10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the all too frequently recurring troubles in regard to coal,will the Postmaster-General give serious consideration to the proposal that vessels engaged in the mail service between Tasmania and the mainland shall be converted to the use of oil fuel ?
– It is questionable whether oil-burning vessels are suitable for the Australian coastal trade. Some of the companies on the coast are installing Diesel internal combustion engines. One steamer has already been converted, and when the next mail contract for Tasmania is being considered it may be necessary to require the use of internal combustion or oil-burning vessels. It is practically impossible to convert some of the present steamers into oil burners.
– In connexion with the proposed referendum upon amendments of the Constitution, is it the intention of the Government to group all the matters contained in the first bill, and ask the electors to vote “ yes “ or “ no “ uponthem asa whole, or will they have an opportunity to indicate their opinion. upon different phases of the legislation?
– The procedure is set out inthe Referendum Act the schedule of which includes a ballot-paper on which only the one question appears - “Do you approve of the proposed law for the alteration of the constitution ?” That means that each proposed law will be submitted to the people as one question.
– Docs the PostmasterGeneral intend to review the wireless broadcasting regulations at an early date ? If so, willhe consider the advisability of reducingthefeesforlistening-inlicences for hospitals,churches, schools, and similar institutions?
-The original regulations were given a currency of two years, and they will be due for review in July next, when the honorable member’s suggestion’ will receive consideration.
Cashing of Notes Paid todectectives.
-Has the Treasurer received any information from the Commonwealth Bank as to whether the £1,000 - notes that werestolen from Mr. Callaghan have been presented to the bank for payment, also whether the detectives who robbed Mr.Callaghan have refunded to him the amount they stole?
– The honorable member asked a question on this subject several weeksago and I am now able to inform him that the acting manager of the Commonwealth Bank has advised me that five of the notes have been returned to the note issue department in the ordinary course of business and destroyed, and five others are still out standing.
– Will the Treasurer request the Commonwealth Bank to preserve the outstanding notes, if they are presented to the bank, until justice is done?
– The disposal of notes is controlled by the bank, andI do notsee how the preservation of them can serve in any way the ends of justice.
-In connexion with the sale of expropriated properties in New
Guinea, what precautions were taken by the Government to ensure that successful tenderers complied with the regulations regarding ex-German nationals?
– The conditions stated on the tender forms were very definite, and the tenders were carefully examined by the Government. If the. honorable member will put a question on the notice-paper a more detailed answer will be furnished.
-Far the information of people with families who will shortly take up their residence at Canberra, will the Prime Minister say whether any decision has been arrived at in regard to the establishment of a university there, and the scope of such an institution ?
– Three or four weeks ago a conference of educational authorities, including the Vice-Chancellor of the Sydney University, was held at Canberra to consider and report upon this matter. After that report has been received and considered the Government will announce its decision.
Removal of Head Office to New Zealand
– Early in the session I asked of the Prime Minister a question in reference to the management of our interests at Nauru and Ocean Islands, and particularly as to the proposed removal of the office of the British Phosphates Commission from Sydney to New Zealand. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether the matter which was then in suspense has been settled adversely to Australian interests?
– The removal of the office to New Zealand was determined upon at the conference held at Vancouver last year, but, asI indicated to the right honorable member in reply to his question earlier in the session, the Government has been endeavouring to prevent the giving of effect to that decision. Communications have been sent to the partner Governments of Great Britain and New Zealand. A reply has been received to the last letter sent to New Zealand, but none is to hand from Great Britain, possibly because of the disturbed conditions” that have existed there during recent weeks. I anticipate that a reply will be received in a few days, and that some finality will soon be reached. In reply to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), I said yesterday that the Government views with the gravest apprehension the proposal to remove the office from Australia, and will take all possible steps to prevent that occurring.
– Will the Prime Minister lay upon the table of the House reports and correspondence dealing with the trouble that led up to the decision to transfer the head office of the commission from Australia to New Zealand ?
– At the present time it would be most inadvisable to make the papers public. As the contemplated removal is due to take place in September, it is desirable that a decision shall be reached in the near future, and when certain difficulties that surround the question have been cleared up, I shall consider the possibility of complying with the honorable member’s request.
– Some time ago application was made to the Trade and Customs Department by the Bendigo Sewing Machine Company for a bounty on its products. Owing to the delay in answering its application, the company has been obliged to reconstruct. Willthe Minister for Trade and Customs say now whether there is any prospect of assistance being afforded the company ?
– This request was investigated by the Tariff Board some time ago, and its report has been under consideration. I shall endeavour to expedite a decision.
– In view of the prominent part taken by certain members of the Cabinet, before they became Cabinet Ministers, in the agitation for the creation of new States, will the Prime
Minister say whether the Government intends to have the amendments of the Constitution necessary to facilitate such further divisions of Australia submitted to the people concurrently with the referendum upon industrial powers ?
– The honorable member well knows that it is not customary for the Government to make announcements of policy in reply to questions.
– Will the Treasurer use his influence with the Government to have the amendments necessary to the Constitution to facilitate the creation of new States submitted to the people concurrently with the referendum upon industrial powers ?
– The honorable member has been already informed that it is not the custom for the Government to- make statements of policy in reply to questions.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the arrangement made earlier in the session in regard to private members’ business is to continue for the remainder of the session ?
– I think the arrangement meets with the convenience of honorable members generally, and its continuance is desirable.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether an agenda for the forthcoming Imperial Conference has been issued by the British. Government? In view of the importance of that gathering, will the Government afford to this House an opportunity to consider the agenda?
– Cablegrams in regard to the agenda for the Imperial Conference have been exchanged between the Imperial and Dominion Governments. I expect the agenda to be completed in the near future, when it will probably be announced concurrently by the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and the Dominions. The honorable member will recollect that the agenda for the last Imperial Conference was laid on the table of the House, and, on a motion that it be printed fully, opportunity for its discussion was afforded. The same procedure will be followed on this occasion.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Duty on Soft Wood.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is the question of increasing the duty on soft wood used for making fruit casesunder consideration? If so, will he give ample notice, so that those opposed to this duty may have full opportunity of placing their views before him?
– An opportunity will be provided for those interested to place before the Tariff Board any additional evidence they desire to have considered in connexion with the timber industry generally. Ample notice will be given.
Sale of Expropriated Plantations
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– I regret that certain information to enable me to fully reply to the honorable member’s questions is not yet available, but replies will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have not seen the press statement referred to by the honorable member, but would be glad ifhe will let me have particulars of it. There is no intention of closing the office of the Commonwealth of Australia in the United States of America.
Boric Acid Preservative
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the announced intention of the British Government to prohibit the importation, after 1927, of dairy produce containing boric acid preservative, the Institute of Science and Industry will speedily make available its decision with regard to the proposal before it that a comprehensive test should be made of the Rutter process for manufacturing dairy produce without the inclusion of boric acid?
– The Minister for Markets and Migration has furnished the following reply: -
This matter is now receiving the careful attention of the recently created executive committee of the Institute, and it is expected that a report thereon will be made at an early date.
Useof Australian Materials in Road Construction.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) asked a question regarding the utilization of imported bituminous materials, and the construction of roads at Canberra. I desire to state that a telegram was sent to the Commission asking for information on this matter, and the following reply has now been received : -
Replying to your telegram to-day. bitumenno bitumen yet produced in Australia. Have built some sections roads with Australian tars as experiment: so far not satisfied, but have arranged further extensive trial with Australian tar-producers. In meantime must build some roads.
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1926-
No. 11. - Judiciary.
No. 12. - Lands Registration.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That he have leave to bringin a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, 1904-1921 .
Bill presented by Mr. Latham, and read a first time.
. -By leave.) - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and to make provision for certain immediate necessities of our industrial situation by providing for the continuance of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court upon a more satisfactory basis than that uponwhich it at present exists. The courtnow consists of the President - Mr. Justice Powers - and two Deputy-Presidents - Sir John Quick and Mr. Webb. . The term of each of these gentlemen expires on the 30th June next. Accordingly it is necessary to make provision for the continuance of the court after that date. The Government desires to improve the constitution of the court, to extend its jurisdiction, and to strengthen its powers in certain directions. It is true that some persons say that the court serves no useful purpose, that it has accomplished no good work, and that it would be better if the Commonwealth and its agencies went out of the field of industrial matters altogether. I challenge that asser tion strongly. The court has not been perfect, but no court will ever be perfect. It has. however, been far from a failure, and has done an enormous amount of most useful work. The view that the court ought to cease to exist would not be accepted by any large body either of employers or of employees in Australia, because to a considerable extent it has brought security and stability to both sides.
I sometimes think that when the work of the Arbitration Court is being considered undue emphasis is laid upon the strikes which have occurred since it was established. It appears to me that many local critics are doing a great deal of harm to this country by representing the Commonwealth as an arena of continual strikes. We have strikes, and some of them are serious - more particularly transport strikes, the effects of which are farreaching, because they extend considerably beyond the persons immediately involved in the dispute. But other countries have their strikes and lookouts, too, and it is unfair to represent Australia as being particularly and specially afflicted by strikes. At the same time the damage done by strikes is very serious indeed, and it is most important in the interests of the community as a whole that everything possible should bo done to diminish them, and that all agencies “working in that direction should be kept alive. The court -will not entirely prevent strikes, but there have been remarkably few interstate strikes since its establishment. The extent of the -work of the court may be well judged by its operations in the year 1925. To give honorable members an idea of the actual work of the court I shall read from a summary recently prepared by the President -
On 1st February, 1925. the Court had on its list 70 matters requiring attention. Between 1st February, 1925, and 18th February, 1925, 218 other matters have been lodged. The Court has dealt with 250 matters during the year, leaving only 38 matters on the list, all except two rj recent date.
Of the matters settled, 52 were brought before the Court either by plaint or order of reference.
