13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G.H. Mackay) look the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Supply Bill (No. 1), 1934-1935.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference), 1934.
-I lay on the table-
International Labour Organization of the League ofNations - Seventeenth Conference, held at Geneva, June, 1933 -
Reports of the Australian Delegates.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill brought up by Mr. Latham (for Mr. Francis) and read a first time.
Bill brought up by Mr. White, and read a first time.
– Has the Minister for Commerce received from milletgrowers representations concerning the parlous state of the industry in which they are engaged.? Is he prepared to consider sympathetically proposals that they intend to bring forward through their organization ?
– I have not yet received representations along these lines, but in pursuance of the Government’s policy, shall be pleased to consider them sympathetically when they are made.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to announce what measures the Commonwealth Government proposes to take in co-operation with any other government - for example, that of the Dominion of New Zealand, or that of Fiji - with a view to curbing the activities of certain subsidized foreign vessels which en joy in their own waters privileges that are not allowed to Australian or British vessels ?
– The Government has at present under consideration the policy outlined quite recently in the British Parliament by the president of the Board of Trade, and expects to make an early announcement in regard to the matter.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received a report from the Commonwealth Grants Commission? If not,can. he inform theHouse when he expects to receive it and to make it public ?
– I have been informed by the chairman of the Commonwealth Grants Commission that he has little doubt that this report will be in the hands of the Government in time to enable it to be dealt with in connexion with the budget for this year.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether any instructions were issued to the Australian representative on the International Wheat Advisory Committee, Mr. F. L. MacDougall, relative to Australia’s attitude towards the demand of the Argentine for an increase of its export quota of wheat this year? If so, will the honorable gentleman advise the House of the nature of such instructions?
– The representative of the Commonwealth on the International Wheat Advisory Committee has, of course, received from time to time, instructions and directions from the Commonwealth Government. It is not considered appropriate to intimate at this juncture the nature of those instructions and directions.
– Arising out of a speech made in Melbourne last week by the Attorney-General, in which the right honorable gentleman criticized the quality and labelling of certain Australian exports, does the Minister for Commerce contemplate taking action to regulate such quality and labelling?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s request. For the moment, I am not sure just to what he referred.
– As it has been vaguely rumoured that we are perilously near a general election, will the Prime Minister state how soon the Government proposes to bring down the promised legislation to deal with the wheat industry ?
– I am unable to indicate the particular date upon which the matter will be submitted to Parliament, but a definite statement will be made as early as possible. -In regard to the matter to which the honorable member incidentally referred, I hope to make a statement later to-day.
– Is the Minister for Commerce aware that a great many wheat-growers in New South Wales have not yet received their share of the bounty in respect of last year’s wheat crop? Will he try to learn the cause of the inordinate delay, and if possible will he make representations to the Government of New South Wales urging it to expedite payments ?
– In the terms of the act passed by this Parliament, the money allocated by the Commonwealth for the assistance of the wheat-growers was to be handed to each State Government for distribution among the growers. No delay has taken place so far as the Commonwealth Treasury is concerned, payments having been promptly made when requests were received from the State Governments. I cannot suggest why there has been any delay in New South Wales or any other State.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state what is the position to date regarding the distribution of the sum of £125,000 allocated for the assistance of apple and pear growers throughout the Commonwealth? In view of the fact that this money was urgently required by growers to enable them to finance the export of the season’s crop, why has its distribution been delayed? What amount has actually been distributed up to date?
– Of the sum of £125,000 granted by the Commonwealth Government for the relief of the apple and pear growers throughout the Commonwealth, £86,000 has already been paid to the States. Fifty thousand pounds of that has gone to Tasmania, leaving £13,000 still to be paid to that State. Victoria has received £36,000, which represents her allocation in full. No claims have yet been received from the other States. The delay has been due to the difficulty experienced by the States in interpreting the wishes of .this Parliament respecting the qualifications of those entitled to receive the bounty.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the question of the export of stud sheep from Australia has been referred to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research? If so, has a report been obtained from that body, and will such report be made available ?
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has already been asked to place on the noticepaper a question relating to this matter. I may .inform the honorable member, however, that it was ^referred to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and a report has been received for perusal by Cabinet.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Customs been drawn to the fact that, at a recent meeting of the Federal Council of the Graziers Association, a resolution was passed expressing the opinion that the prohibition against the export of stud merino sheep from Australia should be extended to include Corriedale and other stud sheep which have the merino breed as a base? Will the Minister say what is the intention of the Government in regard to the matter?
– My attention has been drawn to the resolution, and the information sought by the honorable member will be supplied later by the Prime Minister in answer to a question, of which notice has been given.
– Is the Minister for Customs aware that, in the Adelaide Advertiser of Saturday last, it is stated that in some instances British almonds will be admitted free to Australia under the new tariff proposals ? Is the Minister aware that there are no such things as British almonds? If the report refers to almonds from Malta and Cyprus, will the Minister state what those countries have ever done for Australia that, for their benefit, we should injure our own almond-growers? Is the Minister aware that a considerable acreage inSouth Australia has recently been planted in almond trees because of the encouragement given to the industry by recent legislation ?
Mr.WHITE.- I have not read the Adelaide Advertiser recently. In regard to the second part of the honorable member’s question, the case made out by the newspapers is quite hypothetical. I am aware that the growing of almonds is an important industry in South Australia.
– Has the Government yet given consideration to the report submitted by the Postmaster-General regarding a deputation which waited upon him urging the repeal of the property clauses of the pensions act so that younger men may take the place in the coal-mines of elderly miners “who will not give up their work because the property qualifications of the pensions act would reduce the pensions they would otherwise be entitled to receive?
– The records of the deputation to which the honorable member refers have just reached me, and are under consideration at the present time. A reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
-Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the House what steps he proposes to take to protect the Chief Justice of Australia from attacks by the Sydney Morning Herald, which, in a recent article, compared him to “the Irishman at Levinsky’s wedding “. Will he also take steps to protect His Honour from the consequences of embarrassing propaganda by certain newspapers which have suggested that he should step down from his position in order to make way for the Commonwealth Attorney-General ?
– I have seen with very great regret discussions in several sections of the press on this subject. I regard them as entirely deplorable and completely out of place, and I can only hope that they will cease. It is impossible, however, for me totake steps to restrain such speculations regarding myself or other persons. I have suffered from them almost continuously since I have been a member of this Parliament.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether he is correctly reported to the effect that, at a public meeting during the Martin by-election campaign, he said that, within six days of a Labour victory at the ensuing elections, a rush of depositors for their money would have anticipated the new government, which, when it was ready to take over the banks, would find them already closed and empty, with business at a stand-still and the country full of workless men thrown out of their jobs by a financial earthquake, the like of which the country had never seen before? Was the Postmaster-General serious when he made a nonsensical statement of that kind?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must repeat the latter part of his question without the use of the offensive word “ nonsensical “.
– In deference to parliamentary procedure, I withdraw the word “ nonsensical “, and ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he was serious when he allowed his imagination to run riot in that manner?
– I regard the statement mentioned by the honorable member as a sane and sound view of what would occur in this country if the Labour party were returned to power pledged to the platform which has been announced by one of its principal spokesmen. It was a moderate statement of the serious consequences that would obviously fall upon Australia if cither branch of the Labour party came into office on its present platform.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether his statement was made in an endeavour to create a run on the smaller private trading banks in order to enhance the financial position and profits of the larger private trading banks ?
– My statement was in no sense made in the interests of the banks. It was made in the interests of the people of this country in order to direct their attention to the consequences that would follow the return of the Labour party to power while it adheres to its present platform.
Mr.Scullin. - Scaremongering !
Honorable members interjecting,
– I must insist on honorable members refraining from intervening in matters with which they are not presonally concerned. An honorable member is entitled to ask his question and a Minister is entitled to reply without interruption.
– I rise to a point of order respecting the call from the Chair-
– Order! The call from the Chair is entirely within the discretion of the Chair, and there is no point of order involved.
– When the High Commissioner for Australia in London visited this country he left adefinite impression on the minds of a number of people here, not only that he personally favoured the restriction of exports from Australia, but also that he was voicing an opinion expressed by the British Government. I ask the Minister for Commerce whether the Government has given consideration to the views attributed to Mr. Bruce, whether any pressure has been brought to bear upon it by the British Government with a view to the restriction of exports from Australia and whether this Government is in favour of such restriction ?
– The Prime Minister has in many public statements made it very clear to the people of this country that the Government is definitely opposed to the restriction of exports from Australia to Great Britain. There can be no doubt in the minds of those who have listened to the Prime Minister about the attitude of this Government.
– Will the Minister inform me whether the British Government has made representations to the Commonwealth Government in favour of the restriction of exports from Australia to Great Britain and, if so, whether the High Commissioner was a medium through which such representations were made?
– No official representations have been received by the Commonwealth Government in that connexion.
– At whose instigation did the High Commissioner, who is a public servant of Australia, visit New Zealand and discuss the restriction of exports with the New Zealand Government in camera, and on whose authority did that gentleman subsequently visit New York and Washington to discuss these matters in those places ?
– The arrangements made by Mr. Bruce to visit New Zealand and the United States of America on his return journey to London were made by himself and were calculated to benefit the whole Empire.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been drawn to certain regulations issued on the 6th June under the provisions of the Wheatgrowers Relief Act 1933, which prescribe the form to be used in making applications for relief under that measure ? Is it a fact that the closing date for such applications was fixed for April, 1934, a little over a month before the regulations were issued ?
– My attention has not been drawn to the regulations referred to, but I shall inquire into the subject and furnish the honorable member with a reply later.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform mie whether it is the intention of the Government to take action in connexion with the cotton industry based on the Tariff Board’s report before the next election ?
– The Government hopes to deal with some important Tariff Board reports before the election.
– Seeing that £4,000,000 has been made available for defence purposes will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence consider allocating available military clothing to the unemployed, many of whom took part in the last war and who are to-day without adequate clothing ?
– It is the policy of the Government to issue all surplus and worn military clothing to people in need through the State Governments in each State, as it becomes available.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform me when he expects the new broadcasting station at Grafton to be in full working order and broadcasting programmes ? I should also like to know when the ‘building of the new station to he located on the northern tablelands of New South Wales will be commenced ?
– The Government’s programme of making provision for seven additional broadcasting stations, including the station to which the honorable member has referred, is being proceeded with as rapidly as possible. Tenders have been let. and will be dealt with. shortly. The second part of the honorable member’s question is linder consideration with another group, in respect of which no definite step has been taken.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral able to supply any information as to the new regional station to be established in Western Australia, and can he state when it is likely to be in operation 1
– I can only repeat the information which I gave to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). The station in Western Australia belongs to the same group, and the work is being proceeded with as rapidly as possible; hut in both instances I shall obtain the approximate date when the stations will be in working order, and supply each honorable member with the information which he desires.
– Has the Pensions Department considered the advisability of supplying blankets to old-age pensioners during the winter months?
– That question has not been put forward or considered.
– As there is a possibility of an . election taking place next month or the following month, is it the policy of the Government to encourage the placing of questions upon the notice-paper, which entails some little trouble, or to allow questions to be asked without notice in the House? I ask that question in view of the fact that a great loss of time takes place with regard to questions without notice.
– The Government naturally prefers that questions should be placed. upon the notice-paper because the information can then be supplied more completely and concisely; but it does not wish to deprive honorable members of the privilege which has developed over a long period of years of asking questions without notice, so long as not too much time is taken, up in asking them. The Government is only too glad to supply whatever information it can.
– In view of the fact that it has been claimed by the Government that there have been liberal extensions under the Pensions Act-
– Order ! The honorable member must ask hi3 question without any preliminary observations?
– In that case it will be necessary for me to read the following letter, dated the 2nd July, 1934, from Mr. H. Theggie, the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions : -
With reference to your personal representations on behalf of Mrs. H. J. Jobling, of 52 Robert-street, Wallsend, I have to advise that the matter has been considered by the Assistant Commissioner of Pensions, Canberra, and in view of the circumstances of the beneficiary, Mr. J.R. Jobling, a grandson of the deceased pensioner, it has been decided to proceed with the claim for the refund of £42 from him.
As this man rendered good service to his old grandmother and assisted her in her declining years, and as the selling of the property will inflict a hardship upon him, will the Government give consideration to the waiving of this claim?
– If the honorable member will be good enough to acquaint me with the full facts I shall take up the matter and see if anything can be done in the circumstances.
– Is the Minister yet in a position to announce a definite date on which a poll will be taken under the Dairy Produce Act, which was recently passed?
– I am not yet in a position to announce a definite date for the poll. As over 100,000 constituents are affected, it is a work of some magnitude.
Appointment of Chairman
– Is it a fact that a Mr. Cleary has been appointed chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. How many candidates offered themselves for the position? Has Mr. Cleary had any previous experience in broadcasting? If not, what were his special qualifications?
– It is a fact that Mr. Cleary has been appointed chairman of the Broadcasting Commission. Quite a number of patriotic gentlemen offered their services in this regard. Although, so far as I know, Mr. Cleary has had no previous experience of broadcasting in its mechanical sense, nevertheless he is regarded by Cabinet, and I think by agreat many other people, as eminently suitable for a position of this kind, in view of his culture, business experience, and other qualifications.
– Had his politics anything to do with the appointment?
– His politics had nothing whatever to do with it. The only object of the Government was to obtain a thoroughly efficient and capable man to follow the ex-chairman.
Martin By-election - Ministerial Statement.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a statement which appeared in the press this morning to the effect that there is a possibility of withdrawing the writ for the Martin by-election? Has he yet had an opportunity to consult with the Governor-General as to the date of the general election?
– The question of the Martin by-election is one for Mr. Speaker to deal with.
– Has he been asked by the Government to cancel the writ?
– I ask the honorable member for Darling to withdraw that statement, and to apologize to the Chair for his most unworthy insinuation.
– If the remark is objectionable to you, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw it and apologize.
– I propose almost immediately to make a ministerial statement with regard to the date of the elections.
– Has your attention, Mr. Speaker, been drawn to a press statement as to the possibility of withdrawing the writ for the Martin by-election ; and, if so, have you any explanation to make with regard to it?
– I have seen in the newspapers the suggestion regarding the Martinby-election ; but there is before the Chair no official information which would tend to lead to such a consideration.
-When circumstances arise which cause you, Mr. Speaker, your predecessors or successors, to withdraw a writ for a by-election, from whom do you obtain your authority?
– I shall always be guided in matters of that kind by official intimations made in this House.
– by leave-I desire briefly to inform honorable members that I propose to wait upon His Excellency the Governor-General, and to advise him that the wish of this Government is that this Parliament should be dissolved in sufficient time to enable a general election to take place on the 15th September next.
Dr. Gilruth’s Report - Formal Motion for Adjournment
– I have received from the honorable member for the Northern Territory an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The unwarranted public condemnation of the Northern Territory by Dr.J. A. Gilruth “.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn..
My purpose in bringing this motion before the House is to draw attention to the unwarranted public condemnation of the Northern Territory by Dr. Gilruth. This gentleman is a servant of this Parliament, and is at present employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. So far as I am aware, he is a veterinary surgeon and has no knowledge of mining or agricultural matters. Yet for many years he has endeavoured, in the press and in other ways, to bring the Northern Territory into disrepute. He has condemned it lock, stock and barrel. In considering his attitude towards the territory there is no need for us to search for motives. We have only to remember the ignominious way in which he was thrown out of the territory as a result of his bad administration. The press is only too anxious to fasten upon statements made in regard to the Northern Territory by a man of Dr. Gilruth’s status. We see articles in the press headed -
“NOTHING FOR AGRICULTURIST IN N.T.”
DR. GILRUTH HITS OUT.
Strong condemnation of the agricultural prospects of the Northern Territory is expressed in a special report by Dr. J. A. Gilruth, former administrator and chief of the division of animal health.
The article is a rather long one and I propose to quote only a portion of it. It proceeds -
Northern Australia is a tropical country. Its soil is not fertile, and the rainfall is distinctly seasonal.
The only agricultural production possible is of tropical and sub-tropical crops.
In that it must compete with the other tropical areas of the world, where labour is very cheap and plentiful and particularly those parts where the soil is relatively richer or readily irrigable. “ Pests Abound “.
Pests of man, of beast, and of structures, abound.
I venture to say that the greatest pest ever introduced into the Northern Territory was Dr. Gilruth himself.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to moderate his language.
– I am endeavouring to justify my protest against this unwarranted attack on the Northern Territory. In doing so I submit I am entitled to use language that will describe the facts.
– The honorable member is not hampered in his criticism, but he must employ parliamentary language. I insist that he is not justified in describing in the language he has used a gentleman occupying the important position of Dr. Gilruth.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker.I was merely using the words of the article itself. The report continues -
The climate is healthy, and there is no evidence that it is at all deleterious to Europeans who are normally robust. Yet, on the whole, it is enervating , although at first stimulating in the dry season to the newcomer . . . Mining lias been attempted with and without Asiatic labour, and often with the aid of much public expenditure.
