3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Progressreport (No. 1) presented by Senator Colonel Neild, and read by the Acting-Clerk, as follows -
The Joint Select Committee appointed on the 1st April, 1908, in the House of Representatives, and on the 2nd April, 1908, in the Senate, to inquire and report as to the best procedure for the trial and punishment of persons charged with the interference with or breach of the powers, privileges, or immunities of either House of the Parliament or the Members or Committees of each House, and further on the 2nd April in the House of Representatives, and on the 8th April in the Senate, to inquire into and report upon any recent allegations reflecting upon Parliament or any of the Members - thereof, have the honour to report as follows : -
Your Committee has. held six sittings and examined the following witnesses relating to the question of procedure : - Mr. C. B. Boydell, the Acting Clerk of the Parliaments; Mr. C. Gavan Duffy, C.M.G., Clerk of the House of Representatives; Mr. R. R. Garran, C.M.G., Secretary to the Attorney-General’s Department, and Parliamentary Draftsman ; and Professor Harrison Moore, of the Melbourne University.
Your Committee invited the Honorable Sir R. C. Baker, K.C.M.G., late President of the Senate, to give evidence before the Committee, or to reply to certain ‘ questions in - writing. Your Committee, however, were sorry to receive a letter from Sir’ Richard Baker to the effect that the state of his health was such as to prevent him doing justice to. the subject, and asking to be excused.
Professor Pitt-Cobbett, of the Sydney University, was also invited to attend and give evidence, but owing to ill health, he asked to be allowed to send written replies to the Committee’s inquiries. This statement will be found under the heading “ Appendix A.”
Your Committee received two letters from Mr. Octavius C. Beale, offering to give evidence in answer to certain complaints made against him, which letters will be found under the heading “Appendix B.”
Your Committee have not had sufficient time or opportunity to inquire into or report upon any recent allegations reflecting upon Parliament. From the evidence presented to your Committee during their investigations, it appears that there is no statutory law in force authorizing Select Committees to summon and secure the attendance of witnesses before them, and compelling them to answer questions in evidence. It is true that the Standing Orders provide that Committees may summon witnesses, but they provide no effective coercive measures in case of disobedience or refusal to answer.
In this Report your Committee is only able to deal with the question of procedure in cases of certain breaches of privilege and contempt of Parliament.
By the Commonwealth Constitution Act, section 49, it is provided’ that ‘” the powers, privileges, and immunities of the Senate and of the House of Representatives and of the Members and the Committees of each House shall be such as are declared by the Parliament,- and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and of its Members and Committees, at the establishment of the Commonwealth.” No declaratory Act has been passed, and consequently the powers, privileges, and immunities of each House of the Commonwealth Parliament and its Members and Committees are the same as those of the1 House of Commons. One of the unquestionable powers and privileges of the House of Commons is to punish persons proved to be guilty of printing and publishing or uttering any false, malicious, and scandalous libels or statements reflecting on the honour, integrity, and probity of the . House or any of its Members. Similarly the House can punish persons found guilty of obstructing, interfering with, or assaulting or insulting Members in the discharge of their Parliamentary duties, or bribing, or attempting to bribe Members.
The procedure adopted hitherto by the House of Commons and followed by other legislative bodies possessing its powers and privileges has been to summon the offender to the Bar of the House, interrogate him, and call upon him to show cause why he should not be committed for breach of privilege. If the House resolve that a breach of privilege has been committed, the President or the Speaker is authorized to issue his warrant - for the imprisonment of the offender. Sometimes the warrant directs the Serjeant-at-Arms to detain . the offender within the precincts of Parliament House, whilst in other cases the warrant directs the keeper of a common gaol to . hold the prisoner. The power of the House, however, is limited to the duration of the current session, and upon the prorogation of Parliament the sentence of imprisonment expires ip so facto,’ and the offender is released, although it would be competent to either House to re-commit an offender in the ensuing session if it was thought he had not been sufficently punished. Under the law of the Commonwealth Constitution as it stands at present, particularly having regard to section 120, it is doubtful . whether the keeper of a State prison would be bound to receive and’ detain an offender named in a warrant of the President or Speaker.
The ancient procedure for punishment of contempts of Parliament is generally admitted to be cumbersome, ineffective, and ‘ not consonant with modern ideas and requirements in the administration of justice. It is hardly consistent with the dignity and functions of a legislative- body which has been assailed by newspapers or individuals to engage within the Chamber in conflict with the alleged offenders, and to perform the duties of prosecutor, judge, and gaoler.
All the parliamentary and legal witnesses who gave evidence before your Committee were agreed that it would be competent for the Commonwealth Parliament by appropriate legislation to assign to the ordinary courts of law jurisdiction to deal with, either by fine or imprisonment, persons charged with and found guilty of contempt of Parliament in the shape of libels and slanders calculated to bring either House or its Members into hatred, contempt, and ridicule. It follows that persons charged with obstructing, interfering with, or insulting or assaulting, or bribing, or attempting to bribe Members, could be dealt -with in the same manner. Such legislation would not create new offences, or offences previously unknown to the law of Parliament; it would merely provide a new tribunal for adjudication and determination and possibly a new measure of punishment;
The new tribunal so exercising judicial power could fairly be equipped with a greater discretion in the infliction of punishment than that possessed by either House. It could be authorized to punish libellers and slanderers of, and other offenders against, Parliament by imposing fines of a moderate or severe, character, . according to the heinousness of the offence or, in the alternative, imprisonment. It could also be authorized to impose upon the offenders the costs of the prosecution.
Your Committee do not propose to elevate breaches of privilege and contempts of Parliament to the high criminal grade of indictable crimes or misdemeanors required to be tried by jury. Such offences should be dealt with by a judge, and, if possible, by a Justice of the High Court sitting in original and summary jurisdiction, and dealing with each . case as promptly and inexpensively as possible.
To guard against the institution of frivolous prosecutions, and to secure the proper conduct of such prosecutions, it would be advisable that no person should be placed on his trial for such offences unless by a special order of the House affected, and that such cases should be commenced and conducted by, and in the name of, the Commonwealth Attorney-General.
It is important to consider what defence should be available on the hearing of a prosecution for defaming Parliament. Your Committee are of opinion that the registered printers and publishers of public newspapers should be held responsible for all libels on Parliament published in such newspapers, and that they should not be allowed to shelter themselves behind the plea that they did not actually write such libels, and were not aware pf them until they saw them in print. Such aplea, if allowed, would destroy all possibility of vindicating the honour of Parliament, and protecting it against unjustifiable and scandalous attacks. Inyour Committee’s opinion, the only defence available should be justification or proof of the truth of the statements complained of.
Your Committee beg to recommend Federal legislation providing : -
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South
Wales [11. 11]. - I move -
That the report be printed and taken into consideration on Thursday next.
It may, perhaps, be convenient if I make a brief- statement concerning the second matter which was submitted for the consideration of the Committee, namely, the matter of alleged libels upon the Parliament. In reference to that matter the Committee has taken definite action ; but what that action is it is not deemed advisable to make public at the present time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs a question about the telegram appearing in this morning’s A.,gus, and stating that the Government of Queensland has offered a reward in connexion with the explosion in the barracks or fortifications at Thursday Island. Has the reward been offered at the instigation of the Defence Department, or does it depend upon the action taken by the State Government?
– From inquiries I made of the Minister of Defence I understand that the action has been taken independently by the Queensland Government, and not at the instigation of the Defence Department.
– Arising out of that question, I desire to know whether the Federal Government is going to offer any reward in order to discover, if possible, the individual, or individuals, who attempted to blow up the fortifications, which, of course, are the property of the Commonwealth.
– At the present moment I do not know what action is being taken by the Defence Department; but if the honorable senator will ask the question later I may be able to furnish him with the information he seeks.
Appointment of Administrator
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice : Is it the intention of the Government to end the present unsatisfactory tentative condition of affairs in the Government of Papua by appointing a permanent Administrator for that Territory at an early date? When may the appointment of a permanent Administrator for the Territory be expected?
– In reply to my honorable friend, I have to say that the Government hope to be able to appoint an Administrator for Papua within the next three or four months.
– The honorable senator should have said within the next three or four days.
Disabilities on British Subjects.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
As has already been stated negotiations are proceeding with a view to the determination of the boundary. When this is done it is anticipated that no further difficulties will arise.
– I move -
That Message No. 33 of the House of Representatives be recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering Requests Nos. 95 and 154.
It will be remembered that the motions made in connexion with these requests in Committee were carried against the Government. One refers to gas meters, and in connexion with that I moved that the requested modification of the item should not be pressed, and that the item as returned to us from another place should be agreed to. That motion was negatived, and the request pressed. In the other case the Committee decided in favour of pressing the Senate’s request”, that red beech should be included in a particular item dealing with timber. Having regard to the way that honorable members in another place have met us in the matter of the requests we have sent them, I have already urged’ that it is very desirable that the same spirit of compromise should permeate this Chamber. We have agreed as to all the matters upon which there was a difference of opinion between the two Houses, with the exception of those affecting the two items to which I have referred.- I contend that in the circumstances it would be a great mistake for this Chamber to delay the conclusion of. the consideration of the Tariff by returning again to another place requests affecting two very small items. I say this, though I do not disguise the fact for a moment that I am personally in favour of the way in which the Committee of the Senate desired that the items in question should be dealt with. I ask honorable senators now to give a very generous consideration to the matter, to agree to recommit the message, and not to dissent from the action taken by another place with respect to the two items referred to.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council, in expressing a desire that honorable senators should agree to the recommittal of the message for the purpose of the reconsideration of the two items mentioned, is aware that, although no division has yet taken place, the numbers are up, and the majority will favour the course that he proposes. It seems to me that it is rather .a humiliating position for the leader of the Government in the Senate to take up. It would have been much more manly on his part if, yesterday afternoon, he had said to the Committee, “ Here is the message received from another place. Honorable members have treated us in a fair and in a generous spirit, and, in order to avoid any constitutional difficulty, I advise the Committee to accept in globo the item? of the Tariff as returned to us from another place.” Instead of taking that course, he permitted honorable senators to discuss the various items referred to in the message, and because motions moved in connexion with only two of the items were carried against the Government, the Vice-President of the Executive Council expresses a desire that the requests made bv the Senate in respect to. them should not be returned to another place for reconsideration. The real reason why the Government are indisposed to send on these requests is that there is some likelihood of a constitutional question being raised.