The rest were applications to vary appeals under section 17 of the Act, applications for interpretation, appeals from decisions of boards of reference, applications for cancellation of registrations, and applications under section 56 of the Act.
There hove been 41 compulsory conferences held during the year.
There have been 42 agreement settling disputes filed in the Court tinder section 24 during the year.
The Court has, on occasions, settled industrial disputes, not interstate, by special request.
Boards of references appointed under awards nf the Court have dealt with 277 matters during the year.
The number of employees affected, by the awards of the court amounts to 330,000. I soy, therefore, that it is out of all question to consider seriously the suggestion that this industrial machinery should be scrapped, and all the court’s awards, the result of 20 years’ work, set aside, interstate industrial disputes being left for the future to the adjudication of some at present non-existent body. It must be remembered that no single State is able to deal effectively with an interstate dispute, even when the dispute is made interstate merely by the service of a printed claim. If we ‘wish to secure industrial peace through the medium of the law, there must be some means of dealing with these disputes on a federal basis. Therefore the Government is of opinion that it is necessary to continue the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and to make certain improvements to it.
The bill does not provide for anything like a complete treatment of the subject. I wish to make it perfectly plain at the outset that it is designed to deal only with the period intervening between the 30th June and the time when the proposed constitutional amendments have been voted on by the people. The Grover n ment is of opinion that our present constitutional powers are not sufficient to enable it to deal satisfactorily with the industrial situation, and it does not propose to introduce an elaborate and carefully worked outscheme for the settlement of disputes upon the basis of our present limited powers. If our powers are extended it will become possible to introduce an improved scheme providing for a common rule, and for other means of settling industrial disputes than those provided under the Arbitration Act. I do not wish to be misunderstood on this point. If the proposed constitutional amendments are approved by the people it will not be necessary for parties to bring themselves to the stage of a formal dispute, for it will be possible to establish authorities which will have power to regulate terms and conditions of industrial employment, irrespective of the existence of a dispute. It will also be possible to preserve the existing Arbitration Court, to extend and improve its powers, and to add other means of determining industrial conditions. This measure is not a full treatment of the subject, and it does not pretend to-be such. In the circumstances, there would be no object in the Government seeking to walk delicately between the various decisions of the High Court in order to see how far it might go under its existing power. The proper thing to do is to face the whole problem, and to ask the people for whatever additional powers are necessary to enable it to deal effectively with industrial matters. Until we have those powers and until, at least, there is power to give effect to a common rule in our system of industrial regulation, we shall be working under the gravest difficulties both practical and theoretical. I trust that I have made it quite plain that this bill does not pretend to give a new system of industrial arbitration. It is, as I have said, merely a provision for covering the period between now and the time when the constitutional amendments are submitted to the people. If the amendments are accepted by the people, the Government will bring down a full and complete arbitration scheme. If, unfortunately, the people should reject our proposals, the Government will have to do the best that it can within the limits of its existing powers. There are certain matters, however, that must be attended to now.
I have already mentioned that the term, of office of the present occupants of the Arbitration Court bench expires on the 30th June next. The subjects with which the bill deals may be stated as follows: - First, it confers judicial power upon the Arbitration Court; secondly, it gives a life tenure of office and pensions to the judges; and, thirdly, it provides means for obtaining general decisions which would apply to any of the awards- of the court, and would be followed by the judges on all matters such as those affecting the basic wage or the standard hours of industry. It further provides for the continuance of part-heard matters which are now before the President and Deputy Presidents. I propose to deal with each of those subjects separately.
As to the question of judicial power, it may be convenient for honorable members if I explain the difficulty that has to be faced under the present legislation. No doubt some honorable members are quite familiar with the facts, but others may not understand the position clearly. The absence of judicial power affects the authority of the Arbitration Court to enforce its awards. Under the Constitution, by which, of course, this Parliament is absolutely bound, the powers of the Commonwealth are set out under three headings, namely : - -Legislative, which are vested in the Parliament; executive, which are vested in the Governor-General acting on the advice of the Executive Council; and judicial. Section 71 of the Constitution provides that the judicial power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in the High Court and in such other Federal courts as the Parliament creates, and in such other courts as it invests with Federal jurisdiction. “Other courts” means State courts which this Parliament may invest with Federal jurisdiction. Section 72 of the Constitution provides that ihe justices of the High Court and of the other courts created by Parliament shall be appointed by the Governor-General in Council, and shall not be removed except by the Governor-General in Council, on an address from both Houses of the Parliament in the same session, praying for such removal on the ground of misbehaviour or incapacity. The meaning of section 72 has been considered by the High Court in a case that is generally referred to a3 Alexander’s Case, which honorable members will find reported in 25 C.L.R., page 434. It was held in that case that sub-section 2 of section 72 provided that federal judges must have a life tenure of office. The position is, therefore, that the judicial power of the Commonwealth can only be exercised by courts the judges of which are appointed for life. We are bound by that interpretation.
– What about amending the Constitution in that respect?
– That is a matter that may be considered when the whole question of constitutional amendment arises, but at present we are hound by the decision that the judicial power of the Commonwealth cannot be exercised by any person who is holding office for a limited term. The Commonwealth Arbitration and Conciliation Act provides that the President of the Arbitration Court shall have a tenure of office of seven years, and that the Deputy Presidents shall have a tenure fixed by the Governor-General in Council. Although the President of the Arbitration Court, in his capacity as a judge of the High Court, is appointed for life, he and the Deputy Presidents of the Arbitration Court are only appointed for a limited period in relation to arbitration jurisdiction, and they are therefore incompetent in that jurisdiction to exercise the judicial power of the Commonwealth. What is judicial power? It includes at least the power to decide whether the law has been broken, and the power to impose penalties for breaches of the law. It was held in Alexander’s Case that the Arbitration Court had no power to impose penalties for any breach of its awards or orders. Such matters have to be dealt with by other courts. They usually come before the police courts. There are other powers which were intended by the act to be conferred upon the Arbitration Court, but which the court has been unable to exercise as it is at present constituted. Sub-section d of section 38 of the act provides that the court shall have power to impose penalties for any breach or nonobservance of any terms of an order or an award in any industrial dispute of which it has cognizance; and sub-section e provides that it shall have power to enjoin, which means to restrain by injunction, any organization or person from committing or continuing any contravention of the act.
– And a large number of unions and unionists have been fined
– If I heard my honorable friend clearly, he is quite inaccurate. I have been seeking carefully to explain that the Arbitration Court has no power to enforce its awards. No one has been fined by it for several years. Matters involving breaches of awards and contraventions of the act have been dealt with by police magistrates. Both sides in industry have some doubt as to whether it is desirable that a court, relatively unfamiliar with industrial matters, such as a police court must necessarily be, should, in practice, have power to impose penalties. It is generally agreed on both sides that these matters should be dealt with by the Arbitration Court. In the great majority of cases of this nature, it is employers who are prosecuted. Only occasionally are the workers or the workers’ organizations involved as defendants. This must necessarily be so, for most awards impose obligations on the employers rather than on the employees. In another case, commonly referred to as the Waterside Workers Case, the reference to which is 34 C.L.E., page 482, it was held that the power sought to be conferred upon the Arbitration Court by section 38 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act to interpret its own awards was inoperative, in so far as it was a judicial power. The parties to a particular award may approach the court for an interpretation of that award, in order that they may regulate their actions in accordance with the intentions of the court. That interpretation would be given in pursuance of the section to which I have just referred. A prosecution might subsequently be initiated for a breach of a provision of the award. At the present time such a prosecution must be heard before another court, generally a police magistrate. He is not bound by the interpretation that has been made by the Arbitration Court, because that court has no judicial power, and he accordingly gives his own interpretation. It is conceivable that his interpretation may differ from that of the Arbitration Court. It is, therefore, desirable to legislate in regard to this matter. The method which we propose under this bill is to confer on the Arbitration Court judicial power.
It is not proposed to appoint High Court judges to the Arbitration Court. That court will be entirely separate from the High Court. The provision that the President of the Arbitration Court must be a High Court judge will be repealed. There are various reasons which render it advisable to have the two jurisdictions entirely distinct from each other. Serious inconvenience of a practical nature now arises from time to time, because it is necessary to enlist the services of the President of the Arbitration Court to constitute a full bench of the High Court. Again, the President of the Arbitration Court, as a judge of the High Court, has on very many occasions to pronounce upon the validity of a procedure that he has adopted as President.
– The members of the Arbitration Court will be federal judges, but not High Court judges?
– That is so.
– Will an appeal be allowed from the Pull Arbitration Court to the High Court?
– No ; but the Arbitration Court will be able to state a case. That is provided for in section 21aa, and also in a section of the Judiciary Act. The object of clause 3 is to make it clear that Parliament intends that the new judges shall have all the powers that were sought to be conferred on the court by preceding legislation. The title “ President “ is to be changed to “ Chief Judge,” and that of “Deputy President” to “ Judge,” to emphasize the change that is being made in the character of the court. Clause 6, which proposes to repeal sections 12, 13, and 14 of the act, provides in their stead that the judges shall have a life tenure. Under the Constitution, as I have said, it is impossible to confer judicial power upon any judge whose appointment is for a limited period. The salary proposed for the chief judge is £3,000 per annum, and that for a judge £2,500 per annum. Those are moderate salaries, having regard to the important nature of the work that will have to be performed. The act at present provides that the President of the court must be a High Court judge. That will be altered by the new section 13, substituted by clause 6. It is proposed that the judges shall be entitled, after fifteen years’ service, to retire upon a pension. The same proposal is made also in relation to the High Court judges in another bill which, by leave of the House, I shall introduce to-day, and I shall reserve my general remarks on the subject of judicial pensions until I speak on that bill. The object of the pension scheme which is embodied in this proposal, and follows precisely the existing provisions with relation to the Supreme Court judges of New South Wales, is, in the first place, to attract good men and to save them when appointed from financial anxiety. Honorable members must know that, with human nature as we find it, pensions are necessary to preserve the efficiency of a tribunal that has a life tenure. In saying that I do not in any way reflect upon the present occupants of any bench. Besides, all other Commonwealth servants are given pensions. The rate of pension, where retirement is due to infirmity, will depend upon the length of service.