Half a century’s experience gives little hope of future prosperity for this industry.
In another newspaper report ‘ Dr. Gilruth is said to have stated that “ portions of certain isolated localities could he utilized for raising cattle for the meat works at Darwin, but there is no evidence that the areas suitable would be sufficient to maintain a continuous supply of fat cattle for the works, even if it were possible to conduct operations during the humid summer, which is extremely difficult “.
Another article contains a statement by Dr. Gilruth that “ cattle could not be fattened in the Northern Territory”. I think there is little need to emphasize the seriousness of the statements made by Dr. Gilruth, particularly when they receive such prominence in the press. In an article dealing with this matter published in the Herald of the 29th Juno, it was suggested that the Government should out the painter and leave the Northern Territory to work out its own destiny. I suggest that the territory would be much better off if it were severed from the control of the Commonwealth. Other newspapers such as The Star and The Age have taken a commonsense view-point of the irresponsible utterances of Dr. Gilruth, and I commend the articles published in those newspapers to the notice of honorable members. I desire to know from the Government who ordered this meat conference, and who were present at its sittings. Was it attended by the pastoralists of the Northern Territory, and were the experts who are now, and for the past nine months have been, investigating the territory, called into consultation? Who authorized the broadcasting of such scurrilous statements as those made by Dr. Gilruth, statements which the press were so eager to seize upon for purposes of propaganda? Too often, utterances of this kind are published indiscriminately in the press of Australia. I asked the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins.) whether the report of the committee investigating the possibilities of the North- eni Territory would be made public. The Minister said that he would allow me to see the report for my own information. I then informed him that if I were not permitted to quote from the report I had no desire to read it. It is significant that while reports of this description are held by the Minister and not made public, utterances similar to those made by Dr. Gilruth, by men biased against the Northern Territory, are permitted to be broadcast throughout the country. To me it seems to be part of a campaign to damn the territory. I ask the Minister if this man, who is &n officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, is permitted to make statements so damaging to the territory. While Dr. Gilruth was condemning the territory, Dr. Woolnough, who has been for many weeks investigating its mineral possibilities, submitted a report quite contrary to the declarations of Dr. Gilruth. Although Dr. Woolnough has been guarded in the language he has used, he has said that there are great possibilities in the Northern Territory; that it contains some very rich and some very “ spectacular “ mining propositions.- Dr. Woolnough is one who is competent; to judge. But Dr. Gilruth, who possesses no mining qualifications whatever, is given a sort of roving commission and is permitted to make a sweeping, condemnatory report concerning the whole of the activities of the Northern Territory. Immediate action by the Government is called for. Since when has Dr. Gilruth posed as a mining expert? So far as I know, he has no knowledge of mining. All that he knows about the subject is connected with the money that he and Judge Bevan, got out of a mining subsidy under rather shady conditions which are definitely disclosed in the report of an earlier royal commission that was held on the administration of the Northern Territory. I commend that report to honorable members; it will give them an idea of the calibre of this man who is slandering the territory that I have the honour to represent. Who was at the head of this industrial research committee which requested Dr. Gilruth to make these investigations? Were the instructions to report on mining and agriculture given the status of officialdom? If they were, Dr. Gilruth stands condemned with respect to his own activities in relation to veterinary science. 1 do not know what his value is on the scientific side, but I can say that pastoralists in the Northern Territory, looking at the matter from a practical point of view, would not take to him for treatment a sick goanna, let alone a horse or a cow. It is well known that when he introduced sheep into Mataranka he took them into the. long tropical grasses, where ‘no man with even a rudimentary knowledge of sheep would have taken them. He did that designedly, because he wanted to be able to say “ I have tried this experiment, and have failed “. In 1914 or 1915 he approached the then Minister for. Home Affairs (Mr. Hugh Mahon), with a view to purchasing the whole of the Northern Territory, on behalf of a private company, for something like £5,000,000. Ever since then lie has been belittling and maligning the Northern Territory in the interests of those whom he represents, with a view to dissuading people from, investing money in it. His activities will not stand the scrutiny of any one who cares to dig into his unenviable past. The reports of the royal commission give some idea of the type of man that he is. Justice demands that this menace q removed from his office, because of the offences he has committed. His audacity is exemplified in the statements he has made in contradiction of professional men such as Dr. Woolnough, Dr. Jensen, .and others. He has condemned the territory holus bolus at the very time when the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) is endeavouring to focus attention on it. He has committed an unpardonable offence against it. Only a year or two ago he published in a weekly journal a statement to the effect that, if the Government were to give him 10,000 square miles of that country free of rent and of taxation, and were to allow him to import Asiatic labour, he would not take it. He is paid a princely salary by this Government to destroy whatever possibilities there are of development in the Northern Territory. In the interests, not only of the Northern Territory, but also of Australia as a whole, I ask the Minister what action he intends to take against this man? _j
– With much of what the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has said, I am in agreement. I entirely dissent from the report made by Dr. Gilruth in regard to the possibilities of the Northern Territory. That view is shared by those who appointed him as a member of the tribunal which made the investigation. In the press throughout Australia this morning appears an article over the name of Senator McLachlan, the Minister responsible for the institution of this inquiry. If the honorable member had read that article, he would have found that Senator McLachlan is in total disagreement with what has been reported.
– Why was he made a member of the committee if he is incompetent ?
– I do not say that he is incompetent. He is employed as a veterinary officer by the Government. In the article to which I have referred, Senator McLachlan states -
If the published reports express the views of the committee, it acted on insufficient information and has apparently reached conclusions as regards North Australia which are not supported by a considerable volume of evidence in the possession of the Government and which is vouched for by practical men. The committee appeared to have travelled somewhat outside the ambit of its task. Particular attention appeared to have been given to North Australia, and a sweeping condemnation of all the northern parts of Australia was published to the world. From expert information at the disposal of the Government, as the result of inquiries by a wellknown expert in the country adjacent to Wyndham, quite different conclusions could be reached. The committee’s findings were also in conflict with the views of a very considerable body of practical pastoralists and cattleraisers, concerning the Barkly Tableland. lt was claimed that, given cheap transport and proper shipping facilities, steers could be profitably fattened on thu Tableland in sufficient numbers to maintain continuity of supplies during the dry season. Offers had also been made to supply steers from other accessible areas in sufficient quantity to bridge the gap during the wet season. These facts were being checked and would be the subject of most careful examination.
The development of the chilled meat trade was of vast importance to North Australia, and the general condemnation of this territory as published was regrettable. The fact remained that -those who had had a practical acquaintance with cattle-raising in part of this area were prepared to stake their assets in the development of the industry, should proper facilities be furnished for a speedy and economical outlet. Steers were being fattened on the Barkly Tableland and sent some hundreds of miles on the hoof to Aberdeen (Now South Wales) where they were agisted to restore their condition prior to treatment. It was only a few days ago that the purchase of 100 first-class bulls was made by one owner on the Barkly Tableland, providing another illustration of faith in the industry
I have road that merely to show that, although Dr. Gilruth has made statements of a sweeping character, the members of the Government are not in sympathy with them. Some years ago, I made, as a private member, remarks somewhat similar to those that have been made to-day by the honorable member for the Northern Territory concerning the injustice which Dr. Gilruth was doing to North Australia. ‘
My immediate predecessor. (Mr. Parkhill) set up a committee to make inquiries into land settlement generally in the Northern Territory. That committee investigated the matter very exhaustively, and two or three months ago presented an interim report. It was a departmental committee, and its inquiries were not of a public character. When its final report ha3 been made, a portion of it may be published. The honorable member for the Northern Territory, or any other honorable member, is at liberty to peruse the interim report, but it would not be to the advantage of either the department or the Northern Territory to publish at present the matters which it contains.
– Has Dr. Gilruth any qualifications as a geologist ?
– He is reputed to have excellent qualifications, mainly from the cattle-raising standpoint, and, on. that account, unfortunately, his remarks are taken seriously and probably will do damage abroad. Beyond resenting them, and saying that we do not agree with them, I do not think there is anything that I can say in reply to the honorable member.
.- Dr. Gilruth was appointed by the Government to the committee to which the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and the Minister for the
Interior (Mr. Perkins) have referred, and if the published statements are bis opinions he must be given credit for having expressed thom. If it be correct that while in charge of the administration of the Northern Territory he endeavoured to dispose of it to a chartered company, the Government ought to have known sufficient about him to refrain from appointing him. Dr. Gilruth was deported from the Northern Territory on account of his administration, yet he was selected as a member of a committee to make a report upon it. His opinion probably carries a lot of weight with many people not only in Australia but also abroad, and the statements he has made will certainly do a good deal of harm, although if the effect of them is to prevent the handing over of the territory to chartered companies, with certain concessions, as has been proposed by the present Government, he will unintentionally have rendered a good service to Australia. When the Northern Territory was taken over from South Australia its develop.ment became the responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament, but, instead of developing it has gradually declined. The Minister for the Interior has referred to the enterprise shown by a certain man in having procured for the territory 100 stud bulls. That is more than the Government has been prepared to do. Not one experimental station has been established there, not an ounce of assistance has been given to the men who work there. Difficulty was experienced in obtaining a monthly mail service for the Roper River and Macarthur River areas. Telephonic communication has been curtailed, and country lines have been pulled down because they were unpayable. The pioneer of the Northern Territory has had to depend upon his own resources. The Queensland Government has been chiefly instrumental in providing means of transport, by sudsidizing boats that run to Burketown and then continue on to the Macarthur and Roper rivers. If it were the idea of the Government that the committee should express the views that it holds, the expense might have been avoided. Whether his statements were biased not not, Dr. Gilruth was quite justified as a member of the committee in saying what be thought of the Northern Territory. I disagree with him. I have been in the Northern Territory on the Barkly Tableland, and I think that there is just as good land in the Northern Territory as in any other part of Australia.
– I have no objection whatever to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) bringing this matter forward at the present time. In doing so he is rendering as great a service to the country as Dr. Gilruth, by his statement, rendered it a disservice. A committee consisting of Sir George A. Julius, Kt., B.S.O., B.E. (chairman), Dr. A- C. D. Rivett, M.A., D.S.C. (deputy chairman and chief executive officer), and Professor A. E. V. Richardson, M.A., D.S.C., was appointed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to inquire into and report upon the prospects of the frozen meat and chilled beef industry for the Northern Territory. The Government was desirous of obtaining information which would establish the fact that the Northern Territory was a suitable area for the carrying on of the meat industry on a large scale. It also wished to learn what part Darwin might be expected to play in trade arrangements at a later stage. Dr. Gilruth was not a member of the committee, but is a veterinary officer in the employ of the Government. A meeting of the committee was held in Sydney on the 28th June, and the members had before them a report by Dr. Gilruth entitled “ The Cattle Industry of Tropical Australia,” and also another report marked “ confidential,” and entitled “ The Northern Territory of Australia.” These reports were considered by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research committee, which did not agree with their contents., Unfortunately, however, the reports were, by some mischance, released for publication. The committee was of the opinion that they were at variance with the views of government experts, and of practical pastoralists in the territory. The reports of Dr. Gilruth were on matters entirely apart from those which the Council for Scientific and Industrial
Research committee was asked to investigate, and they were, moreover, marked “ confidential.” Their publication is greatly to be regretted.
From my own observation when I was in the Northern Territory, and from what I have been able to learn on the subject, I am convinced that the opinions exDressed by Dr. Gilruth are not justified. When I was in the territory I spoke to men who were successfully carrying on the business of cattle-raising, and who were entirely satisfied with their prospects provided that they could obtain two things - a market, and improved transport facilities. I feel on this subject exactly as does the honorable member for the Northern Territory. I feel just as strongly as he does that a disservice has been rendered to the Commonwealth by the publication of those reports. Every one who has any interest in Australia wishes to see the Northern Territory settled.
– Dr. Gilruth has not done more harm to the Northern Territory than have the various Commonwealth governments up to the present time.
– That does not justify the publication of such statements.
– As the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) has said, that does not justify the publication of reports of this kind. In any case, I do not agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). Various governments have made determined efforts to improve the position in the territory. The present Government has realized the importance of the territory, and has made a real effort to improve conditions. I realize that the territory is both ari asset and a danger in its present condition. A great deal of time has been devoted by the present Government to the consideration of schemes designed to utilize the territory as an asset, and to minimize the danger arising from its present unoccupied state. I feel that the honorable member for the Northern Territory was quite moderate in his condemnation of Dr. Gilruth’s report. This discussion will probably do good by showing that the opinions expressed by Dr. Gilruth are not shared by the Government or by members of this Parliament, and are opposed to those of men whose experience i3 equal to, or greater than, that of Dr. Gilruth.
The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) referred to the proposal of the Government to have the Northern Territory developed by chartered companies. It was never the intention of this Government to hand over any part of the people’s heritage to a body df capitalists without receiving in return adequate consideration. All the Govern* ment wished to do was to point out to the world that in the Northern Territory there was a large area of land available for cattle-raising on a large scale, and rich in mining and other resources, which we desired to have developed. We wished those with capital awaiting investment to know that any reasonable offer they cared to make would be considered by the Government.
– What about providing some batteries and wells for the miners at Tennants’ Creek?
– 1 am sure that if reasonable requests are submitted to the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins), they will receive attention. When I was Minister, I authorized the provision of batteries for miners in the Northern Territory. 1 also tried to ascertain the extent to which pastoral lessees were carrying out thi? terms of their leases, but it was evident that the information was not available either here or in Darwin. Consequently, a committee was appointed to travel through the territory to obtain the necessary data.
– The honorable Minister’s time has expired.
.- The present is a suitable occasion for bringing tlie subject before the House if the object is to refute the statements of Dr. Gilruth; but it is most unfair, particularly in respect of one who is not here to defend himself, to make a personal attack on :.i man merely because the tenor of his report . does not suit us. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) is interested in having made available the most favorable reports possible regarding the territory, and the Commonwealth Government is similarly interested because it has put forward a scheme for the settlement of the Northern Territory, but 1 do not think that we should countenance any attempt to withhold the relevant facts. It has been suggested that Dr. Gilruth’s report was published by error. It would have been quite wrong for the report to be suppressed merely because it was unfavorable. Moreover, it is idle to say that Dr. Gilruth spoke as an irresponsible person. He is a man very well qualified to express an opinion on the Northern Territory, and, as such, his opinions should receive respect. I have had a little personal acquaintance with the territory, and I feel constrained to respect the opinion of a man who has spent years of his life there, and who has enjoyed exceptional opportunities to gain information. If his opinion is to be challenged on the ground that it is dishonest, that may be a good reason, provided the charge can be proved, but it is quite wrong to attack a man in this House ‘merely because he fails to report in the manner we desire. I do not want to see British capital or any other capital brought here on the strength of promises which cannot be fulfilled. Only recently, the Victorian Government was compelled to pay £450,000 compensation to British migrants who had been induced to settle in the State under false pretences. We do not want that sort of thing to happen in the Northern Territory. It is better that the position should be investigated fully, and that the advantages and disadvantages should be fully disclosed.
Question resolved in the negative.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 74.
Defence Act - Royal ‘Military College - Report for 1033.”
Excise Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. Co.
Invalid and Old-age. Pensions Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 59.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Nurses Registration Ordinance - -Regula tions amended.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 29th June (vide page 122).
Postponed clause 16.
– Consideration of this clause was postponed in order to enable the Opposition to give further thought to it. It is really the piece de resistance of the bill. The measure originated in the Senate eighteen, months ago, and the delay that has occurred has been deliberate for certain reasons. I point out that this clause has neither protective nor revenue significance. The section, in the present act reads—
No proceeding whether against ali officer or otherwise for anything done for the protection of the revenue in relation to any tariff or tariff alteration proposed in Parliament, shall, except as mentioned in the next Section, be commenced before the close of the session in which such tariff or tariff alteration is proposed.
It is proposed to add to this section the words, “ or before the expiration of six months after such tariff or tariff alteration is proposed, whichever first happens.” lt is then provided that the section shall commence on the 1st January, 1935. At present a tariff resolution remains in force until the end of the parliamentary session in which it has been introduced. Iti the past certain tariff schedules have had to be validated prior to an election, or the money collected pursuant to them would have had to be refunded; During the debate on this bill in another place an amendment was proposed to this clause which provided for a time limit of three months. The Minister in charge of the bill stated that that would very likely seriously embarrass a government. While lie agreed that tariff resolutions should bc dealt with as promptly as. circumstances would permit, he said that it might be impossible for a government to take the necessary action within three months. After further discussion in that chamber it was agreed that the time limit should be extended to six months, and that the section should not come into operation until a sufficient time had elapsed for the general tariff situation to be clarified. That was in May, 1932. A complete tariff schedule has since been passed by “both Houses of the Parliament. The clause in the bill, as it came to this House from the Senate, provided that the date of commencement for the amended section 226 should be the 1st January, 1933; but this committee has already altered that date to the 1st January, 1935. The effect of the clause, if agreed to, will be that tariff schedules must be ratified by Parliament within six months.
