3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I beg to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, without notice, the following questions : -
– The statement as reported in the Argus is quite correct. So far as the duty on the 294 items which are affected by the preference is concerned, where the foreign manufacturer pays ^100, the British manufacturer pay’s between £75 and .£76. On the other hand, the preference is also equal to 5 per cent, on the value of the goods imported under those items.
– As soon as two or three principal measures of urgency before the other House have been sufficiently advanced, the debate on the second reading of the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill will be resumed and brought to a conclusion as early as possible.
ADJOURNMENT (Formal. Old-Age Pensions.
– I have received from Senator de Largie an intimation that he desires to discuss a matter of urgency, namely, “ The administration of the Oldage Pensions Act.”
Four honorable senators having, risen in their places -
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 5.30 p.m. to-morrow.
I am sorry that I have to interrupt’ the business of the Senate in order to bring forward this matter, but it is unavoidable, because not one of the complaints which have been , expressed here on motions for adjournment and in connexion with the Old-age Pensions Amending Bill has had the desired effect, and that is, a better administration of the law. From time to time we have been informed that in each State the Deputy Commissioner has full authority to appoint whatever clerical assistance may be necessary in order that claims for old-age pensions may be heard and disposed of. We have been assured that such ample authority has been delegated to the officers at a distance that there should be no further need for the Government to interfere, and that we may rely upon those officers to carry out their duty and give satisfaction in their administration of the law. I believe that ordinarily we do get a fair administration of our laws, but the Oldage Pensions Act furnishes a glaring instance to the contrary. In fact, the bad administration of the Act is a standing subject of comment in the press of Western Australia. AVe have had figures to show that had proper attention been given to the claims made in Western Australia there ought to have been a much larger number admitted than there has been. According to the latest returns from the various States, Western Australia is undoubtedly in the worst position as regards the number of pensions granted. But for the complaints which have reached me in many ways, I should be prepared to assume that the percentage of persons eligible to receive old-age pensions in Western’ Australia is represented by the number of claims which have been granted up to date. But I know from experience that whilst Western Australia may have a lower average of qualified claimants than have the other States, it is not nearly so low as the figures as to the number of pensions granted would indicate. By every mail I receive letters from applicants for old-age pensions there, who cannot get the satisfaction which they should be able to secure promptly by means of the machinery which we have provided. I understand that, in order to expedite the consideration of claims, the Government have given the Deputy Commissioner in Western Australia authority to appoint additional officers wherever their services may be required. But despite that fact, a large number of these claims have not yet been disposed of. The sooner the Government investigate the reason underlying the existing irritation and delay the better it will be for all concerned. I have received a wire from the representative of Albany in the Parliament of Western Australia, intimating that at that centre not a single application for an oldage pension has been granted. Yet we know that Albany is one of the oldest towns in Western Australia, and that the conditions which obtain there closely approximate to those which obtain in oldestablished towns on our eastern coast. That circumstance alone is sufficient proof that there is some radical defect in the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. I wish also to emphasize the hardship- which is being inflicted upon applicants for pensions who are resident upon the gold-fields of Western Australia by reason of the delay which occurs in dealing with their claims. I have ‘ received numerous communications from pioneers on the diggings of that State, some of whom - although they did well in the earlier days - have lost their all during later years. One of these men by his work as a pioneer added very materially to the wealth of Western Australia. Of late this old gentleman has only been able to eke out a precarious existence by means of dry-blowing. He applied for an oldage pension, and pending the consideration of his claim, was obliged to visit the town of Coolgardie. There he was kept so long that he was actually obliged to borrow money for his maintenance whilst awaiting the. settlement of his claim. Some time ago he wrote to me upon this matter, and I took the trouble to obtain proofs regarding his length of residence in Australia. It appears that he came to this country when he was only a lad of sixteen years. He joined a branch of the Manchester Unity Order of Oddfellows in Victoria forty-five years ago. He is now nearly seventy years of age, and his case is typical of many others.
– I do not gather from the honorable senator’s remarks what is the. grievance of this man.
– He was called upon to furnish proof of the period of his residence in Australia, and I think that having done that his appearance should have been sufficient evidence that he was more than sixty-five years of age, and that he was therefore qualified to receive a pension. But instead of his claim being granted he was obliged to send to Tasmania to get the required proof.
– Did he ultimately obtain the pension?
– I dare say that the proofs which are now in his possession will be sufficient to establish his claim.
– The honorable senator does not suggest that a man should secure a pension without being called upon to establish proof as to his period of residence in Australia?
– No. But I do say that the delay which is being experienced in disposing of claims in Western Australia evidences the necessity which exists for the appointment of additional officers.
– But in the case to which the honorable senator has referred, the delay was occasioned by the difficulty experienced by the claimant in securing the requisite proof.
– I complain that in administering the Act reasonable proof as to the qualifications of an applicant is not accepted.
– What reasonable proof did this applicant offer ?
– He has lived in Western Australia almost a sufficient time to justify the payment of an old-age pension to him on his residence in that State alone. His history is- well-known, and no reasonable person would doubt from his appearance that he was sixty-five years of age.
– That would not prove his residence in Australia.
