10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr, Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I should like the Minister for Markets to give the names of the members of what is known as the Butter Stabilization Committee, and the names of the membors of the Dairy Produce Export Control Board. I should also like him to state whether it is not a fact that it is the purpose and intention of the Butter Stabilization Committee to increase the price of butter to the consumers of Australia by means of an additional levy on butter produced?
– The Dairy Produce Export Control Board consists of thirteen members, of whom nine represent co-operative interests, two proprietary interests and one the agents, and one member was nominated by the Commonwealth Government. I shall be pleased to supply the honorable member with a list of the names of the members of the committee if he wishes for it. The Stabilization Committee is a voluntary body appointed by the dairying industry nearly three years ago. It acts in a voluntary capacity, and is not endowed with statutory powers. My department has no information in regard to its personnel. With regard to the last part of the honorable member’s question, I have no means of ascertaining the intentions of this body.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that during the last couple of months there has been a steady fall in the price of wheat in the markets of the world, with the result that the price for the forthcoming harvest is now much below the cost of production in Australia? Will he, in co-operation with the State Governments, take action to guarantee or stabilize the price of wheat in Australia, ortake whatever steps the conference I suggest may consider necessary to meet the situation?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will receive consideration.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that bags or sacks coming into Australia differ in size, and that this occasions loss and inconvenience to producers? Will he take steps to prevent the importation of bags or sacks of other dimensions than those of what is known as the Chapman sack?
– I shall look into the matter, and see if any useful action can be taken.
– Will the Treasurer make a statement as to the arrangements the Commonwealth Government proposes to make for the payment of old-age pensions to pensioners in institutions?
– In my budget speech I stated that this session the Government would bring down a bill to provide that old-age pensioners who are inmates of an institution shall receive 5s. 6d. a week, and the institution itself 1 4s. 6d. a week.
– In reply to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) on Thursday last, the Prime Minister said that the Commonwealth Government had indicated that, if some satisfactory basis for an agreement could be reached between the Premier of New South Wales and the representatives of the coal industry, his Government was prepared to sympathetically recommend the Commonwealth Parliament to render certain assistance. I should like the right honorable gentleman now to give the assurance that any assistance recommended to be given to the coal industry of New South Wales will be extended to the industry in other States?
– The negotiations pending are in relation to a specific situation which has arisen in the coal-mining area in New South Wales, and the concern of the Commonwealth in the matter is due to the fact that Newcastle coal has to be taken to all the other States of the Commonwealth because of its gas-producing properties. At present it cannot be seen what lines the negotiations will take, and consequently I cannot give the honorable member the assurance he desires.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Defence indicate what preparations are being made to provide landing grounds for the projected aerial service between Derby and Wyndham?
– The provision of landing grounds for the Derby- Wyndham aerial service has engaged the attention of the Western Australian Pastoralists Association, and that body is confident that most of the grounds required can be prepared without any cost to the Commonwealth Government. The Defence Department, however, is awaiting full details of the scheme proposed by the association, and on receipt of the information will be in a position to state what additional landing grounds, if any, are necessary, and what they are likely to cost.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs cause to be prepared a return showing the number of tons of sulphur produced in Australia during the last five years ; the quantity of sulphuric acid produced during the same period ; the amount of bounty paid on it, and the persons to whom bounty has been paid?
– If the information can be made available, I shall see that the return desired by the honorable member is prepared.
– Can the Treasurer tell me what States have agreed to give full effect to the Commonwealth Government’s housing proposals?
– The States of New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia.
– I should like to know if the States mentioned propose to give advances up to £1,800 on a 90 per cent. basis?
– The advances will be made in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Housing Act.
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether he will, as early as possible, lay on the table of the House, or elsewhere, so that they may be available to honorable members, all documents relating to the contract for the foundations of the public offices, Canberra, which were the subject-matter of a discussion in this House last week? By “ all documents,” I mean all correspondence and memoranda relating to the matter that has passed between the commission and the Government, and between the architects and the commission, the contract itself, and all other documents of an official character relating to it.
– An official inquiry was proceeding when this matter was brought before the House last week, and to the personnel of the original board have been added three experts, namely, Professor Sir Henry Barraclough, B.E., M.M.E., M. Inst. C.E., M.I.M.E., M.I.E. of Australia, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering of Sydney University; Mr. J. S. Murdoch, C.M.G., F.R.I.B.A., F.R.V.I.A., Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Works and Chief Architect, and Mr. Crawford, Consulting Engineer of Melbourne, and a recognized authority on concrete. Until the inquiry is completed and the report is presented, it would be inadvisable to lay the papers on the table of the House.
asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
1922-1923- Pastoral, 94,000; agricultural and horticultural, 340,000; dairying, 34,000; total, 494,000. 1920-27.- (Figures for 1927-28 will not be available for some months.) - Pastoral, 94,000; agricultural and horticultural, 304,000; dairying, 52,000; total, 510,000.
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What is the nature of the training for which an amount of £90,884 is provided in the Estimates for 1928-29 in Division No. 07, Department of Defence?
– The nature of the training for which this amount is provided is the military training carried out in accordance with the training manuals issued by the War Office. The training is carried out by means of home training parades, camps of continuous training and schools, courses, classes of instruction, &c. The expenses in connexion therewith that are a charge against division 67 of the Estimates are: -
Staff Investigation Committee
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable member will be furnished as soon as possible.
– On the 30th August the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 30th August, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) asked the following question : -
What was the total quantity of oil imported into the Commonwealth for the years 1925, 1926 and 1927, respectively?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Statistics are recorded in financial years. The following list indicates the imports of the principal oils during the financial years stated : -
– On the 31st August, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked me whether it was a fact that organizations engaged in conducting the liquor poll campaign in the Federal Capital Territory were denied the right to address or interview the electors at Jervis Bay naval area on the issues to be submitted to them on 1st September. I have been in touch with the Acting Minister for Defence on the matter and he has informed me that he carefully considered applications made for permission to address electors at Jervis Bay naval area and Duntroon Military College, but that he could not agree to . grant the necessary authority. A further application made for permission to distribute literature at the places mentioned was granted, and the respective commandants were advised accordingly.
– On the 29th August, 1928, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the Minister for Health the following questions : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following answers: -
The following papers were pre sented : -
Development and Migration Commission - Report on Unemployment and Business Stability in Australia.
Ordered to be printed.
Electoral Act and Referendum (Constitution Alteration ) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 80.
Papua Act - Ordinances of 1928 -
No. 3 - London Missionary Society Corporation Land Transfer.
No. 4 - Bodies Corporate (Joint Tenancy).
No. 7 - Customs.
Public Service Act - Appointment of R. P.
Cunningham, Postmaster-General’s “Department.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Scat of Government (Administration) Act - Liquor Poll Ordinances-r-Regulations.
– I lay on the Table the report of the royal commission appointed to inquire into statements in the press in regard to offers alleged to have been made to members to resign seats in the Federal Parliament. I move -
That the paper be printed.
.- I ask the Prime Minister to state the intention of the Government in regard to the payment of the costs of the parties involved in this inquiry. Shortly after the commission was appointed an intimation was conveyed to me from the Prime Minister that I as one of the principal parties to the inquiry would be allowed by the Government 30 guineas on the brief of counsel, and 20 guineas per day as a refresher. I informed the right honorable gentleman through the Leader of the Opposition, that on the advice of my solicitors I had briefed King’s Counsel whose fees together with those of his junior would greatly exceed the rate suggested by the Government. As a matter of fact, my legal costs have exceeded £800, whereas the fees offered by the Commonwealth would not amount to more than about £300. I understand that the expenses of all other parties to the inquiry will be paid by the Commonwealth Government. Of course, the Commonwealth briefed its own counsel, and paid his full fees. Those making the allegations apparently accepted whatever offer was made to them by the Commonwealth, and were represented before the Royal Commissioner by counsel within the costs made available to them by the Government. Other parties also were able to keep within the amount allocated. I was unable to do thts. I was advised that as “the Commonwealth had briefed Mr. Lamb, K.C., if I wished to be properly safeguarded before the Royal Commissioner, I should be represented by counsel of equal status. Mr. Lamb, we were told, was appointed, not as counsel for a partisan, but to assist the Commissioner. Anybody who followed the proceedings of the commission, however, must have realized that Mr. Lamb regarded himself as having a responsibility to prove an allegation. There is not the slightest doubt that he regarded me as the person to whom the charge should be sheeted home, if possible; in that sense he filled the role of a Crown Prosecutor. In those circumstances I found it necessary to be represented by counsel of equal status, of whom as much notice would be taken by the Commissioner as of Mr. Lamb, K.C. Last week I asked the Prime Minister whether he would consider the payment of my full costs in connexion with the inquiry, and he undertook to discuss the matter with the AttorneyGeneral, but I have received no further intimation from him other than a communication from his department, dated the 30th August, and saying, in reply to an earlier letter from me, that the Government did not deem it advisable to depart from its original offer to pay 30 guineas on the briefing of counsel, and a refresher at the rate of 20 guineas a day. In these circumstances I regard myselfas having been most unjustly treated. Allegations were made by persons whom I think in this case cannot be considered other than irresponsible. These allegations were made in circumstances which, in my opinion, did not warrant action being taken by the Government. The Royal Commissioner was appointed and inquired fully into the allegations, and allied matters, and I was subjected to a very searching examination by the Royal Commissioner. I consider that the examination went a great deal further than was justified in the circumstances - but of that I do not complain. I was subpoenaed by the Royal. Commissioner to produce my income tax return for 1924-25, and for the succeeding years, and also to produce my banking accounts, and particulars of my financial transactions and private affairs during those years. I did not object to their production, and a full examination of them was made. I cannot, however, admit that the result of the inquiry, or the finding of the Royal Commissioner,’ has in any way reflected upon my honour or disclosed improper conduct on my part, or upheld any charge, allegation or impeachment that would warrant the Government in causing me to be mulcted in an expenditure of over £800. I merely ask that, before the House decides to print the report, the Prime Minister might indicate that the Government will treat me fairly in this matter.
.- I should not like this motion to become the subject-matter of a debate on the basis that it is merely of a personal nature, relating to the special interests of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore). There is an aspect of the case which is of interest to other honorable members of this Parliament, and affects the status and privileges of the members of this Parliament as a whole. I am one of those who believe that there was no justification whatever for the appointment of a Royal Commissioner on the grounds stated by the Government. The reasons for the issue of the commission were excerpts taken from currentnewspapers making allegations against certain honorable members. I hold the view that, if a royal commission were to be issued every time sensational statements are made in the public press, even this Government - notwithstanding its special fondness for the appointment of royal commissions - would, as a consequence, become rather weary of pursuing such a policy. It appeared to me absolutely unprecedented that the Government should take the responsibility of having a royal commission issued to inquire into allegations reflecting upon honorable members which ‘ were not supported by any evidence other than that kind of hearsay reports which, in such circumstances, make sensational reading-matter in the press. It is true that there was in these reports something which was alleged to have been said by an honorable member of this Parliament. So far from that being a justification for the action taken by the Government, to my mind, in a very special way, it tends to further discredit it. During the inquiry before the Royal Commissioner, a statement was repeated which was alleged to have been made by an honorable member of this Parliament. The general public was entitled to treat that statement, emanating from the source it did, at its face value. The right honorable the Prime Minister knew the position of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Lambert) in this House, and up to that stage probably charity and good feeling had impelled forbearance on his part. Knowing the facts as he did, forbearance in regard to the appointment of a Royal Commissioner would not have been ungenerous and would at least have been just. I do not wish to use my position here to make disparaging reference to the honorable member for West Sydney, and I would be the last to cast -a stone at any fellow member on personal grounds. But, knowing the facts, the Prime Minister should have seen that in the circumstances he was not justified in taking official notice of that honorable member’s extravagant reflections upon another honorable member. So far as the honorable member for Dalley is concerned, I only have to say that it seems preposterous to me that he or any other honorable member should be mulcted in heavy costs as the result of the proceedings of a royal commission initiated by this Government, whose finding did not in any way reflect upon the honorable member for Dalley. The allegations have been dealt with by the Commissioner, and I am certain that the honorable member for Dalley would not desire me to put myself in the position of defending him or attempting to exculpate him when he has already been entirely exculpated; I am, however, deeply concerned when a Government takes it upon itself to appoint a Royal Commissioner to investigate a charge or inuendo against a member, and to put that member upon his defence outside the chamber, and have him mulcted in heavy expenses for which he is not to be indemnified. It may be hard on the general taxpayer to have to meet the cost of these commissions, which represent in concrete form the pastime of the Government; but it is infinitely harder if the expense is to fall upon an individual member. I look at the matter from the point of view of the Parliament and the country. It is the duty of the Government to see that individual members are not unduly penalized as the result of any action that it takes; but obviously in this case one honorable member is to be ‘unduly penalized. It seems clear to me that the honorable member for Dalley in the circumstances took the only course of action that he could reasonably have taken. The commission was appointed, not because of him, but in spite of him. Legal experts of the highest standing were employed by the Commonwealth to probe into this matter, and we may be perfectly certain that within certain extreme limits, at all events, they were permitted to fix their own charges. I am not aware that the particular learned member of the bar, the King’s counsel who was retained by the Government, exhibited any outstanding or remarkable skill entitling him to be paid at a higher rate than that payable to other representative members of the bar. I do not know on what principle the Prime Minister said, “We shall pay to the learned counsel whom ve employ such fees as he may demand,” and allocated for the defence of other members of this Parliament, who were substantially in the position of defendants, whatever fees it thought for their minor responsibilities such counsel as they employed ought to be paid. The honorable member for Dalley, in the circumstances, took exactly the same course of action as I think any other honorable member would have taken ; certainly he took the course of action that I would have taken. I would have’ obtained advice, and employed the best counsel I could engage to vindicate my character, and to meet the special pleading which it pleased the Government to engage in the endeavour to sheet home charges, however fantastic, against me. I certainly consider that it will be a reflection upon this Parliament, and upon every individual member of it, if it or they allow a fellow member to be penalized in the manner indicated. If this procedure is to be allowed to go unchallenged, then none of us is safe. The position of each of us may become the plaything of party politics, in the sense that we may be not only held up to criticism, our politics being attacked and canvassed, but that we may also be personally attacked in this insidious way, and if we have not a bank balance sufficient to. enable us to defend ourselves we may go down in the struggle. Our characters may be unjustly impugned because inadequately defended, and in that way grave wrong may be done to any honorable member. I stand in this respect for the equal rights of all honorable members, and I do not grant the right of this or any other Government to employ the funds of the Commonwealth for the purpose of taking to itself the best legal experts that it can employ in order that it may make, as I am very much afraid the intention was, political capital out of what I have rightly described as fantastic charges against a member of this chamber.
– When I laid this report upon the table of the House and moved that it be printed, I imagined that I was merely performing a formal act to enable a printed copy of the report to become part of the records of this Parliament; but certain points have been raised about which, although I do not propose to deal with them at length, it is necessary that Y. should say a word or two. Both the honorable gentlemen who have spoken have suggested that the inquiry should never have taken place, and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has pointed out that the proper course would have been for me, because of certain personal circumstances of which I might have had knowledge, to take.no notice whatever of the charges made by a member of this House. But I remind him that action was not taken on the unsupported statements of the member to whom he referred. Those statements were supported by an ex-Minister of the Crown in the State of New South “Wales, and this Government would, I suggest, have been recreant to its duty had it not taken action with regard to a charge reflecting upon the honour of this Parliament. It was the obvious and bounden duty of the Government to have an inquiry instituted, so that the matter might be sifted in the closest manner possible. I remind the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), who has said to-day that no action should have been taken, and that the charges should not have been inquired into, that when I announced the proposed inquiry he said in this chamber that he welcomed it,” and let it be inferred that he would have demanded such an inquiry if the Government had not seen fit to institute the investigation.
