, and another to be submitted in a subsequent bill, are brought forward at this stage because the Government regards them asvitally urgent, but this procedure must not be regarded as preventing the later consideration of a general revision of the Constitution. Because of the delay that would inevitably be involved in a general revision, we decided that these urgent amendments should be dealt, with at once, but we hope to arrange for a constitutional session to be held next year, when the defects of the Constitution generally can be considered. Any amendments that are agreed upon then can be submitted to a referendum of the people in conjunction with the next general election. I remind those who hesitate to agree to an alteration of the Constitution. that if the British Empire had been under a written constitution, that instrument would have had to be torn up in the last 25 years, during which the younger British communities have developed from dependencies of the Crown to great self-governing nations within the Empire. And changes almost as great have occurred in the Australian industrial sphere, rendering an amendment of the Constitution imperative. Some will object to these proposals as an invasion of State rights. They are not: but even if they were, State rights are not sacred. If State rights hinder the progress of the nation and interfere with the doing of things that are vital to the happiness of the whole of the Australian people, they must be thrust aside. These proposals are submitted by the Government in a spirit that is entirely free of political partisanship. Some honorable members may think that we should have approached this problem in a different way. Others may be of opinion that the Commonwealth should not interfere’ . at all. But, whatever the views of honorable members may be, I ask all to believe that this bill is brought forward by the Government with a sincere desire to find a solution of problems which are unquestionably retarding the advancement and prosperity of the country. I do not believe that any man would have the courage to submit to Parliament proposals such as these, which will affect the lives of our people for generations to come - because Constitutions are not altered often or readily - unless he believed sincerely that they would be of benefit tothe countrygenerally, and would promote the progress and happiness of the community.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton’) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for a proposed law to alter the provisions of the Constitution in relation to essential services.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
. - (By leave.) - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill provides for the insertion in section 51 of the Constitution of a new paragraph va to read, “ Protecting the interests of the public in case of actual or probable interruption of any essential service.” This amendment is long overdue, because neither the Commonwealth Parliament nor the Government has constitutional power to take any action when the whole economic life of the country is threatened by any cause whatsoever, or to do anything to ensure to the people foodstuffs, services, or anything else that may be essential to the industrial, and even the physical existence, of the community. Remembering what has happened at times in other countries, and realizing that the Commonwealth Government has not the power to save the people should their very lives be threatened, we must admit the necessity for an amendment of the Constitution.
– Does that mean that the right honorable gentleman doubts the validity of the Crimes Act?
– The honorable member does not seem to have grasped the point that I have endeavoured to make. The Commonwealth Government has a limited power to deal with any person who interferes with essential services contracted by the Commonwealth, but it has not the power to eusure the continuance of those services, and of others which are equally essential. The power to punish is of no avail unless the fear of incurring such punishment operates as a deterrent. The Commonwealth must be empowered to ensure the noninterruption of essential services, and that is the aim of this proposal. I trust that it will never be necessary for the Government to take action in this direction ; but any government would be recreant to its duty that did not safeguard the interests of the people should the necessity for doing so arise. I suggest that this amendment is vital, and I cannot think it possible for any person to raise an objection to it. A few wild extremists may believe that they should be permitted to hold the country to ransom, and, by bringing the people to the verge of starvation, effect the purpose that they have in view ; but the vast majority of the people favour the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes. This amendment will improve the machinery by the use of which such a settlement is sought to be attained.
– What are essential services?
– All those services upon which industries are dependent for the continuance of their operations without interruption. In Great Britain recently there was an attempt to hold up the nation, but it was not successful. I cannot understand any one applauding action which is designed to destroy a nation in order that some persons may gain what they think to be their rights. No person in this country should be allowed to deprive the people of vital services. As the Commonwealth Government has not at present the necessary power to provide for this, it has brought down this amendment, which I feel sure the majority of the people will agree should be inserted in the Constitution. Let honorable members think of what might happen if such a vital necessary as coal were withheld from the nation. The principal source of our coal supply is New South Wales. The Government of that State could handle the situation within its own borders, but such a Government as that of South Australia could do nothing to protect its people in the event of a long coal strike. The only authority that could protect the whole of the people is the federal authority, and at the present time its Constitution does not give it the power to do so. It is essential that we should have that power. It is conceivable that internally a position might arise as disastrous as external war; yet the Commonwealth authority has now no power to intervene for the protection of the nation. This will be a separate question for the decision of the people. The first question deals with the ordinary circumstances of our everyday life; the second with abnormal circumstances.
– How many questions are to be asked ?
– Two. The form in which a referendum is usually submitted is, “Do you approve the proposed legislation for the amendment of the Constitution ? “ The specific points covered by that legislation are not put to the people in a series of questions; they are asked merely to give their approval to legislation that has been passed by the two Houses of the Parliament. The need for some authority which will ensure the continuance of essential services is obvious. I commend the bill to honorable members. Any man who has a proper appreciation of the circumstances that exist in this and every other country to-day should be prepared to place this power in the Constitution, so that the elected representatives of the nation may take steps to prevent the interruption of any vital service.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 19th May, vide page 2145) :
Clause 16- (1.) Subject to this act, the powers of the commission shall extend to the following matters in relation to the development of so much of the Territory as is situated north of the twentieth parallel of south latitude (in this act referred to as “ the prescribed part of the Territory “) : -
the maintenance and operation of railways;
the erection of telegraph and telephone lines.
.- I move-
That the following words be added to paragraph (a), sub-section (1) : - “ subject to the terms of any arrangement made between the Minister and the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner.”
Instead of giving full power to the commission to maintain and run the railways in the Territory it is proposed to make possible an interchange of staff and rollingstock between the commission and the Commonwealth Railways Department. Under the provisions of clause 24 the railways and rolling-stock now in the Territory will become the property of the commission. This amendment means that they will be run by the commission in conjunction with the Minister, who will have the advice of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner.
.- The amendment does not go far enough. I think it proper that the commission should control the actual running of the trains, the fixing of freights, and so on; but the maintenance and staffing of the railways should be the responsibility of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, who has built up an excellent organization. We need have little fear that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner will do anything to disorganize the Territory railway services. It would be much better for his expert officers to staff and maintain the service than for the commission to do it. It would beyears before the commission could build up a good railway organization.
.- I hope the Minister will not press his amendment. I entirely disagree with the view of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). I hope that we shall get first-class men on this com mission. I am sorry I was not in the chamber yesterday when the proposed salaries were under consideration. I know one gentleman in Australia who would make a first-class chairman for this commission if hisservices could be secured. The railways inthe Territory should be under the complete control of the commission. It is preposterous to think of allowing the authorities in Melbourne to interfere with the railways, or any other utility inthe Territory, after the commission is appointed. This amendment would perpetuate thesystem of ministerial control that I should like to see abolished. Ridiculous things happen when railways and other departments in these far distant places are controlled from the capital cities. There is one train a week running from Port Hedland about 115 miles to Marble Bar, in Western Australia. On one occasion, a boat, which called at the port once a week or once a fortnight, was prevented by rough weather from getting to the wharf by the time the weekly train was scheduled to leave, but the departmental officers sent the train away right on time, and would not delay its departure until the boat was berthed. There were some women on the vessel who wished to travel on the train, and also stud sheep that were consigned to a place on the route. The women had to board in the town for a week until the next ordinary train ran, and the owners of the stud sheep had to charter a special train to send them to their destination. I sent a long telegram about the matter to the Railways Commissioner at Perth, and he saw how absurd the thing was, and issued fresh instructions, giving greater powers to the local inspector. Similar things occur in Darwin. I sincerely trust that we will give this commission full power over the railways. We ought to give them as much power as possible. We cannot give them authority to borrow large sums of money, for Parliament must decide what money shall be spent, but we ought to give them all other authority. I trust that we shall get better men as commissioners than we have had in the Territory for the last 25 years.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has entirely misunderstood the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who desires that the Commonwealth shall retain final control of the railway. I consider it would be advantageous for the Northern Territory railways to be operated in conjunction with the other Commonwealth lines. The honorable member for Swan may have reason for his bitterness towards some persons, but I trust that he will take a broad national outlook on this matter. We have been endeavouring for a long time to work our railways with a view to defence needs, and it is necessary from that point of view that the Government should retain control of them. Rapid transit often means a great deal to a nation, and we should not do anything that might prevent us from making full use of our railways at any time. It would be quite practicable for the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to staff and maintain the Territory railways, and for the rest of the management to be done by the commission.
. - Much delay is due to the . policy of administering the Northern Territory from Melbourne. This difficulty will be continued if an attempt is made to carry out railway administration from the Seat of Government. On several occasions I have advocated that the local authorities in the Northern Territory should be solely responsible. It is purely a matter of organization. If the Commissioner is in control of the various railway systems he will be in a position to draft sections of his men from one portion of the Territory to another, if necessary. I have no desire to interfere with the functions of the Railways Commissioner, but I think that the maintenance and staffing of the railways in the Territory should be entrusted to him.
– Do you not want- only one authority?
– Yes, but is it wise to break down one complete organization for the purpose of setting up another that is not complete? That is the only point I have raised.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That paragraph (c) be left out.
An essential service such as that supplied by the Postal Department in connexion with telegrams and telephones should be entirely in the hands of the
Postmaster-General. Evidently this provision was inserted without sufficient consideration, and I ask the committee to strike it out.
– The paragraph limits the powers of the commission to the erection of telegraph and telephone lines.
– As I understand it, the commission will also have control of the services.
– At present the Postal Department lets contracts to private tenderers for the erection of telegraph and telephone lines, and when the work is completed the department takes them over and operates the service. The paragraph objected to by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) merely gives the commission authority to erect the lines.
– The clause provides -
Subject to this act, the powers of the commission shall extend to the following matters in relation to the development of so much of the Territory as is situated north of the 20th parallel of south latitude (in this act referred to as “ the prescribed part of the Territory “) : -
Obviously itwas the intention of the framers to give the commission power over certain industries and public services essential for the development of the Northern Territory. Prominent among these are the construction of roads and railways ; mining should be includedalso. It is generally admitted that the pastoral and mining industries will do more than any other to ensure settlement in the Territory, but under the clause as it stands the commission will have no authority over mining. After the amendment submitted by the honorable member for East Sydney has been disposed of, I shall move for its inclusion. I also direct attention to paragraph f, which states that the commission shall have power over such other matters in relation to the development of the Territory as are specified in any regulation.” Earlier in the same clause, there is the provision that the powers of the commission shall extend to “ the prescribed part of the Territory,” which, evidently, is that part situated north of the 20th parallel of south latitude. The omission from paragraph / of the words “ the prescribed part of the Territory” may imply that the commission will have authority in relation to matters affecting the whole of the Territory. Subclause 2 may clarify the position. It states -
The Governor-General may, by proclamation, declare that, as regards any .power conferred on the commission by this act, the power shall not extend to the whole of the prescribed part of the Territory, but only to a specified portion thereof,
It would appear from this that, although certain powers in relation to the whole of the Territory may be conferred on the commission, it will be competent for the Minister to limit such powers to the prescribed part of the Territory.
– Will not sub-clause 4, which deals with the administration of Crown lands, give the commission power over mining?
