10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Parliament House Refreshment Bab
– As the “stonewalling” tactics of members of the Opposition yesterday prevented the Prime Minister from making a statement of the attitude of the Government towards the motion submitted by the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) relating to the refreshment bar at Parliament House, Canberra, will the right honorable gentleman make an early announcement of the Government’s intentions?
– It would not be appropriate for me to’ indicate, in reply to a question, the Government’s attitude on such an important subject, but as it is desirable that the views of the Government should be indicated, and that finality upon the subject should be reached,’ I shall endeavour to afford an early opportunity for its further discussion.
– I rise to a point of order. I strongly resent the statement of the honorable member for Lilley that the Opposition indulged in “ stonewalling” tactics. Under the Standing Orders the time allotted for the discussion of private members’ business is so limited that only one member on this side of the House had an opportunity yesterday to speak on the motion submitted by the honorable member for Lang. I ask that the ..statement by the honorable member for Lilley be withdrawn.
– The honorable member for Ballarat, who was the only member of the Opposition who spoke to the motion of the honorable member for Lang, did not exceed the time allowed him under the Standing Orders, and I ask the honorable member for Lilley to withdraw the imputation that he deliberately obstructed business.
– I am sorry if my remark hurt tho feelings of the honorable member for Ballarat, but his difficulty in continuing Mb speech yesterday was so obvious that I thought he was “ stone- walling.” On his assurance that he did not intend to be obstructive, I withdraw the remark.
-Order! The honorable member must withdraw his statement unreservedly.
– J withdraw it.
– Will the Prime Minister give ample notice to the House of the resumption of the discussion upon the motion of the honorable member for Lang, so that all honorable members may have an opportunity to speak and’ vote upon it?
– Certainly. After examining the business-paper, I shall let the’ House know when the . discussion can be resumed.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any possibility of the Government’s much discussed £20,000,000 housing scheme being submitted to Parliament during this session ?
– I refer the honorable member to the budget statement made by the Treasurer yesterday. If negotiations with the Commonwealth Bank Board in regard to the machinery for carrying out the scheme are completed in time, the necessary legislation will be submitted to Parliament during this session.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if the Government intends to introduce a bill for the payment of a bounty on raw cotton produced in Australia ; and, if so, when ?
– As has been stated previously, such a bill will be introduced at the earliest possible opportunity.
– A few days ago I asked of the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories a question relating to the sale of government hotels in the Northern Territory. Will the Minister indicate when I may expect an answer?
– Cabinet is still considering the tenders received for the hotels, and inquiries are being made regarding some of the tenderers. I hope to be able to supply further information to the honorable member within a few days.
Tender for the Construction of Electrical Machinery.
– Some time ago the press reported that a deputation from the Sydney Chamber of Manufactures bad waited upon the Prime Minister in regard to a tender by the Cockatoo Dockyard for the construction of certain electrical machinery for the Sydney City Council. I understand that the Prime
Minister promised to refer the matter to the Public Accounts Committee for investigation and report. Did the right honorable gentleman so refer the matter; if so, has he yet received a report from the committee? If he has received such a report, when will it be made available to honorable members?
– The matter was referred to the Public Accounts Committee, which held an investigation, and I have received from it a preliminary report which is at present under the consideration of the Government.
– Does the Prime Minister consider that the action of the Public Accounts Committee, in submitting a private report to the Prime. Minister, is in accordance with its direct responsibility to this House?
– Ministers cannot be expected to express opinions in answer to questions.
– Through you, Mr. Speaker, I ask the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie), as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, why that committee submitted a secret report to the Prime Minister prior to such report’ being presented to this House ?
– Standing order No. 92 reads -
After notices have been given questions may be put to Ministers of the Crown relating to public affairs; and to other members relating to any bill, motion, or other public matter connected with the business on the notice-paper of which such members may have charge.
The honorable member is dealing with a matter that was referred to the Public Accounts Committee, and which is not on the notice-paper.
– Are not certain committees appointed by this House to carry out certain work, and are not the members of such committees responsible to Parliament? If so, is it not competent for questions to be asked in this chamber of members of those committees regarding their investigations?
– The functions of some committees are carried out under statute, and some under special instruction of the House. The reports of the committees are made to Parliament, and come up for discussion later.
– You, sir, have ruled that the matter referred to by the honorable member for Dalley is not on the notice-paper, and, therefore, cannot be the subject of a question addressed to a private member. I would draw attention to the fact that the Public Accounts Committee is mentioned on the business-paper, on which is a notice of motion by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), to refer matters to that committee for inquiry.
– That is not business on the notice-paper of which the honorable member for Warringah is in charge. I do not feel called upon to give any further ruling on the matter.
– I wish to ask you, sir, whether it is competent for the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee to present a report to the Prime Minister, and not to Parliament?
– The Public Accounts Committee was appointed under act of the Parliament. It is not the duty of the Chair to interpret the provisions of any statute, except so far as they may affect any point of order that may be raised.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Timber and Potatoes
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he is now able to state when the Tariff Board will make the promised visit to Tasmania to commence inquiry into the need for greater protection for the timber and the potato industry?
– I regret I am unable to give a definite date, but shall do so as early as possible.
asked the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice - 1 What is the number of Herd Testing Associations in Australia? 2 What is the number of members in each association,
– The following information is furnished in reply to the honorable member’s questions: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
– I have read the letter referred to, but am unable to agree with the honorable member that the terms of Mr. Bankes Amery’s communication amount to a repudiation of the Migration
Agreement between the British and Commonwealth Governments. I think that the action suggested by the honorable member is quite unnecessary.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he supply the figures indicating the amount of money paid into the Treasury under the heading of Excise Duty, .by the sugar industry, since the inception of the Common- wealth ?
– The information is being obtained.
Land, Estate Duty, and Entertainments
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs upon notice -
– The information is being obtained. The reply that I gave previously related to eleven months’ actual figures and one month’s estimated figures. My final reply will relate to actual figures for the twelve months.
” Sleeping Duty.”
– On the 7th of July, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) asked the following questions: -
I am now in a position to give the following replies : -
– I lay on the table of the House the agenda paper for the seventh session of the Assembly of the League of Nations, to be held at Geneva on Monday, the 6th September, and move -
That the paper be printed.
It seems to me desirable to take this opportunity to give to honorable members some information regarding the subjects that are to be considered at the seventh meeting of the Assembly- of the League. On the agenda-paper 22 items are set down for discussion. Of these, the first five relate solely to the organization work of the Assembly itself, such as the election of .a committee to report cn the credentials and appointment of the President for the forthcoming year Other items relate to the reports of different bodies which have been at work during the year. Item No. 6 relates to the report of the Council on the work of the League during the past twelve months That report, which is presented to the Assembly, forms the basis of the annual general discussion which takes place in the plenary session of the Assembly at Geneva. Its discussion is in many respects similar to the second-reading debate on a parliamentary bill, and affords to the delegates an opportunity to express their opinions generally upon the activities of the League. When that report has been dealt with, other matters are referred to committees that are constituted to examine them, and do not again come under the consideration of the full Assembly of the League until they have been reported on by those committees. Other items refer to reports on the protection of women and children in the Near East, and those of various organizations dealing mainly with the humanitarian side of the League’s activities. Two items relate to finance. I shall not say anything about item No. 10 - “ Contributions in arrears.”
– Does that apply to Australia ?
– No. We are not in arrears. Item 21 deals with the finances of the League for the forthcoming year. To none of the foregoing matters need I make further reference, but I wish particularly to speak of, first, the application by Germany for admission to the League, and the composition of the Council arising out of that application: secondly, the limitation of armaments, and the cognate question of security ; and, thirdly, the proposed International Economic Conference. Then there are also one or two other matters which are not on the agenda-paper of the League, and in particular, the adherence of the United States of America to the permanent Court of International Justice, about which I wish to say a few words. Let me take those subjects in the order in which I have indicated them.
