15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs state what action his department has taken with regard to the cut glass industry?
– I have no report to make on the matter at the present time. Officers of the department have been in communication with the cut glass manufacturers to see if it is possible for them to re-open their works under certain conditions. This matter is still under consideration.
Incident at Port Melbourne.
– Does the Prime Minister propose, and, if so, when does he propose, to furnish a reply to a deputation that, waited on the AttorneyGeneral in Melbourne some months ago with regard to an assault committed upon an Australian resident on board the Italian warship Montecuccoli, at Port Melbourne?
– The Minister for External Affairs has dealt directly with this matter, and I shall bring the honorable member’s question under his notice.
– Has the Treasurer any statement to make to the House with regard to the Commonwealth Loan, subscriptions for which have just closed?
– Yes. The loan resulted in a slight over-subscription. Applications were invited for £10,250,000, and about £150,000 in excess of that sum was secured. The total number of individual applications, was about 10,200, which is almost a record. This response has been exceeded only once in the last six or seven years, and the Government is extremely satisfied with the final result.
Price of Bread - Departures from CityPlan.
– What is the present price of bread in Canberra, and how does it compare with the prices in the capital cities of the various States? In view of the marked decrease of wheat and flour prices, have the bakers in Canberra given any indication that the price of bread here will be reduced?
– I am unable to reply to the question offhand. I shall obtain the information, and advise the honorable member later.
-I recently asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of alleged departures from the Canberra city plan, in the erection of buildings and in the provision of other services in this city, a committee of inquiry would be set op, or whether the matter would be referred to the PublicWorks Committee. Is it a fact that the work of erecting the new high school, which was temporarily suspended, was resumed today,and does the Government intend to erect the school on a site which was not set apart for that purpose?
– I had proposed to make a statement in regard to the matter generally within the nest few days. In reply to the question concerning the building of a school in Canberra, I shall supply information to-morrow,
-Has the Treasurer noticed the disparaging statement published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, of the 3rd June, that only 250,000 persons ill Australia receive incomes of £4 a week or over? If so, willbo. correct the statement?
– I noticed the report, and I can only suppose that the newspaper must have : been under some misunderstanding in publishing such a statement. Evenat the worst period of the depression, according to the census returns, . the number of persons in mid- 1933, who had incomes of £4 a week and over, was considerably in excess of 500,000. The economic conditions are now immensely better than they were in 1933, and the total number of persons whose incomes arc not under £4 must be well over 500.000. The misunderstanding may have ariscu because of an unjustified assumption that federal taxpayers are the only persons with incomes of £4 a week and over, but that is a different matter, because, for federal taxation purposes, the statutory deductions and various other deduction?, such as those for wives and children, are made from the income -before the, taxable amount is determined. Apparently there has been a confusion as between actual income and taxable income.
– In view of the increase of the price of butter by the butter interests, and in view of the statement by Professor Copland, of the Melbourne University, that £2,500,000 per annum is being exacted from consumers by the butter interests, who can raise the price at will-
– Order ! The professor’s opinions should not be conveyed to the House in asking a question.
– Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Commerce refer the subject of the price of butter to the Tariff Board for the purpose of investigation and report?
– No evidence has come to the department, nor have I any reason to believe, that an unreasonable price is being charged for butter. Should the Government deem that an unfair price is being asked for butter or forany other primary or secondary product, the question raised will have consideration.
– In view of the remarks of the Treasurer against the return of a- lady Labour candidate, Mrs. Brownbill, at the recent by-elcction at Geelong in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, resulting in a record victory for that lady, will the Prime Minister arrange for the Treasurer to address all by-election meetings in the future, so that Labour candidates will be returned, thereby ensuring the return of Labour governments in the near future?
– Has any provision been made for the registration of debenture securities given by companies registered in the Northern Territory of Australia? If not, will the Minister for the Interior cause to be issued an ordinance to make provision for such registration?
– The general provisions operating in the Northern Territory with respect to company legislation are in conformity with those which obtain under the South Australian company law, and I shall have the matter inquired into. If the particular point mentioned by the honorable member is not covered, it will be attended to.
– In view of the fact that during the week-end the Acting Attorney-General inspected the pickingup places for waterside workers in Sydney, with the object of improving conditions, will the Prime Minister, during his proposed visit to Brisbane, personally inspect the position regarding the selection of wharf labourers there, in company with officials of the Waterside Workers Union?
– The Acting AttorneyGeneral did make thevisit to the Sydney waterfront referred to by the honorable member, and I shall he only too pleased to carry out the honorable member’s suggestion when I visit Brisbane.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in a position to give any information in reply to questions asked by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Hollow ay) and myself concerning the report on nonofficial post-offices?
– I answered a similar question on Friday last. A report has been received, and has had some consideration by Cabinet, but, owing to the pressure of other business, finality has not been reached. Cabinet has already decided that any improved conditions which may result, will date from the 1st July next.
– In view of the extensive drought conditions that have prevailed in western New South Wales, can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral say whether the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will consider subsidizing mail contractors who have been forced to incur heavy expenditure in the feeding of their horses?
– I shall submit the honorable member’s request to the PostmasterGeneral.
– Is the Treasurer in a position to make a statement setting out the extent to which the regres sion of overseas sales is likely to affect London balances, and the ability of London funds to meet any demand that may be made upon them?
– The Government entertains no anxiety in respect of London funds. Although, during the current financial year, the prices received for our exported products have been almost invariably low, the volume of exportable products has increased as compared with the previous financial year, and there will be a carry-over, estimated at. from £3,000,000 to £5,000,000 from this financial year, into the next financial year, on products which will not be exported. For that reason, together with the lower export prices obtained, and the increase in imports, the Australian balance of trade will probably be about £24,000,000 sterling below the figure for last year. That is in respect of the trade balance. In respect of the balance of payments which determines the drain on overseas funds, the amount will not be of such magnitude. When all the items are taken into account, it is probable - I put this only as my own estimatt - that London funds will be down by probably from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000. Asin the last financial year we built up our London funds by about £25,000,000, those funds will still be in credit over the two years by about £15,000,000 or £17,000,000. As I have said, the Government is not anxious in respect of the total volume of Australia’s available funds in London.
– In view of the difficult position of many persons engaged in the dairying industry, will the Acting Minister for Commerce take steps to set. up some authority to ascertain the cost of producing butter in accordance with Australian standards of living in order that a fair selling price might be determined.
– Requests similar to that of the honorable member have been directed to the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) and myself, for some time past. At an early date the matter will be considered by the Cabinet, and its decision will be announced.
Interna l Distrib u tion.
– What action has the Government taken since Friday last to see that the overseas” air mail is delivered directly from Darwin to Adelaide, instead of being taken from Darwin to Sydney, and there sorted for delivery by rail?
– No action is necessary, for the reason that the Commonwealth Government definitely announced some time ago, that mails for Western Australia would ‘be carried direct from Darwin to Perth, and mail for South Aus- tralia would . be carried direct from Darwin to Adelaide and that the balance, following the ordinary course, would be carried by flying boats to Sydney. There has been no occasion to vary that decision. There is no foundation for the rumours that other arrangements are being made.
– In connexion with the inland delivery of overseas air mail, is it proposed to send mail from Sydney to Melbourne by rail or by air? If mail is to be conveyed by air, will it have to bear a surcharge, and, if so, what will be t he rate of such surcharge?
– There has been no variation of the terms of the original agreement whereby the Empire air mail was to be delivered in Sydney, and distributed from there in the ordinary way by rail. If, however, special facilities are asked for, under the existing regulations a surcharge at the ordinary air mail rate would have to be made.
– Does that mean that all air mail will have to go to Sydney?
– Overseas air mail will be delivered in Sydney, from which centre it will he distributed to the various parts of the Commonwealth.. The only exception to that arrangement is that an undertaking has been given by the Government that mails for South Australia will be diverted from Darwin direct to Adelaide, and that mail for Western Australia will be diverted direct to Perth.
– Will that arrangement operate from the initiation of the service?
– That can be brought into operation at the initiation of the service. The Brisbane mail will he delivered in Brisbane as the plane goes through.
– Will the Minister for Defence say whether it is a fact that air mails from overseaswill be distributed from Darwin to Perth and Adelaide without surcharge but that, on the contrary, mails delivered by plane from Sydney to Melbourne, will . be subject to a special surcharge?
– That is not a correct interpretation of anything I have said or of any official statement that has been made on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
– I am asking whether it is a fact?
– I am entitled to reply to the question in my own way, and I say that the honorable member’s question does not represent a correct interpretation of any statement I have made or of any statement made on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. The question will be dealt with -by Cabinet and the decision will be announced by the Government in accordance with the general policy of carrying mails within the Commonwealth. I have already announced that it is the intention to distribute overseas air mails direct to Adelaide and Perth and to intervening points.
– Has the attention of the Minister been directed to question No. 7 on the notice-paper, asking whether the distribution of mails from Darwin is not to come into operation for about twelve months? Does he intend to give an answer to that question?
– My attention has not previously been directed to the question. I have already outlined what amounts to a complete reply to the question. There is no suggestion that the service cannot be brought into operation immediately. The ground organization is complete as well as the equipment and, if necessary, the service from Darwin to Perth and Darwin to Adelaide could be commenced within a fortnight without any difficulty whatever.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform the House of the exact date on which the flying boat airmail service from England to Australia, will be inaugurated?
-I cannot state the exact date, but a committee is sitting in-
Melbourne at the present time endeavouring to arrange a date, or approximate date, on which the service can be inaugurated. We are in close contact with the British postal authorities and are endeavouring to arrange a suitable time [hat will fit in with their requirements and with the Australian postal services, lt is impossible at the moment to say when the service wilh commence, but it is anticipated that there will be a preliminary service in July, and a full service in August this year.
– Is it the intention of the Government to have overseas air mails carried from Sydney to Hobart and Melbourne by air? If so, will they be carried on the same terms as the mails from Darwin to Perth and Adelaide ?
– It has not yet been decided whether it will be advantageous to convey overseas mails from Sydney to Melbourne and Hobart by air, because we do not know the approximate time of arrival of the flying boats in Sydney. The whole matter of distribution beyond Sydney is still under consideration, pending the fixing of the time-table, which will be submitted to the Government within the next two or three days.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a press report that the subject of conscription was discussed at the last Imperial Conference? Can tlie right honorable gentleman say whether the report is true, and has he ‘any information to give to tlie House with respect to that section of the report which states that Australians resident in England will he liable to be conscripted in the event of conscription being introduced into Great Britain?
– As to the latter part of the honorable member’s question, I am not in a position to say how Australians resident in Great Britain would .be effected, by the introduction of conscription. That matter will have to be looked into. I give an absolute denial to the report that conscription was discussed at the last, Imperial Conference. The subject was not raised at the conference; indeed, the Imperial Conference is not the body to discuss such a matter.
– “Will the Prime Minister state whether tlie subject of conscription was discussed at any conference -or meeting in Great Britain at which Australiawas represented?
– I can answer only for those conferences which I attended. The subject was not discussed at any of them, and I am perfectly sure that it was not discussed in the presence of any Australian representative. I have previously stated that the matter of conscription or no conscription is one for this Australian Parliament to decide, and for no other body. government assistance to wheat-growers:
– In view of the recent agitation by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) on behalf, of wheatgrowers for a home-consumption price for wheat, and in view of a recent increase of the price of butter, will the Government consider the permanent appointment of a board, with powers similar to those of the Tariff Board, to investigate the assistance that has been given to primary industries?
– And to secondary industries.
– Secondary industries are attended to by the Tariff Board. Will the proposed board also be instructed to investigate requests for further assistance for wheat-growers?
– The matter will receive the consideration of the Government.
-Will the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that the royal commission which was appointed to inquire into the wheat industry recom.mended that the Government should take action to secure a home-consumption price for wheat, and whether the Government’s proposals were prevented by the result of the referendum at that time?
– It is true that the Government’s proposals regarding this matter were defeated at the referendum.
– Does the Prime Minister adhere to his statement that on no consideration would he allow legislation like the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill to be disposed of before the meeting of the reconstituted Senate after the election ?
– I did not make any such statement. I said very clearly that it was the duty of the Government to go on with this legislation, but that I would not unnecessarily press legislation or hurry it through this chamber.
– The honorable gentleman did make the statement. I shall look it up in the press.
– The honorable member can look up what he likes. I made no such statement.
Utilization ov Railway Workshops.
– Has the Minister for Defence, when inspecting industrial plants, ‘government or otherwise, for the purpose of ascertaining their suitability for making defence equipment, inspected the railway workshops at Newport, Victoria? If not, will he take an early opportunity to do so? I ask this question at the request of the municipalities in the district.
– I have not personally inspected the railway workshops at Newport, hut a special committee has already furnished me with a report dealing with railway workshops’ equipment throughout the Commonwealth. Whilst I am not prepared to go into details, I can say that everything possible has been done to co-ordinate the State government railway workshops with the Defence Department, so that in the event of an emergency those equipments could be used in the most efficient way for the defence of the country.
– In view of the considerable number of school children on the Barkly Tableland and on the Maranboy tin-fields, who are without reasonable educational facilities, will the
Minister for the Interior during his forthcoming visit make inquiries with a view to appointing an itinerant teacher ?
– I shall be glad to give consideration to the matter.
– Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs make available to honorable members the two reports of the Tariff Board on the proposed manufacture of motor car engines in Australia ?
– A report has been received with a supplementary report by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). Both are now under the consideration of the department. Certain other information is needed and has to be obtained, and when it comes to hand it will be placed before Cabinet. There does not seem to be any chance of a decision being reached before the House rises at the end of the present sittings.
– Can the Acting Minister for Commerce add anything further in reply to the representations I made on the adjournment of the House last Tuesday regarding the SS. Port St. John now undergoing repairs at Woolwich Dock, Sydney, particularly as to the granting of a certificate of seaworthiness?
– I hope to have the information required by the honorable member by to-morrow or Thursday.
– In connexion, with the prohibition of the importation of certain publications and a certain class of literature, can the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs say whether he has received any information from the State Governments regarding action they may propose to take.
– No official information has been received from any of the State governments. I have seen the Minister concerned in New South Wales and he has assured me that his State will co-operate with the Commonwealth. I doubt whether any communication has been addressed to the States. We want to do our own preliminary work before communicating with them.
– In view of the confusion occasioned by lack of detail on maps of the Northern Territory, and of Australia generally, in the possession of air pilots, will the Prime Minister accept the suggestion of Dr. Watson jnr. in the Daily Telegraph of last Saturday, and invite Sherlock Holmes to leave his bee farm at South Downs in order to come to Australia?
– Order !
Question not answered.
– I lay on the table of the House a copy of an informative memorandum that has teen published at my direction ‘by the Commissioner for Taxation regarding rates of Commonwealth and State Taxation.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have received from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely “ The Empire airmail service, and the distribution of the mails to the States of the Commonwealth “.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
.- In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to direct attention to a matter of urgent public importance namely “ Empire air-mail services, and the distribution of such mail to the States of the Commonwealth “. I think it will be acknowledged by honorable members generally that, notwithstanding a series of interrogations, and the replies which they have elicited, there still exists a great deal of uncertainty, and a good deal of confusion, regarding the manner in which the Empire air-mail service is to be operated, and the extent to which the inland mail services of Australia will be affected when the overseas service is inaugurated. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) has said that a preliminary service will begin to operate in July, and that the full service will probably be operating in August. Thus, there is to be initiated -within approximately four weeks, an air-mail service which is to be the subject of an agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of the United Kingdom, and yet, notwithstanding repeated assurances by the previous Minister for Defence, the Parliament has not yet been given any details regarding what the service will involve, and the conditions under which it will operate. I direct attention to the fact that this is no new thing. In May, 1937, the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Earle Page) sta ted -
I am gratified that the long negotiations between the Governments of the United Kingdom and Australia, regarding the Empire air mail, have resulted in agreement on all points which had originally been at issue. The scheme to be put into operation in January, 1938, will materially reduce both the time taken in the transmission of mail by air, and the cost thereof to the sender. These results will be achieved without interfering with air mail development in Australia or reducing that measure of control by Australia over the Singapore-Sydney section, which the Commonwealth Government regards as essential.
At that time, I asked the then Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) when it was intended that Parliament would have an opportunity to study the agreement between the Commonwealth and the Government of the United Kingdom, and he replied as follows -
There are certain mutters of detail outstanding, but I believe I am entitled to say that the investigation . and the consideration of the proposals is approaching finality. When that stage is reached, a full statement will be made on it at the earliest possible date.