.- The amendment of the principal act now sought by the Minister is, no doubt, a concession to those honorable members who advocate that tariff schedules should be ratified almost immediately after they are introduced to Parliament. I think that schedules should be ratified as soon as it is practical or convenient to ratify them.. The Minister has . said that his colleague who was in charge of this bill in another place, had pointed out tha/t a period of three months was not sufficient to give a government reasonable time to act. It is quite possible that circumstances may arise that would make six months an inconveniently brief period for the purpose. No particular political party has been responsible for the delay in the ratification of customs schedules. Since the beginning of federation considerable delays have occurred, even as long as two years. Where such delays can be avoided I think it is better, generally speaking, to avoid them. But I don’t think we should lay down a specific period such as six months. I suppose that, if a government had introduced a tariff schedule and found, towards the end of a sitting period of Parliament, that it was impossible to complete consideration of it, a new schedule could be tabled, which would be practically on all fours with the one previously introduced, and in such a case six months could elapse before the need for further action would arise.
– The object of this amendment is to speed up the consideration of tariff schedules.
– That is so; but I am pointing out that even six months may not be a sufficient time to ensure finality with a tariff schedule.
– I ask the Minister to give very careful consideration to all the bearings of this proposal before pressing the committee to accept it. There is a dangerous principle at stake. At present each House of this Parliament has complete control of its own procedure. Section 50 of the Constitution provides -
Each House of the Parliament can make rules and orders with respect to -
The mode in which its powers, privileges, and immunities may be exercised and upheld;
The order and conduct of its business and proceedings, either separately or jointly with the other House.
I fear that if this clause is agreed to it may become impossible for the members of this chamber to deal in an unrestricted way with tariff schedules. In other words, the Senate will have intervened in a matter which should concern only this House. Our procedure in regard to tariffs is clearly laid down. We proceed by resolution in committee. After the resolution has been agreed to it is reported to the House, and thereafter the legislative procedure is definitely set down.
– But it has been pointed out that there may be a lapse of a two-year period between the introduction of a resolution and the passage of the consequent bill.
– Even that would not justify us in departing from the principle of this House retaining control of its own business. I remind honorable members that if this provision is incorporated in a bill which becomes law, it will be impossible for us to alter it except with the concurrence of the Senate. This chamber has never attempted to interfere with the control by the Senate of its own procedure, and we should be careful to retain complete control of our own business. How and when this House shall proceed with a tariff resolution is a matter for its own consideration. It may be said that in the past we have proceeded wrongly or badly. If so, the remedy is in our own hands, and we should not be subjected to external authority. It has been decided by both the High Court and the Privy Council, that tariff resolutions subsequently incorporated in tariff acts are adequate authority for the collection of duties, and that such duties may be ante-dated in the act to the day on which the schedule was tabled in this House. I ask honorable members to consider the experience of this Parliament in dealing with three main tariff schedules that have been submitted to it. The first comprehensive schedule was introduced in this House on the 8th October, 1901. It was a measure which affected practically every industry in the Commonwealth. At that time Parliament was dealing with fundamental measures destined to influence the legislative structure of the Commonwealth for very many years. The consequence was that it was not until the 6th September, 1902, that assent was given to the measure incorporating the first comprehensive customs schedule. If a provision such as that now before us had been included in the first Customs Act, this House would have had to put on one side all other legislative business in an endeavour to complete the consideration of the tariff within six months from the date of the tabling of the schedule. That would have been absolutely impossible. It must be remembered that when comprehensive tariff schedulesare under consideration many points of view have to be reconciled. It is necessary for the Treasurer to be satisfied that the duties proposed are such as will ensure requisite revenue being received, and for the Minister for Customs and other Ministers to satisfy themselves that the best interests of industry generally are preserved. Customs schedules naturally affect both our primary and secondary industries, and the items included in these schedules cannot, therefore, be considered in an isolated fashion. The second comprehensive schedule to be introduced was tabled on the 8th August, 1907. It followed upon an election in which the tariff was a definite issue. The earlier schedule had been completely revised in the light of the experience of the first schedule. It was not possible to complete consideration of that schedule until the 3rd June, 1908, Six months would have been a totally inadequate time to devote to the subject. The third comprehensive schedule was introduced on the 24th March, 1920, by Mr. Massy-Greene, and consideration of it was not completed until the 12th December, 1921. To have finally disposed of it earlier than that would probably have meant that Parliament would have had to devote exclusive attention to that subject, and that, surely, would not have been in the best interests of the nation. It will be remembered that we were, at that time, revising war time legislation, and we could not concentrate attention on one subject. No serious complaint was made by the general public about the delay that occurred on any of the three occasions that I have mentioned. I think it would be unwise, in all circumstances, to accept the proposed six months period, provided for in this clause. This provision may force the Government into a false position, and place a limitation not only upon the Parliament, but also upon the Administration in connexion with the affairs of the nation. I plead with honorable members to take a wider view, and to remember that a government has to deal with whole series of complex problems, and that if we have any confidence in it, we must trust it with the conduct of its business and allow it to carry out its affairs in the best interests of the Commonwealth. Under this clause, we shall introduce a limitation which will tend to destroy the principle of ministerial responsibility. This provision is to operate for a period of six months. If a tariff resolution is not validated within that period, it will naturally lapse, and in that case, the authority to collect moneys under the resolution will immediately c£ase. How are we to refund the money? collected? In the meantime hundreds of sales will have been made of articles on which duties have been collected and passed, on to the purchasers,
– The House will validate the collection of moneys.
– The object of this provision is to prevent that sort of thing, and if the resolution is not ratified within six months, any person will be able to bring an action against the Government for the recovery of higher duties paid by him.
– If an earnest attempt were made by the Government, the collection of moneys would be validated.
– That was not the intention of the senator who moved this amendment. Section 226 states -
No proceeding, whether against an officer or otherwise, for anything done for the protection of the revenue ih relation to any tariff or tariff alteration proposed in Parliament shall, except as mentioned in the next section, be commenced before the close of the session in which such tariff or tariff alteration is proposed.
– There is an alternative under the bill.
– The act is being amended by adding the words, “ or before the expiration of six months after such tariff or tariff alteration is proposed.”
– Is not that an alternative?
– There is also added the words “ whichever first happens.” The intention of the clause is to give a right of action after a period of six months, and the Government is to be made liable for the return of moneys which have been collected. I quite agree with the principle that tariff resolutions should be dealt with as speedily as possible, but I suggest that instead of embodying this principle in an act of Parliament, we should make it subject to our own Standing Orders, thus allowing a limitation to be imposed by the House itself and not by the Senate. In a case of emergency an absolute majority of the House could suspend the Standing Order to allow of an extension of time being given.
– The object of this amendment is simple indeed. It is to compel the prompt consideration and validation of tariffs after being tabled in this House, instead of permitting that validation to follow perhaps one year or two years afterwards. But as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has suggested, this amendment will not have that effect, because if the tariff or portion of the tariff is tabled and is not validated within six months, all that the Government need do is to re-table it.
– That will not cover the duties collected.
– I have no doubt that- means would be found to enable the Government to keep whatever duties had been collected. I suggest to the Government if it really intends to insist upon validation within six months of the tabling of a tariff, that it adds a further paragraph to the clause to the effect that if the tariff or tariff alteration is not dealt with within six months, it cannot be re-tabled within a further similar period. If that were done, this proposed legislation would really become effective. As it stands to-day, it will not be effective, aud has no meaning whatever.
.- We are asking under this clause nothing more than what was in the original act of 1901, which made it quite clear that when a tariff schedule was brought down, it was to be approved during the same session. The Commonwealth Constitution lays it down that there shall be a session of this Parliament once in every year. It was on that basis that the Federal Parliament in 1901 said that no proceedings should be commenced for the recovery of duties paid before the close of the session in which such tariff or tariff alteration was proposed. We have not had a session once in each year, but we have had a number of continuous sessions extending over many years. It was the original intention of Parliament that any tariff schedule should be approved . during the year in which it was introduced. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), has said that we should consider the position of this chamber in regard to this form of taxation of the people. Would the honorable member say that tha Government should be permitted to impose an income tax without the approval of this Parliament? Yet since 1929, the people of this country have been heavily taxed through the customs without the approval of the Parliament. This provision will now give the Government power to impose taxation through the customs for a period of six months, at the expiry of which parliamentary approval must be obtained. On a previous occasion I moved an amendment which was supported by every member of the Nationalist party, including the present Minister, to the effect that the period before ratification was necesary should be 90 days, but I quite agree thai a period of six months is preferable, because it will provide more time in which to ratify the tariff. In Great Britain, the act in respect of tariff resolutions, provides -
The period in Great Britain is shorter by two months than it Will be under this provision, and surely that should be quite satisfactory to honorable members.” On behalf of the smaller States I protest against taxation being imposed year after year without the consent of the Senate, a chamber which is supposed to represent the smaller States, and which is frequently not given the slightest opportunity to deal with taxation proposals introduced into this House by way of the budget. That practice has been most unjust to the smaller States, and is entirely contrary to the Constitution itself. The honorable member for Darling Downs has said that it is unfair thai this House should not be able to take action without the consent of the Senate, but so long as the Constitution exists as it is at present, and so long as there are two chambers connected with the Federal Parliament, we should insist on tariff resolutions being passed by both chambers, more particularly if those resolutions affect the taxation of the people. I hope that the clause will be approved by honorable members.
.- I consider that the object of this clause is indeed a good one, because it seems to me that it is quite impossible for us to defend the present practice under which taxation is imposed, and is collected in some casesfor years, without parliamentary sanction. We cannot get away from the fact that this taxation must of necessity be collected immediately a schedule is tabled - for obvious reasons, we have to do that in order to protect the revenue - but we can, and I believe that we should, limit the period during which it may be imposed without parliamentary sanction. That is the object of this clause. If, as I believe, we may, strictly speaking, be said to be acting illegally in collecting duties without the oonsent of Parliament, we should certainly limit the time during which we act without legal sanction. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) referred to this clause as being dangerous, in that it would limit the power of Parliament in certain directions. It is equally necessary to limit the power of the Government to impose taxation for unnecessarily long periods without the consent of Parliament. The purpose of this clause I consider to be good ; but I would say that it is the most extraordinary means that could have been invented to achieve the desired result. There is nothing in the clause which says in direct and simple language that a schedule shall become void if not ratified within six months. It seems to be an attempt to do in a minor provision and by the most indirect means what could have been more easily done by a clause setting out in direct and simple language that a customs schedule must be ratified within six months of its having been tabled. It would have been better understood by a layman. The clause really relates to the period during which customs officers shall be immune from having proceedings taken against them in their efforts to protect the revenue. The act gives them immunity for the life of a parliament. Under the present proposal, proceedings may be taken against them in the case of any dispute after six months have elapsed from the tabling of a schedule. Apparently the purpose of this peculiar clause is that the Government will see that a schedule is ratified within the six months ; otherwise a hopeless position would arise if its officers were involved in legal proceedings. I think that the Minister will admit that it is a most extraordinary way of dealing with this matter.Surely more direct verbiage could have been employed.
.- I had hoped that some provision would be made that tariff schedules brought down by resolution of Parliament must be validated within six months. I understood from the speech of the Minister in moving the second reading of this bill that it was intended to consider that aspect of the matter, which has been a subject of many discussions in this House for the last two years. Complaints have been made that customs duties were being imposed without the authority of Parliament, and the collection of the new duties was being continued by this subterfuge. I understood from the Minister that it is proposed by means of this bill to rectify the position, and to make it clear that in the future, although a schedule could be initiated by resolution, it had to be affirmed by Parliament within six months, otherwise the resolution would become void, and the collection of the duties illegal. It seems to me that the bill as passed in another place will not cure the evil that has existed and has been condemned so strongly during at least the last two years. The present method of introducing the tariff is by resolution which is brought before the House and becomes operative from the moment it is tabled. The duties then operate until otherwise determined by the Parliament. I do not think the passage of this bill will, in any way, alter that practice. I am not aware that there is any positive authority for the method of procedure usually adopted; it seems to have grown up by custom. So far as I am aware, there is no statutory authority for the imposition of new duties in this way.
– The courts have recognized the procedure.
– So I understand, and no doubt the method will remain unchanged ; resolutions imposing new duties of customs will still be brought down in the usual way by resolution. But after six months have elapsed someone may take action against an officer of the Customs Department as contemplated in the bill now before the committee. Before the action is heard, however, it will be competent for Parliament to ratify the resolution and exclude the legal action. This bill merely provides for an extension of the time during which actions may be brought against officers of the Customs Department. Such actions, however, are rare, and, in the event of such legal proceedings being brought against an officer, the Government is usually prompt in bringing in legislation to set the matter at rights.
– This clause is the only provision in the Customs Act which allows the department to collect higher duties than are provided in the Tariff Act.
– So far as I know, there is no statutory authority enabling any government to impose new duties simply by resolution.
– This bill now before the committee only makes for safety. It gives the Government time to ratify the resolution.
– Yes, but the schedule should become void if it is not ratified within six months. I hope that the promise given by the Minister during his second-reading speech on this bill will be put into effect. I desire to make it clear that I do not want to see a continuation of the system adopted in the past whereby new customs duties and prohibitions were imposed and remained in force for years without the authority of the Parliament. It is most desirable that that practice be discontinued, and I am glad to hear from the Minister that it is proposed to remedy this defect in our customs legislation.
Mr.PROWSE (Forrest) [5.0].- I hope that the Minister will not be influenced to alter the terms of clause 16. I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) that the provision could be stated in much more simple language which would convey the intention of the Senate and of this committee. I agree with the clause as it originally stood. We must be careful of the wording of any proposed legislation. Certain sections of the Constitution have been interpreted by the High Court and other courts in such a way that the people have been misled. For instance, it was never contemplated by the people that a session of Parliament would be continued over the whole term of the Parliament. The practice has grown up of merely adjourning the sittings from time to time and extending one session over the life of the Parliament, actually, in tariff matters, setting Cabinet above the Parliament. It was this practice which led to this amendment, and caused honorable members on the Government side to express a wish to limit the time in which a tariff schedule should remain in force without the consent of Parliament. I am surprised at the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) who has always been an advocate of the Parliament controlling its own affairs. This practice of bringing down a schedule and taxing the people for periods up to three years before the schedule is ratified is not government by parliament. It is the antithesis of that. If there should be anything upon which the representatives of the people should have an opportunity to express their views it is in relation to the imposition of taxes. I hope that the Minister will be in no way influenced to depart from the principle expressed in clause 16 of the bill.
Mr. WHITE (Balaclava- Minister for
Trade and Customs) [5.4]. - I have listened with interest to the discussion on this clause, and particularly to the speech of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), a former Minister for Customs, and that of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) who has also held that portfolio. Undoubtedly there is room for criticism in that the provision does not go far enough. Honorable members must admit that the intention is to improve the present working of the tariff and to hasten the consideration of any improvements in that direction. This bill originated in the Senate, and I do not pretend that I can improve its language. The honorable member for Darling Downs has spoken of the prerogatives and rights of Parliament. The tariff may be regarded as indirect taxation. Honorable members would rightly complain if any other form of taxation were imposed and left unratified for six, twelve or eighteen months. Yet, tariffs may be pushed aside, simply because that procedure has been permitted in the past.
Tariffs affect trade, and concern, either directly or indirectly, every person in the Commonwealth; therefore, the sooner the deliberations upon them take place in Parliament, the better.
The honorable member for Henty suggested an amendment under which a tariff resolution if not ratified within the period of six months could not be retabled within a further period of six months. If that were done the original resolution would have to be ratified within six months from the date on which it was tabled, so that the Government would not be compelled to refund what had been collected under it.
– The intention is that if, within six months, a schedule is not validated, the Government will be forced to ratify it or to bring down a new schedule. That is an improvement.
– Supposing that the old schedule is not ratified, has it to be replaced by a new one?
– The old schedule would have to be validated, or the money collected under it would have to be refunded. That would spur a government to speed up its tariff debates. I ask the committee to accept the clause.
– The object of this provision is to compel the Government to realize that if a tariff schedule is not ratified within six months it may be required to refund whatever has been collected by means of it. At present the Government has power to bring down a validating bill authorizing all that has been done. The difference in the future would be that collections would extend over six months instead of over a longer period. The imposition of this tax is authorized by a certain definite procedure that is known to all. First, there is the passing of the resolution, approval being given to the schedule; and then a customs tariff bill embodying the different items is introduced. Each House of the Parliament, according to the Constitution, may make rules and orders with respect to -
The regulation of its procedure is a matter purely for this branch of the legislature. The bill asks this House to assent to the restriction of its method of procedure. If it will give its consent to that proposal, it will not be able to extend the period without the consent of the Senate. If an alteration of procedure has to be made, it should be done by this chamber, and not by the Senate, and could bedone (effectively by means ‘of a standing order. Such a standing order, I consider, ought to be passed. I do not for one moment defend culpable neglect in pro- ceeding with the passage of resolutions. They ought not to be introduced unless the Government feels that it can carry them through. Having been tabled”, they ought to be proceeded with as expeditiously as possible, but the machinery ought to be that which this House itself provides. Has the Minister fully considered that aspect of the question ?