First, as to the admission of Germany to the League and the composition of the Council. The application by Germany tor admission to the League was the direct outcome of the signing of the Treaty of Guarantees at Locarno. It was a condition of that treaty that Germany would make application for admission to the League, and that the treaty would corny into force only when Germany had been admitted. Australia’s ratification of the Locarno Treaty, which has been signed by Great Britain, does not concern the discussion of the business of the forthcoming Assembly; that matter will arise when we are discussing “the agenda of the Imperial Conference. May I remind honorable members how the Treaty of Locarno came to be made. I have already laid on the table all the documents relating to the negotiations which led to the signing of it. The treaty arose out of an offer by Germany to Belgium and France to enter into a treaty which would guarantee the western frontiers of these countries and of Germany, as fixed in the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty was concluded after, long and complicated negotiations. Great Britain and Italy entered into a guarantee of the obligations of the three parties - France, Germany and Belgium. That was unquestionably a great step towards securing the peace of Europe. Some persons have suggested that the Locarno pact is, in a sense, antagonistic to the spirit of the League of Nations, but that is not so; it is complementary to it. Tie nations composing the League have subscribed to the proposition that regional treaties between nations for the maintenance of peace and the preservation of general security are desirable. Such treaties are registered with (he League, and have its benediction. The signing of the Treaty of Locarno is in no sense an undermining of the authority of the League, but rather the reverse; it strengthens the League. Very few persons had the slightest idea that there would- be any difficulty- about admitting Germany to the League, for it was generally anticipated that the nations would realize the paramount importance of the inclusion of that great nation, because of the increased power and authority which the League would acquire thereby. Unfortunately, at the special session of the Assembly of the League, in March of this year, what can only be described as a deplorable situation arose. It was a definite condition of the treaty that it should not operate until Germany had entered the League as a member, and there was an implied term, to which all the signatories of the pact had agreed, that Germany should have a permanent seat on the Council of the League. When the matter was considered by the Council, however, it was found that certain nations were not prepared to agree to Germany having a permanent seat on that body unless permanent seats were given to them also. On this subject I shall not now repeat what I said in this House on a previous occasion, but I stress the fact that it is unfortunate that the admission of Germany to the League was prevented by the action of one, or perhaps two, nations which endeavoured to take advantage of the opportunity to enhance their own status in the League. Under the constitution of the League, a permanent member can be added to the Council only by the unanimous consent” of the members of the Council, and with the assent of the majority of the Assembly. Unanimity could not be obtained in the Council, and, therefore, Germany could not be admitted. Thus the special session of the League in March proved abortive. All the members of the League recognized that the developments at that session endangered the life of the League, and it was decided that the composition of the Council should be reviewed by a special committee. That committee was appointed. It consisted of representatives of the nations that are members of the Council and of the following countries also: - Germany, Poland, Switzerland, the Argentine, and China. The com mittee met on the 10th May, and sat continuously until the 15th May. It has presented a first report, which will be considered at the forthcoming meeting of the Assembly.
– Was that committee instructed to report to the Assembly?
– To the Council, but its report will be communicated to members of the League. In view of the importance of the matter to be considered by the committee, the Secretariat of the League communicated with all the member States, inviting them to express their views regarding the composition of the Council. The Commonwealth Government felt that the issue was of such tremendous importance to the League that, as one of the nation members of the
League, it should state its views definitely and clearly. Consequently, the following cablegram was sent on behalf of the Commonwealth Government to the Secretariat of the League for submission to the committee : -
This Government still adheres to the views expressed in that cablegram, and the instructions to the Australian delegates to the forthcoming Assembly will be on the same lines. I am not aware how many nations followed the same course, and forwarded their views; but after the committee had considered the opinions received, and had sat for the period I have indicated, it arrived at certain provisional findings which have been submitted to all the members of the League, and will form the basis of the discussion at the forthcoming Assembly. The first of the provisional findings of the committee is that the number of nonpermanent members of the Council should be increased from six to nine. Thus, in the event of Germany becoming a permanent member, the Council will consist of fourteen representatives. The next finding of the committee is that the nonpermanent members should be elected for a period of three years, one-third being elected each year, and that the retiring members should not be eligible for re-election until three years have elapsed, unless the Assembly, by a two-thirds majority, should declare otherwise. This finding, of course, gives effect to the view embodied in the Commonwealth Government’s cablegram that’ there should be some elasticity regarding the appointment of nonpermanent members, in order to meet the case of a country which has matters of vital importance under the consideration of the League. If such questions continued for a long period of years, it would be possible for that nation, subject to the will of a tow-thirds majority of the Assembly, to remain on the Council as a non-permanent member. But the committee has recommended that members so re-elected should not exceed one-third of the total number of the non-permanent members, which would mean that only three co>uld be re-elected in that way. The other suggestion which the committee has unanimously approved of, and has submitted for the consideration of the members of the League, is that three seats on the Council should be allocated to Latin American countries. Those are the only suggestions put forward, and it is certain that at the forthcoming Assembly, when this matter is considered, some modification of the present composition of the Council will be made. I think that the alteration will be on the lines indicated in the cablegram sent by this Government. Honorable members may express their views generally on the subject. I remind them that this is an extremely important matter, because the Council is, in a sense, the executive of the League. It is the Council that carries out the work of the League, whose success depends to a great extent upon the composition of the Council, and the’ performance of its functions by that body with wisdom and discretion. The statement has appeared in the press that Brazil and Spain will both retire from the League if they are not granted permanent seats on the Council. No official information to that effect has been received, and I should be reluctant to believe that the statement is accurate. It is, of course, open to any nation that is a member of the League to retire from it at any time, should it so desire; but the method of retirement is laid down definitely in the first article of the Covenant, which provides that a nation may withdraw if it gives two years’ notice of its intention to do so. I cannot believe that any nation that is a member of the League, and has been associated with it from its inception, would take the action suggested in these reports. It it be true that any member of the League intends to take up such an uncompromising attitude it is to be deeply deplored, because to do so would be totally opposed to the spirit of conciliation and mutual good-will on which the League was founded. It has been suggested that thi3 step has been decided upon to uphold the dignity, honour, or prestige of the nations concerned. The preservation of a nation’s dignity is a matter of importance to it, but we have moved a long way in this regard since the outbreak of the war. The covenant of the League displays an entirely different spirit from that which existed previously among the nations. Before the war we had treaties of arbitration, and many attempts were made to bring about the peaceful settlement of international disputes; but in every case all questions touching the honour of the nations concerned were reserved. Now, however, the nations which are members of the League have agreed to submit any difference arising between them to arbitration or some other peaceful method of settlement. This better spirit having arisen, I trust that wiser counsels will prevail, and that no nation will do anything that is likely to destroy the foundation upon which the League has been built. The representatives o£ the Commonwealth will certainly do everything in their power to ensure that Germany shall enter the League at the next assembly, and be given a permanent seat on the Council.
The next matter on which I wish to touch is the reduction and limitation of armaments. It will be discussed at the forthcoming Assembly, and I desire to give a brief resume of what has taken place in regard to this extremely complicated matter. Article 8 of the Covenant of the League provides that one of the chief objectives of the League shall be progressive disarmament and the ensuring of world peace. It says -
The members of the League recognize that the maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety, and the enforcement by common action of international obligations.
I think that everybody will subscribe to the principle therein expressed; but the experiences of the last seven years show clearly that, while it is easy to enunciate a principle, it is a very different matter to put it into effect. Probably there is no more difficult problem to solve than that expressed in those few words. One of the two major efforts towards its solution was the Treaty of Mutual Assistance, to which the nations found themselves unable to subscribe. I need not recapitulate the reasons which actuated them ; but few sincere students of the subject, and few of those who desire that world’s peace should be ensured by progressive disarmament, would now say that that great ideal could have been realized by that treaty. The other major attempt was the promulgation of the Protocol for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes. The discussions that took place on that proposal .are so recent, and the difficulties anticipated by many nations in giving effect to it are so apparent, that it is unnecessary for “me to traverse them now. The Treaty of Mutual Assistance and the Protocol have been found unacceptable to the nations, and we must discover some other way of solving the problem. But the discussion of those two great efforts has provided a number of guiding principles that will at least help us. One point on which all nations are agreed, although viewing the matter from different angles, is that the subjects of security and disarmament are linked together, and that one cannot be considered without the other. There exists a division of opinion, however, on the methods to be followed. One group of nations contends that disarmament must first be proceeded with, and that that will bring about security. The other group takes the view that security should be provided for first, and disarmament will naturally follow. These differences have appeared in all the discussions that have taken place. It is hardly necessary to point out that it is above all among European countries, although not exclusively there, that the need for the reduction of armaments is at present a most pressing and even vital necessity. We cannot, however, flatter ourselves that, because of our own remoteness from this region of mistrust and fears, we enjoy immunity from its troubles and disasters. Britain’s flank is exposed on continental Europe, and the only threat to British security can come from there. Our own security in Australia is at present, and will be for some time to come, wrapped up with Britain’s security. In saying this I am simply stating the position as it exists, and that is why this country has such a direct interest in the pacification and disarmament of Europe. At the last Assembly of the League a motion was carried instructing the council to make a preparatory survey of this question with a view to the holding of an international conference later, and that in my opinion was wise. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), after his return from Geneva last year, strongly urged that all the difficulties should be ignored, and that a world’s conference should be called forthwith. He sincerely believed that that was the best means of doing something definite to bring about disarmament. I ventured to differ from him. If a preparatory survey were not made, I . am sure that any such conference would be wrecked on the rocks which have wrecked previous conferences. Following the adoption of that motion, the Council appointed a preparatory commission to investigate the problem. That commission was composed of representatives of States which are members of the Council, and representatives of Germany, Bulgaria, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, Roumania, Jugo-Slavia, and the United States of America. Russia was invited to appoint a representative, but declined to do so. The Council itself formulated a number of questions for submission to the preparatory commission, and I shall read them to honorable members so that they may see how extremely difficult the matter is. The first question was -
What is to be understood by the expression “ armaments ? “
Definition of the various factors - military, economic, geographical, &c. - upon which the power of a country in time of war depends.