– The right honorable gentleman misrepresents me. I said that, had I thought the circumstances and the persons who made the charges warranted it, I would have demanded such an inquiry.
– I think that the impression conveyed at the time was that the honorable member welcomed the inquiry, and I imagined that he would welcome it, because, unquestionably, reflections had been cast upon him that he would desire to have cleared up. Somewhat to my surprise, the suggestion has been made that the Government appointed the commission for political purposes, and was not sincere in the action it took to carry out the duty devolving upon it of protecting the honour of this Parliament. Prior to the Government taking action, the organ that represents honorable gentlemen opposite, the Labour Daily of New South Wales, made a direct demand that the whole matter should be inquired into, and stated that it was necessary that a royal commission be appointed. That one fact, I think must acquit me of having taken political action, since demand for the very action taken was made by those who support honorable members opposite. It seems to me that the inquiry showed that it was imperative that action should be taken. The only regret we all must have is that the royal commissioner did not find it possible to ascertain who was responsible for what took place, because what occurred is a disgrace to this Parliament. He found that one honorable gentleman received quite a large sum of money for vacating his seat, and that another honorable member was approached with a view to his acceptance of a monetary payment for vacating his seat. My only regret - and I think it is the regret of ‘every honorable member - is that it was not found possible to adduce the further evidence which would have enabled the Royal- Commissioner to sheet home to the person concerned responsibility for this disgraceful conduct. I had not proposed to deal with this matter-
– The right honorable gentleman has dealt with aspects of it that other honorable members have not raised. If he desires that there should be a full discussion upon such points, he should afford honorable members the requisite opportunity.
– The specific point raised by the honorable member for Dalley related to the remuneration of counsel that the Government had indicated it would be prepared to defray, and for the payment of which a sum has been placed upon the Estimates to obtain the sanction of this Parliament to the payment. I remind honorable members that it is not by any means the universal custom, and, on the contrary, is decidedly opposed to custom, for the costs and other charges incurred by those who may be called upon to defend themselves in an inquiry, to be discharged by others than the defendants. At the present time a royal commission in Sydney is inquiring into certain charges connected “with the civic administration of that city. The persons involved in that inquiry are bearing their own expenses. In this case, however, the Government felt that it would be a proper act to make reasonable provision to meet the expenses of the persons involved ; and, following upon a consultation that I had with the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, I informed the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that the Government would be prepared to meet those charges to the extent of 30 guineas upon the brief for counsel and 20 guineas a day for refreshers. The sums that I have mentioned were considered fair and reasonable, having regard to the seriousness of the charges and also to the fact that, as the money was being made available out of the Consolidated Revenue, the Government was under an obligation to the people of Australia in the. matter. All those involved in the inquiry, with the exception of the honorable member for Dalley, kept their legal expenses within the amount that the Government undertook to provide. The Government does not feel justified in promising to make greater provision for the honorable member for Dalley than for the other persons who were involved. He was no more involved than any other. Consequently the Government feels that it would not be justified in increasing the amount in his case. If the other persons who had to defend their honour had thought that a greater amount would be made available at a subsequent date they might have desired to employ counsel other than those whom they employed. The fee which Mr. Lamb received was 50 guineas upon his brief, and a daily refresher of 30 guineas. But I remind the House that Mr. Lamb had to deal with the whole of the case, whereas the legal representatives of the individuals concerned had to deal with only that portion of the case which affected their clients. It was both just and proper that the man who had to cover the whole of the evidence, and deal with every aspect of the case, should receive a fee of 50 guineas upon his brief and 30 guineas a day for refreshers. Those sums were not out of proportion to the amounts provided for counsel who had to handle the specific case of individuals.
I consider that I should reply to the charges made by the honorable member for Dalley against both Mr. Lamb, who assisted ‘ the commission, and the Royal Commissioner himself. Those charges are both unfair and unjust. Mr. Lamb did not, as the honorable member for Dalley has said, act as a Crown prosecutor. I remind the honorable member that Mr. Lamb’s task was to assist the Royal Commissioner, and that of the Royal Commissioner was to sift the whole case as thoroughly as possible in the endeavour to elicit the facts, and to take all the steps necessary to that end. There is no justification for the suggestion that either Mr. Lamb or the Royal Commissioner behaved in an improper , manner.
I shall now reply to the specific question put to me by the honorable member for Dalley. I have gone into the matter since the conversation which I had with the honorable member subsequent to the despatch of a letter to him by my department. I have also had a consultation with the Attorney-General. I consider that it would be neither fair nor proper to make a differentiation between his case and that of the other persons whose honour was attacked.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. When the honorable member for Dalley raised the specific question of costs, I was under the impression that an opportunity would bo afforded to consider my position and that of other persons concerned in the inquiry. .
– Order! The honorable member is going beyond the bounds of a personal explanation.
– Am I to understand that I have not at this stage an opportunity to discuss my position?
-The honorable member is entitled to make a personal explanation upon any matter that affects himself.
– I shall not proceed further at this stage. I shall discuss my position later, when I shall, perhaps, have more latitude than is possible under the guise of a personal explanation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– On 31st August the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
Debate resumed from 31st August, (vide page 6281), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The object of this bill is to authorize the Government to submit to the people by referendum at the coming election a question which involves an alteration of the Constitution in one specific respect. But what has the Government done with the larger issue of general constitutional alterations ? On the 20th May, 1926, the Prime Minister stated in Parliament that the following year a constitutional session would be held to discuss the defects of the Constitution and proposals to remedy them and equip the Commonwealth with larger powers. The Government also took the responsibility of adding to the long list of royal commissions which it has appointed another commission to investigate and report upon the working of the Constitution. That commission has, we know, gathered a large amount of information which would be extremely useful to honorable members in any discussion affecting constitutional alterations.
– What has become of the new States proposal?
– That was one of the questions submitted to the commission for investigation. What has become of the whole subject of a general increase in the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth? The commission has already cost the taxpayers a large sum of money, and we understand that its report is almost ready for submission to Parliament. It is extraordinary, therefore, that the Government, at this stage, should make up its mind to rush to the people for an alteration of the Constitution on one question only. This action shows that it is running away from its obligations, and has no intention of fulfilling the definite promise which the Prime Minister made. Everybody admits that it is necessary to increase the powers of this Parliament. Does the Government propose to delay the whole matter for another three years, or is it proposed to submit to the people between elections another referendum, at a cost of about £100,000? These points need clearing up. If the Government does not intend to hold a constitutional session, why did it appoint a royal commission to investigate the subject? The coming election should have been delayed to ‘give us an opportunity to discuss the report of the Constitutional Commission and prepare proposals for alterations for determination at the election. There was ample time to do this before the election need have been held. _ .. _
The object of this bill is to provide for a referendum on a proposed amendment of the Constitution to grant power to the Commonwealth Government to make agreements with the States on questions involving the consolidation of public debts and the unifying of the control of further borrowing. The Prime Minister rightly emphasized that the object of the referendum is not to ratify the financial agreement which has already been made with the States, but merely to give this Parliament power to make such agreements. If an affirmative answer is obtained to the question to be submitted to the people that agreement will come before Parliament for acceptance or rejection. The Labour party has opposed right from the beginning the action of the Government in withdrawing the capitation payments from the States, and it sees no reason to change its attitude in that respect in the slightest degree. There was no justification for any interference with the per capita payments to the States, yet the Government did interfere with them. It proposed to take away the payments and give the States nothing in substitution for them. Only after public opinion had expressed itself very strongly did the Government make the agreement to which I have referred. I do not propose to discuss the merits or demerits of the agreement; all that I shall point out in connexion with it is that it mixes the subject of the consolidation of debts, and the unification of borrowing, with the distribution of revenues between the Commonwealth and the States, although they should be kept entirely separate. Sound finance requires that the control of future borrowing shall be kept separate from the distribution of revenue. It must be apparent to everybody that the consolidation of debts and the control of future borrowing must be dealt with along permanent lines. It should be rigid, but the distribution of revenues should be flexible. Unquestionably, the two subjects should be kept entirely separate. The consolidation of public debts, and the control of borrowing, should be dealt with on permanent lines, at least for the 58 years during which the transferred debts will be liquidated; but the distribution of revenue, as between the States and thu Commonwealth, must necessarily be determined to some extent by circumstances.
The people were asked in 1910 to affirm two proposals for the alteration of the Constitution. They were asked to insert in the Constitution certain legislative provisions for per capita payments to the States, and also to provide for the consolidation of the public debts. Their answer showed that they desired to keep the two subjects entirely separate, for they granted the power to the Commonwealth to take over State debts, but refused to incorporate in the Constitution the per capita proposals. Every one believed at that time that the power granted fully equipped the Commonwealth to take over State debts and control borrowing, but legal advice has since shown that this is not so. The Attorney-General submitted a convincing opinion last year that the power granted was not sufficient to enable the Commonwealth to control future borrowing, and without that power it would be useless to attempt to consolidate the public debts. Permanency is necessary in any agreement for the control of the public debts, but elasticity is essential in dealing with the revenue.
For the last twenty years the Labour party has consistently advocated reform in the control of loans, but until recently the State Governments were not prepared to agree to grant additional power to the Commonwealth to provide for the control of future borrowing. In my opinion it was largely because five Labour Governments were in office in the various States when the financial agreement was discussed earlier this year. An agreement was made for the control of borrowing by a representative controlling authority.
There can be no sound objection to granting to the Commonwealth Parliament power to ratify agreements. As the Labour party believes that complete power should be reposed in the Commonwealth, that is not an issue. But I wish it to be clearly understood that consent to the granting of power to the Commonwealth Parliament to make such agreements does not carry with it consent to or support of the particular agreement which has been made with the States. I say definitely that when that agreement comes before the next Parliament this party will oppose its validation. Failing its validation, the agreement will lapse on the 30th June, 1929, thus opening the way for a new agreement with the States for the consolidation of debts and the restoration of the per capita payments. The Labour party believes that the Commonwealth Parliament should have the fullest power to control the finances of this country, and to that end to make agreements with the States, but it considers that there was no justification for the withdrawal of the per capita payments from the States. If given the opportunity its members will restore them. The people were not consulted regarding tlie withdrawal of the per capita payments from the States; the intention to do so was not placed before them during the last election campaign. It is true that the Prime Minister’s policy speech contained hints of what was in the mind of the Government, but nothing clear or definite regarding its intention in the matter was placed before the people. That will not be so at the next election; that issue will be placed clearly before the electors for their decision. The people of Australia will be given the opportunity to decide whether they are in favour of a restoration of the per capita payments to the States. The issue which will be placed before them will be not whether the Commonwealth Parliament should have the power to make agreements with the States, but whether the per capita payments shall be restored to the States.
– The States accepted the agreement.
– That is true, but only after the per capita payments had been withdrawn. The honorable gentleman cannot point to one State Government or State Opposition which agreed to their withdrawal.
– The Nationalist Opposition in Queensland agreed to their withdrawal.
– I was not aware that that was so; but I accept the honorable member’s correction. That was, however, the only instance. When this agreement was made the per capita payments had been withdrawn from the States; they accepted the best that was offered to them in their stead. Should there be returned in the new Parliament a majority of members pledged to the restoration of the per capita payments to the State3, restoration will be made. The bill authorizing the withdrawl of the per capita payments was agreed to by a majority of only six members in this House, but even that small majority would not have been obtained for it had not the Government party whip been cracked. Speaking passionately in his place the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), said that the measure would not have been carried otherwise. The people will be given the opportunity to decide whether there will be a majority of six for the validation of the agreement. Should the agreement not be validated, it will lapse on the 30th June, 1929, in which case a new agreement for the consolidation of debts can be entered into under the powers which will be granted if the referendum is carried. There is no need to discuss a( length the merits or demerits of the agreement itself - indeed such a discussion would be out of order - but the agreement will be discussed not only in this chamber by the members of the new parliament, it will also be discussed on the hustings. The Prime Minister emphasized that the carrying of the referendum would only give to the Commonwealth the power to make agreements with the States, and I repeat that the carrying of the referendum and the granting of that power would not mean the validation of the agreement already made. This party will not oppose the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth Parliament to make agreements with the States for control of the finances of the country. It will, if given the opportunity, exercise that power to make a new agreement with the States for the consolidation of debts and the restoration of the per capita payments. It will oppose the validation of the agreement that has been entered into.
.- I had not expected the debate on this measure to be so brief, nor had I any desire to participate in it. I feel, however, that I may be placed in a- false position if I do not make my position clear. The statement just made by the Leader of the Opposition(Mr. Scullin) is of the greatest importance not only to us in this House, but also to the candidates who soon will seek the suffrages of the people. I can understand that the party led by the honorable gentleman is prepared to grant additional powers to the Commonwealth. Whether the Commonwealth should have the right to make agreements with the States is the fundamental principle underlying this measure. That, indeed, is a question which the people at this stage of our political development ought to consider carefully before giving their decision. From time to time weaknesses in our Constitution have become apparent. There may be some difference of opinion as to how those weaknesses have arisen. Some persons consider that there has been too great an absorption of power by the Commonwealth, that if the position of the States in the federation had been more properly defined in the Constitution, many of the difficulties which we have encountered would not have appeared. Others, including honorable members opposite, consider that some of the defects in the working of the Constitution have been due entirely to too much power having been absorbed by the States to the detriment of the Commonwealth. Honorable members have been quite frank in admitting that, and I have been equally frank in stating my views. This problem does not concern only the present Government ; it has concerned Australian governments ever since federation was established. So far as I can see, every step that has been taken in the development of relations between the Commonwealth and the States has had the effect of conferring greater powers upon the Commonwealth. A large proportion of the people of Aus.tralia believe that that was not the original intention, and that the anomaly should be rectified. A similar difficulty arose in connexion with the constitution of the United States of America, and the resultant differences of opinion brought into being the two great parties that predominate in that country. One party considered that federation should be supreme, and that the States should, iu effect, be appendages of federation, while the other thought that, as a result of federation, the position of the States should be more firmly established and recognized; that federation should be a structure based upon the States. We know perfectly well that when the Australian federation was established tho opinion of the general public was that it should be the coping stone, and the foundation of the structure of the States, which would be bound strongly together. The important duty of federation was to see that the financial strength of the States was adequately safeguarded. For a number of years, owing to the existence of circumstances of an abnormal character, which included the war, the people of Australia have not given the thought to this problem that they would otherwise have done, and on many occasions have given exceptional powers into the hands of a few for the time being. Now, a large portion of the population is giving additional study to the matter, and is asking whether we have proceeded along the best lines in the past, and whether it is wise and tafe to augment the powers of the Federal Parliament at the expense of the State Parliaments. Reduced to simple language, it is a contest between the ideals of federation and of unification. This bill will really put that question to the people. There is no doubt that the whole structure of government rests upon finance. I have no desire to refer to a particular agreement which has already been debated; but Ave have ample evidence that such agreements as will be made from time to time will be the result of the preponderating financial power of the Federal Government) and will merely add to the strength of that Government, at the same time modifying the powers of the State Governments. I fail to see what necessity has arisen for making such agreements. I cannot appreciate why, if the respective parts played by the Commonwealth and States were properly recognized, the machinery which has served for a number of years should not be allowed to continue to work smoothly and without undue interference, and why the existing relations between the Commonwealth and the States should not continue amicably, animated by the spirit of co-operation.