– Is it proposed to bring the judges under the Superannuation Act, and provide that they shall contribute to the Superannuation Fund?
– No. It would be very difficult to apply the provisions of the Superannuation Act to gentlemen who have reached the age at which men are usually appointed to the bench. The contributions would vary very greatly, and it would be quite impossible to work out a scheme upon an actuarial basis.
– Will the age of retirement be at the discretion of the judge?
– No; except that he will be entitled to retire upon half pay after fifteen years’ service. Under the Constitution it is impossible for judicial power to be exercised by a judge who has less than a life tenure.
– Is it not fair to say that, when the salaries of the High Court judges were fixed, they were fixed upon the assumption that no pension would be necessary?
– I propose to deal with that matter when speaking on the Judiciary Bill. Clause 7 confers upon the Government power to utilize the special knowledge of a judge where it is thought proper to do so. Clause 8 furnishes a means for obtaining a determination from the full bench of the Arbitration Court upon the questions of standard hours and basic wage. There is a section in the Arbitration Act which provides that certain questions relating to hours must be dealt with by the full bench of the Arbitration Court. But it must be remembered that that court can deal only with particular disputes. There may be a dispute between a certain organization and a certain group of employers; that is a dispute between those particular parties. No other party has a .right to intervene and be heard in relation to such a dispute. Yet a most important issue - such as the claim to a 44-hour working week - may be involved. One side or the other in industry generally might feel that the case had not been properly and fairly put in the course of the proceedings; yet the court would be bound to hold that the decision at which it arrived in the particular dispute should stand as a general rule to be applied in other cases. In order to obviate that difficulty, and make it possible to obtain a considered judgment from the whole court, it is proposed to insert in the act a new provision. Shortly, this provides that the Attorney-General may, in the public interest, intervene in the hearing of any dispute that involves the question of standard hours or basic wage. It will not be necessary for him to appear before the court and argue in favour of a particular view. The court will publish a notification in the Government Gazette that the Attorney-General has intervened, and that any person or organization, whether registered or not, having an interest in the matter, may apply to the court for liberty to be heard on it. That application may be made by a single union or a body of unions, a particular employers’ association, or an employers’ federation. If the court is of opinion that the applicant is interested in the question it may allow him to examine and cross-examine witnesses, and to address the court.
– Is it proposed to set up only one court?
– Yes; so far as this bill is concerned.
– Half-a-dozen will be needed, or the congestion will be greater than it is at present. All disputes relate to hours and wages, and the number of applications will be considerable.
– I do not know that the honorable member has appreciated the point that this is a procedure whereby the Attorney-General “ may “ intervene. No Attorney-General of ordinary discretion or judgment would intervene unless it were necessary to have a review of a big question. It is obvious that if the power to intervene were exercised from day to day, the Full Court would always be sitting on these questions, and the individual judges would not have time to deal with the matters waiting to be brought before them. There is no intention of exercising the power to intervene in that way, and any government which did so exercise it would soon be called to book by both parties in this House.
– It is a very dangerous provision.
– I do not think that the honorable the Leader of the Opposition yet appreciates the meaning of the clause. The Attorney-General’s intervention is only a means of allowing persons interested to get before the court in a dispute to which they are not already parties.
– Does it not give to any person in the community who feels he is interested the right to go to the court ?
– It does not do that. The words of the clause disclose the meaning quite clearly. When the AttorneyGeneral has given the prescribed notice in writing to the court, the court inserts an advertisement in the Government Gazette, and “ upon publication of the notice in the Gazette any person or organization or association of employers or employees- “
– That surely is wide enough for anything.
– I wish the honorable member would wait for the predicate of the sentence instead of expressing an opinion after hearing only the subject. The clause says -
Upon publication of the notice in the Gazette any person or organization or association of employers or employees may apply to the court for liberty to he heard, and the court may, if it is of opinion that the applicant is interested in the determination of the question, permit the applicant to be heard, and to examine and cross-examine witnesses.
The clause does not give an applicant the right to be heard. No unlimited right to be heard is extended to an unlimited number of persons; the whole matter is under the control of the court. If the court is of opinion that an applicant is interested, it may, in its discretion, allow him to be heard. That is to say, the Attorney-General has nothing to do with the matter, other than to send the notice to the court, which itself determines whether a particular applicant is sufficiently interested to be heard.
– What would happen if the Attorney-General did not intervene?
– The hearing would proceed in the normal way. Take the question of hours of work, for example. Under the existing law, if an application were made to reduce the standard number of hours in an industry in which 48 hours are now worked, the application would have to go before the full court, but only the individuals actually concerned in the dispute would fight out the issue.
– The Government’s proposal allows every one to -come in.
– It does not allow every one to come in, but it allows any one interested to apply to the court, and, if the court thinks it necessary for a full investigation of the problem that he should be allowed to be heard, it allows him to be so heard. That will enable any organization on either side to be represented, at the discretion of the court, at a full inquiry into this question of the 44-hour week.
– That is a very good provision to enable the court to overcome the difficulty relating to the common rule.
– It is a very useful provision for obtaining a general decision applying to Federal awards. The court would make the inquiry, and its decision would stand for such period as the court thought fit. It would provide a guiding rule until considerations arose which required a re-determination of the question, which would then be reconsidered by the full court, with the assistance of those interested individuals whose assistance it thought proper to allow. Big questions such as that ought not to be determined unless both sides have the fullest opportunity of being represented. The object, and the only object, of this provision, is to allow both sides in industry to have the fullest opportunity to be represented. If that opportunity were not afforded, a determination might be reached in favour of one side or the other, and a binding rule might be laid down by the full court to operate for an uncertain period, although the case had not been sufficiently stated on either side.
– Would an award made under the provisions of the bill apply to all those represented?
– No ; that is, the actual award in a dispute only applies to the parties to that dispute. But that is incidental to the constitution of the court, and to the limitation of the powers of the court to deal only with disputes. It may be that some honorable members would rather have every application for, say, a 44-hour week, submitted, as it is under the present procedure, for separate and independent nearing. The bill is designed to obtain a full and complete inquiry, with both sides represented as they desire to be represented, subject to the control of the court, for the purpose of endeavouring to arrive at a general rule which will be binding in all Commonwealth awards.
– And the court would make a general and common rule.
– I have not said that it would make a common rule, but that it would make a general rule which would be treated as binding in all Commonwealth awards.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral say that under clause 7 the Government has the power to require a judge, exercising judicial functions and sitting in the Arbitration Court, to undertake commissions ?
– I say that under the bill this Parliament has that power if it thinks proper to exercise it. There are occasions when it is very important that there should be a judicial inquiry into a particular matter, and this is a means to make it possible, subject, of course, to the ultimate control of Parliament, to utilize the services of arbitration judges for inquiries which are of a judicial character. The next proposal is designed to relieve the judges of the court to some extent of the burden of work which they have at present by making provision for the Governor-General to appoint conciliation commissioners to facilitate the conciliation jurisdiction of the court. It is a means of increasing the staff of the court to exercise the powers of the court in the direction of conciliation. The power of conciliation is one of the most important powers of the court, and the Government is of the opinion that it should be developed and extended.
– Why are not the powers of the commissioners set out in the bill?
– The powers of the commissioners appear in sections 16 and 16a of the act, as the honorable member will see if he reads the sub-clauses of the clause to which I am referring. The last clause of the bill provides that the present deputy presidents may continue to exercise in relation to part-heard matters all the powers which exist under the present act. It would be a great mistake to cut off everything on the 30 th June. The railways case, for example, is being .heard before Sir John Quick, lt is a very complicated inquiry, and the Deputy President has heard the case in relation to about 75 out of 300 or 400 grades. He has acquired an extensive knowledge of railway matters, and I am informed that it is desired by both sides that he should continue to have the power to hear that case. Accordingly, this clause enables the Government to make provision for the continuance of the hearing of part-heard matters. In order to enable honorable members to form an idea of the amount of the business of the court, I have obtained within the last few days a return showing the number of matters being heard and awaiting hearing before the court. At the present moment there are no fewer than 105 of them. We must make provision for the continuance of part-heard matters in order to save the time and money of the parties.
– I understand that a number of the claimants have withdrawn from the court.
– I have seen statements in the press about unions withdrawing from the court. “ Withdrawing “ is a term the significance of which I find myself unable to appreciate. Withdrawing from the court is not a matter of option; it is a matter of law. An award of the court is binding on both parties, and an organization of employees is no more at liberty to withdraw from the control of the court or from the obligations of an award than is an employer.
– Cannot an application before the court be withdrawn?
– In the case of a pending application for a new awardthe appellant may, it is true, fail to proceed with the application. The only result of that would be that the old award would continue to apply. There can be no optional withdrawal from the court on either side. That is a very sound principle. The High Court has held that federal awards are supreme, as they ought to be, and it should not be left, and it is not so left under the present law, to the option of either side to say that they will regard a federal award as imposing no obligation on them.
– Does a lapsed award continue to operate?