I think I was entitled to construe that reply to mean that the statement would be made to this Parliament, but yesterday the present Minister for Defence evidently made certain statements to newspaper reporters. Whether those statements were in fact accurate or not, it is at least true that the Minister must have discussed the matter yesterday with reporters, and must have had in mind the fact that the service was to commence in about four weeks; and this, notwithstanding the fact that frequent questions in this House have failed to elicit so much information, and that even to-day a further series of questions failed to clear up important and fundamental matters incidental to the inauguration of the service.
– They had nothing to do with it. They referred to the internal distribution of mails.
– The internal distribution of mails is an integral feature of the overseas mail service, and I decline to accept the suggestion that the Empire air-mail service consists merely in delivering mails to Darwin and Sydney. There is far more in the inauguration of this service than the department has yet provided for. In 1935, the then Minister for External Affairs (Sir George Pearce), in a statement made at Perth, said that meteorological data would have to be collected, landing places prepared, and a ground organization created before the service could be put into operation. I accepted that statement, believing those things to be an essential feature of the service. In July of last year, in Record Series No. 11, issued by the Government Publicity Office], the achievements of the Lyons Government were set out in these terms : -
In the forefront of the achievements is the establishment of a direct air-mail connexion between Australia and England, by means of an Australian-controlled and operated service between Brisbane and Singapore, the terminal of the Imperial Airways Service, of London. At the same time, it was decided to re-organize and develop internal subsidized air services to connect them to the main trunk services.
That statement, I repeat, was issued in July last. To-day the Minister for Defence says that arrangements have been made for the Western Australian mail to go from Darwin to Perth, and the South Australian mail from Darwin to Adelaide. I ask him will these mails carry a surcharge, in addition to the ordinary air-mail charges from London? The people of Australia and this Parliament should be told definitely what is involved in the agreement. The honorable gentleman is silent; he will not reply to my direct question.
– That part of the service lias nothing to do with the Empire airmail agreement.
– I am not saying that it has; but I am saying that delivery of the overseas air mail to the various States is part of the programme for which, last year, the Government claimed credit when it entered into the agreement with Imperial Airways. We were told that the Government had decided to reorganize and develop internal subsidized air services to connect ‘them with the main trunk services.
– There are a dozen other services besides the two which the honorable gentleman has mentioned.
– There may be. But is it a fact that the air mail to Perth will involve two mail charges - one from London to Darwin, and a surcharge from Darwin to Perth ?
– A pronouncement will be made at the proper time, but not to suit the Leader of the Opposition or anybody else.
– The Minister is not obliged to suit me, but he has an obligation to the people. They are entitled to the information which I am now endeavouring to extract from the honorable gentleman. This Parliament also is entitled to some details as part of its knowledge of what the Empire air-mail agreement involves.
– The Empire air-mail agreement has nothing to do with the internal distribution of mail3.
– That may be so, but will the Minister say whether a letter forwarded from London to Sydney by Empire air mail will carry a surcharge from Darwin to Sydney?
– There will be no such charge, because that is part of the Empire air-mail agreement.
– At last I have got the information.
– I gave it in reply to a question to-day.
– Now we know that the two cities which will receive the Empire air mail without additional surcharge are Brisbane and Sydney.
– The honorable gentleman knows nothing of the kind.
– The Minister may think either that I am very thick in the head, or that I am capable of reading more than one meaning to a plain statement of fact. If the internal distribution of air mails from overseas is not provided for in the agreement, that explains why a letter for Perth, after having been sorted at Darwin and sent by an internal airmail service, would carry two stamps - one from London to Darwin and the other from Darwin to Perth. But we must be consistent. Why should letters addressed to citizens of Sydney or Brisbane be delivered as part of the Empire air-mail service without surcharge from Darwin, whilst letters addressed to citizens of Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide or Hobart carry a surcharge? The Government is giving us a piebald air-mail service. We on this side anticipated that this unsatisfactory feature would result from the negotiations and that is why we urged repeatedly that Parliament should be given an opportunity to review the agreement before the negotiations were completed. The present Minister for Defence was an Assistant Minister in the previous Administration, so he must he well aware that the former Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) repeatedly assured us that, before the service was inaugurated, Parliament would be taken into the confidence of the Government. Yet, to-day, a committee is meeting in Melbourne to decide, among other things, the date for the inauguration of the service, notwithstanding that the Minister has not yet made to this Parliament a complete statement of what is involved for thw Commonwealth and the various States. Furthermore, we do not know what contribution the Government contemplates making by way of subsidy either to the Empire mail service or to the internal services as a relevant part of the general scheme. I remind the honorable gentleman that, in the early stages of the negotiations, there was a conflict of opinion between the former Minister for Defence and overseas interests, due to that Minister’s insistence that the development of the internal air services was to be the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. In that matter, he had the support of everybody on this side of the House.
– That principle has been retained.
– If it has been retained, how comes it that Empire air mails, on arrival at Darwin, will not be sorted there and distributed throughout Australia by our own air services!
– They are.
– No; the arrangement is for the Brisbane and Sydney mails to be carried direct by Empire air boats.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that they are foreign aircraft ?
– No ; but that arrangement will not contribute to the development of our internal air services. That is the weakness in the general scheme. I see no reason why a satisfactory agreement should not be reached. I am not in a position to say what are the details of the agreement, because the Minister has not taken Parliament into his confidence; but I would be satisfied with an Empire air-mail service that radiated from Darwin and ensured the delivery of Australian internal mails by Australian air services. Such an arrangement would render the greatest possible service to people in the various States. The honorable gentleman has himself to thank for this situation. I had hoped that there would be no occasion to do more than ask for a statement setting out the general position of the Empire air-mail services; but when I read in the files on the subject a letter signed by the then Minister for Defence in which he made specific statements about the Government’s intentions, and realized that Parliament had not yet been informed of the arrangements made, I feel amply justified in the action which I have taken to-day. The Minister might think it sufficient for the Government to make the agreement. I remind him that this is a democracy, and that Parliament should be consulted in respect of any agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the United Kingdom with regard to Empire air-mail services. The honorable gentleman will not tell us precisely what is in the agreement, what will be the cost involved in delivering the mails to the various States, or what will be the effect on the internal air-mail services of Australia when the Empire service is inaugurated.
.- I second the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Ifr. Curtin). I do not expect that the Government should refer to Parliament the details of the agreement for the Empire air-mail service before that agreement is completed. Necessarily the details must he hammered out by the Government before it can be submitted to Parliament. Rut, now that the agreement has been completed - I assume that it has been from the fact that the service is soon to commence - Parliament should have the details in order that it should have opportunity to express any views that it might feel disposed to express in respect of the work that the Government has done.
– No agreement to which the Commonwealth is a party is legal Until it has been ratified by Parliament.
– That is true, but my complaint is that the agreement has not been put before Parliament up to the present and that it seems that, as with many other agreements, it will be thrown on the table on the last day of the sitting when there will be no opportunity for discussion in detail. My purpose in speaking, however, is to discuss, not so much the general question of reference of the agreement to Parliament, as the report that the distributions of the mails from Darwin will not begin for about twelve months. The announcement that arrangements would be made for the mails to be distributed from Darwin to the several States was satisfactory to the whole of Australia, but the statement that there will be twelve months’ delay is far from satisfactory.
– Who made that statement?
– The statement was made in the press.
– The ‘Government is not » responsible for what appears in the press.
– No. But the reply that he is not responsible for statements in newspapers is the only reply that we can get from -the Minister. I mentioned this matter on the motion for the adjournment of the House on Friday. Before doing so I informed the Minister of my intentions. For business reasons, or otherwise, the Minister left the House almost immediately. In a further effort to obtain information as to whether the report had any foundation, I put a question on the notice-paper and asked the Minister to make a statement. To-day he came into the House and said that he had not seen the question. Previously, in his replies to two or three skirmishing questions touching on the same subject, he did not touch on the main issue, which is whether there is any substance in the newspaper reports. I feel sure that, if the Minister did not see my question, he did see the reports in the press and that he should at least have given some consideration to a matter in which the people are interested. I now ask whether there is anything in the report that the distribution of mails from Darwin is not likely to commence for another twelve months? We have some good ground for asking for an assurance from the Minister that there will be no such inordinate delay. The official side of the Postmaster-General’s Department has raised obstacles because it wants the distribution to be made from Sydney and I concede that that difficulty has to be overcome. Nevetheless, the public of Australia, that is the people outside of New South Wales, want to know how long it will be before Darwin will become the centre from which the mails will be distributed? The Minister could have obviated the need for this motion and could even now bring the discussion to a close if he gave honorable members the best assurance that he can give that the establishment of Darwin as the base will be delayed no longer than is absolutely necessary.
– I regret that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) should have to sit at the table like a glorified postmaster and listen to the debate, but that he has to do so is due to the fact that he has far too much work on his hands. As I have said before in this House, so long as he elects to hold all of the positions that he holds to-day, he must expect his time, which should be occupied in dealing with far more important issues, to be taken up as it is being taken up to-day.
– Can the honorable gentleman mention one aspect of my duties that is neglected?
– Not specifically, but I know that it is impossible for the honorable gentleman to carry the four services that he is carrying at the present time. I say that without hesitation.
– That is a matter for the party room, and has nothing to do with the motion.
– I have a great deal of sympathy with the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). It is fifteen months since I left the Ministry and even when I was a Minister I was heartily ashamed of the delay in the inauguration of the overseas air-mail service. Since then that delay of which I was ashamed has gone on for another fifteen months. The Minister for Defence is not responsible for all of it, but the matter seems to be dragging on as hopelessly to-day as it was two years ago. I cannot for a moment understand why there should be delay in the .making of a plain statement as to how the mails will be distributed after they arrive at Darwin. Provided the machines are available, the problem of making the distribution from Darwin could be settled in two or three hours’.
– Every machine necessary is available and could be put into operation now.
– Then, why not announce what the arrangements are to be ? Why all this deferring from hour to hour and from day to day? Why not tell us at question time that which we want to know? I shall put the question simply once more to the Minister. I understand that the mails are to be taken direct from Darwin to Perth and Adelaide. We want to know whether there is to be any surcharge for the- carriage of the mails from Darwin to those two cities? We are left in the dark as to whether the mails are to be taken by air direct from Sydney to Melbourne and Hobart. In a statement to-day the Minister said that the carriage of the mails from Sydney to Melbourne and Hobart would depend on the time of arrival at Sydney. Are we to depend solely on day flying? Aerodrome after aerodrome is being prepared for night landing, and beacon after beacon is being erected to make night flying safe. Does the Minister tell me that mails which arrive in Sydney at 5 o’clock on a winter’s night are not to go on to their destination in Melbourne that night for distribution in the early morning? Surely the whole purpose of the overseas air-mail service is to save every hour between the writer of letters in this country and the receiver in the United Kingdom and vice versa. If the arrangements are that mails are to lie in the Sydney post office and then dawdle on to Melbourne by train, a great deal of the expenditure on this air-mail service has been in vain. I advance this further aspect of the matter: Mails that go straight from Darwin to Adelaide will reach Adelaide before the seaplane arrives in Sydney.
– Nothing of the kind!
– Well, at about the same time! On the next day they will dawdle into Melbourne and some hours later into Hobart. The Minister’s reply to-day shows that although the whole affair is in a most chaotic condition, it could be cleared up by two or three hours of clear thinking.
– I support the motion. The House is discussing a matter of urgent public importance which affects, I think, everybody in Australia, including my constituents who have a great deal to expect from the development of the overseas air services. There is a lot more to be considered in this matter than the mere question of pounds, shillings and pence, because Darwin is all-British and must be maintained as an airport. “As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has pointed out, the arrangements seem to be in a state of flux, and I am fearful that, if we do not take care, we shall soon have to contend with the rivalry of an American air-mail service from San Francisco to Australia via New Zealand which will put our service to shame. It seems to me that the immediate job ahead is to arrange for the delivery of the overseas mails by the internal air “routes.
I understand that the British Government, in March, 1937, adopted an Imperial air-mail policy under which mail3 are carried to any part of the Empire, except Australia, for 1½d. per half-ounce. At the present time, the air-mail routes from London to Hong Kong, and from London to Cape Town, are so served, but the rate charged on letters destined for Australia is twelve times that on letters sent from London to other dominions which are now, and will be, aerially connected, when the Atlantic service is in operation. The rate under our slow, lumbering service is to be reduced shortly, but even then it will cost four times as much to send a letter from London to Darwin as from London to Singapore. Now, our grasping Postal Department proposes to add an internal charge of 3d., I presume, for internal air carriage of overseas mails. In view of the surplus of the Postal Department, and its extortionate charges, which are heavier in respect of letters carried across the street in Sydney or Darwin than they are for letters conveyed by air from London to Hong Kong, I consider that the present position is disgraceful. I support this motion, because it gives the Parliament an opportunity to deal with the Government in an appropriate manner. The Parliament should show our profit-hunting Post Office what it thinks of a policy which is the worst kind of advertisement for Australia overseas, and inflicts a burden on the taxpayers whom the department is supposed to serve.
.- This motion indicates how ignorant this Parliament is, on the whole, of a national service which is to come into operation less than a month hence. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) stated this afternoon that the Government would announce its policy at the proper time in regard to certain aspects of the overseas air-mail service. If a time less than a month from the commencement of a service of this importance is too early a period for the House and the public to be informed definitely regarding it, I should like to know when the proper time will come. We may reasonably infer from the replies furnished to questions that there is every prospect that business men in some of the capital cities will be expected to pay a surcharge if these mails are carried by air from the point at which they are unshipped from the flying boats. The Minister has given us to understand that, if Melbourne mails are sent from Sydney by air, an additional charge will be imposed. Commercial circles in Melbourne were informed recently that the air mails would be forwarded via Sydney and not by way of Adelaide as had previously been stated. A reply to the protests which they registered was made by the Prime Minister. My recollection is that his reply was that a decision had not been reached at that time, but that the matter was still receiving the consideration of the Government, and, if it were found necessary to send the Melbourne mails via Sydney, the internal air services would be used to ensure that they would be forwarded with a minimum of ‘ delay. The latest announcement indicates that even if the mails are sent by air from Sydney to Melbourne, there will be a surcharge in addition to that imposed on mails delivered at Sydney, Brisbane or Darwin. If that is so, it cuts across the principle accepted by post offices throughout the world, of uniformity in postal rates. We do not now charge an additional rate on internal deliveries.
– We do if mails are delivered by air.
– But a flat rate is normally charged for internal deliveries. We now impose a surcharge on air mails from London to Australia, hut, on reaching this country, some of these mails are to be sent to their destination without further charge by the quickest possible . method of transmission, whilst others are to be dispatched to other capital cities at an additional charge. My inference is based on statements made by the Minister for Defence, and if I am wrong, I hope that the Minister will take an immediate opportunity to clear up all doubt on the’ matter. If my inference is correct, the extra charge will cause tremendous dissatisfaction in commercial circles through the Commonwealth, with the possible exceptions of Darwin, Brisbane and Sydney. It is thoroughly inequitable if, because flying boats will call at Darwin, Brisbane, and Sydney, the residents at those places are to enjoy special privileges as compared with those in other parts of Australia.
– The mails must arrive at some places before others.
-Of course I am not objecting to the flying boats following the coastline.
– But why make the people who receive the mails last pay higher rates?
– That is the important question. Such a practice would be a departure from the principle, which is accepted throughout the world, of uniformity of postage rates within any country. The postal department now enjoys vast surpluses. The people are told that postal charges cannot be reduced, because the revenue, now derived from this source is required for governmental purposes. Whilst that may be the case, it suggests also that finance is available, if necessary, to ensure that all capital cities will be placed on a uniform and equally favorable basis, as far as the delivery of overseas air mails is concerned. If the Government decides to impose an additional surcharge on mails delivered by air to capital cities west of Sydney, it must cause great dissatisfaction among commercial men, and private people generally, in the States affected. In view of the protests heard on all sides, I hope that the Government will give this matter fresh consideration.
.- I am surprised at the statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) because it seems to me that another hardship will be imposed on Tasmania, which will be the last State to receive the overseas air mails. They will reach Hobart about 24 hours later than they arrive in Melbourne. That is bad enough, but the position is made definitely worse by the fact that an extra postal charge will be imposed.
– Does not Tasmania receive its overseas mails one day later than Melbourne at the present time?
– Yes, the people of Tasmania are under that great handicap. I support the contention of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) that the Minister for Defence has too much other work in hand to enable him to give proper attention to air-mail services, and that these duties should be discharged by another Minister. The Minister cannot give this matter sufficient attention to satisfy the people of the various States.
– Mention one item.