– Surely that is a matter of sufficient importance to justify some consideration.
– That is so, ‘ but yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of listening to two speeches, one from Senator Millen, the leader of the Opposition, and another from Senator Symon, one of the framers of the Constitution, in both of which it was vigorously contended that the Senate has the power to make, not merely one request, but request after request.
– Hear, hear !
– And yet it is because of a fear that exists in the minas of some persons that we have not that power that the representatives of the Government in the Senate to-day are indisposed to return our” requests to another place.
– That is not the issue.
– Then what is the issue ?
Senator- Trenwith. - The question is whether there ought to be a fight at this juncture.
– Even if that were not the issue, surely from the point of view of protection there is a most important consideration involved.
– It is too small altogether.
– Nothing of the kind. The principle is the same, whether it affects 2,000 or 200 men-.
– One of the requests which the honorable senator is asking us to press is, not for protection, but for freetrade.
– I want the Government that professes to be a protectionist Government, prepared to advance the interests of Australian workmen, and give assistance to Australian industries, to have the items so dealt with by another place as to carry out the principles they advocate.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the free- trade request?
– I am referring to the request concerning gas meters. Honorable members in another place have decided not to give assistance to the Australian industry in connexion with that item. When it came before the Committee of the Senate for consideration, a protectionist request was agreed to on the motion of Senator Needham that gas meters complete should be dutiable under the general Tariff at 25 per cent., and if imported from the United Kingdom at 20 per cent’. The Government opposed that protectionist request - for what reason I do not know.
– Yes, the honorable senator does know.
– On account of a compact with another place.
– Compact or no compact, the principle is involved.
– The Government stood by the compact with another place.
– Hear, hear !
– The Government had no right to make, or to stand by, a compact which involved the free admission into Australia of gas meter’s imported from the United Kingdom and their admission at a duty of only 5 per cent, under the general Tariff. Every member of the Senate is aware that gas meters’ can be, and are, made in Australia. Factories are established in Victoria and New South Wales for their manufacture. After another place had disagreed with the Senate’s first request, a second request that gas meters should be dutiable at 25. and 20 per cent., but with a modification permitting the free admission of gas meter parts separate and distinct, was carried by a fairly large majority. That modification was agreed to, in the belief that it would lead to the acceptance of- the request by another place.
– Why make the parts free if the complete meter can be manufactured here?
– Because we thought that another place- would not agree to the request as at first submitted.
– That was a compromise.
– Why did honorable senators, as protectionists, make that compromise ?
– We took as much as we could get from a protectionist point of view.
– That is to say, the honorable senator, and those who agree with him, may compromise, but the Government must not.
– Not on this matter, when it is known that in the manufacture of gas meters, and in the assembling of gas meter parts, a considerable number of men are employed in Australia, and that if the item is made entirely free those men will be thrown out of employment. We have to decide, at some time or another in the existence of this Chamber, whether the Senate has the right to repeat a request to another place, and why halt now ?
– The honorable senator is talking very big, but he would be the last man in the Commonwealth to take the responsibility of throwing out the Tariff.
– First of all, the honorable senator is anticipating that the rejection of the Tariff would be the result of a repetition of these requests, but his speeches yesterday went to show that that would not be the case.
– No, thev did not.
– Yesterday the honorable senator waxed eloquent in his anxiety to insist upon the rights of the Senate.
– Hear, hear !
-Here are requests which we have an undoubted- right to make, and on which . we can ascertain our true position, and yet the honorable senator is now desirous that requests which were carried yesterday by the Committee of the Senate should to-day be recommitted for ‘further consideration. Why has the honorable senator changed his attitude so quickly?
– I have not- changed my attitude at all.
– The honorable senator, in my opinion, has done so, because he yesterday moved an addendum to the motion submitted by the VicePresident of the Executive Council in connexion with the House of Representatives’ message, and it was only because of representations subsequently made that, he withdrew it.
– But he is not the Government.
– I am aware of that, and it, is not a little strange that the Government and the Opposition should be in agreement with regard to this matter. With all deference to Senator Millen, I venture to assert that if requests in connexion with Tariff items had been carried by the Opposition against the Government, he would not have been sp anxious to follow the course which he evidently intends to pursue to-day. If the representatives of Queensland in the Senate had been successful in carrying request’s for increased duties in the interests of the Queensland timber industry, I do not believe for a moment that they would have been anxious to have the items affected re- committed to-day. I say that if requests in connexion with ten or twelve items had been carried against the Government yesterday, it is certain that the Government would not have proposed their reconsideration to-day, because they would have known that the numbers would be against them. Although only two items are involved, the principle is the same. I wish to test the sincerity of those who claim that we have the undoubted right to make . our requests over and over again. I” believe, as Senator Symon said yesterday, that if we had not the power to make a request more than once, the Senate would be in a more humiliating position than any other second Chamber in the world. Some honorable members, because they believe that we have not that power, are not disposed to test the question by sending down the requests which we decided to press yesterday. Hence the anxiety to have the Bill recommitted. I have made my protest against the course suggested by the Government. I do not know that I shall be divulging any secret when I say that I have interested myself largely in this matter, not that it is any advantage to me personally, but because as a Labour representative it is my duty to stand up here in defence of a number of men who will be thrown on the unemployed market in the depth of winter. With a view to prevent that, I interviewed members of the Government in another place, and also members of another place who voted against our request, which was defeated by 27 votes to 26. Two members who voted with the majority and who claim to be protectionists, have stated that they voted under a misapprehension, and that if they had an opportunity they would alter their votes - thus giving a majority in favour of our request. The members of the Government whom I interviewed said they were not only sympathetic, but would do all they could if we sent our request back to see that ft was carried. I could do no more in that regard.
– I do not think the honorable senator ought to use the result of private conversations here.
– I do not know that they were private conversations. Honorable senators have often asked “ What are the prospects of a matter if it is submitted to another place?” In order to get some idea of the prospects of success in this case I interested myself in the way I have stated. The attitude of the Government is an eleventh-hour surprise to me. They have not put forward a substantial reason why, as a protectionist Government, they should not support the sending back of this request. If it is sent to another place as we carried it yesterday, the matter will be in the hands of the Government Printer within a short time, and the whole Tariff can be dealt, with in a few hours. It is worth the trouble, in the interests of the industry and of’ the workmen to whom it gives employment, and also to test the constitutional point, which some honorable senators have doubts about, as to our power to press requests.
– If the numbers are up, what is the use of delaying?
– I hope that Senator Fraser, who was returned as a protectionist, will not vote for the recommittal of the item. He claimed, in a letter to the Age during the election, that he would be faithful to the recommendations of the Tariff Commission. The Tariff Commission made a recommenda– on the lines suggested by Senator Needham when he moved the request.
– The protectionist section of the Tariff Commission recommended that these articles should be free.
– I am surprised to hear that they recommended that gas meters should be free. I doubt the Minister’s statement, as I know that in the Tariff of 1902 there was a duty of 12J per cent., and I cannot understand how any protectionist, when an industry was being built up under a duty, could recommend that that duty should be abolished. I shall take an opportunity during the day to look at the evidence tendered to the Commission. I anticipate that the numbers will be for the recommittal, but I am sure that those who vote for it in the circumstances I have outlined, will be doing wrong. Those who ‘ are protectionists will be violating the principles upon which they claimed the votes of the electors, and those who say that we have the undoubted constitutional right to make our requests more than once will not be true to’ their utterances of yesterday if they vote for the . recommittal of these items to-day.
– I state to-day, as I stated yesterday, that I absolutely affirm the right of the Senate to send back to the other House a message not once, twice, or three times, but as often as it likes and thinks fit. In my opinion that is the right of this Chamber. It is one thing to have a right, but another question is whether it is just, wise, and expedient to exercise it under a particular set of circumstances. Those who wish to treasure the power which I think the Constitution vests in the Senate vill not do so by flaunting it and seeking to use it on every possible occasion. They will do so more effectually by keeping it in reserve for those occasions when the matters at stake are of such importance as to justify the Senate in stretching its power to the last possible link. This occasion is not one of that kind. The two Houses have come into agreement except in regard to two items which, compared with the Tariff as a whole, are absolutely insignificant. As I am reminded, one is a suggested amendment in the direction that free-traders would like, while the other is in a direction which would be acceptable to protectionists. We can, therefore, consider the matter free from any fiscal bias, inasmuch ns, if the proposal of the Government is carried, I, as a free-trader, will get something I want, and something that’ I do not, while protectionists will be in exactly the same position. In that regard honours are even. But I ask the Senate to hesitate before sending back a message to the other place on insignificant matters of this kind, upon which it is impossible ro raise any decent issue, and over which no possible measure of public sympathy can come to us, especially in view of the fact that the other place dealt with our second message, as has been pointed out, in a fair and reasonable way. The obligation rests upon both branches of the Legislature to try to come to an agreement. Neither this nor any other Constitution could work if. each branch of the bicameral system insisted on exercising its powers to the last jot and tittle on every occasion. It can work only on the assumption that’ both Houses are filled by reasonable men, animated by a publicspirited desire to adjust their differences, and allow the public work to go on. On this occasion we should ask, not. .what our full powers are, but. whether we ought not to adjust, as far as possible, the. little difference that has arisen. If we were to take any other course, we might, as Senator Findley suggests, “test the question.” But what would he do to test’ it ? There is only one way in which the rights of this Chamber can be tested if the other House dissents from our view. If they refuse to receive our message, the only way would-be for the Senate absolutely to throw the Bil] out. Does any one suggest that that valiant-spoken senator would be prepared to throw the Tariff out? He would be the first’ to crawl down., and, if necessary, to get under the. table, in order to escape the responsibility of his action. The honorable senator is not prepared to test the question in that way. His talk is idle. It is so much bombast.