– But he has furnished proof that he came to Tasmania in a certain ship when he was only sixteen years of age. That, however, was not acceptable to the officials. He has further informed them that he was associated with a number of well-known politicians in this State of Victoria some years ago. Even that was not deemed satisfactory ; and it was not until I received proof of his entry fortyfive years ago into the Manchester Unity Order of Oddfellows, that his claim was established. I mention this case because the applicant in question was once a well-known man in connexion with the alluvial movement in Western Australia. I do not care to give his name publicly, though 1 can furnish it to the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I am surprised that any magistrate should have refused to take his word. I do not wish to be severe on the Government. I am aware that they must rely upon their officers to see that the Act is properly carried out. But I am afraid that a desire for economy is carrying the Government to unjustifiable extremes. Until we find that the number of applicants is out of all proportion to what we consider reasonable, I think the Act should be administered in the most liberal way possible. The small number of applicants in Western Australia whose claims have been admitted proves that the administration is altogether too careful and exacting in respect of the proof demanded from applicants. Probably the majority of persons applying for old-age pensions in Western Australia came originally from the Eastern States. Many of them have led wandering lives, and have never lived for very long in any one State. It is practically impossible for them to furnish documentary proof so as to satisfy the administration. We ought to stretch a point in these cases. At present an applicant is brought down into one of the towns to establish his claim to a pension. When he gets there his case is delayed, and he becomes stranded; so that, instead of the pension being an advantage, it is practically a curse to him. I content myself with drawing attention to the subject, and expressing the hope that we shall have a more satisfactory administration in the future.
– Will the honorable senator furnish me with the name of the pioneer whom he mentioned, in order that I may telegraph to Western Australia forthwith ?
– I will do so.
– I am pleased that Senator de Largie .has taken the present opportunity to impress upon the representative of the Government the necessity for endeavouring to deal with the old-age pensions administration in Western Australia in an effective manner. From time to time I have asked questions on the subject, and especially with regard to unnecessary delay in dealing with claims. I hold in my hand a reply to a question which I put to the Treasurer some time ago. It is dated 27th September, and is to the effect that up .to that date there had been 1,883 applicants in Western Australia, out of which total 813 had been granted pensions. Power was granted to the Government to appoint special magistrates to deal with these claims. At that time Western Australia was regarded as a State which required in a particular degree the assistance of special magistrates. But when I questioned the Treasurer on the subject I was informed that only one special magistrate had been appointed in Western Australia, Mr. Fairbairn. He is a man of whom many of us have some knowledge, and for whom most of those who know him have a very great respect. But as Western Australia had not an old-age pensions system prior to the passing of the Federal Act, and as her territory is large and her population is not compact, it must be evident that one special1 magistrate is not sufficient to deal with the cases requiring attention. One of the oldest towns in Western Australia, Albany, has teen neglected up to the present time, although there are there a number of people who are entitled to receive old-age pensions. I do not know whether the Department is dealing with the matter through some central” channel, and whether delay is being caused in that way. But I think that it must be evident to the Government, on consideration, that there is an urgent necessity for a special magistrate to be appointed, not only in Fremantle, but in other places in Western Australia. No reasonable man will deny that there has been inordinate delay, when out of over 1,900 claims only 800 have been allowed. Thousands of applications have been dealt with in the other States. I admit that in those States there may be more effective machinery for the performance of the work, but if the provisions of the Act had been fairly administered there should have been ample time since the 1st July within which to deal with the whole of the applications made in Western Australia. There are still something like 60 per cent, of the applications made in that State remaining to be attended to. There would seem to be no desire on the part of the officials concerned to hasten the settlement of the Western Australian claims. I have had under my notice several of the cases to which Senator de Largie has referred. I have had to go to business people in Melbourne and obtain sworn declarations from them to send to Western Australia for. the identification of applicants for old-age pensions. I do not say that that is not as it should be, because. I believe that it is right that proof of the qualifications of applicants should be demanded, but it was never intended that the officers charged with the administration of the Act should de all they could to delay or prevent the payment of pensions to those entitled to receive them. I think that the officers of the Department should, on the contrary, render every assistance to applicants. Some of these old people are almost incapable of writing a letter, or of taking any action in support of their applications. The Government should impress upon their officers the necessity of treating applicants for pensions sympathetically and of rendering them all possible assistance in substantiating their claims. I hope that from this out the Government will set about the consideration of the Western Australian applications in a business-like manner, and that in the course of a few days we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that they have all been dealt with. At the present rate of progress in the settlement of these claims, it is not unreasonable to say that some of them will not have been de’alt with until February or March of next year.
– And a number of the applicants may be dead bv that time.
– That is so. It is strange that the delay should continue from month to month after attention has been called to it so frequently.
– In view of the inordinate delay which has taken place in dealing with applications for old-age pensions in Western Australia, Senator de Largie has been fully justified in launching his motion today. There is one feature to which I should like to direct the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Apart from the delay in the settlement of the Western Australian claims, I have information that one of the sections of the principal Act is being evaded in the administration of the law in that State.. I refer to section 47, which provides that -
If a successful claimant of a pension is an inmate of a benevolent asylum or other charitable institution the pension shall become payable as from a date not more than 28 days prior to the pensioner being discharged from or leaving the asylum or institution, but no payment on account of pension shall be made to him so long as he is an inmate of the asylum or institution.
It has come under my own observation that before an inmate of an Old Men’s Home in Western Australia can successfully apply for a pension, he must leave the Home. That is a state of affairs which cannot for a moment be tolerated. It is certainly an evasion of the section which I have quoted. We have passed an amending Act since the enactment of that provision, but we have not in any way interfered with the section referred to. We have provided that if an inmate of a charitable institution or benevolent asylum is qualified to receive an oldage pension, and submits an application he shall be entitled to receive a sum of money equivalent to. four weeks’ pension. We have said that in such a case the pension should become payable as from a date not more than 28 days prior to the pensioner being discharged from or leaving the institution. The intention of that provision was that an old man or woman entitled to an old-age pension should have something in hand on leaving such an institution. If the section I have referred to is to be evaded in the way it has been-
– Is the honorable senator submitting an instance in which it has been evaded?
– Yes, in Western Australia.
– I want the particular case.