Mr. SCULLIN (Yarra [5.11].- When the bill was before us last week I asked that consideration of this clause bo postponed so that we might have an opportunity to consider it over the week-end. The more one considers it, the more is one convinced that there is no necessity for it. It may be mischievous and certainly it cannot prove useful. It is really the assertion by a majority of the members of another place of certain authority over the procedure of this House, and can have no real effect. It appears to me to be merely a sop that is being thrown by the Government to the free trade or low tariff interests of Australia.
– The rates do not enter into the question.
– The low tariffists have always objected to schedules lying on the table. We cannot escape from the Fact that, had we not possessed that power in the last Parliament, we could not have saved Australia from the debacle that faced it. The only explanation offered ay the Minister is that this law may be circumvented by the introduction of a new schedule superseding that which is lying on the table. That would be making a travesty of legislation.
-There would be nothing to prevent the introduction of a resolu- tion that would operate for six months, during which period Australia could be saved.
– By interjection on Friday the honorable gentleman said that there was nothing to prevent the introduction of a new schedule. Let that statement be examined, to see if we should not thereby perpetrate a farce. Under this legislation, a schedule would have to be ratified within six months. Any administration could lay on the table a new schedule superseding the old and identical with it in every particular. Only in that way would the power of this chamber to protect the industries of this country be safeguarded. If the provision hadthe effect claimed it would be mischievous to take away the power of this House.
– No power is being taken away.
– The Parliament always has authority over its own business. If it wishes a schedule to be ratified in a given time it can insist upon that being done. If it does not so desire, there is no reason why the procedure should be altered.
– At the time of the last dissolution the Senate was forced to pass a validating bill to obviate the necessity for refunding the revenue that had been collected.
– This chamber has the right to maintain the procedure it has adopted with respect to the imposition of duties. It is now proposed that that right shall be withdrawn unless the Minister adopts a subterfuge. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is indignant at the position in which the Senate found itself in 1931. I point out that similar conditions can be brought about by circumventing this law, and that we are making a travesty of legislation by doing what is proposed, with the sure and -certain knowledge that in a given set of circumstances such action would be taken. If for any reason Parliament were suddenly being dissolved and there were schedules that had not been ratified it would be necessary to bring down a validating bill. If Australian industries had suddenly to be protected against attack, a new schedule would have to be brought down. The onlv result of this clause will be to weaken the effectiveness of this Parliament to protect Australian industries. I suggest that the Minister withdraw it.
.- I. hope that the Minister will persist with the clause. This is not a question of low or high tariffs, but of what parliaments were brought into existence to do - that is, to protect the public from dictatorial action, particularly in relation to finance. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) made some references to the privileges of this chamber, and other references to the privileges of Parliament. If the Parliament be agreeable there is not the slightest doubt that the Government can secure the ratification of a schedule. Therefore, the bill does not safeguard the position of Parliament better than it would be safeguarded in any case; but the object of this clause is to bring the taxpayers under the protection of Parliament, and to remove them from the scope of the dictatorial powers of an executive. We have seen parliamentary institutions whittled away, whiteanted, and destroyed in one part of the world after another. I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition should advocate the perpetuation of the dictatorial power which executives have arrogated to themselves by failing to prorogue Parliament. The present system may work adversely in regard to either increases or reductions of the tariff. That is not in question. The point is, whether the people should have the protection of Parliament against dictatorial action in regard to indirect taxation. I regret that a similar safeguard is not embodied in the excise law. Its inclusion in the customs law, however, is a forward step. I do not believe that it will prove a travesty. Any government which made the law inoperative in that way would have no concern for parliamentary government, but would be aiders and abettors of the Hitlers and the Mussolinis, who are undermining parliamentary institutions. It is with regret that I find the Leader of the Opposition in such company.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) grossly exaggerated the position when he spoke of the arrogance and dictatorial powers of the Government.
He must know that the. Executive exercises its powers only at the will of the popular chamber elected by the people, and so long as it retains the support of that chamber it is governing according to the will of the people. It is quite clear to me that what the honorable member really wishes to do i3 to use the Senate as a sprag on the will of the people as expressed in this chamber. He really desires to set up in the other chamber an arrogant and dictatorial power of the kind of which he professes to be afraid in this chamber. This much is made clear by the fact that his proposals receive the support of all those who advocate a freetrade policy. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), whose opinion cannot be disregarded on this subject, said that every precaution should be taken to safeguard the privileges of the popular chamber. The honorable member for Wakefield referred to the toppling of governments in other parts of the world, but I remind him that the surest way of bringing about a similar condition of affairs in Australia is to give dictatorial powers, in this case to the Senate, which does not represent the popular will of the people.
Mr. ‘ NAIRN (Perth) £5.24], - I move -
That the following sub-clause bli added to the clause: - “ (3) All resolutions imposing duties of customs shall cease to have effect if not ratified by Parliament within six months from the date of the introduction of the resolutions.”
This is in agreement with the practice in Great Britain as mentioned by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). There, it is stipulated that, although the government of the, day may impose duties by mere resolution, those duties must, within four months, be. ratified by Parliament. Those who are in favour of the retention of the present system in Australia confuse Parliament with the House of Representatives. I remind them that the Commonwealth Parliament consists, not of the House of Representatives only, but includes the House of Representatives and the Senate. It has been suggested that resolutions imposing customs duties, being money matters,, should be exclusively within the province of the House of Representatives. If that were so, it would not be necessary for customs bills to be approved by the Senate at all. It is not right that this House should attempt to arrogate to itself the exclusive right of dealing with customs or any other subject. The acceptance of my amendment would not prevent the Executive from acting in any emergency which might arise. It would still be able to impose duties without awaiting the authority of Parliament, but they would have to be ratified by Parliament within six months. If Parliament refused to ratify them the position would still be the same as it is to-day. Parliament could validate the collection of such revenue as had been collected up to a given date, but it could refuse to affirm the duties, and from that date forward they would cease to operate. There is no excuse whatever for attempting to retain the system of irregular customs collection which has operated for the last four years. I foresee that, under the present bill, the same position would arise in future, as has obtained in the past. A government which wished to impose new duties would do so by resolution. It would, in due course, come to Parliament for the ratification of the duties, and the matter would go before the Senate. The Senate would be driven into the position which it occupied last session, of having no alternative but to ratify the duties, because the Commonwealth could not possibly refund the millions of pounds which had been already collected and spent. The Senate would not have agreed to the duties in the first place had it been given the opportunity of expressing an opinion, but, after they had been in operation for a number of years, it could not do other than ratify them. To do otherwise would throw the finances of the country into chaos. We claim to be loyal to the Constitution, which requires all enactments to be passed by two Houses of Parliament, and this should apply to taxation through the customs just as much as to any other form of taxation. To impose duties of customs by resolution, and to go on collecting them for years without the affirmation of the Senate, is to go behind the Constitution. The Minister agreed that it was right that duties should be ratified by Parliament within a reasonable time, but the bill as at present drawn will not ensure that.
Let us make this legislation really effective by embodying the amendment I hav, moved.
.- Had not the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) moved this amendment, I should not have had anything further to say at this stage. I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) should have introduced a political note into the discussion. He said that, had the present proposal been in effect when his government was in power, he could not have saved Australia except by resorting to subterfuge. That sounds heroic, but it is not apropos of this discussion. We would be able to save Australia again tomorrow by means of tariff resolutions if that were necessary, as resolutions can still be brought down. But what would have been the position if Parliament had not ratified the resolutions introduced by the Labour Government? The Commonwealth would have been unable to pay the money that had been collected during the period the resolutions were in force. The intention of the Government’s amendment is to hasten the consideration of customs taxation proposals which concern everybody. The clause is a good one, which ought to be accepted. The honorable member for Perth has moved an amendment to the effect that tariff resolutions shall cease to have effect if they are not ratified within six months of the date of their introduction. I have referred his amendment to the law authorities, and it is admitted that there may be merit in it if it could be put into effect. The position will bo adequately safeguarded, however, if the clause proposed by the Government is accepted. The honorable member for Perth seems to assume that customs resolutions have some legal effect in themselves.
– No; I said that they had no constitutional authority whatever.
– The duties contemplated by customs proposals are collected in anticipation of laws being passed subsequently to cover the resolutions. To declare that a resolution by itself shall cease to have effect is of no USe unless the resolution itself has been properly incorporated in a statute. I think that honorable members generally will admit that the object of the clause is definitely to speed up the consideration of customs schedules, and to provide that the Commonwealth will repay duties collected if schedules are not ratified within a specified period. Honorable members should bear in mind that the people’s interests are paramount. Much stress has been laid upon the right of Parliament to do as it chooses, but a government which flouts the wishes of members of Parliament, and ignores the feelings of the people, can he brought to hook. It will be remembered that the Scullin Government brought down successive tariff schedules which made such violent changes as shook our commercial activities to their very foundations. We have heard a good deal to-day from certain learned gentlemen that is rather baffling to the lay mind; but the fact remains that the Government desires to speed up the consideration of tariff schedules, and the method proposed, even though it may be imperfect, will have some effect to that, end.
.- In view of the Minister’s admission that this clause really means nothing, and that if a schedule is not ratified after, say, five and a half months from the date of its introduction, another schedule may be tabled, why are we wasting time?
– But surely if a second schedule were tabled in those circumstances, the first one would have to be ratified or the duties collected pursuant to its provisions would have to he refunded ?
– The Minister has given me an assurance that successive schedules could be tabled to overcome the provisions of this clause. It seems to me, therefore, that he is simply holding this out as a sop to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and other members with free-trade sentiments. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) has said, in effect, that the amendment is farcical. Circumstances are very likely to arise in this country which will make it necessary for tariff schedules to lie on the table for a longer period than six months. That has been so in the past, and undoubtedly it will be so in the future. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) has reminded us that the first comprehensive tariff schedule tabled in 1901 remained on the table for eleven months, the second, which was tabled in 1907, for ten months, and tho third, tabled in 1920, for 21 months. The schedule tabled during the Bruce-Page Government’s regime’ remained on the table for even longer .than that. -There were special reasons why it waa necessary for the schedules tabled by the Scullin Government to remain on the table for a long period. It will he remembered that the Soullin Government was elected in 1929 with a definite mandate from the people of Australia to protect Australian industries effectively. Steps -were taken to implement that mandate, but it is well known that certain honorable gentlemen in another place, who did not face the people in 1929, were opposed to effective protection for Australian industries, and would not have approved of the Scullin Government’s schedules. Had those schedules not been tabled the flood of imports into Australia, which was proving ruinous to our industries and our trade balance, could not have been stemmed. In consequence of the Scullin Government’s action in imposing the duties provided for in its tariff schedules, many thousands of people were able to obtain employment in this country, and many thousands of people already in employment were enabled to hold their positions. The members of another place have, on several occasions, successfully resisted the desire? of members of this chamber. When the Scullin Government issued certain regulations covering waterside employment in Australia with the object of giving a preference to members of the Waterside Workers Federation, a motion to disallow them was carried in another place. Tho members of the other place were not fresh from the electors, and so were not fully seised with the mind of the electors; If, as the Minister has said, this amendment is merely a gesture which will get nowhere, and, if, as the honorable member for Henty has said, it is, in effect, farcical, why should we persevere with it? The Minister has assured me that it would be possible to avoid the purpose of this amendment, and prolong consideration of tariff schedules by adopting the subterfuge of re-tabling them when the six-months period had almost expired, so why should we waste time?
– The schedules already tabled, or, at least, the collection of the duties, would have to be ratified.
– It appears to me that this provision is mischievous in every sense, and I shall oppose it.
– I take strong exception to the statement of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that I suggested that this clause wa3 farcical. I made no such suggestion. I said that the intention of- the Minister was good, but that the language of the amending provision should be made more binding. If a schedule is not ratified within six months it should pass right out of consideration, and I wished an amendment to be adopted which would have that effect. Such a provision was very badly needed while the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition was Minister for Trade and Customs in the previous Administration. That honorable gentleman has been allowed to make some references to unemployment. He said that the customs schedules introduced by the Government of which he was a member had been justified because of the improvement that resulted in the unemployment position. Tho fact is, of course, as everybody knows, that the unemploy- ment figure, which was 11 per cent, when the Scullin Government came into office, rose to 31 per cent, by the time it was defeated.
– The position would have been very much worse had it not been for the tariff policy of the Scullin Government.
– The position wa3 much worse than I have described. The normal unemployment figure in this country is 6 per cent. When the previous Government was elected to power it was 11 per cent, or 5 per cent, above normal. The real unemployment increase during the tariffmaking activities of the Scullin Government was 400 per cent.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bell) Order ! The honorable member must not enlarge on that point.
– I apologize to the Chair for departing to that extent from the subject under discussion; but I was led to do so by the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is evidently under the impression that this provision may be circumvented by the Minister for Customs if he tables successive tariff schedules as each six-month period is about to expire. I should like to know definitely from the Minister whether if a schedule that has been tabled is not ratified within the six-month period the duties collected under it will have to be refunded, even though other schedules dealing with the same subject are tabled.
– The collections would have to be ratified or the money collected would have to be refunded.
– That is what I wished to have made clear. I felt dis- posed to support the amendment of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), but I understand from the Minister that there is a difficulty in it in that it proposes to limit a power which the Minister informs us we do not possess.
– That is so.
– Then apparently we are in this position, that we are actually collecting taxation by means of tariff schedules which have been tabled but not validated. In a sense we are illegally collecting this taxation.
– Not illegally.
– At any rate we have to safeguard the Customs Department by preventing any action being taken against customs officers who collect taxation under customs schedules which have not been ratified. At present action may not be taken if the schedules are ratified prior to the end of the parliamentary session in which they are introduced. We are now proposing that the period of ratification must be within six months of the tabling of the schedules.
– That is so.
– In these circumstances I shall support the clause. Apparently the amendment of the honorable member for Perth is so worded as to cause legal embarrassments in that it attempts to limit a power which we do not possess.
.- The answer of the Minister to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is quite satisfactory to me. The Minister has said clearly that customs schedules must he ratified by Parliament within six months or the duties collected pursuant to their provision must be refunded. With certain legal assistance I have been trying for a long while to discover the section of the Customs Act which empowers Ministers to lay new customs schedules before Parliament in the way that has been done for many years now; but it seems to me that the act is silent on that point. The only provision that even suggests a power of that kind is contained in section 226, the amendment of which we are now considering. I tried to obtain the insertion of a provision of this description in the Customs Act three years ago, and my proposal was supported by nearly every member of the Nationalist party; but my object was not achieved. I shall support this clause.
– I wish to make it clear that I think the amendment proposed in the bill is desirable. My complaint is that it does not go far enough. I wish to make it quite definite that customs resolutions proposing increased duties should be affirmed by Parliament within six months. The Minister has adversely criticized the wording of my amendment. I point out to him that it is an exact copy of a provision in an Imperial statute. I have no doubt that the legal advisers of the Imperial Government have considered the aspect of the subject referred to by the Minister. The criticism has been offered that a resolution cannot be said to be effective when there is no legislative authority for it, but I contend that that criticism is based on false premises, because the tariff resolutions are, in fact, effective from the moment when they are tabled. From that time the Customs Department proceeds to collect duties on them, and it is a misstatement of language to say that, in those circumstances, the resolutions are of no effect. They have a very material effect in the collection of thousands and even millions of pounds of revenue, and that effect continues and has continued in Australia for as long as four years.
The amendment which I propose seeks to limit that effect by providing that the resolutions shall not be acted upon unless they are ratified within six months of the date of their introduction. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) referred to an occasion, such as the present, when the Parliament is likely to be dissolved; hut, in such acase, there would be an election and a new government would be in office within six months. It would be most appropriate, for the new Parliament to give its verdict after honorable members had faced the electors.
– With a dissolution, the tariff resolution would become void.
Mr.NAIRN. - With a dissolution, the Collector of Customs would still continue to collect duties.
– Not unless the tariff resolution was ratified by the Parliament before the dissolution.
– The practice of continuing to collect duties has been in operation for years. With a dissolution, the Parliament would be back within a month or two, and there would still be time for the resolution to be ratified within six months of being tabled by the previous Government. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the mandate of 1929. Every election gives the electors an opportunity to express their mandate regarding both the Senate and this chamber. In the exceptional case of the dissolution of the lower House and not of the upper House, the government of the Hay gets a mandate from the people on any particular subject and itscourse its quite clear. If the Senate will not carry out that mandate the Government has the opportunity provided under the Constitution of sending a bill back a second time to the Senate, and if that chamber will not carry it, ministers may cause both Houses of the Parliament to be dissolved in order to ask the electors for a renewed mandate. That is the reply to the claim of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that a mandate could not be obtained. The various subterfuges which have been mentioned for avoiding the lawwith regard to customs duties, such as the bringing in of new successive resolutions within six months, all show what is in the minds of honorable mem bers regarding the desirability of retaining the matter of customs entirely in their own hands. They also show the necessity for making clear the declaration of the Parliament, not merely of the lower House, that it is to retain control of the customs duties, and that we should express clearly in our legislation that if tariff resolutions are to continue to have effect they must be ratified by the Parliament within six months of their introduction into this chamber.
