12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. NormanMakin) took the chair at 3 p.m. and offered prayers.
– According to newspaper reports, a conference of representatives of the coal-mining industry was held in Sydney yesterday, and at it the Government was officially represented by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) and the Assistant Minister (Mr. Beasley). Has the Prime Minister any statement to make to the House in regard to that conference?
– Does the offer of the Commonwealth Government to subsidize the hewing rate to the extent of 9d. per ton still hold good? .
Mr.SCULLIN.- Prior to last Christmas the Government offered to make up the amount of wages in dispute, namely 9d. per ton, if the mines were re-opened immediately, and pending the hearing of the dispute by the Arbitration Court. In its interim award) the court had intimated that the general award would be made in February. To cover the intervening period and enable the mines to be worked during that period and also to create the right atmosphere for arbitration, the Government’s offer was made. The circumstances existing at that time do not exist to-day, but if an opportunity to reach an agreement or award that will be acceptable to the parties is presented, the Government will be willing to make any suitable arrangements that will facilitate the re-opening of the mines.
Mr.R. GREEN- I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government was officially represented at yesterday’s conference, and if so, what advice its representatives gave to the parties?
– A Minister, like any member of this Parliament, is free to attend any conference to which he is invited. Two Ministers of the Government attended yesterday’s coal conference with my approval. What they said at that conference is their business.
Mr.R. GREEN.- Is the Government doing anything at all to bring about a resumption of work on the northern coalfields of New South Wales ; if so, in what direction ?
– The Government has made many efforts to put into operation the only machinery at its disposal enabling it to settle disputes, namely, the Arbitration Act, and every effort that we have made has been frustrated by the coal-owners appealing to the High Court on legal technicalities.
Transfer of Departments
– Will the Minister for Home Affairs explain the policy of the Government in regard to the further transfer of government departments from Melbourne and Sydney to Canberra?
– The office of Patents and Copyrights will be transferred to Canberra as early as possible, and office space has been allocated to it in the Hotel Acton. About 100 officers will be involved. The Government hopes to be able to transfer other departments to Canberra slowly but surely.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether the recentlyannounced alteration in the scale of telephone charges applies to all country towns and districts? If so, will the notices sent out to country subscribers some months ago, requiring them to pay a heavily increased charge, be cancelled?
– The reduced charges will apply generally, and the notifications issued some months ago will be superseded by others based on the new scale.
Dutyon Fortifying Spirit
– Is the Prime Minister aware that in consequence of representations made to the Attorney-General and myself last week in South Australia, hope is entertained in that State that the Government may withdraw from the position it has taken up in regard to the increase of the excise duty on spirit used for the fortification of wine? As it is essential that all concerned should know exactly the policy of the Government at this moment, will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Government’s policy has altered since he made a statement in the House on Friday last?
– My statement on Friday was a clear and definite declaration of the policy of the Government, which remains unchanged.
– As an alternative to increasing the excise duty on fortifying spirit, will the Government consider the imposition of a stamp duty on all wines, including dry, consumed in Australia?
– The only purpose of imposing an excise duty on fortifying spirit was to obtain sufficient revenue for the payment of a bounty on fortified wines for export. In regard to the alternative suggested by the honorable member, it is not usual to make announcements on matters of policy in answer to questions.
– In view of the protest against the increased duties on fortifying spirits, will the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) give to the House a comparative statement of the excise duties on whisky, beer, and wine?
– The alcoholic content is the important factor which governs the sale of alcoholic beverages. The excise duties payable, inclusive of recent tariff increases, are as follows : - Whisky and brandy, containing 76 per cent. proof spirit, 21s. 3d. per gallon; beer, containing 7 per cent. proof spirit,1s.10d. per gallon; fortified wine, containing 32 per cent. proof spirit, 2s. 3d. per gallon. On the basis of the duty on whisky and brandy, the equivalent duty on fortified wine calculated according to the comparative alcoholic content would be 8s.11d. per gallon. On the basis of the duty on beer, the equivalent duty on fortified wine, calculated according to the comparative alcoholic content, would be 8s. 4d. per gallon. Dry, unfortified wines pay no excise duty.
– In view of the increase in the duty on spirits used in the fortification of wine, will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs state whether he proposes to pay the increased drawback when wine fortified by spirit to which the higher rate of duties has applied, is exported ?
Mr.FORDE.- The full amount of duty paid will be returned to the exporter, who, in turn, in order to qualify for bounty, has to pay the grape-grower prices for grapes which the Minister considers reasonable and which were increased recently. Consideration is being given to drawback being paid in the future only on fortified wines which have been produced under the conditions of the Wine Export Bounty Act. The necessary calculations to arrive at the new rate of drawback have not yet been completed, but it is thought that the drawback will be increased from1s. 3d. per gallon to 2s. 4d. per gallon on fortified wine exported.
– Has the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs any comment to make regarding the statement in the Evening News of the 24th March, 1930, by Mr. Warrington Garnett, Director of Penf old’s Wines Limited, in which, inter alia, he stated -
– The honorable member was good enough to let me know that he intended to ask this question. The reply is as follows: -
– In view of the opinion that is fairly generally held that the defence of. the Empire is not being adequately safeguarded at the Naval Conference now taking place, and that America’s requests are receiving too much consideration, will the Prime Minister make a reassuring statement on the subject?
– I have no knowledge that the opinion expressed by the honorable member is generally held. I believe that the whole of the delegates at that conference representing Great Britain and the Dominions, are looking after the interests of all parts of the Empire.
– I have received from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely “ The arrangements for financing the proposed Commonwealth compulsory wheat pool.”
Five honorable membershaving risen in their places,
.- Efforts are being made at the present time to increase the acreage under wheat, and the Commonwealth Government is joining with the Governments of the wheat-growing States in an endeavour to bring about a larger crop next season, and in consequence, a larger exportation of wheat from Australia. In this effort the Opposition cordially supports the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States. But associated with the endeavour to secure an increased acreage under wheat is a proposal for a Commonwealth compulsory wheat pool. The details of this proposal have not yet been submitted to the House, or placed before the public, and I recognize that we must wait until a bill has been introduced in this House before the method of giving effect to it can be examined and discussed. I do not intend to say anything at all this afternoon on the subject of the proposed wheat pool ; I shall confine my remarks to the precise subject of the financing of any Commonwealth pool. One of the elements of the proposed pool, however, has been announced in the form of a guarantee of 4s. a bushel at railway sidings, that price to be guaranteed by the Commonwealth and the States. It remains to be seen whether the State Parliaments will approve of that proposal, and whether the farmers, by ballot, will agree to it. No doubt the announcement means that the farmer is to receive for his wheat a payment at the rate of 4s. a bushel at the railway siding. It is important, however, to know when the money is to be paid. That does not appear to be clear. In addition it is by no means clear whether any arrangements have been made for finding the large sums involved. Because of that I raise this discussion this afternoon.
The first statement on the subject was made by the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) on the 18th February. It was an official statement in these terms -
The Commonwealth Government invites the States to join it in guaranteeing to the wheatgrower 4s. a bushel net, payable on delivery at country stations for the crop of the 1030-31 season.
That statement is perfectly clear and explicit. The farmer is to receive 4s. a bushel net, which everybody understands to mean 4s. a bushel for f .a.q. wheat subject to deductions and adjustments for defects of quality or condition. That amount is to be paid on delivery at country stations. In the ministerial statement by the Prime Minister at the opening of the present sittings of Parliament, it was stated that the Commonwealth Government had invited the State Governments to join with it in guaranteeing the growers for the first year, “ 4s. a bushel payable at country sidings, which would mean the equivalent of approximately 4s. 8d. a bushel f.o.b.” Those words “payable at country sidings” are entirely consistent with the words of the Minister for Markets and Transport; that is to say, the money is to be paid on delivery at country sidings. It can hardly be suggested that it is meant that instalments are to be paid from time to time at country sidings. The absolutely clear meaning of the statement of the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) was that, subject to the usual adjustments in respect of quality and condition, the money was to be paid in a lump sum on delivery at country railway sidings.
The matter was discussed in this House on the 13th March last. I then called attention to the necessity for providing a considerable sum to finance the proposed pool. I pointed out that a payment of 4s. a bushel on 150,000,000 bushels would represent £30,000,000, and on 200,000,000 bushels £40,000,000. I said that a quantity of wheat would be reserved for seed, the whole crop would not come forward at once, and there would be sales of wheat from time to time. I did not suggest that the full sum mentioned, would be required at the one time, but I did urge that a very substantial sum undoubtedly would be required if the proposal was carried out. The whole of the wheat comes forward within a period of from ten to twelve weeks, and I make a very generous reduction when I say that a minimum of one-half of the sums I have mentioned will be required immediately to finance the pool. No farmer will store his wheat if he is able to obtain 4s. a bushel on delivery at a railway siding. .It is a moderate estimate to say that a minimum of from £15,000,000 to £20,000,000 will be required for the immediate financing of the scheme. That amount will, of course, be reduced as sales are made from time to time; but I suggest that it makes ample allowance for seed wheat and delayed deliveries. I spoke on these lines daring the debate on the ministerial statement, and asked what arrangements were being made to finance the pool. I was astonished when the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) interjected, “ Does the honorable member suggest that the 4s. a bushel must be paid in one lump sum at the siding ?” I replied that I certainly understood that that was to be the case, and that that was the only fair construction which could be placed on the statement of the Minister for Markets that, subject to the ordinary deductions, the amount of 4s. a bushel was to be paid on delivery at the railway siding.
– The honorable gentleman did not mention anything about the payment being made subject to ordinary deductions.
– Everybody knows that whenever a price is guaranteed for wheat, it is for fair average quality. Is a wheat-grower who delivers f.a.q. wheat to receive 4s. a bushel? And is a farmer whose deduction is Id. to receive 3s. lid. a bushel? That is the question that we ure discussing. My reply to the Treasurer was that I certainly understood that 4s. a bushel was to be paid when the wheat was delivered at the railway siding. I .also stated that that was the general impression throughout Australia. The Prime Minister’s reply to me was “ No.” The right honorable gentleman went on to say that the Government was guaranteeing the farmers 4s. a bushel for their wheat at the railway siding, and that that “was equal to 4s. 8d. a bushel f.o.b. The question that I was discussing was the time when payment was to be made; whether 4s. a bushel was to be paid in a lump sum for f.a.q. wheat and a. different price for other’ wheat, or whether the payment was to be made in instalments. Obviously, that has a most important bearing on the financing of the scheme.
On the following clay, the 14th March, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) asked whether the Prime Minister would explain the actual intentions of the Government in respect of the pool. After stating that the mattei would have to be determined by the State governments, and that there would be a ballot of the wheat-growers, the Prime Minister said that the financing of the pool would be arranged by the Commonwealth Bank,’ and added, “I have no doubt that substantial advances will be made to the farmers, practically to the full amount of the guarantee, subject only to the necessary reservation for adjustments.” That meant the payment of the full amount which the farmer was to receive, subject only to the necessary reservation for adjustments. Therefore the farmer who supplied f.a.q. wheat was to receive the whole of the 4s. a bushel on delivery at the railway siding. The Prime Minister concluded by saying, “The fanners can rest assured that the first advance they will receive after the delivery of their wheat at the railway siding will be considerably more than the average advance they receive from private buyers under existing conditions.” The meaning of that statement is, not that a definite sum on the basis of 4s. a bushel for f.a.q. wheat was to be paid, but that something more than the farmers received under existing conditions, from private buyers, would be paid. Therefore, the matter again became uncertain and clouded. A “ substantial advance “ is one thing ;. a payment of 4s. a bushel subject to necessary adjustments is another; and a payment, “considerably more than the average advance “ of private buyers, is something else. The Prime Minister did not make the clear and unambiguous statement that 4s. a bushel, subject only to what are known as dockages, was to be paid.
On the afternoon of the 14th March, when moving- the adjournment of the House, the Prime Minister returned to the subject, his object doubtless being to remove any misunderstanding that might exist. He said that in the course of the day he had had a telephone conversation with , the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney), who had informed him that, anticipating the formation of a wheat pool, he had consulted with the authorities of the Commonwealth Bank, “ who have assured him that the bank can make advances immediately the wheat is delivered at the railway sidings up to the full amount of the guarantee, subject only to whatever re-adjustment is necessary to ensure that the grain is up to f.a.q. standard. The amount of the first advance is a matter for arrangement between the Pool Board and the Commonwealth Bank; but the Minister for Markets is assured by. the bank that it will be able to make a first payment equal to the full amount of the guarantee”. The first statement was plain - that the Commonwealth Bank could find all the money for the payment of the full amount of the guarantee of 4s. a bushel, subject only to dockages. The next statement was that the amount of the first advance was to be a matter of arrangement ; and the third, that the bank would be able to advance the whole amount. It is astonishing, that in the existing state of public and private finance, both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer were not aware either on the preceding day or that morning of an arrangement involving several millions of pounds that had been made by the Minister for Markets with the Commonwealth Bank. The matter might have remained at that stage but for the fact that the Government of South Australia, which in respect of South Australian wheat will have to shoulder half the liability of the guarantee for that State, made a direct inquiry from the Chairman of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank. In yesterday’s newspapers there appears a statement made by the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Butler, in reply to a deputation.
– That probably explains the action of the Leader of the Opposition in moving the adjournment of the House to discuss this subject-
– I have already said that the statement in the press makes it necessary to ascertain the actual position. It appears from this announcement that no definite proposal for the financing of a Commonwealth Wheat Pool has yet been submitted to the Commonwealth Bank Board. Mr. Butler said that in view of the variance of the statements which have been published, to which I have directed the attention of honorable members, he despatched a telegram to Sir
Robert Gibson, the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, ‘ in the following terms: -
My Government has been requested by the Commonwealth to facilitate the formation of a compulsory wheat pool and to agree to accept half of the liability of the guaranteed price to farmers. Our bankers would be glad if you would advise whether the -Commonwealth Bank cun make available the money to pay 4s. a bushel cash at railway stations” for a crop of from 150,000,000 to 250,000,000 bushels, and in view of the huge State deficits, would your bank agree to make available up to £500,000 to meet loss on the guaranteed price ?
Mr. Butler went on to say that the reply he had received was extraordinary, in view of the statements made by politicians, and that Sir Robert Gibson had replied that -
Although the Bank Board had expressed its willingness to the Commonwealth Government to give consideration to the financing of a compulsory pool, no definite proposition has yet been submitted to it. lt must bo obvious to you that until a concrete proposition is submitted by the authority referred to, it is futile to speculate as to what can or cannot be done as regards the bank’s assistance to your Government. Any potential loss incurred must be governed by the total assistance your Government may require from time to time.
That is a plain statement by the Chairman of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank to the effect that the bank has done no more than express its willingness to give .consideration to the financing of a compulsory pool, but can only consider what it can do - to use the words of the chairman - when a definite scheme has been placed before it. The statement of the Prime Minister was that the Commonwealth Bank had assured the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) that it will be. able to make a first payment equal to the full amount of the guarantee. That was the precise question asked of the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board by the Premier of South Australia, and the answer given by the chairman of the board is quite inconsistent with the statements which have been made in this House. Realizing the difficulty confronting the Government, the Prime Minister made a further statement yesterday, apparently before seeing Sir Robert Gibson’s reply, which once again makes the position most uncertain. His statement, according to a report in the Sydney
Morning Herald, which is substantially identical with the other reports I . have seen, is in these terms -
Sir Robert Gibson gave an assurance that the Board of the Commonwealth Bank would co-operate with the Government in a practical scheme of financing the proposed wheat pool.
The Prime Minister then explained that there will be a continuous liquidation in consequence of the disposal of the wheat, which, of course, will relieve the financial strain from time to time. He went on to say that -
As a result of the discussion to-day the Board of the Commonwealth Bank will be summoned this week to give the whole question its careful consideration. The board will immediately report to the Government the practical details setting forth how such a scheme can be made effective and can operate without undue embarrassment to the financial position.
First, we were informed that the money was to be paid for wheat delivered at railway stations ; secondly, that the money is not to be paid but only to be guaranteed ; thirdly, that the scheme is to be substantially financed, without mention of the amount; fourthly, that the Commonwealth Bank has already consented to finance the scheme to the full amount; and fifthly, that the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board has said that that institution has not made any such arrangement. Finally, we have the statement by the Prime Minister, that the Commonwealth Bank Board will meet this week for the purpose of considering the question. It is important that the whole position should be clarified, and that no unnecessary obstacle should be placed in the way of extending the areas used for the production of wheat. This motion will give the Government an opportunity of “stating the actual position in connexion with its proposals.
.- Although the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has gone to a good deal of trouble to explain his object in moving the adjournment of the House to discuss this subject, I venture to say that all the information which he hopes to obtain could have been secured by placing a simple question on the notice-paper.
– There have been about two dozen questions submitted for that purpose.
– I am inclined to think that the Leader of the Opposition, and those with whom he is associated, will be disappointed when a compulsory wheat pool becomes a reality. The Leader of the Opposition gave his case away when he quoted a message from the Premier of South Australia.
– It was not a message to me ; it was taken from the press.
