14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon.G. j. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Embargo onentry into New Zealand.
-Will the Assistant. Minister for Commerce state precisely when negotiations are likely to be re-opened with the Government of New Zealand on the question of the embargo upon the importation of Australian citrus fruits into that dominion? Will such negotiations be conducted at long range, or may we expecta delegation from Australia to visit New Zealand.
– The negotiations with the Government of New Zealand in connexion with the lifting of the embargo against citrus fruits from Australia have been carried on for some considerable time.I believe that they commenced when Sir Frederick Stewart first visited New Zealand on behalf of the Commonwealth in 1934. Since then other Commonwealth Ministers have conducted negotiations in New Zealand, a delegation has visited Australia from New Zealand and a conference was held here, at which agreement could not be readied. Latterly, the Minister forDefence conducted certain negotiations with the Government of New Zealand, but without satisfactory result, while on a visit to that dominion. Thelatest information in the possession of the Commonwealth is that the Government of New Zealand is not prepared to proceed further with the matter until its Minister of Marketing, Mr. Nash, returns, probably via Australia, from a visit that he is now paying to England. . Mr. Nash cannot be expected to arrive in; Australia until four or five months have elapsed. The Commonwealth Government is keeping in touch with the Government of New Zealand in an endeavour to obtain, if possible, a modification of the embargo, because at present it is imposed under the Plant Diseases Act.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to the statement made in Adelaide by the president of the Employers Federation, at the annual meeting of that body, that the index numbers at present being used by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for the adjustment of the wage rates are not a true index of the cost of living in South Australia compared with that of other States? If so, can he make an announcement that will help to remove the impression generally held in South . Australia that serious mistakes have been made by the Commonwealth Statistician in the compilation of the index numbers?
– I have seen the references to which the honorable member has directed attention. The revision of the regimen in connexion with the “ C “ series of cost of living index numbers has received, within recent months, the close attention of the Commonwealth Statistician in conjunction with tlie statistician* of all tlie States. I understand that the result of the revision has been accepted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and that certain ‘variations 1 of wages have resulted or are about - to result. The revision was made, as I have said, in close co-operation with all the State Statisticians, and it occupied several months of close work. 1, personally, cannot believe that any mistakes have been made. The responsibility of the Commonwealth Statistician in this matter is solely that of compiling index numbers which give as exactly as possible a reflection of the variations of the cost of living. The basing of wage rates on the “ 0 “ series or any. other index numbers is the responsibility not of the Commonwealth Statistician, but of the Arbitration Court. I may add that the- Commonwealth Statistician will deal with this matter in some detail in his forthcoming labour report.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the press statement that the Government of New Zealand is in favour of a substantial subsidy being granted to British shipping in the Pacific) Can the right honorable gentleman inform the House as to whether the Commonwealth is in accord with this’ suggestion, and will be prepared to co-operate with the Government of New Zealand in giving effect to it?
– The Commonwealth Government has made it quite clear, in its communications with the Governments of New Zealand and the other dominions interested, that it is prepared to co-operate with them provided that the basis adopted is a satisfactory one. That basis has not yet been determined, nor will it. be until the report of the Imperial Shipping Committee has been received.
– In view of the decision of the Repatriation Department not to accept spondylitis as a war disability, can the Minister for Repatriation state whether it is a fact that a. present member of this House is in receipt of a war pension on account of that disability?
– The ‘ Minister for Repatriation is absent, but I shall bring (Ho honorable member’? question under hia notice.
– Has the Treasurer seen a press report to the effect that hardship is being caused to mother* because of the requirements that maternity allowances shall be paid to the hospital in which the mother was confined!
– 1 have seen the report of a comment to that effect by a member of the Parliament of Victoria. The position is that the allowance is paid by money order direct to the mother at the address which she nominates. It cannot be paid to any other person or at any other . place. There wai previously in existence a form under which a mother could delegate her authority to some other person to collect the payment, but that has now been cancelled. The department cannot do more than to ensure that the mother gets the money ; it has no control over what she does with it afterwards. We have done everything we can to ensure that mothers shall not be exploited.
-, Can the Prime Minister inform honorable members as to the probable date, however distant, at which it is believed the report of the Royal Commission on the monetary and banking, systems will be handed to. the Government! If the commission reports that its inquiries are of such a nature that they will take a long time to complete, perhaps the Prime Minister will ask it foi an interim report dealing, ‘ at least, with general -principles!
– I have no information which would indicate when the report i»’ likely to be presented to the Government, but, in view of the fact that on more than one occasion this matter has bren raised in the House, I shall get in touch with the commission and find out what are the prospects.
– In view of the difficulty arising from continual State spending sprees with Commonwealth money, will the Attorney-General consider the desirability of redrawing the map of Australia on sectional lines as follows: -
The abolition of State boundaries and setting up in their stead regional areas - with a diversification of interests in keeping with a common geographic background; vested with regional authority to deal with -
– I have had laid upon the table of the Library for the information of honorable members two complete copies of the judgment of the High Court in the Henry case.
– In view of the recent criticism from authoritative sources arising out of the last meeting of the Loan Council, will the Treasurer state whether itis a fact that the Commonwealth Bank Board limits, or attempts to limit, the loan programmes of the Commonwealth or State governments?
– The Commonwealth Bank Board does not seek in any way to interfere with or determine the loan programmes of any of the Australian governments. The function of the board is to give advice, at the request of the Loan Council, regarding the amounts of loan money that can be raised at reasonable rates, and under reasonable conditions. Apart from this function, it is not concerned in any way with government loan programmes.
– Does not the Commonwealth Bank agree to underwrite the amount of nnv loan which it recommends?
The following paper was presented: -
NewGuinea - Location of boundary between DutchNew Guinea and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea - Notes exchanged between the Netherlands and Commonwealth Governments.
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether any representations were made to him by Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, the British High Commissioner in Austrafia, with reference tothe exclusion of Mrs. Freer from Australia, and will he disclose the nature of those representations?
– No such representations were made.
Formal Motion for Adjournment.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have received from the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) 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 exclusion from Australia of Mrs. Freer “.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I take this action because an important principle is involved in the refusal of permission to Mrs. M. M. Freer, a British woman with a British passport, to land in Australia. If the usual practice of admitting white British subjects, who are sound in mind and body, is to be influenced by considerations other than those of broad national policy, there is no guarantee that ministerial decisions will not be guided by party or personal motives, or even by mere prejudice. Liberty of thought and action of individuals is being circumscribed on every hand by ministerial power. We have censorship of books which are read in every other part of the Empire; we have censorship of plays and motion pictures which are being played or exhibited all over the world; and now, last, but not least, we have this autocratic action of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) in setting himself up as a censor of morals. This is fascism in action. Some person hasbarn active in sowing the poisoned seed of scandal, and the Minister has not been slow to propagate it. Mrs. Freer was excluded by the obvious subterfuge of a language test which the Minister himself would be una bie to pass. The Minister has strained, to a ridiculous yet dangerous degree, tlie very wide discretionary powers vested in him by the Immigration Act. Yesterday he stated in this House -that information received from India was of such a nature a3 to indicate that Mrs. Freer was a person of undesirable character. He has not the courage to make such a statement outside the House, but takes refuge in a coward’s castle, and blasts a woman’s character. He has attacked a woman who has been refused the right to land in Australia, and denied the right to defend herself. Mrs. Freer has challenged the Minister to produce s.ay information which he may have relating to her character. He is, therefore, under no restraint to reveal the full facts of the case. Briefly, the Minister has damaged the moral reputation of a woman who ‘has repeatedly demanded that he give the full facts. From answers to questions asked in this House, and from newspaper reports, it would appear that the Minister acted solely on representations made by General Carl Jess. This House is entitled to know what were . those representations. Furthermore, it would appear that the first steps in this matter were taken by the family of a Mrs. Dewar. Without, apparently, taking any precautions to verify fully anything that was told to him, the Minister set himself up as a sort of divorce court to intervene in a private domestic trouble which, seemingly, was really a. matter for a judge in divorce. This House should be informed under which section of the * Immigration Act the Minister derives power to side with one party in a domestic dispute. What section of that act gives the Minister power, because a person wishing to enter Australia is, or is likely to be, involved in a divorce action, to take steps to prevent, that person from entering this country? Surely he does not take it on him-, self to institute ‘a. censorship over the affairs of private individuals! If such a principle is admitted, then we shall have a Minister excluding reputable British citizens because he does not like the colour of their politics, using as an excuse for their exclusion some phase of their domestic affairs. The Minister should inform this House of the source of his information, and the steps he took to verify that information. His replies to questions on this matter have been most unsatisfactory - nothing but innuendo, and, in effect, vilification. Having placed himself in a ridiculous position, he is now endeavouring to cover up his mistake by blackening the character of this woman, who. has not the privilege of defending herself. Even if Mrs. Freer’s character is as bad as the Minister alleges, by what right can he exclude her from landing in Australia? If he replies that he has that right, anybody with a knowledge of modern life will readily agree that almost all persons arriving in Australia would have difficulty in entering the country once the Minister had run his moral rule over them. Having done this in the case of Mrs. Freer, the Minister;, to be consistent, must instruct his officers that, in future, every person arriving in Australia must satisfy the department as to the probity of his, or her, moral life. This case affects every British citizen who may hold a British passport, and may be desirous of entering Australia. Never before in the history of this, or any other country, in which a democratic system of government exists has a responsible Minister taken such a stupid action. Members of the Cabinet should have the courage as men to tell the Minister that he has blundered over this affair. It is more than common gossip that, had the full Cabinet considered this matter before any action had been taken, the official, decision would have been vastly different. The Minister should be man enough to admit his blunder and take advantage of the earliest opportunity to rectify hie error and state that it is not his policy, or the policy of the Government, to enforce arbitrarily the provisions of the Immigration Act. If he fails to do this, it will be apparent to every one that this Government ‘ is ready at all times to invoke that legislation for party political purposes and to the detriment of liberty and freedom.
The Government should, in every War possible, try to erase this blot on the pages of Australia’s history. Whatever it does, it cannot completely remove the stigma that has been placed on this woman’s character, lt can, however, by revoking “the decision of the Minister for the Interior, show that it is not a party to the dictatorial enforcement of the provisions of the Immigration Act by arbitrarily excluding British subjects. Before the Minister took action in this matter did he consider what he would, or would not, have done had Mrs. Freer been some one near and dear to him? I remind him that One much greater than himself, with a deeper realization of human frailties and a greater understanding of the need for tolerance and compassion once said -
Ho that is without siu among you, let him cast a. stone at her.
I hope that members of the Government will stand up to their responsibilities in this case. Here is a woman who has been brought into the focus of public light over a domestic issue. The person who brought her here and invited her on board the ship by which he travelled, and who is instructing the young of this country, is said to be a proper citizen, but the character of the woman has been reviled by the Minister for the Interior from one end of Australia to the other. Surely members of the Government have, the courage of their opinions, and will demand a retraction by the Minister, so far as his action in this case is concerned. It is the easiest thing in the world to put a stigma on the character of any person, but no one who is guilty of such action can remedy the harm thereby done. Even if everything the Minister suggests concerning the character of this woman is true, surely it is not his prerogative, or that of any member of this Government, to say that he shall interfere with the private life of any citizen of a British dominion who desires to enter this country. I hope that honorable members opposite will protest against, this action in respect of a woman who has neither the opportunity nor the privilege to defend herself. I am informed that Mrs. Freer intends to leave New Zealand next week for Australia. “Will the Minister allow her to land in this country and will he then make statements outside of this House similar to those which he has made inside of it, so that she, as a citizen of the British Empire, may have the opportunity to defend her character before the people of Australia, India and Great Britain ?
[3.0J. - The honorable member for Cook .(Mr. Garden) has charged me with Having used the privileges and immunities of this House to defame the character of a woman. On the contrary, had I taken full advantage of the privileges’ and immunities of Parliament, I could have said very much more than I have said to defend the action which I have taken, and that would have been much the easier course for me to pursue. I have endeavoured, however, by every means in my power to protect this woman and other people involved by exercising every restraint, and this restraint has been exercised possibly to my own detriment. This unfortunate woman has brought more opprobrium upon herself by her own statements than I have been unwillingly compelled to bring upon her. The honorable member for Cook referred to a communication from General Jess. I have received no communication from that gentleman. The information upon which I acted came from India.
Let us consider for a moment the attitude which the honorable member for Cook usually adopts respecting immigrants. As a rule he may be depended upon to protest against the admission to Australia of even a few wholesome migrants who may be an asset to the country in every respect. Generally, he may be trusted to use every endeavour to prevent even desirable persons of that character from coming here, despite the fact that he, like myself, migrated to Australia. But when a Minister charged with the sometimes unpleasant duty to administer the provisions of the immigration law, acting with a full sense of responsibility, refuses permission to land here to a person concerning whom his department has received reliable reports which disclose that the individual .concerned is of undesirable character, the honorable gentleman is filled with indignation. The bare possibility that a -newcomer to Australia might take some other person’s job is, I realize, in some situations not without its tragedy, and the honorable gentleman’s sympathies are invariably and immediately aroused by the mere likelihood of such a thing; a catch conies to his throat when he attempts to discuss the subject; but the harsh reality of the usurping of a wife’s place, apparently arouses within him no emotion. whatever. I assure honorable gentleman that I did not act, lightly in giving my approval to the recommendation,made to, me by trusted and responsible officer’s. of my department - men with long experience in the administration of this, act - torefuse permission for this woman to land. I stated yesterday in. the House that I had received information from India indicating, that this woman was of an undesirablecharacter. There are, unfortunately, some persons in the community who have insatiable appetitefor unsavoury details; but the information upon which I acted was. furnished tome in confidential communications, the pre,cise nature and source of which I do not feel that I am at liberty to. disclose. Suffice it to say that I have satisfied myself entirely as to the absolute trustworthiness of the. source and substance of this information.. The information, in my judgment, absolutely justifies the exclusion of this woman as an undesirable citizen. The honorable member observed a few moments ago,, that the woman had stated that she was willing for a full disclosure to be made by me, and that there was therefore no longer any need for restraint in the matter. But I still have a duty to other persons - for example, the persons from whom I obtained this confidential information and also the persons who are the innocent victims of this unfortunate domestic tragedy.
I recognize to the full that it is not the official function of my department to act as a censor of public morals, but the fact remains that the presence of this woman would have wholly and irreparably encompassed the wreckage of an Australian home; and although that is, of course, not the prime motive for the exclusion of Mrs. Freer, he would be a callous man indeed who would dismiss it as a factor to be entirely disregarded. What amazes me in this matter is the superabundance of misplaced sympathy for an adventuress and the apparent total absence of a thought of compassion for a wife, and child, whosedomestic world is tumbling about their ears.
Mr.Brennan.-No informationof that kind is before the House,.anditis so much humbug for the Minister to talk like that. We should be given the facts, not innuendo.
Mr.JohnLawson.-Weshould should protect theinterestsofthe the Australian wife.
-Most honorable members of this Parliament, have wives and children of their own, and know from their own experience that the home is the most cherished of our institutions and the foundation upon, which pur national life is built. While. I admit that technically this aspect of the case is no immediate concern of the Parliament or the Government, I consider that. we. should be unworthy of the name of men if we. entirely excluded it from theambit of our consideration.
I wish todirecttheattention of honorable members to an informative article in the Sydney, Morning Heraldon the 6th November. It was written by Sir Robert Garran, formerly SolicitorGeneral of the Commonwealth, on the immigration law and its application to. the. case of Mrs. Freer. I shall not read the whole article, but will direct the attention of honorable members to pertinent extracts from it which deal specifically with the subject we. are. now discussing. Sir Robert Garranwrote-
Whatever rights of individual libertya person may have in hisown community, or another community towhich he is freely admitted, he has no right to claim admission into another community-not even if he is a. citizen of one part of the British Empire seeking admission to another part. However thatmay be, the Commonwealth Parliament has dealt with the matter in the Immigration Act.
Dealing with the subject of the disclosure of facts by the Minister, Sir Robert said -
Should the Minister in all cases disclose the real grounds of his decision? Publicity as to public aets is doubtless excellent as a general rule: but there may be cases in which disclosure would be injurious: perhaps to the reject himself, perhaps to other parties, perhaps to public interests. These appear to be matters as to which Ministers must be left tq be the judges. This is not a matter peculiar to the case of immigrants; as to other matters, also, the natural inquisitiveness of Parliament and public, and even of litigants in -court, is often met by the plea that disclosure is not in the public interest. The plea ia made under a sense of high responsibility, and there is no reason to suppose that it is often abused, If, in the exercise of this or any other discretion, Ministers forfeit the Confidence of Parliament, Parliament can deal with them.
Shortly, my conclusions are - no tone, British or foreign, white or coloured, not being -a member of the Australian community, has a regal right to claim admission to the Commonwealth. The right to refuse admission is rightly vested in the Minister, subject to control by Cabinet and Parliament. The matter of disclosure of reasons is properly in the discretion of the Minister in each case, subject to the like control.
Some reference has been made to that part of the Immigration Act which embraces the dictation test. I believe that no honorable member of this House is so simple as to believe that that part of our immigration legislation was enacted for the purpose of preventing illiterate persona from entering this country. That is nothing more than polite fiction. It may be quite frankly stated that the purpose of the section is undoubtedly of a dragnet character, but it at least has the great merit of serving to provide a technical reason for exclusion, which is accepted with good grace and without resentment by the countries from which the rejected persons come. On previous occasions it has been applied to British subjects as well as to aliens; it is brought into play a score of times a year; it has been on the statute-book since shortly after federation; and from the beginning it has been made use of by every government regardless of its political complexion. The Immigration Act clothes me, as the responsible Minister, with certain authority but I am doubly conscious of the fact that it clearly imposes upon me a very definite duty. I can assure the House that I am honestly endeavouring to carry out that duty in the manner which I believe to be in the best interests of the people of Australia.
.- I have listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) and I rise to take part in this debate because I believe that there are some vital principles at stake. The Minister has not disabused my mind of the fact, that from that aspect he has not presented an effec tive case. The importance of these principles transcends the personal consideration of the woman concerned and for that matter of the Minister himself. Honorable members were informed by him, du answer to a question some days ago, that the most jealously guarded privilege of the Commonwealth of Australia is the .right to exclude undesirables from entering this country* We are all jealous of that privilege, but we are equally jealous of the right to be given reasons for ministerial action. While standing in the defence of one of these privileges, the Minister arbitrarily denies the other. Since Magna Char’ta it has been laid down as a fundamental principle of British law that justice shall be denied to no one and that -every person has the right to be heard in his or her own defence. The Minister stated in the early part of. this discussion that he has excluded Mrs. Freer under the power which is given to him to apply a dictation test. I desire to know why he found it necessary to invoke paragraph a of section 3 of the Immigration Act when if he had. received any justifiable information against this woman from authoritative sources he could quite easily have cleaned up the whole matter by invoking paragraph gh of the same section. It states-- *[gh) any person declared by the Minister to be in his opinion, from information received from the Government of the United Kingdom or of allY other part of the British Dominions or from any foreign government, through official or diplomatic channels, undesirable as an inhabitant of, Or visitor to, the Commonwealth j
If the Minister has the information which he claims to have I suggest that he could quite easily have excluded Mrs. Freer under this power.
– The information was not obtained from a government.
-From reliable information I have received on this matter, I am firmly of the opinion that the Minister has exercised his extraordinary power, not in the interests of the Commonwealth, but to correct an individual grievance which should be fought out in the courts. In New South Wales alone in one year 600 divorce cases have been heard. Is. the Minister posing as one who believes that he should select one case out of 600 for purposes of discriminatory treatment?
– The Minister’s action does not preclude a divorce case from developing. ifT’’
– No, but the Minister has intervened in a personal and private squabble. and has not acted on information which has been justifiably received from another government. He has refused to give his reasons why he has taken this course, and I can come to only one conclusion.
– Has the Minister refused to give the reasons to the honorable member personally?
– No, but I was not satisfied with the reasons he gave to me personally. In my opinion the Minister, iu order to save himself, because his case, if he has a case at all, is so weak, dare not now give those reasons to the House. He admits that he has certain information, but he declines to state it. He has set himself up as a judge and jury, and from his decision there is no appeal. Apparently honorable members must not question his decisions. In the past, numbers of people have been excluded from this country, but the records disclose that the Ministers of the day, in order to justify those exclusions, were able to point to various circumstances as set out in the Immigration Act, as being good ground for preventing the persons concerned from landing on these shores. In the past, I emphasize, Ministers have been able to say : “ You cannot enter this country because you have an infectious disease; you are an advocate of the overthrowing by force of the Government of the Commonwealth ; you have a criminal history - here is your record, you have been tried and proved guilty.” In this case, however, the only charge which has been made by the Minister against Mrs. Freer is that she is u woman of an undesirable character. I should like to know what the Minister means by “undesirable character.” The person whom he so charges has stated that she is not an undesirable character, and she has challenged the Minister to set out his reasons for so impugning her honour. The honorable gentleman is well aware that under the privileges of this House he can inform honorable members of those reasons, and I consider that if they have been obtained from an authoritative ^source, and not from u personal and interested source, he would have had no hesitation in giving them. Mrs. Freer is a British subject carrying a British passport. The Minister on his own admission has received no information from the British Government in regard to this woman. Indeed, the Secretary of State for the Dominions, when replying in the House of Commons the other day to a question based on her. exclusion from Australia, admitted that he knew nothing of the case. The Minister has further stated that he has not received any information in reference to Mrs. Freer from the Government of India, but he has received information from interested persons in India and Australia. I therefore charge him with taking action in connexion with this case at the time without first of all verifying the charges which have been laid against Mrs. Freer. He has left himself open to grave charges of careless administration, bocause, when taking action he failed to verify the information given to him, and I challenge him to disprove my statements.