Definition and special characteristics of the various factors which constitute the armaments of a country in time of peace; the different categories of armaments (military, naval, and air), the methods of recruiting, training, organizations capable of immediate military employment, &c.
Before anything practical can be done to achieve disarmament that question will need to be answered. In the absence of a definition of disarmament any representative who came to a world conference might justly ask: “What is meant by disarmament.” The reply might be given, “A 25 per cent. reduction of armaments all round.” Then the question might be asked, “What is meant by that? Is it the reduction of present strength that is contemplated? Would there be taken into account a country’s system of training, its industrial resources, and the facility with which these could be converted to munitionmaking on an outbreak of war?” The second question was -
The various forms which reduction or limitation may take in the case of land, sea, and air forces; the relative advantages or disadvantages of each of the different forms or methods; for example, the reduction of the larger peace-time units or of their establishment and their equipment, or of any immediately mobilizable forces; the reduction of the length of active service, the reduction of the quantity of military equipment, the reduction of expenditure on national defence, &c.
One practical example may be given to illustrate the difficulty that would arise on the consideration of that question. Three years ago the Government introduced a definite programme for the land defences of the Commonwealth, which, in addition to providing for reduced expenditure, dealt with two fundamentals, staff and munitions. Another country might determine to spend £10,000,000 on setting up a staff, but give no consideration whatever to munition-making, for the reason that it already had what it considered sufficient munitions in store. But it might build up a staff that would be capable of organizing for active service, at very short notice, practically the entire manhood of the nation, making it an absolutely efficient weapon. Such matters as that would arise when Question 2 was under consideration. The third question was -
By what standards is it possible to measure the armaments of one country against the armaments of another, e.g., numbers, period of service, equipment, expenditure, &c.?
I need not say anything about that. The fourth question was -
Can there be said to be “ offensive “ and “ defensive “ armaments ?
Is there any method of ascertaining whether a certain force is organized for purely defensive purposes (no matter what use may be made of it in time of war), or whether, on the contrary, it is established for these purposes in a spirit of aggression?
That is fairly exhaustive. The next question reads -
Geographical situation ;
Length and nature of maritime communications ;
Density and character of the railways;
Vulnerability of the frontiers and of the important vital centres near the frontiers ;
The time required, varying with different States, to transform peace armaments into war armaments;
The degree of security which, in the event of aggression, a State could receive under the provisions of the Covenant or of separate engagements contracted towards that State?
Obviously a country would have to be given some freedom to organize its own defences; and it would be extremely difficult to determine the requirements of each nation in the many different circumstances that would have to be faced. It is often urged that we in Australia should not accept any obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations, because we might be called upon to assist in the settlement of some local conflict in Europe, whereas if trouble occurred here other nations would be too far away to render us assistance. Obviously that is an important consideration from our point of view. The latter part of the question deals with article 16 of the Covenant, which provides for economic sanctions and certain assistance. Question 6 was -
Those matters are extraordinarily difficult. One country might be progressive in aviation matters, and have a strong civil aviation force to carry on its commercial enterprises; and the question would arise as to how far that force was convertible for defence purposes. A similar question would arise in respect of a nation which had a large merchant fleet. The seventh question was -
Admitting that disarmament depends on security, to what extent is regional disarmament possible in return for regional security? Or is any scheme of disarmament impracticable unless it is general? If regional disarmament is practicable would it promote or lead up to general disarmament?
All the matters affected by that series of questions are of vital importance, and should be studied by every person who has a sincere desire to achieve our great ideal of disarmament. The preparatory commission that was appointed divided itself into two groups, one of which was deputed to considermilitary, naval, and air matters, and the other economic matters. The naval, military, and air group sat on the 28th May, and rose only a few days ago. Its report will be submitted to the Council, and will come before the next Assembly. The economic committee is either sitting at present, or will sit within the next few days, ‘and it also will doubtless make a report. There should be little difficulty in stating Australia’s attitude on the question of disarmament. It may be said quite definitely that our delegates should do everything in their power to assist in formulating any practical scheme that might have the effect of reducing armaments and strengthening the security of the nations, with the object of maintaining world peace.
Another matter with which I wish to deal is the International Economic Conference.There is much that we must consider in connexion with it. The proposal to appoint it was made on the 25th September at the last Assembly on the following motion by the French delegation : -
The Assembly -
Firmly resolved to seek all possible means of establishing peace throughout the world ;
Convinced that economic peace will largely contribute to security among the nations;
Persuaded of the necessity of investigating the economic difficulties which stand in the way of the revival of general prosperity and of ascertaining the best means of overcoming these difficulties and of preventing disputes ;
Invites the Council to consider at the earliest possible moment the expediency of constituting on a wide basis a preparatory committee which, with the assistance of the technical organizations of the League and the International Labour Office, will prepare the work for an International Economic Conference.
The convening of this conference, under the auspices of the League of Nations, shall be a matter for subsequent decision by the Council.
In December of last year the Council appointed a preparatory committee to draw up a statement of matters suitable for discussion at an economic conference. The committee was composed of 37 individuals of different nationalities, and included prominent manufacturers and commercial men, economists, and representatives of the technical organizations of the League, the consumers, and the workers. It met at Geneva on the 26th April last.
– The honorable member’s interjection touches the most serious danger inherent in this proposal. The committee divided itself into three commissions ; to deal with, respectively - (1) agricultural, finance, and population problems; (2) industrial problems; (3) commerce and marketing problems. It has already prepared a report, copies of which were circulated this morning, and I earnestly urge all honorable members to read it. If the committee is merely to collect statistics in regard to these matters and study them academically, there is possibly no danger in such an activity, although I suggest that these subjects could be dealt with academically and statistically without constituting such a committee. But if, as was obviously the intention of those who proposed the economic conference, the League of Nations is to be made responsible for giving effect to the resolutions of the conference, the scheme is most dangerous, and an example of the extremes to which misguided enthusiasts will go. Any attempt to make the League of Nations go too far and too fast must inevitably have the effect of destroying it. The utmost caution and wisdom must be exercised lest a conference which might otherwise contribute to the solution of the world’s economic and industrial problems, become a very dangerous instrument, liable to create international antagonisms and breaches of the world’s peace, which we all are so anxious to maintain. I do not propose to deal exhaustively with the committee’s report, but the questions with which it deals are of vital importance. For instance, under the heading of agriculture, this sentence appears -
It now remains to examine the commodities or classes of commodities which will form the subject of this inquiry.
The statement then proceeds to enumerate 22 commodities, including the following which are of particular interest to Australia: - Wheat, sugar, butter, cheese, fruit, cotton, wool, hides, and skins. If the committee is to report upon the sources of supply of the world’s foodstuffs and raw materials, it will be only a short further step from the apparently innocent collection of these statistics to the rationing of supplies throughout the world. The dangers inherent in such a scheme are so appalling that we must think carefully before we subscribe to any step that may lead to such a development. Another question which the committee proposes to consider is “ the extent and effect of producers’ organizations in countries such as the United States of America, Canada, Australia and India, and other countries where such organizations exist.” It is hardly necessary for me to emphasize the objections to that proposal. The organization of producers in a country may be right or wrong. It may have the effect, as we believe it has, of reducing the prices at which commodities can be sold in the world’s markets, and thus be of advantage . to the consumer as well as the producer-. Others may say that the purpose of such organizations is to maintain high prices to the detriment of the rest of the world. This is a matter for internal determination, and, if the League of Nations attempts to regulate it, the nations of the world will refuse to accept the authority of that body, and coldness and indifference will replace their present enthusiastic desire to help it to effectively discharge its wider and more important functions. In regard to population, it is proposed that the committee should collect information upon certain points, including - artificial movements of population; emigration in its various forms, permanent and temporary; …. population density in relation to cultivable areas, natural resources on the surface and underground, …. legislation affecting international migration in general.