– The Premier of South Australia is opposed to a compulsory wheat pool, but is not game enough to come out into the open and declare where he stands. The other day a deputation representative of 6,000 wheat-growers in South Australia, waited upon Mr. Butler and asked him where he stood in the matter of a compulsory wheat pool, and he was not prepared to tell them. Instead of declaring his attitude he is endeavouring by every possible means to make the wheat-growers believe that there is something wrong with the financial aspect of the Government’s proposal. The whole trouble is that Mr. Butler is opposed to a pooling system, is out of step with the wheat-growers in South Australia, and is not willing to say where he stands in the matter. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) quoted an interjection by the Treasurer when he said that this scheme might involve an expenditure of £40,000,000. The Treasurer interjected that no such sum would need to be paid in a lump, which the Leader of the Opposition erroneously interpreted to mean that the 4s. guarantee would be paid in instalments. Apparently the Leader of the Opposition has since had time to reflect that three months will elapse between the delivery of the first and the last loads of wheat, for to-day he has admitted that payment will not be made in a lump sum but will be spread over a period of about three months.-
– That is what I said, with the exception that I stated ten weeks instead of three months.
– If the Leader of the Opposition genuinely desired to assist the country, he could get the information he seeks by asking a few simple questions; instead, he seems bent on looking for trouble. let me explain the position briefly. A few weeks ago a conference of wheatgrowers was. held at Canberra. It met in an entirely non-political atmosphere That the atmosphere has changed is greatly to be deplored.
– Where was the Minister last week?
– I defy the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) to quote one word of a partisan character from my utterances in South Australia or elsewhere in relation to the wheat pool. Ten days before that conference met I interviewed the managerial heads of the Commonwealth Bank - the Governor and the Deputy Governor - in relation to the financing of the pool.
– Sir Robert Gibson said that no proposition was made to him.
– Sir Robert Gibson is not the Governor, or the Deputy Governor, of the bank. I went to the managerial heads of the hank and put my proposition to them.
Honorable members interjecting-
– Orderly debate is impossible if some honorable members continually interject. I warn honorable members that if they persist in interjecting I shall take the action necessary to preserve the decorum of the House.
– I can understand, Mr. Speaker, how disagreeable it must be to honorable members opposite to see this bubble pricked. I explained the scheme in detail to the managerial heads of the bank.
The honorable member for Warringah interjectting-
– I warn the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) that he must not continuously interject.
– I told the Governor and the Deputy Governor of the bank that the harvest might realize 200,000,000 bushels of wheat, valued at from £35,000,000 to £50,000,000. I also explained that payment for that wheat would be spread over a period of about three months - something which the Leader of the Opposition forgot at the time.
– I did not; I mentioned the matter in my speech.
– After the scheme had been explained to them, the managerial heads of the bank said that as wheat delivered at the siding was equivalent to gold, there would be no great difficulty in financing the pool. Does the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) suggest that, instead of consulting with the managerial heads of the bank, I should have gone around buttonholing the members of the Bank Board ? I did what any business man would do ; I approached the managers of the bank and explained the whole position to them, mentioning, amongst other things, that there was already a compulsory pool in Queensland extending over a term of five years. They assured me that they did not anticipate any difficulty in .financing the pool. Their assurance was placed, first, before Cabinet, and later before the conference of wheat-growers at Canberra. The Leader of the Opposition complains that the Commonwealth Bank was not in possession of all the details of. the scheme ; that it proposes to meet next Thursday to discuss them. Obviously, I was not able to place before the managerial heads of the bank the minute details of the scheme. It should be evident to honorable members that until the various State boards, as well as the Commonwealth Board, have been established, -certain matters of detail cannot be determined. Yet the Leader of the Opposition has seen fit, merely on the statement of the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank that the board would have to meet to discuss the details of the scheme, to move the adjournment of the House. The board may have to meet many times before all the details of the scheme can be settled. I wish to emphasize that ten days before the conference at Canberra I had an assurance from the managers of the bank that the scheme could be financed. The Leader of the Opposition will understand that when I saw the managerial heads of the bank I could not say definitely whether the conference of wheat-growers would agree to the Government’s proposals. Obviously, the first thing to be done was to get the conference to agree to the proposals, and, after that, to get the several boards appointed. When I saw the bank officers, I could deal only with the broad question of finance. In placing before them the Government’s proposals, I mentioned a larger sum than that stated by the Leader of the Opposition to-day. The Leader of the Opposition admits that at peak periods the greatest amount required will be from £15,000,000 to £20,000,000.
– That is only an estimate.
– And yet when I quoted a larger sum I was advised that no difficulty was anticipated in guaranteeing it. This was the opinion of the bank authorities after the general scheme had been placed before them. Since then details for the establishment of the Commonwealth and the State Wheat Boards have been attended to and agreements have been drawn up to define their respective functions. Every other detail is being attended to. We are now awaiting advices from the State Governments as to whether they propose to come into the pool. Mr. Thorby, of New South Wales, has declared himself to be a “hundred per cent, pooler “ to use his own words, and does not anticipate having any difficulty with the State Government. Queensland and Victoria, similarly, are apparently in favour of the scheme. South Australia is the only State from which, up to date, we have had no definite reply. Apparently, the Premier of that State is opposed to the proposal, but declines to tell the people of South Australia where he stands in the matter.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) launched this motion for the specific purpose of ascertaining from the Government whether, under the proposed compulsory wheat pool, farmers would receive 4s. a bushel in cash for wheat delivered at railway sidings. His question was a perfectly plain one: Was the money available for this purpose, or was it not ? Although the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) indulged freely in personalities, he left the question unanswered. The Minister for Markets suggested that the motion had been submitted for electioneering purposes. Actually, the Government’s project smacks of electioneering tactics. The Minister has just returned from a visit to South Australia, where he was electioneering on, this scheme, and this scheme only.
– :Why should not I go to any State to explain the details of the pool?
Other honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I intimate to honorable members supporting the Government, that I shall expect from them the same consideration for members of the Opposition as I do from Opposition members for Government supporters. If they transgress my ruling, I shall deal with them with equal severity.
– The reply of the Minister for Markets has left this matter entirely in the air. Before the motion was launched the farmers did not know whether or not this alleged guarantee was of any value; they were not informed whether they would receive cash up to 4s. a bushel for their wheat at railway sidings. Even now the House is not in a position to say what will happen. There are some extraordinary features about the whole business. I doubt if ever we have had such a series of contradictory statements by members of the same Cabinet as we have had from Ministers on this issue. The Minister for Markets has just told us the amazing story that when he proposed to raise £20,000,000 for the wheat guarantee, he did not approach the Commonwealth Bank Board, but saw the Governor, who is in much the same position as the general manager of a private financial institution. If any person wished at the present time to raise even £500,000 from any financial institution, he could not expect to get a promise of it from the manager; the board of directors would have to be consulted. In the circumstances, it is ludicrous for the Minister to tell the House that he and the Government accepted an assurance from the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank that there would be no difficulty about financing the guarantee. I go so far as to deny absolutely that the Governor of the bank over ventured to give the Minister such an assurance as that. It would not be in his power to give it. The whole scheme savours very strongly of a deliberate attempt to fool the farmers of this country.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in saying that the scheme is a deliberate attempt to fool the farmers. I ask him to withdraw the word “ deliberate “.
– I do so, Mr. Speaker, quite willingly. But the effect of the project will be to fool the f armors, whether or not there was the intent to do so, and honorable members, as well as wheat-growers, might be well excused if, in view of the contradictory statements from Ministers concerning this proposal, they believed that they wei ( being fooled about this proposed wheat pool. The Minister told us* also that after he had received this extraordinary assurance from the Governor of the bank, he took it to the Cabinet where, we may presume, it was considered, and then he submitted it to the conference of primary producers in Canberra. It is significant, that during the absence of the Minister on his electioneering flutter in South Australia, the Prime Minister, who was questioned about the proposed Commonwealth pool, informed honorable members that he knew nothing about the details. He said definitely by way of interjection, and in reply to my questions, that it was not the intention of the Government to pay 4s. a bushel in full, upon the delivery of wheat at country railway sidings. The Treasurer also appeared to bc in some doubt, because when the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, he asked in an interjection: “Does the honorable member suggest that 4s. a bushel must be paid in one lump sum at the sidings “? This clearly showed that the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) received his assurance from the Governor of the bank and then submitted it to the conference of primary producers. Obviously the Prime Minister and the Treasurer were not informed of the details. The Minister sat down without clarifying the situation, and the farmers do not yet know whether the bank will find the money. It is perfectly clear from Sir Robert Gibson’s statement that he is not behind the assurance referred to, and this supports my belief that the Governor never ventured to give the assurance at all. In his reply to the Premier of South Australia, Sir Robert Gibson said: -
Although the Bank Board has expressed its willingness to the Federal Government to give consideration to the financing of a compulsory pool, no definite proposition has yet been submitted to it. lt must be obvious to you that until a concrete proposition is submitted by the authority referred to it is futile to speculate as to what can or cannot be done as regards the bunk’s assistance to your Government.
In view of that specific statement by the Chairman pf the Commonwealth Bank Board, it is a most serious thing for the Minister to tell honorable members that the Governor of the bank did give the undertaking. It is clear that the Governor did not advise Sir Robert Gibson or, if he did, that -Sir Robert Gibson has repudiated the undertaking given to the Minister for Markets. The whole episode represents an amazing piece of electioneering. It is a flagrant appeal to the rural vote, and is particularly timed to play a part in the South Australian elections. I appeal to the Prime Minister to endeavour to get his Minister for Markets out of the most unfortunate mess in which he has placed himself. I ask him also to clear up the confusion which has been made infinitely worse by the speech of his colleague.
– I respond to the pathetic appeal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett), and I shall seek to dissipate the concern which he feels over the “mess which my Minister for Markets has got himself into”. There is really no confusion over this matter, except in the minds of honorable members of the Opposition, and such confusion as they have sought to create in the minds of the farmers. A series of statements has been read by speakers on the other side, all more or less irrelevant, with the exception of an interjection quoted from Hansard, when in reply to a question I gave the answer “ No.” When I made that reply I misunderstood the question of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). I believed he was asking me whether we proposed to pay the full amount of this guarantee. I said “ No. We are not going to pay that money. It is a guarantee of 4s. to be made in conjunction with the State Governments. Arrangements for financing the pool will be made by the Wheat Pool Board, when such a board has been appointed by the growers.” I followed that statement up the next day, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition cross-examined me on the point. He said that no arrangements had been made with the Commonwealth Bank for financing the pool, and in answer to that I replied as follows: -
The financing of the pool will be arranged by the Commonwealth Bank, and I have no doubt that a substantial advance will be made to the fanners practically to the full amount of tile guarantee, subject only to the necessary reservation for adjustments.
I subsequently explained that to mean f.a.q. standard.
– Will the Prime Minister read the rest of his reply, which appears over the page in Hansard?
– Very well, let the Deputy Leader of the Opposition read it.
– It is as follows: -
The farmers can rest assured that the first advance they will receive after the delivery of their wheat at the railway siding will be considerably more than the average advance they receive from private buyers under existing conditions.
– That is quite consistent with a guarantee of 4s. as a first advance. I challenge the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) to deny that 4s. as a first advance is substantially more than what the farmers are receiving now at sidings from private agencies.
The Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) interviewed the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, and this immediately threw members of the Opposition into a fury. They were shocked that the Minister should have negotiated with subordinates. As if the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank are to be regarded as subordinates ! Since when has it been the practice to approach the directors of a bank when one is negotiating a straight-out business deal? It does not matter whether the sum involved is £20,000,000 or £20; the procedure is to interview the* governor or manager of the bank, and if the amount asked for is very great, the responsibility rests on the management to consult the board. Although the Deputy Leader of the Opposition denies it, the assurance was given to the Minister for Markets. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has no know ledge of this interview, yet he makes a statement which amounts simply to a charge of untruth against the Minister for Markets. The Treasurer has seen the Governor of the Bank since the first interview, and the Governor has repeated to the Treasurer what he said to the Minister for Markets. Now it is asked: “ Why did I interview Sir Robert Gibson yesterday?” There is a good answer to that question. When I found that communications had been opened up with the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, by a desperate Premier on the eve of an election, and that political capital was being made out of the interchange regarding a matter which should never have been brought into the arena of party politics at all, I interviewed the chairman of the board, and we discussed the matter amicably. I questioned him regarding the nature of the exchanges between himself and the Premier of South Australia, and he told me that Mr. Butler did not publish all the message he had given. Sir Robert Gibson assured me, as Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, of the willingness of the board to co-operate with the Government in arranging a practical scheme for financing the pool. We went into details which he will discuss with his board, and afterwards he will report to the Government. The important details have reference to the manner of marketing. Obviously no bank could make an advance of 4s. a bushel against wheat unless it had an assurance that the wheat would be marketed in an orderly way. As I said in the course of a statement to the press, an arrangement will be made with the co-operation of the board for payments to be made from time to time over a period of three months from November to February, which is the period during which wheat is delivered. That is my public statement, and it cannot be challenged. I repeat it now so that honorable members opposite will not feel that they have been left uninformed. The promise of the Government will be honoured. A first advance of 4s. will be made when the wheat is delivered at the siding, and the wheat must be marketed in an orderly way. There will be no question of holding back 150,000,000 bushels to the end of the year. Whatever is left in the pool will go back to the growers, but the guarantee of 4s. stands, and represents a first advance to the growers. It now remains for the farmers to agree by a majority vote to establish the pool. The second stage is to obtain the agreement of at least three State Governments to come into the pool. If three State Governments come in, and a majority of growers in those States agree to the principle of the pool, the Commonwealth and State Governments will share the guarantee. The Commonwealth Government can and will arrange for financing the pool, and the farmers will get their 4s. a bushel at the railway siding; so that the political “stunting” of the Opposition fails.
.- I am at a loss to understand the motive of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) in bringing forward this matter.
– He is anxious to get definite information.
– Last Friday week I heard the Prime Minister state in the plainest possible manner that this guarantee of 4s. a bushel would be made in one payment in cash at the railway siding, yet because of some statement in the Sydney Morning Herald the Leader of the Opposition takes the rather extraordinary step of moving the adjournment of the House in order, so we are told by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), to get definite information. No more definite statement could have been made than was made by the Prime Minister last Friday week. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett), talked of “ this mysterious business “, but to me the most mysterious feature of the wheat position is the attitude of the Opposition. I have listened carefully and rather eagerly to hear honorable members in opposition utter words in approval or support of the Government’s proposal for a guaranteed price for wheat on delivery.
– Now that we know what the proposal is, we can consider it.
– We are evidently making a little progress because now we have an assurance, not from their Leader, but from their Deputy Leader, that honorable members of the Opposition are prepared to give consideration to the Government’s proposals. In my capacity as a wheat-grower and as a representative of the Victorian Wheat Growers Association and not as a member of Parliament, I had the honour to attend the conference of wheat-growers convened by the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney). It was the most representative gathering of wheatgrowers that has ever assembled in Australia, and was the first occasion on which a Commonwealth Government had seen fit to invite wheat-growers from the various wheat-growing States to meet in conference. To that gathering the Minister for Markets and Transport, on behalf .of his Government, submitted a concrete and definite proposal for the formation of a pool. No party note was struck at that gathering, in fact I can say that the overwhelming majority of those who attended were not of the same political party as the Government. The proposal put forward and considered in a nonparty spirit, was unanimously approved by the conference, and I hope that honorable members of the Opposition will see their way to support it. Wheat-growing is Australia’s most important industry, not only because of the employment it affords, but also because of its general effect upon the finances of the country. In the wheat-growing States, during the last three or four years, particularly in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, the wheat-growers, because of seasonal conditions, have had a very lean time. The greatest distress exists in newly opened areas. It was only the other day that Mr. Thorby, Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, had to convene a conference of machinery merchants and others in order to try to prevent action being taken to dispossess farmers of their machinery. In all the States I have mentioned the Governments, Labour and non-Labour, have found it necessary to make advances to settlers in order to enable them to remain on their holdings. Thousands of these settlers who have worked hard during the last three or four years are penniless to-day. They cannot continue.
– And now they are asked to work harder.
– But as the Commonwealth Government has come forward with a guarantee, they will know that they will get an assured return from the seed they sow if the season is favorable. It will be a very big factor in helping to keep them going. There is a limit even to the spirit of the pioneers. Time after time crops have failed. In northern Victoria last season I sowed 800 acres of land, partly for experimental purposes, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, and not one grain germinated. During the last three seasons more relief seed wheat has come to the railway siding which I use than has been despatched from it, and my district is typical of other new mallee country. We have had a run of the leanest years ever known in the wheat industry of northern Victoria, and I think the same remark applies to the mallee country of South Australia and to a great deal of the wheat country in western New South Wales. The guarantee of 4s. a bushel for wheat will help the settlers to carry on. It will ease their finances, and I sincerely trust that both sides of the House will support the Government’s proposal. Propaganda has already been sent to every honorable member giving the viewpoint of the wheat merchants. When the bill comes before the House to give effect to the Government’s proposal I shall reply to some of the mis-statements made in the circulars that have reached me. These gentlemen are very quick to beat the pistol in issuing propaganda against the interests of the farmer. They have blocked every attempt the farmers have made to organize. They declare that there is some doubt about the Commonwealth Government’s ability to finance a wheat pool, yet they say they will have no difficulty in financing a crop two or three times larger than that which is likely to be grown in Australia next season. That is a sample of the propaganda they ask honorable members to believe.
– What are the names of those firms?