– That is not the case.
– Acting on flimsy and unverified evidence., the Minister excludes a British subject and because, in my opinion, he has made a bad blunder, he thinks that by going into hit shell, and maintaining a stony, noncommittal silence, many credulous people will think that he has something dread ful to conceal. In refusing to give this information to the House, he is allowing thousands of people to think that the information which he is supposed to possess covers a multitude of sins, which may or may, not be the sins of Mrs. Freer. Is the Minister aware that many honorable members of this House have heard in a hundred places that he has excluded this woman from entering the Commonwealth because she “may be a spy,” she “ may have a criminal record,” she “may be professionally immoral,’* she “ may be a drug pedler,” or she “ may be a white slaver”? In which of these categories, if any, does the Minister consider her to be? He refuses to disclose his reasons, and apparently he is ready to leave her open to all or any of these charges. If he possesses such information, and can present it to the House, I should bc the first to applaud him for his action. The Acting Minister for Customs in New Zealand, Mr. Fagan, after receiving full information from this Government in connexion with the exclusion of Mrs. Freer, allowed her to enter that dominion.
– The New Zealand authorities did not ask the Commonwealth Government for that information.
– No, but they received it from the Commonwealth Customs Department, acting for the Government in this matter. Mr. Fagan stated that he saw no reason why she should bo refused permission to land in New Zealand, and everybody knows that New Zealand is a country with a high moral standard. What would the people of the dominion say to Mr. Fagan if the Minister for the Interior were to lay on the table papers which disclosed something that we might regard as nefarious and dangerous in character? Even if all other members are prepared to judge this case on unconfirmed information, I am not. The principles involved are so important that this House should be given the assurance by the Ministry that steps will be taken to prevent any possibility of a similar case arising in the future.
.- Practically the whole of the statements of the last speaker (Mr. McCall) were based on suspicion, doubt or surmise. The responsibility rests on the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) to carry out the law as it is laid down by this Parliament. The particular law that we are now considering has been in operation for a period of 33 years. The reason far the provision of the dictation test was to make it unnecessary for the Minister to disclose such reasons as are evidently in existence in this case. We know that in the public interest books and films are censored. It is also in the public interest that the obligation is placed upon the Minister by the immigration legislation to protect Australia against undesirables. If there should exist any doubt whatever as to whether a slight injury should be done, to an individual, or an injury done to Australia, the Minister has the’ right of discretion but the responsibility of deciding in favour of Australia.
This matter has been raised by private members. It is complained, first that the woman in . the case has been maligned and injured by publicity, and secondly, that not sufficient reason for her exclusion from Australia has been given to this House. Surely it must be obvious that both of those grounds cannot be sustained. I submit that there has been more broadcasting through suggestion and surmise by individual members than there has been publication by the Minister of reasons; and if injury has been caused to this woman it has been done by them. We must have some confidence in the Minister, or he would not occupy the position that he now holds. His inquiries brought confirmation of hia original information. He has submitted this matter to Cabinet, and has informed - us that Cabinet has approved of his action. That there may be others in this country whose character is similar to that of this woman, is not a ‘ reason that can be advanced in favour of entertaining her request to be allowed to land, for murderers, felons, and revolutionaries might also find comrades in Australia. The information furnished by Sir Robert Garran clearly indicates that there is no obligation on any country in the world to allow a citizen of another country to enter it merely because he or she holds a passport. Specific reasons have been provided for the exclusion from Australia of aliens, and even of persons of British, stock. In the Minister’s judgment, one of those reasons applied to this lady. It was his responsibility to act and the language test provided for in the Immigration Act was applied to save publicity. We commend him for his courage. Let us show that he has the .support of the Parliament.
.- 1 desire to support the general principles, at all events, as laid down by the mover of the motion (Mr. Garden). It is a pity that the very important principles which arise under one of our most important and most delicate acts of Parlia-ment should appear to have been subordinated to purely personal considerations. But after all, it generally happens that principles of first-rate importance are associated in some way with particular and personal instances. The liberty of the subject involves, as a principle, the liberty of some particular subject whose case arises for consideration. So it is in this case. The person affected is a British subject. That, however, is by no means conclusive of the question in any aspect. She came to Australia accredited by passport, from what may be regarded as the centre of our Commonwealth of Nations. As a general rule, intercourse between the dominions, and between Great Britain and the dominions, is free and open to all, and is not subject to change. I think it has to be laid down and accepted as a principle that, notwithstanding the terms of goodwill upon which we live with other dominions and with Great Britain, and notwithstanding the freedom of intercourse between citizens in different part.’ of our Commonwealth of Nations, Australia admits whom it likes within its shores. It claims, and has asserted that right on a number of occasions, and in the courts of the land has successfully insisted upon its recognition. That insistence has extended, not only to individuals, but also to nations. But in the narrower aspects of the matter certain classes of persons are declared under the immigration law to be prohibited persons, and one of the classes consists of those who cannot pass what is known as the dictation test. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) himself admits that that dictation test is a polite fiction. I consider that the sooner we put our immigration law upon a more honest and solid basis the better. That is not a charge against the Minister, or even against the Government, because this act has been in existence for many years. But to act upon what is, after all, merely a fiction is to use what may b”. termed a fraudulent device to administer the law. I think that there is much to be said against exercising the powers that are conferred under section 3 and through the medium of that test, against any person, on moral grounds. The Minister is quite wrong when he suggests that either the mover of the motion (Mr. Garden), the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall), or any other honorable member, is less sensitive than he himself is in regard to the importance of keeping trie family life sacrosanct and incorrupt. We are all agreed upon that, and are well aware that, unhappily, the principle is often violated in this country. As one speaker has said, the divorce courts bear only -too eloquent testimony to that fact. I think that, as far as possible, our attitude towards incomers should be, though it need not necessarily be, similar to our attitude towards those who are already within our shores. I speak in general terms. I believe that it is entirely undesirable that we should make a discrimination upon moral grounds. In my opinion, the framers of the statute took that view, because, apart from the dictation test, they have sot out a long list of specific classes of persons who, in the view of the legislature, should be excluded. I need not read them. They are to be found in section 3, and they include imbeciles and feeble-minded persons, persons suffering from serious transmissable diseases, and so on. It is significant that that long list includes the class of unfortunate women who live in circumstances which I need not more exactly describe.
– Why not give al! the details?
– I have not the slightest intention of gratifying the honorable gentleman. In my view, thi, provision goes to show that, generally, it has been the policy of the law not to constitute the Commonwealth a moral censor. The law has taken upon itself the exclusion of definite classes of persons whose incoming would be a menace in one way or another to Ihe safety or the social health of the community as a whole, and has been careful not to go beyond that when dealing with the moral issue. On the subject of family life and morality, the Minister would be the first to realize that his view may differ from that of others. It may accord very nearly - I hope and believe that it does - with my own. But that is not a complete answer to the question. There is a wide difference of opinion upon these matters, and, unfortunately, it is only too true that in the present state of public opinion upon moral and social questions and family life, people in high as well as in low places are giving themselves a great deal more liberty, even licence, than was accorded by sound public opinion years ago. I submit that we ought not to undertake the impossible task of constituting ourselves judges in this matter. I regret exceedingly that, in making his reply, the Minister illustrated the danger of doing that, because by innuendo and in a veiled way he has made the very gravest charges concerning a woman against whom he has not produced one tittle of evidence. It is deeply to be regretted that the privileges of this House should be employed by a Minister, even unconsciously, to assail the personal character of any one whose character is not an issue before the House:
.- As previous speakers have pointed out, there is an important, principle underlying this matter. Consequently, honorable members should avail themselves of the opportunity to make some expression of opinion upon it. The present development of society is towards a condition of collectivism, the subjection of the interests of the individual to the interests of the State as a whole. That development has been termed “ The New Despotism “j and it has made its influence widely felt during the course of the twentieth century. As society generally has deemed it fit and proper that the. rights of the individual should in many more instances than was the case iu the nineteenth century be subjected to the. common good, it becomes of more importance that on those occasions when the rights of individuals are in any way the subject of government interference such interference should be strictly scrutinized and be kept to the smallest possible proportion. The personal respect and admiration that I feel for the Minister of the Interior (Mr. Paterson.), and my recognition of his ability, do not deter me. in these circumstances from analysing his action, and finding in it one or two features which give me- cause for concern. The- first is, that the information upon which the, honorable gentleman acted did not come) as he has stated, from an official, source; and, according, to the corresponding official in New Zealand, it did not justify that gentleman in excluding Mrs. Freer from that dominion. Such being the case, the individual element which comes under consideration as far as Australia isaffected, and which is absent in the case of New Zealand, is the relation of Mrs. Freer to the affairs of the Dewar family. That, I submit, is not a matter which calls for the interference of the Commonwealth Government. The parties to any domestic dispute or disturbance have the opportunity to ventilate the matter in the courts, and have a. decision, reached upon it. Society has laid down certain rulesgoverning the conduct of its members generally. Those rules have not been set out in legislative terms. They are the rules of society itself, and society takes its own -account of those whobreak them. I consider that society might have been left .to take the necessary action in this case.
My feelings on this matter are dictated by regard to principle. At the present time, there is need for greater interference by governments in the affairs of individuals in the interests of the people as- a whole. That is unavoidable, but necessary, however inconvenient or uncomfortable it may be in individual cases, but we should be zealous to protect what we consider to be the personal rights of individuals when they do not fall within the ambit, of Government policy. When-, we feel that to society itself may best be left the application of sanctions in particular instances, governments should leave the matter to society. The only assurance that. I personally would like to receive from the Government - and I am sure other honorable members are with me in this - -is that the present action of the Minister for the. Interior does not indicatea general line of policy on the part of the Government, but that,, in this particular instance, the Minister has- been swayed - as, indeed, he, ha-s: himself suggested - by the fact that there was in his mind thepossibility of the breaking up of an Australian home by a woman who, to put it mildly, was of doubtful character. In- thu instance the feelings, of the Minister a» a man - feelings which we all respect - have over-weighed his discretion as- a Minister. As. I have said* I trust that the action of the department in this instance does not indicate Government policy generally, but that it falls within the scope of the exception I have mentioned. In cases qf this kind we cannot press too strenuously for the fullest possible protection of individual rights. This woman has, by the action of the Minister, been branded in Australia as a person of undesirable character on evidence supplied to him from unofficial sources. That evidence may be acceptable to the Minister; it certainly would not be acceptable in a court of law, and the woman has no opportunity, in this country, at any rate, to clear her name. She has not the right to enter the country- and take action in the courts to clear her name should the allegations be untrue. Perhaps they are not untrue. She states that she desires the opportunity to prove that they are, but that opportunity is denied her. It seems to me that such action cuts across a principle of Brit:sh justice, the principle that he who is accused should have an opportunity to prove his innocence in the courts of the land, and for that reason I regret the action of the Minister for the Interior, and welcome the opportunity, provided by the moving of this motion, for honorable members to express their opinions on the broad principles involved.
– I listened very attentively to the reply of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) to the speech of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden), and I am not yet satisfied. I heard the replies given by the Minister to the various questions which have been asked from time to time on this subject, and all of them were evasive. It was suggested that, if the Minister had any information on the matter, he might make it available to honorable members by laying the papers on the table of the library, but he declined to do so. The result is that honorable members were kept in ignorance of the nature of certain charges which, the Minister says, indicate that Mrs. Freer is a woman of unmoral character. The reply given by the Minister to-day, in reply to the honorable member for Cook, does not satisfy members of this House, nor will it satisfy the public. Mrs. Freer, I understand, is only 25 years of age, and she became acquainted with Lieutenant Dewar, an Australian officer attached to the military forces in India for training purposes. Both he and she were married, but her home had been broken up, and his wife was in Australia. They became attached to each other, and he brought her to Australia for the avowed purpose of marrying her when he was able to obtain a divorce. There are always two sides to these matters. No one can persuade me that, in affairs .of this kind, the overtures are always made by the woman. Even the Minister would not claim that. It is even possible that if he were given the “glad eye” he might be tempted to make overtures himself. However that may be, the fact remains that this officer of the Australian Defence Department is to be allowed to go scot free, while the woman in the case is being made to bear all the blame. It’ is grossly unjust that she should be denied her right under British justice to defend herself. We do not know what happened in India. If she is to blame, then Lieutenant Dewar is also to blame. Yet he has been allowed to return to Australia, and is to continue training the youth of this country. Even if he had been only partly responsible for th« situation in which this woman finds herself, I do not admire him for his silence.
I have no wish to advocate the free entry into Australia of undesirable persons, but the Minister has not convinced me that Mrs. Freer is a woman of immoral character, or that she has broken the immigration law. Usually, only those persons are excluded who have criminal records, or who are suffering from some infectious or contagious disease. None of those conditions apply in this case, but the Minister has excluded Mrs. Freer from Australia because he has been informed that she is concerned in some domestic trouble. I understand that Lieutenant Dewar wished hie wife to join him in India; but she declined to do so. Subsequently, an attachment grew up between Lieutenant Dewar and Mrs. Freer, and he intended to marry her as soon as he was. free. Why should the Minister for the Interior interfere? There is nothing to indicate that Lieutenant Dewar and his wife will ever be reconciled, but we have a definite statement to tlie effect that he and Mrs. Freer intended to get married when they could. As the honorable member for Cook stated, the action of the Minister throughout the whole affair has been stupid. Tlie honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) has been persistent in his endeavours to extract information from the Minister regarding this case, and he has stated that he obtained more information in the course of private conversation, with the Minister than he was able to obtain in reply to questions asked on the floor of the House. Nevertheless, he is not satisfied that the right thing has been done, and if he is not satisfied, in view of the information given to him, how can the Minister expect other honorable members to be satisfied? If the Minister had made the facts available from the beginning, or even if he had taken other honorable members into his confidence to the same extent as he has taken the honorable member for Martin, there would have been no need for this motion. If a division is taken on this motion I propose to support it.
– In this debate we are not trying the lady whose name has been mentioned, or the gentleman either. The only question before the House should be as to whether the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) has carried out the law of this country dealing with the entry of persons from outside Australia who are not citizens of this country.
– The law allows the Minister to exercise a discretion, and his decision therefore is a matter for criticism.
– -Well, then, the Minister has exercised his discretion. Honorable gentlemen have advanced all sorts of tales about the injury which has been done to one particular person. If any injury has been done to that lady it has been done by her protagonists in this House, and she should pray every night “ God save me from my friends “. Honorable gentlemen have charged the Minister -with insincerity and have criticized him for his failure to disclose the full facts. I do not know what those facts arc, but a very significant state of affairs has existed in this House this afternoon. This is the second occasion on which a matter of this nature has been debated here. On the other occasion, when the case of the exclusion of Egon Kisch was being considered, honorable members ^opposite rose in batches from their seats to have something to say, and the greatest antagonist to the Government on that occasion was the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). To-day that honorable gentleman contributed to this debate a very moderate and very valuable statement, but he spoke not one word of censure on the Government for the action it has taken in this case. He certainly made certain references to the necessity for amending our immigration legislation, but I suggest that the honorable gentleman’s most unusual moderation on a matter of this nature, when one would have expected him to approach the table >i wrath and indignation in defence of the rights of an injured lady, is extremely significant. Furthermore, the attitude df the Opposition is significant. What has palsied their tongues? What has palsied their legs this afternoon that they cannot rise to take part in this debate? Is any one of them in possession of any information bearing on this case which honorable members on this side of the House do not possess? Honorable gentlemen opposite have adopted a most inexplicable attitude, and their failure in this instance to follow their policy of taking care of the waifs and strays of the world, a responsibility which they assume with vehemence and vigour, is most unusual. The greatest argument in favour of what. the Minister has done, is provided by the most eloquent silence of honorable members opposite on that point.
– On that point we have to hear from the Attorney-General.
– If the Attorney-General wishes to participate in this debate, he may do so. As to whether he desires to dp. so or not I do not know and I am not interested. I understand that the Cabinet has discussed this matter, and I presume that the Attorney-General was present at the particular meeting of the Cabinet, and that Ministers had at their disposal the benefit of his legal advice in addition to certain information from overseas. I take this stand with regard to immigration generally. If there is one right which a sovereign country should guard above all others it is the right to decide the composition of its own people, and it should not open its flood gates to any one who likes to enter it. I was extremely surprised to hear the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) say that the proper authority to try this person is a court of law. If that contention is accepted as a principle of Australian law, it will mean that any personwill have the fight to come here and plead a right to enter the country, and, should the Government say “ No, we do not think it right that you should enter this country “, the matter must be decided in the courts and the full facts must be revealed in the court’s.
– That was not the point raised by the honorable member for Fawkner.
– That was the effect of his argument.
Mr.McCall.- The Minister’s statement is based on gossip.
– It is not. If the honorable member were anything but a member of a political kindergarten he would know that certain information comes into possession of every Ministerevery week which cannot see the light of day.
Mr.McCall.- If it came to light through any action on the part of the Indian Government, the Ministercould publish such information in this House.
– No, the honorable gentleman apparentlydoes not know anything about the procedure in such circumstance’s. This afternoon he marie a speech of the exact nature of that which he -made recently on broadcasting, when be was caned by the Government. He has not been the same gentleman since.
Mr. Lane interjecting ,
– If it comes to a matterof defending a Minister ‘who is amemberof the Country party, possibly other honorable members in this chamber, besides myself, will renderthatassistance. I am not interested inthis casesimply because the Minister concerned happens to be a memberof the same party as myself. As a matter of fact, i have been rather seriously offended by the Ministry quite recently, and it is possibly significant that I am defending it on this occasion. But I do so because I believe that it has acted rightly, and for no other reason. If I thought that the Government ‘had acted wrongly, I should say so. We should judge this issue on the basis of whether the Minister has broken the immigration law of this country. Has he acted in a way in which the law does not give him the right to act in using his discretion in this manner? No man can level such a charge justly against him. Whilst quite a lot may be said as to who it to “ cast the first stone”, a lot might be said also about the right of one individual to enter this country, while overlooking, as every honorable member opposite seems to have overlooked, the rights of some 6,000,000 individuals who have to stand up to this sort of thing. If it comes to a point of whether this Parliament has to choose between the rights of one outsider - who has no rights, legal, moral, or otherwise - to enter this country and the rights of the 6,000,000 people who constitute the population of Australia, raise its revenue, and have to pay for its administration, then I stand on the side of the Commonwealth Government in protecting the 6,000,000 against the Outsider. I should not expect a party like the Labour party, which for years has stood for the restriction of immigration, and has refused to admit the greatest saint China or India has produced to citizenship in this country, to be indignant over the admission of some waif or stray, or any person of questionable character.
-I thought the honorable member said that he knew nothing of this woman ?
– I said “ any person of questionable character “. When this House considered the case of Egon Kisch, honorable members opposite were quite definite in their statements regarding the nationality of that gentleman.
-Order! The honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to the matter before the House.
– I was about to say that a book has just arrived in the Library dealing with the nationality of that gentleman.
– Order !
– The issue arising in this case is very simple. The Government has exercised its right and its discretion. The Minister has done his job, and, instead of being criticized for having done it, this Parliament as a whole, and the taxpayers of this country, should commend him for his action.
.- The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was vexed because honorable members on this side of the House would not make this matter a party matter. We decline to make it a party matter, because we realize that what has been done by the Government has not been done on the basis of any party considerations, and also because of the disapproval expressed by honorable members on both sides of the chamber. Honorable members on this side commend the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall), in raising this matter on many occasions. The honorable member for Barker said that it should be considered as one of law only, that the only thing we had to ascertain was whether the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) bad legal power for the action he took, and if he had such power, it was the end of the matter. I submit that that is not the end of the matter. Undoubtedly the Minister has such power, hut he is not commanded in every case to exercise that power. He is given a discretion. If he were to exercise this power in every case, no one would come into this country at all. We have to consider why the particular section was enacted and examine the reasons why this power to exclude persons on a dictation test was invoked. In the beginning of federation, the Commonwealth decided to carry on the old colonial policy of excluding coloured immigrants, whether they were British subjects or not. Sir Joseph Chamberlain, who was then in charge of the Colonial Office, said that the Royal power of disallowance would be used in relation to any action which definitely excluded British subjects from a dominion. It was for that reason that the dictation test was devised. It had been used before in Natal and Western Australia. That test was introduced with the object of enabling the Commonwealth to exclude coloured people without having to give reasons for such exclusions. In the same way, the original provision that the dictation test must be put in a European language was excised from the act, and a new provision for a dictation test in any language was enacted. We have to consider the circumstances in which this power was enacted, and the reasons for it. This power is one which must he carefully exercised. I agree that, in <Mb instance, the Minister has not exercised it in any party spirit, but that he has been influenced by a natural feeling which would affect any man in like circumstances. The first thing to realize is that the Minister, or rather, the department, should not be a censor of morals. I mention the department, because Htm Minister, in explaining his action, said that he had acted upon the advice of the officers of his department. Thus, the Minister has broken no new ground. What has been done in this case appears to be the kind of thing that has been done for a long time by the department; that is, the department considers that, under the provisions of this act, it can, at its will and pleasure, exclude anybody, because it is perfectly lawful and easy to administer to a migrant a dictation test which he cannot passI suppose that the Minister for the Interior himself might have been subjected about 25 years ago, when he first sought entry into Australia, to a dictation test of 25 words in German, Swedish or some other European language. If he had failed to pass it he might have been excluded from the country to which he is now an ornament.