– I think it will be agreed that mining is usually administered separately from questions connected with land development. I should like the Minister to indicate what is meant by the word “ Territory.” According to the definition in clause 5, the word means “ the whole territory “ ; but a different construction seems to be placed upon it in other clauses.
– I move -
That after the word “ harbours,” paragraph e, sub-clause 1, the word “ mining “ be inserted.
My object in moving that amendment is to give the commission power to advise the Government on the subject of mining, which, as a basic industry, should receive special attention.
– I suggest that the amendment should form a separate paragraph. The possibility -of an important mining development in the Northern Territory should not be lost sight of. It is quite impossible for a government department in Melbourne to control mining efficiently in that remote part of Australia. It could do so only at great expense, and with considerable difficulty and delays. Mining prospectors are usually not rich in this world’s goods, and they cannot afford the delays arising from control by a distant government. To what extent it would be possible, under a mining ordinance, to give full power to the commission I do not know. It is doubtful whether it would be wise to allow the commission to issue mining leases. Great care is necessary in the preparation of such instruments, and for that reason they should be issued only by the department. Sub-clause 4 of the clause under consideration reads -
In addition to the powers specified in subsection (1) of this section, the powers of the Commission shall include the administration throughout the Territory of Crown lands in accordance with Ordinances made or to be made in pursuance of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910 or in pursuance of this Act.
If power to deal with all Crown leaseholds, subject to the ordinances approved by this Parliament, is given to the commissioners, there can be no objection to allowing them to administer mining and control mining development. The Public Works Committee visited Darwin some time ago, and in a subsequent report to . Parliament directed attention to the handicap imposed upon those undertaking developmental work by the high cost of materials. The committee recommended that for a number of years the Government should remit all port and harbour dues in the Northern Territory. The firm of Vestey Brothers, I understand, took a vessel there to load 309 head of cattle, and the port and harbour dues amounted to £90. It is of no use sending people to the Northern Territory unless we give them a chance to make good, and if we are not prepared to give them concessions we should not send them there. If the cost of production remains as high as it is the appointment of the commission will achieve nothing. The Government should have stated whether there was an intention to give effect to the Public Works Committee’s recommendations. The question of concessions on freights along the coast, also needs consideration.
– I regret that I cannot accept the amendment. Paragraph / of the sub-clause will enable the Government to deal with the matter. It extends the commission’s powers to -
Such other mattters in relation to the development of the Territory as. are specified in any regulation made under this Act.
To insert the word “ mining “ would give the commission power to engage commercially in mining, and that, of course, the Government does not favour, although it wishes to preserve to the resident officers the right to grant and control mining leases.
– But the clause will give the commission power to administer Crown lands.
– That is exactly the same power as is given to the Canberra Commission in regard to leases. Mining and oil-boring operations in Commonwealth territories are not controlled by the administrators of those territories, but by the Government itself. The Government will have more control over the Government Residents than over the commissioners, who will be appointed for a fixed period. I agree that mining is a preliminary step in the development of a territory. The natural order of progress is, first, mining, then pastoral development, and then agriculture. The Government considers that the Territory will be assisted more by leaving the clause as it is than by carrying the amendment. The Government Residents will be directly under the control of the Minister. The honorable member said that the commission would travel over the Territory, that it would observe many ways in which mining could be encouraged; and that it would know where licences should be granted. ‘ In addition to the commission there will also be advisory councils, which will comprise two nominees of the Government and two representatives elected by the people of the Territory - all practical men, who will give advice which the Government, unless it is foolish, will accept. I believe that the advisory councils will work on the lines suggested by the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
.- I suggest to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) that he withdraw his amendment, and move the insertion of the following paragraph:
The administration of mining and mining development in accordance with Commonwealth ordinances.
The commission could then act in respect of mining only in accordance with ordinances formulated by the GovernorGeneral in Council. I wish to stress particularly the value of the mineral wealth of the Territory. It is known that there are extensive lead, copper, and tin deposits, and that gold may also be found there. There are particularly extensive deposits of the base metals, the prices of which have been increasing recently. These latent resources are of no value unless means can be devised for working them profitably. I am anxious to obtain a statement from the Minister as to what the Government proposes to do in regard to ports and harbours - whether it is prepared to make them free for a period of years and thus reduce expenditure in that direction. There is no doubt as to the benefits that would be derived from the opening up of a big mine. It would probably employ 1,000 men, and the development of the field would open up other avenues of production and industry and provide reasonably permanent employment. If the work were under the control of a commission it would be handled by men with extensive knowledge, who would give little consideration to the waster, who is always running around endeavouring either to get a government job or assistance in some form. The straight goer and genuine prospector would be helped, and I believe that we would get better administration than from the department here in Melbourne.
– The Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr) has directed our attention to the fact that an advisory council is to be appointed, but that council will have very limited powers, and it is questionable whether, under the clause in its present form, it will be able to deal with the subjects which the honorable gentleman mentions. Clause 43 provides -
There shall be an advisory council for North Australia to advise the Government Resident in relation to any matter affecting North Australia, including advice as to the making of new ordinances or the repeal or amendment of existing ordinances other than ordinances relating to the administration of Crown lands.
All mining is on Crown lands.
– That is not so.
– My experience in the Northern Territory leads me to the conclusion that all mining there is on Crown lands, and under clause 43 the advisory council is precluded from giving advice in relation to Crown lands. As the mining industry is of great importance to the development of the Territory, the Government would be well advised in accepting the amendment so as to take advantage of the expert knowledge that will be obtained by the commissioners as they travel through the country. I am prepared to accept the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory).
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Nelson) proposed -
That the following new paragraph be added : - (ee) Mining and mining development in accordance with Commonwealth ordinances.
– I still think it desirable that the Government should retain full control over mining and the issue of miners’ rights and miners’ licences. The Government Resident, who will be directly under the control of the Government, will deal with mining and the issue of mining licences in the Territory.
– Will not the warden issue licences?
– Yes, but he will be under the control of the Government Resident. It is true that the commission will control Crown leaseholds, but mining has been specifically excluded. In these circumstances the Government cannot see its way clear to accept the amendment.
– Had I spoken on the second reading of the bill I should have emphasized two points. One relates to the means of communication, which I conceive to be the greatest need in the development of the Northern Territory, and the other to the conditions that, in my opinion, have militated so strongly against its development. As to the first, I shall confine myself here to improved methods of transport, for the world has now moved beyond the stage at which the development of territories is dependent upon railways. We have now, in the internal combustion engine, a more flexible, convenient, and economical means of transport at our disposal. I stress all three advantages of motor transport: flexibility, convenience, and economy. The development of this territory by railways involves prodigious expense. I listened last night with interest to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), whose description of the Northern Territory inspired me with an insatiable ambition to go there myself in order to see what manner of place it is. The speech of the honorable member, as recorded in Hansard, might well be used as an attractive mining prospectus. I venture to say that on the views expressed by the honorable member there could be floated in 24 hours a company that would be a means of developing the whole of the interior. As to the advantages of railway transport, to which the honorable member referred, I do not propose to do more than point out that obviously a railway from Alice Springs to the present terminus in the north will cost millions of pounds. It will take years to construct, and many years. more before it will become a revenue producer. As a means of transport for either stock or troops, looking at the subject from two widely different angles, both of which are vitally important, it will be useless until the connexion between the termini is complete. The country can be developed far more economically, and speedily by roads rather than railways.
– If they were good roads I should agree with the right honorable member.
– Stock can be transported as readily by motor trucks as by rail. The honorable member for the Northern Territory, who speaks from experience of the country, knows, as indeed every one does, that if a railway is constructed from one given point to another, it has to traverse relatively empty and unprofitable areas from which no traffic can be obtained, and that it leaves much fertile land unserved. A service such as I have suggested, however, would not be open to the objection of being rigid and undeviating. I and, I am sure, the country would be glad to learn the policy of the Government with respect to road construction, as its means permit, in this great undeveloped hinterland. The ‘ expenditure of a few million pounds, over a term of years, on the construction of roads, would do more to develop the Territory and ensure its success than would anything else. The building of roads would bring in its train the sinking of bores and such other developments as the circumstances demanded. I turn from that point, which I consider vital, to the development of the Territory, to what I think is one factor that has militated greatly against its progress. We are asked in this measure to assent to the expenditure, not perhaps directly, but indirectly, of large sums of money. We are committed by it to a policy which, although that point has not obtruded, will involve the expenditure of large sums of money, since to expect to develop the Territory in any other way would be futile. But we come upon the scene rather late in the day, and are very much as were the children of Israel. We find that all the choicest areas have been taken up. If the Minister would place on. the wall of the chamber a map of the Northern Territory showing the natural water basins, the means for watering stock, and the areas of fertile lands that are held under long leases by individuals who for years have not been doing anything with them, honorable members would be astonished. I remember very well that when this matter was considered last session we were all astounded to learn the extent to which lands in the Territory had been monopolized, and the way in which the choicest areas had been taken up.
– That would not be so bad if those who hold the lands worked them.
– Probably not, but as things are now the honorable member will not deny that they are bad. The leases were granted upon the understanding that the lessees would develop them, but the conditions have not been properly enforced. If we are to have a policy of development, and not merely a placard, we must see to it that every one is given a fair chance in this great Territory. The lessees, for all practical purposes, own the lands they hold because a long lease does not differ essentially from a fee simple. They own lands whose extent is greater than many European countries, and they have not developed those lands, improved the stock run upon them, or done any thing to advance the interests of Australia. These conditions are such as to give us pause, and if the commission is to be powerless to remedy them, I do not think very much will come of its appointment. I am not one of those who believe that very much will come of the appointment of the commission in any case. The development of this great Territory must await its natural course. Nothing can force it very much beyond the pace which the general circumstances and development of the whole country will set. I have thought it well to emphasize the fact that amongst the factors which have most seriously militated against the development of the Northern Territory is the assignment to lessees, under long terms, of huge and relatively fertile tracts which embrace in some, if not in all, cases the only available water, or surface water at any rate. I have in my mind’s eye now a picture of the Northern Territory as it has , been “peacocked” by the great lessees. I hope that the policy of the Government, which, I assume, will be regarded as a direction by the commission, will be such as to counteract as far as possible the folly of previous administrations. Honorable members will not forget that many of the Northern Territory leases were granted by the South Australian Government. 1 trust that the Government will carry out a policy of road development, and will impose conditions which will make it impossible for the great lessees to continue their present methods. Increase of population is the best corrective of monopoly. As we have seen in many of the States, with the surging in of new people demands for access .to natural opportunities become irresistible. The old order has to make way for the new. If we make roads in the Northern Territory people will go there. I venture to say that an expenditure of far less than £1,000,000 would make provision for a regular service between Oodnadatta and Darwin. For such a sum a road, which would carry motor traffic, could be constructed. In a few days an expedition will be setting out over that track, and, if the Government will spend a little money, we shall be able to see it for ourselves. I wish only to add to what I have already said, that I think it is a pity that members of this Parliament did not have an opportunity to visit the Northern Territory before this measure was brought on.