– One circular I am quoting has been issued by the Wheat Merchants Association of Australia, and is signed Bunge Australia Proprietary
Limited - I have a suspicion that it is Bunge Belgium Proprietary Limited - and Dalgety and Company Limited, John Darling and Son, and Louis Dreyfus and Company, the last mentioned being a French firm. These firms do not believe in organization for the farmer, but are strong believers in organization for themselves. Unity of action anionic; the farmers is socialism, but among themselves it is very desirable. For years these firms have been engaged in the wheat business, and there is no doubt that the proposal would affect them. I do not blame them for taking action to protect their own interests, but these are very different from the interests of the farmers of Australia.
. - I rise principally to reply to the challenge of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) as to the accuracy of the statement of the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) with regard to his interview with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. It is amazing to me that the Deputy Leader should cast a doubt upon the truthfulness of the Minister’s remarks. The Minister stated the result of his interview with the Governor and Deputy Governor of the bank regarding its ability to make a payment of 4s. a bushel on the delivery of wheat at railway sidings. The Minister said that be had had an interview with the executive officer of the bank, who informed him that the bank could do what was required and that arrangements would be made accordingly. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that he doubted whether that assurance could have been given. He drew the inference that, because the chairman of directors of the bank was not aware of that conversation, it could not have taken place, and that the Minister was prevaricating in regard to the matter. That was a most unworthy suspicion; unless the Deputy Leader had some good reason for it he had no right to make such a suggestion.
– Is it not difficult to believe that the bank would advance so many millions of pounds without the matter having being previously discussed with the board of directors?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition ought to have had knowledge of the position before suggesting what he did. I have been in conference with the executive officers of the bank. The Governor and the Deputy Governor have confirmed the statement of the Minister. They told me that they had had a conference with the Minister, and that they saw no difficulty in the bank financing the wheat pool and finding the necessary funds to make the payment of 4s. a bushel at the railway siding.
– It is good to have that admission.
– I never had any doubt that it would be possible for some satisfactory arrangement to be made. Before the Minister for Markets and Transport saw the Deputy Governor, I told him that I thought that arrangements could be made with the bank without difficulty, provided there was a Government guarantee and a pool was set up, because I know that for years the bank has been doing similar business, though not involving the payment of such large sums in the aggregate as an Australian-wide wheat pool would necessitate. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the enormous difficulty that would be experienced, and of the huge sums that would be involved. He referred to the extraordinary situation due to the Minister’s omission to consult the chairman of directors of the bank about this matter, although for years the Governor and Deputy Governor have been attending to transactions of this nature as part of the routine business of the bank.
– Transactions involving £20,000,000?
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) said that it was possible that £15,000,000 might have to be out at one time. Let me inform him that the year before last the Commonwealth Bank advanced to voluntary wheat pools and other agricultural pool boards more than £8,000,000.
– A few years ago there were many overdrafts that would not be permitted to-day.
– In 1922-23 the bank furnished to three voluntary wheat pools more than £12,000,000 without a guarantee. In the following year it similarly supplied over £9,000,000, and in 1924-25, £10,900,000. It has advanced money to pools of that kind as a matter of routine business.
– Did the board not know of it?
– The board was not appointed until October, 1924.
I shall now refer to the second point in the argument put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett). He suggested that the Minister had improperly approached a subordinate officer of the bank on this important matter. I submit that the Minister adopted quite a right and proper course in discussing the subject with the Governor of the bank. If I, as Chairman of the Loan Council, were negotiating financial arrangements in London, would I take the matter up with the Chairman of Directors of the Bank of England? No. Such business is always done with the Governor of the bank. Australian Treasurers never know the chairman of directors in such circumstances. On Saturday last Mr. Stevens, the State Treasurer of New South Wales, and myself, acting as a sub-committee of the Loan Council, discussed an important matter relating to financial accommodation in London with the Australian banks. In carrying out that mission we met the representative of the Bank of New South Wales, and the business was done, not with the directors of that bank, but with the General Manager, Mr. Davidson. I do not say that the Chairman of Directors or the Board of the Commonwealth Bank should be ignored in a matter of this kind. I suppose that every honorable member knows that under the present practice of the bank the board normally meets once every month. Often, in an important public matter, a government cannot wait for the ordinary monthly meeting of such a board, and in such cases a financial matter of this moment would he discussed with the Governor and Deputy Governor of the bank. Of course, where access can be had to the chairman of directors, it is quite right that he should be consulted. I have had occasion to confer with Sir Robert Gibson, the Chairman of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank, on many matters since I have been Treasurer, and I have found him most helpful and informative, but I have never heard him suggest that he is the only man who should be consulted. Where the Commonwealth Treasurer resides in Sydney and the chairman of directors lives in Melbourne, it is often more convenient to discuss preliminary matters with the Governor of the bank.
– Even now, after the statement of the Prime Minister, does the Treasurer say that the board can give an unconditional promise to pay up to 4s. a bushel on delivery ?
– The board cannot have made such a decision, because it has not met since this proposal was submitted. It will meet on Thursday, but, as I have already said, were it not for the exceptional magnitude of the transaction involved in this case, it would be dealt with by the Governor of the bank as a matter of routine. The board will undoubtedly endorse the assurance given by the governor. Certain members of the Opposition, for some peculiar reason, are not desirous of helping to realize the pool idea.
– The Minister cannot fairly say that.
– They raise irritating and foolish points about the possibility of carrying out the pool scheme, although we know that pools can be financed without the least difficulty, so long as the Commonwealth and State Governments co-operate. Without the cooperation of the State Governments the Commonwealth Government has not sufficient power to carry out the scheme. The Minister for Markets has placed his proposals reasonably before the representatives of the State Governments at various conferences. At one meeting between the Minister for Markets and the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Thorby) I was called into consultation, and I found the greatest disposition on the part of both these gentlemen to remove rather than to create difficulties. The only State Minister who is raising obstacles and attempting to destroy the possibility of the scheme being a success, is the Premier of South Australia, who is backed up by a few captious critics in this Parliament. No’ party should be looking for a political advantage in this matter. We are dealing with a national problem; and the proposal to establish a nation-wide scheme for the orderly marketing of wheat under the control of the growers, and with the aid of Commonwealth and State Governments of whatever party, should be supported and not bitterly opposed as it is in some quarters. Naturally we expect opposition from vested interests who feel that their businesses are likely to be adversely affected. I do not complain of that. When a poll of the farmers regarding a wheat pool for New South Wales was taken in 1928, and again in 1929, a great deal of opposition was engineered by the wheat merchants, speculators, and financiers in Sydney. It was not a party political issue. So far as I recollect no party politicians were actively engaged in the campaign, but a very bitter fight was waged between the farmers and their organizations on the one side and the city merchants, financiers, and millers on the other side. Many thousands of pounds were expended in defence of vested interests. That was indicated by the extensive advertising in the Sydney Evening News, which was the mouthpiece of the merchants, and other newspapers. An affirmative vote was secured, but the majority was not sufficient to enable the pool to be effectuated.
– What happened in New South Wales had happened a year earlier in Victoria.
– That is so, and a number of highly paid journalists were engaged to write down the pool proposal.
– A decisive factor in New South Wales was the memory of mice and corruption.
– I do not remember that being a factor in the campaign. We may anticipate that vested interests will oppose the proposal of the Commonwealth Government for a nation-wide cooperative scheme of marketing wheat; but if we believe that the activities of the growers can be stimulated by an offer of a guarantee for a year, and the setting up of such a marketing organization as will enable them to control the sales of their wheat, it is our duty to help to bring the scheme into being, and to leave the subsequent control of details in the hands of the growers, as the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) proposes to do.
.- I have been a member of this House for eleven years and never before to-day have I seen such an exhibition of ministerial floundering. For a quarter of a century I have been a wheat-grower, and I commend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) for having sought, by this motion, to get definite information for the farmers. The thanks of the growers are due. to the Premier of South Australia for the stand he has taken. The Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) being new to office, and representing a wheat-growing constituency, is very anxious to do something big. Doubtless he did approach the Commonwealth Bank, but the assurances he obtained were not sufficiently definite to warrant him in proclaiming to the farmers that arrangements for financing the guarantee had been completed. To-day Ministers have admitted that the Directors of the Commonwealth Bank are only now about to meet to determine what undertaking they can give to the Government. I have always been in favour of the compulsory pooling of wheat and, on other occasions, worked for it in and out of Parliament. When other States could not be induced to come into line, Western Australia formed a voluntary co-operative pool to which approximately 80 per cent, of the growers became contributors. The management of that pool made arrangements with a co-operative organization in London by which 3s. 6d. per bushel upon delivery of wheat at the railway siding was paid year after year. The farmers of Western Australia will need to “consider carefully before they abandon that arrangement for a guarantee that does not extend beyond one year. Notwithstanding the statements of Ministers today, we are still uncertain as to whether the Commonwealth Bank can find a lump sum of approximately £15,000,000 to finance the guarantee should the crop be a big one and delivered at the sidings over a period of ten weeks. I shall be surprised if the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, without consulting his board, gave to the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) an assurance that warranted him in telling the farmers that the bank would pay to them 4s. per bushel for their, wheat upon delivery at the siding. For what purpose does the board exist if it is not to decide a matter of this magnitude? Had the Minister given fuller particulars to the Commonwealth Bank and obtained more definite assurances from that institution, his colleagues would not have floundered as they did during his absence. To-day he has endeavoured to apologize for the statements made by them. But it is undeniable that the Prime Minister said that the guarantee would be paid in instalments as the wheat was sold, and that the Treasurer said that 4s. could not be paid in a lump sum upon the delivery of the wheat at the siding. I have no doubt that the Minister put this scheme before Cabinet, but it is obvious that he did not make clear to his colleagues what was in his mind. He seems to have taken the bit in his mouth and rushed ahead recklessly. Now, with returning sanity, he is endeavouring to ascertain whether the bank can, in conjunction with the State Governments, finance the guarantee in the ordinary way.
– It must be clear to an impartial observer that some members of the Opposition are doing everything possible to kill the prospect of stabilizing an Australian-wide wheat pool. The achievement of the objective upon which the Minister for Markets has set his mind will interfere with the profits of certain friends of the Opposition - the speculators and merchants, who too Jong have been battening on the farmers. That is “ the nigger in the wood-pile.” Upon the pretence of getting information for the farmers, honorable members opposite want to create suspicion in the minds of certain growers whose prejudices are already being played upon by certain designing interests who wish to defeat the compulsory pooling scheme. No proposal of such vital importance to the wheat-growers emanated from any previous Commonwealth Government. The last Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson) did nothing to improve the marketing conditions, by legislation or by collaboration with the growers, in the way that is being attempted by my colleague, who is to be heartily congratulated on the work he has taken in hand. The honorable member for “Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) will admit that the conference in Canberra in February last was the most representative that had ever assembled to discuss the wheat-growing industry. So impressed were the delegates with the comprehensive data and the proposals put before them by the Minister for Markets, that they returned to their respective States resolved to advise the growers to support, an Australianwide wheat pool. Honorable members who for years sat on the treasury bench and did nothing to help the wheatgrowers to throw off their backs thu speculating agents who were battening on them, realize that thousands of wheatgrowers who are unattached to any political party will, by their votes, show unmistakably their appreciation of the scheme promulgated by the Minister for Markets, and their support of the principle of an Australian-wide pool.
– That is not the point at issue in this debate.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) is trying to put a smoke screen over the scheme and to create suspicion in the minds of certain wheat-farmers who are being circularized by hostile interests. The general principle of a wheat pool and guarantee was adopted prior to the Canberra conference. The Minister for Markets placed the whole scheme before the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. The reply received was favorable. It was for the Governor of the bank to put the scheme before his board if necessary. As a member of the Ministry, I know that Cabinet was consulted and concurred in the general outline of the proposal. The details could not be settled because <at that stage the conference of wheat-growers had not met, and the concurrence of the State Ministers for Agriculture and the representatives of the wheat-growers had not been secured. At the conference, the representatives of the growers emphatically affirmed their concurrence in the scheme, because they realized how much it will mean to the producers. The pool is to be controlled by the growers, and the details are to be determined, not by the Government, but by a pool board to which the growers will elect their representatives.
– Will the Government bc represented on the board?
– There will be a Government representative on the board, but he will have only one voice in its affairs. The wheat-growers’ representatives will have a majority and will be able to make a decision favorable to them on all matters brought before them. The Commonwealth Government wishes to provide the wheat-growers with the machinery necessary for the orderly marketing of their products. Had honorable members opposite the interests of the wheat-growers at heart, they would applaud the Government in its attempt to help the industry, particularly in view of the fact that past conservative Governments have never been prepared to tackle the problem of righting our adverse trade balance. The final decision as to details of the pool will rightly be in the hands of the Australian Wheat Board when constituted. Everything that is required will be prepared in readiness for Commonwealth and State Boards to enable them to meet within n fortnight after they are constituted, and to ensure that all arrangements can bi> completed well in advance of the harvesting of next season’s crop. I am amazed that honorable members opposite should endeavour to kill the scheme with faim praise. It is something that should appeal to them. Evidently they are afraid that certain persons who stand behind them will be displeased when the scheme is approved by the wheat-growers of Australia.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the Acting Minister in order in saying that members of the Opposition are afraid that certain persons who sta ml behind them will be displeased? It is a suggestion that the attitude of the members of the Opposition are the reverse of honest, and that they have been influenced by indirect motives.
– I do not think that the Acting Minister intended to reflect upon the honesty of members of the Opposition. but to make quite sure about that I ask the Acting Minister whether he had any intention of suggesting that there were ulterior motives behind the attitude adopted by the members of the Opposition?
– I made no suggestion that honorable members opposite were dishonest. I said that, for political considerations, they were siding with vested interests who did not wish the farmers to control the marketing of their own wheat. The suggested agreement between tho Australian Wheat Board, the State boards, and the Commonwealth Bank is in course of preparation. The Minister for Markets and Transport has devoted much of his time to this work, and he has left nothing to chance. A suggested agreement between the State boards and the flour-millers for the consideration of tinState boards when established, and dealing with local consumption as well as for export trade, is being prepared; as are also acquiring, handling, and shipping agreements. The Federal and State boards, therefore, on the basis of the data which is being prepared for them, will be able to complete all details of the scheme almost immediately they are constituted. Everything has been done to expedite definite arrangements for the handling of next season’s wheat crop, so that the farmers may obtain the maximum return and know what to expect as ii first advance on their wheat. They can, therefore, rest assured that the Commonwealth Government will stand by its undertakings given to the Canberra Wheat Conference in February last, including the provision of the first advance - 4s.. a bushel net at country stations, payable on delivery of next season’s crop - and conditional upon the pool being constituted in the manner agreed upon by that conference. I am amazed thathonorable members opposite are not using their influence with the wheat-growers to persuade them to adopt the scheme. It is indeed unfortunate that, because of political considerations, they are trying to defeat the whole scheme. Instead of increasing the financial difficulties of Australia, the concentration of finance through the Commonwealth Bank will relieve! the other banks of wheat credits, and thus release substantial sums for commerce, industry, and trade generally. The Government wishes to encourage the producers to increase considerably the acreage under wheat. From the stand point of righting the trade balance, let me inform honorable members that a crop of 200,000,000 bushels would mean a credit of £35,000,000 in cash available overseas. That is a matter of paramount importance to Australia. Instead of adopting a party attitude, and trying to defeat the pool by creating a suspicion in the mind’s of the wheat-farmers that a compulsory pool would not be to their advantage, honorable members opposite should be prepared to assist the Government in its efforts to place one of our great primary industries on a sound basis.
– 1 rise to a point of order. As less than two hours are available for the discussion of this motion, is it right, that four Ministers should occupy most of that time in defending the Government against the attack of the Leader of the Opposition?
– The honorable member is sufficiently familiar with the Standing Orders to know that the point that he has raised does not constitute a point of order.
– I have no doubt that my remarks are somewhat, distasteful to the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), but I can assure him that the members of the Ministry have the interests of the primary producers so much at heart that they deem it their duty to rise in this chamber to explain fully the details and advantages of the scheme. They are not blinded by prejudice as are honorable members opposite, who have at heart the interests, not of the wheat-growers, but of the exploiters of the wheat-growers. For that reason the Ministry need offer no apology for rising to refute some of the foolish statements of honorable members opposite who, under the pretext that they are friends of the farmers, are using every means to defeat the object of the scheme. I hope that this pool will be the forerunner of many other Australianwide pools for the marketing of Australian primary products, so that the friends of honorable members opposite, the wheat merchants of Sussex and Yorkstreets, will no longer be able to farm the farmers, and the wheat-growers will be able to reap the full reward of their labours.
– It would have been better for the cause of the Government had the last speaker not spoken at all. With the Treasurer, I deprecate the fact that party politics should have been introduced into this debate. But we must admit that the speech of the . Acting Minister was, without question, one of the most partisan statements ever delivered in this House. In view of the invitation of the Treasurer to debate this subject in a non-party spirit, such a speech came with very bad grace. How can we expect to encourage a spirit of co-operation when even members of the Cabinet state that the Opposition attitude to the proposed wheat pool is influenced by political considerations. It was only after the Acting Minister had repeated on four or five occasions his statement that the members of the Opposition were associated with the profiteers in wheat, that steps were taken to compel him to withdraw it. The Acting Minister has done incalculable harm, and particularly so, if his speech is reported in the newspapers, to the cause which he has allegedly espoused.
