12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and offered prayers.
– I have received from the secretary of the Western Australian Flourmillers Association the following letter : -
I have just received advice from the Federal Council of the Flourmill Owners of Australia, Melbourne, that efforts are being made to have a prohibitive duty placed on Java kapok entering Australia, the idea being to protect Queensland cotton.
If this duty is imposed there is reason to believe that the Dutch Government will immediately retaliate by imposing a tariff on Australian flour entering Java, which would have the effect of throwing that market’ into the hands of American and Japanese flour shippers.
The position of the flour-milling industry, so far as export is concerned, is sufficiently bad at the present time to make millers view very seriously the possibility of losing the Java market, which is a very important one, and if the presentproposition is proceeded with, a retaliatory measure adopted by the Dutch Government, as is almost certain, will mean a very serious blow to the milling industry. This is particularly unfortunate from the point of view of Western Australian millers, as Java is at present practically the only market where anything like satisfactory business can be done.
I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government considers the cotton industry of more importance to Australia than the flour-milling industry?
– Those interested have applied for an increase of the duty on kapok, and the request has been “referred to the Tariff Board.
Duty onfortifying Spirits.
– Having regard to the crisis in the wine industry, as a result of the inorease in the excise duty on fortifying spirits, and in view of the urgent representations made to the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, will he indicate to the House the intention of the Government!
Mr.FORDE. - The representationsof those engaged in the wine industry have been receiving the careful consideration of the Government and a statement on the subject will probably be made by the Prime Minister at a later hour this day.
– Has the Prime Minister any knowledge of the reported decision by four of the principal wine distilleries and the chief brandy distilleries in South Australia to close down on the 31st March? If so, what action does the Government propose to take in the interests of the vine-growers?
– With the permission of the House I shall make a statement on the subject later in the day. (See page 402.)
– Last night I drew attention to a peculiar feature of the amending Customs Act of 1925, namely, the provision that an article to be eligible for admission under the British preferential tariff, must contain at least 75 per cent. of British labour and material; but that, although, usually Australian material is classed as British, the Tariff Board has decided that if only 1 per cent. of foreign material is used in the manufacture in England of goods containing Australian wool, such goods cannot be classed as British.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the asking of a question.
– Will the Prime Minister inquire into this matter immediately, with a view to the amendment of the act?
– I noted the important point, raised by the honorable member last night, and referred it to the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs for inquiry by the officers of his department.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is true that an additional sum of £96,000 per annum will be expended on the new uniforms for the volunteer military forces? If so, having regard to the prevailing financial stringency, will the Minister modify his proposal in order to avoid at least a portion of this additional expenditure?
– The expenditure of £96,000 on new uniforms was to have been in lieu of the expenditure that would have been incurred had the old uniforms been continued in use. The amount was to have been expended over a number of years. Not more than £36,000 would have been spent in any one year, and that would not have been in excess of the sum that would have been expended on the old uniforms had the compulsory training of a larger personnel been continued. However, because of the financial stringency even that expenditure is being deferred.
– Has the Treasurer given any further consideration to the suggestion made by Mr. Alex. Jobson, of Sydney, that Commonwealth income taxation should be payable this year by instalments? If so, will he inform the House whether that proposal will be adopted this year?
– It is not practicable to adopt the plan suggested by Mr. Jobson and others, but the practice of the department is to allow additional time for payment when stress of circumstances prevents the taxpayer from paying the whole amount at once. That consideration will be continued to individual taxpayers when the circumstances warrant.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether the £100,000 worth of radium that was ordered by the last
Government from abroad has been received in Australia and distributed; also whether if further supplies of radium are required, the Australian Radium Corporation will be given preference?
– The answer to the first of the honorable member’s questions Ls in the affirmative; so is the answer to the second provided that the Australian Radium Corporation is able to offer an article of a quality equal to that of the imported.
– Will the Minister for Markets and Transport inform the House whether his officers have yet completed their prolonged investigation of wood taint in butter, particularly as it affects, the Queensland butter box industry ?
– I am not aware that the inquiry has been unduly prolonged, but I hope to have a report on the subject at an early date.
– Has the Prime Minister received any communication relative to the reported proposal of the British Government to purchase Australian primary products in bulk? If so, is he able to give the House any information on the subject?
– Prior to the departure of the Minister for Trade and Customs for England I spoke to him on this subject. Having read the newspaper statements referred to by the honorable member for Wimmera, I cabled to the Minister for Trade and Customs a request that he should take up the matter with the British Board of Trade. The only reply I have received is a cablegram stating that he was interesting himself in the matter.
Reciprocity and Retaliation
– Will the Prime Minister instruct the Minister for Trade and Customs to carry out preliminary negotiations with some of the European countries with a view to bringing about reciprocal tariff relations between them and Australia ?
– If the honorable member will let me know what countries he has in mind I shall consider the advisability of communicating with the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether in the prosecution of the Government’s high tariff policy close consideration will be given to the possibility of retaliation by other countries, and particularly to the consequences which may attend retaliation in the form of a prohibition against the importation of Australian wool by some countries which are now amongst our largest customers?
– The Government will not be diverted from its policy by threats or fear of retaliation. The two principles that will guide the Government are first, the protection of Australian industries, and secondly, reciprocity with other countries.
– Is the Minister for Markets aware that under the Canadian wheat pooling system the farmers have not yet been paid in full for their 192S crop ?
Mp. PARKER MOLONEY.- I am not aware of that, but in any case I cannot see that the results of a voluntary pool in Canada have any bearing upon the proposed compulsory pool in Australia, accompanied by a Government guarantee.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs when I may expect replies to my communication of the 14th February last relating to the request of the Ginger Growers Association of Queensland for reasonable protection against the ginger imported from China, and my more recent request that the Tariff Board be instructed to inquire into this application?
– This matter has been referred to the Tariff Board, and as soon as a report is received it will be made available. If the honorable member has not already received replies to his letters, F shall instruct that they be sent immediately. I ask the honorable member, when judging the action of the Government in regard to ginger, to bear in mind what it has already done for other Queensland industries.
– In view of the expansion of aviation that is taking place on the Brisbane aerial route, with a probable extension to Melbourne, does not the Minister consider that the Mascot Aerodrome ground should bc put in order as early as possible?
– Provision is being made to proceed with that work immediately.
– Has the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs received a request from States other than Queensland for increased duty on beeswax, and if so, has the subject been referred to the Tariff Board?
– It is impossible to keep in touch with all requests for increased duties. Only this morning a request was received for a duty on dolls’ eyes. Inquiries will be made, and I will give the honorable member the desired information as soon as possible.
– With a view to absorbing surplus employees in the coal industry, will the Prime Minister give consideration to renewing the bounty of 3d. a gallon on shale oil, so as to encourage that industry?
– Consideration has been given to that matter, and a bill will later be presented to Parliament on the subject.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made, anda reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What were the quantity and value of imports of sisal hemp in all forms into Australia during the years 1927, 1928, and 1929, and the countries of origin of such imports?
– Sisal hemp is not separately recorded in the statistics, but an analysis of the record of imports of hemp generally will be sent direct to the honorable member.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it a fact that all temporary officials in the Naval Departments are to be discharged to provide positions for permanent members of the Public Service, irrespective of the qualifications, efficiency, and war service of the former, and disregarding any question of experience or length of service.
– No instructions on the subject have been issued. It is not possible to say at present what curtailment in staff will become necessary.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– I will furnish the information to the honorable member next week, but I may as well tell him now that the majority of appeals before both tribunals have been heard. Speaking broadly, about 33 per cent. of the appeals before the Entitlement Tribunal, and also about 40 per cent. of the applications for increased pensions, have been successful.
– It is a good thing that we established those boards.
– The final result will be a considerable increase in the pensions list.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the depressed state of the Victorian bush timber mills, due largely to the competition from imported cheap-labour foreign timbers, he will take early remedial action in this matter?
Mr.FORDE. - Numerous suggestions have been made with regard to dealing with imported timber, and they are now receiving consideration.
Mr.FORDE. - On the 14th March the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Culley) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be given to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), on the ground of urgent public business.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), on the ground of ill health.
The following papers were presented : -
International Labour Organization of the League of Nations - Twelfth Session, held at Geneva, May-June, 1929 -
Reports of the Australian Delegates.
Draft Conventions and Recommendations adopted by the Conference.
Message recommending appropriation reported and ordered to be taken into consideration in committee forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) -
Motion (by Mr. Blakeley) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910, and for other purposes.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Debate resumed from 12th March (vide page 40), on motion by Mr. Blakeley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This hill was introduced very quietly and modestly by the Minister for Home
Affairs (Mr. Blakeley), without any waving of banners or brass hand effects. He restrained himself so admirably when speaking on the subject that honorable members would hardly have realized that this bill constitutes the heroic fulfilment of one of the Labour party’s election promises. At the last election, like knights in shining armour, the members of the Labour party went out to kill the dragons of boards and commissions. For years they had searched in every corner to find where a board or commission might lurk. Anything that began with, a “ B “ was doubtful, but in regard to the next letter of the alphabet, if it were a “ committee “ that might be passed ; a “council”, possibly; but a “commission never. Accordingly the electors were regaled with long lists of terrifying statistics. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), in his policy speech, said that the Bruce-Page Ministry had delegated a lot of its administrative work to boards and commissions at a cost at that time of approximately £500,000; that the retention of some of these bodies might be necessary, but, in most cases, they should be dispensed with and their work done by Government departments; and that the Federal Capital Commission would be one of the first to go. The bright idea conveyed to at least some of the electors was that the work done by Government departments costs nothing. According to the Labour party, it is a terrible thing to have something done by a commission, and even worse to have it done by a board, because that conveys the idea of wooden-headed administration, which, of course, is indefensible to any sensible person. In the Labour party’s campaign manual is a long list of boards and commissions and their costs. The aggregate cost of the salaries, allowances and staffs of the commissions, boards and tribunals, as set out in that list, amounts to no less than £300,000 per annum.