– I have here the West Australian of 17th September last, and under the heading “Old-age Pensions” I find the following : -
At a meeting of the South Fremantle Branch of the A.L.F. held last evening, the President(Mr. W. H. Carpenter) called attention to a practice which was being adopted in connexion with the payment of old-age pensions to men who had been inmates of the Old Men’s HomeComplaints had been made to him by men whose claims for the pension had been approved that they were required by the official in charge to leave the Home some days before the pension money was available. As most of the inmates were penniless on leaving they were thus compelled to exist as best they could from the . time of their discharge until they received their first payment. He ‘thought this treatment harsh and unnecessary, and suggested that steps be taken to arrange that the men concerned should be allowed to remain in the Home until the day on which the pension was payable. It was resolved that Mr. W. C. Angwin, M.L.A., be asked to investigate the matter, and endeavour to remove the cause of the complaint.
There is ray reply to ‘ the Minister’s request for a specific instance. The honorable senator should not require any better proof that section . 47 of the principal Act is being evaded. I cannot see how it is possible to read into that section that an applicant must leave a Home before the pension can be paid, if he has substantiated his claim, thereto. A few days’ ago I asked the Minister some questions regarding the causes of delay in dealing with claims. I inquired whether certain officers were working overtime in order to grapple with the situation, and he replied that he was not aware of that fact. I also inquired about the possibility of engaging extra assistance, and the reply I received was that the Deputy Commissioner had power to engage extra assistance if necessary. Out of 1,882 applications in Western Australia, only 813 have been dealt with. I understand that when the Department made an estimate of the -pro-‘ bable expenditure in that State, it reckoned upon 1,959 applications being made. It will be seen that the actual number of applications is very near the estimate. If, however, the estimate is realized, I am very much afraid that a far longer period will elapse before the old people will have received the consideration which is their due. I hope that the Minister will promise to have an inquiry made, not only as to the causes of delay in dealing with claims, but also as to whether or not extra assistance should be provided. I believe that it would be a wise thing to appoint an honorary committee for each district. There are many citizens who would gladly undertake the duty of assisting the magistrate who is; dealing with claims. The Minister might also ascertain whether inmates of a Home are compelled to leave before their pensions are paid. I submit that they ought to be allowed to remain in the institution, as the section intended, until their claim has been either accepted or rejected, and that when accepted a claim should be paid from the date thereof.
. - I sympathize with honorable senators who have spoken as regards’ the delay that has taken place in dealing with claims. But we cannot help realizing that inevitably there must be greater difficulty in administering the Act in Western Australia than in any of the other States. It contains manypersons who have not been resident the necessary length of time to be entitled to a pension. The Act demands, not merely proof of the age of a claimant, but proof of his bona fides. Of course, there are many men who would not require to prove their age; it speaks for itself. The consideration of claims might be expedited in Western Australia if local organizations were formed. The claimants are necessarily, from their age, not as alert or as capable of proving their claims .as they would have been twenty years ago. No doubt some of them cannot write a letter, not necessarily from lack of education, but from old age, so that they are unable to proceed to prove their identity by reference to people living at ‘a great distance. 1 suggest to the representatives of Western Australia the wisdom of trying to initiate quickly an organization in each centre of population. I am sure that there must be many residents who would be glad to be formed into a committee to which applicants could repair, get letters written, and thus obtain necessary proof of their bona -fides.
Like others whom I know, Senator Henderson is- doing what he can to find the necessary proof in cases which have been brought to his notice.. Senator de Largie has mentioned’ that he went to a lodge and obtained the certificate of initiation of a member. It may be a lodge in one case, and an employer in another case, where an inquiry has to be made. But these inquiries are difficult and intricate to a man who is declining in tooth intellect and vigour. The Department should make a greater effort in Western Australia in dealing with claims, because of the greater difficulty which confronts the applicant. But it must be borne in mind that the Department is located a long way from that State I urge the establishment, if possible, of a little organization to help the old people, quite apart from the Department.
– I presume that no man who has lodged a claim for an old-age pension will ultimately be a loser by the delay which has taken place’ in dealing with it.
– That is so.
– I am glad to hear the Minister say that the payment will accrue from the date of the Act. That is all I wish to say.
– It is rather interesting to compare the number of pensions granted in the various States with the number of claims received therein. In a rough and ready way I have worked out the percentages. According to recent figures, in New South Wales 55 per cent, of the claims have been granted ; in Victoria, 95 per cent. ; in Queensland, 70 per cent. ; in South Australia, 73 per cent. ; in Western Australia, 50 per cent. ; and in Tasmania, 85 per cent.
– It must be much easier to deal with claims in New South Wales than elsewhere.
– No.. New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland had an Act which limited the old-age pensions to local residents. The new claims have emanated from those who did not possess the necessary residence to qualify for pensions under the State Act. There is exactly the same difficulty in dealing with new claims in those States as in Western Australia, because they relate to periods when claimants were out of the State in. which they are now resident.
– The honorable senator is overlooking the fact that a large number of claimants have become eligible by reason of the reduction of the residential period.
– That is so. Quite a large number of the applicants in Western Australia must be old residents, and, therefore, it must be easier to deal with their cases’ than with new applications made in Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales. There has been an extraordinary delay in dealing with applications in Western Australia. The Act came into force on the ist July. On the 21st August the Minister stated, in reply to a question, that out of 1,637 claims made in that State, 358 had been granted. In October we learn that out of 1,959 claims made 993 have been granted, leaving 966 claims still to be disposed of. In my opinion, honorable senators ought to state what they believe to be the causes of the delay which has taken place. In my opinion, one reason lies in the appointments which have been made, and I make the statement without desiring to cast a personal reflection. Mr. Green, the Public Service Inspector for Western Australia, is charged with the administration of the Oldage Pensions Act. From personal knowledge, I can say that his time was fully occupied when he was appointed to the position.
– He has no possible hope of coping with the applications for old-age pensions.
