13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the statements that are appearing in the newspapers that the Government’s policy in regard to remissions of taxation is to bo reviewed because of the belief that the Hoover moratorium in respect of war debts is not to be extended, will the Prime
Minister announce to the House the Government’s intentions?
– The bill relating to the proposed revision of the Government’s financial policy will be introduced tomorrow, and in moving the second reading, I shall refer to the possible discontinuance of the war debts moratorium. At the present time, owing to the lack of official information on the subject, no very definite statement can be made.
– Is the House to infer from the Prime Minister’s statement that the Government has some information regarding the discontinuance of the moratorium ?
– I shall deal with the matter to-morrow when introducing the amended financial proposals.
– I ask the Prime Minister when the Government proposes to introduce legislation to provide for assistance to the wheat industry?
– A bill dealing with the matterwill be introduced to-morrow.
– The Sydney Morning Herald of to-day publishes the following telegram fromWestern Australia: -
Demand for Federal Bonus.
A message from Koorda, an important wheat centre 120 miles north-east of Perth, states that four leading farmers, who are members of the wheat-growers’ union, are picketing the railway siding to prevent the delivery of wheat. . . .
– Order ! The Chair can not countenance the growing practice of prefacing questions with extracts from newspapers. The Standing Orders require that questions shall be asked to elicit, not, to give, information. I ask honorable members to conform to that rule.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a newspaper telegram indicating a strike amongst the wheat-farmers inWestern Australia as a protest against the refusal of the Commonwealth Government to pay a bounty of 4½d. a bushel on this season’s crop? In view of the dissatisfaction expressed inWestern Australia and other wheat-growing States, can he hold out any hope that the Government’s proposals for assistance to the wheatgrowing industry will be reconsidered?
– The Government’s proposals for the relief of necessitous wheatfarmers will be explained to-morrow.
– Amongst several telegrams I have received from South Australia is the following : -
Many meetings farmers insisting bounty 4d. upwards; alternatively demand unconditional State allocations, permitting distribution according local conditions. Federal stipulations regarded likely create expensive administration. Government grouping proposals condemned manoeuvering.
In view of these communications, will the Prime Minister reconsider the Government’s proposals with , a view to permitting the respective States to allocate the Commonwealth grant as they think fit, to meet the necessities of their wheatfarmers ?
– Cabinet’s definite decision will be communicated to the House when the bill is introduced tomorrow.
– On Thursday evening I made inquiries of the Prime Minister regarding the progress of the Commonwealth£8,000,000 loan, subscriptions for which are now being invited from the public. The right honorable gentleman promised to make a statement on the subject. Is he yet able to do so ?
– I have not had an opportunity to consult with the Treasury officials regarding the progress of the loan, and I am not able to decide whether it is advisable to make a statement at the present time.
– As primage duty is not collected on black iron piping tobe used for agricultural purposes, but is collected on piping to be used for building and other purposes, will the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs endeavour to remove this anomaly, as was done with the sales tax, by exempting iron piping for all purposes, and so obviate the difficulties that at presentarise?
– I shall be pleased to consider the request.
– Newspapers report that in the ten weeks which have elapsed since the special check on invalid and oldage pensions was instituted, 1,988 pensioners have voluntarily relinquished their pensions, thus relieving the Commonwealth Treasury to the extent of £80,000 in the current financial year. In order to conserve the good name of pensioners against the malicious reflections cast upon them by the method in which these facts have been disclosed to the press and the public, will the Prime Minister order that a special check be made of the circumstances of the pensioners who have relinquished their pensions?
– The fact that a comparatively small number of invalid and old-age pensioners have seen fit to surrender their pensions because of the new conditions imposed is no reflection upon the general body of pensioners.
– If, for sentimental reasons, the relative of a deceased pensioner desires to avoid the sale of a house or other property left by the deceased and is in a position to pay the amount recoverable by the Government in respect of the amount of pension paid, will he be permitted to do so?
– If the Government is able to recover otherwise the amount due to it under the amended pensions law, the property of the deceased will not be sold. That is provided for in the act.
– Some weeks ago I asked the Prime Minister if the Government proposedto introduce legislation relating to the Statute of Westminster. I am still awaiting an answer.
– Cabinet has had no opportunity to discuss the matter yet, but I hope that it will be able to do so at an early date.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence inform the House when the report of the inter-departmental committee on civil aviation will be made available to honorable members ?
– The report is being considered by a sub-committee of the Cabinet, and later at least a summary of it will be made available to honorable members.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the newspaper reports that Parliament will re-assemble on or about the 1st February for the purpose of validating the recently tabled tariff schedules is correct?
– The Government has not yet reached a final decision, but an announcement of its proposals will be made to the House at an early date.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether it is true that there is over-crowding in Canberra schools, both secondary and primary? Having regard to the fact that the advent of new scholars next year will probably aggravate any existing congestion, will the Minister sympathetically consider the erection of a high school to relieve the position.
– It is a fact that the Canberra schools are over-crowded. In view of the prospect of the situation becoming more acute next year, the Government recognizes that some relief will have to be provided, and. the matter is now being considered by Cabinet.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
– I desire to inform honorable members that copies of the report of the directors and balance-sheet as at the 30th June, 1932, of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited have been placed on the table of the Library.
Report of the Lytton Commission.
– I desire to inform honorable members that two copies of the report of the Lytton Commission on the Manchurian situation have been placed on the table of the Library for purposes of reference by honorable members.
The following paper was presented: -
Sugar Agreement - First annual report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, for year ended 31st August, 1932.
Debate resumed from the 8th November (vide page 2039), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 - (1.) The operation of the Committee of Public Accounts Act 1913-1920 is hereby suspended.
.- I move-
That after the word “ suspended “ the words “until the end of the financial year 1932-33” be inserted.
The suspension proposed under this clause is for an unlimited time, which is tantamount to abolishing the committee altogether. That, I consider, would be a doubtful step and quite anexceptional procedure. Nearly all legislatures have committees of this character. The British Parliament has several, larger than the Public Accounts Committee of this Parliament, which exercise important functions in investigating and advising the Government on financial matters. It seems to be agreed by honorable members who have occupied seats in this chamber for some time that the Public Accounts Committee has in the past done valuable work. I believe also that there is great scope for useful work to be done by such a Committee, provided that it is properly selected and that its numbers are not too great. It should be able to in vestigate any matters referred to it by the Government, and to undertake other important inquiries on its own initiative. This is a drastic bill, because it proposes to suspend the committee for au unlimited time unless a resolution is passed by both Houses of the Parliament restoring it. I understand that the only object of this legislation is to make some saving. Of course every saving, however trifling, is of importance at the present time; but I maintain that the Public Accounts Committee should not be permanently suspended.
– I am not much concerned whether the amendment is carried or not, because provision is made in the bill for the restoration of the committee, not by act of the parliament, but by resolution of both Houses. The act itself reads -
As soon as conveniently practicable after the commencement of the act and thereafter at the commencement of the first session of every parliament, a joint committee of nine members of the parliament to be called the Joint Committee of Public Accounts (in this act referred to as the committee) shall be appointed according to the practice of the parliament with- reference to the appointment of members to serve on joint select committees of both Houses of the Parliament.
The act provides that at the commencement of every Parliament the committee shall be appointed. By not making this appointment we are thus flouting the act unless we suspend its operations. That is the justification for this legislation. Without this amending legislation, at the beginning of the next Parliament, the Parliament, unless it is prepared to flout the act again, must immediately appoint a public accounts committee. I suggest thai we pass this clause as’ it stands and if, at the beginning of the next session, there is a feeling on the part of any substantial section of honorable members that the committee should be restored, I undertake to give them an opportunity to discuss the matter. That would obviate the automatic appointment of the committee whether or not that was desired by honorable members.
– Would it be possible, under this amending bill, to appoint the committee by resolution of both Houses, say, next month?
– Yes. Suppose that the Parliament reassembled, as one honorable member has suggested, on the 1st February next, the committee could be restored by resolution of both Houses of Parliament. But that would not be possible if the amendment were accepted, because it provides for the suspension of the committee until the end of the financial year.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). The objection to the proposal of the Prime Minister is that any honorable member who suggests that a resolution of both Houses should be passed in favour of the restoration of the committee is likely to be charged with trying to obtain a job on the committee. It would be far better if, at the end of a certain period, the matter should again come before Parliament. That is the object of the amendment. The greatest objection to these committees is the enormous number of members that have been appointed to them - ten on the Public Accounts Committee, and nine on the Public Works Committee, and all receiving travelling expenses. If the membership of each committee were limited to five, I think that better work could be done, although there is no doubt that the committees have done good work in the past. At the present moment, the Government is wise in seeking to suspend the operations of the Public Accounts Committee.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The amendments proposed in this bill are purely formal and merely provide for the alteration of the words “North Australia “ and “ Central Australia “ wherever they occur in the principal act, to “ Northern Territory.” When the principal act was passed by Parliament in 1927, this Commonwealth territory was divided into separate territories under the names of “ North Australia “ and “ Central Australia.” These territories have since been amalgamated, and the whole of this area is now known as the “ Northern Territory.” The act was introduced for the purpose of assisting settlers in the various States and the Northern Territory by way of advances in the purchase of wire and wire-netting for the erection of rabbit-proof and marsupialproof fences, and the advances have been made to settlers at an interest rate of 5 per cent, repayable over a period of 25 years. Recently, the rate of interest was reduced to 4^ per cent. So far a3 the States are concerned, power was given in the act for prescribed conditions with regard to the advances, to be laid down in agreements between the Commonwealth and State Governments. Negotiations were accordingly entered into with all the States, but only two States - Queensland and “Western Australia - accepted the terms of the agreement. In the case of the Northern Territory, the machinery for making advances is provided in regulations promulgated by the Commonwealth. The act has been in operation nearly five and a half years, and during that period, the total amount advanced to settlers in the States of Queensland and Western Australia and in the Northern Territory was £542,166, of which slightly less than £700 was paid to settlers in the Northern Territory. No provision was made in the act or the agreements entered into between the States and the Commonwealth for the payment of advances over a specified period. The understanding between the Commonwealth and the States was that the advances would be made available for a period of six years. Recently, the Government decided that advances should be continued during the financial year 1932-1933 to an amount not exceeding the sum of £146,934, which is the amount standing to the credit of two trust funds relating to repayments on account of advances made, not only to settlers in all States under the Advances to Settlers Act of 1923, but also to settlers in Queensland, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory under the Wire and Wire-Netting Act of 1927.
The bill is simply a machinery measure which is rendered necessary by the substitution of “Northern Territory” for “ Central Australia “ and “ North Australia “.
.- I have no objection to the amending bill before us, but I desire to draw attention to some matters connected with the administration of the principal act. In reply to a question, the Minister informed me the other day that a condition of any advance made by the Commonwealth to the States for the supply of wire or wire netting, is that the materials shall be of Australian manufacture. There may be no objection to that condition as long as the price and the quality of the materials arc satisfactory. Since a statement made recently by the managing director of the Australian company which manufactures wire and wire-netting, may have caused honorable members to conclude that the Australian-made article is much cheaper than that imported from England
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the bill.
– I desire some alteration to be made in the administration of the act. I am afraid that the experience of Western Australia may be repeated in the Northern Territory, and that settlers who erectAustralian wire-netting near the sea, will find that its life will not exceed four years. In the administration of the act, the Minister should see that the money is spent to the best advantage, and that no unnecessary restrictions are imposed by the department.
.- The object of the bill is to substitute “Northern Territory” for “ North Australia “ and “ Central Australia “, wherever those words appear in the principal act. There appears to be nothing contentious about the measure, and I hope, therefore, that it is not the intention of the Minister to treat it as an urgent measure, or to apply the “ gag.” A measure which deals with the development of the Northern Territory is worthy pf the fullest discussion. The bill is another instance of the desire to change legislation already on the statute-book.
A previous government appointed a commission to control North Australia, but inselecting its personnel, men possessing local knowledge of conditions in the territory were- overlooked. The result was that, although the commission cost the country about £150,000, it accomplished nothing. As an outcome of that failure, it is now proposed to revert to the original form of control.
– What government was responsible for the legislation referred to ?
– The Bruce-Page Government. Its experiment got us nowhere, simply because advantage was not taken of the local knowledge available. It would save the country much expense, and Parliament much time, if in our consideration of the development of this vast territory, we were to face the facts.
– Order !
– I realize the considerable limitations of this debate; but I should like an opportunity to say that, in my opinion, the development of the Northern Territory would be more assured if an advisory council possessed of executive powers were appointed to control it. A grant-in-aid could be made to the council, which could then be left to expend the money wisely.
– Order ! Honorable members will realize that the scope-of this bill is strictly limited.For administration purposes, it is proposed to change the names “ Central Australia “ and “ North Australia “ to “Northern Territory “. A general debate on the Northern Territory would not be in order.
– Although wire-netting is a necessary commodity to those engaged in the development of this territory, many settlers have had to wait a number of years before getting it.
– Order ! The honorable member may only discuss the advisability or otherwise of altering the words.
– I trust that the Minister will realize the inadvisableness of reverting to the previous unwieldy system of control. If the net result of this change is to get back to that unsatisfactory state of affairs, I am afraid that the settlers in this portion of Australia will not be much better off, nor will this territory be developed. Many of these settlers are situated 600 miles from the nearest rail head, and they demand some separate form of control. I hope that in the administration of this legislation the Minister will see that settlers who require wirenetting to protect their holdings will not have to wait years for it, as has unfortunately been the case on too many occasions in the past. If evidence of the value of wire-netting is required, the Minister will find it in the better lambing on those sheep-runs which have been fenced with wire-netting compared with the time when the sheep had to be shepherded. I trust that everything possible will be done to assist the settlers to obtain this necessary protection for their holdings.
– The bill provides for some form of assistance to settlers in that portion of Australia until recently known as Central Australia and North Australia, but hereafter to be described as the “ Northern Territory”. I understood the Minister to say that, of the sum of £5,442 made available to settlers in this area for the purchase of wire-netting to protect their holdings, £700 still remains unpaid.
– I said that of the total amount made available for the purpose, £700 was advanced to settlers in the Northern Territory. Settlers in Queensland and Western Australia obtained most of the grant.
– The Minister also stated that the rate of interest charged to settlers had been reduced from 5 per cent. to 4½ per cent. I have not visited the Northern Territory, but I have read sufficient to know something of the difficulties which beset settlers there. In these days of falling interest rates, it would appear only right that these people in the far-flung portions of Australia should be protected by legislation in regard to lower interest rates, and not left to the tender mercies of the departmental authorities. I fear that they are in danger of not receiving that consideration to which they are entitled. I also think that an interest rate of 4½ per cent. is too high.
– I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed on those lines.