– From what is the honorable member quoting?
– I am quoting from an authoritative statement - the Labour party’s campaign manual, edited by “ Mr. E. G. Theodore, M.H.R., campaign director for New South “Wales.” It is evidently a valuable document, and the honorable member at the last election could have bought it for 6d. Many innocent electors thought, after they had spent 6d., and read this information in the Campaign Annual, or had attended a Labour meeting without spending anything at all, that £300,000 could be saved by the abolition of boards and commissions. They will be undeceived by degrees, and this is the first step in the process of disillusionment. Admittedly a saving will be effected in the cost of the government of the Federal Capital Territory; but that saving began under the last administration. The position at Canberra has radically altered, and it is not now necessary to incur as large an expenditure on the government of the Territory as in the past. But the attack generally that was made on boards and commissions was entirely misconceived, and misled a number of people. In many instances boards and commissions are ordinary instruments of government. In Victoria, the State with which I am most familiar, the Railway Commissioners, the Electricity Commission and the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission are all admirable and useful bodies which have been constituted on modern lines and are doing excellent work. In the list of boards and commissions that are operating under the administration’ of the Commonwealth, I find included the Public Service Board. The administration of the public service must be carried on whether it be by one man, two men, or three men. It might be possible to save one salary, or half a salary, by abolishing the board, hut not the £52,000 which appears opposite the name of the board in this list. Other boards that are mentioned in the list are the Superannuation Fund Management Board, the Naval Board, the Military Board, and the Air Board-
– Who appointed them?
– This Parliament, very many years ago, authorized their appointment. They are ordinary instruments of government. The War Service Homes Commission and the Repatriation Commission also perform ordinary functions of government, yet they appear in the list and help to make up the total of £300,000 a year which, it is said, boards and commissions are costing the Commonwealth. This Government will not, to any substantial extent, lessen the expenditure that has been incurred, or alter the method that has been adopted in the past. Will any honorable member suggest that the Superannuation Fund Management Board should be placed under the control of even so skilled an actuary and financier as the present Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) ? That honorable gentleman may some day be interested in the management of a superannuation fund, but I am pleased that he is still very far from occupying that position. It is better to commit the management of such a fund to actuaries and skilled financiers than to even those highly qualified Ministers who at present grace the Government benches. Take the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. That body is doing most valuable work, which cannot be performed by Ministers, who are not scientists, and are not skilled in research. That work has to be done. Would it be wrong to have it done by this body if its title was “ board “ or “ commission “ instead of “ council “ ? Then we have the Federal Capital Commission, with which I propose to deal more particularly, and the Development and Migration Commission, which we shall have an opportunity of considering later. Other boards which find a place in this wonderful list are the Taxation Boards of Review, which are discharging judicial or semi-judicial functions. It is not proposed that they shall be abolished. There are also the industrial peace tribunals, whose future at the moment is uncertain, but to whose continuance my friends opposite have not, so far, objected.
The bodies to which I have referred are discharging functions of government in one way or another under the names of boards and commissions. Then there are royal commissions of inquiry and investigation, which discharge different functions and are appointed to inquire into specific matters. If the attack had been confined to those particular commissions there would have been no such figure as £300,000 to juggle with. The necessity for appointing royal commissions in certain cases is obvious. Take, for example, the royal commission that inquired into the Bundaberg serum tragedy. Every honorable member of this House assented to the appointment of that commission. I could mention other commissions, consisting of specially skilled men, which were appointed to make particular inquiries for the guidance of either the government or parliament. Those which consisted either wholly or partly of members of Parliament were the Royal Commission on National Insurance and the Royal Commission on the Constitution. There was also the Royal Commission on Child Endowment. They were not semi-governmental bodies as were the others to which I have referred, but they were nevertheless useful fact-finding bodies that provided valuable material and learned expressions of opinion. They have performed, in relation to the matters that were referred to them, functions identical with those of the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee of this Parliament. If objection could be raised to the principle of referring any matter for inquiry to a body specifically charged with the duty of making that inquiry, such an objection would apply equally in the case of the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee.
One of the features of development in all progressive countries in post-war times has been an increasing association with the government of experts who are not civil servants, and also of bodies whose duty it has been to make a detailed study of specific questions. Some very interesting observations on this point are to be found in a book entitled ‘The Prospects of Democracy, by Dr. Alfred zimmern. Writing of the new methods of government which the increasing complexity of present-day affairs has forced upon governments, Dr. Zimmern at page 341 and the following pages, refers to the methods that have been adopted by the League of Nations in the direction of bringing into consultation non-governmental officers, and the various classes of persons that are introduced for the purpose of providing information and guidance of opinion. He says -
The far-reaching significance of this extension of range will become clear to any one who will take the trouble to compare the personnel engaged in pre-war international conferences and other official activities with the names enumerated in the” recently published year-Book of the League. What has. in fact, happened is that an increasing call is being made on the type of judgment and experience represented in Great Britain by the persons chosen to serve on royal commissions and similar bodies. But there is this important difference - that royal commissions perform the task required of them and dissolve, whereas the men who serve on League commissions find themselves an integral part of a permanent organization.
At page 343, Dr. Zimmern says -
We are now in a position to appreciate the significance of this new technique of international co-operation surveyed as a whole.
I suggest that those observations apply to administration within a country as well as in international matters. He goes on to say -
It represents the extension of the conception of public affairs, of res publica, to correspond with the similar extension that has taken place in private affairs during the last few generations. Government has found itself outstripped by the development of modern society, which challenges its authority and diminishes its control. It has replied by developing an international political organization on the new and more serviceable model. But it has done more than that. It has looked for allies in spheres wider than those over which private power exercises its sway. It has summoned to its councils doctors, lawyers, engineers, agricultural experts, social workers and representatives of other professions and interests who have hitherto been remote from public affairs except in their capacity as plain citizens and voters. Res publica, in other words has called in new worlds to redress the balance weighed down by res privata.
That is to say, Governments are recognizing the necessity of going outside Ministers and members of Parliament, as well as in many cases the permanent civil service, to obtain special assistance to enable them to deal with the complex affairs of modern society.
It has been objected that the establishment of boards and commissions has deprived Ministers of responsibility. I could deal with that charge in relation to each body whose name appears on this list; but on the present occasion I shall confine my remarks to the Federal Capital Commission. The acts which it is proposed to repeal aid not deprive Ministers of any responsibility. Ordinances had to be made by the Governor-General under the provisions of section 12 of the act of 1910, and by-laws required the approval of the Governor-General under the provisions of section 16 of the act of 1924 Accordingly the Government was fully responsible for all the legislative activities of the Commission. On the admin istrative side, our experience in this House has shown that the Government was held very strictly responsible for every act of administration of the Commission. Honorable members who were in the last Parliament may remember one famous day when no fewer than 13 questions relating to Canberra appeared on the notice-paper. If there were weeds on the footpaths or a hole in a road, the matter was raised in this national Parliament.
– The Commission was operating then.
– There has been a Commission ever since, and there is still one to-day. Many of the questions that were asked relating to Canberra were purely political. The object was. not to obtain information, and in many cases not to remedy a real grievance, but simply to embarrass the Government, of the day. The stream has ceased since the tap from which it flowed moved over to the other side of this House.
Mr.Blakeley.-Ithought this morning that it was still running with full force.
– The Federal Capital Commission took over the control of those matters that first came within the ambit of the Department of Home Affairs, and subsequently by the Works Department.
In his second- rending speech the Minister stated that the sum of £1,700,000 had been spent by the departments before the Commission assumed control. Certain things for which the Commission has been blamed were, in fact, done under departmental control. When it was determined that the building of the capital must he pressed on, it was found quite impracticable to control the matter from Melbourne. From 1924 to 1927 it would have been impossible to have ordinary departmental administration of the development of Canberra from Melbourne, particularly when large works were in progress. Accordingly, in 1924, the Federal Capital Commission was established, mainly for the purposes of looking
After the large engineering and constructional works being carried out here. I am glad to see that the Minister generously recognizes the difficulties with which the
Commission had to contend. It was given a most onerous task. If archangels had been asked to do its work, whether as a Commission or not, they could not have satisfied all those who were looking on with interest at the development of Canberra. In the establishment of a completely new city there are bound to he differences of opinion, apart from political views. Having regard to ordinary human frailty and the risk of errors, there are bound to be mistakes that would not have been avoided no matter who had been in charge of the work. These difficulties, as the Minister has frankly admitted, were aggravated by the leasehold system which, whether adopted rightly or wrongly, has practically prevented private enterprise from taking part in the development of Canberra. I believe there are two or three houses in the city that have beenbuilt by persons not associated with the Government, but the leasehold system presents grave difficulties, and the Commission found itself charged with not only its proper duty of conducting the development of the city, and constructing all the necessary works, but also of undertaking any enormous amount of work which everywhere else in Australia is in the hands of private enterprise. The Commission did very goodwork, and I consider that it has been very unfairly and unjustly criticized. Everything was made hard for it, when everybody ought to have recognized that the proper course was to endeavour to make matters easy for it. I join the Minister in paying a tribute to Sir John Butters and his associates, as well as the other gentlemen whom he has named, for the work they have done in contributing to the development of the national city of the Commonwealth.