Surely a body engaged in analysing and reporting on the density of population in different countries, tabulating their natural resources on the surface and underground, and describing and contrasting existing economic and industrial conditions, will be pregnant with danger to the world’s peace. The third commission has prepared a preliminary draft programme regarding commercial matters, which includes liberty of trading and prohibitions of importation and exportation on economic grounds, and “ prohibitions intended to withhold certain products from foreigners, or to allow their exportation only in return for corresponding advantages.” I need not dilate upon the dangers that are involved in such an inquiry. The restriction of imports and exports is a matter upon which every nation will demand absolute freedom of action, and the League can only interfere in such matters to its own undoing. I do not say that the League proposes to do these things. We may be told that the preliminary committee of the economic conference is intended merely to conduct a desirable investigation witha view to compiling useful information and making it available to all nations. My answer to that statement is that the League is already engaged upon difficult and complicated problems that cry urgently for a practical solution, and it should not needlessly dissipate its energies by the academic discussion of matters of domestic concern, outside interference with which will be fraught with danger -to the League and to the peace of the world.
Another matter of great importance, although it does not appear on the agendapaper of the Seventh Assembly, is the adherence of the United States of America to the protocol establishing the Court of International Justice drawn up in 1920. Australia has ratified it. The Court isopen in principle only to members of the League of Nations; but provision exists whereby the United States may adhere to the Court. America is not a member, but one of her distinguished citizens is a judge of the Court. On the 27th January of this year the’ American Senate, on the advice of the Executive, passed a resolution acceding to the protocol, subject to certain reservations. Two are of major importance, and the first is -
The Court shall not render any advisory opinion except publicly after due notice to nil States adhering to the Court and to all interested States, and after public hearing or opportunity for hearing given to any State concerned; nor shall it, without the consent of the United States, entertain any request for an advisory opinion touching any dispute or question in which the United States has or claims an interest.
The American adhesion is also accompanied by the following understanding : -
That recourse to the Permanent Court of International Justice for the settlement of differences between the United States and any other State or States can be had only by agreement thereto through general or special treaties concluded between the parties in dispute.
I do not wish to deal at length with those reservations,- or to say whether they are acceptable. It is for all the nations that adhere to the Protocol establishing the Court to say whether they accept the reservations that the Senate of the United States of America has laid down. To enable this matter to be fully investigated by the nations concerned, a meeting has been called for the 1st of September, six days before the opening of the Assembly, and it is most desirable that Australia should be represented at that conference. The Australian people generally desire that the United States of America should adhere to the Court if itis practicable for it to do so on any terms that will be acceptable to the other nations.
I wish in conclusion to refer to the ratification- of the international conventions that have been drawn up under the aegis of the League. Some time ago I gave the House information respecting the action that had been taken by the Commonwealth, and, although et times we have heard it suggested that we have somewhat failed in our duty in this respect, there is no justification for that suggestion. That criticism relates, not to matters concerning the League of Nations itself, but to matters that concern the International Labour Organization and the conventions drawn up by it. Practically every one of those conventions concern industrial matters under the control of the States, and the Commonwealth has always done its part in referring them to the States for determination and action.
– There are several of Federal concern about which no action has been taken.
– If the honorable member will direct my attention to them they will receive attention. There has been a ratification by the Commonwealth of the convention relating to opium and other dangerous drugs, which was signed at Geneva in February, 1925. Another convention under consideration is the supervision of the international trade in arms and ammunition, signed on the 17th of June, 1925. The only country that has ratified that convention is Liberia; but it is to be hoped that its ratification will be simultaneously made by all the nations which have plant for manufacturing arms and munitions,, so as to bring about the control of this obnoxious and dangerous industry.
The personnel of the delegation which the Commonwealth proposes to send to the Assembly has already been announced to the House. It will be led by the Attorney-General, who, as honorable members on both sides will agree, is peculiarly fitted to be the chief representative of Australia at the League of Nations. He will be supported by the High Commissioner, Sir Joseph Cook, and the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), and we shall have as substitute delegates Sir Arthur Rickard and Miss Freda Bage. This representation of the Commonwealth will, I believe, have the approval of the whole of our people. The formation of the League of Nations is the greatest attempt ever made in the world’s history to ensure universal peace, and to bring about a better understanding between the nations. This is no party question in Australia, and should not be one in other countries.
It is hardly necessary for me to state that the Government takes the work of the League of Nations very seriously. This work is becoming increasingly important and greater in volume. The Government has made effective provision for dealing with it. We must not, however, expect too rapid progress towards the definite solution of all the problems which are being handled by the League. Points of view must be reconciled. Opposition and resistance can only be overcome in in these matters by persuasion and patience. But much has been accomplished. This is clearly shown by the way in which the most difficult and complex international questions are now grappled with. This freedom of approach to these questions afforded by the League, which has been substituted for the old system when only too often proposals made by one government were viewed with suspicion and even hostility by others, indicates that great progress has been realized. Problems are half solved when this spirit has been created, and when the will to their solution is forthcoming.We, as a nation are prepared to do everything in our power to ensure the increase of its prestige and power for the future good of the world. We are clearly of opinion that the future success of the League will depend upon the moral influence that it will wield and upon a proper understanding of its ideals by the peoples of the world. Until the League has behind it the force of public opinion, it will not accomplish what is desired of it. Certainly it will never accomplish the ends that we have in view if it attempts to effect its will by force and not by moral suasion.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Marr) read a first time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 7th July (vide page 3887).
Clause 2 agreed to.
After section 48 of the principal act, the following heading and section are inserted: - “Pensions of Justices. “48a.-(1) Where a Justice of the High Court has served in that office for not less than fifteen years, he shall, on retiring, be entitled to an annual pension at the rate of one-half of his salary. “(2) If a Justice of the High Court retires on permanent disability or infirmity, ho shall, if he has served in that officefor not less than five years, be entitled, on retiring, to an annual pension at the rate of twenty one-hundredths of his salary and at the additional rate of three onehundredths of his salary for each complete year of his service after the expiration of the said five years to the date of his retirement,but so that the rate of his pension shall not exceed one-half of his salary. “ (3) The pensions of the Justices of the High Court shall be charged on and paid out of the ConsolidatedRevenue Fund. “ (4) They shall grow due from day to day, but shall be payable monthly.”.
– I move -
That sub-section 1 of proposed new subsection 48a be omitted.
I do this to test the feeling of the committee respecting the granting of pensions to judges. Under the bill, a judge who retires on account of infirmity after five years’ service, will be entitled to a pension of one-fifth of his salary, which, in the case of a member of the High Court bench, would be £600 per annum. The Arbitration Court judges would receive £500, and the chief judge of the Arbitration Court £600. The bill also provides for an additional pension at the rate of three one-hundredths of salary for each complete year of service after the expiration of five years to the date of the retirement. Therefore, a judge receiving £2,500 a year, and retiring after ten years’ service would be entitled to £500, plus £75 for each year of service after five years, or a total pension of £875 per annum. A High Court judge receiving £2,500 a year, and retiring after fifteen years’ service would receive a pension of £1,500 a year, and the Arbitration Court judges, with the exception of the chief judge, would receive £1,250 a year. It is well known that when the bill providing for the appointment of the first High Court judges was introduced, it contained a provision for the payment of pensions to judges. The previous member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Mauger) moved an amendment to the bill to test the feeling of Parliament. The House divided on non-party lines, and decided against that provision. Three members of that Parliament are now judges. Mr. Justice Isaacs and Mr. Justice Higgins are members of the High Court and Sir John Quick is a Deputy President of the Federal Arbitration Court. I said in my secondreading speech that all judges should come under a scheme of superannuation such as that applying to other members of the Public Service, and I see no reason to alter that opinion. Invidious distinctions in the Public Service are undesirable. In saying that, I do not make a personal reference to the occupants of the High Court bench.