But certain things have happened which have utterly overthrown the financial balance that existed between the Commonwealth and State Governments, so that the tendency has become more and more evident for the Federal Government to use its financial powers to the disadvantage of the States. It is a perfectly understandable trait of human nature that those in authority should endeavour to augment their powers. I make no personal aspersions upon any individual or group of individuals. But I ask whether the general public are agreeable that such a state of affairs should continue. It has been stated again and again that the time has arrived when it is very desirable to make an adjustment of our financial position; but apparently that is where the matter begins and ends. I have listened carefully to all the debates on the subject, and have been unable to disentangle any apparent reason for a departure from existing machinery or for the introduction of the agreement that is contemplated by this bill. I suggest that, if the Federal Government takes this additional power, it will effect an enormous and farreaching alterationof our whole Constitution. I pointed out, when we were debating the bill covering the financial agreement with the States, that that was one of the most important measures that had ever come before this House, because it effected a fundamental change in our constitutional machinery. It may be claimed that, nominally, that is not so. Unfortunately, words may sometimes conceal that which is actually intended. In this instance, irrespective of the words used, the result will be to vest the controlling financial power throughout Australia in the hands of the Federal Government. I have stated repeatedly that, if unification is to be inaugurated, it should be established only with the consent of the people. If, after mature consideration, the people of Australia consider that it is desirable to bring about unification, none can complain; but, meanwhile, it is our duty as their representatives to stand for and maintain the existing structure. I emphasize the fact that, if we introduce this bill, we shall ask the people of Australia whether they are agreeable to throw over the existing Federal system and adopt in its stead what will amount to a system of unification: It is not a question of this or that agreement, but of what is going to be the political effect if this agreement is accepted. That is, to my mind, the principal matter for consideration.
– How can this amount to unification ?
– I have tried to make that clear. Finance is the centre of all government, and the Parliament in possession of financial power can practically do what it likes.
– But only in agreement with the States.
– Has not the Commonwealth that power now?
– It has full and unrestrained power in that respect at the present time.
– The situation in which we are discussing this matter is an extraordinary and abnormal one, created by the removal of the per capita payments, and the existence of what I suggest, in all due deference, is an enforced agreement entered into with the States. All that has transpired in connexion with these acts has never yet been submitted to the people, nor had judgment passed upon it. It is quite possible that the people are dissatisfied with it. I suggest that a large number of them are, and that they will be quite prepared to say to any Government when they have the chance : “ We are not satisfied that you should have taken this power; it is more than we expected you to take.” Under the Constitution, we were required to return surplus revenue to the States. It is only playing with words to say that we have squandered the revenue, and that there is none to give back; or, on the other hand, for Parliament to abolish the per capita payments, which were all that remained, and then say that there is nothingleft. Under normal circumstances, a Government which said that to the people would probably get short shrift. Therer fore, it is not quite correct to say that at the present time, the States have a right to nothing because we have taken away the per capita payments. That remains to be seen.The people have yet to pronounce judgment upon our action, and we cannot anticipate their decision.
– When I spoke I was referring to the position under the Constitution, which gives this Parliament complete and unrestrained power in such matters.
Mr. MANN.Even the Constitution ; has to work subject to the will of the people. I see the honorable member’s point: It is said that the States have nothing at present because the per capita payments have been abolished. I suggest that it is quite competent for the people to say that Parliament must restore those payments. I believe that such an arrangement would be entirely acceptable, and would make for harmonious working between the States and the Commonwealth.
– Have we not that under the present agreement?
– That agreement is simply the outcome of a belief held by a great manypeople to the effect that the States are not entitled to share in surplus revenue. It is not competent for us to discuss tho present agreement at this stage, and I do not intend to do so. It will be thoroughly discussed during the coming election campaign, and my own view on the matter has been expressed in this House. It is really a submission to the people of a very important matter, the issue being unification as against federation. The details of the provisions under this bill are comparatively insignificant compared with that issue; but there are certain points in the bill which I should like to hear elucidated. It is very difficult for a man who is not a constitutional lawyer to discuss these things.
– And even authorities differ.
– I know; but it is our duty to bring our common sense to bear on such matters, and surely language should convey its full meaning. It is important that the position should be made clear, not only for our own information, but for that of the public as well. The first clause of the bill says - “The Commonwealth may make agreements with the States.” I know that we cannot question the intentions of the present Government. . The Prime Minister said emphatically that all the States must be unanimous regarding any agreement made, and he conveyed the impression that all must be parties to it. Therefore, I wish to ask the Attorney-General is not that clause capable of another interpretation? In other cases, apparently simple and definite phrases have been found capable of varying interpretations. An illustration is to be found in the very lucidad dress which the Attorney-General gave us on the subject of dried fruits. The logical deduction from his statement regarding the judgment of the High Court was that if the States wished to do so, they could impose border duties in spite of what appeared to be the very clear phraseology of the Constitution. Is it not possible that the first clause of this bill may be interpreted to mean that the Commonwealth Government can make agreements with individual States?
– Jointly and severally.
– Yes; may it not be said later that the Commonwealth Government can make agreements jointly and severally with the States. I know that it is not the present intention of the Government to do so, but if the wording is not such as to make the meaning perfectly clear, it seems to me that there is a grave danger involved in giving these powers to the Commonwealth. The Federal Aid Roads scheme provides an illustration of what might happen. Some States were practically forced to enter that agreement because other States had already done so. They found that they could not afford to stand out.
– They were forced into it after having passed resolutions against it.
– That is so.
– But all of them had agreed to resolutions in favour of it.
– In the end, yes.
– No; at the beginning.
– Some of the States passed resolutions against the agreement, but they found themselves placed in such an invidious position that, apart altogether from the merits of the case, they were compelled to come in. I suggest that a similar thing might happen here. I ask that the Attorney-General shall bring his legal acumen to bear in framing this clause so that there can be no doubt whatever as to what it means, and so that no agreement can be made unless the States unanimously andsimultaneously agree to it.
– It would be a very good idea to get the opinion of the interpreters of the Constitution on the provisions of this bill.
– My opinion is that important bills of this character should be referred to a select committee with a view to a full inquiry before they are dealt with by this House. The phrase “the taking over of such debts by the Commonwealth “ seems to me to be very indefinite. The method by which debts may be taken over is exemplified by that which applies to the taking over of existing debts under the present agreement. So far as new loans are concerned, the Commonwealth proposes to issue Commonwealth bonds; it does not propose to do so in respect of existing
State debts. They remain State bonds, and I suggest that, as long as they remain State bonds, the responsibility for them rests on the States, and not on the Commonwealth. I suggest, also, that the Commonwealth does not take over State debts, and that all it does is to guarantee interest and sinking fund on them, and that only to a certain extent. The States are required, and have agreed, to indemnify the Commonwealth in regard to existing debts. What, therefore, is meant by this to which the people are asked to agree - “ the taking over of such debts by the Commonwealth”?
– Where is the necessity for indemnifying the Commonwealth if the latter incurs no liability in regard to State debts?
– The Commonwealth incurs liability in regard to its guarantee of interest and sinking fund. The necessity for requiring an indemnity from the States is to be found in section 105 of the Constitution. That section provides for an indemnity by the States if the Commonwealth has not sufficient surplus revenue to meet its obligations in respect of interest and sinking fund on any State debts taken over. It is clear, however, that there is need for a considerable amount of explanation and clear definition before the people should be asked to commit themselves to something so vaguely stated in this bill. There is another point I should like the AttorneyGeneral to clear up. Sub-section 3 of proposed new section 105a provides -
The Parliament may make laws for the carrying out by the parties thereto of any such agreement.
The parties thereto are said to be the Commonwealth and the States. I cannot find in the Constitution Act any clear political definition of “ the Commonwealth “ and “ the States.” Of course, we know in general terms the meaning of the Commonwealth of Australia, and we know that under the Constitution a State means the State of Western Australia, the State of Victoria, or whatever State it may be. But when two entities enter into an agreement with each other I think it is very necessary that those entities should be clearly defined. In other words, the point I raise is whether the agreements referred to in this bill can be made by the respective cabinets, or governments as we know them, apart from the respective Parliaments. There is nothing in our legislation to say that the State within the meaning of the Constitution Act means actually the executive and the Parliament of the State. I suggest, therefore, that as this bill is framed it will be possible for the respective cabinets of the contracting parties, the Commonwealth and a State, to enter into an agreement. We must be careful, therefore, in regard to the powers proposed to be given by sub-sections 3 and 4 of the proposed new section. Sub-section 3 gives the Parliament power “ to make laws for the carrying out by the parties thereto of any such agreement.” That is to say, power is given to create the necessary machinery or give the necessary authority for issuing bonds or whatever may be required - it is not very clear what it may be - for the carrying out of any such agreement, present or future. Section 4 provides -
Any such agreement may be varied or rescinded by the parties thereto.
The parties thereto may be legally and, under this bill, are probably restricted to the respective cabinets of the Commonwealth and a State or States. Once this Parliament has passed a bill providing for the carrying out of an agreement, the respective cabinets may thus go merrily ahead, and make any agreements they choose without reference to this Parliament.
– Or they may rescind them.
– If my interpretation is correct, they may be “varied or rescinded “ without reference to this Parliament, and the power of Parliament may pass out of its hands altogether, so that in future the finances of the Commonwealth may be absolutely controlled by the cabinets of Australia. All depends on the exact meaning of “ the parties thereto.” If an agreement is entered into between the Commonwealth Cabinet and a State Cabinet, it will be brought to this Parliament, and we shall be told that it ought to be ratified, because it has been agreed to by the State Government, and the State Parliament will be told that it ought to ratify the agreement because it has been agreed to by the Commonwealth Government.
– Nevertheless, it has to be ratified by this Parliament.
– I am not so sure as to that. It raises a very important constitutional point.
– The honorable member does not assume that if an agreement were varied by the Cabinets concerned the variation would not need to be ratified by the Commonwealth Parliament and the State Parliaments concerned?
– The variation might need to be ratified in the respective Parliaments, but it should be made perfectly clear that such a ratification is necessary. Why has not provision been made for it in this bill? It is true that the insertion of such a provision might be of little value, because an agreement made by a Government which commands a majority in Parliament would assuredly be ratified, but an open discussion of the matter in Parliament would subject it to a more testing examination than it might otherwise receive and, consequently, the parties would be more careful than they would otherwise be as to the terms included in it.
– There would also be the advantage that the agreement would not come into operation until Parliament had approved of it.
– Quite so. . Otherwise an agreement might be entered into in the early part of a recess and be in operation for months before coming under review in Parliament. In that respect, Parliament would be handicapped. It would have to deal with a fait accompli instead of having an opportunity to discuss it without such a restriction. Possibly, the Attorney-General will throw cold water on my feeble attempts to analyse the phraseology of this bill, but I suggest to honorable members what I intend to suggest to the electors - that this measure is putting into the hands of the Commonwealth a very grave power which may be seriously used, and for which I see no need. I see no need for such agreements to be made. No case has arisen in our public life to show that it is undesirable to carry on administration without such agreements. I see no reason for departing from our present federal system, and I venture to think that when the public clearly understands that the issue at stake is whether our present federal system, with all its imperfections is to be maintained, with possibly some attempt to clear away some of the superstructure- that is being piled up upon it, or whether it should be abandoned and replaced by a unification system - it does not matter how we play with words; it amounts to unification - when that issue is laid before the public they will not only be unwilling to give away the powers they nominally possess at present, but will also strive to insist on their representatives in this Parliament carrying out the definite intention of the original Constitution.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has urged that the Government should not have dealt with this bill until it had received the report of the royal commission on the Constitution. I suggest, however, in spite of what the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has been saying, that the question ‘ of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States is essentially a matter to be handled by agreement between those concerned, and that it is much better to handle it by agreement, neither party probably getting all that it wants, as is the case in very many agreements, than to leave it to be dealt with by the legislation of a dominant or paramount legislature. It is very unlikely that the royal commission on the Constitution could provide some new and hitherto unthought-of method for dealing with this particular problem, which is essentially a financial matter, and a political question that can be dealt with from a practical point of view only if there is substantial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States.
– My case was not that the Government should have waited for the report of the royal commission on the Constitution, but that it should have gone to the country with “ a comprehensive amendment of the whole Constitution.
– That is a proposal which is not relevant to the bill before the , House. In any case, the honorable member is aware of the reasons which made it desirable to have an inquiry for the information of Parliament and the public before legislation relating to the Constitution was introduced in Parliament. He is also aware that the report of the royal commission has not yet been received, and that since this Parliament expires in January next it would be quite impracticable in the time available this year, having regard to the provisions of the Constitution fixing the period which must expire between the passage of a bill and the submission of it to the people, for this Parliament to deal with a general overhaul of the Constitution. It would require much more consideration than could be given in the time available. The honorable member, with nearly all other honorable members in this House, supported certain proposals which were embodied in the referendum of 1926. He will remember how difficult it was to secure a complete appreciation of those proposals although they were confined to a particular subject in the Constitution. Even if the life of this Parliament were prolonged to its utmost limit the introduction of comprehensive amendments of the Constitution before the general election would be quite impracticable.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the arrangement as to the debts should be rigid, but that any arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to the distribution of Commonwealth revenue should be flexible. I agree substantially with him, and that is exactly what the proposals of the Government provide. This bill does not deal in any way, not even indirectly, with the distribution of Commonwealth revenue; it is confined to the subjects of debts and borrowing. The passing of it, and even the validation of the financial agreement, would leave the position still substantially as the Leader of the Opposition desires, because the revenue of the Commonwealth could still be dealt with under section 96 of the Constitution, which would allow of further money being paid to the States; but if the agreement be accepted and ratified it will be impossible for the Commonwealth to reduce the payments provided for therein; the States will have absolute security for the receipt of that amount subject only to variation by unanimous consent. To that extent there is necessarily rigidity. Therefore, it will be seen that this scheme provides for rigidity as to the debts, but leaves the
Commonwealth full power to pay more money to the States, if this Parliament thinks proper so to do, than is contracted for in the agreement. In fact further payments are already being made to two States.
The Leader of the Opposition said that he was in favour of the restoration of the per capita payments. That declaration must have sounded strange to those honorable members who are familiar with the history of the Labour party in relation to the per capita payments. However, the passing of this bill will not create any obstacle to the restoration of the per capita payments by the present Opposition if it is ever in a position to negotiate with the States on that basis.
– This bill is not essential to the restoration of the per capita payments.
