2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m.., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask the Min.ister of Defence, without notice, a question arising out of his reply yesterday to my question regarding the number of meetings which have .been held by the Board appointed to inquire’ into the case of Mr. Richmond, in British New Guinea. He will remember that he said that one. meeting had been held, namely, on the 5th October. I wish to ask the Minister whether he thinks that the method adopted to investigate this case is an expeditious one ; whether Ft is fair to Mr. Richmond to have his case so long undecided ; and whether, if the Board cannot soon come to a determination, he will endeavour to get a stipendiary or other magistrate appointed to take the place of any Commissioner who is unable to take part in the inquiry.
– I think’ that the honorable senator can form his own opinion as to whether the time which’ has been taken by the Board has been reasonable, or whether the inquiry has been as. expeditious as it ought to be. I do not think he ought to ask me to comment on a matter which affects my colleagues, and of which I have no personal knowledge.
– It does not affect the honorable senator’s colleagues.
– To a certain extent it does. I shall bring the -matter under the notice of the Prime Minister, and I have not the slightest doubt that’ a decision will be arrived at in the case as quickly as possible.
Report of Select Committee, ‘ presented by Senator Pearce-, read by the Clerk, and ordered to be printed.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether, in view of the fact ‘that we are supposed to be within a few days of the close of this session, he can give the Senate any idea as to when the next session of the Parliament will be commenced?
– I cannot give my honorable friend any information, as I have not consulted my colleagues on the subject.
– Arising put of that answer, I desire to ask the Minister whether he will represent tq his colleagues the importance of calling Parliament together as early. as possible next year, seeing that the general elections are to be held in the following December, and that its members desire a chance to give sufficient time to the business of the country, and to have a reasonable period in which to prepare for the elections.
– I shall represent my honorable friend’s views on the subject to the Prime Minister.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, without notice,: a question, which arises out of his reply to Senator Clemons last week, and which has reference to the resolution of the Senate, that in its opinion tenders should be immediately called for a contract for the conveyance of mails be. tween Australia and Great Britain. I would remind the honorable senator that on that occasion he stated that he would confer with his colleague with a view to impressing upon him the importance and urgency of the matter. I desire to ask if he is prepared to state whether the resolution has been given effect to, and whether it will be possible to lay the terms of the new tenders upon the table of the Senate before the Parliament is prorogued?
– I have conferred with the Postmas.ter-General. and have learned from him and from the Department that the question of calling for new tenders has received his earnest attention, and that it is now engaged in prosecuting a large number of inquiries for the purpose of obtaining information which is absolutely required before it can frame the conditions. That information is not expected to be to hand before, at the earliest, the end of this month, and it will not be possible to frame the conditions before the beginning of the new year, even if bv then. Under the circumstances, it will be impossible to lay upon the table the conditions on which the tenders for a new mail service will be called.
– Arising out of that reply, I desire to ask whether, in view of its resolution, the Government will give the Senate an assurance that a tender will not be accepted until it has had an opportunity of considering the tenders ?
– I am not in a position to give that assurance, because if the Government call for tenders, and are able to establish what they may consider a satisfactory service, it may be necessary for them to act before the Parliament reassembles.
– The honorable senator knows that his colleague will have to give three or four months’ notice.
– Quite so.
– Surely the Parliament will have reassembled before that notice has expired !
– I am not in a position to give the assurance for which the honorable senator asks.
– It looks to me like an attempt to get round the resolution.
– I can assure the honorable senator that there is not the slightest desire to do that. If he knew as much about the present position of affairs-
– But. the Minister will not tell us.
– I am not in a position to give to any honorable senator some of the information in connexion with this matter ; but I will say that the Government are respecting in spirit and letter the resolution of the Senate.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether, in view of the fact that the session is likely to end to-day or to-morrow, he will afford me an opportunity, say, halfanhourafter the recess for luncheon, to take a division on my motion respecting the nationalization of the sugar industry, which has been fully discussed during the session? I would remind the honorable senator that without my concurrence, he could not have deprived me of the opportunity to have it fully dealt with on Thursday last, and that I gave way to him upon getting his assurance that I should be afforded an opportunity to get a vote taken thereon.
– If the Government business is finished I shall afford the honorable senator the opportunity which’ he desires. There will be messages passing between the Houses directly, and the consideration of them will take some time. I recognise that the honorable senator very kindly gave way to me on a certain occasion, and I shall doall I possibly can, as I told him then, to assist him to get a division taken on his motion.
– I desire to ask the leader of the Senate, without notice, whether facilities will be afforded to honorable senators during the recess to visit the Northern Territory? It is possible that in time we shall be asked to take it over. We heard recently a reference to one Member of Parliament having visited the Northern Territory.
– The honorable senator should not argue the matter.
– My reason for asking the question is that some honorable senators might like to do exactly what he has done, in order to be able to judge for themselves as to the feasibility of working the Northern Territory with white labour.
– All I can promike is to bring the matter under the notice of my colleagues.
Message received from the House of Representatives, stating that it had agreed to the Senate’s amendment in clause 75.
Senator PLAYFORD laid upon the table the following papers : -
Report by Captain Collins, Secretary for Defence, on the various matters relating to the Canadian Defences and System of Defence Administration-
Report on Endemic and Epidemic Diseases in New Caledonia and the New Hebrides in relation to the Laws and Practice of Quarantine in Australia, by W. Ramsay Smith, D.Sc, M.B., CM., South Australia.
Agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth and Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. Ltd.
Ordered to be printed.
Memorandum by the Agents-General, on the question of Immigration, dated London, 10th November,1905.
Report on the Inspection of the Military Forces in Tasmania by Major-General H. Finn, InspectorGeneral of the Military Forces of the Commonwealth.
Report on British New Guinea for the year ended 30th June, 1905.
– Is the Minister in a position to lay on the table information regarding the statements of Mr. Carruthers, that was promised several days ago?
– I have not received the papers from the Department concerned.
– Can the Minister make any statement?
– I am not in a position to do so. The matter is not in my Department. A request has been forwarded for the information required, but I have received no reply.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether all increments granted to civil servants for the current year and provided in the Appropriation Act are payable as from the beginning of this financial year.
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
No. At least twelve months must elapse between the date of commencement of the previous increment and the date of commencement of the increment for the current year?
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, without notice, whether the return in regard to the increments, &c, to public servants will be circulated before the prorogation of Parliament?
– The return is, I understand, being printed. I shall ask that a copy be supplied to honorable senators, if possible, before the Senate rises.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is necessary in consequence of the Sugar Bounty Bill which we passed yesterday. It provides that the Excise on sugar shall be 4s. per cwt., as against the present Excise of 3s. The present rate would, under the existing Act, remain in operation until January 1907. The Bill, as it passed the other House, imposes no limitation of time, but it has been pointed out to me, and my colleagues confirm the suggestion, that it would be well to adopt a similar system to that which has been adopted wilh regard to the bounty - so as to limit the operation of the Excise to the end of the year 1913, and also to have a sliding scale for the two last years.
– Would not that be undoing what we did yesterday ?
– It is considered by another place that it would be advisable to make the latter alteration. My own opinion is that if we pass the Bill as it stands we shall confer an advantage, not only on the .producer of sugar by white labour, but also on the employer of black labour. That it is not proposed to do.
– An amendment has not been proposed by the other House.
– It is desired.
– How does the Minister know ?
– From the Prime Minister.
– He cannot know the opinion of another place. The statement is most improper.
– I thought it advisable to let honorable senators know the feeling of the other House. I do not see any harm in such an alteration. We can discuss th”e question better in Committee, and therefore I will say no more in moving the second reading of the Bill.
– The suggestion of the Minister in charge of the Bill is a most extraordinary one, in view of the long debate and the arrangement, finally arrived at yesterday. We spent hours and hours in calculating the payments that would be made and the money that would be received by the Treasurer. There was no proposition by the Minister that the Excise should be reduced or affected even by £I, much less by £4. It is simply playing with Parliament when, having made an arrangement in the expectation that the Excise Bill would be carried as presented to us, we find that the understanding; is given the go-by.
– There was no such statement made. It is all imagination.
– I do not care whether the arrangement was signed, sealed, and delivered, or not : but I do declare that every one expected that the two Bills would stand together. The arrangement made yesterday practically amounted to an understanding that the Excise Bill, as it was then before us, would be carried through.
– There was no such> understanding.
– On Friday last,, when the Minister introduced the Sugar Bounty Bill, I asked whether we might have the Excise Bill before us, so that it might be made certain that the additional Excise would be imposed before we consented to permit the payment of an additional bounty. Exclamations from all sides of the Sena’te showed that the general view of honorable senators was that the two Bills should be considered together. We have agreed to the one Bill, with certain amendments; but now a proposal is made by the Government for an alteration of a drastic character in the second. The suggestion that after a certain number of years the Excise is to be absolutely destroyed, and the revenue from sugar - which the representatives of every State who have spoken have declared to be very important - decreased, is most improper. The people are still expected to pay £z per ton additional duty, but there’ is to be,, at the end of the period named by the Minister, an absolute cessation of the £4 per ton Excise contributed by the trade to the public Treasury, representing something like ,£800,000. Are we prepared, at the end of a given period, to strike off the whole Excise at one blow? The proposal is simply monstrous.
– I think I can make the matter clear in a few words. What I propose to do now is to set a period coterminus with the period imposed in the Bill with which we dealt last night. I propose now to ask the Senate to insert in this measure the words “ until the 1st day of January, 1913.” If honorable members in another place choose to suggest some other alterations, they will have to be considered by us.
– I do not see that the suggestion of the Minister varies the position one iota.
– It is entirely satisfactory.
– I shall be very glad if any sufficient explanation can be given for what seems to me to be a very unsatisfactory position.- The Excise Act, passed four years ago, certainly did provide for trie termination of both Excise and bounty at a certain time. We have agreed to an extension of the bounty for a number of years. It was quite understood that the arrangement entered into yesterday meant that at the end of that time the industry would have to be content with the difference between the Excise and the Customs duties.
– That was never understood.
– It was certainly what I understood, and I shall watch with great interest any explanation that can be given.
– I am inclined heartily to fall in with the suggestion of the Minister. Whatever may be the merits or demerits of any proposal to limit the operation of the Excise Bill under ordinary circumstances, one has to remember, so far as this Bill is concerned, that we can only take ‘ it into consideration with due regard to the Tariff. I venture to say that long before 1913, this, or some other Chamber, will have an opportunity to discuss the whole Tariff question, and then can be reconsidered the extent and effect of the duty imposed on sugar under the Excise Bill. For the present, it seems quite immaterial whether the limit be fixed at 1913, or any other year. Parliament is simply left free to consider the whole matter between now and 1913; but the proposal throws on Parliament the obligation to reconsider the question if nothing is done in the meantime. Seeing that the Government have met us to some extent, and bearing in mind the absence of any disadvantages, I think we may fairly fall in with the proposal, and allow the Bill to go into Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time. hi Committee:
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
In lieu of the Duty of Excise imposed on sugar by the Excise Tariff 1902, there shall, as from and including the first day of January One thousand nine hundred and seven, be imposed* on sugar the following Duty of Excise : -
Sugar - per cwt. of manufactured sugar - Four shillings which duty shall be charged, collected, and paid to the use of the King for the purposes of the Commonwealth.
.- I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the clause by adding the following words :-“ until the first day of January One thousand nine hundred and thirteen.”
This amendment will make the Bill coterminus with the Bill we passed yesterday. ,
– I understand that the present Excise duty has no time limit?
– It will cease in 1906.
– I rise to express my regret at the change which the Minister proposes. I know that the question will be open to reconsideration, but we are now practically asked to express, an opinion favorable to the withdrawal of the Excise duty, while the Customs duty is retained.
– We are asked to do nothing of the sort. We are only expressing the opinion that in 1913 the question ought to be reviewed by Parliament, as it will be reviewed under any circumstances.
– Is the Minister prepared to place before us a Bill to terminate the Customs duty in 1913?
– At this hour of the session !
– There is no provision in the Customs Tariff act to terminate the Customs duty, and, therefore, we shall, by this Bill, simply say that while the Excise duty shall continue only for a certain number of years, the Customs duty shall remain for all time. That is a proposal to which I think the Senate ought not to agree.
– If this amendment be carried the Commonwealth, during the last two years of the period, will receive from sugar much more revenue than at present.
– Is it not time we did get some revenue from sugar, considering that we are losing thousands of pounds annually?
– In any case, I wish to make it clear that I object to sugar contributing anything to the revenue. At present, the Excise is £4 and the bounty £5, while the Commonwealth revenue from this source is £1 per ton. When the bounty is reduced to £2 the Excise will remain at £4, and the revenue will be £2, and so when, in the last year, the bounty is reduced to £1, the Excise will still be £4, and the revenue will be increased to £$ per ton. If Senator Playford’s prophecy is fulfilled, and there are 200,000 tons of sugar produced within the Commonwealth, we shall be in the happy position, from the indirect taxationists’ point of view, of receiving £600,000 in revenue from sugar.
-Col. Gould. - A very good thing, too !
– From my point of view, it is one of the worst things imaginable that we should obtain revenue from sugar. We have removed the duty, not only from tea, but from kerosene. We have endeavoured to as nearly as possible have a free breakfast table within the Commonwealth, and yet it is now proposed to impose a crushing tax of this character, not to create an industry, but, as I said last night, to save the skins of the land monopolists and wealthy people of Australia.
-Col. Gould. - Would the honorable senator favour doing away with the duty of £6 per ton?
– I am not talking to Senator Gould and other honorable senators who sit with him - they are past redemption. There are, however, other honorable senators who, unlike the gentlemen to whom I refer, do not understand their own policy. If we agree to this proposal with our eyes open, well and good. The only effect is to stave off the day of direct taxation, and make it more and more difficult for the people of Australia to break up the land monopoly. We are imposing burden after burden on the poor in order to relieve the rich. I ask honorable senators, who belong to the Labour Party, whether they are really serious in supporting this amendment.
– What is the honorable senator’s proposal?
– My proposal is that as the bounty is reduced the Excise ought to be reduced. The amendment before us, instead of making the position of the white man better, as compared with the position of the black man, will place the two more and more on a level - will make it more difficult to turn the black man out, and leave the white man in full possession of the industry. That may be the idea of my friends on the right, but it is not the policy of those who are faithful to the White Australia ideal.
– The honorable member is making very incorrect statements.
– Honorable senators like Senator Dobson would, no doubt be very glad to upset the calculations of those who believe in a White Australia. I do not blame the honorable senator, because I know that he does not believe in a White Australia, any more than he believes in direct taxation, in breaking up theland monopoly, or in taxing the rich. The honorable senator is for crushing the poorevery time.
– The honorable senator ought to be ashamed of himself!
– I excuse the honorable senator.
– I do not excuse Senator Stewart for making deliberate misstatements.
– I can prove to the hilt every statement I have made.
– The honorable senator cannot prove a word he has said, and! he ought to be ashamed of himself.
– I am not ashamed of myself.
– Then the honorablesenator ought to be.
– My hide is so well tanned by contact with the honorable senator and others like him that I am perfectly impervious. I really cannot support the proposal as it stands, for the reasons I have already given.
– The Customs and Excise duties will be reconsidered before five years are over.
– But this Billfixes a definite date, and the Government ought really to consider what is meant by the amendment.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - As the Bill came to the Senate, no limit of time at all was fixed in regard to the Excise duty of £4 per ton; therefore, we are certainly doing something in the right direction. The amendment will make it compulsory on Parliament to reconsider the question, and, moreover, we are following on exactly the same lines as those followed in the previous Bill.
Request agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported witha request; report adopted.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ amendments) :
Clause 4 (Interpretation) -
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After paragraph a insert nev paragraph : - (aa) By omitting the words “ for Home Affairs “ and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ of State administeringthe Act.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Perhaps it will be convenient on this amendment to informthe Committee of the general scope of the amendments which have been made by the House of Representatives. Attached to the message there is a schedule in which are set out some fortyfive amendments, which the House of Representatives has made to the Bill as sent down by the Senate. The first amendment is to provide that, instead of the Minister for Home Affairs appearing in the original Act as the Minister administering the Act, reference shall be to the Minister “ of State administering the Act.” Honorable senators will remember that suggestions have been made at different times that some other Minister than the Minister of Home Affairs, such as the Postmaster- General, for instance, might possibly be charged with the administration of the Electoral Act. If any such suggestion were to be adopted at any time, if this amendment be agreed to, no further alteration of theAct will be necessary to give effect to it. When the Bill was before us, we made provision in several clauses for the express repeal of sections of the original Act, which had been framed with regard to the then existing conditions, in order that the preparation of the first rolls and the first elections might be held under the Act. The operation of those sections had become exhausted, and we provided accordingly in the amending Bill for the repeal of those sections. There were, however, some other sections of the original Act which we did not repeal, and the operation of which have become likewise exhausted - sections connected with disputed returns dealing with matters to be attended to until the establishment of the High Court. Those sections are repealed by some of the amendments passed in another place. Perhaps the most important amendment, or series of amendments, which the House of Representatives has made to the Bill is connected with the question of the distribution of the States into electorates. The original Act provided a scheme by which the States should be distributed, and that the scheme and plans of the distribution proposed should be laid before Parliament and approved before the distribution could have the effect of law. Amendments were made in this Bill when it was before the Senate to provide for. the appointment of three Commissioners to distribute the States into elec torates, and it was decided that their distribution should not be subject to ratification or disapproval by Parliament. The House of Representatives, in striking out the amendments made in the Senate, have, in fact, restored the Bill to its original shape in this regard. Honorable senators will remember that one of the ground’s for the redistribution of the States into new electorates as provided by us was that one-third of the electorates in any State should be out of balance ; that is to say, that the number of electors in one-third of the electorates at least should be either in excess or below the quota by a certain proportion. The House of Representatives has altered that one-third of the electorates to one fourth. We provided in one clause in dealing with the matter of when a redistribution should take place, as a final case, whenever the Governor-General so directed. In order to make it perfectly clear that that should lie an entirely separate matter, the House of Representatives have inserted words which I think were suggested by Senator Millen in the Senate, providing that, notwithstanding anything in the preceding cases mentioned, a redistribution shall also take place when the Governor-General may direct. Provision was made in the Bill as it left the Senate by which the rolls might be used for State and Commonwealth purposes. There has been some redrafting of the provisions dealing with this matter.
– Has it been merelv redrafted?
– I think so. I think that the amendments made do not alter the spirit of the clauses as they passed the Senate. There was some surplusage in the clauses as we agreed to them, and the redrafting has reduced their volume without, I think, in any way altering the principle. In connexion with the claim forms by which applications are made for registration as electors,, the House of Representatives has made an amendment, which dispenses with the necessity to witness a claim form, so that, as a matter of fact, under the Bill, as amended in another place, an applicant for a vote will be able to send in his claim as he would ordinarily send in a letter. Honorable senators are aware that the Bill when before the Senate contained important provisions dealing with the abolition of revision courts, and we provided that returning officers and other officials might lodge objections to the name of anv person being on the roll. The House of Representatives has made an amendment in connexion with that procedure, whereby it will be obligatory on officers making official objections in the way provided to make them in’ writing and tq state the grounds. Under the original Act a minimum penalty of £5 was imposed on persons lodging frivolous objections. That provision in the original Act was made in connexion with the holding of revision courts, and was not included in the amending Bill, which provided for the abolition of those courts. But the House of Representatives has re-inserted the provision in this Bill, and asks the concurrence of the Senate. In the original Act there was a provision under which a person five miles away from his polling place on polling day, or who had reason to believe that he would be that distance away from the polling place on that day could obtain an absent voter’s certificate and vote by post. When the amending Bill was, before us, we increased the distance to ten miles, and the House of Representatives has made an amendment which amounts, in fact, to a compromise, fixing the distance at seven miles. In discussing the clauses dealing with voting by post, frequent reference was made here to the fact that many applications for postal-vote certificates were made which were not in conformity with the spirit of the legislation providing for their issue. It was suggested that the provisions of the Act in this regard were open to grave abuse. The House of Representatives has made amendments under which these applications for postal-vote certificates, having ‘been lodged with an official, would afterwards be open to public inspection, on application, until the time for an appeal against the election had elapsed. _ Considerable discussion arose concerning the classes of persons to be authorized witnesses in connexion with the postal-voting provisions. The House of Representatives, in amending the Bill as it left the Senate, has provided that they shall not be witnessed by persons in charge of post-offices unless they are permanent officials of the Commonwealth.
– Why have justices, of the peace been cut out?
– I am not in a position to say; but some honorable senators, when we were discussing the matter, intimated that some justices of the peace, in many instances, had not performed their duties in this regard with the scrupulousness and care which might have been expected from them. The House of Representatives has removed justices of the peace and medical practitioners from the list of authorized witnesses.
-Col. Gould. - It . would be very useful in certain places if medical practitioners were authorized as witnesses.
– I indicated that when the matter was under discussion in the Senate, and an honorable senator who had moved the omission of medical practitioners thereupon withdrew his amendment. An amendment has. been made in another place, providing that where an official votes for a blind person, he shall do so only in the presence >of a witness. That, I think, is a very desirable provision. We agreed that public notifications in connexion with elections should bear the name of the persons authorizing their publication ; and the House of Representatives has made an amendment eliminating from the provision ordinary advertisements announcing merely the holding of meetings. There was considerable discussion in the Senate in connexion with the practice of canvassing at, or near, a polling booth. The Bill, as introduced, prohibited canvassing within a radius of twenty-five yards of the polling booth, but that provision was struck out. The House of Representatives has on this matter suggested what may be considered a compromise, and we are asked to agree to an amendment providing that canvassing shall not be permitted at the entrance to, or within a polling booth.