After 1927, when the Parliament met here, administration became more important than engineering. By 1928 and 1929 the nature of the problem had changed, and the government of the day recognized it. Claims were naturally made by residents for a share of the government of Canberra. The present Government realizes, as did the late Government, that it is impossible to give the residents of Canberra control of the administration of the Territory. We have heard the figures quoted by the Minister. Over £10,500,000 has been spent in the develop ment of the city. I am not going to examine that expenditure at this stage. There is doubtless room for criticism, but the job generally has been done well. The particular point I am making is that it is impossible to allow the residents to deal with the expenditure of such large sums, or control the utilities that have been provided by the whole of the people of Australia. It is difficult to separate purely municipal matters in Canberra. The Minister must realize that it is easier to produce a scheme on paper than to set up a system that will work satisfactorily, under which certain matters will be placed absolutely within the control of the residents. The last Government tried various methods of endeavouring to give a bigger share in the government of Canberra to the residents, but it was found that even what might be called purely municipal services had a national aspect, and it was out of the question to allow complete local control.
Accordingly the late Government proposed to give a share of the control to the local residents, and provided that the third commissioner should be elected by them. Certain gentlemen were elected as third commissioners, but they never tried to make the system work. They never pretended that they wanted to make it work. They objected to it, and said they wanted something more. After all, the residents are now to have less than they received from the late Government. If they had tried to make the commission system work, it would have given the residents a useful and practical share in the government of Canberra. I have said that they cannot have complete control, and the present bill recognizes that. Any responsible government must adopt that principle; but the system now being repealed would work even now, if it had the goodwill of the citizens. There is now to be no representation of the residents upon any body that has any power whatever. There is to be an advisory council with the obvious function of giving advice, but that advice may or may not be accepted. There are to be four Government officers, comprising the civic administrator and three representatives of the departments. So, even on the advisory council, there is to be a Government majority. I hope that this system will work.
Air. Blakeley. - Does the Leader of the Opposition know of any advisory council on which the Government has not a majority?
– I am not objecting to it. That is a sound principle, so far as the discharge of executive functions is concerned; but on an advisory council there is not the same necessity for the Government to have a majority. From whom does the Government require advice? It has already its own officers, the secretaries of departments, to advise it, and I think that the council might well have consisted of persons chosen by the citizens themselves. The Government could readily obtain the assistance of the secretaries to the Departments of Health, Works and Railways, and Home Affairs without putting them on an advisory council.
It is an unusual provision to find that an officer is to preside over a body on which his own departmental head will sit. There is to be a civic administrator, who is to preside over the advisory council. That administrator must obviously be an officer of some department. He will be an officer of the Department of Home Affairs, probably a temporary officer, and the permanent head of that department will sit as a member of the body over which he presides. If the civic administrator is not to be subject to the control of any Minister, what becomes of the new system that is promised? The whole idea of the Government is to departmentalize the administration of Canberra, and I should like to hear something more from the Minister concerning this very unusual provision.
The advisory council, of course, is only in the clouds. We are merely promised that it will be established by means of an ordinance. I presume that it will be able to give its advice by a majority vote. The Minister may or may not accept that advice, as he thinks fit. The point I make is that, under this proposal, the citizens will have no power at all, except to give’ advice, while under the scheme being repealed they had an actual share in the government of Canberra. I could wish that this new method were to be introduced by a statute instead of by an ordinance. The late Government thought that the control of Canberra was a matter of sufficient importance to be made the subject-matter of a statutory provision. I am aware that an ordinance can be allowed or disallowed by this House ; but’ it cannot be discussed or amended clause by clause as a bill can, and it cannot be’ regarded as being so satisfactory a method of dealing with such an important subject as the government of the Federal1 Capital. I am well aware that this city is already governed by ordinances. I have myself been responsible for many of them; but this particular one affects the whole frame of the government of the Territory, and I suggest that it, above all, is the sort of provision that ought to be made by statute.
What is the new proposal? Instead of one authority there are to be three - the Department of Health, the Department of Works and Railways, and the Department of Home Affairs. The AttorneyGeneral’s Department, I believe, comes in only in one matter. It is almost inevitable that the new system will involve greater administrative expense. There will be three departments corresponding with one another, instead of one department doing all the business. If one looks at the list setting out the division of functions that the Minister read, it will be seen that, adopting his own classification, the most intricate division of duties is made between the three departments. The Department of Health has to look after seven subjects ; the Department of Works and Railways after seventeen, and the Department of Home Affairs 27. There is bound to be overlapping. Many questions must arise as to which department is to do this work or the other, none of which arose under commission control. There will be three heads instead of one, and nobody will be able to discover the cost, because it will be included in the general cost of the three departments. It will be impossible to obtain any reliable figures showing the comparative costs of the two systems. The cost of the commission system had already been greatly reduced by the last Government. It was recognized that the big constructional period was over and the administrative period was beginning. The salaries of the commissioners had been reduced by half, and large reductions made in the staff. These reductions were made with regret, but there was not sufficient work to justify their retention. The Federal Capital Coinmission rendered good service. It was a special instrument created for a special
Work, namely, to carry out the structural operations in connexion with establishing the capital city. Everybody recognizes that some alteration, at least in scale, is necessary. It was recognized by the last Government, and the necessary action to bring it about was being taken. It is being continued by this Government. The administrative side has now become the more important. I hope the residents of Canberra will find the advisory council acceptable. If they approve of it, it will probably work quite satisfactorily with a reasonable minister. It is important to recognize and admit that the work of any form of , administration depends on the existence of good-will. The present system would probably have worked quite well if it had been able to win the goodwill of the residents. Unfortunately, it did not. I shall be very pleased if the new system is able to win the approval of the citizens of Canberra. I hope that the establishment of this new system of control will remove some of the sense of grievance from which, unfortunately, so many of the residents have been suffering.
The Minister referred to the difficulty of establishing a city such as this, where the residents, like trees dragged up by the roots, have been removed from their long associations and life friendships, and put down in a new setting, which is urban in some respects and yet largely rural. It is not surprising that those who have been almost forcibly removed from their previous environment have experienced difficulty in settling down. They are, I believe, settling down better, perhaps, than some honorable members of this House, especially those who, like the Victorian members, feel keenly the separation from their homes as a result of the transfer to Canberra. I can assure honorable members that if somebody would offer me a permanent position in Canberra - not as Leader of the Opposition, however - I would seriously consider changing my place of residence. All honorable members will realize that the removal to Canberra - which, it is claimed, has been necessitated by the demands of national administration, although personally I think it might well have been postponed - has involved, real hardship to members of the Civil Service. I am not referring to the pecuniary loss, but to the severance of ties of friendships and old associations. I recognize with pleasure that matters in Canberra are improving from that point of view. I sincerely hope that the Advisory Council will be adopted by the citizens. If it is, there is no reason why it should not work, although I think the existing system is better. I am not going to do anything to prevent it from working. The problem is a practical one, and anything I can do to assist in arriving at a solution of the difficulties will very readily bc done.
. - The statement of the Minister when introducing this bill was more remarkable for what it omitted than for what it contained. His speech consisted largely of an historical survey of what has been done, and gave little information about how the new system of control will function. I wish to pay tribute to the first Commission which consisted of Sir John Butters, Sir John Harrison and Mr. Gorman. Those men did excellent work in the face of great difficulties, and with very little encouragement- in quarters from which they had a right to expect it. Their work is too recent to be seen in proper perspective, but when the history of this undertaking comes to be written, their achievements will be assessed at their proper value.
The difficulties connected with governing a territory of this kind have been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, and are fairly generally known. He mentioned the hardship inflicted upon people by plucking them from their accustomed environment, and setting them against their will in new surroundings. In such circumstances government control should be of a sympathetic character, which it has been, to a large extent; but it has fallen short in some respects. I desire to express my sympathy with the civil servants, but I pay them a tribute for the way in which they have accepted the position.
It is impossible to give the citizens of Canberra full local government, because the money being spent here is contributed largely by the taxpayers as a whole. The proportion provided by local residents is not very great. The last Government endeavoured to give residents a measure of control over purely local and municipal matters, while leaving to Parliament control over the general policy of city development. I regret that its proposal has been departed from, and I fear that we shall again lui ve the experience of purely local matters, such as kerbing and guttering, weeds in the streets, and holes in the roads, being debated on the floor of this House. The Minister for Home Affairs said that he was opposed to this Parliament parting with statutory powers to commissions or to anybody else. I join with him in that. This Parliament has parted, on previous occasions, with statutory powers to officials and others, and has had to bear the responsibility for their actions. In this case, however, the Federal Capital Commission was invested with certain statutory and other powers, with the full knowledge of Parliament, and Parliament always, in the final analysis, had control of what was being done. Apparently, under the new system, the Territory is to be governed by ordinances, rather than by a controlling body on which definite powers have been conferred. Instead of establishing such a body, the Government proposes to have a mixed form of control with four divisions of authority and no visible means of co-ordination. If it had placed the control of the Territory under the Works Department, or under the Home Affairs Department, there would, at least, have been unity of direction, aud some prospect of success. The last Government endeavoured to give to the citizens of the Federal Capital Territory a voice in its local government. But the men elected to serve on the Commission were unfortunately, temperamentally unfitted for such positions, and their activities retarded rather th fin advanced the progress of the Territory. I am afraid that the proposal contained in the bill will not give any better results. The activities in the Federal Capital arc to be controlled by four departments, the permanent heads of which are to be the effective agents of municipal government. Superimposed upon this bureaucratic junta will be an advisory council consisting of the Civic Commissioner as president, and three elected representatives. Apparently the elected representatives are to act merely in an advisory capacity; in other words, they will criticize the actions of the departmental heads.