– No. The bill gives to the Commonwealth power, which at present does not exist, to make agreements, and to this Parliament power to legislate to give effect to them. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Perth say that the bill is a step in the direction of unification; actually it imposes upon both the Commonwealth and the States certain limitations from which they are free at the present time. The ruling of the Chair does not permit me to enter upon a detailed discussion of the existing financial agreement, but I remind the House that this Parliament still retains power to pay further money to the States. Section S7 of the Constitution having expired, there is no obligation on this Parliament to pay one penny to the States save and except in so far as it may choose by its own legislation to do so. At the present time, the Commonwealth has supreme financial power over the States so far as their dependence upon federal revenues is concerned. If this bill be accepted and the Constitution be altered accordingly, and agreements made and ratified between the parties, or the existing agreement be validated by the next Parliament, the parties will be obliged to operate within the limits of such agreement or agreements. Therefore, the tendency of this legislation is not in the direction of unification; but rather the opposite. The honorable member for Perth asked whether the power to make agreements with the States in regard to public debts would not allow the Commonwealth to make an agreement with a particular State. In my opinion it would not. The provision in the bill is proposed to be inserted in the Constitution after section 105, which provides that this Parliament may take over from “ the States “ “ their public debts “ or a proportion thereof. That section has always been interpreted to confine this Parliament to. the taking over of the debts of all the States. Reading the proposed provision which is to be 105a, with section 105, the natural meaning of the language is that the public debts of the States will constitute a single subjectmatter of agreement. This matter has been considered by the legal advisers of the Commonwealth and the States, and they have also consulted independent constitutional authorities; the view of all is that the authority to be conferred by this amendment will be to make an agreement only with all the States, and not an individual State.
– Could not a special clause be inserted to make that clear?
– This matter has been very fully discussed by the Commonwealth with all the States, and a consultation of all the parties in regard to a further provision would involve indefinite delay. In any case I regard the words in the bill as sufficiently clear. I understood the honorable member for Perth to say that a provision for the indemnification of the Commonwealth by the States was not necessary unless the Commonwealth actually became liable for the debts of the States.
– The Attorney-General said that the contribution by the Commonwealth was guaranteed, and I asked why in those circumstances was an indemnification of the Commonwealth by the States necessary.
– My statement that the contribution by the Commonwealth is guaranteed is based on sub-clause 5, which provides that every agreement, and any. variation thereof, shall be binding upon the Commonwealth and the States notwithstanding anything contained in the Commonwealth Constitution or the
Constitutions of the States or any law of the Parliaments of the Commonwealth or of any State. The meaning of that is -that no Parliament will be able by legislation to avoid its obligations under an agreement made in pursuance of this power. In that way, the position of the States will be guaranteed and secured in a way that is impossible under existing conditions. As to indemnification, an agreement regarding State debts may assume any one of various forms. The debts may continue to be the obligations of the States, the Commonwealth agreeing with the States to accept certain liabilities. Under such an arrangement the bond-holder would have recourse against the States only, and the States in turn would fall back on the Commonwealth. It would be quite impracticable for the Commonwealth to accept full liability for the annual interest charges on all State debts, new and old. Accordingly, some arrangement corresponding to that contemplated in section 105 must be introduced, providing that if the Commonwealth undertakes any liabilities it shall be entitled to indemnification upon such terms as may be agreed upon with the States. The provision in this bill is only a general power to make an agreement in respect of indemnification. In any particular agreement there may or may not be an indemnification clause, but there must be power for a valid provision in relation to indemnification to be introduced if required. The existing agreement includes a provision by which the Commonwealth assumes the liabilities of the States to the bondholders.
– For the new debts only.
– It is in relation to the past debts.
– I understood that the Commonwealth would not assume any liability in regard to the existing debts.
– The old bonds will continue until they are redeemed.
– That is so. The honorable member for Perth asked whether the power conferred on the Commonwealth and the States to make agreements would enable the Governments to make such agreements.
– In other words, who are the “parties”?
– The words “Commonwealth and the States” mean the political entities known as the Commonwealth and the States. An agreement is never made by a Parliament. Prom a political viewpoint, Parliament is never a party to an agreement. The party to any Commonwealth or State govermental agreement is the executive government acting in accordance with the laws which control it. In some countries special provisions are incorporated hi the law, in order to limit the power of the executive to enter into agreements. In Australia at present the position is governed by a ruling of the High Court in what is known as the Wool Tops Case, which is regarded as deciding that there must be statutory authority for any agreement entered into by the Commonwealth before it can bind the Commonwealth. The nature of that statutory authority varies in different cases. For instance, the PostmasterGeneral who is in charge of the administration of his department has power, under the Post and Telegraph Act, to enter into contracts for the Post and Telegraph Department. That is of course stating the position very briefly. There is, however, no vague or general power for the executive of the Commonwealth to enter into agreements. This Parliament cannot direct any State as to the formalities which must be observed before it shall be bound by an agreement. Iu some countries there are general contract acts which prescribe what must be done before the Government is bound, and iu others there is, subject to some degree of parliamentary control, a greater degree of. freedom. In the Commonwealth it is a matter with which Parliament must deal, and Parliament would be able to pass an act limiting the power of the executive to enter into contracts. Many of the act3 which this Parliament passes merely have the effect of authorizing a Minister to do certain things, including the binding of the Commonwealth by a contract. It is from such a source - the law of the Commonwealth - that a Minister derives authority to bind the Commonwealth. The words “the Commonwealth and the States “ mean the political entities known as such and represented by their executive governments.
.- During the election campaign upon which many honorable members have now entered, I have taken the opportunity to impress upon the electors the necessity of extending the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. It seems strange that we should have thirteen Houses of Parliament and seven Governments to effectively govern 6,000,000 people. I have endeavoured to place before the electors the object of the Federal Government in amending the Constitution in the direction now proposed. There are many who are always under the impression that a government which advocates an amendment of the Constitution is doing so in order to derive some political advantage. I have informed those whom I have addressed that in this instance the Government is endeavouring to obtain more extensive powers, which, if granted, will be used only in the interests of the people. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has clearly explained the position, and has stated that if the Commonwealth is given constitutional power to enter into financial agreements with the States such agreements must be ratified by the representatives of the people in Parliament. It is only right that there should be the closest co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in matters of finance, because in the absence of a sound financial policy the Commonwealth cannot prosper. After a lapse of years an amendment of the Constitution must be necessary, because its framers could not possibly provide for circumstances which at the time could not be foreseen. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) referred to the Government’s proposals in his usual pessimistic strain, but I do not think that in this instance it can be said that the Government is submitting this proposal with a sinister motive. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the Constitution Commission, which has never had my blessing, because constituted as it is I do not conceive of its being able to submit a recommendation which will be of any use to the Government or Parliament. The referendum may have a stormy passage, but it is unreasonable to assume that the Commonwealth can continue to function effectively as a national government under the existing Constitution, as laws which are passed from time to time have to be amended owing to varying circumstances. If the Commonwealth is to be granted more extensive powers the authority of the States must be restricted; but the States must give way if the central authority is to function effectively. The honorable member for Perth referred to the responsibility of the Commonwealth in connexion with existing State debts. If I understand the position aright the States are to be responsible for the existing debts, but on conversion the responsibility will be assumed by the Commonwealth. At every opportunity I shall urge my own electors, and any others whom I may address, that increased powers should be granted to the Commonwealth, especially in financial matters, in order that real progress may be made. Commonwealth and State revenues are falling, and the prospects of recovery are not bright. Something more concrete than the bald statements of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer concerning Australia’s power of financial recovery is required. As has been pointed out by the Leader of tile Opposition, this measure will take effect after the increased powers to be asked for have been granted. We are making a plain application to the people to accord increased powers to the Commonwealth. As an ardent federalist, I have always considered that the financial powers of this Parliament should be paramount, and when the people see fit to grant the request that is to be made to them, they will have paved the road for many necessary reforms that the national Parliament is destined to execute. For many years government in, the Commonwealth has been dull and destructive, and the people would greatly benefit from a change in political control. The granting of the increased powers sought would result in greater confidence in Australia than has been shown in the past. In every part of it, a striking lack of confidence on the part of the people in their own country is noticeable, and the most urgent need is that the national finances should be placed on a sounder basis than heretofore. There should be no doubt about the right of one authority to raise money for another authority to spend. I admit that in the present circumstances the Commonwealth
Government is restricted by the Constitution.. It is not easy to educate the people to the need of granting extended powers to the Commonwealth in financial matters. The elector readily understands a proposal for an increase or a decrease in wages or in income taxation; but it is hard to convince him as to how he should vote upon a constitutional issue. In 1910, the Labour party was fairly successful in bringing about an alteration in the Constitution, because the people have greater confidence in a Labour government than in a conservative administration. That trait is characteristic of the race to which Ave belong. Good government, and, above all, sound finance, is imperative if Australia is to progress. It is absurd to have seven Treasurers calling on the taxpayers, who are the same people in the federal sphere as in the realm of State finance. If we keep before the minds of the electors a few important phases of the constitutional issue - concrete arguments that really affect the bread and butter of the people - I believe that the proposed alteration will be accepted. I hope that this is the last time I shall have occasion to impress upon the House the fact that this measure is one of great national importance. I am a representative from the progressive State of New South Wales, which has always been in the van in matters of constitutional reform. Agreements between the Commonwealth and the States, with respect to the public debts of the States, and any other agreements that may be entered into, must receive the sanction of thi, Parliament, and, therefore, no good reason can be advanced for the rejection of the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Agreements with respect to State debts).
.- Under clause 2 it is proposed that the Constitution should be amended by inserting a new section, 105a, giving power to make agreements with respect to State debts. When we are asking the people by referendum to confer upon the Commonwealth increased power, we should cover the whole of the matters that are connected with State debts. Paragraph f of sub-section 1 of the proposed new section provides that a subject for agreement between the Commonwealth and the States shall be “the borrowing of money by the States or by the Commonwealth, or by the Commonwealth for the States.” The only object of this legislation is to obtain control of future borrowing, and to prevent the parties to the agreement from competing with one another on the loan market. Under the bill as drafted, it will still be possible for any State to grant statutory authority to a public body to borrow on its own account. Those bodies would not derive any benefits from the sinking fund provisions; but the whole idea underlying the proposed amendment of the Constitution would certainly be upset. I agree that some difficulty might be experienced in coming to an agreement with the State authorities as to how far public bodies should be restricted in their borrowing operations ; but that aspect of the matter ought not to deter us from asking for all the power that is required to make agreements in the direction desired. If it should be found that the authorities under the control of the States are borrowing more than the States themselves, the practical effect as well as the spirit of the agreement would be destroyed. Surely there should be the power to call the States together in such a contingency, and either to make a new agreement or amend the existing agreement! If this additional power is not taken, such action will not be possible. The honorable member for Dalley has suggested that a new paragraph be added giving power to make agreements with respect to the borrowing of money by public bodies under the authority of the States or of the Commonwealth. That question was lengthily discussed at the conference of the Commonwealth and State Ministers, but is was not embodied in the agreement. It was pointed out by a number, of State representatives that it was not of much use to control the Governments of the States if the public bodies which operated under the authority of those Governments could not be controlled. If this power is not obtained now, it may have to be sought at a later date. It could be used only in agreement with the States, not against their wishes.
There are public bodies operating under the Commonwealth Government, such as the Federal Capital Commission, the North Australia Commission, and the Central Australia Commission, which can obtain statutory authority to borrow for their own needs. I do not suggest that they would take action in that direction in defiance of the wishes of this Government or Parliament ; but nevertheless they have the power to do so. Any party to this agreement who wished to break away from it would be in a position to do so. The only virtue in any amendment of the existing power lies in the fact that it will enable control to be exercised over future borrowing, and thus prevent the competition that heretofore has existed amongst the different authorities on the loan market. The existing agreement has not provided a cure for that weakness. I propose to move -
That in sub-section 1 of proposed new section 105a, after paragraph (f), the following paragraph be added: -
– The point that has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) received grave consideration at the conference which was held between representatives of the Commonwealth and the States. Originally, the idea was that an endeavour should be made to coordinate borrowing and mobilize credit for the benefit of the Commonwealth and State authorities, as well as of the taxpayers generally. When that idea began to be generally accepted, the conference went a little further, and considered whether it would not be possible to include within the scope of the agreement the public authorities which operate under the control of the States, and thus cut down to a greater extent than the original agreement contemplated, the competition for loan money. There was in the conference a considerable measure of sympathy for that idea, it being felt that, the progressive step of mobilizing the credit of Australia and controlling public borrowing by the Commonwealth and the States having been taken, greater benefits would accrue, and public credit would be still more strengthened if this further advance could be made. The matter was very fully discussed, but the general consensus of opinion was that a great deal would not be achieved by embodying in the agreement a provision relating to the public authorities over which the States have control and which must obtain the assent of their respective Treasurers before they can go upon the loan markets, because there would still be a large number of public authorities outside the scheme. It was felt that we might defeat our object if we attempted to achieve too much at the present stage. It was considered that the inclusion of these other authorities would come by a process of evolution. I am inclined to agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it would be a good thing to take this additional power in anticipation of that event; but I remind him that the whole matter has involved a lot of negotiation, and the conclusion was arrived at by the conference that the time was not opportune to include the public authorities which are beyond the control of the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States. It was necessary for the Commonwealth to give effect in the agreement to the arrangement accepted by the conference, so that the States would lend their support to the proposal to alter the Constitution when the question was submitted to the people. Consequently, the agreement embodies precisely the form in which the questions are to be submitted to the people, and unless we have the concurrence of the States we cannot alter it without breaking our agreement with them. I also suggest that the position to which we have already advanced might be imperilled were we to attempt to include in the powers proposed to be sought one that the conference in its wisdom decided the time was not ripe to include. That additional step, I believe, will be taken in the future. The Government cannot accept the amendment.
– I regret that the representatives of the Commonwealth at the interstate conference of Ministers so bound themselves that we cannot consider the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. It is a point that so obviously ought to be covered in a proposal to amend the Constitution on the subject of the public debt and future borrowing, that there is no excuse for its being ignored by the representatives of the States. No disadvantage would be placed upon the States if this power were embodied in the Constitution. It could be exercised by. the Commonwealth only in agreement with the States. It may not be too late, even now, to seek their consent to its inclusion. What objection could either an individual State, or the States collectively, offer to this proposal ? Unless this power is taken by the Commonwealth, the intention to control future borrowing will be rendered to a large extent nugatory. In the future, the aggregated borrowings of local bodies may amount to a sum quite as large as those of the combined States. Some local bodies now borrow on a very large scale. Loan negotiations on behalf of certain municipal authorities are proceeding at the present time in overseas markets for sums equal to those usually raised by State governments. Certain local bodies that operate under statutory authority from the Commonwealth itself have the right to borrow, either locally or abroad. In some cases, it is true, the consent of the Treasurer must first be obtained; but in others that is not necessary.
– Consent would be given by a State that wished to break away from the arrangement.
– A new administration in. any of the States might consider that the agreement entered into with the Commonwealth placed too great a restriction upon its borrowing and might wish to have greater latitude. It could make its financial position much easier, even though it embarrassed the other parties to the agreement, by allowing local bodies to borrow and thus relieve itself of heavy financial obligations.
– Railways commissioners.