– Does that mean a yard from the entrance?
– That would depend upon the circumstances in each case.
– The matter is left in a very loose form.
– It is a very difficult matter to deal with. In the Senate, I asked honorable senators to agree to prohibit canvassing within a radius of twentyfive yards of the booth, but it was urged that it would be impossible to tie canvassers down under such a provision, unless we chalked out a line.
– The compromise suggested by another place means nothing.
– As the clause left the Senate, we prohibited canvassing at the entrance to a polling booth, and the Committee, I regret to say, did not adopt a definite radius. These are, in the main, the amendments properly so-called - that is, alterations of the provisions in the Bill as it left the Senate’. There are some minor alterations which are merely verbal and of no consequence so far as substance is concerned. In addition to asking us to consent to those alterations, “ the other House asks us to insert some new clauses. One of them provides that it shall be competent for a person who has been nominated for an election to consent to the withdrawal of his nomination up to the last hour for receiving nominations. Another new clause provides that in the event of a, person having been nominated for election dying before polling day his deposit may be returned to his personal representative. Another new clause provides that if a claim to vote has been given to a person, with the intention that he shall send it in to be attended to, and he has failed to do so, he shall be liable to a penalty, unless he can prove that his omission was purely bond fide. I ‘believe that, under certain circumstances,,, persons have got claimants to hand to them claims to vote, and said that they would be sent along in due course, and that the claimants would be enrolled as electors; but, finding that their views were of the wrong colour, they have omitted to transmit the claims, and consequently when the claimants have gone to vote, they have found that they had not been enrolled. To prevent a practice of that kind from being pursued., it is provided that a penalty shall attach to any sucH omission, unless the receiver of the claim can show that it should not attach. Another new clause provides that, if necessary, employers shall allow to their employes a certain time off, not to exceed two hours, for the purpose of attending the polling place and voting, and that it shall be allowed without any disproportionate reduction of the men’s wages. A further new clause provides that the Court of Disputed Returns, in dealing with any matter, mav report to the Minister the occurrence of any illegal practices in connexion with an election. Then the House of Representatives provides that in connexion with the Court, counsel or solicitors shall not be engaged on behalf of a party, unless with the consent of both parties. There is not even provision made that the Court itself may grant leave for the employment of counsel or solicitors.
– Is the Minister going to ask the Committee to accept that amendment ?
– If the honorable senator will move that the Court have power to authorize the employment of counsel, I shall be very pleased to support him.
– When a man is accused of having been guilty of bribery. ano illegal practices;.., surely he ought to be able to have legal advice ! It is a most shameful provision to suggest, I think.
– There is also a new clause limiting the generosity of candidates. It provides that within a certain period prior to the elections candidates shall not give donations or prizes to clubs or other associations.
– For what period ?
– The clause reads as follows: -
Any person who having announced himself within three months before the day of election as a candidate for election to the Parliament shall before the poll for the election is closet offer promise or give directly or indirectly to a for any club or other association, any gift, dona tion or prize, shall be guilty of an offence agains this section.
– I think that the provision ought to be general, and not limited to three months
– Another new clause proposes to restrict the defamation of a candidate. It reads: -
Provided always that it shall be a defence to a prosecution for an offence against this subsection if the defendant proves that he had reasonable ground for believing and did in fact believe the statement made or published by him to be true.
Provision is also made to enable a man to restrain by injunction the repetition of such an offence.
– Are not the circumstances sufficiently covered by the ordinary slander and libel laws?
– The only difference is that under this new clause proceedings could be taken before a Court of summary jurisdiction.
– That is all covered by the criminal libel provisions.
– No. The honorable senator knows that if a candidate were to take advantage of those provisions, it would mean that the other person would have to be prosecuted on information or indictment, but under this new clause he could be punished summarily by a Court of summary jurisdiction acting under the Judiciary Act. We are asked by the other House to insert a. new clause, providing for a reduced rate in connexion with telegrams containing matter relative to an election, so long as they contain only - the names of divisions, names of candidates, and the numbers of votes polled for each candidate, and lodged for transmission on the day of or before noon on the day after the day of election may, subject to regulations, be transmitted on payment of the rates prescribed in the Second Part of the Second Schedule to the Post and Telegraph Kates Act 1902.”
That js to say, at press rates. There is also a new clause to provide a reduced rate for posting election addresses. It would enable a candidate to put in the post a number of election addresses, and send them at the rates provided for the conveyance of ordinary newspapers.
– Is that rate lower than what would be charged for conveying ordinary business circulars ?
– Yes. In the case of business circulars, the rate is, I think, one halfpenny each, but in the case of newspapers the rate is, I think, id. for every 20 ozs. As honorable senators know, the publishers put their newspapers up in large bundles, and the weight is charged for at the rate of id. for 20 ozs.
– In the case of the rates for telegrams, what is the difference?
– The difference is considerable. The rates for press telegrams are as follow: -
– Does the new clause relating to the posting of election addresses mean that they can go post free?
– No. A candidate will be able to envelope and direct 1,000 addresses to be weighed at the postoffice, and to be transmitted at the same rate as is charged for” the transmission of newspapers, that is to say -
On all newspapers posted for delivery within the Commonwealth (without condition as to the number contained in each addressed wrapper), by registered newpaper proprietors, or by. newsvendors, or returned by an agent or news-vendor to the publishing office, one penny per twenty ounces on the aggregate weight of newspapers so posted by any one person at any one time.
– Do I understand that for the sum of1d. a separate circular would be sent and delivered?
– Suppose that a candidate happened to be contesting a Senate seat for New South Wales, with its 600,000 electors, and sent through the post 600,000 addresses ?
– If the addresses were not too heavy, they would go through the post at a very low rate. These are all the alterations which are of any importance. I thought it was better on the first amendment to indicate the general scope and purport of the amendments of the other House.
-I am obliged to the Minister for outlining this very lengthy list of amendments, which, under ordinary circumstances,, would, I think, have provided material for at least a week’s work. The fact that, in order to consider the amendments, one has to be provided with the Act. the Bill as introduced here, the Bill as it left here, and a schedule of the amendments made by the other House, will give an idea as tothe intricate problems which is presented to those who desire to ascertain what changes have been made. That is another argument in favour of the contention that the Government ought to have brought in an amendingBill, instead of proceeding as they have done. There are two amendments to which, at the proper time,I shall invite attention. It will be remembered that I took an active part with regard to an amendment to place in the hands of a Commission the duty of subdividing each State into electorates, rather than to leave the plans of the Commissioners to be submitted for the approval of each House of the Parliament. I propose to ask the Committee to adhere to its decision, for reasons which I shall submit by-and-by. The other matter on which, I think, it might reasonably be asked to express its opinion, is the insertion of a new clause which proposes to make considerable financial concessions to candidates for election. I am entirely opposed to that proposition. Of course, the Minister, in merely indicating the scope of the amendments was not required to address any argument in its favour. The Senate is largely ignored, and that arises entirely from the fact that we have been content to take a subordinate position. I cannot conceive of any argument justifying them which will at all outweigh the strong feeling which is found to be entertained throughout the constituencies if it is seen that the Legislature has conferred any special concessions or privileges upon those who constitute the Parliament.
SenatorMulcahy. - All candidates should be treated alike.
– I am dealing with that new clause, which provides that postal and telegraphic facilities should be granted to candidates, as compared with the rates charged to other people transacting any other business. I would very much’ sooner see a proposal for increasing the emoluments of members of Parliament than see increases obtained in these petty ways.
Motion agreed to.
Amendment, inserting new clause 4A, agreed to.
Clause 8 -
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit this clause.
Motion (by Senator Keating) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I have a few observations to make as to why this clause should not be omitted. There are two points to which I propose to address myself ; first, the merits of the proposal itself, and, secondly, the position of the Senate with regard to the other House in the shaping of the laws of this country. So far as the proposal itself is concerned, honorable senators will Be aware that it has been advocated on the ground that it is always difficult to expect a House of Parliament, the individual members of which are directly concerned, to be entirely free from personal bias or prejudice in matters of this kind. It was therefore thought by the Senate - and I hope we think so still - that this question should be taken altogether from Parliament, and placed in the hands of an absolutely impartial Commission, I could expand that argument, but the matter was before the Senate so recently that I do not propose to do so. But I would remind honorable senators, in justification of the fear expressed during the debate, that not long ago we had in the Federal Parliament itself subdivision schemes rejected with the result in the case of my own State - and I believe in two other States as well - a most inequitable representation of the people was secured. It was inequitable in this respect that on the one hand we had electorates of 10,000 and 12,000, and on the other hand, electorates of 30,000 people, having the same voice in the shaping of the laws of the country. The basis of our parliamentary system is. certainly equality of voting power. By general reasoning and experience we should be convinced that it is essential to remove from members, who are so directly and personally interested,the whole question of determining the boundaries of their individual electorates. I come now to what, to my mind, is an even more important reason why the Senate should adhere to its proposal. That the Minister should ask us to agree to the amendment of another place was inevitable. On a similar occasion some time since - though not in this session - I pointed out that it was unfortunate for the Senate, and one of the factors which was likely to weaken this Chamber, that we never could expect Ministers here to champion the rights of the Senate with regard to legislation; that whenever a dispute occurred between the two Houses, Ministers in the Senate were practically bound to support the. decision of the other House, and to ask us to surrender our will to the House of Representatives. That arises from the fact that a large number of Ministers are in the other House, and that’ that House more directly controls the fate of Governments. I pointed out that the Senate was seriously handicapped in having those who conduct its business, standing as advocates of the rights of the other Chamber against the Senate. That position is illustrated to-day. I make these remarks without personally reflecting upon the Minister in charge of the Bill, or his colleague. The position seems to me to arise from the facts of the case. It would occur whatever Minister was in charge, and whatever members of the Senate held office. I direct attention to the matter not so much with a view of criticising Ministers, as of pointing out the facts that have to be taken into considerati on, by the Senate, if it wishes to maintain the rights which the Constitution confers upon it. I have pointed out the disabilities under which the Senate is. placed in the fact that the Ministers who should be the natural leaders of any movement for the assertion of its rights naturally become advocates of the rights of the other Chamber. Another matter upon which I desire to touch is as to the right of the Senate to express its .will or to insist upon that expression being observed in relation to this matter. The chief argument, so far as I have been able to learn, against the proposal of the Senate is that this is .a subject which comes more exclusively within the province of the other branch of the Legislature, seeing that it affects the electorates of members of the House of Representatives. But I venture to say that there never has been brought before the Senate a proposal in which State rights were more closely involved than they are in this. The subdivision of a State into electorates affects the States, as States ; because the acceptance or, rejection, of a subdivision scheme may deprive a State of representation to which it is entitled, or may secure to a State representation to which it is not entitled. Let ustake the case of a redistribution being necessary after a census has been taken. Let it be assumed that, as the result of that census, one State is entitled to more members, and another State to less, than it previously enjoyed. A subdivision scheme is designed. It is submitted to the House of Representatives, which rejects it. It never comes before the Senate, and it would not matter if it did, because the proposal of the House of Representatives is that both Houses must approve. In the case which I have indicated, where the redistribution would secure larger representation to one State and smaller to another, the rejection of the subdivision scheme by the House of Representatives would have the effect of depriving one State of additional representation, and of securing to another State representation to which it was not entitled. Therefore, I say that it is entirely a matter of State concern which, properly comes within the functions which the Constitution imposes upon the Senate;. For that reason I hope that the Senate will stand by its proposal. Honorable senators are aware that not long since a member of this Chamber, who took a very prominent part in shaping the Constitution, expressed his profound dissatisfaction as to the state into which the Senate was drifting as a coordinate branch of the Federal Legislature and I am sure that if honorable senators expressed their candid opinion they would share that dissatisfaction. The Senate has not taken up that strong position which it was expected to occupy when Federation was first launched. It is rapidly drifting into the position not of a glorified Legislative Council, but of a Legislative Council unglorified.
– Oh !
– -I am expressing my firm conviction.
– We have not reached that state of degradation yet.
– I should resign if I thought that.
– The honorable senator will perhaps be saved the necessity of doing so if he waits a few months longer.
My statement is justified first by the fact that whenever there is a difference of opinion between the two Houses upon a major matter,, the Senate has been asked by the Government to recede from the position taken up, and has invariably done so. That is the first factor which induces the belief that the Senate is assuming the character of a Legislative Council. We see it also in reports in the press, and from the public utterances of public men.
– The reason that we are not reported in the press is that we do not squabble.
– I beg to differ from the honorable senator if he assumes that to be the only reason. We have only to contrast the newspaper reports of the debates in this and another Chamber on the sugar bonus question. That question was debated without any squabbling in another place, and was reported at considerable length, although no amendment was there affected. On the other hand, very scanty notice was taken of the debate in the Senate, where an amendment was made.
– We do not talk nonsense - that is the explanation.
– To some extent I agree that the way in which to get prominence in the press is to say something we regret immediately afterwards.
– The great success of a newspaper is in entirely misrepresenting what public speakers say. That little affair of Senator Smith’s referred to in the Argus was a lie from beginning to end.
– That is a matter with which we are not now dealing. If I am correct, that the Senate is drifting into the position of a secondary Chamber, entirely contrary to the Constitution, it is quite evident that at some time we shall be absolutely ignored. If honorable senators do not believe in the proposal which. I have laid before them, I do not ask them to vote for it; but if they are convinced of its soundness, there is no reason why we should not insist on giving expression to our view. There is no better question on which the Senate could assert its undoubted constitutional rights. This is a matter which involves a question of deep-seated concern to the States, and also loyal obedience to the Constitution, which provides for equal representation. That equal representation can be obtained only by some automatic scheme applied to the several
States; and for that reason I ask the Committee to join with me in declining the proposal made by the House of Representatives.
– I hope that the Committee will agree to the amendment presented to us by the House of Representatives. The debate on this question in the Senate was very lengthy, and was really only a repetition of the debate which took place on the first Electoral Bill.
– The marking out of constituencies by members of Parliament has never been successful anywhere.
– At present I am merely referring to the debate which took place on the question. The House of Representatives, like every other House of Parliament, jealously guards the right to have the final word in the marking out of electoral districts. Senator Millen seems toimply that there is somedoubt cast on the right of the Senate to interfere in such matters; but I do not think that is so.
– I drew my conclusion from the speeches made in support of the proposals submitted to us.
– No doubt honorable members of another place indicated that this is a matter which much more closely concerns the House of Representatives than it does the Senate.
– Honorable members of another place said that it was impertinence on our part to touch this question.
– As a mere matter of courtesy, I think we ought to give way,, seeing that it is the House of Representatives which is affected.
– As Senator Millen, on another matter, just now suggested, possibly honorable members in another placewere accorded publicity in the press because of utterances which they subsequently regretted. In my opinion, both Houses of Parliament ought to reserve the right to revise any electoral divisions made by outside persons. Parliament is responsible to itself and to the people, and ought to maintain this right of revision. Persons outside Parliament, who have this duty imposed upon them, may, for various reasons, though notwantonly, or with any wrong intent, mark out divisions which are not suitable; and, under such circumstances, Parliament ought to have an opportunity to express an opinion.
-C’ol. GOULD (New South Wales). - I can understand the attitude assumed by the Minister. In the first place, the proposal under discussion was not introduced by the Government, but by Senator Millen, and, in the next place, the Government doubtless desire to get this Bill out of hand as rapidly as possible. Under the circumstances, there may be a somewhat clouded view as to the right of the Senate to insist on such an important amendment in the electoral law. In matters in which Parliament ana individual Members of Parliament are interested, it would be well if means were provided by which decisions could be arrived at by people altogether independent and impartial. That principle has already been recognised in the case of disputed elections. In many Parliaments such questions are dealt with by a Committee, and, unfortunately, party feeling enters unduly into their considerations. Very often decisions are given which could not be justified on the ground of abstract right; if any flagrant violation of the law can be kept out of the public gaze, party feeling enters very largely into the decisions. However, the Commonwealth Parliament is endeavouring to improve itself in “ this respect, and, without any regard to the question of interference by one House with the other, I think that the House of Representatives is proceeding on altogether a false basis when it claims for Parliament the right to decide as to the reasonableness of electoral divisions. It might as well be said that one of the Houses of Parliament should have the right to direct the Judges in the administration of the law. Parliament lays down laws and prescribes certain punishments, but it is quite recognised that Parliament is not the proper tribunal to determine particular cases. A certain basis has been laid down for the demarcation df electorates, and we may take it for granted that fewer mistakes are likely to be made by an independent tribunal than by either House of Parliament. Senator Millen has already pointed out that, owing to the absence, of agreement as to a scheme in the last Parliament, constituencies were really gerrymandered, with the result that there was gross inequality in representation. No man can justify 12,000 persons in one electorate having the same power, weight, and influence in Parliament as have 30,000 or co. 000 electors in another electorate. This Parliament has one more session to live through; .and the population has shifted in such a way as to deprive one State of a member, and give an additional member to another State. Until there is a redistribution it is impossible to get these inequalities remedied, and if no agreement can be arrived at, the elections will take place on the old scheme and the anomalies will continue. In the next Parliament, the representatives of the people will have a keen eye to the elections, and it will bedifficult for a man to reconcile his constituents to the fact that he assented to the loss of a-. representative without “ putting up a good fight.”
– With anything like fair and honest treatment, Victoria would” never have been deemed entitled to twentythree members. Victoria counted all coloured aliens as part of the population, whereas Queensland was not allowed to count one.
-Col. GOULD.- By that means, the representation was made disproportionate; it was altogether wrong, irregular, and contrary to the principlelaid down in the Constitution. Although the representatives of Victoria have endeavoured to prove that they are entitled to continue with their present representation, cold statistics are too much for them. In my opinion, it is much better to allow all these matters to be dealt with by anindependent tribunal. On the 26th October last, as reported on page 4144 of Hansard, the division in favour of the proposal of Senator Millen was carried by a majority of four, and I hope that the Senate will’ adhere to its previous decision. It may be said that to insist on the amendment will’ cause some difficulty between the Houses. It may be that we shall be unable to pass th’is measure during the present .session, but, in my opinion, it would be far better to insist upon our amendment, even at the expense of losing the Bill, and having toreconsider the whole question next session. The amendment we made in the Bill, as introduced, deals with a matter of very greatimportance, and it is one which the Senatehad a perfect right to insert in any measure dealing with’ the Electoral law. As representatives of the States, we are even more interested in the fair and equitable division of those States into electorates than are individual members in another place, who’ representing particular portions of each State, are naturally anxious to keep them within such metes and bounds as will suit their purpose when they have to seek reelection. I make that statement without imputingany dishonorable motives whatever to honorable members in another place.
– The real question which we are asked to consider now is whether the Senate had a right to dictate to the House of Representatives in this matter ?
– That is taking very low ground.
– I take higher ground in dealing with this question than does SenatorDobson because the honorable senator supports a proposal to hand over our constitutional rights as members of the Federal Parliament to a Commission, over which we will have no control. The amendment agreed to by the Senate left the important question of the distribution of the States into electorates in the hands of a Commission, and declared that the Federal Parliament had nothing whatever to do with it.
– What about objections to the return of a member ? To whom do we leave the settlement of those questions ?
– Let us deal with one thing at a time. We have no right to hand over our constitutional rights to an outside Commission.Why should we give outside Commissioners the right to distribute the seats, and say : “ We shall not review your work, no matter how ridiculously you perform it.” I hold that Parliament should always retain the power to revise the work that it intrusts to Commissioners. I hope that the Committee will not, in this matter, attempt to dictate to the House of Representatives. The amendment which was carried on the Bill, as introduced involves, in my opinion, dictation of a very offensive kind to honorable members in another place. The right thing for us to do is to comply with their wishes, and reverse the decision to which we came when we last dealt with this matter.
– I conceive it to be my duty to support the clause which I supported before. I am not concerned with the fact that certain honorable members in another place have criticised our action as an impertinence, and I agree with Senator Keating that they will probably regret having expressed such an opinion. I am not in any way influenced by the statement that we are dictating to another place, nor shall I put the matter on the low ground on which Senator de Largie has put it. We have not to consider the rights and privileges of honorable members in another place, but our duty to the electors of the Commonwealth. A vital principle is involved in the clause to which we agreed!, and I am not prepared to abrogate myduty in dealing with the matter. There is no dictation to the other place in what we did, and Senator de Largie has misstated the issue. We might mention one or two instances to show the danger of the course upon which honorable members in another place are asking us to enter. The ReidMcLean Government was kept in office for some months by two votes - that is, by the support of one honorable member. I would ask honorable senators what would take place in that Chamber, or in any other composed of human beings, if the fate of the Government depended upon whether a certain Commissioner drew lines in one direction or in another, and the persons interested had to decide the matter. It is monstrous to suggest that we should in this connexion depart from the principle that men are not good judges in their own cause. We should remit the settlement of this matter, as we have done in many other cases to a judicial and disinterested tribunal. In Tasmania, when it was found necessary to alter the boundaries of two or three electorates, the Premier of the day, Sir Elliott Lewis, gave his consent to a redistribution of seats, which’ absolutely wiped out his own constituency, and included most of it in the constituency of Brighton, which I used to represent. He decided not to oppose the gentleman who represented Brighton, and that gentleman was re-elected, whilst Sir Elliott Lewis was defeated in contesting one of the Hobart constituencies. Although he was the ablest man in the Parliament, he was defeated, in consequence of the redistribution which had been made. If he had been a professional or party politician, with a following behind him, he could have found many reasons, honorable on the face of them, to prevent his old constituency of Richmond being wiped out.
– What does the honorable senator mean by a professional politician ?
– Senator Dawson can put his own interpretation on the term, but I think that a professional politician is one who lives by politics;, and, consciously or unconsciously, always looks to himself first.