Amendment (by Mr. Marr) proposed -
That the words “ Commonwealth Public Service “ in sub-clause 5 be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “Public, Railway, or other service of the Commonwealth.”
– I was glad to hear the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) speak as he did. He indicated the position which this and future Parliaments will have to face. Many of the lessees of the Northern Territory hold huge estates greater in area than some continental countries occupied by teeming populations. The lands are held on very long terms, but these are relatively short in the history of a country or a State, and when population flows, as we hope it will, to the Northern Territory if the Government has provided railways and good roads as suggested by the right honorable member for North Sydney, it will be possible to deal with those who hold the land in large estates. I ‘wish to thank the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) for his informative speeches. He has educated honorable members who knew very little of the Territory. I was amongst them, though I have visited the Territory twice. Conditions in the Territory are such that Mr. Staniforth Smith would not accept the post of administrator unless the right honorable member for North Sydney, who was then Prime Minister, promised representation in this House to the people there. If when population flows to the Territory it is found that the eyes of the land have been picked put by a few lessees, the Government of the day may meet the difficulty in a very simple way by imposing a high cultivation tax upon unused land that is suitable for cultivation. The owners of leaseholds might regard this as repudiation or robbery, but the answer to the charge would be, “ Cultivate your land and it will not be necessary for you to pay the tax.” The honorable member for the Northern Territory has shown that the greatest benefit is conferred upon the country by the settlement of people on small areas. These settlers have wives and children, whilst the huge leasehold estates are occupied by only a few boundary riders. The Government must make it possible for population directed to the Northern Territory to secure lands on which to settle.
Amendment agreed to.
– Will the Minister in charge of the bill be good enough to give the committee his interpretation of paragraph f of sub-clause 1 of this clause - “such other matters in relation to the development of the Territory as are specified in any regulation . made under this act”?
– There may be certain powers contained in ordinances issued by. the Government or the Administrator which later on it may be thought desirable should be exercised by the commission. The paragraph is necessary to enable the commission to assume them.
– That is as I understood it.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 17 and 18 agreed to.
Clause 19 -
All such by-laws shall -
– I intend to submit an amendment to this clause which I hope, the Minister will accept. I am becoming used to the rejection of my amendments, but I never take a knockdown as a knockout. Sub-clause 2 of this clause provides that all by-laws shall be notified in the Gazette, and under paragraph b shall - take effect from the date of notification, or from a later date specified in the by-laws;
Because of the geographical isolation of the Northern Territory and the great distances between the various settlements, the people in the north are able to become acquainted with a Gazette notice probably six or eight weeks before, those in the south can see it. I move -
That the words “ take effect from the date of notification “, paragraphb, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ take effect from a date one month after date of publication.”
That would give the whole of the people in the Territory an equal opportunity to see a Gazette notice as to land being available, for instance, before the land was taken up. I mentioned the other day an instance in which land was taken up by people in the north six weeks before the Gazette notifying that the land was available for application reached the people in the south of the Territory.
– I think that the honorable member’s amendment, if agreed to, might have the opposite effect to that which he desires. The words “ or from a later date specified in the by-laws “ were included in the clause to enable the people in the remoter parts to see the Gazette notice before the land was taken up.
– Generally, the Gazette notice takes effect from the date of notification.
– I do not think so. The Gazette notice generally mentions a date a month or six weeks ahead. I agree with the honorable member that it is desirable that those people who live away from the centres of population should have an opportunity to see the Gazette notice and to apply for the land before the time for receiving applications closes, but I think that we may safely rely on the commission, when sending notices for insertion in the Gazette, making provision for the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member.
– It has not been done up to the present.
– With a. commission on the spot, some of the disabilities of the past should disappear, and there should be better administration.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Nelson’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 - (1.) If the commission is of opinion that the construction of any railway in North Australia is desirable, it shall so report to the Minister. (6.) Upon receipt of the plans, reports, estimates, and information supplied to him in pursuance of this section, the Minister shall refer them to the commission for consideration, and shall require the commission to furnish him with a report as to whether, in the opinion of the commission, the construction of the railway is desirable.
– This clause conflicts with existing legislation.
– The clause, if passed, will take from the Public Works Committee the power to investigate the construction of works in the Northern Territory, estimated to cost over £25,000.
– That is so. I fail to see what purpose is served by the clause. If, in the opinion of the commission, the construction of a railway in the Northern Territory is desirable, it will so report to the Minister. Plans will be prepared by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and supplied to the Minister, who will refer them to the commission for consideration. I cannot see the object of that.
– A proposed deviation of a railway may not be favoured by the commission.
– That is quite possible. This clause may conflict with the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act.
– The clause is all right as it stands.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 21 agreed to.
Clause 22 (Construction of public works exceeding £25,000).
– This clause is linked up with clause 23, which proposes to take from the Public Works Committee the power to investigate the construction of public works in the Northern Territory estimated to cost over £25,000. The commission, under the clause, is to undertake that function. The development of the Northern Territory will entail a great expenditure of money, and we shall be doing away with our only safeguard upon the public purse if projects to cost over £25,000 are not referred to the Public Works Committee. In any case this clause should be postponed until we deal with clause 23. Will the Minister say that all proposed works in the Northern Territory to cost over £25,000 will be referred to the Public Works Committee for report ?
– Is it the Government’s intention to take that power from the Public Works Committee?
– And put it in the hands of the commission?
– No; in the hands of Parliament.
– I draw the attention of the committee to the fact that the Government is attempting under this clause to take away from this Parliament the right to control expenditure of public money in the Northern Territory on works estimated to cost over £25,000. It is most essential that the Public Works Committee should have power to inquire and report on such projected works. As the Minister is trying to evade an existing act of Parliament, I hope that the committee will negative the clause.
.- I oppose the clause. I do not agree to taking away from the Public Works Committee the power to make inquiries under the provisions of the Commonwealth Public
Works Committee Act. It has been stated that the commission will furnish to the House a report on any projected work in the Northern Territory. Let me point out to honorable members that the nine members of the Public Works Committee, who attend the meetings and hear the evidence taken before that committee, constitute a direct link with this Parliament. That link is to be broken. It is now proposed that in the Northern Territory three commissioners shall assume functions which were previously carried out by the Public Works Committee. This suggested change is a serious departure, and I hope that honorable members will not agree to it.
– I suggest that the consideration of clause 22 should be postponed until after the consideration of clause 23. If clause 23 is passed we can then deal with clause 22, and thus save a lot of discussion on this matter.
– I agree with that.
The provisions ofthe Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921 shall not apply in relation to any public work to which the provisions of any of the last three preceding sections apply, unless the Parliament otherwise directs.
.- I am surprised that the Minister has decided to embody this clause in the bill. It is generally known that the Public Works Committee has done excellent work in sifting evidence relating to the construction, of public works. ‘ The record of the committee up to date has been very creditable. I do not think that any one will say that there has been unnecessary delay on the part of the committee in completing its inquiries and furnishing reports to Parliament. Certainly, no one suggests for a moment that the officers of the various public departments’ cannot be fully trusted. It is generally admitted that we have very efficient officers, particularly in the Works Department, but I suggest that the work of the Public Works Committee has at all times had the effect of making them very careful in preparing their estimates. I believe that honorable members will strongly oppose any endeavour to prevent any projected work in the Northern
Territory estimated to cost over £25,000 from being reviewed by the Public Works Committee. To test the feeling of the committee I move -
That the word “ not “ be omitted from the clause.
.- I intend to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), and I hope that the committee will accept it. This clause may be the thin end of the wedge to enable large projects to be constructed in the Northern Territory, and elsewhere in Australia, without full investigation and inquiry by the Public Works Committee. I believe that the other members of that committee are prepared to support the amendment. I have been a member of that committee for a few months only, but I recognize its value, not only to this Parliament, but also to Australia. Only yesterday, when speaking on another matter, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) eulogized the efforts of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) to help in the development of the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Bass visited the Territory as a member of the Public Works Committee, whose exhaustive inquiry was responsible for certain works that would not otherwise have been constructed. The commission should not be allowed to decide, without reference to the committee, what works are to be constructed in the Northern Territory. The Public Works Committee has frequently made recommendations contrary to those of other commissions, and they have been accepted by the Government without question. If the amendment is accepted, the Public Works Committee will have the right to inquire into all proposed works in the Northern Territory estimated to cost over £25,000.
.- I support the clause in its entirety. If the commission appointed to assist in the development of the Northern Territory .is not capable of satisfactorily dealing with proposed works, then, God help the Territory. The reason that the Northern Territory has not had the world’s attention attracted to it is because a thoroughly efficient officer has not been appointed to ad minister it on the spot. I wish to compliment the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) on the prospective appointment of Mr. Gepp as chairman of the proposed Developmental and Migration Commission. If Mr. Gepp were appointed under similar conditions to take in hand the Northern Territory, I suggest that the attention of the world would very soon be drawn to that country and capital would flow into it. It is idiotic to talk about sending the Public Works Committee to the Northern Territory to inquire into all projects estimated to cost over £25,000. I do not know what the men in the Territory will have to say about such a proposal. Of course, I .am not speaking of the men who come to-day and get away to-morrow. I refer to those who spend a lifetime in the Territory and who are anxious to do everything they can to bring it into its own. The proposal before the committee touches the sore spot which has so far prevented the development of the Territory. It is, in effect, a proposal to continue the management of Central Australia from Melbourne. It cannot be managed from Melbourne.
– It cannot be managed from Darwin. That is very evident.
– It would be infinitely worse to attempt to manage the whole of the Territory from Darwin. By the way, the condition at Darwin to-day is a very good illustration of the impossibility of controlling the Territory from Melbourne. If we cannot entrust to a commission of three men, on the spot, the responsibility for the expenditure of money upon a work likely to cost more than £25,000, it will be a ‘very poor outlook for the Territory. I cannot understand any one who knows that part of Australia, especially one who represents the Territory in this House, talking otherwise. Parliament will be amply safeguarded by the provision as submitted by the Government. It is about time we in this Chamber closely analysed, all financial proposals. If any Parliament in Australia is spending money without sufficient analysis and discussion of the proposals submitted to it, it is this. I do not blame any one particularly, because we are compelled to rush our business through, but if we keep going as we have been we shall soon come to a dead end. We have before us a proposal to send the Public Works Committee to the Northern Territory to investigate any proposed work estimated to cost more than £25,000. If we are to develop the Territory in this fashion, God help the taxpayers. The bill very rightly places the responsibility on the Government - that is to say this Parliament has responsibility concerning expenditure. Any other course would raise a nightmare in the minds of the people who would have co find the money, and I am surprised that this committee would even entertain a proposal to ask the Public Works Committee to investigate every work in the Northern Territory estimated to cost over £25,000. I hope the Government will stand to its guns in this respect.
– The Government cannot accept tHe amendment moved by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay). In drafting this clause, the Government had no intention of detracting from the good work done for this Parliament by the Public Works Committee. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) claims that Parliament should not lose control of the expenditure of money in the Northern Territory. The bill specifically provides that the control of that expenditure shall remain with Parliament, because no expenditure can be taken in hand unless it is first embodied in a bill and passed by Parliament.
– Parliament can easily be misled.