– An award does not lapse. The Parliament has provided in section 28 of the act that an award continues in force for the period fixed in the award and thereafter, subject to any order of the court, until a new award is made. I hope this bill will commend itself to honorable members as a genuine endeavour to deal with certain matters which require to be dealt with at once pending the appeal to the people to alter the Constitution in order that this Parliament may obtain the powers which are essential if the industrial problems of the day are to be handled in a bold and comprehensive manner. That is the only manner in which a solution of those problems can be reached. These methods of industrial arbitration will not do everything that everybody wishes. We have to recognize that these are human methods operated by human agencies. There are difficulties inherent in the problem itself which will always exsist. At the same time, it is our duty to try to introduce the rule of reason rather than the rule of force into these matters, as far as possible. A large measure of success, much greater than is generally recognized, has already been achieved. There are defects in the court, many of which are due to the limitations of the Constitution under which this Parliament is at present working. I do not profess to say that, even with the fullest powers, complete industrial peace will be secured, but I do say that a great deal can be done, and, having regard to the existing limited powers of the Commonwealth, and the intention of the Government, by an appeal to the people, to obtain an extension of those powers, this is a measure which should commend itself to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That he have leave tobring in a bill for an act to amend the Judiciary Act 1903-1920.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– (By leave.) - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to amend the Judiciary Act 1903-1920. Its first provision is necessitated by the impending removal of the seat of government to Canberra. Section 10 of the present Judiciary Act provides that -
The principal seat of the High Court shall be at the seat of government. Until the seat of government is established, the principal seat of the High Court shall be at such place as the Governor-General from time to time appoints.
The effect of that section is that when the seat of government is removed to Canberra the principal seat of the High Court will follow as a matter of course. At present the arrangements made for the transfer of the seat of government to Canberra do not include any provision for the High Court. It will be quite impossible for the High Court to function at Canberra until proper buildings, including a proper library and other accommodation are provided there, alike for the justices and the staff of the court. Accordingly, it is proposed by this bill to amend section 10 of the existing act to read -
On and after a date to be fixed by proclamation the principal seat of the High Court shall be at the seat of government. Until the date so fixed the principal seat of the High Court shall be at such place as the Governor-General from time to time appoints.
This is a necessary provision for the continuance of the sittings of the High Court until accommodation for such sittings is- provided at Canberra.
The other provision in this bill is for the payment of pensions to their Honours the Justices of the High Court, present and future, upon a basis set forth in the bill. First let me say a few words as to the basis proposed, and I shall then submit the considerations upon which I rely for the justification of this measure. The basis proposed is the same as that which has already been put before the House this morning in connexion with the Arbitration Bill, which obtains in New South Wales at the present time. The bill proposes that pension is payable only to a judge who has served for fifteen years, or retires on permanent disability or infirmity after five years’ service. That is to say, a justice of the High Court must in every case have given five years’ service before he will be entitled to any pension.
– Does the bill fix a retiring age for judges of the High Court?
– As I have already explained in dealing with the last bill, it is impossible to fix a retiring age.
– Could not the honorable gentleman submit a provision that in certain circumstances a judge would not be entitled to receive a pension if he did not retire?
– I am not prepared to propose such a provision as that. The bill proposes that if, after five years’ service, a judge retires on permanent disability or infirmity, he will be entitled to a pension equal to one-fifth of his’ salary. In the case of a member of the High Court bench that would be £600. In the case of a judge of the Arbitration Court it would be £500. Then it is proposed that the pension shall increase year after year according to the length of service until after fifteen years’ service it reaches in the case of a judge of the Arbitration Court other than the chief judge, the amount of £1,250 per annum, and in the case of a justice of the High Court, or of the Chief Judge, £1,500 per annum. The basis, as I have said, is the same as in the case of justices of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. In Victoria pensions are provided for Supreme Court judges and County Court judges. In Western Australia and Tasmania, also, pensions are provided for judges. They are not provided for judges in Queensland or South Australia. There are pensions for judges in England, Canada, and New Zealand, and, in several cases, upon a more generous scale than is provided in this bill. I hope this measure will commend itself to honorable members _ on both sides. It is generally conceded in this Parliament that pensions are desirable. All permanent public servants of the Commonwealth are entitled to pensions, with the exception of their Honours the justices of the High Court. The Public Service pensions scheme was introduced a long time after the establishment of the Service. The general principle of providing pensions for public officers is now admitted as desirable. It should be quite clearly understood by the House that this proposal is not brought forward on the suggestion, direct or indirect, of their Honours the justices of the High Court. They have made no request for pensions. The measure is brought forward by the Government upon the advice more particularly of myself as a just and proper provision to make. It is strange that the justices of the High Court should be the only public servants of the Commonwealth for whom pensions are not provided. It is strange that they should be the last of our public servants for whom such provision is proposed; they should have been the first.
– The provision made for the Public Service is a superannuation allowance.
– It is a retiring allowance paid partly from contributions by the public servants and partly from the revenue of the Commonwealth. I remind honorable members that in some respects the position of a justice of the High Court is not particularly attractive at the present time. It is very important that we should continue to obtain the highest ability for the service of the Commonwealth upon the High Court bench. The salaries of the justices were fixed in 1903, and I think I am right in saying that they are the only salaries, leaving out the Governor-General, that have not since been increased. These salaries are now worth about £1,700 per annum on the pre-war level. No one would have dreamed before the war of asking a member of the legal- profession to accept a position on the High Court Bench at a salary of £1,700 per annum. The present proposal does not deal with the salaries of the justices of the High Court, and I do not desire to discuss the question of their salaries in itself. I only point out that the salary is, in effect, having regard to the alteration in the value of money and in taxation, very different from what it was intended to be by 1his Parliament when it was fixed. It is an element which it is important to bear in mind in connexion with this proposal for pensions for the High Court judges.
– What about the position of old-age pensioners ?
– A full adjustment of values has been made in connexion with old-age pensions. There is a general consideration to which I particularly invite the attention of honorable members, and it is one of the principal reasons for the introduction of this measure. As I have already explained this morning, section 72 of the Constitution provides that a judge shall be removable only in one way, and that is upon an address from both Houses of the Parliament for proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
– Who is to decide that it is proved ?
– In the first instance, the Parliament. The use of the word “ proved “ in this section is to strengthen the position of a judge by requiring that there shall be real evidence upon which Parliament acts. Parliament is unable to act arbitrarily in the removal of a judge. To secure the impartiality and independence of the judges, fixed tenure, not necessarily life tenure, is essential. There can be no fixity of tenure beyond the reach of this Parliament other than by special provision in the Constitution. It is impossible for this Parliament to fix an age limit for any Federal judge, but its duty is to take steps to ensure that all Federal courts shall be fully efficient. No men, however eminent, can be expected to realize the decline of their own powers. I assure the House that I am not even indirectly referring to any of the present justices, but, speaking generally, human nature being what it is, we must recognize that, when retirement means a drop from an income of, say, £3,000 a year to nothing, or the interest from investments or savings, a very strong will and clear perception of one’s own qualifications are necessary to enable a man to make the plunge. I have had personal experience of distinguished judges who have stayed on the bench too long. That is a serious handicap in the administration of justice, and sometimes leads to most unfortunate results. Of nothing should this House be more jealous than the preservation of the efficiency of the judiciary, and when judges are appointed with a life tenure, pensions are essential to efficiency. I read recently in an American paper that North Carolina has two Federal judiciary districts and three district judges, one of whom is 80 years of age, and in a hospital ; he has not held court for a year, does not wish to resign, and cannot be compelled to do so. The Commonwealth has not experienced anything of that kind, and I do not think it will, but it is the duty of Parliament to the public and the justices to make provision of the nature proposed in this bill. It is difficult to justify the absence of pensions for Federal justices, in view of the fact that State judges have pension rights, and, in some respects, their positions are more comfortable, because they can at least live at home; whereas, justices of the High Court are - as we all shall be when the Seat of Government is transferred to Canberra, and as all but some Victorian members are, under existing conditions - constantly away from home. In fairness to the justices, and in order to preserve the efficiency of the court, I commend this bill to the favorable consideration of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation for the purposes of this bill reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Debate resumed from 3rd February (vide page 611), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- One approaches the consideration of this legislation with much the awe that one feels when confronted with the unknown. Any one who can at first reading understand the provisions of the Wartime Profits Tax Assessment Act (and the regulations made thereunder deserves a prize. Even proposed subsections 1a, 1b, 3 and 3a of this bill seem mutually irreconcilable. There is no hope of making the original act simple, but we are entitled to ask that it be made at least sensible. This bill will do neither. Let me review briefly the legislation that preceded the introduction of this measure. Prior to 1924 there was an Income Tax Assessment Aci and a Wartime Profits Tax Assessment Act, which were closely related. The sections in the Income Tax Assessment Act relating to the valuation of live stock applied also to the war-time profits tax. That was a sensible arrangement, because the latter is really a super income tax upon excess profits made during war time, and any valuation of stock included in a return for income tax assessments should automatically apply to the war-time profits tax. But the regulations provided for different valuations of live stock in different States. That any draftsman could have regarded such a provision as constitutional is beyond the comprehension of a layman. To say that a horse is worth £9 in Albury and £15 in Wodonga, merely because the two places are separated by a State boundary, was palp ably absurd, and such an obvious violation of the constitution that one wondered how it found its way into an act of Parliament. When the provision was tested in the Cameron case the High Court said that it involved differentiation between State and State, and was therefore invalid. Accordingly, in 1924, the Treasurer introduced two .amending bills to overcome the invalidity, but the two measures did not (provide (for uniform methods of valuing live stock. The need for the bill now before us arises from the fact that some people are escaping the war-time profits tax. If the old provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act had continued to operate this measure would not have been necessary. The clauses of the bill are contradictory, and the Treasurer’s explanation of them was not only contradictory, but confusing. Involved legislation of this character should be explained fully to the House, and the Minister in charge of amending bills should be careful not to say anything that would confuse the issue or mislead honorable members. Consciously or unconsciously, the Treasurer did mislead the House. In his opening sentence when introducing the bill, he said -
This bill is designed primarily to extend the provisions of the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act 1924, so as to cover the case of pastoralists, who, after the passing of the 1924 act, were assessed for the first time to pay wartime profits tax.