Question - That the clause as previously amended be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. White) - by leave - agreed to -
That the bill be now recommitted to a committee of the whole House for the reconsideration of clauses 1a and 22 and the consideration of proposed new clauses 10a and 21a.
In committee (Recommital) :
Clause 1a -
Section 30 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following proviso: -
Provided that fish and other sea products gathered by any Australian registered vessel fitted out in and sailing from any port in the Commonwealth and brought to the Commonwealth in any such ship or in any tender registered in Australia and working in conjunction with such ship shall not be deemed to be imported for the purpose of paragraph (a) of this section.
– I ask the committee to omit this clause with a view to inserting a similar provision after clause 10, which is a more appropriate position for it.
Clause 22 (Proclamations prohibiting import or export may be re-enacted, cancelled or varied by regulation).
– I move -
That the word “ act “ wherever occurring in proposed new section 278 be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ section “.
This amendment is necessary so that it shall be made clear that the existing proclamations referred to in proposed new section 278 are those in force at the commencement of that section and not at the commencement of the principal act.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Motions (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That the following new clauses be inserted : - “ 10a. After section one hundred and thirtyone of the principal act the following section is inserted: - 131a. Fish and other goods the produce of the sea which are caught or gathered by a vessel which
is registered in Australia, and (b)was fitted out for the voyage during which those fish or goods were caught or gathered at a port of place in Australia. shall not, when brought into Australia by that vessel, or by a tender (whichis registered in Australia ) of that vessel, beliable toany duty of customs, or be subject to the control of the customs.’ “. “21a. After section two hundred and fiftyeight of the principal act the following section is inserted: - 258a. - (1.) Where any convicted person has, whether before or after the commencement of this section, been released in pursuance of section two hundred and fifty-eight of this act upon his giving security for the payment of the pecuniary penalty adjudged to be paid by him, and the penalty has not been paid, or part only thereofhasbeen paid, the prosecutor or plaintiff may apply to the court for an order committing the offender to gaol until the penalty, or the balance thereof, as the case may be, has been paid, and the court shall, if it is satisfied that enforcement of the security is impracticable or would occasion hardship to the surety, make an order accordingly. (2.) The provisions of section two hundredand sixty of this act shall apply to the imprisonment of an offender for whose committal to gaol an order has been made in pursuance of this section :
Provided that, in the calculation of the period at the expiration of which the defendant is to he discharged, there shall be taken into account any period of imprisonment served by the defendant prior to his release upon his giving security for the payment of the penalty :
Provided further, that where the penalty has been paid in part, the amount of penalty, for the purposes of the table contained in section two hundred and sixty of this act, shall be the unpaid balance of the penalty. (3.) Notice of an application under this section shall be served upon the convicted person.’ “.
Bill reported with further amendments.
Reports - by leave - adopted, and bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.10 to 8 p.m.
– I move. -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a small bill to amend section 59 of the Distillation Act 1901-1931. I do not intend to go fully into what the Government has done for the wine industry. No doubt it has been considerably helped by recent legislation. This is borne out by the export figures, which show that exports have risen from 142,000 gallons in 1924-25 to 2,628,000 gallons, although the bounty was 4s. a gallon in the former year and only 1s. 4.8d. a gallon last year. Section 59 at present provides, inter alia, that no Australian wine shall be fortified under the act so as to contain more than 40 per cent, of proof spirit. Certain countries, such as the United Kingdom, allow the importation of wine fortified in excess of 40 per cent, proof spirit, and there is a demand in the United Kingdom for Australian wines fortified up to a strength not exceeding 42 per cent. Owing to the provisions of section 59 this demand can only be met to the extent of supplying wines fortified up to 40 per cent. As the result, trade in these higher strength wines is lost to the Commonwealth, and is being captured by other countries, such as South Africa, where similar restrictions are not in force. There seems no valid reason for limiting to 42 per cent, proof spirit the strength of Australian wines for export. The Federal Viticultural Council has been consulted on the matter, and has expressed the view that considerable trade is being lost as the result of the present limitation of strength. That council strongly supports the proposal to raise the limit to 42 per cent, in respect of wine for export. In the event of this measure being agreed to, wine fortified up to 42 per cent, proof spirit will not be allowed delivery for home consumption, but will be kept under customs control until exported.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Proposals fob, Redistribution of South Australia.
.- by leave - I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of South Australia into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. G. P. Howie, J. H. Mcnamara, and G. E. Willson, Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before Parliament on the 28th day of June, 1934, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report be adopted.
This is the first of five redistribution proposals the adoption of which I propose to move. The other proposals relate to the States of New South “Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia.
I desire in the first place to explain to the House why this proposed distribu- tion is being dealt with first. As honorable members are aware, the Representation Act 1905 provides for a quinquennial determination of the number of members to be chosen by each State of the Commonwealth. The determination takes place after each census, and also at a date approximately intermediate between the census dates. The determination made recently was based upon the figures disclosed by the census held on the 30th June, 1933. The application of the provisions of the Representation Act to those figures has the effect of reducing, from seven to six, the number of members to be chosen .by the State of South Australia. This is the only proposed redistribution which provides for a variation of the number of members to be chosen by a State. Some of the proposed redistributions of other States might be adopted. If, subsequently, they were taken first and the proposed redistribution of South Australia were rejected, an amendment of the law might in certain events become necessary. It is, therefore, highly desirable that the proposed redistribution of South Australia should first be dealt with.
This is the first occasion on record in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament upon which it has been necessary for consideration to be given to redistribution proposals involving a loss of representation by one State without a corresponding gain by another State. For this reason the Government has given long and anxious consideration to the proposal, with a view to endeavouring to find another method of distribution which, consistently with the Constitution, would permit of the retention by South Australia of its seventh member. When the number of members is large, the loss or gain of one member does not appear to be of quite such moment as is the case when the number of members is already small, as it is in the case of South Australia. I regret that, although the Government has given careful consideration to the subject, it has not been able to discover any method by which, consistently with the provisions of the Constitution, the retention may be effected.
I propose now to deal shortly with the operation of the provisions of the Constitution and of Commonwealth legislation relating to the determination of the number of members to be chosen in each State. As honorable members are aware, section 24 of the Constitution contains two guiding principles in relation to the number of members to be chosen to represent a State. They are -
The section then goes on to provide a method of determining the number of members to be chosen by each State, this method to remain in force until the Parliament otherwise provides. The Parliament has “ otherwise provided “ by the Representation Act 1905. The only alteration made by the Representation Act in the method of determining the number of members is the substitution for the number of the people as set out in the statistics of the Commonwealth, of the number of people as set forth in a certificate to be issued by the Chief Electoral Officer. For the purpose of the preparation of such a certificate the Chief Electoral Officer must obtain the necessary statistical information from statistical officers of the Commonwealth. Broadly, the method of determining the number is as follows: -
It may be mentioned in passing that this method of determining the number of members is expressed in the Representation Act as being subject to the Consti tution - a provision which was, no doubt, intended primarily to safeguard those States which, under the Constitution,” were entitled to the minimum representation of five members.
By section 26 of the Constitution the number of members to be chosen at the first election was as follows: -
making a total of 75 members.
The operation of the foregoing provisions of the Constitution and of the Representation Act has resulted in the following changes: -
In 1907 New South Wales gained a member at the expense of Victoria.
In 1913 Queensland gained a member at the expense of Victoria.
In 1923 New South Wales gained another member at the expense of Victoria.
The representation of the States in the present Parliament is, therefore, as follows: -
The total membership of the House as representing States has, however, remained constant ever since the establishment of federation.
As I have- already stated, the operation of the Representation Act upon the population figures disclosed at the recent census has had the effect of reducing from seven to six the number of members allocated to South Australia. The figures upon which this reduction is based are as follows: -
I propose now to refer to several methods which have been suggested with a view to avoiding the reduction which, under the existing system, is inevitable in the representation of South Australia. One method suggested is that, instead of the population of Australia being divided by 72 - that is, by twice the number of senators - it should be divided by 73 - that is, by twice the number of senators plus one - and that, in the case of States where there is a remainder greater than 25, an additional member should be chosen. This method applied to the population I have given would produce the following result: -
In other words, while South Australia would retain its seventh member, New South Wales and Queensland, would each gain a member, bringing their numbers up to 29 and 11 respectively; and the number of members of the House representing States would be increased to 77.
A second alternative method suggested is that of dividing the population of Australia by twice the number of senators, and, in the case of any State having a remainder greater than -3, assigning to it an additional member. This method applied to the population mentioned would produce the following result : -
In other words, this method, while retaining a seventh member for South Australia, would give one extra member to New South Wales, and increase the total number of members representing States to 76. For the purposes of the comparison of the results of the three methods set out above, the number of persons represented per member in States which have the minimum number of members prescribed by the Constitution has not been taken into account.
It will be noted that the first of the three methods provides, with the existing population, for a range of population per member varying from 91,018 in the case of Victoria, to 96,831 in the case of South Australia, a difference of 5,813. Under the second method, the range is from 82,998 in the case of South Australia to 91,018 in the case of Victoria, a difference of 8,020. Under the third method the range is from 82,998 in the case of South Australia, to 94,427 in the case of Queensland, a difference of 11,429. Thus of the three methods the first - which is the existing method - gives, on present figures, the closest approximation to equal representation of the States. Whether any other method would, under a different distribution of population, give a closer approximation to equality than the existing method is beside the point.
As honorable members are aware, the existing number of members representing States in the House of Representatives is 75. The application of the existing method of determining the number of members will reduce that number to 74, while the application of the second and third methods already referred to would give 77 and 76 members respectively. The Government does not think that, at the present time, the total number of members of the House of Representatives should be increased. As both the alternative methods which have been suggested provide for an increase in the number of members, and, on present figures, give a greater departure from exact representation than is provided by the existing method, it is clear that neither of these methods offers a solution of the difficulty of reducing the representation of South Australia from seven to six..
The question then arises as to whether there is any other method by which the State of South Australia could be allowed to retain a seventh seat, while seeing that no other State is entitled to an additional
Beat. One method which may be thought available to Parliament is the rejection of successive proposed redistributions providing for six members with a view to the continuance of the existing distribution of the State of South Australia into seven divisions, reliance being for this purpose placed on section 12 of the Representation Act 1905, which reads as follows: -
When in pursuance of a certificate under this act an alteration takes place in the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in any State the alteration shall not affect -
In the opinion of theGovernment the adoption of this course would be fraught with serious consequences. It may be that the duty imposed upon the Parliament by the Constitution, the Representation Act, and the Commonwealth Electoral Act, is a duty of imperfect obligation, that is to say, a duty for the enforcement of which there is no legal remedy. On the other hand, it may be that the effect of the continued disregard of the provisions of the Constitution, and of the acts in question, would lead to the holding of an invalid election. But whether there are or are not legal means for the enforcement of the provisions of the Constitution and of the acts in question, the Government feels that a matter of principle is involved, and that no justification exists for the rejection of a proposed redistribution merely on the ground that it provides for six members only, whereas under existing conditions a State has seven members. As previously stated, very careful consideration has been given to the whole question, with a view, if possible, to retaining the present membership for the State of South Australia; but the Government has not been able to discover any method consistent with the Constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth by which that result may be achieved.
The matters which distribution commissioners are required to consider in determining their distribution are set out in section 19 of the Electoral Act which reads -
In making any proposed distribution of a State into divisions, the distribution commissioners shall give due consideration to-
The number of electors in the State of South Australia was ascertained to be 342,019, and the quota therefore is 57,003. The margin of allowance of onefifth more or one-fifth less, amounting to 11,400, accordingly made the minimum permissible number of electors in any division 45,603, and the maximum permissible number 68,403. The number of electors enrolled for each of the existing divisions at the time of the last distribution in 1922 and immediately prior to the present redistribution, was as follows: -
The number of electors in each of the proposed new divisions, together with tho extent to which these numbers differ from the quota, is shown as follows : -
Under the proposals, the average number of electors in each of the three metropolitan divisions will be 61,499, while the average in each of the three extra metropolitan divisions will be 52,507.
.- Just before the Christmas adjournment, Parliament discussed the subject of electoral redistribution, and objections were raised to the proposal that the representation of South Australia in this chamber should be reduced by one. This loss is to be sustained because the population of that State has not increased at the same rate as that of the other States. We asked the Government if it were not possible under the Constitution to avoid the loss, and it was decided that a parliamentary committee should be set up to explore the matter. The committee made a very careful investigation, but found that it would be impossible to accede to the wish of South Australia without creating serious anomalies in respect to the representation of other States. It appears that we must reconcile ourselves to the loss of the seventh member for South Australia. I regret the necessity for it, and I shall be very pleased if any honorable member can suggest a way to avoid it.
We do offer a serious protest, however, against the manner which the new electoral districts have been aligned. The principle of “ one vote one value “ has been ignored in an inexcusable way.
Moreover, the conditions set out in the Electoral Act to be observed in redistribution proposals, such as community of interest, means of communication, physical features, existing divisions and subdivisions, and State electoral boundaries, have not been considered in the redistribution in South Australia as closely as they should have been. This has left much room for complaint. I offer strong objection to the great disparity in the quotas of metropolitan and country electorates. Taking the number of electorates in the State and dividing them by six, which will be the number of divisions under the redistribution, the quota is 57,003. The division of Adelaide, however, has been given 61,398 electors; that of Boothby, 61,563, and that of Hindmarsh, 61,537, making a total for the three metropolitan constitutenties of 184,498 electors. The division of Barker, under the redistribution, will have 56,134 electors, that of Grey, 48,511 electors, and that of Wakefield, 52,876, making a total for the three country electorates of 157,521 electors. The difference between the three metropolitan electorates and the three country electorates is therefore 26,927 electors.
– There should be a difference !
– No one who has any regard for the cardinal electoral principle of “ one vote one value “ can justify such a variation. If the honorable member’s constituency suffered under such an iniquity he would be the first to complain about it. The difference in the number of electors in Grey and in either Hindmarsh or Boothby is about 13,000. We were justified in expecting a much more equitable re-arrangement in view of the fact that all the electoral divisions of the State were being redistributed.
I complain also that community of interest has not been kept in mind in making the redistribution. The inclusion in the division of Adelaide of the subdivision of Norwood, the people of which have a complete community of interest with the people of Adelaide, left the Adelaide division 495 electors short of the quota. In ‘order to make up this deficit the Electoral Commission divided the subdivision of Magill and placed 4,150 of its electors in the Adelaide division, which required only 495 electors to make up its quota. .Still being dissatisfied, the commission broke, into the subdivision of Salisbury and took 740 electors from that rural area to put into the metropolitan division. The people of Salisbury have no community of interest whatever with those of Adelaide. The commission did not even follow the physical features of the country in formulating its scheme of redistribution. That the Adelaide division should have been given 4,395 electors above the quota for the State is no compliment to South Australia. Equity has has not been a governing principle in determining the redistribution of the electorates.
I come now to the division of Hindmarsh, which I have the honour to represent. The roll for that division already contained 684 names above the quota. 4,534 electors in the subdivision of Plympton, which was formerly in the Barker division, have now been placed in the Hindmarsh division. The other portions of the subdivision have been placed in the Boothby division.
I complain that the Boothby division has also been redistributed without proper regard to community of interest or the spirit of the Electoral Act. Instead of including the subdivisions of Magill and Mitcham in the Boothby division, the commission has included part of the subdivision of Plympton in it. Apparently this has been done with the object of making the number of electors in the Boothby division as nearly as possible the same as the number in the Adelaide and Hindmarsh divisions ; but to do this, existing subdivisions have been ignored in a way that cannot be justified.
In view of the fact that Magill and Mitcham were included in the Boothby subdivision prior to the last redistribution it might have been expected that they would have been returned to the Boothby division, but it seems that the commission was more concerned about keeping the quotas of the metropolitan constituencies in the neighbourhood of 61,000 voters than about anything else, although the State quota, on the basis of six divisions, should be only 57,003.
Sufficient attention has not been given to the need for preserving community of interest. This is seen in the re-arrangement of boundaries along the River Murray, fruit-growers on one side of the river being in one division and fruit-growers on the other side in another division. It should have been possible to include in one electorate all the fruit-growers along the River Murray, thus ensuring complete community of interest. Actually there was no need to interfere with the division of Barker. It should have been left intact, because the old arrangement was on an equitable basis.