This power was not intended to enable the Minister to be the judge of the morals of persons who wish to enter Australia. Most honorable members know that an agitation has been on foot in Australia for some years for the exclusion from the country of wealthy, men who leave their wives here and go to Nevada to obtain an irregular divorce in a court where their wives have no opportunity to defend themselves. Such men on obtaining their divorce often remarry in America and re-enter Australia, where they cannot be prosecuted for bigamy. It has been suggested over and over again that the law should bc amended to deny them re-admission to Australia. But I do not say that such men, who, in many cases, are prominent citizens of Australia, should be excluded. I am sure that the names of some such certain persons will rise in the minds of honorable members, particularly those who represent Victorian constituencies, but I consider that it would be wrong to give power to exclude them from the country simply because we do not like their moral behaviour. The act provides that a person living on sexual immorality or suffering from an incurable disease may be excluded; but obviously the legislature did not intend to give the Minister power to exclude from the country persons merely because they may be immoral. Adultery has not been a criminal offence in Britain since the days of the Protectorate, and we have no right to exclude a person from Australia simply because of his sexual immorality. If we are to exclude all persons who fall within that category, we ought to deny many of our prominent citizens the right to live here. One Premier of Victoria, for example, was notoriously living in adultery, and the Premier of another State, whose name I shall not disclose because of the great respect I have had for his memory, was also in that position. The same thing could be said of many other citizens. “What I have so far said sums up my first objection to the action which the Government has taken in this case.
My second objection is that what has been done has been done in the dark. I remember reading that in the old republic of Venice there was what was called the Lion’s Mouth. Into this lion’s mouth at night could be placed an anonymous indictment of any citizen. This would come before the Council of Ten and the citizen charged might disappear for ever. That is the kind of thing against which English courts and English common law have been working for centuries. On this point, Voltaire, as honorable members will recollect, praised the English courts and the English common law, and condemned the courts and law of his own country. If citizens of the British Commonwealth of Nations are to be excluded from Australia at all, it should be only after a charge made against them has been investigated and found to be proved. A charge has been made in this case by no one knows whom, but there has been no investigation or verification of it.
The Minister for the Interior has said that he has spared this woman, but actually he has not spared her. At first we all understood that the charge against her was that she was an infamous person. It wa3 only after the Minister had been questioned again and again in this House that it leaked out that her offence was that she was a stirrer up of domestic discord, and was endeavouring to alienate husband from wife, and that a friend of the wife was indignant at this action. The Department of the Interior cannot, however, be converted into a bureau of matrimonial conciliation. I do not think that the Minister himself believes that Mr. and Mrs. Dewar will be brought together by the device of excluding Mrs. Freer from Australia. The Minister should state exactly the charge against Mrs. Freer, even though he may not say who made it. He has been invited by several honorable members to state the charge so that they may have the opportunity to judge whether he has properly exercised his discretion.
A good deal has been said in the course of this discussion about the law and the policy of the law; but that has nothing to do with the Minister. If Parliament does not like the policy of the law it can amend the law. The House has reasons to dislike the policy of the department, and the manner in which it has been exercised in this particular case. I say, with great respect to the Minister, that I believe that he has really tried to do this act without hurting the sensibilities of the people concerned, and has allowed himself to be influenced by a natural human sentiment.
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to alter the Constitution with respect to air navigation and aircraft.
– I move -
That after the word “ aircraft “ the words trade and commerce, industrial matters, broadcasting and television “ be added.
– Does the honorable gentleman want unification straight out?
– That is not the object of my amendment. I wish to amend the motion for leave so that the competence of the House to deliberate upon the general principles of the Constitution Act may be preserved. I have in mind particularly those portions of the act which modern experience has shown need to be altered. Unless the motion is amended at this stage it will be impracticable for honorable members to deal with the subjects which I have enumerated when the bill is actually introduced. We should find ourselves hampered in every direction. The motion would confine our consideration solely to matters relating to air navigation and aircraft. I said in a recent debate that it is unsatisfactory to deal in piecemeal fashion with the Constitution. To pursue that course must render it almost impossible for us to make the Constitution, as a Constitution, a workable instrument to enable this Parliament to exercise effective legislative power on many matters of major national importance. The bill that was recently before us, which dealt with the limitations imposed on us by section 92 of the Constitution by reason of a decision of the Privy Couneil, was unsatisfactory in that, even if the people agreed to that proposed alteration of the Constitution, it would still be questionable whether this Parliament would have adequate power to deal effectively with marketing as a subject of Commonwealth policy. The bill which the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) is now seeking leave to bring in is consequent upon a decision of the High Court of Australia, delivered only the day before yesterday. It will be observed, therefore, that the bill now before another place became necessary because of a judgment of the Privy Council, andthe bill which the
Attorney-General is now seeking authority to introduce has become necessary because of a judgment of the High Court. Within the last two months, therefore, judgments have been delivered by one tribunal or another which have upset legislation which was presumedto be well within the legislative competence of this Parliament. The uncertainty and confusion which has arisen in regard to the validity of the powers of this Parliament is creating a state of affairs that may leadto the assumption that any law passed by the Parliament may be successfully attacked and overthrown. The danger of that to a democracy at present is, I submit, extremely grave, because, in a democracy, respect for the law must rest finally upon the certainty of the authority of the law. In the very doubtful circumstances in which we find ourselves, by reason of these recent judicial decisions, I suggest to the Attorney-General ‘that he can no longer be satisfied to seek the approval of the electors to a single alteration of the Constitution. It is therefore greatly to be desired that Parliament should be given the opportunity to deal with other aspects of the Constitution which admittedly need attention. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said in his policy speech that certain aspects of the Constitution required attention, and the AttorneyGeneral admitted in the recent debate in this House that there was a call for the strengthening of Commonwealth power in some form or other in order to deal with various subjects. I direct attention to the fact that it is the Constitution Act itself which needs review. While I have, to some extent, succumbed to the necessity for dealing with the Constitution piecemeal, as indicated in my amendment, I do it only because a general declaratory motion by the Opposition in respect to how the Constitution might be reviewed would probably not be acceptable to the Government.
– Is not the honorable member asking for specific powers?
– I have moved an amendment in sufficiently wide terms to avoid hampering honorable members in giving consideration to wider aspects of the Constitution than those specifically mentioned by the Attorney-General.
– Which specific) matters has the Leader of the Opposition mentioned?
– I have mentioned trade and commerce, industrial matters, broadcasting and television. Unless the motion of leave is amended it will not be possible for us to deal with these subjects when the bill is being debated. I suggest to the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) and some other honorable members opposite that they now have an opportunity to preserve the competence of the Parliament to deal immediately with the important subjects to which I have referred in my motion. These subjects are, I submit, just as urgent as marketing or air navigation and aircraft.
Speaking generally, I would say that it is unwise for the Parliament to attempt to deal with proposals for the alteration of the Constitution in any strictly limited way. A wide discretion should be permitted to consider the alterations necessary to make the Constitution an effective instrument. Sir William Irvine, as long ago as 1910, said that the Commonwealth Constitution was one of the weakest in the world. The longer our experience of it, the more we must agree with that statement. It is abundantly clear that, in the newer economic conditions into which we have emerged, and the transformed state in which we find world affairs to-day, it is of the utmost importance that this Parliament should be competent to deal with all subjects of major economic significance, and that its authority to do so should be unquestioned. I direct attention to the fact that, while the control of broadcasting and television apparently has been held by the High Court to be within the power of this Parliament, none the less an appeal has been made in that matter to the Privy Council, and we are warranted in at least realizing the situation as it exists at the present time. In all probability the Privy Council may rule that, in respect of broadcasting, a station, the equipment of which is not of such strength as to give interstate reception, is not bound by the broadcasting laws which have been enacted by this Parliament. In such circumstances, two broadcasting stations, perhaps alongside each other in the same city, but one having a greater power of transmission than the other, would be subject to entirely different laws, and, indeed, laws which might be completely at variance, and it would be wrong to assume that, because the federal law would be supreme in its interstate aspect, the State law would not produce a great deal of confusion and uncertainty.
In regard to air navigation and aircraft, the High Court has decided, in effect, that the Commonwealth power is not satisfactory, and Their Honours the justices have pointed to a method whereby the power might be exercised. But is it not a. dangerous thing that the authority of this Parliament should rest upon an international convention or a foreign treaty, and that we should proceed to legislate in regard to industrial matters, trade and commerce, or aviation, not under the power given to us by the Constitution per se, but as the result of an international agreement which we may have made, and knowing all the time that, should the treaty be violated or denounced, thus coming to an end, the legislation imposed as the result of its operation would also cease to have effect? It would indeed be dangerous. The Labour party is in favour of a 40-hour working week, but we would far prefer that the legislation in declaration and legalization of the 40-hour week should be made as the result of the authority of this Parliament under its own powers under section 51 of the Constitution, rather than under the powers given to it in respect of foreign treaty making. What would be the position in regard to the International Labour Office at Geneva? A convention adopted there might be ratified by this Parliament. But the next conference of the International Labour Office might, against the wish of Australia, alter that convention. In those circumstances, I do not know what our legal position would be. I contend, therefore, that, in matters of this character, the national authority ought at least to be competent to deal with matters which are admitted by all parties of Parliament to be national in scale, and which call for a national policy in order to deal with them. It is, to say the least of it, unsatisfactory that there should be a division in connexion with the legislative authority which enforces the policy necessary to deal with such matters. I put it to the Country party that, if orderly marketing is advantageous and desirable, and calls for Commonwealth legislation, the Commonwealth Parliament should be the authority to deal with the situation, and that it should not have to wait until an agreement is reached by a number of the States. Similarly, in regard to aviation, we perhaps could get an agreement with the States by which they would surrender their power over this sphere to the Commonwealth, and such an occurrence would avert the necessity for the holding of a referendum based upon the terms, of the bill which the Attorney-General seeks to introduce; but would that be a satisfactory solution of the difficulty in regard to aviation? The Attorney-General obviously says “ No “, because he is asking for leave to bring in this bill, but I put it to him that industrial matters are really more perplexing and more important to the . economic life of Australia than is the subject of aircraft and air navigation. In scale and in importance it cannot be denied that industry presents the outstanding and supreme problem of our generation, but this Parliament is handcuffed in dealing with it. In view of the fact that we are now to discuss another proposal for an alteration of the Constitution, we at least should see that at this juncture we free ourselves in order to be able to discuss the matter generally and adequately. My amendment of the motion which has been moved by the Attorney-General has been devised, not because at this stage I contend that this House could give an affirmative vote for powers over trad* and commerce, but because Parliament should take a vote as to whether or not it will submit the question of granting powers over trade and commerce to the people. Recently the Attorney-General, in a reply which he gave to a question, said that he was in favour of a referendum in connexion with the granting of industrial powers to the Commonwealth being submitted to the people at a more appropriate time. I now invite honorable members of the House of Representatives to declare whether or not his opinion is their opinion. Let Parliament decide whether now or some other occasion is the appropriate time to deal with the subject of industrial matters. The same applies to trade and commerce. These matters have been dealt with repeatedly, and the Prime Minister in his policy speech made it plain that he was convinced that the legislative powers of this Commonwealth to deal with a number of matters were not adequate. We have now to go to the people in order to repair breaches of the Constitution, which have been discovered as the result of judicial decisions. How many subsequent flaws will be discovered in the laws which have been passed by this Parliament, now that the habit of appealing to either the High Court or the Privy Council has become popular, I am not m a position to say.
– It has been popular for 36 years.
– I invite the AttorneyGeneral, even though subsequently in the second reading or committee discussions of this bill, he may not be able to vote for proposals which could be submitted by my colleagues and by myself, to afford the House at this stage the opportunity to discuss them. If his motion is agreed to the Standing Orders will preclude that, but if my amendment is carried it can be done. The carrying of the amendment does not necessarily mean that the House is in favour of taking a referendum in regard to powers over trade and commerce, industry, broadcasting, and the like, but it will at least give to honorable members an opportunity to decide whether or hot .such variations should be made.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 119.
That the Orders of the Day be postponed until after the resumption of the debate just interrupted.
– I hope that the Attorney-General will not accept the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). There may be several reasons why the honorable gentleman has interposed at this juncture. It may be his desire to obtain an expression of opinion in regard to alterations of the Constitution to achieve unification, the clearly defined policy of the Labour party, but it may be an attempt on his part to blind the issue which will be submitted to the people so that the Government’s proposal may be rejected at the referendum. It would be a great mistake to bring forward at this time contentious subjects which would be opposed, not only by the general public, but also by the State Parliaments themselves. If the honorable member’s amendment were carried and the Government determined to submit to the people the issues which it contains, I feel that the success of the referendum in connexion with marketing would be gravely jeopardized. The Leader of the Opposition when dealing with this matter, mentioned the opinion of Sir “William Irvine in connexion with the powers given to the federal authority. I was never aware that Sir William Irvine, although an able lawyer, ever considered himself to be an authority on constitutional matters. I quote the opinion of Professor Dicey in his Law of the Constitution -
The Parliament of the Comm’onwealth is endowed with very wide legislative authority; thus it can legislate on many topics which lie beyond the competence of the Congress of the United States, and in some topics which He beyond the competence of the Parliament of the Canadian Dominion.
– Yesterday the High Court upset that belief.
– That is not correct. When the Constitution was framed the matter of aviation was never contemplated, and I have never been able to understand why the federal authorities have not appealed to the State governments to confer upon the Commonwealth power to control aviation.
– That was done in 1920.
– Then I fail to understand why no publicity was ever given to the request or to the refusal of the State Parliaments to grant such a necessary power to the Commonwealth. I quote from another authority, the Honorable James Bryce, in Studies of History and Jurisprudence -
The range of powers granted to the National or Commonwealth Parliament is very wide, wider than that of Congress or of the Swise National Assembly, or even of the Dominion Parliament in Canada.
It is strange that honorable members appear to forget entirely that the circumstances under which the Commonwealth Constitution was framed, and that under section 51, a series of powers was given to the federal authority to make it supreme only in certain spheres. It has been entirely a case of the Federal Parliament itself having gone beyond the powers granted to it to legislate on questions in regard to which it had no constitutional powers. I contend that in matters of this kind the Parliament should be content to accept for the time being the decision of the people. I am not suggesting that, because the people in 1910 and on subsequent occasions refused to grant to the Commonwealth the trade and commerce power which it sought, they should not be asked again at a later date. The view that I am putting forward is that it is not right to legislate on the assumption that powers are held which the Constitution has never conferred. I do not think that many honorable members realize what would happen if the full trade and commerce power were possessed by the Commonwealth. Under it, the Commonwealth would have the power to legislate in regard to every matter that affects the business affairs of the Australian community. Even the granting of a peddler’s licence could be brought within its purview. Every vestige of home rule would be destroyed. I quoted the other day a lengthy statement which President Coolidge made in 1926, when he refused to ask for powers similar to that for which the Leader of the Opposition now asks. The area of the United States of America is practically the same as that of Australia, and different propositions arise for determination in the various States. Unless if is desired to set up control by a bureaucracy, full power should be withheld from the Commonwealth. At the present time it is hardly possible for one to trade without first obtaining permission f*rom a government department, and this control is becoming a very serious menace. I hope that the Government will not consider the proposal that has been put forward.
– The proposal of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) is to set in motion the machinery of constitutional alteration for the purpose of dealing with the flaw which the decision just given by the High Court of Australia has disclosed in the legislative power of this Commonwealth. I suggest that it is undesirable that we should resort to the policy of making piecemeal alterations of a constitution which was adopted at the end of last century, and in many respects has grown out of the needs of the people. President Franklin Roosevelt has referred to the Constitution of the United States of America as a “horse and buggy constitution which is being applied to an automobile age “. The Australian Constitution is not so greatly out of touch with the present age of the people as is that of the United States of America, but it is undoubtedly out of touch. All honorable members, quite irrespective of party considerations, will admit that the national Parliament should have much wider power than it now possesses, and m any of them will concede that it should have complete legislative power. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who has just resumed his seat, has referred to what President Coolidge said about the constitution of the United States of America. That constitution has been a buttress of privilege, and there is no doubt that the great vote recorded in favour of President Franklin Roosevelt was largely a protest against the manner in which the remedial measures passed by tho Roosevelt Administration were set at naught by the Supreme Court of the United States of America. I believe that, instead of dealing with the matter in the manner suggested by the AttorneyGeneral, we should attempt so to revise our Constitution as to make it conform to the needs of the people. It is quite obvious that, whatever may be the merits of major alterations of the Constitution, those merits do not receive consideration by the electors .of Australia, because the proposed alterations, when placed before them, are associated with the party that proposes them, and the use which that party proposes to make of them. The honorable member for Swan has denied tlie competence of Sir William Irvine to rank as a high constitutional authority. I claim that
Sir William Irvine is undoubtedly one of the greatest authorities upon the Australian Constitution that this country has ever produced, and one of the leading advocates of it in the High Court of Australia. It is interesting to note that in the High Court Sir William Irvine was the advocate of those who sought to limit, to give a restricted construction to, the powers of the Constitution. But, in this House, he did contend that there should be an extension of those powers, and in 1910 made an attempt to consider, quite irrespective of partisan considerations, the merits of the proposals then placed before the people. He also advocated the adoption by the people of the very wide alterations proposed in 1911. It is unfortunate that the people have always associated proposed alterations of the Constitution with the policy of the party that has proposed them. I believe that the Constitution will never be satisfactorily altered until it is considered by the same kind of authority as that which presented it to the people for consideration in the beginning of federation - an elected convention representative of the people and invested with power to submit proposed alterations to the people apart altogether from the Parliament. We might have to go- further than that, and provide that this elected body should itself have the power to alter the Constitution. I, however, do not agree with that. I believe that it would be very undesirable to diminish whatever power is given to the people by the Constitution. The people should have the power to either reject or accept proposed alterations of the Constitution. Consideration has recently been given to an alteration of the Canadian constitution. For that purpose a special parliamentary committee was set up last year. Professor F. R. S. Scott, giving evidence before it recommended that Canada should have the power to amend its own constitution; that the amendment should be made by a majority vote of the dominion parliament sitting as one House, and that those amendments which affected minority rights should require the consent of the provincial parliaments, such consent to be taken for granted unless withheld, within one year. I believe that the Constitution of Australia should be developed with the object of ultimately giving to the Commonwealth Parliament full power to deal with the problems of this country. There should be such guarantees of economic liberty and equality as exist in the present Constitution. In other words, whole the States remain there should be the guarantee of freedom of trade between them; there should be protection against discrimination or preference; there should be no established religion or religious preference; there should be the provision that Parliament should not last longer than three years; and there should be provision for adult suffrage and other matters of a similar character. But this Parliament should have full legislative powers. It has, I believe, much greater powers than we are accustomed to credit it with possessing. The difficulty is to ascertain exactly where we are. Our path of legislation is as difficult to find as the tracks through countries of which we sometimes read. There are certain safe tracks, but only very old and experienced marshmen know where they are; and if one should step for a moment off the path of safety one would ‘be engulfed forever. We do not want a Constitution with those, characteristics; we want a form df government that can be made to work the people’s will, so that the people may feel that there is not only power but also responsibility. One of the greatest defects of the system under which we work in Australia is that the people are not able to hold anybody responsible for failure to remedy their ills. We have a system of government which can be understood only by lawyers - and not always by them. Under the constitutions- of Australia and the United States of America, the real government rests with the courts - an aristocracy of the long road. They, and they alone, can say definitely what are the powers of the legislature. In such circumstances, the Parliaments of both the States and the Commonwealth can evade responsibility. A State parliament may say, “ We should like to be able to solve this problem or to remedy this social evil, but we cannot do so because, in our opinion, we have not the necessary power. ‘We will not incur the obloquy of attempting a solution and then having it rejected by the courts.” Over and over again the Commonwealth Parliament has refused to attempt to deal with certain matters because it has not been certain of its power. I consider that the prime need of a country which claims to be a democracy, is to have an instrument of government so simple that the people who live under it can understand it, and so clear that failure to remedy social ills can be sheeted home to those who are responsible. I believe that we should aim at a Constitution which will invest in this Parliament complete power to deal with the economic and social evils of this country, but will protect the individual rights of citizens, and the rights of States so long as they continue to exist. I am of the opinion that the time has arrived when this country should be further subdivided.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! I wish to give a ruling that will guide honorable members during the course of this debate. It will not be in order for them to advocate wider powers, or powers other than are proposed in either the motion or the amendment. General amendments limiting or increasing the powers of the Commonwealth or the States, which are outside the motion or the amendment will not be in order.