– The honorable senator crawls down before he is asked to.
– I take the same position as I did yesterday, but is it wise and ‘expedient’ to push our power to the extreme unless we are prepared to take the full responsibility of doing it? The time will come - I am not courting it, or wishing for it,, but it is inevitable if we read the future in the light of the past - when a conflict will arise between the two Houses. When that time does come, I trust that the Senate will see that it is not o n 1 v right, but that it has a measure of public sympathy behind it, and picks its own ground for a clear determination of what its rights really are.
– Public sympathy will not make it constitutional.
– It may not, but it will go a long way to interpret the Constitution.
– That is not worthy of the honorable senator.
– I might take that remark as a rebuke, if I regarded the honorable senator as a judge of what is worthy. Public sentiment’ will always go a long way in the interpretation of a Constitution’. Public sentiment has influenced a determination of. the Supreme Court of America, and I venture to say that in Australia also it will be as powerful. I am supported in the view I take by the greatest publicists who have dealt with the American Constitution.
– A dispute between the two Houses could not go before the High Court. It could go only before the people.
– I am not asking the Senate to admit that there is any abatement or curtailment of its rights. All I am suggesting is that this is not an expedient opportunity on so small a matter to push its rights to the full extreme. The other House have met us reasonably. Let us in turn display towards them the same moderation as they, have displayed towards us, and, by recommitting the Bill, and reversing our decision of yesterday, conclude this long-drawn-out discussion on the Tariff. By so doing, we shall attract to ourselves a large amount of public approval. On the other hand, if we insist on creating further delay or trouble with the other House over two such small items, I feel certain that the Senate will stand condemned from one end of Australia to the other.
– I had intended to oppose the recommittal of the Bill in regard to these items, but I believe that the Government’ have ascertained that they are unable to carry our requests in another place. For that, and for no other reason, I shall support the recommittal now. If I thought we could carry our requests, I should certainly oppose the motion, but I recognise that we are unable to do so.
– We appear to be anticipating a situation that, may not arise. It will be time enough to meet it when it does arise.
– The honorable senator wants to fall into a ditch before he thinks about building a bridge.
– Quite the opposite. Like a notable Federal politician, who was asked a question at a public meeting in Western Australia, I do not believe in taking a fence until I come to it’. I gather from the debate that the reason for recommitting these two items is that another place may refuse to consider our third message, and by sending it back to us, throw upon us the responsibility of withdrawing the message, or standing by it, and throwing out the Bill. I do not think there is the slightest fear of any such situation arising. I am just as anxious as is any other honorable senator to see the Tariff become law. In view of the fact that we have a protectionist Government in power, why do they not stick to their own proposals ? In the first place they proposed duties of 25 and 20 per cent. on gas-meters. In the second place they promised assistance to me when I moved that the duties which we requested should be imposed. But because of a certain compact in another place the members of the Government voted against me. Despite their opposition a request was sent down to the House of Representatives. That House refused to make the amendment. The item came back tous. Honorable senators will remember that I was very strong in urging that we should re-affirm our original request. But when I was assured by the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the modification which he suggested, namely, for the imposition of a duty on the complete article, but allowing parts to come in free, would receive the assent of the House of Representatives, I concurred.
– We thought so.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council now urges that we should give way. It is pointed out that we are faced with certain constitutional difficulties. But notwithstanding that, I am going to vote for a recommittal. I should welcome a recommittal on an item which I consider to be vastly more important not only to the workers of Australia, but to human life throughout the country. But there is no opportunity to recommit that item. There is, however, an opportunity to recommit that relating to gas-meters. The Vice-President of the Executive Council interjected while Senator Findley was speaking that the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission recommended that the item should be free.
– I will make a statement on that matter afterwards.
– I see, however, that the A Section of the Tariff Commission recommended that the duties on gasmeters and zinc tubing should be 20 per cent, and 12½ per cent. It is worth while, in view of the narrow vote in another place, to send the item back. It has been proved that it is a matter that affects workers in three States at least. Quite recently large orders have been placed in Melbourne for gas-meters. It is, therefore, not only, advisable but desirable that we should insist upon our rights and send the item back to the House of Representatives. If a situation does arise in consequence of our action, we can meet it. I am not going to argue the question from : a constitutional point of view. There are a sufficient number of constitutional lawyers to deal with that aspect of the matter. But in view of the fact that I have already personally given way to a certain extent I am not prepared to give way any further, and shall vote for those principles of protection which, by’ my votes, I have maintained throughout the Tariff debates. Honorable senators ought not to be frightened by the constitutional bogy that has been raised. We should view the question calmly and dispassionately from a fiscal stand-point. I reiterate, in conclusion, that it will be time enough to meet any constitutional difficulty that may arise when it is brought before us.
– A “ bull-at-a-gate “ attitude does not commend itself to my judgment. I suppose that there is no senator who has keener views on Tariff matters or who fights more determinedly for them than I do. I do not lose sight of the fact that when our Tariff message . was originally sent back to the other House it contained 268 requests. Now “the issue is narrowed down to two. It appears^so far’ as fiscal policy is concerned, that one is on the free-trade and one on the protectionist side. It seems to me to be reasonable that we should let both items go, and not prolong the struggle. Not only is Parliament weary of the Tariff issue, but Australia is weary of it. There are times when many matters which are very dear to the hearts of some of us must give way to more important considerations. A more important consideration confronts us to-day. ‘ Therefore, looking at this matter carefully, I think that we should be wise to recommit the items and withdraw our opposition to the other House in relation to them.
– After we had dealt with the Tariff last night I gave my promise “to the Government that I would support a recommittal. I intend to adhere to that promise. But it is not for that reason only that 1 desire to accede to the wish of the Government. Though I gave that promise it does not imply that I shall alter the vote which I gave in reference to gas-meters yesterday.
– What else does it amount to, because if the items are reconsidered that settles the matter?
– I think that a Committee of the Senate has just as much right to reconsider its attitude with regard to any matter as any single sensible individual has. But mv. position is somewhat different from that of other honorable senators. It will be remembered that the question as to gasmeters was decided yesterday by only one vote. That vote was given, contrary, to the convictions of the honorable senator in question, in response to a bantering remark of mine.
– I am not sure about that.
– I am certain of it. If honorable senators desire to have an opportunity of reconsidering the matter, I think that that opportunity should be afforded to them. Personally, I repeat, that while voting for the reconsideration I intend to repeat the vote which I gave yesterday if we have an opportunity of deciding again on the merits of the question.
– That is- too thin. The honorable senator cannot by repeating the vote which he gave yesterday get the same result to-day if there is a recommittal.
– Then the matter ought to have been settled in a contrary direction yesterday.
– Why ?
– Because if honorable senators are satisfied to-day that we ought not to press the request, they ought to have voted in that directionyesterday. Then we should not have had this trouble at all. I know as an absolute fact that one senator voted contrary to his personal convictions in consequence of a bantering remark which I made.
– That was his lookout.
– I do not want any question to be resolved on a catch vote. I agree with those honorable senators who consider that any difficulty between the two Houses ought not to be” precipitated except on a question of sufficient magnitude to justify a fight.
– If the Senate had re-affirmed its attitude on the timber duties the honorable senator would have voted in favour of pressing the request.
– Time after time whenI have been defeated I have accepted my defeat without complaining.
– This is not a question of defeat, but of victory.
– I do not think that any one has a right to complain of my votes, because I have been consistent in them. The Senate has persisted in sending the request as to gas-meters to the other Chamber twice.
– And when the honorable senator has an opportunity of repeating the request, he proposes to drop it.
– That is a mere ex parte statement. If the Senate decides not to recommit the item, I shall vote in favour of re-affirming our original request, and any movement in that direction will have every assistance from me. I do not intend to alter my vote on that question. But I consider that every public body, just like every individual, has a right to reconsider its position, in view of altered circumstances. For that reason I shall vote for the recommittal, though I do not wish the Government to understand that they can claim my vote if the matter comes to be determined in Committee.
– I voted for the request as to gas meters, and consider that another place did not do that justice to the workers in the industry to which they were entitled, in refusing them protection. Parliament has extended protection to industries far less worthy of it, in my opinion. I cannot understand the attitude of the Government in not desiring to give protection to the industry. I regret that another place did not see fit to comply with our request when we sent it back to them. Perhaps those who have been interesting themselves in regard to the duty on gas-meters are to some extent blameworthy that thev did not place their case before the members of another place with the same effectiveness as they exerted in placing -‘the facts before the Senate. But, notwithstanding that I hold those views, I am going to vote for a recommittal of. the item, and against the request being sent back to the House of Representatives. I shall do so for the simple reason that I am assured, and have personal knowledge, that if we sent back the request, it would not only not be entertained, but would not even be dealt with. If I thought that it would be received and dealt with, I would vote for the recommittal. But we have to look beyond the question of the duty itself. We have to look to the possibility ‘ of our receiving from another place a message to the effect that, in their opinion, we have exhausted our constitutional powers in sending a third request down to them. If we repeated the request,, this would be the first time on which such an issue had been raised. We. know that the other House has alreadv disputed our right to send a request back a second . time. Having passed a resolution by 56 votes to 6 that they refuse to recognise our constitutional right to repeat requests, what can we expect will be their action if we send requests back a third time? There are only two courses open to them. Either they would have to rescind that resolution, or else they would have to take such action as would stultify themselves - as would make them a laughing stock. They have practically thrown out a challenge, and have said that they are simoly reserving this fight for a future occasion. Are we to take up that challenge, and. in view of the fact that they dispute our right to send requests down a second time, are we to send them down a third time? Unless they have no backbone, whatever, what alternative would be left to them but to take up the challenge thrown ‘down by us, and refuse even to consider our requests.