Senator GRAY(New South Wales).I intend to support Senator Millen in this matter. If is most unfortunate that it should be brought up for discussion on the last day of the session. If sufficient time were given for its consideration, I believe that the Committee would recognise the wisdom of the course taken in the first instance, and would adhere to it. Possibly the indirect threat that if we adhere to our amendment we may lose the measure, will have its effect, but! the principle involved is of so much importance that I hope such a threat will be treated as it deserves. Theobjectof the amendment we made was to remove the settlement of this important question from the decision of interested parties. There can be no doubt that honorable members in another place would be influenced by their personal interests in dealing with such a matter and the same bias would no doubt affect the decision of members of the Senate if they were placed in a similar position.
– The honorable senator believes that we shall’ get a better decision from those outside of Parliament?
– I believe that lookerson very often see most of the game. We are sent here as trustees for the people, and, having no personal interest in this matter, we are better able to consider the interests of the people in dealing with it than are honorable members in another place, who are naturally biased in favour of what suit’s themselves.
– Why not apply the same principle in dealing with the Federal Capital Site?
– I can dealonly with the matter before the Committee. I hope the Senate will adhere to its first decision, as that will give a guarantee to the electors that their interests in this matter, which are very great, will be considered apart from the personal interests of honorable members in another place. We rely upon Commissioners to a very great extent, because we believe that they will bring an independent! judgment to bear upon the questions submitted to them.
– But we never give up the right to review their . decisions.
– We do. The Railways Commissioners in Victoria and in New South Wales are given complete control of the railways of those States.
– They are not.
– This Parliament has already given the Minister of Trade and Customs powers exceeding those conferred upon any Minister in any other part of the world. He has been made the sole arbiter, under the Commerce Bill, in matters affecting the whole of the commercial interests of the Commonwealth, involving exports and imports to the value of millions of pounds. Every thoughtful man must agree that this is a question the settlement of which should be taken out of the hands of those who are personally interested, and placed in the hands of Commissioners, who will be entirely disinterested. I venture to say that if that were not done there is not a member of the other House who, if he “found that his political interests were likely to be prejudiced by a redistribution, would not immediately do his best to get it altered. There would be a scramble on the part of members of the other House to see that their electorates were so partitioned as to best serve their interests, for we cannot regard them as being superior to those selfish instincts which are inherent in human nature. Surely the members of the Senate who have no personal interest in the division of the States should be in a better position to deal with this phase of political life than the members of the other House can be. For that reason, I shall vote to adhere to our amendment, and I hope that the Committee will pay no attention to the threats, direct or indirect, about dropping the Bill, but will, as trustees for the people, do what in their opinion will conduce to the best interests of the Commonwealth.
– As the Senate is a co-ordinate branch of the Parliament, I cannot admit that the other House should have any more power with regard to the division of the States into electorates than it has. Each State is represented by six senators, and we are all supposed to take a broader view of questions than are the representatives of divisions of a State. Unfortunately, we have had a notable instance in which, from the want of a similar provision, New South Wales has been practically deprived of an additional member, and we cannot, without protest, admit that such a state of things should continue. Let us look at the provision in the new clause. The Commission would be altogether free from political ties, and would include a Judge of the Supreme Court of a State, the Surveyor-General, or head of the Survey Department of the State, and the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State, unless the Governor-General should think fit to appoint a gentleman to act on behalf of any one of them who could not perform the duty. It is our duty to see that the provisions of the Constitution are carried out. Why any politician should be at liberty to tamper with the Constitution, I fail to understand. In fact, our own action in appointing Judges to try distputed returns proves that we have found, by experience, that sometimes an outside authority will take a more impartial viewthan we can. I was on a Select Committee of the Senate in which, unfortunately, party feeling was carried to such an extent that, although we met over! and over again, we could not come to a satisfactory conclusion in regard to a petition against the appointment of a senator. I was very much struck then with the advisability of having an impartial tribunal like the Supreme Court to settle a matter of that sort. In like manner, I think that justice will more probably be done by adhering to our clause. Unfortunately, there is a tendency outside to look upon the Senate as a sort of revising Chamber. Even members of the other House have sometimes twitted us about it. Let us avail ourselves of this splendid opportunity to maintain the dignity of the Senate by adhering to our previous decision.
– I do not think that we ought to be influenced by the fact that members of the otherHouse have expressed themselves in an unkind or improper way in regard to our action. We ought to view this matter from a right stand-point. I do not see any reason for departing from our previous judgment. In matters of this sort, it is in the highest degree desirable that any decision should be given by an entirely impartial tribunal. I have had, I suppose, as much experience in electoral matters as has the majority of the people. Time after time I have found that a correct decision has been prejudiced by the action of interested parties when they had to be the judges. The position of the members of the Senate as compared with that of members of. the other
House,, is, I think, equally strong, and equally needs safeguarding. We arecalled upon, I think, to see that the Stateis cared for, that its interests are not overlooked in any form, and that we do all that lies in our power to support everything which may tend to insure an impartial judgment, and preserve us from the prejudicial influence of any passing feeling which might be in the minds of honorable members in another place when matters of this sort came up for consideration. Therefore I trust that the Committee will firmly adhereto its clause.
– In his address, Senator de Largie seemed to confuse the issue as between the right of Parliament to legislate and the transfer of that right to some other body. In my speech I endeavoured to explain that in our action we were really asserting the rights of the Parliament, because we were prescribing the conditions under which the Commissioners should give their decision. The Commissioners provided for in the clause would not be men of whom we should have no knowledge, but men with whom we should be thoroughly well acquainted, and upon whom we could rely to do what was fair, just, and reasonable. If a man has committed an offence, he is not tried by the Parliament, but by some authority whom it has appointed for that purpose. The Parliament was called’ upon to provide for the division of the Stales into electorates, and it laid down the rules under which that work shall be done, and prescribed the persons by whom they were to be carried into effect. I think that if Senator de Largie will look at the question from that clear stand-point, he will see that the Parliament is not asked to surrender any of its rights.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to- put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to..
Amendment inserting new clauses9a, 9b, and12a and amendments in clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 (Subdivisions and polling places).
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Insert following new paragraph : - “ (44) Appoint such polling places for a division outside the division, but not more than ten miles from its boundary as he thinks necessary.”
Motion (by Senator Keating) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– Does not the Minister think that this amendment will lead to difficulties? It seems to me that there might, for instance, be polling places for the Melbourne electorate in the Kooyong electorate. Will they be distinguished from the Kooyong polling places?
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - The powers under this provision will be exercised in the less densely populated localities. Persons might be upon the boundary of a division, and it would be more convenient for them to vote at a polling place outside their own division than in that division. To meet suchcases, officers are empowered to supervise the voting of electors at polling places outside their own divisions.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).What necessity is there for the insertion of this amendment? The words are surplusage. The original Bill provided that the Governor-General may appoint such other polling places for each division as he thinks fit. He does not say where they are to be located.
– The provision is not quite clear.
– I suppose that in furtherance of the policy of humiliation which it has taken upon itself, the Committee will agree to the amendment of the other House, whether advantageous or not. The Minister is always a traitor to the rights of the Senate.
– The same might be said by members of another place as to amendments accepted by the Minister there.
– I wish to understand the effect of the amendment made by another place. Hitherto it has been the custom to establish polling booths all over the State of Queensland, at which electors can vote outside their own divisions. For instance, a man can vote in Brisbane for any division in Queensland. If this amendment is carried, it appears to me that that arrangement will be knocked upon the head.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - This amendment will not interfere with the present arrangements, but is intended to meet certain classes of cases. Where it may be convenient for a number of electors living on the boundary of an extensive constituency to vote at a polling place in an adjoining constituency, they will be permitted to do so.
– They can do that under the Bill as it stands.
– But that provision of the Bill did not seem to contemplate the appointment of special polling places. What Senator Stewart has described applies also to Tasmania. One can vote in Launceston or Hobart for any electorate in the State. But this amendment will clearly indicate the class of cases to which I have referred.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - The Minister’s answer makes it clear that this amendment is either unnecessary or highly pernicious. First he says that this provision will not interfere with the existing arrangement. The GovernorGeneral already has power to make a polling place for a division in another division a mile away from it, or 500 miles away. But, on the other hand, the insertion of this amendment will limit the Governor-General to the appointment of a polling place outside the boundary of a division. On the well-known principle that where a certain thing is expressed other things are excluded, the amendment ought not to be agreed to. If the Governor-General wished to appoint a polling place in Adelaide to be the polling place for some other part of South Australia, he would not be able to do it, because it might be said that the other division was more than ten miles away. I ask the Committee to reject the amendment.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).The statement has been made, although, perhaps, the Chairman did not hear it, that I had no authority to pair Senator Symon in the last division. I wish to put it on record that I had absolute and unqualified authority to pair Senator Symon on the second reading or otherwise, as I liked.
– The Committee has nothing to do with pairs.
– Nevertheless, I draw your attention to the remark.
– I made the remark referred to, because, in a previous division, Senator Playford voted. Senator Millen said that he had no authority to pair Senator Symon on that occasion
– I had every authority, and I made no such statement.
Amendment in clause 15 agreed to.
Clause 17 -
Section fifty-six ofthe Principal Act is repealed, and the following section is substituted in lieu thereof : - “ 56. Claims may be in the Form B in the Schedule, and shall be signed by the claimant and witnessed by an elector, and shall be sent to the Electoral Registrar keeping the Pollingplace Sub-division or Division Roll on which the elector claims to be enrolled.”
House of Representatives’ Amendments. - Omit “and witnessed by an elector”; insert “or” after “polling-place”; and omit “or division.”
Motion (by Senator Keating) proposed -
That the amendments be agreed to.
– I desire to take this opportunity to make a personal explanation. It will be remembered that just before the adjournment a dispute arose between Senator Millen and myself as to authority for pairs. I have since ascertained that Senator Millen has authority from Senator Symon to pair him, and that Senator Playford has given a “ dead “ pair, which Senator Millen can call for at any time. I have to say that I was entirely under a misapprehension. At the same time, it would be much more satisfactory if authority of this kind were exercised before the bells stopped ringing, so as to avoid misunderstanding.
-I drawattention to the fact that these amendments open up a question which was discussed when the Bill was originally before the Committee. The effect of them is to place those charged with the administration of the Bill in a possible difficulty.. As honorable senators are aware, it is quite optional whether those who administer the Act divide the electorate into subdivisions or polling places, or leave it as one division. The amendments have been passed on the assumption that there will be subdivisions, but if there are not, there can only be one roll for a division. The provision was that where there was. a subdivision roll, an electors could have his name on that roll, or, otherwise, on the polling place roll, but that when there was no polling place or subdivision roll, then the name went on the general roll.
– There will be a polling place roll.
– I should like an assurance to the effect that the difficulty I have indicated is not likely to arise.
– I am assured that there is no electorate in which there is not a number of polling places and polling place rolls. Whether there be subdivisions or not, there will be a number of polling place rolls, which, in the aggregate, will constitute the division poll, though not printed as a separate document. The words “ polling place “ cover all possible cases that can arise.
– If that be so, it would be better to have it so set out in the Act than to leave it to the option of those who havethe administration. If each electorate is subdivided the Bill may work all right.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 19 -
Section sixty of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ Returning Officers for a Division,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ Electoral Registrar keeping the Polling place or Sub-Division Roll.”
House of Representatives’ Amendments. - After “ amended “ insert “ (a) by omitting the words in the presence of a witness,’ and inserting in lieu thereof the words ‘and witnessed by an elector’ ; (i).”
Motion (by Senator Keating) proposed -
That the amendmentbe agreed to.
– I do not propose to do more than direct the attention of the Committee to this amendment, which is one of a series, the effect of which is to very materially alter a provision made by the Senate in regard to witnesses. It will be seen that the House of Representatives have substituted an ordinary elector for one of the authorized witnesses in certain cases, and in other cases has dispensed with the witnesses altogether.
Motion agreed to.
Amendments in clauses 20, 21, and 26, new head-line, and new clause 2 6b, and amendments in clause 27, agreed to.
Clause 28 -
After section one hundred and nine of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted : - “ 109a. The following persons are authorized witnesses within the meaning of this Act : -
All Commonwealth Electoral Officers for States … all Postmasters Postmistresses or persons in charge of Post-offices; all Police or Stipendiary or Special Magistrate of the Commonwealth or a State ; all Justices of the Peace . . . all legally qualified medical practitioners.
Amendment inserting the word “or” after the word “Postmasters,” line 6, agreed to.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit “ or persons in charge of post-offices “ ; insert “ who are permanent officers in the Public Service of the Commonwealth.”
Motion (by Senator Keating) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I do not think that the Senate ought to agree to this amendment, which will throw unnecessary obstacles in the way of people in vastly-populated districts voting by post. We have been told that the principal abuse in connexion with this system of voting occurs in the large cities where “ persons in charge of post-offices “ do not exist.
– There are a number of contract post-offices within half-a-mile of the city of Melbourne.
– In any case, the electors have access to other public servants, whereas in the back-blocks the person in charge of the post-office may be the only official within a day’s journey. It has been suggested that these persons in charge of post-offices may not be respectable - that they may be more amenable to questionable influences than other public servants. If they are not respectable they should not be permitted to hold even unofficial positions in the service of the Commonwealth. The suspicious frame of mind which seems to possess certain honorable senators is, in my opinion, a real affliction. They should proceed on the assumption that every man is honest until he has been discovered in the perpetration of some dishonorable act. Instead of that, every man who has not the hall mark of the Commonwealth Public Service, and is not stamped eighteen carat as a Public Service officer, is not regarded as an honest man. This is a flagrant libel upon a large section of the citizens of the Commonwealth. What we should consider is the convenience of the people for whom this system of voting was devised, and at times a person in charge of a post-office may be the only witness available to an elector unless he is prepared to undertake a journey whichmay involve theloss of a day in hunting up a legal witness under this clause.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit, (clause 28) “ All justices of the peace.”
Motion (by Senator Keating) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
-I regard this amendment as a positive insult to the unpaid magistracy. It is absurd to suggest that justices of the peace should not be capable of witnessing an application by a man to be entered on the electoral roll. I should look upon justices as the very best men for the purpose.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - Being a justice of the peace myself, I naturally feel some delicacy in dealing with this amendment. It would appear that the letters “J.P. “ after a man’s name, instead of being the hall mark of uprightness, integrity, and honesty, are regarded as the sign manual of iniquity. That is how the letters have been interpreted by our honorable friends in another place. I do not consider whether individual justices of the peace have acted wrongly or rightly, but I look at the question broadly, and consider whether it would be a convenience to the electors if justices of the peace were permitted to witness these applications. I think that it would. The justice of the peace holds an official public position. If he abuses his office he ought to be brought to book in the ordinary fashion, but until he does so we should proceed on the assumption that the State has been justified in appointing him to that honorable position. In the bush it is almost impossible to get a public servant who could witness these applications, and justices of the peace are often the only persons available for the purpose. I hope the Committee will not agree to the amendment.
– I agree with every word that has been said by Senator Stewart, but at the same time I am bound to point out the very grave danger of the course the honorable senator has advocated. He must recognise that when this Bill left the Senate we included justices of the peace in the list of authorized witnesses, but the other House has ventured to strike that out. What Senator Stewart now asks the Committee to do, without the slightest tremor, and without any evidence of nervousness that I could discover, is to disagree with an amendment suggested by the House of Representatives.
Senator Stewart apparently is willing to ask the Committee to precipitate the Senate into the dangerous position of venturing to express an opinion at variance with that expressed by the House of Representatives.
– I do it with bated breath.
– Certain honorable senators have decided that the Senate shall accept the position of recording angel for another place, and though I might have been prepared to vote on a matter of principle to disagree with the amendment of another place, it is unnecessary to waste time in disagreeing with an amendment which is of no great importance.
– Why did the honorable senator vote in the last division against the House of Representatives’ amendment ?
– Because I happened to be sitting on this side, and because I believe in the proposal. I recognise that certain honorable senators have absolutely branded the Senate as the subordinate House of the Parliament, and have decided that its sole function is to fall in with any views to which the House of Representatives has given expression. On an amendment involving a principle of major importance, honorable senators have accepted the suggestion of Ministers that their business is merely to fall in with the views expressed in another place. As we have decided that we should do so in matters of vital importance, it appears to me to be a waste of time, of which we have not now too much to spare, to disagree with the House of Representatives on matters of much less moment.
– I agree with Senator Stewart that we should include justices of the peace amongst those authorized to witness these claims. It is absurd to say that whilst a policeman may be trusted to carry out this duty, a justice of the peace, who is appointed to his office as a man of integrity, standing, and position in the community, cannot be trusted to perform the same duty. A justice of the peace accepts grave responsibilities as such, and is invested with a power of imprisonment. Surely a man who is given the power to take away the liberty of another might be trusted to witness a document of comparatively little importance. Something has been said about the Senate being a recording House for the decisions of the House of Representatives, and the reference was: to the proposal made in the Senate to appoint Commissioners to distribute the States into electorates.
– And for which the honorable senator voted.
– I did, and I am as strongly in favour of the principle as ever, but in expressing my approval of the clause submitted by the honorable senator, I recognised that the matter was one which peculiarly affected honorable members in another place, and I said that if they insisted that the distribution by the Commissioners should be supervised by Parliament, 1 would not be prepared to insist on the amendment carried in the Senate on the Bill as originally introduced.
– I am at variance with certain honorable members in another place, who apparently have no faith in the eligibility of justices of the peace to act as witnesses to the signatures of electors. In my opinion, some of the assertions which have been made in* regard to these gentlemen are too sweeping and altogether undeserved. If the attention of the authorities has been drawn to cases in which justices of the peace have not exercised due caution and carried out their functions properly, they, should be removed from the commission of the peace. But to s,ay that because there are a few isolated cases of that kind all justices of the peace are to be placed in the same category is doing a manifest wrong to a large body of men who are performing responsible duties to the satisfaction of thousands of citizens throughout the Commonwealth. I believe that too many conveniences, cannot be provided for those who desire to vote. I wish to see that responsible persons shall be appointed for that purpose. I wish justices, of the peace to be shown that respect which they deserve. They are called upon to perform public duties, and apparently their only reward is abuse from a certain section of the community. I do not suggest that justices of the peace do not make mistakes at times. When we have a large army of honorary magistrates, is it to be expected that all their acts will meet with the approbation of every citizen? I voted for the post and telegraph officers being included in the list of eligible witnesses because they were Commonwealth officers, whose appointment would very greatly convenience a number of persons. If we cannot trust those over whom we have some control, whom can we trust? For these reasons I intend to vote against the amendment.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit (clause 28) “ all legally qualified medical practitioners.’
Motion (by Senator Keating) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - I think it is very desirable to retain legally qualified medical practitioners, in the list of eligible witnesses. In the case of a female voter it is very necessary that her medical adviser should be competent to witness the document if she desired to vote by post.
Amendments in clauses 32, 38, and 46 ; amendment inserting new clause 4<5a; amendments in clauses 47, new clause 47 a, and amendments in clause 50 agreed to.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Insert new clauses : - 50A. After section two hundred and two of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted : - “ 202A. - (1) No party to the petition shall, except by consent of all parties, be represented by counsel or solicitor.
– I move -
That the amendment be amended by the insertion of the words “ or by leave of the Court “ after the word “ parties.”
The spirit of the amendment will be preserved by my proposal, but it will prevent the possibility of one party debarring the Court from having the benefit of counsel in very complicated cases, perhaps involving constitutional difficulties. Section 27 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act gives effect to the principle of my amendment.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- I do not think that the Committee ought to agree to the insertion of these words in the new clause, because it would rest with’ the Court to say whether or not counsel should appear. In my opinion, it would be far better to allow the provision to remain in its present form.
– I am opposed to the alteration of the new clause, because I desire that an, appeal of this sort shall be as free as possible from legal difficulties or heavy expense. Suppose that a poor man believed that he had been “jockeyed” out of a seat by underhand means, or by some means which in his opinion would justify an appeal to the Court. If the Court were free to allow the other party to engage expensive counsel, he would be greatly handicapped. I think that the provision to allow one party to be represented by counsel, with the consent of the other party, is a fair one. I contend that the Court should not be asked to decide whether counselshall appear or not. We should not subject a poor man to the handicap of having to meet counsel feed without regard to cost.
– No; because there is a. limit to the cost.
– The honorable senator knows very well that in the old days many expensive counsel never fought a case for a fee, but fought merely for the love of equity and justice. They never reached out their hand to take a fee, but they kept in the back of their gown a pocket into which the money could be put - a fashion which is still followed. A high and mighty counsel who would be above taking filthy lucre for discharging a high and honorable duty always kept in’ the back of his gown a pocket where he could not see the client putting in a dirty fee; but it got there just the same. It will get there just the same under this. The poor man who takes his case into Court, should not be handicapped by having to employ expensive counsel. Any one who is possessed of a fair knowledge of our election law is permitted to plead his own case. The Judge is supposed to be qualified, and there ought to be no need for counsel to assist him. If counsel’s services are necessary, the Court should pay for them.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I think that the honorable senator’s objection to the amendment made by the House of Representatives does more credit to his heart than to his head. Let me instance a case that might occur. Suppose a man new to public life found himself opposed in an election to the present Attorney-General,admittedly one of the leaders of his profession. Would it be fair that this untrained man should have no assistance in his contest with one of the keenest legal intellects in the Commonwealth ?
– That is a very extreme case.