The bill does not do that.
– It does.
– I shall show that it does not. In the 1924 act the provision relating to the valuation of live stock gives the taxpayer the option of accepting the invalid assessment, or fixing a value selected within certain prescribed limits. This bill gives the taxpayer a choice between the prescribed value and the market value.
– No. The honorable member has misunderstood my speech. I indicated why we could not use market values in this case.
– But market values are being used in the new assessments. The Treasurer does not know his own bill. Let me read it. Paragraph 3a of clause 2 of the bill reads -
Where any person entitled to elect under sub-section (1b.) of this section fails so to elect within the period specified in that subsection, in any assessment made, after the commencement of this sub-section, under the Wartime Profits Tax Assessment Act 1917-1918, of the profits of that person, live stock shall be taken into account at the market selling value thereof.
Now, the Treasurer says the bill does not give an option of market values. But what is the meaning of those words? The Treasurer has not read his own bill, judging by his contradiction of my statement.
– I shall deal with that matter in my reply.
– The option under the new assessment is given between the existing assessments and the market values. Under the old arrangement the option was between existing assessments and the new schedule of maximums and minimums, which have no relation whatever to market values. That is the first thing to which I wish to draw attention. Now take two provisions of the bill - paragraphs 3 and 3a - and contrast them. Paragraph 3 refers to the old assessments, and its effect is that if a taxpayer has failed to elect a value within the minimum and maximum limits laid down in the new schedule, the old assessment, based on standard values - that is, the old schedule - stands. Paragraph 3a refers to the new assessments, and it provides that if a taxpayer fails to elect a value within the limits prescribed in the new schedule, market values shall apply. That is clearly and definitely stated. But why this discrimination between the old assessment and the new assessment under the “War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act? They cover exactly the same period of years. Persons who are assessed in a certain year under the old assessment should have the same option as those who come under the new assessment for that period. The Treasurer has said that the same provisions apply; but I say that they do not. Let me give honorable members a contrast between the two schedules. The schedule fixing certain values for sheep, cattle, horses, and pigs in each State was declared to be invalid because it differentiates between State and State. I shall take the lowest values given in a State and the highest for the minimum and maximum under the old standard valuation, and I shall then take the maximum and minimum under the new schedule without relation to States. I ask honor able members to remember that the Treasurer said in this House on the 6th October, 1924, that the values in the old schedule were fair. Probably they were. Though they were invalid, they were fair ; but in order to make them valid the Treasurer brought in a new schedule giving maximum and minimum values. One would have imagined that maximum and minimum values, based on what the Treasurer described as a fair standard of value, would have been adopted, but, strange to say, the values have been reduced beyond recognition. The minimum value prescribed for sheep was 5s. under the old schedule, and 2s. 6d. under the new. The minimum value for cattle was 35s. under the old schedule, and 10s. under the new. The minimum value for horses was £4 under the old schedule, and 15s. under the new. The minimum value for pigs was 15s. under the old schedule, and 5s. under the new. Let me turn now to the maximum values. The maximum value for sheep was 12s. 6d. under the old schedule, and 10s. under the new. The maximum value for cattle was £6 under the old schedule, and £5 under the new. The maximum value for horses was £20 under the old schedule, and £3 under the new. The maximum value for pigs was 50s. under the old schedule, and 20s. under the new schedule. I contend that, under the old schedule, the values were fair, and that it was not necessary to make such reductions in order to make the valuations valid. The new schedule was framed only to get away from the discrimination between State and State.
– Who was responsible for those values?
– They were prescribed by the Taxation Department.
– After inquiry?
– I could not say. After the Cameron judgment the Income Tax Assessment (Live Stock) Bill of 1924 was introduced, and under that the option was given of existing assessments or market values. That was the alteration made under that act. It was done because it was believed that the values were fair, although invalid. The Government, in effect, said, “ Well, we shall give the taxpayers the option of selecting those values on which they have already been assessed, or they can take market values.” The bulk of the taxpayers re- tained the old values, but 212 of them adopted market values. When the Income Tax Assessment (Live Stock) Bill was before the House, I asked the Treasurer would the same method of valuing stock be applied in both measures, because unless that was done, it would not be fair or just to the taxpayers and the department. He replied : “ I assume that they will all adopt the same values.” He assured Parliament that that would be so, and later on, when he introduced the Wartime Profits Tax Assessment Bill, he declared that it gave the taxpayers the option of existing values or market values. As a matter of fact, the act passed in 1924 did nothing of the sort. It was rushed through in the dying hours of the session, and Parliament accepted the Treasurer’s explanation of the measure, because it was difficult to understand it. Parliament was deceived by the Treasurer’s explanation of the bill. I shall give the House proof of that assertion. The Treasurer, when speaking on the second reading of the War- time Profits Tax Assessment Bill on the 6th October, 1924, stated -
It is necessary to amend the law in the same way as it was amended by the Income Tax Assessment (Live Stock) Bill last week. . . . The bill provides that the owner can return his stock at either its market value or the value that has been laid down and accepted.
The bill made no provision for the option of market values at all. At that time the Treasurer further stated: “We are giving taxpayers the opportunity to pay on them - namely, departmental values under the old standard - or on the market value of the stock.” That statement is clear and definite. The Treasurer knew full well that no such option was given in the bill.
– I shall deal with that matter.
– The Treasurer must admit that the bill gave no option of market values.
– I gave the taxpayers a double option.
– On the 2nd July, 1925, I asked the Treasurer this question -
Does the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act No. 53 of 1924, in fact, give the same basis of assessment as the Income Tax Assessment (Live Stock) Act No. 33 of 1924?
He replied, “ No.” On the 6th October, 1924, replying by interjection to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), the Treasurer said -
The taxpayers may elect whether stock shall be taxed on values “ as prescribed,” or on their “ market value.”
– That is very definite.
– Yes. Market values were not provided for in the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act. The words “ as prescribed “ meant the standard values as fixed by the department, and which were declared invalid by the High Court. The Treasurer, in his speech on that occasion, repeated four times the words’’ market values.” As a matter of fact, the option of market values was not given under the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act. In introducing this bill the Treasurer said it was practically impossible in 1924 to ascertain the market value of live stock carried by many pastoralists during the prewar years, and he further explained that market values did not apply to the 1924 War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act. Yet what he described as being impossible - the option of market values - was provided for in the Income Tax Assessment (Live Stock) Act passed the week previously. If it was impossible to give the option of market values under the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act of 1924 how was it possible to give that option under the Income Tax Assessment Act that was passed during the previous week? The War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act applies to excess income. The valuation of stock for assessment purposes should be the same in both cases. When dealing with the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act the Treasurer said that it was impossible to get market values, and yet he gave that option when dealing with the Income Tax (Live Stock) Assessment Act. Could there be a greater contradiction in legislation, between two acts so closely related.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I have already quoted a statement made by the Treasurer in introducing this bill, that it was practically impossible, in 1924, to ascertain the market value of live stock carried by many pastoralists during pre-war years.
It may have been difficult for many pastoralists to give the market value of their stock, but the point is that they were not compelled to give it; they had an option. That excuse of the Treasurer is not at all sound. Taxpayers were given an option under the Income Tax (Live Stock) Assessment Act. It is strange that although the Treasurer said that it was practically impossible in 1924 for taxpayers to give the market value of the live stock they carried in pre-war years-
– For war-time profits tax purposes.
– With all due respect to the Treasurer, I think that that is a quibble. There is nothing that renders the ascertaining of the value of live stock more difficult for income tax purposes than it would be for war-time profits tax purposes. The value of the stock is the same, whether you are submitting it for income tax purposes or for super-income tax purposes.
– The difficulty arises owing to the fact that the income tax did not start until 1915, . and the war-time profits tax had to be based on a comparison with it.
– Quite so. Although the Treasurer emphasized in 1924 that it was impossible to give an option of market values with respect to war-time profits tax, yet he intends to give it to these new assessments.
– I shall explain why that was done.
– My point is that, if you can give the option for the same period of years for the purposes of these new assessments, you could have done it for the purposes of the old assessment. I think the Treasurer will have considerable difficulty in explaining how it is that what was impossible in 1924 has become possible in 1926.
– It is still practically impossible, and must be more or less arbitrary.
– If it was impossible to go back to 1914-5 when framing the amending bill in 1924, how does it become practicable in 1926, when two more years have elapsed?
– I shall explain why it was absolutely necessary to do this.
– I shall listen with interest to the explanation. I come now to another important phase of the bill. It will show the serious position in which this Parliament is being placed. It is provided in the bill that, if a taxpayer already assessed fails to elect a new basis of valuation for the purposes of this measure, the old assessment must stand. Where will thatlead us? The old assessments were based on the valuation of live stock by what was called the departmental standard values. Definite but differing figures are set down in that schedule as the value of stock in the various States of Australia. When it was put to the High Court, in the Cameron case, that prescribing different values for the different States set up distinctions as between State and State, and so was unconstitutional, the High Court ruled that the assessments based on that method of valuation were invalid. But. notwithstanding that the existing assessments have been declared invalid by the High Court, the Treasurer is now asking Parliament to say that if the taxpayer does not choose another basis of assessment, the assessment based on the values set down in the schedule of the old act must stand.
– That will mean that the persons concerned will escape taxation altogether.