This failure to observe community of interest is seen also in the redistribution of the division of Grey, in respect of which there is room for serious complaint. A great majority of the people living in that division are associated as employees or otherwise with the great railway systems between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, and between Port Augusta and Alice Springs via Quorn. Under the new arrangement some of the electors are in one federal division and others in a different division. The commission could have made a much more equitable redistribution of the division of Grey by including in it the State electorates of Wallaroo, Burra Burra, and Stanley, and following the elimination of the division of Angas the remaining territory in that division could have been included in the division of Wakefield. The quota would then have been approximately the same as at present, and the principle of community of interest would have been observed.
Very serious objections are made against the redistribution proposals in South Australia, largely because of the discrimination between city and country interests. No matter where the citizen is located, his influence and power as an elector of the Commonwealth should be determined upon an equitable basis. That principle has not been observed in the scheme of re-distribution for South Australia now before the House. I therefore earnestly hope that the anomalies to which I have directed attention will receive the earnest attention of honorable members, and that we shall get back to those guiding principles which should govern all re-distribution proposals, namely, community of interest.
– Have these protests been brought to the notice of the commission ?
– We have made an appeal against the redistribution scheme as it affects South Australia and have submitted a number of suggestions to the Government.
– What has happened to them?
– I have not been informed of the decision. I should be glad to know from the Minister whether there is any prospect of suggestions which I have made being adopted in order to remove the anomalies to which I have referred and give more general satisfaction to the people of South Australia.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has cast some reflections upon the manner in which three very distinguished public servants carried out their investigations for the redistribution of the federal divisions of South Australia.
– I made no reflection upon the commissioners.
– The honorable member did not reflect upon the commissioners, but he did comment adversely upon their recommendations. The principal burden of his objection was that they did not adhere to the basis of one vote one value as between electors living in scattered country districts and electors in metropolitan areas, who are within a threepenny tram ride of the office where their federal member does his work when in the city. He has voiced what is, no doubt, hi3 honest difference of opinion with members of the commission, and, I may add, with most other citizens and electors of the Commonwealth; On this point, I would remind him of some remarks made by his leader, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), in November last. Referring to a proposal made by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) for some other system for the allocation of members so as to obviate the loss of a member by South Australia following the publication of the census figures, the Leader of the Opposition, being unable to commit himself for or against the particular formula proposed by the right honorable member for Cowper, suggested that a small committee of the House should be appointed to investigate the position, and consider the number of members that should be returned by each State. After directing attention to the disparity in the quota of country and city areas, Mr. Scullin said -
Such a committee would, of course, need to keep in mind the preservation of certain principles, including that of one vote one value, subject to the margin of “ one-fifth more or one-fifth less”, provided for in the Electoral Act. I repeat what I said on a previous occasion, that those responsible for the redistribution should, if they lean at all, lean towards country electorates, because of their extent.
That, I think, was a very fair statement. It showed that this matter should not be a subject, of contention as between parties. No one can deny the disabilities of country electors. In some cases, if they wish to get in touch with their member, they may have to expend 4s. or 5s. on a telephone call as against 3d. for a tram ride or 2d. for a telephone call in a metropolitan area.
Evidently the honorable member for Hindmarsh has not had time to read the reports placed on the table of the House. The original copies were available for the perusal of honorable members in the office of the Clerk of the Papers downstairs. Had the honorable member done so, he would have seen on record a protest from one of his colleagues from Western Australia (Mr. A. Green) against the increase in the area of the division of Kalgoorlie. Every honorable member will sympathize with the honorable member for Kalgoorie who, because of the enormous size of his division, must be subjected to a terrific strain in endeavouring to keep in touch with his electors. In the course of his protest, Mr. Green stated -
Already the present boundary is so extraordinarily large that it embraces an area of over 000,000 square miles, or nearly eleventwelfths of the State and one-third of the Commonwealth. This has made it very difficult for mc in the past to even see a large percentage of the constituents of the division. I claim that the electors of Kalgoorlie division should have the same rights as other electors of the Commonwealth enjoy, that is, to be in personal touch with their representative. This I have endeavoured to do for them in the past by constantly touring tha electorates in between elections, but not to the full satisfaction of myself or my constituents, as the task waa impossible.
That protest very plainly indicated the disabilities suffered by country electors. Although there is no other electorate, and never has been another in any country, equal in area to that of Kalgoorlie, the old electorate of Grey was the next largest in the world, embracing an area of well over 338,000 square miles. Yet the honorable member for Hindmarsh has suggested that it would be a fair thing to extend the division of Grey still further in order to increase its quota of electors. He also said, in answer to an inquiry from one honorable member, that, as far as lie knew, the suggestions which he had put forward with regard to the redistribution scheme in South Australia wore not considered. If he will read the report laid on the table of the House he will find that it contains reference to two protests, one of which bears a very close resemblance to the suggestions which he has made this evening. Another is based upon the opposite principle, namely, that the margins allowed were not really adequate to put country electors on an equitable basis with metropolitan voters. I believe that the suggestion to increase the margins still further is a sound one ; but since the commission has examined it, and I believe, conscientiously, and has also examined the proposal of one vote one value for city and country electors, I am prepared to accept its decision. Although I believe it would have been fair, in a case of those divisions having enormous areas, to allow a larger margin - at least 15 per cent, above or below the quota - I do not propose to ask the House to vary the recommendations of the commission in any way. I am satisfied that it made a most careful examination of all the circumstances, and if it is necessary for the House to pass the redistribution scheme, which provides for six instead of seven divisions in South Australia, I believe the wisest thing to do is to adopt the proposal which has been submitted by this very conscientious commission.
One or two other points referred to by the honorable member for Hindmarsh should, I think, be corrected immediately. He complained that por- tion of the subdivision of Magill, which has no real community of interest with the city of Adelaide, had been included in the electorate of Adelaide.
– I mentioned Salisbury.
– I think that the honorable member referred to both places; but he did not inform the House that part of the subdivision of Magill which is nearest to the city of Adelaide has a community practically identical with that of the suburb of St. Peters, which already is part of the electorate of Adelaide. Any person walking from street to street in those two suburbs could not tell where the houses and streets of the suburbs of St. Peters joined with the houses and streets of suburbs which are now within the subdivision “of Magill. The honorable member spoke of the subdivision of Salisbury as if it were a rural subdivision. I know that he would not intentionally mislead the House, but he obviously did not realize that the continuation of the suburb of Prospect into that of Enfield is practically indistinguishable.
– That portion from Kilburnroad to the North-road is in my electorate.
Mr.- HAWKER.- The honorable member has clearly demonstrated that he does not know the actual topography of that part of the metropolitan area of Adelaide. His own electorate lies on the western side of the main North-road, and it is on the eastern side where the subdivision of Salisbury, as at present constituted, merges into the streets, shops and residential areas continuing north from the suburbs of Collinswood, Medindie and Prospect Gardens, which are now part of the electorate of Adelaide.
The same unsoundness is apparent in the example given by the honorable member respecting the district of Boothby. Of course, if the electorates are always to contain the same number of electors, it is necessary for some metropolitan voters to be in the country electorates; but on the question of the disability of country electors, there is much more community of interest provided by including the residential suburbs of Mitcham, Magill and Edwardstown in Boothby than by retaining them in country electorates. The honorable member referred to the division of the railway system in the north of the State, particularly in the district of Grey, but it appears that he entirely overlooked the railways and the roads that run parallel to and from them as means of communication. Lines of communication are one of the factors which the commission is directed to follow when making its redistribution, and if anything is to be done to relieve the enormous disabilities of the electors in the huge and sparsely settled district of Grey, then the commonsense way in which to make the division is along the lines of communication so as to increase the community of interest, and, of course, make it much easier for the electors, if they so desire, to get in touch with their parliamentary representative.
The redistribution does not favour me or my party so far as the electorate of Wakefield is concerned, hut I do not propose to allow any personal motives of mine to lead me into criticising the carefully, conscientiously and thoroughly thought-out scheme of electoral balance which has been arrived at by the commission. The irrigation areas which have always been divided by the River Murray, and which it is proposed to leave in two sections, start from Barker, through Angas, and away up to Wakefield. In any case, they must lie in more than one electorate. The Murray, which is a fine river, particularly in its lower reaches, is really a barrier to communication back and forward through the electorate, and that should be taken into consideration when lines of communication are being considered.
I have referred to these details, not to defend the work of the commission, which I am sure speaks foi itself, but just to correct the impression which some honorable members may have formed from the partially incorrect statements of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. What concerns me much more seriously is that South Australia must inevitably lose its seventh member and sink back into a smaller unit of citizenship. It is tragic that just at this time when the small primary producing States are having such a shockingly difficult time, their voice in the National Parlia ment should be weakened in this way. It is all the more so when, in addition to South Australia being represented by six instead of seven members, each of the electorates of those six members will average more electors than the electorates of any other State, including those which have 28 and 20 members. The honorable member for Hindmarsh complained about the small number of electors in the electorate of Grey, but I would point out that in Queensland, the electorate of Maranoa has a smaller number and that of Kennedy has within a few score of the same number as Grey. The people of South Australia will not be easily persuaded to take an over-careful constitutional view of this matter. It ia a fact that in parts of Australia, there is real danger that the Commonwealth itself may not hold together because of the exasperation which the people feel in consequence of being situated at such a tremendous distance from the national parliament and the national executive. The difficulty of expressing their point of view has magnified the tremendous hardships which they are facing because of the general causes of the depression. The biggest disability which the smaller States are suffering to-day is the low prices ruling for wheat, dairy produce and fruit, but the fact that they are feeling acutely because of the world’s depression, has accentuated the natural exasperation of the people of South Australia at the disabilities which they really believe they suffer as a result of the federal policy. It is a disaster psychologically that just at this moment one of the States which has suffered most seriously should lose one of its all too few representatives who are in a position to put forward its case in the National Parliament. I accept the assurance of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) that tho Government really has given the widest consideration to the chances of amending the law or of making some other arrangement which would enable South Australia to retain seven members; but even though the Government may he satisfied in its own mind that there is no constitutional way by which that can be done, I hope that it will make doubly sure because that in Itself will make a difference to the point of view and the reaction of the people who are struggling and almost down and out, to this additional disability. I hope that the Government will take steps to make public, not just the opinion of the Crown law officers or of the Minister (Senator McLachlan) who has been acting during the absence of the AttorneyGeneral but also the opinions of eminent counsel who are outside of politics. If the Government can make available opinions of that sort, it will go a long way towards taking any sting of a sense of injustice from the bitter loss which South Australia has apparently now to face. Before the debate closes, I hope that one of the Ministers at least will make all these points plain. I propose to support any reasonable and legitimate attempt made from any quarter of the House to amend the law so as to retain for South Australia its seventh member. That I consider is the most serious aspect of the redistribution. As the number of representatives had to be cut down from seven to six, the new boundaries between certain districts were bound to be drastic, and to upset a lot of the conveniences of the people of South Australia. Quite half of my majority has been taken out of the electorate of Wakefield because of adding to it portions of Labour electorates, but that is of little moment. I am absolutely confident that the commissioners dealt with this matter from a more dispassionate angle than that with which I can deal with it, and I think that they came to a fair conclusion. I still hope that the question of South Australia losing its seventh member can be reconsidered.
– This motion deals with the proposed distribution in the State of South Australia, and other motions are to follow dealing with redistributions in other States. The redistribution depends upon statistical figures as recorded in a certificate of the Chief Electoral Officer. Usually, those figures are based upon estimates. In this case, however, they are based upon the census. These proposals have been brought forward as quickly as possible after the taking of the census, and, accordingly, the House has the best information that it could ever have in dealing with a subject of this character.
In the case of South Australia, the result of the distribution is that that State will lose a member, making its representation in this House six, instead of seven, members if these proposals are adopted by Parliament. As the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) has stated, the Government sought to devise means of avoiding this result in the case of South Australia. From the point of view of one of the smaller States, judged according to population, and also of the relation of rural to urban electorates, the Government would have been glad to find a method which would have avoided this result. It is only because the Government was unable to satisfy itself that it would be doing its duty in making any other proposal than that now before the House, that that proposal is, in fact, submitted for the consideration of honorable members. The Government does not think that the number of members of the House of Representatives should be increased at the present time, and, on political grounds, I should think that that would also be the attitude of most honorable members. If it were possible to consider this subject apart from political considerations and the general attitude of the public towards parliaments, I venture to suggest that a very great deal could be said for greatly increasing the number of members of this Parliament.
– Hear, hear!
– I am astonished that any one is prepared to say “ Hear, hear “ to such an unpopular suggestion. Its unpopularity is one of the reasons why it is impossible to propose it at the present time. Any one who considers the nature of the matters with which this House has to deal must occasionally wonder, if he thinks on the subject at all, how effectively five gentlemen are able to. represent the great State of Western Australia, and with what degree of real representation seven men can truly represent South Australia, and so on in the case of the other States. But, as I have said, in view of the attitude of the people towards Parliament, it is impossible to propose any increase of the members of this Parliament at the present time. In spite of the fact that, all over the world, democracy, and the parliamentary system which represents it, are being threatened and, indeed, are falling in every country outside the British Empire, we still have in Australia a continuous criticism of parliamentary institutions as such.
– There will be more criticism unless the parties become less rigid.
– I have recently been in a country, and I know of several others, in which there is only one party. Indeed, in some countries only one party is allowed by law, and it is npt only an offence under the law, but also a risk of death to be taken, to belong to another party, or to found another party. I am well aware of the difficulties of the party system, but as we have it in Australia to-day, it does allow for liberty of opinion and freedom of thought. A nonparty system, in fact, becomes a one party system. In spite of all its difficulties and defects, I am a strong supporter of the party system as against a non-party system, with its autocratic tyranny.
Because it is not at present practicable to propose a general increase of the members of this Parliament, we must work under the present Constitution. The Parliament is directed and limited by the Constitution, section 24 of which contains two provisions, one of which is relevant, and, I venture to suggest, decisive in relation to this matter. That section provides -
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth and the number of such members shall bc, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators.
It will be observed that that provision is governed by the words “ as nearly as practicable.” There is room for some liberty of action. The other provision to which I have referred is -
The number’ of members chosen in the several States shall bo in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, and shall, until the Parliament otherwise provides, be determined in a particular manner. That provision contains no modifying phrase “ as nearly as practicable.” The absence of those words reinforces the view that the second requirement is an absolute direction to Parliament - that the number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, That is the provision which the Government conceives binds it in relation to this matter. It is a provision of the Constitution which binds this House, for surely this House ought to observe the provisions of the Constitution. Accordingly, in any redistribution proposal which is introduced, this House ought to be convinced that the numbers of the members representing the several states shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of the people of those States. This proposal does that. On the existing figures it is not possible to save the seventh member for South Australia and still observe this provision of the Constitution.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) asked what degree of legal weight there was in the opinion which I have just expressed. I assure him that before the Government introduced these proposals, and asked the House to adopt them, the opinion of others than the direct legal advisers of the Government were sought and considered. For the reasons that I have stated the Government would have been glad indeed to avoid this reduction of members in the case of South Australia, but it conceived itself bound by this provision. Honorable members may ask what would happen if Parliament elected not to observe this provision. On that point I am not prepared to give the House an absolute opinion.
– Could it not be challenged in the courts?
– It is sufficient for me to say that it is at least open to serious question whether the Parliament would be validly elected if this provision were ignored. The Government itself has considered this, matter, and has also been advised by the law officers of the Crown. In addition, it has sought and obtained other opinions: The view has been expressed that this duty is probably a duty of imperfect obligation - a duty for the breach or infringement of which no definite sanction, is provided. In the case of ordinary laws, a penalty for a breach of a direction as to the conduct of a citizen is usually provided. As Attorney-General, I always study draft legislation to see whether it has what the legal profession calls “ teeth “ in it. If it has no “teeth “ it is my duty to provide them - to see that it is effective and that any breach is punishable. But in drafting constitutions, it is not always possible to put “teeth” into the provisions. This Parliament cannot be fined or put in gaol, even if it violates a provision of the Constitution. There may be, however, serious effects. It is quite possible that action taken in pursuance of an invalid provision, or a provision of doubtful constitutional soundness, might be held to be ultra vires the law. The Government is of the opinion that if there is even a risk of the High Court declaring that the election of a particular Parliament is invalid or ineffective, it is a risk which this Parliament ought not to take. Parliament must act in the light of such knowledge and advice as it has.
– The proposal has certainly put “ teeth “ into South Australia.
– The Government obtained opinions from two recognized authorities on constitutional matters outside it own departmental advisers. Sir Robert Garran, a former solicitor-general of the Commonwealth, and recognized as an authority on constitutional law, who was consulted, said -
It is to be assumed that the administration and the Houses of Parliament will perform their duties and give effect to the provisions of the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth. If the redistribution commissioners failed in their duty, or if it could be shown that either House of Parliament refused approval of a redistribution, not for any defect of the redistribution, but for the purpose of defeating an alteration of the number of members to be chosen in a state, difficult questions would arise.
In answer to the following specific question : -
Sir Robert Garran replied
That is as far as I myself can go. It is a matter of doubt, and we cannot afford to have any doubt.