– Who will act under the direction of their Ministers.
– Yes. The three elected representatives will be partisans. The Labour League has announced its intention to nominate three candidates, and I understand that a Nationalist organization also will nominate three. I venture to predict that the functions of the successful three will not be advisory; certainly if three Labour nominees are elected, the government of the Territory will be transferred to the Labour League, and their speech will be more imperative than advisory. They will issue instructions as to what shall be done; what salaries’ shall be increased, and what expenditure incurred.
One would think that men elected to participate in the civic administration of the Territory would be sufficiently compensated by the honour of helping with the development of a city destined to become one of the greatest in the world. Throughout Australia hundreds of men are serving oil municipal councils, roads boards, and shire councils without fee or reward, but apparently in the Federal Capital men cannot be found with sufficient civic pride to do this work without payment. The Government proposes, therefore, that each of the three elected representatives shall be paid £100 per annum. But what of the civil service members of the advisory council? The labourer is worthy of his hire, but a Labour Government, which is usually regarded as particularly sympathetic with the civil servants, proposes to impose upon three departmental heads additional and onerous duties without extra payment.
– Does the honorable member consider that they should be paid?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.They should be placed on the same footing as the elected representatives. Either they have not enough to do at present and are, therefore, overpaid, or the undertaking of further duties should entitle them to extra payment. If they are fully employed at present they should not be loaded with other work, to the possible prejudice of departmental administration. I am certain that Ministers would not consider an increase of the duties of members of their unions without a corresponding increase of payment. Government officials should not be asked to undertake these civic responsibilities as an unimportant job with which to occupy their spare hours. The work of administering the Federal Territory should be regarded as an important duty, worthy of adequate remuneration. I shall watch with interest the results of this experiment. The late Lord Salisbury, when appointing a colleague to a very difficult position, said : “ We shall watch his struggles with very great interest, but with the certain knowledge that he will not succeed.”
– The honorable member is hoping that of the’ proposed Advisory Council ?
– I wish nothing but the best for the Federal Capital, and I am prepared to do my part as a patriotic citizen to forward its development.
– What of the Government?
– The Government can look after itself. When the Labour party sat in opposition, its members had much to say regarding what could and should be done. Now they have an opportunity to translate their words into deeds. I am afraid the job is a little too big for them, and that the scheme of government they have devised for the Federal Capital Territory will not be a success.
– Because of the proximity of my electorate to the Federal Capital Territory, I have probably more interest in this bill than many others. The Government is to be congratulated on having brought forward this proposal, because the administration of the Territory by commission has so far proved disappointing. Certain phases of it were repugnant to the self-respect of Australians, and I would like to see changes made which will confer upon the residents of the Territory greater political and civic rights. They justly resent being placed in the same category as aliens, but the modicum of representation offered by this bill may appease their feelings to some extent. Some of the restrictions imposed by the Federal Capital Commission have not appealed to me. Although the Constitution provides for interstate freetra.de, the boundaries of the Territory are regarded as the frontiers between it and a foreign land. The neighbouring town of Queanbeyan had to play its part in the early stages of the development of Canberra by providing accommodation for those engaged in its construction when no buildings were available in the Territory. Now that Canberra has become more independent, the citizens of Queanbeyan are treated as if they were foreigners. Work in the Federal Capital Territory is given primarily to those residing in the Territory. In certain circumstances that might be justifiable, but no homes are available to wages men in Canberra except at exorbitant rentals. No artificial barrier should be erected between the city and its neighbour. The Commission has no right to say that any man it employs shall not live in his own home in a town a few miles from Canberra. That is an injustice which would not be tolerated by the people of Canberra if they had the right to elect their own administration, and I hope that it will be remedied to a large extent under the administration, which will be brought into being by this bill. Tribute has been paid to the work done by Sir John Butters and other members of the Federal Capital Commission, but even an elected body could have done a lot with £12,000,000. The time is not far distant when the Federal Capital Territory will be selfsupporting. It cost the Commonwealth only £750,000 to acquire the whole area. The site upon which Parliament House stands, if situated in Sydney or Melbourne, would have cost more than what was paid for the Territory. Two acres of land at Civic Centre, which, not long ago, cost £20 to resume, were found, when the leases were sold, to have a nominal value of £45,000, and it will not be long before the earning capacity of Canberra will meet more than the interest and the sinking fund payments in connexion with the whole of the expenditure in the Territory. That being the case/ Canberra should he just as free as are the cities of Sydney and Melbourne in civic administration and management, although I admit that the Ministers should have some say in the control of the Capital. It is possible that the Government may later find it necessary to place even greater powers than are now proposed in the hands of those who are to administer the affairs of this city. We should give effect to that fundamental principle so dear to any person who loves his liberty - the right of representation where there is taxation.
The people of Canberra have been subjected to unfair treatment in many instances. The original terms of many of the sales of leases in the early stages have since been practically repudiated by the Commission. Leased areas, valued at perhaps £2 or £3 a foot, have been taxed as though the lessees were paying three times as much for them, and if any demur were raised the Government would immediately validate the action of the Commission under further ordinances and legislation. The residents here have no real security. In other parts of the Commonwealth the terms of a sale would be binding on both parties to it. Many of the Canberra leases have been purchased under misrepresentation. This till should meet the requirements of the people who wish to have some say in the management of the civic affairs of Canberra, and if anything goes wrong they will have themselves to blame for it. One decision of the Federal Capital Commission left that body open to considerable suspicion. It took action to prevent Queanbeyan workers from being employed in the Territory. The object was apparently to force them to live in the Capital city and so lose their right to the franchise, which, had it been exercised in Queanbeyan, might have jeopardized the return of the Nationalist candidate for EdenMonaro.’ Despite “that restriction that seat was won by Labour. That remark may not be quite revelant to the subject under debate, but there is no harm in mentioning it. I support the bill.
– I have taken a considerable amount of interest in the rise and development of Canberra, since I, with a large number of other members of this Parliament, recorded a vote in favour of transferring the seat of Government to Canberra. I have always regretted that action. I consider that it was one of the greatest blunders ever committed by this Parliament since the inception of federation. I can see how that blunder was made possible. It was caused by the gradual use of a sort of pyschologica’ influence upon the New South Wales members of the Federal Parliament. For many years a certain section of people, who are now never heard of, constituted themselves a Federal Capital agitation body. Although only few in number, they had a capacity for making a great noise. Gradually they terrorized the New South Wales section of the Federal Parliament. The mischief was practically done when I entered this Parliament in 1922. I recognized then that the spirit of fear that had been created by this agitation in New South Wales had been transmitted to the Victorian members, and had made it impossible to long delay the transfer of the seat of government to Canberra. Certain “honorable members who had opposed the Federal Capital for many years finally caved in, and when the vote was taken there was a majority of 37 in favour of the transfer. Then, of course, there was nothing else to do, but to perpetuate this gigantic blunder. It is too late to remedy it, and it is no use crying over spilt milk. The BrucePage Government was to be commended for the methods that it adopted in carrying out the will of Parliament. The responsibility for the transfer rests upon, not that Government, but this Parliament. The very first day that I entered the Federal Parliament in Melbourne a member of the Opposition, Mr. Mahony, rose in his place and moved a motion that the first session of the Parliament at Canberra be held immediately after the next general election. He gained a lot of kudos from his action, so much so that other New South Wales members thought that he had too great a break on the field. They thereupon came up behind him and supported the motion.
– He was on Spearfelt
– The motion was finally carried. The Bruce-Page Government then loyally began to carry out the will of Parliament. Its methods were characteristically prompt and efficient. The honorable member for “Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), as the then Minister for “Works and Railways, was charged with the responsibility of this gigantic task of transferring the seat of government to Canberra.
– He turned the first sod at Canberra.
– It was he who handled the bill providing for the appointment of the Federal Capital Commission. I well remember the criticism that was then levelled at the Commission and the arguments which the honorable member for Wimmera employed to justify its appointment. In due course Parliament was transferred to Canberra, and on the auspicious occasion when the Duke of York performed the official opening it was quite obvious to those honorable members who had given some thought to the project that a mistake had been made, not only in coming here but also in the developmental and constructive work that had been done. lt was found that this country was being involved in a groat loss of money- in establishing the Federal Capital. Unfortunately the city is here for all time. No sane person would suggest that the seat of government could ever be shifted from Canberra. However, now that we are here we must make the best of things not only for the Federal Parliament but also for the people of Australia. Have we done our be3t for the people of Australia in establishing thi3 Capital and in bringing it to its present stage of development? I well remember that many years ago, even before there was any definite idea of coming to Canberra, a section of the Sydney press jubilantly stated “ Canberra will never be anything but a glorified country town.” All the advocates of the Federal Capital were very wroth at that statement. They said that the intention was that the capital of Australia should be a genuine capital, something of which the whole of Australia would be proud.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to know whether the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) is in order in discussing the early history of the Capital ‘and its establishment.