– I do not desire to be dogmatic on this highly technical legal question, but I submit that failure on the part of the taxpayer to elect a new basis of valuation cannot make the old invalid assessment valid. That is common sense. If you cannot make the old assessment valid, and the taxpayer neglects to choose a new method of assessment, you will not be able to collect the tax. The Commonwealth has lost a large sum of money because of faults in drafting legislation of this character. We have totally lost the amount of the assessment in Cameron’s case. It can never be recovered, notwithstanding that Cameron subsequently said that the basis on which the valuation was made was right, and adopted it. Because it was declared to be ultra vires, no assessment was made for him that year, and we cannot collect any tax from him. The following figures will show honorable members how much money we have lost, due to this and other causes. In the three years 1921-2 to 1924-5, the total amount of war-time profits tax collected was £2,925,957, and the refunds were £1,315,096, or nearly half of the total amount collected. That is an altogether unsatisfactory state of affairs. It was not due solely to the Cameron judgment, but also to legislation that was weak from other legal standpoints. Loop-hole after loop-hole in the administration of this act has been found by the taxpayers, and they have escaped meeting their obligations. Some of the refunds may have been due to the fact that the assessments were not correct or not just; but the fact that nearly half the amount collected has been refunded shows that there is something, seriously wrong with the administration. In the financial year 1924-5,. the total amount of war-time profits tax collected was £249,959, and the refunds amounted to £336,048. Actually £87,000 more was refunded than was collected. There has been a considerable amount of money refunded as the result of the amendment to the act in 1924, but I venture to say that if the same basis of valuing stock had been possible under the War-time Profits Tax Act as under the Income Tax Assessment Live Stock Act, what was lost in refunds under the one would have been regained by taxation under the other. One would have balanced the other. I dare say that the argument will be put up that it does not matter for the purposes of war-time profits taxation what basis of valuation is adopted, because the tax has to be paid on profits derived from sales. If we were dealing with a continuing tax, or with a man who was in business in prewar days and was carrying on the same business right through, the method of valuation might not matter very much; but the fact is that we are dealing with taxpayers who keep chopping and changing. If there were only one basis of valuation for income tax and war-time profits tax purposes, we should get over the difficulty. In dealing with a new business, the method of valuation is most important. Let me suggest two illustrations to honorable members, one of which works out against the taxpayer and the other against the department. Let us assume that two men have a number of sheep.
One pastoralist, let us say, purchased at 30s. per head. Assuming that all of the sheep are in hand at the accounting period, he could only take them into account for valuation purposes at 10s. per head, although he paid 30s. per head for them. During the last year in. which this tax was operative he sold them at 35s. per head.
– I think the actual amount paid for the stock can be taken into account and charged up against him.
– The honorable member is wrong in thinking that the actual price can be taken into account. Under the Income Tax Live Stock Assessment Act, and under the new assessment for war-time profits tax purposes, the taxpayer would have the option of taking this schedule of prices or the market value into consideration.
– If he subsequently buys, he is entitled to put into account the prices he paid.
– My point is that he could not do that under the War-time Profits Tax Act of 1924.
– Then, if immediately after buying the stock at 30s. he sent in a return valuing them at 10s., he would show a profit of 20s.
– What I am trying to get at is that, if he buys for 30s., and at the end of the accounting period values the stock at 10s., according to this arbitrary maximum, and then sells for 35s., he will be deemed to have made a gross profit of 250 per cent., whereas the fact of the matter would be that he. had only made a profit of about 16 per cent. Taking into account his costs, his profit might be reduced to 10 per cent., and he would not be properly taxable under the War-time Profits Tax Act, and if he were assessed under it he would be unjustly assessed. Now let us take the case of the other man, who at the accounting period has stock in hand worth 30s., but who can take them into account at not more than the maximum of 10s. per head, and perhaps at as little as 2s. 6d. per head. The value of stock at the end of a period, as compared with its value at the beginning of a period, very often accounts for a large part of a man’s income during a year. If he takes the minimum value - and he has the choice between the minimum and the maximum - he can show an actual loss. By this method the Department in one case may lose money and the taxpayer in another case may be overtaxed. A system like that is not sound. I admit that it will balance itself if the tax continues from year to year, but it will not balance itself with the wartime profits tax. Consider, for example, the case of a man who has entered into business during the last year of the tax. The valuable increases in his stock are in hand at the end of the year, and he takes them into account at the end of the accounting period for the last year of this tax. He returns them at the low valuations allowed under the schedule, and in that way shows no profit, because his stock would cost more to produce than the value he would show for it. If the tax continued in the next year the matter would be adjusted, because he would have to pay taxation on the profits of his sales. It may still be said that we would tax him under the provisions of the Income Tax Act. That, however, is not so, because he is allowed, for income tax purposes, to adopt a different system of valuation. He can take one value of his stock for one tax, and another value for another tax. On a given date, a man may value sheep for income tax purposes at 12s. 6d. a head, and for war-time profits tax purposes at 2s. 6d. a head. Those values would be for the same sheep at the same time. He could value cattle at £6 for income tax purposes, and 10s. for war-time profits tax purposes; horses at £20 for income tax purposes, and as low as 15s. for war-time profits tax purposes; and pigs at 50s. for income tax purposes, and 5s. for war-time profits tax purposes. Is it not an absurd law that makes that possible? Surely live stock cannot have one value under one act and another value under another act. I say now, what I said in 1924 - that whatever basis is adopted for valuing live stock, or any other stock, the same basis should be adopted for both acts.
– It should be on a cash basis.
– On a cash basis this argument would not arise. That, however, is another question. There is something to be said both for and against a cash basis. In the case of the income tax the object is to ascertain and tax the income or gain during the year for which the tax is being collected. That frequently cannot be done on the cash basis. When the original War-time Profits Tax Act was passed the basis for valuing stock was exactly the same as that employed for income tax assessments; there was no variation until the 1924 amendment. The time has arrived when this House ought to alter a law which, in some cases, is unjust to the taxpayer and in other cases is unjust to the Department. Section 10 of the War-time Profits Tax Act of 1917- 18 laid it down that war-time profits shall be determined on the same principle as they are determined for income taxation. Why has that sound principle been departed from, especially as we were assured, when the amendment was made in 1924, that it was not being departed from? On that occasion the Treasurer repeatedly said that the basis that was applied to income taxation would be applied also to war-time profits taxation; but when we see the tax in operation we find that a differentiation is made. Let me return to the legal point I was discussing. As honorable members know, the Government lost revenue on the decision in the Cameron Case. We were unable to collect on that assessment, because, when the High’ Court declared that it was an invalid assessment, there remained no assessment at all. The bill says that where a taxpayer fails to elect a value as laid down in the schedule, the existing assessment shall be deemed to be correct and valid. But how can this bill declare to be valid what the High Court in the Cameron Case declared to be unconstitutional 1 If the Cameron assessment had been declared invalid owing to some legislative defect, we should have power to make it valid; but as it was invalid because it was opposed to the Constitution, no legislation of this Parliament can make it valid. The mere inclusion in the bill of the provision that the existing assessments shall be deemed to be correct and valid will not make them valid. Suppose a man fails to elect within the period of seven months any of the values set down in the schedule because, as he says, none of them is correct. He may contend that his stock is worth 20s., while the maximum value allowed is 10s. The department would then deem that the existing assessment should stand, and the man -would sit back and say, “ I refuse to pay.” The department would take him to the court, and his lawyers would simply quote the Cameron judgment. I venture the opinion, although it is not considered wise to prophesy, that the court would uphold the decision in the former case. “We should then be required to deal with further amending legislation, and in the meantime a large amount of money would be lost to the Government. That is a serious position, which ought to be considered by the legal advisers of the Government. If we cannot tell a man that he must take standard values fixing a certain price in each State for sheep, cattle, horses, and pigs, we cannot say to him, “We will make you take those values if, under certain circumstances, you fail to elect other values.” What we cannot do directly we certainly cannot do indirectly. The clause says that if a man will not state the value of his stock as prescribed in the schedule, the old assessment will be deemed to be valid and correct, although the old assessment is based on a standard of values which the High Court has said violates the Constitution of this country.
– Does the honorable member imply that there should be uniformity of treatment in the different States ?
– No. Market values do not imply uniformity of treatment. Market values are the actual values of the stock wherever they are, and those values will undoubtedly vary in the different States. As a matter of fact, the departmental standard values were a rough and ready way of arriving at the average values in the different States. I do not think that those values were very far wrong, although some of them worked out in an absurd way. To value horses at £9 on one side of the Murray and £15 on the other side was ridiculous. It is impossible to have uniform values for stock in all the States. Under the Income Tax Act we say to the taxpayer, “ If you fail to accept of your own choice these existing assessments under the old standard of values we will insist upon you taking market values.”
– Which is unlawful.
– Yes; but the legal advice was that if a man chose it himself it was not imposed upon him, and the question of validity, therefore, did notarise. He could not go to the court and test a valuation which he himself had puton. That makes the position clearer as far as income taxation is concerned. If « the taxpayer elects a value it stands, but if he fails to elect a value he has to take market values.
– It would appear that the assessment would again be invalid, seeing that in a former case it was held by the High Court to be invalid.
– I do not agree with the honorable member; but if he is correct, then, in addition to the war-time profits tax assessments being invalid, the income tax assessments are also invalid. Under the old schedule a man in, say, New South Wales, had to return his sheep at a valuation of 10s., irrespective of their market value. In Victoria he would have to return them at 12s. 6d., in Queensland at 9s., and in South Australia at 10s. Because of that differentiation between the States, the High Court said the act was unconstitutional. The law was then amended, and the man was told that he could choose the former values, and that if he did choose them they would be deemed to be the values of his stock.
– Suppose he does not choose ?