– I cheerfully bow to your ruling sir. I thought that I was in order in contending that the policy advocated by the Attorney-General, of making piecemeal alterations of the Constitution, should not be adopted. However, I have already said as much as I desired to say upon that matter. I consider that the policy of tinkering with the Constitution, of mending a hole here and a crack there, of putting a patch here and a patch there, is outworn. Such a policy does not improve the instrument of government. If we have to patch up defects such as those that the High Court has discovered, it would be better if we were to ask the States to refer the necessary power under section 51, paragraph 37. I believe that there would be no disinclination on the part of the States to refer that power. I am not in favour of setting the whole process of constitution alteration in motion merely in order to remedy defects that could easily be remedied by agreement. To do that is to use a steam hammer to crack a hazel nut.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART (Parramatta) [4.50J. - The constitutional conflict, which culminated in the High Court decision of a few days ago in regard to aviation, demonstrates clearly the need for taking some action to settle the line of demarcation between the powers exercised by the existing sovereign governments of Australia, and that action should be of a more comprehensive character than that proposed in the resolution now before us. I have in mind, not only decisions reached after litigation, but also the disputations taking place at the present time between two of the highest financial authorities in Australia in connexion with important matters of national monetary policy. I hope, therefore, that the Government will not entirely disregard the suggestion that a more far-reaching review of the Constitution should be made than it has yet proposed, so that the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States may be more definitely determined. I do not think that I am giving away any secrets when I say that I believe the time has arrived to ask the people to say whether or not they are in favour of concentrating all the legislative functions within Australia in one soverign government. I mention that by way of preface to the statement that, although such would be my ultimate objective, I am prepared to advance step by step, and am, therefore, willing to’ support the proposal of the Government. I am wholly in favour of the proposal put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) by way of amendment, but I accept the assurance of the Prime Minister that he will, at a more appropriate time, submit that proposal Aor the approval of the people. In the circumstances, therefore, while I am not prepared to vote against the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, I must content myself with the promise of the Prime Minister that, at a later date, this House will be given an opportunity to discuss wider proposals which would include, among other things, the granting to the Commonwealth of industrial powers which it does not now possess.
– I support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I suggest to the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) that he should accept the proposal previously made for the holding of a small, inexpensive, round-table conference, of a non-party character, between representatives of the Government and of the Opposition, for the purpose of drawing up proposals for submission to the people by way of referendum. My experience has convinced me that, unless we can agree in this way upon the proposals to be submitted, there is no hope whatever of their being endorsed by the people. If all the parties in this House could agree among themselves what questions to submit, and when they should be submitted, I believe that we might secure the approval of the people to proposals for much-needed reforms of the Constitution. I can remember when the first Commonwealth Arbitration Court case was heard in Australia before Mr. Justice Higgins. The case for the employees had been prepared at a cost of £6,000, and we were told that, under the Constitution, it was necessary to cite only a few of the large employers, and that the common rule would apply in the case of all the other employers. The ruling of the court in that case was challenged by the employers, acting upon legal advice, and was upset. It was shown that there was no power under the Constitution to grant a common rule in industrial matters. That was 30 years ago, and ever since we have been trying to remedy the position. It is no exaggeration to say that hundreds of thousands of pounds have been added to the cost of production because frequent litigation is necessary in order to determine whether awards apply to persons who are not members of organizations, or only to the parties cited in the proceedings. On many occasions we have consulted the present Attorney-General in regard to the matter, but the anomaly still remains. I have thought that, after the discussion of last week, the Government would have been a little more flexible, and -“ould be prepared to consider suggestions from the Opposition. A situation has now arisen in which it is necessary to submit at the forthcoming referendum, not one question, but two. Surely no harm could be done now by adding a third, and asking the people for complete Commonwealth industrial power. The granting of such power would be of benefit to the whole community, and particularly to those engaged in industry. I again appeal to the Attorney-General to consider favorably the suggestion for the holding of an all-party conference to draft proposals for submission to the people.
.- One of the valuable contributions to this discussion has just been made by the honorable member for Melbourne Port3 (Mr. Holloway). I strongly support his suggestion that representatives of the Government and the Opposition should confer with a view to framing a common policy in regard to the issue to be submitted to the people. The Labour party, I understand, is in favour of the granting of powers to the Commonwealth in regard to marketing, and to that extent is in accord with the Government. Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament, I have advocated the inclusion of a request for complete Commonwealth, industrial powers in proposals to bo submitted to the people, and on the platform in 1931, and since I have publicly proclaimed my opinion, which is in accord with the policy of the United Australia party enunciated in 1931. The situation has been greatly altered by the recent High Court decision in regard to aviation. There is no reason why representatives of the Government and the Opposition should not now get together to frame a set of questions for submission to the people. I find myself in the same position as the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). I am in favour of the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition, but I have been given an assurance by the Prime Minister that a similar proposal will be submitted to the people for their approval at thcright time. Nevertheless, I believe that, even nt this late hour, the Government should accept the offer of the Opposition for a conference so that unanimity between all parties may be reached. I appeal to the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and take action to frame a common policy so that we can approach the people on a non-party basis for the necessary Commonwealth powers.
.- The necessity which has prompted the motion moved by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) once again focuses the attention of the public upon the intolerable constitutional limitation placed on this Parliament. It is recognized by all thinking people that it is intolerable that what should be the supreme parliament of the nation is circumscribed in its legislative action by a Constitution drawn up before many presentday electors were born. Even if it were possible so to revise the Constitution that it would satisfy every present need. I have no doubt that it would again require revision before the lapse of 50 years. It would be impossible for even the wisest and most far-seeing persons so successfully to foresee the needs and developments of the nation as to frame a constitution that would never require revision. We are now concerned with the control of aviation, an activity which did not exist when the present Constitution was drawn up. The only satisfactory solution of the general problems will come when the constitutional relations between the Commonwealth and the States are reversed, and when the powers of the State governments are limited by a written constitution, and those of the national Parliament, outside the limits of those Constitutions ave unlimited. That is the direction in which we should be working.
We have before us a positive amendment to the proposal of the AttorneyGeneral, and we should consider first, whether it is desirable in itself, and, secondly whether it is politically practicable to give effect to it. What I have already said in this discussion is sufficient to indicate that I believe the proposal to be, in general terms, desirable; but one is driven to a realization of the fact that it would be impossible, at the present time, to secure for it an affirmative vote. I believe that honorable members opposite realize the truth of this just as well as I do myself. The conditions which would lead to the defeat of the proposal are due to the lack of leadership which has been evident, not in any one party, but in all parties; to a common failure to place before Australian citizens the reasons which should impel them to agree to important reforms of the Constitution.
Mr.Garden. - What about the honorable member himself giving a lead?
– I am trying, perhaps ineffectively, to contribute my little quota towards the solution of the problem.
– The honorable member is playing safe, anyway.
– I am not.I am quite clear in my own mind as to what should bo done.I have onmore than one occasion stated my belief in the need for greater Commonwealth powers, including powers in regard to those matters touched upon in the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin).I am not so blind, however, as to ignore the forces which would make for the defeat of that proposal if submitted now to the people. I need say no more in regard to_ that than to draw attention to the division in regard to this matter in the ranks of the very party from which this amendment has emanated. The amendment has emanated from the Labour party. Speaking without acrimony, I point out that in this House the Labour party which, throughout its existence, has advocated greater powers for the Commonwealth, is confronted with the situation that perhaps the most powerful forces that would be opposed to a substantial increase of the powers of the Commonwealth exist in States in which Labour governments are in office. I do not say this in order to chide the Labour party in any way; I merely state it as a fact, and as an example of the need for leadership in the carrying out of propaganda in respect of the principles involved. I shall not repeat views which I have reiterated previously, and conclude by requesting the Government that it should accede to the suggestion that has come from honorable members in all quarters of this chamber that the time is ripe for us to get together in a non-party spirit and endeavour to display to the people that degree of federal leadership that has been lacking for so long.
– I cannot subscribe to the views expressed by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) that nothing can be done to give the Commonwealth wider powers because of disagreement which, he says, exists between the various State governments in Australia. That contention is unfounded ; we have not made any attempt to test public opinion in that direction for some time. For want of such a trial, there has been no evidence of any particular development of public opinion on these matters in recent years. We appear to be too much influenced by the knowledge of the existence of sections of people known as State-righters and the belief that State governments generally are not inelined to surrender any of the powers which they now possess. This position could be tested if honorable members as a whole supported the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). Honorable members opposite say that they are in favour of granting wider powers generally to the Commonwealth, but there is always a string to their statements. Whenever they are given an opportunity to substantiate those views in this. House by their votes they take up the attitude that they cannot depart from the policy of their party which must, at all times, remain the paramount consideration. At the same time, however, they chide honorable members on this side with being tied by party decisions. If we are to progress as a nation, the Commonwealth Government must be given powers such as those specified in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– This country is too vast for a central government to exercise those powers effectively, and with profit to the nation.
– If honorable members will not agree to the amendment I suggest, as an alternative, that the House should agree to the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that all parties should get together and confer on what issues should be submitted to the people. If honorable members opposite are sincere in their statements, it ought not to be difficult for such a conference to agree that trade and commerce and industrial powers, at any rate, should be submitted to the people at the approaching referendum. I am not one of those who subscribe to the view that this Parliament should give to any convention the responsibility of deciding what additional powers should be given to the Commonwealth. Whatever rights this Parliament has in this respect ought not to be surrendered to another body. If Ministers would regard the amendment as one in which no honorable member is pressing for party political considerations, I have no doubt that they would give favorable consideration to it.
Dealing with industrial matters, with which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and I have been associated as advocates over a number of years, I point out that when the Scullin Government endeavoured to provide a means by which industrial arbitration machinery might work more smoothly, through a system of conciliation committees, the employers and the Railway Commissioners - the latter acting generally at the behest of anti-Labour governments - decided, in most cases, to go to the High Court to upset the decision of this Parliament, and they utilized public money to do so. They were successful in their appeal. Consequently, the improved machinery believed to be available to workers to enable them to get their rates of wages and conditions of employment fixed by conciliatory means cannot be used by them. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) played a prominent part as an advocate in those cases when he represented thu Railway Commissioners. I point out r.o him that the machinery which could have operated as the result of the Scullin Government’s legislation would have afforded a cheaper and more satisfactory means of settling industrial conditions than the machinery previously in operation. Conciliation committees would have enabled employees and employers to meet at round-table conferences and agree to conditions which would probably have lasted for a number of years. When any grievance of the workers is raised in thi9 House to-day, honorable members reply that the workers have the right to approach the Arbitration Court and have their wrongs righted; but, because of the lengthy nature and heavy cost of arbitration proceedings, as well as other reasons I have stated, there is a great reluctance on the part of the workers to approach the Arbitration Court. The organization which I repre- sented before the court found that the process was very costly. It also found it difficult to impart to arbitration judges a proper appreciation of the conditions under which the members of the organization were obliged to work. No matter how wide a knowledge the judge may have, it is practically impossible for an advocate, however experienced, to give an effective impression of the actual conditions pertaining in particular industries. I agree with the view expressed by Tom Walsh, who, in a court, said that, no matter how vividly he might describe them, no judge could possibly visualize the conditions of stokers at work in a stokehold in a stormy sea. I submit that no judge can appreciate fully the conditions under which railway locomotive engineers are obliged to work,, not on one night only, but over a long series of nights. In these circumstances, the railway men despair of obtaining reasonable rates of pay and conditions of work from the Arbitration Court. But there are employers who can participate in a conciliation conference, and who are not prevented by prejudice from arriving at an agreement with the workers’ representatives as to what constitute reasonable and fair conditions. Such a system is in operation for railwaymen .in England, and is much more satisfactory to railway employees generally. It is based on the principle of first holding conferences, and then taking conciliatory measures if necessary for settlement. In Australia, however, we are not allowed to enjoy such a system because the legislation passed by the Scullin Government, with the object of setting up conciliation machinery, was fought by the employers and adjudged to be ultra vires. I believe that, like myself, some honorable members opposite are desirous of having industrial matters dealt with on a better basis than exists at present. The honorable member for Echuca referred to differences in the Labour party on the question of what powers should be given to the Commonwealth Government. I point out that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) does not want, under any conditions, to see the Commonwealth Government given any additional powers. This attitude is in contrast to .that adopted by the honorable member for Echuca, who would like to see more power given to this Parliament.
– I acknowledged the differences in all parties.
– Here is an opportunity for honorable members to consult the people as to whether the Commonwealth Government should be given wider powers in trade and commerce and industry. Eight or nine years have elapsed since the last referendum, giving ample time for a change in public opinion, which I believe has taken place. If the people were again given an opportunity to give a decision on these matters, I have no doubt that they would rise to the support of the Commonwealth Government, and give this Parliament powers to enable it to function properly as a national Parliament.
I repeat that, if honorable members opposite, despite their previous expressions of opinion on this matter, cannot see their way clear to support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition they should bring pressure to bear on their leaders to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that all parties should meet at a conference to see how far we can get towards reaching agreement as to what issues should be submitted to the people. In any case, I have no doubt that an appeal to the people for trade and commerce and industrial powers for the Commonwealth Government would be successful, because tlie people now realize the difficulties under which the Commonwealth suffers owing to this lack of power. At any rate, honorable members opposite now have an opportunity to test the people on this matter, and, as they declare inside the House that they are in favour of these powers being given to the Commonwealth, let them go outside and say it, and, above all, let them bring pressure to bear on their leaders to bring this matter to fruition.
– I do not support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), because I believe that it is a hopeless proposition. This continent Ls so vast that any centralization of industrial powers in the Commonwealth Government, as proposed in the amendment, would be unworkable. When we find to-day that it is impossible to control even a State satisfactorily from one centre, it should be patent to honorable members that the Commonwealth could not effectively utilize such powers throughout the Commonwealth as a whole. In the United States of America a situation similar to that existing to-day in Australia has developed. In an “article in the Review of Reviews, Arthur Pound advocates that the internal map of the United States of America should be redrawn, and offers many observations which apply to conditions in Australia, and of which we should take notice if we are to overcome our difficulties. He postulates that the States in the United States of America are so weak that they cannot carry on as they exist to-day, and he urges that the country should be regionalized or sectionalized. Many of his views are applicable to Australia’s position in this respect. He says -
Where can a balance be struck between centralization and decentralization, between the unmanageable vastness of America and the feebleness of statehood?
Government already has given the lead toward the correct answer; re-alignment of the nation along sectional lines. The Federal Reserve Act divides the nation into twelve districts, each under its own board, which adapts policy to sectional needs, in acknowledgment of the cold truth that finance cannot be fairly administered from a central .point. The army maintains nine corps areas.
Some of the strongest labour unions operate on a district plan, notably the United Mine Workers. Likewise the alumni associations of two great universities, Michigan and Stanford, are districted territorially.
Similarly, I contend we must re-align our continent sectionally. It would be futile for me to suggest that State governments be done away with, much as I believe it, because the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) would immediately reply that they have sovereign powers. In this matter I think that the Opposition should come to the Government’s rescue, and help it to pass this legislation immediately, without reservations. It should do “first things first.” It should help the primary producers, as the Govern ment seeks to do under the proposal, which is to be submitted to the people in conjunction with this fresh proposal relating to the power to control aviation. It is useless for us in this country to concentrate powers which should be sectionalized. The concentration of powers in the States is too great already; it is foolish to accentuate it in the Commonwealth sphere. In this respect we might well copy developments in the United States of America, which is in similar trouble. Arthur Pound’s article continues -
The primary federal responsibilities arc national defence, a postal system, coinage of money and control of a monetary unit, preservation of free trading and travel rights throughout the union, and the adjudication of .disputes between States and the citizens of different States.
Practically everything else - commerce, agriculture, labour, finance, employment, relief, redistribution of wealth, all social legislation of every sort - might well be left to the several districts for solution. These problems arc too much for Washington ; what suits one part of the country dues not suit another, and the resulting commotion is perilous.
The fact that the several districts might try different solutions would bc a prime advantage because one could learn from the experience of the other. Variety of social experience means progress. Uniformity over so vast a geographic expanse means stagnation.
These are wise words by Arthur Pound. They apply to Australia and I ask all honorable members to heed them in a non-party spirit, and to delete the word * uniformity “ from parliamentary language in dealing with this matter.
We have had an experience of central ization in regard to banking and monetary matters generally which has not been satisfactory. If we were to sectionalize our continent as I have suggested, power would need to be given back to the regional authorities to .borrow money in accordance with their ability to pay, with the Commonwealth Government acting purely as consultant. This “would do away with State spending sprees by another central authority not in step with regional requirements.
– The honorable member may not discuss banking.
– I simply referred to that by way of illustration. Although the centralisation of monetary procedure has proved unsatisfactory, the Labour party now seeks to centralize industrial authority. Both need sectionalizing because of the danger of the massive borrower, when pinched, tinkering with the currency and cheating the people. It seems to me, therefore, that there would be grave danger in centralizing industrial powers, just as there is grave danger in centralizing the borrowing power of the nation, which, in actual fact, enabled one Commonwealth Treasurer to attempt to tamper with our currency.
– Order! The honorable member must not pursue that line of argument.
– I fear that the centralization of industrial power would lead to serious troubles and retard secondary and primary development in our remote areas which cannot compete. Because of the vastness of this continent, and the need to section alize our industries, I cannot support the amendment. I do, however, regard favorably the action of the Attorney-General (Air. Menzies) in seeking leave to bring in a bill to control civil aviation.
– I should have thought that the opportunity now presented to the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) to seek an adequate amplification of constitutional power for the Commonwealth, particularly in regard to industrial matters, would have been immediately grasped, for the honorable gentleman has led us to believe that he sympathizes with many honorable members on both sides of the chamber who desire an increase of the power of the Commonwealth Parliament over industry. The Attorney-General could now take effective action to give practical expression to his sympathy. At any rate, he should not contradict the words which he uttered on this subject very recently by an action which he is about to take. Aviation is an important subject, thou’*1, not necessarily or actually so important as some other subjects which this Parliament should consider in relation to the Constitution. I should have thought that the sudden action forced upon the AttorneyGenera] by what may be called a bolt from the blue - if that is not an improper way to refer to a decision of the High Court - would have been gladly availed of to suggest other desirable alterations of the Constitution. But, apparently, the honorable gentleman is not disposed to embrace this golden opportunity to take out of the misfortunes arising from the most recent decision of the’
High Court such good as may sometimes be extracted from that which is apparently entirely evil. The object of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in moving his amendment is really to enable that to be done. Of course, I desire to amplify the power of the national Parliament to a much greater extent than is foreshadowed in the amendment, but, nevertheless, it covers a fairly wide field. A careful reading of the literature on the subject of trade and commerce, including the decisions of the High Court, would indicate that it, to a very large extent, embraces industrial matters and probably even aviation. The declaration by some honorable gentlemen opposite that they are ready to invest the Commonwealth Parliament with added power over industry is encouraging and inspiriting, and leaves room for the hope that eventually they will go the whole distance.
Experience adds to knowledge, if not to wisdom, and there is considerable significance in our experience of the Constitution, which now extends over more than 35 years. As long ago as 1909, when we were asked to tender advice to another dominion of the Empire, the eminent and high-minded statesman, Sir Littleton Groom, who has just passed away from us, recommended South Africa to avoid the errors which had been made in Australia, and to escape, if possible, the pitfalls which, even then were being found in our legislative pathway, and which have since resulted in much distress of mind and in prolonged litigation before the High Court. It is not without its importance to us, either, to notice that in the last few years the constitution upon which the Commonwealth Constitution was founded and modelled has, because of its rigidity, caused endless trouble in the United States of America, and has pre vented the self-expression of the people of that great country in many directions. The President of the United States of America, Mr. Franklin Roosevelt, who has just been endorsed for another term of office at White House, by an overwhelming majority and a new sense of authority, put into operation, soon after he assumed office about four years ago, a programme of comprehensive, and in some particulars, drastic legislation to relieve his people from the painful and, indeed, intolerable condition in which they found themselves as the result of the depression. But he had not proceeded very far before he found himself restrained by the cast-iron fetters of the constitution in respect of the very subjects which we are considering - industrial matters, trade and commerce, and aviation. The constitution of the United States of America i3, of course, much older than our own and it is becoming increasingly difficult to alter it. This does not seem to offer much consolation to the people of Australia. Sooner or later, however, the force of circumstances will inevitably compol an alteration of the American constitution, and that is inevitable, also, in this country. Our constitution is every day becoming more unworkable, and it is bound to be so. To have two or more sovereign governments working within the same geographical boundaries must inevitably cause disorders of one kind and another.
Certain honorable members of this Parliament have asked that a round-table conference be held to consider various proposals for the alteration of our Constitution, but this surely is a round-table conference, and it is not leading us any distance along the round of constitutional reform. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen), the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings), have all said that they favour an alteration of the Constitution to increase the industrial power of the Commonwealth - but not now. Although 35 years have passed since the inauguration of the federation, our constitutional difficulties are increasing. Those honorable gentlemen are apparently prepared to say something on the subject of constitutional reform, but arc not prepared to co-operate with us to do anything to achieve real results.