– In moving the second reading of the bill, the Minister referred to the rate of interest. He also said that a certain amount of money was involved, and I thought that I should be in order at this juncture in dealing with the rate of interest.
– In introducing bills, Ministers sometimes discuss matters not strictly relevant to the measures, in order to give honorable members sufficient information to enable them to thoroughly understand the subjects under discussion. I followed the Minister’s remarks very carefully, and although I thought he was going beyond the scope of the bill I felt that honorable members would appreciate the information that he was giving. I cannot, however, allow a general debate on a bill which is to amend the principal act in one direction only.
– I do not wish to dispute your ruling, sir, or to endeavour to argue the point I have raised. The object of this amending measure is to bring under the administration of some other authority, legislation under which the Government has entered into certain commitments with respect to the advances made for wire-netting. I was merely suggesting that, by reducing the interest rate, something might be done to help those who are undertaking pioneering work in Central Australia.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) referred to the administration of the Wire and Wire-Netting Act, and also to the quality of wire-netting supplied. Although I have introduced this bill, the administration of the act is the responsibility of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart). I shall bring the remarks of the honorable member for Swan under the notice of the Minister for Commerce. I do not feel that I should be called upon to defend the local manufacturers of wirenetting. Nevertheless-
– Order !
– It would be unfair to allow the references of the honorable member for Swan to a few isolated cases to go unchallenged.
– I rise to a point of order. As I was not permitted to enlarge the point I was making, I do not think that the Minister for the Interior should be permitted to speak upon it.
– The honorable member probably heard me call the Minister to order. I trust that the Minister will not disregard the direction given by the Chair.
– I can assure the honorable member that the object of the bill is merely to substitute “ Northern Territory “ for “ North Australia “ and “ Central Australia”. This action is consequent upon the policy adopted by a previous government for which this Government is not responsible. The matter of interest rates was merely mentioned by me when moving the second reading of the bill in order to enable honorable members to understand how the measure operates. I can, however, assure honorable members that the Government will go into the question of the rate of interest with the object of extending a benefit to the settlers in the Northern Territory, if that is practicable.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I venture to say that this bill will not occasion any acute controversy. The object of the measure is to extend the operations of the Commonwealth Designs Act to the territories of the Commonwealth, including the territories governed by the Commonwealth under mandate. Legislative action has already been taken to extend the Patents Act and the Trades Marks Act of the Commonwealth to the territories of the Commonwealth. In the case of designs, ordinances are in operation which purport to extend the operations of the Designs Act to the territories of the Commonwealth in an omnibus provision’, but no provision exists in the territories for the administration of the act. It is, therefore, proposed under this bill that the legislation of the Commonwealth with respect to designs, shall be extended to the territories in which it is not already in force. The Northern
Territory, and the Federal Capital Territory being parts of the Commonwealth, the Designs Act is in force in those territories, but it is proposed to extend the protection given to registered designs to the territories of the Commonwealth, including the territories governed under mandate. That is the whole object and effect of the bill.
– Will it be necessary to set up a new organization in the territories mentioned by the AttorneyGeneral ?
– One of the objects of the bill is that the administrative machinery now in existence will operate in respect of the territories without setting up any branch organizations in those territories.
– The work will be handled by the Attorney-General’s Department without establishing an additional organization?
– Yes, and without additional expense.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the measure is to amend the existing Jury Exemption Act. In 1905, the Commonwealth Parliament passed an act exempting certain persons from service as jurors. These exemptions include the Governor-General, the members of the Federal Executive Council, justices of the High Court and other courts established by this Parliament, senators and members of the House of Representatives, members of the Interstate Commission, which body was operating at that time, the officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, and members of the Commonwealth Permanent Naval and Military Forces. In 1922, Commonwealth railway servants were also exempted. It is the law generally throughout Australia that officers of the Public Service are exempt from jury service, and, of course, as a general rule, there is no difficulty in obtaining a jury without calling upon officers of the Public Service and thereby conceivably seriously interfering with public administration. But in the Northern Territory, and particularly in the Federal Capital Territory where public servants form a very large proportion of the population, difficulties have arisen through the exemption of Commonwealth public servants. This exemption the Government considers unduly limits the number of persons available in these territories for jury service. The bill, therefore, proposes to limit the exemptions in order that it may be possible for officers of the Commonwealth Public Service in the Federal Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory to serve as jurors. The bill has been drafted to make it possible to specify the exemptions which will still be continued. For example, no officer of the Crown Law Department should be called upon to serve upon a jury because he is so often concerned with the administration of justice. All officers of the Crown Law Department should, in all cases, be exempt from serving on a jury.
– Is there a property qualification for jurors ?
– I do not think that there is as far as Commonwealth law is concerned; but I should like to look up the point. It depends on State laws.’ In the past, there has been little occasion for the Commonwealth to consider this matter because of the fact that it is only occasionally that jury cases arise under Commonwealth jurisdiction. The administration of criminal law is under the control of State courts except in regard to cases that occur in the territories. It is largely in the territories that the question arises.
– The New South Wales Juries Act would apply to the cases arising in the Federal Capital Territory.
– In the Federal Territory that is so. The New South Wales Juries Act does not apply to service as a juror in Commonwealth courts generally, but. it applies to trials for offences in New South Wales courts of offenders against Commonwealth laws.
– Under the Seat of Government Acceptance Act, New South Wales laws are made applicable to the
Federal Capital Territory except where they are specifically declared not to apply.
– That is so. There are certain public officials, such as heads of departments and others, who ought not to be called to serve on juries. If this legislation is approved, it is proposed that a proclamation shall be made specifying the exemptions to obtain in the territories. The original act exempts certain persons from service on juries, whether summoned to serve under a law of the State or of the Commonwealth. It is plain, for example, that a justice of the High Court ought not to be summoned as a juror under either State or Commonwealth law. The original act provides for general exemptions, and it is proposed in this amending bill that these exemptions shall he limited in the case of public servants. I propose in committee to make the position clear by substituting in clause 2 for the words “ a person “ the words “ an officer of the Public Service of the Commonwealth”. The other exemptions will remain as they are, but in the territories, public servants will not be exempt as a matter of course from obligation to serve asjurors.
.- I do not like the way in whichthe Government proposes to make exemptions. It was in my mind to move the amendment which the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has foreshadowed, because it would be impracticable to exempt from service in the Federal Capital Territory public servants who form so large a proportion of the population. I believe, however, that the exemptions which the Government proposes to make should be set forth clearly in the bill. It would be just as easy to put them in the bill as to make them the subject of a proclamation. It is wrong to frame legislation in such a way as to permit a government to issue a proclamation exempting any class of citizens from serving on a jury empanelled in connexion with a specific case. I do not suggest for a moment that the Government has drawn up this bill with any ulterior motive, but we should so frame our legislation as to place it, as far as possible, beyond the power of any future government to abuse it in the course of administration.
– The Government has no intention of leaving the way open for the form of abuse to which the right honorable member has referred.
– I am sure of that, but the Attorney-General must see that the danger exists. If this bill is passed in its present form, it would be possible, when a case affecting, say, a public servant, was to come before the court, for the government by proclamation to exempt all public servants from serving on the jury ; or if the case affected a grazier, a proclamation might be issued exempting all other graziers from serving on the jury.
– That would be a wrong thing to do.
– It would. It is equally wrong to leave an opening for such wrong-doing. I am not certain that the present list of exemptions contained in the act would not be sufficient after the amendment suggested by the AttorneyGeneral has been incorporated. The list includes the Governor-General, members of the Federal Executive Council, justices of the High Court and other courts, members of interstate commissions, members of the Permanent Naval and Military Forces and employees of the Commonwealth Railways. The only other persons who might be specifically exempt are the heads of departments and officers of the Law Department.
– Those exemptions occur to one as obvious. There might be others, but I cannot say offhand.
– I cannot suggest any others.
– Medical officers, perhaps.
– They can usually be excused, but I see no reason why they should be specifically exempted. In some of the States there is a very big list of exemptions, including, I think, editors of newspapers.
– And officers of the Citizen Forces.
– In New South Wales there is a very big list of exemptions, which includes physicians, surgeons, jailers, coroners, mayors, town clerks, clergymen and others. So far as the States are concerned this legislation will produce no effect; it concerns only the territories.
– There is already a list of exemptions under State legislation, and a further list under federal legislation. Beyond that, I do not think that the Executive should be given power to proclaim exemptions. Clause 2 of the bill-
– It is not permissable at this stage to discuss the bill clause by clause. A second-reading debate should be confined to principles.
– I contend that power should not be given to the Executive to proclaim, from time to time, exemptions from service on juries. That should be done by Act of Parliament. I ask honorable members to note that the Executive may proclaim “ from time to time “ those persons who shall be exempt from service. A Government might use that power for wrong purposes. The impanelling of juries should be free from the suggestion of government interference. Although the Government’s intentions may be perfectly innocent, the fact that the Executive will have power to exempt certain persons from service merely by making a proclamation may be interpreted as meaning that the Government is trying to rig the jury list. In no State, so far as I know, has the Government power to vary the jury list by proclamation from time to time, and the Commonwealth Government should not possess that power either.
– The Leader of the Opposition- (Mr. Scullin) objected to the provision in the bill empowering the Executive by proclamation to excuse certain persons from service on juries, stating that if a public servant were charged before a court with an offence, the Executive might exempt all public servants from, service on the jury. The principle might be extended to include political persons charged with offences. The Government might issue a proclamation stating that no member of the political organization to which the accused belonged would be eligible to serve on the jury, and we must not forget that this would apply, not only to Canberra, but to the Northern Territory as well. The Attorney-General has not stated what qualifications will be required to make citizens eligible to serve on a jury. The jury system is, perhaps, more important now than ever it was. Conditions are changing rapidly, and legislation passed years ago is not always applicable to present-day conditions. In the Sydney Morning Herald it was stated recently that the Deputy Premier of New South Wales declared at a party conference that he was prepared to break any law if, in his opinion, it was necessary to achieve a justifiable end. It is evident, therefore, that political parties which are opposed to labour are, in certain circumstances, prepared to break the law if it suits their purpose. In the territories a case may be before the court affecting some one connected with the transport department. It may be quite right to exempt the head of the department, but that does not remove the danger of the case being prejudiced against the accused if another officer of that department is allowed to serve on the jury. I take the view that any officer employed in that department would be, to some extent, prejudiced as regards that particular case or would have his judgment in some way influenced by his position. We are all, to some extent, influenced by our environment, and I do not pretend that a man can remain entirely unaffected by conditions pertaining to his employment, and I think that such a person should be ineligible to serve on a jury. The Attorney-General has said that officers of the Crown Law Department will be excused from serving on juries. We would naturally expect such officers to be exempted because most of the cases heard before the courts would be launched from that department. But if the cases in which exemptions were desired are so few - it would be possible, I suppose, to count them on the fingers of one hand - why should members of the Public Service be included in this proposal ?
– The number of eligible jurors in the federal territories is very limited.
– There is, I think, in the State laws at all events, a property qualification for persons who constitute the jury list.
– In New South Wales the qualification is £500.
– For the trial of certain cases there is, I believe, an even higher qualification. But I would take the other course and say that, if there are not sufficient men and women available - as the Government is amending the law it might very well establish a precedent by providing for women jurors who probably would render available service to the community - it should widen the qualification for jurors.
– Women are eligible to serve on juries in Queensland.
– I was unaware of that provision in the Queensland law, and I see no objection to its adoption by the Commonwealth. It is, I think, advisable to widen the scope of jurors so as to ensure a panel of disinterested persons available for these special duties. The jury system is a very important one.
– It is more important than the law itself.
– Because of the economic pressure on the various sections of society, possibly the jury system is more important to-day than ever before in the history of the Commonwealth. It is therefore undesirable to limit the selection in any way. The generally accepted practice in British communities is to place no obstacles in the way of accused persons having a fair trial and of proving their innocence. For this reason the list of jurors should be as wide as possible so as to safeguard the best traditions that are associated with the laws of this country, and establish a greater measure of respect and, if I may say so, ensure the acceptance of the law.
.- I gather from the remarks of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) that the intention of the Government is to widen the scope of the authorities in selecting juries to serve on trials in the various territories under the administration of the Commonwealth, and I understood him to say that the number of eligible persons in the territory is so limited that it is difficult to secure a panel of suitable persons. I appreciate the difficulties that confront the administration of the law in such circumstances, but suggest that while the Government may be quite sincere in its desire to increase the number of persona eligible to serve on juries, this amending provision would enable any other government to restrict, possibly to a dangerous degree, the list of available jurors. It would, I believe, be a dangerous weapon in the hands of an unscrupulous ministry. No one can say what government may be in power in the Commonwealth during the next five, ten., or twenty years, and because of that uncertainty, it is inadvisable to place such a far-reaching power in the hands of any administration. In certain small communities, it is not unusual for the views of its members to be generally known, and under this amending provision such persons could be excluded from serving on juries. In New South Wales there is a special list from which the panel of jurors is drawn for trials involving technical details.
– There is a similar provision in all State laws.
– I cannot speak for the practice in States other than New South Wales. I happened to be in the Parliament of that State when the act was amended, and provision was made for the compilation of a special list of jurors. I appeal to the Attorney-General to give the House some assurance that it will not be possible for any future government to use this proposed amendment of the law in the way I have suggested.
– After having heard the views of honorable members, I am willing to provide that exemptions shall be made by regulations, which either House of the Parliament may disallow if it disapprove* of them.
– If Parliament is not sitting it will have no control over the regulations.
– The Minister’s assurance will go a long way to remove the objection which I have to the bill.
– Under the New South Wales act of 1912, members of the Public Service are exempted, and there is a provision that other persons may be exempted by the Governor in Council.
– Because of the danger that this amendment might be abused by a future government, it is desirable that the position should be safeguarded in every possible way.
.- -I am definitely of the opinio* that the exemptions should be specified, otherwise this amendment of the law might be used for party purposes. I am not sure that the alternative suggested by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), namely, that the exemptions shall be made by regulation, will entirely meet the objections that have been raised to the bill, because a government with majorities in both chambers could amend the Jury list by regulation, and the regulation would not be disallowed by either House. If the exemptions were specified there would not be the same probability qf the intrusion of party politics. Although it is a fundamental principle of British justice that a man is entitled to be tried by his peers, trial by jury in territories administered by the Commonwealth is, in actual practice, limited to capital offences. Naturally, small communities become parochial in their outlook. For this reason, possibly, the jury system is operated with some difficulty. In the Northern Territory, the citizens may be divided into three sections - the pastoralists, the workers, and the public servants. If this amending bill is passed in the present form, and if a case affecting a public servant were listed for trial, it would be competent for the Minister, if he desired to sheet home the charge to the person concerned, to exempt public servants from serving on the jury. A similar procedure could be followed in cases affecting the pastoralists or the workers.