– The honorable member is just as much in order as was the honorable member for Eden-Monaro when he himself was speaking.
– The champions of Canberra in the early days were indignant at the suggestion that this Capital should never be anything more than :i glorified country town. Some of those who took a prominent part in. refuting that statement were the members of the Sydney Federal Capital League. They kept hammering away until finally the Federal Parliament decided to transfer the seat of government. I must confess that I am disappointed with the present attitude of the early champions of Canberra towards this city. Since Parliament has assembled here, there has been, on their part, a widespread attempt to belittle the Federal Capital.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– The Federal Capital to-day is not receiving a fair deal from the very interests which had most to do with the establishment of the seat of government here in 1927. Although there had been a great deal of hostility, both inside and outside of Parliament, to the removal of the seat of government from Melbourne, at least in our time, it. was broken down by a persistent campaign, engineered principally from New South Wales, and all parties combined to endorse the decision to leave Melbourne, where, the Commonwealth Parliament had been functioning for 27 years, and make our political home permanently in Canberra. I was not very enthusiastic regarding the proposal, but because I was a New South Wales member, and because it was receiving the support of a number of members from other States, who had previously opposed it, I considered that it would be the height of presumption for me to vote against it. I, therefore, supported it.
The principal reason for my disappointment with Canberra is not so much the disabilities that many members experience, as the loss of prestige which the Federal. Parliament has suffered since it left Melbourne. We were given to understand that that prestige would be considerably enhanced when the Commonwealth Parliament was severed from the leading strings of Melbourne. The statement was frequently made in New South Wales that this Parliament was dominated by the Melbourne press, and that the politics of Australia were in reality a transfusion of the public opinion of Victoria. It was argued that when that allegedly undesirable influence was removed the eyes of Australia would be upon this Parliament in a truly national sense, and that there would be a diffusion of public interests, particularly through the press. It was believed that newspapers which then were not very greatly concerned about what happened in the Federal Parliament, because they regarded it mainly as a Melbourne concern, would begin to display a very live national interest in it. I have formed the opinion that the reverse has been the case. The Melbourne press has certainly given us a better deal than that of New South Wales, which has adopted a reprehensible attitude. It has belittled the Federal Capital in two directions; first, by giving it insufficient publicity; and secondly, by giving great prominence to many of the handicaps from which this Parliament has suffered since the seat of government was established here. The result has been the growth throughout Australia of the feeling that Canberra is of very slight consequence, and that the Federal Parliament is merely a reflection of its local surroundings, and has become parochial; that because of its isolation and the fact that it is out of touch with public opinion it has not fulfilled here the high national purpose it fulfilled in Melbourne. The Melbourne press, notwithstanding that it was opposed to the change, has given both this Parliament and the Federal Capital a great deal more publicity than has the press of New South Wales, or any other State.
– What about the Sydney Morning Herald?
– That is the only newspaper in New South Wales which has given this Parliament anything like a fair deal; the remainder of the press has practically ignored the Federal Capital. The effect upon the prestige of Canberra has been very bad, and the low prestige that it has to-day is exercising a serious influence upon its development. We must realize that a tremendous work was undertaken when it was decided to start practically de novo to build a city in the bush. Those who have followed the work of the authorities who have had charge of that undertaking must agree with the Minister and others who have spoken that a tremendous and valuable thing has been done for Australia. The fact that a great deal of money has been lost in the construction of the Capital does not detract from the value of the work done by those who were given the responsibility of transferring the seat of government from Melbourne to Canberra.” Honorable members who have taken the trouble to peruse the annual reports of the Federal Capital Commission must have been amazed at the enormous responsibility which was placed upon that body, and the comparatively efficient manner in which that responsibility was discharged. But the fact remains that the transfer has cost Australia a great deal. The total capital cost to date is over £12,000,000, and there would appear to be no prospect of making good the loss. The Capital appears to have sunk almost into a slough of despond, one of the causes being the unfortunate policy that has been so stupidly pursued by a large section of the Australian press of underrating the importance of the Capital and giving too great a prominence to its handicaps and disabilities. We cannot exercise any control over the press, but its influence ought to be counteracted. It is time that this Parliament took the matter into its own hands and boosted the Federal Capital. We have accepted the dictum of a large number of newspapers and allowed the Capital virtually to become of second-rate importance in the eyes of the people of Australia. If the authorities responsible were to display a little more enterprise and activity, a sufficient amount of publicity could be disseminated throughout Australia to generate a more favorable impression in the public mind. Those who travel a good deal and discuss the Capital must have been struck with the poor opinion that a large number of people hold of it. I have spoken to many railwaymen who are employed on the line from Sydney to Canberra, and have found that they are numbered amongst our worst advertisers. When people mention Canberra, they tell them about the collapse of the traffic on the line. I have heard railwaymen telling travellers in other parts of New South Wales that they have come to Canberra night after night with only one passenger in the sleeping car, and that trains travel here day after day and night after night with not more than a handful of people. Statements of that sort are giving a false impression. I, therefore, suggest to the Minister that the new authorities whom he proposes to set up should undertake a definite campaign of boost of the Federal Capital.
– It needs a lot.
– Every day one can see distributed on behalf of the different States and of various private enterprises beautifully coloured pamphlets drawing attention to wonderful tourist resorts and national advantages. Nothing so favorable is ever published in regard to Canberra. The newspapers make star features of the losses incurred in the running of the hotels, the lack of accommodation provided, the excessive tariff charged, and similar disabilities. Every complaint is broadcast all over Australia, and the accumulated effect has been to give to outsiders the idea that Canberra is a good place to keep away from. That could be counteracted largely by a live publicity agency in the Territory under the control of the Department of Home Affairs. I urge the Minister to establish such an activity, and also suggest that, whenever a statement respecting a disability is given prominence in the press, it should, if possible, be officially refuted. If that were done it would not be long before the people changed their ideas respecting the Capital. In the first year that we were here droves of people visited the Capital. It appeared to be a magnet which attracted travellers.
Almost every person who came from another country included Canberra in his itinerary. That traffic has practically faded away, and very few people who come from abroad now take the trouble to visit Canberra, because they are given the impression that it is not worth while.
– Tourists are coming here in larger numbers than ever.
– They are quite inconspicuous. We do not see them moving about, and any such increase is not reflected in the railway traffic.
– If the honorable member lived here he would see them.
– The fact that the New South; Wales railway authorities proposed to reduce by 50 per cent, the railway services between Sydney and Canberra proves that the volume of traffic is not increasing. When Parliament is not in session the accommodation at the hotels is ample. Hotel Kurrajong, which of all the hotels is the most extensively patronized when Parliament is sitting, has to be closed when it is in recess. I do not dispute the Minister’s statement; but I believe that it requires amplification, because my opinion is that the Capital is gradually ceasing to be attractive to tourists. Apparently, it is impossible, at the present time, to do anything further to make Canberra something like the city we hoped it would be. Owing to the present financial position we cannot undertake the expenditure of further enormous sums of money merely to make the place attractive to tourists, and for the present we must be content with a very slow rate of progression. A great deal has already been done. It is admitted that the Capital has been practically transformed in three years, but unless there is some entirely new development, Canberra’s population for many years must consist almost entirely of civil servants. Of the present population of about 8,000, 90 per cent, are public servants and their relations, and when all the public servants have been transferred the total population will be considerably under 20,000. Since Canberra cannot be a large city, we must be content to make it a garden city, and thus make it more attractive to tourists than it is to-day. We should also encourage various bodies throughout the Commonwealth to hold their annual gatherings here. A number of them have already done so, but probably various sporting organizations in the State capitals could be induced to hold their annual carnivals or tournaments here.
It is questionable whether any system of government that is largely experimental would prove more beneficial than the system proposed to be replaced. I admit that there are considerable objections to the commission form of government, one of which is that there is a tendency for it to usurp supreme power. Of course, a commission could not properly exercise its functions if it were continually interfered with. Parliament seems to be the body that should exercise immediate control over the local authority. If too much power were vested in a Minister in connexion with the administration of a city so unique as Canberra, we should be likely to have more disablities than were experienced when the control was exercised by a commission composed of a few experts. The main argument to justify the abandonment of the commission experiment is that advanced by the Leader of the Opposition. The constructional period having practically ceased, and there being no big developmental works in progress now, there is not the same necessity as there formerly was to employ three experts, drawing large salaries, to exercise powers which in other cities and the larger provincial towns throughout Australia are vested in a municipal council. Therefore, I think that we can safely risk a change in the form of control. Although I view the proposal with a certain degree of misgiving, it appears to be justified, because no other system seems to be practicable at the present time. Parliament was satisfied that the late Commission had served its purpose. We all agree that it did very good work; it passed out of existence in an atmosphere of approval rather than opprobrium.