– Is the honorable member prepared tb negotiate with the Government on the subject?
– If the honorable, member for Watson and his colleague* have not been able to negotiate successfully with the ferocious gentlemen who at on the treasury-bench, of what use would it be for me to negotiate with them? Surely the suffering people of Australiahave the right to expect us to take some action to terminate this endless litigation over constitutional differences which affect their daily lives, their means of living, their very subsistence, their bread and butter, their wages and working, conditions. They are entitled to something more than interminable wordspinning - for that is what is going on at present. There is- not even any stability in the High Court itself, for it is not only overruled by the Privy Council, but also it overrules itself, with the result that we hardly know where we are from day to day. We can never know where we are so long as the representatives of the nation are held by purely arbitrary and technical bonds, which prevent them from doing the things that they wish to do for the welfare of the people. The dissatisfaction that exists is bound to express itself some day in an eruption. The name of Sir William Irvine has been mentioned in this debate. That learned gentleman expressed himself many years ago as being in favour of an extension of the industrial power of the Commonwealth.
– And in favour of unification.
– I believe the honor-
Bole member for . Swan (Mr. Gregory) doubts whether Sir William Irvine ought to be regarded as a constitutional authority; but T am sure that that lea-nec gentleman would be very hurt to think that any one- harboured such a doubt in these days. It is not for me to say whether or not Sir William Irvine is a constitutional authority, but speaking on the subject in the long ago in connexion with an assertion which had been made that the Australian Constitution was the weakest in the world, he said -
I think that accounts very largely for the fact that when the Convention was in doubt, the form of the American Constitution was in most cases followed. But the result, rightly or wrongly, was that in Australia we live under one of the weakest federal unions in the world.
The honorable member for Swan suggested that Sir William Irvine was a unificationist, but I do not think that he was. There came a stage in his history, however, when the subject of industrial powers was being discussed, and he declared, in effect, “ I am entirely in favour of this grant of power to the Commonwealth Parliament, but not to be exercised by the Government now in office”. That attitude is one of the serious obstacles in the way of constitutional reform, and is one of the weakest arguments against constitutional reform, because if one large section of the Australian public takes the stand : “ No, we are not going to give this Government power to legislate ad lib in respect of trade and commerce; we believe in the exercise by the Commonwealth of powers in respect of trade, commerce and industry, but we do not desire that they shall be placed in the hands of this Government or that government “, such a state of mind is fatal to any proposal for the enlargement of Commonwealth powers. It reduces the matter of constitutional alteration to mere party bickering. The correct attitude, as I understand it, either in regard to these powers for which we are asking, or in regard to any other powers, is that such powers should be exercised by the government which is chosen by the people for the purpose of exercising them. Whatever government may be in office, the people have chosen it, and the people must accept the responsibility for it. If they choose the wrong government, as I feel so certain they did quite recently, that is their misfortune, and they must bear it.
I have spoken so often both in this chamber and outside it upon the subject of the enlargement of the powers of the Commonwealth that I think that my views jejune and immature as they may be, should be understood by honorable members by this time. I should dearly love to see supremo powers vested in tho National Parliament, but I shall not discuss that aspect any further at the moment, although I think that it must be the final solution of this continuallygrowing evil which must sooner or later be cured. If, in the meantime, it is to be done by instalments, let it be done by substantial instalments. As the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) suggested, we should not come rushing to this table with a proposal to alter- the Constitution every time that a difficulty is created by decisions of the High Court. That is no way in which to tinker with the Constitution. While I do not believe that the Constitution should be regarded as something sacrosanct, rigid as a statue, and unresponsive to the will of the people, at the same time, it should not be altered for slight cause, but only where urgently necessary, and on a large scale, and for great motives. I therefore submit that the AttorneyGeneral, who has uncovered his mind to honorable members on these matters from time to time and to myself on other occasions of a more private character, should get busy now with the great influence which he possesses in this Parliament with the United Australia party and with the easy run such as he will have with the Opposition, and do something really worth while with the Constitution. Surely there is no need for him to have fears in this regard. Does he not expect a further grant of power for himself, and those honorable and distinguished gentlemen who are associated with him? He surely does not believe that the Labour party is coming into office within a year or two ! Such an event may be anticipated by some of us, but not by the Attorney-General. These proposed extended powers of the Commonwealth are safe in the able hands of these “ wise “ people who will be called upon to exercise them. Even if it should be otherwise, and the people in an unexpected exhibition of lack of wisdom should return the Labou’r party to office to exercise the new-found powers under the Constitution, there can only be one consequence if the people suffer thereby, and that will be that the Labour party which will be responsible for the misuse of that new grant of power, will “be speedily judged, convicted and sentenced by the electors, its masters. FM various reasons, some of which I have submitted, and others which I might easily submit in other circumstances, I ask the House to accept, in a burst of real patriotism, the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition and get on with these much-needed alterations of the Constitution for which the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) and other ministerial supporters are pining and which the Attorney-General thinks that this Parliament should have.
– The honorable member should not include me in that list.
– Perhaps T flattered the honorable member. I ask honorable members to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition,
.- I rise to support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and I consider that the Government would be well advised in this connexion to heed the voice of the Opposition members, who are apparently prepared to join with it in a round table conference in order to agree upon a proposal to widen Commonwealth powers, which would make the federation worthy of this great country. I regret an inclination on the part of a number - of ministerial supporters to contend that only a minor amendment of the Constitution limited to the marketing issue should be submitted to the people at this juncture. That does not meet my idea of what should be the powers of a national Parliament. For many years the Australian public have been promised that the powers of the Commonwealth would be widely extended, and in those circumstances I regret that it is proposed to submit only a request for a minor increase of power, which is not a credit to us, or to the electors. Before the bill passes the second reading the Government should give serious consideration to and accept not only the amendment, which’ would be moved by the- Leader of the Opposition, but also a further amendment with a view to securing the approval of the Australian people for the abolition of State Parliaments. The public of Australia are deeply disappointed that only a minor alteration of the Constitution is to be submitted to them at the referendum. At the foundation of federation many promises were made that in years to come .the Constitution would be so altered that the young Commonwealth, upon attaining its majority, should be able to advance as a great nation, with
State boundaries eliminated and ourselves one great people.
– I do not think that the scope of the amendment goes so far as the honorable member is suggesting.
– I am endeavouring to induce the Attorney-General to accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition with a view to obtaining a wider extension of powers ,for the. Commonwealth Parliament. I sincerely hope that I shall bc permitted to urge the Attorney-General to agree to my suggestion and to continue my remarks in support of the abolition of State Parliaments.
– Is the honorable gentleman giving notice of a further amendment?
– 1 should like to hear the views of the Attorney-General upon that matter.
– There is no hope of such an amendment being accepted by me.
– During the week-end I met thousands of people who unanimously expressed their disappointment at the disinclination of the Government to approach the public for a wider increase of federal powers. Of what use is it to spend £100,000 on a referendum for the purpose of obtaining a minor alteration of the Constitution if we lose the opportunity to secure a wide extension of the powers of the Commonwealth? In this connexion we might just as well be slain for a sheep as for a lamb. Since this House passed a bill to enable a referendum to be taken to grant the Commonwealth certain powers over marketing, the Commonwealth’s authority over aviation has been successfully contested in the High Court, and legislation to include the control of aviation in the forthcoming referendum is now before the House. To the Attorney-General’s motion for leave to introduce the measure the Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment to embrace several other important matters over which the Commonwealth should be the supreme authority. In those circumstances I therefore ask the AttorneyGeneral to submit my proposal to Cabinet for its’ consideration. If the millions of England can be governed by one Parlia ment, what is the obstacle to prevent 6,000,000 people in Australia from being governed by one Parliament? The position of the Commonwealth has materially changed since the dawn of federation. Improved transport and telephonic communication have combined to bring Australians into closer contact with one another, with the ‘result that to-day, although we inhabit a large continent, we are drawn closely together by the wonderful discoveries of science. I hope that the Government will not overlook this opportunity to seek wider powers so that Australia may become the really great nation which its potentialities warrant.
.- I am not quite certain as to how I should define my attitude towards the Constitution, whether it should be that of an iconoclast or that of a reversalist. The Constitution as it now stands invests the Commonwealth with certain strictly defined powers. The Commonwealth is told that it may operate only along certain lines; but past experience has shown that, although a particular line might appear to be open, in actuality.it hae been necessary all the time to “ open and shut gates”. The States, on the other hand, have all the residual powers. My view, expressed on many occasions, is that the States should have a definite written constitution, that they should be told upon what lines their powers lie in regard to legislation and administration, and that the residual powers should rest with the Commonwealth. Were that done, there would not be that tinkering with the Constitution to which the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has referred. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has mentioned television. Neither aviation nor television was thought of when the Constitution was drafted ; but power to deal with them would, automatically rest with the Commonwealth if its powers were not so specifically laid down. Piecemeal alteration is not- the proper policy to adopt when approaching this big question. It was approached from another direction a few years ago, when the Royal Commission on the Constitution was appointed, and made certain recommendations; but even those recommendations with respect to which all the members of the commission were unanimous, have not been submitted to this Parliament, notwithstanding the fact that the commission’s report was presented several years ago. Meanwhile, although there have been several changes of government, no government lias taken up the matter. One of the subjects upon which the commission submitted a recommendation was the very subject of aviation, with which we are now dealing. I candidly admit that I apprehend considerable difficulty in adopting the suggestion that there should be a “ get together “ movement of the parties in this House. That that is desirable, I do not think that any honorable member will deny; but I find it very difficult to believe that unanimity would be reached on many points. I, nevertheless, add my voice to the voices of those who advocate the proposal. A much greater measure of success would be achieved if all parties could speak to the people with one voice, instead of each party making different representations. As the royal commission was able to. reach certain unanimous conclusions, we also might achieve a sufficient degree of unanimity to enable us to submit to the people a proposal for Constitution alteration that would have fair prospects of success.
A further suggestion made this afternoon, I think by the honorable member for Bourke, was for a constitution convention. At different times, some honorable members have given consideration to such a proposal. I was connected with the movement in New South Wales that aimed at the establishment of additional self-governing units within the Commonwealth, under a definitely limited constitution, the residual power being reserved to the federal body. The different conventions that were held considered the advisability of a constitution convention. How such a convention would be set up, and what would be the nature and the method of choosing its personnel, were not. elaborated by the honorable member for Bourke. These factors would demand the most serious consideration, because the action taken in regard to them would largely determine the nature of the results likely t« hf achieved. It has benn argued that, this
Parliament is the best constitution convention that could be convened. Its members are the elected representatives of the people, and they represent all shades of political opinion in the community as well as all States and every part of each State. The argument advanced against that is, that it would be circumscribed. The honorable member for Bourke expressed the view, but gave no reason for it, that no member of Parliament should take part in a constitution convention. The suggestion is worthy of consideration, because such a body might produce something approaching to the lines of policy that I have laid down - the States having the defined powers, and the Commonwealth the residual powers.
I have not that great respect for tha Constitution or its framers that is usually expressed, more in the nature of lip service. My view is aptly summed up in the statement made by Mussolini a week or two weeks ago - “Do not let us embalm the past, but anticipate tha future “. That sentiment is well worthy of consideration in dealing with constitutional questions. Australia is a young and growing country. We live in an age of rapid development in all branches of science and industry. We must not hold fast to anything merely because it has served a purpose for a given number of years. What is moth-eaten or destroyed by rust must be discarded. I commend this view to honorable members in all sincerity.
– The suggestion has been made in the course of the debate that there should be a round-table conference of the members of this Parliament.
– -That at least they should confer.
– I had thought that a round-table conference might involve a little conferring ; but I shall not quarrel with the honorable gentleman on that point. All that I want to say is that, though there may be a good deal of merit - no doubt there is- - in the idea of members conferring upon constitutional changes in that way, it is unreasonable to believe that any such conference could, in a day or two, produce well-considered, intelligible, comprehensive conclusions. The reason why leave has been sought to introduce this bill with expedition is that the matter of aviation control has arisen in a pointed fashion, and the Government desires, if possible, that any referendum to be taken in connexion with it shall be taken concurrently with the referendum on the marketing power. Consequently, we cannot alford to adopt some dilatory proceeding, which may produce an admirable document in the long run, but will not chime in, in point of time, with the referendum to which this House at least is already committed.
– But the conference need not be a substitute for the bill.
– I agree. The suggestion for a conference will, of course, be considered by the Government. May I remind the House that the immediate point with which we arc concerned is whether the order of leave that I have sought should be varied by extending it to cover a number of other matters, including, in particular, industrial matters and trade and commerce. I shall not occupy the time of the House in reiterating arguments that I have already used within the -last fortnight. The whole of this matter, in one fashion or another, has been debated in this House within the last week or two. For the reasons then advanced on behalf of the Government, it is unable to accept the proposal that there should be put to the people at this time proposals of the nature suggested. There is however one other observation I should like to make because it is of some point in connexion with the amendment. The motion I submitted was -
That I have leave to bring in a bill for an act to alter the Constitution with respect to air navigation and aircraft.
The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is as follows: -
That after the word “aircraft” the words **, trade and commerce, industrial matters, broadcasting and television “ be added.
Therefore, if the amendment is carried, leave will be given to bring in a bill to deal with all those matters, and if the bill be passed, those matters would be submitted as one question to the people of Australia. The wise practice of all governments in this Parliament has been, when seeking the agreement of the people to proposed Constitution alterations, to place different matters in different bills, so that the people may have a fair chance to consider them as individual proposals. It would be an affront to the people te put before them one question, to which they were invited to say “ Yes “ or “ No “, dealing with aviation, broadcasting, trade and commerce, and industrial powers.
– Is that the only objection which the Attorney-General has to the amendment?
– If the honorable member had listened to me with his usual courtesy, he would have heard me say that my other objections to the proposal are still the same as those which I stated a fortnight ago. The objection I now 6tate is an additional one.
– This is the only opportunity the Opposition has to obtain an expression of opinion, and if the amendment were agreed to it would be competent for the Government to withdraw the bill, and bring down three other bills.
– Of course, if any motion hostile to the Government be carried, it is always competent for the Government to-withdraw its proposal and submit something else. If this amendment were agreed to it would be competent for Parliament, within the order of reference so approved, to put into the bill a reference to every subject mentioned in the amendment, and then all those matters would be submitted to the people in the one question. That is an intolerable suggestion, and could not possibly be agreed to. Therefore. for all the reasons which I gave a fortnight ago, and for the additional reason now stated, I cannot accept the amendment.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) has said that hi3 objections to the present amendment are the same as those which he stated a fortnight ago when speaking on the Constitution Alteration (Marketing) Bill. I remind him, however, that, on that occasion, he objected to the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) because it would confuse the issue to submit to the people more than one question at a time. Now, he himself proposes to submit two questions. The honorable gentleman is very far from consistent in his argument. Every member supporting the Govern- mont, when speaking on the other bill, echoed the words of the Attorney-General to the extent of saying that it would be bad policy to confuse the issue by introducing extraneous matters, but now they have all to swallow their words, because of the recent judgment of the High Court in regard to aviation. The Leader of the Opposition was criticized a fortnight ago because his amendment was not definite. Now he has made it definite enough for every one, and it is for the House to say whether or not it approves of it. The Attorney-General knows that an amendment of this kind cannot be submitted once the second-reading stage of the bill Ls passed.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) opposed the amendment on the ground that he does not believe in any change whatsoever, yet only two days ago I heard bim singing lustily “ Change and decay in all around I see “. He also asked for light then, but now that it has been vouchsafed to him he declares that he does not believe that there should be any change. He is still living in the past, and is prepared to stay there; He believes that what was good enough for his father is good enough for him. Then we have the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen), who says that he believes in giving absolute power to the Commonwealth, but - and every time he speaks on this subject he introduces that word “but”. We have now learned to wait for it. He wants to show how progressive he is in his ideas “, but, he says, “ the time is not opportune “, “ there are difficulties in the way”, and so on. Actually, of course, he does not desire a change any more than does the honorable member for Swan. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) shelters behind a promise of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons).
– Let the honorable member wait until he sees how I vote.
– The honorable member is very radical in words, but in deeds he is one of the most conservative members of the House. At one time I regarded him as being really a radical, but I have changed my opinion of him. The honorable member asks me to wait and see how he votes. If he votes in accord ance with his word’s, I shall be hap; to admit that I have been mistaken in him. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) said that Australia should be divided into a greater number of administrative units, but how is that to be done without the authority of a central government which would delegate to those units the powers which they are to exercise? I believe in the division of the existing States into provinces, but it is first necessary to have one central, supreme government. As things are now, the Commonwealth Government has to bow the knee every time there is a clash of Commonwealth and State powers, because the residual powers belong to the States.
-The people are afraid to trust the honorable member’s party.
– The people have never been given the opportunity to state in explicit terms their opinion on the issue.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Speaking on the Government’s proposal to ask the people for marketing powers for the Commonwealth the Attorney-General emphasized that the introduction of any other issue would complicate the questions to be submitted to the people. He said -
The Government agrees that this question of industrial powers must be dealt with, but at the right time, when it will not prejudice, or be prejudiced by, the marketing proposal, and when there will be no mutual prejudice exerted by one proposal against another.
– The honorable member is not in order in quoting from an earlier debate in the current session.
– I am dealing with a statement made by the Attorney-General this afternoon, when he was reminded that previously he had said that one issue, and one issue only, should be placed before the people. His statements this afternoon are not in harmony with his previous remarks on this matter. Honorable members on this side of the House urge the Government to include the issue of industrial powers in the proposal to be submitted to the people. In the face of the changes which are constantly taking place in the modern world, surely the people of this country should not be bound by the dead hands of those who. 36 years ago, framed the Constitution. Since that day a lot of water has passed under the bridge, yet, despite the changes which have taken place in the meantime, honorable members opposite contend that the dead hands of those who framed the Constitution must still rest upon the people of this country. Undoubtedly the people want to adjust the Constitution to the changes which have taken place. The proposal which the Attorney-General puts before the House now is a step in that direction, but the argument which he used to-day contradicts his previous argument.
– It does not, really.
– The honorable gentleman said previously that one issue, and one issue only, must be placed before the people. He proposes now to submit two issues.
– I suggest that the honorable member should read my speech.
– I read the honorable gentleman’s speech. He said that these issues must be taken one at a time; marketing first of all should be dealt with and then, as opportunity offered^ other issues could be placed before the people. The honorable gentleman says that he believes that wider industrial powers should be given to the Commonwealth, but when the opportunity now presents itself to introduce a bill to enable this issue to be, placed before the people he dares not trust the people to say whether the Commonwealth should be given those powers. I have no- doubt that the people believe that such powers should be given to the Commonwealth; in fact, I am certain that, if given the opportunity, they would vote out of existence the six State Parliaments and bo content to have the destinies of this country controlled solely by the national Parliament. Why will not the Government give the people an opportunity to give their verdict on these issues? They have been appealing for that opportunity for many years and now, once again, it is to be denied to them.
The voting on the proposal for wider industrial powers for the Commonwealth submitted in the referendum held in 1913 was 961,000 for and 987,000 against, the proposal being defeated by a smalt ma jority of 90,000. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has suggested that the Government should rail a round-table conference of all parties to decide what issues should be submitted iu the referendum so that this Parliament could approach the people with a united voice. That suggestion has been supported by the honorable members for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), Watson (.Mr. Jennings), and Barton (Mr. Lane), and if it were given effect to surely members of all parties in this chamber, by presenting a united front to the people, could wipe out the small majority by which a similar proposal was defeated in the referendum of 1913. In that event the farmers would have all their desires fulfilled and the industrial movement would be enabled to bring to a conclusion the fight which it has waged for years to obtain for the workers their rights as citizens of this country. I cannot see, therefore, why the Attorney-General refuses this request for a round table conference. On the other hand he expects honorable members of all parties to support the proposals he has placed before this House. I suggest that he should call together the leaders of all parties to thrash out their differences with a view to presenting a united front to the people so that no substantial section of the community would oppose the issues to be put before them in the referendum. In those circumstances I have no doubt that the proposals submitted would be carried.
I believe that residual powers in all matters should rest with the Commonwealth. This Parliament would then be enabled to delegate to local governing bodies powers necessary for the better control of individual districts. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has advocated such a proposal in respect of the district which he represents in this House. I support his suggestion and I believe that it should be applied right throughout Australia.
– The honorable member desires to see full industrial powers concentrated in the Commonwealth Government and is, himself, inconsistent in his argument.
– Such powers must rest with some central authority. I suggest that that authority should be the Commonwealth Government, which should delegate power to various local government bodies to enable them to carry out their work more effectively.
– Is the honorable member in favour of small States and the appointment of provincial councils to control them?
– Yes. I realize that different areas have different interests and should be governed on the basis of community of interest.
– Order ! There is no such proposal now before the Chair. I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the House.