.- The many debates that have taken place in this House on old-age and- invalid pensions have convinced me that the Government is not so wishful to look after the interests of the workers as of the wealthy members of the community. During the past nine years I have taken part in five or six divisions on motions or amendments by which members of the Labour party have unsuccessfully tried to increase the old-age and invalid pension to £1 a week, and almost all those who voted against increased pensions for members of the working class are now supporting the huge pensions, up to £1,500 a year, provided for in this bill. There is a vast difference between £1,500 and £52 a year. Those who are forced by economic circumstances to make application before a magistrate for an old-age or invalid pension have generally had a long life of useful service to the community, but their wages have not been sufficient to enable them to accumulate enough wealth to keep them in their old age. When they make their application, they have to answer a large number of intimate questions as to their financial condition and domestic and business affairs. The interrogation, carried out as a matter of course by the presiding magistrate, who has hundreds of such persons to deal with, is often done in a cold and formal manner, which is not only irritating, but also embarrassing, to the old people. We can imagine what the High Court judges would say if they were subjected to that ordeal, and required to swear how many dependants they have, how much money they possess in the bank, whether they have shares in a company, and whether they own the house they live in. If such questions are good for one class of old-age pensioner, they are good for all classes. I do not approve of the present method by which magistrates hear applications for pensions, and I am not satisfied that the investigations are conducted in the right spirit. There are some humanitarian magistrates who know the psychology of the old people, and tactfully cause them no embarrassment or humiliation. I cannot conceive of this Government proposing that High Court judges should be interrogated in the same way. The old-age pensioners who go before magistrates to seek a dole of £1 a week, which we were nine years in obtaining for them, are so circumstanced that they are forced to apply for the pension; but the economic conditions of High Court judges and Arbitration Court judges should enable them to make provision for their old age. A superannuation scheme has been established by Parliament for other civil servants, and if the judges subscribed to that, it would place them in a sound economic position at the end of their term of service. That scheme is working quite satisfactorily. Public servants contribute so much a year, according to the number of units of pension they are entitled to, and the Government contributes an equal amount. It is an invaluable fund to those who come under its provisions. If it is actuarially practicable to determine the amounts to be subscribed by, and to be made available to, letter-carriers, and clerks in the Trade and Customs, Defence, Postmaster-General’s, and Home and Territories Departments, it is also possible to make the same calculation in respect of judges. Is it because of their high position that it is proposed to treat judges differently from letter-carriers or clerks? Having given them salaries that are more than adequate, there is no reason why we should give them preferential treatment after their retirement. A judge is only a civil servant, and he should receive no more consideration in this matter than the humblest public servant. The Chief Justice of the High Court receives £3,500 a year, or £70 a week, which should enable him to make some provision for his old age, and, with the benefits of the Superannuation Fund, is all he should expect. Other High Court judges receive £3,000 a year, or £60 a week. The chief Arbitration Court judge receives £3,000 a year, and the other Arbitration Court judges £2,500 a year. Their pensions have been agreed to, and just as I protested against the granting of them, I protest against the payment of pensions to the High Court judges. There is an extraordinary difference in the views of certain people about payments by the Government to different classes of persons. The Labour Government of New South Wales recently brought into operation a workers’ compensation act, and to read the tory press of this country, one would think that a revolution was taking place in that State. About 40 insurance companies have, for political reasons, boycotted the act, and all the “ big guns “ of the tory party have been trained on the Lang Government for providing no more than paltry compensation to workers who are sick or maimed, and to the dependants of those who are killed in the course of their duties.
– The Sydney Morning Herald suggests that the workers will deliberately injure themselves in order to obtain compensation.
– That is one of the many ridiculous things that are being said. The compensation provided for under the act recognizes in only a small degree the services of the worker. The New South Wales Government has been compelled to undertake insurance business, and I have no doubt that the New South Wales Insurance Department, like the State Insurance Office in Queensland, will control all the workmen’s compensation insurance in that State. When those engaged in private enterprise, for partisan political reasons, refuse to carry out their duty to the society which allows them to function, it is time that the State took over the business, and excluded them from it entirely. Those who are attacking the compensation scheme in New South Wales would support such a bill as this. I protest against discriminating between judges and other public servants, and trust that when the vote is taken on the amendment, which I have very much pleasure in supporting, the majority of this Committee will agree to the elimination of the objectionable provision.
Sitting suspended from 12.58 to 2.15p.m.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), because I strongly object to the inordinately large pensions proposed to be provided for members of the judiciary. Judges are generally drawn from the wealthy classes, and they must have been successful as barristers before their appointment. They have probably had remunerative practices at the bar, and they are often shareholders in wealthy companies, so that their economic position is assured. It is unnecessary to provide them with pensions on their retirement equal to half the amount of the large salaries provided under the bill. No ordinary member of the Public Service, or of the community at large, receives a pension comparable with those proposed to be paid to judges. They can retain their positions even to the age of 70 or 80 years, when nobody would suggest that they would still be able properly to perform their duties on the bench. Many members of the Public Service are as useful as judges to the community, but they are forced to retire at the age of 65 years on a comparatively small pension, largely provided by themselves. When it is proposed to add a few shillings to the weekly wage of the workers, and reduce their hours, honorable members opposite almost froth at the mouth; but when thousands of pounds a year are to be handed out to wealthy men who do not need the money, they have nothing to say by way of protest. The House recently refused to remove anomalies in the invalid and oldage pension system, particularly those relating to invalid pensions. If the judges so managed their affairs that they were unable to provide for their retirement by means of such salariesas are to be given them, they would show incapacity for their positions. If they were placed on the basic wage, or somewhere near it, they would probably feel more sympathy than they sometimes show with the workers.
– What if honorable members were placed on the basic wage ?
-There is no analogy between our position and that of judges. We can be dismissed at any time. We must be elected every three years, and no pension has been provided for us. If it were proposed to bring judges under the Public Service superannuation scheme I should have no fault to find with the clause. I shall vote for any amendment that seeks to reduce the proposed pensions.
– How do they compare with the pensions of State judges ?
– They are on exactly the same scale as in New South. Wales.
– I am not concerned about that matter. If a State Government takes a particular line of action it is not necessary for this Parliament to follow in its footsteps.
.- In 1918 I stated my reasons for opposing the bill then introduced to provide a pension for the first ‘ Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Samuel Griffith, and I see no reason to change the opinion I then expressed. I intend to vote for the amendment, because the salaries originally provided, for judges of the High Court were determined on the distinct understanding that there should be no pensions. The judges accepted those terms, and I see no justification for altering the contract- then made. I am in agreement with those honorable members who say that the judges ought to be paid good salaries. In most instances, members of the bar who accept judgeships do so at some monetary sacrifice, but they accept positions of great honour in which, they can serve the community, and in the case of most men, that honour compensates for the monetary sacrifice involved. The present Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), for instance, is giving splendid service to the community, and I know that he is compensated for the great financial sacrifice involved by the satisfaction he has of knowing that he is doing so. That knowledge, I am sure, far more than makes up for what he is losing as a barrister. I can scarcely imagine any member of the bar refusing to accept a judgeship because of the monetary sacrifice involved, and I doubt whether there is any instance on record of a leading member of the bar in any State refusing such an honour on that account. When speaking on the bill providing for a pension for the late Sir Samuel Griffith, I opposed it on the ground that we should first improve the position of those members of the community who were far less happily situated than judges. I have been trying for some time to secure an increase in the pensions for the blind, who are tremendously handicapped in life ; but I have had the greatest difficulty in getting the slightest increase for them. Until I find a greater readiness to make up to those who lack, I shall certainly not assist those who are so much better circumstanced. We see too much in life of the practice of the giving to those who have. There seems to be something wrong with the social system, since the principle generally adopted is, Whosoever hath, to him shall be given; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.” I shall give the greatest possible assistance to those who are down; but, until better provision is made for them, I shall not vote to give a pension to those who are up.
.- Al- though I did not speak on the motion for the second reading of this bill, and shall not delay honorable members very long in- discussing this clause, I must register my protest against its provisions. It was refreshing to hear the speech of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), in which he referred to the marked disparity between the generosity the Government is prepared to extend to those high up in the scale of society and that shown to the aged and invalid. It has been said in private that this bill has been introduced because of the Government’s desire to make changes on the High Court Bench. By this means it hopes to induce members of the judiciary who are over 70 years of age to retire of their own volition, so that younger men may be appointed in their stead. I do not appreciate the urgency of the bill. For 26 . years we have been able, without the provision of elaborate pensions, to obtain men of the highest repute in the legal profession for our High Court Bench, because, as thehonorable member for Fawkner said, it is a signal distinction to be elevated to a judicial position of such importance. Seeing that a constitutional session is to be held at Canberra in twelve months’ time, I submit that the whole question of the power, tenure, and emoluments of the judiciary should be deferred for consideration until then. If the Government thinks the matter urgent, it should have taken steps to submit a proposal to limit judicial tenure to the people at the coming referendum. In no other part of the British Empire* are judges above the Parliament that appoints them; hut here we cease to have any control over a judge immediately we appoint him. I shall not, at the moment, enter upon a discussion of the power vested in the High Court, but it should not be overlooked that the United States of America, upon whose constitution ours is based, is suffering severely because of the enormous power exercised by the members of her Supreme Court. A body of public opinion is steadily growing there in favour of amending the Constitution to prevent the Supreme Court from exercising a power of veto in interpreting the Constitution. Similarly, with the growth of our population our constitutional difficulties are steadily increasing. I do not desire to dip into ancient history, but honorable members know that the Dred Scott judgment of the Supreme Court of America practically precipitated the civil war there. On this point, Abraham Lincoln made some remarks which are pregnant with wisdom, and could well be applied to our present situation. He said -
Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have with others the same passion for party, for power, and the privileges of their corps. Their maxim is - it is the part of a good judge to amplify jurisdiction, and their power is the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible’ as other functionaries are to the elective control.