It is proposed to divide the administrative powers among three government departments, and that administered by the Minister for Home Affairs will be virtually in supreme control. So long as it is understood that if a mistake is made the policy will be quickly altered, it may be safe to try this experiment. But if it is intended to adopt this form of government for at least a lengthy period, consideration should be given to the adverse opinion that competent persons have expressed against it. A glance at the fifth annual report of the Federal Capital Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1929, suggests that Sir John Butters must have been considering the proposed form of control. He was selected by the Government of the day as the most qualified person available to assume the responsibility with which he was entrusted. The report of the Commission, at page 17, states -
My knowledge of the condition of affairs under dualcontrol during pre-Commission days, combined with my experience since, has led me to the conclusion that it would be nothing less than a tragedy to subdivide the activities of the Commission and distribute them among two or more departments. Should such a proposal be carried into effect it will certainly be disastrous, just as it was in Washington many years ago. I am certain that it is essential at this stage of the city’s development to retain one centralized administration for the Territory. On the other hand, it must be recognized that the responsibilities carried by the present Commission are far greater and more varied than have ever been attempted in any other city in the world. . . There are three paramount and distinct interests which suggest a solution of this problem -
1 ) General administration and the construction of Federal Government buildings and works;
The essential control of city design and development; and
Local government, and I recommend to the careful consideration of the Government the following scheme of government for the Territory -
1 ) Administration and Construction of Federal Government Buildings and Works. -
That a commission, board or directorate, the membership of which might vary from one to three, depending upon the work in hand and ahead, be established for the purpose of holding the huge amount of property now vested in the Commission and of carrying on the administration of the Territory and the construction of all Federal Government buildings and works; the management of all lands, and the maintenance of all assets under its charge. . . This body would be responsible in the first instance, just as the Commission has been in the past, for the maintenance and operation of all the public utilities, except those mentioned below, until the appropriate time arrives for handing them over to the local governing authority. This body would also be responsible for the preparation of all detail designs for works and buildings in conjunction and co-operation with the Committee of Design and Development referred to hereafter.
That suggestion has been completely ignored. The second suggestion was that there should be a committee of city design and development; but, in lieu of that, the Minister proposes to’ take to himself the right to vary the city plan. That appears to me to open up many dangerous possibilities. The Minister is not a town planner or an architect, and he would have to accept the advice of departmental officials-
– The Advisory Council would go into that subject, but it must be observed that the bill provides for the acceptance of the Griffin plan.
– I do not contend for a moment that that plan should not be altered. The traffic conditions all over the world have been transformed since it was drawn up. It is obvious to anybody with half an eye that the present design is impracticable for modern traffic conditions, and will have to be radically altered. There may be no urgent need to change it immediately, owing to the small population of Canberra, but it is generally recognized that a veritable maze of roads arranged in circles and halfcircles is unsuitable for modern traffic. One takes one’s life in one’s hands in walking along the roads of Canberra at night. It is impossible to know from what direction the traffic may be coming. It is quite evident that in a very short time the layout of the roads, at any rate, will have to be altered. Providing it is possible to have such alterations effected, there is not much objection to the bill. There is one provision that no major alteration can be effected unless notice of it is given to Parliament and the proposal laid on the table of the House. This gives Parliament the opportunity of vetoing anything which it considers to be against the public interests. That is a very wise provision. Sir John Butters drew up a scheme for establishing a local governing authority in Canberra. Although he was supposed to be an autocrat having little sympathy with those who desired local government, apparently his experience satisfied him that a very much larger measure of local municipal control should be allowed in Canberra than had been given by any previous government. In his report he recommended -
Consideration might also be given as to whether the time has arrived when the responsibility for primary and secondary education might be handed over to such a body.
It is then suggested that as the final transfer is approaching completion consideration be given to establishing an organization by which the maintenance of all engineering services be handed over to the local governing authority to operate on the completion of the work, it being borne in mind that at this stage major constructional activities in these lines will be approaching completion.
This proposal will involve some measure of control over the budget of the local governing authority, but this should be capable of solution.
That suggestion of Sir John Butters should be taken into consideration when we are dealing with this bill. Apparently the Minister has had no more success than his predecessor had in formulating a measure for local control. In this bill it is proposed to set up an advisory council, the members of which shall receive £100 a year. I do not agree with the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) that the members should not be paid. It is a great deal to ask of citizens, most of whom are civil servants or business men, that they should give their time unrewarded to administering the affairs of the Territory. It is imposing too much on their public spirit, and generally what one gets for nothing is worth nothing. It would be a good thing to pay the members of the council, because then, if they are honest men, they will feel obliged to give their honest services to the work. I do not think that £100 a year is enough. If they were paid £200 or £250 it would induce keen competition among citizens for a position on the council, and that would be all to the good. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr* Archdale Parkhill) raised the objection that this council would be elected on party lines, and that it was more likely to be representative of Labour opinion than of Nationalist opinion. I do not think that it would matter much if it were a Labour council, because I cannot imagine any Minister, least of all the present one, allowing himself to be run by a council elected by the citizens of Canberra. He would take advice from them, but if they tried to “ run the rule “ over him, the fact that they were representative of his own party would not make him any more likely to knuckle down to them.
I do not think that the members of this council will feel that they have much status. We are all familiar with the outcome of the last Government’s experiment in having a representative of the residents elected to the Commission. The honorable member for Warringah said it was unfortunate that the wrong men were elected. The two men who have occupied the position, he said, were temperamentally unfitted for the job. That may or may not be true, but at any rate they bo th took up the work with the idea of safeguarding the interests of those who elected them. They found, however, that owing to the constitution of the Commission they had no voice whatever in the control of Canberra’s affairs. They were there really as a sort of concession or sop to the residents. Is there not a danger that the three persons to be elected to the advisory council by the residents will find themselves in a similar position? It seems to me that the secretary of the Department of Home Affairs will be the real governing authority. The hill proposes to vest very wide powers in the hands of the Minister for Home Affairs, and the Minister is generally guided to a large extent by his departmental secretary.
– The honorable member need not let that worry him. It will not happen as he fears.
– The Minister is not Minister for Canberra only. He is Minister for Home Affairs, and as such has many duties to attend to. Therefore, he must rely to a large extent upon the advice of his departmental secretary. It may be true that the secretary is a very capable man, but it is not wise to allow any man in such a position to be the virtual ruler of Canberra.
– As a matter of fact the civic administrator will have greater power than the secretary.
– That may be, but my point is that if the advisory council is to have any real voice in the control of Canberra, and any influence with the Minister, it must work on friendly terms with the secretary of his department. The Minister is supreme over the civic administrator and everybody else in this matter. Some means should be provided for bringing the advisory council into touch with the Federal Parliament. It is not right that the residents of the Territory should be put to the trouble of electing three representatives who are merely dummies, who must go cap in hand to the department and express their opinions in such a way as not to ruffle the feathers of some official. I do not say that that is what will happen, but it might happen.
It has been the practice of the Federal Capital Commission to furnish an annual report to Parliament, and I think provision should be made in this bill for the elected advisory council to furnish a similar report to Parliament. That would enable them, if they met with such difficulties as I have indicated, to go over the heads of the Minister and his administrative officials and put their case before Parliament itself. That would confer some status upon the council. It would not enable it to dictate to the Minister or the department, but it would provide some remedy in the event of its encountering an obstinate or inefficient Minister, or a departmental secretary who was at loggerheads with it. I presume that it is the intention of the Government to see that a report on the administration of the Territory is still furnished to Parliament after the abolition of the Commission, and provision should be made for an expression of opinion in that report from the elected representatives of the citizens. Such a practice would throw a direct responsibility upon the three members of the advisory council. If they are responsible to no one except the departmental secretary they will not bother themselves much about their work. They will just sit on the job for the term for which they are elected, but if they have to report to this Parliament every year they will realize the responsibility they have undertaken, and will recognize that, although they are under the direct control of the Minister and his officers, they have, in the final analysis, a right to go over their heads to Parliament.
– It will also enable Parliament to see how far their advice has been accepted.
– That is so. If the Minister does not accept some such proposal he will perpetuate the trouble which has obtained ever since this halfbaked form of representation has been in existence. I do not say that it will enable us to get over all our difficulties or make the advisory council effective ; but it will give the council the right to get away from officialdom and offer it an opportunity to ventilate any important matter in Parliament itself. With that reservation, I support the bill in every particular. I have spoken in no critical spirit of the Minister, who is showing a great deal of interest in the control of the Federal Capital. I have offered suggestions in the hope that they may do something to get away from the dissatisfaction which exists among the residents of the Federal Capital Territory. The Minister may have better suggestions than I have offered; but, if not, I hope that the proposals I have submitted will receive his earnest consideration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. West) adjourned.