– All matters arising under the Public Service Act in the vast territory of Western Australia have to come before Mr. Green, and, quite apart from applications for old-age pensions, his time is fully occupied. At one time he was charged with the administration of the Electoral Act, but, at his own request, he was relieved of that duty, because his time was too fully occupied. Notwithstanding * that fact, the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act was intrusted to him. If it were to foe merely for- a month or two, I could understand the appointment being made, but the work will continue for all time. When the delay in Western Australia was first complained of, the Department sent a communication to Western Australia asking for the appointment of a special magistrate, and Mr. Fairbairn was appointed. I have nothing to say against that gentleman personally, but it is only right that the Senate should know that for a vear or two he has .been pensioned off by the State, which he had served in the capacity of a police magistrate. I hardly think that he should have been appointed. In my opinion, these inquiries should be conducted by vigorous men, who can deal with the questions in an energetic fashion. The fact that Mr. Fairbairn was a State pensioner ought to have been an indication to the Commonwealth Government that it would not be wise to intrust to a man, who had virtually completed his life’s work, the onerous duty of administering the Old-age Pensions Act. On the ist September, the Vice-President of the Executive Council said -
The reason that claims have not been dealt wilh as expeditiously as in other States is stated to be that a longer time is required for inquiries on account of claimants having in many cases originally come from the Eastern States.
That statement applies equally to each State in which an Old-age Pensions Act was formerly operative.
– Under our Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act a great many pensioners under the State laws have been disqualified.
– Some of them have been. The Vice-President of the Executive Council added -
The Deputy Commissioner also states that the Clerks of Courts are finding it difficult to transact the old-age pensions work in addition to their own. The Commissioner has given directions in cases where the Clerks of Courts require additional assistance that it is to be given.
The honorable gentleman also asked that specific instances of hardship should be brought under his notice, and, accordingly, on the 2nd September, I directed his attention to one such case. I said that a letter had been sent to me which had appeared in the West Australian, under the heading, “ A Sad, Deserving Case,” and which read -
To the Editor, Sir -
I wish to make known the case of a respectable old man, aged 69 years, who applied for the old-age pension. I and another citizen filled out the necessary forms, when to my surprise the Federal authorities rejected his application on the ground that I had only known him for 20 years. Eventually a man was found who had known him from boyhood. That also failed, the applicant not being allowed to make a second application within six months.
That letter was written by Mr. W. J. Robinson, of 203 Carr-street, West Perth, and the truth of the statements contained in it can be vouched for by Messrs. W. Young, corner of John and Fitzgerald streets ; Thomas Coy, of the West Australian office ; and Mr. H. Holland, J. P., of Perth. The points raised in that letter have never been cleared up by the Department. Then there was the case of Mr Bradley, who made an application for a pension, but had not quite completed the requisite period of residence here. He informs me that his claim was rejected, and that he was not even notified that if he renewed his application at a later date, he would be eligible to receive a pension. Surely it was nothing short of crass stupidity for the Department to omit to tell him that he could renew his application in a fortnight’s time. His claim was simply rejected without any explanation whatever. It seems, to me that the administration of the Act in Western Australia has been harsh, and not sufficiently energetic. I think that Mr. Green, who is charged with its administration there, has too much other work to perform to permit of his devoting much attention to claims for old-age pensions.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [3.30]. - Reference has been made to Mr. Green, the Public Service Inspector in Western Australia. I have known that gentleman for a great many years. He is an old public servant of New South Wales, and a first class officer. He would scarcely have been appointed to his present position had he not been such a good man. Whenever I visit Perth, I naturally call upon him, and I always find him as full of work as a man can be. For instance, he is required to inspect all the Commonwealth public offices in Western Australia. For this purpose he has to travel from Eucla along the seaboard by camel post. He also travels in the north-west of Western Australia in the same way, and I know that it is utterly impossible for him adequately to attend to the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act. I make that statement from my own personal knowledge, and in the absence of any communication from him. His other duties are sufficiently onerous to prevent him from giving either prompt 01 continuous attention to this Department. Indeed, I complain that the Department was initiated upon a wrong .basis. Applications were invited from men who were willing to fill the position of Commissioner at a salary of many hundreds of pounds per year - a salary that would have been small enough under the circumstances - but finally the entire administration of the Act was placed in the hands of a very talented officer in the service of the Commonwealth, but a gentleman, who, if he has time to at tend to claims for old-age pensions, must have been dreadfully underworked hitherto. In administering the Act there is ample to exclusively occupy the time of any one officer. I admit that the Commonwealth requires to be careful if it wishes to avoid a repetition of the swindles which were perpetrated in New South Wales upon the initiation of the old-age pensions system there. I recollect a case in which a widow having distributed all her property amongst her children secured an old-age pension, and then proceeded to travel round with a buggy and pair. She continued this conduct until her pension was stopped. In another case, a man three months after securing a. pension and declaring he possessed no property, was actually suing an insurance company for several hundreds of pounds for damages which he alleged had been done to one of his tenements. We do not want a repetition of that sort of thing. But instead of the Act being administered as one which confers a statutory right upon eligible applicants,, I complain that it is being administered as an official charity which is largely at the mercy of the officers responsible for its administration. I say this because I am angry that an Act which is intended to be of a most beneficent character should be* so administered. I know of a case which occurred only the other day in which a member of this Chamber made a report on behalf of an applicant for an old-age pen-, sion who had previously worked for him. Another report was made by a magistrate who is well known in business circles in Sydney. Yet the Department shortly afterwards wrote to the applicant, and asked him to supply the names of some responsible persons who could testify to his respectability. I say that the whole intention of the Act is not that charity should be doled out to applicants. Rather is it a recognition by the State of the honest discharge by the individual of citizenship duties over a long term of years. It is altogether wrong to regard the payment of these pensions from the stand-point of the poorhouse. With regard to Western Australia, some explanation must be forthcoming of the marvellous accumulation of applications there without any immediate prospect of the existing conditions being corrected. I would urge upon the Government the desirableness of appointing additional officers so as to expedite the consideration of the claims which have been lodged there. To tell a man that because his application has been refused, upon a technical ground, he cannot renew it for six months is an outrage.