– Take the matter we are now discussing. The Minister should give way to another member of his party, in the interests of the welfare of the people. I understand that representations were made that the flying boat service should terminate at Hobart. I appeal to the Government to give further consideration of the claims of the people of southern Tasmania.
.- I have no desire to badger the Minister (Mr. Thorby). He has given a satisfactory assurance regarding the date when the department will be able to undertake the distribution of overseas mails from Darwin to various parts of Australia, and I hope that he will be able to give an equally explicit assurance that this mail matter will not bo subject to a further surcharge. It is reasonable for the public to expect that they shouldbe given definite information regarding this service, and the rates to be charged, seeing “that they are within ten or twelve days, or less, of the date when some of the overseas letters will be posted. I understand that the first flying boat will leave Singapore for Australia on the 2nd July. It is clearly reasonable that the people, not only in Australia, but also on the other side of the world, who will be posting letters within the next few days, should know whether or not they will be required to pay a surcharge.
I endorse what the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has said about the undesirability of discriminating between the rates at which letters will be carried to different parts of Australia. I hope that the Minister is in a position to give assurances which will clear up these misunderstandings. If he is not, I express my sympathy with him because, on his record, I know that the fault will not be his.
The method of carrying the mail from Sydney to Melbourne and Hobart is a matter which should be cleared up as soon as possible. Should the overseas flying boats arrive in Sydney late in the afternoon, it will not be possible, in the initial stages of the service, to distribute the mail by air, because of the absence of night flying facilities. It would be absurd to hold the mail in Sydney for twelve hours in order that it might be carried by air the next morning. It is not entirely the fault of the department that night flying arrangements are not yet complete; I understand that the air companies have not yet installed the necessary equipment on their planes. I support what has been said by Victorian members that, even if it is not possible to face the cost of night flying between all the capital cities, there is a strong case for carrying mails by night between Sydney and Melbourne. As a representative of one of the smaller States, I recognize that that is the most important mail route in Australia. It is important also from a defence point of view. If otherwise, Melbourne and Hobart are to be the last places in Australia to get overseas air mail, there is a strong case for establishing a night flying link between Sydney and Melbourne ahead of other night flying arrangements between the other capital cities.
The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) referred to a possible surcharge on letters to Hobart. In my opinion it is inconceivable that any government would increase the charge. Such a suggestion is preposterous. I hope that the Minister will clear up these misunderstandings forthwith, so that the House will be able to get on with the business on the notice-paper.
– There is no justification whatever for certain statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) . Obviously his mind is confused as to the inauguration of the Empire air-mail service, because he repeatedly referred to the internal airmail agreements as if they were part of the Empire air-mail agreement. That agreement has nothing whatever to do with the internal distribution of mails within the Commonwealth of Australia. That is a matter entirely in our own hands, and is quite independent of the agreement which has been drawn up, but has not yet been signed becaise one or two minor points are still outstanding. Copies of the agreement are in Australia, and are now being considered with a new to finality being reached. At the proper time, it will be submitted to the Parliament for ratification.
The Leader of the Opposition was critical of the delay which he said had taken place in inaugurating this service. It is difficult to say definitely that there has been delay. It is true that as far back as two years ago the Government stated that it hoped that the air-mail service would be inaugurated in January, 1938, but that statement was made without any definite knowledge of the detailed work that had to be performed before the service could begin. The flying-boats which were under construction when that statement was made, have not long been completed. Several of them are already in Australia, and crews have been trained to handle them. Accommodation for them has had to be provided at the various bases from Darwin to Sydney. The construction of some of these air bases, which are in little known places, such as Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria, is not a simple matter. Karumba, also, is an isolated place at which a complete base has had to be established. ‘Before any action could be taken to establish a base at Groote Eylandt it was necessary, first, to carry out an aerial survey to discover whether a suitable base could be found, and then to send naval craft there to make a complete survey of the waters. After considerable investigation, all of which took time, an excellent site .was found at Langdon Inlet, on the north-west corner of the island. When the site had been determined, the construction of the base was commenced-, and it is now well advanced. The work was of a difficult nature; all the materials required had to be transported by ship under special charter, there being no established line of steamers running to the island. Moreover, no facilities existed there, nor was there any white man resident in the locality. All these difficulties had to be overcome, and a survey of the adjacent areas made, in order to see what would be required to make the base capable of meeting the needs of a flying-boat service. Meteorological investigations have been carried out and numerous other inquiries made. Similar work has been done in connexion with all the bases between Darwin and Sydney - at Groote Eylandt, Karumba, Townsville, Gladstone and Brisbane, with emergency landing places at other points.- Considerable delay was occasioned in securing a suitable site in Sydney Harbour for a terminal base. As honorable members know, there was great public agitation - supported by some of those persons and sections of the press which to-day criticize the Government for the delay that has taken place. However, when all these obstacles were overcome, tenders were called for the construction of the slip-way. Everything possible has been done to expedite its construction. After tenders had been called and accepted I even went so far as to offer to the contractor a bonus for every week that he could save in the time of construction, so that the service could be inaugurated with the least possible delay. Whatever delay has occurred, it has not been in Australia. We are working to schedule. I am assured that the company is in a position to commence at an early date the preliminary service which the Leader of the Opposition appeared to ridicule.
– I did not.
– The honorable member spoke slightingly of the preliminary service to be commenced in’ July. On the advice of its expert officers, the company has decided to run a preliminary service for several weeks. The regular mail service will be continued, so that for a time, there will be a little overlapping, but that is necessary in order to prevent any risk of dislocation of the air-mail services of the Commonwealth.
Listening to honorable members discussing this subject, an impartial person might have thought that no air-mail service to Australia existed, and that Australia lagged behind the other dominions in this connexion. I have been accused of neglecting my responsibility, and of depriving Australia of something which other dominions have. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) said that I was too busy to pay attention to all the duties of my office. There is no delay in either the Defence Department, or the Civil Aviation Department.
– I did not accuse theMinister of delay.
– No, but it is not the first time that the honorable member for Henty has accused the department of neglect. I have a fairly difficult task in hand, but the Defence Department has been so well re-organized that I have been relieved of many duties which previously were the responsibility of the Minister for Defence. Technical matters are nowentrusted to an increased staff of competent men. The flying boat service will take over the existing air-mail service carried out by land ‘planes, but it will run to a faster and more frequent schedule and will provide greater carrying capacity than is possible with land planes. The intention is not that every town and hamlet in Australia, or even every capital city, shall be part of. the Empire air-mail service, but that overseas mail shall be expeditiously carried between the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Australia. Moreover, the original intention was that the mail, having reached the terminus of the overseas service, would be carried to its destination in the ordinary way.
Whether the air mail is surcharged or not it will be carried by mail-train, horse, coach or camel, and delivered in the usual way. We have made a substantial saving in the time occupied on the long journey from Europe to Australia. That is where the great loss of time occurred, not in Australia.
– What is the objection to making Darwin the terminal . point and having radiating air services from there ?
– Because the Government has decided that the flying boat service should go to Sydney. If honorable members will look a little more closely at the matter they will discover that Sydney will not be the ultimate terminal. Eventually the service will go on to New Zealand. The Commonwealth Government would look very foolish if it took the stand that it would not allow the services to. ‘be extended beyond Darwin when there is in mind the ultimate extension of the service to New Zealand.
– Then why not continue the service to Hobart?
– Hobart is not in a direct line with New Zealand. The logical jumping-off point for New Zealand is Sydney. Special facilities are being provided in Sydney Harbour to meet the requirements, not only of the Empire flying boat service, but also of the New Zealand flying boat service to be inaugurated probably early next year.
The honorable member for Henty said in the first place that he was ashamed of the delay that had taken place. What delay has taken place ? Australia is being served with an air-mail service at present. What will the new service do? It will provide an improvement, but to hear honorable members on both sides of the House one might think that a saving of two hours in the delivery of the mails is a matter of life and death. One cannot help coming to the conclusion that* various members have only a parochial outlook. Each member seems to speak of his own city, forgetting that there is no human agency that we can employ to deliver the mails to every part of Australia at the same time. With all due respect to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) he cannot put Melbourne any closer to London than it is. I cannot think of any means, except those I have under consideration, to avoid delivering the mails a few hours earlier to some parts than to other parts of Australia.
If the honorable member were in a position to see the proposals on my table he would probably’ appreciate the work that has been done, not only by me, but also by every member of the staff associated with me. We are endeavouring to give every part of Australia the maximum possible advantage by investigating the geographical disabilities arising out of the fact that the capital cities are widely distributed over the longest coastline in the world.
– Will the Minister now tell the Leader of the Opposition what he had to say in his absence about his confused mind?
– Nothing would please the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) better than to catch his leader on the hop and distort what I said. What I said was that the mind of the Leader of the Opposition, in view of the statement he made, was probably very uncertain and very confused about this matter.
– I quite acknowledge it, because the honorable gentleman has never told this Parliament what is involved in the overseas air-mail agreementand how it is related to the internal air services.
– It is not related at all. I am not going to disclose the detailed terms of the Empire air-mail agreement until the agreement is finalized by all parties, and is ready for submission to this Parliament.
– When* will that be?
-.- When it is complete, and it will be ready much more quickly than any agreement handled by the honorable member for Henty -when lie was a Minister.
– Is it proposed to start the- service before submitting the agreement to Parliament?
– I say very definitely that my ambition is to commence the service as soon as the organization is ready and the arrangements are complete. When the agreement is complete .it will he introduced into Parliament. I am not concerned whether the service commences before the agreement is introduced to Parliament or not.
– That is an extraordinary statement for a responsible Minister to make
– Does the Leader of the Opposition deny that he was not prepared to raise any objection to going on with the matter?
– The honorable gentleman ought not to bring that up. I agreed to certain emergency works being carried out in anticipation of’ Parliamentary approval. Otherwise . the delays would have been more protracted. That did not necessarily- involve approval of the principle of overseas air-mail services, but only of Australian internal services.
– It involved expenditure on air bases from Darwin to Sydney. We have completed the arrangements to commence within the next few weeks the Empire air-mail service through to
Sydney. We have also carried out a complete survey of the whole of the internal air services of the Commonwealth, and in doing that we have agreed to provide a direct service from Darwin to Perth, and from Darwin to Adelaide, with provision for picking up and setting down mails en route. In doing that we have met the wishes of the Western Australian and South Australian people, by giving them a faster service, and by giving them direct distribution from Darwin to their respective states.
In reply to those members who have raised the question of Melbourne, I would point out that under the original arrangement mails are distributed from Sydney in the ordinary way. When the new agreement comes into force, instead of paying the present rates of air-mail postage a very substantial reduction will be brought about. That is known to every honorable member. If the air mail were delivered in Sydney late in the afternoon, very little time would be saved by sending it by air to Melbourne. A matter of only a few hours might be involved. The fact is overlooked that business people posting letters in the afternoon in Sydney have them delivered in Melbourne at midday next day. It is of no use becoming hysterical over the idea of saving two or three hours. This is not the first time that the air-mail question has been discussed in Parliament, and members are merely making a mountain out of a molehill. There is not much sense in spending large sums of money or asking flying organizations to fly at night to deliver mails that will have to lie in the Melbourne Post Office until the following morning. [Leave to continue given.]
The Government does not intend to vary the agreement drawn up between the British authorities, the operating companies, and the Commonwealth Government in the direction of altering the arrangement for the delivery of mails in Sydney. The method of distribution from Darwin, Brisbane and Sydney is “under consideration at the present time, and a statement will be made by the Government setting out the details of distribution. I am not going to forestall that statement. I refuse to be drawn on the matter of Government policy at this juncture to suit the Leader of the Opposition or anybody else. All reasonable honorable members will admit that it is unreasonable to ask me what is going to happen to the mails for” Melbourne, or for any “other capital city or any country town, until I am able to say, “ There is the complete scheme; there ds the complete re-organization; there is the timetable of times of arrival; and there is the basis on which the internal services will co-operate in the closest possible way “.
– What is the Minister’s view of the surcharge?
– Until the reorganization of the internal services is complete I shall not be in the position to make any pronouncement on behalf of the Government. It is not a vital matter. Some members have suggested that letters posted in London in the next few days will come out by the Empire air-mail service. They will be delivered in the ordinary way, as at present. There will be no dislocation or confusion. The new system will come in automatically, and whatever advantages are given will be given at a specific date to be announced.
– This question is another link in the chain of actions of the Government in the last few years which people outside are beginning to talk of a3 Executive government. Parliament is not taken into consideration before decisions are arrived at. Very often members of Parliament are asked in the street about questions that have not come before them in Parliament, but about which they may have read in the press. The motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) represents a real complaint that Parliament has not been properly consulted. I feel sure that when the people of Australia realize that they are not all part and parcel of the Anglo-Australian air-mail service, and that only those on the eastern coastline are directly associated with it, there will be many confused minds. I always thought that the intention was to give equal service as nearly as possible to at least all capital cities. To-day the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) has said, though not quite definitely that only that portion of Australia from
Darwin to Sydney will be really associated With the direct service, and that the Government has no responsibility to cater for the rest of Australia. Many of us believed that Darwin would be the first port of call. “We believed then that the mails would be carried across Australia by air services which would help to improve communications to the outback places. When we found that it was not to be so, every one was disappointed. Then it was decided that the mails were to be carried from England in flying boats, touching at Darwin, and proceeding down the east coast. Probably there were sufficient reasons for this, but at least every one thought that the flying boats would be met at Darwin by aeroplanes which would distribute the mails to all the capitals of the Commonwealth, these subsidiary services being part and parcel of the main service, and would distribute simultaneously the mails to all parts of Australia without further charge. Now we are told that this will not be so, that the Government believes that its responsibility will end when the mails are delivered to Sydney. Thus it is possible that the mail from England may be delivered in Dunedin before mail which arrives in Darwin by the same flying boat is delivered to some parts of Australia. That is contrary to what every one believed and hoped. It will be a further disappointment to the people if it is found that those who are fortunate enough to live on the eastern side of the continent will have their overseas mail delivered to them at a cheaper rate than those living in Perth, Adelaide or Melbourne. At least the people have a right to expect that mail shall be delivered all over Australia at the same cost. At the present time, costs are pooled so that those living in remote districts pay no more for their mail services than do the people in the cities, and that principle should not be departed from. This Government is gradually but surely developing a method of ruling Australia by Executive action, and ignoring Parliament more and more. I would not go so far as to say that this Government is a dictatorship. That would not be right, but all students of international politics are agreed that the first cousin of a dictatorship is government by Executive authority. If this Parliament does not assert its rights it may not be very long before we really have a dictatorship here.
.- I do not propose to criticize the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), because I recognize the splendid work he has done in organizing and co-ordinating the work of five separate branches. I am confident that, in so far as the organization of mail services is in his hands, it will be well done. Neither do I propose to criticize the air-mail arrangements, for the simple reason that I have not the faintest idea what they are. I desire to point out, however, that this air-mail service is one of the matters in regard to which Parliament has been kept unnecessarily in the dark, and has been given very little opportunity to offer assistance and advice. That Parliament could have helped to negotiate the agreement with the United Kingdom I do not believe. The details of such an agreement are too intricate for parliamentary consideration, but the arrangements that would have to be made for distribution within Australia must have been apparent for a considerable time - subject, of course, to minor arrangements with the United Kingdom, and subsidiary arrangements with the Government of New Zealand. The Government might very well have put forward some time ago a tentative scheme for consideration by Parliament. Members from every State could have made helpful suggestions regarding such a scheme if there had been one before us for discussion.
Many people seem to think that the overseas mails should be delivered simultaneously in all six capitals. That is fantastic and absurd. To read some newspaper comments one would think that the Government should provide six aeroplanes at Darwin, and handicap them like horses in the Melbourne Cup, so that they would all arrive simultaneously at their respective destinations. It should be possible, however, for the Minister to assure Parliament and the people that there will be no surcharge on the delivery of overseas mail matter, particularly to Perth and Adelaide. Up to the present, there has been no surcharge in respect to such deliveries, and it is unthinkable that, as the service is developed, it should become more retrogressive.
In my opinion, it is time that a night air-mail service was established between Sydney and Melbourne. More than two years ago the Postmaster-General’s Department led us to believe that an intercapital night mail service would be inaugurated in the near future. Why it has been delayed I do not know, but it is high time the promise was honoured. The first night service should be between Sydney and Melbourne, because it is only by a night air Service that any appreciable saving of time can be effected in the carriage of mails between those two cities. I understand that the Empire flying boat will probably reach Sydney at an hour too late to permit of the mails being carried on to Melbourne by a day service. Therefore, it would be almost as well to send them on by train as by aeroplane next morning. In either case, the people in the suburbs of Melbourne would not get their mail until 5 o’clock’ in the evening, whereas, if it were sent on by aeroplane at night it would be distributed by the first delivery in the morning, and country districts would receive it the same day, instead of the following day, as would be the case if it were sent on from Sydney by train or by the day air service.