– I heard the honorable member say earlier in the day that what the Northern Territory needed was full control by the commission. “ Give the commission more power,” he said. That is just what the Government intends. The honorable member urged that, instead of bringing control of the Territory to Melbourne, we should endeavour to transfer to the commission on the spot some of the power centred in Melbourne. He said that the commission should have greater control over mining leases. I agree with the honorable member that, when the time comes, Parliament should unload itself of some of its responsibilities in regard to the Territory, and entrust them to the commission. By clause 21, it is provided that the commission may recommend to the Minister the desirability of building a certain railway. The Minister will then call upon the Railway Department to report on the proposal. The trained officers of that department are capable of making a survey of the proposed route, and of submitting a full report to the Minister. The Minister will refer their report to the commission to ascertain if it meets with the wishes and desire of the commission. Would it help the Parliament if the members of the Public Works Committee, at a (»st of thousands of pounds, traversed the route, passing, perhaps, through country difficult enough for the surveyors to traverse? I am prepared to say that the members of that committee could not undertake such a trip. But if they are to carry out their statutory obligations, they must either traverse the route of a proposed railway to make their inquiry, or bring their witnesses to Melbourne. As a matter of fact, the Public Works Committee has not yet visited the Northern Territory, except as a sectional committee. But even if only a sectional committee is to go to the Territory to investigate every projected work, I say, “God help the finances of the country if each trip costs as much as previous visits have cost.” We are urged to get full value for every £1 spent in the Territory. Yet when the Government proposes a means of doing so, some honorable members, with their tongues in their cheeks, declare that something should be done which they honestly believe should not be done. In the words of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), “ Give the country a chance by placing more power in the commission’s hands.” The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) voiced the right sentiment when he said that the Territory has been Crying out for years to be developed. The Government are anxious to give it a chance to be developed by the appointment of the commission, but some honorable members would deprive the commission of certain of its powers, and retain them in Melbourne. I hope that the majority of the committee will not endorse that suggestion. I do not claim that the Public Works Committee should not be entrusted with the responsibility of inquiring into works which, being closer to the Seat of Government, can easily bevisited. I agree with its ex- chairman (Mr. Gregory) that that committee has saved the people of Australia many thousands of pounds. Had the Government been anxious to prevent it from carrying out the function for which it was set up, it could have prevented it from inquiring into works at Canberra, but, as a matter of fact, the measure constituting the Canberra Commission provides for all works at the Federal Capital costing over £25,000 being investigated by the committee.
– The Government is dodging that provision.
– We are not.
– The Government has dodged it for years in the case of defence works and works in New Guinea.
– The Northern Territory differs from any other part of Australia. Honorable members have listened with a great deal of interest and advantage to themselves to other honorable members who have visited the Territory. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) has told us many times in this chamber of the wonderful possibilities of North and Central Australia. His views have been endorsed by others’ who have had the privilege of traversing that part of the Comonwealth. Like the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), we should all like to pay the Territory a visit. Butwe should take a reasonable view of the proposal now before us. Is it possible for members of this Parliament to visit the Territory and closely investigate every proposal to expend over £25,000? Has the Public Works Committee yet investigated in any part of Australia an expenditure exceeding £25,000 on road construction?
– The Commonwealth has not built any road at a cost exceeding £25,000.
– Does the honorable member forget the £2,000,000 already voted by this Parliament for the construction of roads?
– The Commonwealth has no control over that expenditure.
– The officers of the Commonwealth supervise it. Every’ proposal has first to get the approval of the Commonwealth Works andRailways Department. The two great outstanding needs of the Northern Territory are railways and roads. I have already pointed out that itwould be practically impossible for members of the Public Works Committee to traverse the country through which a railwaywould pass. Itwould be hard enough work for the surveyors themselves to do so. Butwhen the sur veyors have done theirwork, are we to expect honorable members of Parliament to go out over the same route and say whether or not the route recommended by the surveyors is desirable, or whether the line should pass around Hill 68 or Hill 69? The investigations of the Public Works Committee have hitherto been confined to building construction and wharfs. For many years to come there will not be a building put up in the Northern Territory which is likely to cost more than £25,000.
– The safeguard in the bill is that money cannot be spent by the commission on anywork without the consent of Parliament.
– -That is true. The commissionwill have to come to Parliament for approval of any proposed expenditure. Therefore, honorable memberswill- have ample opportunity to discuss any proposal for expenditure. The Territory is crying out for assistance, guidance, and development, and wewant to give the commission the power to carry out a policy of development. If every time the commissioners propose to spend more than £25,000 on a particularwork it is necessary to send the Public Works Committee to investigate the project, time will be lost, and while it may not be a waste of money, it will not be far short of it.
Sitimg suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– For some years practically all theworks in North Australia to be inquired into will be in connexion with railways, roads, and telegraph and telephone lines.
– What about harbour works ?
– Recently the Government incurred the expense of employing Sir George Buchanan, one of the most eminent harbour experts in the world, to report on the harbours and port facilities on the northern coast of Australia, and his report is due now. Surely the opinion of such a great authority should carry weight with honorable members.
– If the clause is left as printed every proposed work will have to be submitted to Parliament, which may then refer the proposal to the Public Works Committee.
– Yes; and every proposal submitted to Parliament must be accompanied by plans and specifications and complete information; so that honorable members will be fully cognizant of what the commission is doing. A proposed telephone or telegraph line must be reported upon by the expert officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and I cannot see why it should be necessary to also refer the proposal to the Public Works Committee, which would have to visit the Territory and travel over alternative routes.
– That objection applies to works in any other part of Australia.
– Yes; but what is now the Northern Territory is to be divided into two provinces, and whilst the commission will have control of North Australia, the Works Committee will exercise its full powers in regard to any works exceding £25,000 in cost to be undertaken in Central Australia. The railway is being extended from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, and when it is completed Central Australia will be reasonably accessible to the Public Works Committee, whereas a visit to North Australia must involve a long and expensive trip. If North Australia is to be fully developed, railways must be built east and west as well as north and south, and if each work has to be investigated by the Public Works Committee the cost to the Commonwealth will be considerable.
– Somebody must inquire into all proposals.
– Provision is made for the surveyors and other expert officers in the Commonwealth service to investigate and report upon different projects.
– And their reports will bc submitted to the House before any work is authorized.
– Yes; any bill to authorize the construction of a work involving the expenditure of over £25,000 must be accompanied by complete information.
– And Parliament may then refer the proposal to the Works Committee.
– That is so. The Government has no desire to abrogate the powers of the Works Committee except in relation to projects in North Australia.
– Where most mistakes have been made!
– If the amendment is adopted the Northern Territory will not be developed for a century.
– All honorable members desire to expedite the opening up and settlement of Northern Australia. Mistakes have been made in the past, and we hope to profit by the lessons they have taught. I hope the committee will accept the clause as printed.
.- Until the Minister spoke on this clause I was not antagonistic to it, because all that is involved in the omission or retention of the word “ not “, is whether the initiative in referring proposals to the Works Committee shall be taken by the Government or by a member of the House. But I resent the attack made on the Works Committee by the Minister and his references to the thousands of pounds that it has cost the Commonwealth.
– I referred to only one instance.
– It was a mean reference, because nobody knows better than does the Honorary Minister that time after time I urged upon the Cabinet that the membership of the Public Works Committee and of the Public Accounts Committee should be reduced; but they had not the courage to take action. I regarded it as a reflection upon Parliament that nine members of one committee and ten of another should be travelling about the country inquiring into proposed works or public expenditure. Therefore, I resent the statement that the investigations by the Public Works Committee have cost the Commonwealth many thousands of pounds.
– The committee has saved the Commonwealth many thousands of pounds.
– (Many hundreds of thousands of pounds. In the last financial year the £2,000 voted by Parliament for the remuneration of the Public Works Committee was expended by the end of
March, but the committee was busy until the end of June without receiving any further payment for its labours, while in previous years the vote was largely unexpended. As to the Minister’s assurance that Parliament will be supplied with reports and all other necessary information by officers of the Departments, I remind the committee that £750,000 was expended upon a naval base at Flinders, including the construction of a wharf on dry land, and then the place was declared unsuitable for a base and was converted into a training school. Other instances of departmental folly are the naval base at Cockburn Sound and the proposal to build an arsenal at Tuggeranong, which would have entailed an outlay of probably £5,000,000. Not long ago the “Works Committee was asked to report upon the Darwin wharf. Admiral Clarkson, a most estimable man, but not a harbours and rivers engineer, had submitted a report on the port of Darwin, but when his recommendations came before the Works Committee they were rejected. The project should have been referred to a harbours engineer before submission to the committee, the fault being entirely departmental. It should not be necessary in every instance to refer proposed telephone lines, bridges, and even small railways in North Australia to the Works Committee, but when the bill to authorize such a work comes before this Parliament the responsibility of saying whether the proposal should or should not be referred to the Works Committee should devolve upon the Government, whose recommendation could be dealt with by the House. Unless that responsibility is placed upon the Government it will become the duty of some private member to rise and urge that a proposed work be referred to the Public Works Committee.
.- The honorable member for Swan has accurately summed up the effect of the amendment ; the question is whether the House or the Government should take the initiative in proposing that a work should be referred to the Works Committee. Honorable members should safeguard their direct control over all expenditure on public works, and I prefer to leave the decision to the House rather than to the Government. According to the clause as drafted, after a proposal has been fully inquired into it will be submitted to this House and honorable members - not merely a Minister who may be advocating some pet scheme of his own - will have the right to say whether they are satisfied or desire a further investigation by the Works Committee. I prefer the clause as printed.
.- Early in 1910, I was the first to advocate a scrutiny of public expenditure on the lines that had been laid down for a long time in the House of Commons, and that are followed in England to the present day. It was some time before I could convince members of this chamber of the urgent necessity to adopt that principle, and I should have been the mover of the motion giving effect to it, had not another honorable member jumped my claim. However, I am not troubled on . that score, if the best interests of the country have been served. I desire to see the work of the commission expedited; but it should be done on common-sense lines. If in the distant Northern Territory every proposed work estimated to cost over £25,000 must be referred to the Public Works Committee, it will mean strangling development, which has already been too long delayed, to the everlasting disgrace of this Parliament. I am amazed to hear the paltry . arguments submitted by honorable members who wish to go on picnics to remote parts of Australia. , The proposed limitation of the operation, of the Public Works Committee is amply justified. It is inconceivable that honorable members will object to responsibility in the matter being thrown upon the Ministry. Members of the committee would not beworth their salt if they were guided by their own opinions rather than by the advice of the greatest experts available. My personal relations with members of the committee have been friendly, and I have no wish to alter my attitude towards them.
– In what respect has the committee failed in the past?
– We should look to the future, and I dare say that before long we shall have opportunities to prove whether or notthe committee has justified its existence. For 30 years, I have been pleading for the development of the Northern Territory, and I hope that for the honour of Parliament and the good of Australia, no impediment will be placed in the way of its progress.