– It is by no means an extreme case. But suppose that Senator Givens himself was opposed by a very much less experienced candidate. What chance would that man have in his contest before the Court? Is it fair that an ordinary layman opposing a legal candidate should be deprived of legal assistance if he can obtain it? We can push this care for the poor man too far. It is fair and equitable that if the parties cannot agree as to engaging counsel, the Judge, whose integrity we can trust, should have a discretionary power.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted in the amendment be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment of the amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Verbal amendment in clause 51 agreed to.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - At end of clause 51 add : - 206B. - (1) Any person who having announced himself within three months before the day of election as a candidate for election to the Parliament, shall before the poll for the election is closed offer promise or give directly or indirectly to or for any club or other association, any gift, donation or prize, shall be guilty of an offence against this section. Penalty : Five pounds in addition to any other penalty provided by law.
Providedalways that it shall be a defence to a prosecution for an offence against this subsection if the defendant proves that he had reasonable ground for believing and did in fact believe the statement made or published by him to be true.
Motion (by Senator Keating) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I intend to move an amendment to strengthen proposed new clause 206c, which deals with the case of any person who publishes any false or defamatory statement. The amendment which I intend to move has reference to a newspaper that publishes false or defamatory statements. Although it may seem to make a candidate a judge in his own. cause, my proposal would enable a candidate to apply to a resident or stipendiary magistrate for an order directing the person who has published the false or defamatory statement to afford space for a reply. In other words, it is an attempt to bring into electioneering the principle of fair play. It provides that where a statement is made criticising the action of the candidate, he shall be given, if the statement is made unfairly, an opportunity to place his reply before the public. If the person who has made the statement fails to carry out the order of the Court, a penalty is provided. It may be argued that newspapers are private property, and that by this amendment we should be interfering with private property. I reply that they are public property. They are powerful weapons for influencing public opinion. When the owner of a newspaper uses it in a public contest to prejudice a certain candidate, he should be prepared to give the candidate space to defend himself. In another place a similar provision was introduced at a late hour. Since then it has been re-drafted and carefully considered ; and I am assured that in its present form it will be acceptable to many of those who previously opposed it. The matter was not taken to a division elsewhere, and I feel sure that if the Senate adopts my amendment it will be accepted as merely carrying out the principles, embodied in the proposal sent to us by the House of Representatives.
– I do not take it that Senator Pearce has absolutely submitted his amendment, and, in any case, it has not yet been put from the Chair. I suggest that these proposed new clauses be submitted to the Committee separately.
– It would be more convenient to deal with the proposednew clauses in that way, considering that they deal with separate questions. The first new clause concerns gifts by candidates.
– I suppose this clause does not include the annual fee which may be paid to a cricket club?
– That depends on when the fee is paid.
– It must not be within three months of the day of election.
– I do not think these fees should be given at all.
– Such a payment will not be a gift, donation, or prize, but art annual subscription as member of the cricket club.
Question - That proposed new clause 206b be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Keating) proposed -
That proposed new clause 206c be agreed to.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I move -
That the following be added to the proposed new clause 206c : - “ (3) If, after any person has publicly announced his intention to become a candidate at an election, any newspaper -
Penalty : Twenty-five pounds.
Penalty : Ten pounds.”
No amendment shall be proposed to an amendment of the House of Representatives that is not relevant thereto ; nor can an amendment be moved to the Bill unless the same be relevant to, or consequent upon, either the acceptance, amendment, or the rejection of a House of Representatives’ amendment.
That standing order, in my opinion, makes it abundantly clear that any amendment submitted at this stage must be relevant to the amendment under consideration. The amendment sent to us from the House of Representatives proposes to provide a new tribunal for a candidate who complains of slander or libel.
SenatorMillen. - The honorable senator is now dealing with the merits of the amendment proposed by the House of Representatives.That amendment provides that a candidate who complains of libel may, instead of seeking the protection of the ordinary Law Courts by a somewhat lengthy process, take summary proceedings and, temporarily, at all events, obtain an order directing the “cessation of the libel. But Senator Pearce now submits an amendment entirely foreign to the proposal of the House of Representatives. He proposes that a newspaper statement, which clearly cannot be libel, for that is provided for in 206c -
But it is perfectly in order to propose any amendment to an amendment made by the one
House to a Bill of the other House, provided it is” consequential “ in its nature, that is to say, consequent upon, or relevant to the amendment under consideration.
May’s Parliamentary Practice, tenth edition, pages 477-8, lays down exactly the same principle. It is, therefore, for Senator Millen to show that my amendment is not consequential , or is not relevant; and that, I contend, he has entirely failed to do.
– The remarks I have to make on the proposed new clause 206c will be equally applicable to the amendment proposed by Senator Pearce. I think that members of Parliament are becoming altogether too sensitive to attacks upon candidates for parliamentary honours. Under the existing law there is provision for the protection of any person against whom any false or defamatory statement is made. The ordinary process of law that is open to every individual in the community is equally open to candidates for Parliament, and I am unable to understand why they should be shielded by a special law.
– Because slanders may be uttered against them at a time when they cannot answer them.
– And at a time when they are calculated to do much injury.
.- That is perfectly true. But candidates should be open to criticism and, in my opinion, it is better that they should rely upon the existing law than that we should pass a special provision for their protection. If we provide aready and simple means by which persons who make unjustifiable statements can be haled before a Court, I am afraid that we shall, to a great extent, destroy criticism which might be very useful.
– As a matter of fact, newspapers are immune now in making statements about candidates, or they would not lieso cheerfully as they do.
– Senator Pearce’s amendment would carry the matter still further than the clause because he provides that any person, whether a newspaper proprietor or not, who publishes matter calculated to unfairly prejudice the electors against a candidate, shall be liable under the clause.
– That means “knowingly “ publishes.
– I admit that, but the difficulty is to determine when this is unfairly done. It does not necessarily deal with any reference to a man’s personal conduct. The statement might be made that a certain candidate, whilst a member of Parliament, constantly absented himself from the House, and refrained from voting, and was, therefore, not a fit man to be returned ; whilst it might be that he had absented himself in consequence of illness or other sufficient cause. Why should a man who has made a statement of that kind about a candidate be liable to be haled before a. Court and fined £5? If I object to criticism on such occasions, I have my redress under the existing law. I think that some honorable senators are becoming too tender about criticism. I have suffered as well as other persons from unfair and unjust criticism, but I do not ask to be specially protected against it.
– There is no reason why the honorable senator should lie down under it. He should take his flogging standing.
.- I need not lie down under it, but it does not follow that if a man says a word about me, I should be able to hale him before a Police Court straight away. Candidates standing for Parliament do so with a knowledge that they will be subject to all sorts of aspersions and imputations, but they are also aware that the public shrewdly estimate their value.
– The honorable senator’s voice may reach 100 persons, whilst the newspaper reaches 100,000.
.- That is perfectly true, but I think we must be prepared for this kind of thing when we enter public life. Members of Parliament in the course of their speeches often make all sorts of aspersions upon people outside, and call in question their character and conduct, whilst those persons have no redress. This is allowed, because if is considered necessary that the utmost liberty of speech should be permitted to Members of Parliament, and that they should not be afraid to make their views known on all public questions. I believe that the electors may be seriously hampered in their choice if they are not given the fullest opportunity of knowing what a candidate’s career and character is. I do not justify misstatements, but’ I say that it is inevitable, if a healthy battle is to be fought in the open, that candidates must submit themselves to free criticism. I am content in the circumstances to rest satisfied with the protection of the law as it stands, arid not to ask Parliament tor some special means to protect my character and reputation.
– I should like to know exactly what position Senator Gould takes up in this matter. If a section of the press makes certain statements ^against a political party. or against a candidate, in the public interests, the honorable senator holds that they are perfectly justified.
– If the statements are not libellous; and if they are there is a law to meet them.
– I care nothing about the statements being libellous. What I am asking is merely for fair play. I say good luck to the press in making such statements. Free discussion, free expression of opinion, and the freest criticism is the salvation of a democratic community. But what we are trying to get at is the practice adopted by the press run by a particular combination to besmirch their political opponents. _
– So far as that is concerned, they are all alike. The labour press is as bad as are other sections of the press.
– There is no daily labour newspaper in the Commonwealth, so that charge cannot lie at our door.
– They concentrate their statements in a weekly edition.
– I am prepared to say on a public platform, and without parliamentary privilege, that, taking persons conducting the daily press of Victoria for a start, they are the most cringing beggars for privileges known to the newspaper world. They have secured privileges to enable them to wipe out their country rivals. They have fattened on them, and, like the fat man at the feast, they lick the grease off their chops with great satisfaction at their success. So much are they demoralized and degraded by t’heir excesses that they find it utterly impossible to tell the truth. The most simple matter that can occur here is utterly distorted in the daily press. They lie and re-lie, either directly or by insinuation. They have the privilege of representation in the parliamentary galleries, and though the reporter, who is generally, young and unsophisticated, may send in a correct report, his account is altered by the sub-editor or chief, and he is blamed for a misreport. My own idea is that the reporter fells the truth, but the newspaper does not publish his report as it is submitted. So far as deliberate and malicious misrepresentation by the press is concerned in connexion with ordinary parliamentary business, it does not matter very much. We who are the greatest sufferers from their malignant lying have the public platform from which to address the- people, and we can always get an audience to listen to us. But tha* is no reason why we should continue to permit abuse of privileges without penalty to those who ax running these lying and unscrupulous newspapers. By lying at the psychological moment they are able to damage the chances Of a candidate who is fighting an honest and open battle before the public, and they knowingly .libel and slander a candidate in order to beat him at the last’ moment. In one contest in which I took an active part in supporting a particular candidate, who had an even chance of winning, the leading daily newspapers on the morning of the poll published a statement that Mr. Marks had retired from the contest. It was then too late for him to say that he had not done so, and too late to have his name removed from the ballotpapers. The result was that those who were prepared to vote for him voted for the next best man, in their opinion, and the conservative candidate got in. I very seldom trouble the Senate about any matter. I have been asked more than once: “ For heaven’s sake don’t talk ; let us get to a vote.” No one is more anxious to get to a vote than I am, and I have kept my tongue quiet times out of number, as I did last night, but I am going to have my say on this question. One of the greatest grievances or dangers to the democracy of Australia is the absolute immunity which is given to the lying daily press. I do not blame the press for taking advantage of the opportunities which are thrown in their way, but I do blame the representatives of various States for the condition of paralytic funk into which they have got, in order that the proprietors of the newspapers may use their power and influence. Instead of prescribing the penalty which is provided in this clause, I believe, at the instance of Mr. King O’Malley, I should be inclined to make those who, with a malicious purpose, deliberately set out to tell an untruth, in order to prejudice the chances of a candidate who is fighting an, honest battle, wear the King’s brand- the broad arrow - and introduce them with all due ceremony to the gaol barber. That is about the only way in which they can be brought to their senses. If a senator gets up, and over-states a ease; if, in his ardour, he unwittingly tells an untruth, or misrepresent another senator, he is immediately pulled up. If, for instance, I were to over-state a case, to misrepresent the views of a senator, or1 to deliberately draw a wrong deduction from his arguments, I would be stopped by the Chairman j and. perhaps, “more promptly by the President if he were in the chair. The proprietors of newspapers are enjoying great privileges without a solitary check, and have taken full advantage of every opportunity which has been afforded to them. I blame certain members of the Parliament for this state of things. Have we been assembled here in Parliament for .nearly five years, without learning that with one or two solitary and heroic exceptions, the representatives of Victoria have absolutely had to bow down to the demands of the Melbourne daily press? Let me give a simple instance. Take the great conservative journal - the Melbourne Argus - which pretends to give faithful and accurate reports. I do not propose to quote the motto which they publish clay by day for the delight of the public - that they are compelled to tell the truth. From the opening paragraph, its report of a little incident which took place in the Senate yesterday is a misstatement of facts, an unscrupulous and deliberate untruth. It was utterly impossible for honorable senators to misunderstand the statements made by Senator Smith, or for any one to misunderstand the remarks which were made in support of that statement by Senator Higgs and others. It is utterly impossible for us to conceal the fact that the President had something to say on the subject. But in the Argus report, can one., find a statement which is consistent with the truth? Now, while we know the report in the Argus to be a lying one-
– Why single out one newspaper ?
– I am quoting that as an instance in point.
– What about the Melbourne Age?
– I admit that the Argus is not the only sinner. Perhaps the Sydney newspapers, of which the honorable senator is very fond, are just as bad ; but as we are in Melbourne, and not in Sydney, I took the Argus.
– Why did not the honorable senator take the Age? Let him be fair when he is pleading for fairness !
– One is just as bad as the other.
– Being an outandout free-trade newspaper, the Argus is sure to be the biggest sinner. The report of the incident referred to is absolutely untrue. It is absolutely impossible for us to believe that the Argus reporters, sitting in the gallery, within sound of our voices, and with their eyes open, even although they wear winkers or blinkers, did not understand what was taking place here. It would be a gross insult to them to refuse to say that they declined to put down what did take place, and deliberately put down what did not take place. What conclusion can we draw? It is that, when the report was sent to the office, it was not to the interest of the conductors of the journal that the whole truth should be told. There is a difference between the Argus and the Age, and it is that the Age report, although condensed, was fairly accurate. The part of the Age report of which I complain is the statement that we had wasted an hour of time in calling attention to the perquisites of Members of Parliament. We drew the attention of the general public to the fact that it is not safe to rely on the statements, which are made in the public journals, including the Argus and the Age.
In its original statement, the Argus singled out Senators Smith and Neild for contempt, but to-day it admits that their names are not mentioned in the Auditor-General’s report, and that it interpolated them into the report. What kind of honesty and decencyis that ? The newspaper claims that it ran into its paragraph three paragraphs from the Auditor-General’s report. Was there any indication given by a mark which is known to a newspaper reader, that the paragraph contained three items from the Auditor-General’s report? Absolutely none. It was a deliberate and most malicious attempt to cast a slur upon, this Parliament. As this is true with regard to newspapers in Melbourne, so it is generally true with regard to the daily newspapers in the capital of every other State.
– Do the weekly labour newspapers state everything which is, true.
– The weekly labour newspapers will fight for their principles and party as vigorously as any other newspapers will do; but, at the same time, they will give fair play. If, for instance, the honorable senator were to feel aggrieved by a statement made in a labour newspaper concerning his principles, or his arguments, or his conclusions, he would be allowed space in which to point out that it was utterly mistaken. On the other hand, the daily: newspapers will blackguard a man, insinuate anything about a Member of Parliament, and will not publish a solitary line in contradiction of their statement. I have had personal experience of both the Age and the Argus in that respect. It would be the quintessence of hypocrisy on our part to protect or shelter these miserable rags, and the contemptible humbugs and hypocrites who run them. For these reasons I am not only in favour of the new clause to which we are asked to agree, but also of the addition which Senator Pearce desired to make, and I am very sorry that these maligners cannot be introduced to the gaol barber.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania - Honorary Minister). - The proposal before the Committee is to insert new clause 206c. I hope that Senator Pearce will not press his amendment, becaus.e, i in my opinion, the new clause will amply protect the most tender-skinned candidate from the abuse of free criticism at the time of an election. I agree with some honorable senators that there is a disposition on the part of certain persons in public life to too strongly deprecate criticism. I agree that there must be not only freedom of speech for Members of Parliament, but also a reciprocal freedom on the part of those who are called upon in the public interests to criticise their actions and their utterances. There may be certain newspapers which, in the opinion of honorable senators very often go too far, but whether we take daily or monthly newspapers, or newspapers which voice the aspirations of any particular class, they are all tarred with the same brush, and possess just the same amount of virtue and vice as does an ordinary individual. They have their partisan feeling, and they act in. just the same way as does a private individual with respect to public questions. Undoubtedly the newspapers exercise very great power, and influence the mind of the community very largely. I know from per.sonal experience that in many instances they do resort to tactics in connexion with elections which must be reprehended very strongly by those who become the victims of them. When I was standing for a country’ electorate, a. newspaper brought out a most unblushing damaging statement regarding myself about three days before the date of polling. It arrived, and was disotributed in the district on the evening before polling day, while I was on my way back to a town in Tasmania. I did not see the statement until the day of the elec-i tion.
– This amendment would not protect a man in a case like that.
– It could not possibly protect me in that case because I was not in a position to take any action. On the morning of the polling day the newspaper came out with a statement to the effect that, following its usual fair practice, it did not publish any statements regarding candidates on that day. It published the, damaging statement three days before polling day, and got it distributed in the constituency on the evening prior to that date, when it was too late for me to get in any reply which could get back to the constituency. The new clause to which we are asked to agree provides that if a candidate be defamed as to his personal character or conduct, the person who is responsible for such defamation, whether he be the owner of the newspaper, or a ma,n who has simply circulated ai print got up for the occasion, shall be guilty of an offence, and liable on conviction to a penalty of £100 or six months’ imprisonment. That means that the party aggrieved can take summary proceedings before a stipendary or special magistrate under the provisions of the Judiciary Act. It also provides that - it shall be a defence to a prosecution for an offence against this sub-section if the defendant proves that he had reasonable ground for believing and did in fact believe the statement made or published by him to be true.
In other words, any person who has been guilty of making an untrue statement, or of knowingly defaming a candidate, could be prosecuted summarily. It would not be necessary for the party aggrieved to wait for the tedious process of law connected with a prosecution for criminal libel if it amounted to that, or the tedious process of the law which is necessary for recovering damages in a civil action. But he can take the party straight into a Court of summary jurisdiction, and have him dealt with there ; and he may restrain a repetition of the offenceby an injunction. That, I think, gives veryample protection to a candidate who may fear hostile criticism.
– It is not hostile criticism, but untruthful criticism to which it refers.
– If the honorable senator had read the amendment, he would know that it is not necessarily untrue criticism. The truth may often prejudice a candidate. And who is to be the judge as to whether or nota published statement unfairly prejudices an election?
– The magistrate.
– I. do not know that under any Statute in any State of the Commonwealth discretion is given to such a tribunal to determine whether or not a published statement is unfair. In an action for libel, the Judge himself has no jurisdiction to determine whether the matter complained of is, or is not. in fact libellous. He has no jurisdiction to determine whether or not a newspaper has or has not in fact exceeded the bounds of fair comment. All that he can do is to day down principles. The jury alone can determine whether the matter complained of is libellous. The. jury has to determine whether or not the newspaper in question has gone beyond the bounds of fair comment. But here we are asked to give to a stipendiary magistrate a jurisdiction which is not even reposed in a Judge of the SupremeCourt. I admit that newspapers, especially when they take a partisan view of politics, often exert a power which may absolutely crush a certain, candidate. But the clause as it stands enables a candidate to take proceedings in a Court of summary jurisdiction. It protects a candidate against unfair or unwarrantable criticism. He can take proceedings to restrain a newspaper. The honorable senator ought to be satisfied with the provision inserted by the House of Representatives. His own amendment would prove to be impracticable and unworkable.
– I hope that every honorable senator who values courage and manliness of character will vote against this amendment. The press, as a whole, is fair, though there are times when things are done which are to be regretted. But any newspaper of standing which values its position recognises the obligation to allow anybody who has been aspersed in’ its column to give an explanation. There are newspapers in Australia which have not been true to that position; they have suffered in reputation in consequence. But could there be anything more unsatisfactory than the position of a candidate fighting his way through an electorate who has to admit that he has been a party to this provision ? It might do him more harm than any newspaper criticism could possibly do. I also draw attention to the self-evident fact that any criticism which appeared in a newspaper two or three days before an election could not possibly be affected by the amendment proposed by Senator Pearce; and it is statements that are published immediately before an election that are of the greatest importance. I do earnestly impress upon every member of the Senate who values his reputation for courage and manliness in conducting a political fight to vote against this proposal.
– I intend to move an amendment to Senator Pearce’s amendment. Some provision of the kind is really required. It is all very well for Senator Pulsford, who has the daily press of Sydney at his back, to talk about manliness and courage. We are all very courageous when we are well supported. But Parliament should legislate to protect the man who has no support behind him.. I agree with all that Senator Dawson has said with reference to the daily press. There is no getting away from the fact that it is often grossly unfair. Fortunately for many of us, we have no reason to care about the unfairness of the Melbourne press.
– Why should we ask for special privileges for ourselves in which the public will not be allowed to participate ?
– We are quite justified in inserting such a provision in the law with which we are dealing. The press is a great power, but a great responsibility rests upon it. We should impose some penalty for gross unfairness at election times. For my part, if I could formulate a law compelling the press to publish the truth at all times, and to punish newspaper proprietors for not publishing it whenthey profess to give an account of the proceedings of Parliament, I should do so. But I see a difficulty in the way of a proposition of that kind. As the newspapers exert a great power, I would place upon them a severe penalty for an abuse of the responsibility resting upon them.
– We ought not to forget that if they are powerful their power is derived from the people.
– I have never obtained any daily newspaper support during my political career. I have at all times been able to snap my fingers at it. But I recognise the unfair treatment that some of the public journals mete out to candidates. The treatment of which I complain not only concerns the party to which I belong. Since I have been a member of this Chamber I have observed that honorable senators opposite have been continually carped at. Senator Fraser has been as much criti- cisedby the Age as any member of the Senate.
– I never mind it.
– I move-
That the amendment to the House of Representatives’ amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ Penalty, £25,” and the words “ Penalty, £10,” and adding the following words : - “ and the owner, manager, publisher, printer, or editor shall publish the correction as ordered. Penalty,£25.”
– Why make the publisher responsible? The publisher of the Age or the Argus has no control over the journal.
– My honorable friend’s acquaintance with the law of libel will have shown him the necessity of mentioning almost everybody who is responsible
For the production of a newspaper, if the right person is to be reached. Otherwise responsibility will be avoided.