– This amendment deals only with public servants.
– It appears to me to be much wider than that. The bill should specifically mention the class of persons proposed to be exempted. If this is not done, a future government may use this measure for party political purposes. The Attorney-General would be well advised to accept the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition, and specify the persons proposed to be exempted.
.- In all States it. has been found advisable to exempt certain sections of the community from serving on juries. Prior to federation, the State laws exempted certain classes of people. The inauguration of the Commonwealth led to a number nf new appointments, such as, for example, the Governor-General, members of the Federal Executive, justices of the High Court of Australia, members of the Commonwealth Parliament, members of the Commonwealth Public Service, and others. AH those persons, under the State laws as they existed then, were eligible to serve on juries. For that purpose the Jury Exemption Act of 1905 was brought into being. The Seat of Government Acceptance Act of 1909, provided that all New South Wales laws should be applicable to this Territory. The Seat of Government Administration Act of 1910 contained a similar provision, but declared that certain New South Wales Acts were non-applicable to the Territory. The Jury Act of New South Wales was not one of these, and it is at present applicable to the Federal Capital Territory. It provides exemption from serving as jurors to professional men such as pharmaceutical chemists, barristers and other sections, while The Jury Exemption Act provides additional exemptions.
The Government has advanced good reasons for its desire to alter the principal act. The members of the Opposition have no objection to the principle involved, but it disagrees with the manner in which the Government proposes to implement its desires. Originally it was intended that the Jury Exemption Act of 1905-1922 should be null and void in this Territory, except that a proclamation might be made by the Governor-General as to which of the persons mentioned therein should be exempt from serving as jurors. That meant that the Governor-General was to be given the power to decide whether the Governor-General himself, federal ministers, High Court justices, honorable senators, members of the House of Representatives, members of the Interstate Commission, members of the Commonwealth Public Service, members of the permanent Naval and Military Forces of the Commonwealth, and permanent Commonwealth railway employees should be exempt from serving as jurors in the Territory. If, through an Oversight, the Governor-General did not proclaim that justices of the High Court, or honorable senators or members of th« House of Representatives . should be exempt, they would all be liable to be summoned to serve on a jury in Canberra. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has now intimated that the power given to the Governor-General shall not be nearly so wide; that only members of the Public Service shall be liable to be called upon to serve as jurors in this Territory, and that, instead of the exemptions being proclaimed, they shall be made by regulation. That is an improvement, but it would still make it possible for the Governor-General, who acts upon the advice of Lis Ministers, to determine which section of the Public Service shall be exempt. For example it might be thought that officers of the Parliament, officers concerned with the administration of justice in the Territory, departmental heads and others should be exempted. It should, however be an easy matter to provide for those exemptions in black and white in this measure itself. If, as the honorable gentleman has intimated, the Government has not yet considered the question, it should be possible to postpone the debate until after the dinner adjournment, and em’body the exemptions in the measure. Then there would be no possibility of this or any other Government being invested with the power to determine whether a large or a small section of the community in the Federal Capital Territory shall be entitled to sit upon a jury to hear the trial of another resident here.
I believe that before long, it will be advisable for the Government to consider the whole method of administering the Territory, particularly in regard to legal administration.
– I can inform the honorable member that that is being done. I hope to p?ace the Government’s proposals before the House shortly.
– If. it were not for the fact that the Jury Exemption Act was necessary to exempt the persons named in it in other parts of Australia as well as in the Territory, these exemptions could have been provided by ordinance which would merely mean that the matter would be decided by the Governor-General. The method of governing this Territory by ordinance, which has existed since 1910, has resulted, in the promulgation of a :Volume of ordinances, comparable only with the volume of amending legislation that has been found necessary in New South Wales since that time, for only the New South Wales Acts up to 1910 applied to the Territory. No amendments to New South Wales law passed subsequent to that date could have force in the Federal Capital Territory. It would, therefore, be wise for the Government to reconsider the whole position.
– Honorable members have said, accurately, that this is an important subject. I am glad that the proposal has provoked discussion, but I am inclined to think that honorable members have exaggerated the possible dangers that may arise from the bill, even if it be not amended as I have just suggested. It has been said that if power is left to the Government to determine who shall be exempt, either by reference to specified individuals or by the prescription of classes of individuals, it will be possible for the Government to exclude persons from serving on a jury and thus to interfere with the administration of justice. There are two classes of cases concerned, - criminal and civil. I should imagine that honorable members who have spoken on the subject had in mind the administration of the criminal law, and were thinking particularly of the protection of the citizen.
– Not necessarily.
– At least some honorable members had that aspect in mind. I remind honorable members that the Government already possesses the necessary power to exclude any class of persons from serving as jurors in a criminal trial, because the Crown can order any juror to stand aside.
– Its right of challenge is not unlimited.
– It has unlimited power in that respect. -
– So that, in the Northern Territory, the Government could bar the whole of the members of the Australian Workers Union from serving as jurors.
– I cannot conceive such a disastrous thing happening. However, that has nothing to do with this bill. Under the law in Australia, in a criminal trial the Crown Prosecutor has an un- limited right to order any persons to stand aside. The defence, on the other hand, is limited in relation to its right of challenge. The position as a rule is that a certain number of challenges is allowed without cause assigned. After that, speaking generally, there must be an assignment of cause. “With few exceptions all criminal prosecutions before a jury are conducted by or on behalf of the Government. So that, actually, the Government is in control of the prosecution, and if it desires to exclude an individual or class of individuals from serving as jurors, it possesses the necessary power. That power is not and cannot be affected by anything that this bill will accomplish if passed. It is not suggested that that power is abused.
As to the civil side, it is difficult to believe that any government would take special action to secure a particular jury by excluding any one from that jury.
– Is there any other legislation similar to this?
– There is. The law of New South Wales applies in many respects to the territory. Section 5 of the New South Wales Jury Act of 1912 provides exemptions for a number of persons who are specified. The amending act provides 22 classes of exemptions, and the Victorian act 32 classes of exemptions. Dealing with the Public Service, the New South Wales act exempts persons holding offices in the departments of the Colonial Secretary, Surveyor-General, and the Treasury, and in the Audit Office.
Paragraph o reads -
Such other persons holding office or being in the Public Service tis the Government exempts from service on juries, either generally or for a limited period, nf which exemption notice shall be given to the sheriff.
So that precise precedent has been in force since 1912. At the same time I do not think that we should be bound by precedent in a matter like this; we should legislate to provide what we think is best. I do not refer to that precedent for the purpose of asking the House to confer similar power on the Governor-General in connexion with this measure; but I suggest that, instead of providing that the Governor-General may make these exemptions by notice in the Government Gazette, the matter should be done by regulation. It would then of necessity be reported to Parliament and it would bc open to any honorable member in either House to move for a disallowance of the regulation. I am aware that when Parliament is not sitting the regulation would be in force for the period of the recess, without an opportunity to have it disallowed - that consideration has a certain amount of weight - but from a practical point of view the position would be sufficiently safeguarded. It would be rather inconvenient to determine once and for all those persons in the Public Service who are to be exempt from serving as jurors.
– Would these exemptions ever be likely to be a matter of urgency ?
– I cannot conceive that any government would make an exemption in relation to a particular proceeding. That would be quite wrong. If this bill is passed, I undertake that the required regulation will be prepared immediately and tabled before the House rises.
– Could it not be provided in the bill that no such regulations shall be issued except when the House is in session?
– It is a matter of administrative convenience, and I ask the House to entrust the Government at least with this limited power. I assume that every honorable member will agree that heads of departments ought to be exempt. Take, too, the case of the head of a subdepartment, for instance the pensions branch of the Treasury or that of an important officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I admit that it is desirable to give honorable members an opportunity to consider the matter in relation to the various departments of the Public Service. The suggestion that I make would enable that to be done. I have already pointed out that the administration of criminal justice cannot really be affected. So far there is no substance in the suggestion that a government might wrongfully use its powers. That reduces the question to the case of civil trials, and the bare possibility of a government making a wrongful regulation while the House is not sitting. I suggest that any government would hesitate a long while before laying itself open to the charge of maladministration of its powers in such a way. With the incorporation of the amendments that I suggest, I ask the House to accept the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
After section 2 of the Jury Exemption Act 1905-1922 the following section is added: - “3. - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding section, a person shall not bo exempt From serving as a juror in any territory forming part of the Commonwealth, when summoned so to serve under the law of the Commonwealth or of such territory, unless he is a person exempted under this section from so serving. “ (2.) For the purposes of the last preceding sub-section, the Governor-General may, by notice published in the Gazette, exempt from serving as jurors such persons or persons holding such offices or classes of offices as the Governor-General from time to time specifies by notice published in the Gazette.”.
– I move -
That the words “ a person “, first occurring, suh-section 1 of proposed new section 3, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ an officer of the Public Service of the Commonwealth “.
This is the amendment that I statedI was prepared to move. It is in conformity with the comments of different honorable members. The effect of it will be that all existing exemptions will stand, subject to the special provisions in relation to officers of the Public Service. It is an amendment that I believe will be acceptable to all honorable members.
Amendment agreed to.
– It was pointed out during the debate in the House that under sub-section 2 of proposed new section 3, in its present form, a notice published in the Gazette, which Parliament would have no chance of either canvassing or discussing, could provide for exemptions. I recognize the weight of that point, and in order to meet it, move -
That the words” by notice published in the Gazette, exempt “ sub-section 2 of proposed new section 3, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ make regulations exempting “.
If this amendment is accepted, I shall move for the omission of the reference to specification by the Governor-General by notice published in the Gazette, and the substitution of a provision for specification in the regulations. 1 submit that, from a practical point of view, all necessary safeguards will thereby be provided.
.- I believe that honorable members will agree that by these amendments a very great improvement is effected in the bill. I am pleased that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has so reasonably met the points that have been raised, because big principles are involved. The right of the Parliament to review is a very important one, and it will be preserved by the provision relating to the making of regulations. It is trite that, should the House not be sitting, some little period will elapse; but such contingencies have to be faced in dealing with practical propositions. The principal point is, that the amendment relating to officers of the Public Service limits the power of regulation to such officers, and that this amendment compels the making of regulations, instead of the matter being dealt with by proclamation.
– I see no reason why the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) cannot provide that regulations be brought down only when the Parliament is in session. The scope of the act’s operation will be restricted to federal areas, and the general conditions of both the Federal Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are well known to the Government. Between the sittings of the Parliament, restrictions could be imposed without check.
– As soon as the Parliament met, any regulations made would have to be tabled.
– Criticism in which Ihave participated has been offered regarding the long periods that elapsed between sessions in the lives of previous governments, and that position might arise again. It is true that the Parliament meets more frequently in these days, because of the difficult conditionsand the necessity for meeting an unprecedented situation. But the conditions may be righted - we hope that they will be - and we may again experience lengthy recesses. Although the position could be reviewed when the Parliament met, such action would be belated, because a man who had been convicted would be serving a sentence, or one found guilty of a capital offence would have been hanged. In such a case, no good purpose would be served by disallowing a regulation. The circumstances are dissimilar from those that prevail in any of the States. The calls that are likely to be made upon persons liable to serve should be well known.
– The adoption of the honorable member’s suggestion would only mean painting the lily, and making assurance doubly sure.
– If that be so, no great objection can be offered to it.
– I undertake to see that a regulation is in form awaiting the passage of the measure by another place, so that it may be issued immediately, and thus furnish honorable members with an opportunity for the discussion of any proposed exemption. I admit that I am reluctant to accede to the suggestion of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) to introduce the practice of making regulations only while the Parliament is in session. The pressure upon parliaments is so great at the present time, and the necessity for dealing with details by immediate action is often so pressing, that, despite the criticism recently directed against government by regulation and the like, I am afraid that no parliament will be able to avoid conferring in some cases the power to make regulations. Of course, matters of principle should, as far as possible, be dealt with in the body of a measure ; that has always been my belief. In view of the assurance that I have given, honorable members might accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Latham) agreed to-
That the words “ the Governor-General from time to time specifies by notice published in the Gazette “, sub-section 2 of proposed new section 3, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ are specified in the regulations.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Motion (by Mr; Latham) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– Any honorable member is entitled to call attention to the state of the House. Did the honorable member for Reid do so?
– No; but I do now. [Quorum formed.]
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– When the honorable member for Reid called attention to the state of the House, and it was found that a quorum was not present, I noticed that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) left the chamber. I draw the attention of honorable members generally to Standing Order No. 34, which reads -
When the attention of the Speaker, or of theChairman of Committees, has been called to the fact that there is not a quorum of members present, no member shall leave the chamber until the House has been counted by the Speaker.
It is important that that standing order should be observed, and I ask the honorable member for Macquarie to express, in the course of a personal explanation, regret for his breach of the standing order.
– I express my sincere regret for my action. I was summoned from the chamber to answer an urgent telephone call, and I left hurriedly, without realizing, for the moment, that I was committing a breach of the Standing Orders. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I apologize to you and to the House.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Recently, the attention of the Government has been directed by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), and by other honorable members, to the case of a person who was convicted of an offence against a law of the Commonwealth, and who then appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeal of the State of New South Wales, which held that it had no jurisdiction to entertain the appeal. The convicted person then appealed to the High Court of Australia against that decision, but the judgment of the New South Wales court was upheld. The High Court has no general right to entertain a criminal appeal ; but, in special circumstances, leave may be given to appeal in a criminal case. Section 68 of the Judiciary Act is the provision which deals with the general subject of the applicability of the laws of the various States in proceedings in relation to Commonwealth laws and persons charged with offences under federal laws, Sub-sections 1 and 2 of this section provide -
The laws of each State respecting the arrest and custody of offenders or persons charged with offences, and the procedure for -
The several courts of a State exercising jurisdiction with respect to -
The effect of those sub-sections is that when a person is charged with an offence against a federal law, for which he may be tried within a State, the law of the State applies with respect to summary proceedings, examination, and commitment for trial, and to trial and conviction on indictment ; but there is no provision in the Commonwealth law that the law of the States giving the right of appeal in criminal matters shall apply in the case of a conviction for an offence against a federal statute. When the Judiciary Act was passed in 1903, there were no Courts of Criminal Appeal. There were in the various State statutes provisions for reserving points of law and the like, and provisions for hearing what are called Crown cases reserved, and under section 72 of the Judiciary Act, it is provided that questions of law may be reserved by the court before which a person is tried for the consideration of a full court of the High Court, or of a full court of the Supreme Court of a State. The present position is that in the case of persons charged with an offence against a federal law, who are tried before the Supreme Court of a State in the ordinary course, there may be a reservation of a point of law; but there cannot be an appeal in the ordinary sense. All the States have instituted Courts of Criminal Appeal. The first, I think, was established in New South Wales in 1912. It appears only just that a person convicted under a federal law should have the same right of appeal as a person convicted under a State law. A long time elapsed before the principle of appeal in criminal case’s was recognized at all. Provision in this regard was made in Great Britain in 1907, and since then, beginning in 1912, provision has been made in all the States for that purpose. This bill is very simple in its terms. It provides that there shall be added to section 68 of the principal act the provision that the laws of each State, and the procedure thereunder, shall apply in relation to the hearing and determination of appeals arising out of a trial or conviction under federal law or out of any proceedings connected therewith, and the State courts are given jurisdiction in accordance with the provisions of the laws of the respective States. This bill simply confers on a person convicted under federal law the same right of appeal as he would have if he were convicted under State law. I submit that it is proper and just that this amendment of the principal act should be made.