– The Opposition desires that full trade and commerce, and industrial powers should be given to the Commonwealth Government. Its lack of such powers is the cause of the conflicts which we have witnessed for many years now. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has described the conflict which is constantly taking place in the industrial sphere, but there have been conflicts between the States as well. To-day employers and employees cannot settle their differences on a Commonwealth basis because this Government does not possess full industrial powers. Honorable members opposite have advocated that such powers should be granted to the Commonwealth. The Attorney-General himself has advocated a similar policy. He has had great experience in the industrial sphere as legal adviser for many years to the industrial movement. He is aware, therefore, of difficulties arising in that sphere ; in fact, he is’ better acquainted with the position in that respect than those who have acted as leaders in the industrial movement.
The Commonwealth Government should have full powers also in respect of the control of broadcasting and television. Should television reach a commercial stage no authority in Australia, as the Constitution now stands, is specifically given power to control it. Perhaps the States would automatically assume that duty.
– Has not the High Court given a judgment in respect of the control of broadcasting?
– Yes, but the position with regard to television would be different. Furthermore, the framers of the Constitution Could not visualize the developments which have taken place since their time in aviation. If any of the framers of the Constitution had been told that 36 years later aviation would have reached the stage which it has now reached they would have considered their informers to be insane. This fact emphasizes the tremendous nature of the changes which have taken place, and are still taking place, in the modern world. Transport also has developed remarkably. Apparently the framers of the Constitution had a hazy idea that some small development would take place in aviation but as to the extent of that development they had not the slightest idea. In spite of all these changes which were not foreseen when the Constitution was framed, the honorable member for Swan, foi- instance, contends that the Constitution should not be altered. He says, in effect, that the dead hands of the framers of the Constitution must still rest upon the people of Australia and no action must be taken to rid them of it. .Surely the time has come in our day and generation when . this Parliament should have the powers necessary to deal with the conditions resulting from those changes. The people should be given the opportunity, however, to decide that matter. Recent events have shown that the Commonwealth Parliament has little, or no, power to adjust the life of the nation to those changes, although they affect. the whole of the economic structure of this country. The other day the High Court decided that the Commonwealth Government had power to act upon the decisions of international conventions. The Chief Justice (Sir John Latham) and his colleagues, Mr. Justice Evatt, Mr. Justice McTiernan, and Mr. Justice Dixon, expressed the view that the Commonwealth possesses powers so far as the ratification of an international convention is concerned. The Attorney-General says that we must seek one amendment at a time. Does he mean that case after case will have to be fought through the High Court and the Privy Council before action can be taken? The Leader of the Opposition is seeking an effective and comprehensive alteration of the Constitution to equip this Parliament with full power over trade and commerce, industrial matters, broadcasting and television. Apparently the Attorney-General is content to follow the time-honoured custom of barristers of setting up bogy men simply to knock them down. That may seem to be clever to members of a jury, but it cuts no ice with honorable members of this House. Possibly the honorable gentleman in the course of his travels overseas visited Selkirk and Brig of Ayr, near the home of the Scottish poet who said : “ Facts are chiels that winna ding.” We are dealing with facts, not bogy-men, therefore the Attorney-General’s attempt to side-track the issue will not go down with us. We shall not rest content until the Commonwealth Parliament has full power vested in it to legislate for the benefit of all the people of Australia.
– -The recent decision of the Privy Council in the James case, which affects the power of the Commonwealth Parliament over marketing, and the decision of the High Court delivered the day before yesterday in the Henry case, which affects its power over aviation, have concentrated public attention on the inadequacy of the power of the Commonwealth Parliament. One result of this is that the Government and the Opposition are now endeavouring to devise ways and means to secure for the Parliament such power as will enable it to legislate in the true interests of the nation. The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), however, is of the drag-net variety which, in my opinion, must defeat its own ends. The honorable gentleman would have done better had he openly advocated unification. The people would then have understood his ultimate objective, and possibly he would have obtained greater support from some honorable members of the United Australia party and Country party. It. must be realized that violent alterations of the Constitution, such as are contemplated by honorable gentlemen opposite, are not likely to be agreed to by the people. Arrayed against honorable gentlemen who seek sovereign power for the Commonwealth Government over the whole sphere of government, are many persons in the community who are jealous of the sovereign power still retained by the State parliaments. They believe that sovereign power should be vested in the State parliaments to legislate on certain subjects, and it is most unlikely that they will be easily moved from their convictions. Only by a thorough campaign of education are the people likely to agree to vest additional power in the Commonwealth Parliament. Violent changes are not likely to be made. Our best policy, therefore, is to seek, by a persistent educational process, to persuade the people that they must, in their own interests, give additional authority to the national Parliament. All honorable members of this Parliament knew before they took their seats here, that the power of the national Parliament was circumscribed in many directions. Our constitutional history during the last 35 years reveals clearly that all attempts to encroach upon or filch the sovereign power of the States will be resisted. The time must come, I believe, when all sovereign power will be reposed in the Commonwealth, and a number of additional provincial authorities will be set up throughout Australia to deal with matters of local interest, but it is futile for us to imagine that the additional power which we desire for the Commonwealth Parliament will be given easily or quickly.
Certain honorable gentlemen opposite have suggested that a conference of all the parties in this House should be held to consider these important issues. I do not think that any very valuable result would be likely to accrue from such a conference. The lion and the lamb ars not likely to lie down together. Even if such a conference reached an agreement on some of the major issues submitted to it, the battle would be far from won, for the State parliaments and citizens who believe in State rights would resist every effort to give full effect to any agreement reached in that way. Such a conference could not smooth away all the difficulties that face us. We must resign ourselves to the inevitable and accept the view that the Constitution will need to be altered many times in the course of the next few decades before complete power is vested in the Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) suggested in his speech that the Constitution should not be altered in any respect, but the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) said that we should not be bound by the dead hand of the past. I agree with that view. The framers of the Commonwealth Constitution laid the foundation of our legislative authority, but they must have realized that time would make changes both necessary and inevitable. They could not, for example, have foreseen the invention of broadcasting and television, or the development of aviation; nor could they have guessed at the complications that would arise in the marketing of our produce owing to economic developments overseas. They sought to lay down the broad basis of government, and we must resign ourselves to the view that any alteration of this basis can be made only by careful and well considered action. But while we cannot expect the people to agree to a proposal to scrap the Constitution, we may reasonably anticipate that they will agree to such alterations of it as become necessary from time to time.
As the Attorney-General has suggested, it is a case of what we can get and not what we want. .Strong interests in this country will seek to preserve existing State rights. Although I have advocated in this House on different occasions the granting of greater industrial powers to the Commonwealth, I have no hesitation in saying that the time is not ripe for the seeking of such powers. When the time becomes opportune, I shall be prepared to advocate with honorable gentlemen opposite the vesting of complete industrial power in the Commonwealth.
I am by nature and conviction a unificationist, but for three reasons I cannot support the amendment. The first of these is that if it were agreed to, it would be ineffective. It is so comprehensive that if constitution alterations based upon it were submitted to the people for their endorsement, an immense conflict of interests would arise, and one proposal would, in my opinion, kill the other, and the whole procedure would be abortive.
The second reason why I cannot support the amendment is that, although it refers to broadcasting, the High Court has already decided that the Commonwealth Parliament has power over broadcasting. In those circumstances it would be absurd for us to ask the people to give us such power. In this connexion I direct the attention of honorable members to the judgment of the High Court in the case, The King v. Brislan, delivered in December last, in which it is held that section 51 of the Constitution confers upon the Commonwealth Parliament power to legislate on radio and broadcasting.
– .That judgment is the subject of an appeal.
– I am not aware of that; but even if it were so we must assume that the judgment is sound until it is upset. If we acknowledged weakness in that . regard by including the term “ broadcasting “ in the referendum, we should be simply courting a succession of legal actions. Until it is proved conclusively, and a judgment has been entered against the Commonwealth Government that it has no power in that connexion, we should seek to maintain that which we believe we now hold. Therefore, that second point is another reason why I cannot support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
The third point that brings me to a rejection of the honorable gentleman’s amendment is that the increase of industrial powers, with which I am in complete accord-
– But not at the present time.
– I shall proceed to explain my reason. I accept the assurance which was given a few weeks ago by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), when speaking upon the Constitution Alteration (Marketing) Bill, that when the time is opportune, he will introduce a proposal to obtain increased industrial powers for the Commonwealth. For an alteration of the, Constitution to be successful, harmonious conditions must prevail in the States themselves. It is of no earthly use to waste public money by seeking to obtain some consideration from the States through a referendum if we know perfectly well that conditions in the States do hot point to success.
Although I have personal feelings in regard to the marketing proposal, I was prepared to make them subservient to the needs of the Commonwealth, and I, therefore, supported the Prime Minister in that regard, but I would appeal to the House upon another point. Would honorable members representing Queensland be prepared to advocate against the whole battery of the government of that State to-day, the granting of increased industrial powers of the Commonwealth, when the award rates of that State are 10s. a week higher than those provided for in federal awards? In view of those circumstances, could those honorable members confidently assure the Leader of the Opposition that a majority of citizens of Queensland would vote for a proposal for increased industrial powers for the Commonwealth. When the position is studied from, that view-point, the absolute absurdity of it is revealed. I notice that honorable members of the Opposition are now silent, because they know that it would be impossible to obtain an affirmative vote in this connexion from the people of Queensland. On a number of occasions the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has pointed out that, in view of the circumstances to which I have referred it would be impossible to persuade Queensland to consent to grant increased industrial powers to the Commonwealth. A similar position prevails in Western Australia, where the State awards are 4s. higher than the federal awards. With all the political capital that could be made by the State Government against a proposal to increase the powers of the Commonwealth, and with the feeling which recently led to an attempt to gain secession, would it be possible to obtain a majority in Western Australia in favour of such a proposal? In South Australia the margin between State and Federal awards is so close that they are practically equal; but there again, the feelings in that State against the Commonwealth are so great as to preclude any possibility of a favorable decision to grant this Parliament an increase of industrial powers. The small island State of Tasmania is jealous of its rights and fearfvil that the Commonwealth might seek to increase its industrial powers.
– The honorable member can well leave Tasmania out of the question.
– The honorable member for Denison would probably resist any attempt on the part of the Commonwealth to assume increased industrial powers.
– Tasmania has invited the Commonwealth to take those powers.
– I am afraid that the honorable member is all sound and fury. It is all very well for him to sit in Opposition and interject and make grimaces across the chamber, but when the testing time came, I know on which side he would range himself.
Because of the three factors which I have set out I shall not, and cannot, support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. When the time is propitious and conditions in the States are favorable, I shall support a proposal which has for its objective an increase of industrial powers for the Commonwealth, but I look to the good sense of the Prime Minister to choose the right moment to make a successful appeal to the people in this connexion. I emphasize the three reasons why I am unable to support the amendment. Although I have certain personal feelings in this connexion, I am prepared to make them subservient to the necessities of the moment and await a propitious time for submitting to the people a proposal to give to the Commonwealth added powers.
– I feel a profound sense of disappointment at the most untenable position that honorable gentlemen on the ministerial side of the chamber occupy in regard to this matter. If ever there was a demonstration of the game of hide-and-seek with political principles, surely we have the evidence of it to-day. Honorable gentlemen opposite like the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) have declared from public platforms on every conceivable occasion on which they have addressed electors that they support the principle of increased powers for the Commonwealth, and recognize the urgency for submitting to the people a referendum to bring about that desirable objective. Yet when opportunity makes it possible for them to give effect to their principles, they pathetically fail the’ people to whom they made those promises. I am losing faith in sonic of the honorable gentlemen who I believed had a spark ot principle in them. Unfortunately, they fail to realize their obligations to those electors to whom they made such definite declarations of principle. 1’heir behaviour earns my utmost contempt as 1 am sure it will rightly earn the contempt of the electorates they represent.
Honorable members of the Labour party desire in ali earnestness and sincerity to give ministerial supporters the opportunity to present to the country proposals which have a reasonable chance of being carried by the people, and in this connexion we have desired to co-operate with the Government and have afforded a genuine gesture of helpfulness with a view to assisting it to secure essential powers which are urgently required to enable this Parliament to function effectively as a national deliberative assembly. But while honorable gentlemen opposite have indicated their belief that the need exists for obtaining additional powers for the Commonwealth in respect of trade and commerce, and industry, instead of agreeing to submit a proposal to the people to grant such necessary power to the Commonwealth, they constantly excuse themselves by stating that the time is not opportune to do so. When in the name of all that is right will the time arrive to correct weaknesses of the Constitution?
– Why did not the Scullin Government when it was in office introduce a bill for a referendum to give the Commonwealth such powers?
– The Scullin Government did formulate proposals for submission to the people. If the honorable gentleman knew the history of this Parliament he would realize that every effort which we are making at the present time to obtain increased powers for the Comwealth is consistent with past attempts of Labour governments to secure those powers. The record of the Labour party will stand any investigation that the honorable gentleman may desire to make in regard to the securing of increased powers to the Commonwealth. I challenge him to study that record and, during the course of this debate, to be prepared to reveal one instance of where this party has proved inconsistent in regard to its attitude on <- such matters. At a later stage I shall remind the honorable gentleman of my challenge. I am afraid that he will find himself hard pressed because he has taken a certain course of action which he knows is not in accordance with the professions of faith which he made to hi3 constituents.
The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has been put forward with the desire to learn how far members of the Opposition can walk along the road with ministerial supporters in advocating the granting of wider powers to the Commonwealth. I emphasize that the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition cannot on this amendment have legislative effect in regard to these added powers, but is intended to give honorable members an opportunity within the scope of this discussion to make a full survey of the position in order to ascertain how far it is possible for the opinions of ministerial supporters to be reconciled with those of the Opposition upon such an important matter. Honorable members opposite seem to be courting defeat and to be bargaining for it. From their demeanour, one gathers that it is their desire to sec proposals, with which they are in accord, rejected by the people. I was gratified to hear the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) this afternoon express an opinion which was consistent with his beliefs upon this matter. ‘ I give him full credit for having declared so definitely the belief that he holds in this particular matter. If many of his colleagues had been equally consistent, they, too, could have rejoiced at having given evidence of good faith. The argument advanced by the honorable member for Wentworth is untenable. He sought to hide behind the rather clever but nevertheless unconvincing argument advanced by the distinguished gentleman (Mr. Menzios) who occupies the office of Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, who this afternoon submitted that one of his objections to the amendment was that its acceptance would mean the incorporation in the one bill of the additional subjects proposed for submission to the people, and that this would cause confusion in the public mind. The honorable gentleman knows full well that he is only begging the question, and that once this House had determined the nature and extent of the proposals to be submitted, he could deal with the situation legislatively in a way that would present no difficulty. His process of reasoning seems to be characteristic of those who hold a distinguished position in the legal world. He would do well to afford an opportunity to review the matters contained in the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. The honorable member for Wentworth has claimed that it would be the height of absurdity to submit to the people a proposal in relation to broadcasting, because of some decision that has been given by the High Court. I point out to him that that particular judgment is to be the subject of further litigation. I understand that it is to be taken to the Privy Council by way of appeal. But even excluding that consideration, it is quite conceivable and probable that when in the course of time the composition of the High Court Bench is altered, the judgment may be reversed, as other judgments have been. Is there any reason why we should not. make it positive that these powers reside in the Commonwealth? The attitude adopted by the Government I cannot describe better than by using the words of the Leader of the Opposition, that the Government is losing a golden opportunity so to reconcile and harmonize the opinions of honorable members of this House that we may present a united case to the country, and, discarding sectionalism, seek to obtain the many powers that are essential to the proper discharge of public functions in the true national sense. The country would do well to take notice of the pathetic and lamentable exhibition that has been given by ministerial members in an attempt to evade their obligations. Their attitude on this measure will not enhance the reputation of the Government. The Opposition has made a genuine gesture, and it is a thousand pities that the Government fails to realize how favorable is the opportunity to obtain the fulfilment of the promise made to the people that there would be every endeavour to obtain the powers that are essential if the Commonwealth is to legislate effectively in the interests of the whole of the community.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr.Curtin’s amendment) - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J.Bell.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill brought up by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 11th November (vide page 1721).
PART III. TERRITORIES of the Common wealth.
Proposed votes - Northern Territory, £244,730; Federal Cap.tal Territory, £294,470; Papua, £64,308; Norfolk Island, £4,000.
.- I desire to deal with a matter concerning the administration of Norfolk Island. When the Estimates were under discussion last year I was prevented from raising this matter by reason of the limitation of time allowed for the discussion of the Estimates for Norfolk Island. I regret to say that the unfortunate conditions which existed on the island at that time continue to exist to-day. It would appear that, despite the fact that this Parliament in 1935 passed an act granting to the people of Norfolk Island what amounted virtually to the powers of selfgovernment, at the same time it vested in the Administrator, Mr. C. R. Pinney, greater powers than he formerly possessed. In fact, he was made virtual dictator of that island. Under his administration there is seething discontent, not only among the general population of the island, but also within the Advisory Council itself. Some of the resolutions carried unanimously by that body are, to say the least, most alarming. One of the particular grievances of the islanders against the administration is the manner in which it has treated the Norfolk Island Boating Company which wai established in 1856. In 1925, at the suggestion of the then Administrator, the people who operated the boating service at Norfolk Island .formed themselves into a company for more economical operation. With the appointment of Captain Stopp as second in charge to the Administrator, trouble immediately began to develop. That gentleman adopted irritating tactics, magnifying the most trivial complaints. Repeated protests against his administration were sent to Canberra, but nothing was done to redress the grievances of the islanders. In 1933 there was some trouble over the company’s accounts, and the Administra tor was approached for advice. His advice was that a registered company should be formed; but almost immediately af ter proffering that advice he apparently recommended to the Government the promulgation of a customs ordinance, known as Ordinance No. 7, which restricted the right of boating to registered companies, imposed further irksome restrictions on boatmen and, for the first time in the history of the island, imposed a registration fee of £l for each boat. A public meeting was held which expressed sympathy with the boatmen, and the Administrator was asked to waive -the provisions of the ordinance for a couple of weeks. Immediately after the Administrator had secured the promulgation of the ordinance it was found that he had already influenced certain friends of his to form a new boating company, and had, in fact, already issued three licences. The persons to whom these licences were issued, having no boats df their own, secured the use of some boats, from Burns, Philp and Company Proprietary Limited, ‘ and operated them under heavy police protection. The original boating company then registered its boats, and under protest paid for six licences. Some months later the Lighterage Company was registered under the patronage and support of the Administrator. The idea of the formation of the new company was apparently hatched in the mind of Captain Stopp while the original boating company was negotiating with the Government with a view to having the ordinance removed. Both the Executive Council and the Advisory Council of Norfolk Island also recommended the withdrawal of the Customs Ordinance. The Advisory Council further recommended that the original boating company should be registered pending appeal to Canberra. Shortly afterwards a further ordinance was promulgated compelling all boats carrying passengers to be licensed. Again a public meeting of protest was called, and subsequently the Advisory Council recommended its repeal. In August, 1934, when opening the proceedings of the new Advisory Council, the Administrator referred to “ the recent attempt to interrupt the essential services of the island “. But the council, representative of the people of Norfolk Island, advised him by resolution that he was mistaken, and that, in fact, there had been no such attempt. Petitions to the Government from the islanders have been of no avail; every appeal has been ignored. Even the petition addressed to the Governor-General, asking him to interest himself in the grievances of the people of Norfolk Island, has either disappeared or been pigeon-holed since it left Norfolk Island.
Mr.Lane. - Through whom was the petition presented?
– Through the Department of External Affairs. The Administrator, however, not content to let matters rest as they were, went a little further, and exceeded the bounds of the law. In May, 1934, he anticipated tho gazettal of an ordinance framed for the purpose of dealing with the gentleman who was at that time president of the Advisory Council, Mr. Nobbs. Apparently ne knew what was in the ordinance before it was gazetted and, in fact, acted on the power to bt given to him under it. Mussolinilike, he went along to the Advisory Council and was successful in getting sufficient support among its members to depose the president. He himself took the position and held it for some months. Legal action was taken by the deposed president, and Mr. JusticeCoyle was sent to Norfolk Island to adjudicate in the matter. He found in favour of the deposed chairman. In delivering judgment, His Honour said -
Tn giving my decisionI regret that the peace of the island is in such a troubled state.I find that the Administrator was not in order in calling the special meeting of May 19, which mooting the president had the right to call. Therefore, the meeting was irregular. I find that that meeting was called and a resolutionpassedhereby plaintiff was removed from office. It purports to be passed by an ordinance setting out thai the president shall he deprived of office by a vote of at least twothirds. The vote at that irregular meeting was invalid according law which could have no force on this island. I have no hesitation in saying that at the time that it was done it had certainly not been published and. the inference thereof was that any action purporting to be done under that ordinance was of no effect, and removal was not in form. So that the removal of Mr. Nobbs from the. presidency was not correct.