Amendment of the amendment to the House of Representatives’ amendment agreed to.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I have seldom listened to a reply from any Minister which more skilfully answered something not contained in the proposition under consideration, and more cleverly evaded replying to what was really proposed, than was the case with Senator Keating’s speech upon my amendment. He must be aware that I do not propose to deal with attacks on the private character of Individuals. I deal with attacks on their public character, and their public policy, which are of infinitely greater importance to a politician at election time. In order that fair play may be given to candidates who are unfairly attacked in reference totheir public policy, an opportunity should be secured to them to reply. The same facilities should be given as have been taken to make the charges. Those honorable senators whovote against this amendment will vote against fair play in electoral affairs. Those who vote for it will support the principle that our great journals in political fights shall be conducted on the lines of fair play. Its opponents will enable the newspapers to carry on the despicable tactics to which they have resorted to in the past.
– I was in hopes that Senator Pearce would withdraw his amendment, which, I think, will be practically ineffective. According to the honorable senator’s proposal, it will be an offence to publish anything which may pre judice the candidate’s chances of election, unless the newspaper affords an opportunity for reply. But newspapers occasionally publish, in the public interest, statements which are absolutely true, but which undoubtedly prejudice the chances of a candidate. I speak with some little experience, and I have suffered from misrepresentation by the press. Miserable parochial untruths have been told of me, and there have been serious distortions of my public conduct. But the publication of the real truth was much more harmful at the time. The imposition of an income tax in Tasmania was a proposal of which myself and my colleagues were all proud, but it was that proposal which really condemned us politically ; andyet, according to Senator Pearce’ s proposal, a newspaper which made reference to facts which would prejudice our election-
– But there would have been no dispute about the facts in such a case as that.
– But the press pointed out all sorts of consequences that would follow the imposition of an income tax, and while these comments doubtlessly seriously prejudiced our election, I am sure that no judicial tribunal would, on that ground, have condemned the press. I wish it were possible to make the press act fairly and justly, but I am afraid that, by some of the proposals from another place which we have adopted, we are in danger of making ourselves ridiculous. We can no more make editors truthful or virtuous by Act of Parliament, than we can make people sober by the same means.
– I, too, am afraid that by legislation of this sort we may make ourselves ridiculous. Is it proposed that the press shall be allowed no liberty - that it shall be gagged? A free press is a most valuable institution in any community. There are truthful newspapers and lying newspapers, just as there are truthful men and lying men. Under the proposal of Senator Pearce, although a candidate’s character might be as black as night, no adverse comments could be made by the press on the ground that it would prejudice his chances. I have been in political life for thirty years, and I have always found the press, as a whole, willing to give me fair treatment, and to insert any contradictions which were necessary. We Shall stand higher in the public estimation if we avoid passing silly provisions such as this. Although’ the press may sometimes go too far, it is too valuable an institution to be hedged round with undue restrictions. Personally, a section of the press in another State has been hammering at me for years past. The Bulletin has been “ at me “ for goodness knows how long, but I do not mind ; it does not affect me in the least. I have known cases of men being returned ‘to Parliament for no other reason than that they had been persecuted by the press. If a candidate has a just claim, and is not too thin-skinned. he will get fair play, on the whole.
Question - That the amendment to the House of Representatives’ amendment as amended be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment to the House of Representatives’ amendment, as amended, negatived.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - This is a different proposal from that submitted by Senator Pearce. This is a practicable and workable provision, the essence of the offencebeing the publication of something whichis false and defamatory. On the otherhand, the essence of the offence in the- clause proposed by Senator Pearce was that the statements were calculated to unfairly prejudice the candidate - purely a matter of opinion. The term of imprisonment provided is the maximum ; and, according to the Acts Interpretation Act, the offence is one cognizable summarily - that is to : say, under the Judiciary Act a case may be taken before a police, stipendiary, or special magistrate authorized to act in a Federal judicial capacity. Senator Gould has pointed out that ‘an aggrieved person will also have the remedy at common law for defamation, but that might result in giving the remedy at a time when it was of little use. Therefore the matter may be dealt with summarily. There are other provisions in the clause, notably those in the paragraph marked “2,” by which the candidate can restrain the repeated commission of the offence. In other words, he can make application for an injunction to restrain the repeated publication of the defamatory matter. I think that this is a provision which might stand, as no candidate would be likely to take advantage of it who had not a very clear case to take before the Court of Summary Jurisdiction. It is not a provision such as the last, which we have negatived, and which would have the effect, if it were included in the measure, of restraining newspapers from indulging in faithful and honest criticism.
Question - That proposed new clause 206c be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Proposed new clause 206d agreed to.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - At end of clause 51 add : -
After section two hundred and seven of the Principal Act the following section is inserted : - “ 207A. Any candidate duly nominated for election as a Senator or a Member of the House of Representatives shall, subject to regulations and to the payment of the charges prescribed in the First Schedule to the Post and Telegraph Rates Act 1902, be entitled to transmit through the post one copy of an election address or manifesto relating to such candidature, to each elector whose name appears on the roll for the State or Division, as the case may be, for which the candidate is nominated.”
Motion (by Senator Keating) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - It does seem to me to be extremely undesirable that we should be conferring upon candidates for parliamentary honours privileges not conferred upon the general community. The purpose of this new clause is to give candidates some privileges which they have not now and to relieve them of some expense which would otherwise be thrown upon them. I ask honorable senators not to agree to this amendment, that we may show the people outside that we are not prepared to obtain in this way concessions which we cannot honestly justify.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- I am sorry that I cannot agree with Senator Millen. In whose interest will these election manifestoes be published? Evidently in the interest of the electors ; and in the circumstances it is not asking anything unreasonable to require the Postal Department to carry these documents at newspaper rates.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - I point out that while under this clause a candidate is to be entitled to transmit through the post one copy of an election address or manifesto relating to his candidature to each elector whose nameappears on the roll for the State or division for which he is nominated, it means that the manifestoes will be carried through the post for1d. for 20 ozs. Where there is a letter delivery, the letter-carriers will have the duty cast upon them of distributing the manifestoes, and possibly a manifesto will have to be delivered to each of eighty electors at a cost to the candidate of1d. Ordinary persons are not to be given this concession, and we do not propose, that it should be extended to candidates for the States Parliaments. I would prefer that Parliament should be invited to pay each candidate the whole of the expenses incurred in his candidature directly,rather than that concessions to candidates should be made in this way.
Question - That proposed new clause 207a be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
House of Representatives’ amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment in clause 53, amendment omitting clause 54, and amendments in the schedules agreed to.
Resolutions reported ; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Keating) agreed to -
That a Committee, consisting of the Honorary Minister (Senator Keating) and Senators Millen and Stewart, be appointed to prepare and bring up reasons for disagreeing to certain amendments of the House of Representatives.
Reasons brought up and adopted.
– I beg to lay upon the table a report from the Joint House Committee as to the working of the refreshment room. It is not in print, and as it is not very long, perhaps the Clerk mayreadit ?
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
Report read by the Clerk.
– Is not the report open for discussion, sir?
– Not now, but the honorable senator can move that it be printed and discuss it on some other day.
Motion (by Senator Croft) agreed to -
That the report be printed.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
There are two supplementary appropriation Bills, one relating to the ordinary services of the Commonwealth, and the other to public works, which have to be passed. The Bill which I am now asking the Senate to read a second time appropriates a sum of ,£6,768, and a sum of ,£84,414 for certain purposes, which are all stated in the two schedules. The smaller sum of ^6,768 was expended by the Watson Government, in the financial year 1903-4, and the larger item of £84,414 was expended by the Reid Government in the financial year 1904-5. The Bill contains no item of expenditure which has been incurred by the present Administration. I have looked very carefully through the items in the schedules, and so far as I can see, they are all absolutely justified. The largest item in (the second schedule is that of £15,223 for electoral expenses. This expenditure was incurred in consequence of the number of policemen who had to be employed throughout the Commonwealth in delivering forms. No provision had been made for the service, and therefore the claims of the policemen had to be paid out of the Treasurer’s advance account. The next large item is that of ^£6.373, to enable temporary charges to be made in respect of departmental printing. This money was really used to form a trust fund, out of which to provide certain stock in the shape of paper, and so on, for the purpose of printing. When we did the printing for the various Departments, we charged them with the stock which had been used. It was a necessary step to take, and as fast as the stock is used, the trust fund is replenished for the purpose of obtaining new stock. We are asked to appropriate £2,166 for the Tariff Commission, ,£1,305 for the Navigation Commission, and ^£196 for the Old-age Pensions Commission. The item of ,£2,066 for the protection of Victorian Customs revenue relates to what is known as “the fish case.” A quantity of fish was imported from New Zealand, but the invoices showed short weight, and a smaller number of cases than had been sent. It was a clear case of fraud against’ the Commonwealth, and a prosecution was initiated. These legal expenses had to be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue, but afterwards we gained the case, and’ the whole of this sum has been repaid, with a little more in costs. There 33 an item of ,£5,010, to create a trust fund in connexion with the Naval Agreement. The Admiralty authorities have charge of a number of our men, who are being trained, and who are receiving pay largely in excess of that which is given to the ordinary sailors on board His Majesty’s ships. It was anticipated that there might be some little trouble if it were discovered that there was a difference in the rate of pay, and therefore we made the arrangement. It is really only an advance which has to be repaid. We are also asked to appropriate ,£2,73(5 for conveyance of mails by railway in New South Wales in consequence of an under-estimate which had to be made up, and £16,118 as salary to Victorian officers under section 19 of the ‘State Public Service Act. Shortly before the establishment of the Commonwealth was proclaimed, the Victorian Parliament passed a Bill which provided that officers in the Departments to be transferred should receive the same rates of pay as persons doing a similar class of work in the other States, but not to exceed £^156 a year. In the first instance, the Commonwealth objected to pay the increased amounts, because it did not know to what extent the State had paid the officers in the Post and Telegraph Department between the establishment of the Commonwealth and the transfer of that Department. This amount represents arrears which the officers claimed, and which subsequently had to be paid.
– Does not Victoria have to find the money ?
– Yes. We considered at the time that it was a bit of sharp practice on the part of Victoria, and we were not inclined to pay these increases, but subsequently we had to do so, and to deduct the amount from Victoria’s share of the Excise and Customs revenue.
– The items in the Bill total a fairly considerable sum to be submitted at this late period of the session when we have only a very limited possibility of giving them that critical attention which all items of expenditure are entitled to receive at the hands of a careful1 Parliament. I observe that, with regard to electoral expenditure, the amount originally was £20,000, but that it has now been replaced by an item of £35,000. That is, rather difficult to account for.
– It represents payments to the police, canvassers, and revision courts. The previous appropriation was underestimated, and the Government” had to meet the additional expenditure.
– The Minister has not addressed himself to the effect these Supplementary, Estimates will have on the Commonwealth finances.
– As far as I know, they will Have no effect whatever.
– Do I understand that the expenditure was allowed for by the Treasurer in making his Budget statement ?
– I understand so. He” stated that he would have to meet Supplementary Estimates under the Treasurers advance.
– Under the heading “Miscellaneous,” in connexion with the Department of External Affairs, there is a sum of ^1,311, including ^267 for advertising the resources of the Commonwealth ; ^543, expenses of- the Premiers’ Conference at Hobart ; .£50, expenses of Sir John Cockburn at Vienna Conference on working men’s insurance; ^75, expenses of investigation of Norfolk Island affairs ; and ^283, cost of locating Wakitipu rock in Bass Straits. In connexion with the Department of Home Affairs, we have a vote of ^917 for temporary assistance. That is a considerable expenditure. There is also a vote of £800 to recoup the States for salaries of professional and clerical officers employed by the Commonwealth. Some time ago I moved for the production of papers relating to the displacement of State auditors with a view of replacing them by Commonwealth auditors.
– The vote for ternporary assistance is necessitated on account of certain” permanent positions not being filled, owing to the Estimates not having been dealt with by Parliament until the close of the year ; but there is a corresponding saving on account of salaries voted.
– Can the Minister make any explanation with regard to the employment of professional officers under the control of the States, in the light of the remarks made by Mr. Carruthers? He indicated that certain auditors who had been auditing the accounts of transferred Department’s had been summarily discharged by the Commonwealth - “ turned into the streets” ‘is the term employed by him - and that their places had been taken, by Commonwealth officers from other places.
– That has nothing, to do with this Bill.
– All those mattersare details which can be better considered in Committee.
– Evidently when we get into Committee the knowledge of honorable senators will not be very much increased by the information which the Minister is able to give.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 postponed.
– In connexion with the Department of the Treasury there is a sum of £3,352 f°r payment into trust fund, Government printer., “ to enable temporary charges to be made in respect of departmental printing.” What is meant by that?
– It means that a trust fund is formed for the purpose of securing certain material, and, as work is done, that material is charged to the various Departments.
-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - I beg to call attention to the item of .£400 which,, under the heading of the House of Representatives, is provided as “Allowances towards, expenses of candidates at elections which were declared void.” I should like to know whether this money was paid under any resolution!, and also the names of the candidates affected. Have all such expenses been paid?
– In the cases of Mr. Chanter, Mr. Blackwood, Sir Malcolm McEacharn, and Mr. Maloney the elections were declared void through no fault of the candidates, and this money is towards the expense to which the candidates were put.
-Col. Gould., - Do I ‘understand that the expenses, were paid to all candidates under similar circumstances, whether thev were successful or unsuccessful ?
– Yes. Sir Malcolm McEacharn was an unsuccessful candidate.
– Is this money paid on a resolution by both Houses, or only on the determination of one House?
– The moneywas voted in an Appropriation Bill.
– When that Appropriation Bill was before us, the justification for the item was that the elections were voided, not because of any act of the candidates, but because of the action of the electoral officers, and it was, thought unfair to penalize the candidate.
– All I desire to know is that all parties have been treated alike, and that the payment has been made on the authority of both Houses. Can the Minister state the total amount paid in this way ?
Senator PLAYFORD (South AustralianMinister of Defence). - I am informed that the Cabinet’ decided to pay £100 to each of the four gentlemen I have mentioned. That money was paid, on the Cabinet resolution, out of the Treasurer’s advance account, and Parliament is now asked to approve of that action.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - I see that, according to these Estimates, the Senate is debited with £95 for postage and telegrams, as against£411 debited to the House of Representatives under a similar heading. I take it that the postage and telegrams referred to are those supplied at the expense of the Commonwealth to members of either House using the Post and Telegraph Department on public business. I do not cavil at either amount, but, in my opinion, it would be much better if a fixed allowance was paid to each Member of Parliament on this account, instead of leaving matters in such a way that, while one gentleman may spend £5, another may not spend 5s. in this connexion.
– A fixed allowance would be most unfair, because, while some honorable senators have much correspondence, other honorable senators have little or none.
– It appears that a record is kept of the expense incurred in this way by each individual senator; and I should like to know whether a similar practice is followed inanother place.
– I cannot say.
.- I am told the rule is, that where the hand-writing is known, the postage is debited accordingly, whereas if it is not recognised, the expenditure is charged to general account. This record places some honorable senators in an invidious position, because, while one may not have to write more than halfadozen letters a session to his constituents, or on public business, another may require to send forty or fifty. I think it would save a good deal of unpleasantness if the whole of the cost were charged to one general fund, reliance being placed on the discretion of members of the Parliament to use the Post and Telegraph facilities only when absolutely necessary.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - I think this is really a matter for the consideration of the Joint House Committee. It would never do to have a fixed allowance in the way Senator Gould first suggested. Any telegrams or letters which a Member of Parliament has to send on public business connected with his constituency, are paid for by the Commonwealth. Some Members of Parliament have a vast amount of correspondence, whereas, in my own case, for example, a few shillings will cover the cost of the telegrams, and less will cover the cost of postage on letters that I have sent during the four or five years of Federation. That is owing simply to the fact that I am able to go to Adelaide every week, and see my constituents and others, and have, therefore, no special call for heavy correspondence. I can imagine, however, that senators from Western Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland, who cannot see their constituents frequently, are called upon to send many letters and telegrams. No hard-and-fast rule can be made in a case of this kind, but I think it is a subject which might well be inquired into by the House Committee.
– I hope the Minister will use his influence to have this business conducted in such a way as not to give rise to invidious distinctions.
– I desire to call attention to a matter of which, under ordinary circumstances, I should scarcely have referred. In view of the class of criticism which has recently been directed towards Parliament, I submit that it is absolutely incorrect, and likely to convey a wrong impression, to include the item of£400, which has been referred to, as an allowance towards the expenses of candidates, under the heading of the House of Representatives. Such an item ought properly to Se charged to the Department of Home Affairs. As the item appears now, * some newspaper critic will jump to the conclusion that this ^400 represents some of the frequently-discussed perquisites we are supposed to enjoy. This expenditure is not occasioned by the House of Representatives, or its work, but is simply due to some defect in administration as conducted by officers of the Department of Home Affairs. I do not propose to move any amendment, but simply to call attention to the matter in the hope that, in future, such items will be debited to the proper Department.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). I see that ,£50 is provided in the schedule for the expenses of Sir John Cockburn in attending the Vienna Congress on Working Men’s Insurance. Has Sir John Cockburn sent in any report? At present, there is a Royal Commission inquiring into the question of old-age pensions, and if Sir John Cockburn’s report is to be of any value, it ought to be made available at once.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - I have made inquiries, and, so far as I can ascertain, Sir John Cockburn has sent in a preliminary statement, and that he is forwarding, or is about to forward, a more complete report. The Government will expedite matters by sending a cable, if necessary, asking Sir John Cockburn to hurry up with the information.
– Any action should be taken at once, because the Royal Commission on old-age pensions will be drawing up the report in the course of a month.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - There are two other items on which I should like to get some information. The first is with respect to the vote of ^267 for “ Advertising, resources of the Commonwealth.” I should like to know whether this represents the final payment to Mr. Plummer.
– Then I should like some explanation of the term “ Expenses of investigation of Norfolk Island Affairs -£is-“
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - I direct attention to the item “ Cost of locating Wakitipu Rock, in Bass Straits - ^283 “. I should like to know, first of all, how this item comes to be set down to the Department of External Affairs, and as ^283 is a fair amount, I think the item should be explained. I see that a further payment is to be made towards the cost of copies of the picture “ Opening of the First Parliament of the Commonwealth.” This is a matter about which Senator Matheson has interested himself on several occasions. I forget how much money the Parliament have already voted under this head, but we ought to know the aggregate sum which has been paid for these pictures.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - We should be told not only the aggregate sum. paid for the pictures, but how many copies of them have been purchased, and who are the artists who painted them. Senator Millen has asked for some information on the item, “ Investigation of Norfolk Island Affairs.” We know that Norfolk Island is under the jurisdiction of New South Wales, and I should like to know the nature of the investigation, and the reasons for it. I understand that there is a great deal of soreness felt by the people of the Island because of the difficulties placed in the way of their trade with the Commonwealth,
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - With regard to Norfolk Island, a suggestion was made - that it should be taken over by the Commonwealth, and the Prime Minister of the- day desired to receive a report on the affairs of the Island before considering the suggestion. The Governor of New South Wales, who is also Governor of Norfolk Island, requested the Government of New South Wales to allow the late Mr. Alexander Oliver to furnish the report. The Premier of New South Wales, in complying with the request, suggested that a quota of the expense should be borne by the Commonwealth. This was agreed to, on the understanding that the liability to the Commonwealth should not exceed £75. The report was’ subsequently furnished by Mr. Oliver, and the 1^75 was paid to the State of New South Wales. Honorable senators are now asked to ratify that payment. The first objection raised to the item “ Cost of locating Wakitipu Rock in Bass Straits - ^283,” is that it should appear in the Estimates for the External Affairs Department, but seeing that the rock is in the middle of Bass Straits, it may fairly be considered to be beyond the range of the Home Affairs Department, and to have been properly brought under the head of External Affairs. The facts are that in October, 1903, a certain steamer, while on a voyage from Sydney to Launceston, struck on an unchartedrock in Bass Strait. The occurrence was drawn attention to by the press, who always get hold of these things, and by the Australian Steam-ship Owners Federation. As a result, the CommanderinChief on the Australian Station was asked to cause a careful survey of the spot to be made, but as it was impossible to withdraw either of the two surveying vessels on the station from the work they were then engaged upon, His Excellency was unable to accede to the request. I am informed that the matter continued to receive consideration, and in March, 1904, the Admiral recommended that the Harbor Master of Launceston should be instructed to take steps to locate the rock. In June, 1904, the Admiral intimated that he would not be likely to have any vessel under his command available for the work for some considerable time,, and in April of that year the matter was considered by the Prime Minister, who referred the papers to the Treasurer, with a view of ascertaining whether, in his opinion, the cost of engaging the Wybia, a vessel belonging to the Launceston Marine Board, for the purpose of locating the rock might be properly defrayed from the Treasurer’s advance vote. Sir George Turner, who was then Treasurer, replied that, as the uncharted rock was in the highway of traffic, the expenditure had better be incurred, but he pointed out at the same time that the case must not be regarded as a precedent. The Launceston Marine Board was then asked to make all necessary arrangements, and on the 24th May last a report was received that the Wybia had returned to Launceston after the exact location of the rock had been definitely determined. The time occupied was twenty-one days, and the total cost £28210s. We now have this rock carefully and properly located, and I have no doubt that by this time it is carefully marked on all the Admiralty charts. This has been accomplished at a cost of£283, and I think the money has been well spent.
– Does the Premier of Tasmania object to the expenditure as Federal extravagance?
– No ; and that is probably because it is set down, not as “ transferred,” but as “other “ expenditure. I have no information with respect to the pictures to which reference has been made.
– Is Norfolk Island now under the Commonwealth Government ?
– No ; it could not be brought under the control of the Commonwealth, except by the passing of an Act of Parliament.
– Can the natives of the island come here without any trouble now ?
– The Norfolk Islanders are hardly “ natives “ in the usual sense. They came from the Pitcairn Group, and are descendants of a man called Adams, one of the mutineers of the Bounty.