– I am not quite sure that any of the State railways commissioners have independent authority to borrow; but municipal authorities, State bank authorities, boards of works, water and sewerage authorities, and harbour boards have, in one State or another, authority to borrow without the consent of the State Treasurer. It might occur, therefore, that, notwithstanding an agreement between the Treasurers of the various States, these independent authorities might raise money, and so a State might give effect to the letter, hut not to the spirit, of the agreement. In these circumstances it is to be regretted that the amendment suggested by the Leader of the Opposition cannot be considered. I have endeavoured to obtain advice from the Parliamentary Draftsman or his representative as to the wording of the proposed amendment, but I regret that no assistance of that kind was available. So far as I could learn, there was not a representative of the Solicitor-General or the Parliamentary Draftsman in the building. The secretary to the AttorneyGeneral promised to submit the proposed wording to the Attorney-General for his consideration, but that is all the assistance that I could get. That is not a satisfactory state of affairs. When Parliament is considering a bill in committee there should always be a qualified officer available to give drafting assistance to honorable members who desire to move amendments. It appears to me that there is less assistance of this kind to be had in this Parliament than in even the smallest of the State Parliaments. Every State Parliament in Australia, I believe, makes legal assistance available to honorable members who desire to move amendments to bills.
– We had to do our own drafting in New South Wales.
– The honorable member could be trusted to draft his own amendments, but surely legal assistance is available to laymen in the New South Wales Parliament?
– That is not so.
– The honorable member astonishes me. Most of the State Parliaments provide such assistance.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).I cannot allow a debate on that point.
– Surely an honorable member is entitled to some assistance in the drafting of amendments which he desires to move. I was not able to obtain such assistance and I submit thatI have the right to refer to the matter.
– I cannot allow discussion on that point. This is not the time when the question should be raised.
– It is the only opportunity that I have had to raise it.
– No objection would be offered to the honorable member mentioning the matter in passing; but I cannot allow a debate on it.
– I am only raising it in passing. I submit that the Government should provide legal assistance for honorable members who desire to move amendments. One does not care to risk submitting amendments in faulty language, especially to a bill involving a possible amendment to the ConstitutionGreater facilities should be provided to. meet this situation.
– I regret that the facilities which the honorable member desired were not available at the moment-, but it is the usual practice for the Parliamentary Draftsman or his representative to give honorable members every assistance in drafting their amendments. I shall bring the matter before the notice of the Attorney-General. When I discussed the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, I confined my remarks to the one phase of it to which I thought attention was being directed. In the case of public bodies under the authority of either the Commonwealth or State Governments which have power to raise loans, I think it is quite apparent that there would be no difficulty. The case of any other independent public authorities could be covered in any agreement that might be made.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce), by leave, proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– As any proposed law for the amendment of the Constitution must be passed by an absolute majority of members in each House, I must satisfy myself that there is an absolute majority of honorable members in this chamber in favour of the bill. I, therefore, order the bells to be rung to summon the attendance of honorablemembers within the precincts of the chamber in order to ascertain whether an absolute majority is favorable to the measure.
The bells having been rung -
Question put. - The House divided.
Majority . . . . 40
-The result of the division being Ayes 43 andNoes 3, I certify that the necessary statutory majority in favour of the motion is here present, and accordingly declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.5 to 8 p.m.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 31st August, vide page 6289).
Proposed vote, £383,785.
.- I was prompted to secure the adjournment last Friday afternoon by some of the “ disinterested “ criticism that was aimed at the proposed grant for the construction of the Goulburn-Canberra road. I observed that the opposition to the proposal was generally associated with a suggestion that a larger amount might better be spent in a section of the electorate of the honorable member who happened to be voicing the criticism. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) suggested that the Government might justifiably spend more money on the Hume weir. The honorable member went so far as to suggest that the proposal to construct a road from Goulburn to Canberra was a sly attempt by the Government to divert money from the Hume ‘ weir and spend it on a road of no consequence, in order to do him injury in his electorate. A suggestion of that nature is unfortunate in two respects. Primarily it is not just, and secondly it is not borne out by facts. The honorable member should be better acquainted with what is going on in his electorate. During the past three years there has been an increasing, instead of a diminishing, expenditure on the Hume reservoir, as will be apparent from the following figures: -
Total expenditure for -
The Commonwealth contribution increased correspondingly, as follows : -
while this year £1,000,000 is being spent on the whole of the river Murray works. That indicates that there is no justification for the complaint of the honorable member. It is difficult to listen to a complaint that a portion of the honorable member’s electorate is being neglected merely because £75,000 is being expended by the Commonwealth on an important road such as that from Goulburn to Canberra. Honorable members who represent New South Wales constituencies are always averse to putting forward the claims of their State, their innate modesty being one of their virtues. But, when they hear an objection such as that which emanated from the honorable member for Hume they find it necessary to make the position clear. One would imagine that the total expenditure of £200,000 on the proposed road is to come mainly out of the pockets of taxpayers other than those resident in New South Wales.
– Portion of it will.
– A comparatively small portion when it is contrasted with that to be provided by the taxpayers of New South Wales, who, out of the total esti- mated expenditure of £200,000, will find directly the amount of £66,000. Of the balance of £134,000 the taxpayers of New South Wales, who contribute twofifths of the taxation of the Commonwealth will provide £53,600, making their total contribution towards the cost of the road £119,600. Those figures disclose that the other States will contribute, roughly, about £80,000 out of the £200,000 necessary. When considering whether the other States of Australia are being called upon to contribute too great an amount to carry out this work, it is necessary to keep in mind the liberal federal grants that have been made to this and to that State during the life of this Parliament. Assuredly, those grants dwarf into insignificance this proposed contribution by the Commonwealth towards the Goulburn-Canberra road.
– Where would Australia be if every item were dissected like that?
– Undoubtedly it would be apparent that the remaining States would be dependent upon New South Wales and Victoria. Let us consider whether the road is worth while. In passing, I suggest that it is an act of generosity on the part of New South Wales to contribute so liberally towards the building of this road. Some honorable members overlook that if New South Wales had not made its offer it would not have been practicable for the Commonwealth Government to have this road made without bearing the total cost.
– This new road would not have been needed had New South Wales not demanded a Federal Capital.
– The Seat of Government , is established at Canberra, and it is incumbent upon this Government to make it accessible.
– The provision of pos,t offices and railways throughout the country has a prior claim.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley.Order! The honorable member for Adelaide is out of order.
– So is our Red Hill railway, which we appear to be unlikely to .get.
– Order! The honorable member must cease interjecting.
– I regret that my broad outlook has brought interjections from honorable members who cherish a parochial outlook. Over and over again such honorable members have complained that New South Wales is the fatted sow that is being greased. I have shown that that State is contributing a large part of this expenditure. I also point out the usefulness of the proposed road. It has been claimed that it is being constructed only for the use of wealthy tourists, to enable them to roll over it in their RollsRoyces - and, perhaps, Fords. Let us hope that that prediction will be realized, for it is imperative that we should encourage a greater population to Canberra. Despite the commendation of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) as to the present condition of the GoulburnCanberra road, it has been my lot recently to traverse the route more than once, and I trust that I shall not have to do it again until the road receives attention. I hope that this Parliament will have some consideration for the health and lives of those who have to pass over the route. It is not a road at all, but merely a series of gullies and potholes, and the sooner it is repaired and made safe the better. If the Federal Government were to go back on the proposal merely because of the clamour of parochiallyminded individuals, it would be lacking in backbone, and failing in its duty to that important State which is contributing so much to the maintenance of the Commonwealth. The Federal Capital must be made attractive, and people can be encouraged here only if we provide good roads. The present roads are practically untrafficable.
During the” course of this debate honorable members have frequently stated that our country roads are being neglected, and that the Government is overlooking the need for better transport facilities. In his last budget speech the Treasurer pointed out that out of £8,795,984 set aside for main roads, practically £7,000,000 was spent on country roads in all parts of Australia - all for the purpose of developing this country. That shows that there is no justification for saying that the Commonwealth Government is acting unfairly to the country settlers when it co-operate3 with New South Wales to build the Goulburn-Canberra road. I place another aspect before those who claim to represent the workers of Australia. Not very long ago this Government brought forth a proposal to hold an Empire exhibition in Sydney, at a cost of £500,000. I opposed the proposal, not because it would not provide a certain measure of employment, but because it appeared to me merely to promise a cheap tinsel-like advertisement for Australia, and that the money could be applied to better purpose elsewhere. We are all aware that widespread unemployment now prevails in “Australia, and every one who has read the last report of the Development and Migration Commission must concede that it is one of the duties of the Government to dovetail its expenditure with private expenditure in times of trade depression, when private expenditure must necessarily shrink, in order to maintain, as much as possible, an even quota of employment.
– That applies only when the expenditure is justified.
– There could be no move appropriate time for the expenditure of public money on justifiable undertakings than the present. The Government of New South Wales recognizes that and, seeking to find profitable and necessary work to absorb a number of unemployed it generously proposed to the Federal Government to contribute towards and carry out the construction of the GoulburnCanberra road. The work will be useful and profitable, and will employ a considerable number of men, sp that it is in every way justified. That could not be claimed of the suggested expenditure of £500,000 on an Empire exhibition in Sydney.
– That was one of tho Government’s ‘silly stunts.
– I do not so describe it. There is no truth in the statement that country roads have been neglected. It would have been very foolish for the Government to turn down this offer by New South Wales. Let those who wish to put men out of employment vote against this proposal.
I was never more astonished in my life than to hear some of the speeches that have been made on the subject of the war memorial. Three grounds were urged why the memorial should not be proceeded with. One was that there was already a memorial in every town and ‘ hamlet, throughout the Commonwealth, as well as in the great cities, and that we could wait some time before erecting one here. Another argument was that no good purpose was served by building a memorial simply to keep fresh the memory of the war. The third objection was that we could put the money to a better use. Nothing could be further from the truth than to say that the war memorial is for the purpose of keeping green the memory of war. Such a statement is as wicked as it is to say that the crucifix is to commemorate the terrible murder of our Saviour. The crucifix is to bring to mind the sacrifice made by the Saviour in order that we might have eternal life. In the same way a war memorial is erected to keep fresh in our minds the sacrifice and service of those who fought that we might live here in the enjoyment of our free institutions. The memorial is not to commemorate the war; it is not to keep fresh in the minds of the young the idea that war is glorious. It is an expression in stone of the gratitude in our hearts and our appreciation of what our soldiers did for us. Those who try to escape their obligations to contribute to the cost of the memorial on those grounds, are basing their objections on something that will not bear investigation. Others, on the plea of economy, say that we should not spend this money at the present time; yet they do not mind the war relics being housed in private buildings for which the Government pays a rental of £5,000 a year. Those persons who believe that the private landlord should be exterminated, yet seem prepared to oppose this proposal for a museum in Canberra, and to go on paying £5,000 a year for space in which to house the collection. It is proposed to spend only a small sum now, but a beginning has to be made. It should have been begun long ago; the sooner it is under way’ the sooner will we be able to save what we are paying in rent to the private landlord, and the war relics will be housed so that they may be seen and appreciated by those who make a pilgrimage to this Capital. This, even on economic grounds, the building of this memorial is justified. Other honorable members spoke of there already being war memorials in every part of Australia. Is it not a crying shame that in every tiny hamlet there should stand a monument in appreciation of the sacrifice of those who died at the war, and of others who fought and returned, while there is no memorial whatever in the national Capital ? What must visitors to this place think when they see that not one memorial of any kind has been erected here to mark our appreciation of those who rendered us such service overseas? It is true that war memorials stud the countryside, and I thank God that they do. Each is a symbol of remembrance, and serves to keep green the memory of our soldiers. Both from a spiritual and national point of view, the need for a war memorial here cannot be denied. There is still much unemployment in the country, and if we refuse to sanction the beginning of this work we shall refuse to take advantage of an opportunity to find employment for those who need it greatly. Therefore, whether we look at the matter from the point of view of sentiment, of economy, or of the need for providing work for those who require it, our duty is to support this proposal if reason and not petty, parochial prejudices are to govern our decisions. I feel much concern over this matter, and on that account, perhaps, have spoken heatedly, but it seems to me that in a national parliament we should not listen to an argument that a main arterial road to the Seat of Government should be neglected simply because the money might with advantage be spent somewhere else. Furthermore, I am firmly of- the opinion that the building of the war memorial at Canberra cannot be longer delayed.
– This item has been very fully discussed from all angles, and there is not much more that can be said about it, but in view of the fact that it is being treated as a non-party matter, it is necessary that some of us who must record our votes upon it should express the opinions that we hold on what has virtually become a national issue. Although the item provides merely for the expenditure of £200,000 on a 60 miles stretch of road, it becomes much more than a local matter when we consider the effect that its rejection would have upon the future of Canberra. We must look at it, not from the local, but from the wide national point of view. There is no doubt that if the committee rejects the proposal for the construction of this road, it will amount to a declaration to the people of Australia that Parliament has lost faith in the future of Canberra. It will be the culmination of a campaign of petty parochialism that has been waged ever since Parliament came to this Capital. This business of crying over spilt milk has been going on too long. The people of Australia want to know what is going to be the future of Canberra. If we reject this proposal for parochial reasons the people will be justified in saying that the Parliament of the Commonwealth has lost heart, that the undertaking to establish a capital city in this place is too much for us, and that we are now .about to retrace our steps. There is no doubt whatever that good roads are necessary for the future development of “this city. At the present time Canberra is practically isolated. There are no good roads leading to it, and for that reason the city is being shunned by tourists, the very people who should be attracted to it. If we reject this item we shall be proclaiming to the people of Australia our intention to allow the city to remain in isolation. It is obvious that we cannot stop where we are. We have put our hands to the plow, and we must go on. It does not matter that the city has cost £10,000,000; that is a mere detail. The outstanding fact is that the Parliament of Australia is now established here, and it can never be shifted. If some honorable members who still reek with the atmosphere of Melbourne would make an effort to acquire the new mental outlook which this city is capable of creating, and would cease to be childish about the matter, we might be able to solve the problems with which we are here confronted. We have the spectacle of honorable members from other States, many of whom voted to transfer Parliament to this Capital, now crying about the expenditure, and taking every opportunity to sprag the wheels of progress, and to give Canberra a bad advertisement. It stands to reason that the people as a whole will lose hope in the future of this place and accept the view of the Capital which those honorable members place before them. In moving about the country districts of Australia to-day I find that a great deal of damage has already been done by the constant, carping criticism that emanates from some honorable members of this Parlia-ment. Eighteen months ago, when the Duke of York opened this Parliament, there was a great ebullition of national pride in the possibilities of the city. That pride has been replaced to-day by a cynical humour. The city is looked upon as a national failure - as a huge joke. That attitude of mind is reacting upon Parliament itself, and people to-day are beginning to take a lesser view of the Commonwealth Parliament than before. This Parliament is temporarily losing its prestige on account of the mud that is being continually thrown at Canberra by some honorable members. We have here a very practical proposition, designed to give Canberra its first good means of access, and if we adopt the proposal we shall do something to restore confidence in the future of the place. We shall begin to attract people to Canberra. We want the people of Australia to come and see this city that has cost so much money, and is likely to cost a great deal more. There is not the slightest doubt that a good deal of the money already spent here has been wasted, but that cannot be helped. What we have to do now is to try to repair the damage that has been done.. I should cheerfully vote to spend another £10,000,000 on Canberra, if I thought that it would bring the city ten years nearer the great future I think it will have. Some day those who sit in this Parliament will blush to think that such petty parochial sentiments as we are hearing in this chamber to-day were ever uttered, and that the business of the country was held up in order that we might fight and wrangle over the expenditure of £133,000 on a paltry 60 miles of road, which meant the very ‘future of the national city. Our successors in this Parliament will think that we were just about on the level of a shire council. If Canberra is to go forward it must have means of access. It must be made easy for the people in the most populous parts of the Commonwealth to get here. A great deal has been said about building a road to Melbourne. I should cheerfully vote for any provision for a road from Canberra to Melbourne; but for every motor vehicle that comes to Canberra from Melbourne, twenty come here from Sydney. In the circumstances, I think that the road that is about to be built is the first that should demand our attention. After all, the proposed expenditure is very small. The State of New South Wales, which has already been very generous to this Parliament, will contribute one-third of the cost of building this road, although there is no occasion for it to make any contribution at all. That fact alone should induce us to seize the opportunity to avail ourselves of the generous, offer made to us by the people of New South Wales provided we are prepared to do a little ourselves. It is rather strange that some honorable members representing Victorian and South Australian constituencies, who voted to put this Parliament here, should now have cooled off on the job, and would, apparently, remove the Seat of Government back to Melbourne. If a majority of honorable members would be insane enough to take such a step, it would be one of the most disastrous happenings in the history of Australia. This gigantic national undertaking, the building of a national capital, will certainly prove a failure if we do not try to make a success of it. If we are continually knocking back this experiment of establishing a national capital, it will be practically impossible, not only for the Commission to make a success of its job; but also for the next two or three Parliaments to create the public sentiment which alone will justify further expenditure upon the Capital. I have nothing further to say about the road between Goulburn and Canberra beyond urging on all honorable members the need for agreeing to the provision on the Estimates. If the item is not passed, it will be the worst possible blow this Capital has sustained since it was started fifteen years ago. It will mean the parting of the ways, and many years must pass before again the psychological point is reached at which the people will say, “ We shall have our Capital no matter what it costs, and no matter what difficulties are in the way.”