The difficulty with which the Minister is confronted is that, although he knows quite well what his department has done, and can do, with the flying facilities available, he is possibly in the dark regarding the intentions of the Postmaster-General’s Department. This brings me to the point that civil aviation should be under the control of the Postmaster-General rather than the Minister for Defence. At the present time, civil aviation is engaged primarily in the service of the Postmaster-General’s Department. In fact, except for a little passenger traffic, and some private aviation, which is still insignificant, practically the whole of the civil aviation in Australia is employed in the service of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The inauguration of a night service between Sydney and Melbourne would be definitely economic, and might tend to reduce the subsidy which, sooner or later, must be paid to the companies operating between those two cities. Operators have told me that a substantial subsidy is needed because their aircraft are not at present being used to capacity. If they were engaged in operating a night service, this would be largely overcome.
To sum up then, I believe that. Parliament should at an earlier date have been taken into the confidence of the Government regarding overseas air-mail services. I believe that night air-mail services should be inaugurated between Sydney and Melbourne, and that this is an opportune time to begin. Finally, I think that civil aviation should be under the control of the Postmaster-General rather than the Minister for Defence. It has been argued, I know, that the aerodromes used by civil aviation will also be used by the Defence Department. That is equally true of the harbours used by merchant shipping. They are used by the navy, yet no one has ever suggested that they should be under the control of thu Defence; Department.
.- I support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to whom the House is indebted for his action in bringing this matter forward. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) seems to believe that his responsibility will end when the overseas mails are brought to Sydney. The honorable member- for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) seems to think that it will end when a night air- service is inaugurated between Sydney and Melbourne. This is another instance of the injustice which small States have to suffer. It shows just how much federation is worth to the smaller States. It is clear that no attempt is to be made to develop Tasmania, which will always be in difficulies under federation, and this Government tries to make things as hard as possible for that State. It will take seven days to bring the mails from England to Sydney, and then it may take another three days to carry them from Sydney to Hobart. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) said that Tasmania enjoyed privileges which the other States did not in that there was no surcharge on air mail to that State. But that is not always our experience.
There is no surcharge on first-class mail matter carried by air from Hobart to Melbourne, but not long ago an addressee in Sydney was compelled to pay a fine of 6d. on a letter which was carried by air mail from Melbourne to Sydney, whereas it should have been despatched by the ordinary mail. The Minister has told us that Sydney is a convenient point from which future air services may radiate and that it will be the jumpingoff place for the proposed extension of the air mail to New Zealand. Some time ago there was considerable opposition to Rose Bay, Sydney, being chosen as the terminal port for the Empire air mail, but acting on the advice of its experts, the Government decided to establish it there. We would have no objection to the terminal being in Hobart. In fact, we would welcome such an arrangement for the simple reason that a speedier air-mail service would enable Tasmanian producers and shippers to fill their orders to the greater satisfaction of their overseas clients. The Minister for Defence does not appear to be worrying about the position of the other States. He tells us that his responsibility ends when the Empire seaplanes arrive at Rose Bay.
– When did I say that?
– The Minister has certainly conveyed that impression to honorable members. He seems to think that New South Wales is the only State that matters. I hope, however, that the Government will heed the protests that have been made this afternoon and consider the requests of the smaller States for improved air-mail facilities. Under the present arrangement for the distribution of overseas airmail, merchants in Melbourne will receive letters ten or twelve hours later than their Sydney competitors. Business people in Hobart are in a much worse plight. If the Government does not give more consideration to the proposals for the distribution of overseas air mail for the various States, the new service will not benefit equally the whole of Australia.
.- I have a certain amount of sympathy for (he Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), who has been obliged to listen to protests from honorable members on both sides of the House in connexion with the Empire air-mail agreement on the charge, which, it is understood, will be made on mails delivered by internal air services from Darwin to some of the States. I remind the House that all protests in connexion with this matter should be addressed through the Minister for Defence to the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan). Unfortunately, some honorable members are making some features of the agreement a personal issue between the Minister and themselves.
– Is there to be a surcharge?
– We have been led to believe that there will be, although there has not been a. definite statement from the Minister to this effect. My contention is that any criticism in this connexion should be directed to the PostmasterGeneral, whose department has been co-operating with the Defence Department in the negotiations to inaugurate the Empire air-mail service. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) raised an important point which, I think, should be considered by the Government, namely, that as a matter of policy, civil aviation should be dissociated from the Defence Department and placed under the control of the PostmasterGeneral. We should then have a clear-cut issue upon which -we could state our case for the distribution of overseas air mails. Some honorable members appear to be under misapprehension as to the reasons actuating those who were opposed to Rose Bay being the terminal for the Empire air-mail service. It was not that we did not want Sydney to be the terminal port. . The opposition was purely local. There would have been a much greater outcry if the Ministry had fixed on any other city for the terminal port, because Sydney is the pivotal point in Commonwealth commercial relations and is an excellent jumping-off place for a continuance of the Empire air-mail service to New Zealand as well as for the distribution of overseas mails to southern capital cities. I have some sympathy for the Minister, because, as we know, in this matter he has merely taken over a legacy from his predecessor, and it is not his department which is responsible for the proposed surcharge. There appears to be some inconsistency in the Government’s policy as related to- air-mail services. At present first-class mail matter is carried between Darwin and Perth, and between Tasmania and the mainland without surcharge, but, under the new service, we believe there will he a surcharge on all overseas letters to be delivered by internal air services from Darwin to Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Hobart, and no surcharge on letters for Brisbane and Sydney. Many business firms in Sydney have important commercial connexions in all capital cities, and naturally they will expect equal treatment as regards air-mail charges for the whole of their branches. The tendency at the moment . seems to be to regard the Postal Department as a revenue producer instead of one to render essential services for the people at a minimum cost. We have become accustomed to read of its huge surpluses from year to year, and notwithstanding frequent representations from time to time, it is being conducted on lines altogether different from the declared policy of other dominions as regards air-mail services. In South Africa the rate for air mails is a fractional part of the charge in Australia. New Zealand also is providing air-mail services much below Australian rates. Although the Postal Department will make a huge profit this year it intends, so we believe, to impose a surcharge for the delivery of overseas air mail to the capital cities of the States. I am not blaming the Minister for Defence because I know that he has had no hand in the fixing of the surcharge.
– He has not yet told us that there will be a surcharge on that portion of the overseas mail.
– I know, but it is generally understood that there will be, and I think we should direct our criticism against the department of the PostmasterGeneral. I for one would not tolerate this iniquitous surcharge merely because the department is extending its essential services. I hope that the Minister will convey to his colleague in Cabinet the protests that have been levelled in this House against, the proposal. The PostmasterGeneral would be well advised to give this matter his careful consideration.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has rendered a distinct service to honorable members. His motion for the adjournment of the House gives us an opportunity to criticize the Empire air-mail agreement and also to offer some useful suggestions. We protest against the attitude of the Government in withholding information in connexion with this matter. So far we do not know whether or not there is to.be a surcharge on letters that will be sorted at Darwin and delivered by internal air services to certain of the States, or whether an arrangement will be made for immediate delivery to the southern States after the arrival of the air mail in Sydney. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) charged honorable members who live in the southern and western States with being parochially-minded in bringing before this House the needs of those States in respect of the delivery of the overseas air mails. If the Minister were himself a representative of an electorate in a southern State he would be among the first to protest if he thought that the interests of his State and elec-. torate were being submerged. I cannot understand his resentment.
– My electorate will get no advantage from the inauguration of this air-mail service, apart from the general advantage which will accrue to the Commonwealth of Australia.
– The State of New South Wales is well looked after in the agreement. In my electorate there are many big business enterprises and I have frequently been asked by them if I could supply any details as to what was likely to occur when the new service was established. I have always been confronted with the need to tell them that, although many questions had been asked in Parliament about the matter, I had never been able to elicit any definite information from the Minister.
– In time they will get the same reduction as will be enjoyed by the people in Sydney, Darwin and Brisbane.
– It was pointed out by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) that nightflying services would enable Victoria to have delivery of its air mails from Great Britain in the morning following their arrival in Sydney. One of the complaints that firms in my electorate make is that, whereas they could reply on the same day to letters from overseas if they received them at noon or soon, after as is the practice now in the city, they are unable to reply on the same day now, because the delivery is not made until the late afternoon. If the suggestion of the honorable member for Flinders were adopted, it would be a great convenience to Melbourne business firms, both in the city and suburbs, and would enable the aeroplanes to be used in a much more satisfactory manner than at the present time.
It was suggested recently that the needs of Western Australia and South Australia would be met by -a direct service from Darwin to Perth and Adelaide as soon as the Empire mail planes arrived at Darwin, but, as that has not yet been officially confirmed, we do not even know for certain if that service is to be given. It is an intolerable situation for honorable members to find that the Minister cannot give them satisfaction on matters in regard to which honorable members should have information. I join with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) in protesting against Parliament being kept in ignorance in respect of not only this matter, but also other matters. The Minister would meet with a better spirit of appreciation from honorable members if he were to take them more into his confidence. It is of no purpose for the Minister to tell us of the work that is being performed and of the difficulties under which he is labouring. No one suggests that he is shirking his task, but honorable members do object to his being the porcupine of the Government. Every time criticism is levelled against the Government or himself, his quills rise and his attitude is, “ I am not to be touched “. By adopting that attitude, the Minister does not do himself justice. Every man who has to do with the Defence Department knows that its administration in the present circumstances is a big job. We all admit that the Minister is doing his best to cope with it, but he appears to grow impatient in the process.
– But he is suffering from neurasthenia. ,
– I do not know that neurasthenia would make the Minister rise as he does every time there is some criticism of the Government. Victorian members believe that some assurance should be given that mails from overseas will be delivered in Victoria at the earliest possible moment, and that that State will not be placed at any disadvantage as compared with any other State. The Government should take heed of the debate that has occurred on this matter. Unless it adopts a different attitude, I venture to say that this will not be the last of the protests made, not only from the Opposition, but also from all sides of the House, by honorable members who are anxious to do justice to their constituents. The Minister for Defence delivers punches when no punches are needed and the position is not relieved to the slightest extent. The Minister, having heard this debate, should go to the Government and say that the House is determined to get early information as to what is to be done. If the situation to-day is due to the fact that there is a lack of co-operation between the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Defence Department, the sooner that state of affairs is mended, the better. Any further delay in acquainting the House of what is proposed to be done will meet with further criticism. I hope that the motion will have the desired effect.
.- I want it to be clearly understood that, in speaking to this motion, it is not my intention to embarrass the Government. I speak only with the desire to elicit information, and it was for that purpose that I asked a question earlier in the day. Unflattering remarks concerning the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) have been made, but I believe that he is doing an excellent job of work, and is one of the best Ministers that we have had in the Defence Department for some time. One fact that has emerged from this debate is that in the near future, the Minister intends to bring down an agreement in connexion with the internal arrangements for the distribution of the mail in Australia.
– No, the agreement will cover the Empire mail service to Sydney.
– What we want to know is what the arrangements are to be in Australia. There has been a great deal of talk, but to me, the proposition is very simple. The flying boats will arrive at Darwin from England, and all that needs to be done is to establish at Darwin a sorting office.
– The mails will be sorted in London.
– I contend that all that is needed is an office at Darwin from which the mails will be distributed to their destinations. It appears that mails destined for Sydney will reach there in good time, but what honorable members desire to ensure is that mails destined for Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart will reach their destinations not only as soon as possible, but about as soon as the Sydney mail reaches Sydney. To advance with the times, as we are proposing to do in establishing this overseas air-mail service, wo must meet situations as they arise. This situation could be very easily met by the establishment, as I have suggested, of a sorting office at Darwin, as the focal point for the distribution of the mails to the various capital cities. I am disturbed to hear that there is to be a surcharge.
– Who said so?
– The impression that I have received from the debate is that there is to be a surcharge c-f 3d. It has not been denied. What we need 13 a Minister to tell us what is the actual position. I was very much concerned when I saw the headlines on the article in the newspaper. I should prefer to receive my information, not from the press, but from the responsible Minister in this House, and, on future occasions, Ministers should take care to give honorable members the fullest information.
.- When the Minister for Defence (Mjr. Thorby) started to reply - I understand that he did not start to reply until he thought everybody on this side had spoken - he stated that there had been disclosed a considerable amount of confusion in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) as to the difference between the distribution of the mails that had reached Australia and the special contract for the conveyance of mails by air to Aus tralia. It was noticeable that I could not induce the Minister to re-state that charge when the Leader of the Opposition came into the House. No such confusion, of course, was manifested by the Leader of the Opposition. He is perfectly clear that an agreement is in prospect, and he is perfectly aware that honorable members of this House and members of the public have not been taken into the Government’s confidence as to what this country is to be committed to. I go to the foundation of this matter, and I say that it is intolerable that a querulous, inexperienced Minister like the Minister for Defence, who brings neither knowledge, capacity, nor experience to this work, should inform the House that he does not propose to take the House into his confidence as to what this country is to be committed to in regard, to international air mails. This House should be consulted before, not after, an agreement has been reached. I know that the evil practice of committing this country and consulting it afterwards has been followed in the past, but it is a practice that does not gain anything in respectability by repetition, and one which ought to be discontinued. The present debate gives point to that contention. It has shown us that we have a Minister, a neophyte in postal administration, who is impatient of criticism and unwilling to take advice. When he is either criticized or apologized for from behind as well as in front, and when inquiries such as that made by the Leader of the Opposition are made, this leader of a would-be totalitarian state is personally affronted. I do not admit his right to take the stand that he takes.
It is suggested by the Minister when we speak of the special claims of the city of Hobart, the city of Melbourne, or any other part of this vast continent, we are influenced by petty parochial motives. My answer to the Minister is that as he takes it upon himself to be the only person envisaging the saving involved in this international air-mail contract, it is his duty, as soon as the arrangements for the contract are completed, even if the details are not completed - we were led to suppose that they were - to see that the arrangements for the distribution of the mails in Australia are in harmony with the arrangements for the bringing of the mail to Australia, which are, we are led to believe, designed, to give a quicker and bettor service. About that the Minister has done nothing whatever. As a matter of fact, it is a question on which he has no opinions whatever. He has given us to understand that it is not his concern at all.I entirely agree with the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) when he says that it would be far better if postal concerns were left in the hands of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and not in the hands of the Defence Department. The fact that the Defence Department is playing such an important part in it arises from the fact that defence is made predominant in the consideration of all the claims of all departments. It is that fact which has caused this postal question to be removed from the department which is trained in and is capable of administering it to a department which has no knowledge of the matter, whatever, and is, at the moment, unhappily presided over by a Minister who is specially unsuited for dealing with it. It may be that some honorable members would disagree with me on this point, but the Director-General of Postal Services is paid a handsome salary, and, in my opinion, he is a very competent officer. He understands the postal needs of Australia, and realizes that an overseas airmail service of the character contemplated requires an efficient service within Australia to make the whole scheme effective. Yet, when questions are addressed to the Minister for Defence, he regards honorable members as suspicious, and, if we press for an answer, we are regarded as impudent.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order! The attitude of the Minister to honorable members when they are asking questions has nothing to do with the question before theChair .
– The Postal Department could deal with this matter’ more effectively than the Defence Department. To me it seems intolerable that the people of Australia should have to wait for the signing of this important agreement without a knowledge of. what it involves, and without any assurance that arrangements have been satisfactorily completed for the effective distribution of the mails after they reach the Australian coast. I make no special claim on behalf of Victoria, but, as the representative of a Victorian electorate, it is my bounden duty, as it is of every other honorable member, to direct attention to the matter.
.- I realize that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) has been working at high pressure for a long time, but, if an additional surcharge is to be imposed on overseas mail matter carried over the inland routes, I must associate myself with the strong protest lodged against the suggested charge. It is generally understood that the tendency is now to reduce rather than increase air-mail rates.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order. 257b.
Assent, to the following bills re ported : -
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) 1938.
Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Bill 1938.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Taxation - Memorandum of the Commissioner of Taxation showing Commonwealth and State Income Taxes for 1937-38.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Darwin. Northern Territory - For defence purposes; Kissing Point, Queensland - For defence purposes.
New Guinea Act- Ordinances of 1938 - No. 8 - Native labour; No. 9 - Arms, liquor, and opium prohibition.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 3rd June (vide page 1782) on motion by Mr. Casey -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for insurance against certain contingencies affecting employees, and the wives, children, widows, and orphans of employees, and for other purposes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported, and. - by leave - adopted.