.- All honorable members, I presume, will welcome this innovation in regard to the right of appeal. It seems remarkable that since 1912 the States have had Courts of Criminal Appeal, and yet persons convicted under a Commonwealth law have not had a similar right of appeal to that of persons convicted under a State law. I am interested in a couple of cases under federal law, and one in particular, in which appeals were lodged in both the State Court and the High Court, and were rejected on the ground that there was no jurisdiction to deal with them. I wish to know if these persons have exhausted their right of appeal by reason of’ the fact that their applications have already been rejected.
– I should say, almost certainly, that the time available to them for appeal having expired, they would not now be able to appeal. It would be rather difficult to deal with such a case because this Parliament is unable directly to amend State law and procedure. If there are special provisions in the State law which allow consideration of exceptional circumstances, it may be possible to take advantage of them, after the passage of this bill.
– There is, of course, that possibility; but I suggest to the AttorneyGeneral, who probably knows more about the law than does anybody else in the House, that while this bill is under discussion, consideration might be directed to providing for the cases to which I have called attention. I have no desire to canvass the rights or wrongs of one particular case that I have in mind; but the convicted perron has taken proceedings and has appealed to both the State Courts and the High Court, and, like most litigants, he is firmly convinced of his ability to establish his innocence. He has been in gaol for six months of the period of two years for which he was convicted, and his appeal has been defeated by reason of the fact that the High Court has no jurisdiction to hear it. It seems unfortunate that on that account this man has been, and will be, denied a right to which he is clearly entitled, not because he had not intended to appeal ‘ or that his appeal was an afterthought, but merely because he had been prosecuted under a Commonwealth statute, and was, therefore, deprived of the right of appeal. I strongly urge the Attorney-General to agree to the insertion in this bill of a retrospective provision covering such a case as that to which I have referred.
Various Commonwealth acts dealing with crimes have contained retrospective provisions, and ‘ I can see no reason why we should not insert a retrospective provision dealing with appeals. I do not ask for an unlimited provision of this kind. I realize that it might be absolutely necessary to fix a time limit for appeals in certain cases; but seeing that this bill provides the right of appeal, I think it not unreasonable to ask that a man convicted of an offence under the Commonwealth law who has appealed against his conviction and had his appeal rejected on the ground that the court had no jurisdiction to hear it, but is still serving his sentence, should Joe granted the right of appeal. It could not be argued, if this were done, that persons would appeal simply because there was a right of appeal, nor could it be said that they had appealed previously in the knowledge that this bill was to be introduced. Now that we are accepting the principle of the right of appeal we should not deny an appeal to certain persons who appealed thinking that they had the right to do so, -and had their appeals rejected on the ground of lack of jurisdiction.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I shall consider the request of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), but I think he will recognize’ that there is a difficulty in this Parliament doing anything which purports to amend State law. Where, unfortunately, a person has failed in an appeal on legal grounds and is out of time for prosecuting further proceedings there are very real obstacles to doing what he desires. However, I undertake to see, before the bill is passed through the Senate, whether there is a possibility of conferring appellate jurisdiction on a State court, in a limited class of cases, such, for example, as that of a person actually serving sentence who has, in effect, given notice of appeal.
Bill agreed to and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill relates to the general Crimes Act of the Commonwealth which deals with many offences against Commonwealth law including those relating to the administration of justice,coinage, forgery, offences by and against public officers, breaches of official secrecy, and the like. I find that there is a general misunderstanding, which is sedulously fostered in some quarters, that the Crimes Act consists entirely of certain controversial provisions inserted in it by this Parliament about six years ago. Those provisions are not the only ones it contains. PartIIa., which has a character quite its own and is distinct from the other portions of the measure, is headed “Protection of the Constitution and of Public and other Services.” It contains the provisions relating to unlawful associations and to certain interferences with interstate trade and commerce and the performance of duty by certain servants of the public. In particular circumstances there is the possibility, under this part of the act, of the deportation of convicted offenders. There is a great deal of difference of opinion as to the meritorious nature of the provisions of PartIIa.Speaking generally, an offence under the act can be prosecuted by any person, but there is room for doubt as to whether it is or is not open to a member of the public to institute proceedings in respect of offences relating to the Constitution, the Public Service, interstate trade and commerce, and the like; and it is highly desirable, in the opinion of the Government, that this doubt should be removed and that the Attorney-General only should be given the power to prosecute under these particular provisions. Section 13 of the act provides that-
Unless the contrary intention appears in the act or regulation creating the offence, any person may -
institute proceedings for the commitment for trial of any person in respect of any indictable offence against the law of the Commonwealth.
institute proceedings for the summary conviction of any person in respect of any offence against the law of the Common wealth punishable on summary conviction.
The object of this bill is to provide that offences under Part IIa. shall not be prosecuted either summarily or upon indictment without the authority of the Attorney-General or some person authorized by him.
– Would the Government agree to a provision that the Attorneys-General of the States as well as of the Commonwealth should be able to act?
– No; we are dealing with federal law. There is also a special provision in this part ofthe act which gives probative effect to averments made on behalf of the prosecutor.It was never intended that this provision should be available to a private prosecutor. Having regard, therefore, not only to the nature of the offence, but also to the possible consequences of deportation of the person in the case of some offences, the Government considers that it should be placed beyond all doubt that only the Attorney-General shall have power to institute proceedings under this partofthe act.
– If the government of the day had sympathy with curtain offenders to such an extent that its Attorney-General would not prosecute, would prosecution by any other person for such an offence be impossible?
– Yes. So long as the averment provision remains in the act, with the possible conseque ntial deportation of a convicted person, which, after all,is at the will of the Attorney-General of the day, the Government considers that it is proper thatall such prosecutions should be instituted by the AttorneyGeneral. As the offences are, in the most general sense, against law and order, and as the act has been drafted to avoid anything which is merely in the nature of a repression of opinion, and is directed towards special action in the case of activities which are directed towards the overthrow of orderly government, I suggest that the Government of the day, which is in charge of the affairs of the country, should accept the sole responsibility of enforcing that portion of the law; and that it should not he open to a member of the public to institute such proceedings. I hope that the bill will be agreed to.
.- The object of this bill is to amend what is really the criminal code of the Commonwealth. Part Ha. of the Crimes Act, which was inserted in 1926, is particularly obnoxious to the members of the Labour party. A number of amendments were made to this part of the act only a few mouths ago. An appeal is at present in process in our courts by a man named Devanney in which it is being contended that three sections of PartIIa. are ultra vires the Constitution. In these circumstances, I suggestthat the Government would have been wise had it withheld this bill until that case has been determined.
– Nothing in this bill can affect that case.
– That is not my point, Seeing that we are being asked to amend the Crimes Act and that there is a possibility that other sections of it may need amendment in consequence of the proceedings at present before the High Court, the Government could well have withheld this bill for a few days and thereby, perhaps, have avoided the necessity for introducing at an early date another bill to amend the act still further. As Part Ha. of the act contains dangerous provisions to which members of my party are opposed, we are certainly in favour of the modification which the AttorneyGeneral has proposed. We should welcome any amendment to make this law less objectionable to the community and less inimical to political freedom, particularly having regard to the fact that under section 30r it is merely necessary for an informant to make an averment whereupon the onus of disproof is placed on the defendant. We have always contended that that is opposed to a fundamental principle of British jurisprudence. Section 69 of the Judiciary Act provides -
Indictable offences against the laws of the Commonwealth shall be prosecuted by indictment in the name of the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth or of such other person as the Governor-General appoints in that behalf.
Therefore, I cannot see the need for this provision that prosecutions under Part IIa. of the Crimes Act shall be only upon indictment by the Attorney-General or by some person acting for him. In 1919, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), as Acting Attorney-General, filed a prosecution under the War Precautions Act. Counsel for the accused took exception to the indictment on the ground that it was not in the name of the Attorney-General. In the case R. v. Judd, 26 C.L.R., 168, the High Court held that a Minister, acting on behalf of the Attorney-General, could prosecute. Clearly, the Attorney-General has the right to delegate his power to prosecute. The members of the Opposition will support the bill, but will await an opportunity to repeal the whole of Part IIa.
– The debate on this bill will be of interest to people who have watched closely recent political happenings in various parts of the Commonwealth. At one stage the New Guard intended, according to information in possession of the police, to cut off the electric light at its source, and adopt other measures to stampede the people into overthrowing the then Labour government in New South Wales. By the proposed amendment of the Crimes Act, a Labour government will not be able to initiate proceedings against that organization for such an offence.
– Could it not take action under State legislation?
– But it could not initiate any prosecution under Part IIa. of the Crimes Act. This bill will concentrate all power of prosecution and indictment in the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. I accept that proposal knowing that with a change of government the task of removing this objectionable law will be made easier. Governments change, and each. Attorney-General will have the opportunity to administer the law according to his understanding of the needs and rights of an enlightened democracy. Like the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) I hope that the time is not far distant when a Labour Attorney-General will take action to remove from the statute-book, legislation which a gentleman, who is not a supporter of the Labour party, has declared to be more appropriate to the period of Henry VIII. I understood the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) to say that many people were using the averment provisions in a manner that was not in the best interests of the people. This admission strengthens the legal and moral position of those who have fought and will continue to fight against the objectionable Crimes Act. I hope that soon this legislation will be entirely removed from the statute-book, and that democracy will be allowed free scope to work out its own salvation.
– I desire to be clear regarding the effect of this bill. If the Lang planners or communists should, on street corners advocate open rebellion, in the absence of an officer of the law, will a private individual or any organization, such as the New Guard, which desires to uphold law and order, be prevented from initiating a prosecution without the consent of the AttorneyGeneral? Ave private individuals and organizations to be deprived of the right to set the law in motion against extremists who advocate the overthrow of the present system of government?
– The New Guard, for instance.
– The New Guard is the most law-abiding organization I have ever known. Revolutionary proposals are reserved for the Lang planners and Communists. I remember years ago a young fellow openly advocating revolutionary action at the instigation of older members of the Industrial Workers of the World. He should have been prosecuted but no officers of the law were present. In such circumstances it should be possible for any person who desires that law and order be maintained to set the law in operation, of course taking the consequences of a wrongful indictment. If the bill deprives citizens of that right. I hope that it will not be supported by the ministerial party.
.- I urge the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) to consider the objection which has been taken by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane). A very real difficulty may arise under this amendment. Under Part IIa. of the Crimes Act all offences which may be regarded as aiming at the overthrow of the Government are brought together and are subject to the averment section. As a safeguard against abuse, the Attorney-General now proposes to confine the use of that section to himself or his successor, so that prosecution by indictment for offences under Part IIa., which are the most serious offences dealt with in the Crimes Act, shall be initiated only by the Attorney-General or by some person acting for him. Of course, if we were assured that the office of AttorneyGeneral would always be held by the honorable member for Kooyong, or by other men who had given satisfactory proof of their attachment to the Constitution, no objection could be taken to this proposal ; but,, in seeking to minimize some of the dangers incidental to the averment section, the Government is risking even more serious consequences, in that, with a change of ministry, there might be no prosecutions under Part IIA. of the act. After the proposed amendment has been made, if tha Attorney-General will not act against an offender no one else will be able to do so. I have had so much proof of the care with which the present Attorney-General drafts his bills that I am loath to criticize any measure sponsored by him, but there is a great deal of weight in the objection taken by the honorable member for Barton; and if any alteration is to be made in this portion of the act it should be by an amendment of the averment section rather than by the insertion of a provision which may render Part IIa. of the act nugatory for a period of years.
.- I shall be pleased if the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) will explain more fully the scope of the bill. During the police strike in Melbourne a few years ago, many citizens were sworn in as special constables to assist in maintaining law and order.
– And they stole goods from the shops they were supposed to protect.
– I was one of the special police. If the honorable member is proud to be associated with men who were gaoled, many of whom belonged to the underworld, he is welcome to such company. In the event of similar civil commotion occurring, would nobody but the Attorney-General have power to initiate a prosecution or could special police or other organizations formed to restore order set the law in motion?
.- I have the strongest opposition to the whole of Part IIa. of the Crimes Act. This part was originally inserted in the act for the purpose of dealing with industrial situations which the Government did not have immediate power to deal with in the manner it desired. Since then, the act has been amended from time to time to make it more and more restrictive. These restrictions have been levelled at persons and organizations not usually associated politically with this Government, but not necessarily of bad repute. The remarkable argument put forward by the honorable members for Martin (Mr. Holman) and Barton (Mr. Lane) seems to imply that they are prepared to jeopardize the liberty of a person merely on the evidence of some individual who happens to be at a meeting and hears that person express opinions of which he does not approve. The honorable member for Barton considers that if some individual perhaps with political prejudices against the speaker, at a meeting which is unattended by a responsible officer of the law, gives an exaggerated account of what is said, the law should be made so elastic as to jeopardize the speaker’s liberty. Actually, the accuser may in every sense be more irresponsible than the accused.’ If we are to deal with political offences at all, there should at least be some serious attempt made to ascertain whether the charges made have sufficient ground.
– The act relates not to political but to criminal offences.
– What appears to the honorable member to be a criminal offence may to me be a political offence. We object to the principle of Part IIa. of the act. The only merit that we can recognize in it is the amendment proposed by the Attorney-General. That, at least, does what the honorable member for Barton does not want the act to do. It places upon the Attorney-General the responsibility for any prosecution. He has to be satisfied that the information which he acts upon under this particularly bad law is sufficient to warrant a decision against the accused.
– The honorable member must not reflect upon any law passed by this Parliament.
– If I have transgressed the rules of the House, I have done so in ignorance of the standing order. Our only solace in supporting the amendment is the fact that the Attorney-General has to be satisfied that there is ground for a prosecution. That will save many people from the embarrassment of being dragged before the court merely on information laid by some irresponsible person. We therefore regard this amendment as the first step towards the entire abolition of Part IIa. of the act, which will, at all events, take place when the Labour party is returned to office.