– There would be no remedy.
– It would be an impossible position. The Government also consulted Mr. E. M. Mitchell, K.C., one of the leaders of the Australian bar in Sydney. He does not entirely agree with Sir Robert Garran as to the possible invalidity of an election, but he is equally definite with Sir Robert Garran as to the duty of a Parliament to carry out these particular provisions of the Constitution. Mr. Mitchell says - . . The Constitution has left the matter to Parliament and is to be construed on the footing that the Imperial Parliament which granted the Constitution trusted to the Parliament to do its duty.
It must be remembered that the Constitution is an Imperial statute. Mr. Mitchell proceeds -
No doubt there is in one sense an obligation on Parliament to give effect to any change in numbers which affects the proportionate representations of the States, but this constitutional obligation is not capable of direct enforcement in any court, which cannot give any directions to Parliament. If, through failure to pass the necessary resolutions within any given time, the revision remained inoperative, the courts would be bound to act on the assumption that Parliament was doing its duty and that its approval had been withheld for some good and sufficient reason. The courts cannot impute bad faith to Parliament, and would be bound to assume that Parliament, in withholding any approval to a redistribution scheme,had grounds for its nonapproval. If the real facts were that the persistent refusal by Parliament to approve of any scheme of re-distribution was actuated by a desire of Bitting members to retain their seats in defiance of the Constitution, then a situation would be created which could not, I think, be dealt with by the courts, but would have to be dealt with by the Governor-General who could dissolve Parliament and keep on dissolving Parliament until a Parliament was elected which was willing to obey the Constitution.
– That would be a dreadful prospect.
– I agree with the right honorable gentleman.
I conclude by saying that the Constitution imposes a plain duty upon Parliament in relation to the apportionment of representation to the different States. Parliament is trusted to carry out this con- stitu tiona! duty, and it is under an obligation to .do that whether or not there is direct legal sanction for it. It may be, as Sir Robert Garran says, that there is a legal sanction, in that an election of Parliament under a distribution maintained in defiance of the facts and the Constitution would be invalid. This is a matter of doubt. It might be, as Mr. Mitchell says, the duty of the Governor-General to dissolve and keep on dissolving Parliament until a parliament was elected in accordance with the law. I think it is a matter of doubt. But both counsel agree that there is a duty on Parliament to obey the Constitution, whether there is, or is not, any sanction for disobedience of it. The Government does not believe that it would be acting rightly in making a proposal or adopting an attitude which would run the risks to which I have referred. In accordance with what the Government believes to be its duty, this motion is proposed - proposed reluctantly, because for many reasons the Government vould prefer that the seat in question should be retained by South Australia.
– The members of this House generally appreciate the great thoroughness with which the Minister has gone into the whole question of redistribution, especially as it affects the State of South Australia. We also are indebted to the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) for the manner in which he has stated the legal and constitutional position. One can readily appreciate that the real reason which actuated the Government in bringing down ‘this measure was, as the Attorney-General frankly said, the unpopularity of adding to the number of representatives in Parliament. At the conclusion of my speech, I shall move a motion which, while permitting the number of members of the House of Representatives to remain as at present, and complying with the requirements stated by the distinguished counsel cited by the Attorney-General, and allowing South Australia to retain its seven members will also ensure that the representation of the various States will be more truly proportionate to the numbers of their electors than under the present scheme. If that can be shown the whole contention of the Government really falls to the ground. Every thinking person must recognize that the proposal to deprive South Australia of one seat is a manifest injustice. There is no doubt that of the disabilities of that State, the desperate position of the great industries, and the financial difficulties of both the State Government and private individuals, and, especially having regard to the close association of the finances and general policy of Commonwealth and States, South Australia has special need for the maximum representation in this Parliament. Obviously, South Australia would be placed at a much greater disadvantage by the loss of one member out of seven, than would, say, Victoria, by the loss of one out of twenty members; or New South Wales by the loss of one out of 28. I trust that the Government, in view of its very reasonable attitude, and its evident readiness to secure fair play for South Australia, will reconsider the matter and accept the motion which I propose to move. The figures given by the Minister show that if the quota obtained by the formula of the Electoral Redistribution Commission were adopted, with certain modifications, and the divisor of 72 were used with a remainder of .3, the number of people in the various States per member would be: New South Wales, 92,000 ; Victoria, 91,000; Queensland, 94,000 ; South Australia, 83,000; and Western Australia, 87,000, showing a difference between the highest and lowest of 11,000.
I suggest that the number of electors, too, should be taken into consideration if the spirit of the Constitution in regard to equality of representation is to be observed as the Attorney-General has emphasized. Under ny proposal, the number of electors per electorate would be: New South Wales, 53,000; Victoria, 53,000; Queensland, 51,000; South Australia, 48,000; and Western Australia, 45,700, showing a difference between the highest and lowest of 7,300. I have included Western Australia, because it is entitled to five members, by virtue, not of the provisions of the Constitution, but of its increased population. If the present electoral law stands, the number of people per electorate will be: New South Wales, 92,000; Victoria, 91,000; Queensland, 94,000; South Australia, 96,000; Western Australia, 87,000. If the divisor of 72 is used with a remainder of .5, the actual number of electors in each division will be : New South Wales, 53,000 ; Victoria, 53,000; Queensland, 51,000; South Australia, nearly 57,000; and Western Australia, 45,700. Thus the differences between the highest and lowest is 11,000, as compared with the difference under my formula of 7,300. In these circumstances, I would suggest that it is worth while examining the matter to see whether the position of South Australia cannot, even at this late hour, be remedied. Especially am I impelled to make this suggestion by the remarks of the Attorney-General in regard to the awful condition into which we might fall if the constitutional provisions relative to the ascertaining of the quota were not carried out, and there were continuous elections and dissolutions of Parliament. In a memorandum prepared by the Chief Electoral Officer in connexion with the proposal which I made in 1922, I find that Parliament adopted a proposal which left a difference of 6,000 between the lowest and highest average numbers of electors per division, and rejected a proposal which would have reduced the difference to only 4,000. Since that time, we have been carrying on under circumstances which the Attorney-General has said are fraught with extreme peril,, so far as the validity of our representation law is concerned. I am proposing an alteration of the suggestion made by the majority of the Electoral Commission that will affect the representation of South Australia only, and will not increase the total membership of the House. Later I propose to move -
That consideration of the approval of distribution as proposed be postponed pending an investigation by the Government as to whether an amendment of the Representation Act, section 10, sub-section 2, could be submitted to the House-
– What would be the number of seats in each State under the right honorable member’s proposal ?
– It would be exactly the same as at present. Section 10, sub-section 2 of the Representation Act which is really a repetition of a por tion of section 24 of the Constitution, reads -
For the purpose of determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States the following procedure shall be followed: -
A quota 6hall be ascertained by dividing the number of people of the Commonwealth, as shown by the certificate (for the time being in force) of the Chief Electoral Officer, by twice the number of senators.
Tho number of members to be chosen in each State shall subject to the Constitution be determined by dividing the number of the people of the State, as shown by the certificate (for the time being in force) of the Chief Electoral Officer, by the quota; and if on such division there is a remainder greater than one-half of the quota one more member shall he chosen in the State.
I suggest that the words after “ division “ be deleted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - in the case of a State having ten or more members there is a remainder greater than one half of the quota one more member shall be chosen in the State and, in the case of a State having less than ten members, there is a remainder greater than .3 of the quota, one more member shall be chosen in the State.
In the case of the less populous States the loss of a member makes a tremendous relative difference to the numerical size of the electorates. In order to see the effect one has only to consider the difference in the size of the electorates in South Australia and in Western Australia as affected by the proposed redistribution. In Western Australia the average number of electors in each division is 45,735 electors, and in South Australia 56,836, a difference of over 11,000. By the loss of one seat in South Australia 66,000 electors in that State would be in effect disfranchised in comparison with the voting power of the people in other States. When I raised this question some years ago with respect to the internal redistribution in Victoria, Parliament altered the redistribution because I was able to show the obvious injustice that was being done in certain country electorates with high quotas in comparison with others. A similar injustice is now proposed as between States. There is a higher electoral quota in South Australia than in any other State of the Commonwealth. It is higher than in Western Australia by 11,000 than in Queensland by 5,000, and than in New South Wales and in Victoria by 3,000.
Sir- Littleton Groom - tinder what authority is the right honorable gentleman entitled to use the electoral quota?
– I am combining the two highest and lowest. The difference between the number of persons per member will thus be less than that shown in the proposals submitted in 1922. In that year the Government of the day thought that it was justified in retaining a system under which there was a difference of 6,000 between Victoria, which was the highest with 76,576 persons per division, and South Australia, which had 70,000, in opposition to a proposal under which there would have been 74,000 on the one hand and 70,000 on the other. In respect of population the difference between those two under my proposal will be less than 2,000, and in regard to electors there will be a closer approximation than under the proposal submitted by the Government. I may be pardoned for indicating to the Minister what would be the result of adopting my suggestion. It would not adversely affect redistribution in other States, because they are not affected by this motion, but I should like the Attorney-General to express an opinion as to how it would affect South Australia. If the proposed redistribution proposals were returned, the law amended in the direction desired, and it were impracticable to resubmit them to Parliament before the election, would not the election take place in South Australia for seven divisions on the existing boundaries, under section 24 of the Electoral Act? If that were to happen, the same injustice would not result as if only six members were returned, and I realize that, if these redistribution proposals were rejected at present, without an alteration of the Representation Act, there would be chaos in South Australia, but I am not sure as to the position in the other States. There is no redistribution scheme in existence which provides for only six members in South Australia, but there is a redistribution scheme which provides for seven. I ask the Government to consider this suggestion in the impartial and detached manner in which it has brought the whole matter before the House, with a view to doing something to remove what the people of Australia regard as an obvious and flagrant injustice to a State that is more “ under the weather “ than any other State in the Commonwealth. I move -
That all the words after “ that “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ consideration of the approval of the distribution as proposed be postponed pending an amendment of section 10 of the Representation Act 1905, by omitting therefrom all words after ‘ division ‘ and inserting in their stead the following words: - ‘in the case of a State” having tcn or more members there is a remainder greater than one-half of the quota one more member shall bc chosen in the State, and, in the case of a State having less than ten members, there is a remainder greater than .3 of the quota, one more member shall be chosen in the State ‘ “.
– In seconding the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), I should like to supplement what the right honorable gentleman has said. The Minister has outlined the constitutional procedure to be adopted to determine the electoral quotas and the number of members to be elected by each State. The Constitution provides the procedure to be adopted “until Parliament otherwise provides “. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) told us to-night that any action which this Parliament takes in altering the present procedure must, of course, conform te- constitutional requirements, and that tn«members allotted to the different States must be in proportion to the respective numbers of persons in such States. The procedure adopted is to divide the total population of Australia by 72, and, having obtained a quota, to divide the population of each State by such quota in order to determine the number of seats to which a State is entitled. It is provided that where there is a residual of more than .5, a State is entitled to an additional member. In actual practice, this works out very harshly in a State which has a comparatively small number of members. If New South Wales had a remainder nearly sufficient to entitle it to an additional member, the distribution of that remainder over 28 seats would only result in the number of electors in each electorate being increased by fewer than 1,000.
– Supposing the quota were 53,000?
– A surplus less than one-half of the quota might be 26,000, which, divided by 28, would be less than 1,000. In Victoria, where there are twenty members, it would represent about 1,300 additional voters for each seat. In the case of South Australia, a residual of nearly one-half of the quota of electors - I am taking the quota of electors, although the Constitution provides that the basis shall be the population and not the number of electors - if divided between only six seats, would add 4,000 or more electors to each electorate. Such a State would necessarily have a larger number of electors for each member than the more populous States. That does not seem to be just, but that is exactly what will happen in South Australia under these proposals. Taking the whole of the States on the basis of tho number of electors as distinct from the population, Western Australia has over 45,000 electors for each seat. In dealing with these proposals in the past, we have been in the habit of disregarding Western Australia and Tasmania, because under the Constitution they are both entitled to a minimum representation of five members; but, as has already been mentioned to-night, Western Australia is now entitled to five members by virtue of the numbers of its people. As stated by the Minister, Western Australia has 4,759 quotas, and as .759 is more than one-half, that State is entitled to five seats. Western Australia, having come of age in that sense, has an average of 45,000 odd electors to each member, Queensland, 51,000 and New South Wales and Victoria each 53,000. South Australia, under the new proposal, if allowed only six seats, will have 57,000 electors to each member. So. there is a tremendous jump from the position of Tasmania, which has special protection entitling it to five members irrespective of its population, to that of South Australia, which although having two and a half times the population of Tasmania, is to have only six members. If effect were given to the proposal submitted by the Leader of the
Country party - the necessary legislation could be quickly passed, for the matter is not very complicated - a smaller fraction would entitle a little State to an additional member, and we should then get over this difficulty.
– It would make a discrimination between States.
– I shall deal with that point. Last year I suggested in this House that if, in the case of a State having fewer than ten members, that State were permitted, by an alteration of the legislation, to have an additional member for a residual of less than .5, that would entitle South Australia to retain its seven members; but it would not add to the number of members in Queensland or New South Wales. I shall show that this discrimination, if such it could bo . called, has really a sound arithmetical basis, although it may not appear on the surface to have such a foundation. It seems to carry out more effectively than does the existing law the requirement in the Constitution that members must be allotted to the different States in proportion to the respective numbers of persons in those States. I believe that it answers both those requirements. The present practice must frequently force the small States to accept larger electoral quotas than in the big States that have a much larger number of members. If the Country party’s proposals were adopted, and it became the law to permit a State having fewer than ten members to have an additional member, if it had a residual of more than .3, instead of over .5, South Australia would have an average quota of electors of nearly 49,000, compared with 45,000 in Western Australia, and 51,000 in Queensland.
– What is the figure for New South Wales?
– Both New South Wales and Victoria would have 53,000. Although, on a population basis, Victoria has a smaller number of people per quota than New South Wales, it has a larger number of electors per member.
– The New South Wales figure is 55,000.
– I am taking my figures from those given by the Minister, and the average number was 53,000 for both Victoria and New South Wales.
– The honorable member would repair an irregularity in one State only.
– There would be no irregularity. Our proposal, if given effect, would answer every one of the requirements set out by the AttorneyGeneral. South Australia would then retain its seven members without there being any increase in other States, and this House would still have 75 members instead of the number being reduced to 74. The maximum variation in the numbers of electors per member would be substantially less than under the proposals to reduce South Australia to six seats, because Western Australia would have, on the average, a quota of 45,000 electors, South Australia almost 49,000, Queensland, 51,000, and Victoria and New South Wales each 53,000. The maximum variation would be that between Western Australia with 45,000, and Victoria and New South Wales with 53,000. If South Australia retained its seven seats on the basis suggested, its number of electors would be 4,000 above the minimum, and 4,000 below the maximum, thus coming midway between the two extremes. I admit that, o.n a population basis, there would be a variation of about 1,000 more under Dr. Earle Page’s proposal, than under that submitted by the Government; but on the basis of the number of voters within each constituency in those States, there would be a much smaller variation. As I have said, our proposal would enable South Australia to retain its original number of seats, and it would not add another seat to any other State. The personnel of this Parliament would remain at 75 members. The fact that there is less variation between the average number of electors in the various constituencies under the proposition put forward by Dr. Earle Page is at least some answer to any objection that may be raised that the consitutional requirement that the seats must be allotted in proportion to the number of people in the respective States would not be observed. That is very well answered by these figures, which show that South Australia would fall exactly half way between the maximum and the minimum. I think it can also be shown that departure from the .5 fraction is reasonable in the case of a small State, when by an adherence to that fraction, it necessarily suffers a very great disadvantage in having its quota forced up to a very much greater extent than would be the case in a State that has 20 or 28 members. The greatest degree of arithmetical justice can be done to all States under this method, and I urge the Minister to give it the consideration which I believe it deserves. Justice would be done to South Australia without violating any of the requirements that the Minister has mentioned.
– This debate raises the fundamental problem that the Parliament had to deal with in 1905, when it passed the Representation Act. At that time, there was a dispute between New South Wales and Victoria as to their representation. The population was increasing and it was considered eminently desirable to lay down a fair rule that would apply fairly to all States, and would not be subject to continual attempts at alteration to suit political or other temporary considerations which might arise. The aim was to remove the matter from the ordinary controversies, and that an independent officer should determine the statistical condition and a definite rule should apply equitably to all the States in accordance with the terms of the Constitution. Now, because the mathematical formula does not produce the result desired by some on a specific occasion, an effort is being made to apply another formula to suit the political or other particular conditions of the day. That is not the proper way to deal with the problem. The principle laid down in 1905 has so far been fair and equitable to all the States.
– Does not the right honorable gentleman consider that it would be fair to give a small State a slight fractional advantage?