Message reported recommending appropriation for the purposes of amendments to be moved by the Treasurer in this bill.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue bo made for the purposes of amendments to be moved by the Treasurer in a bill for an act to provide for insurance against certain contingencies affecting employees, and the wives, children, widows, and orphans of employees, and for other purposes.
.- I move.
That, after the word “Treasurer”, the words “ and other members “ be inserted.
The motion, if carried, would authorize the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to submit amendments extending the scope of the bill, and I propose, under my amendment, that the privilege which the Treasurer seeks for himself shall be extended to members of the committee generally. The motion restricts amplification of the benefits under the bill to such extensions as the Treasurer may suggest.
– How will the honorable member overcome the difficulty presented by the Constitution?
– The Constitution provides that no bill of this character shall be valid unless an appropriation of revenue has been made at some stage prior to the passing of the measure. It is notnecessary to consider the message recommending the appropriation until the concluding stage of the legislation has been reached. I desire every member of the committee to he placed on an equality with the Treasurer in dealing with this bill. The committee is master of the situation. It can say that it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue shall be made in order that further amendments may be considered by. the committee. We know that an appropriation is a limiting thing, and, because of this motion, in all probability it will be impossible to give consideration to many of the amendments which have already been circulated. I desire that those amendments shall be discussed on their merits. I submit that it is constitutional for me now to submit an amendment which would put the committee in a position to authorize the requisite appropriation to ensure that a ny extension of the bill, as contemplated by the Treasurer, and any other amendments submitted by honorable members, will be considered by the committee on their merits, and will not be declared out of order on the ground that they are not covered by the appropriation.
– As this amendment would appear to contravene the Constitution, 1 ask for a ruling as to whether it is in accordance with the Standing Orders.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The Chair had intended to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) before giving a ruling on the point.
– It is true that the Administrator has recommended that an appropriation be made for the purpose of amendments to be moved by the Treasurer
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) has asked whether the amendment is in order. I submit that a ruling should be given on that point before further discussion is allowed.
– I have heard sufficient to enable me to determine now that the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition goes beyond the scope of the recommendation by the Administrator, and is, therefore, out of order.
– I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The ruling of. the Chairman raises an important constitutional question as to the rights of the Parliament to deal with legislation. The principle at stake is of first-class significance to the deliberative competence of Parliament, for only so far as the Constitution may limit the Parliament, is the discretion of members of this chamber affected. The provision of the Constitution dealing with this point is in section 56, which reads -
A vote, resolution, or proposed law for the appropriation of revenue or moneys shall not be passed unless the purpose of appropriation has in the same session been recommended by message of the Governor-General to the House in which the proposal originated.
That really means that for any bill which involves an appropriation of revenue to be valid, a message from His Excellency the Governor-General recommending an appropriation for that purpose must be received at some stage before it is finally passed. There are good reasons for that. The theory is that the Crown asks for the money, and that the Parliament decides whether it will, or will not, vote the money. In this case, wo are asked to consider a bill dealing with insurance for national health and pensions. It would have been perfectly competent for the Treasurer to have arranged for the Administrator’s message to be received after the committee stage of the bill had been concluded, in which event amendments moved by members of the committee which might have the effect of enlarging the scope of the measure, would have been in order.
Mr.curtin. - If no message had been received they would be competent to do so. On the other hand, if a message were not received from the Administrator prior to the concluding stages of the bill, the measure could not be validly passed. The Chairman has ruled that I am not entitled to seek to amend a motion moved by the Treasurer. If accepted by the committee, that ruling means that the Treasurer shall be competent to move amendments, whereas other members of the committee shall not have an equal competence. Although the Treasurer is a Minister of the Crown, in this chamber he has no rights greater than has any other member of the committee, except in so far as the Parliament gives them to him. Therefore, he has only the Standing Orders of this Parliament to rely on. I submit that a motion moved by the Treasurer, or, indeed, by any Minister, can be amended, provided the Standing Orders of this chamber permit the course to be taken. There is nothing in the Standing Orders to preclude my amendment.
– The prohibition is contained in the Constitution.
Mr.curtin. - The interpreter of the Constitution is not the Chairman of Committees, but the High Court of Australia. In any matter involving an interpretation of the Constitution, neither Mr. Speaker nor the Chairman of Committees has any authority whatever. Mr. Speaker could not say that a bill is out of order because it conflicts with the Constitution. It is true that the advisers of the Government may give to it such advice as they think proper, and it has happened on several occasions that legislation passed by this Parliament has been invalidated, but neither Mr. Speaker, nor the Chairman of Committees, may rule a clauseof a bill to be out of order on the ground that it is unconstitutional. The only authority to give such a decision is the authority set up by section 76 of the Constitution, namely the High Court of Australia. My amendment has been ruled out of order on the ground not that it is contrary to the Standing Orders, but that it conflicts with the Constitution. I submit that the Chairman of Committees has no authority to give such a ruling; that he is bound only by the Standing Orders, and, where they are silent, by parliamentary practice. Mr. Speaker is similarly bound. I say, therefore, that in giving his ruling, the Chairman has attempted to exercise an authority which does not belong to him, and that, therefore, his ruling is wrong, and should be dissented from.
– On a recent date a message came from His Excellency the Administrator recommending that an appropriation of money be made for the purpose of this bill. In accordance with the almost invariable custom since the beginning of federation, that message was introduced at what has always been thought to be its appropriate- place, namely, at the beginning of the committee stage. That matter was debated in this chamber a few days ago, when the Opposition sought to make it appear that, by introducing the message at that stage, honorable members were being deprived of soma right that would be theirs if the message were delayed until after the committee stage. Their contention was that if the message were delayed until then, private members would be enabled to move amendments which would have the effect of increasing the burden on the budget. On that occasion I attempted to explain that it did not matter at what stage of the bill the message was introduced.
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister is now canvassing in detail a debate which took place in this chamber a few days ago and was decided by the House in due course. I submit that he is out of order in doing: so; he may not quote from a debate of the same session in support of his present argument.
– The Chair considered that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) would connect his remarks with the present debate, but he will not be allowed to continue at any length his reference to the previous debate.
– My intention was to lead up to the second message that has reached this chamber. It deals with amendments, to be moved by a member of the Government, which would have the effect of increasing the burden on the budget over and above that imposed by the bill as originally introduced. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has referred tosection 56 of the Constitution. The purpose of the second message is to ensure an appropriation sufficient to cover the Government’s amendments.
– A further message was necessary after all, despite what was said previously.
– It is common knowledge to honorable members that the (business of the country cannot be carried or unless the government of the day is in charge of its finances. In every parliament of the British Empire provision is made in the standing orders as well as in the constitution, where there is one, whereby the government of the day is protected from the obligation to appropriate money at the instance of the Opposition. That is inherent in section 56 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth. A point that is not expressly stated in. that section is that only a member of the Government may cause to be originated a message of appropriation from the Governor-General. The Standing Orders control the business of this chamber, unless the House itself decides otherwise. I direct attention to Standing Order 171-
No amendment for the imposition or for the increase of a tax rate or duty shall bo proposed by any non-official member in any committee on any bill. and to Standing Order 247 -
No amendment whereby the charge upon the people will be increased may be made to any such resolution, unless such charge so increased shall not exceed the charge already existing by virtue of any act of the Parliament.
Again I draw attention to Standing Order No. 1 of this House, which reads -
In all cases not provided for hereinafter, or by Sessional or other Orders, resort shall be had to the rules, forms, and practice of the Commons House of the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland in force at the time of the adoption of these Orders, which shall be followed as far as they can be applied to the proceedings of the House of Representatives.
If the two Standing Orders I have quoted, No. 171 and No. 247, should for any reason be considered inadequate for the purpose I have mentioned, I rest my case on Standing Order No. 1. On page 505 of the 13th edition of May’s Parliamentary Practice, which in all cases not determined by the Standing Orders governs the proceedings of this committee, reference is made, among other things, to Standing Order No. 66 of the House of Commons. That Standing Order reads : -
This House will receive no petition for any sum relating to public service, or proceed upon any motion for a grant or charge upon the public revenue, whether payable out of the consolidated fund or out of money to be provided by Parliament, unless recommended from the Crown.
Our own two Standing Orders 171 and 247, taken in conjunction with No. 1, and Standing Order No. 66 of the British House of Commons, are all in line with what I have maintained, namely, that a message has to be brought down from the Governor-General covering any appropriation of money. That message has been brought down. It can be brought down only by a Minister of the Crown. Nothing that I have done or could do in this connexion can affect the rights of honorable members one way or the other. I cannot increase or decrease their rights, which are fixed by the Constitution. I venture, with great respect, to draw the attention of the Leader of the Opposition to that fact. He has set out again to-day, in extension of the debate that took place earlier in this chamber, to attempt to establish the contention that by bringing in the previous message I, in some indefinite way, attempted to curtail the rights of honorable members. The Government has to have control of any amendment that would increase the charge upon the budget. There has been cited one instance, and one only, in the whole history of this Parliament, when the message was not brought down at the beginning of the committee stage of a bill. That was when
Mr. Theodore was Treasurer. The hill was the Fiduciary Notes Bill. He did not bring down the message until just before the third reading, and the reason for that was that it had been overlooked at the earlier and appropriate stage. 1 give honorable members an undertaking that that “was so. I have consulted all the available high authorities on this point, and there is no room to doubt what the position i3. It is quite adequately dealt with by the written and unwritten words in the Constitution. Unless the introduction of a message of the sort dealt with in section 56 is restricted to a Minister of the Crown, responsible government would get into a sorry moss. These things arc not my imaginings. I can assure honorable members that by bringing down the message at this stage [ am conforming to the Constitution, the Standing Orders, and the usage of this Parliament for over 37 years - a usage that has been only once departed from, and then only because of an oversight. I appeal to honorable members on all 3ides to accept what I say as the true position, regarding which there cannot be any argument.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has shifted his ground many times to sustain his point. As 1 listened to him I imagined a set of circumstances in which ho would be addressing a public meeting, and I think I could guarantee that he would have been counted out long ago. Any audience other than members of this committee would not have stopped to listen to him. He states that the procedure being followed is the usual custom. I am not here to follow slavishly the customs of the past. While some honorable members laugh at that statement, I can assure them that the tendency not to follow tlie customs of the past is more widespread among the present generation than many members appreciate. Therefore, it is not for me to be bound by what some one did 25 years ago. What was done then or since may have been entirely wrong. We are here to do things according to what we believe is in keeping with modern ideas. In any case I should say that if this procedure was ^followed 25 years ago it is time it was changed. Tlie Leader of the Opposition (Mr.
Curtin) has set out to alter the procedure so that honorable members may have free scope to discuss the bill and £o amend it in conformity with the speeches they made during the second reading debate. The Treasurer has quoted Standing Orders 171 and 247, and he says that if he cannot get through with them he will do so with No. 1, and that failing that he will go to the House of Commons for No. 66. If he cannot gatecrash on one he hopes to do so on the other. I have hurriedly looked at No. 171, which reads: -
No amendment for the imposition or for the increase of a tax rate or duty shall be imposed by any non-official member in any committee on any bill.
Standing Orders Nos. 171 and 247 curtail the scope of discussion. It is logical, therefore, for members of the Opposition to resist being hampered by either of those Standing Orders.
– They do not necessarily curtail discussion.
– I mean curtail discussion on amendments that would alter the amount of the appropriation. Parliament has to consider the fact that the bill is an entirely different measure from those we are accustomed to deal with.
– I have heard that many times in this Parliament.
– The honorable gentleman has apparently not taken much notice of it, and I would remind him that a good thing cannot be repeated too often. I am willing to concede that the Government must have charge of the finances; otherwise it could not carry on. We are not questioning that, but if the Treasurer can sustain his point it means that the Government and Parliament must accept whatever the Cabinet decides.
– That is what was done by the Labour Cabinet.
– Even if it was done before it is not necessary to continue it now, and if it was wrong before, it is wrong now. The suggestion from this side would still leave the financial control with the Government at the conclusion of the bill. Although it has been the custom to follow the procedure now adopted by the Government, we nevertheless have tlie precedent of a message introduced in the concluding stages of a bill. The Treasurer has advanced the contention that that was done without a knowledge of what was being done. Supporters of the Government say that it is unconstitutional for Parliament to proceed on any other lines than those now being followed. > It must have been unconstitutional, then, for Mr. Theodore to bring down a message in the later stages of a bill.
– Not at all.
– The Treasurer would have it both going and comings
– Mr. Theodore did not increase or diminish the rights of Parliament.
– The argument of those who support the present procedure is that any departure from it would be unconstitutional.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to S p.m.
– The Treasurer has moved that a message from the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation of revenue be taken into consideration, the purpose being to enable amendments to be moved by the Treasurer to be incorporated in the bill. To this motion the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has moved that the words “ and other members “ be added, so that the appropriation may cover amendments moved, not only by the Treasurer, but also by other honorable members. You, sir,- have declared that the amendment to the motion is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution in that, if agreed to, it would increase the appropriation; you have, therefore, ruled it out of order.
The Leader of the Opposition discussed fully the bearing of the Constitution upon the amendment, and I do not think that you, as Chairman, are any more competent that he is to give a decision upon that point. I cannot accept your ruling that the amendment to the motion would have the effect of extending the appropriation. No one can say whether or not that will be the case until the amendments to the bill are moved in committee. It is not desirable that honorable members should be prevented from moving amendments. Every honorable member should bc able to move as he thinks fit, say what he thinks necessary, and have his opinions duly recorded. At this stage, it is pure assumption on your part that amendments which have not yet been moved will increase the appropriation. The purpose of the Government, supported by your ruling, seems to be to prevent Parliament from considering the bill deliberatively, and to stifle the free expression of opinion. If this ruling be allowed to- stand, Parliament will exist only as an instrument for recording the opinions, and carrying out the wishes, of the Treasurer. I can hardly imagine the the framers of the Constitution, however anxious they may have been to keep the control of the finances in the Government’s hands, ever intended that private members should be denied the right t.o express and record their views on financial matters in a free and democratic way. Honorable members who feel that they owe a duty to their constituents should support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, even to the extent of dissenting from the ruling of the Chairman, so that the widest possible discussion may be permitted. ‘ If the Treasurer may arrange for a new message from the GovernorGeneral recommending a further appropriation, so that he may introduce amendments, the Chairman should be generous enough to allow other honorable members to move such amendments to the bill as they think desirable. The Leader of the Opposition merely asks that, under cover of the Governor-General’s further message, private members, as well as the Treasurer, may be permitted to move amendments. No one can reasonably object to that. It is desirable that private members should be given every opportunity to express their opinions on so important a measure as this.
– They have that opportunity now.
– Only in a limited way.
– The same opportunity exists in regard to this bill as exists in regard to every Budget.
– If we must always do things in the same way as our grandfathers did then we shall make very little progress. I hold the view that the ruling of the Chair, if upheld, will restrict discussion, and destroy the deliberative character of Parliament. If the
Treasurer is to be permitted to introduce amendments that will increase the appropriation, other honorable members should enjoy a similar right.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The constitutional principles and practice regarding financial measures are known to all honorable members. In that classical repository of parliamentary procedure, May’s Parliamentary Practice, Tenth edition, at page 5S0, the following passage occurs -
The constitutional principle which vests in the Crown the sole responsibility over national expenditure, and which forbids the Commons to increase the sums demanded by the Crown for the service of the State (see page 532). is strictly enforced in the committees of supply, and ways and means.
In a later work, An Introduction to the Procedure of the House of Commons, by Campion, at page 232, the writer, under the heading “Principles of Financial Procedure “ states - . .
The main effect on financial procedure of tlie principles governing the relations between the Crown and Parliament (see pp. 23-29) and the rules by which the House of Commons regulates its own practice (S. Os. Nos. 06 to 7 IB) may be summarized as follows: -
Those principles have been clearly laid down and recognized for centuries. The honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said that we should not be bound slavishly by custom, but he, as a parliamentarian of some standing and experience, should be aware of the battle which the English people fought through the years for the right to exercise sole control over the financial expenditure of the Government, and, without any desire to reflect unduly upon him, I suggest that he was not quite sincere when he expressed the view that there ought to be a change in our constitutional practice,. I have cited to honorable members the practice of the House of Commons which we have followed in Australia. We have included in the Com monwealth Constitution Act, section 56, which reads -
A vote, resolution, or proposed law for the appropriation of revenue or moneys shall not be passed unless the purpose of the appropriation has in the same session been recommended by message of the Governor-General to the House in which the proposal originated.