– Senator Neild has directed attention to the unsympathetic manner in which applicants for old-age pensions are being received. Several cases have come under my own notice, where magistrates in public rooms, where thirty or forty people were present, have asked most rude and, almost indecent, questions. People have been asked where they got their clothing from, whether they had been living on charity, and, if so, who supplied it. One old lady, in a case known to me, stated that she had nothing except what was given to her. She was asked how she got her clothes. She said she made them. Then she was asked, “ Where did you get the material from?” She replied, “It was given to me.” Some magistrates seem to go out of their way to evade granting pensions. When the Act was passed by this Parliament, the intention was, I believe, that every old person in destitute circumstances should on advancing sufficient proof, be entitled to receive 10s. per week. It should be the duty of the Government to instruct magistrates, when examining applicants, to remember that it is the desire of the Commonwealth Parliament that pensions shall be paid, and not that excuses shall be made for withholding them. Last week, I called attention to portion of a letter written by a magistrate in Tasmania, in which he claimed that the Commissioners might use their own discretion as to the amount of pension granted; claiming that if a Commissioner thought 5s. a week was sufficient in a particular case, even though the applicant was in destitute circumstances, he could at his discretion recommend the payment of only that sum. I trust that the Government will make it clear to magistrates* that the intention of the Act is that destitute people shall receive at least 10s. per week if they have no other source of income. I also hope that the Government will facilitate the hearing of applications, because, although successful applicants are paid pensions accruing from the date of application, still, when persons are in want it is quite possible that if a delay of months takes place, some of them may die of hunger. In that event, blame would rest on the Government. I do not think that the Government desire to be charged with responsibility for the death of aged persons . through hunger.
.- I have only to emphasize what has been said by other speakers as to theport of Albany, Western Australia, which is one pf the oldest-established settlements in the Commonwealth. It dates back to 1829. Almost every resident of Albany is known to every one else there, and the fact that not a single application for an old-age pension has yet been granted, necessarily points to the fact that there is a screw loose somewhere.
– Has not one application from Albany been granted yet?
– That is the information which we have received from the member of Parliament for the district.
– Is not Sir John Forrest responsible ?
– Sir John Forrest isnominally responsible for the administration of the Act. It is clear that the administration is unsympathetic, and that old persons -who have had to bear the heat and burden of the day, have a genuine grievance. The number of applications granted in other States show that the officials have “got a move on.” In Victoria, out of 6,074 fresh applications, 5,700 have been granted. In New South Wales, out of 3,300 new applications, 1,800 have been granted. In Queensland, out of 1,029 new applications, the number granted is 724. It is true that Queensland has not been too well’ treated in this respect; but, at the same time, the figures do not compare with those for Western Australia where only 993 applications have been granted out of 1,900. Senator de Largie has every warrant for taking the action that he has done. In Western Australia, especially, there is urgent reason why the Government should accelerate the administration. On the gold-fields there are very many old men who at present are simply eking out an existence by picking up a few pennyweights of gold. They are fortunate, indeed, if they make a few shillings per week in that way. The payment of a pension of 10s. per week will be a great boon to them. - They have been looking forward to the receipt of this assistance for years. The pension will be the means of brightening the gloomy closing hours of their existence. “ The law’s delays “ have been referred to by Shakspeare. In this case, we have not to find fault with “ the insolence of office “ to which Shakspeare alludes as accompanying “the law’s delays,” because we receive everything that can be desired in the way of courtesy from Ministers and their chief officers. But courtesy will not satisfy an old man or woman who has waited many months for a pension. Senator de Largie’s action has been the means of focussing public attention upon the want of action of the administration; and if steps are now taken to accelerate the work, good will have been done.
.- I should like to say at once that I have no possible objection, either to the fact that Senator de Largie has brought this matter forward, or to the manner in which the case has been presented to the Senate. But, at the same time, I do want honorable senators to look at the subject in a business-like way. Parliament has passed an Act which casts upon the administrative officers certain obligations. Those who apply for old-age pensions are required to satisfy the officials that they possess the requisite qualifications. When Senator de Largie was speaking, I asked him whether he would grant a pension without proof of residence. He replied, “ Certainly not.” That is to say, Senator de Largie desires that the Act shall be administered. In administering it, the officials are faced with the obligation of obtaining proof that an applicant has been resident twenty years in Australia. That proof is not always easy to furnish in a country like this. The very case which Senator de Largie has instanced is, in itself, a very fair example of many which have to be dealt with. The applicant was apparently an old resident of Australia, but was unable to furnish proof of his residence. What he did was to furnish information as to the ship in which he came out. I should like to say here - dealing with the remark of Senator Henderson, that the officials should do something to assist applicants to furnish proof - that in a case of this kind the Department takes upon itself the responsibility of finding out whether the statements made by an applicant are correct or not. It does not call upon him to prove that he came out in a certain ship. It is sufficient for him to say, “ I came out in that ship,” and the Department will make it its business to discover whether the statement is correct. To that extent, therefore, the Department is doing a good deal to assist “people to substantiate their claims.
– The Department did not do so in the case instanced.
– I say that the Department ‘does assist applicants. The inference is that, in the instance mentioned, the officials did not find evidence to substantiate the claim. It is quite possible that the failure arose from a mistake in the name of the ship. Of course, we know that many a man who came out to this country on ship’s articles never received a discharge. All these are difficulties which the Department has to contend with, but every endeavour is made to sift evidence of this kind by reference to immigration records, ships’ records, and so forth. The Department does all it can to assist applicants to prove their claims. Passing from that point, I wish to say at once that I share with honorable senators a measure of disappointment at the slow rate of progress which, has been made in dealing with applications. I have no hesitation in saying that. But, at the same time, I would point out that the case of Western Australia is not so bad as it has been made out to be. The latest returns, brought down to the 2nd of this month, establish the fact that 50 per cent, of the claims made in Western Australia have been dealt with. In New South Wales, the percentage of new applications dealt with is fifty-six. It must be admitted that there are some special difficulties in Western Australia. NewSouth Wales had in existence all the necessary machinery for the administration of an Old-age Pensions Act, and she had officials who had been trained to this work-. In Western Australia, that machinery had to be set up, and the officials intrusted with the work were without experience of the new duties imposed upon them.