– The considerations which have been raised by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), and the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) were not ignored by the Government when it prepared this measure. At the same time, I admit that there is something to be said for the arguments which they have adduced. The main object of the bill I conceded and frankly stated was to prevent the mis-use of the averment section - section 30e. The view of the Government strongly held is that the position should be made clear, and that there should be no possibility of the provision being abused by any private person. Of course, it would be possible to provide in section 30r that in any prosecution for an offence instituted by or with the authority of the AttorneyGeneral, the averment should be evidence, and by that limitation of the section, attain the object in view. But the Government also took the view that, having regard to the general nature of this legislation, it was probably wise to limit the power of taking proceedings to the Attorney-General. There are, in this legislation, provisions which might, if placed in irresponsible hands, be utilized as a means of embarrassing and harassing individuals. As a matter of fact, however, no one but the Attorney-General has ever instituted proceedings under Part IIa. In fact, I am the only Attorney-Gen eral who has instituted proceedings under it. This part of the law was not actively utilized during the tenure of the office of the Late Government - those “who supported that Government had strenuously opposed the passage of this legislation - and although at that time it was open to any member of the public to take proceedings, no member- of the public thought fit to do so. As in the case of many other serious offences, the administration of the law is .left in the hands of the Government. I suggest that on the whole, having regard to the nature of the legislation, it is probably wise to adopt the provision which has been suggested.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) raised a question as to the state of circumstances which existed in Melbourne during a police strike. The relation of the Commonwealth to the preservation of law and order is difficult to define. I again and again found difficulty in the administration of the law because of the fact that, speaking generally, the preservation of law and order is left in the hands of the various States. There is an express provision under which the Commonwealth may protect a State against domestic violence upon application by the Government of a State, but, speaking generally, the preservation of law and order, -and the protection of life and property against riot or any other form of interference or violence, are matters which are left in the hands of a ‘State. If, for example, there is a disorderly meeting, it is almost inevitably a breach of the Police Offences Act of the State concerned. It would be undesirable for the Commonwealth, particularly in the absence of a police force, to undertake any general legislation, dealing with disorderly behaviour and so forth. If the Commonwealth were to enter into that sphere it is quite possible that difficulties would arise as between the executive agents of the Commonwealth and those of the States. Honorable members who have followed the recent history of the United States of America, since the introduction of prohibition, must have been impressed with the difficulties that have arisen in the administration of the law, because of two sets of police operating within the same territory. Congress passed a law which affected many details of every day life. It was a law which was objected to by many of the States. Some of them refused to enforce it; they refused to allow their police to be used to carry out its provisions.
– Only three out of fortyeight States took that attitude.
– Other States cooperated with the federal authorities in a half-hearted manner. As a matter of fact, the Central Executive provided a large number of special agents, practically a federal police force, for the purpose of enforcing that federal law. Of course what I am saying has to do, not with prohibition one way or the other, but with the risks and difficulties which arise from the establishment of two police forces operating within the same area. In any legislation for which I have been responsible in drafting or in an. advisory capacity, I have always tried to avoid the necessity for instituting a federal police force to enforce Commonwealth legislation throughout the whole of Australia. The point raised by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) as to disorderly behaviour of one kind or another within Australia is a matter which I suggest it is wise indeed to leave entirely in the hands of the States. If we assume responsibility in relation to it, there will be a tendency to weaken the responsibility of the States, and it is not practicable for the Commonwealth to exercise such responsibility effectively, Accordingly, I have, always thought it wise for the Commonwealth to stand out of such a matter.
In Part IIa. of the Crimes Act, with which this amendment deals, there is a set of provisions directed towards the protection of the Constitution generally and of government as such. Ordinary proceedings for disorderly behaviour and the like ought not to be instituted under cover of a section of this part of the Crimes Act. Those are matters which ought to be left to the States, and it is largely in consequence of that view that this amendment to confine the powers of prosecution to the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth is proposed.
– Is it not a fact that immediately the financial emergency legislation was put into operation the Lang Government issued instructions to the police not to report seditious utterances?
– I was not here at the time, and, therefore, have no personal knowledge of the matter; but from afar I viewed with gratification the success of the financial emergency legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate ; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill bc now read a third time.
.- Having heard the explanation of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), I am opposed to this bill being passed through its third reading to-day. Some months ago, when difficulties arose between the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales, the State police authorities ceased to make their customary reports. Prior to the crisis in New South Wales, reports by the State police authorities were forwarded to the Commonwealth, which took any necessary action.
– That crisis has passed.
– Yes; but similar crises may occur in the future. What we are doing to-day may make it impossible for action to be taken against any body of men that seeks to overthrow constitutional government. This bill prevents either private individuals or corporate bodies from instituting proceedings in the court against any section of the community which seeks to overthrow law and order and set up its own form of government. Even an organization which preaches sedition may escape punishment because of our action in passing this measure. On a previous occasion, I asked the Attorney General whether he was prepared to take proceedings against certain individuals in New South Wales who were making seditious statements, and he replied that if the facts were as I had stated, suitable action would be taken. If that was a proper answer to my question then, it should be a proper answer to-day, because I know of no alteration of circumstances to justify any change of attitude in this respect. So far as I am aware, there has been no demand for this amendment. On the contrary, the Government should tighten the provisions of the existing legislation. In every country there are people who are prepared to use force to gain unlawful ends if they think that they can succeed. The Lang Government in New South Wales sought to overthrow law and order, and to place on the statute-book, legislation which was contrary to the wishes of the majority of the citizens of that State. This measure has been sprung on the House without there having been any demand for it. I shall tell the electors that the present Government has betrayed the people of Australia.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw the word “betrayed.”
– I withdraw it. The Government has not lived up to its pledge to maintain law and order. Instead, it has brought forward this amending bill without having even consulted the members of its own party. The Government has no right to spring measures of this kind upon the House. I regret having to oppose the bill: .but I do so in the interests of both private citizens and corporate bodies who may wish to resist other sections of the community which are inclined towards lawlessness. I am reminded of the time when the taxation offices in Sydney were barricaded by the State Government, which also issued a pamphlet defying the federal law. Should history repeat itself, and another State government prove itself unworthy of the trust reposed in it by the people, what would be the position if the Commonwealth Attorney-General refused to take action? In that case, the people of the State would be unable to institute proceedings against the State Government in the courts of the land.
– The people would deal with them under the Electoral Act.
– The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) sees everything from the point of view of the Country party. This is a matter which affects the whole of the people of New South Wales.
– They must be scared of the Stevens Government.
– No. Had it not been for the New Guard-
-Order! The honorable member must not continue in that strain.
– I admit that certain bodies in New South Wales took the law into their own hands; but circumstances rendered their action necessary. While I do not stand for such things, I must admit that what they did was a good thing for New South Wales.
– Does the honorable member stand for that policy?
– I can only say that the action taken by the New Guard was in the best interests of New South Wale3. The Government of New South Wales which sought to overthrow law and order and to act contrary to the wishes of the majority of the people was confronted by a band of young men determined to retain their privileges. Why should we take from the people their right to prosecute in the court3 those who would injure the community? I enter my emphatic protest against this Government, which all along has claimed to stand for the preservation of law and order, and the right of citizens to institute proceedings in the courts of the land, bringing forward this amending measure. One honorable member asked why any man should be embarrassed by being prosecuted. Every person who is charged with having committed an offence is embarrassed; but he must accept the consequences of his action. Should the prosecution be found to be of a malicious nature, he has his remedy. But the question before us is not one of any embarrassment caused to a person who does wrong. Any individual or body of men should be entitled to institute proceedings in the courts of the land against a wrong-doer. These things should not be solely in the hands of any Attorney-General. I hope that the Government will reconsider its position, and, even now, withdraw the bill.
.- Although this is a small bill, an important principle is at stake. Interesting as his explanation was, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) did not give a satisfactory answer to the point I raised. I wanted to know whether the police, o* a special constable, could still lay an information, because it seemed to me that that right was reserved to the AttorneyGeneral.
– Under Part IIa. of the Crimes Act only the Attorney-General may do so.
– In my opinion, that is a dangerous provision. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) spoke of certain organizations which took definite action along certain lines. The body to which I referred previously was legally formed during a time of civil commotion. On that occasion, householders were invited to act as special constables.
– Part IIa. of the Crimes Act does not interfere with special constables appointed in that way.
– The Attorney-General has said how difficult it is to say where the Commonwealth administration leaves off and the State administration commences. What happened in Victoria may also happen in Commonwealth territory.
– We can deal with that.
– That point had not been made clear previously. When the AttorneyGeneral was in England, and the excellent legislation for which ha was responsible was operating so successfully, there was a time when civil trouble was feared, and it was thought that it might be necessary to appoint special constables, as was done in Victoria. I desired to know whether, in that event, such a body of citizens could lay an information.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to S p.m.
.- I think that honorable members feel that the proposed new section which was agreed to this afternoon in committee is not entirely satisfactory in its present form, and I therefore make no apology for detaining the House at this stage while I point out to the Attorney-General and his colleagues what I believe to be lacking in the law f>s it now stands. Part IIa., which is governed by the proposed new section, sets out a number of offences which may be said to be in the nature of seditious utterances and offences of an analogous character, concerning which, I. think, it may be freely admitted that it is desirable that a prosecution should be initiated only by some responsible person. As one who has had some experience of administration, I recognize that there is, perhaps, danger in permitting an excitable private citizen, whose judgment has not been trained in initiating prosecutions, to base a prosecution upon utterances which for many reasons might have been misunderstood. The speaker might have been quite innocent, or even if guilty during an excitable oration of going further than “was quite proper, he might not have been guilty of language other than such as a tactful government would ignore, to prevent a position which was already bad from becoming worse because of a futile prosecution. Therefore, the initiation of a prosecution for such an offence might well be retained in the hands of the Attorney-General, as is now proposed. But Part IIa. covers also other offences, and it is unwise to group them all together. These are offences of a more tangible character than those offences which I have just mentioned, and I suggest that it is not wise or safe to withdraw in regard to them the power of initiating prosecutions by private action.
– What are the particular offences to which the honorable member refers ?
– The proposed new section reads -
An offence against this Part shall not be prosecuted summarily without the consent in writing of the Attorney-General.
Another portion of the proposed new subsection reads -
An offence against this Part shall not be prosecuted upon indictment except in the name of the. Attorney-General or of such other person as the Governor-General appoints in that behalf.
Therefore the responsibility for initiating prosecutions for all offences covered by PartIIa. rests with the AttorneyGeneral. The first group of offences are those connected with the membership of an unlawful association. I say quite frankly that I recognize that there ismuch to be said for reserving to the Attorney-General or some other responsible person, the right to prosecute in such cases. Section 30d reads - (1.) Any person who -
An offence of that kind might well, I think, come within the restriction which the Attorney-General proposes. Then we have the offences contained in section 30j, which provides that - (1.) If at any time the Governor-General is of the opinion that there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance prejudicing or threatening trade or commerce with other countries or among the States,he may make a proclamation to that effect.
After the proclamation has been issued, the section provides that - (2.) Any person who, during the operation of such proclamation takes part in or continues, or incites to, urges, aids or encourages the taking part in, or continuance of, a lock-out or strike . . . shall be guilty of an offence.
In that case, I think, that the advantage in retaining the power of initiation in the hands of a government official, and, particularly, the Attorney-General, is less apparent. Without wishing to cause offence I say that I can readily imagine circumstances in which the control of the prosecution under that section by the AttorneyGeneral might render the section entirely nugatory. I suggest, therefore, that this portion of the act should be redrafted, and that the section to which I have drawn attention should not be subject to the restriction imposed by the proposed new section. Then section 30k reads -
Whoever, by violence to the person or property of another person, or by spoken or written threat or intimidation or any kind to whomsoever directed, or, without reasonable cause or excuse by boycott or threat of boycott of person or property -
obstructs or hinders the provision of any public service by the Commonwealth or by any department or public authority under the Commonwealth ;
compels or induces any person employed in or in connexion with the provision of any public service by the Commonwealth or by any department or public authority under the Commonwealth to surrender or depart from his employment;
prevents any person from offering or accepting employment in or in connexion with the provision of any public service by the Commonwealth or by any department or public authority under the Commonwealth;
obstructs or hinders the transport of goods or the conveyance of passengers in trade or commerce with other countries or among the States :
compels or induces any person employed in or in connexion with the transport of goods or the conveyance of passengers in trade or commerce with other countries or among the States to surrender or depart from his employment; or
prevents any person from offering or accepting employment in or in connexion with the transport of goods or the conveyance of passengers in trade or commerce with other countries or among the States shall be guilty of an offence.
These offences are also included in Part IIa., and are therefore brought under the restriction of the proposed new section. Prosecutions for these offences will, if the measure is passed in its present form, only be possible on the direct authority of the Attorney-General.
– Can the honorable member cite a case in which a private person has prosecuted under the Commonwealth law?
– I cannot; and I do not think that there has been such a case. But there are many precautionary measures which have never been brought into force, and yet are too valuable to be dispensed with. It is to safeguard the right to initiate prosecutions that what I suggest should be done.Few ordinary private citizens are so patriotic or so well informed that they are able to initiate prosecutions with advantage when the right is there; but that the right exists is a guarantee that those responsible for the exercise of the power will perform their duty should the occasion arise. I make these observations without the slightest reference to the present Attorney-General personally. We are now legislating for the future, and although our friends comprising the fourth party in this chamber say that if they are returned to power, they will repeal this legislation, until then, we must legislate in the way we think necessary. I have referred to the two main groups of offences - those arising out of industrial disputes and those which, without any pretence of accuracy, I would term as attacks upon Commonwealth services. I refer more particularly to direct interferences with the efficiency of such services by bribes, inducement, or coercion to cause persons to abandon their duty. There are, as I have said, certain offences with respect to which the rights of private prosecution might well be withdrawn, but I do not think that that observation applies to all offences. The restrictions we are now considering apply to both quasipolitical offences and seditious utterances in which it is difficult to draw a precise line between excited patriotism, on the one hand, and deliberate revolution on the other. It is, however, I think, easy to discriminate between such offences and those which arise under the two sections to which I have just directed attention. I do not propose to adopt an obstructive attitude; but the Attorney-General, if he thinks well of my suggestion, might, perhaps, arrange to have the part which I have been discussing divided into, say, PartIIa. and Part IIb. The proposed new section which we considered this afternoon, and which is contained in clause 2 of the bill, might then apply to Part IIa. in which these more dubious offences could be grouped, but the others could, I submit, be left as they stand today, so that in the event of there being in power an Attorney-General who was oblivious of his duties, or who for any reason failed to put the law into motion against obvious offenders, and to protect important interests committed to his charge, a private citizen could take the necessary steps without being frustrated by. that portion of the legislation which we have been discussing to-day.