We have before the committee a message from the Administrator, and based on that message, the following motion has been moved by the Treasurer -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of amendments to be moved by the Treasurer in a bill for an act to provide for insurance against certain contingencies affecting employees, and the wives, children, widows, .and orphans of employees, and for other purposes.
That is a recommendation from the Governor-General as required by the Constitution. To that motion the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has moved an amendment.
– I have moved an amendment, not to the message from the Administrator, but to the motion which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) proposed.
– It is the same thing.
– It is, in effect, an amendment to the message from the Administrator. While Parliament must give attention to a recommendation from the Crown, that recommendation could not be amended by a motion of the Treasurer, or any member of the Government, even if he so desired. While we might applaud the solo, we cannot be expected to extend our approval to the duet. Under the amendment, we are asked to consider, not merely the message from the Administrator, but also the additions proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. Apart altogether from the Standing Orders, such a position would be palpably absurd, and would in itself justify the ruling of the Chair. We are asked to dissent from the chairman’s ruling. Every honorable member who knows the requirements of the Constitution must admit that we have to give careful attention to the recommendation contained in the message from the Administrator, but that we could not validly give effect to the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition to the motion submitted by the Treasurer in conformity with the recommendation of the Administrator. I therefore submit that any honorable member -who supports the motion of dissent is voting against his own convictions.
– That submission is quite unwarranted.
– Honorable members opposite are taking advantage of this opportunity to make what they consider is a legitimate political protest. This they are entitled to do, but I suggest that any honorable member on this side will not accept the honeyed invitation of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) to join them in what must be regarded as a very unsatisfactory method of registering disapproval. There can be no question as to the validity of the ruling of the Chair.
– I think I can speak for all members on this side when I say that we listened with interest to the homily which has just been delivered by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt)’, who also took occasion to challenge the honesty and sincerity of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in submitting the amendment before the committee.
– Hear, hear!
– That suggestion of insincerity would doubtless come more fittingly from the Assistant Minister (Mr. Cameron) who, since he so successfully “ gate crashed “ into the Ministry, has become famous for that kind of thing. Perhaps it would be more appropriate if, instead of following the lines indicated by the honorable member for Fawkner, who very graciously indicated to the grandmothers that are not to be found on this side of the committee how eggs may be sucked, we addressed ourselves to the merits of the motion moved by the Treasurer and the amendment moved by my leader. The amendment is worthy of consideration because it gave rise to the motion to dissent from your ruling. The members of the Opposition are at all times loath to challenge the ruling of our presiding officers for whom we have every respect. Therefore we very rarely embark on motions of dissent from th rulings of the chair. Earlier _in the proceedings the Committee had before it a motion by the Treasurer that “ an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of amendments to be moved by the Treasurer “ in a bill to provide for insurance against certain contingencies affecting employees, the wives and children, widows and orphans of employees, and for other purposes. To that motion my leader had moved the addition after the word “ Treasurer “, of the words “ and other members
– All others.
– Of course the amendment is abhorrent to the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett). He cannot imagine members on this side being put on that lofty plane which the honorable gentleman occupies.
– I did not say anything.
– Honorable members on this side have not his ready access to the columns of the popular press, nor is it their desire to play to the gallery - at all events not all the time.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– The purpose of my leader, in seeking to have added to the motion the words “ and other members “, was simply to enable all members, when in committee, to move amendments, and have them discussed on their merits, free of all legal technicalities. My leader desired to secure to all honorable members this right because of a widespread feeling in this chamber and in the country that this bill should be thoroughly examined and, where necessary, substantially amended. I submit that there never was a bill before this Parliament which aroused so much criticism and called more loudly for close scrutiny and examination.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in discussing the merits of the bill. The motion is one of dissent from the ruling of the Chair.
– Very well. You, sir, have ruled, so I understand, that the amendment moved by my leader was out of order because, in violation of the Constitution, it would increase the appropriation.
– The honorable member is not correct in his assumption.
The amendment was ruled out of order because it is outside the scope of the Administrator’s message.
– Thank you. I submit, with great confidence, that when you ga ve that ruling, you, sir, in the language of the street, jumped a bit too soon. There is nothing in the amendment to indicate that it will do what you say it will do. It might conceivably leave untouched, or at least unsettled, a question which might arise in committee, as to whether a particular amendment would have the effect of increasing the appropriation. I submit that the amendment as it stands, to the motion as it stands, is d perfectly good amendment; and with the greatest respect I say that you had no right whatever to anticipate what some honorable member might do in committee if the amendment were accepted, lt does not follow that any amendment to the hill will necessarily increase the appropriation. The motion does not say how the money is to be used; it merely says that an appropriation of money shall be made. Undoubtedly it envisages the expenditure of money. I admit that it might be much more difficult for me if I were called upon at a later stage in committee, to argue that some of the amendments which I know we have in view could properly be submitted by a private member. But I have no knowledge of the terms in which those amendments may be moved, so I am guessing more or less. I do say that because, apparently, you have - I am sure you will acquit me of any desire to be in the slightest degree offensive - captured the atmosphere of the debate and know what honorable members are thinking-
– Order ! The honorable member must not criticize the attitude of the Chair.
– I think I shall be in order if I examine the terms of your ruling and draw conclusions as to the reasons which moved you to your decision. That is what I have been endeavouring to do, and I was suggesting as one reason for your ruling, that there was a widespread feeling among honorable members who desire to move amendments
– Order ! The honorable member must know that it is dis tinctly out of order to reflect upon the Chair. If he continues, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I feel certain, Mr. Prowse, that you have misunderstood me. I repudiate absolutely any intention to reflect upon the Chair. I cannot understand how my words have -been so misconstrued, but I assure you that I had no intention whatever to reflect upon your ruling further than to contend that it was wrong. In saying this, I would have the committee understand that I am not in any way reflecting upon the good faith of the Chair. I have no desire other than to examine the question before the committee entirely on its merits and without heat. I want to examine your ruling and to discover., if possible, the reasons for your decision.
– Order ! The honorable member is entitled to consider the ruling of the Chair as given, but not necessarily the point of view disclosed in the ruling.
– I do not know that it is necessary for me to do so. I hope that you are impressed by what I have said. It may be that on consideration of what I have said you will desire to reverse your ruling. Whether that be so or not, it may be that the Treasurer, if he were here, would see fit to withdraw his opposition to the amendment. I submit that you, sir, have given a wrong ruling, and that if your objection is to be successfully made at all, it must be made in the committee stage, when some honorable member moves an amendment, which in the view of the Treasurer, will increase the appropriation.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the subsequent motion of dissent from the Chairman’s ruling, betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the powers of Parliament in respect of the control of the public purse. The amendment assumes that Parliament has full control over the public purse, but I venture the opinion that Parliament - does not control and never has controlled, the public purse in any part of the British Empire. The control of the public purse is and always has been vested in the King and the Executive. Parliament can dismiss the Executive, but the power of the Executive, in conjunction with the King, to control the public purse cannot be challenged.
– Surely, that is heresy. I refer the honorable gentleman to Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights.
– It may be an unwritten law, but, nevertheless, I submit that it is the rock on which section 56 of the Commonwealth Constitution is founded. There is no doubt whatever that section 56 of the Constitution accepts fully and unconditionally that principle of government. It provides that there shall be no appropriation of revenue by Parliament except upon the recommendation of the GovernorGeneral. I emphasize that it makes no provision whatever for any amendment by Parliament of the recommendation of the Governor-General, and its wording completely precludes any such amendment. Because of that, I express very strongly the view that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition must fail. In turn the provisions of Standing Orders 171 and 247 rest upon the fundamental principle of government to which I have referred and upon section 56 of the Constitution. The Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment which, in effect, seeks to alter–
– Order ! The committee is considering, not the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, but the motion to dissent from the ruling of the Chair.
-I should like very briefly to refer to the amendment which the Chairruled out of order, from which ruling dissent has been moved. As I have said, the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, proposes, in effect, to alter the message of the Administrator, and I challenge the Opposition to cite an instance in the annals of parliamentary government in any part of the British Empire of a similar amendment having been carried.
– We make precedents.
– I go further and say that the Leader of the Opposition has certainly made history by submitting an amendment of that character.
– That does not make it wrong.
– Well, it at least necessitates very careful consideration of it by this Parliament–
– Hear, hear !
– And emphasizes the danger of accepting the amendment, particularly because it has such a direct bearing on the written Constitution of the Commonwealth. Because it seeks to overcome the Crown’s prerogative to control public revenues of the country, it must fail. It must fail because it contravenes section 56 of the Constitution, and it must fail more completely because it seeks to contravene section 56 of the Constitution in order that Standing Orders 171 and 247 may be subsequently violated. Therefore, I urge the House to reject the motion of dissent.
– The abyssmal ignorance shown by the honorable member who has just sat down, in his statement that Parliament does not control the public purse, leaves one gasping. Any one who knows anything at all of the history of the British Empire, knows that its democracy is founded and has been developed on the principle that Parliament has control of the public purse. “ No supply for the King without the redress of wrongs,” was one of the old slogans of Parliament. This Government can govern this country only whilst it has a majority in Parliament.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the motion of dissent.
– Because the Treasurer fears that he will notbe able to control the majority in committee, he has applied the gag.
– Oh, no !
– Yes. That is the definite reason.
– The honorable member has been misinformed.
– I have not been misinformed, and the honorable gentleman knows it. I agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that there can be no increase of the appropriation by the addition of the words proposed to be added by the Leader of the Opposition. Honorable gentlemen opposite, one after the other, supported the Chair’s ruling because they wanted a back-door escape from the statements they made during the second-reading debate. This is the back-door which the Treasurer has opened to them ! Not only is this a way of escape for honorable members opposite; it is also a means for the Treasurer to save himself from his friends. The honorable gentleman knows ‘that, if the amendment moved by my leader were accepted by the Government, amendments might be moved in accordance with the declarations of ministerial members at the second-reading stage, which amendments he would be forced to consent to put into the bill. If the Treasurer yielded to opinion in this committee and inserted certain amendments, the Government, not honorable members, would be increasing the appropriation. Unless my leader’s amendment be accepted, any amendments proposed by honorable mem”bers, if they be allowed to come before the committee at all, “will be ruled out of order. The honorable gentleman is frightened that if amendments of the sort foreshadowed in the second-reading debate were allowed to come before the committee, so many honorable members opposite would support them that he would be forced to accept them. So the honorable the Treasurer is not only opening a back-door for his own supporters, but is also saving himself from them. Mr. Chairman, I submit that your ruling is bad. In fact, it is the worst ruling that I have heard delivered since I have been a member of this Parliament. It would not stand a critical examination. Of course, a brutal majority can uphold it.
– Order !
– Well, then, a polite majority or an ordinary majority. I submit that, even if the majority of honorable members of this committee uphold your ruling, it will not stand before the bar of public opinion, because it is not sound. If this measure is to receive the consideration in committee that it should have, the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition must be carried. It should not be ruled out of order because the Government has a majority in this committee ; it should be allowed to go on its merits. Half of the rulings dissented from are upheld, not because they are in conformity with the Standing Orders, but because there is a majority to uphold them.
– I submit, sir, that your ruling is good. Further, I submit that if the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) were on this side of the House, in a position of ministerial responsibility, they would take precisely the same attitude towards an amendment of this kind as we’ are taking. The amendment which the Chair has ruled out of order strikes deep. It goes down to fundamentals. It concerns the initiation of financial legislation, not merely the control of the public purse. Expressing it far more vividly, it aims to give to every member in this committee the right to increase the taxation of the people.
– The right to move.
– No, the right to increase. What is the difference? The British parliamentary system is based on the curtailment of the power to tax the people and on the curbing of the unbridled disposition of those in authority to tax the people. That power has been narrowed down through the centuries, starting with the combat against King John and continuing through the reigns of King Edward III. and King Charles I. down to the present time. In the Parliament of to-day, it is narrowed down first to the party which comes to Parliament with the support of the majority of the electors behind it. It is then narrowed down again and handed to the leader, who has to form a government, and to that government which he forms and to the Ministers who are concerned in observing, amongst other things, loyalty to the Constitution.. This amendment slashes right across and violates the Constitution. It also violates the Standing Orders. It would reduce parliamentary government to chaos, and lead to reckless ‘ and irresponsible taxation. It has been submitted merely as a stone-walling trick.
– I submit that an honorable member may not challenge the honesty, and sincerity of any other honorable member. As one who supported the amendment I object to the impeachment of my honour, and to a suggestion that I have not been sincere in the statements that I have made.
– I ask the honorable member for Henty to withdraw the remark to which objection has been taken.
– I withdraw it. I shall describe the amendment as purely a time-wasting device.
– I submit that the honorable gentleman is not in order in stating that the amendment was proposed Avith a view to wasting time.
– The remark heard by the Chair was not unparliamentary.
– On a point of order, I submit that my amendment was a proper one for consideration by this chamber, otherwise the Chair would have ruled it out of order. But the Chair, having allowed it to be discussed, should not permit any honorable member to describe it as a time-wasting device. If the honorable member for Henty is upheld in his reflection upon me, I shall be grievously disappointed.
– The Chair repeats that the remark was not unparliamentary.
– It is outrageous!
– The only Chairman who would .think so!
– I call upon the honorable member for Hindmarsh to withdraw that reflection upon the Chair.
– Although I disagree with your ruling, Mr. Chairman, I withdraw my remark.
– Whatever the motive behind this amendment may be, it comes strangely from the Leader of the Opposition, because, if he were carrying ministerial responsibility, he would, with his deep knowledge of the Constitution, and his respect for this Parliament, be the first to repudiate an amendment of this kind.
– After hearing the unreasonable statements by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), I strongly support the reasonable amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. The honorable member for
Henty tries, at times, to make us believe that he takes an independent stand, but he evidently attended the caucus meeting of the Government parties this morning, when honorable members opposite were whipped into line. The Treasurer has moved that it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of amendments to be moved by him in a bill for an act to provide for insurance against certain contingencies affecting employees, and the wives, children, widows and orphans of employees, and for other purposes. Surely the Leader of the Opposition, having listened to numerous speeches by members opposite, who said that they felt certain that the Government would give every opportunity for consideration in committee-
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to reasons for disagreement with the Chairman’s ruling.
– The Leader of the Opposition submitted the amendment that, after the word “ Treasurer “, the words “ and other members “ be inserted. That was to give other members the right to submit amendments to the bill, but you, sir, ruled the amendment out of order on the ground that it was beyond the scope of the Administrator’s recommendation. I say, with great reluctance, Mr. Chairman, that that was one of the worst rulings I have ever heard you give. I make that statement with very. great respect, and without wishing to cast any reflection on the Chair. Surely the Leader of the Opposition has the right to submit an amendment to enable honorable members generally to have the same freedom as the Treasurer is to have in submitting amendments for the consideration of the committee. It is mere balderdash to say that the amendment would give to honorable members the right to increase taxation. I dot not believe that the honorable member for Henty seriously holds that view. The Parliament alone can impose taxes. Without a majority in the Parliament iu favour of an increase of taxes, the increase cannot be imposed. Why should not any honorable member be permitted to move an amendment to give effect to views expressed by him in the debate on the second reading of the bill. I submit, Mr. Chairman, that your ruling infringes the rights of honorable members, and I hope that, even at this lal:« hour, you will overlook any criticism that has come from members of the Opposition, and re-consider your decision. If honorable members are to be prevented from exercising their right to submit amendments, we shall be wasting the time of Parliament by discussing this measure in committee. I have never had previous experience of a bill which has aroused such wide interest as this has. I have a vivid recollection of a vote last Thursday in which five or six members crossed over from the Government side and voted with the Opposition.
– The importance of this bill has nothing to do’ with the motion before the Chair.
– But its importance makes us take your ruling all the more seriously. Certainly the ruling will enable Government supporters to escape from an awkward situation, because it will stifle discussion and allow honorable members opposite to avoid giving effect to views expressed irc their second-reading speeches. The Opposition is strongly opposed to your ruling, because it was told that in committee every opportunity would be given to members to liberalize the measure. The Government is now going back on its promise in this regard.
– The only question which should be discussed at this stage is whether the Chairman’s ruling should be upheld. The Administrator has recommended that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of amendments to be moved by the Treasurer, and the Leader of the Opposition has submitted an amendment which, if agreed to, would enable amendments to be moved by private members also. This would clearly extend the scope of the message from the Administrator. Section 56 of the Constitution stipulates that no measure for the appropriation of revenue shall be passed unless the appropriation has, in the same session, been recommended by the Governor-General. If an attempt were made to impose a charge not recommended by the Administrator, there would be a clear breach of the Constitution. The control .of the national purse is in the hands of the Government, and that control cannot constitutionally be taken from it. Standing Orders Nos. 171 and 232 prohibit private members from submitting measures which would increase the burden on the people.