On those grounds, I am opposed to this bill. I can see no reason why our judges should be allowed the plenary power that they at present possess; but, in any case, I submit that consideration of the whole matter could well be deferred until the constitutional session is held. In my opinion, the judges of our High Court should not be given pension privileges that are not given to other public servants. It would lessen public criticism considerably if the Government withdrew this bill, and provided a contribution superannuation scheme for judges, which would give them a moral right to draw a pension on retirement. Undoubtedly the object of the bill is to induce the judges to retire upon reaching the age of 70 years, or as soon afterwards as possible, and the proposal of the amendment of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) was to reduce their pension for every year that they remain on the Bench after reaching the age of 70 years. Under the Constitution, as interpreted by the High Court, judges are appointed for life, and may, if they live so long, retain their positions until they have become doddering centenarians. It would be well for the Government to defer consideration of the whole matter until it can give Parliament an opportunity to consider it from every aspect.
– I well remember that when the bill to constitute the High Court was before Parliament in 1903, the payment of pensions to the judges was proposed; but, in deference to the opposition of the Labour party, was not pressed. The object of this bill, I understand, is to provide pensions for all the judges.
– A bill has been passed providing pensions for the Arbitration Court judges. This bill deals only with the justices of the High Court.
– We have to consider not only the principle of pensions, but also its application to present circumstances. I listened with great interest to the speeches delivered by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). No doubt there is force in their remarks on the poignant inequalities that exist in society; but I ask the honorable member for Fawkner whether he could imagine a state of society in which there were no inequalities?
– I could not.
– Is not society based upon inequalities? It is futile to imagine that it could be otherwise, notwithstanding that honorable members opposite assume, at times, that it could. After all, society can only ask of a man that he shall do his best; and on the assumption that that is done, it gives to one man £2,000 a year, and to another £4 12s. 6d. a week. I was not impressed with the argument that, because Parliament does not give to the poor and unfortunate the consideration that they seem to deserve, an injustice shall be done to the men who guard the fountains of justice from which people of this country must drink. Our judges could poison the well-springs of our national and social life, and therefore it is highly desirable that the very best men that can be obtained should be placed on the Bench. We must be prepared to pay adequate salaries to those who are called upon to perform high duties. A few years ago I listened to piteous stories of the straits to which honorable members in this chamber had been reduced owing to the small return they received for their many and great services to the public. Having a faint streak of caution in my character, I -asked them to state their case in black and white, and sign their names to it. That they did, and the document stands on record to this day in proof that they did not believe in equality of reward, but considered themselves men from whom much was expected and to whom not enough was given. I am in favour of justices of the High Court receiving pensions, not out of consideration for them, but because of the benefits which I believe would thereby accrue to the community. With all due deference to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell)., I submit that that is the only angle from which we should view this matter. Under present circumstances men are tempted to retain their positions on the bench .after the fine gloss of their usefulness has become dimmed. They rer main in office because they cannot afford to retire. After having for many years held positions of great authority and importance, are they in their old age to descend to the plains of indigence, and browse on the scant herbage of penury1? The honorable member for Fawkner may sneer at this sentiment. A practising barrister is able to replenish his cup at will; clients are plentiful, and amongst a litigious people there are always opportunities for -eminent men at the bar. A judge, however, receives a fixed salary, and when he retires his income ceases. The only possible alternative to this bill is a scheme of superannuation. I assume that the Government is not prepared to substitute a superannuation system for the pensions which this bill proposes. If it were, I should support such a proposal. The system of British justice, and the methods by which’ our. judges are appointed and hold office, is unequalled in any part of the world, and its fruits are visible to all men. Reference has been made to the judiciary of the United States of America. A few judges in America besides those of the Supreme Court are appointed for life; but most of them are elected, and anybody who knows the record of America must recognize that there is great room forimprovement in its judicial system. There judges have everything to gain from currying public favour. If the friend of a man exercising authority in a ward or district comes before a judge who owes his position to a party nomination, the ward boss says to the judge privately, “ This man is my friend “ ; and, human nature feeing what is is, the person accused escapes lightly; he takes old Mr. Weller’s advice and proves an alibi, or something equally useful. But in Australia a judge has nothing ito hope -for or gain from pleasing any individual or organization. Most of the members of the American bar who did me the honour of .receiving me had been judges. Mr. Tait, ‘brother of a f ormer President, was one of them. They were staggered at being told that in- this country the fact that a man held a position of .authority, so far from being a recommendation to the court, and am assurance that he would be treated with leniency, placed him at a disadvantage. The suggestion that we should follow the American example is most unhappy. Our present judicial system is based upon the. independence of the judges, to whom we pay a salary which usually is much less than the income of many a. practising barrister. The present Chief Justice of England informed me that he had lost more than £11,000 a year by his elevation to the bench. The majesty and glamour of a judicial position appeals to some men, but not to all.
– It .appeals to the best.
– Some people say that it does not appeal to the best.
– Does the right honorable gentleman think that the present occupants of the High Court bench would have rendered better service had they been entitled to pensions?
– I do not, and the honorable member must regard me as an absolute fool if he thinks I could answer otherwise. Perhaps he forgets that I was responsible for the appointment of the majority of the existing High Court bench. They are pattern judges, and the credit for the very excellence of the bench belongs to me.
– I wonder what sort of treatment the right honorable member would get if he appeared before the High Court.
– I have often thought of that. I am afraid that a blameless life might be pleaded in vain. The honorable member forReid (Mr. Coleman) said that there was no urgency for this bill. That is an impotent argument. Hitherto, the judges of the High Court have not enjoyed pensions. The honorable and learned member for Fawkner mentioned the late Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith. I am. in a position to say that a pension would have been a god-send to him ; and if any man was deserving of consideration in his old age it was that eminent judge, who occupies the same position in Australian public life as Marshall does in the United States of America. Men should not be compelled to continue on the bench after their health fails, and they feel that they are not longer fitted for their high and arduous office. Honorable members will admit that the position of a judge is arduous.
– Hear, hear!
– It has been my privilege to know intimately the justices of the High Court, and I am aware that it is no light task for them to prepare judgments and thread their way through the mazes of former decisions of the court. The principle contained in the bill is sound. I would be ready to apply it generally, for never have I voted against any proposal to increasethe wages of the people, or even of my honorable colleagues in this committee. Such financial independence as they enjoy today they owe to me. When they were down -trod den and in the slough of despond I raised them up, but instead of expressing their gratitude many of them go about the country defaming me. If the proposal were made that judges should retire at 70 years of age, I should support it, for that seems to be the necessary corollary to a pension scheme. The Attorney-General has declared that such a proposal would be unconstitutional. The Constitution is a remarkable instrument; it is protean - to-day one thing, to-morrow something else. But I admit that although I was for several years At-‘ torney-General of the Commonwealth, many things escaped my notice, and I shall not venture to pit my untutored mind against the mature judgment of the honorable member for Kooyong. He says that the Constitution provides that judges must hold office for life, and he is in a position to speak with authority.
– There is a definite decision of the High Court on that point.
– That is not necessarily final. Besides, no man should be the judge in his own case, and therefore, the people should be given an opportunity to declare whether or not judges of the High Court should retire at 70 years of age. If there were sufficient members in the Parliament to carry such a proposal, it would become law, and later we should learn whether we had exceeded our legislative authority. In the meantime, I support the bill.