– They are coloured people.
– Having regard to the item covering the cost of locating the Wakitipu Rock in Bass Straits, I should like again to mention a matter to which I have directed the attention of the Senate on several occasions, and in connexion with which, so far as I know, nothing has been done. Two years agoI asked that, a survey of the North-West coast of Australia should be undertaken by some vessel belonging to the Admiralty, and I was promised that the Government would have the matter looked into. Some time later, I drew attention to the fact that nothing had been done, and after the present Government came into office, I again raised the question with the same result. The matter involved is of great importance, and the Government should seriously consider whether something should not be done. Our mail services are dependent to a great extent on a thorough survey of the NorthWest coast. One mail steamer has already been wrecked on that coast owing to the imperfect survey, and honorable senators will recognise that if a coast is known to be dangerous, owners of vessels tendering for the carriage of mails along it will naturally ask for a larger sum than they would consider justifiable if their vessels were exposed to less risk. That fact should be considered in connexion with the matter, and also the desirability of considering the interests of people living in out of the way places. The Government should- seriously urge upon the Admiralty the necessity for a careful survey of the North- West coast.
– Why has not the Western Australian Government asked for the survey ?
– They ask . that it shall be done at thepens of of the Admiralty.
– The survey work carried out under the vote appearing on these Estimates was done at the expense of the Commonwealth, and why should not the North-West coast be surveyed in the same way ? This Wakitipu Rock is as close to the coast of Tasmania as many of the reefs which have caused destruction of vessels plying on the North-West coast are to that portion of Australia, and yet the location of this rock appears to have been undertaken without any trouble at all, whilst the survey which I have repeatedly urged is left with an empty promise that the matter will be considered. The Government have communicated with the Admiralty, and some time in the dim and distant future the work may be undertaken. This grievance is of too long “standing, and it is high time that it was redressed. Until the coast is well surveyed,, we cannot reasonably expect the owners of ships to send them into that part of the Commonwealth. It cannot be denied that a very much better service is needed than is now provided. I hope that during the recess trie- Minister of Defence will take some definite action in this matter.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I gathered from the remarks of Senator Playford that for ^283 we have obtained a rock and a report, but that for ,£75 we have received only a report on Norfolk Island. I desire to ask whether the suggestion that it should be handed over to the Commonwealth has been entertained by the Government, or whether it has fallen through?? It seems to me that it was unjustifiable to pay £75 in order to _get a report as to the condition of affairs’ in the island, unless the Government intended to consider its contents.
– The late Government considered the report, and dropped the subject. The present Government have not taken it up.
– Do I understand the Minister to imply that the present Government are not doing anything in this matter?
– Nothing at all.
-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - I would ask the Minister, if it has not already been tabled and printed, to get the report on Norfolk Island printed and distributed for the information of honorable senators. The producers on the island have suffered very considerably from the operation of our legislation. Until the enactment of the Federal Tariff, absolute freedom of trade prevailed between New South Wales and Norfolk Island. Many coffee plantations were established on the island with the idea that a good trade could be done with Australia, but the high Federal duties practically rendered their products valueless to the planters. Either Norfolk Island will have to be annexed by New Zealand, or some step must be taken to bring it under the control or jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, or give preferential treatment to its products. I hope that Senator Playford will look through the report and consider the possibility of doing something, by means of which the Norfolk Islanders may be able to exist and obtain a market for their products.
– I shall see the report, and consider what the honorable senator has said.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - The Minister of Defence has not yet given the Committee any information concerning the item of ,£93 for copies of the picture entitled “ Opening of the First Parliament of the Commonwealth.”
– I know nothing about the item. Let the honorable senator go and ask Mr. George Reid about it. It is really unfair to expect me to answer all these questions about twopenny-ha’penny items.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - As a matter of principle, we ought not to pass any items without getting a proper explanation from the Minister. I understand that in the case of the copies of this picture, the money has been expended. It illustrates to some extent the farcical nature of the position into which the Senate has allowed itself to drift. I move -
That the House of Representatives be re. quested to leave out the item “ Cost of copies of pictures ‘Opening of the First Parliament of the Commonwealth,’ £93.”
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … …11
Question so resolved in the negative.
SenatorPULSFORD (New South Wales)’. - I think that , £917 is a very large sum to be required for temporary assistance for the administrative staff of the Department, of Home Affairs. I presume that on the Estimates in chief there was a considerable sum voted for this purpose.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - On the second reading of the Bill, Senator Pulsford asked me if I had any explanation concerning this item to offer. I made an explanation, in which I. showed that, in consequence of a number of officers for whom provision had been made on the Estimates not having been appointed until six or seven months had elapsed, temporary assistance had to be obtained by the Department, and that, through its employment, it made a saving of over£900, simply because no permanent officers had been appointed. Yet he rises again and quietly asks me to give the explanation a second time. I was blamed because I was not supplied with information concerning an item of £93; but when I do give an explanation concerning an item of£917, I am asked to give the information a second time.
– On page 17 of the schedule we are invited by the Treasurer to appropriate £1,305 for the Navigation Commission,£2,166 for the Tariff Commission, and . £196 for the
Old-age Pensions Commission. The last item is a very moderate one, and I feel quite sure that the Old-age Pensions Commission is doing good work. But the other two Royal Commissionsare exceedingly expensive. I desire to ask the Minister if it is proposed to convert the Select Committee on Tobacco Monopoly into a Royal Commission, and, if so, what expense is likely to be incurred, whether the matter will come before the Senate, or whether the Governor-General will act on his own motion? I should also like the Minister, if it is in order, to tell the Committee whether, as a question of policy the Government approve of what theSelect Committee on Tobacco Monopoly want, because, if they do not, they ought not to go to the expense of appointing a Royal Commission.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - I do not think that Senator Dobson can be serious in asking me this series of questions. How can I be expected to state what the SelectCommittee want ? Am I supposed to know what they want? Let the honorable senator ask Senator Pearce, its chairman, for information. How can I tell what they want ?
– Is a Royal Commismission to be appointed ?
– I do not know. The matter has not come before the Cabinet.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - We are told that the sums of moneyincluded in this Bill on account of Royal Commissions have been paid. Are they the total sums to date?
– I believe they are, although of course some little items may not be included.
.- I understand that all expenditure up to the 30th June this year is represented. I wish to emphasize the fact that the appointment of Royal Commissions is a means of spending a great deal of money. Sometimes they elicit useful information, but that is no reason why we should incur an excessive expenditure on account of them. We are now told that it islikely that the Select Committee on the Tobacco Industry will be appointed a Royal Commission. I hope that no such appointment will be made until Parliament has had an opportunity of expressing its opinion. Another ground of objection to the appointment of so many Royal Commissions is that, to a great extent, they relieve Ministers of the responsibility that properly attaches to them. If Ministers are not to take the responsibility for which they are paid, we might as well have a number crf clerks occupying their offices instead ot parliamentarians of experience. I certainly raise a protest against the appointment of Royal Commissions unless there is an absolute need for them.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). Reference has been made to the Select Committee on the Tobacco Industry, of which I happen to be a member. The Committee has obtained a large and valuable amount of evidence, and has almost completed its work; but there are still four or live witnesses to be examined. Parliament is about to go into recess. If the Committee is not converted into a Royal Commission it cannot complete its work, and the consequence will simply be that when the Senate meets again next session I shall have to move for its re-appointment. The Commission, if appointed, will not be an expensive one. I do not think it will be necessary for it to go beyond Melbourne. The few witnesses who are to be examined have themselves expressed a desire that they shall be summoned. It has to be remembered that the work of the Committee directly challenges the financial interests of persons who are interested in a large industry. It would be unfair to allow a threat to remain hanging over their heads, as would be the case if the Committee did not bring its labours to a conclusion. The expense involved will not be considerable.
– What has been the cost to date?
– About ^100. It has been the most economical Committee of which 1 have heard. I have no fear that it will be challenged on that score.
– I am not challenging the honorable senator.
– I can assure honorable senators that if a Royal Commission is not appointed I shall not allow the matter to drop. Immediately we meet again next year, 1 shall move that the Committee be reconstituted. If, however, it is converted into a Royal Commission its members will be able within a very short time to consider “their report and present it to the Governor-General.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - There is one aspect of the proposal to convert a Select Committee into a Royal Commission to which I must direct the attention of the Government.
– There is no mention of the Tobacco Committee in this Bill.
– Very well; I will bring the matter up on the third reading,.
-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - I. point out that if a practice is instituted of converting Select Committees into Royal Commissions at the request of honorable senators, there will be a great deal of difficulty in inducing members of the Senate to appoint Select Committees. The. Committee on the Tobacco Industry has now been sitting during two sessions of Parliament. Senator Pearce now requests that the Government will appoint a Royal Commission. If they do they, prima facie, say : “ We consider that this is a matter that should be inquired into by a Royal Commission.” and to that extent they become responsible to a greater degree than they would be for what was done by a Select Committee. This is a matter which the Government and honorable senators generally might well take into consideration, to see if by some means the expense in connexion with the Royal Commissions cannot be kept down, and not too much responsibility removed from the shoulders of Ministers.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - In connexion with the Victorian branch of the Department of Trade and Customs, there is an item, “ Protectio.ni of revenue, £2,066.” This expenditure seems to be enveloped in mystery, and I shall be obliged if the Minister will throw a little light on the matter.
Senator PLAYFORD (South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - This item is to cover expenses connected with a law case some little time ago, known as “the fish case.” There has been no loss, the whole amount having been returned to the Department.
– I assume that the whole of the amount is covered in this way ?
– So I understand from the officer in charge.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - Why is such an extraordinary method of dealing with the items adopted? I notice that in New South Wales similar expenditure is set out- as “ verdict, cost, and interest in Goldring v. Lockyer, ^45°-“
All this information ought to be given without honorable senators being put to the necessity of asking questions. For all that appears to the contrary, the words “ protection of revenue ‘ ‘ might mean pro- vision of some secret service money, spent in the maintenance of a detective force.
– In the case of Western Australia there is a similar item, namely, “ Protection of revenue, £132.”
– Does Senator Gould object to expenditure for the purpose of protecting the revenue?
– No; but I want to know how the money is expended. Then, again, in Western Australia, I see that £400 is provided for a gratuity to the widow of N. E. Knight, supervisor; while in Tasmania there are two gratuities to widows, of £6 ios..5d. and £6 6s. 7d. respectively.
– In the case of Mr. Knight, that is transferred expenditure.
.- At the same time, we ought to be given full information on all these items.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I should like some information in regard to the item of £132 referred to by Senator Guthrie. These amounts may represent a secret service fund,- which is deemed to be necessary ; but it is equally necessary that we be given the particulars.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - I am informed that the item “ Protection of revenue, £132,” is in connexion with a prosecution under the Customs Act in Western Australia. This money is to meet expenses and cost.
– Is there a secret service fund in this Department?
– Not that I am aware of.
-Col. Gould. - Were the Government successful or unsuccessful in the prosecution in Western Australia? We ought to have some particulars of the case.
– The Treasury officials have no details, and I cannot give the information to the honorable member.
– I see that in the Department of Trade and Customs there is an item of £71, as representing goods destroyed by white ants at Broome bond. Does the Minister know what articles were destroyed? I am informed that the white ants are so numerous in that part’ of Australia that they eat bank ledgers.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - I have no detailed information to give the honorable senator on this point, but I think the item explains itself. What the goods destroyed were I do not know, but I have been told that the white ants in the Northern Territory eat galvanized iron.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - If the Minister cannot give us any information as to the item of ,£132 for the protection of the revenue in Western Australia., I shall feel it my duty to submit a request asking another place to eliminate the item. What is the use of the Estimates if the Minister can give us no information ?
– I have given a good deal of information, but I db not know all these two-penny-halfpenny details.
.- If I asked the Minister to give me a present of ,£132 I wonder whether he would call it a twopennyhalfpenny matter. I move–
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the item “ Protection of revenue, £132.”
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - If the honorable senator, as my agent, were to spend £132 on my behalf, and he told me that he had spent it in the most satisfactory way, I should take his word. Cannot the honorable senator take the word! of the late Ministry, who authorized this expenditure to which he takes exception? Certainly not one member of the late Government would authorize expenditure of this kind unless it was perfectly justified. I do not think so badly of the late Ministry as to imagine for one moment that Mr. Reid, Mr. McLean, or Sir George Turner, or any of their colleagues, would do such a thing. These gentlemen are our personal friends, though opposed to us politically, and I think that under the circumstances we may trust them.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - This is not a question of trusting or distrusting the members of the late or any other Ministry. Why does Senator Playford not contend that Ministers should have the right to spend the public money as they see fit, with the simple explanation that it is necessary in the interests of the Commonwealth? What are the Estimates for?
– These are not Estimates; the money is all spent.
– Are we to vote money to the Treasurer’s Advance Account, and never receive any information as to expenditure?
– I have told honorable senators that this expenditure was in connexion with a prosecution in Western Australia ; but I do not know all the pettydetails.
.- If Senator Playford, as my agent,, spent ,£132 of my money, I should probably ask him for some explanation; and the same view should be taken of the Estimates. It has been said that the expenditure on the picture referred to, was ratified by Mr. Reid. As a matter of fact, this money was expended in 1902.
– The order was given in 1902, and it had to be honored when the goods were delivered.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).I think the Minister totally misinterprets the questions from this side of the House. No one expects a Minister to be familiar with all the details” of every item. On the other hand, I ask him, as an old parliamentarian, whether there is no obligation placed on Parliament to ascertain the purposes for which money is spent, and on the Minister to supply some definite information ?
– I have supplied definite information, but not all the details.
– Had a little common sense been exercised in the preparation of these Estimates, this sort of difficulty would not have arisen. In the case of exactly similar expenditure in New South Wales, a perfectly business-like method of setting out the facts is adopted, whereas, in the case of Victoria, we are presented with the mysterious phrase: “Protection of revenue.” The uniform of an officer or a launch to enable naval officers to go from one ship to another might be included in the term “ protection o£ revenue.” The phrase givesno information, and is likely to mislead. I do not blame the Minister personally, but the honorable senator will admit that the officers of this Department have not prepared the Estimates, in such a way as to assist the Committee in their deliberations.
– I admit that.
– And supplementaryEstimates for money already spent should! be submitted in the early part of the session.
– I agree with the honorable senator.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).I notice an item on page 26, “Ammunition for 6-inch guns transferred from South Australia, ,£1,747.” Perhaps the Minister will be able to give some informations concerning it.
– That is, transferred expenditure from South Australia to New South Wales.
– Merely a bookkeeping entry ?
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - In connexion with the item, “ Expenses of officer* on. special duty as attache” to the Japanese Army!, ,£203.” I should like to know whether the Minister has. had any report from that officer.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - The officer in question was Colonel Hoad. His report was printed and circulated a. year ago, and a very valuable report it was.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia).I direct attention <to the items under the heading “Naval, Miscellaneous,” “No. 1 payment into Trust Fund - Naval Agreement special pay account, ,£4,810,” and “ No. 2 payment into Trust Fund - Royal Navy Reserve account, ,£200.” What is the difference between these two trust funds? I am under the impression that they refer to the same fund, and I should like to know why they are separated in this way.
Senator PLAYFORD (South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - I believe that the first item makes provision for the payment of Commonwealth men employed on board the Imperial Fleet at the higher rate which they are paid as compared with that paid in the Imperial service. We pay the amount required into a trust fund. I believe that the item connected with the Royal Naval Reserve account is explained in exactly the same way.
– We do not pay any Royal Navy Reserve men?
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - We have only just discussed an item of expenditure set down as “ Protection, of revenue.” Honorable senators will notice that the Department of Defence hasadopted a sensible course, and, underthe heading “ General Services,” there appears the item “Law costs “ (including costs and verdict) in the case of Evans v. Finn. That gives the information which the Committee are entitled to have in regard to these items, and I direct attention to that item to show that some of the Departments understand what is required. In this instance, a special case is referred to, and if honorable senators desire further information on the subject, they can look up the records of the case.
– I have taken a note of the matter referred to by the honorable senator, and will see that it is attended to in the preparation of the next Estimates.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - However defenceless Australia may be otherwise, it would appear that she isable to do a good deal of fighting in the Law Courts. Honorable senators will notice in these Estimates votes set down in four different places for expenditure in connexion with law cases of£946 , £49, £454, and £65.
– Some of those cases are two or three years old.
– They all appear in these Estimates, and I direct attention to the fact that the Commonwealth would appear to be really a fighting force. Both Houses of Parliament have been told a great deal about the under-valuation of goods and fraud on the part of commercial people, and on manyoccasions the commercial community of the Commonwealth has been maligned, and yet in these Estimates we are called upon to vote an amount of £454 to cover the verdict, costs, and’ interest in a case brought against the Collector of Customs in Sydney, Mr. Lockyer, by Mr. Goldring. I make special mention of this case amongst many in which the Commonwealth seems to have had to go to law, and has, I think, generally got the worst of it.
– I direct attention to the items “Towards cost of transport of rifle team competing at rifle association matches at Western Australia, £107,” and “Transport of rifles into Western Australia, £58.” I should like to know how these items are brought into these Estimates, when, as I understand the matter, the charges were supposed to have been met out of last year’s provision for travelling expenses. I interviewed the Department of Defence in connexion with this very matter, and I was told that there would be no necessity for a special vote. Now I find that special votes are submitted.
– These are not special votes.
– I understood that these amounts were to come out of the provision set aside for travelling expenses.
– This is for a special case in which a special team was sent over, and the expense was met out of the Treasurer’s Advance.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - I believe that the sum of £100 was voted for the purpose on the Estimatesinchief, and there is a vote here of , £58 for the transport of a rifle team to Western Australia.
– That only applied to the South Australian team; the other vote of£107 was for the New South Wales team.
.- We originally voted £100 for railway fares and transport, and this shows the way in which the money was applied.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - The explanation given does not apply to the vote of £107 to be found under division 87. I am very anxious to get this matter cleared up, because, when I went to see about the transportation of a rifle team from Western Australia to Williamstown, this year, I was told that a special grant could not be given, and that the money would have to be taken out of the amount which was set aside for travelling expenses. Therefore, the vote for travelling expenses wasreduced by that sum. In the case of other States, last year there was a special vote, so that, as is usual when there is any question of special expenditure, Western Australia has not been placed upon an equal footing with, the eastern States.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - This amount was not considered to be a proper charge against the ordinary vote for travelling expenses, and therefore a special vote is required. The Minister of the day requested the Treasurer to pay, out of his advance account, this amount for the pur- pose therein set forth. It was paid before the end of the financial year, and now the Parliament is asked to approve of what he did.
– Because it was over and above the amount which had been provided on the Estimates for travelling expenses.
– I do not think so.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - The Minister of Defence is not well posted in the accounts kept by his Department. This sum has had to be brought in as a special vote because it was over and above that which Had been voted in the ordinary Estimates for travelling expenses.
– Very likely.
– There has been that much less to spend in the State. This item of travelling expenses is of vital importance to the Rifle Association.
– On page 29, under the head of “ Rifle clubs and associations,” the honorable senator will see an item of £110 for transport of rifle team to Western Australia from Victoria.
– That is quite right. It was all speciallyvoted last year; but in dealing with Western Australia this year the cost has been taken out of the amount which was voted on the Estimates for travelling expenses. I went into the matter with the Minister and his secretary, but they would not grant a special vote for this purpose.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - The same course has been taken with every State. If the amount of the vote is not sufficient to cover the expenses, and the Minister approves of a further expenditure, he asks the Treasurer to give him an advance. In this case the Treasurer was asked for an advance, and the Parliament is now invited to approve of what he did.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I should like theMinister to give the Committee some information concerning the item of £16, 118 for arrears under section 19 of the Victorian Act No. 1722.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - In moving the second reading of the Bill, I explained that a few days before the establishment of the Commonwealth the Victorian Parliament passed a special Bill to increase the salaries of a number of the officers in the Departments to be transferred. For a time we refused to pay the increases, but afterwards we found that they had to be paid, and they were paid in a lump sum. Of course, the additional expenditure has been charged to Victoria.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - I desire to draw the attention of the Committee to an item of £7 to satisfy a query of the Auditor-General in connexion with an over-payment of salary made in 1903-4. Can any one get paid by raising a query ? I have no doubt that there has been a proper gayment made. What is wrong is the way in which the item is worded.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - A man who was on sick leave happened to get paid £7 in excess of that which he ought to have been paid, and when he died we could not get a refund, and thereforewe had to pass ar> entry for the amount.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I desire to ask the Minister if the practice of paying in advance is limited?
– Perhaps I made a little slip. This was really an overpayment to an officer who afterwards died.
– It appears that a payment was made to which at the time the recipient was not legally entitled.
– There was an overpayment of£7 to the man. The AuditorGeneral queried the payment, but in the meantime the man had died.
– It is to be hoped that in the Public Service the principle of paying in advance is not carried out to any great extent, otherwise items of this kind will frequently appear in the Estimates.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - At Christmas time I believe that officers are paid a good many days before the end of the month. When the honorable senator gets his salary paid before the end of the month he does not make a bother about it; in fact we have all been paid our salaries in advance this month.
Schedules agreed to.
Postponed clauses 2 and 3, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Playford) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through its remaining stages withoutdelay.
Bill read a third time.
Message received from the House of Representatives, stating that it had agreed to the Senate’s amendments in this Bill.
Message received from the House of Representatives, stating that it did not insist on its amendments to which the Senate had disagreed, and had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate on its amendments Nos. 40 and 42.
Message received from the House of Representatives, stating that it had made the amendment requested by the Senate, with a modification.
Motion (by Senator Playford) proposed -
The Senate resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider the message received from the House of Representatives.