The position is beyond doubt. I support your ruling, Mr. Chairman.
– The more consideration one gives to this matter, the more one is convinced that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) was right in moving his amendment. But had I any doubt on the subject, the speech of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) would have dispelled it. It is common knowledge, even among school children, that by a process of evolution, power -has been taken from the Crown and given to the Parliament. The carrying of the amendment would not give to any Minister the power to increase taxes ; it would only authorize him to move amendments which would have that effect, only if a majority of members were in favour of it. Among the many anomalies in our Standing Orders is the right of the Chairman to remain in the Chair when his ruling is in question, and to rule out of order any argument which he decides conflicts with the Standing Orders.
– Order ! The Standing Orders, not the Chairman, determine these things.
– I realize, Mr. Chairman, that you must carry out the Standing Orders. It has been argued that your ruling is in accordance “with the Constitution, but I maintain that it is not the province of the Chairman of Committees to decide that point. If it were so, at an earlier stage in the discussion of this bill the Chair would have been called upon to decide whether or not the measure was constitutional. I remind the Committee that, in addition to honorable members on this side of the chamber, the legal luminary on the other side has expressed doubt as to the constitutionality of the bill. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has concentrated largely upon Standing Order 247, but I point out that that Standing Order applies only to the Committee of “Ways and Means and the Committee of Supply. As it has nothing to do with the ordinary Committee of the whole House it does not apply at this juncture.
– What about Standing Order 171? -
– That has nothing to do with the point at issue. The message from His Excellency does not mention any sum of money, and, in the circumstances, I cannot see how it can be said that the amendment would increase the appropriation. It is impossible to increase an unnamed amount. I suggest that you, sir, reconsider your ruling in the light of the convincing arguments that have been put forward. The Government should not take a paltry political advantage of members, including many of its own supporters.
– On an occasion like this, it is well to go back to the time when members of the party now in Opposition occupied the Treasury Bench for a short period. A study of the discussions in Parliament at that time will show that the Chairman’s ruling was challenged on several occasions. One instance occurred during the discussion on a bill dealing with a bounty on wheat. A member of the party to which I belong moved an amendment which would have had the effect of paying a little extra to the poor, down-trodden wheat-farmers of this country. It was, however, ruled out of order.
-Who was Chairman of Committees?
– The then member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). The proposed amendment was ruled out of order on the ground that it would increase the appropriation of money required under the bill. On the same page of Votes and Proceedings it is recorded that Mr. Latham moved “ That the chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again “. That sounds a simple motion, but the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who at that time was doing his best to act up to the responsibilities of Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, took strong exception to a member of the Opposition attempting to take the business out of the hands of the Government. The honorable member was so grievously concerned that Mr. Latham should exercise the rights of a private member, that he voted against him in the division which subsequently took place. On another occasion the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), who was then Minister for Trade and Customs, introduced a bill to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of crude shale oil. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) proposed that the words “ crude shale oil “ be omitted with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word “ gold “. On that occasion also, the amendment was ruled out of order, the reason given being that it would alter the purpose for which the Governor-General had recommended the appropriation.
– I rise to a point of order. When honorable members on this side endeavoured to quote from the parliamentary debates, you, sir, immediately stopped them.
– Order ! The honorable member has not raised a point of order.
– The Votes and Proceedings for that period will show that when honorable members of the party opposite were conducting the affairs of the country they objected to private members attempting to increase the appropriation, or to add to the burden of the taxpayers. Perhaps it was because they excelled at piling up taxes that they did not want any one to assist them. When - in office, the Labour party objected to members of the Opposition exercising the rights of private members to decide which of two industries - crude shale oil, which is not prominent in this country, or goldmining, which is prominent - should be assisted by this Parliament.
– The Acting Minister must confine his remarks to the subject before the Chair.
– I realize that these references are unpalatable to honorable members opposite. If the Opposition knows anything at all of the Standing Orders of this Parliament, it knows that no chairman would rule that any private member could move an amendment which would increase the burden of taxation to be borne by the people. The case of the Opposition falls down for another reason. I cannot remember having ever read of a proposal by a member of the Opposition that a message from the representative of the Crown should be changed by a vote of the Parliament.
Undoubtedly, Parliament has the right to turn out of office the Government responsible for such a message, but it has no right to change the message itself. The right to turn out the Government exists, but the present Opposition has not the numbers to exercise it. The only consolation that its members have is that they can go home to-night and sleep peacefully, knowing that they will not be called upon to-morrow to accept the responsibility of governing the country. There is no necessity to discuss this subject at length, because honorable members on all sides of the House realize that the ruling of the Chairman is correct. Even if all the previous rulings that you, Mr. Chairman, gave were wrong, they would be atoned for by the rectitude of this ruling.
– Order !
– I have only to say that honorable gentlemen on the other side, who at one time attempted to remove the chairman from the Chair, are ill-advised–
– As neither the Opposition nor yourself, Mr. Chairman, appears to desire to hear of that incident, I shall say no more.
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and- by leave - adopted.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions) .
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has circulated four amendments which he proposes to move to thedefinitions clause. I suggest with great respect that the clause be postponed until after consideration of the other clauses. The definitions can then be dealt with in the light of alterations that may have been made in other clauses. If the definitions clause be passed now, amendments may be made in other clauses that will necessitate the recommittal of this clause.
– From the Government’s point of view, I see no great objection to adopting the honorable gentleman’s suggestion, except the obvious one, that the committee, when considering the other clauses, will not have adopted any interpretation of the terms used. That, perhaps, is no great disability. The definitions are all formal explanations of what the Government means by what may be called the shorthand expressions used throughout the bill. The Government has four amendments to propose to the clause, but they are only interpretative and qualifying. I agree to the postponement of the clause, and I ask honorable members to be good enough to refer back to it for the information it contains. Terms are used in the bill that do not explain themselves, such as “ contribution year “ and “ employee contributors “.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Each commissioner shall be’ .paid such remuneration as the Governor-General from time to time determines.
.- It is quite reasonable that the GovernorGeneral should determine the remuneration of each of the commissioners, but I submit that at this stage the Treasurer ought to indicate approximately how much it is intended to pay. I do not know whether it is intended to pay the commissioners £1,000, £2,000, or £5,000 a year each. “We ought to have some indication of the contemplated liability.
– The three commissioners have been tentatively appointed to certain positions pending the passage of the bill. Each will be paid a different amount. In respect of the second and third commissioners, at any rate, no determination has been made as to their salaries.
The practice of the Government is to consult the Public Service Board on such matters, and unless there is any good reason to the contrary - I do not think there will be - to accept its advice. Until this measure becomes law, the Government will be unable to give the information required by the honorable member.
.- I am entirely dissatisfied Avith the explanation of the Treasurer. The contributions which are to be paid by the employers and employees, and the approximate amounts which the Government itself will contribute to this fund, are specified in various clauses of the bill, but no indication of how much the commissioners are to be paid is given. I have no desire to limit the clause, but it appears to me that the committee should have some information regarding the remunerations that it is intended to give to each of the commissioners. The
Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has said that no decision regarding the payments to the second and third commissioners has been reached. Apparently he has some figure in mind for the chief commissioner. At this stage, I think that we should limit the liability of the Treasury in this connexion, more particularly as the Treasurer refuses to give us any indication at all of the sums to be paid. Will the chief commissioner be paid as much as the Commonwealth Director of Posts and Telegraphs, or the Secretary to the Treasury ?
– Has not the chairman’s salary already been fixed?
– I do not know. I asked to be informed of the approximate amounts which it is intended shall be paid to the three commissioners.
– The stun to provide for the salaries of the three commissioners is approximately £4,800.
– I am satisfied.
-t-Do I understand the Treasurer to state that three persons have been tentatively selected as commissioners ?
– The Government; of course, cannot make appointments until the bill is law. but the tentative appointees are Mr. Bridgen, Chairman; Mr. McVey, Second Commissioner; and Mr. Green, Third Commissioner. Their total salaries will amount to approximately £4,800.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 -
Subject to this act, all employed persons (not being aboriginal natives of Australia or of the islands of the Pacific) who have attained the age of sixteen years, and have not attained the maximum age, shall be insured under and in accordance with this act as employed contributors.
.- I move -
That the words “ aboriginal natives of Australia or “ be omitted.
I wish to direct the attention of the committee to the exclusion by this clause of aboriginal natives of Australia from participation in the benefits of the legislation. I notice that natives of the Pacific Islands also are to be excluded, but I am not personally well acquainted with the conditions under which they are employed in Australia and, therefore, I do not propose to suggest any action with regard to them. It appears to me to be a very great injustice that legislation which proposes to confer the benefits of a national insurance scheme upon all aliens, irrespective of their age on arrival in Australia, or of their country of birth, should exclude Australian aborigines, regardless of the conditions under which they may live or of what educational qualifications they may have attained. I am aware that under the invalid and oldage pensions act, and maternity allowance legislation, persons of mixed blood, in whom the white blood predominates, are treated as Australian citizens. I arn also aware, from experience, that in cases where the aboriginal blood predominates, persons of mixed blood are treated as if they had no right to Commonwealth social services at all. I know personally of an aboriginal native who was employed in a position of trust at a wheat stack as a buyer for one of the great wheat-buying firms. He was living as an Australian citizen, and was trustworthy, efficient, and sensible in the way in which he handled bis own property; yet his wife was excluded, by a provision apparently similar to this, from obtaining a maternity allowance. I know of another man in whom aboriginal blood predominates, who is in charge of livestock, water improvements, and other valuable property on a station in which I nm personally interested. Under the State law, that man is entitled to a vote - the State law does recognize him as a human being - but under the federal law, as it stands to-day, he would not be entitled to an invalid or old-age pension, nor will he be eligible to insure under this hill. That state of affairs con-‘ statutes a very grave injustice which, I am sure, every member of this committee, including the Treasurer, desires to have removed. Only recently there was a discussion about the provision of more adequate representation for Australian aborigines in the government of the country. I have been led to believe, mainly by newspaper reports, that the Treasurer himself said that the Government was contemplating giving to educated aborigines, and aborigines with other suitable qualifications, full rights of citizenship. I suggest that this is a proper occasion on which to make a beginning with such a policy. I fully realize that the great majority of Australian aborigines live under conditions in which the social services provided for white citizens would be of no value to them, and that upon them such social services would even have a demoralizing influence, but such cases can be provided for under the schedule of exemptions. If the provision for the total exclusion of aborigines’, just because they are aborigines, be removed from this clause of the bill, I shall certainly vote for an amendment to the schedule to empower the Protector of Aborigines to exempt from the operations of this legislation aborigines working on stations in the bush, and in other places where they are still living under semi-tribal conditions, and where civilized social services, instead of .being of value to them, might actually be detrimental. The fate of the original inhabitants of Australia is a tragedy which Australian people find most difficult to justify. There are all sorts of physical difficulties to be considered in meeting the needs for protection and medical attention which stone-age people require when they are brought into contact with modern civilization. The fact that, up to the present, the problem of doing justice to the aborigines has not met with a satisfactory solution, is not due to any want of goodwill on the part of Australians. It is due to physical causes, but the perpetuation of distinctions of this kind tends to give to Australia a far worse name than it deserves. The attitude of our people in grappling with the very difficult, concrete problems with which they are faced, is one of sincerity and good intention. If my amendment is not in order, I appeal to the Treasurer to include in this legislation the natives of the Pacific islands and Australian aborigines who are not specially exempted by the commission.
– It appears that the proposed amendment seeks to include another class of contributors; if that is so, it is out of order.
– I desire to know definitely whether the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Wakefield was ruled out of order on the ground that it would include- other persons in the scheme and therefore increase the appropriation.
– I have indicated to the committee that in my opinion the effect of the amendment would he to increase the number of contributors to the scheme, but I wish to hear the Treasurer on the point.
– The Government has considered the subject raised by the honorable member for Wakefield, and, with the honorable member’s permission, I shall move an amendment more far-reaching in character than the one submitted by him. I now move -
That the words “ (not being aboriginal natives of Australia or of the Islands of the Pacific) “ be omitted.
The Government is impressed by the arguments of the honorable member for Wakefield in respect of certain individuals amongst the aboriginal inhabitants of the Commonwealth and of the islands of the Pacific. My amendment, if carried, will render necessary an amendment of the first schedule. It is not considered desirable that all aboriginal natives of Australia or all Pacific islanders resident in Australia shall be compulsorily brought under the provisions of the bill. My amendment, therefore, will exempt certain individuals.
– It will exempt the squatters who are exploiting the Australian aborigines.
– It is intended that the commission, after consultation with the Protector of Aborigines or some other competent authority, shall have power to exclude certain of those persons to whom this scheme would be clearly inapplicable.
– The Chair rules that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wakefield is out of order.
– On what ground?
– On the ground that it would increase the contributions and therefore the amount of appropriation. It is not competent for a private member to submit an amendment having that effect.
.- The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker)., whose amendment has just been ruled out of order, has told us that his desire is to include in the scheme Australian aboriginal natives and natives of the islands of the Pacific. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey), who has moved an amendment in similar terms, has stated that the first schedule will* have to be amended in order to give the commission power to exempt certain persons. In principle, this may be all right, but I protest against the possibility of the “ squatocracy “ of this country - those employers who have been exploiting the aboriginal natives for so many years - being exempted. For a great number of years they have sweated the unfortunate aborigines, who have had to work on stations for a few shillings a week and, perhaps, a plug of tobacco. If the Treasurer’s amendment means that this class of employer will be exempted, it will confer no benefit- on the majority of the employed aborigines. If, however, it will include in the scheme all those aboriginal natives and Pacific islanders who are working on outback wool stations, I commend the honorable member for Wakefield, and I shall support the amendment. Should the purpose of the later amendment to be submitted by the Treasurer be the exemption of those employers who are exploiting Australian aboriginal natives on wool stations, or employers who are sweating Pacific island natives on plantations, I hope that the honorable member for Wakefield will insist upon reasonable safeguards being inserted to protect those unfortunate people.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) upon having submitted the amendment which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has adopted and moved, in wider terms, as a Government amendment. lt establishes a very desirable precedent in our legislation. I have a lively recollection of protests that Australian aborigines were overlooked in earlier legislation1, and, in common with the honorable member for Wakefield, I have had brought to my notice several glaring anomalies which should be rectified. Aborigines who served overseas with the Australian Imperial Force have been denied benefits under the Repatriation Act, and in some instances their wives have been ‘unable to get the maternity allowance. I agree that it is advisable that there should be some recognition of the Australian aboriginal, and that he should be given the right, if he is employed, to participate in the benefits of national insurance. I commend the proposal that the commission to be set up under this bill should be guided, in deciding as to whether aborigines shall or shall not be exempted, by the recommendation of the Protector of Aborigines. Those who have knowledge of the conditions obtaining on big stations which employ aborigines as cattle men, are aware that it is characteristic of the natives to go periodically on “walkabout.” Honorable members know full well that although an aboriginal may be employed for a certain period of the year there is an irresistible urge for him to go back to the tribe. When he does go back there is always the risk that he may suffer in a tribal war some hurt that will cause him to claim the benefits of this legislation. My opinion is that it is advisable that the Protector of Aborigines should be the arbitrator .to decide whether the disability was brought about naturally or in the pursuit of his vocation and not by tribal warfare.
.- If this matter is to be discussed on its merits the Minister should postpone this clause until after the committee has discussed the first schedule in which the Treasurer proposes to insert power to exempt. The information that we have had from the honorable gentleman is insufficient, and before deciding whether the amendment should be carried or not, we should have some definite indication of the restriction.; to be imposed on aborigines. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) advocated the disqualification from benefit of any native who suffered hurt, as the result of going on “ walkabout “ and becoming involved in tribal warfare. I remind the honorable gentleman that this bill, which he is obliged to support, entitles a white man to all benefits unconditionally. If he goes “ walkabout” and gets into difficulties he is entitled not only to sick pay but also to medical attention. What is good for the white man should be good for the black man. Once the aboriginal is brought within the scope of this measure he should receive exactly the same treatment as is given to the white man. We should either bring the aborigines within the bill or definitely exclude them.