– The honorable senator has no backbone.
– I have backbone, and I also have a little discretion. The bull that charged the locomotive had any amount of backbone but not much discretion, and his backbone was not of much avail when he met the locomotive. In this case the Senate requires to have not only backbone, but also discretion. I venture to say that our backbone, -no matter how strong it might be, would avail us very little if we placed ourselves in that posi tion. What would become of Senator Needham’s backbone when we received a message from the other House stating that it refused to recognise our right to make a request a third time?
– Do not worry about that.
– It is all very well for the honorable senator to tell me not to worry, but I want to know what position my honorable friends intend to put the Senate in when that message is sent up. Before 1 will allow them to place the Senate in that position I want to know what they propose to do then.
– The honorable senator is anticipating trouble.
– I am one of the representatives of a small’ State - that is, small from the stand-point of population. In the Senate it has an equal voice with the other States, but in the other House it has only five representatives out of seventy-five, and therefore it is here that we can most effectively voice its demands. If on these financial questions we are placed in a position of inferiority as the result of our actions and votes, the power of the small States in this Parliament will have been lessened.
– It has yet to be proved that we shall be placed in that position.
– It is of no use for my honorable friends to issue a challenge unless they are prepared to fight when it is taken up. They are now asking us to send down a challenge to the other House, not on the mere question of a duty, but on a constitutional question.
– It has been stated here that we can send down to the other House as many messages as we like.
– Who says that it is a challenge?
– I do.
– That does not settle it.
– I regard it as a direct challenge, and I am absolutely certain that there are members of the other House who would take it up and fight us. What would be the alternative when we received a message from the other House saying that it declined to recognise our right to send down-a third message? One of two courses would be open to us. It would be open to us to withdraw, to back down, to stultify ourselves, to admit that we had not the right to send down a request a third time, or to reject the Bill. A senator from my State said that he spoke as a protectionist. I ask him as a protectionist if he wants to go back to the old Tariff, to involve Australia in another Tariff struggle? Does he believe that if he did he would get as high a Tariff as we now have? I venture to say that if ever there was a bad time for the protectionists to go to the country it is now.
– No, it will be worse after a bit.
– No. I think it will be better, because there is not the slightest doubt that the first effect of the imposition of a high Tariff is that the people squeal against it. All protectionists will admit that we have to wait until industries are established before we get the benefits of a protectionist Tariff. It is too soon yet to see the benefits of this Tariff, and to appeal to the country now would be to appeal when the people were feeling the imposition of high taxation without having benefited from the establishment of new industries. Therefore, if my protectionist friends ire going to precipitate a conflict now, they will do so at a time when the protectionist cause will be taken at a disadvantage. That is the position from their stand-point. Now let me take the other stand-point. All the smaller States who have most to gain by retaining here all the power that they can, and by not allowing themselves to be placed in’ a position of inferiority, even on financial questions, have everything to gain by not precipitating a struggle on this question.
– Why raise bogys about struggles and crises?
– These are not bogys, but actualities, because they have occurred.
– It is of no use to imitate the ostrich in this matter.
– No. Do we shut our eyes to the message which is lying on our table, and in which the other House deny our right to send clown more than one message about a request?
– It does nothing of the kind. It is simply a declaratory resolution, but does not deny our right.
– That is my reading of it, but perhaps 1 may not have sufficient intelligence to comprehend it.
– I do not suggest that, but merely point out that it is only a declaratory resolution.
– If it does not mean that, it means nothing.
– The other House merely states that, in the absence of joint Standing Orders, it refrains from taking a certain course, as if such Standing Orders could give them any additional power.
– Surely we must assume that the members of another place are possessed of some intelligence, and that when they sent up a message in 1902, and repeated it this year, they had some reason for ta.king that course. I appeal to the Senate to allow a re-committal, and to withdraw its request.
– The question, to my mind, is whether we ought to allow comparatively small issues to bring about a delay in passing a Bill which has been before the public for nine or ten months.
– That is a fair ground.
– The whole question is one of relative importance. I know that the public at large, especially business men, have been waiting most anxiously for a settlement of the Tariff, and if, on two comparatively insignificant items - really it is only one item - anything is done now which might bring about a disturbance or an unnecessary and easily avoidable delay, I think it would be almost disastrous. Therefore, I appeal to my honorable friend, who, with the best of intentions, and ‘quite consistently with his former action, objects to the proposed recommittal, not to press his opposition. I admire his persistency, but I ask him, in justice to the public as well as to the Senate, not to persist.
– It would not take any time to deal with the two requests.
– I consider that far too great a fuss has been made about any difficultywhich might arise between the Houses. J. do not anticipate difficulty ; I do not think that it would arise. I know that a certain number of honorable members in another place would raise an objection, but it. has been stated that it would be prevented, by a certain resolution, from receiving a third message, but I do not share that view. It could pass a similar resolution on receiving or sending back the third message, as it did in the case of the second message, and it would be in no more humiliating position than it is in at the present time. It dealt with our second message, and agreed to a. great many of our requests. Would it be in a worse position if it refused to deal with our requests a third time than it has already placed itself in? The Senate could simply pass a resolution similar to that which the other House passed, and say that the present was not a fitting time to bring about a conflict between the Houses. That would settle the whole question, and we should be on exactly even terms. We have allowed the other place to humiliate itself ; but, apparently, we are not prepared even to take the risk of putting the Senate in a similar position.
– We are prepared when- it is worth while, but not over a trumpery twopenny-halfpenny matter.
– We are prepared at all times, but if we do not think it is worth while we will not do it. .How, then, will the position stand? The House of Representatives has already said that on the present occasion it does not want a difficulty to arise. If a difficulty did arise we should say the same thing, and be in an exactly similar position. The other House has said that the present is not an opportune time to go into a conflict with the Senate, and if we were compelled, by the return of our message, to say that the present is not a fitting time to go into a conflict with the House of Representatives, would hot honours be even? Honorable senators are anticipating a great difficulty, and I, to a considerable extent, blame the Government, because I believe that if it were strong enough to get a third message considered it could carry these requests in another place. I intend to vote against the recommittal of the Bill, because I think that we are in a position of advantage at the present time, and that if- the worst which could happen did happen the result would only be to put us on even terms with another place.
– As carefully as possible I avoided a reference to the constitutional aspect of this question when I addressed the Senate. Let me now put matters concretely and practically. If I could have been satisfied that, on these items, we had the numbers elsewhere - and very careful scrutiny has taken place - I should gladly .have been one to assist in sending them back. I am dealing with the matter from that one practical stand-point alone. I am anxious to avoid the other aspect altogether. If I could have been satisfied on that point, my attitude would have been different. While Senator Findley was on his feet, I interjected that the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission recommended that gas meters should be free. That was inaccurate. Unfortunately, there is so much confusion on that subject in the report that one. may readily drop into a mistake of that kind.
Question - That message No. 33 of the House of Representatives be recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering requests Nos. 95 and 154 - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … n
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Item 178 - Electrical and Gas appliances, viz. : - .
Senate’s Request. - Amend paragraph to read as follows : - “ (b) Gas Meters, parts, not fitted together or joined in any way.”
House of Representatives’ Message. - Amendment not made.
Motion (by Senator Best) put -
That the request be not pressed.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request not pressed.
Motion (by Senator Best) agreed to -
That the request in regard to item 303 (Timber), paragraph b (Pine and Red Beech), be not pressed.
Resolutions reported ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
.- I desire to take this opportunity to thank honorable senators for the close “and assiduous attention they have been good enough to, give to the passage of the Customs and Excise Tariff Bills. The task has certainly been a most difficult, trying, and arduous one. There has, undoubtedly, been great conflict of opinion on these important measures in this Chamber, as well as elsewhere. But the spirit, generally prevailing throughout their consideration, has been such as to establish for us traditions of a very high order in regard to our manner of dealing with measures of a contentious character. The Government recognise that they have received on the whole- a generous support, principally, of course, from their own supporters ; but at the same time, they wish to extend that acknowledgment to the other side. I am sure I voice the feelings of the Chamber when I express the hope that the result of our labours may prove an important and substantial factor in the development and future prosperity of this great Commonwealth.
– Was the VicePresident of the Executive Council speaking to any motion ; and shall we be able to follow him?
– No; there can be no debate. If any honorable senator had taken, exception to the remarks of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, I should have stopped him from proceeding further ; but, as they were of a purely congratulatory character, and such as I trust will not provoke any feeling, I did not interfere.
Debate resumed from 28th May (vide page 1 1622), on motion by Senator Best -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I stated last evening that I was in some confusion as to what the multiplicity of these Appropriation Bills really meant. Although I elicited some information from the Vice-President of the Execu- tive Council, I was not quite able to recon- cile his courteous answers with my own previously conceived impression of the object of these various measures. I have since taken the opportunity of looking into the matter, and find that this is the position : In the Estimates-in-Chief, Parliament is asked to, and does, appropriate a certain sum to the advance account of the Treasurer. When that advance account is exhausted, the Treasurer presents to Parliament a statement showing the method in which the money has been disbursed.
– I said so.
– The honorable senator did; but I will show directly where the confusion comes in. There is then brought down another Appropriation Bill covering the amounts expended by the Treasurer out of the advance account previously appropriated. The whole of the confusion arises from the fact that we appropriate the same amount twice.
– That is hardly accurate.