Apparently when he found that the council would not dance to the tune he called, the Administrator took action against ite members. Yet, despite the repeated protests that have been made against the administration of this gentleman, the Government has extended his term of office for a further twelve months. In March, 1935, as a result of the turmoil that existed, Senator Sir George Pearce was sent to Norfolk Island to see what was wrong. The Norfolk Island Act was amended in April, 1935, and an elective council was set up. In June, 1935, a further ordinance was promulgated, giving the Minister power to set up ward boundaries. It is quite probable that the boundaries of the wards were decided on the advice of the Administrator, but whoever was responsible for the subdivision, was also responsible for the fact that of the eight councillors, four represent 70 per cent., and the other four 30 per cent, of the population. Honorable members will recall that when the bill amending the Norfolk Island Act was piloted through this chamber by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes), the right honorable gentleman said that it would usher in a new era in the history of Norfolk Island. I should like to know who is responsible for gerrymandering the wards established under the new ordinance. One of the first actions of the Administrator, following the election of the new council, was to demand implicit obedience from its members. When he could not control the council, he induced the Commonwealth Government to frame an ordinance transferring the control of the works department from the Advisory Council to himself.
But there was one other thing he was unable to . control, namely, the press. There was in existence on the island a roneoed newspaper with a circulation of about 350 copies. This organ was a constant critic of the administration, with the result that the Administrator came to the conclusion that it would have to be controlled. Again yielding to his representations, the Commonwealth Government, in 1935, very obligingly drafted another ordinance known as the Printers and Newspaper Ordinance which, in addition to requir- ing the deposit of £200 as fidelity bond by any one controlling a newspaper, defined defamatory matter in the following terms - “ Defamatory matter “ means the matter of any imputation concerning any person, or any member of hia family, whether living or dead, by which the reputation of that person is likely to be injured, or by which he is likely to be injured iu his office, profession or trade, or by which other persons are likely to slain, avoid, ridicule, or despise him, whether the imputation is expressed cither directly or by insinuation or irony.
This is, indeed, a very broad definition of defamatory matter. The Administrator had already attempted to nobble the Advisory Council, and when unable to do that, had had the control of public works vested in himself so that he would have all the political patronage to hand out to his supporters. Then, finding the press critical of his activities, he induced the Government to draft an ordinance making it a crime to criticize the administration, or to hold any one, including the Administrator, up to ridicule, or to cause people to despise .him, whether the imputations were expressed directly, by insinuation, or by irony. No doubt, if the newspaper had suddenly reversed its critical policy, and had said that the Administrator was the best that had ever been on the island, it would still be liable to prosecution on the ground that it was criticizing the administration by irony. As the result of this ordinance, the only newspaper on the island went out of existence, and since that time there has been no manifest criticism of the Administrator, except at public meetings. On several occasions I raised the subject of the newspaper ordinance in this House. A public meeting on the island passed a resolution requesting the Government to withdraw the ordinance, as also did the Advisory Council. Finally, the Government took action, but it did so by promulgating another ordinance in which power was given to the Administrator himself or any person acting on his authority to publish a pamphlet or newspaper which would be entirely exempt from any of the restrictions or obligations imposed on any one else who controlled a newspaper. Thus, while the Administrator was, by ordinance, freed from newspaper criticism, he was himself empowered to publish a newspaper, or to authorize the publication of one, in which he might criticize any one or every one and eulogize his own administration to his heart’s content. Some time ago, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) referred in this House to the tyrannical manner in which the Administrator for Norfolk Island had deported from the island a prominent citizen of New South Wales. At the time the House was given, by the Prime Minister, certain information in reply to the statement of the honorable member for Richmond. I do not suggest that the statement was prepared by the Prime Minister himself, but I have conclusive proof that the things alleged in extenuation of the action of the Administrator were in some instances, only half true, and in others less than half true.
– ‘What the Prime Minister read on that occasion was drafted by the Administrator himself.
– I am prepared to believe the honorable member. Although at the time I was not inclined to support him in the stand he had taken, what I have heard since from responsible residents of the island has convinced me that more than 50 per cent, of what the Prime Minister said on that occasion was false.
Resolutions hostile to the Administrator have been carried at public meetings, and by the Advisory Council which represents the residents of the island. Here is a resolution carried by the council on the 8th January, 1936, at a meeting at which four councillors voted, for the motion, three voted against it, and one abstained from voting1 -
That the present administration of Norfolk Island has been chiefly marked by an alarming amount of unrest, discontent, and lack of confidence in the Administration’s integrity and efficiency.
That the full, impartial inquiry petitioned for- by the residents should be instituted without delay by the Government, for the proper investigation of t,he many complaints and grievances submitted by residents, and for the speedy restoration of the harmony and confidence that prevailed here prior to the advent of the present administration.
Here is another resolution, which was carried unanimously on the 18th December, 1935-
The Council views with regret the terms of the proposed Public Works Ordinance 1935, and the policy indicated in the Minister’s com- muni cation of the 25th October, 1935, to the President of the Council.
The Council respectfully asks the Minister’s attention to the pledges given in Parliament by the Government to provide a larger measure of self-government for the people of the island, and to give them a much greater share in the management of their own affairs (Debate on Norfolk Island Bill 1935 - 4th April, 1930).
The measures foreshadowed in the Minister’s letter would appear to bc reactionary and repressive, and, with the enactment of the proposed Public Works Ordinance 1935, would eprive the people of important rights and privileges inherent in the Constitution since 165G.
It would appear to be the Minister’s intention to entirely disregard the wishes and requirements of the residents, transmitted through this Council, and to enact measures that would absolutely deprive them of such control in the management of their own affairs as they have held hitherto.
The proposed Public Works Ordinance 1935 provides no machinery for investigation of alleged injustices that may occur, and removes any constitutional check on arbitrary, inefficient, or discriminatory management.
The Council earnestly and respectfully submits that for the welfare of the residents, its representations should receive a further sympathetic consideration from the Minister, since they were submitted only after a careful study of the requirements and wishes of the residents, and the promises of the Government.
The following resolution was carried unanimously at a meeting of the Norfolk Island Residents Association on the 24th July, 1936 :-
That the people of Norfolk Island hear with disgust and abhorrence of the extension of the appointment of the present Administrator for still another twelve months.
That as an Administrator they consider him a complete failure, and that the extension of his appointment is a direct insult to the people of this island, and a disgrace to the people of Australia.
I am also directed to hand you herewith copy of the Advisory Council’s majority resolution on the proposed amendments to the Printers and Newspapers Ordinance, which have been already sent to YOU.
With many thanks for your friendship and interest in the people of the island.
Here is a further resolution carried by the Advisory Council -
That this meeting repeats previous protests against the continuation in office of the present Administrator and Secretary-Collector of Customs, especially as recent court proceedings and continued complaints from the public reflect the injustice and incompetency of the present administration, and the lack of confidence it inspires in the community.
Other resolutions in the same terms have been carried from time to time by the Advisory Council, which was set up by this Government to assist in the administration of Norfolk Island. When that council, which is elected by the people, arrives at a decision, it should be beyond the power of the Administrator to resist it. There is not the slightest doubt that, ever since the present Administrator has been in control of Norfolk Island he has been sheltered by officialdom in Canberra. I am concerned with the fact that the Government set up a council to control the affairs- of the island, and that an administrator, not elected by the people, should be allowed at its first meeting to warn the council that he expected from it implicit obedience, and that, when he was not able to obtain this obedience, he should be permitted to have an ordinance promulgated transferring to his own hands control of the public works policy of the island. I am concerned that an organization known as the Norfolk Island Boating Company, which has been in the hands of original residents of the island and their descendants for over 80 years, should be despoiled by a vindictive administrator in order to assist his friends. [Leave to continue given.~ I am concerned that, after having disposed of that company, and being instrumental in organizing another, the Administrator should have been allowed to escape criticism by the promulgation of an ordinance, obviously inspired by him, to control newspapers published on the island. I condemn the Government for having accepted a further recommendation of the Administrator to promulgate another ordinance exempting from the previous ordinance any pamphlet or newspaper issued by the Administrator or any one under his charge. If it is good enough for the Administrator, or any one acting for him, to have the right to issue pamphlets or newspapers praising his own administration, it is good enough that a newspaper established on the island many years ago, and conducted to the satisfaction of the residents, should be entitled to criticize the administration. In view of the known hostility of the majority of the residents of the island to the Administrator, and also of the fact that that gentleman has sought to browbeat the council which the Government set up, there must have been sufficient evidence in the hands of the Government to cause it to doubt the wisdom of extending his term of office. I ask that the long-standing grievances of the residents of Norfolk Island, who are separated by many hundreds of miles of sea from the seat of government in Australia, be dealt with by the Government. It would appear that every action of the Advisory Council can be frustrated by action taken in Canberra. I ask that the Government cause an inquiry to be made into Norfolk Island affairs. I do not ask that action be taken merely on what I have said to-night - although, apparently, the Government is prepared to act on the statement of the Administrator, in spite of advice to the contrary by the Advisory Council and well-known residents - but I do ask for an independent inquiry into the whole administration of the island. There can be no doubt that grave discontent exists there. Apparently the Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce), who visited Norfolk Island in 1935, reported on his return that the residents were discontented. That discontent was reflected in the speech of the Minister who introduced into this chamber the Norfolk Island Bill. That the Government was prepared to alter the constitution of the council was evidence that it believed that things were not proceeding smoothly on the island. It set up a new authority when it appointed the Advisory Council. Having set it up, the Government should give consideration to its views. When the Administrator smashed the boating company, the views of the Advisory Council should have been given consideration. Again, when the people of the island publicly protested against the newspaper ordinance, and the Advisory Council unanimously recommended its withdrawal, the Government should have heeded these representations. Obviously, the Administrator is not suitable for his position, but is a constant source of annoyance to the residents of the island. I hope that the Government will not treat this matter lightly, but will do something to curb the dictatorial administration of the person in charge of Norfolk Island.
– I shall see that the Minister in charge of Territories receives a copy of the honorable member’s speech.
– I commend the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) for his interest in one of the outlying territories under the control of the Commonwealth. He has shown in no uncertain way that bureaucratic rule exists in Norfolk Island. It exists also in the Northern Territory ; but although I have advocated self-government for the Northern Territory, I do not propose to address the committee on that subject now. I am pleased that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) intends that next year a committee of three persons shall visit the Northern Territory, and that one of its number- should remain there to work out a plan in the framing of which he has taken an active part. In the circumstances, I am content to refrain from again advocating immediate selfgovernment for the Northern Territory along the lines of a legislative council, such as exists in New Guinea. I hope, however, that the Minister will keep before him the ideal of self-government for the Northern Territory which, if granted, would relieve him of the responsibility for the administration of the domestic policy of that portion of the Commonwealth. We already have competent officials^ capable of relieving the Minister of this responsibility if they were only given greater authority in conjunction with residents of the Territory elected as a legislative council.
The Estimates provide a sum of £1,160 in respect of educational services and scholarships for the Northern Territory. There is a dearth of facilities at Darwin for the secondary education of the children and the Government should subsidize the school that is struggling to establish itself there. Those who pass through the primary school and desire to continue their studies must pursue them elsewhere. Usually, such children attend secondary schools at Charters Towers or Southport in Queensland. Two scholarships are provided for Northern Territory children, but the parents of children who fail to secure scholarships are involved in heavy expense if they wish them to receive a higher education. Many of them cannot afford to do so, and consequently their children have to seek employment locally. The position is set out in a letter from. the father of a boy who sat for a navy scholarship, but failed to pass the final oral examination. In a letter to me the father said -
We are sending our boy on the boat tomorrow to attend All Souls school at Charters Towers. To do this it is to cost me £15 for his fare -to Townsville. Fancy PaY.ing £15 for a five days’ trip - £3 per day. And at the annual holidays, if we wish to have him home for a few weeks, it will cost me an extra £27 for the return fare. It is true that the passengers got something for their £3 per day, but it is daylight robbery to charge £3 per day for school children. You must realize that there is no high school in Darwin, and after a boy has done his term in the seventh grade, he has either to go south for further education, or look for a job at the age of about thirteen, or continue in the same class for another term in the hope of winning a scholarship.
The letter proceeds -
It is not fair to ask the boy to do another twelve months in the same class in the hope of winning a scholarship, for -which Tie would be a certainty, neither would it be. fair to the other children … I consider that if a boy cannot win a scholarship in his first year ho should, if circumstances permit, be sent south for further education, and give the rising boys a chance. I am not a millionaire. In Queensland, if a boy gets a pass in a scholarship, lie is allowed £.10 a year to further his education, but in Darwin under the Commonwealth, if he gets a pass, and is un- successful in winning a scholarship, he gets nothing. If the Queensland Government can hand out £.10 to each one that passes, why not the Commonwealth?
I ask the Minister to look into this matter with a view to giving to the children of the Northern Territory chances similar to those available to children in Queensland. I believe that he will be sympathetic with my request.
I am amazed to find that the police in the Northern Territory are subject to both the Northern Territory Public Service Ordinance and the Police and Police Offences Ordinance. In the Northern Territory, bureaucratic rule similar to that mentioned by the honorable member for Dalley, in respect of Norfolk Island, exists. If a police officer is charged under section 10 of the Police and Police Offences Ordinance, that officer is not entitled to a right of appeal. The Administrator is both accuser and judge; and as he is also the board of appeal, he is, as it were, the Lord High Executioner of Mikado fame! The Commonwealth police in Canberra
Mr. Blain. are on an entirely different footing. They have a right of appeal, their cases are heard in public, and they are entitled to legal representation. Those provisions might well be extended to the police of the Northern Territory. A separate police ordinance is needed. I suggest that the Minister could simplify this matter and take these police officers into his confidence, and put them under a scheme similar to that which applies to the police force of the Federal Capital Territory. The police of the Northern Territory should be organized on a proper basis. To-day, they are governed by two laws. Provision should be made to give to them rights of appeal. If they are charged under section 10 of the Police and Police Offences Ordinances, they have no right of appeal. I urge the Minister to give them a fair deal. Under another regulation under the Public Service Ordinance 1928-1934, which bears the signature of the then Acting Minister, the Assistant Minister (Mr. Hunter), the status of “ mounted constable “ has been abolished. The force as a whole in the Northern Territory is highly regarded by residents in that area. It include* many remarkable men. I am amazed that any action would be taken to reduce the status of members of this force. Men who were previously designated as “ mounted constables “ have been reduced to the status of “ constable “. At the same time, under regulation 56 of the Public Service Regulations, the status of “ inspector “ has been raised to that of “superintendent”. I hardly think that, in view of his own promotion, a superintendent would, of his own volition, reduce the status of officers under him. I am amazed that such action has been taken. Thus, the conflict of authority, resulting from the application of the Public Service Regulations in some instances, and the Police and Police Offences Ordinances in others, is apparent. A fair deal should be given to this police force in order that it may be freed of dissension. Furthermore, I find that recently the services of two members of the force have been dispensed with. In one case, that of Mounted Constable McCann, very unfair treatment was meted out by the department. I ask the Minister to review that case. If that mau cannot be reinstated, he should be reimbursed for all moneys which he has paid into the superannuation fund, and also paid salary in lieu of holidays which had accrued to him at the . time of his dismissal. He and Constable Cameron, who was the second officer dismissed, have been denied these rights.
I also point out that members of the Public Service in the Northern Territory have no right of appeal in cases of promotion similar to that enjoyed by officers of the Public Service elsewhere, who, if they consider that they possess greater qualifications, can appeal against the promotion of other officers.
– What is the reason for that distinction so far as Northern Territory officers are concerned?
– It is because the Administrator who makes the appointments is also the judge of his own actions in appeal cases. This is another instance in which he is, in effect, the grand Mikado. Officers at the head-quarters of the department apparently seek the advice of officers in the Northern Territory when it suits them to be evasive in regard to suggestions for reform, but in matters of high policy, they act on their own decisions. I ask the Minister to give all members of the Public Service in the Northern Territory this right of appeal which is enjoyed by officers through the Service elsewhere
I now propose to deal with the proposed vote of £1,000 to the Darwin Town Council. The Building Ordinance recently promulgated in Darwin, under which buildings can be demolished on the ground that they are not fit for habitation from a health point of view, has caused grave dissention, and I have been asked by those interested in the matter to place their case before the Minister. This ordinance is most unjust. The department has condemned and demolished, certain buildings, and, at the same time, has given no compensation whatever to the owners of those buildings. Contrast this policy with that pursued by the London County Council, which, in its efforts to abolish slum areas, finances the building of the new structures and allows compensation. Previously, T have drawn the attention of the Minister to the matter of town-planning Darwin, according to a scheme which will make Darwin a town worthy of the admiration of visitors from overseas. Today, the town contains slums; but I point out that those particular buildings were erected in the early days, principally by Chinese, and, in spite of the materials used, principally sheet iron and round timber, their construction was costly. I again ask the Minister to accept my advice to send a town planner to Darwin to devise a scheme whereby condemned buildings can be demolished and the owners thereof compensated for their loss as is done in other parts of the world and given rights to rebuild. Furthermore, I ask him to take advantage of such an opportunity to inaugurate a housing system with the object, of providing better homes for pensioners and working people generally in Darwin. In this respect he could follow the policy adopted by the department in its housing operations in the Federal Capital Territory. There is an urgent need in Darwin to-day for hotter housing accommodation. Many pensioners resident there arc obliged to live in humpies. Recently, I drew the attention of the Minister to what has been accomplished in the town-planning of Mackay, in Queensland, and pointed out that the Brisbane town planner had been asked to town-plan Suva. The Minister’s advisers tell him, however, that to plan Darwin would present extraordinary difficulties. To negative people everything is extraordinary. Positive action is required. [Quorum formed.]
Another matter to which I direct the attention of the Minister is that of land surveys. The proposed vote for this purpose is not sufficient. Lessees of pastoral areas in the Northern Territory are urging that the boundaries of their holdings should be delineated. I have raised this matter on several occasions previously, particularly in respect of the position of lessees in the Alice Springs district, where many disputes have arisen from this cause. .Honorable members who are familiar with conditions in areas such as Alice Springs, are aware that very often disputes between settlers arise as to the ownership of waterholes, choice feeding grounds, bores and other improvements. To-day, tlie policy of the department appears to be that no pastoral lease surveys can be made except at the expense of the lessees. 1 am not suggesting that every lease should be precisely surveyed, but I ask that surveyors be sent to Alice Springs to survey the key boundaries so as to enable lessees to determine the ownership of the choice: areas. If the lessees are charged for these surveys they will not be able to afford the cost of fencing their areas. I contend that the starting points, at least, should be established on areas which the lessees wish to fence and parts of the actual boundaries surveyed. The lessees pay rent and the Government should delineate the boundaries of the land for which rent is demanded. Another point is that some lessees who have been impatient for this work to be undertaken, have already come to certain agreements with their neighbours. They have built fences, and are now seeking to have the common boundaries recognized as is done in most of the States in similar circumstances. I am not clear as to whether under the territory laws this is legal and I ask the Minister to obtain a legal ruling as to whether these common boundaries would be correct in a court of law or regarded as so by his department. The landholders are impatient to have these improvements put up but they wish to have them recognized. If that cannot.be done under the existing conditions, new regulations should be made. It is simple enough in the States, especially in Queensland, but nothing seems to be simple under the regulations which govern the Northern Territory. The area is a bundle of red tape that leaves the inhabitants bewildered.
The smaller land-holders around Alice Springs complain that there is no lands officer to whom they can apply for permission to erect windmills and other improvements under this grant of £20,000 for freight, concessions and assistance to lessees. This is a point which the Minister should examine. In the States - I refer particularly to Queensland - lands offices are situated in the various key towns and are accessible to land-holders, who are able to communicate with them with facility. The land officers visit the holdings, inspect the proposed improvements and give or withhold permission for them to be proceeded with. The landholders at Alice Springs have either to apply to Canberra or to the Land Board in Darwin, but, owing to the infrequency of the mail service between Alice Springs and Darwin, it takes two months for a considered reply to be received, and the officers in Canberra cannot be expected to be familiar . with local conditions peculiar to Alice Springs. I urge the Minister to appoint an officer at Alice Springs to deal with land matters to whom the lessees could apply and who would bc conveniently close to the holdings to inspect improvements immediately. It is only ‘ fair that the Minister should do that. The land-holders at Alice Springs take the view that it is useless to send applications to Canberra, because of the evasive replies received.
An injustice is being done to the unemployed at Darwin and Alice Springs. About 20 or 30 white men are situated in a camp about two miles outside Darwin but they are not eligible for any relief until they have been resident there for an unreasonable period. These men are destitute. Leniency should be shown to them because no one would undertake the trek to the Northern Territory to take advantage of relief work or unemployment relief. They are. entitled to the treatment which men in similar circumstances receive in the States. In Alice Springs there is no relief scheme in operation at all and, of course, there is no residential qualification. Throughout the rest of the Commonwealth the unemployed receive the dole, and it is unfair that these men in the Northern Territory should be more or less disinherited. They have made frequent representation for relief. They can get no money with which to pay grocery bills. They applied, as a matter of fact, for permission to run small raffles to enable them to fulfil their obligations, but the superintendent of police denied their plea. The Minister should send a communication to the superintendent of police directing him to allow them, by means of raffles, to raise some money not only to meet their obligations to the business people but also to provide themselves with a Christmas dinner, if the Minister cannot provide them with Christmas relief work. They are committing no crime and they should receive better treatment.
– I wrote a letter about that to the honorable member to-day.
– I thank the Minister for that. I was not aware of it.