– The honorable member is on the wrong track.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has been advocating in this Parliament for the last v fortnight that aborigines should be flogged; I do not agree with that. The honorable gentleman and I do not see eye to eye on most things. I consider that if the aborigines are to be brought within the scope of this bill they should be treated under precisely the same conditions as are the white people. The tax on their employer will be the same and the tax on themselves will be the same, and I suppose that the rate of benefits will be the same as will apply to whites*. No restriction should be placed on an aboriginal, if after being employed for a time, he decides to go away for a period. No provision is made for the exemption of white men who after working for a period either voluntarily or compulsorily leave their employment. I think that most honorable members agree with the principle of bringing the aborigines under the bill, but I think that we should vote on this question with our eyes open. Until we know what the Treasurer intends in respect of exemptions, we shall not be justified in recording our vote. I therefore move -
That the clause be postponed until after the first schedule.
. - I support the amendment moved by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), not with any desire to make political capital out of seeing how honorable members vote, but solely in order to see justice done to those unfortunate persons who are classified as aborigines but aTe not aborigines; I refer to half-castes.
– Half-castes are provided for.
– The schedule makes no reference to half-castes. Half-castes object to being classified as aborigines, and are striving to have themselves removed from the Aborigines Act. Half- castes in the Northern Territory feel that they should he treated on lines similar to those laid down in the Queensland act, which the Commonwealth Government is not careful enough to follow. I suggest that the Treasurer should obtain a definition of a half-caste.
– No reference is made to half-castes in the bill. The greater includes the less. Half-castes will be included among the classes covered by this clause.
– I urge that the Treasurer make a distinction between the half-castes and the aborigines and provide that aborigines should be exempt unless the Protector recommends otherwise.
– 1 am glad that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has moved the amendment in its present form. That is all that is before the committee at the moment; the limitations to be proposed will come before us at the very end of the bill. If Ave defer discussion on this clause, we shall defer decision on the status of all employed persons. I appeal to, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) not to press his amendment.
– My amendment does not interfere with the discussion.
– This is the key clause, providing this general rule: -
If we postpone this clause, it will not be easy to proceed with consideration of the remainder of the hill. The amendment moved by the Treasurer will mean that all employed persons, whether they ib of British race, alien white race, aborigines, or Pacific islanders, shall come under the bill on an equal footing. The committee, at a much later stage, will have an opportunity to consider the exemptions which the Treasurer has suggested. The committee may not adopt the proposal that aboriginal natives of Australia or of the islands of the Pacific who .are employed persons shall be brought within the scope of the bill. I suggest that the proper thing for the committee to do is to examine the Treasurer’s proposal on its merits. I am satisfied with it because it removes the unnatural and inhumane distinction between classes of workers in this country. I suggest that Ave carry this amendment; the proposed modification of it will come before us for consideration later. The clause, as it is proposed to be amended, should not be modified in any way, but, if any modification is inserted, it should be’ under strict conditions, and exemption should be granted only on the recommendation of officers responsible for the welfare of the aboriginal. I assure the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) that, if the Treasurer’s amendment be carried, halfcastes Will be brought within the scope of the bill. If they are to be specifically excluded, that Will come UP for decision when the committee reaches the First Schedule. I suggest that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) should not press for the postponement of the clause because, if it were postponed, there would be difficulty in discussing other portions of the bill.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has anticipated some of the remarks which I had intended to offer in reply to honorable members. I can give the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) the assurance that any suggestions -which he is in a position to make by reason of his wide knowledge of the aboriginal and half-caste population of Northern Australia can be adequately and effectively dealt Avith at a later stage, when the first schedule is under consideration. This is the executive clause, under which all employed persons will be brought within the scope of the measure; but later, when the schedule is reached, the committee will have the opportunity to consider what persons may be excluded or exempted by the commission. I suggest to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that he should not press his amendment, because the points raised by him can be considered at a later stage.
.- I am glad that the Minister has agreed to the widening of the scope of this clause. Some aborigines are permanent employees and have fairly substantial bank balances; they are as much entitled to the protection of this Parliament as are any other employees, irrespective of nationality. The adult male aborigine who is a good worker receives at least £2 a week. The police officer in the district where he is employed sees that his wages are paid to his credit at the bank, and generally supervises his financial transactions. I hope that the Government will endeavour to ensure that the benefit of this legislation is never taken from the aborigines.
.- I join in the general expressions of appreciation of the Government’s action in this matter. ‘ The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) have taken a great interest in the welfare of the aborigines, and I am glad to have co-operated with them at all times. I appreciate the opportunity now presented to ensure to this section of the community the further protection which this bill provides. Before an aboriginal can come under the scheme he must be a worker, and he must be employed. If lie is willing to contribute to the insurance fund, his employer should also be ready to do so. The aboriginal contributor and his dependants should be entitled to ‘all the benefits under this bill. The State Protectors of Aborigines should be asked to advise the commission regarding the difficult’ problem of dealing with the aboriginal and half-caste problem. It is important to know how many of the natives are likely to remain steadily at work. If the benefits of the scheme were extended only to those aborigines who earn reasonable wages and will seek continuity of employment, it would be of advantage to white employees on outback stations. If overseas owners of large stations knew that they had to pay contributions to national insurance in respect of white employees and not in respect of aborigines, they might try to give preference to the latter. I hope that the principle which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has now accepted will Ibc adopted in connexion with other measures of a similar character, and, where practicable, extended, because assistance to the aboriginal population has been too long delayed. I am glad that the party to which I belong has taken the lead in this matter.
.- I am grateful to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey; for the action he has taken in this matter. As one who has been associated with the Aborigines Protection Board in New South Wales for many years, I regard the amendment as a step in the right direction. Many of tho- aborigines employed on mission stations are well educated, as school teachers are provided by the Education Department. In the western and north-western districts of New South Wales, many of the aborigines are highly intelligent, and are in permanent employment. They are regarded as highly-skilled workers, and give entire satisfaction to their employers. Many of them are well able to discuss the problems of the day, and their rights should be fully recognized. Their exclusion, in the first place, from the benefits of this bill was a gratuitous insult to a section of the community to whom we owe more than many of us are willing to acknowledge. I. regret the slurs cast upon them from time to time regarding their habits of life. The secular education which they receive has an elevating influence upon them.
– I am glad that the scope of the bill is to be widened to include every employed person, in Australia. The question as to the conditions under which aborigines or any other class shall be ‘enabled to participate in the scheme can be considered when the schedules are before us. I consider it entirely unnecessary to exclude natives of the islands of the Pacific from the benefits of this measure. The only kanakas left in my district are very old and decrepit, and I do not know one who is fit to work. They are a negligible number, and I do not believe that half a dozen of them could qualify for inclusion in the insurance scheme.
– Are there .no descendants?
– I took that matter up with Professor Brigden. It would be a grave injustice to make any reference in the bill to their descendants,’ because the great majority of such persons are good workers. They are employed on the same basis as Australians, and they endeavour to live on a similar scale. It would be a rank injustice to exclude the descendants from die’ benefits of the measure.
– The amendment will include them.
– Yes ; every employed person, irrespective of nationality, is to be included.
.- I am pleased that the Government has yielded to the pressure brought to bear upon it. The aborigines arc not properly treated in respect of the maternity allowance aud the invalid and old-age pension, and we should not inflict another injustice upon them by preventing them from enjoying the benefits of this bill. All aborigines, whether full-blooded, halfcaste, quarter-caste or threequartercaste, should be included, if they are earning their own living. Any foreigners who ‘become naturalized Australians will bo entitled to the benefits of this legislation, if they are employed persons, and uo benefit available to another citizen should be denied to an aboriginal.
– There seems to be general agreement as to the desirability of the amendment proposed by the Treasurer, but it is important for honorable members to have some idea of what the Government has in mind. Very fe aborigines are employed in my electoral , which is a metropolitan one, but a well educated aboriginal constituent of mine, the Aborigines Uplift Society in Victoria, and similar organizations which are interested in the native population, fear that distinctions may be made, even if this proposal be adopted. The Treasurer has stated that alterations or amendments will have to be made to the schedule on page 55, but he should give the House more indication of what it is he proposes to do. An injustice may be done by certain people who have aborigines in their employ. The amendment should commend itself to honorable members, because it will remove from this bill an injustice contained in other. legislation, such as that relating to pensions. It is true, as honorable members have said, that we owe much to the aborigines of Australia, and we should cease to discriminate against them. Since the Treasurer has indicated the possibility of amendments, I cannot see why he should not give us some satisfaction by stating their nature.
– That cannot be done in connexion with this clause.
– It is consequential to this clause and we should know definitely what is intended.
– I gave an indication, but only in general terms.
– There are many people interested in this subject, and they will require to be convinced that an injustice will not be done to the aborigines.
– The proposed amendments will be circulated well in advance.
– I am glad to have that assurance. We should know as soon as possible what is intended.
– I am pleased that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), on behalf of the Government, has seen fit to move an amendment which it was not competent for the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) to move. Indeed, ‘the Treasurer has gone a little further than the honorable member for Wakefield proposed. In certain parts of northern Australia there are men working on railway jobs who have in them sufficient aboriginal blood to have n.ade them ineligible to enjoy the benefits of this scheme had it not been for the amendment moved by the Treasurer. It removes what would have been a blot on this bill.
.- I cannot follow the reasoning of those honorable members who object to the postponement of this clause until after we know what the conditions are to be. I cannot see that the rights of any one will be prejudiced by postponing consideration until a later stage.
– Surely it is better to have the door open than to keep it closed.
– I want to know the condition? under which aborigines will be admitted or excluded. There is no need .to wait until the rest of the bill has been dealt with to be informed of what is intended. Any conditions which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) desires to impose could be made provisos to this clause. If the Treasurer’s amendment be accepted, clause 17 will read -
Subject to thi? act, all persons who have attained tlie age of sixteen years, and have not attained the maximum agc, shall be insured under and in accordance with this act as employed contributors.
That means that all persons over sixteen years of age are to be accepted as insured persons.
– All employed persons.
– All employed persons between the ages of 16 years and 65 years will be included in clause 17, but when we come, to the first schedule we may find that it is intended to exclude certain classes of persons between those ages. We in this Parliament may know that in another portion of the bill there is a further provision dealing with aborigines, but there are thousands of employers and employees throughout Australia who will not know that. Clause 17 should indicate who are to be excluded for one reason or another. No person who would come under the bill would be in any way prejudiced by the postponement of the clause until we have dealt with the conditions governing admission to, and exclusion from, the scheme.
– That applies also to the wage limit.
– I thank the honorable member for that interjection. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) welcomed the amendment of the Treasurer, but his remarks indicated that only those aborigines who were getting reasonable wages should be brought under the scheme. I canot agree that all should not get reasonable wages. Discrimination along the lines suggested by the honorable member for Moreton may be in the mind of the Treasurer, and included in the amendment to be proposed to the first schedule. If that be the intention, I would rather see the aborigines excluded entirely from this legislation. That is one of my reasons for asking that this clause should be considered in the light of the exemptions to be made. I cannot see how the rights of any person can be prejudiced by postponement, but I can see the possibility of aborigines being better off if excluded from this legislation altogether than if included under unsatisfactory conditions.
– Does the honorable member want them to be in or out?
– I want them to be in.
– They are now included.
– They are not. An amendment has been moved, but I want to know what conditions will apply to them. If the conditions are as suggested by the honorable member for Moreton, the position will be unsatisfactory.
– Postponement is not a solution.
– I think that it would be more satisfactory because it would enable the drafting of a sub-clause to clause 17 so that the whole provisions relating to aborigines would be confined to one clause instead of being set out in different places in the bill. I am not particularly concerned whether the amendment goes to a division or not. It is ridiculous to say in this clause that all employed persons over sixteen years of age are within the scope of the bill, and then to say later in the bill that some of them are outside it.
– I should not have risen a second time except for the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), which I find difficult to understand. He says that the committee will put itself in a ridiculous position by just opening the door to all aboriginal employees, and afterwards excluding some of them. Exactly the same procedure is adopted with white employees. The bill says they may all come in as insured persons, but Part II. of the first schedule deals with excepted employment, and with those classes of white employees who will be excluded from the operation of the bill. The proposed procedure will not affect aborigines or those who are partly aboriginal differently from white employees. They are all allowed in by this clause and exceptions are made later in the bill. If the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) had closed the door first and had given the committee an assurance that later he would open it to some extent, then I could understand the reasoning of the honorable member for Dalley. At present the door is wide open, and ashe wants it open, he should be satisfied.
– I wholeheartedly support the clause and for more than one reason. While I have criticism to offer on many provisions inthe bill, I consider that this clause embodies one of the . finest principles contained in any legislation in this country. I, and others, have approached the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and other Ministers with requests to remove from Australian democracy the blot which prevents some citizens from enjoying the benefits of social legislation. The clause removes one blot, and I regard it as one of the finest features of the bill. There was objection to it when it appeared to keep out aborigines, but the amendment puts them on the same footing as other persons. The clause will exclude many aborigines, but it will not exclude some men that I know who are highly respected tradesmen, sportsmen, and broadcasters at Wesley Church, and other places. The suggestion of the Treasurer is excellent. J want to emphasize how pleased I am that the amendment will enable Chinese or other foreigners, of whatever nationality, creed, or caste, to share in the benefits that other citizens of Australia enjoy.
Amendment (Mr. Rosevear’s) negatived.
Amendment (Mr. Casey’s) agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What steps does the Government propose to take to prevent the owners of industries from increasing the prices of their products as an offset to being compelled to subsidize employers’ contributions under the proposed national insurance scheme?
– It would not be possible to deal with this matter fully in reply to a question. I suggest that it would be more appropriate to deal with it in connexion with the debate on the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill now before the House.
Australian Aerial Medical Services: Accommodation For Pilot at Wyndham.
n asked the Acting Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Postal Department: Assistant Superintendent of Telegraphs at Adelaide.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
A committee is at present examining the trade marks law with a view to recommending its amendment in certain directions. When the committee’s report is available it will be presented to the Attorney-General for his consideration and, if its recommendations meet with the approval of the Government, a bill to give effect thereto will be introduced into the Parliament. The date of its introduction depends on the date of the return of the Attorney-General from his official mission overseas and the exigencies of parliamentary business.
Australian National War Memorial at Villers Bretonneux.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the structure to be unveiled by His Majesty the King at Villers Bretonneux on the 1st July is not the Australian National War Memorial which the Government determined should primarily fulfil the following conditions, under which, in utmost good faith, some 30 architects competed, viz.: -
Australian materials to be employed - The exterior and interior of the memorial, wherever seen, are to be faced with Australian granite and/or such other durable material of Australian origin as competitors may suggest.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
In 1926, the Commonwealth Government approved of the erection of a national memorial at Villers Bretonneux not to exceed £100,000 (inclusive of approximately £20,000 at the disposal of the Imperial War Graves Commission).
In 1927, as the result of a competition limited to Australian architects and designers who had enlisted or whose sons or daughters had enlisted for service in the Great War, the design of Mr. William Lucas, of Melbourne, was selected.
After consultation with the Imperial WarGraves Commission, Mr. Lucas completed his plans and these were then submitted to the Bureau of Fine Arts, Paris, whose approval was necessary before the work of construction could proceed. This approval was obtained in 1929, but, owing to the financial situation, construction was postponed and in 1931 the scheme was abandoned.
Subsequently, the Imperial War Graves Commission drew attention to the fact that the constructional programme for treating graves overseas of the fallen of the British Army had been completed and memorials to the missing (except at Vimy) erected, whilst the names of some 11,000 Australians missing on the Western Front had not been commemorated. The commission urged that action was necessary to proceed with the national memorial on which the missing were to be commemorated or, alternatively, to proceed with the memorial to the missing from the funds at their disposal for this purpose (approximately £20,000).
In 1935, the Commonwealth Government asked the Imperial War Graves Commission to submit for approval a design for a memorial at Villers Bretonneux to commemorate the 11,000 missing and incorporating tablets indicating the names of places where the remaining 8,000 missing were commemorated. The total cost of the scheme was not to exceed£30,000 (subsequently increased to £36,000).
In February, 1930, the scheme submitted by the War Graves Commission was approvedby the Commonwealth Government and the commission was requested to proceed with the work.
The design approved was prepared by the eminent British architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens. This architect had designed the entrance to the cemetery at Villers Bretonneux and, as this entrance also leads to the memorial site, it was appropriate that he should have been selected by the commission to design the memorial.
In view of the fact that most of the funds to be expended on the memorial have been provided by the Imperial War Graves Commission, it was reasonable that the construction of the memorial should be left in the hands of that body.
Mr. Lucas was reimbursed financially for the services he had rendered. 4 and 5. bee answer to question 2.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n. - On the 1st June, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The information desired by the honorable member is as follows : -
4 and 5. The numbers of sleepers in stock for maintenance purposes and for special resleeper ing referred to are -
On Trans-Australian Railway . . 72,300
On Central Australia Railway . . 52,000
y. - On Friday, the 3rd June, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380607_reps_15_156/>.