I regard the proposal to build a war memorial as part of the scheme for making Canberra a bigger and better city. We must have not only decent roads to Canberra, no matter what they cost, but also national institutions in the city. In that regard I am sorry that the Government is not able to finance the various big projects it has had in mind for the last two or three years, particularly the great departmental offices for which the foundations have been provided. I think it is a mistake not to go on with these works once they are started, and if it is possible for the Government when it is again returned to power to go ahead with the Government offices, I think it should do so without further delay. We should not leave the task to some future Parliament. It is our job to do it to-day, and we should do it. There should be no difference of opinion about the building of a war memorial in Canberra, not only as a matter of sentiment, but also for the sake of getting the right atmosphere for a capital city. -No institution is more calculated to create the right national atmosphere than a great national war memorial. We have also to consider the utilitarian aspect. There must be an enormous number of valuable war relics and trophies scattered throughout the Commonwealth. These should be gathered together and housed in one great building in the national city.
– Tell us what they are.
– It is impossible for me off hand to indicate what they are, but there is not the slightest doubt that we have scattered throughout Australia a tremendous number of valuable relics, great and small, the collection of which will be of incalculable value to future generations, but which are now in danger of being lost. The longer we leave them scattered about the continent with no proper national authority to look after them, the greater will be our difficulty eventually in collecting them and housing them in their own national home. I strongly urge honorable members to pass this provision for a national war memorial. I should like to see the work proceeded with as quickly as possible.
I hope it will not be long before the Government makes a start with the Canberra University. A university is one of the finest institutions we could have in the Capital, and I think that eventually the Canberra University will become the greatest of its kind in Australia.
I hope, also, that it will not be too long before the Government makes a start with the national observatory. We have, I understand, the nucleus of an observatory here, but the great establishment which we were promised was to be the home of all meteorological and astronomical science in Australia has yet to come. I think that work should be undertaken in the very near future.
As I said at the outset of my remarks, I am one of those who consider that, whatever the defects of Canberra may be, and there are not many, we have to recognize that the city has been established, and that we cannot remove the Seat of the Government without dealing a death-blow to federation. That we are here and that here we must stay for all time is a fact that all of us should get firmly implanted in our minds. It is useless to be childish or cantankerous about the place. The best way to cultivate a national spirit is to say, “ We are here now, and we are going to make Canberra the greatest capital city in the world, and one of which future generations of Australians will be proud.”
.- I think it desirable that I should say a word or two upon the proposal to provide £75,000 towards the cost of constructing a road between Canberra and Goulburn, and also on the provision of £60,000 for a war memorial. I have listened to the debate upon the road proposal with a certain degree of amazement at the attitude taken up by some honorable members. In Australia we are spending through the different authorities who are concerned with road construction something in the region of £14,000,000 a year, and there surely must be some very great principle involved when the National Parliament considers it necessary to discuss at length the expenditure during the present year of £50,000 outside the Federal Territory, and £25,000 inside the Territory upon a’ road which is essential to the general system of transport leading towards the Federal Capital. I have sought for the fundamental reason which could justify an intense opposition to this proposal; but have not found it. “When we examine the position in regard to transport to the Federal Territory it is obvious that it is a necessary and valuable work which is now proposed to be undertaken. Surrounding the Territory is a road system which, if carried to completion, will provide us with first-class means of communication northwards towards Sydney, the capital of New South’ “Wales; and southward towards Melbourne, the capital of the second greatest State in the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, there are in contemplation two roads, and possibly three, leading towards the Federal Capital Territory. Honorable members should study the map and see for themselves the proposals for roads leading from Canberra to the other great capitals of the continent. The road we are concerned with to-night will give us proper means of communication with Sydney. Communication is already secured by a first-class road from Sydney to Goulburn ; but from the latter town to Canberra, the existing roads are not worthy of being classed as a proper means of communication between the national Capital and the capital city of the greatest State of the Commonwealth, and, as a matter of fact, the greatest city in Australia. The present road between Goulburn and Canberra runs via Tarago, Bungendore, and Queanbeyan. There ia an alternative route which follows the Great Southern-road for 6 miles, and then branches off and goes through Collector, and thence into Canberra. One of these two routes is to be the main artery of communication by road between Canberra and Sydney. The existing road via Tarago, Bungendore, and Queanbeyan is utterly unsuited for the purposes of a great main highway. It cannot become a great main highway. Its gradients and curves are impossible. At some time we must have another and a proper road, and the longer we delay its construction the more of the people’s money we shall have to spend upon maintenance so that the existing road can carry any traffic at all. For the present year the State of New South Wales and two of the local councils concerned are spending about £6,000 to keep it in a condition that will enable the necessary traffic to run over it. That expense is unsound and uneconomic. The alternative is to build the proposed new road. The first six miles along the southern highway is actually finished. From Yarra to Collector, a distance of 16 miles, the road is surfaced with gravel, and that surface with reasonable maintenance will suffice for present requirements. It is proposed to carry that road from the dead end at Collector to the Federal Territory, a distance of 27^ miles. The New South Wales Government intends to put in hand at once the first 5$ miles of that section, and from year to year complete further stretches until the whole road is made. But a road that may not be completed for ten or twenty years will not meet the requirements of the Federal Capital, and I suggest to the committee that it is a sound and economic proposal to build the new road at once, so that there will be continuous first class communication by road between the capital of New South Wales and the national Capital. If Canberra is to realize our conception of it as the future centre of Australian national life and sentiment, it is essential that as many people as possible shall have an opportunity to visit it. To-day I met in Canberra twenty of the delegates to the Eucharistic Congress in Sydney. They included representatives from Canada, United States of America and several other countries, and they remarked to me that the bad state of the road was a tragedy, and that roads communication seemed to be the great problem which our people have to face. Apparently the impression left on their mind was that we are doing practically nothing in this regard, whereas one of the best features of Australian development at the present time is the gradual building up of a great road transport system. If, however, visitors from other parts of the world are required to travel over roads such as that between Goulburn and Canberra they will take away a most unfortunate and misleading impression of this great country and its people.
Some honorable members have asked why the Commonwealth should contribute towards the cost of that portion of the road which is in New South “Wales. It is only fair to record that the Government of New South Wales has shown a far better appreciation of the importance of the national Capital than the Federal Parliament appears to be showing at the present ‘ moment. The majority of the federal aid roads, towards which the State contributes 15s. for every pound provided by the Commonwealth, are in the area surrounding the Federal Capital Territory ; indeed, we are under a considerable debt of gratitude to the successive governments of New South Wales for their realization of the necessity for pressing on with the improvement of the roads leading to this Territory, and gradually building up a system that will give easy and comfortable access to the national Capital from the other great Australian centres of population. ‘
– How much has the State Government spent on those roads?
– I am not able to state the exact amount, but a map which I have before me shows that the great southern road, the coastal road known as the Prince’s Highway, the road connecting the coast with the southern road, the road to Bateman’s ‘ Bay, the road between Canberra and Yass and that running south to Cooma have been declared federal aid roads, and the State Government is progressively bringing them into first class condition.
– What kind of road is the Government contemplating?
– A macadamized road with bitumen surface from Goulburn to Canberra. The State Government is also prepared to declare the road now under consideration a federal aid road, but obviously the State cannot finance the completion of it at once, in addition to the other road works requiring attention. It is not building in any part of the State long continuous lengths of high class roads, but is gradually pushing ahead with sections of the declared federal aid roads. If the road from Goulburn is treated in the ordinary way as a federal aid road its completion will occupy several years, and for every 35s. of expenditure upon it the Commonwealth will provide 20s. and the State 15s. Therefore, if the road is merely to be built at some indefinite date in the future, the Commonwealth will contribute £114,000 of the total of £200,000. If, however, the road is to be proceeded with at once, the State will provide £1 for every £2 granted by the Commonwealth, and will complete the work in two years. In other words, under this proposal for the immediate construction of the road, the Commonwealth will contribute £133,000, as against £114,000 for a road to be completed at some indefinite date. Surely for the sake of the development of the Federal Capital it is worth while to pay the extra money in order to have a complete new road in two years.
– Will not the additional cost to the taxpayers of Australia be £133,000, inasmuch as this will be a special grant to New South Wales?
– The position, from the point of the Commonwealth taxpayer, is that this year a total amount of £50,000 will have to be contributed to New South Wales in respect of this road. It is not correct to suggest that the committee is asked, to vote an amount of £133,000, which the Commonwealth will not have to pay if this proposal is rejected. In due season this will be declared a federal aid road, and in instalments from year to year the Commonwealth will pay £114,000 towards its cost. The right and economical course is to pay the extra money in order to get the improved communication as soon as possible. The Commonwealth, so far from making a great concession to New South Wales, owes to that State an acknowledgment of its readiness to find one-third of the total cost of immediate construction. New South Wales is certainly as hard pressed financially as is the Commonwealth, but has declared that if we want the road built quickly it is prepared to do its share. If, however, we show that we have no interest in the early construction of the road, the State will not be likely to renew it’s offer to-us, but will allow the proposal to take its turn with other roads throughout the State. Another argument advanced by some honorable members is that because of the need for economy this expenditure should not be incurred at all. I entirely concur with honorable members as to the desirability of cutting nonessential expenditure as far as possible, but I do not admit that it should be the policy of the Government, immediately the country feels the pinch of depression and unemployment becomes rife, to follow the lead of private enterprise in cutting all expenditure to the bone and thus accentuating the distress of the community. It is far better that useful expenditure should be proceeded with in order to counteract to some extent the effects created by the depression and the curtailment of private expenditure and employment. The question we have to decide, then, is whether this proposed expenditure is wise and useful. I say that it is, and that we shall be merely anticipating a liability of the near future. Those who say that we should not expend money to provide a vital means of communication between the national Capital and the capital of the greatest State, take a very narrow view of their duties as Australian legislators.
The other item of expenditure to which particular opposition has been offered is that proposed for the national war memorial. My views on this subject are so emphatic that I propose to say very little. Individual members on both sides of the chamber must decide this matter for themselves, but I remind them that a decade has passed since the war terminated, and in the meantime memorials have been raised from one end of the country to the other to commemorate the heroism of Australia’s sons and the sacrifices made by those who so willingly sent them forth to fight for their country. But those monuments are only local ; we are dealing now with a proposal for a national memorial to be erected in the Federal Capital at the expense of the whole of the Australian people. The only comment that occurs to my mind regarding this project is that its commencement has been too long delayed, and that, whatever we may have to deny ourselves in order to raise the £250,000 set down in these Estimates, it is the duty of the Parliament and people of Australia to start at ‘once in the national Capital the erection pf a lasting tribute to the sufferings and sacrifices of the men who fought, and, indeed, of the whole Australian nation during the tragic years of the great war. For my own part,
I shall vote for the item on the Estimates.
The two matters that have been discussed are quite outside the realm of party politics. One concerns the building up of a national Capital city, and the provision of the necessary communication with it; the other relates to the erection of a war memorial, and touches the spirit and sentiment of our people. These are the two points at issue, and as Leader of the Government I say that it is open toevery honorable member to decide for himself how he shall vote. There is no question of party involved. The Government will accept the decision of the committee upon both the items.
– Mr. Bayley-
For the convenience of the committee I propose to re-state the question. The first vote will be taken on Division 1 (Department of the Prime Minister), £300.
– I rise to order. During your absence last week, sir, an arrangement was made, with the concurrence of the right honorable the Prime Minister, that the general debate on these Estimates should take place on Parts 1, 2, and 3. Are you now proposing to close the general debate, or may we proceed with it, and revert if we please to the two items of the Goulburn-Canberra road and the war memorial, on which the debate has centred ?
– The arrangement arrived at during your absence last week, Mr. Chairman, was that the general debate on the Additions; New Works and Buildings Estimates should be taken on Parts 1, 2, and 3, an abstract of which is to be found on page 365. Of course, that discussion was to be limited to the items that appear in these Estimates; it was not intended that there should be a general debate such as is permitted on the first items of the general Estimates.
– My object in restating the question was to facilitate the business of the committee. There are two items upon which it is evident to the Chair that honorable members desire to record separate votes. The question as originally stated was “ That Parts 1, 2, and 3 be agreed to.” If the question were put in that way it would be impracticable for honorable members to record their votes on individual items, as they may desire. For the convenience of the committee I am re-stating the question, which now is, “ That Division 2, Part 1, be agreed to.”
– Do I understand sir, that the ruling you have now given will prevent honorable members from dealing in one speech, as others have done, with the two items relating to the war memorial and the Goulburn-Canberra road ?
– The Chair will take each item in its proper order. No honorable member will be deprived of the right of discussing any item in Parts 1, 2, and 3.
– They have been discussed by some honorable members in the one speech. The Prime Minister referred to the reconditioning of the Goulburn road and the erection of a national war memorial.
– It would be impossible to meet the wishes of the committee by taking a vote on Parts 1, 2, and 3 at the same time.
– I desire to address myself to the subjects which the right honorable the Prime Minister has been discussing.
– A vote has not yet been taken on those questions. I do not think the right honorable member for North Sydney knows what happened last week.
– I know that I rose when the Prime Minister did, but gave way to him. When he resumed his seat, it was my attention to address myself to the matters he had been discussing. I do not think you saw me, sir, when I rose on the second occasion, but I now claim the right to discuss the matters just dealt with by the Leader of the Government.