.- This short bill has given rise to quite an interesting discussion which affects some fundamental principles of the administration of the law. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) said that the measure had been sprung on the House, and that there had been no opportunity afforded to honorable members to make representations to the Government with respect to its provisions. The bill was brought in on the 15th November, and as this is now the 22nd November, honorable members should have known its contents for over a week, and there has been ample opportunity for any one to make any suggestions that might be thought desirable. I was asked whether there had been from any organization or any person, a demand for this legislation which confines to the Attorney-General the right to take cer tain proceedings. There has been no such demand. This legislation, I have to confess, was originated by the AttorneyGeneral himself, as a matter of principle, and I surmise that honorable members will agree that if there is a question of principle affecting the administration of the law, it is proper for the AttorneyGeneral to raise it for the consideration of the Government of his own accord, and. without solicitation.
This legislation is, as honorable members on both sides of the House will agree, difficult in its nature and character. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) referred to organizations which, he suggested, desired to take action under provisions of the act. Actually, no organization or person has ever attempted to institute proceedings under this part of the act, and all the proceedings which have been taken have been instituted under the .authority of the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth. I have been often asked to institute proceedings, and I have then considered, first whether if the facts were established, the case would be a proper one in which to take proceedings, and, secondly, whether the facts could be established. Many persons have approached me with statements regarding what have been said to be seditious utterances and the like, as to which there was no legal evidence. Whatever the criticism of this portion of the act may be, it must be conceded by anyone who examines the statute, that special care has been taken to preserve the rights of citizens, by preserving them from arbitrary ministerial action, and requiring that proceedings be taken before a court. In most of the cases brought under my notice, there has not been legal evidence upon which proceedings could be instituted. But under this legislation, even when there is evidence, let us say of a violent speech having been made, the question arises whether proceedings of a serious nature ought to be instituted. I have always held that legislation should not aim at the repression of opinion, and that it should not aim at the repression of expression of opinion, however hostile that may be to any government; but that the line is passed when speech and action adopt the form of opposition to govern ment as such, and when they threaten the foundations of our society. I have tried to draw a distinction between utterances that are excited, violent, and from many points of view, reprehensible, and proceedings which really challenge in a definitely dangerous manner the foundations of government, and the system of ordered rule upon which the welfare of all the worthy sections of the community ultimately depend. It is a difficult thing sometimes to draw that line. I have always, in administering this law, tried to err on the right side, and have instituted proceedings only when there appeared to be something in the nature of a very definite revolutionary threat, or act of violence, in incitement, persuasion or action. Up to the present time every proceeding so instituted has succeeded, though, of course, we cannot hope that that record can be maintained.
One of the difficulties that arises in administering legislation of this kind is, as I have said, in determining in what circumstances proceedings shall be instituted. I have adopted the rule that ordinary disturbances of law and order ought to be handled by the State authority, even though they may be associal ed with activities which might be regarded as revolutionary in character. lt is unwise and injudicious, for many reasons, for the Commonwealth to assume, responsibility in regard to ordinary breaches of the peace, although sometimes inaction on the part of the Commonwealth may result in no proceedings being taken at all. It must be recognized that the machinery at the disposal of the Commonwealth is not well adapted for action in such cases.
The honorable member for Martin referred to the particular offences created by this part of the statute, and suggested that a distinction might be drawn between them. He has conceded that offences relating to unlawful association ought to be prosecuted at the instigation of the Attorney-General. He then proceeded to discuss sections 30j and 30k of the act, and suggested that a private person should nave the right to institute proceedings under those sections. There appears to me to be little ground for the contentions of the honorable member, so far as they apply to section 30j. This section conies into operation only when the Governor-General has made a proclamation declaring that a serious industrial disturbance of a certain description exists. That is, the section operates only when the Government of the day has determined that it is wise to put the section into operation. Obviously it must then be the intention that the AttorneyGeneral shall act in pursuance of the section ; there could be no other reason for making the proclamation. I regard section 30j as an emergency section, designed for the purpose of dealing with a national emergency, and one not to be utilized in ordinary circumstances. Only when a very serious state of affairs prevails would any government accept the responsibility of making a proclamation to bring this section into operation. The section, when it applies, is far-reaching. It makes it an offenceto incite to or to urge, or to encourage to take part in a strike or lockout, and prescribes a penalty of one year’s imprisonment upon conviction, with the liability of persons not born in Australia to deportation. We have removed from the Arbitration Act penalties on strikes and lockouts. In section 30j of the Crimes Act, there remains a penalty of a very serious nature on strikes and lockouts in certain circumstances. The safeguard is that the Government of the day must accept the responsibilityof making a proclamation for bringing these admittedly drastic sections of the act into administration. Seeing, therefore, that the section is to be brought into operation only in times of national crisis or emergency, it is proper that the AttorneyGeneral alone should have power to institute proceedings, and should accept responsibility for so doing.
The same consideration applies, perhaps not so strongly, to section 30k, which prescribes serious penalties against persons who obstruct or hinder the performances of certain services. It must be remembered, however, that the ordinary law of the State provides for the protection of persons and property, and that, in ordinary circumstances, those provisions are sufficient to deal with anythink likely to arise. Section 30k would apply only if there were a hold-up, such as action preventing the delivery of mails, or an interference with the performance by the Public Service of its proper functions, or with interstate or overseas trade. Therefore, this section also is designed to meet an emergency. I believe that in ordinary cases of violence and interference with persons or property, it is wiser to leave the matter in the hands of the State authorities. This legislation should not be regarded as something to be invoked from day to day at the will or determination of private persons; it should be put into operation only when the Government is prepared to take the responsibility of prosecuting in accordance with its terms. Some of the matters to which section 30k relates might, perhaps, safely be left for a private prosecutor to deal with, but it is difficult to draw distinctions. Take, for instance, a widespread disturbance interfering with the distribution of mails. Surely it is the responsibility of the government of the day to take action in such a case. I find it difficult to believe that any private person would be prevented from doing anything which it would be in the interests of the community to be done. There is a particular responsibility involved in putting this legislation into operation, and for that reason the measure was introduced without any invitation, pressure, or solicitation from outside, or even within the Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Mark) proposed -
That consideration of orders of the day Nos. 7 and 8 be postponed until after consideration of order of the day No. 9 (Nauru Island Agreement Bill).
Mr. beasley (West Sydney) [8.28]. - I protest against the discourteous action of the Minister in proposing to alter the order of businesswithout having given honorable members any previous intimation of his intention to do so. I have no doubt that his decision was made earlier in the day, and had he acquainted honorable members then, they would have had an opportunity of examining the Nauru Island Agreement Bill, and of looking up the debates which took place in the Senate when the measure was before that chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I assure the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) who complained just now of discourtesy on my part because I had not informed him of the proposed alteration in the order of business, that I had no intention of being impolite. The motion to change the order of business was necessary, otherwise honorable members would have been obliged to enter upon a discussion of the tariff, which, at the present juncture, is not desired. The honorable member must be aware that the ratification of the agreement made between the Governments of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and New Zealand is long overdue ; it has been on the business paper since 1925.
– Then it is of no particular importance.
– As the honorable member was, at one time, administering the territories which are now under my authority, I have no doubt that he is aware of the agreement that awaits ratification by this Parliament.
In 1919, the Governments of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Dominion of New Zealand, entered into an arrangement providing for the exercise of the mandate granted by the League of Nations for the administration of the Island of Nauru, which, as every honorable member knows, contains huge deposits of phosphate of great value. This arrangement received the approval of the Parliament of the Commonwealth in the Nauru Island Agreement Act 1919. That statute provided that the Administrator should be appointed by the Commonwealth Government for a period of five years, and thai subsequent appointments to that office should be made by the three governments concerned. Authority was granted to the Administrator to make such ordinances as were necessary for the good government of the island, subject to, and in accordance with, the provisions of the mandate agreement. In 1921, discussions took place in Great Britain between the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and the
Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand, as a result of which is was deemed advisable that more explicit provision should be made for the exercise of the Administrator’s power. Eventually, after further discussion and correspondence, a supplementary agreement was completed in May, 1923.
The bill providing for the parliamentary approval of this further agreement was passed by the Senate in 1924, and was read a first time in this House on the 8 th May of the same year, but not having been dealt with prior to the prorogation of Parliament in 1925, it lapsed, and evidently the necessity of again submitting the measure to Parliament was overlooked. The purpose of the present bill is to make good that omission. The supplementary agreement makes the following provisions : -
It will be seen that the agreement provides certain safeguards which do not appear in the original agreement, and gives to the Government responsible greater control of the Administrator in legislative and administrative matters. The supplementary agreement does not affect those parts of the 1919 agreement relating to the working of the deposits of phosphates.
– Has the agreement been in operation all this time?
– Yes. If honorable members will study the agreement, they will see that the alterations made are to the advantage of the inhabitants of Nauru. The phosphate deposits are being worked by the Pacific Phosphates Commission, the directors of which are appointed by the Governments of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and New Zealand. In 1900 the native population of the island was approximately 1,500^ but, as the result of various epidemics, it gradually diminished, and in 1921, when mandatory control commenced, it was 1,084. Since then it has increased steadily, and is now about 1,500 again. The health of the Nauruans is the first consideration of the Commonwealth. The excellent manner in which the mandate is being administered has been favorably commented upon during the present sitting of the Mandates Commission, following a report submitted by Sir Donald Cameron on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
The royalty in respect of the working of the phosphate deposits is paid into a trust fund, which is administered by a council of fourteen chiefs, who speak the English language fluently and are really well educated men. The amount to the credit of the trust fund is now approximately £20,000.
Recently the Nauruans completed the erection of a public hall, the official opening of -which will take place on the 32th December. Early in the present month the Anam celebrations were held to mark the increase of population to the number recorded in 1900. On that occasion the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Commonwealth, sent the native chiefs a cable of congratulation on the advancement that had been made since the mandate was accepted, and within the last 24 hours he received the following reply :-
Ana,ii commemoration celebrations took place 8th November. In connexion therewith the Council of Chiefs on behalf of the whole of the Nauruan community desire me to convey to the Australian Government expression of sincere gratitude for the continued and devoted care of the native inhabitants since the introduction of mandatory control, without which care the restoration of the native population could not have been accomplished.
This message I submit is a welldeserved tribute from the native chiefs to the Commonwealth of Australia for the great care which it has exercised in safeguarding the interests of the natives.
– The confession just made by the Minister (Mr. Marr) discloses a remarkable oversight on the part of this and preceding Governments. It is extraordinary that the ratification of the agreement made between the Governments of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and New Zealand in relation to the Island of Nauru should have been so long delayed. I am also surprised that the League of Nations has not asked for an explanation of the reasons for the delay in ratifying the agreement. In the schedule to the bill, which is really the agreement, I can find no provision to which exception can be taken, but I should like to know which Government will hold the Administrator responsible for ordinances to be made, and also whether such ordinances will be laid on the table of the respective Houses of Parliament so that the Parliaments concerned may have an opportunity to review the administration. As this Parliament is responsible to the League of Nations for the good government and welfare of the Nauruans, I should like information on the point which I have raised. On behalf of the Opposition in this House, I express the earnest hope that the Nauruans will continue to enjoy to the fullest extent all the privileges which can be extended to them under this agreement, and that happiness and contentment will be their portion under the mandate.
.- I offer no . opposition to the bill, but I must say that it is rather a shock to our sense of importance as legislators to realize that everything has gone along, apparently quite well, for about thirteen years without the ratification of this agreement. It is gratifying to learn that not only the Mandates Commission, but the natives themselves, give us credit for having administered our mandate in a proper way.
– I think that the Minister has not given us all the facts which account for the long delay in ratifying this agreement. The honorable gentleman implied that this delay was the fault of the last Government, and its predecessor. It is difficult for me to remember in detail every matter coming under my notice since I became a member, or even everything that happened while I was a Minister, but I recall that there was some dispute in connexion with the payment of commission or royalty on phosphates. A controversy arose over the matter, and I think the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), when he- visited Great Britain as Prime Minister, was asked to adjudicate upon it. It was an involved business, but the Government of which I was a member was inclined to the belief that important interests on the other side of the world were not pla Lng the game, and were asking for more than was due to them.
– Does that concern thi3 agreement ?
– It was a cause of the delay in the ratification of the agreement. Ac laxity can be attributed to the Government of which I was a member.
– There was a long drawn-out dispute. The representatives of Now Zealand and Australia took j very different view from that of the representatives of Great Britain as to the amount of commission that should be paid to the representatives of the British companies.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition for refreshing my memory. I know that the Australian Government was called upon to pay a substantial sum in excess of what was really due.
As to the natives, it is all very well to talk about the very careful way in which our mandate has been exercised, and to a degree what has been said is true. But my experience does not bear out exactly what the Minister has endeavoured to convey to the House. While I was Minister, I had occasion to handle a rather awkward situation that arose among the natives. As the Minister said, the Nauruans are relatively well educated and competent. That being so, they have the right to select their own chiefs, but such a view was not held by the present Administrator. Newman, the Administrator, had his own ideas on the subject, and, against the wish of others, sought to impose one Detudamo as head of the council of chiefs. Consequently, a serious situation arose. The Ad ministrator, adopting a well-known practice, indicated that unrest had arisen among the natives because of European influence - a common method of trying to hide incompetency and throwing responsibility on somebody else. Because they would not fall into line with him, Newman desired to depose all the other chiefs. Though without full knowledge of the circumstances at that stage, I felt that that was not the proper action to take, and, for the purpose of making full inquiries, I arranged that Newman should go on leave for a few months, his place being taken by an acting administrator. The result of that inquiry was such that, had I remained a member of the Scullin Government, Newman would not have returned to the island as administrator. Consequent upon this change, I obtained sufficient information to know that the island would be under better administration if Newman were not there. However, circumstances altered, and he returned to his old position. That is why I believe that the case as presented by the Minister- is lacking in detail. I admit that it is difficult for the honorable gentleman to obtain a comprehensive knowledge of the condition;;, for Newman is in a position to allow only such information as he desires to reach Australia. He would be able to detect any person who was endeavouring to send a statement of the facts to this country, and, of course, would victimize such an individual. The community is so small that he is master of the situation. Since that time, I have never been satisfied that the position at Nauru is satisfactory. ‘
In order to facilitate the supply of phosphates to Australia, and to prevent vessels from being detained by adverse weather conditions, a large gantry was installed at Nauru. I would like to know whether the innovation has proved successful, and whether the island is now able to supply the whole of Australia’s phosphatic requirements.
Prior to this agreement being made, no change in administration could be made without considerable delay, because of the need to obtain the endorsement of the New Zealand and British authorities. Will the process of circumlocution which previously existed now be obviated? I know that, although no objection was raised to the person whom the Scullin Government nominated as acting Administrator, a couple of months elapsed before the necessary endorsement was obtained from the other parties to the mandate.