– Would the honorable senator compare Tasmania with Western ‘Australia?
– I cannot compare a State small in area, where the population is largely of a stay-at-home character, with Western Australia, which is large and scattered in area, and where the population is more migratory.
– Cannot Western Australia be compared with South Australia ?
– In South Australia, the population is fairly well massed in certain settled districts. It is not so in Western Australia.
– What is more, the people of South Australia are very intelligent.
– That goes without saying. I am extremely disappointed at the progress which has been made in Western Australia, but, at the same time, as 50 per cent, of the claims there have been dealt with, as compared with 56 per cent, in New South Wales, it does not appear to me that the leeway is as great as some honorable senators would make it appear.
– Does the honorable senator think that the progress is satisfactory ?
– I have already said that I am extremely disappointed with the progress that has been made. Generally, the statements made by honorable senators are that, seeing that the progress made has been disappointing, the Government should provide better facilities for the carrying out of the Act by appointing additional officers to deal with applications. The Department has informed the Deputy Commissioner in Western Australia that if he requires additional clerical assistance, he is at liberty immediately to employ it, and that if special magistrates are required, they will- be appointed upon his application. Those in authority at the central office can do no more than that unless they are prepared at this juncture to force upon the Deputy Commissioner assistance which, so far, he has not stated that he requires. That would be taking a somewhat extreme course. With regard to the appointment of special magistrates, it is true, as Senator Henderson has stated, that only one special magistrate has been appointed in Western Australia, but, as the honorable senator is aware, the services of ordinary magistrates are available all over the State.
– That applies to all the States.
– -Yes; but when we consider that large numbers of people are grouped together in cities like .Melbourne and Sydney, it is clear that while it might be economical and advantageous to appoint special magistrates to assist in the work at such places, it would not be reasonable to appoint special magistrates in Western Australia to deal with two or three applications in one locality, and two or three somewhere else. That would be a course of action which, if honorable senators considered it, they would be the last to recommend.
– Could not an itinerating magistrate.be appointed?
– We could hardly appoint a magistrate to travel over Western Australia. The ordinary magistrates can deal with the majority of applications. Special magistrates are required in special circumstances, and I admit that in some respects the circumstances in Western Australia are of a special character. But it would not be advisable to appoint a special magistrate for every locality where two or three applications for old-age pensions might be made.
– If the Government do not do so, they will not be able to deal with all the applications for oldage pensions within the next nine months.
– I have told the honorable senator that I am not at all in conflict with those who say that there should be greater expedition in the carrying out of this work. But I point out some of the difficulties in the way. Unless the Government are prepared to incur reckless expenditure, or to do what would amount to the same thing, pass applications through wholesale without being careful that they conform to the Act, it is inevitable that in a place like Western Australia some little delays should occur. I am afraid that sometimes the sympathies of honorable senators override their business instincts. We have cases submitted in the Senate which at first glance seem to cast a grave reflection upon the Department. I have always endeavoured to obtain the names of the applicants in such cases, and honorable senators have done what they could to assist me. I have found .almost invariably that some facts connected with these cases have not been brought under the notice of the honorable senators who have brought them forward. The correspondence has stated an cx -parte view, and honorable senators, moved bv their sympathies, have acted upon it. and brought the cases under’ the notice of the Senate. I do not take any exception to that, but I point out that human nature being what it is those who have put their cases before honorable senators, possibly because they are not business people, have stated only the facts which have presented themselves to their mind, and have left others to find out what might be said on the other side. Senator Henderson recently brought forward some cases concerning which I have obtained information. One of these was the case of Captain Hanna, of Bunbury. The honorable senator’s statement, made on the information supplied to him, was that the pension had been reduced by1s. 6d. per week on account of the possession of a fishing boat on which the applicant resides, and which is said to be worth£25. That statement of the case was not correct. The facts are that the applicant admitted in evidence that he was earning £30 a year. The question of the possession of the fishing boat, and its value, did not come into the matter at all. The applicant stated that he earned £30 a year, and a pension of £22, bringing his income up to £52 a year was granted to him. That is in complete conformity with the Act.
– The question is : Is the applicant able to earn£30 during the present year ? The evidence was only that he earned that amount last year.
– In dealing with his claim for a pension, we could not ask the applicant what he was going to earn during the ensuing twelve months. When he was before the magistrate, he could be asked to state what he had earned during the last year.
– He stated what was his income for last year.
– What other period could he have stated it for?
– He could, say what he was earning at the present time.
– How could he say what he would earn during the next twelve months? We could only assume that, unless he was disabled, he would continue his former method of living, and his income for the next twelve months would be about the same as for the previous twelve months.
– That means that a man over seventy years of age is to be compelled by the Department to continue his seafaring operations, in order to try to obtain an income of , £30 a year.
– That is not correct. The honorable senator must know enough about the Act to be aware that if the pensioner was content with a pension of £26 a year, he could stop at that.
– And wait until next year to make another application?
– The honorable senator must see at once that it is entirely optional with the pensioner to say whether he will have £52 a year, earning a portion of the income, or will be content with £26 a year.
– He may not be able to catch £30 worth of fish every year.
– Those are objections, not to the administration of the Act, but to the Act itself. My honorable friends should have remembered those things when the Bill was under our consideration.
– That is so.