– We have a law on the statute-book providing that all works estimated to cost over £25,000 shall be referred to the Public Works Committee. I could understand the opposition to this arrangement if the committee had failed to do its duty in the past. I point out, however, that the inquiries and recommendations of the committee have resulted in the saving of hundreds of thousands of pounds. The mere fact that proposed works of an important character have to be reviewed by the committee makes departmental officers careful in framing their proposals. Prior to the appointment of the committee, heads of departments were apt to submit their proposals to Ministers without thorough inquiry as to whether economies or improvements could be effected. If the proposed commissioners were given a free hand to spend money as they liked in North Australia without reference to the Public Works Committee, there would be clanger of a serious waste of public money. Although we are told that the proposals of the commissioners will be submitted to Parliament, members of this chamber would not be in a position to criticize them in the absence of a report by the committee. It would not be necessary for all the members of the committee to visit the Territory to investigate proposed works; but a sectional committee could be deputed to do so. When proposals were submitted to Parliament, the members of the committee who had investigated them would then be in a position to supply first-hand information to honorable members. We do not know what the personnel of the commission will be. It may be composed of visionaries, who may wish to launch out on extravagant expenditure. In any case, common-sense action by members of the Public Works Committee could be relied upon. The commission will have plenty of administrative work to keep it busy, and it should not be handicapped by having thrown upon it responsibilities that heretofore have been shouldered by the committee, which I regard as an excellent institution.
– Is it an excellent body to send to the Northern Territory?
– No matter where public expenditure may be proposed, the committee could be of invaluable assistance to the Commonwealth. All that is allowed on the Estimates for it is a paltry £2,000 a year. I had the honour to be the first chairman of the committee, and in its first year we did not spend the whole of the money voted. The Government imported a man from America to design the Federal Capital. Mr. Griffin had big ideas about Canberra, and proposed to spend huge sums of money on ornamental lakes. He desired to install septic tanks instead of an outfall sewer. The Public Works Committee rejected a number of his proposals of that nature, and saved the country hundreds of thousands of pounds. Mr. Griffin was described as an expert; but, when the committee examined his proposals in the light of expert evidence by other engineers, it was discovered that they were not worth adopting. The committee has not failed in its work in the past, and I am. satisfied that it can save money in the Northern Territory.
– When the question under consideration ‘was raised by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) and then by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), I was in some doubt as to the rights of the case until I looked into the details of the act as they affected this matter. Having done so, I now hope that the honorable member for Lilley will withdraw his amendment, because there is no need for it. All honorable members have the highest respect for the committee, and recognize the splendid work it has done for Australia in many directions. There is not the slightest intention to infringe upon any of its rights or deprive it of any of the work that it can suitably do. But, looking at the matter from another aspect, it seems to me that to bring important works in the Northern Territory under the control of the committee in any way would perpetuate one of the faults that the bill seeks to eliminate; I refer to control from Melbourne, and the consequent delay which is feared by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster). Besides, honorable members should support the Ministry in this matter for another reason. We must be prepared to believe that the commission will have sound reasons for any action it proposes to take. The bill contains ample safeguards in clauses 20, 21 and 22. Parliament itself will have to authorize any work before it can be proceeded with. There is a special stipulation in clause 23 that the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act shall not apply “ unless the Parliament otherwise directs.” The way is thus deliberately left open for Parliament to say whether any particular work is of such importance that it should be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. We should rely upon the commission, and not seek to cramp it from Melbourne, from which distance it is not possible to decide upon the best action to take.
Mr.PATERSON (Gippsland) [8.32]. - I wholly agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes). I believe that the clause is perfectly sound in its present form. I have the utmost respect for the members of the Public Works Committee, and admiration for the excellent work ‘ which that committee has done for many years. If it were the intention only to appoint a resident commissioner in North Australia, as in Central Australia, it probably would be advisable to have his recommendations investigated by the Public Works Committee, but it is intended to appoint also a commission of three members. Presumably they will be the best men who can be obtained. Surely their recommendations ought to be placed before this Parliament without the intervention of another committee ! Such intervention would be an unnecessary duplication. A very strong argument in favour of the clause as it stands is the geographical position of North Australia. If that Territory were not so far distant from the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth, it might be practicable to submit to the Public Works Committee every proposition that was advanced. An additional safeguard is the provision that if a proposal is put forward which requires to be handled cautiously, Parliament may refer it to the Public Works Committee.
.- The acceptance of the amendment by the committee would inevitably have the effect of spoiling the bill. I trust that Ministers will use all their influence to resist it, and that, should the division go against them, they will withdraw the measure and have it recast. Last night I pointed out what I considered was a very great weakness in the bill. It seemed to me that it was proposed to set up a dual administration. There is to be a commission, which will deal very largely with physical development, and there is also to be a Government Resident to look after aborigines, police, and other minor services. Those two authorities will probably require expensive secretariats and separate staffs, with the result that there will be a good deal of overlapping. The Minister (Mr. Marr), in defending the measure, emphasized the fact that the commission would be one essentially of development, that it would devote almost the whole of its time to the physical needs of the Territory. Now we are being asked not to trust the commission, but to insist that it shall bow to the will of the Public Works Committee, which is, and will be, composed of men living in the southern half of the Continent. Although I have every respect for the ability and knowledge of the Public. Works Committee, I trust that the amendment will not be insisted upon. I was greatly surprised to note the support given to the amendment by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley). Last night an amendment was moved providing for the election of at least one commissioner by the residents of the Territory. It was strongly urged that the commission should have upon it a man with local knowledge, who would be able to give valuable information upon questions relating to northern physical development. The Minister has stated that if the Government cannot obtain the services of three men in the Northern Territory, they will, at least, appoint three men who have had experience of problems similar to those that affect the Territory. Honorable members opposite last night insisted upon having men with local knowledge, yet they now support a proposal that the commission shall be overridden by relatively ignorant persons from the south. I use the word “ ignorant “ without any disrespect to the members of the Public Works Committee. It is generally admitted that ignorance of the requirements of the Northern Territory has been the principal reason for our failure to solve the problem. I appeal to honorable members to have confidence in the commission until it has shown itself unworthy of that confidence. We have the sure knowledge that Parliament will have the deciding voice in regard to any recommendation that the commission may make.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) argued that the geographical position of the Northern Territory rendered it inadvisable to refer the proposals of the commission to the Public Works Committee. Its geographical position, in my opinion, is a very strong reason for the adoption of such a course. Whoever was appointed to the commission, I do not think he would be unwilling to have his proposals investigated. I expected apposition to the amendment from the honorable member for Boothby (Mi-. Duncan-Hughes), because he is a strong advocate for taking away from Parliament the power that it now possesses. He realizes that in Australia any Parliament that is elected on an adult suffrage must have a democratic tendency, and he dreads anything that is of a democratic nature.
– The honorable member for Boothby wishes to give this power to the Parliament instead of to the Public Works Committee.
– During the regime of this Government, Parliament has had taken f rom it the control of a great deal of the national expenditure, and our public men are not now regarded with respect by the electors, because the expenditure has not been in the best interests of the taxpayers. The committee cannot do wrong if it agrees to the amendment. A big portion of the work in the Territory. will be undertaken -with the object of linking up with adjoining States. It will, therefore, be necessary to consider whether any proposed work will prove advantageous to the State concerned, as well as to the Territory. We are really entering upon an experiment in an endeavour to grapple with a problem that successive governments have neglected in the last ten or twelve years. That inaction has been dictated by reasons of a personal and financial character. During the course of a visit that I paid to the Northern Territory, I published my impressions in the press. In answer to certain statements that I made, a correspondent wrote, stating that the advancement of the cattle industry in the Northern Territory would affect prejudicially the squatting interests in the various States. Those who have visited the Northern Territory can vouch for the fact that no other portion of Australia is more suitable for the raising of cattle. It is not the Public Works Committee that some honorable members dread, but that this democratic Parliament shall have a say in how public money shall be spent. We should control public expenditure, and I intend to< do my part in ensuring that we do it. I hope that this committee will rise to its responsibility. Works of an important character will need to be constructed in the Territory, and there should be a thorough inquiry into every project of any magnitude. No harm can be done by submitting the proposals to the Works Committee, and a good deal of public money may be saved by doing so. I ask the committee to give this plan a trial. If it is found to be unworkable it can be rejected. I intend to vote for the amendment, for I think it is safe to submit all big public works to the Works Committee for inquiry, so that we may satisfy ourselves first of all that a work is necessary, and then that not more than a fair price is being paid for it.
.-There have been some amazing outbursts in the discussion on this clause, not the least of which was that of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster). It passes my comprehension how the honorable member can reconcile his statements. To-night he said that the proposal that undertakings in the Northern Territory estimated to cost more than £25,000 should be referred to the Public Works Committee was not worth twopence; but last night he said that the report which the Public Works Committee bad submitted to this Parliament on the NorthSouth railway line was the best that had ever been, or was ever likely to be, presented to it.
– I shall tell the honorable member presently how I reconcile the. two statements.
– The Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr) and other honorable members have been trying to convince the committee that it. will be quite right to leave the expenditure of these large’ amounts in the hands of the committee, for Parliament will still retain control.
– Reports of the commission recommending costly public works will be presented to Parliament just as are the reports of the Public Works Committee.
– Yes, and Cabinet will recommend whether or not the projects shall be carried out. I do not suppose that the Minister intends to accept willy-nilly every proposal that the commission makes. I can see no reason at all why the amendment should not be accepted. At present when an expenditure of more than £25,000 on any public work is contemplated, the Minister concerned submits the proposal to this Parliament, and moves that it be inquired into by the Public Works Committee, and Parliament says yes or no. 1 contend that that could also be done with proposed Northern Territory works.
– I thought the honorable member for Bass desired the Northern Territory to be developed rapidly.
– If the Government had taken my advice four years ago, instead of waiting until it was forced to take it last year, the railway to Alice Springs would have been in operation now, and there would not have been anything like so much delay in developing the Territory. I think I may say honestly and fairly that since I visited the Territory five years ago no honorable member of this Parliament has done more than I to stimulate interest in its development. I have delivered addresses and’ lectures on the subject as far north as Brisbane and as far west as Perth and Fremantle. Yet the honorable member talks about me wanting to delay development. My reason for supporting theamendment is that, notwithstanding my earnest desire to see the Territory developed, I cannot agree to Parliament sacrificing its right to control fully all public expenditure. In his excitement, before the dinner adjournment, the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr) made some amazing statements about the Public Works Committee wandering all over the Northern Territory. My reply to his remark that that tour cost thousands of pounds is that it was the first big motor trip that was ever undertaken into the interior of Australia. The Works Committee pioneered the track. It was an entirely different thing to take a parliamentary party like that through the Territory from making a flying trip from Oodnadatta to Darwin in a single motor car. The position to-day is entirely different from what it was five years ago. If the commission wished to undertake some big water conservation scheme in the Macdonnell Ranges, and the matter was referred to the Public Works Committee, the committee could go from Melbourne to Oodnadatta in three days by train, and it could get from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, which is right in the heart of the Macdonnell Ranges, in another two days by motor. Looking at the matter from the stand-point of North Australia, I suggest that one of the first projects this commission will recommend will be the extension of the railway from western Queensland to the Barkly Tableland. The Honorary Minister suggested that, in order to get to the heart of the Barkly Tableland, it would be necessary to go to Darwin.
– I suggested nothing of the kind.