– by leave - Honorable members have probably been besieged to-day with telegrams and messages from different parts of Australia suggesting that a serious position is likely to arise in the grape-growing industry of this country. There is a threat, particularly by one wine manufacturer, to close down his industry and refuse to buy any grapes from the growers. In other words, there is a threat of a lockout in the industry. I, therefore, take this opportunity to make the position of the Government clear so that there can be no equivocation. I tell these wine manufacturers that they can cease their defiance. The Government, not these wine manufacturers, is at present governing this country, and it will not depart from the policy it has announced simply because a few wine manufacturers have placed a gun at the head of the grape-growers of Australia. I say, further, that the Government will protect the growers from any attacks made upon them. I warn those who would hold up the industry that the Government has the power to increase the excise duty still further and to protect the growers from arbitrary action by people who are upset because of increased excise duty. Let me briefly set out the position. After the war ended a large number of returned soldiers were established on farms for the purpose of growing grapes. There was at that time a good market for wines and dried fruits. Both Commonwealth and State Governments, representing the people of this country, declared to establish returned soldiers on the land on conditions which were regarded almost as ideal. Later, the market fell, largely because wine came to be purchased again from other- countries from which supplies were not obtained during the war. The result was a considerable over-production of wine in Australia. The several governments which assisted to place the returned soldiers on the land in the manner I have indicated did so with the best of intentions; no blame attaches to them for the troubles which were experienced later. Nevertheless, it is true that the action of the various governments in placing these men on the land to grow grapes led to over-production. Consequently the governments of Australia are under a moral obligation to assist them out of their difficulty. For that reason a previous Commonwealth Government introduced legislation to provide for the payment of a bounty on all fortified wines exported. Although the amount of the bounty was reduced from time to time, it continued for many years. Unless renewed it will expire this year. Some time ago representations were made to me by those engaged in the grape-growing industry that the bounty should be increased. It might be well at this stage to point out that the purpose of the bounty was to assist, not the wine manufacturers - although they received benefits from it which were not intended - but the growers of grapes. Altogether I received five deputations representing grape-growers in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. Accompanying those deputations were honorable members of all parties from both Houses of this Parliament who urged that the position facing the grape-growers was so deplorable that unless there was an increase in the export of wine - and that could only come about by increasing the bounty and guaranteeing its continuance - the grapes would rot on the vines in many districts, the country side would be practically devastated, and thousands of men living on small blocks would lose the savings of a lifetime and be forced into the ranks of the unemployed. I listened attentively to the statements made; I looked into the facts placed before me; and I realized that the position of the grape-growers was indeed serious. Knowing the financial difficulties confronting Australia, I made it clear to the several deputations that waited upon me that while the Government sympathized with their representations it could not do much because of the state of the country’s finances. In almost every case the deputationists informed me that the wine-making industry in Australia was in a flourishing condition, and that those engaged in it were making a huge profit out of the people, because they were able to exploit the profitable Australian market, leaving others to dispose of their surplus wine in the unprofitable markets overseas. It was suggested that the wine makers should contribute towards the bounty on exported wine in order to equalize matters. After very careful inquiry the Government decided to adopt that suggestion, the principle underlying which was the same as that which operated in connexion with the dried fruits industry. Not content with considering the representations placed before me, I arranged that the Customs Department’s expert should visit the grapegrowing areas and investigate the industry. On his return he made a recommendation to the Government, which was acted upon. An increased excise duty was imposed. Prior to its imposition there was in existence an excise duty which had been imposed for revenue purposes, chiefly to meet war expenditure. Before the imposition of the higher excise duty, the bounty was paid out of the general revenue of the country; but in view of the serious state of our finances the Government had to consider how long that could continue. It decided not to continue to pay the bounty at the expense of the general taxpayer, but to obtain it from those who were exploiting the profitable Australian wine market. The decision of the Government to increase the excise duty has caused some of the wine manufacturers to threaten drastic action. In justice to the wine manufacturers generally I wish to mention that I have received letters and telegrams from many of them, either congratulating the Government upon its action, or stating that the threat of the minority among them was merely bluff. Whether it is bluff or not, I tell them emphatically that the Government will not retrace its steps because of their threats. In case any honorable member is afraid that the threat will be carried out, and the fruit allowed to rot on the vines, I point out that those who approached me in the matter assured me that unless the Government took action to increase the bounty the grapes would indeed rot on the vines on thousands of acres of vineyards throughout Australia, and that many growers would be faced with ruin. Honorable members will see that,3 even if the threats are carried out, the position will be no worse than if the Government had failed to take any action. On the 12th March the excise duty on wine was increased. There was, of course, no announcement of the Government’s intention to increase it. The following letter, sent by the Mildura Winery Proprietary Limited, at Merbein, to the secretary of the Mildura Winery Growers Association at Bed Cliffs, is therefore significant : -
Replying to your inquiry re winery grapes, we wish to advise that the position of this company is the same as communicated verbally to your committee on February 22nd, i.e., on account of our large unsold stocks of spirit and wine we regret we will be unable to purchase any of the 1930 crop of gordos walthams or doradillos
In that district alone 4,000 tons of grapes are supplied to the wineries each year. There is no other outlet for them. Yet on the 22nd February - before the excise duty was increased - that winery announced that it would not purchase any grapes this year. That shows the deplorable state of the industry, due to the stocks held by wine manufacturers being excessive. The letter was written on the 22nd February, two days after I had announced, in the name of the Government, that it was proposed to increase the bounty on exported wine. The winery was prepared to take advantage of the bounty, but it was unwilling to do anything to assist the growers. Yet the sole purpose of the export bounty was to assist the growers, not the manufacturers.
– The granting of the bounty would relieve the congestion.
– That was its purpose.
– Will the amount of the duty bc in excess of the bounty previously given ?
– To that question I have a complete answer. The Government, acting upon expert advice, and because the industry asked it to do so, made an early announcement of its proposal to increase the bounty. There was a fear that, if it did not, the grapes would not be purchased this year. On the 20th February I announced that there would be an increase of 6d. per gallon on the bounty on fortified wine exported, and that it would continue for five years. When that announcement was made the Government had already decided - although naturally it did not make its decision public - to increase the excise duty. It calculated the amount likely to be required for the payment of bounties during the whole five years for which they would operate, and also took into account the possibility of a considerable increase in the export of wine during that period. On the facts at its disposal it fixed the increase of excise duty at 5s. a gallon. I point out that not one penny of the revenue so derived will be used for general revenue purposes; it will be placed in a special trust account and used only to assist the wine industry. And it will be returned to the industry in the form of a further rebate or an increased bounty. During the last couple of weeks officers of the department have been reexamining the figures, and as a result of this investigation the bill will contain a provision to increase the export bounty to ls. 9d. This will still leave a little surplus in the first year, and probably in the second year; after that we expect that the increased export will absorb the whole of the increased duty. I assure the House that the extra duty is for the sole purpose of financing the industry.
Another fact to be considered is that sales have been effected of wine in bond, in respect of which the wine-maker is obviously unable to pass the increased duty on to the purchasers. We shall make provision for a rebate in such circumstances. Some of the wine-makers are complaining that they have been caught with large stocks of fortified wines in bond and must pay a large amount of increased duty. Why were they caught thus? Because they took advantage of the concession granted by the department to exporters to fortify their wine in bond. When wine is exported the duty is rebated, and in order to obviate the payment of a duty that would be subsequently repaid, wine intended for export is allowed to be fortified in bond. Some, manufacturers who do not export one gallon of wine, but exploit the Australian market to their profit, fortified their wine in bond in order to postpone the payment of duty until the wine was used. If such men have been caught with large stocks of wine in bond, they do not deserve special consideration and will not receive it.
Some people seem to be under the impression that the duty on fortifying spirit is extraordinarily high. Even with the increase proposed it represents only 2s. 4d. per liquid gallon of wine, and when the wine is exported that amount will be rebated, plus a bounty of ls. 9d. per gallon. No duty whatever is paid on dry wine. On beer the excise duty is ls. lOd. per gallon and on whiskies and brandies 21s. per gallon. Honorable members will see that the wine-makers have little cause for complaint in regard to a duty of 2s. 4d. per gallon on liquid wine. To prove that the clamorous opposition by some of the wine-makers does not represent the views of the whole industry, I shall read an extract from a letter I have received from a large firm which makes wines, and is engaged in both export and retail trading: -
I wish to congratulate you on the statesmanlike way in which you are handling the export bonus on wine, namely, by imposing a duty of 10s. per gallon on fortified spirit, causing the increased bonus to be paid by the wine consumers and not by the general public.
The higher prices of fortified wines will increase the business in unfortified delicate wines such as clarets, &c, which will be good for the trade and the public. As vignerons fortify in bond, it will not handicap even the smaller makers. The men who are protesting are those who refuse to shoulder their share of disposing of the surplus production by con- tilling themselves to local sales only, which enables them also to shirk giving standard prices for grapes.
I regard the new duty with satisfaction and hope it will be carried. The effect on the retail price of wine will be infinitesimal.