– Then the law says, ‘ You must return your stock at market values.” The same system should be adopted for the war-time profits tax. If a man refuses to accept the valuations in the schedule given to him by the department, the onus is then on him to say what is the market value of his stock. Since every person sending in a return under the Income Tax Act must give the market value of his stock there should be the same obligation upon persons sending in returns under the War-time Profits Tax Act. The anomaly is added to when we find that the . department forces the obligation in the case of new assessments under the War-time Profits Tax Act whilst it is not imposed upon old assessments. I leave this aspect of the matter just now, as it can be dealt with fully when particular clauses dealing, with it are under consideration in committee. I direct attention now to clause 4, which deals with an absolutely different question. Advantage is taken of this bill, which was rendered necessary to amend the war-time profits tax law because of new assessments, to remove an anomaly affecting soldiers who went to the Front. I believe that the House will be unanimously in favour of the provisions of the measure so far as they remove that anomaly. It is one which was not foreseen by any honorable member when the War-time Profits Tax Bill was passed. To recall the position, honorable members know that when the war was in progress two acts of Parliament were passed to enable the Government to gather revenue to pay for the war. One was the Income Tax Act and the other the War-time Profits Tax Act. Parliament said that as this taxation was imposed to assist in paying for the war it was not reasonable to ask any man at the Front to pay it. That was the expressed intention of Parliament. So far as the Income Tax Act is concerned, there was complete exemption from income tax given to every soldier while he was at the Front. The War-time Profits Tax Actdid not give that complete exemption to soldiers at the Front. It provided that before the war-time profits tax was imposed the amount of income tax payable might be deducted. In this connexion I am unable to follow the Treasurer’s illustration. The honorable gentleman’s figures do not seem to me to square; but it has been stated, and I believe it is accurate, that there are returned soldiers who have actually paid more war-time profits tax because they went to the Front than they would have had to pay if they had not gone to the Front. That, of course, is manifestly unfair. The deduction of the income tax would have brought down the amount of the income, and as the war-time profits tax was at a high rate, in some cases the returned soldier had to pay a higher tax than he would have been called upon to pay if he had remained at home. The question arises, why should a returned man have to pay any war-time profits tax if, under the act, he was exempt from’ war-time profits taxation. The answer is that he was not exempt from it in the same way as he was exempt from payment of the income tax. The Income Tax Act gave soldiers while at the Front complete exemption from income taxation. The Wartime Profits Tax Act was unjust because it gave exemption only while the soldier was in the firing line, and only if he was engaged in the business .prior to enlistment. If Parliament intended that during the time they were in the firing line soldiers should be exempt from wartime profits taxation, what difference should it make whether they were engaged in the business before enlistment or received revenue from a business in which they had not previously been engaged ? I can see no difference in equity or justice. The only reason for it has disappeared, and that is why I suggest that the matter should now be reconsidered. The reason that did exist was that businesses might be transferred to soldiers, and thus in an illegitimate way escape war-time profits taxation. That was a serious difficulty to overcome, but it no longer exists, because, of course, businesses cannot now be so transferred. In this amending bill, introduced to remove one anomaly, we should seriously consider the removal of another. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) referred to this matter when a private member in 1918. He pointed out that soldiers who enlisted prior to entering into these businesses were not exempted from the tax, whilst those who had been in business before enlistment were exempt from it. The result was that we had the anomaly of two men side by side in the firing line drawing incomes from the same business, and one exempt and the other not exempt from the war-time profits tax. The right honorable gentleman, as a private member, gave a striking illustration of this anomaly. I have been given a number of similar illustrations, and they are fortified by that presented by the present Prime Minister. I submit the matter again to him now for consideration after a lapse of some years. He said that there were two cousins whom he knew, who inherited the same interest in a business. One was two years older than the other, and was in the business two years before the war broke out. The other enlisted upon leaving school. One of these cousins was exempt from the war-time profits tax while he was at the Front, and the other was not exempt from it. The honorable gentleman did not press for an amendment of the measure under consideration at the time, because of the danger of transfers of businesses to which I have referred. That danger no longer exists, and the matter should now be reconsidered, to give effect to what was clearly the wish of Parliament.
– Does the honorable member suggest that it should be retrospective ?
– I do. When the Government has been so lavish with refunds to other people, I can see no reason why refunds should not be made to men who Parliament intended should be exempt from the tax. As a matter of fact, this bill is retrospective in dealing with the other anomaly, as it provides a refund to all soldiers who paid war-time profits tax on that portion of their income which would have been exempt from the tax if they had paid income tax .and had not gone to the Front. The Government has refunded nearly half the total amount of the war-time profit tax collected, and we might do this tardy act of justice to people whom it was intended to exempt. Parliament held that, as this taxation was intended to assist in paying for the war, it should not be contributed to by those engaged in the war, and that intention should be given effect. I do not propose tq discuss the bill at any greater length! I have endeavoured to deal with an intricate question, and to indicate where we are drifting in connexion with this taxation. I have shown the huge amount that has been paid in refunds, as the result, in some cases, of very bad administration, and in other cases, of very faulty legislation. My complaint is that little or no notice is taken of these things when the attention of the Government is drawn to them. Our taxation measures are full of anomalies. We are losing hundreds of thousands of pounds every year because of the loopholes in those measures. There should be a complete revision of our taxation legislation. We should obtain the considered opinion of experts in the matter, and the considered opinion of honorable members on both sides, before bills dealing with the subject are passed. Not a session goes by without Parliament considering measures to remedy the defects of inefficient legislation of preceding sessions, and the position is going from bad to worse. I invite the serious attention of honorable members; at the committee stage, to the defects of this nill to which I have drawn attention.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hunter) adjourned
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure does not contain any new principles. The New Guinea Act of 1920 was passed by Parliament to make provision for the acceptance of the Mandate from the League of Nations over the Territory of New Guinea, and also for the efficient government of the Territory. For the better working of the measure, it has been found that certain amendments are necessary, and this bill has been introduced to make them. Section 9 of the act of 1920 empowers the GovernorGeneral to appoint a person to act as Administrator when the Administrator is absent from the Territory; it makes no provision to permit of the Administrator retaining his powers when absent from the Territory. He makes visits occasionally to Melbourne to consult the Minister upon official business; but while absent from the Territory, he can take no action in his capacity as Administrator. It has been found desirable that he should be in a position to do so, and the amendment of the existing act proposed by clause 2 will enable, the Administrator to retain the powers of his office whilst absent from the Territory. Section 14 of the New Guinea Act of 1920 provides that the Governor-General may make ordinances having the force of law in the Territory. To facilitate the administration of the laws of the Territory, and to overcome legal difficulties which’ are likely to arise by virtue of the laws of the Territory having force only within its limits, it is considered desirable that the act should be amended to enable the GovernorGeneral to make ordinances having the force of law both in, and in relation to, the Territory. No specific cases have yet arisen in connexion with which this difficulty has been present; but such cases might at any time arise in connexion with the administration of such an ordinance as the Lands Registration Ordinance of the Territory, which allows persons outside the Territory to take certain action. As the law now stands, those persons cannot be dealt with in the same manner as persons in the Territory.
Similar weaknesses have been discovered in the laws of the Territory for the Seat of Government and of the Northern Territory. It is proposed to amend the acts relating to those Territories to enable ordinances made thereunder to apply in and in relation to the Territories. Section 14 of the existing act provides that ordinances made by the Governor-General shall be laid before both Houses of- Parliament within fourteen days of the making thereof; or, if Parliament is not then sitting, within fourteen days of the next meeting of Parliament. In some cases, considerable difficulty has been experienced in complying with the requirements of this section, as it is not always possible to obtain printed copies of the documents within the time specified. It is desired that the period should be extended from 14 to 30 days, so as to give ample time for the consideration of proposed ordinances by honorable members. I recommend the bill to the favorable consideration of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the bill is to amend the Crown Lands Ordinance 1924-1925 so as to provide for the granting of freehold in respect of - (a) Town lauds; (Z>) Agricultural lands; (c) Garden lands; and (d) Tropical lands. In a country like the Northern Territory it is difficult enough to induce people to settle and engage in production without the handicap of the leasehold system. The first difficulty encountered by a selector who takes up leasehold land is his inability to get assistance from any financial institu-tion. In that- respect the settler in the Northern Territory is under disabilities not imposed upon his neighbours in Western Australia and Queensland.
– A man who is buying land assumes a bigger financial burden.
– Not in the Territory, where land has little more than a nominal value, but his equity in a block is some security upon which he can borrow. The provisions of the amending ordinance may be summarized as follow : -
The holder of any existing town lease, or of a town lease that may hereafter be granted, may, at any time, apply for a grant in fee simple of the lands included m the lease, and the grant may be made, provided that, in addition to complying with the conditions of the lease, the lessee has securely fenced the land; erected on the land a residence of the value of at least £50 within the first twelve months of the lease; resided on the land continuously for twelve months immediately prior to the application ; and paid the purchase money and all moneys due in respect of the land. The purchase price fixed by the Land Board shall not in any case be less than £5.
Agricultural lands consist of any lands within an area declared to be an agricultural area for the purposes of the proposed ordinance. The holder of any existing agricultural lease, or of any agricultural lease that may hereafter be granted, may at any time apply for a grant in fee simple of the lands, or portion of the lands, included in the lease. A grant of the fee simple may be made, provided that the applicant, in addition to complying with the conditions of the lease, has securely fenced the land over which the fee simple is required; cultivated not less than one-tenth of that land; stocked and kept stocked the land as directed by the Land Board; erected a residence and buildings on the land of the value of at least £50; and paid the purchase money and all moneys due in respect of the land. Residential conditions are already provided in agricultural leases under the existing ordinance. The purchase price fixed by the board shall in no case be less than 2s. 6d. per acre. The maximum area of agricultural lands which may be granted in fee simple to any one person is 1,280 acres of Class 1 lands, or 2,560 acres of Class 2 lands. Where the lands included in an agricultural lease, or leases, include both Class 1 and Class 2 lands, the maximum area that may be granted in fee simple shall be the maximum area that could be so granted if the lands were all of the same class. For this purpose 1 acre of Class 1 lands shall be deemed to be equivalent to 2 acres of Class 2 lands.