– The fact of the matter is that if the Public Works Committee had to inquire into a project like that, it could get to Brunette Downs, which is in the heart of the Barkly Tableland, quite easily without going near Darwin. The only Territory projects that are likely to cost more than £25,000 are road making, bridge building, railway construction, water conservation, and harbour works. The expenditure of £25,000 on a public building is not likely to be contemplated in the Territory for a. long time to come.
– What about an expenditure of £25,000 on bores?
– If the Government brought down a proposition to spend £25,000 in one year on bores, I should be greatly astonished. In the last fifteen years this Government, and those that have preceded it, have spent only £160,000 altogether in boring for water in the Territory. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) has joined me year after year in this chamber when the Estimates have been under consideration in urging that the salvation of the Northern Territory lies in providing it with a proper water supply.
– That is right.
– It is not likely that £25,000 will be spent on any one boring proposition. It seems to me that the Ministry is willing for the Public Works Committee to travel in every State in the Commonwealth, but not in its own territories.
– What about proposals that have been referred to the Works Committee for works in the Federal Capital Territory, the Mandated Territories, and Papua ?
– I know that the question of building a wharf at Rabaul has been referred to the committee, but that was only as a matter of grace. I do not know that the committee has ever yet gone to the Mandated Territories on public business. The Defence Department has evaded the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act year after year, and so has prevented Parliament from exercising proper control over expenditure. It has undertaken works piecemeal, and so arranged things that the expenditure in any given year has been just under £25,000.
– And a good deal of the money it has spent has been wasted.
– That is so. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) mentioned some specific instances in which there has been waste. The Defence Department has undertaken works on a dozen or more occasions which should have been referred to the Works Committee. I should like to know why it would take the Works Committee any longer than it would take the proposed commission to inquire into the details of a Northern Territory project.
– Then why appoint a commission ?
– I said last night that I would vote for this bill, not because I wanted a commission, but because I felt that the Government had fallen down on its job, and wished to turn it over to some other authority. The honorable member for Wakefield and half a dozen other honorable members as well as myself have tried year after year to get the Government to do something to develop the Territory, but we have never succeeded. I assert that it could do the work better than a commission if it would seriously undertake it.
– Seeing that the honorable member has voted for the appointment of a commission, he must surely leave the work to it.
– That is all right, but I propose to do my part to keep the control of expenditure there in the hands of Parliament. If the objectionable word “not” were deleted from this clause the Government could still come to Parliament and say, “We propose to refer this work to the Public Works Committee for report,” or “We propose th at this work shall be done without being referred to the Public Works Committee for report.” That would be quite reasonable. We must play for safety. As I pointed out last night, there has been a number of occasions since I have been a member of this House, when Parliament has not had proper control of public expenditure. The control has passed from it with disastrous results. I am grateful, in a way, for the compliments which the honorable member for Wakefield has paid me.
– But the honorable member is discounting them now.
– All I wish to say about that is that if the honorable member’s compliments were worth anything at all they should cause him to take a little notice of my judgment on this matter. The Honorary Minister has suggested that a proposal might bo made for the building of a railway from Timbuctoo or some other similar place. Let me tell honorable members what actually happened some time ago. The suggestion has been made over and over again that a railway line should be built from Marree to Birdsville.
– The suggestion was made 33 years ago; it was inquired into and turned down.
– That is so. But shortly before the late Sir Denison Miller died a pamphlet on the Commonwealth Bank was published at his instigation. On the front cover of it there was a map of Australia showing existing and proposed railways lines. One of the proposed lines went across the Northern Territory into Queensland, and down the western border of that State into South Australia via Birdsville to Marree. I would strongly object should the commission recommend that proposal. If, however, there was a scheme to construct a line as suggested by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) much nearer the centre of Queensland, I would support it.
– Would it make any difference to the attitude of the honorable member if the Public Works Committee recommended the line into Queensland?
– Not the slightest. I believe that any Public Works Committee that traversed the country covered by the sub-committee a few years ago, would make the same recommendation. I am not too trustful of the three commissioners. They might leave this House misinformed, or not sufficiently informed, and, for various reasons, might suggest the construction of that line.
– If they did they would not be qualified for their position.
– We have had many commissioners who were not qualified for their positions. The Minister also made some references to the Darwin wharf. Perhaps it would be as well if I gave the whole story of that proposal. The Government proposed to make certain alterations to the wharf, and referred the matter to the Public Works Committee. Then it was decided to send Sir William Clarkson to Darwin to prepare a scheme. His plan, when examined by experts, was shown to be worth not a snap of the fingers. A little later the Government sent Mr. Barnsbottom, the Director of Lighthouses, to report upon the same project.
– Why was Sir William Clarkson’s report valueless?
-Because Sir William Clarkson was not an- engineer qualified to report on wharf construction.
– He is an able engineer; he got his training in shipbuilding at Armstrong’s works.
– It was evident that Sir William Clarkson was not fit for that particular job, and, as I have said, subsequently the Government sent Mr. Ramsbottom, the Director of Lighthouses, to Darwin on the same mission.
– Who knows more about such works than Mr. Ramsbottom ? He is a most capable officer.
– I agree, and I am not suggesting that he did not present a good report. My contention is that Sir William Clarkson was not a proper man to report on Darwin wharf construction. Besides instructing these officials to prepare reports and remitting the subject to the Public Works Committee, the Government sent Sir George Buchanan to Darwin. And yet the Minister talks about the waste of money that would be involved by remitting important public works in the Northern Territory to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report !
– Nothing will be right until the Government sends for the honorable member for Bass!
– The honorable member for Batman need not be so facetious; I do not pose as an authority on wharf construction.
– Nevertheless the honorable member is ready to set his judgment against that of distinguished men whom he condemns off-hand, without giving any reason except his own ipse dixit.
– I am doing nothing of the sort. I say that experts condemned the Clarkson report.
– If my knowledge equalled the honorable member’s egotism I should be the wisest man. since Solomon.
– I am surprised that the honorable member for Batman, after that somewhat insulting remark, should immediately leave the chamber. I am merely pointing out that Sir William Clarkson’s report, in. the opinion of experts, was absolutely valueless, and was discarded by the Government; which proves my statement. When Sir William came before the Public Works Committee, he was unable to state, with any accuracy, either the quantities or the probable cost of his scheme. I do not question his ability as a naval officer. I merely state that his plan was discarded by nearly every expert who gave evidence before the Public Works Committee. That statement stands, despite the charge of egotism made against me by the honorable member for Batman. I regret the necessity to say anything against the bill, which, as I stated yesterday, is a confession of the Government’s abject failure to grapple with the Northern Territory problem.
.- I moved my amendment early in the afternoon with the object of giving the Minister (Mr. Marr) an opportunity to justify what I considered was a very important departure from the policy not only of this Government, but also of every Government since 1911. The Minister has not done so. I have listened attentively to the speeches of various honorable members. If I thought for a moment that my amendment would in any way delay the important work that will be entrusted to the commission, I would immediately withdraw it. According to the bill the commission, before it puts in hand works other than ordinary development schemes will report to the Minister, so that either the Minister, or the Government, will fulfil the functions of the Public Works Committee. This, I submit, is entirely wrong in principle, and a serious evasion of the act. I should like to’ set at rest the mind of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) concerning the personnel of the Public Works Committee. Members of that body do not pose as experts, and I think it is rather fortunate for the country that they are not experts. If the honorable member were a member of that committee for a month or so he would find that it is the experts who disagree with one another, and he would then realize how desirable it is that a decision with regard to important public works should be in the hands of men endowed with ordinary common sense. I agree that it may not be convenient to refer many Northern Territory works to the Public Works Committee for special “investigation, but the Minister mentioned road construction proposals. I daresay that officials of the various departments can, whenever they deem it desirable, inform a Minister how to avoid referring any particular work to the Public Works Committee. I am inclined tothink that this is done fairly frequently, and I have no doubt that occasionally it may be prudent to adopt that course. But I submit that in connexion with works such as railway construction, the more publicity that is given to any proposal the better. I am sorry that the debate on my amendment has taken up so much time, butI believe that the discussion has been justified, and 1 have no doubt that the committee is now prepared to vote upon’ it.
.- Much of the discussion that has taken place on this amendment has been due to what I regard as an over liberal interpretation of the clause. I should have been surprised if the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) and the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), had not protested against such wide powers being given to the commission. Apparently, they see in this an interference with the special functions of the Public Works Committee. As a matter of fact, the bill does not propose to take anything out of the hands of that committee. The safeguarding provision, is to be found in the last words of the clause - “ unless the Parliament otherwise provides.” What would be the use of appointing a commission specially to ensure the development of Northern Australia if every proposal made by that body had to be referred to the Public Works Committee?
– That is in thebill.
– As a matter of fact, in the clause there is nothing inconsistent with the rights of the Public Works Committee. The Parliament may at any time specifically submit proposals to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. If the bill proposed to take out of the hands of the Public Works Committee every reference to public works in the Northern Territory, there might be some special deprivation. But it does not. All that the bill proposes to do is to appoint a commission for the special purpose of imparting some life into schemes for Northern Territory development. If for some special reason, certain works should be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report, Parliament will have the power to take that course. It is quite natural that the honorable member for Lilley should be jealous of the prerogatives of the Public Works Committee; but I thinkhe is mistaken if he believes that, in respect of all Northern Territory problems, power is to be taken out of the hands of that body.
Every recommendation made by the commission may, if Parliament so decides, be referred to the committee for investigation and report.
Mr.SCULLIN (Yarra) [9.15].- The important question that arises in this debate is, shall we hand the government of Australia over to commissions? If any honorable member will cast his mind back a few years and recall how many commissions have been created to do various things, he may be excused for concluding that there will soon be no duties for the Parliament to perform. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) said that if the commission could not spend the paltry sum of £25,000 on a public work without the consent of the Parliament, its appointment would not be justified. My reply to the honorable member is that this bill provides that the Parliament must authorize an expenditure of £25,000; but what the honorable members who support the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) are insisting upon is that this Parliament shall give a considered opinion on proposals for the construction of public works. What machinery have we devised for giving an informed opinion? The only way in which the Parliament can inform itself is by submitting such questions to committees that have its confidence. This Parliament has again and again expressed its confidence in the Public Works Committee, and one of the departures made in recent years in the control of public works was the appointment of that committee, which is representative of both sides of the House and of both Houses of the Parliament. The Parliament places a considerable amount of trust in the integrity of the members of the committee, and from what I have observed in the last few years I am satisfied that that committee has saved this country a large amount of money. The Honorary Minister in charge of the bill argued that there would be considerable delay in carrying out public works while the committee was careering round the Northern Territory. I point out to the Minister that it is not necessary for the committee in all cases to visit the locality concerned to decidewhether a certain public work is necessary. Many proposals could be examined without the committee leaving Melbourne. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) asked, “What is the use of appointing a commission if its work is to be supervised by a parliamentary committee ? “ The committee, however, supervises the recommendations of the . Canberra Commission.
– This bill provides for exactly the same procedure as is set out in the Public Works Committee Act. Proposals must be laid on the table of both Houses of the Parliament.