– It is absolutely and literally accurate, if the Treasurer spends all the amount we advance to him. When we advance him £200,000, we appropriate £200,000. If he spends £200,000, we pass another Appropriation Bill, appropriating another £200,000. We appropriate actually the same £200,000, but we make a separate appropriation of it. It is most misleading to call these two Bills Appropriation Bills. The first Bill which makes the money available for expenditure is the Appropriation Bill ; the second Bill ought to be called, not an appropriation, but a validating Bill. It is a formal parliamentary sanction of the way in which the Treasurer has spent the money made available by the Appropriation Bill for him to handle. To call the second Bill an Appropriation Bill is open to the objection that any stranger to our methods, looking through the Statutes of the Commonwealth, and coming across two Appropriation Acts for separate amounts, would naturally add the two sums together, in order to ascertain the total that we had appropriated, and that would be misleading, because part of that total would be a duplication. It would simplify our public accounts if’ we used the right term, by calling the second Bill a Validating or Indemnifying Bill. I desire to refer also to the period covered by these measures. ‘ Some are for expenditure incurred by the Treasurer two years ago. The money was passed on the
Estimates-in-Chief for 1906-7, and, I presume, was expended in that financial year.
– Hear, hear!
– That being so, one might reasonably ask why nearly twp years are allowed to elapse before the accounts are presented to us. I could understand delay in the case of accounts where time might be necessary to provide vouchers and submit them for parliamentary consideration. But the particular Estimates to which I am now referring cover amounts for which there could be no difficulty in getting vouchers. Some are payments for salaries. It does not take two years to put in order for presentation to Parliament accounts of that kind.
– I point out to the honorable senator that this is a Works and Buildings Bill.
– I was making the mistake of Speaking, as I have been thinking, of all these measures as a whole. I should be glad to hear the Minister’s reply as to the delay in presenting these matters for parliamentary approval.
– There appear in this measure a considerable number of items for the purchase of land. I am sure that money has been wasted in that direction. There is a sum of £3,000 for the purchase of land for a small-arms factory at Lithgow, New South Wales; and , £8,000 is asked for for the purchase of land for a cordite factory in Victoria. Neither of those items is justifiable. I am certain that land perfectly suitable for the erection of a small-arms factory could be secured at Lithgow for a maximum of £500, and I believe the same is equally true with regard to a site for a cordite factory in Victoria. No one would dream of placing such a factory in the midst of a crowded population. The aim would be to establish it where there were few people living, and where land would consequently be cheap. The Senate is, therefore, entitled to a good deal of explanation of those proposed votes. I find also numbers of items of a similar character. Grants to rifle clubs in, New South Wales for ranges amount to £2,000. I do not know how many ranges are covered by that. It depends on the number whether the total is excessive or not.- There is a sum of £11,000 towards the. cost of construction and site of the Brisbane Rifle Range for metropolitan troops. Amounts of £175, j£&42, and ^300 are asked for for rifle club ranges and a drill-hall. There are grants of .£786 to rifle clubs in Western Australia for ranges, and ^1,000 for a site for barrack accommodation at Fremantle. Moderate sums appear for similar purposes in Tasmania. There is a sum of ^1,622- for the purchase of sites in New South Wales for Post and Telegraph offices. Of course, such buildings must be placed in the most ‘convenient and accessible centres, and, therefore, the cost of sites for those purposes will be greater, and those sums may not be at all excessive. I do not say that they are, but they need watching. Some thousands of pounds are asked for for sites for Post and- Telegraph offices in Victoria. All these ‘sums are heavy, and there is room for a very full explanation, especially with regard to the proposed votes for a small-arms factory and a cordite factory. I invite the special attention of the Minister to them.
– I notice several items under the heading of “ Defence “ for drill-halls. The Department might sometimes pay’ a little more attention in those matters to the comfort of the men who have undertaken to protect us. Drill-halls are used, not merely for drill purposes, but for many social functions at which the men meet together. At Orroroo, although the officers of the troops in that locality made an urgent request for a wooden floor to be put in the. drill-hall, an asphalt floor was laid down. The difference in the cost is not very great ; but there is a great deal of difference between the two from the point of view of comfort and suitability for social functions. I shall be glad if a little attention is paid by the Department in the future in the construction of drill-halls, to the wishes of the men who have to use them. I have no desire to discuss the schedule generally, because it is of little use to do so. The financial year has almost expired, and I presume that almost all the money asked for has been already spent, and that we have little or no control over it.
Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) (12.44]. - It appears that the same system of placing information before honorable senators has not been observed throughout this measure. In the case of the Williamstown Rifle Range, Victoria, the proposed vote of ^300 towards the cost of completion of trench, is accompanied by a foot-note stating that the total cost is to be ^1,000. On the next page, however, ho such information is given with regard to the item of ^£1 1,000, towards the cost of construction and site of the Brisbane Rifle Range. We have already had the matter before us in connexion with a smaller vote; but on this occasion there is no footnote to indicate the total expenditure. ,
– When the first instalment was asked for, the footnote showed that it was portion of a larger sum. We are now voting the completing part of the expenditure.
– Early last year we had several Appropriation’ Bills before us. In two of them there were sums of ^2,000 each for this same purpose. If this sum of ^11,000 is the last portion of the vote, we should have had information explaining that fact. It would be very much better when expenditure is incurred in instalments to give information as to the total cost of a particular work.
– The item to which Senator Chataway refers is expenditure relating to the Brisbane rifle range. No doubt if we had known from the first what the total cost would be, it would have been our duty to set out the information.. Practically the whole .of this amount is taken up by the cost of the site of the rifle range at Enogra, and the Department has no idea as to what the cost of construction will be. I think I am justified in saying that nearly, every shilling of the amount goes towards the purchase of the- land. Senator Pulsford has complained about the apparently large increase of the. expenditure on rifle clubs. The reason for it is that the grant has been increased from £40 to .£75 per annum, and I think that my honorable friend will be one of the first to commend Parliament for having sanctioned that departure. Information has also been asked for in regard to the cordite factory. We are asking for a sum of ^10,000 by way of instalment. The site is at Maribyrnong, and consists of about 256 acres. It has been approved by Mr. Hake, Major Buckley, Colonel Miller, the Military Board, and the Naval Director. Mr. Hake’s estimate of cost depends on proximity to the present ammunition factory. The cordite factory site is on the Saltwater River, about 3^ miles above the ammunition factory, and the naval and military advisers of the’ Department see no objection to the site on strategical grounds. The area can, it is anticipated, be obtained for about £25 or £30 an acre. About half of it is owned by the State Government, having recently been purchased from private owners. This large area is not absolutely necessary, but it is considered advisable for many reasons to secure the whole block, the natural configuration of which is particularly suitable for the purposes required. The necessary plant for the factory would have to be selected in England, and could be delivered in Australia four months after order. The buildings and general arrangement of the factory would be in accordance with Mr.’ Hake’s advice. At present, we obtain all ourrequirements from England through the War Office. The annual requirement is 38 tons, that is for about 15,000,000 rounds of . 303 ammunition. The quantity required for big gun ammunition is about 13 tons. With the development of the new defence scheme, a very great increase in our requirements may be anticipated. The Imperial Navy’s requirements for rifle and heavy gun ammunition would be about 21 tons.
– I raised no question with regard to the cordite, but only as to the expenditure on the site.
– My information is that the site has been approved, not only by the Military Board, but by Mr. Hake, the explosives expert, Major Buckley, Colonel Miller, and the Naval Director.
– Are we paying the same price for the land as was paid to private owners by the State Government, or is the State making a profit out of it?
– I arn not in a position to sav whether the State is making a profit, but we consider that we are getting the land very cheaply. Our private valuation was very much higher. A site for the rifle factory at Lithgow has also been approved by the experts. The amounts which appear on the Estimates regarding drill halls are amounts to recoup the Treasurer for payments out of his advance. Various small amounts are required from time to time for the purpose of repairs and additions. The Treasurer’s advance is created for meeting emergencies of that description. The amounts have been expended.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 postponed.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Land Purchase for Defence Purposes, Colah - Land for Small Arms Factory, Lithgow - Land for Cordite Factory, Maribyrnong - Barrack Accommodation : Fremantle - Explosion at Thursday Island.
Divisions 2 to 4 (Home Affairs), £63,822.
– I should like to obtain a little information with regard to the item £17, in connexion with land for defence purposes at Colah. It will be noticed that some of these votes - as for instance that for the Casino drill hall, £98, and that for grants to rifle clubs for ranges, £2,000, are specific. But the vote for land for defence purposes at Colah is indefinite. As Colah is a little back-country village, I cannot see what part in the defence scheme of the Commonwealth it is going to play,” or what the money is wanted for except perhaps for a drill hall or a rifle range.
– The explanation is that the £17 represents some small legal costs in connexion with a purchase of land made a considerable time ago.
– It is rather interesting to find that this” vote for land for defence purposes covers a lawyer’s bill. It only shows what possibilities such a measure as this offers to the inquiring student. If it is thought proper to charge the legal expenses connected with the acquisition of the land to the cost of the land itself it might be just as well to set. out that fact. What is the land for, and what are the legal expenses?
– Some portion of the a.mount is for outstanding accounts, but the vote is principally for legal costs.
– I doubt whether they ought to be added on to the cost of the land.
– That is always done.
– If the money represents transfer fees, certainly ; but I understood that some legal question had arisen in connexion with the acquisition of the property. The particular purpose for which the land is required should be shown in this Bill, as was done when the land was originally purchased.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.15 p.m.