Garden lands will consist of Crown lands or dedicated or reserved lands within 10 miles of a town, which have been declared by the Minister to be garden lands. Leases of garden lands may be granted for vineyards, orchards, or gardens, but for no other purpose. The maximum area of a lease of garden land3 may not exceed 10 acres. The holder of a lease of garden lands may at any time apply for a grant in fee simple of the land, or any portion of it. A grant of the fee simple may be made, provided the lessee has complied with the conditions of the lease ; fenced the land ; cultivated and kept under cultivation at least one-third of the area for a period of not less than two years prior to the issue of the grant; erected on the land a residence and buildings to the value of at least £50, and is permanently residing on the land ; and has paid the purchase price, which shall be not less than 10s/ per acre.
Tropical lands will consist of areas north of the 16th parallel of south latitude which have been declared by the Minister to be tropical lands, for the purposes of, the production of cotton or tropical products. Any company incorporated or registered in the Northern Territory may, upon entering into an agreement in the prescribed form, hold an area of tropical lands not exceeding, in the aggregate, 20,000 acres, for a term of fourteen years. Every such agreement shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and no transfer of any agreement shall be permitted by the Minister except to a company, but not to a company which would thereby hold more than 20,000 acres of tropical lands. If the company fails to comply with any of the terms, conditions, or provisions of the agreement, the Minister may resume the whole or any portion of the lands, and, on such resumption, all improvements - except tenant’s fixtures - upon the land resumed will become the property of the Crown. The agreement will provide that the company shall use the land for the growth of cotton or other tropical products, and that it shall plant, during the first three years of the term, one twentyfifth of the land, and keep cultivated- the said one twenty-fifth of the land so planted, and, during the last four years of the term, it .shall cultivate and keep cultivated at least one-fifth of the land. The company will also be required, after the first seven years of occupation, to pay an annual rental of lid. per acre per year or portion of a year thereafter until the completion of the purchase or other determination of the agreement. The company will be entitled to a grant of the land in fee simple at any time during the term of the agreement, on payment of 2s. 6d. per acre, and provided that it proves to the satisfaction of the Minister that it has spent 10s. per acre in the aggregate in cultivation and for necesary plant and machinery; that it has produced from the land 200 lb. weight of cotton, or tropical products of an equal amount in value, foi every acre held under the agreement; and that it has cultivated one-third of the land.
The miscellaneous provisions of the amending ordinance provide, inter aiia, that - (a) A husband and wife shall not hold jointly in fee simple a greater area of land than the maximum area which may be granted to any one person under the ordinance; (b) No person shall be entitled to hold in fee simple, for his own use and benefit, whether by grant from the Crown or by transfer from any person, a greater area of any lands than the maximum area which may be granted to him in the name of the Crown in pursuance of the ordinance; (c) No alien shall be entitled to acquire any land in fee simple; (d) No application from an alien for the fee simple of any land shall, therefore, be accepted unless it is accompanied by the statutory declaration of the alien that he has resided in the Northern Territory continuously during the period of twelve months immediately preceding the application and intends to apply within five years after the date of the application for a certificate of naturalization; (e) The grant of any land in fee simple shall be subject to the following reservation : - A reservation to the Crown of all minerals and mineral substances in or upon the land, including gold, silver, copper, tin, metals, ores, and substances containing metals, gems, precious stones, coal, shale, mineral oils, and valuable earths and substances, together with the right to authorize any persons to enter upon the land to mine, work for, win, recover, and remove them, or any of them, and to do. all things necessary or convenient for those purposes. As honorable members know, the administration of the Territory generally has been carried out under ordinances, and, under this bill, the Government will have power to amend any ordinance dealing with leasehold land.
– It means wiping out leasehold property, and converting it into freehold.
– Only in certain cases. The bill will. not affect pastoral areas, as these will continue to be held under leasehold. The Government is instituting a change of policy respecting the development of the Northern Territory.
– The bill will upset the original policy laid down by this Parliament.
– That is so.
– Will. the provisions of the bill be extended to the north-west of Western Australia?
– In Western Australia and Queensland, it is still possible to acquire freehold property even though .the Governments in power in those States are opposed to the system. People must be given inducement to become settlers. In the north-western portion of Australia there is opportunity to acquire freehold land at a value considerably less than that we are placing on the land in the Northern Territory.
– Does the Government intend to use that argument in connexion with the Federal Capital Territory?
– No. Would any honorable member be prepared to take up land in the Northern Territory under present conditions?
– No government in the world is prepared to forfeit its rights to the land it governs.
– This Government is prepared to permit men who are willing to open up new country to acquire land of their own. There are thousands of square miles of land in northern and central Australia still available for settlement. Persons who settle in the Northern Territory will, if necessary, be available for defence purposes. None of us desires that this country shall be involved in war. The most vulnerable part of Australia is the north, that portion closest to the peoples of the east who, many believe, will, in the future, jeopardize the peace of Australia. In these clr.circumstances, it is certainly to our advantage to people the Northern Territory, not only in order to exploit its riches, but also to defend* Australia, if necessary.
– Do I understand that it is only in tropical areas that blocks of 20,000 acres may be obtained under certain conditions?
– Under the ordinance the tropical area is declared to be that north of the sixteenth parallel of south latitude. Pastoral areas are quite distinct from those mentioned in the bill.
– Will it be possible to obtain an area of 20,000 acres south of the sixteenth parallel of south latitude?
– That is not proposed under the bill. The Government is making an important departure from the previous policy relating to the Northern Territory.
– It is a thieving policy.
– The honorable member would not pay rent for a house if he could afford to own one, and I have no doubt that he lives in his own house. Nearly all men, whether in town or country, are anxious to obtain their own homes and blocks of land.
– And they take good care to obtain freeholds.
– The apostles of leasehold in the great State of Queensland took care to obtain freehold properties before a measure was placed on the statute-book to prevent further sales of freehold in that State. It is proposed, under the bill, to encourage workers to purchase blocks of land, up to 10 acres in extent and within a radius of 10 miles of the town in which they work, so that they may, by planting orchards, vineyards, and gardens, augment their wages.
– One would need to go much further than 10 miles from Darwin to obtain suitable land for that purpose.
– The Government hopes that within a short time Newcastle Waters will be the capital of North Australia, because the land in that district is very much better than that at Darwin. We are hopeful that, as the riches of the Northern Territory are exploited, towns will spring up and enable the Government to put its policy into effect. I have been informedby persons who have visited the Northern Territory that vast fields of minerals remain unexploited. Once a country is opened up through the discovery of mineral fields, pastoral and agricultural production soon follow. I was told recently that within the next twelve or fifteen months at least 200 men will be working on a silver and lead mine in the north. Once this mine is established, further settlement will take place. Any government that does not assist the out-back settlers in times of drought and stress is not worthy of office. Australia owes its rapid development to the strenuous work of its pioneers.
– In connexion with the granting of the feesimple, are all mineral rights reserved?
– Yes. I ask honorable members to give the bill a speedy passage. The Northern Australia Bill, which was passed by this House yesterday, will necessitate the appointment of experienced and capable men as commissioners for the Northern Territory. If any member of this Parliament or any citizen believes that he can give the Government useful help in finding the three men who are most suited for positions on this commission, I trust that he will do so. These men will have one of the biggest jobs that three men have ever carried.
– The Honorary Minister is now discussing a bill that has been passed this session ; and that is not in order.
– May I say in conclusion, then, that I trust that the passing of this measure will be the second step in a vigorous developmental move in the Territory. I trust that in a very few years we shall have a considerable number of settlers on small blocks in the Territory who will be producing commodities useful in the Territory and elsewhere in Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Nelson) adjourned.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time
During the war certain powers were given to the Government to compel all aliens in Australia to register themselves. The work of registration was done by the police departments of the various States. Further consideration was given to the matter in 1920, and the measure was re-enacted, for the Government still considered it advisable to oblige aliens resident in Australia to register, so that some check could be kept on them. Since 1922, however, the act has been a dead letter, principally because the police authorities in some States have not been devoting so much time as formerly to the work. The Government has now given further consideration to the matter, and it has decided that as aliens who enter the country are obliged to register with the Migration Department, there is, in present circumstances, no need for them to register with the police departments. It is felt, however, that it would be wise to retain the act on the statute-book but suspend its operation until such time as the GovernorGeneral, by proclamation, causes it to be re-enforced.
– I hardly think the Honorary Minister has given us sufficient reason for passing the bill.
.- The fact is that although the. Aliens Registration Act was a useful piece of legislation during the war there is very little reason for us to give full effect to it now. The State police departments have represented that the registration work demanded a good deal of time from the police officers, and they asked either that they shall be compensated for doing it, or that they shall be relieved of the responsibility. The Government has decided that it would not be advisable to incur any heavy expense in keeping a check on the aliens here. For that reason it is proposed to suspend the operations of the act. We consider that that is a better course than to repeal the measure, for at any time it may be necessary to bring it into operation again.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to mention to honorable members once again the case of Mr. Callaghan, who was robbed of a large sum of money by certain detectives. I have been challenged to bring this matter before the public, and I have also been warned to drop it. I trust that the Treasurer will see that none of the bank notes which were alleged to have been taken from Mr. Callaghan are destroyed until justice has been done. Fortunately, the numbers of the notes are known. If the State Government will not act in the matter the Commonwealth Government should do so. It. is scandalous in the circumstances that these three detectives, who are reported to be worth anything from £15,000 to £25,000- money which they could not possibly have saved from their salary as police officers - have not been called to account for their possession of it. If I were a dictator I should feel justified in jailing these men unless they could give a proper account of how they got the money. I want justice. That is my answer to those who have warned me that I had better drop this matter. If the State Government objects to inquire into this matter, the Commonwealth Government, which is the chief custodian of our laws, should see that justice is done to Mr. Callaghan.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bouse adjourned at 3.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 May 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260521_reps_10_113/>.