I do not propose to deal at length with loans to miners, but, up to the present, it is only the mining promoters who have been able to take advantage of the loans. In this respect the miners at Tennant Creek have been disinherited. The small business men in that area are carrying men on their shoulders. Business people generally work on a 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, margin to cover risk of bad debts, but at Tennant Creek so adverse are the conditions that they are forced to work on a much greater margin, judging by the price lists. If the Commonwealth Statistician were to work out a basic wage on the basis of the prices at Tennant Creek it would be amazing. By virtue of the Minister not malting the loans apply to the small miners, the storekeepers, as I have already said, are compelled to allow a greater margin for safety to the price of goods to cover the risk of their not being reimbursed. It is, therefore, the duty of the Department of the Interior to see that this loan money goes, not only to the mining promoters, but also to the small miners, so that small storekeepers will have something real on which to give credit. There are many other matters on which I wished to speak, but I realize that my time has expired. [Leave to continue given.] I shall not delay the committee, but with regard to primary production in the Northern Territory, I have had sent to mc the prospectus of a man who wishes to develop the territory on the Morris plan. I assume that the Minister has seen it, since a copy was also submitted to the Department of the Interior for review, and it has been deeemed by that department to be acceptable for publication. Recognizing the policy of “ first come first “, I have not been pressing for the development of tropical agriculture so far, but this is a direction in which something could be done to assist the people who wish to develop the territory along those lines. The areas which I suggest could be investigated are situated in the hinterland of Bynoe Harbour, the Finness and Edith rivers districts and east of Pine Creek. I commend the Minister for the appointing of Mr. W. L. Payne, chairman of the Land Administration Board, Queensland, and a committee, to make an inspection of the territory. I also urge that the Minister despatch Dr. Prescott, of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, to the territory to make, on the lines of the Russian- Glinka soil survey, a thorough soil survey, which, in turn, will eventually become a thorough economic survey, in order that we can show just what we have in our vast territory. Dr. Prescott has just returned from Russia, where, I understand, he furthered his investigations in regard to the Glinka soil survey, which is outstanding in the world. It behoves us after exact investigation by recognized authorities to dress the window and show the people who are willing to spend money on the development of the territory just what they are spending it on.
.- 1 understand that the Government is about to embark on the construction of a big building to house departments of the Commonwealth Public Service in Canberra, and I suggest that if the Minister has at heart the interests of the Australian industry he will take into consideration the possibility of erecting this building with a better kind of material than has been used hitherto.
– Does not the honorable member think that enough money is being spent there?
– I believe in a job being well done. The huge lumps of concrete which masquerade as architectural features in Canberra are no credit to the city. I should like to see buildings here like the Rural Bank in Sydney and the Courier building in Brisbane which, I understand, has been described as one of the finest in the world. Those buildings are constructed of Tasmanian red granite. Red and grey granite could be used to great advantage in Canberra. Any small additional cost involved in; using this material for exterior walls would be more than counterbalanced by the reduced cost of upkeep. Considerable employment would be provided for men in quarrying and cutting the stone for the buildings. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) should obtain a report from his officers as to the durability of red and grey granite, and the cost of making it available in Canberra. I have been informed that red granite from Tasmania is now being sent to New Zealand for building purposes, so it should not be beyond the financial capacity of the Commonwealth to provide similar material for use in the National Capital. I hope that no more buildings will be erected in Canberra, like the National Library, which has no architectural beauty about it, and appears to be merely a heap of concrete with holes punched in it.
– What does the honorable member think of the new Masonic Temple ?
– I cannot understand how the plans wore ever passed. Parliament House itself would have been embellished by the use of .a little red and grey granite with the all pervading cement and stucco that we see in this city.
– The Estimates for additions, new works and buildings, to which the honorable member is now referring, have already, been passed, and I must ask him to confine his remarks to that part of the Estimates that relates to salaries and services in the territories of the Commonwealth.
– I advise the Minister for the Interior to arrange for the appropriate officers of his department to consult the architects responsible for the design of the Rural Bank in Sydney and the Courier building in Brisbane, in order to ascertain the difference between the cost of concrete and the cost of granite. The new administrative block that is to be built in Canberra could be made a beautiful building by the judicious use of granite. Wo should not allow an inferiority complex to overwhelm us, but should see that our buildings are in keeping with the high ideals of Canberra.
– Where does the granite come from that the honorable member is describing?
– It comes from the Division of Wilmot, in Tasmania. I appeal to the Minister to give favorable consideration to the request that I have made. [Quorum formed.’]
Mr. BAKER (‘Griffith) [10.20J.- I regret that a colleague on the Opposition side, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), unsupported by evidence worthy of credence, has seen fit to attack the Administrator of Norfolk Island. In common with other members of the Labour party, and possibly members of other parties, I have received various statements from persons on the island, but I do not, on that account, consider it my duty to launch attacks on public servants. Two sections of the community which many people consider fair game are members of Parliament and public servants. Members of Parliament should be the last to attack, without good reason, members of the Public Service. Some years ago, as a member of a parliamentary party, I visited Norfolk Island, and the Administrator treated us with every courtesy. As the result of our investigations, I formed the opinion that he has most difficult duties to discharge. The population of the island is over 1,000, and there is only one member of the Commonwealth Police Force to preserve order. Obviously, if serious trouble arose, one police officer would not be sufficient. It would be highly dangerous for this committee to treat the ‘affairs of the island so lightly as to cause the inhabitants to think that it is prepared to side against the Administrator; but, as certain complaints have been mentioned in this chamber, it might be desirable to appoint a parliamentary committee to investigate and report upon them. It is most unfair for any member of this chamber to attack the Administrator merely because individuals have chosen to make statements which may or may not be true. Honorable members have criticized the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) for his action in judging a woman with- out a trial, and I endorse the criticism levelled against him in that regard. Any honorable member who adopts a similar attitude to the Administrator of Norfolk Island, or any other territory of the Commonwealth, lays himself open to the same criticism as that directed against the Minister. Unless a member is sure of the facts, it is most unfair to attack a member of the Public Service. There should be no cheap criticism by parliamentarians from a coward’s castle. No criticism at all should be directed against the Administrator of Norfolk Island until a careful investigation has definitely disclosed that there are good grounds for it.
The Government should pay more attention than it has in the past to the interests of the people of the Federal Capital Territory. Recently many public servants have been transferred to Canberra, but the mistake has been made of not providing sufficient housing accommodation for them prior to their arrival. The Government should give careful consideration also to the granting of the parliamentary franchise to the people of this territory. Before their appointment, members of the Public Service had to pass examinations which require more than average educational attainments. Some members of the Service have particularly high educational qualifications, but they are not entitled to vote in electing the members from whom the Government, which they have to serve, is chosen. In these circumstances, arrangements should be made as early as possible - eventually they will have to be made - for the people of the Federal Capital Territory to have the right to vote at federal elections.
I have always been under the impression that the Government is endeavouring to make Canberra a capital worthy of the Australian nation in accordance with the ideal of its founders. Yet, on numerous occasions, discussions have arisen in this chamber and in the Senate concerning the unsightly and unsatisfactory buildings in Canberra in which a certain section of the community is compelled to live. The number of unsightly dwellings in Canberra is not large, but in proportion to the total number of houses they are too many.
– There are no slums in this city.
– Unfortunately, tha Minister is one of the few who do noi admit the fact that slums exist in Canberra. The unsatisfactory condition and general appearance of the tenements at Molonglo has already been brought under the notice of the Government.
– They are not slums if compared with those to be seen in East Sydney and Five Dock.
-Apparently the attitude of the Government is very well expressed by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) who, in effect, suggests that Canberra is very much behind the times because it does not possess slums such as are to be seen in East Sydney.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) is incorrect in inferring that 1 said that Canberra is behind the times because it has not slums comparable with those to be found in East Sydney.
– That is not a point of order.
– I am sorry if I misunderstood the honorable member, but 1 understood him to say that the slums in Canberra are not comparable with those m certain Sydney suburbs, and, therefore, are not a disgrace to Canberra.
– The honorable member has misrepresented what I said, and his remarks are offensive to me.
– Under the housing scheme the Government lends to intending purchasers up to 90 per cent, of the cost of a home, with a limitation of the advance to a maximum of £1,800. That means that in respect of a house costing £2,000, only £200 has to be found by the purchasers. As dwellings costing £2,000 are well beyond the means of a majority of the residents of Canberra, the Government should pay greater attention to the construction of homes costing from £300 to £600 for people who need them.
Mr. STREET (Corangamite) [10.36J. - I am pleased to notice that the vote for the maintenance of aborigines in the Northern Territory has been increased by about £7,000, because, unfortunately, our record in the care of aborigines is not one of which we can be proud. Will the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) explain how the increased vote is to be expended? Last year, £1,000 was voted for the encouragement of primary production in the Northern Territory of which only £55 was expended, and this year £2,000 has been provided. I understand that all this expenditure so far has been to assist peanut farmers to obtain implements. An amount of £4,100 has been provided for the running expenses of the patrol vessel which has proved very unsatisfactory. For the eradication of noxious weeds in the Federal Capital Territory, £2,300 was voted last year, and only £927 expended. As £2,000 is provided for this year and we have been informed that Paterson’s curse is not to be found in the Territory, will the Minister explain how the money is to be expended ? Last year, £200 was provided for the Tourist Bureau, and only £59 was’ expended, but I am glad to see that £850 is provided for publicity work this year. I trust that the money will be wisely employed in directing the attention of the Australian people generally to the attractions of Canberra.
– A motion appears on the notice-paper relating to the necessity for the construction of a railway from Wyndham for a distance of 200 miles into the Northern Territory. This project has been mentioned by several honorable members. I direct attention to the fact that the Western Australian Government erected meat works at a cost of £1,000,000, which Mr. Conacher and other recognized authorities on the Australian meat industry have said are among the most up to date in Australia. It might well be asked why the Government of Western Australia should have gone out of its way to establish meat-works 1,600 or 1,700 miles north of the capital of the State, in a sparsely populated area. The reason is, that no private company could be expected to undertake the expenditure, because it was clear that the works could not be made to pay. The government was faced with the position that if the works were not established the value of the large number of cattle that are raised in that locality would be lost. Originally, live cattle were carried by boat from the north-west coast for the trade of the south, but that market was lost when local supplies were available from the areas in the southern part of the State.
– The honorable member is not dealing with the Northern Territory.
– I fear that I have unduly prolonged my explanation of the circumstances which led to the establishment of meat-works in the north-western portion of Western Australia. It is proposed that a railway shall be constructed for the purpose of opening up the western part of the Northern Territory, for which Wyndham it the natural port. I am endeavouring to deal with the vote before the committee by explaining that, of the 32.000 cattle annually treated at Wyndham - that is the average for the last four years - fully one-half come from the Northern Territory. If the meat-works in the Kimberley district were closed down the western portion of the Northern Territory would be without an outlet for its beef. For that reason, I am advocating the construction of a railway of which a length of 100 miles would be in the Northern Territory. The cattle are driven from the Wave Hill and Victoria River Downs districts, which are fertile portions of the Northern Territory that depend entirely on an outlet being provided for them. Mr. Morey, the pastoral superintendent of one of the largest cattle firms in the north, stated in Sydney a little over a fortnight ago that, with a railway to Wyndham it would be possible to deliver at the works 90 per cent, of the cattle as fats, compared with the 40 per cent, to 50 per cent, that now come from the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken) explained recently in this chamber that *i** is expected that, under the new meat agreement which is to be made by the British Government with Argentina, 15 per cent, of the British market will provide an outlet for Australian chilled beef. That is all that the Northern Territory and other pastoral areas of Australia will be able to supply, and the benefit, to the Northern Territory will bo considerable. While in England recently, I had an opportunity to examine the chilled beef sent from Argentina, as well as the frozen beef sent from Australia, and can frankly say that the Argentine product begins . to deteriorate after it has been displayed in shop windows for a period. The proposal that I now bring forward is of immense importance to the western part of the Northern Territory, and, incidentally, would make the meatworks at Wyndham a more payable proposition, and ensure the continuance of the existing port facilities. The honorable member for Ballarat has dealt with this matter very fully. He has had such wide and varied experience that I should hesitate to- oppose my view, against an opinion that he has expressed. He has given valuable service to the meat trade and is undoubtedly a most useful man as chairman of the Australian Meat Board. Within comparatively recent times the Government of Western Australia has expended £3S,000 on experimental chilling operations at the meatworks at Wyndham. If we were able to export chilled beef the return from the 30,000 head of cattle that are treated there would be increased by £60,000. It is impossible to drove cattle from the western portion of the Northern Territory to this port, and make a success of pastoral operations. All the cattle are driven along the one stock route out of the Northern Territory until they enter Western Australia. The course of the Ord River is followed. I have visited this country on a few occasions, and the country is familiar to me. The course of the Ord River is wide but has a stony bottom, and very little feed for cattle; the small quantity of feed it produces, is quickly eaten out. The Commonwealth should co-operate with the Government of Western Australia in making the necessary arrangements for the construction of the railway that I have mentioned. I feel sure that a good deal of solid development is possible in the western portion of the Northern Territory, and that the cattle industry may be made much more lucrative than it is at the present time. The amount received for beef for freezing purposes is very small. I believe that I am safe in saying that in present circumstances it hardly pays co continue the growing of cattle. But those who are engaged in the pastoral industry, in this area are in the same position as is occupied by many other primary producers throughout Australia - they have to remain in the business because they cannot get out, even though they are losing money every year. The prosperity of secondary industries is largely dependent upon the prosperity of primary industries. It is, therefore, our duty to do all that lies within our power to help those who are endeavouring to make a success of cattle raising in the Northern Territory. To-day, owing to the absence of railway facilities, cattle lose something like SO lb. to 100 lb. on the track. They spend several weeks on the journey, on a track that has already been eaten bare. The consequence is that only 40 per cent, of the cattle are suitable for export when they reach the chilling works. No blame can be attached to the chilling works, which have the latest equipment. It is the duty of the Federal Government to consider this proposition. The Australian Meat Board, which met in September last in Sydney, passed a resolution asking the Government to take the preliminary step of surveying a route for the proposed railway. I hope that the Government will do so. A few years ago Mr. Hobler, a Commonwealth railways engineer, made flying surveys of routes of new lines to be constructed ultimately for the opening up of the Northern Territory. The proposal which I have mentioned was one of those. I have no desire to delay the committee any longer to-night, but I hope to have an opportunity later to deal with this matter more effectively on a substantive motion.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the several rums already voted for such services, there lie granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1030-37 for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £25,057,913.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That, towards making good the supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year1936-37, therebe granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £14,316,363.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Sir Archdale Parkhill do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out. the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Trade Commissioners in the East -
Commonwealth Bank Sites at Ingham and Ayr.
Motion (by Sir Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Yesterday I addressed to the Minister for Commerce a series of questions relating to the appointment of Australian trade commissioners. The fourth and fifth questions were as follows: -
The Minister replied that allowances are paid to trade commissioners to cover entertainment expenses, and to assistant trade commissioners to compensate them for the high cost of living for Europeans stationed in the East, and that in no case is the allowance equal to the salary. On page 250 of the Estimates the provision of £1,872 is made for the salaries of three assistant trade commissioners in the East and £1,880 for their allowances.If the answer of the Minister is correct, the Estimates are wrong. The allowance is £8 more than the salary.
.- During recent months the Commonwealth Bank authorities have tried to obtain from the Postmaster-General’s Department a small area of land adjacent to the post office at Ingham, in Queensland, and another small area adjacent to the post office at Ayr, the purpose in each case being to erect bank premises upon the land. The requests have been refused on the excuse that the land might at some future time be required for postal purposes. If there is any possibility of the land being required for such purposes, then we may look forward to the time when the whole of Martin Place, Sydney, will be needed for extensions to the General Post Office. Next to the post office at Ingham is an old wooden building owned by the Postal department which is entirely out of keeping with the fine buildings in this main thoroughfare. It would be an advantage to the Municipal Council if the Commonwealth Bank were to acquire’ possession of the land, because the bank authorities pay rates upon the land they own. The situation at Ayr is much the same. The Deputy Postmaster-General for Queensland has proposed that the land be handed over to the bank authorities, or sold to them for the erection of bank premises. It would be an advantage to both towns if this were done. I hope that the proposal will be agreed to.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) mentioned the matter of salaries and allowances paid to trade commissioners in the East. I shall have details prepared for the honorable member, and shall acquaint him with the figures later.
– I have made a note of the remarks of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) regarding the application by the Commonwealth Bank authorities for land adjacent to the post offices in Ayr and Ingham. I shall take the matter up with the department without delay, and place before it the representations which the honorable member has made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
The followinganswers to questions were circulated: -
– The Minister negotiating trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) has supplied the following answers: -
n asked the Prime Minister. upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is thu nature of the work being carried out by Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, referred to in paragraph (5) of Iiia reply to the question of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) on the 4th instant?
– The work on which the company is engaged consists of both ground and aerial surveys in potentially petroliferous areas as well as the collection and examination of data and all the necessary preliminaries to test drilling.
en asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. It is understood that attempts have been made by interests in New South Wales and Western Australia to develop an industry involving the curing and sale of shark skins, but that these ventures have not been attended by any outstanding measure of success.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the Petroleum Oil Search Act will he inform the House which of the following statements is correct: -
That of the Minister for the Interior who said the object of the bill was to appropriate £250,000 for the encouragement of drilling operations in connexion with the search for petroleum in Australia and in the Territories of New Guinea and Papua?
That of the Assistant Minister for Commerce who said that the - four companies operating in Papua are not receiving any subsidies; and in reply to a question “Are the companies in New Guinea not eligible for subsidies ? “ said that they are not entitled to any portion of the £250,000 allocated for work within the boundaries of the Commonwealth?
– The Petroleum Oil Search Act 1936 authorizes the payment of advances to persons engaged in drilling operations in connexion with the search for petroleum. The act extends to the Territories of Papua and New Guinea. It is proposed to introduce an amending bill to enable advances to be made to persons engaged in geological survey operations in connexion with the search for petroleum. It is not intended that this provision shall apply to survey operations in the Territories of Papua and New Guinea. The companies operating in the territories are not receiving subsidies ; on the contrary, under permits recently issued in Papua, the operating companies are under the obligation to spend, in the case of two companies, a sum of not less than £30,000 per annum, and in the case of another company, a sum of not less than £12,500.
Fire Damage in New South Wales.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government consider granting a sum of money to assist making good the damage done by the disastrous fires in New South Wales?
– Whilst having every sympathy with those suffering from the effects of the fires, the Government considers that the matter of relief is not one for which the Commonwealth should accept financial responsibility.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The follow ing answers have been furnished by the Postmaster-General, whose department is the one concerned : -
e asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
What is the total amount spent on the Governor-General’s establishment at Canberra since Parliament was transferred here?
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as earlyas possible.
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Mr.PATERSON.-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Duty on Glass.
asked the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The terms of the agreements imply the grant of the intermediate tariff on certain glass and glassware at whatever rates of duty are in force at the time the goods are entered for home consumption through the customs. Variations in the intermediate rates approved by the Parliament will be dependent upon the introduction of amending tariff proposals.
Taxation of Insurance Companies.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) In1933 provision was made to allow in the assessments of life assurance companies which made a profit, a deduction of an amount equal to 4 per cent, of that part of the valuation of liabilities at the end of the year in which the assessable income was derived which bears to thatvaluation the same proportion as the va”uc at that date of the assets from which the company derives assessable income bears to the aggregate of the value at that date of all the assets of the company. In the case of a life assurance company which was not making a profit, full exemption from income tax was given.
Life assurance companies have enjoyed, elong with all other companies, the following reductions in taxation : - Financial year 1933-34 - reduction of the normal rate of tax from1s. 4.8d. to ls., reduction of the special property tax from 10 per cent. to 6 per cent.; financial year1935-36 - reduction of the special property tax from6 per cent, to 5 per cent.
Tasmanian Shipping Service.
s. - On the 28th October, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked me the following question, without notice: -
Has the Prime Minister received any infor mation regarding the shortage of passenger accommodation of the ferry service between Melbourne and Tasmania during the Christmas season? Can he say whether all second, and nearly all first, class accommodation from the 20th December until after the New Year has already boon booked? If so. and in view of the importance of the tourist traffic to Tasmania, will he take action to see that sufficient accommodation is made available for persons desiring to travel to Tasmania ? Inquiries made in the matter have disclosed that, whilst the second-class accommodation on both the SS. Taroona and the SS. Nairana for the sailings between the 19th December and the 26th December was, on the 2nd November, almost fully booked up, there was still ample first-class accommodation available on both the vessels named, except for the sailings on the 23rd, 24th and 25th December, and that ample second-class accommodation was available on and from Monday, the 28th December. It was ascertained that, even for the sailings on the 23rd, 24th and 25th December, the first-class berths still available were 57, 42 and 89 respectively.
s. - On the 5th November, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked a question, without notice, in regard to the grasshopper pest. I am now in a position to inform the honora’ble member that the council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which is carrying out investigations with a view to the control of the grasshopper pest, is co-operating closely in this work with the various State authorities, including the Department of Agriculture in Western Australia.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 November 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19361112_reps_14_152/>.