– Yes, because, on the motion of the Minister of Defence, the Standing Orders were suspended yesterday, in order to enable the Bill to pass through its remaining stages without delay.
– Does the suspension of the Standing Orders on one day, sir, apply indefinitely for the rest of the session?
– If the Standing Orders are suspended to enable a Bill to pass through its remaining stages without delay, necessarily they are suspended until it has passed its final stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration, of House of Representatives’ Message) :
Clause 2 -
In lieu of the Duty of Excise imposed on sugar by the Excise Tariff 1902, there shall, as from and including the first day of January One thousand nine hundred and seven, be imposed on sugar the following Duty of Excise : -
Sugar - per cwt. of manufactured sugar - Four shillings; which duty shall be charged, collected and paid to the use of the King for the purposes of the Commonwealth.
Senate’s Request. - After “ Commonwealth “ insert “ Until the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and thirteen.”
House of Representatives’ Message. - At the end of clause add : - “ Provided further that the Duty of Excise payable on sugar produced from cane delivered for manufacture in the years One thousand nine hundred and eleven and one thousand nine hundred and twelve shall bc respectively two-thirds and one-third of the aforesaid rates.” 1
– I informed the Senate this morning that it was my intention to move an amendment on the Excise Tariff Bill, which is now before us again, with a view to institute a sliding-scale in regard to the amount of Excise paid, on the same lines as the sliding-scale in the Bounty Bill. There was an expresson of dissent from some honorable members, and I then said. “ I will allow the House of Representatives, under the circumstances, to take it upon itself to say whether there shall be such an amendment or not. I will only now move the insertion of the words “ until the 1st day of January, 1913,” and another place will have an opportunity of considering whether a modification should be made by it on the lines of the amendment which we made in the Bounty Bill.” That was the understanding.
– That is the Minister’s version of it, but there may be an honest difference of opinion.
– I did not understand that.
– I certainly told honorable senators that it was my intention to propose a sliding scale in this Bill. I was then met with some expression of dissent. Thereupon I said that I was not very strong upon the matter. My own opinion was that we had better leave the Bill as it stood. I stated that,,- so far as I was concerned, I would not propose a sliding-scale, but would move such an amendment as would enable another place to express -an opinion on the question.
– That is the part of the Minister’s statement as to which we have no recollection.
– A modification in favour of a sliding-scale has been moved in another place, and carried without dissention. We are now asked to concur. I think we can agree to the wishes of the other House, and I move -
That the modification made by the House of Representatives in the Senate’s request be agreed to.
– The Minister has given us a version of what occurred upon the earlier stages of this Bill. I shall give my own version of what occurred, though I ask the honorable senator to accept my assurance that I quite believe he has not said anything with a desire to mislead any one. A misunderstanding has arisen, which is unfortunate for those who sit on this side of the Chamber. When the Bill was previously before us, the Minister stated that he had two amendments to propose. One of those was’ the object of fixing a period which was to mark the termination of the operation of the measure, and the other was to provide for a sliding-scale. When, as he states, protests arose;, the Minister said, “If you will give me the one amendment, I will mot press for the other.”
– I said I would leave it to the other House to express its opinion.
– That is the point as to which my recollection does not tally with that of the Minister.
– I do not know whether Hansard took it down, but I said what I stated.
– I have no recollection of it. When the Minister said, “ Give me one amendment, and I will forego the other,” I took that to be an intimation that he would be satisfied with; the one amendment, and we readily met him with regard to it. We agreed to the second reading of the Bill, and went into Committee. What position do we find ourselves in now? Having conceded half of the Minister’s desire, we now find that he asks us to concede the other half. What position are we in as compared with what we should have been in at the earlier stage of the Bill? The Minister knows as well as I do that this Bill is the natural complement to one with which we have dealt. As the voting was equal, we thought the Government would accept a fair compromise, and we believed that that compromise was effected when we expressed a willingness to accept one of the two amendments. It places the Opposition in an unsatisfactory’ position if, having conceded one-half of the request of the Government, we are now confronted with a demand that we shall accept the other half.
– There was no compromise on this Bill at all.
– When a Minister gives a clear undertaking, it necessarily carries with it some Ministerial responsibility. If the Minister in the other House had given a promise to abide by an arrangement made with the Opposition, I am sure that the Senate would have been asked to concur in that course. So it ought to be with an undertaking made with us in this Chamber.
– There was no undertaking in this case.
– Does the Minister deny that he said, “ Give me the one amendment, and I willi forego the other ‘ ‘ ?
– I said that I would move such an amendment as would enable the other House to express an opinion.
– If the Minister said that I did not hear him, and I do not think that any one on this side of the Chamber did either.
– I did.
– If Senator Walker heard that, and was satisfied, he was content with “very little. I do not impugn the Minister’s word; it is simply one of those misunderstandings that sometimes will occur. But it is unfortunate for the Opposition that the misunderstanding has arisen. It means that we practically undo all -we did yesterday with regard to the Sugar Bounty Bill.
– No; we inserted a sliding scale in the Bill.
– But the effect of that sliding scale is entirely minimized by the introduction of a corresponding sliding scale i» the Excise Bill. The effect of the Sugar Bounty Bill as amended was to say to the sugar-growers in Queensland : “ We will give you a bounty on the sugar you produce by white labour at a diminishing rate until it finally disappears.” That Bill was passed with’ the knowledge that the Excise Bill provided a fixed amount of Excise without a sliding scale. If we now adopt the Government proposal, what happens is this - that whilst in the Bounty Bill we pay less during the tapering-off period, we receive less under this Bill. We might as well have left the two measures unaltered as alter them both in the proportion of the sliding scale set out here. The sugargrowers will get the .same net amount as they would have done if the two Bills had been passed as originally introduced.
– They will get the same amount under the Bounty Bill as was originally proposed by the Government.
– - But under this Bill we are now asked to let them off a portion of the Excise. We pay them the same amount of bounty, spread’ over a longer period, but we collect a lesser amount of Excise. That means that we are -giving them a larger amount of financial assistance; whereas the object of the Senate was to give them a smaller amount. The Government proposed a certain amount for five years. We gave them the same amount spread over six years. Now the Government comes along “and says, “ In addition to giving you that amount, we will deduct less from you under “the Excise Bill.”
– Just for two years.
– But the point is that if we accept the proposal now made, we give a larger amount of financial assistance to the sugar-growers than would have been done if we passed the two Bills as originally introduced. I am not prepared to make larger payments to the sugar-growers: In the first place, it has not been shown that it is absolutely essential to the sugar industry that the growers should have the measure of assistance that we propose to extend to them, much less that they have a claim for a larger measure of financial assistance. Surely it is incumbent upon those who ask us to make these enlarged payments to show upon what grounds they justify the demand. The Minister may say that the sliding scale in this Bill corresponds with the sliding scale in the Bounty Bill. But under the Bounty Bill we only gave the same amount of bounty as the Government propose to give. “Under this Bill it is proposed to charge a lesser amount of Excise to the sugar growers.
– Our net revenue will be practically the same. It was estimated that in the five years the revenue would be £1,930,000 ; and the net revenue under the new proposal is estimated to be £1, 914,000.
– The Minister now says that the revenue was originally estimated at £1,930,000. Yesterday, the figures which he gave were that the revenue would be £2,000,000.
– I may, of course, have made a mistake in the addition.
– It makes a considerable difference of £86,000, but I am assuming that the figures which the Minister presented yesterday are correct. Even so, there is a discrepancy between1 the figures now, and the figures he handed to me yesterday. The sum of £2,000,000 was frequently mentioned in the course of the debate, showing that that amount was accepted as correct. If that be so, and the amount to be collected is , £914,000, we are proposing to give , £86,000 to the sugargrowers, principally of Oueensland. I enter my protest against giving the growers any such sum, whichever be the correct figure. Why should the growers be given a bounty over and above what was in the minds of honorable senators whenthey passed the Bill yesterday ? The Ministerhas not advanced a single argument why that should be done. We ought to have some reason given to us for the course proposed, beyond the mere fact that another place has passed an amendment. Why should the public purse be opened still further and a large additional sum granted to those who were generously treated under the first proposal ?
– The Senate finds itself to-night in an extraordinary position. On Friday last, when the Sugar Bounty Bill was introduced, I expressed the opinion that the two Bills ought to be considered together in the Senate, andhonorablesenators are aware of the understanding or expectation which was arrived at this morning. I objected to the Government proposal, but was willing not to vote against it when some of my friends intimated that they were willing to accept it. There is no question as to the gravity of the proposal before us. The figures which the Minister has handed to me show that, with an Excise duty of , £4, it is anticipated there will be collected £800,000 per annum, and it is proposed that, in the year 1910, one-third of that amount shall be given up, and the next year two-thirds. Inother words, it is proposed that Australia shall give up £800,000 of revenue in the two years, and that in the following year not a farthing shall be collected in the shape of Excise duty. We know, of course, that it will then be open to Parliament to review the matter; but the idea in the minds of those who engineer proposals of this, kind is altogether antagonistic to any Excise duty. The desire is to give to those whoengage in this industry immense sums of money which ought to go to the revenues of the various States. It was quite understood last night that the matter was settled on the terms which have already been referred to. It is proposed now, however, that the Excise duty shall be given up altogether, and the various States.shorn of revenue. What do the representatives of Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales think of the proposal ? Can Victoria, for instance, afford to forego something like £240,000, and New South Wales £300,000? We must not forget that with the proposal to reduce the Excise there is no accompanying proposal to reduce taxation through the Customs. In every one of the years contemplated, this industry will go on collecting from the public £6 per ton, or 200,000, and, instead of there being ^800,000 to divide amongst the States, there will be nothing. Surely that is a proposal which the most ardent protectionist cannot accept. It is most extraordinary that there should be an attempt to go behind the arrangement we made yesterday, and to launch a proposal of this kind in the last hours of the session, when a good many members, of both Houses have already started for their homes. This is a piece of legislation which, I fancy, has few parallels, and the proposing of which reflects great discredit ora the Government.
– I should like to point out that under this proposal the employers of coloured labour and the employers of white labour will benefit equally, so that, unintentionally, the former will relatively get more protection than the latter. Senator Pulsford has laid the case before the Committee very clearly ; and I must say that I am rather surprised that some of our friends in another place did not see what the effect of this legislation would be. Honorable members elsewhere were evidently led away by the argument that both measures would work in identically the same way, whereas the effect is quite different.
– I am very sorry there has been a misunderstanding. I am prepared to take the statement of the Minister as showing what he intended, or what his recollection of the events is. My own clear impression is that the understanding was that, if we on this side would consent to the term being limited, then honorable senators opposite would forego the idea of proposing, a diminishing rate. But for that understanding there would have been no object in honorable senators on this side agreeing to an amendment; we should simply have been .giving the position away. It seems, however, that there has been a misunderstanding. We know how legislation has been going on in another place recently - we know how easy it is, at this hour of the session, with a few simple words, which, perhaps, no one hears, to slip a Bill through.
– This is a very serious reflection on another place.
– That was exactly the position when this Bill went through.
-Col. GOULD. - Be that as it may, we are made to appear as if we only considered the sugar-growers, and not the consumers, and as though we were not concerned about the revenue. The reason for an Excise duty is to obtain revenue, even under the proposal made by the Government. Although a certain amount of protection would be given incidentally, it was expected that revenue would be derived; but, as matters are now, the revenue has been thrown away.
– Surely the honorable senator does not wish to derive revenue from sugar?
– We want revenue from any source we can get it.
– Tax the land.
.- The honorable senator has a “bee in his bonnet “ in regard to land taxation. We shall be making a serious mistake if we throw revenue away in the manner proposed ; and the measure is certainly an indication that there will be no more Excise duty collected after the expiration of six years. The position taken up by the Government is unreasonable, and it entirely defeats the intention of the Senate when the alteration was made in the Bill the other day. ‘ As I have already said, many honorable senators have .gone away under the impression that this matter was settled.
– They are all paired.
– I am afraid they are not. At any .rate, it appears to me. to be a case in which honorable senators opposite are taking advantage of. the absence of honorable senators. I know that, politically, of course, honorable senators are quite justified in doing so.
– No advantage can be gained in’ that way, because every absent senator is” paired.
– Whatever honorable, senators may say, it is not reasonable to make the proposed change at the present time, and I shall certainly record my vote against the Government.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - Senator Stewart has expressed the opinion that we ought not to derive revenue from sugar. Does the honorable senator wish the people of Australia to continue paying £6 per ton, or more than £1,000,000 every year, without the revenue benefiting to the extent of a farthing? Surely that cannot be the honorable senator’s idea? He does not recognise that we are not dealing with the Customs duty, but with the Excise duty, and the big Customs duty which the people have to pay on every ounce of sugar they consume is to stand. The honorable senator is supporting a policy under which the Government will take a larger portion of what the people pay, and hand it over for the benefit of certain people concerned in the industry. Though the people will contribute a gigantic sum in taxation, the revenues of the various States will be depleted. That is the position under the proposal now made, and it is a very grave position indeed. We should have some explanation on the subject from the Minister in charge of the Bill.
– The Committee is asked to undo everything we fought for during the whole of yesterday. Under this proposal the revenue of the States will be depleted, and this industry - which is certainly deserving of some consideration - will be bolstered up to an extent which some of the States cannot afford. The sugar planters of Queensland must admit that the Federal Parliament has treated them most generously, whilst their own State Legislature has not done enough for them. Ministers should hesitate before they ask the State to deplete its revenue any further. Instead of a revenue of £4 per ton from sugar, during the last two years, it will get only £2 13s. 4d., and £1 6s. 8d. respectively per ton. The Minister forgets that there were two reasons for the adoption of the sliding scale in connexion with the bounty. The first was to let the planters know that at the end of a certain period it would cease.
– That has been settled.
– There was another reason, and that was to secure a little more revenue for the States.
– That was never urged.
– The honorable senator himself urged that under the sliding scale proposed we should get exactly the same revenue as under the proposal made in the Bill.
– Senator Playford must have been deaf when I was speaking, if he did not hear the one great burden of my song. I pointed out that Tasmania would sustain a great loss. I believe that in some years she will lose £50,000 a year as a result of the policy adopted in connexion with the sugar industry. Will the Minister say that that is either fair or just? Queensland herself is to do nothing for this industry, though it is one of the chief industries of that State.
– She has to pay her share just as the other States do.
– We were given to understand that sugar would be an enormous revenue-producing item, and, as a matter of fairness, the industry could bear some kind of Excise. If honorable senators say that there is to be no Excise duty on sugar, let us reduce the Customs protection to £3 per ton. The questions of the bounty, the Excise duty, and the Customs duty must be considered together. Senator Playford, against his will, consented to notify the planters by adopting a sliding scale for the payment of the bounty, that it would absolutely cease in 191 3, and is intimating as plainly as possible that at the end of that time there is to be no more Excise duty charged. I believe that at ‘the end of the term provided for, Ministers will be ashamed of what they have done. There will be a reaction throughout the States. This will become a burning question unless we settle it now, and I think that we should settle it now. Will Senator Playford reduce the bonus of £4 per ton to , £3 “per ton, or make any fair suggestion ?
– The Sugar Bounty Bill is not before us now.
– That is so; but we can make this three-fourths for the last two years, and the Minister should consent to do so. We must consider the revenue of the States. If Senator Playford will accept that suggestion. I am sure that the leaderofourpartywillnotobject to it. Some day there will be even numbers on both sidesin the Senate, or there may be a majority of one or two against the Government, and we shall then find out whether Ministers are justified in remaining dumb and consenting to do everything that another place desires. I do not recollect a single occasion on which Ministers in the Senate have not, where a difference of opinion has arisen, remained dumb, and consented to do exactly what they were told by another place.
– I wish the honorable senator had remained dumb.
– I am not going to be dumb on a matter which so seriously affects my State. Surely ‘ Ministers will be prepared to accept some kind df compromise. I shall not vote for the modification which has been submitted to us.
– Then vote against it.
– I wish to get better terms if I can. I think the compromise I have suggested is a fair one. Senator Stewart talks of a land tax, but he might as well talk of the man in the moon. I should like to know what Government would attempt to tax the land of the States. The Watson Government would not dare to <3o so.
– -We never heard of a land tax when the Watson Government was in power.
– Put them into power again and lel honorable senators see whether they will hear o’f a land tax.
– The sweets of office might put a little pluck into them for a time, but they would have to give way to public criticism.
– Let us have a vote.
– I will consent to be dumb for the rest of the session if Senator Playford will agree to the compromise I have suggested. ‘It is exceedingly unfair that two important Bills of this kind should be .rushed through in this way when half the members of the Senate are away. This Bil i might just as well stand over until next year, seeing that the planters know that the bonus is assured to them until 1913. I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend its modification of the Senate’s request by leaving out the words “ respectively twothirds and one-third,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ three-fourths.”
– The speeches I have heard from honorable senators opposite strengthen me in the belief that I should consent to agree to the modification of our amendment proposed by the House of Representatives. I have never argued that we should derive increased revenue from sugar, and when I hear honorable senators urging that we should reject the modification because It would involve a loss of revenue, that is to me a sufficient reason for accepting it. If we genuinely desire to raise less revenue from sugar, we are here given an opportunity to do so, because we shall undoubtedly have an opportunity to revise the Tariff before the term dealt with in these Bills comes to an end, and this proposal will supply a good argument for reducing the import duty on sugar. That will lessen the return to the States Treasurers, and will tend to bring about more quickly what Senator Stewart has indicated, namely, land taxation. I shall support the modification proposed by the House of Representatives in this instance, and when the Customs Tariff comes up for revision I shall be prepared to assist honorable senators opposite in decreasing the import duty on sugar correspondingly, so as to give the same amount of protection and at the same time decrease the taxation of the people upon this item of food which Senator Dobson will admit is not as legitimate a subject of taxation as is the unimproved value of land.
– Land is taxed.
– Senator Dobson must’ know that land is not taxed, but this is not the time to discuss that question. The argument that this involves a loss of revenue to the States confirms me in the opinion that the right course for me to adopt is to support the modification proposed by the House of Representatives.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - Senator Pearce has raised once again the point dealt with by Senator Stewart. He imagines that in reducing revenue in this way we shall be ‘reducing the taxation of the people. I am prepared at any time to accept any proposal that will have the effect of reducing taxation, but there is no proposal to reduce taxation now before the Committee. The proposal before us keeps up the taxation, but hands the product of it to a greater extent to the industry itself. I am satisfied that that is not a policy which commends itself to the judgment of Senator Pearce, and therefore I cannot understand that he should be willing to accept the proposal now before the Committee.
– Will Senator Pulsford support a reduction of the import duty ?
– Of course I will.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - The contention of Senator Pearce is that it it is a question of revenue it can be adjusted by lowering the import duty on sugar at a future date.
– At the date when this Excise duty will begin to decrease.
– When the honorable senator voted with the Opposition yesterday on the Sugar Bounty Bill he knew that the possibility of reviewing the Customs Tariff was just the same then as it is now, whatever it may be worth, but that did not in any way deter him from taking the course which he mapped out for himself, and which was to join with us, who thought that we should put a period to the time for the payment of the bonus to the sugargrowers, and adopt a system for gradually withdrawing from them the financial support which the Commonwealth had hitherto extended. What is the proposal which he now submits ? He recants all that he said yesterday, and comes forward as the advocate of a proposal which, instead of giving the sugar-growers less, is to give them more.
– Incorrect !
– The honorable senator can say anything he likes, so long as it is in order ; but there is no getting away from the fact that yesterday he voted to give a total bonus of 30s. per ton during a period of six years, instead of five years, as the Government proposed, and with the full knowledge that the Excise Tariff Bill provided for the collection of a duty of 4s. a year. Having voted to give a bonus of 30s. during the period of six years, and the bonus not having been disturbed in any way, he now proposes to help to cut down the amount of the Excise duty.
– And to lower the amount of the import duty.
– It is a sham and a fraud to put a possible reduction of the Customs duty down as a compensation for the larger measure of relief which is given in this Bill. Although we adopted a sliding scale, still we did not reduce the total amount of the bonus ; but the effect of the so-called sliding scale with the Excise is to reduce the amount collected. It means that, while we have not made a reduction of the amount we put into the grower’s pocket, it is proposed to reduce the amount to be taken out of it. That is tantamount to giving a larger measure of financial help to the growers. For any honorable senator to say that we can equalize that by a possible amendment of the import duty at a. future date,, can only be described as an effort to mislead, not the Committee, but himself. What are the prospects of our dealing with the Customs Tariff?Senator Pearce knows perfectly well that when it is brought to the Senate, he and others who now vote with him will separate. He will not have the Government’s help then, nor will he bein a position to help them.
– Shall I have the help of the Opposition ?
– Yes, on that matter.
– What about the loss of revenue to the States Treasurers, of which we have heard so much ?
– It is inevitable that the State Treasurers will lose an enormous amount as the result of the enactment of the Sugar Bounty Bill. I hesitate to say how much they will lose, but I believe that I am well within the mark in saying that from£750,000 to . £1,000,000 will not be in excess of the amount which they will lose during its operation. The chief fact to be remembered is that that enormous sum is to be withdrawn from the use of the States Governments, in order to be put directly into the pockets of the sugar-growers. Let me now consider what will be the further effect of the modification which is now suggested. It is somewhat difficultto say what the exact amount will be, because there appears to be a discrepancy in the figures supplied by the Minister, but it is quite clear that the difference between the two systems will be 3s. 4d. a ton per year. I do not know the actual production of sugar in Queensland, but it is quite evident that we are asked to take another sum of . £50,000 or £60,000 from the States Treasurers for the benefit of the sugar-growers. Noone, not even Senator Pearce, has ventured to offer a, reason why we should give them more than we were asked yesterday to give them. Yet, for some unexplained and unexpressed reason, the Minister has asked us to-night to make this additional grant, and honorable senators become rather indignant because we are not prepared to immediately fall in with the suggestion. Why should we throw £50,000 more into the industry when no one has shown that it is in need of further assistance?