As the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has said, the provisions contained in the agreement set out in the schedule are purely of a formal description, such as are customary in these matters.
– This agreement was prepared and signed on behalf of the governments concerned on the 30th day of May, 1923. It has not since been altered. Any difference of opinion as to the commission on phosphates is not relevant for the agreement gives the Administrator power to make ordinances on behalf of the three governments. Those ordinances must be presented to the Parliaments concerned, and, as promulgated, they have been tabled in this chamber. Although honorable members have had the right to discuss them, not one has been questioned.
As other matters have been raised, I shall take the opportunity to reply to them. Regarding the training of natives, the Nauruans are certainly more advanced than are the natives of New Guinea and Papua. So much so, that there are three Nauruans at present completing their medical courses at the Melbourne University. Educational progress is slower in New Guinea and Papua because the natives there are more backward, but the Government has under consideration a scheme to place selected natives from those territories under intensive instructional courses.
I was not a member of the Government of that day, so am unable to speak authoritatively on the subject raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) regarding the trouble which he related in connexion with the appointment of a chief, but I do not doubt the honorable member when he says that the situation was serious. As I have intimated, such matters are outside the scope of this agreement, which merely concerns administrationto secure the peace, order, and good government of Nauru. The phosphate deposits of the island are exploited by the Phosphate Commission, on which there are three directors, one representing Great Britain, one Australia, and one New Zealand. They sanction all contracts. The Administrator merely sees that any contracts made are fair to the Nauruans themselves. The Nauruans have expressed pleasure at the fairness of the treatment that they have received in the working of the phosphate deposits.
The honorable member for West Sydney referred to the gantrys that were installed. The cost of their installation was borne, not by Australia but by the British Phosphate Commission. These have been of untold value, because, previously, vessels could not draw alongside either Nauru or Ocean Island when the weather was bad, whereas now they may load in practically all kinds of weather.
Recently the three governments affected were obliged to agree to a slight alteration being made in the cost of the phosphates purchased by each of them. The British Government wished to have an allowance made for exchange, so that it could obtain its requirements at a cheaper rate. It may interest honorable members to learn that the purchase price of these deposits had to be found by the Australian Government to the extent of 42 per cent., by the British Government to the extent of 42 per cent., and by the New Zealand Government to the extent of 16 per cent., and that they have been entitled to share in the output in those proportions, but each year Australia has had between 70 per cent. and 80 per cent. of the quantity produced.
– The other contracting parties have not wanted it.
– New Zealand has taken a little more than its share, but Great Britain has not exercised its right because the British farmer is able to purchase phosphates elsewhere at a much cheaper rate than is charged for the Nauru and Ocean Island product.
The term of the present Administrator expires on the 31st December next, and a new appointment must be made, after consultation, by the three governments concerned. Both the British and the New Zealand Governments, however, have cabled an acceptance of the proposal of this Government to appoint an Australian administrator for a further five years, but have recommended that the appointee be of a certain type and not above the age of 45 years, so that there may be greater continuity in administration according to a set plan. The Commonwealth Government is considering the appointment of the Administrator who will commence duty on the 1st January next. A selection has not yet been made because, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) says, the matter needs the most careful consideration. It is necessary to have a man of the utmost tact and ability, and One who will properly advance the interests of the natives. 1 commend the bill to honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- The Minister did not reply to my question as to whether ordinances that are made by the Administrator and submitted to the Government for ratification will be laid on the table of this Parliament. Another point that should be cleared up is whether the legality is guaranteed of ordinances that have already been made in the absence of an agreement empowering their making.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) referred to the peculiarity of this agreement having operated for thirteen years without ratification. This is only an amendment of an agreement that was actually signed in 1919. It was made in 1923, and the ratifying bill was passed by the Senate in 1924.
I inform the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) that the ordinances that have been made to date have been tabled, and that a similar practice will be followed with all ordinances made in the future.
– What is the present price charged for superphosphate rock delivered in Australia, and what price was charged five or six years ago?
– The present price is 24s. 6d. a ton. Three years ago the price was 26s. a ton.
Bill agreed to, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 4 -
After section eleven of the Principal Act the following headings and sections are inserted: -
– (1.) There shall be a Legislative Council for the Territory. (2.) The Legislative Council shall consist of -
seven non-official members who shall be nominated by the Administrator and appointed by the GovernorGeneral. (3.) Three of the non-official members of the Legislative Council shall be nominated as representing the interests of the planting industry, two as representing the interests of the mining industry, and two as representing commercial interests.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out sub-section (3.) of proposed section 19.
. -I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
The object is to leave the Administrator and the Governor-General with a wider choice in the selection of the non-official members of the legislative council. This proposal was advanced in this chamber by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), but at the moment the Government could not see its way to accept it. Subsequently, however, and upon further consideration, the Government agreed to the deletion of the subsection in the Senate. It now seeks the approval of honorable members in this chamber.
.- When non-official persons are asked to assist in the government or the administration of the territory, even though it be only in an advisory capacity, it is undesirable that those whose acts are likely to be reviewed should make the selection. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the Administrator and the Government will be prepared to ascertain from the various non-official interests in the territory the identity of those persons who are most acceptable to them. I recognize, of course, the difficulty of obtaining, in the absence of an elective system, anything like unanimity as to who should represent the different interests. Still, I gravely doubt the wisdom of giving to the Administrator the power to recommend, not only the official but also the non-official members of the legislative council. He will have the unfettered selection of the body that is to exercise an oversight of his administration. I cannot see that any satisfaction will be given to non-official interests in the Mandated Territory, because they will have little or no voice in the selection of their representatives. Unless the Minister can assure the committee that the planting interests, the mining interests, the commercial interests, the working community, the. missions, and all others associated with the civil life of the Mandated Territory, will be effectively consulted in regard to representation, the situationcannot be regarded as at all satisfactory. A farcical procedure is being adopted, and I await with interest any explanation that the Minister may have to offer concerning this allimportant aspect.
– I am particularly pleased that this amendment has been made. Under the bill as it left this chamber, the Administrator had the power to appoint persons as representatives of different interests. That is entirely different from the selection of such representatives by the interests themselves. I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), that until there can be thorough representation of all interests the Administrator should not have the power indiscriminately to appoint the representatives of any particular group. I feel that wider scope should be allowed the Administrator than was given in the original measure. He will probably be able to exercise greater authority in the direction of securing the representation of interests that could not have been consulted under the measure as originally drafted, and thus ensure a more representative legislative council.
– I cannot see that, under the bill as amended, the Administrator will have wider scope. There certainly will be less restriction on his power to appoint whom he likes. Frankly, I consider this bill the greatest joke that has ever been perpetrated in the Commonwealth Parliament. Some of my honorable friends opposite will blush with shame if, when discussing before their constituents the cost of government in Australia, they are asked to justify the time spent upon it by such a costly institution as this Parliament.
– Does not the honorable member consider that the appointment of representatives of specific interests would make the representation more narrow than would be the case if the representation were general?
– It depends on the Administrator, who will have the deciding voice in everything. Even if subsection 3 of the proposed new section 19 were retained, he could select the nonofficial members from his own office. We, on this side, consider that provision should have been made for the direct representation of the workers. A considerable number of men are employed in the territory on public works and in mining operations.
– The Senate’s amendment would make their representation possible.
– There is no guarantee in that direction. The inference one must draw from the bill as it left this chamber is that the Government never intended to have the workers represented on the legislative council. After all, the Administrator, probably, was consulted in regard to the framing of the bill, and desired that a certain course should be followed in regard to the representation to be granted. The Government, no doubt, had no intention of adopting the course which the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) now suggests could be taken. The choice of representatives will be more restricted under the Senate’s amendment, for the Administrator will not be obliged to consider any of the interests specifically mentioned in subsection 3.
– He can still do everything he could do previously, and more besides. Therefore, the clause is less restrictive.
– It is difficult to decide that matter, seeing that the Administrator will have the deciding voice in everything. He will practically set up the legislative council, and he will decide what business shall be placed before it. When this body has made a decision he can exercise his power of veto. If honorable members view the matter calmly, they must realize that this measure is a complete farce. I do not know whether it is intended to give the League of Nations the impressionthat the Government has become extraordinarily democratic in carrying out its mandate. As the members of my party have already said, it would lave been far better to leave matters as they were before this bill was introduced, than to pretend to give a measure of selfgovernment to the residents of the Mandated Territory.
.-In reply to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), I fail to see that the scope for representation of the various interests in the territory has not been widened under the Senate’s amendment. The bill, as originally submitted, provided for the nomination of three non-official members of the legislative council to represent the planting industry, two to represent the interests of the mining industry, and two to represent commercial interests. There are other interests in the territory, and the Government came to the conclusion that, in the event of new industries springing up, these would have claim to representation. It is provided under the bill that special non-official members may be appointed to the legislative council when it is considered desirable to hear their views on matters under the consideration of the council, and the Government is of the opinion that the Senate’s amendment will enable the Government to give effect to the wishes expressed by honorable members during the debate on the bill in this chamber.
– But the Minister refused to grant our requests.
– I have already stated that at the time when the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) submitted a certain amendment, the Government did not feel disposed to accept it; but, on further consideration, it saw the wisdom of the honorable member’s proposal. Despite what the honorable member for West Sydney has said about the bill placing the Administrator in the position of a Mussolini, the honorable member must realize that the Administrator does not make the laws that apply to the Mandated Territory. The honorable member stated that the Administrator could appoint not only the official but also the non-official members of the legislative council. But I remind honorable members that the bill provides that the non-official members shall be “ nominated by the Administrator and appointed by the Governor-General.”
– But the Administrator makes recommendations in regard to appointments.
– Of course. It has been claimed that every organization in the territory should be consulted with regard to appointments, and I can promise the committee that no selection will be made until the Government has considered the claims of all interests in the territory. The honorable member for West Sydney remarked that this bill was a farce; but I remind him that for two years he was Minister for the Mandated Territory, and did not bring down a bill to provide for proper representation of the various interests on the advisory council.
– The Government with which I was associated preferred to leave matters as they were.
– I was a member of this chamber in . 1928, when a bill providing for the appointment of an advisory council for the Mandated Territory was brought down. The planting interests made representations to the present Government, and asked for the appointment of a council in which they would have the right to discuss matters affecting the welfare of the territory. Under the Senate’s amendment, the Government will have wider scope than under the original provision in the selection of the nonofficial members of the legislative body.
– We shall watch the Government’s action in this matter.
– The Government is prepared to consult all interests in the territory, including organizations of workers, with a view to seeing if representation can be granted to them. The Government’s sole desire is that all interests shall be fairly represented.
.- I fail to see that the Senate’s amendment will improve the bill. The root objection that the members of my party have to it is that, as the Minister practically admits, the Administrator will be a dictator. The fact that the Government now considers it necessary to provide legislative machinery for the territory seems to indicate that the one-man system of government has failed.
– The honorable member must not travel beyond the scope of the amendment.
– In the first place, the Administrator is given power to nominate eight of the nine members of the executive council, and the legislative council is to include seven non-official members nominated by him. The fact that the Administrator was to be given the right to nominate the seven nonofficial members as representing specific interests did not guarantee that, in fact, those interests would be represented, or that they would be represented by persons approved by them. Consequently the justification for the bill depended, in the first place, largely on the promise of the Minister that the Government, before endorsing the nominations of the Administrator, would see that the various interests were adequately represented. It was pointed out to the Government that it would be possible to consult the mining, planting, and commercial interests, and to allow them to nominate their own representatives. The Minister then said that it would be impossible to get those interests together; but I understand that there are associations in the territory representing practically the whole of the planting interests, and the other commercial interests. If it were necessary to take a ballot to enable the various interests to nominate their representatives, that could be done by post. The committee previously appeared to be satisfied with the Minister’s assurance that the Government would take care that the persons nominated did, in fact, represent the interests mentioned. But if the Senate’s amendment is agreed to, there will be no provision left in the bill to guarantee that those or any other interests will be represented. The Administrator will have much wider power under the amendment than under the measure as it left this chamber. The Minister will be guided by the Administrator, who, if he is to be empowered to select a pack of his own friends as non-official members of the council, may as well be set up as a dictator forthwith. Why not sweep aside this farce? The Administrator will have power to nominate the members of both the executive council and the legislative council. He will be able to veto their decisions and dismiss them at will. From my point of view, the amendment of the Senate makes the powers of the Administrator more objectionable than before, because there is no restriction whatever upon him. If the Administrator nominates seven non-official members of the legislative council, and they are objected to, by whom will the Minister be guided? He will have toaccept the advice of the Administrator, who is hundreds of miles from the Seat of Government. The Minister will ultimately have to accept the word of some persons as to the adequacy of the representation of various interests in New Guinea. If a difference of opinion arises, on whose word, in the last analysis, is he likely to rely - that of the Administrator or that of some disgruntled individuals who feel that the interests for which they stand are not being represented properly ? In one respect honorable members were misled when this measure was previously under consideration, for they were told that it would not be possible to consult the various interests. But I put it to the Minister that communications could be sent by post to all the residents of the Mandated Territory, inviting them to express their views in a postal ballot. If this amendment is agreed to, even the assurance that we previously had that at least certain interests would be represented will be taken from us, and the Administrator will have practically a free hand in selecting the members of both the executive council and the legis lative council. That being so, I suggest that we should sweep the whole bill aside. Of what use is it to create a machine and then give the Administrator complete power to control it and to destroy any work that it does ? We might just as well allow the dictatorship of recent years to continue.
.- I cannot understand the reasoning of some of the honorable members who have opposed the acceptance of this amendment. Some of them have complained that certain interests will not be represented ; yet when a move is made to delete a provision which restricts representation to mining, commercial, and planting interests, and so make it possible for other interests to be represented, they oppose it. The bill will be less objectionable to me with this provision deleted than with it retained. If the provision be deleted half a dozen interests may be represented, whereas if it is retained only mining, commercial and planting interests can be represented.
.- The confusion of mind to which the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has confessed shows that he has not properly appreciated the point we have been making. It is possible that even if this clause is deleted the representation will be even more restricted than with the clause in.
– One can easily see how the deletion of the clause could restrict the representation, but it is also easy to see how it could expand it.
– The honorable member for Gippsland has made it unnecessary for me to say any more on the subject. His interjection has entirely justified the opposition of honorable members of this party to the deletion of the clause.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
– I move -
That the House at its rising adjourn until to-morrow at 3 p.m.