The letter emphasizes another important fact, namely, that those who do not export wine are under no obligation to pay fixed prices for grapes, whereas those who do export have to pay the fixed price for all grapes used in the manufacture of wine, whether for consumption abroad or in the home market. Yet the winemakers who buy the grapes at their own prices, regardless of whether they repay to the grower the cost of production, and are able to make greater profits on the home market, are making the loudest clamour. My answer to them is that they are at liberty to continue their threats. If they choose to ruin their industry by trying to ruin the growers, the Government will be prepared to take some action to protect the growers. A threat has reached us from one manufacturing firm that they will transfer their business to South Africa. They may do so. But if they do they will not be able to retain their business in Australia. The present import duty on wine is 18s. per gallon ; that is practically prohibitive, but it can be increased. No manufacturer can retain his Australian market by transferring his business to South Africa. Threats of this kind will not deter the Government. There need be no further barrage of telegrams and attempts at intimidation. The Government is acting after due consideration and representations extending over months by those engaged in the industry. Our purpose is to assist the industry to get on its feet, to protect the growers against bankruptcy, and to compel the profitable wine-making industry to maintain itself in the home market as well as in the export market. The Government will go ahead with the -policy it has enunciated.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
– The Senate has rejected clause 2, which contained the new definitions of “ unimproved value “ and “ value of improvements,” and has made consequential amendments in other parts of the bill. I propose to ask the committee to accept the amendments, not because the Government concurs in them, but because it is necessary that the portions of the bill relating to pastoral leases should be passed without delay. Three cases are listed for hearing during the sittings of the High Court in Sydney commencing on Monday next, and it is desirable that this legislation be enacted at once in order to protect the revenues of the ‘Commonwealth and spare the appellants the cost of unnecessary litigation. The Government proposes to introduce at a later stage a further amendment of the Land Tax Assessment Act to cover those provisions which have been deleted by the Senate from the present bill. I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
.- The principal object of the bill was to. deal with the position created by a decision of the High Court in reference to Crown leaseholds. On that subject the views of the Opposition have been already stated. Any amendment of the definition of unimproved value must have far-reaching effects, and I am glad that the Government has taken a course which will enable its advisers to investigate the matter more thoroughly, giving due consideration to what has been said in this committee and in another place.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of the collection of certain duties of customs.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the bill is to validate the collection of customs duties on baltic floorings, lining, and weatherboards as “Dressed timber n.e.i., Tariff Item 29 since the first Commonweal th tariff was introduced in October, 1901. Last night the House agreed to a bill to validate such collections since the 22nd November, 1929, and this further measure is rendered necessary by the fact that the timber importers have issued writs for the recovery of duties paid on baltic flooring, linings, and weatherboards between 1922 and 1929. On this timber duty has been paid without , protest as “ timber, dressed, n.e.i.”, at the following rates: - 11th November, 1921, to 24th November, 1927 - 8s. Gd. per 100 super, feet. 25th November, 1927, to 21st November, 1929 - 15s. per 100 super, feet.
On 22nd November, 1929, as honorable members will recollect, the rate was raised to 20s. per 100 super, feet. The- timberimporting interests claimed that duty should have been paid at 30 per cent, ad valorem as “ timber cut into shape,” although, as stated on. a previous occasion, the departmental classification had been accepted without demur for 28 years. It is quite clear that it was the intention of Parliament that duty should be collecte’d on these timbers as “ dressed timber, n.e.i.”, and the Government did not propose to allow that intention to be defeated. There was no justification for the action of the importers. The bill does not impose retrospective taxation. No additional revenue will be collected by its passage. The duty has already been collected in accordance with the intention of Parliament, and this “bill will merely validate such collection. The average importation of dressed timber from Norway and Sweden - which would he chiefly these baltic timbers - from 1922-23 to 1928-29, was 75,000,000 super, feet per annum, and its average value was about 25s. per 100 super, feet. The duty claimed by the importers to be the correct duty, namely, 30 per cent, ad valorem, under tariff item 291k, would have averaged about 7s. 6d. per 100 super, feet, as against the respective rates of 8s. 6d. and 15s. per 100 super feet, which were the rates on dressed timber, n.e.i., during the period in question. Since the bill was prepared an undertaking has been given that the writs will be withdrawn; but the Government considers it necessary to introduce this validating bill in order that the matter may be finally settled, and that no further dispute may arise in connexion with the classification of this timber. The importers have no objection to this course. As the amount of revenue involved is between £750,000 and £1,000,000, it is considered necessary to pass this validating bill to safeguard the revenues of this country against any further action that might be taken by other persons who, probably, were not represented by the importers when they were here last evening.
– I have no objection to the hill. The object of the House in increasing the duty under item 291l was undoubtedly to increase the rates on baltic timber. It is arguable that tongued and grooved timber, weatherboards and the like, are timbers cut into shape, and properly dutiable under item 291k, which item was not increased at the same time as item 291l. For many years the Customs Department and the importers have entered this timber under item 2911, and I have no objection to making the position secure in accordance with the intention of Parliament, particularly as that intention has been accepted not only by the administration, but also by the importers of the timber themselves. This bill leaves open entirely the question of the merits of the timber duties. It only validates collections up to 21st November, 1929. We shall still be able to enter into an interesting discussion as to whether we should continue putting duties on baltic timber, so that, ultimately, it will become so dear that it will be used only for purposes of jewellery. That matter is entirely open, and is unaffected by this bill. I cannot believe that anything like £1,000,000 is involved, because the payments which have been made, cannot be re-opened, and only payments made under protest in accordance with section 167 of the act could possibly be reclaimed. However that is not of very much importance. I agree with the principle of the bill and will support it.
Question resolved in affirmative.
Bill read a second time and - by leave - passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Obum ah Expropriated Properties
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn
– I wish to call attention to a statement which appeared in the current issue of Smith’s Weekly. It is as close to being a libel as possible, a practice in which that newspaper frequently indulges in respect of members of Parliament. No direct statement is made involving either myself or my brother, but the article imputes by indirect suggestion and insinuation that we have done something improper and dishonest in respect of certain German’ expropriated properties. To explain the position I shall read a comment appearing in the Auditor-General’s report which apparently has been the inspiration for this newspaper article. The Auditor-General refers to the fact that certain Germans, who were retained in New Guinea, had made attempts, but without success, to have their properties released from expropriation. He goes on to say -
In 1926, representations were made by certain persons acting for their German principals, Bruno Schwarz and Paul Ignatious Schmidt, that their case should be re-opened. It was stated that the grounds for re-con- sideration of Schmidt’s case were exactly the same as those submitted in respect of Schwarz. The Custodian advised the Treasurer that, in his opinion, the case should be re-opened if fresh evidence were available. It having been stated that such evidence was available, on 16th October, 1926, a direction was given by the Treasurer that the cases of the two specified Germans be re-submitted to the advisory committee, who then recommended that “the consequences of expropriation be not insisted upon “ in so far as these two Germans were concerned. Formal releases were gazetted, 11th August, 1027, and it was decided by the Treasurer that the proceeds of sale of the plantations previously owned by the released persons should be paid in cash to them, less, of course, any amounts properly due to the Custodian as a result of transactions during the time the properties were in his hands, and statutory commissions and other recoverable moneys.
The Auditor-General then pointed out that these Germans received only half of the total amount that was paid by the Custodian to their attorneys in Melbourne, by reason of an arrangement that had been made, prior to the Germans making any movement at all in connexion with this matter, with a man named Linden and another named Forsayth. The statement is made in Smith’s Weekly that my brother, the secretary of the administration in New Guinea, who, as honorable members know, has nothing to do with the administration of the expropriated properties, and myself as Treasurer in control of the Custodian apparently knew of this arrangement, or that we were so slack in our administration that we permitted it to take place. The suggestion that there is something wrong, dishonest, and corrupt is based on the . fact that Mr, Fullerton, my secretary at the time, had years before been a partner with Linden, who apparently obtained from the’ Germans half the proceeds from the properties. The facts aTe that the application for the release of these properties, which had been refused by a special committee, waB referred by me back to that committee on the recommendation of the Custodian, because fresh evidence had been brought forward. The committee consisted of Mr. Seaforth, Mr. Mackenzie, Sir Robert Garran, and Mr. Pinner. What happened was this: The only persons whose properties had been released from expropriation originally, were those who could prove that by reason of the peace treaty they had become of different nationality, but it was found that there were certain Germansin New Guinea who, at the direct instigation and request of the military authorities, planted and improved certain of their plantations. It was suggested that the persons who had done this work were entitled to some compensation, and consequently the question arose whether their properties should not be released from expropriation. Certain properties had already been dealt with on this basis. That was the basis of their request. The proposal was put before the committee, and, on the fresh evidence, it recommended that the application be granted, and the property released. The Government determined as a matter of policy that it would not revest these properties in prior German owners, but would transfer the proceeds obtained at the sales, less the debts owing to the Expropriation Board. At that time those sales were actually in progress. Both of those properties had actually been advertised for sale, tenders had been received, and the sales were being finalized by the Custodian of Expropriated Properties. It was only after this stage had been reached that, for the first and only time, Fullerton spoke to me on this matter and urged that the properties should be re-vested in the German owners. I informed him that the Government would refuse to transfer the properties, but that it would transfer the proceeds. This was done. I have no knowledge of any arrangements that were made with the Germans concerned with relation to the disposal of their proceeds, nor have I any knowledge of the disposal of the proceeds of any of the other properties that were sold. The article states that a man named Linden - whom I have never met, and from whom I have not had any communication - received half the proceeds. I have no knowledge whether or not this is the case, except insofar as there are statements on the matter in the Auditor-General’s report, and an article in Smith’s Weekly. Every action taken by the Government was apart from and without the knowledge of any interest in the matter that was held by eitherFullerton or Linden. The Government acted on the recommendation of officers whose integrity is beyond question. My brother, Mr. H. Page, who is secretary to the Administrator of Rabaul, has had no communication with me on the matter, and cannot be connected with it in any way. The Expropriation Board is quite outside the province of the administration of New Guinea, and in fact is controlled by a separate department. Since the publication of this article I have been informed by Fullerton that his only interest in the matter consisted of his ordinary legal charges. I am not interested in the position of Linden, who can look after his own affairs; but I believe that honorable members of this House will support me in expressing resentment at innuendoes and suggestions being made by newspapers against members of Parliament and Ministers without the slightest evidence.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
-I join in the expression of resentment against the practice of bringing unnecessarily before the public the acts of a man 20 or 30 years ago, merely for the purpose of making a vindictive statement in a newspaper. I have made this statement because it is not open to me to take any other action, so cleverly are these things done. I trust that I have made my position perfectly clear.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at3.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 March 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300321_reps_12_123/>.