I wish to raise one point, which has not yet been made clear. I challenge any wheat farmer, when he reads Hansard, to discern in it a definite and clear statement from the Ministerial side that the Commonwealth Bank has agreed to finance this project. The Minister may think that they have deluded the members of their own side, in fact they may have deluded themselves in view of the admiring cheers and silly remarks of some of their supporters; but their indefinite statements will cut no ice with the farmer. He wishes to know definitely, quite apart from political aspirations, whether the Commonwealth Bank is prepared to finance the proposed wheat pool. We know very well the mismanagement that has been associated with almost every pool with which the Government has been connected, and judging by the speech of the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) this afternoon the indications are that mismanagement will take place in respect of this project. What else can we expect in view of the fact that the
Minister, before he even knows how the pool is to be financed, proceeds to establish Federal and State Boards? What is the use of creating these boards and the machinery connected with them when it may be found that the Commonwealth Bank or Australia as a whole is unable to finance the pool? The Treasurer, reading from a paper that apparently was supplied to him, said that the Commonwealth Bank had financed pools in previous years as a matter of business routine. That is perfectly true. When pools were financed previously people could obtain from the banks overdrafts for thousands and thousands of pounds, whereas to-day those overdrafts would not amount to as many hundreds of pounds. Surely it must be apparent to honorable members behind the Government that what could be done two or three years ago as a routine matter by the financial institutions of this country, could not be done to-day. They must know that perfectly well. The farmer knows it, and therefore he will not be misled by the statements that have been made this afternoon from the Ministerial side.
– The honorable member’s friends, the wheat merchants, were prepared to finance the scheme three times over.
– The persons to whom the honorable member refers are no more friends of mine than they are of any other citizen carrying on legitimate trade. I do not know any of the wheat merchants; but at the same time I say that the statement in their letter respecting British and foreign associations and capital, is undoubtedly true in view of the large resources in British and foreign capital which they command.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 119.
Cigarette and Cigar Production
asked the Acting Min- .ister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport upon notice -
Whether, in view of the resignation of Mr. Haynes from the position of Australian Commercial Representative in Canada, and the appointment of Mr. McGregor in his place, the Dried Fruits Export Control Board is still prepared to carry out its former intention of paying £2,500 per annum towards the cost of Australian commercial representation in Canada, or will the Government now require to bear the whole of the cost?
– I am endeavouring to secure the information for the honorable member and shall be pleased to furnish him with it when available.
Production and Importation
Mr.RIORDAN asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:
Exports during the year 1928-29 -
Regarding the importation of maize from South Africa, this item is gazetted under section 4 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921-22. Under this sectiondumping duty, in the sum representing the difference between the fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment and the export selling price, is payable on South African maize, which is sold for export to Australia at a price lower than the fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment. This dumping duty is imposed, however, only in instances where such maize is landed in Australia at a duty paid cost detrimental to the local industry.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, consulted before these gentlemen were imported ?
– With regard to questions 1 to 7 I am advised by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as follows : -
Proposed Railway from Peak Hill to Longreach.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, uponnotice -
Department, a few days before this Parliament assembled, boast of an increase in licences in Victoria with reference to the October figures, in view of the previous and subsequent figures disclosed ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Petrol and Oil Used
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Sir Robert Gibson, K.B.E., chairman ; Sir Robert Garran, K.C.M.G.; and Sir Nicholas Lockyer.
Declaration of Moratorium
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the serious position now facing primary producers through the existing financial stringency, is the Government prepared to cause a moratorium to be declared in order that no mortgagee shall have the right to depose any primary producer who is unable to pay his full interest or other fixed charge* on account of a fall in the price of primary products, but that the mortgagee may recover one-half his interest and capitalize the remainder, and that the period of such moratorium shall be in force for not less than eighteen months or until Parliament considers that the economic situation has returned to normal ?
– The Government does not consider it desirable that a moratorium should be declared in the present circumstances. Action in this direction, though helpful in some cases, would have harmful effects in others.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Conditions of £10,000 Prize
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government, with regard to their _ offer of prize of £10,000 for a moving picture produced in Australia, make it a condition that the picture shall not be accompanied by mechanical music, in view of the fact that over 4,000 Australian musicians have been thrown out of employment through the use of such music?
– The conditions were published in August last year, and the time for receiving entries will expire on the 31st March, 1930. It is, therefore, too late to consider any question of altering the conditions. drawbackonimportedpine
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he make a statement indicating the general position respecting the drawback on imported pine case material, as to whether the drawback applies only to pine case material imported or ordered prior to the recent increased duty being announced, or whether it is general in its application and applies to material brought into Australia subsequent to the increased tariff?
– Drawback is payable on the following classes of imported timber used in the manufacture of boxes exported containing Australian primary and secondary products viz. : -
Timber, undressed, n.e.i., for the manufacture of boxes.
Timber, for making boxes, being cut to size and dressed or partly dressed.
The rates of duty chargeable on these timbers under the 1921-28 tariff are as follow : - (a)1s. per 100 super. feet, Item 291(i) (1)
Under the November tariff proposals the rates are1s., 12s. and 14s. respectively. Drawback is payable on the actual quantity of timber exported in the form of boxes. The rate of drawback payable is the actual rate of duty paid on the timber on importation.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Production - Importation
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the quantity and value of -
– The information will be obtained as far as possible.
The following papers were presented : -
Tariff Board - Reports and Recommendations -
Gum and Wading Boots.
Paper Cake Containers and Paper Chocolate Containers.
Pasteurizers, Pasteurizing Vats and
Roller-type Hand Mowers, Electricallydriven Lawn Mowers.
Thymol and Menthol.
Women’s and Girls’ Headwear, &c.
Woven wire gauze of from 30 to 120 mesh per lineal inch.
Ordered to be printed.
Maternal and Child Welfare in Australia - Report by Dame Janet M. Campbell, D.B.E., M.D., M.S., Senior Medical Officer for Maternity and Child Welfare, Ministry of Health, London.
Bankruptcy Act -
Rules and Amendments - Statutory Rules 1928, Nos. 8,63, 82.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 64.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Blyth, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Debate resumed from 21st March (vide page 402) on motion by Mr. Blakeley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I rise with a considerable amount of pleasure to discuss the proposals of the Government with respect to the future control of the Federal Capital Territory, and I hope that I shall be able to give reasons why the opposition, which at present is shown in certain quarters towards Canberra should cease. The discussion of any matter that affects the National Capital should be devoid of party political considerations, and it should be the aim of all to do whatever lies in their power to build up a city that will be worthy of the Australian people. In the course of his speech last Friday, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) referred to different boards and commissions, many of which he claimed had been of great value, that had been set up by
State and Federal Governments. I cannot recall any instance of opposition having been offered by any honorable member who sits on this side of the’ House to boards that have shown themselves capable of assisting Parliament to conduct the business of the country. Our complaint has been that during the last six or seven years the control of many matters that should have been handled by the Parliament has been delegated to various boards, with the result that it has not been possible for honorable members to guard adequately the interests of the people of Australia.
The object of this measure is principally to place the government of the Capital of Australia under the control of a number of departments. When the late Government departed from that principle and handed over control to an irresponsible commission, it violated one of the principles of constitutional government. Honorable members who have endeavoured to make this a capital worthy of the people of Australia have frequently been made a target for unjust criticism. It was the Labour party which laid the foundations of services that are of great value to the Capital City, such as a water supply, electricity, sewerage and afforestation. No complaint regarding any of these services has been voiced by those who have so far spoken on the bill. The intention of those who, in the earlier days, set out to establish a capital city was that it should be the home of culture. So far as I have had in my power to do so, I have fostered that spirit, but have met with opposition from quarters from which one would hardly expect it to come, perhaps because of the fear on the part of those concerned that the removal of their branches to Canberra would interfere too greatly with their existing associations. There have been attempts to discourage our public servants from taking part in movements designed to develop the Capital. The Auditor-General has told the Government that he does not intend to come here. It is not within the power of the Government to interfere with that gentleman when discharging the duty of auditing our public accounts. Virtually, no control can be exercised over him, and it is his prerogative to make statements regarding ministerial heads of departments that no other public servant is permitted to make. Consequently, bc has always been in a position to adopt a lofty attitude. Derogatory statements concerning the Federal Capital are frequently published, the latest of which appeared in a trade journal published in Melbourne to the effect that further expenditure on Canberra should be suspended, and that the Parliament should meet once a year in Canberra to comply with the Constitution ; that other sittings should be held in Sydney and that the administrative work should be carried on from Melbourne. I cannot understand why such a ridiculous proposal should be published, particularly when there is, I believe, a general desire on the part of an overwhelming majority of the Australian people to develop the National Capital at Canberra. Although reference is made from time to time to certain unsatisfactory features supposed to be associated with our National Capital, the opinions of influential overseas visitors, such as the members of the British Economic Mission and others, are all strongly in favour of Canberra which is regarded by them as an ideal city in the making, and also a most desirable place for a restful holiday. If any unnecessary expenditure has been incurred at Canberra it is due largely to the fact that the activities here have been under the control of a commission instead of governmental departments responsible to Parliament. I believe that this measure will meet with the approval of honorable members as it provides a means of developing the Federal Capital in the manner originally intended. I recall the days when a number of barristers and others first met in an office in Phillipstreet, Sydney, to discuss a proposal to establish a Federal Capital worthy of the Australian people. It is appalling to mc to realize that there are still some who call themselves good Australians who do their utmost to belittle the National Capital; but I am always able to convince such persons that the great work which is now being undertaken will be of inestimable value to the Australian people. The proposal of the Government in this instance is to appoint an advisory council, three members of which are to represent the people. It is hoped that at least one member of the council will be a mechanic or some one qualified in constructional work.
– Sir John Harrison who was once a member of the Federal Capital Commission was a master builder.
– That may be so, but there are some builders who do not know more about their work than an elephant does about a typewriter. Some time ago a gentleman bequeathed £20,000 towards the erection of an animal laboratory which the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has established in a congested area close to a Sydney hospital instead of at Canberra.
– I ask the honorable member for East Sydney to connect his remarks with the bill before the House.
– I was suggesting that the laboratory to which I have referred should be established in Canberra instead of in Sydney. When I visited Melbourne over 40 years ago the late “ Jimmy “ Service said to me that he believed that federation would be the salvation of Australia, and I am sure it will. The Government is doing its best to submit a scheme for the effective control of Canberra and the Federal Capital Territory, and if it cannot get on with its job I am sure it will make way for those who can.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) said that if the Government could not get on with its job it would make room for those who can; but, unfortunately, the present Government has not acted in the way the honorable member suggests. This measure has been introduced with the object of dispensing with commission control in the Federal Capital Territory, which, we have been informed, was an obsession of the previous administration. The best form of control for the Federal Capital has been discussed from time to time, and, notwithstanding the attitude adopted in the past by honorable members opposite, this Government which they are supporting has introduced an ill-considered temporary measure which is to operate for only twelve months. The bill is only a makeshift, and must result in considerable dissatisfaction to those who are interested in the development of the Territory.
The Federal Capital and the territory surrounding it have been subject to many forms of control, all of which, for various reasons, have proved ineffective. We are now asked to consider another makeshift proposal which cannot he regarded as in the interests of the Federal Capital Territory. When introducing a bill to amend thcScat of Government Administration Act last year the then Minister for Home Affairs indicated that it was to provide for the appointment of a second and third commissioner for one year only, so that Parliament would be able to review the whole matter, and later to devise some amended permanent plan for the development and administration of the Territory. It is now 21 years since this Parliament began the work of establishing a national capital at Canberra, and I am sure honorable members will agree with me that it is time some definite scheme was submitted for the control of the Territory. Canberra has had a most chequered career, owing to the various forms of administration which have been employed in connexion with its development. From 1909 to 1912 the department of Home Affairs endeavoured to develop Canberra from Melbourne, but found that impracticable. In August, 1912, the Government appointed a resident administrator, subject to the control of the Minister in Melbourne, to supervise the development of the Federal Capital Territory. In 1916 the control was divided between the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Public Works, operating in Melbourne, which made the work even more difficult. From 1916 to 1924, owing to financial stringency occasioned by th-2 war, practically nothing was done. But from 1924 a special effort was made by the Government of the day to facilitate its development, including the appointment of a commission consisting of three members. A vigorous developmental policy was inaugurated; Parliament House, several hostels, administrative offices, as well as hundreds of houses, were erected. There was a great speeding up of the work in preparation for the opening of Parliament by the Duke of York in May, 1927. Seeing that the developmental work of the city has now practically been completed - it has its complete sewerage system; its roads, parks, and gardens have been formed - one would think that the Government would have brought forward definite proposals for the permanent control of the Territory. With our own experience of the last 21 years and that of other countries centuries old to guide us, it is time that a permanent scheme was set before us. Instead, we have another measure of a temporary nature.
The announcement of the Government’s proposals in regard to the Federal Capital Territory has caused great anxiety to the officers of the Federal Capital Cornmission. The uncertainty as to their future is disquieting aud assuredly not conducive to the best work. Nor is it in the best interests of the administration of the Territory. Unfortunately, the Government’s proposals have opened the way to an undesirable element in the control of this Territory. Party issues are being raised ; sectional interests rather than the interests of the whole community are likely to predominate I hope that we shall not have in Canberra any repetition of the bribery and corruption that followed the introduction of party politics into the civic administration of Sydney. Had it been proposed to give the residents of Canberra representation in Parliament there would, perhaps, be some justification for a display of party spirit; but it will indeed be unfortunate if party politics determine the personnel of the advisory council. I also protest against the insignificant remuneration proposed to bc paid to the members of the advisory board. According to the Minister’s own statement, its members will be required to attend weekly or fortnightly board meetings and to devote a great deal of their time to the interests of the Territory; yet they are to receive only £100 per annum for their services. The small remuneration must necessarily limit the choice of candidates. Moreover, the temporary nature of the Government’s proposals will not tend to the proper development of the
Territory. Indeed, one is inclined to doubt whether there is any serious intention on the part of the Government to have elected to the advisory council persons capable of offering sound advice.
A further objection to the Government’s proposals is that the Under Secretaries of the Home Affairs, Works and Railways, and Health Departments, will be expected to act on the advisory council without any remuneration at all. It would appear either that they are not now fully employed or that, if overtime is to be avoided, an increase in the staffs of their departments will be necessary. I am satisfied that they will not have the time to give to the work of the Advisory Board. They are fully occupied now. The question of remuneration for these officers should be reviewed by the Minister. I heartily concur in the Minister’s tribute to the men who have done so much to develop this Territory; but I regret that the Secretary to the Commission (Mr. Daley), the Chief Engineer (Mr. Potts), the Chief Architect (Mr. Casboulte), and the Chief Accountant (Mr. Rouse) were not mentioned. The officers and those associated with them have borne the heat and burden of the day in connexion with the construction and development of the Capital, and their work entitles them to the fullest recognition and consideration. When the re-organization of the department is undertaken, I trust that the claims of these officers for recognition will not be overlooked.
The advisory council, when constituted, should take steps to deal with the unfavorable propaganda concerning Canberra which is disseminated throughout Australia. One has not to travel far to hear remarks derogatory to the Federal Capital. Such statements are generally based on false information, and it is hoped that a vigorous campaign will be launched against them. It is also a matter for regret that in the various intelligence and tourist bureaux of Australia so little authoritative information regarding the Federal Capital Territory is available. Even in Canberra itself the only literature available respecting the Federal Capital is an unattractive slip, setting out the hotel tariffs and certain information regarding tours. It is true that a booklet containing data about Canberra - its history and national importance - can be obtained at the Tourist Bureau for a small payment, but similar information respecting other cities can be got for nothing. It would almost appear that attempts are made to prevent the people of Australia from obtaining information about the capital of their country. I trust that the bill will also be amended to provide for the presentation to Parliament of an annual report on the administration of the Territory.
In committee, I propose to move for the amendment of clause 5. The proposed amendment, which has been printed and. circulated among honorable members, provides that any alteration of the Griffin plan shall be approved, not by the Minister, but by Parliament after investigation by the Public Works Committee.
– Why did not the honorable member make his suggestion when the party he supports was in office? Evidently he is not prepared to trust the present Government.
– The Public Works Committee comprises members of all parties and of both Houses of this Parliament. Its function is to inquire into proposals involving an expenditure in excess of £25,000. Any proposals affecting Canberra which are submitted to the committee are considered by it in the light of their agreement with or departure from the Griffin plan. The committee has aleady investigated a number of works in the Federal Capital, among them being these -
Upper Queanbeyan reservoir.
Small arms factory.
Dam for ornamental waters.
Main intercepting sewer.
Water supply works.
Hostel (No. 1).
Provisional administrative offices.
Provisional Parliament House.
Canberra to Yass railway.
Southern interception sewer.
Sewerage treatment works.
Hostel No. 4.
Northern main sewer.
Dam for Molonglo River.
Permanent administrative building.
Canberra cottages, 1926.
National Museum of Australian Zoology (Institute of Anatomy).
North-western intercepting sewer.
Australian War Memorial.
Four other proposed works are now before the committee. I hope to persuade the Minister of the reasonableness of my proposed amendment.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the details of his proposals at this stage. He may, however, make passing reference to them.
– There are many instances in which ill-effects have come from departing from well-considered plans. In Sydney and Perth heavy expenditure has been incurred in transforming narrow alleys into wide thoroughfares. A departure from the original plan of Birmingham cost the ratepayers of that city £876,000; the rectification of blunders made through departing from the Original plans of Hull and Liverpool cost £844,000 and £1,500,000 respectively. I hope that this will be the last occasion on which this Parliament will be asked to consider a temporary scheme for the administration of the Federal Capital Territory. The time is long overdue for a well-considered scheme for the permanent administration of this important portion of Australia. Any further comments I have to offer regarding the wisdom of amending clause 5 I shall leave until the bill is in committee.