– The question before the committee was that Parts 1, 2 and 3 be agreed to, but in the interval between the time when the Prime Minister spoke and the right honorable member rose to speak, I restated the question. The question now is, “ That Division 1, Part 1, be agreed to.”
– If you now propose to put the question, “ That Division 1, Part 1, be agreed to,” I have something further to say.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– I rise to order. According to the procedure of the House honorable members have the right to continue the debate in the order in which they rise ; but there is an unwritten rule - I do not think it is covered by our Standing Orders - that the Prime Minister shall have precedence over other honorable members. Owing to the recognition of that rule, I had to make way for the Prime Minister ; but for that, I intended to discuss these two subjects in the one speech. To that extent I think my rights and privileges should be preserved.
– The honorable member has not been deprived of any of his rights or privileges. He is still entitled to speak.
– I wish to make the position clear. I rose to speak when the Prime Minister received the call. I certainly agree with the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) that he and other honorable members should have the right to proceed on the lines hitherto followed. Had the Prime Minister intended to close the general debate-
– The Prime Minister has not closed the debate.
– Apparently, he has done something to the debate which I do not understand.
– When the committee met last week the question as stated from the Chair was, “ That Parts 1, 2 and 3 be agreed to,” the belief being that only one vote would be taken on those three parts. During the debate, however, it has become apparent that the committee is divided in its opinion on several of the items, and for the convenience of the committee I have restated the question. The question now before the Chair is that “Division 2, Part 1, Erection of War Memorial, Canberra, £50,000, be agreed to.”
– I do not know what occurred last week, but I know what happened just now. The Chair permitted the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley), the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), and the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to deal in the one speech with the erection of a national war memorial at Canberra, and the reconstruction of the road between Goulburn and Canberra. I wished to discuss both of those items. What was said last week is of little consequence.
– The right honorable member is still entitled to discuss those subjects.
– But separately?
– Then why were other honorable members allowed to debate both of them in the same speech?
– I have already given the reasons.
– We should be permitted to discuss them in the same speech; but when a vote is taken they should be put separately from the Chair.
– Separate votes could not be taken if the question was submitted as originally stated.
– That must have been apparent to the Chair when the honorable member for Barton spoke.
– I was not present last week. Do I understand that the right honorable gentleman wishes to speak on the erection of the war memorial?
– I rise to order. You have rightly stated, sir, that in your absence, unavoidable no doubt, last week the question, as stated from the Chair, was “ That Parts 1, 2 and 3 be agreed to.” Upon that question, so stated from the Chair, the debate has continued, and I most respectfully submit that the committee alone can alter the question before the Chair ; that the committee has not yet done. You have stated that apparently there are two subjects upon which the committee may desire to have a division. There are a great number of items in these divisions, and it does not follow that the wisdom or volubility of the committee has been exhausted with respect to any of them. The present position is that the question before the committee has been discussed for more than one day, and it rests solely with the committee to vary ‘that question. The Chairman may not vary it at all. The matter is in the hands of the committee. The debate has proceeded on those lines, and upon that question, and I submit that the right honorable member for North Sydney or any other honorable member is entitled to follow the lines that other speakers have taken and discuss any item or group of items within the divisions that are before the committee. I submit that, you, Mr. Chairman, have no right to vary that procedure without the consent of the committee.
– It may, perhaps, facilitate the work of the committee if I point out that last week it was agreed in your absence, Mr. Chairman, to take the three parts together, but I agree with you that it would not be the wish of the committee, as the debate has evolved, to adhere to that procedure rigidly now, because it would mean that the whole of the thre’e parts would have to be taken as one vote, and there would be no opportunity for separate decisions on the two main subjects that have emerged. Could not the position be met by allowing a general debate upon the three parts to continue for a little longer, because honorable members, including the right honorable member for North Sydney, wish to discuss two particular items in the same way that other honorable members have had the privilege of doing. It should be possible for the committee to agree that the votes for the Canberra-Goulburn road grant and the war memorial be put specifically a little later when the general discussion has been completed.
– Discussion, instead of being stifled, has been facilitated by the way in which the question has been put from the Chair. In reply to the Prime Minister, I point out that the votes must be put separately at some time, and for the convenience of the committee I still think it is better that the questions be put separately at the present time. It will still be open to honorable members to address themselves to each question. The question before the Chair is “ that Division 2, Part 1 - Erection of War Memorial, Canberra, £50,000- be agreed to.”
. For ten years this proposal has been before the country, and this is practically the first time that a suggestion of opposition to it has been heard. The Commonwealth is incurring considerable expenditure by the occupancy of various buildings in the capital cities where war relics are ‘at present housed, and viewing the matter from a purely economic standpoint it would benefit the Commonwealth if the war museum were erected as soon as possible. It has been suggested in the course of the debate that we have insufficient funds to provide £50,000 for the memorial this year, and at the same time provide for the needs of returned soldiers, but the Commonwealth can well afford to nuance both those items. To my mind further delay in the erection of the memorial cannot be justified. I am strongly in favour of the work being started immediately.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 3 and 4 agreed to.
Division 5 (Naval works- £100,000) .
.- Some time ago the Department of Defence purchased a site at Woodside, South Australia, where military training is eventually to be carried out. At the present time no permanent military training centre has Deen made available, but a site having been purchased it is high time, in the interests of economy, that a commencement was made with the erection of permanent buildings on that site. I protest that no provision has been made for permanent camp buildings on the land. .
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 6 to 11 agreed to.
Division 12 (Reconstruction of CanberraGoulburn road - towards cost, £75,000).
– This item affords one an opportunity to discuss road communication, and in particular the roads between the Federal Capital and the capital cities of the great States. It is perhaps one of the ironies of fate that, although I have complained occasionally, and rather bitterly, about the state of the road between Canberra and Goulburn and Canberra and Yass, I should find myself supporting this belated proposal of the Government. The impression formed from the observations of honorable members was that if there was one subject upon which party issues did not arise, but on which all were for the State, it was that of this roadway. Had the matter been referred to me at 6 p.m., when I was travelling over this road, I could have done ample justice to it. But in this place I must needs leave something to the imagination. It is a reflection upon the intelligence of the people of this country that we have permitted this important highway to remain so long in its present deplorable condition. The need for good roads to the Federal City must have been long foreseen. Preparations for the establishment of the Seat of Government at Canberra covered many years. I remember perfectly well speaking on the federal aids road grant, and gathering from the present Prime Minister an assurance that, in his opinion, the first and obvious duty of the Commonwealth was to utilize portion of the moneys supplied by this Parliament upon the roads connecting the Federal Capital with the other capital cities of the Commonwealth. One would imagine that to be so obvious as to call for no comment. We have been paying £2,000,000 per annum for some years to assist the States in road construction. We look to the Minister for Works and Railways for light and guidance in this matter, or, at all events, to make some effort to justify his existence. But he seems to disclaim all personal responsibility. What does he say from time to time when this question is raised? His last brilliant effort was in the nature of a promise that he would see somebody about it, and although this person was extremely difficult to get at, I understand that the Minister did see him. Nothing has resulted from this conference. The road to-day is worse than it was then. Years have elapsed, and this road has not been put in order. Every honorable member knows that, and some know it much better than others. Although I have the privilege of travelling free by train, I am foolish enough to journey from Sydney to Canberra by car, at my own expense, and a very expensive business it is. I think that horse-racing would be an inexpensive sport compared with motoring on this road. Now we are told that something is to be done. What is the proposal of the Government? We live in an age in which road communication is the outstanding and dominating feature of our lives. The motor has revolutionized transport. Consider the amazing progress that has been made by the United States of America. During the last ten or fifteen years she has created a system of roads which put ours, and, indeed, those of many other countries, to shame. Australia is a country of magnificant distances : that is its great handicap. If it were one-twentieth of its present size the task of developing it would be much easier. This Capital is a symbol of our unity, an expression of our national sentiment, the cradle of the young nation. Yet although federation has been an accomplished fact for so many years, the means of communication between the Capital City and the adjacent towns are exceedingly bad. I shall vote for the proposal of the Government, on the principle that beggars cannot be choosers, although I am not quite clear what the proposal is. The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was conveniently vague when asked how much federal aid road money had been spent by New South Wales in providing means of communication between this city and other parts of the Commonwealth. He said something about the Prince’s Highway. No doubt that is one way to the Federal Capital; but it is a way that no one takes. It would have been constructed long before had Canberra not been chosen as the site of the Federal Capital. The roads which directly connect Canberra with Melbourne and Sydney, the only roads over which tourists can travel, have not been touched; and, so far as I can see, under this proposal nothing is to be done on it for two years.
– The New South Wales Government has undertaken to keep the other road trafficable during that two years.
– The Prime Minister referred to an expenditure of £6,000 a year upon maintenance. Where has that expenditure been incurred? I have recently made an exhaustive tour of New South Wales, and I consider that, without exception, these are the worst roads in Australia.
– Oh, no!
– The honorable member cannot speak authoritatively on the matter. A bush track is pleasant compared with them. We ought to have a clear idea of the nature of the proposal which the Government is submitting, I shall vote for it, no matter what it is, because I am in a chastened mood, and am not inclined to look a gift horse in the mouth. Still, it is a reflection upon the Government, and particularly the Minister for Works and Railways, that years should have passed without anything having been done on this road.
– Why not blame the Parliament ?
– What is the use of blaming Parliament? We cannot be held responsible. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) long ago complained of the system under which the people who > raise the money do not spend it. That is the trouble. When one brings the matter before the Minister for Works and Railways he says, “ I am not in control of road construction ; I do not spend the money”. All I can say is that he ought to be in charge of it, or, at any rate, the schedule should be placed before this Parliament so that we might know how the money was being spent.
– This is a special grant for this particular road.
– If the federal grant is not to be spent on federal roads, the question arises whether there should be such a grant. I admit that this is a special grant. For the moment, I was not referring to it, but to the £2,000,000 which is made available annually for road construction. The Prime Minister said that the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales will find the money for this road. They will not find a red cent. The motorist finds the money that is made available for road construction. How much was spent on roads in New South Wales last year?
– How much Commonwealth money was spent ?
– How much was granted ?
– The amount spent.
– They did not spend all that was granted, because Mr. Lang, as Premier, did not accept the scheme.
– That was in the previous year.
– Then they are a year behind! At all events, the road to Goulburn has not been made. I do not care very much whether it is paid for out of the. federal aid roads grant or any other fund; what I want is the road. On the lastoccasion upon which this matter was raised, the Minister for Works said something about the route being via Collector, as if it had been definitely decided. I do not know whether that is so, nor whether the present route is impracticable. The argument advanced by the Prime Minister is not at all conclusive. He referred to its grades. No doubt they are bad. The difficulty in regard to curves is negligible, being merely a question of arrangement with the land-owners. I cannot accept the right honorable gentleman’s explanation. The new route must possess some overwhelming advantage. Neither I nor the committee has any information upon the subject; yet we are asked to vote this money! All we have is the statement of the right honorable gentleman that the new road is to be of bitumized macadam. He also said that New South Wales has made a good road as far as Goulburn. That is not true. It has made a good road to Mittagong. There are bits of good road between there and Goulburn, and there are - other bits. I confess that the matter is in its present unsatisfactory state largely because the work is being carried on by an authority beyond the ambit of our jurisdiction. We find the money, and another authority does the work - when it pleases. The Government accepts no responsibility. We have no assurance that this road can be made in two years.
– A definite undertaking to that effect has been given by the New South Wales Government.
– Does that Government also give an assurance that the existing road will be maintained, and that it will be put in repair?
– I cannot understand the attitude of those who object to the making of this road, though an objection to the route proposed might be raised. It is a wonder to me that a good road can be made for the money that it is proposed to expend. The estimate may prove to be rather optimistic. Certain honorable members have objected to the construction of the road on the plea that we cannot afford the expenditure. An election is pending, and they evidently want roads in the vicinity of the polling booths, or wish to create the impression that they are alert in the interests of their constituents. But this question is or ought to be above party politics. Now that the Parliament is established here, we want to make this a capital city, a place to which every man and every woman in the country will desire to make at least one pilgrimage in his or her lifetime. The city of Washington is approached from many directions by beautiful highways. In the United States of America one can travel on roads broad, smooth and pleasant, and although we are a small community, that ought not to deter us from making a beginning in improving our communications. I entirely agree with the Prime Minister that when distinguished visitors from overseas come to Australia it is most humiliating that, on account of the state of our roads, we should be unable to invite them to visit the Capital City of Australia and to press that invitation so strongly that they cannot well decline it. Those roads were terrible when the Duke and Duchess of York were here. They are terrible now. In my present pessimistic mood I am inclined to the belief that they will remain so. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) put thematter very well. There is considerable talk by my friends opposite about the unemployment in Australia. Unhappily, many people are out of work here. It is undeniable that we want good roads. We should have the very best of roads linking the Capital with the various States. It is proposed to make a good road to link this city with Sydney, and to do it at a time when employment will mean a good deal to the people. It is regrettable, therefore, that there should be so much carping criticism of this proposal. It is said that the money should be spent somewhere else, andin some other way. If it could be shown that some necessary service of the State was being starved in order to provide money to do this work, there might be something in the contention that it should not be done at the moment ; but that point has not been made. This is a necessary work which should have been done long ago. It is now proposed to do it, and I for one shall vote for the proposal.