– I am dealing now only with statements made with respect to the administration of the Act. Another case submitted by Senator Henderson is that of Mrs. Hill, of Bunbury. It was stated that in her case the pension was reduced because she was possessed of a few fowls, and was temporarily looking after church premises during the absence of the pastor. I find that in this case a pension of £26 a year was granted from the 15th July. That was recommended before Senator Henderson brought the matter up in the Senate. The recommendation had to go on to the Commissioner for confirmation and final approval. One can imagine that what followed was that this elderly lady, not receiving from the registrar a definite statement that the pension would be granted, became alarmed, and, knowing the extremely sympathetic and kindly nature of Senator Henderson, sent him a pathetic letter, which caused him to at once bring the matter before the Senate, and to make a vigorous attack on the administration of the Department. Mrs. Hill of Bunbury now rejoices, no doubt, in the fact that she has a pension of £26 a year. Another case mentioned was that of an Imperial pensioner, whose name was not given. It was said that his pension was reduced by 5s. per week. From information with which Senator Henderson supplied me privately, I have endeavoured to identify the applicant in this case. I find that he is in receipt of an Imperial pension- of £18 4s. per annum. He receives from Dr. Joel free board and lodging, which, under the Act, is estimated at£13 per annum, making a total income of £31 4s. A pension has been granted to him of £20 16s. a year, representing the difference between the income of which he has been in receipt and £52 a year. The administration in that case has been entirely in conformity with the provisions of the Act. Here, again, it appears that Senator Henderson was not possessed of the whole of the facts in submitting the matter to the Senate. If honorable senators have, cases of the kind to bring under notice, the
Department will appreciate their action ; and I shall personally be very pleased if they will endeavour to place themselves in possession of the whole of the facts in each case. Our sympathies are aroused by the fact that it is age and want that is calling, and we are apt to jump to the conclusion that those who communicate with us have given the whole of the facts in their case ; but I find that more frequently than not in these cases some vital features of them have been overlooked or suppressed.
– Has the honorable senator any information about Chater’s case which I brought forward?
– In that case, I say, with as much frankness as is perhaps judicious between myself and the Senate, that I do not regard the report received as dealing, with all the statements in the letter to which Senator Pearce referred. It is possible that one or two of the statements have been considered to be entirely outside the Act, and that, therefore, no answer to them was required. I refer to the statements that there was some difficulty in certifying as to the period of residence, and that a second application was not received because the first had been disposed of. So far as this case is concerned, it appears that both the Commissioner and registrar who had the handling of it were not satisfied that the applicant was not earning more than he stated. He appears to have admitted that he earned a year. Apparently, those who dealt with his case are not satisfied as to the accuracy of his statement. Honorable senators must take their choice between believing the applicant or those who, having examined him, are not prepared to accept his statements as accurate. At the same time, the way is still open to this applicant, if he feels dissatisfied, to appeal, or to lodge a further application, and if he can,to bring any further proof to substantiate the statements he has already made.
– He said that the reason they gave him for refusing his application was that those who backed it up had not known him for twenty years.
– That is one of the points on which the report is silent, but I venture to say that it is obvious that that could not be the reason given to the applicant.
– What about making old men leave a benevolent institution before their pensions are payable?
– I am glad the honorable senator has reminded me of that matter. Who makes them leave?
– The official in charge of the institution, according to the report I read.
– That is more than probable. But that is not a charge against the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act.
– It should not be allowed.
– The Commonwealth has no control over these semi-private or semi-State institutions. What I suspect may take place is an attempt to obtain from the Commonwealth moneys which the Commonwealth Parliament has said should not be paid. The law as it stands provides that a person entitled to an old-age pension can, on leaving one of these institutions, obtain the pension for four weeks prior to the date upon which he leaves. What I suspect may have taken place is that those who may have been interested in getting old people out of the Homes have told them that if they wait in the Home until their applications have been granted they will only get four weeks pension on leaving, whilst if they leave at once and then make their applications they will get the pension as from 1st July.
– Would it not be well to inquire into the matter?
– It does not seem to me that we can do anything in the matter unless we are prepared to legislate to provide that no inmate of these institutions shall get a pension unless he has left the institution before he makes his application. Will the honorable senator assent to the proposition that any one who leaves such an institution and makes an application afterwards should not be paid an old-age pension?
– I want section 47 to be given effect to. and the pensions to be paid to inmates of Homes twenty-eight days before they leave.
– The Act provides for that, and the position of no man in such an institution need be jeopardized if he makes an application and waits therein until a pension is granted.
– It is quite evident that old persons have been put out of these Homes, whoever may have been to blame.
– It is certainly not the Commonwealth authorities who have been to blame. No doubt the Treasury officals would be content for the men to stay in the Homes for ever. According to the honorable senator’s statement, some pressure has been brought by the controlling authorities of benevolent institutions, with a view to forcing old people to go out and make their applications. That is entirely a matter for other people to discuss, not for me.
– Has the Minister any reply to give concerning the complaint from Albany?
– No cases from Albany have been brought under my notice. I understand that no applications have been granted. If honorable senators will” give me specific cases I shall act.
– If no pensions have been granted, surely that information is specific enough to move the Minister.
– Does the honorable senator know that any claims have been lodged ?
– From the representative of Albany in the State Parliament, I have received a telegram, in which he says that the whole trouble regarding pensions is that, while payments have been made in other centres, none have yet been made in Albany. If no claims have been made, he would not be so unreasonable as to say that no payments have been made in Albany’.
– I shall make it my business to find out the exact position. The Central Administration is extremely desirous of expediting the work, not only in Western Australia, but in every other State ; but the difficulty is that we have to leave some degree of responsibility to local officials. If we attempt to force them to act, we shall be inviting them, or putting compulsion upon them, to ignore the proper restrictions and safeguards’ of the Act. We must leave them to exercise their discretion and judgment, only stepping in when we think that they have shown incompetence or unwillingness to act. I cannot help thinking that everyday should bring about an improvement in Western Australia. Some of the doubts which existed in the minds of the officials have been solved by reference to headquarters. They have a clearer knowledge of what the Act requires of them, and how to obtain information to complete applications. They should, therefore, be in a better position to deal with claims with reasonable promptness. Even if no snore is heard of this matter in the Senate,
I shall endeavour, through the officers, to see that the administration of the Act is closely watched, with a view to getting outstanding applications in Western Australia dealt with as early as possible.