.- The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) referred to equal reward for equal service. I contend that that principle should be applied to this
Parliament, because honorable members certainly do not receive a reward equivalent to their service. The average period between elections for the House of Representatives is about two years and eight months. When a dissolution occurs, the salaries of honorable members cease until the return of the writs, and thus each of us loses about £140 during election time. If the right honorable member for North Sydney has any influence with the Government he might try to introduce the principle of equal reward for equal service in this Parliament. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) referred to the pension that was granted to the late Chief Justice, but the circumstances surrounding that case were entirely different from those applying to this bill. Sir Samuel Griffith was unfortunate in his business transactions even prior to being appointed Chief Justice of Australia. When he retired, Parliament generously decided to grant him a pension, but it was not intended that that action should establish a precedent for all time. The honorable member for Fawkner advocated an increased pension for the blind. There is a blind institution in my electorate, and its inmates receive scant consideration in comparison with those holding prominent public positions. I tried hard to obtain a pension for a man who is totally blind. He was at one time a miner, but lost his sight through an accident in the mine at which he was employed. He earns about 22s. a week at “the institution, but at Christmas time his earnings are. only 10s. a week. He has a wife, but they quarrelled, and now live apart. His wife earns about £2 a week, and has two children to support. The Pensions Department, when considering this man’s claim for a pension, very unfairly credited him with £1 of his wife’s earnings. I know of a similar case in which a man. and his mother were concerned. I have told people of these anomalies under the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act, but I cannot convince them that they arc true, and that the department refuses to take any action. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has known of these cases ever since he took office. I know that there are persons in Australia drawing pensions who are in a position not to require them. I was an ardent advocate of the payment of a maternity allowance, but I never dreamed that in Australia 98 per cent, of our woman folk bearing children would apply for the bonus. Wo all know that more than 2 per cent, of our womenfolk are in a position not to require any monetary assistance. Why should wealthy people obtain government aid when blind and destitute persons cannot obtain the old-age and invalid pension? I have no animus against judges, but their social position, their opportunities to obtain the best of everything, and their emoluments should place them above requiring governmental assistance. I am here to speak for those who require assistance, and not to look after the interests of the wealthy section of the corn- munity. If the positions of the High Court Judges were advertised to-morrow there would be hundreds of applications, and some of them from men just as capable as those who at present occupy the High Court Bench. If the services of the members of this Parliament were dispensed with, say, next week, I have no doubt that just as capable men as are here to-day would replace them. We should remove anomalies respecting oldage pensions before we attempt to consider this bill. The Attorney-General has stated that the judges themselves have not asked for pensions. I should, therefore, like to know what . motive is actuating him in introducing the bill? I hope that good will result from this debate. The committee would be wise to decide to grant no pensions to judges until the needs of others in the community who require assistance have been met, and money is available for the purpose.
– This clause embodies the main provision of the bill, which was accepted when the second reading was agreed to. I remind honorable members that Parliament has already passed a bill to provide for pensions for judges of the Arbitration Court, and that it would be anomalous for the judges of that court to be entitled to pensions, and for the justices of the High Court not to be so entitled. It has been suggested that this matter should be dealt with on a superannuation basis, according to the principle that operates in connexion with the Public Service of the Commonwealth. Inquiry into that suggestion was made, and we found that it would be impossible to establish a superannuation fund for judges, because of various considerations peculiar to judges as a class. Among these, I mention the relatively advanced age at which men are appointed to the judicial bench, the varying ages of appointees, and the consequent impossibility of fixing the contributions on an equitable basis. Moreover, judges constitute a very small class - the High Court bench consists of only seven persons - and it would be quite impossible to make any adjustment of-, contributions on an actuarial basis. To require them to contribute to a superannuation fund would be equivalent to reducing their salaries. Some honorable members have suggested that these positions are very attractive tj those qualified to nil them.
– Why not call for applications, and see who will apply for them?
– If applications were invited for these positions, a large number of applications would, no doubt, be received; but that is not the manner in which vacancies on the judicial bench are filled in this country. The fact is that these positions are not particularly attractive to the only gentlemen who are qualified to fill them. The rewards of the legal profession are much greater than the remuneration received by High Court judges. That has always been the case in recent times. I am not suggesting to the committee - and I hope that no subsequent speaker will say that I have suggested - that the pecuniary consideration is the only one. At all times members of the legal profession . have been prepared to accept judicial positions at a considerable pecuniary sacrifice, in order to render public service of a valuable and dignified character. Their desire to give such service and the security of the position have weighed with them. While we have been fortunate in obtaining highly competent gentlemen for these positions in the past, these positions are not so attractive as are judicial positions in some of the States, owing largely to the reduced purchasing power of money. Honorable members should recognize that when, in the future, a member of the legal profession is invited to accept a position on the High Court bench, he, not unnaturally, may compare that position with those open to him in the judiciary of the States. Judicial positions in both Victoria .and New South Wales, owing to the provision of pensions and the small amount of travelling required of judges, are much more attractive to men at the age at which they are invited to accept positions on the Bench than Federal judgeships. Surely this Parliament is prepared to make positions on the High Court bench at least as attractive as a seat on the Supreme Court of a State! This bill has. not been brought forward in the interests of the gentlemen at present constituting the High Court. No application has been made by. them for a pension. They’ recognize, as one would expect them to do, that they accepted their present positions on clear and definite terms. Accordingly, any remarks with reference to the present occupants of the High Court are irrelevant.
The governing consideration is that all justices of the High Court are, under the Constitution, entitled to hold office for life. The efficiency of that court is of paramount importance to the people of Australia. Honorable members must recognize that, in the absence of pensions, justices of the High Court, being human, might, not unnaturally, give themselves the benefit of any doubt which might arise in the future as to their fitness to continue to discharge their duties. It is difficult to speak on this subject without appearing to make suggestions in relation to the present occupants of the Bench. I do not do that; but I say that under the present system it is impossible to be assured of the continued efficiency of the High Court. The introduction of this legislation will tend to reduce the possibility of evils arising in the future. Honorable members have referred to an occasion when a special pension was granted to Sir Samuel Griffith, the late Chief Justice of the High Court. I happen to know the reasons which made it necessary for that honoured gentleman to, as it were, throw himself upon the mercy of the Commonwealth, and I can assure honorable members that they were in every respect honorable and creditable to Sir Samuel Griffith. It is impossible for me to give personal details, but I point out that it is not very relevant to multiply by a number of years the annual salary received by any man for discharging public duties. I think that all honorable members will agree that the circumstances which induced Parliament to grant a pension to one. who had rendered very great service to the Commonwealth were indeed regrettable. They will, I feel sure, not desire a repetition of that occasion, but that there will not be a repetition cannot be assured unless a general provision for pensions is made. The rights of the present occupants of the Bench do not enter into consideration. It is essentially a question of the efficiency of the court, having special regard to the fact that all justices of the High Court have a life tenure of office.
– Is there the condition that judges, in order to continue to re- ceive the pension, must reside, in Australia ?
– No. Reference has been made in this debate to old-age pensions, and the inquiries made in respect of them by magistrates. Such remarks would be in order in connexion with a bill dealing with old-age pensions. While all honorable members desire to spare applicants for old-age pensions anything in the nature of an indignity, they should remember that means must be provided for ascertaining whether applicants are qualified to receive pensions. Finally, 1 remind honorable members that this bill has been introduced, as a matter of principle. It cannot be charged against the Government that in introducing this legislation it is looking for votes or is serving any powerful interests in the community. The Government could easily have avoided dealing with this question; instead, it took the view that to do so would be to evade a responsibility that it owed to the public. In order to discharge that responsibility, this bill has been introduced.
.- The Attorney-General need not have emphasized so strongly the last point of his argument that this is not a matter of vote-catching. No one suggested that it was, and I think he will admit that from all sides of the chamber the bill has been discussed apart from party or personal considerations. I agree with him that we ought not to discuss the question in its application to the judges now on the bench, but there is a principle involved, and on that we have a right to make our opinions known. The Attorney-General attempted to meet the argument about the questions put to applicants for old-age pensions - persons who, in most cases, have given many years of service to the community, and whose pensions, if granted, amount to fi a week. The only answer of the Attorney-General was that “ It is the law of the country.” Surely that is not an answer. One would imagine that our laws were like those of the Medes and the Persians - unalterable. If judges, who have served on the bench, ate entitled to a large pension, irrespective of the money they possess, and without any investigation being made into their private affairs, so are the workers, who have served this country faithfully and well. The Attorney-General says that it would be an anomaly for us to refuse to pay pensions to judges of the High Court, because we have already agreed to pensions for Arbitration Court judges; but honorable members are not responsible for that anomaly, if it exists. This bill should have been submitted to this House before honorable members were asked to decide the proposal to pay pensions to Arbitration Court judges, which pensions should have been provided for in this bill instead of in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The anomaly, which is put forward as an argument, is not the responsibility of honorable members, who wish to deal with this matter on principle, but of the Government, which has presented this legislation to Parliament in the wrong way. The AttorneyGeneral attempted to meet the argument that judges should be brought under the Public Service superannuation fund. The contention of those who oppose pensions for judges is that no distinction should be made between judges and other public servants, who are rendering as honorable service to the people of this country. This Parliament ought not to lend itself to any distinction between different sets of public servants.
-hughes. - Surely there is a difference between judges and other public servants, who are generally appointed to the Service when they are mere boys ?