– On the second reading of this measure I drew attention to the very large sums which it appropriates for the purchase of land, especially land in connexion with a small-arms factory and a cordite factory. I intend to move that the item of ,£3,000 for the former be reduced to £1,000, and that the item of ;£8, 000 for the latter be reduced to .£2,000. I do not suggest for one moment that the land which it is intended to use for those purposes is not worth the money proposed to be paid. The view I take, and take very strongly, is that valuable land is not necessary, and that, as a matter of fact, especially in the case of the cordite factory, it is essential that it should be remote from centres of population. Therefore, when we are asked to vote £8,000 for a site for a cordite factory there is a reckless and” unpardonable waste of public money proposed. It should be borne in mind that these are not the main, but merely Supplementary Estimates for works and buildings. A total sum of ,£20,000 is required straight out for land, and, in addition, there are items totalling about ;£i 5,000 for sites and buildings. How much represents land, and how much represents buildings I cannot say. Whether there are over-payments I do not know, but with regard to the items I quoted I have no hesitation in saying that a gross and unpardonable waste of public money is proposed. I know the Blue Mountains, as I suppose most honorable senators do. I suggest to them that the land which is wanted for a small-arms factory could be obtained with ease, and in sufficient area, for. ,£1,000. I have not a shadow of a doubt that either in Victoria or somewhere else land of sufficient area, and in every way suitable, could be obtained for a cordite factory for £2,000. There is plenty of land available in suitable localities and at moderate prices, and we are not called upon to approve of the purchase of 256 acres in Victoria at an average price of about ,£31 per acre, for the establishment of a cordite factory, or the purchase of 123 acres at Lithgow at an average price of ,£25 per acre. Both proposals are wasteful, and cannot be in any way approved. I am not suggesting that the land proposed to be bought is not worth that price for other purposes, but it is not necessary for our purpose that the Military Department should go and buy land which is valuable for other purposes. With all earnestness, I press that view before the Committee. It is essential that the . Military Department, and all our great spending Departments,, should know that we keep a watchful eye on these matters, and that we do not wish them to spend thousands of pounds unnecessarily.
– It will be necessary for the honorable senator to submit two amendments, as we can deal with only one item at a time.
– But you, sir, submitted the vote for the whole division, and, therefore, I should like to submit one amendment.
– It is true that I put the vote for the whole division to the Committee,’ but if the honorable senator wants to amend two items he must submit two amendments, otherwise . honorable senators would not be in a position to .vote on each question separately.
– Very well, sir, I move -
That the item “ Lithgow, land for small-arms factory, ^’3,000,” be reduced by ^2,000.
– I do riot propose to set up my judgment against that of Senator Pulsford as to what is necessary in this case. At the same time, I can inform honorable senators that, before any action was taken with reference to the acquisition of land at either Maribyrnong or Lithgow, exhaustive reports were obtained from the recognised competent officers of the Military Forces.
– Has this land been bought and paid for?
– An area of 123 acres at Lithgow has been bought, and I believe that a portion of the money has been paid. Valuations were obtained before negotiations were concluded. The Department of Defence does not negotiate directly with land-owners. Negotiations for the purchase of land for all the Departments is carried out through the Department of Home Affairs, which has its own organization, or is in touch with and employs regular accredited valuators. Through them, it obtains the necessary information for determining what is the proper value of any land which it is asked to acquire. In the case of the land at Lithgow, and, again, in the case of the land, at Maribyrnong, more especially in the latter case, I am quite convinced, ./ the information we have received from competent, independent, and reliable valuators, that the Commonwealth has made an excellent bargain from the stand-point of price. So far as the area at Lithgow is concerned, I may point out that in the case of a small-arms factory it is not merely necessary to have an area sufficient to be occupied by the factory itself. It is also necessary to have, in conjunction with and close to it, sufficient ground for testing purposes in’ connexion with the rifles. That is one of the reasons why such a large area has had to be acquired. It has been acquired in one block, and, as I said before, not haphazardly, but after having obtained exhaustive and most careful valuations from competent and reliable valuators.
– Was that the best site?
– Yes ; and it was recommended by the experts of the Military Forces.
– The Minister has not followed my argument. I distinctly said that the land may be worth every penny of the money which is proposed to be paid.
– It is worth every penny of the money for our purpose, and that is its great value.
– It might be that the Department would be able to sell the land to-morrow at a profit. But that is not my point. The position I take up is that it is unnecessary to give £3,000 for a site for a small-arms factory. In New South Wales there is available no end of land which is in every way suitable, and which could be obtained for a third of the money.
– That is not so.
– That is the view I take, and that is the objection to which the Minister has made no reply.
– The Military authorities, who have reported most carefully, say that it is not so.
– I disagree with that.
– I do not know the land at Lithgow, though I should say that the same argument would apply in that case; but I do know the land at Maribymong. It is not merely a question of what it is worth and could be sold for, but the contour of the country and all the surroundings seem to eminently fit it for the purpose for which it has been acquired. It’s very great advantage is that while it is naturally iso lated it is contiguous to settlement. If we acquired a piece of land at a distance of tens or scores of miles from settlement we should have to create a centre close to it for the people who must necessarily work at the institution. This land at Maribyrnong is isolated by the Saltwater River, which skirts one side of it. By reason of its peculiar character it cannot be crowded out at any time by settlement, and if in years to come it should be very near the centre of an enormous population it would still have that natural isolation. I assume that Senator Pulsford had not that knowledge of the site which people who live in the neighbourhood have. It is a bit of a beauty spot.
– Ah, there is the explanation of the value of the site.
– For our purposes, it has advantages which probably will not be found anywhere else in Victoria. It is isolated by a hill on one side, and a river on the other, and1 it is circumscribed to about the size which probably would be required for our purpose. Technical and skilful knowledge has been applied in the selection of the- site, but from actual observation- it commends itself to me as an ideal place. The question of giving a pound or two more or less ought not to deter us from acquiring such a valuable site. But apart from that it is in such a position that if ever we were required for any reason to shift the scene of operations, it must become in the very near future immensely valuable for other purposes. Therefore, it must be a profitable bargain.
– The remarks just made by Senator Trenwith amply confirm all that I had said. The honorable senator has just told the Committee that a beauty spot has been purchased at Maribyrnong. We cannot buy beauty spots without paying, a lot of money for them.
– It is a utility spot also.
– Cordite and small-arms factories should be established at some distance from a centre of population, and might be established on land, that was of no particular value for other purposes. There is not a member of the Committee who could not find land in New South Wales and Victoria in every way suitable for the purposes for which the areas referred to in these Estimates are required, for one-third of the money provided for.
– Will the honorable senator say that Sydney harbor is less useful, because it is so beautiful?
– It is not less useful, but land there is more costly. I do not see why the officers of a Federal Department should be sent abroad to buy up beauty spots on which to establish the manufacture of cordite.
– I think that Senator Pulsford is mistaken in respect of the land selected at Lithgow for the establishment of a small-arms factory. It is quite true that any quantity of land could be obtained in New South Wales more cheaply than land at Lithgow, but I doubt whether honorable senators could conceive a more ideal place than Lithgow for the establishment of a small-arms factory.
– There are many equally suitable places in the Blue Mountains.
– I have a fair knowledge of the Blue Mountains, and I know that there are places there that would be absolutely useless for the purpose. It would not be difficult to select many places in the Blue Mountains for the establishment of a small-arms factory, but its operations would be infinitely more costly than they would be if it were established on the site selected at Lithgow.
– The honorable senator assumes that.
– I do not merely assume it ; I know it to be a fact. At Lithgow, all the material required would be in such, close proximity to the factory that it could be worked on the most economical basis.
– The Lithgow site is naturally suitable.
– That is so, and, in my opinion, the Committee would not be wise in proposing a reduction of the vote,, merely because it would be possible to purchase land more cheaply in a less suitable locality. I believe that the land selected at Maribyrnong for the establishment of a cordite factory is land that was resumed by the State Government of Victoria.
– I cannot say whether it w:as resumed, but it is a fact that it was the property of the Victorian Government.
– I believe I am correct in saying that it is from the State Government that the Commonwealth Government propose to purchase it. In the circumstances, if the Minister can supply the information, I should like to know the difference between the price per acre which is being paid by the Commonwealth Government for the land, and that at which it was resumed by the State Government?
– I have not that information.
– I am very sorry to hear it.
– We are paying .£25 per acre for it.
– No, we are paying very much more. It is proposed that we should pay ,£8,000 for 256 acres, which would be about ,£31 per acre.
– We are paying from *£2S to £s° pe** acre f°r lt» and it is very cheap, too.
– It is in a splendid position for the purpose for which it is acquired.
– I do not doubt that, but I certainly consider that the price which it is proposed to pay for it is very high.
– The honorable senator would not say that if he saw the valuations.
– They are all much higher.
– That may may be so, but the matter is one on which I desired some information. The Committee might very well agree to the vote for the purchase of land at Lithgow, as, I think, that in that case, the Government have really made the best bargain they could have made, since, because of its natural advantages, the site selected is so eminently suitable for the purpose for which it is being acquired.
– I have no objection to offer to the remarks made by Senator Henderson. Every one must recognise that if cheaper working facilities are to be obtained by the purchase of dear land than by the purchase of cheap land, it is wise to buy dear land. The position I take up in’ this matter is that there are many other places in the Blue Mountains district served by the railway from Sydney, which would be as suitable for the purpose for which the land is required as Lithgow, which is a rapidly growing place, where land values are fairly high. I protest against the willingness on the part of the Federal Departments, and on the part of this Parliament, whenever a piece of land is required for Federal purposes, to purchase land at extravagant figures, which, would not be given for the purpose by persons engaged in carrying on a private enterprise.
– I think that Senator Pulsford has done well to direct attention to these votes. I was struck by the extraordinary difference between the vote of £3,000 for the purchase of land for a smail arms factory at Lithgow, and the vote of £8,000 for the purchase of land for the establishment of a cordite factory at Maribyrnong. If we are to have a small-arms factory, and,’ in my opinion, it is essential to our defence that we should, I can cease for once to be a geographical protectionist,- and say that I am disposed to think that Lithgow would be an ideal locality for the establishment of such a factory. After the explanation given by the Minister, I am inclined to believe that the Government have made a fair bargain in connexion with the acquisition of the land at that place. With all respect for the judgment of the officers of the Defence Department in this matter, it occurs to me that the selection of land for the establishment of a small-arms factory, and the selection of land for the establishment of a cordite factory, should present problems very similar in character, and I am, therefore, the more inclined to question the extraordinary difference between the vote for the purchase of the land at Lithgow, and that for the purchase of land at Maribyrnong.