– That may be; but we must be guided by what is allowed by the Constitution. The procedure established does not contemplate rules that would apply to one State and not to another as now proposed. The proper course, it was considered, was to lay down a rule of universal application that would be fair to all; otherwise, after every census, the whole basis would be altered to suit some particular condition of the time. That is what is happening now. Different proposals have been made from time to time with a view to producing a certain result. The Commonwealth Electoral Officers in 1922 pointed out that certain proposals they made were not of general application, because the transfer of population from one State to another would cause results different from those suggested at that time. That should not be. There should be a permanent basis, so that for all time we should know that a general rule applied. I sympathize with South Australia, but we cannot help it. Those who framed the Constitution appreciated the fact that the population of the various States would alter. So that the smaller States might not be too seriously affected, provision was made for a minimum representation of five members.
– Then you immediately go to the other extreme.
– If the population of a State is increased, it must be given additional representation. This is the people’s House, and the general idea was to set aside State boundaries generally and to give representation as far as it was just and practicable in proportion to population. The States as States are represented in the Senate. The framers of the Constitution wanted to lay down a fair basis that would apply to all States and ensure that the smaller States would have fair representation at all times. The matter is dealt with by Quick and Garran, in their work The Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth. Sir John Quick had a high reputation, not only as a constitutional lawyer, but also as an eminently fair and just man. Referring to the words “ as nearly as practicable “ in section 24 of the Constitution, Quick and Garran say -
These words are not intended to allow the Parliament a discretionary latitude in fixing the number of the members of the House of
Representatives, but to provide for the slight variation that may be caused by the provision for the minimum representation of a State, and also by the provision for representing fractions of a quota. According to the mode provided in this section for determining the number of members, the “ quota “ of representation is to be ascertained by pure arithmetic. So far, the words, “ as nearly as practicable “ are unnecessary. But the quotaso obtained, though it of course divides exactly into the population of the Commonwealth, is not likely to divide exactly into the population of each State. There will probably be fractions in each State, arithmetically entitled to a fraction of a member; and whether these fractions are ignored altogether, or whether provision is made - as in this section - for assigning a member to any fraction greater than one-half the quota, the result may be to slightly disturb the “ two to one ratio.” A further, and, at present, more considerable element of disturbance is the provision that each State shall have atleast five representatives. On a population basis, Tasmania is at present only entitled to three representatives ; and her two additional members, not being allowed for by the quota calculation, go to increase the number of members beyond the “ two to one ratio.”
The Parliament, when it makes “ other provisions “ for determining the number of members, will bo bound by the constitutional provision to make their number “ as nearly as practicable twice the number of the senator’s;” and the clear intention is that the absolute ratio should only be departed from, so far as may be necessary to adjust fractional and minimum representation.
Further on they add -
These words empower the Parliament to alter the provisions of sub-sections (i) and (ii), which deal with the manner of determining the number of members chosen in the several States. This power of alteration is, however, confined within very narrow limits by the permanent and absolute provisions of the section. The rules, which are determined absolutely by the section, and which Parliament has no power to alter, are : -
The provisions for ascertaining the quota, and for dealing with the question of fractions, may only be altered subject to those absolute rules ; so that a power of the Parliament to alter the basis of apportionment is very small.
That is the position. The power of Parliament to vary the provision is strictly limited by the provisions of the Constitution. To-night a new proposal has been sprung on us, in which, an arbitrary figure is suggested. It is only to apply to certain States. The figure chosen is . 3, solely because that happens to suit South Australia at the present time.
– It would suit any State.
-No, it would not according to the amendment: In a State like Queensland one fraction would apply, while, in the case of South Australia, another would apply. That is not in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution, in which it is definitely laid down -
The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, and shall, until the Parliament otherwise provides, be determined, whenever necessary, in the following manner : -
A quota shall be ascertained by divid ing the number of the people of the Commonwealth, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by twice the number of the senators.
The number of members to be chosen in each State shall be determined by dividing the number of the people of the State, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by the quota; and if on such division there is a remainder greater than one-half of the quota, one more member shall be chosen in the State.
But notwithstanding anything in this section, five members at least shall be chosen in each original State.
The honorable member admits that generally the application of anything greater than one-half the quota is a fair basis to choose for application as an absolute rule. When the fraction is exceeded, the State is entitled to an extra member, though even that is a concession. It would certainly not be fair to reduce it to . 3 simply because that would suit a particular State. We may presume that if 3 were found unsuitable, the honorable member would be quite prepared to reduce it to . 2. It is clear that the Constitution contemplated a general rule, which would apply equitably to all States. The number of electors has nothing to do with the application of this section. The electoral population comes into the matter only in fixing the boundaries for the electoral divisions.
– And yet we have to admit that the numbers of electors would be a fairer guide than the total populations.
– That may be so; but before the numbers of electors could be taken into consideration it would be necessary to alter the Constitution. We all sympathize with South Australia in the loss of a member; but, if another Broken Hill were to be developed in that State, its population would increase, and its ‘representation be restored. I point out the hopelessness of trying to alter the quota as is proposed, every time a redistribution falls due. Surely Parliament must act upon a general permanent and definite principle. Various formulas have been put forward from time to time; but that provided for in the Constitution seems to be the most equitable. I have gone into this matter very carefully, because it was my lot to introduce the Representation Bill in 1905. Thematter was considered with the greatest care, and the act has been applied from time to time. The present arrangement seems to be the only one which, while keeping within the terms of the Constitution, provides a fair system which is above all party considerations.
.- The amendment moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) is consistent with the spirit of the Constitution. That is proved by the fact that two of the smaller States were given representation far beyond that to which their population entitledthem. It was also provided that there should be a wider margin for rural constituencies than that povided for the metropolitan, or more thickly populated areas. South Australia is essentially a rural State. It is admitted that over-centralization is an evil in this country, and, for that reason, rural populations should be given adequate representation. It is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution to disfranchise 24,000 citizens of South Australia, as is proposed. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has shown clearly what a sacrifice a small State is called upon to make when redistribution is carried out on the 5 basis. As this
Parliament is able to deal with this subject on its merits I hope that it will do so. I regard the amendment as worthy of support because it offers a fair solution of the problem that faces us. South Australia should not be weakened in its representation in this Parliament. Something has been said about one vote one value. If the standard of value be value of production for export per citizen, the citizens of South Australia will be found to be worth more per head than the citizens of the larger States. The average production value for export per citizen of Australia is £15, but the value per citizen of Western Australia is £37. If the figure were calculated for South Australia it would be found that the value per citizen of that State greatly exceeds £15 per head. These are matters which should be taken into consideration in any equitable system of parliamentary representation. The fact that they have been disregarded to such a great extent is one of the causes of the discontent that exists in the smaller states. I hope that the amendment will be carried.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) adjourned.
Australian Broadcasting Commission: Administration in Queensland.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) a matter relating to broadcasting in Queensland. Some time ago a telegram was sent by Senator Collings and myself to the Prime Minister protesting against the dismissal of employees of the Broadcasting Commission in Queensland. The Prime Minister replied to this telegram in the following terms : -
Reference your telegram 10th May Acting Postmaster-General has advised me that no changes are being made in departmental staff station 4QG stop Possibly your telegram refers to men employed by Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Subsequently, I sent the Prime Minister another telegram, which read as follows : -
Our telegrams Tuesday and Thursday refer to employees of Australian Broadcasting Commission. Would urge you carry out our suggestion re inquiry and hold up dismissals.
– How many dismissals were there ?
– Several, and I claim that they were not justified. Prior to the present manager taking over his position in Brisbane, a loyal staff was working there in the interests of the commission and the general public. The Australian Broadcasting Commission took over 4QG station and its staff from the Queensland Government. At that time there was general satisfaction with the station. The late manager was loyally supported by his staff. Certain telegrams passed between Major Conder, after he was appointed general manager of the Broadcasting
Commission, and the divisional manager. Mr. Robertson was urged to keep the members of his staff in temporary positions pending their permanent appointment. At that time divisional managers were expected to communicate with divisional managers in the other States with the idea of ensuring that programmes would be organized on a basis satisfactory to the general public. But after Major Conder assumed office divisional managers were forbidden to communicate with each other. In fact, Major Conder has treated the employees of the commission in a high-handed way, and, in my opinion, most unjustly. He has also treated Australian artists who formerly took part in national broadcasts in a most unfair way. Since Major Conder has been manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission practically the whole of the business that was formerly done through the A class stations has gone to the B class stations.
– What does the honorable member mean by “the business “ ?
– I mean that nowadays the B class stations are catering for practically the whole of the listeners in Brisbane and Queensland. This is undoubtedly due to the manner in which Major Conder is doing hia work. I direct the attention pf the PostmasterGeneral to the engagement of Maggie Teyte, Tudor Davies and Yelland Richards, three artists who arrived from England under engagement to J. C. Williamson Limited. These artists were taken over from J. ‘ C. Williamson Limited by Major Conder, and sent to Brisbane without the divisional manager knowing , anything about it. I am given to understand that this action on the part of Major Conder involved the commission in heavy expense that should have been borne by J. C. Williamson Limited. A group of artists, known as the Early Victorians, was also sent to Brisbane without the knowledge of the divisional manager, and proved to be an utter failure as entertainers. As a result they were .left on the hands of the commission, and did not give satisfaction to Brisbane listeners. A further complaint relates to two Brisbane artists, Arthur Sharman, pianist, and Ruth Portrate, described as a brilliant soprano. Major Conder’s treatment of these two artists was not what might be expected from the manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and called forth strong comments from the Queensland press.
– What was the direct charge in regard to the lastnamed artist?
– The charge was that when Ruth Portrate returned to Australia after a successful season abroad, during the course of which she appeared at the British Broadcasting Commission studios and as principal soprano with the Carla Rosa Opera Company, she interviewed Major Conder, and was told that she would be given engagements, and that she would be Written to. She waited in Sydney at her own expense for three weeks and, on the strength of the manager’s assurance to her, refused other engagements. No letter was forwarded to her, so in disgust she left for her home. I understand that she has not yet received any communication from Major Conder. As I have already stated, prior to Major Conder’s appointment, the principal Queensland station was carried on by a loyal and trusted body of employees. Immediately Major Conder became general manager, there were wholesale dismissals from the staff of 4QG Brisbane, and appointments made of persons who, it is said, are less competent. Another complaint relates to Harry Borradale, well known as Queensland’s leading elocutionist, and a gentleman with lengthy theatrical and broadcasting experience. He was dismissed, and his place taken by .a son of Sir Alexander Gordon. Mr. Gordon’s work, I am informed, cannot be compared with that of Mr. Borradale, but his salary is higher than that given to Mr. Borradale. Another employee who was dismissed is Miss Olive Donoghue. She commenced work at 4QG as a young typist many years ago, and eventually became senior typist. So satisfactory was her work that Major Conder wrote to her just before last Christmas a private letter of congratulation and sent her a Christmas present in the form of a medallion. A few weeks ago Miss Donoghue’s engagement was terminated, no reasons being given, and she was asked to return the medallion. There are ‘other complaints to which I could direct attention, but I have no desire to weary the House. Representations having been made to Senator Collings and myself, we communicated with the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) asking him to take action to prevent these wholesale dismissals until such time as an inquiry had been held, but no notice was taken of our request. One of the dismissed employees was fortunate enough to secure a permanent engagement with a B class station, but the majority of the others have been thrown on the unemployed market of Brisbane.
– What reason was given for dismissing the lady typist?
- Major Conder has not given reasons for the dismissal of any of the staff. Practically all of the older employees of 4QG have been dismissed, and it is the opinion of listeners in Brisbane that those engaged in their places are less competent. I hope that the Postmaster-General will have an inquiry made, and, if possible, instruct that the dismissed employees be reinstated without delay.
– I listened carefully to the remarks of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson). I am also aware that he and his colleague in another place, SenatorCollings, had sent a communication to the Prime Minister on this subject. Since my return from abroad, I have not had an opportunity to peruse the file dealing with these complaints, but I can assure the honorable member that the statements which he has made to-night will receive the fullest consideration. He will, I think, appreciate the fact that, as the Broadcasting Commission is working under an act which gives it certain statutory powers, that body is in entire control of the programme and the employees. I have always heard Major Conder described as a particularly efficient and enterprising general manager, and I am sure that honorable members will, in fairness, admit that there must be another side to the case that has been presented tonight. The honorable member for Brisbane has given us his version - I make no reflection upon him in that respect, because he has related what he believes to be the facts - but it is only reasonable that we should hear the other side. I am sure that Mr. Cleary, the new chairman of the commission, with whom I shall confer regarding the various matters that have been mentioned, will have an inquiry made into the complaints brought before the House by the honorable member. I shall take the necessary steps to have the matter investigated. “
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in calling for prices for the construction of a sloop, the Government will request the State Government to submit a tender from the Government dockyard at Walsh Island.
– In the event of the Government deciding to construct another sloop the matter will receive consideration.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice- -
Will he direct the Commonwealth Report ting Staff to supply to any witness before the petrol commission who applies for it a free copy of his own evidence.
– The Royal Commission on Petrol has now adjourned sine die, and, unless something unforeseen occurs, no more evidence willbe taken. As to evidence already given, no departure can be made from the established practice that all transcript must be paid for.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he make available, for the information of honorable members, the cost of the recent visit by the Postmaster-General to Egypt, Europe and the United States Of America, showing the cost incurred by each member of the party?
– The total cost of’ the delegation as brought to account in Australia to 30th June, 1934, is £2,637. Until final accounts have been received from the High Commissioner’s Office in London, the cost in respect of each member of the party cannot be ascertained.
Mission to Far East.
s. - The information requested by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) as to the cost of the Mission to the Far East will be provided as soon as it is available. It has not yet been possible to make up full accounts.
d asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
What percentage of the federal wheat bounty has been paid direct to the wheat-farmers in New South Wales for their personal use, and what percentagehas been withheld under the Farmers Relief Act of the State of New South Wales to satisfy creditors?
– The Commonwealth Government has paid to the New South Wales Government the sum of £500,000, out of the total amount of £911,094 payable to that State under the Wheat Growers Relief Act 1933. No official advice has been received regarding the distribution made by the New South Wales Government to wheat-growers, but I understand that no payments are being withheld under the Farmers Relief Act of that State.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l. - On the 29th June, 1934, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
– On the 29th June, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following question, upon notice: -
In view of the fact that tenders for all the subsidized aerial services in Australia were accepted by the Government some weeks ago, with the exception of the spur line from Ord river to Wyndham, when will tenders be called and accepted for this remaining service?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the matter of reinvitation of tenders for the spur air service between Ord river and Wyndham is now receiving the attention of the civil aviation and Crown law authorities, and it is expected that tenders will be called within the next few weeks. The time of closing of these tenders has not yet been definitely decided, but the Government hopes to avoid any dislocation of the normal air communications to Wyndham.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 4. When the Amending Bill is brought down to repeal section 52m of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, which requires contributions from certain relatives towards the cost of pensions, full particulars will be given of the result of investigations made.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the fact that he has stated that the Government proposes to introduce legislation to amend the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act in certain directions, will he consider, in framing such legislation, the question of exempting as income payments in respect of miners’ phthisis and insurance policies?
– The question so far as it relates to miners’ phthisis allowances has already been considered by the Government, which could not see its way clear to exempt these allowances from income for the purposes of the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act. Payments in respect of insurance policies are not deemed to be income for the purposes of the act.
On the 29th June, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
On the 29th June, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows:-
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it posible under the financial agreement now incorporated in the Commonwealth Constitution for the Commonwealth to raise loan funds for a State and make loan funds available to a State prior to the Parliament of that State having first passed legislation approving of such loan and the amount thereof?
-Under the financial agreement the Commonwealth can at the request of the Loan Council, raise loan moneys required by a State and make them available to the State prior to the State Parliament having passed legislation approving the loan. The State, however, cannot spend such loan moneys until it has securedparliamentaryauthority.
s. - On the 29 th June, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde; asked the following questions, upon notice: - 1. (a) What is Australia’s total overseas indebtedness; (b) when will these loans mature; and (c) what is the rate of interest paid on each?
I amnow in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: - 1. (a) As at 30th June, 1933, £597,270,000. (b) and (c) Details of loans and rates of interest as at 30th June, 1933, will be found on pages 124-127 of the budget-papers 1933-34. Similar information as at 30th June, 1934, is not yet available, but will be published in the budget-papers 1934-35.
On the 29th June, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
What was the amount of the funded and short-term debts of the Commonwealth and of the States on 30th June, 1930?
What were the amounts similarly due on 30th June, 1933?
What has been the annual saving effected by the Australian loan conversion?
What will be the approximate saving this year due to the conversion of loans in England, including exchange at the present rate?
What ia the amount, including exchange, that would have been payable thiB year, had Britain demanded payment on account of the war debt?
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows:- -
Funded debt, £1,093,000,000; short-term debt (including overdrafts), £37,000,000.
Funded debt, £1,122,000,000; short-term debt, £83,000,000.
The annual Baying, including exchange on £109,000,000 of debt converted in London since October, 1932, is approximately £2,283,000.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 July 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19340704_reps_13_144/>.