– It will be more than £50,000.
– It is probable that my honorable friend is correct, but, taking my estimate, I submit that , £50,000 is an enormous sum to give away in excess of the amount which the Government contended, was necessary. Can the Government give any reason for making this proposal? May I ask those who are familiar with sugar-growing in Queensland, to say whether, after it has enjoyed a bonus for eleven years, the industry is likely to fail, unless it receives this increased assistance? Because, if so, the sooner we shall be brought face to face with the fact that the longer we extend the assistance, the greater will be the demand for increasing it. Apart from this proposal, however, it is somewhat appalling to me that honorable senators should be quite content to vote away these enormous sums without even asking whether it is! justifiable. I do not remember an occasion on which public men have so lightly handled the public money as honorable senators appear to be doing. They ignore the fact that many taxpayers who are face to face with a severe struggle, in order to make a livelihood, are taxed in order to contribute to the incomes of those who are fairly well off, and are doing well. Under this proposal, we are asked to levy a tax upon the users of the poorer lands of the continent, in order to subsidize those who occupy the richest lands in Australia. In Western Australia, prospectors who, perhaps, are fossicking for a bare living, have to pay a duty on their sugar in order to subsidize the latter class. In New South Wales we have very considerable areas of wheat-growing land which’ average 8 bushels to the acre, or yield a bare living as the result of hard work attended with great risk. Yet these persons are to be taxed quite unnecessarily in order’ to subsidize those who occupy and use the .richest lands in Australia. Surely those who oppose this proposal are entitled to be supplied with some justification for its adoption ! When honorable senators will not venture to put forward a single argument or statement in its support, what conclusion am I forced to arrive at? It is that the proposal will not stand examination, that it is a clear attempt to defraud the Commonwealth of its revenue in a ‘way which cannot be justified. Even if we are impotent to do anything, if the representatives of the State whose sugar-growers are to get the whole of this enormous sum have not a word to utter in support of the proposal, then I ask those who agree with me, to place upon record a strong protest against this attempt to deflect a large sum of public money into the pockets of the sugar-growers of Queensland.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - I cannot help reiterating an argument which has been adduced, and that is that we are asked to give this large sum of public money to, at the very outside, 8,000 growers of white sugar in Australia. That is, assuming that the whole of the sugar produced in Australia is grown by white labour. Dr. Maxwell’s report points out that there must be 8,000 growers in Queensland to enable all the sugar now produced to ‘be grown by white labour. It is proposed to give millions of pounds to 8,000 selected individuals of this community to encourage them to grow sugar. We have imposed a duty of £6 per ton to protect’ them in the first instance against the outside world. There is a difference of only £1 per ton between the Excise and the bounty. There is therefore really being given under our system £5 on every ton of sugar. That amounts to 000,000 on 200,000 tons. In other words. 8,000 people engaged in the sugar industry are to be benefited to the extent of £5 per ton for all the sugar they produce. We were told by a member of a previous Parliament that one res,ult of the White Australia policy would be that the whole of the rich country along the Queensland coast would be absolutely thrown out of occupation through black labour being got rid of. But the alternative was adopted of paying a bounty to those who grow by means of white labour, with the object of keeping that country in occupation. We are now giving a handsome income to each individual engaged in this industry. If practically means that this country can afford to pay those people upwards of £100 a year each to leave the sugar industry alone”. Is that reasonable? Senator Pearce says that we may shortly have an opportunity of reducing the Tariff. Probably that is so. But the honorable senator knows that every man engaged in the production of sugar will stand up for a big Customs duty, and that the representatives of those people will not be ready to cut down the duty of £6 per ton to £3 or £4. It is absurd to put that forward as a reason for agreeing to the amendment of the other House. It appears to me that) the Senate is simply playing at legislation. We make amend- ments in Bills, and as soon as another place says, “ We dissent from you,” we are ready to throw up the sponge, and say, “ ‘Very well ; we recognise that we are merely elected for the purpose of further considering measures. If we can persuade you to change your views, well and good; but if you are not to be persuaded, we have no will of our own.” Is not that remark applicable to the present instance? We are now asked to consent to the amendment of another place being agreed to, and to reduce the Excise by two-thirds and one-third. I assume that the determination at which we arrived in the first instance expressed the honest opinion of the Senate. Are we prepared to cave in at discretion, simply because another place asks us to do so? Why should not Tasmania ask us to grant a bounty on , the production of apples or cherries? She has just as much
Tight to do so as the Queensland people have to ask us to forego the fair amount of difference that ought to exist between the amount of bounty which they receive and the amount of Excise they pay.
– The reason why Tagmania does not ask for a bounty on fruit is that1 then there would be an Excise imposed to pay it.
.- Is the only reason for the Excise to provide a bounty to the sugar-growers?
.- Then why make any difference? Why not say that the Excise shall be £3, and the bounty £S per ton?
– Because then we could not differentiate between sugar produced by white and black labour.
.- Am I to understand that the object is to play off the white grower against the black grower? It is surely a very artificial means of differentiation. I presume that Senator Keating will say that if we can get rid of the black labour, he is prepared to maintain the Customs duty, and to have no Excise on sugar. But that stage cannot be reached until there is so much competition in this country as to bring down the price of locally-produced sugar. In the meantime,’ it appears that we are to keep up this artificial barrier, to the detriment of every individual in the community, and of every industry that uses sugar. We might very well have allowed this matter to stand over until next session, in order to give more consideration to it. The Government itself, in its previous legislation, indicated that it desired to grant bounties, not for a period of six years, but continuously. Now Ministers have abandoned the position they took up in the first instance. I cannot understand the attitude of honorable senators who have changed their views on this matter. Where amendments which are noi vital are in dispute it is quite right that we should endeavour to compromise. But this is a vital issue. It is a matter of principle upon which we ought not to give our position away.. Senator Dobson has. indicated a compromise which might be accepted.
– I thought that the honorable senator said we ought not to compromise on this issue?
.- There should not be a compromise on a matter of principle; but we could make an arrangement whereby the rights of the Senate would not be given away upon so important a matter. We ought to consider the position of the revenue. Some honorable senators argue that if the revenue is diminished it will force the country to land taxation. But I can assure them that land taxation is not going to be conceded to the extent that they desire. There will have to be a struggle throughout the length and breadth of this Commonwealth before anything of the kind is agreed to. If some honorable senators desire to deplete the revenue with the object of forcing forward Senator Stewart’s favourite idea of a land tax, they are doing that which is absolutely improper. If we are to have land taxation, let it he determined by a fair and straight-out vote. We should not take advantage of ihe impecuniosity of the Commonwealth in order to carry out a system which every one must recognise to be repugnant to five-sixths of the people of the country. I make as, strong a protest as I can against the action of the Government in this matter, and am astonished to find that there are honorable senators who are prepared to go back upon the ideas that they expressed” in the first instance, and to reverse everything that they declared to be advisable within the last twenty-four hours.
Senator MILLEN (New South” Wales).’ - There is just one point I wish to emphasize before we go to a division. I think I am justified in concluding, from the remarks of Senator Pearce, that those who supportthis proposal of the Government regard, as an alternative to it, the imposition of land taxation.I shall not enter into the merits or demerits of that system of taxation, but I desire to place it on record that those who support the reduction” of the Excise duty do so as one step towards the imposition of a land tax.
– And not a bad move either.
– That may be so, but I wish it to be particularly understood, especially amongst those who occupy the land, and with all their efforts are scarcely able to make a living, that there is a party in this Parliament seeking to impose a heavier burden on them, while lightening the load of those who occupy the rich sugar lands.
– How much are landowners taxed by land agents at the present time?
– In the case to which I understand the honorable senator to refer, the land owners were taxed just as much as they volunteered to give. When I asked Senator Pearce why the Watson Government did not seek to give effect to their land taxfaith, he replied, “ Wait until the next Labour Ministry is in power.” I do not regard that as a threat, but merely as a fair intimation of the policy to be put forward - as a fair intimation to the people of Australia that, so far as a big section of the Labour Party is concerned, one of their first objects, when they are again in power, will be to so adjust these duties as to necessitate a tax on freehold land.
– To come with a heavy thud on the earth-hungerer.
– The honorable senator may, if he chooses, describe the position in that picturesque, if not florid, language. I am stating the facts plainly, and, I hope, fairly, to my opponents. If this land tax is to be one of the issues at an early date, the sooner the people know the fact the better; and the information given by Senator Pearce is my justification for a statement that the motion for the reduction of the Excise duty is one step towards their goal.
– That object meets with the approbation of the majority of the citizens of the Commonwealth.
– When the honorable senator comes back with a thumping big majority behind him I shall say he is a true prophet; but until then I am entitled to have my own opinion as to what are the views of the majority of the electors. So far as my own State is concerned, the people there have never evinced any remarkable desire to apply the panacea of land taxation.
– Mr. Lonsdale and Mr. Conroy, who are members of the honorable senator’s own party, are ardent advocates of land taxation.
– As one swallow does not make a summer, neither do the views of one or two members, associated with my party for other reasons, constitute the views of that party.
– Where will the honorable senator’s party get revenue if they come into power?
– We shall get it partly from such a Bill as that which certain hon-. orable senators are now trying to undermine. I shall lose no opportunity of emphasizing what appears to be the objective of the Labour Party, viz., to so adjust our fiscal system as to make the keystone, or the foundation, direct taxation forFederal purposes. I do not know that that is an object of which the party need be ashamed ; but it supplies the reason why I regard with considerable suspicion any attempt to minimise revenue duties such as those provided by the Bill. I suggest, as the more convenient way of testing the feeling of the Committee, that Senator Dobson move that after the words “ shall be “ the words “three-fourths” be inserted.
Amendment (by Senator Dobson) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the modification made by it in the Senate’s request by inserting the words “ threefourths” after the words “shall be.”
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the modification made by the House of Representatives in the Senate’s request be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Playford) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - Before the Bill is finally dealt with I wish once more to emphasize the fact that I look upon the change made in it as a very regrettable one.
– I have not the slightest desire to delay the passage of the third reading of this Bill, but I certainly think that I am justified in taking advantage of this opportunity to say that I do not consider that the Government have kept the spirit of the compact entered into last night. After we had thrashed out a question for seven or eight hours, I was led last night to accept a compromise, in the belief that it would be accepted by the Government in another place. That assurance was given in connexion with the Sugar Bounty Bill, which, with this Bill, must be considered as part and parcel of the same legislation. I do not think that the radical alteration made in this Bill since it was introduced is in keeping with the spirit of the compact which the leader of the Government in the Senate offered last night. I have, however, this consolation in the matter : This Excise Tariff Bill and the Sugar Bounty Bill must be considered in conjunction with the Tariff, and the whole question must again comeup for reconsideration and review at no distant date. Possibly the Government have taken the action which they have taken in connexionwith this measure, because it is assumed that we are within a few hours of the close of the session. If it were not that I amabsolutely certain that the whole question must shortly be reviewed again. I should be inclined to putup something of a “stone-wall.” I am satisfied to letthe Bill pass now, because I know that there is a sufficient number of honorable senators of my way of thinking to insure a review of the Question next session.
Senator WALKER (New South Wales). - I cannot find language sufficiently strong to express my disappointment; but it is satisfactory to remember that four years must elapse before the sliding scale in regard to the Excise will come into operation, and between this andthen we shall have a general election. I shall be much mistaken if at that general election this very consideration of the tremendous loss of revenue to the States will not prove a strong point in favour of the party now sitting on the Opposition benches. Under the measure we passed last night, for the last two years of the period the bounty per ton will be reduced to £2 and£1 respectively ; but by this Bill a reduction in Excise for those years means a present of £2 13s. 4d. and£1 6s. 8d. per ton respectively to the sugar-growers, so that white growers will practically receive the equivalent of £4 13s. 4d. and £2 6s. 8d. per ton for the years alluded to.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - I cannot allow the Bill to pass without a word or two. Without claiming a moral victorv for honorable senators on this side, I claim an immoral victory for honorable senators opposite. Senator O’ Keefe stated that he would be inclined to “ stone-wall “ the third reading of this Bill, did he not believe that the question will have to be reviewed at a later date. I shouldbe happy to join the honorable senator in the “ stone-wall “ if I thought that it would do any good. This is another instance in which we discover the facility which the Senate possesses for reversing its opinion on all occasions. James Russell Lowell wrote : - A merciful Providence fashioned us holler,
A purpose that we might our principles swaller.
The action of certain honorable senators would appear to”justify that view of human nature. Senator Pearce was a strong man last night ; Senator Henderson and Senator de Largie were also strong men last night, but they have since weakened lamentably.
– They hold the same views now.
.- But they have voted differently. Twenty-four hours would appear to be sufficient to effect a complete reformation in the minds of some members of the Senate, when they understand that their masters in another place desire that theyshould change their views. We were assured that honorable members in another place would accept the Sugar Bounty Bill, as we sent it to them, but they have altered the Excise Tariff Bill in such a way as to leave matters very much as they were before. There can be no doubt that they are justified in regarding the Senate as being by no means a strong or a determined House, but as one. which may be blown over as easily as a house of cards.If the honorable senators to whom I have referred, had voted to-night as they did twenty-four hours ago, the majority would have been on this side of the Chamber, and if the Government did not regret the loss of the Bill they would probably have consoled themselves with the reflection that it could be’ taken up next session. I am glad to recognise the truth of what Senator Walker has said. We shall have one, and possibly two, general elections, before the sliding scale comes into operation with respect either to the bounty or the Excise duty. We shall/ therefore, have an opportunity to reconsider the whole question, and by that time possibly we shall be able to induce Senator Pearce to vote again in the way we desire.
– I shall be able, in the meantime, in dealing with the Tariff, totest the honorable senators’ sincerity.
– Senator Pearce will endeavour to cut down the Customs duty onsugar, and when he is beaten it may be possible to induce him to insist upon a reasonable Excise duty.
– Shall I get the honorable senator’s vote?
.- The honorable senator mav have my vote on all reasonable proposals, but not for a proposal whichwould make land taxation the taxation of this country. I am very glad that we have been informed so clearlv as to what the policy of Senator Pearce and his friends will be if they have the good fortune to be in power with a majority behind them. I shall not further delay the passing of the Bill, but I congratulate the Government and honorable senators on the facility with which they can jump Jim-
Crow and change their views.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a very small Bill in which honorable senators have the right to insert amendments, because it deals with works and buildings. It appropriates the sum of £490, which was expended by the Watson Government on account of the financial year 1903-4 and a sum of £52,527 on account of the financial year 1904-5, which was expended by the Reid Government. A reference to the two schedules will show that with the exception of £44,050 for rifles, guns, and other equipment, the items are small. Sir George Turner informed the House of Representatives that he would use any saving on the ordinary Defence vote for the purpose of providing special equipment which, as honorable senators are aware, has been done for some time. A sum of £44,050 was saved on the general vote for Defence, and Sir George Turner allowed an advance of equal amount to be apportioned in a manner which is set forth on page 7 of the second schedule. It shows for what purposes the money was originally voted, and also what alteration was made in the expenditure. It was expended upon military equipment, which consisted of 5,000 magazine Lee-Enfield rifles of the new’ pattern, ammunition, accountrements, camp equipment, material for small arms ammunition to be paid into a trust fund, artillery ammunition for fixed defences, tools and other materials, guns, harness, waggons, machine guns, medical stores, &c.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 postponed.
– I desire to refer to the item of £110 for machinery and plant for the Government Printing Office and works in connexion therewith. This is a small item, but it is one of several items which have figured of late in the public accounts. From what I can understand, we are paying for the purpose of having our work done in the State printing office. If we are going to find plant and machinery, and to pay the same rates as though the State Government had found the plant and machinery, or the work had been placed with private firms, it seems to me that we are gradually approaching a point at which it wouldbe much cheaper to have a Federal Printing Office. Am I right in assuming that this plant has been purchased by the Commonwealth and placed in the Government Printing Office here?
– In view of the large sum of public money which has been expended on the purchase of printing material and plant, I would suggest to the Minister of Defence that the timehas arrived when the Commonwealth might well establish a printing office of its own. It has purchased the most modern machinery, which has been installed in the Government Printing Office in Melbourne, and which is being used for State as well as Commonwealth purposes.
– For whichwe gel nothing.
– They give us the use of the whole of the building rent free and allow us to use a certain number of machines.
– But they charge us for the work which they do for us.
– If it is held that the fact that the Victorian Government allow the Commonwealth to have the use of a tin shed, entitles them to the continuous use of our printing plant-
– They lend us the whole of their big office.
– I have visited the printing works, and hold that the Victorian Government are pretty well suited with our up-to-date machinery. They get’ along very well indeed with their work, and it is done in an improved manner, simply by reason of the fact that they have practically the free use of the latest printing machinery. I do not know that we are not justified in complaining of the present position. A few yearsago the Premier of this State, Mr. Bent, was growling at public functions about our using their Parliament House, and using offices belonging to, or rented by the State. If I had only to considermy own comfort, I would not thank the State Government for the use of this building. On page 6, in the second schedule, there is an item of £1,160 for machinery and plant for the Government Printing Office and works in connexion therewith. The fact that we are continually renewing this machinery, and that we have a very good plant established in the State printing-office, leads me to think that it would be far cheaper and better if the Commonwealth were to at once establish a printing works of its own in Melbourne.
– Of course, this question has occupied the attention of the
Government. In the first place, the Victorian Government gave us the use of their printing-office absolutely rent free, and in the second place, they have an exceedingly large plant.
– It is a very poor plant - by comparison, it is almost obsolete.
– There is a large plant which we use, and they use our plant. Undoubtedly our plant, being modern, is more up to date than the State plant, but the great advantage of the present arrangement to the Commonwealth is that when a rush of work takes place we have an immense plant of which we can avail ourselves. We should have to make a very considerable addition to our present plant in order to cope with a g,!Ut of work. The Treasurer has looked into this matter, and come to the conclusion that the present arrangement is more economical than the establishment of a printing office. We have had a great deal of trouble in connexion with the renting of premises. Melbourne is not’ our abiding home; it is only a temporary abode, and we really do not want to erect a big building, to be used for only a short time. It is doubtful whether we could get a useful building for our purpose without having to make considerable alterations therein. So far as I can ascertain, the Departments are getting their work done more economically and better than they could if we were to establish a printing office of our own. But I shall ask the Treasurer to look into the matter again, and see whether, in the circumstances, we could not rent premises, establish our own’ office, and do our own work at a reasonable rate. If. however, the State and the Commonwealth’ can use a’ building equipped with machinery belonging partly to one and partly to the other, and mutually assist each other and work economically, why should we not do so in preference to establishing an institution of our own?
– I should like to obtain from the Minister of Defence an explanation concerning the item of ,£250 for an armoury at Northam, in lieu of an armoury at Guildford.
Senator PLAYFORD (South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - The original vote was for an armoury at Guildford; it was devoted to an armoury at Northam, and the Parliament is now asked to approve of the transfer of the vote. There is no difference in the amount.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - This is, a most casual way of dealing with a vote. Probably the Minister is not aware that Northam is over fifty miles from Guildford.
– It may be 1,000 miles from Guildford for all we care; we have transferred the vote from one place to the other.
– The honorable senator seems to forget that we considered these votes, in the Estimates very carefully. I cannot say from memory that this particular vote caught my eye; but no doubt when I was looking through the Estimates for last year I noticed an, item of ,£250 for an armoury at Guildford, and it was passed. Guildford is one of our m>st important country towns,, with the railway workshops not far away, whereas Northam is a little village.
– But Guildford is within eight miles of a City.
– This must be all right, or else there would have been a -row over it before now.
– Guildford has a large population, which is increasing rapidly.
– As, the money has been spent, it is of no use to talk about it.
– I protest against this lavish expenditure of unauthorized money.
– The transfer was authorized, and the money has been spent. There would have been a fine old row if it had not been all right.
– It raises once more the issue I have put to the Senate on other occasions : Is there any use in debating Estimates when we find that the Government have spent the money?
– Surely the Government must take some responsibility.
– The Government does nothing but take responsibility. What I complain of is that Ministers resent any criticism. Even now the Minister does not tell us why this change was made. It concerns his own Department, and he ought to know in what directions money is spent upon public buildings. I have no doubt that the people of Guildford are wondering when the drillhall will be erected. When I go to Western Australia, I shall be asked on all hands when the work is to be commenced. I can give a case in point. Only a little while ago, there was a sum of money on the Estimates for the building of a post-office at Gwalia in Western Australia. Months have passed; but by a recent mail I received a letter from residents, asking when the work is to be commenced. Here is a similar case. I quite expect that when I go to Guildford I shall have people swarming round me inquiring why the drill-hall has not been built. Fortunately,I am taking the Minister of Defence to Western Australia with me, and shall refer the deputations to him. He will have the peculiar felicity of defending the policy of his predecessor. It is a farce to vote money in: specific directions, when it is not spent as voted. We might as well vote a lump sum.
Schedules agreed to.
Postponed clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Playford) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Earlier in the evening I asked the Minister when the report of Colonel Hoad, Military Attache of the Commonwealth with the Japanese Army, would be presented, and he informed me that it was laid on the table some time ago.
– I understood that it was laid on the table last session.
– The Minister has been misinformed. The report has never been presented to Parliament. Can it not be made available for honorable senators?
– Yes; I will look into it. It is possible that there may he things in the report which will have to be kept secret. But those points which’ can with advantage be made public, I will have published.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 December 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1905/19051219_senate_2_30/>.