. - [Quorum formed]. - The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Francis) complained of the disabilities of those who are charged with the development of Canberra, and urged that the city has not been sufficiently advertised. Apparently he forgets that the present Government has been in office for less than five months. If he had been always so solicitous for its progress as he now affects to be, why did he not complain about this lack of publicity during the last six or seven years when the Government of which he was a supporter was in office? No satisfactory attempt was made by the BrucePage administration to deal fairly by the Federal Capital in the way of advertising its attractions. I agree with the honorable member that it has not been adver tised sufficiently, and I regret that the preceding Government failed in this respect. The honorable member for Moreton referred also to a long list of public works which he said had been inquired into by the Commonwealth Public Works Committee without action being taken by the Government.
– The honorable member is wrong. I quoted a list of works that had been referred to the Public Works Committee for inquiry, in order to indicate to the Minister that it was the duty of the Parliamentary Committee to consider whether similar projected public works conflicted in any respect with the Griffin plan.
– The honorable member said also that a number of public works reported on by the committee had not been put in hand. His remark, therefore, was a reflection upon the Bruce-Page Government. I admit that Government policy must be determined largely by financial conditions, and I regret that practically all expenditure in Canberra has ceased. I do not know whether the Minister has in mind any particular plan for the future, but I would urge upon the Government that after an expenditure of over £10,000,000 on sewerage, water supply, road construction, electricity, public buildings and residences for public servants, every effort should now be made to ensure the continuous development of the Capital. Practically all the essential works have been completed. Everything is now ready for the building of the city itself. From now on every brick that is laid should return fair interest upon the money invested. There is a substantial demand for houses, and it must be a reflection on any Government if money cannot be made available. If a private company had such a wonderful asset as Canberra is, it would have no difficulty in securing the necessary finance to go ahead with its development. I am well aware that the present Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) has the development of the city at heart, and I believe that the Government will spare no effort to enable him to go ahead with the scheme. But I hope that in future the buildings will not be scattered all over the Territory. If all existing buildings had been concentrated in one locality, we should now have a compact and fine city. Between Parliament House and the Hotel Kurrajong there is a splendid vacant block of land which should be utilized for the erection of dwellings for public servants and others who may wish to live in Canberra.
– If that were done, the Griffin plan would be spoiled.
– It would not be the first time that a departure had been made from the Griffin lay-out of the city. Some honorable members may not. be aware that Mr. Griffin’s plan provided for septic tanks in each important sub-division of the city area. Mr. Kelly, the then Minister for Works, referred that matter to the Public Works Committee, of which I was a member, and that body, after investigating the scheme, recommended the construction of an outfall sewer to deal with the city sewerage. There is no reason why we should follow slavishly every detail of Mr. Griffin’s plan. Present day needs of motor traffic suggest that some of the curves in city roads could be straightened out with advantage to the city’s development. Many of the difficulties which now present themselves in the evolution of the city could be removed if the Public Works Committee had more power.
– Surely the honorable mem ner does not suggest that power should be delegated by Parliament to the Public Works Committee?
– I believe that the authority of Parliament should be supreme, and that instead of three Ministers exercising control, as is contemplated under this bill, complete power should be vested in the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley). We should know then who was responsible for the development of the city. I am afraid the Government proposal will lead to confusion. The people of Canberra, now numbering approximately 8,000, should be allowed to elect a municipal council with full administrative powers, subject to the veto of the Minister, in regard to water supply, electric light, sewerage, road construction and maintenance, and other essential city services. I congratulate the Government upon its attempt to achieve something more practicable than was done by the Bruce-Page administration.
– According to the honorable member’s own argument, the bill now before the House is worse than the previous arrangement.
– I do not agree with all the provisions of the bill but I give the Government credit for attempting to achieve better results. I believe in the affairs of this city being in the hands of one elected body, subject to the control of one Minister. Many of the important undertakings, such as sewerage, water supply, road construction, afforestation, the erection of Hotel Canberra and a considerable portion of the road construction, were carried out by the Works Department under the Minister for Home Affairs. A strong effort should be made to advertise the attractions of the city. The provision of a greater number of seats along the many fine avenues would hell) to make the place more attractive to visitors. A few hundred pounds spent in this way would be much appreciated. As to the bill, 1 suggest that the new system be given a trial for twelve months and that eventually arrangements be made for the election of a municipal council. Such a body might well be entrusted with the expenditure of the present revenue from rents and rates, which I understand is in the vicinity of £225,000- a year, for the continued development of the Capital. At present the amount received in rents and rates is paid into the Consolidated Revenue aud the’ tendency on the part of every Treasurer during a time of financial stringency would be to withhold money and prevent the expansion of the city. I firmly believe that Canberra will one day be one of the show cities of the world, and there is no doubt that, as time goes on, the increasing revenues from rents and rates will be a great asset to the Government. The financial position of the Capital is not always correctly stated. The governing authorities should be credited with rent and rates, chargeable in respect of Parliament House and all government offices, because a considerable portion of the £10,000,000 already expended was incurred for the purpose of providing accommodation for Parliament and public offices. We should not forget also that the sewerage and water supply schemes were planned to meet the needs of the next 30 or 40 years, when the population will be very much larger than at present. I hope the Government will be able to make available further funds to provide accommodation for departments yet to be transferred. One important department employing 750 people, the Note Printing Office, occupies a big building in Melbourne. If this were sold the proceeds would be more than sufficient to pay for the transfer of the department as well as the erection of the necessary buildings to house it at Canberra. The members of the High Court of Australia should not arrogate to themselves the right to say that they will sit only in Melbourne. This is the capital of Australia, and the High Court should be compelled to hold its sittings here. Furthermore, all the heads of departments should be brought to Canberra. If the country is to obtain any return for all the money spent on this place, every possible step should be taken to increase the population of the city. What would be the position if all departmental head3 said, like tha Auditor-General, that they would not come to Canberra? It is not right that he should defy the Government which is paying his salary. After all, he is only a public servant. The Government should see that he comes to Canberra or gets out of his job.
.- This proposal of the Government will please no one. It goes either too far or not far enough, according to the way it is viewed. Personally, I think that no improvement could be made on the commission form of government for a city such as this. I do not claim that the Federal Capital Commission, as we knew it, was perfect, but I do say, and in this I am in agreement with the Leader of the Opposition, that had the Commission been composed of archangels, they could not have satisfied the people of Australia in carrying out the difficult work with which the Commission was confronted. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) said that we, as a Parliament, could’ not excuse ourselves for the dissatisfaction which has arisen over the Commission’s work. This Parliament was largely responsible for the mistakes that occurred, because we forced the hands of the Commission at the time. Had things been allowed to take their course, Parliament would have been constituted in Canberra all in good time, and the money spent would have gone a great deal further. However, Parliament told the Commission that Parliament House must be completed by a certain date, and that office and hotel accommodation were to be provided. At that time it was enormously difficult to obtain even the labour that was required. For instance, the large cities of Australia were scoured for plasterers to get the job done. That the work was completed within the time specified does great credit to Sir John Butters and those associated with him.
The commission form of government has been tried in many places. It has been tried in America and, in some cases, found wanting. It is now being tried in Sydney, not because it is regarded as an ideal form of government, but because, at the time it was established, it was felt that bribery and corruption in municipal government had reached such a depth that it was necessary to abolish the existing form of government altogether until civic affairs had been cleaned up. Here in Canberra we have a city for which there is no parallel, with the exception, perhaps, of Washington, in the district of Columbia. The money with which this city has been built was found by the people of Australia, and for many years to come they will be called upon to foot further bills for its maintenance. The Advisory Council which the Government proposes to set up is neither fish nor fowl. It will satisfy no one. It. will have no power; it can advise, but it cannot execute. Sir John Butters, in his final report to Parliament, suggested that a municipal form of government should be established in Canberra, and that certain definite powers should be transferred to it, thereby making it feel that it was actually doing something. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) mentioned certain functions, such as the provision of water and lighting services, which could be handed over to the Advisory Council. Were the people of this city to feel that they had an actual interest in the control of civic affairs, we should have fewer complaints from them. At present they feel that they are no one’s children. They are orphans whom no one has claimed, and they have no say in the building and development of their city.
This proposal of the Government is not the first mistake of the kind. A good many years ago, when the War Service Homes Commission was formed, it was faced with a task very similar in magnitude to that which faced the Federal Capital Commission. Naturally, it made mistakes. It had to buy in enormous quantities, and in trying to secure the material necessary to carry on its huge building programme at prices which would permit cheap homes to be provided, it did things which eventually proved unwise. The members of that commission learned from their mistakes, however, and just when it was in a position to do good work, the late Government saw fit to wipe it out of existence, and substituted for it a War Service Homes Commissioner, working in co-operation with departmental officers. That was a mistake. The War Service Homes Commission, as a result of its experience, could have done the work far more satisfactory than any Government department. In itself it was a department. It had perfected itself just at the time when, with a stroke of the pen, it was abolished. The present Government is doing, or has done, the same thing with the Federal Capital Commission. The Government says it is actuated by considerations of economy. It would have been possible to secure good men to continue the work of the Commission at lower salaries than were paid to the original Commissioners. That has been proved by the satisfactory work done by Mr. A. J. Christie since he has been Chief Commissioner. I am afraid it is of no. use at this stage to oppose the Government’s proposals, but I offer certain suggestions in the hope that some or all of them may be accepted. If the Government is determined to go ahead and wipe out the Commission, and hand the construction of the city over to the departments concerned, we must accept the situation. This city, however, if allowed to remain purely the seat of government, can never have a population greater than 15,000 or 16,000 people. At the present time we have a population of 8,000, and there are certain other departments, including the whole of the Defence Department, which have yet to be transferred. Even with these the population cannot be greater than 15,000 or 16,000.
– That is plenty.
– It is not plenty. This city has been so designed that the overhead expenses of government are too great for a population of that number. For practically the same overhead expenses a population of 75,000 or 100,000 people could be served, and if we had that number here the present heavy expenditure on park lands, boulevards, &c, would be justified. It is not fair, however, to expect the people of Australia to keep dipping into their pockets for the beautification of a city in which they have no interest, apart from its being the seat of government. How can the population of Canberra be built up? First of all there is the social aspect, which should not escape attention. This is . the National Capital of Australia. Why not make it the official residence of the Governor-General? At the present time we have quarters for the GovernorGeneral at Admiralty House, in Sydney, and have a Federal Government House in Melbourne. I know that the people of those large and important cities feel that it is necessary that the GovernorGeneral should have residences in them, but is it any more necessary for him to live in Sydney or Melbourne for certain periods of the year than that he should live in Brisbane or Perth or Adelaide or Hobart? We have grown up under the present system, and have come to think that it is necessary. But if the Government is in earnest in its desire to foster the development of Canberra, it should see that adequate provision is made for the housing of the Governor-General in Canberra, and that Canberra alone should be his official place of residence. The other establishments should eventually be closed down. Then Canberra will become the social capital of Australia, and I am confident that that will tend to develop Canberra and increase its population more than any other single factor. In this district we have one of the finest climates in Australia, and there is no reason why those persons who are fortunate enough to be able to choose their place of residence should not come here in their thousands, build for themselves beautiful homes, and make the city even more beautiful than it is at the present time. They will not come here, however, unless satisfactory educational facilities are provided. Splendid educational facilities have been ^provided here for the children of residents, up to a point. Most of the actual work has been done by the State Government of New South Wales, which has provided the teachers under arrangement with the Commonwealth Government. There are also some denominational schools; but over and above all these there should be established here some of the finest secondary schools in Australia. Then, in the fulness of time, there should be founded here a national university, which I should like to see devote itself to postgraduate work. When those things have been done we can hope and confidently expect that we shall build up here on the political, social and educational sides, a city of 75,000 or 100,000 people that will be free from all the disadvantages of a manufacturing town, and that we shall have in reality what we have hoped for many years to establish - a garden city for the Federal Capital of Australia.
Silting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
.- I should not have detained the passage of the bill even for the few minutes which I propose to take up if it were not for my desire to express my* deep regret at the passing of the Federal Capital Commission. I do not suggest that the Commission has been in all details a complete success, but as time goes on I believe it will be found that the best system of government for this new capital is commission control. I would even go so far as to forecast a return to commission control in the Territory when this strange, many-headed arrangement which the Minister for Home Affairs has proposed has been tried and found wanting. In measuring the quality and range of the success of the Federal Capital Commission we have to take into consideration the very extraordinary conditions under which it -worked. The constructive side of its operations had to be carried out under very high pressure. For better or worse a time limit was imposed on the Commission’s initial constructive work. This impaired its efficiency, and, I say quite frankly, led to a great deal of extravagance. But that was not the fault of the Commission and should not be charged against its reputation. For the pressure placed upon the Commission, the late Government and Parliament were not alone responsible; it was at the time the opinion of a very large section of the Australian people - whatever it may be now - that the Federal Parliament should be opened in Canberra on a given date. At any rate it was that time limit which was responsible for certain defects during the constructive period. On the administrative side of the work of the Commission, extraordinary circumstances in the early days operated against the attainment of the highest efficiency. Some 6,000 or 7,000 people, mostly public servants and their families, were suddenly brought to Canberra, set down here arbitrarily on the open countryside, and, in almost every case, against their will, after having been accustomed to the very sociable and comfortable life of a great city. Unquestionably at the outset these people suffered, I shall not say hardship, but a great deal of inconvenience, and naturally there was among them a strong feeling of discontent ; they were extremely critical - I do not think they could be expected to be reasonable - in their attitude towards the form of government they found in control. The reputation of the Commission suffered more from this cause than from any other. To-day it does not, in my opinion, stand condemned in the mind of the average honorable member of this House; nor in the minds of the people of Australia, but the criticism of the residents of Canberra was so intense and so prolonged that the reputation of commission control very naturally wilted under it. My opinion is that the commissioners and the commission system of government have served Canberra and Australia well, and because I wished to say so frankly I have intervened in this debate. No method of control could have been devised that would have achieved any substantially larger measure of popularity in this new city than was achieved by that which is now being brushed aside by the new Government.
I can speak with very little commendation of the new method of control which is, temporarily, at any rate, to take the place of the Federal Capital Commission. I cannot imagine anything more extraordinary or less promising than the idea of placing this relatively big task - it is small only in the sense that it is local - under the control of three Ministers and three departments. I can imagine no system of government more surely condemned to failure. We shall have all sorts of friction and a hopeless division of responsibility. I know that the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) has conscientiously endeavoured to divide the services among the three departments, but I do not envy him his task. And I have very little indeed to say in favour of the proposed advisory council, which is to be a sop to the residents of Canberra. It is to be a substitute for the single commissioner whom the late Government allowed the residents of Canberra to elect. The people of the Territory are to be led to believe that by electing three members to an advisory council they are to have some sort of voice in the government of the National Capital, but in my opinion the appointment of this advisory council will prove to be nothing but a sheer sham. How can the three representatives of the citizens have the faintest influence upon the Government? I may say quite frankly that I was playing about for some time with the idea of having an advisory council, but not at all on the lines suggested by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley). My idea was that an advisory council should, in its complete membership, apart from its chairman, be made up of people who are not of the Government, and my reason now for saying that the advisory council as proposed will be a sham, and will prove a mere illusion to the inhabitants of the Capital, is that three of its members are to be heads of the departments responsible for the administration of Canberra. Does the Minister suggest that the three citizens elected by the people will have any sort of influence with these heads of departments? The latter are answer able to three Ministers, who, in turn, are answerable to the Government for the main features of the administration and development of the Federal Capital. We shall have the three heads of departments attending the advisory council meeting with their minds made up and already committed to certain actions, under instructionsfrom their Ministers and the Government. Under those circumstances, what influence can three individual citizens, each receiving. £100 a year, have upon the affairs of the Capital? They can have none at all. This Advisory Council is, therefore, a mere make-believe, and I am exceedingly sorry that ithas been proposed. Had the Minister come forward with a proposal for an advisory council made up entirely of citizens, except for its chairman, and with no executive powers, it might have stood for something, but as it is the council proposed by the Minister will be created just to bark at the heels of the three heads of departments. I, therefore, can have no faith m it. I think the time is far distant, even if it will ever be reached, when any form of municipal government can be brought into existence in Canberra. I have allowed my mind to roam over this field quite a lot, and I cannot see that, in this city, it will be possible to divide local from national services, or local from national expenditure. Canberra is a national institution, and its expenditure will always be overwhelminglynational. Whilst, therefore, 1 should like the local residents to have some voice and influence on an advisory council, as it will if the right kind of residents are elected, I cannot see how we could give that council the power to spend money on or take control of any of the services; because, for many years, the greater part of the expenditure on road-making, lighting, the provision of water and sewerage and other services will be national rather than local.
I regret to say that I am in fairly general disagreement with the Government in regard to this proposal. I think the Commission has done well for Australia. I conclude with one word in commendation of a branch of the administration with which I have become somewhat familiar during the past year. I refer to the “administration of the rural leaseholds of the Territory, which has been subjected to a great deal of criticism. In my opinion, it has, on the whole, been remarkably efficient.