.Undoubtedly the committee has succeeded in making a very pleasant jest of this proposed immediate expenditure of £75,000, with the prospect of a total expenditure of perhaps not less than £200,000. The right honorable member for North Sydney marvels, indeed, that a work of such great national importance could be accomplished for such a comparatively trifling sum of money. Let him be quite easy in his mind. The expenditure will, in due course, be of such substantial proportions as to satisfy him in its association with bo great and .patriotic a work. I have said before, and I take leave to repeat, that I have not been habitually opposed to legitimate expenditure in founding the Capital City ; but I take leave also to urge that those honorable members who were in such a violent hurry to establish themselves as legislators in this city should be prepared to suffer at least some of the inconvenience which naturally arises from their selfimposed isolation. The right honorable member for North Sydney allies himself with the honorable member for Barton in saying that the construction of this road will, to some extent, relieve the unemployment that prevails. My answer is that it will not be a great consolation to those who have been out of work for many months in connexion with the main industries of Australia and with legitimate production, and especially with those who are unemployed in my own State in general, and my own electorate in particular, to be told that a sum variously estimated from £75,000 to £200,000 is to be spent by the Commonwealth in constructing a highway for the motorists of New South Wales, which should be constructed, if at all, in the ordinary course by the people of New South Wales. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) in a speech that was conspicuous for many inapt similes, and much mixed metaphor, thought fit to ridicule the shire councils of Australia. Presumably there are shire councils in his electorate as there are in mine. Perhaps it would be only just, if not generous to the honorable member, to send a copy of his speech to the shire councils in his electorate for their information and edification. I suggest, for the consideration of the honorable member, that most of the shire councils in Australia, and certainly those ifr. Brennan. in Victoria, know a great deal more about the costs and use of roads than he does. Though they may not understand how to conduct a debate upon the high plane which he professes to have set for the discussion of this subject, the shire councillors know the kind of roads required for conveying produce to the local market. The taxpayers of Australia rightly pay for the railway transport of members of this Parliament ; and’ members of the State Parliament; but I do not know that they should be called upon, in addition, to meet the cost of constructing roads for the pleasure of members of Parliament who are a little too proud to use the railways which run parallel with the roads and with which the roads enter into keen competition. The right honorable member for North Sydney, pointed to the Treasurer, and said that he had done a good deal of travelling upon these roads. The Treasurer has also used aeroplanes, and indulged in other expensive means of transport in the various parts of the Commonwealth. I make only a passing reference to that fact. I am not inclined to be niggardly about the facilities provided for Ministers of the Crown to visit various parts of the Commonwealth, in so far as it may be necessary for a particular purpose; but we should be carrying the privilege much too far if we were to saddle the taxpayers of every hamlet, city, and industrial centre of Australia with the cost of roads- which would be used largely by leisured persons who prefer to spin over them in comfortable motor cars to using the railways which are the property of the Commonwealth and the States. There is some consolation from one point of view, though very little for the right honorable member for North Sydney, in the thought that it will take nearer ten years than two to complete this proposed road. If my prophecy is not correct, and this road is constructed in the estimated time, we shall probably repeat our experience in the building of this city in the twelve months prior to the transfer of the Seat of Government to it. It will probably mean that money will be poured out upon the work with an almost complete disregard of the relative value being obtained for the expenditure. The people of Australia should be quietly told that in consequence of the unseemly haste that”; was displayed in transferring the Seat of Government to this city hundreds of hundreds of thousands of pounds were wasted. There was no time for proper supervision ; no means of testing the value of the work done in relation to the labour employed; and no adequate examination of either the tenders submitted or the methods by which the work was carried out. The result was that we lost thousands, and I fear millions, of pounds in constructing the Capital. Honorable members who reside mostly in New South Wales feel themselves called upon to justify this course of action merely by the absurd allegation that they are upholding tie prestige of the National Capital against the churlish criticism of those who come from the other States of the Commonwealth. That line of argument is too absurd for serious consideration. I shall not expose myself to the danger of being called to order by entering upon a general discussion of the claims of the Capital, further than to say that no criticism of mine of this ill-considered proposal is tobe taken as an expression of want of confidence in either the ideal of a national Capital or of this site for it. But I submit that we shall show ourselves to be sadly lacking in our duty if we do norexamine carefully and in detail all items of expenditure of this class which are submitted to us. The right honorable member for North Sydney has declared that the road from Canberra to Goulburn is one of the worst in the Commonwealth. But what does he know about the roads of Australia, apart from those that he uses occasionally for his own pleasure? May I ask what he knows of the roads in. the electorate of the Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson) in South Gippsland, which the settlers have to use to bring their pigs to market; or of the highways and by-ways - mere bush tracks in many cases - in the electorate of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), which the settlers have to use to transport their wheat to the railway; or of the roads which the settlers in the Goulburn Valley and elsewhere have to use to convey their fruit to the storehouses and railway stations? I suggest that the right honorable member knows nothing about these.
We shall be lacking in our duty if we do not leave the construction of roads to the people whoso practical experience enables them to determine the class and kind of road needed. There has been adopted a wise and legitimate mode of taxing the motorists of this country to enable the State to construct good roads. Sooner or later the taxpayers of this country will pass a very severe judgment upon this Parliament for devoting money derived from general taxation towards the construction of unnecessary road% especially at a time when there is so much distress in the community.
.- During the course of this debate honorable members who have opposed the expenditure of money on the construction of a road between Canberra and Goulburn have been described as parochial. It is significant that that epithet has been hurled by New South Wales members at the representatives of constituencies in the other States. I am reminded of the old proverb that “ People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) said some extraordinary things. According to the honorablemember Australia must have acapital city irrespective of its cost.Such a care-free idea of finance may suit a wealthy State like New South Wales, but not South Australia, a State not so richly endowed by nature, but whose citizens, by sheer grit and determination, have accomplished a great deal. I object to the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money on the construction of a road between Canberra and Goulburn because the responsibility of this Parliament for road construction, other than for roads constructed under the federal aid roads scheme, is confined to roads in Federal Territory, such as the Federal Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, and also because the Government of New South Wales obtains its full proportion of the money available by the Commonwealth under that scheme. The money provided in these Estimates will really be a. gift to New South Wales for the construction of a local road.
– Would the honorable member describe the road between Canberra and Goulburn as a local road?
– It certainly is a. local road. The right honorable member for North Sydney let out the secret when he said that the road is necessary to provide a few highly-favored people with a more comfortable ride when travelling to the Federal Capital in their luxurious motor cars. It cannot be said that the road is necessary to attract visitors to Canberra, because there is a good railway connecting with the Capital, and an efficient railway service. It is amusing to hear honorable members refer to the generosity of New South Wales in agreeing to contribute one-third of the cost of this road. I should like to be able to do business along those lines. I remind honorable members that New South Wales asked that the Federal Capital be established in her territory. Indeed, that was a condition on which New South Wales entered the federation. That State also undertook to construct a railway to the ‘Capital from Yass; but, .so far, nothing has been done to honour that arrangement. The construction of the promised railway would shorten the journey between Canberra and four of the State capital cities. New South Wales wanted the Federal Capital within her territory, because of the benefits which would accrue to that State. No one can deny that her anticipations in that connexion have been realized. Over the New South Wales Government railways practically all the material required for the building of the Capital has been ^carried, adding considerably to the :State revenue. The business people of Sydney and other portions of New South Wales have also derived advantages from the establishment of the Federal Capital in what was formerly New South Wales territory. In the circumstances, it is idle to talk of New South Wales being generous in agreeing to contribute one-third -of the cost of this road. The Prime Minister said that it would be a good thing if people from different portions of the Commonwealth were to visit Canberra, for by so doing many of their prejudices against the Federal Capital would be removed. The prejudice, if there be any, against the Federal Capital is strongest outside New South Wales. I suggest, therefore, that instead of construct ing this road to remove some pre- judices which is said to exist against the Federal Capital it might be better to set aside this £200,000 to provide free trips to Canberra for selected parties of prejudiced people from various portions of Australia. Where are we to stop? Are we going to establish a precedent and later build roads from the Federal Capital to all the capital cities of Australia? If so, who is to pay for those roads? This amount is on the Estimates only because of the persistency of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). The right honorable member invited the Minister for Works and Railways to accompany him on a motor ride over the route, but evidently the Minister had the “ wind up,” and, considering discretion the better part of valour, consented to improve the road. I suggest that if this scheme eventuates, a triumphal arch should be erected at each end of the road, and designated respectively the “ W. C. Hill” and the “W. M. Hughes Arch.” That would perpetuate the memory of the originators of this remarkable proposal. It has been stated that this issue will be decided on nonparty lines, and I trust that when a division is taken, those who think with me will register their votes against the proposal as a protest against the expenditure of public money on work that is essentially of a State nature.
– Evidently both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer regard the opposition to this proposal seriously, as both have “ taken the floor “ in a defence that was very weak, indeed. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) endeavoured to prove that the work would provide employment. I direct his attention to the fact that he is supporting a Government which, for the last twelve months, has persistently dispensed with the services of men instead of providing further employment.
– Does the honorable member object to the Government turning over a new leaf?
– Unfortunately the Government is not turning over a new leaf, but is retrogressing. If the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) could alienate himself for a moment from the parochial outlook he would realize that this proposal is a step in the wrong direction. The Treasurer intimated last week that not only was this road to be constructed, but that federal money would be allocated for the construction of roads from Canberra to the south and to Jervis Bay. Assuredly, the Treasurer who would provide money for the construction of 100 miles of road over barren country to a naval college is a Jubilee Plunger- of the first order, and a menace to the finances of the country. The honorable member for Barton claimed that the construction of a war memorial in Canberra would save the country £5,000 a year in rent. The honorable member overlooks that the Government is paying over £100,000 a year in rent. If the Government erected buildings to house its public servants it would provide employment, and the rents that would be collected would pay interest on the cost of construction and also provide a sin ki ng fund. The honorable member would be better advised if he urged bis Government to direct its attention to reproductive work. It is ridiculous to talk about making Canberra a popular centre. New South Wales members refuse to stay in the Federal Capital one moment longer than is necessary. Their Railway Commissioners have arranged that immediately Parliament concludes business on Friday afternoons they may be whirled away to their homes. They have also arranged that they shall not return to Canberra until half an hour before the House meets during the following week. Their action is an exceedingly bad advertisement for Canberra, yet they hypocritically claim that they hope that this will be a great city. I had some hopes that it would develop, but those hopes have been blighted. I am confident that the construction of the proposed road will not be of any assistance in developing Canberra. Every honorable member could point to reproductive work in his own electorate on which money could be spent with greater justification than on the Goulburn-Canberra road. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) instanced a roads scheme in . connexion with the great river Murray works which needs attention much more urgently than does this proposed road. I claim no undue credit for initiating this discussion. I -am very glad that it has taken place, as I believe that it will expose to the taxpayers of the Common- wealth the length to which this Government is prepared to go to placate some people. I admit that the Prime Minister recently made a generous gesture in regard to an important item of policy. Had such a gesture been made in times gone by it would have prevented many a vote going through. However, the whip has been cracked in this instance, and money is to be spent foolishly.
For the first time iu his career the Treasurer is faced with a deficit to the extent of £2,600,000. Money should be spent in reproductive works, amongst which I would include the extension of postal facilities. All money devoted to such purposes, if not immediately productive, would become so in time. Other directions in which money might profitably be spent is in the proper housing of public servants in great cities such as Sydney. An inspection of some of the residential areas there show them to be nothing better than rabbit warrens. There are in my electorate roads which have been seriously damaged by traffic for which the Commonwealth Government is responsible. These roads lead to government factories and the Treasury has been compelled to contribute towards their maintenance; otherwise they would be impassable. In one case the Government compelled the municipality to contribute £1 for £1 of the cost. That was a legitimate expenditure, because the roads had to be put in order if work wa9 to continue at the factory. If this proposal goes through it will create a dangerous precedent. I should not be surprised to hear many members argue that if the Government was prepared to advance £2 for £1 in this instance, it should give a like amount towards the construction of roads in . their electorates. We should not spend money on a road like this which will not give us any return at all, while there are so many things which urgently need to be done. I shall vote against this proposal without the slightest compunction. Government supporters have been given a free hand in this matter, and I hope that they will exercise their judgment, and vote against it. If the money were to be spent out of the ordinary roads grant, nobody would take exception to it. New South Wales would be receiving a portion of the money to which it was entitled, but in this case a sum of £133,000 is to be provided by special vote. The construction of the road within the Territory itself will cost £60,000, and the total cost of the road from Goulburn to the City of Canberra will be £250,000. We shall spend £200,000 as against £66,000 spent by the New South Wales Government. It is a most serious departure, and one which I cannot view with favour. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) said that there was a rising tide of feeling in regard to the extravagant expenditure in the Federal Territory. This is due largely to the faulty administration of the Territory. This increasing objection to expenditure in the Territory does not exist only in the States other than New South Wales. In many of the rural districts of that State there is a strong feeling that too much money is being spent here, and the taxpayers will be up in arms against the spending of money on a road like this. I arn pleased that the debate on the Constitution Alteration Bill was concluded this afternoon. We shall now have morn time to devote to the financial affairs of the country, which need to bc discussed. I hope that, as we go through the general Estimates, the Prime Minister will afford us an opportunity to speak on the various items with the same freedom as we have had on this occasion.
– I desire to enter a public protest against the attitude which has been displayed in this committee towards what I regard as a national work. If the objections to this proposal were urged on the score of economy, I should be prepared to listen to them; but, when one hears denunciation of New South Wales from almost every member of the committee other than those who come from that State, one feels that the opposition to this proposal is based not on a desire for economy, but simply on parochial reasons, on that old feeling of hostility of one State for another which has done so much harm in the public life of Australia in the past, and is still doing harm to-day. I should feel ashamed to deliver, as I almost felt ashamed to listen to, some of the speeches that have been made on this subject. Honorable members have said that because there is a railway to this Capital City, roads are not necessary. No more absurd statement was ever made in this Parliament. Surely it was never expected that the Federal Capital was to be dumped down in this part of New South Wales and that the roads leading to it were to be left in their former unsatisfactory condition. When we invite every distinguished visitor to come to the city, and ask all bodies having important business to transact to do it, if possible, at Canberra, surely it is the bounden duty of the Government to provide satisfactory travelling facilities to enable them to get here. People may not all desire to come by rail, and in view of the importance which is given to road transit at the present time, and the statements that are being made everywhere as to the importance of roads, surely the Capital of Austraia is one of the first places in the Commonwealth to which good roads should be built. I submit that this is not a local question, but a national one, and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) was entirely undeserving of the criticism of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). He did not cast any reflections on shire councillors, but he was quite correct, in my opinion, when he said that the discussions in this National Parliament were very similar to those in a shire council. New South Wales has been referred to by the Prime Minister as displaying a generous spirit over the matter of this road. The Treasurer, when he spoke on the subject, also pointed out that New South Wales was under no obligation to do what she is doing, and he said that the action of the New South Wales Government was a most generous one. The fact that New South Wales is spending £4,000,000 on roads this year should convince honorable members. As a matter of fact it is building four roads to Canberra. In ordinary circumstances the Goulburn-Canberra road would be built in the course of time ; but rightly the Commonwealth Government has said, “ We want this road built much quicker than in the ordinary course of events. If we leave it to be built in the next ten years it will cost us about £114,000, but if we are willing to spend an additional £19,000, making the total about £133,000, we can get it built within the next two years.” Surely that was a reasonable attitude for the Government to take up. I commend the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) for the part he has played in this arrangement. A few months ago the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) used to regale honorable members with questions that he asked the Minister about this particular road. The Minister informed him that he would take early steps to confer with the New South Wales Government, and see if arrangements could be made to have the road reconstructed. He has made those arrangements, yet we find the right honorable member for North Sydney now gibing at him, and saying that for years he has been talking about this road. As a matter of fact the agitation about it has not been going on for more than a few months, and now that it has been brought before Parliament for completion I intend to give it my strongest support.
Question - That Division 12 (Reconstruction of Canberra-Goulburn road - towards cost, £75,000) be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 13 agreed to.
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1928-29, for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c., a sum not exceeding £383,785.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means covering resolution of Supply agreed to, reported, and adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Latham do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- For reasons of which I am not aware the construction of the Red Hill section of the East- West railway has been postponed indefinitely, and I ask the Minister for Works and Railways to consult with the South Australian railway authorities with a view to improving the existing service on the transcontinental train. For instance, passengers might transfer to the sleeping cars at Terowie when they leave the narrow gauge, instead of at Adelaide, and those cars could then be merely attached to the Melbourne express. This would bc an immense relief to passengers, especially after the long journey across the desert. In other respects also the service might be bettered. Recently the dining-cars were taken off two of the trains during the week. Some of the newer sleepers have more comforts and conveniences than others; but the worst often seem to be allotted to the transcontinental train. If the Minister will consult with the South Australian authorities this journey may be made more comfortable, both for regular business passengers and visitors from overseas.
Mr.HILL (Echuca - Minister for Works and Railways) [10.45]. - I agree with what the honorable member has said with regard to the desirability of attaching sleeping cars to the train at Terowie so that passengers may travel in them right through to Melbourne instead of having to change again at Adelaide. I shall ask the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways to discuss the matter with the South Australian Commissioner, with a view to remedying some of the defects of the existing service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 September 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280904_reps_10_119/>.