When the House meets to-morrow, the Government desires to introduce the bill to provide the financial relief which I forecast in my statement a few days ago, and we should like to proceed immediately with the discussion of it. Every effort is being made to place the bill in the hands of honorable members as early as possible in the morning, so that they may acquaint themselves with its provisions before the House meets. We hope that this will make unnecessary an adjournment after the introductory secondreading speech has been delivered. This will prevent loss of time. If it is discovered while the debate is in progress than an adjournment is necessary, the Government will be agreeable to it. Honorable members have made such good progress with the business that the only subjects remaining for discussion, apart from the tariff, are disarmament and reparations, and it is not proposed at this stage to ask that these be dealt with.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) should have given honorable members more information about its financial relief proposals. From statements which have appeared in the press - which is the only information I have - I gather that the proposals of the Government to grant relief to farmers and to correct anomalies in our pensions legislation will be embodied in one comprehensive bill.
– That is so.
– In that event, it must be apparent that the bill will be bo’th important and far-reaching. In order properly to discuss it, we shall need to refer to the Financial Emergency Acts of both last year and this year, and also to our Old-age and Invalid Pensions Acts. On the one subject of invalid and old-age pensions, there is ample scope for a considerable debate. We do not even yet know what anomalies the Government proposes to rectify. It is necessary, therefore, that we should have time to consider them. Unless proper time is given to the consideration of this bill, errors which have occurred recently through the action of the Government in compelling us hastily to pass legislation of this kind may be repeated. If we had had sufficient time to consider the Financial Emergency Bill that was introduced a few weeks ago, many of the anomalies which have caused considerable mental anguish and actual physical suffering to our old-age and invalid pensioners could have been avoided. It cannot be denied that that bill broke new ground, and introduced an entirely new method of procedure in our pensions practice. I do not think it is fair of the Government, in these circumstances, to ask us to proceed with the discussion of the bill to be introduced to-morrow immediately after the second-reading speech has , been made. I appeal to the Prime Minister to give us an opportunity to consider the measure carefully and without haste so that we may express an intelligent opinion upon it. It might be possible to discuss the proposal for the relief of farmers, for that is a fairly straight-forward subject, but there are many difficulties associated with any amendment of our pensions law.
– When honorable members see the bill to be introduced to-morrow, they will realize that it is essentially a measure for consideration in committee, and I think that they will agree that there will be very little difficulty in proceeding with the secondreading debate on it. The bill will provide for relief along the lines mentioned by me in my statement of a few days ago, and is thus very suitable for detailed consideration in committee.
– But does the Prime Minister propose to apply the guillotine to the discussion ?
– I guarantee that that will not be done,. The Government is asking honorable members to proceed with the second-reading debate to-morrow, because it believes that it will meet their convenience to do so. We shall offer no objection to an adjournment of the secondreading debate if that seems to be necessary. Honorable members may rest assured that there will be no curtailment of time in considering this bill at the committee stage. Every opportunity will be afforded for the fullest consideration of all aspects of the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr. Park hill) to investigate an apparent injustice that is being done to telegraphists in South Australia who have given long and faithful service to the State and the Commonwealth. I understand that telegraphists employed in the General Post Office, Adelaide, and possibly in other parts of South Australia, are being prematurely retired. Unsually when permanent officers of the Postal Department become redundant, an effort is made to place them in other branches in which their services can be utilized. The one exception to this rule is the telegraph operating room. Men who were in the Service prior to federation are. being retired at the ages of 60, 62, and 63 years. Formerly they had every right to expect that they would remain in the Service until they reached 65 years of age, and they are contributing to the superannuation fund on that basis. They have also taken out insurance policies to mature at that age. Their compulsory premature retirement will impose serious disabilities upon them, because their superannuation benefit will be reduced, and they may lose their insurance policies through inability to continue payment of the premiums from their diminished incomes. If these men were redundant and no other work could be found for them, the department might have been able to justify its action, but I am informed that the service in the telegraph operating room at the Adelaide General Post Office is not efficient, and that the Senior Assistant Superintendent of Telegraphs is doing dual duty as supervisor and telegraphist. It is not fair that this man should be employed on two distinct duties, thus depriving at least one man of a job. I am told also that the time actually worked by this officer is different from that recorded in the time book, and I ask the Minister to investigate that charge. I bring these complaints before the Minister only because they come to me from a responsible source. Here are some specific facts which I ask him to investigate : - On the 29th August, from 4 p.m. to 4.45 p.m., a messenger was on operating duty although five operating positions were vacant. At 4.50 p.m., the supervisor was working the Quorn circuit. At 5.15 p.m., eight positions were vacant. On the 30th August, ten positions were vacant; from 4.10 to 6.10 p.m., a messenger was on operating duty ; at 4.20 p.m., six positions were vacant, and one lad from circulation was operating. At 4.30 p.m., eight positions were vacant, and at 5.20 p.m., there were no men on the Port Pirie, Quorn, Port Adelaide, Yorketown, Murat Bay, and Bordertown circuits. At 5.50 p.m. there were still eight vacant positions. On the 1st September, the office was in a similar state of disorganization, and the assistant superintendent and four lads from circulation were on operating duty. At 6.30 p.m., the operator had to vacate the Perth circuit, which then became unattended, to clear traffic on the Port Adelaide and Port Darwin circuits. While one man is doing double duty, and messengers are doing operating work, men with experience and accrued rights are being dismissed from the Service. I shall let the Minister have a detailed statement of these complaints, in the hope that he will thoroughly investigate them. If a senior official, through overzeal, has declared men redundant who are not really so, their service should be continued in order to restore efficiency in the department, and at the same time, preserve to them their rights. I remind the PostmasterGeneral again that the officers concerned have served long and well both the State and the Commonwealth, and they might well be retained to supplement an apparently inadequate staff that is called upon to undertake responsible and highly skilled work.
Henley Beach is one of the principal seaside resorts in South Australia and the surrounding district is well populated. The suburb has a full-time post office, but during the luncheon hour, when many residents would like to make use of the postal and telegraphic facilities, the office is closed. I doubt if such an absurd state of affairs could be found in any other seaside resort of equal importance. The discontinuance of the service in the middle of the day has caused great dissatisfaction among the residents. I have represented to the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in South Australia the desirability of keeping the office open during the luncheon hour, but he has not seen fit to accede to my request. I, therefore, ask the Postmaster-General to call for a report on the matter and, if possible, to arrange for the office to be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
.- I take this opportunity to make another endeavour to obtain a statement from the Government regarding its intentions towards the banana industry. I asked several questions on the subject within the last week, but so far Ministers have shown remarkable ingenuity in withholding the information I seek. My questions had their origin in a statement made in Queensland by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis), and I have persisted in my inquiries, not with a desire to embarrass the honorable gentleman, but solely in order to get definite information on a matter of Government policy. In the Brisbane Courier of the 10th November, this item of news appeared -
Tariff Proceeds to Aid the Growers.
A tentative decision has been made by the Federal Government to devote to the Australian banana industry the entire proceeds of the revenue from the Fijian banana tariff. An official estimate is that from this source not less than £5,000 will be received annually.
It is the intention of the Cabinet to use this money each year in helping the banana-growers of Queensland and New South Wales to obtain better marketing conditions in Australia. Particular regard will be given to the task of helping to sell more Australian bananas in Western Australia which now imports a considerable quantity from other countries. The Government realizes that the comparatively small sum of £5,000 will not enable very extensive assistance to the banana industry, but it feels that the money should be used in this manner, because it was through the concessions granted by the banana industry that important concessions were conceded by Britain when the Ottawa agreement was in the making.
On the following day, the Brisbane Courier published the following paragraph : -
That there was no question of the 40,000 centals of Fiji bananas to be admitted to Australia annually under the Ottawa agreement being increased so that the market would be flooded, was stated by Mr. Josiah Francis, at the Queensland Preference League’s exhibition, last night. Mr. Francis said that Mr. Bruce had been communicated with in London, and, as a result, the Governor of Fiji had given his assurance that the quota would not be exceeded. This placed the matter beyond doubt.
Mr. Francis confirmed the statement, published in the Courier of yesterday, that the
Federal Government had made a tentative decision to use the whole of the revenue from duties on Fiji bananas to help the Australian banana industry.
The same journal of the 14th November contained a long statement occupying nearly two columns, under the heading “ Mr. Francis explains his stand and i t deals with a speech made by the Assistant Minister for Defence to a gathering of banana-growers at Burleigh on the 12th November. It reports the Assistant Minister as follows: -
Ho had secured the whole of the duty on Fijian bananas to help the banana growers. He had called this meeting in order to discuss the best means of spending the £5,000 a year in their interests.
Later, in answer to questions put to him, the honorable gentleman said that he would ascertain if a part of the £5,000 annually could be used to secure better trucking facilities, access to roads and railways, and lower railway freights, and also if some Fijian bananas could be diverted to New Zealand. After reading those statements, and assuming them to be correct, it occurred to me that there might be some difficulty caused by the Constitution, and for that reason, I asked on the 16th November, the following question: -
Is the statement correct that the Commonwealth Government has decided to use the proceeds from ohe Fijian ‘banana tariff, estimated at £5,000, to assist banana-growers of Queensland a.nd New South Wales to obtain better marketing conditions in Australia?
If so, has the Government obtained legal advise as to whether the proposal is constitutional?
The. Attorney-General avoided that question, and replied -
Any proposal of this nature would require legislation, and before any such legislation is introduced the advice of the Crown Law authorities would be obtained.
Following upon that, I asked the right honorable the Prime Minister this question -
Has the Commonwealth Government considered using the proceeds from the Fijian banana tariff, estimated at £5,000, to assist banana-growers of Queensland and New South Wales to obtain better marketing conditions in Australia?
If so, what decision has been arrived at?
To-day I received the following reply: -
It is contrary to practice to make statements in relation to matters of policy in reply to questions.
The position is that a definite statement was made by a responsible Minister that the Government had decided to use . the proceeds from the Fijian banana tariff to assist the bananagrowers. Incidentally, I have heard unofficially, but on good authority, that the Government authorized the Assistant Minister for Defence to make that statement, and that after he returned to Canberra it refused to accept responsibility for it. In yesterday’s issue of the Melbourne Age under the heading of “ Queensland Notes “, the following paragraph appears: -
Mr. J. Francis, M.P., has come to Queensland with characteristic courage to face the angry planters who object to the admission of Fiji bananas. In his pocket he has the assurance that an import beyond 40,000 centals annually will not be permitted, and that the duty collected will be devoted to the improvement of the Australian banana industry. These are considered modifying if not mollifying circumstances, but the constitutional soundness of an invidious allotment of revenue has been questioned.
I based my questions on the assumption that the Government had decided to use the proceeds from the tariff on Fiji bananas in assisting the banana-growers of Australia, and in an endeavour to ascertain whether that would be an infringement of the Constitution. The Government has avoided those questions, and I now ask whether it intends to contradict the three statements published by the Brisbane Courier and another statement which appeared in the Melbourne Age, or whether it will give a definite statement in regard to the whole matter ?
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has referred to certain postal matters. He mentioned what is of course a serious position in regard to the employment of a section of postal workers in Adelaide. I assure him that there is no rule in the department regarding the retirement of employees at 60 years of age. Retirement is governed by the necessities of the service, the amount of work to be done, and the efficiency of the staff. The position at the Adelaide Post Office is much as the honorable member has described it. 1 cannot, at the moment, vouch for the accuracy of the details which he has supplied, but the question of employment at that post office was reviewed by the Public Service Board, which recommended certain reductions of the staff. The Director-General paid a special visit to Adelaide to ascertain whether the proposals of the board could be modified or postponed. The matter has already been investigated on two or three occasions, but no real alternative has, up to the present, been found. Every effort is being made to prevent any undue hardship from being placed upon the employees concerned. In a service like the post office, which employs a tremendous number of men, much time is naturally taken up in providing adequate and efficient staffing arrangements. I assure the House that I am prepared to make every endeavour to retain as many men in the service as practicable. Where possible, redundant officers in one department will be absorbed in other departments. Unfortunately, during the present prevailing conditions, there are in almost every department of the Public Service redundant officers waiting to be absorbed into active employment. I assure the honorable member for Hindmarsh that I shall further investigate this matter, and make every effort to obviate the imposition of any hardship.
The Henley Beach post office is probably an allowance post office.
– It is not.
– There may be, at that post office, some special conditions of employment which make it necessary for it to be closed for a couple of hours a day for postal business, although, of course, the telephonic and telegraphic services continue in operation. Nevertheless, I shall have inquiries made into that matter.
.- The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) has devoted both time aud energy to directing what he regards as embarrassing questions to the Government. If he had spent as much time and energy in fighting the battle of the banana-growers, he would have done only a little compared with what the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) has done for them. The honorable member has obtained all the advertisement that he is likely to get to-night. He thinks that he has submitted difficult questions, but now that they are about to be answered, he does not want to hear the answers. But he will get them. Since the time when the first communication came from Ottawa, notifying what had been done there, until now, the Assistant Minister for Defence has fought the case of the banana-growers ; but, because he was not in the position to come into the House and get an advertisement by asking a series of questions, his work did not receive - any publicity. He was content to work on behalf of the bananagrowers, and he is deserving of their gratitude. There is really nothing embarrassing in the honorable member’s questions.
– Then answer them.
– If the honorable member will exercise a little patience, he will get his answers; but they will not be the answers he desires. The representations of the banana-growers were considered by the Government which, in turn, made representations overseas in order to ascertain whether the Ottawa agreement could be amended without losing it altogether.4 When it was found that that could not be done, the Government decided that it would assist the industry in some other way; The banana-growers comprise the one section of the primary producers of Australia which; under the Ottawa agreement, is called upon to make a direct sacrifice in order that the primary producers generally may benefit, and, in the circumstances, I feel confident that those engaged in primary industries will agree that they are entitled to some consideration. The Government is prepared to give them some assistance, either directly from the revenue, or in some other way. As to the constitutionality of the Government’s proposed action, I replied to the honorable member that the matter would probably nee,d legislation, and that, therefore, the Crown Law authorities would be consulted. There was no need for him to ask the same questions day after day.
– If the right honorable gentleman had made the statement he has made to-night, I should have been satisfied.
– Isaid that the matter would be referred to the Crown Law authorities.
– My questions have not yet been answered satisfactorily.
– The honorable member for Oxleytook ten minutes to put his case, and he should now listen to the Prime Minister’s reply. He has been called to order on several occasions, and I hope that he will take heed of the warning.
– There is no doubt of the Government’s power to grant assistance to the banana-growers. Whether that assistance is provided out of revenue, orbyother means, is unimportant, so long as it is given.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.15p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. A balance of approximately £52,000 at present remains in the Trust Fund established with the appropriation of £100,000 for the repatriation of surplus coal-miners.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
– It is contrary to practice to make statements in relation to matters of policy, in reply to questions.
en asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
s.- On the 17th November, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I now desire to advise him as follows: - 1. (a) Thirty-six unemployed are registered for departmental work only, but requirements for some departmental work are drawn from the Unemployment Relief Register. (b) 617.
t. - On the 8th November, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now able to furnish the following replies : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 November 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19321122_reps_13_137/>.