.- In his remarks on the second reading of this bill, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) made particular reference to the pre-election attacks made by honorable members of the Labour party on the late Government, particularly in regard to its wanton squandering and wasting of public money on a hundred and one commissions, and questioned the wisdom of the present Government’s action in starting to work on these commissions on the lines of its enunciated policy. Those who have the will to do so can see that already enormous savings have been achieved, during the seven months the present Government has been in office, in the expenditure incurred by various commissions throughout the Commonwealth. While the Leader of the Opposition claimed that certain expenditure in the Federal Capital had been reduced by the late. Government, the fact remains that even this year £30,000 is being saved in Canberra in administration alone. The people of Australia will want to know what the Government’s predecessors were doing in this regard. It is hard to say what the total savings will be on ordinary transactions, and we shall not know until the end of the next financial year. But it is certain that a tremendous sum will be saved because of more economical and efficient administration than was secured by the late Government. It i3 impossible to get commissions to accept any responsibility, except, perhaps, certain of the more permanent commissions, such as the War Service Homes Commission and those dealing with financial matters. From the Federal Capital Commission and the Development aud Migration Commission no responsibility whatever could be obtained.
– There have been most valuable results.
– The honorable member could not take up any other attitude than that which he is adopting.
These two Commissions have been failures from the financial stand-point. Honorable members opposite were responsible for their establishment, and naturally they cry aloud to the heavens that those bodies have been gigantic successes. That mere assertion on their part does not prove the statement to be true. Time alone will show that this country was allowed to drift into a financial morass by persons who claimed to constitute a business Government. If such methods and tactics were adopted by private citizens, their businesses would not last long.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the commission system gave the people more control than would this system which is about to be introduced. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in a very pessimistic speech - he thought that no good could come from the present Government - said that he would have liked to see a proper advisory body established.- While one section of the Opposition is opposed to the idea of an advisory council, the Deputy Leader favours an advisory body composed entirely of residents. He said that the proposal submitted by the Government was a sham, a snare and a delusion. Let us compare it with the commission system set up by the party opposite. Could anything be more a sham than that was, as an attempt to give the people of Canberra a voice in the government of the Territory? Under the method of control introduced by the late Government, we had a Commission consisting of three men, one of whom was elected by the people. It was a deliberate policy, and in the first year when representation was given to the people, it was seen to be an utter failure; but the late Government did not attempt to make any alteration in the system It knew that something would have to bo done to bring about a more satisfactory state of affairs in Canberra. That was acknowledged by the late Minister for Home Affairs, Sir Neville Howse, who, when introducing an amending bill, virtually said “ give the commission system a trial for another twelve months and see what will come out of it.”
Generally speaking, the speeches of honorable members opposite, critical as they have been, seem to have been tinged with a sigh of relief because the commission form of control is not to be continued much longer ; they realize that, if it were, they would receive a bad advertisement. That system does not give representation to the people and it is not claimed that it does. The present Commission is an administrative body, and its decisions are carried into effect as a policy, but the functions of the Advisory Council proposed under the bill will be advisory only.
– Will the Minister introduce a statute to give effect to the newsystem?
– Did the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) bring down a statute for everything he did while he was Attorney-General? He was noted for introducing ordinances.
– The late Government legislated entirely by statute in the framing of the system of government for the Territory.
– It did no such thing. As many ordinances were brought down under the commission system as there will be under the proposed new form of control. While it is intended to give the Government a majority on the Advisory Council, we hope that the people of Canberra will work hand in hand with the Ministry in the carrying out of the governmental functions.
The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) said he believed that the local control should be entirely handed over to the citizens. His view is totally different, of course, from that of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett), who avers that not in his time, and probably not in his son’s time, will there be any possibility of giving the citizens of the Federal Capital control of civic affairs. I am not so pessimistic as to imagine that. The policy of the Government is to endeavour to give as much governmental power as possible to the citizens, and to seek their support and assistance in the development of this city. Our policy is totally opposed to that of the late Government, which on every occasion worked against the residents. The representatives of the citizens will be elected on an adult franchise, and not on a restricted fran chise depending upon bricks and mortar or any similar qualification. The franchise will be granted on non-party lines.
– Is that not opposed to what is generally accepted as a muncipal franchise ?
– It is diametrically opposed to the policy of the party to which the honorable member belongs, but the policy of the present Government is to give full and complete adult franchise to the citizens of Canberra. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) apparently gave no more attention than his deputy, or the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) to what the bill contains. From the Leader of the Opposition we had the statement that the proposed new system would be more costly than that about to be replaced.
– Can the Minister show me anything in the bill to the contrary?
– If the honorable member would, for a moment, brush the film of party politics from his eyes-
– And be as impartial as the” Minister himself ?
– Quite so. He would then see that from the beginning there will be a saving in overhead expenses of £9,000 a year owing to a reduction in the very large engineering staff, and a large reduction will take place in the architectural branch. There will be also a return to responsible government, which we have not experienced in the control of Canberra during the Commission period.
– Certainly not government by the people.
– Of course not. How could we have that? I am not so pessimistic as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett), who declares that there never can be control of Canberra by the people of Australia. Nor am I in agreement with the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), who desires to give complete control of activities in the Federal Capital to the people of Canberra; one suggestion is just as impossible as the other. No one in this city imagines that the residents should have full and complete control of it. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) talks of giving this type and that type of government to the local residents, but he recognizes that, since the people contribute less than 9 per cent, of the total cost of the establishment and maintenance of the Federal Capital, it would be impossible to give them complete control at the present time. The Government believes that it may be feasible in twelve months or two years to allocate certain functions to the residents themselves.
– To give them 9 per cent, of those functions?
– No, but to give them the control of those matters which might well be placed in their hands, reserving to the Commonwealth Government the administration of water services electricity, sewerage, and other services that are very costly. Even under a scheme which handed over to the local residents complete power to carry out certain specific functions, the Government would have to control the purse. There is no half-way house between Government control and complete local control by the citizens. No matter what method is devised, it will not meet with the approbation of everybody. This bill, frankly, is a half-way house, and as such cannot meet with the complete approval of the people of Canberra.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has offered the criticism that nobody will be able to ascertain the cost of government under the new scheme. Again the honorable member has displayed careless consideration of the matter. If he had taken the slightest interest in it he would know that we have provided for complete parliamentary responsibility. Each year the estimates of the Federal Capital will come down to this Parliament, but that responsibility was not imposed under the Commission system introduced by the late Government. As a matter of fact, practically the whole of the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee for 1928, in dealing with Federal Capital Territory matters, will be given effect to under the present proposal. The bill provides that the Commonwealth shall take over the loan indebtedness of the Federal Capital Commission, and assume all future liabilities in respect of loans raised to meet expenditure in the Terri tory. The Commonwealth will raise loans for constructional works and will pay all interest and sinking fund charges on loan moneys raised for expenditure in the Territory. Estimates of receipts and expenditure will be furnished for submission to Parliament, as is the case under the present departmental system. We will carry out all works and services and pay into the Consolidated Revenue any funds in excess of revenue over expenditure. We will provide out of Consolidated Revenue Fund any sums that may be required in the early years of establishment to make up any deficiency in the revenue account of the controlling authority. The Government will be the controlling authority.
– How will the expenditure at Canberra be shown?
– That will be a simple matter inasmuch as the Home Affairs Department will he the main department functioning.
– Should not that be made clear in the bill?
– It will be clear when this legislation is in operation. We are asking honorable members to give the Government control of the Federal Capital Territory, and I have already informed the House of the proposed method and means of control. Some honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), do not seem to have grasped the proposed method of governing this Territory in the future.
– ‘It .is certainly difficult to understand the Minister’s proposals.
– I can only give the honorable member my opinion. I am doing my best to explain the bill. The Home Affairs Department will carry out practically the whole of the work in the Territory. The Health Department will have control of the Hospital, medical inspection of school children, the inspection of foodstuffs, and health matters generally. That, after all, will be a small item in the total expenditure of the Territory. It is claimed by some honorable members that there will be great confusion, lack of co-ordination and collaboration under this proposal.
– There is almost sure to be confusion.
– -Honorable members opposite have reiterated that statement, where, as a matter of fact, there will be, under this proposal, less confusion than even at the present time.
– How does the Minister know that?
– I can only express my opinion. In the light of my experience of the work of the Federal Capital Commission I think that the scheme will work out as we anticipate. Who would criticize the co-ordination that existsbetween a requisitioning department, whether it be the Defence or PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and the Works Department? The Works Department throughout Australia is working in conjunction with many departments. Upon requisition, the Works Department produces plans and submits them to the requisitioning department, whether it be the Postmaster-General’s or the Defence Department, and upon the plans being approved the work is carried out by the Works Department. I have never yet known of that system of co-operation being criticized. What difference is there between the Works Department erecting a post office in Sydney under requisition from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Works Department erecting a building in Canberra under requisition from the Home Affairs Department? Apparently it is thought that the Works Department is to do administrative work at Canberra. As a matter of fact it will do no such thing.
– Which authority will carry out the administration of the Territory?
– The Home Affairs Department. It will control everything with the exception of the Hospital and a few matters affecting health. All construction work will be carried out under requisition, and the Works Department will be the constructing authority. The Home Affairs Department and, to a lesser degree, the Health Department, will be the requisitioning authorities. Let me give an illustration. It may be that within twelve months or two years the financial position will allow of the construction in Canberra of’ certain accommodation for departments. Under those circumstances, and if it is the Government’s policy, the Home Affairs Department will make the necessary requisition and have the work carried out by the Works Department in the same manner as that department would carry out, under requisition, works in the various States to-day.
– What is to happen to the construction branch of the Federal Capital Commission ?
– As much of the staff as is required will be transferred to the Works Department.
– Will the administration branch be absorbed by the Home Affairs Department ?
– As much of it as is required. Despite the criticizm that has been levelled at the proposal to have departmental heads on the Advisory Council, let me say that one thing that we get from the departmental system which cannot be obtained under any other form of control, is responsibility.
– What saving does the Minister expect to make under the new system ?
– I have already stated that four times to-night. We will save this year over £30,000.
– That saving would have been made in any event.
– That saving would, of course, have been effected had the late Government continued in office and decided to carry out the scheme submitted to it; but apparently that scheme was dropped merely because a copy of it was abstracted or stolen from a departmental office and appeared in the press. I admit that the late Government did consider another scheme for the government of Canberra.
– A new system of government was promised by Sir Neville Howse when Minister for Home and Territories.
– The late Government proposed an alteration, for the very’ good reason that the Federal Capital Commission system was inefficient. In reply to the contention of the Lender of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that, under this proposal, no one would be able to ascertain the cost of Canberra, let me inform him that the estimates of the Home Affairs Department and the Health Department, will be placed each year before Parliament. The whole of the expenditure on the Federal Capital will be placed before this House, and that was never done during the régime of the Federal Capital Commission. “We propose to keep in operation practically all the existing ordinances and regulations, with the exception of the ordinance dealing with the election of the Advisory Council. The council will take part in the drafting of ordinances, and all ordinances will be laid upon the table of both Houses in the ordinary way. Honorable members will have an opportunity of perusing them and, if they think it desirable, of objecting to them.
Some honorable members believe that the payment of £100, proposed to be made to the elected members of the Advisory Council, is quite inadequate as compensation, for time lost to those who are elected to the council. The Government does not pretend that that sum represents an adequate compensation, but considers that it will be some remuneration for loss of salary or wages, as the case may be, occasioned by absence from ordinary duties for half a day a week or half a day a fortnight. The elected representatives will be required to take a certain part in the public life of Canberra and that, of course, will mean additional expense. The payment of £100, therefore, will be a slight recompense to those members of the Advisory Council who are engaged in the arduous task of representing the people of Canberra. The system of advisory councils is common in (he British Commonwealth of Nations. There is a large number of these councils throughout the Empire. I have with me a list showing the various advisory councils in the colonies and territories controlled by the Colonial office, and among them are the following: - Falkland Islands, Fiji, Gambia, Gold Coast, Grenada, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Mauritius, Northern Rhodesia, Nyasaland, St. Vincent, Straits Settlements, TrinidadTobago, and Zanzibar.
– Are they comparable with Canberra. In their case you have native populations?
– Not in the case of the Falkland Islands.
– That is the only exception.
– The representation on the advisory councils in those territories is not of natives, but of white people. In some instances, it is provided that the native races shall have certain representation, but that representation is overwhelmed by the nominees of the Colonial Office. All those councils are purely advisory in character. There is nothing new in the system of advisory councils. I am perfectly sure that under the Government’s proposal, there will be co-operation between the Government nominees and the elected representatives on the Federal Capital Advisory Council, and a happier and more prosperous future for the people of Canberra. This Parliament will have a greater responsibility and, in addition, will have an effective check upon the expenditure in the Federal Territory. Under Commission control there was no such check in the hands of Parliament. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions) -
.- I move -
That the following definition be added: “’ The Minister ‘ shall mean the Minister for the time being administering the act or enactment in which or in respect of which the expression is used.”
I wish to make it clear that there shall be one Minister who will be responsible to this Parliament for the administration of the Seat of Government. The Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley), in his outline of the work which is to be undertaken by different departments, did not make it quite clear that he would be the Minister responsible to this Parliament. It would be absurd to endeavour to run either the Capital City itself or the whole of the Territory, without having in this chamber one Minister who was wholly responsible for the administration. The bill proposes to give to the Minister some very wide powers, including the power to alter the lay-out of the city. That by itself should indicate how necessary it is to have in this chamber one Minister wholly responsible to Parliament for the carrying on of the work. I understood the Minister to say that no other Minister should, in relation to certain works, be able to interfere even in a small degree with the management of the city, and that everything should go through the one office. There is likely to be confusion if a second Minister can do as he likes in regard to, say, educational matters, and a third can undertake works without restraint. A staff will be required to administer the Territory, as well as the act itself. We should, therefore, make it absolutely imperative for one Minister only to be responsible to Parliament.
– I suggest that the honorable member should not persist with the amendment, because the position will be practically as he has stated it should be. As I have already said, the greater part of the administration will be under the Department of Home Affairs. The Works Department will be merely the constructing authority, and will have no hand in the administration of the Territory.
– There will be so much construction work that that department will come into the picture fairly extensively.
– Not in connexion with administration. Construction work will be carried out only upon requisition, just as works which different departments require to have done in other States are now carried out by the Works Department. A second Minister, the Minister for Health, will come in to a limited extent.
– Will he not act through the Minister who is supposed to administer the act?
– He will have certain powers in regard to the administration of the hospital, in addition to the inspection of the abattoirs, foodstuffs, factories and shops.
– Will he not approach the Cabinet and ask that an ordinance be passed by the Governor in Council?
– No; all the ordinances will come from the Advisory Council and, as is usually the case, be dealt with first by the Minister, then by the Cabinet, and ultimately by the GoverrnorGeneral.
– There is no mention of an advisory council in the bill.
– The bill contains the ordinary provisions for the making of such ordinances.
– Although I cannot agree with the Minister, I shall not press the amendment to a division. It is my intention to move a further amendment to make it compulsory for a financial report to be presented each year to Parliament. There is nothing in the bill to provide that Parliament shall receive any information in regard to receipts and expenditure, or a profit and loss account. Whom will the House approach in connexion with any matter that may arise affecting the Capital City or the Territory as a whole? The bill should be clear on the point. The Minister should be able to feel that he is in control whenever the necessity arose for him to seek the aid of other Ministers.
.- Very careful consideration should be given to the proposed change in the system of government of Canberra, so that any scheme adopted will be of a continuous character. The responsibility should be centred in one- head. I thoroughly agree with the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). I have had considerable experience of municipal government, in which the various committees report to the central body and responsibility for any of their acts is accepted by the mayor. Seeing that the people of Australia are responsible for about 90 per cent, of the expenditure on Canberra, there is a distinct difference between this and other cities: It may be found that the giving of a vote to people who are really disinterested may detract from the better management of the city. Consequently, details regarding receipts and expenditure should be submitted regularly to the Minister, who should keep Parliament fully informed in the matter. As the Minister has admitted that what is suggested by the amendment is practically involved in the proposals contained in the bill, I hope that he will accept it. Why not state definitely in the bill that the Minister for Home Affairs is the person responsible for the administration of the Territory and can requisition other departments to render service?
.- I agree to a large extent with the object of the honorable member for Swan. There is no doubt that there is danger in dual control.
– This will be triple control.
– To a degree it will be triple control. When I was Minister for Works, I found that at times a good deal of difficulty, and in some cases actual friction, occurred between the Works Department and the Department of Home Affairs. But there is one difficulty which it would be very hard to overcome. To have the Minister for Home Affairs the monarch of all he surveyed in Canberra, and in complete control of all its activities, would involve the setting up of a works branch in his department.
– Oh no, he would have the work done by the Works Department.
– If he could have the work done in that way, without friction, much of the honorable member’s argument would go by the board. It is difficult to see in what other direction the Works Department would come in.
– The Department of Home Affairs will simply requisition the Works Department to do the work.
– That will be done under the bill as it stands.
– We do not know which Minister will be responsible to Parliament. The Minister for Home Affairs has told us that the Health Department will be responsible for certain aspects.