– This clause ‘says that a proposal shall not be submitted to the Public Works Committee unless the Parliament otherwise orders; but that is not the way we deal with other public works. Other works, if their cost is estimated to exceed £25,000, automatically go before the Public Works Committee. If the commission is to submit proposals to the Minister, and the Cabinet and the Minister are to prepare bills and submit them to this Parliament, the Works Committee will not have a chance to investigate before the questions involved have been decided. If the Parliament orders that a proposal shall be investigated by the Public Works Committee, the bill must be hung up. If the committee presented an adverse report, the Government, which would have committed itself on the question before receiving the report of the committee, would have to climb down - which is not likely - or proceed with a scheme which would not be in the best interests of the country.
– Reports must be laid on the table of both Houses.
– We wish to establish a principle that when it is proposed to expend large sums of money onpublic works, a committee that represents both, sides of the House shall examine the proposals and report to the House on them. This House has more confidence in the investigations of such a committee than in any one-sided statement. There are other ‘ questions that ought to be considered by representative committees of this House. Taxation bills have been presented every year since I have been a member of this House, and periodically bills are brought down to amend the original bills, through which various people have been driving coaches and horses. This country is losing hundreds of thousands of pounds because bills presented to this House have not been properly considered by honorable members. That is a field where we ought to have men specializing. The Public Works Committee has been in existence for many years, and has been of great advantage. We know nothing of the personnel of the proposed commission, but we are asked to agree to abrogate a law which has stood this country in good stead.
.- During the debate on this bill the Minister, in attempting to bolster up the practice of his Government of indiscriminately appointing royal commissions to manage this and govern that, proudly pointed to the Canberra Commission as about the last word in commissions. With much of that sentiment about the Canberra Commission I and many honorable members agree, but we hold quite different views with regard to many other commissions. The Minister made out quite a good case for the Canberra Commission, and before he had finished any doubts that might have been entertained by honorable members about the ability of that commission must have been dispelled. But notwithstanding the ability of the Canberra Commission, and the esteem in which it is held by the Government, it is not allowed to carry out works involving an expenditure of over £25,000 until the Public Works Committee has investigated its proposals. We do not know who the members of the Northern Territory Commission will be, but whoever they may be, their proposals should be subject to the scrutiny of a parliamentary committee functioning in the interests of the Commonwealth. The system under which the Public Works Committee investigates proposals has not grown up haphazardly; it is not an accident. It was devised because of the early experience in the different States of incompetent officers, incompetent ministers, and incompetent governments embarking on costly works that ended in bungling. Before the suggestion of a committee to investigate proposals for public works came before the Parliament, a more sinister matter arose. I refer to “boodling.” Honorable members remember many scandals in connexion with contracts, and it is on record that railway lines have been run through the properties of Ministers, members of Parliament, or syndicates.
– That has not happened since the creation of the Commonwealth.
– I am speaking of the” reasons that existed in the past for creating a committee, responsible directly to the Parliament, to scrutinize carefully all proposals for the expenditure of large sums of public money. I am not saying’ that “ boodling “ or bungling will occur in the Northern Territory, but if bungling does not occur, there must be a departure from the methods of the past. The present Government is not free from responsibility in that regard. Proposals for the building of railways, the construction of wharfs, and other public works and utilities in the Northern Territory, should be subjected to the same scrutiny as proposals for similar works in other parts of Australia. During the time that I had the privilege and honour to be a member of the Public Works Committee, the committee took evidence from men possessing some of the best brains in Australia. We interrogated structural engineers andexperts in water and sewerage undertakings. Many of those men were officers of the Commonwealth, and after being on the committee for any length of time one could not fail to be impressed with the calibre of the architects, engineers, and other expert officers holding important positions in Government departments. Notwithstanding the undoubted integrity of these men, notwithstanding that they have the complete confidence of this and many previous Governments, and of all political parties, no one suggests that their proposals should be exempt from investigation by the Public Works Committee. When the first Public Works Committee was appointed there was a cold suspicion in the minds of some Commonwealth officers whose work had previously not been subjected to scrutiny and investigation. On one occasion two departmental officers treated the inquiries of the Public Works Committee rather contemptuously, but as its investigations continued departmental officers realized the benefit, not only to the Government, but to themselves, of an inquiry by an impartial body. I can conceive that members of the commission will welcome investigations by the Public Works Committee into theundertakings which they propose. The Minister, on behalf of the Government, has promised that, if possible, persons who either reside in or have extensive knowledge of the Territory they are to administer will be appointed to the commission, and it is to be’ hoped that such men will be available. If those selected for the job are not better than many who have carried on the administration in the Northern Territory in the past it will be very necessary to investigate the works they propose. The Government should not discriminate between public works in the Northern Territory and those in other portions of the Commonwealth. The Defence Department is the only department whose works are exempt from investigation by this committee. That is only because proposals of a highly confidential character might possibly become public, and not because the Government has greater faith in the officers of the Defence Department than in those of other departments. I trust the Minister will agree to all public works undertaken by the commission, the estimated cost of which exceeds £25,000, being inquired into by the Public Works Committee in order that the interests of the people may be adequately safeguarded.
Question - That the word proposed to be left out (Mr. Mackay’s amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clause 22 agreed to.
Clauses 24 to 28 agreed to.
Clause 29 -
The revenue of the commission. shall consist of the following moneys: -
Moneys received in pursuance of any by-law made under this act or any ordinance administered by the commission;
Moneys appropriated by the Parliament of the Commonwealth for the purposes of the development of the Territory ;
Fines recovered for any contravention of-
any by-law made under this act, or
any ordinance administered by the commission;
Moneys borrowed by the commission in pursuance of this act; and
Any other moneys received by the commission.
Amendment (by Mr. Marr) proposed -
That after the word “by”, paragraph (e), sub-clause 1, the words “or on behalf of” be inserted.
– This clause deals with the revenue of the commission, and provides that it shall consist, amongst others, of the following moneys -
Moneys appropriated by the Parliament of the Commonwealth for the purposes of the development of the Territory.
According to the definition clause, “the Territory” means the whole of the Northern Territory, and so this clause would give the northern commission the right to raise revenue over the whole of the Territory. I do not think that that is intended, because a distinct geographical line is drawn by the bill between North and Central Australia. In order that the position might be made clear, I should like to move an amendment in paragraph c of sub-clause 1 of this clause to insert the words “ prescribed part “ before the word “Territory”.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Before the honorable member can move an amendment in paragraph c, it will be necessary for the Minister to withdraw the amendment he has proposed.
– I ask the Minister to ‘ withdraw his amendment in order to permit me to submit an amendment, which I think is necessary to safeguard the interests of the people. As I read the clause, as it stands, it will give the northern commission jurisdiction, for the purpose of raising revenue, over the whole of the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member may not discuss his proposed amendment until the amendment moved by the Minister is withdrawn.
– If the honorable member is anxious to test the question, I shall have no objection to withdraw my amendment, but I think his fears with respect to the clause are not well founded. In this clause, we are dealing with that part of the Northern Territory which will be contained in the North Australian section. The commission will have jurisdiction only over North Australia, and as this clause deals with the powers of the commission in regard to revenue and expenditure, it necessarily only covers revenue and expenditure of the territory which will be under the control of the commission.
– If the Minister will refer to clause 16, which deals with the powers of the commission, he will find that, in paragraph / of sub-clause 1 of that clause, the commission is given power over -
Such other matters in relation to the development of the Territory as are specified under any regulation .made under this act.
In this clause again, the word “ Territory” is used without distinction. According to the definition clause, “North Australia “ means that part of the Territory situated north of the twentieth parallel of south latitude, and “ Central Australia “ means that part of the Territory situated south of the twentieth parallel of south latitude. My contention is that the clause now under consideration gives the North Australian Commission control of the whole of the revenue of Central Australia as well as of North Australia,
– I shall bring the point raised by the honorable member under the notice of the Crown law officers, and if there is found to be any doubt on the subject, the clause will be re-committed.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 30 agreed to.
Clause 31 -
Amendments (by Mi-. Marr) agreed to-
That after sub-clause (1) the following subclauses be inserted: - “ (1a) The commission may, from time to time, in lieu of exercising the power conferred on it by the last preceding sub-section, request the Treasurer to borrow moneys on its behalf, and the Treasurer may thereupon, under the provisions of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1918, or under the provisions of any act authorizing the issue of Treasury bills, ‘borrow, on behalf of the commission, moneys not exceeding the amounts authorized, by any act or in pursuance of any resolution passed by both Houses of the Parliament, to be borrowed for the purpose of the exercise of any of the powers of the commission. (1b) The indebtedness of the commission to the Commonwealth in respect of moneys ‘borrowed by the Treasurer on its behalf shall include such amounts as the Treasurer certifies are necessary to cover all costs and charges (including exchange) incurred in connexion with the relative loans and all discounts on the flotation of such loans. (lc) Interest shall be payable by the commission to the Commonwealth, on such dates as the Treasurer determines, on the indebtedness of the commission as determined in the last preceding sub-section at ‘a rate sufficient to recoup the Commonwealth the interest paid »by it in respect of that indebtedness and the terms and conditions of the repayment of the indebtedness of the commission to the Commonwealth shall be as determined by the Treasurer. (Id) The commission shall in each year during which interest is payable to the Commonwealth pay to the Treasurer such amounts as the Treasurer certifies are necessary to cover the cost of exchange on interest payments commission for paying interest stamp duty on loan transfers and charges (other than those referred to in sub-section (1b) of this section) payable by the Commonwealth in respect of the relative loans. (1e) In addition to any interest payable by the commission on its indebtedness to the Commonwealth the commission shall, in each year during which interest is payable, and on the dates on which interest is payable, pay to the Treasurer a sinking fund contribution at the rate of Ten shillings per annum for every One hundred pounds or portion of One hundred pounds of its indebtedness until those moneys are repaid to the Commonwealth. (1f) Each contribution received by the Treasurer under the last preceding sub-section shall be paid into the National Debt Sinking Fund established under the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1923-1925. (1g) There may be issued and applied out of the proceeds of any loan raised by the Treasurer under the authority of any act, including this act, a sum not exceeding the amounts authorized by the act to be borrowed for the purpose of the exercise of any of the powers of the commission and’ for the expenses of borrowing.”
That after the word “ Account “, sub-clause (4), the words “legally available for the purpose “ be omitted.
That after the word “by”, sub-clause (5), the words “ or on behalf of “ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 32 to 35 agreed to.
– This clause deals with the division of the Northern Territory into North Australia and Central Australia. The proposed division will be more imaginary than real, because the Government Residents and the commission will between them control administration over the whole of the Territory in respect of police and police courts, postal matters; lands (including pastoral and agricultural), mines, primary producers, railways, taxation, and Customs. All these services will be administered from the north, and yet we are told by this clause that North Australia and Central Australia shall be administered separately. So far as I can see, it is impossible to bring about this separate administration under this clause. It is not my intention to move an amendment, but I have thought it well to direct the attention of the committee to what will be the position under this clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 37 to 39 agreed to.
Until other provision is made, by or under any law of the Commonwealth -
The Supreme Court of the Northern Territory as existing on the proclaimed day shall continue as the Supreme Court of North Australia and as the Supreme Court of Central Australia.