– A Victorian boom or two has added to the price of the Maribyrnong land.
– That may explain the difference to which I have directed attention, and, possibly, if Senator Pulsford presses his objection to that vote, we shall get some further explanation on the point.
– I am very glad that the Government are establishing both these factories.
– So am I.
– It seems to me that Senator Pulsford is rather beating the air, because I am given to understand that contracts have been entered into for the purchase of the land referred to. That is a difficulty due to the fact that these Estimates, come before us so late in the year. Eleven months of the financial year have passed, and we are really being asked to approve votes, when the money has been spent. The Government must be guided largely by the advice of their expert officers on such questions as these, and we are bound to place ourselves to some extent in their hands as regards the cost of the sites and the factories. If it turns out that those officers have betrayed their trust by recommending that too high a price should be paid for the land, we shall be able to punish them. I assume that the Government have had careful inquiries made and have decided to make the purchase trusting to the knowledge of their experts. For that reason, and- also because it is too late, I do not feel inclined to vote for the request.
– I do not regard with surprise the great difference between the votes for the sites of the two factories. The cordite factory must naturally cover a large area of ground, as cordite is a dangerous explosive. Senator Trenwith, however, stated that the site for that factory, while very suitable for the purpose, was a beauty spot, and was situated in a district that was likely after a time to be closely settled, so that when it became desirable to remove the factory a large price would be obtainable for the ground. I accept the honorable senator’s statement as to the suitability of the ground for the purpose, but the necessary isolation could easily have been obtained elsewhere where land was ‘ not so costly, lacked the beautiful characteristic’s of the site chosen, and was not so contiguous to settlement. The Departments ought not to lead us into these heavy expenditures. With regard to the small-arms factory, the Blue Mountains district is a large one, and at many places where the railway passes sites quite as suitable as that at Lithgow could have been obtained.
– The freight charges would be greater. The great advantage of Lithgow is the existence1 of established iron works.
– The bulk of the arms made at Lithgow would have to go to Sydney for shipment, and the freight in that direction would be greater. I therefore see no advantage in the selection, of Lithgow. I admit the force of the argument that the whole of this money has been spent, and that therefore it is of no use to propose to reduce the vote to £1,000. I am prepared to amend my amendment so as to make the reduction £5, in order that it shall be a protest against what I regard as reckless expenditure.
Amendment amended accordingly.
– I regret that I cannot support the amendment. There is no more suitable site in Australia than Lithgow for a small-arms factory. Senator Pulsford’s argument as to sites on the mountains being equally suitable is not correct. Lithgow ‘ has been selected because the raw materials in the shape of coal and iron are close at hand, and iron works have already, been established. As I have no absolute knowledge of the value of the land, except that land values have gone up at Lithgow considerably on account of the establishment ofindustries there, I could not honestly say that the Government have paid too much for the site.
– The view that Senator Pulsford has taken is absolutely sound, But there is no practical advantage in proceeding with the amendment, even in its modified form. The land has been purchased and the money paid. If we strike £5 off the ‘item now we shall simply have to vote it again, later on. This is not similar to a case where it is proposed to reduce a vote for a Department as a means of expressing some general dissatisfaction with the administration of the Department, and conveying an intimation to the Minister either to reform his Department or to take back and re-model his Estimates. This is a single transaction where the Government rightly or wrongly have purchased land and paid the money. If this or fifty Senates said they would not pass the amount, we might throw the Government out - which would be an excellent thing1 if we could do it-but the succeeding Government would immediately have to ask us to authorize the payment of the amount which had already changed hands. In the circumstances, I suggest that Senator Pulsford, having placed on record his protest, which I thoroughly indorse, should withdraw the amendment.
.- - I recognise the truth of what Senator Millen says. I know that the money having been paid has to be voted, but I am anxious to make an effective protest. The mere fact of my saying that the Government have done wrong will have about as much effect on them as small shot would have on the hide of a rhinoceros. The reduction by this Committee of the vote by £5 would stand on .the records as evidence of our disapproval of the course that has been taken, and as pointing the direction along, which we think that these Government Departments ought to travel in the future. I think the general sense of the Committee is that a little more regard ought to .be paid to the financial needs of Australia in the purchase of land, and that the dearest sites ought not always to be bought for Government purposes. If, however, it is the wish of the Committee that the amendment be withdrawn, I will withdraw it.
Amendment, by leave,’ withdrawn.
– - Is the sum of £1,000 for a site for barrack accommodation at Fremantle to be spent on improving’ the barracks on the present site, or is it intended to purchase a new site and erect new barracks? If there is to be a new site, is it to be situated in North, South, East, or Central Fremantle ?
– There is an item of £210 for a shed for the storage of explosives at Thursday Island. The Queensland Government , are offering £100 in order to ascertain the origin of the recent explosion there. I hope the Commonwealth Government will also do all they can to sift that matter to the bottom, in view of the strategic importance of Thursday Island to the defence of Australia. . I believe the Government are thoroughly seized of the gravity of that incident, and I hope they will take every possible step to find out whether it occurred through natural causes or through neglect, or whether there was something else behind it.
– With regard to the matter mentioned by Senator St. Ledger, the Government is seized’ of the seriousness of the recent explosion at Thursday Island, and no effort will’ be spared to ascertain the true origin of it. There has been at Thursday Island for a considerable time a congestion, in the storage accommodation, and pending the erection of a permanent magazine, it has been desired to make provision of a temporary character. As to the matter referred to by Senator Needham, I point out that no particular site Has yet been decided upon, so that I cannot say in what locality it will be. . But we. are making provision for a site for barrack accommodation for the forces that will have to be established at Fremantle in connexion with the fixed defences.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 5 (Postmaster-General’s De- .partment), ,£63,4.10 ; Division 7 (Special Defence Material), ,£24,050 ; and Division 8 (New Special Defence Provision), £10,000, agreed to.
Postponed clause 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
ADDITIONAL APPROPRIATION BILL 1905-6 and 1906-7.
Debate adjourned from 28th May (vide page 1 1623) resumed on motion by Senator Best -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- Through an inadvertence, I made some comment upon this Bill last night, when another measure was before the Senate. That being so, I shall no longer detain honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages.
1905-6 and I906-7.
Debate adjourned from 28th May (vide page 1 1624) resumed on motion by Senator Best -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time. / n Committee :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
– - I should like to draw attention to the vote for the Sandy Bay rifle range, ,£2,432. I shall not debate the subject, but merely desire to draw the attention of the Committee to the manner in which land purchases are being made by the Commonwealth Government. The Government requires some guidance in the matter of economy. A number of land purchases are provided for in the measures’ which we have had before us. I content myself with drawing attention to the repeated high charges for land, and state again that the Commonwealth ought to abstain from continually purchasing at top prices.
– The honorable sena-‘ tor was out of the country when a paper was laid before Parliament showing that we reduced these claims by over 50 per cent.
Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next at 2.30 p.m.
By means of additional sittings which will probably take place elsewhere, there is a reasonable prospect that we shall have the Surplus Revenue Bill here on Wednesday next to proceed with.
– But that, measure is unconstitutional.
– On Wednesday next, when it does arrive, I shall ask honorable senators to suspend the Standing Orders so as to enable me to proceed with its consideration forthwith. As they are aware, that will be the important business, and I give this ample notice so that it may be proceeded with on Wednesday.
– If it comes here.
– Of course, if the Bill does not arrive here .oh Wednesday, we cannot consider it.
– Assuming that on Tuesday afternoon the Minister finds that such a thing is not probable, will he communicate with honorable senators?
– It is possible that the other House may sit late on Tuesday night.
– I understand that it is going to sit on Monday.
– Yes, and it may sit late on Tuesday night in order to have the Bill ready for us on Wednesday. .
Question resolved’ in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I want to supply an omission that I made in my short appreciation of services rendered here in connexion with the Tariff. I desire to have placed on record my appreciation of the splendid services rendered by Mr. Ewing and Mr. McConaghy, the two Customs officers who have most ably and industriously assisted not only myself but honorable senators in the consideration of the Tariff. Their work, which was so capably done, and of such a helpful character, was, of course, done under the direction of that very able and experienced officer, Dr. Wollaston.
– And Mr. Lockyer.
– I think that to the three officers in question we are doing bare justice in placing on record our high sense of appreciation of the services they rendered during ‘ the consideration of the Tariff.
– I desire to trespass upon the patience of honorable senators for a little time while I bring under their notice a state of affairs which exists in Papua, which I consider is not conducive either to the wellbeing or prosperity, or to the satisfactory condition of the residents! For some considerable time the affairs of Papua have been agitating the minds of members of Parliament and the public generally, and I had almost hoped that ere now we should have arrived at a settlement which would have obviated the necessity for any agitation of that kind. Ever since I have had the honour of a seat here I have held very strong views on this matter. I have always believed that in Papua there was a little coterie of old-time officials, who were acting in concert with certain local business firms that were trying to run the country in such a way that any one who would not act in accordance with their wishes and desires would not have a show to live there.
– That is what Craig said, anyhow.
– Yes. I have numerous correspondents who keep me well informed of the condition of affairs in
Papua. I think that the dissatisfaction now existing is largely due to the fact that the Government have not long ago appointed a permanent Administrator, whose position would be assured, and who would feel that he had behind him the authority of the Commonwealth Government to enforce any reforms, which he might consider necessary. I believe that when Mr. Murray was appointed Acting Administrator he was not treated fairly, inasmuch as he did not have his hands strengthened in that way. I propose to quote a document which will prove, up to the hilt I think, that cliquism is rampant, and that unless something is done to put a stop to it, we shall have a state of affairs bordering on almost incipient or passive rebellion. The document is dated at Samarai on 28th April last, and is a copy of a memorial forwarded by Mr. W. B. Patching, a resident of Papua, to the Acting Administrator. It reads as follows -
Samarai, 28th April,1908.