– It is not easy to see how the Department of Home Affairs could set up within itself a health department. Matters relating to health must have some supervision. I do not apprehend any serious friction in regard to health because there is not much to be done in that direction ; but in view of the fact that a good deal of constructional work will proceed steadily for many years, in spite of the existing state of depression, there is some possibility of overlapping and friction between the Works Department and the Department of Home Affairs. The only way to remove that difficulty absolutely would be to constitute a works department for the Territory under the supervision of the Minister for Home Affairs. Only in that way, I think, could there be complete ministerial control under one head. That is desirable, but the only way in which it could be done would be by establishing another department within a department which would make the cure worse than the disease. The Minister will have to guard against the danger of overlapping and friction between the various departments which will creep in in a thousand and one ways. Nevertheless I contend that in the circumstances the Government’s proposals are the best that can be brought forward, and I trust that the honorable member for Swan will not press his amendment.’
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Repeal) -
.- The object of this clause is to substitute departmental administration for the system of commission control. This, it will be observed, is to be done by the simple process of repealing the Seat of Government Administration Act 1924-29. The system of administration which in the past has been approved by this Parliament is set aside by this clause. That, of course, is in accordance with the will of Parliament as it is now constituted, but no other system of administration is to be established. There has been outlined to us a scheme for establishing an advisory council by ordinance, but, as I- stated during my second-reading speech, provision for the administration of the Federal Capital Territory ought to be embodied in a Seat of Government Administration Act and not in any ordinance. The administration of the Federal Capital Territory is an important matter not only to the residents of Canberra but also to the whole of the inhabitants of Australia. In the past it has been regarded as of sufficient importance to justify the attention of Parliament to the detailed terms of the statute, but it is now proposed that everything shall be done by ordinance. The present act provides for the framing of ordinances and by-laws, but the form of government itself is prescribed by statute. The Minister has outlined the proposed constitution of the Advisory
Council, and I am sure that honorable members on both sides of the, House desire an opportunity to address themselves to the particular proposals which have been foreshadowed. These proposals have at least the merit of originality, but whether they will subsequently acquire the merit of success is an entirely different matter. The proposal of the Government in this instance is to establish an advisory council consisting of three departmental heads, who must carry out their duties as their Ministers direct, and three members elected by the people, presided over by an officer of one of the departments, whose departmental head is a member of the council. This is a highly original form of control even for an advisory council. It may be that it is a bright and new idea which will illumine the whole landscape from horizon to horizon and get rid of a lot of trouble, but surely the members of this House, and the other branch of the legislature should be allowed to express their views upon the proposal. There are, as the Minister stated, many ordinances under which the Federal Capital Territory is governed; but up to the present the Constitution of Canberra has been in a statute. The opportunity to move for the allowance or disallowance of any ordinance, some of which consist of a number of clauses dealing with very important matters, does not enable honorable members to deal with ordinances clause by clause. I urge the Government to take the responsibility of framing a measure providing for the effective control of the Federal Capital Territory, and submitting it to Parliament for criticism in the ordinary way. There is no reason why every honorable member should not have the fullest opportunity of examining all the details of such a measure. The proposed system of administration is likely to lead to a good deal of trouble, apart altogether from the ordinance which, after all, . is only to set up an advisory council. I also wish to refer to the point mentioned by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). In the past the annual report by the Federal Capital Commission has been submitted to Parliament from which it has been possible to ascertain particulars of receipts and expenditure as well as the amounts spent from loan account and from revenue. Under this measure there is no guarantee that any such report will be submitted in the future. Instead of adopting that system we are to have the administration divided between four Ministers and the expenditure incurred in the Federal Capital Territory will be included in the ordinary expenditure of the Department of Works and Railways, Department of Home Affairs, Department of Health, and Attorney-General’s Department.
– The activities of the Attorney-General’s Department will be small and will have as much relation to the work of the Territory as would those of the Defence Department to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
– According to the Minister’s statement, no less than 53 activities are to be controlled by the four departments mentioned. In addition, there is the Police Department, which will incur a considerable amount of expenditure. The activities under the Department of Health number seven, under the Works Department seventeen, under the Home Affairs Department 27, and under the Attorney-General’s Department, as the Minister said, the number will be small. The expenditure incurred by these departments in Canberra will not be revealed by, but rather concealed in the Estimates of those departments, and it will be practically impossible for honorable members to ascertain the cost of work being undertaken in the Federal Capital Territory. The Estimates will be presented in the ordinary form, showing the number of officers employed, the salaries paid, and the work performed, as well as a certain amount for contingencies, but in analysing the Estimates no one will be able to determine the amount that is being expended in any one year in Canberra. In these circumstances, Parliament will not have an opportunity to criticize the Government’s activities in this direction. Let us consider what is going to happen in practice - I am not venturing a prophecy because I may be wrong-
– We all are inclined to prophesy in regard to the Federal Capital.
– I presume the members of the Commission staff are to continue to function so long as they arc required. Sonic honest persons, who have taken the electioneering statements made by honorable members opposite at their face value, think that what has boon described as the abolition of the Federal Capital Commission will save all the expenditure which that Commission has been incurring. Of course it will not. The work has to be done. It has decreased in recent months, hut certain developmental works are still being undertaken.’ The only difference in l he future will bc that the work will be done by the same staff as temporary or exempt officers, under the control of the departments .1. have mentioned. The officers of the Commission who ave at present doing the work, are accommodated in a building at Acton under one control. In the future - this is where I venture a prophecy - some of these temporary or exempt officers will bc employed in the Department of Home Affairs, Department of Works, or Department of Health. I know from my experience as a Minister that the office accommodation in the No. 2 Secretariat, where the Department of Home Affairs is accommodated, is already fully taxed. The Government’s proposal really means that these subdepartments will still do their work in the Acton building, unless there is going to bc a re-arrangement of their work. Apart altogether from what will happen in relation to the Acton building, where the staff is at present’ engaged on work appertaining to the Federal Capital Territory - and where, I think, it would be wise to keep them - additional officers will be employed in the departments and. there will not be anything in the Estimates to show which of these officers are actually engaged on Federal Capital Territory work. I therefore ask if the Minister will give the committee an undertaking that an annual report upon the development of the Federal Capital Territory will be presented to Parliament, particularly in relation to the city plan, and containing the receipts and expenditure on loan and revenue account. This Parliament and the people of Australia are entitled to that information. The mere repeal of the existing statute removes a means whereby this .information has been made available in the past, and unless some-
thing on the lines 1 have indicated is done in the future we shall, unless special sub-departments are set up, merely have departmental estimates from which it will be impossible to ascertain the costs incurred in connexion with the development of the Territory.
.- Each of the departments mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) will have its Federal Capital Territory section, showing the number of officers employed, and the expenditure incurred. When the Estimates are brought down, honorable members will see that they contain a clear and concise statement of the. work being undertaken by the sub-departments dealing with the Federal Capital Territory.
– How will the officers bt accommodated and engaged in connexion with the re-organization? Will they remain where they are?
– There is a good deal of space still available at the present Commission offices, and it is quite possible that the Department of Works, which is now accommodated in its own building at Civic Centre, will occupy those premises in connexion with the Canberra section of the Home Affairs Department, thus making available for other purposes the present works and buildings offices at Civic Centre.
.- I express my disappointment at the fact that the Seat of Government Administration Act is being repealed, and that in future a good deal of work is to be done my means of ordinances under which the Government of the day may be able to alter the “conditions obtaining at Canberra; with the sole exception that the provision in the act of 1910, under which the freehold of the land cannot be sold is not to be interfered with. While this legislation remains in force the whole control of the Territory will be -by ordinance. The powers and authority of the Minister should be set out clearly in an act of Parliament. I propose later to move that a financial statement shall be presented io Parliament annually, so that the country may know what expenditure has been incurred in the development of this city. Although Canberra has already cost £12,000,000, it would be better to cut that loss than to waste further public money here. It should not be possible for any Minister to make the radical alterations which this bill will empower him to make. We should know his powers and how the administration of the Territory will be regulated.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Modification or variation of plan of city and environs) -
.- I move -
That the proposed sub-sections, (1), (2), and (3), proposed new section 12(a) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “(1.) The Minister may at any time, by writing under his hand, refer to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works any proposal to modify or vary the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra and its environs published in the Gazette of the nineteenth day of November One thousand nine hundred and twenty-five, as modified or varied prior to the date of the commencement of this section, but no such proposal shall be so referred until after the expiration of thirty days after notice of that proposal has been published in the Gazette. (2.) The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works shall consider any proposal referred to it under this section and shall report to the House of Representatives thereon. (3.) After receipt of the report under the last preceding sub-section the House of Representatives may by resolution approve or disapprove of the proposal. (3a.) Where a proposal to which this section applies has been approved by the House of Representatives, it shall be published forthwith in the Gazette and thereupon the plan of the layout of the City of Canberra and its environs shall bo deemed to be modified or varied in accordance with that proposal.
The object of this amendment is to provide that the Public Works Committee shall report on any proposal to vary the Griffin plan. The bill provides that the lay-out of the City of Canberra and its environs may be varied at any time by the Minister subject to notification of the proposal in the Gazette, and to no objectionbeing made by Parliament within fifteen days of the making thereof or within fifteen days of the next meeting of Parliament. My experience is that what is everybody’s business is nobody’s business. If the bill is passed in its present form, alterations to the Griffin plan, which may involve interference with the development of Canberra, will probably pass unnoticed. Even slight variations of the approved design may involve the country in heavy expense. Millions of pounds have been spent to remedy errors in the lay-out of London. In 1914, 1,300,000 dollars were expended in the alteration of streets and the removal of buildings in Boston in order to conform to the original plan for that city. The widening of streets in New York to the width originally proposed cost: £4,300,000. In Birmingham, nearly £1,000,000 was involved in the rectification of errors made when the original lay-out of that city was departed from. Bristol, Hull, Liverpool, and other British cities have had similar experiences. Australia is not without its examples of the waste of public money in this way. The original plan of Perth provided that Hay-street should be a broad highway, but, in the interests of economy, its width was reduced. To-day Hay-street is a mere lane which seriously handicaps the development of an otherwise beautiful city. Similar examples could be quoted concerning Brisbane and other cities. The Public Works Committee, which comprises members of all parties, from both Houses of this Parliament, and has been established since 1915 to investigate all proposals for works involving an expenditure of over £25,000, would be a suitable body to entrust with the duty of preserving the Griffin plan. Already it has undertaken a number of inquiries respecting public works in the Federal Capital Territory. Among the proposals on which it has reported are the main sewer scheme, the Queanbeyan reservoir, water supply works, hostels, administrative offices, provisional Parliament House, Canberra to Yass railway, City railway, National Library, the National Museum of Zoology, the Australian War Memorial and the Botanical Laboratory and many other works. All these proposals had to comply as to sites, with the Griffin plan. It is important that that plan be adhered to in its entirety, for even a slight departure from it might upset the design and lead to the expenditure of huge sums of money to correct the mistake. Already the beautiful layout for the University in the original plan has been spoiled almost beyond recovery by the erection of a hospital on the site. The hospital should be situated where the Commission offices are now. Those offices, instead of being at Acton, should be placed at Vernon Hill near the Civic Centre. A number of houses have been built at Acton on land set apart for special buildings in connexion with the University. These departures from the original plan show the necessity for some safeguards being provided. If further irregularities are permitted they will cost the taxpayers of this country many hundreds of thousands of pounds. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment. Sub-section 1 of the proposed new section provides that any proposal to vary the layout of the city shall be referred, to the Public Works Committee. Subsections 2 and 3 have been inserted to comply with the Public Works Committee Act. The proposed new sub-section 4 provides that any variation of the plan recommended by the Public Works Committee and approved by Parliament shall be permanent. The amendment is in. the best interests of the Federal Capital because it will preserve the Griffin plan to which Parliament has already given its approval. I urge the Minister to accept it.
.- I hope that the Minister will give this amend.ment favorable consideration. Indeed, 1” can hardly think that he will resist it. The Griffin plan, which was accepted, after a. world-wide competition, has stood the test of many criticisms: excepting for some slight variations, it has been adhered to so far. But the bill before us provides that arbitrary power to amend that plan shall be vested in the Minister. While I might be prepared to give that power to the present Minister, whose aesthetic taste and good sense I recognize, I doubt, if he would have been prepared to vest that power in some former occupants of his office. Personally, I would not give it to all Ministers who might be appointed to succeed him. As it now stands the bill means that any Minister of Home Affairs who holds extreme views may indulge his fancy or his fad at the expense of the Original design. We have had one very remarkable Minister in control of the Federal Capital. I do not fear that the present Minister would make any radical changes in the layout of the city; but it should not be possible for any man to do so. By accepting the amendment the Minister would run no risk as a member of the Government because on the Public Works Committee is a majority of Government members; if the Minister has a good case for departing from the plan he should be able to persuade the members of his own party on the committee of the wisdom of altering the design. I therefore appeal to the Minister to give sympathetic consideration to the amendment. If he feels that he cannot accept it, will he inform the committee why he is asking for this unusual power? .Has the Minister in mind any design of his own for the development of Canberra? We all know that he has established his own home here and has a particular interest in the progress of the city; but I am. not prepared to give this power for all time to the occupant of his ministerial position.
.- When supporters of the present Government were in opposition they had many suggestions to offer for the development of the Capital and its system of local government, but I am afraid that the people of Canberra are grievously disappointed with legislature which involves a large measure of political control spread over four departments. The Minister is asking for exceptional power. If it is given it will be possible for him by the mere publication of a notice in the Commonwealth Government Gazette to interfere with the Griffin plan. It is true that Parliament will have the opportunity of making objection within fifteen days, but the power asked for is too great. I heartily commend the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) for having moved his amendment, which I regard as a useful safeguard, not only for the people of Canberra, but the Commonwealth as a whole. If it is adopted, any proposed departure from the Griffin plan will be submitted to the Public Works Committee and it will be given due publicity. Speaking as a member of the committee for eight years,
I know that that body ha3 always given serious attention to all the proposals submitted to it for inquiry. I am at a loss to understand why the Minister should hesitate to accept the amendment.
– I think he will accept it.
– I am surprised that he ‘has delayed so long in announcing his acceptance. The Public Works Committee is fortunate in having as its secretary, Mr. Whiteford, an efficient public servant, who has a thorough knowledge of the design of all public buildings and proposals for the development of Canberra. The Minister would be well advised to accept the amendment, which would give greater publicity to any proposed alteration found to be desirable or necessary.
.- I support the amendment and I hope that, the Minister will give careful consideration to all the arguments that have been adduced in support of it, although, I assume, from his attitude, that he is thinking of rejecting it. No doubt the Minister feels that a painful subject was raised by my honorable friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) who asked him to contemplate the possibility of their being successors to him in his ministerial office. Doubtless the Minister would like to think that all his successors - and unfortunately one has to accept that as a possibility - will be as like him as they are able to be. But in refusing to accept the amendment, be would appear to be endowing his successors ‘with the qualities which he conceives himself to possess. In so doing he is adopting a very generous but dangerous view. The Minister is asking for very wide powers. Doubtless he will refer honorable members to sub-section 3 of proposed new sub-section 12a, which reads -
If cither House oi the Parliament passes a resolution, of which notice has been given, at any time within fifteen sitting clays. . the proposed modification of the plan may bc disallowed. Every honorable member knows that a provision of this kind is rather useless, because if a Minister, supported by his party, makes up his mind for a certain course of action, the statute can provide until it is blue in the fact! - if a statute is able to assume a cerulean hue - but without avail, that if a motion is passed by either House of the Parliament within fifteen days, the modification may be disallowed. No private member has any chance against the Government of getting a motion passed within fifteen days, so the alleged safeguard in sub-section 3 is useless, and it would be possible for a Minister with the super-eminent qualifications referred to by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) to do anything he pleased with the plan of the city. All that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) is asking is that any divergencies from the Griffin plan shall be referred to the Public Works Committee for inquiry and report. That committee represents all parties, and, therefore, the amendment is quite reasonable. Why should not all sections of the House have an opportunity to consider any proposed divergence from the plan? If the clause is passed in its present form, the plan of Canberra will be purely a matter of Government policy, and this, I submit, would be most undesirable.
Mr. BLAKELEY (Darling- Minister for Home and Territories) [9.40 J. - It is difficult to believe that honorable members opposite are serious in their support of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Moreton. The provisions to which they now object are contained in the original act which they all supported.
– But the Federal Capital Commission was then charged with the responsibility of developing the city.
– These provisions are to be found in the act of 1924-29, and honorable members who were then sitting behind the Bruce-Page Government approved of them. Under that act, certain slight variations of the Griffin plan were made.
– Some alterations were vital.
– I know the honorable member for Moreton takes that view, for did he not say a few minutes ago that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds, would have to be spent to put things right again? As a fact, there has been no serious departure from the Griffin plan. The erection of wooden buildings on the university site was a deliberate act, and for that reason tho buildings were made temporary in character. I have jealously watched the development of the Griffin plan for the last thirteen years, because I always thought that if there was one thing that the people of Australia had a right to demand, it was the retention of the Griffin plan in its entirety. I therefore assure honorable members that the Griffin plan as published in the Commonwealth Gazelle of the 19th November, 1925, will be the Griffin plan when I give up my present portfolio. The honorable member for Moreton has within the last few months developed a conscience about this plan.
– Perhaps that is because the bill is creating suspicion.
– I have already pointed out that the provisions under discussion are to bc found in the’ original act.
– But the Minister now has power of direct action.
– The Ministry will have no more power than was in the hands of the previous Government. Do honorable members opposite suggest that this Government is not to bo trusted with the same authority as was vested in the previous administration? L am sure that, upon reflection, they will realize that there is no occasion for alarm. They know that in the past the Griffin plan has been departed from to a slight extent.