– The Attorney-General said that the judges were appointed when of advanced years, and that it would be impossible to formulate a superannuation scheme for judges on an actuarial basis. I dispute that, and no one can successfully argue that it is impossible to do a thing that has already been done in the Public Service. We passed a Superannuation Act about two years ago, and applied it to men who, in some instances, were within a month of the retiring age, and were more advanced in years than some of the judges. There is also the argument about the judges being few in number; but how does it make any difference whether they are seven or seven thousand? Actuarial calculations can be based on a small or a large number. I grant that the result of the calculations is not so accurate ‘when applied to only a small number, but we could get near enough to accuracy. If the calculations erred a little against the finances of this country, and it was necessary to supplement . the fund by a small amount each year, at least we should be asserting the principle that all our public servants should be on the same basis as to superannuation. It is begging this question to talk about the impossibility of putting the judges on a superannuation fund. The Attorney-General stressed the point that Parliament was not making the positions of judges sufficiently attractive to induce the men who were wanted to take them. I suggest to him that there is only one alternative to that; to pay the salaries that will attract the right men. If this service is so high that we cannot obtain men for the salary we pay, then let the Government say what salary is necessary. Personally, I think we are paying very liberal salaries to the judges. The Attorney-General mentioned, but he did not emphasize the point so strongly as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), that there is more than a monetary consideration behind the acceptance of the position of judge of the High Court.
– Vanity !
– It is not vanity; but a much more noble quality than that. It is a quality possessed by many persons besides judges - the desire to have the honour of serving one’s country in a high position. That is a great factor in influencing men to accept such positions. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) indulged for a considerable time this afternoon in nothing more than special pleading, without a reasoned argument. He spoke of the arduous duties of the judges, and the trust reposed in them. That was all taken for granted when they wore selected; but I submit that it has nothing to do with their pensions. If the services are higher than the salaries, then raise the salaries; but that is no argument for giving huge retiring allowances to men when they have ceased to render any service. The principle of paying high salaries for high services is accepted; but the right honorable gentleman has no right to say that because a man has served so many years he is entitled to receive a reward for as long as he may live. His salary should cease when his services cease, and after that he should be entitled, like other public servants, to superannuation to maintain him for the remainder of his days. The right honorable gentleman told a pitiful tale about these men; but I point out to the committee that one judge earns in two years as much as the average artisan earns in 30 years. If the artisan is expected, out of his small salary, to make provision for his declining years, it is surely not unreasonable to expect the judge to do the same. It is amazing to hear so many appeals, and so much special pleading, for men who are in the enjoyment of salaries from ten to fifteen times as high as those received by the great mass of the people, who have to pay the taxes out of which the judges’ salaries are provided. I do not like to hear this special pleading on behalf of a select few. in the community. I cast no aspersion on any individual, but am prepared to pay my tribute to the high integrity of the men who sit on the bench of this country, although I would not place them on a pedestal and make a distinction in their favour against the rest of the community. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) stressed the view that the judges must be made independent, that they are in a position to do harm, and that their honour is at stake. I strongly resent that kind of argument. We cannot make a -dishonorable man honorable by a mere monetary grant.
– It is said that “ Every man has his price.”
– I disagree emphatically with that. .There are men in high and . in low positions too who have no price. We place men in positions of trust in this country, with thousands of pounds worth of property under their control, and we pay them the basic wage; and generally they do not defraud us. In the out-back post offices, thousands of pounds pass through the hands of postal officials, who, if they were dishonorable, could get clear away to another country with a competence. We trust them with all that property, and reward them with a miserable pittance, and very rarely do they abuse the trust placed in them. I resent the suggestion that we must pay a pension to judges to induce them to do their duties honorably. If a judge were dishonorable because he was in receipt of a small salary, and was not entitled to a pension, he would still he dishonorable if he were given a large salary and a pension of £20,000 a year. Our experience of human nature teaches us thatwe cannot make honorable men dishonorable, or dishonorable men honorable by a monetary reward ; and we also know that there are honorable and dishonorable men among the rich as well as among the poor. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) made a pertinent interjection while the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was speaking. He asked, “Would you say that the present judges would have rendered better service had they known they would receive a pension?” The right honorable gentleman made no. attempt to answer that question. He could not answer it.
– Only one answer - that they would not have given better service - was possible, and he would not face that.
– He tried to sidetrack the question by asking, “Am I a fool?” which was not an answer. If he had answered the question frankly, he would have admitted that the members of the High Court would not have rendered any different service from that which they have rendered if they had known that pensions would be provided for them. All the right honorable member’s special pleading disappears in the face of that admission. He said that a pension would have been a God-send to a certain chief justice who retired, but that gentleman had a special pension provided for him.
– And how much was his will proved for?
– I do not wish to discuss a personal question like that, but I could bring to the right honorable gentlemen the names of very many men and women to whom a very small pension would be a God-send, and who are unable to obtain it. So what is the use of special pleading in that direction? The right honorable gentleman finished his argument by saying that he had always voted for increased salaries, including increased salaries for members of Parlia ment. He said that he had expected to receive our gratitude, but that we had maligned him throughout Australia. Did he expect that because he supported an increase in our salaries, all political differences between us would be sunk? If he thought that, he must have placed a low estimate on our honour. He must have judged us by his own standards. Our salaries were raised because it was considered that the services we render were not being adequately remunerated, and it ‘should be remembered that no pensions are provided for us. He also said that judges must be independent, and that he had never voted against increasing the wages of the workers. It is a notorious fact that when he was Prime Minister he actually interfered with the independent judgment of an Arbitration Court judge. When it became known that the ex-President of the Court, Mr. Justice Higgins, was favorable to the granting of a 44-hour week, he amended the act to provide that three judges must determine that question. The determination of that issue was not more difficult than the settlement of a question of wages. Yet the right honorable gentleman tells us that we must make our judges independent, and that he had never done anything to interfere with the industrial conditions of the people. It is well known that his action on the occasion to which I refer was responsible for much of the industrial turmoil that has been experienced ever since. I have no desire to delay the committee further. Our position is a logical one. We say that there should be no distinction between members of the Public Service, and that the superannuation scheme should apply to judges as well as to the ordinary public servant. The settlement of the actuarial difficulties should not be beyond the wit of man. I intend to support the amendment.
.- Certain public servants, notably railways commissioners, receive salaries higher than are paid to our judges, and I have yet to learn that railways commissioners have a right to a pension on retirement.
– Can the honorable gentleman say that any railways commissioners have been appointed for life?
– No ; and I am not aware that members of Parliament are appointed for life. On the contrary, we have to appear before the electors every three years to receive the endorsement of the people. If the appointment of judges were similarly reviewed at stated intervals, it might be an advantage. Although an English judge - I think it was Judge Manisty - many years ago gave a verdict before he had heard the evidence, the Government could not retire him from the Bench. I have discussed this superannuation scheme on several occasions with my constituents, and at every meeting I have had the following motion unanimously agreed to : - “ That it is the opinion of this meeting of citizens that all pensions granted by the Commonwealth Government of £500 and upwards shall hot be permanent unless endorsed at a general election by a referendum of the people; and, if a majority of electors vote in the negative, such pension shall cease.” The Government would not have dared to introduce this bill if it contained that provision. I have a great admiration for the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham). I find that the longer one knows him, the more one respects him. Pensions for public servants was a burning subject in the Victorian Parliament many years ago. At the time there was a strong feeling that judges and other high public officials who were in the enjoyment of pension privileges should be required to live in Victoria for a stated period after their retirement. I should like to see a similar provision in this bill. I have every respect for the members of our judiciary. I believe that, if the question were’ put to them, the judges themselves would agree that it would be better to make a little more generous provision for our old-age’ pensioners instead of paying high pensions to judges. I invite the Ministry to place this issue before the people. I am satisfied that no honorable member opposite would dare to advocate the payment of high pensions to judges without making better provision for old-age pensioners.
Question -That the amendment (Mr. Fenton’s) be agreed to- put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . .7
Question so resolved in the negative.
The following papers were presented : -
Tariff Board Act - Tariff Board Report. -
Request for Bounty on Cotton Yarn.
Ordered to be printed.
Lands Acquisition Act-Land acquired at Woodside, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act. Ordinance of 1926- No.15 - Meat Industry Encouragement (Poll).
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 86.
Motion (byMr. Bruce) agreed to -
That Mr. Manning be discharged from attendance on the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Law, and that Mr. Donald Cameron be appointed in his place.
That the foregoing resolutionbe communicated to the Senate by message.
House adjourned at 4.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 July 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260709_reps_10_114/>.