On the 27th April I desired to guarantee the wages of a native, signed on to Daniel Horan, a miner, to the extent of Six pounds (£6). I was informed by Mr. MacAlpine, A.R.M.E.D., that the Acting Resident Magistrate would not take my guarantee, as only “The Storekeepers” - Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co., Messrs. J. Clunn and Sons, and Messrs. Whitton Bros. - were allowed to guarantee the wages of native employes under the Native Labour Ordinance of 1906. Evidently, the Acting Resident Magistrate, Mr. C. O. Turner, does not consider that I am a business man. Now, Your Excellency, section 27 of the above Ordinance states as follows : - “ The officer may, in any case, refuse to sanction the engagement, unless upon the guarantee of at least one sufficient surety, in such sum as he may consider reasonable, that the employer will carry out the terms of the contract of service and will comply with the provisions of this Ordinance.”
There is nothing in the Native Labour Ordinance limiting the guarantee system to the above-mentioned “ firms,” who are at present using their unlimited power for the purpose of crushing each and every poor man who dares to have political views opposed to their own.
Now, Your Excellency, I am carrying on the business of an aerated water manufacturer, in which I have at least£300, in stock and machinery. Also, I am a commission agent and. licensed auctioneer. I have been engaged in business for the past seven years or more at Samarai, Papua. I have also been in business in Cooktown and Port Darwin. I have at all times paid my just debts and conducted my business in an honorable and straightforward manner. Herewith I issue a challenge to any person to truthfully say otherwise. I am perfectly solvent. Further, I am spending all’ I earn in Papua, with some earned elsewhere, in clearing and planting 300 acres of land at Sideia Island, which was granted to me on a 99 years’ lease by the Papuan Government. Yet, in spite of all this, my guarantee of a paltry £6 to help a poor man along was refused by Mr. C. O. Turner, Acting R. M., Samarai. I hope and trust Mr. Turner has not acted from personal prejudice against myself. Any one who allows his personal likes and dislikes to influence him when carrying’ out magisterial duties is unfitted to be even a Native Magistrate. I have paid about£200 in wages to native employes without any guarantee being required. In face of all this the Acting Resident Magistrate refuses to take my guarantee for £6. Why ? I cannot say. Your Excellency, I am placing this matter before you not with the intention of doing a personal injury to any one, but with the intention of doing a service to the “ General Public of Papua,” especially those whose pockets are not well lined with gold or its equivalent, and have incurred the autocratic wrath of the three privileged firms mentioned above.
I feel sure, Your Excellency, in his wisdom will find a way to prevent the oppression of the poor man - mineror any other man - which must be as long as the present atrocious guarantee system is allowed to continue, and to be solely in the hands of three privileged firms already referred to herein. I beg to quote from the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into matters concerning Papua. Report XXXI, 2nd part - “ It has been pointed out to your Commissioners that miners and settlers generally who are without capital are handicapped at the outset of their operations by being compelled to become under obligations to the storekeepers, who become sureties for them under this system of guaranteeing the wages of recruits for the whole period of their engagement. There is great force in this contention. Your Commissioners suggest as a means of overcoming the difficulty, that employers may, instead of furnishing such guarantee, pay to the proper Government officers to be appointed for the purpose, the wages of their employes monthly or quarterly in advance. Should this be done, however, every care should be taken to enforce prompt payment, and non-compliance should be made and treated as an offence.” ‘
Apologizing for trespassing on Your Excellency’s valuable time,
I have the honour to be,
Your Excellency’s most obedient servant,
His Excellency the Acting Administrator of Papua, Samarai.
That case clearly shows that the old clique of officials were -acting in concert with certain interested storekeepers to force every man in the Territory into their hands.
– That guarantee system, I take it, is provided for in an Ordinance of the local Legislature.
– Undoubtedly, and I quoted a section of the Ordinance.
– It has not been repealed ?
– No, but I would point out that it is silent with regard to compelling sureties to be given.
– Did not the officer act under the direction of that Ordinance, whoever he was ?
– He could demand a proper surety if he pleased, but he would not take a surety from anybody except three firms of storekeepers. The whole position is stated by the memorialist, who strengthens his position by showing that in their report the Papua Royal Commission recommended that something should be done to put a stop- to the evil.
– It is very difficult to regulate’ the exercise of a man’s discretion.
– Of course it is ; but is a man to be given a discretion, to say that three business firms are the only proper sureties,, and that the surety of a man like Mr. Patching - a man who has 300 acres of land on a 99 years’ lease, is engaged in business and has challenged any ohe to show that he has ever left a shilling unpaid - shall not be taken for the paltry sum of £6? That is simply ridiculous. What is the object of this cliquism ? Miners and others are absolutely dependent upon native labour to carry their tucker to them. There is no other way in which to get their tucker over the ranges or up the rivers, and the Papuan Government have very properly enforced a set of regulations to insure that the Papuan natives shall be properly employed and properly paid. I have no quarrel, nor have the people in Papua any quarrel, with the provision which demands that a surety shall be given by the employer. But even the Native Labour Ordinance does not say that the surety must be . given, because Mr. Patching was employed, as he says in his letter, without- any surety. Why should these miners be driven into the position of being placed under an obligation to three firms of storekeepers in order to get the native labour which they require. When they are placed under that obligation they must of necessity deal with the storekeepers, pay any price which is demanded ‘for goods, and submit to any treatment which is meted out to them, because, unless they do, they cannot get the native labour . which is absolutely essential to enable them to carry on their business or calling. That is a state of affairs which a democratic Government such as we are supposed to have in the Commonwealth should not tolerate for an instant. And, further, if the Commonwealth Go.vernment dare to allow it to continue, this Parliament should rise in its wrath and take such action as would insure it being stopped at very short notice. The time has gone by when any Government, democratic or otherwise, should allow barefaced favoritism of that sort to -continue. The facts should speak for themselves. Mr. Patching forwarded a statement of the facts to the Acting Administrator, and a copy of it to myself, to bring it under the notice of this Parliament.
– What has been done in connexion with it ?
– So far as I know, nothing has been done. I refer to the matter now not only because 1 think it should be ventilated, But because I learn from the press this morning that the Government propose to order an inquiry into other matters, and I wish to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council ‘ to bring this matter under the notice of the Minister ‘of External Affairs for inquiry, at the same time to see whether something cannot be done to put a stop to the very unsatisfactory condition of affairs in Papua. In my opinion, all the trouble that has arisen recently, and goodness knows there has been enough, has been due very largely to the fact that the Government have not had the courage - and I say this advisedly - to appoint a permanent Administrator of the Territory. Judge Murray, occupying merely a tentative position, has been made the butt of intrigues by all sorts of cliques, in order to defeat his efforts to carry out necessary reforms by decisive action. Either he should be at once appointed Administrator, so that he may be enabled to effect the necessary reforms in the government of the territory, or the Government, if they are not satisfied that he is the best man for the position, should appoint some other person whom they can regard in that light. 1 am informed by residents of Papua of all shades of political opinion, that Judge Murray has acted throughout as Acting Administrator in a way which has given entire satisfaction to the bulk of the people there. Every letter I get from the Territory speaks in the highest terms of the man. I do not know him, and never met him, or even heard of him until he was appointed.
– Judge Murray is one of the manliest fellows who ever went to Papua.
– Having resided in Northern Queensland for so long, honorable senators will understand that I am personally acquainted with very many of the people who have gone to Papua from Australia. There are others, like Mr. Patching, whom I never met, and do not know at all.. I repeat that I get” letters from men of all shades of political opinion and thought, and all speak in the highest terms of Judge Murray. Either he should be permanently appointed Administrator, and his hands strengthened to enable him to carry out the reforms for which the country has been crying out for a long time, or the Government should put him into the position he formerly held as Judge, and appoint some other man as Administrator. I am further informed by my correspondents that there is a cabal of the old officials of the place, who do all they can to damage the reputation of Judge Murray. I will not vouch for the truth of that statement, but it is certainly a pressing duty of the Commonwealth Government to institute a searching inquiry into the condition of affairs in Papua. They should not allow the fair fame of the Commonwealth to be disgraced by permitting such a disorderly apology for a Government as is now to be found there, to continue for a moment longer than is absolutely necessary.. I have done only my duty in bringing the matter before the Senate. I hope that the VicePresident of the Executive Council will, at the earliest opportunity, call the attention of the Prime Minister to Mr. Patching’s memorial, so that an’ inquiry may be instituted, and that the favoritism which is being displayed in forcing every one in Papua into the hands of three firms of storekeepers, may be stopped without a moment’s unnecessary delay.
– - I desire very warmly to indorse the remarks made by Senator Best as to the indebtedness of honorable senators to the gentlemen who have been representing the Customs Department while we have been considering the Tariff. For good or evil the Commonwealth is embarked on a Tariff that throws a very heavy burden on the officers of the Customs Department. It is marked by what Lord Cromer the other day’ described as an “ intolerably minute classification.” That is our doing,. but the term gives some idea of the burden which it throws on Customs officers. The work which they have had to do in connexion with it has also been very heavy. Ever since the establishment of the Commonwealth, I suppose, I have been to some extent a thorn in the side of the Department, but I have met with the fullest courtesy and the most ready supply of information from Dr. . Wollaston and all the officers under, him. I make this acknowledgment with every sense that it is fully warranted.
– With reference to the matter brought under notice by Senator Givens, I have only to assure the honorable senator that I shall bring it and the representations he has made in connexion with it under the notice of the Prime Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senateadjourned at 3.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 May 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1908/19080529_senate_3_46/>.