– But the Federal Capital Commission was established under the 3924 act, and that body is about to bc abolished.
– What, after all, is the difference between administration by a Minister and administration by a commission ?
– The Commission was a skilled body, and the whole of its functions had to do with the development of Canberra.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that Ministers will be less careful in the development of a great city plan ?
– No, but less skilled.
– I suggest that the inviolability of the Griffin plan will be more jealously guarded than it. has been under the commission form of control.
There is more likely to be a sense of responsibility among men attached to the departments than among more or less irresponsible persons to whom authority would be delegated under the commission form of control.
– What is the Minister’s objection to the Public Works Committee?
– I have no objection to the committee, but I see no reason for bringing before the committee matters of this kind.
– It would be an added safeguard.
– I am sure that honorable members are not serious in pressing this amendment which would alter a system that has been in operation for the last five or six years. I regret that I cannot accept the amendment.
– The Minister’s explanation is far from convincing. The fact that this provision was in the last act does not alter the merits of the case in any way. Conditions are different now from those under which the last Government operated, as the Minister was at considerable pains to point out. This is a tremendous power to give any one man, particularly when, under another section of the bill, the Minister is to be authorized to delegate his powers to any one lie likes. I think that it would be quite reasonable for the Government to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). It would be a safeguard, and a protection for the Minister as well. In any case, it could do no harm. I do not agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) in his view of the Public Works Committee. H.e said that in order to secure the agreement of the Public Works Committee it was necessary only to convince a partisan section. I do not think that there ought to be any partisanship on such a committee. It is not only the Minister who is concerned in the preservation of the Griffin plan. The general public are also interested in the faithful carrying out of that plan, and would feel far more confident if any alteration to that plan had to receive the consideration of the Public Works Committee. The provision that alterations shall be laid on the table of the House, and action taken within fif teen days, would be inoperative because of the forms of the House. The real effect of this proposed new sub-section will be to hand over to one person absolute control. The Minister may be competent or he may not, but he is to be given absolute control, not only to exercise extraordinarily full powers himself, but, if he sees fit, to hand over those powers to some other person.
.- There was a provision to this effect in the 1924 act, and it was inserted at the time the Commission was established. The Commission was a skilled body charged with the duty of developing Canberra. In addition to the consent of the Minister having to be obtained to any alteration of the Griffin plan, there was this added safeguard that such alteration had to receive the consideration of the Commission. The Commission is now being abolished, and accordingly, this clause appears in an entirely different setting from that in which it was presented in 1924. According to this clause, the Minister will have practically uncontrolled power to deal with the plan of Canberra, and to authorize any alterations that he chooses. I am not ‘ purporting for one moment to bind myself to every detail of the Griffin plan ; I have not said anything about its merits or demerits. I only say that there is a plan, and that if any modification is to be made it should be done only after the very fullest consideration. Under the act as it stood in 1924 any such alteration had first of all fo receive the consideration of the Commission, and had then to be approved by the Minister. The proposal of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) is, in effect, that the Public Works Committee should do what, in substance, has been done by the Commission ever since this section has been in existence. I submit that it would be a reasonable provision.
.- As regards proposed new section 12b I should be obliged if the Minister would inform honorable members what he has in view in asking for power to supply water and electricity from the Territory to any “person” outside the Territory. Has he any particular person in view?
– It is really a repetition of what appeared in the original act, referring to the supply of water or electricity to Queanbeyan.
– There is nothing definite in view?
.- Proposed new section 12c is as follows : -
The Minister may, by writing under his hand, delegate to any person all or any of his powers or functions under any ordinance made under this act.
I could understand this if it, were a provision to delegate to another Minister any of the Minister’s powers or functions. I am not sure that the Acts Interpretation Act does not already cover that. The position is that this Parliament is being asked to departmentalize the administration of Canberra, and to introduce what is alleged to be a greater degree of ministerial responsibility. Yet, in the same breath, Parliament is asked to grant the Minister authority to delegate his powers and function to .any person at all. Why is it conceived to be necessary, and why is it thought desirable that the Minister should have authority to delegate, under all or any of the ordinances, all or any of the powers which they confer? [Quorum formed.’]
– Many ordinances deal with essentially citymatters, and others, again, are concerned with rural affairs. It would be impossible for me or for the Minister for Health personally to administer all those ordinances. Therefore, without divesting himself of any power, the Minister may delegate certain powers of a minor character. Matters of major importance must of necessity be administered by the Minister. The Federal Capital Commission itself delegated certain functions of minor importance to officers.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to S agreed to.
Clause 9 - (2.) Any moneys advanced by the Treasurer to the Commission in pursuance of sub-section (4.) of section twenty of the Seat of Govern- incut (Administration) Act 1924-1929 shall be repayable to the Commonwealth Public Account out of the proceeds of any loan raised or to be raised by the Treasurer under the authority or the Loan Act (No. 2) 1928 or the Loan Act 1929 empowering the borrowing of moneys for the purposes of a loan to the Federal Capital Commission. (3.) Any moneys borrowed by the Treasurer under the authority of the Loan Act (No. 2) 1928 or the Loan Act 1929 empowering the borrowing of moneys for the purposes ofa loan to the Federal Capital Commission may be expended in the construction and supply of all buildings, works and services required or undertaken by the Commonwealth in the Territory. (4.) There shall be payable by the Treasurer to theNational Debt Sinking Fund established under the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1 923-1 928, the payments which but for this Act would have been payable by the Federal Capital Commission in pursuance of subsection (1e) of section twenty of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924-1929.
Amendment (by Mr.Blakeley) agreed to -
That sub-clauses 2 and 3 be omitted with a view to insert in. lieu thereof the following: - “ (2.) Any sums advanced by the Treasurer to the Commission in pursuance of sub-section (4.) of section twenty of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924-1929 shallbe repayable to the Commonwealth Public Account from moneys appropriated as a loan to the Federal Capital Commission. (3.). Any moneys appropriated by the
Loan Act (No. 2) 1928 or the Loan Act 1929 for the purposes of loans to the Federal Capital Commission may be expended in the construction and supply of all buildings, works,and services required or undertaken by the Commonwealth in the Territory.”
Clause also verbally amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13- (1.) TheRegulations and By-laws, made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924-1929. and in force at the commencement of this Act, other than those specified in the first column of the Schedule to this Act, are repealed. (2.) The Regulations and By-Laws speci fied in the first column of the Schedule to this Act shall continue in force as regulations under this Act subject to the amendments respectively specified in the second column of that Schedule. (3.) Any regulations and by-laws so continued in force may be repealed or amended by regulations made under this Act.
– I move -
That the clause be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “ (1.) Notwithstanding the repeal of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924-1929, the By-laws specified in the first column of the Schedule to this Act shall continue in force as regulations under thePrincipal Act subject to the amendments respectively specified in the second column of that Schedule. (2.) Any By-laws so continued in force may be repealed or amended by regulations made under the Principal Act.”
– What by-laws are not being repealed?
– The bill automatically repeals all regulations and by-laws made under the act, but it is considered advisable to continue in force by-laws relating to transportation, protection of land, accommodation and public bathing.
– It looks like an omnibus repeal of all by-laws except those four, but surely some are required to be continued in the ordinary way.
– I am informed that those I have mentioned are the only by-laws required to continue in force.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be added: - “ 9a. The Minister shall as soon as possible after the close of each financial year cause to be prepared and laid before each House of the Parliament a statement of moneys received and expended during that year by the Commonwealth in the administration and development of the Territory.”
I hope the Minister will agree to this proposal which will make it necessary for the Minister in charge of the Federal Capital Territory to present to Parliament an annual financial statement in connexion with the Territory. Similar provision has been made in the past with regard to every important public undertaking, and I think in justice to the people of Australia it should be done in regard to the Territory so that the people will always be in a position to know what money is being spent on the Capital and what charges are being made on them in connexion with the expenditure.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments, report by leave adopted.
Bill by leave read a third time.
Debate resumed from 12th March (vide page 41) on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill to provide for the receipt and control of gifts made for the purpose of the working of the solar observatory in the Federal Capital Territory. Already some funds exist to which this measure when passed will.be applicable. The sole purpose of the bill, which I am sure will commend itself to the House as a whole, is limited to what I have stated. It is an entirely worthy object because it is desirable that the method of determining the application of these gifts should be properly defined. It is proposed that there shall be three trustees of the fund. These are the Director of the Solar Observatory, the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury, and the Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs. Under the direction and control of Dr. Duffield, whose death was a great loss to science in Australia, and to the Federal Capital Territory in particular, very valuable work was being done, not only in certain specific directions in Australia, but as part of a general astral survey. I would use the opportunity afforded by this bill to inquire from the Minister what it is proposed to do in the matter of the appointment of a successor to Dr. Duffield. The late Government, in spite of the financial difficulties, regarded this work as of such importance, and the amount of money involved as relatively so small, that it advertised for a director, and was prepared to make an appointment if there had been suitable applicants. It would be most regrettable if this work were allowed to decline in quantity and quality by reason of the non-appointment of a director, and I should be glad to hear whether the Minister has anything to say on that subject. Unless there is a director, the trustees cannot be fully constituted.
There is one other matter to which I draw attention, and I hope that it will receive the Minister’s sympathetic consideration. There is already an amount of money that will be subject to this measure as soon as it becomes law. That consists of donations collected as the result of the joint efforts of Dr. Duffield and Mrs. Duffield. Mrs. Duffield has been almost as enthusiastic a worker in this cause as her husband himself was.I am glad to say that she is still living in Canberra, and I understand that she proposes to remain here. I suggest that as she had a share in collecting some of this money, and is devoted to the work and objects of the Solar Observatory, it would be a proper course to take to amend the bill to make it possible to appoint more than the three trustees mentioned. Clause 5 provides that the trustees shall be the Director, the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury and the Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs. I ask the Minister to consider inserting an amendment that would make it possible to utilize the enthusiasm and knowledge of Mrs. Duffield. I am not proposing to submit an amendment to that effect, unless the Minister intimates that he is prepared to accept it, because I would not make the position of Mrs. Duffield a matter of controversy on the floor of the House. If the Minister will give consideration to the matter, and perhaps adjourn consideration of the bill until he has had an opportunity of going into it, I think that I can promise him that there will be no delay in passing the bill on account of any such adjournment.
.- I am fully in accord with the objects of the bill, and particularly the observations of ray leader, but I point out that the work of the observatory is little known to honorable members and the people generally because no reports concerning it are published. I realize that it is difficult to furnish reports on investigations of this nature. The act under which the observatory is constituted does not require the publication of reports, but the country contributes substantially to the funds which enable its work to be carried on. At the present time nobody outside the Ministry has an opportunity of learning of the nature of that work. I asked for information on this matter when the Estimates were under consideration, and the reply that I received from the Minister was, unlike those usually supplied by him, unworthy of him. I submit to him that it would be well to consider the advisability of providing that reports be presented to Parliament. Clause 11 of the bill provides that all books and accounts kept by the trustees shall be audited from time to time by the AuditorGeneral, who shall be required to make a report of each audit to the Minister; but, on the general work of the observatory, I think that some information should be furnished to Parliament from time to time.
.- As to the need for the appointment of a director, in order that the trustees may be fully constituted, it will be seen in the definition clause that “ The Director “ means the director of the observatory, and, where there is a vacancy in the office of director, includes the officer for the time being in charge of’ the observatory. That provision is being specially made. Mr. Rimmer is at present the acting director. The matter of filling the vacancy has had, and is still, receiving my consideration, but I am not yet in a position to make an announcement in respect to it. I suggest that the subject of appointing an additional trustee might be left, and I shall go into the matter. If I find it possible to do it, I shall make arrangements for a provision on those lines to be inserted in the bill in another place.
– What about reports to Parliament?
– I think that something could be done in that direction. Such reports would be valuable, but I do not think it is necessary to provide for them in the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Shortly after the election in EdenMonaro some serious allegations were made against the electoral officials in connexion with the ballot. Those allegations were heard before the Court of Disputed Returns, in Melbourne recently. I wish to make a complaint about the very garbled reports of that case that appeared in the press of this country. The public was not informed of the extent to which that case turned out to be a complete fiasco, nor was it informed that not one scintilla of evidence was produced before the court to support the charges made. On the contrary, onewould have thought from the press reports that the case might still have gone against the respondent. It might be thought that since the case has been decided and the petition rejected, I should be content to leave things at that. But let me give some idea, by illustration, of my feeling in this matter.Not long ago a woman was tried in the Warringah electorate for assaulting and murdering her husband. The charge against her was that she had killed her husband by a blow with a bottle. The jury made a recommendation of mercy, and the judge did not sentence her to be hanged, but she pleaded that she might be hung because she wanted to join her husband on the other side, not to expiate her crime or to seek forgiveness, but to have an opportunity to hit him with a bottle again. In this contest in the High Court I struck my opponent with a bottle - an ink bottle. The Guardian, of course, was knocked out, but the Sydney Morning Herald, after blazoning forth insinuations and allegations against the electoral officials, did not have the common decency to give a correct report of what transpired before the court in order that the officials concerned might be exonerated before the public. The Sydney Morning Herald came out with a big type that had not been used since Deeming committed his numerous murders, but from its columns no one could gather whether the action of the
Queanbeyan electoral officials or that of the Moss Vale officials had been vindicated. The charge was that certain electoral officers had been guilty of irregularities. The newspapers did not tell the public that these electoral officers had conferred together in respect of 800 votes, and that no scrutineer representing my interests had been present at that meeting. The officials at both Moss Vale and Queanbeyan were under a cloud. The High Court’s decision removed the cloud from the Queanbeyan officials, and cast a double cloud on the Moss Vale officials. Before the case was heard, fourteen points were elaborated in the press, in the same manner as President Wilson’s fourteen post-war points were published. Only two of those points came to an actual test. The first point was this: The Nationalist party thought that if it could get the judge to strike certain names off the roll, the election would be upset, despite the fact that section 112 of the Electoral Act lays it down that one of the things that a High Court judge cannot do is to doubt the correctness of the electoral roll. The Nationalists were desirous of getting as many as possible of the electors in the Eden-Monaro electorate enrolled before the election, because they thought that my opponent would win by such a majority that 80 votes would not be noticed. They did not want those votes cast in the Werriwa electorate. After the election they had the effrontery to ask the High Court to transfer to the Werriwa electorate some of the votes cast in the Eden-Monaro electorate, so that I might be deprived of them. The other point concerned 49 votes, and no one reading the newspapers would have gathered that the allegation that unused ballot papers had been allowed to lie on the table and on the floor had been disproved before the High Court. I object to the press of this country trying to poison and bias public opinion. The decision of the High Court completely exonerated the electoral officers in the Queanbeyan electorate. The Federal Government permits the postal department to be used for the purpose of assisting the newspapers to disseminate its news, and the time has arrived when we should deny that privilege to newspapers that distort the truth and refuse to publish fair ex- pressions of opinion. The High Court’s decision, instead of being a comedy as the press tried to make it, was a melodrama without music. The Nationalist party’s first witness, had he not stepped from the witness box to drink a glass of water, would have fainted on the spot. I wish also to complain- about the method of dealing with disputes. It is a very costly business, and on more than one occasion, particularly in the case of Labour candidates, the hat has had to be passed round for subscriptions. This is a serious matter, and we should have some method of deciding these disputesother than that of appealing in the High Court. On a previous occasion, I characterized this case as a mere fiasco. The members of the Nationalist party, unfortunately for themselves, did not at that time accept my advice. A motion was moved that I be no longer heard, and then an endeavour was made to draw the Fremantle “ Curtin “ over me. Had my advice then been accepted, the Nationalists would not have gone before the court and made an exhibition of themselves. It is a serious matter for a Labour candidate to fight a big organization like the Nationalist party. I wish now to refer to one of the gentlemen who compiled the allegations. I refer to Mr. Hugh Alexander Campbell, a Nationalist organizer. The criminal records pf Queensland show that he was convicted of embezzling money in connexion with a municipal body at Ipswich, was subsequently found guilty of a serious offence in acting as an auctioneer for both seller and buyer, and was also found guilty of fraudulent misrepresentation which caused no end of litigation and nearly ruined two persons. He is now an organizer of the Nationalist party. I have been told that one of the Queensland senators, speaking to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) said, “Do you know who Mr. Campbell is?” The honorable member for Warringah replied, “Yes.” The senator then asked, “ Why have an organizer like that ? “ The honorable member for Warringah replied, “I do not _ care what his reputation is so long as he carries out his work.” That is the man of whom I was afraid in the High Court. I did not know to what extent he might misrepresent the position.
Even since the petition was dismissed by the High Court he has made serious charges at Wee Jasper in regard to the conduct of the election. Men of that type are unscrupulous enough to make any sort of charge. [Quorum formed.’] The Nationalists promised that they would prove many things, including the charge that the. dead had voted. Their attempt to do so was miserable in the extreme, and their allegations were shown to be baseless. It is to be hoped that in the future they will refrain from making similar charges. Unfortunately they have behind them the press of this country, which will publish any miserable allegation that is made. The Sun is the only newspaper that had the decency to refrain from giving the charges publicity. The Goulburn Penny Post borrowed some big type from the Sydney Morning Herald because it did not have type sufficiently large for its purpose. T understand that that type is still being held in the office for use when some murder has been perpetrated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 March 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300325_reps_12_123/>.