– I admit that there must be a Supreme Court established for the Northern Territory, but under existing conditions people are dragged from the southern part of the Territory to Darwin in connexion with matters affecting land and other matters which may be the subject of litigation. I move -
That the following paragraph be inserted : -
It is too much to expect people from the southern part of the Territory to lose valuable time in travelling from their holdings to- Darwin to attend the court there. A circuit judge could deal with cases as effectively in Central Australia as in Darwin. I think that the Minister should accept the amendment.
.- I hope that the Minister will agree to make a judge available in Central Australia at certain periods. To drag men from Alice Springs to Darwin to attend the court there would be outrageous.
– At first sight, the amendment appears to be a reasonable one. The number of cases likely to be dealt with, however, will not be great for some years.
– It is difficult to predict the number.
– To some extent, we can be guided by our past experience. This matter has been considered by the Government, which called for a report from the judge. He expressed the opinion - an opinion concurred in by the Crown
Law officers, who went exhaustively into the matter - that at present the establishment of another court is not justified.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory has not asked for an independent court, but that the judge of the Northern Territory should attend at certain periods iri Central Australia.
– The judge constitutes, the court; where he is, the court is. The judge to whom the matter was referred recommended that the Attorney-General’s Department be informed that it was not desirable to establish a separate court in Central Australia. ‘ The Minister, after careful consideration, did not feel justified in recommending that what the honorable member now suggests should be adopted. I shall bring the matter again before Cabinet for further consideration.
.- This matter is of such importance to Central Australia that I ask the Minister to allow the clause to stand over until to-morrow. It is inconceivable that men from Central Australia should be dragged to Darwin to attend the court there.
– I agree with other honorable members that it is unreasonable to expect the residents of Alice Springs to attend the court at Darwin. The Minister who introduced this bill in another place said that it was intended to appoint a medical practitioner as Government Resident at Alice Springs. While I have no wish to disparage any member of the medical profession, I consider that it is at least arguable whether, a medical practitioner would be the best administrator of Central Australia. It might be better to appoint a judge as administrator of that territory, because we should then have a judge always on the spot available to deal with any cases that might arise. Were a medical practitioner appointed as Government Resident, it might happen that, when needed in the court, he would be absent some hundreds of miles attending a case of sickness, and during his absence the work, of administration would either be suspended or carried on . by a subordinate officer. I doubt whether that is advisable. It is possible that the professional work of a medical man in Central Australia would be sufficiently heavy to make it difficult for him to carry out his duties as administrator, even though he were a person admirably qualified for that office. I therefore hope that the Minister, in fairness to the people of Central Australia, will give this matter further consideration. If we are to divide the present Northern Territory into two parts, we should make proper provision for such an important matter as the administration of justice in each part.
– In order that I may bring this matter before Cabinet for further consideration, I ask that the clause be postponed. .
Clauses 41 and 42 agreed to.
– This clause deals with the creation of an advisory council for North Australia, and has already been debated at great length. It is more or less a farce, inasmuch as the council when appointed will not be able to advise upon any questions of national importance, such as, for instance, ordinances relating to the administration of Crown lands. The intelligent administration of land matters .will play a prominent part in the development of North Australia. Any man who has settled on the land and overcome the problems of the Northern Territory is eminently suited to advise as to the best method of developing that country, and it is only right that the administration should have the advantage of his knowledge. The honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie), when speaking on the second reading of the bill, was very much opposed to leaving the appointment of the councillors in the hands of those whom he termed wharf labourers. I would inform the honorable member that at the last elections the whole of the wharf labourers in the Northern Territory voted for the
Nationalist party, and his confession that he is not able to trust his party’s own supporters is rather a reflection on the Nationalist candidate for Northern Territory. The councillors appointed in the Northern Territory will he the direct representatives of the settlers, and not of the wharf labourers. The election of any officers in that Territory depends not on those resident in Darwin, but on the outback settlers. In view of the fact that these men have had a long experience of the country, the functions of the advisory council should not be limited to giving advice on domestic matters of no great national importance. The clause goes further, and prevents the council from tendering advice on any matter relating to the powers of the commission, or under control of the commission. If the advisory council is to have no responsibility we cannot expect its members to work in harmony with the commission, because they will feel right from the beginning that their only function will be to let off hot air, as was stated in another place. We want a progressivecouncil whose advice will be of some value to this Parliament and to Australia generally. The characteristics of the Territory are such that only men ‘who have had experience of that country will be able to assist in its successful development. It is extremely probable that the persons appointed to the commission will not have had that experience. I move: -
That sub-clause 1 be amended by leaving out all the words after the word “ ordinances “, line 6.
– I cannot accept the amendment. After the advisory council has been appointed, it may be found necessary to extend its powers, but at the moment the Government considers it advisable to confine its investigations and recommendations to those matters mentioned in the clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 44 agreed to.
Clause 45 -
– The clause leaves it open for the. Government Resident to call meetings of the council as often as he likes, but if he so desires he need not call the council together more than twice in each year. There is nothing in the clause to give the representatives on the council any power to convene a meeting. They would not go to the trouble of asking the Government Resident to convene a meeting if they did not have important business to discuss. I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : -
It shall be competent for any two members of the advisory council to request the Government Resident, in writing, to convene a meeting of the council for the purpose of discussing matters of urgent public importance. On the receipt of such request, the Government Resident shall cause to be issued notices notifying members of the time and place at which such meeting is to be held.
In another place, Senator Pearce said that it would be a safety valve to take the people of the Territory into the confidence of the administration, and get them to exhibit some interest in the work performed by the advisory council. If we give the right to any two members of the council to require a meeting to be convened, I am sure we shall infuse into the council as a whole an energy that will be reflected in greater benefit to the Territory in general
– I cannot accept the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 46 to 48 agreed to.
Clause 49 -
– As the possibilities of Central Australia are as great as those of any other part of Australia, and as administration from Melbourne has proved disastrous, not only to North Australia, but also to Central Australia, I think it is about time the Government took into serious consideration the development of the central portion of Australia, as well as that of the northern part. In order to achieve that purpose, I move -
That the following words be inserted at the beginning of the clause : -
For the purposes of this Act there shall be a Central Australian Commission charged with the general administration of this part of the act, appointed under similar conditions as the North Australian Commission. The commission shall consist of three members, One of whom shall be the Government Resident, who shall act as chairman, one to be appointed by the Governor-General, and one elected by the people of Central Australia.
.- I advise the honorable member not to be too anxious to pile up an enormous expenditure in. the development of the Northern Territory. If a second commission is required for Central Australia, it can easily be appointed, but I am confident that for many years to come the North Australia Commission will be engaged a great deal more in the central portion than in the northern portion of the Territory, so far as the pastoral industry is concerned.
– The honorable member for Wakefield is wrong in saying thatthe North Australia Commission will function in the centre of Australia ; its activities will be confined to the North, and Central Australia will be administered from the Seat of Government, as at present. The purpose of my amendment is to give to Central Australia some semblance of autonomy.
– As this amendment undermines the general structure of the bill, I cannot accept it.
Amendment (by Mr. Marr) agreed to -
That the word “ three “, sub-clause 3, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ two “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 50 to 57 agreed to.
Clause 58 -
Amendment (by Mr. Marr) proposed -
That after the words “ Central Australia “ the words “ (other than the revenue of the Commission)” be inserted.
– I hope that Central Australia will receive a fair share of the Customs revenue collected at northern ports. The residents of Central Australia contribute largely to that revenue, and, indeed, to the revenue collected at southern ports on goods which are subsequently transhipped to Darwin and sent into the interior.
– Customs revenue collected at northern ports will continue to be paid into the Commonwealth Treasury.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 59 and 60 agreed to.
Postponed clause 5 (Definitions).
– The Government has considered the suggestion of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that names of historic interest should be given to the proposed new provinces in lieu of the geographical distinctions “North” and “Central.” The opinion of the Government is that it is premature to affix such names to regions that are still undeveloped. When, as a result of growth, new states are created, the suggestions of the honorable member may be adopted. I hope that time is not far distant.
Postponed clause agreed to.
Postponed clause 40 (Continuance of courts), upon which Mr. Nelson had moved by way of amendment -
That the following paragraph be added to the clause : - “(d) There shall be appointed a circuit judge, who shall visit the seat of administration of Central Australia for the purpose of hearing appeals from the lower courts.”
– The amendment that I have proposed in this clause provides for the appointment of a circuit judge for the purpose of avoiding the necessity for persons concerned in Supreme Court cases to travel from one end of the Territory to the other, since the country will not be served by railway for many years. The Honorary Minister remarked that there was not a great deal of crime in the Territory. That, happily, is true. I repeat, however, that settlers in Central. Australia could not be expected to lose two or three months in travelling to and from Darwin to attend the court.
. -I cannot. accept the amendment, although 1 am prepared to admit that the matter is important. If the Government agreed to the amendment it would be necessary to appoint a judge permanently for Central Australia; but it. is realized that a permanent appointment would not be justified. If the honorable member for Northern Territory will withdraw his amendment, the Government will give consideration to the matter as soon as possible.
– In view of the Minister’s promise, I am prepared to do that. .
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preambleand title agreed to.
Bill . reported with amendments, and recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 14.
In committee (Re-committal).
Clause 14 - (3.) An officer of the Commonwealth Public Service, or of the Public Service of a State, or of the Public Service of the Territory, who becomes an officer under this act shall retain all his existing and accruing rights. (4.) An officer of the Commonwealth . Public “Service or of thePublicService of the Territory whobecomes an officer under this act shall not thereby be required to resign from the Commonwealth Public Service or the Public Service of the Territory, as the case may “be, but may be granted leave of absence for the period of his employment -under this act, and the period of leave so granted shall, for all purposes, be included as part of the officer’s period of service. (5.) Upon the termination of the employment under this act ofanysuch officer who has not been dismissed for misconduct, he shall be entitledto re-appointment to a position in the CommonwealthPublic Service or the Public Service of the Territory, as the case may be, with such advancement in salaryand status beyond those heldby him in that Service immediately prior tohis appointment under this act, as the PublicService -Board, or, in the case of an officer from the Public Service of the Territory, as the Minister, in the circumstances, thinks just.
Amendments (byMr. Marr) agreed to-
That after the word “Public,” sub-clause (3), line 1, the words ‘“Railway or other” be inserted.
Thatthe words “CommonwealthPublic Service,” sub-clause (4), lines1 and 2,be left out. with a view to insert, inlieu thereof the words “ Public, Railway, or other Service of the Commonwealth.”
That the words “ Public Service Board, or, in thecase ofan officer from the Public Ser vice of the Territory, as the Minister ‘’, sub- clause 5, be left out,with a view to “insert’.in lieu thereof the words “ authority having power to make appointments to the Public Railway, or other Service of the. Commonwealth, or Public Service oftheTerritory, as the case may be “..
Clause further consequentially amended, and agreed to.
Bill reported with further . amendments; and reports, by leave, adopted.
Bill, on motionby Mr. Marr (by leave)., read a third time.
House adjourned at 10.51 . p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 May 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260520_reps_10_113/>.