– I feel grateful to Senator de Largie for bringing this matter before the Senate to-day. At the same time I agree with the Minister that to a considerable extent the Act itself is to blame for what has occurred, but I do not think it was fair for him to say that we should have called attention to these points when the Old-age Pensions Bill was before Parliament. He knows very well that it was not in the power of any private senator to do anything in that direction. We were all too eager to get the measure passed to. submit any amendments in case it should be lost during the session. I hope, however, that when any attempt is made to amend the Act the Minister and his friends will give all possible assistance in the direction of making such amendments as will bring about smooth administration. What is the position of an applicant at present? A man - and, of course, it is the same with a woman - may have been both honest and industrious for a whole lifetime In the Commonwealth, but within the last few years he may have indulged slightly in the use of intoxicant drink. It is within the power of a police constable to mention that fact in his report upon the man’s application for an old-age pension. When it comes before the Deputy Commissioner or the investigating magistrate that black mark is enough to prevent the claim from being granted. On the other hand, there are many magistrates, and even some Deputy Commissioners, who maintain that they have a discretionary power as regards the amount of pension which should be granted. To my mind, no such power is given to them in the Act. It should neverbe open to a police constable, honest man though he may be, to exercise a little prejudice or favour in any direction, and so defeat the intention of the Act. Let us glance at the difficulties which many applicants labour under.. There are old men and old women who have lived in Western Australia for fifty years. They may not be able at present to supply the name of the ship by which they came out, and although some friends testified that they had known the claimant for twenty or twenty-five, or thirty years, the magistrate rejected that as evidence of their residence in Australia. I know of several cases of that kind. I intend to mention a few cases which are typi cai of many which exist all oyer the Commonwealth. There are old men and old women who are legitimate applicants for a pension, but it takes them all their time to remember where they were born. There was no such thing as registration of birth in the places where they were born, and the result is that it is impossible for them to obtain that proof. If the Act is not administered sympathetically by the Deputy Commissioner and the magistrates, how is an application of that kind to succeed ? For over twenty years I have known an old man and old woman who have always worked hard and brought up a family, which 1 may add is of very little use to them at present. Each of them is two or three years past the qualifying age, but they have still to struggle and work because there are difficulties in the way of granting their applications. The old lady has made an honest at-: tempt to obtain a copy of the registry of her baptism - and that is all she could get, because there was no registration of births when she was born - but she cannot get that evidence. . She knows the name of the ship by which she came out to Australia, but, unfortunately, both she and her husband were nominated as assisted immigrants by a friend in this country, who, either from want of knowledge or from some other cause,, entered the age of the female immigrant at thirty-eight, when it should have been forty-two. Consequently, when she made an application for a pension, she could not prove her age by producing a copy of the register of her baptism. I admit that very often the Department is placed in. a difficulty. In this case it found that the woman was thirtyeight when she arrived, and that, therefore, she was only sixty-three when she made her claim for a pension. But any one who has had a lengthy acquaintance with the old couple knows that she is much over sixty - five years of age. In attempting to get proof of birth she got a copy of the registration of her marriage. Of course, she had her marriage lines when she arrived, but they were destroyed, and she got a certificate from the parish in which she was married. She was married in 1862, that is forty-seven years ago, but, unfortunately, the certificate does not disclose her age, because at that time, in that part of the country, and in connexion with the church to which she belonged, the young couple would not have been married unless they were of a certain age. At any rate, she has been married for forty-seven years. Ii she was twenty years of age when she was married - and she would not have beenmarried there at a younger age - she would now be sixty-seven ; but that information is of no use to her, because on the register of the ship which brought her out, her age was recorded as thirty-eight. I do not know what can be done in such, cases, but I am sure that the Minister will admit that a poor unfortunate individual of that description should receive some assistance from the old-age pensions authorities in establishing her claim. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has referred to the case of an applicant in Western Australia who, as the result of stating that he earned ,£30 a year by fishing, suffered a deduction of £4 a year from his pension. But I’ would point out that that ,£30 represents the amount which the pensioner earned last year. He cannot say how much he will earn this year. I have in my mind a very similar case of hardship. It is that of a man who is physically weak, and who is over sixty-five years of age. He applied for an old-age pension, instructing his daughter to fill in the necessary form, and telling her to set out everything accurately, as he wished to obtain his pension in a straightforward fashion. Amongst other things she stated that last year the applicant had earned £40 10s., having been employed at Walton’s Confectionery Works, where he received the handsome salary of 22s. 6d. per week. “ The two daughters with whom he lived also declared that each subscribed £10 a year towards the maintenance of the home - an amount which would be no more than sufficient to keep themselves. The claim of the applicant was rejected upon the ground that the annual contribution by his daughters, together with his own earnings, amounted to more than ^52 a year. I may add that in March last this man was discharged from his employment because his sight was so defective thats it was deemed dangerous to retain his services any longer. I may also mention that for ten years he has been suffering from a’ double rupture. His case, which is an extremely hard one. is now under consideration, and no doubt it will be dealt with some day. My own view is that something ought to be done to expedite the determination of such claims. Applicants ought not to be compelled to surfer hardship for an indefinite period merely to insure that the Department shall not be defrauded of a single sixpence. It is better that it should sustain occasional losses than that unnecessary suffering should be inflicted upon even one eligible person.
– That would be very dangerous economy for the Commonwealth.
- Senator St. Ledger is doubtless very anxious to protect the revenue of the Commonwealth. So are we all. But we do not desire to protect it at the cost of the poor old men and women of the community. Apparently the whole anxiety of the Department is to make it appear that any person applying for an old-age pension is not entitled to it.
– The honorable senator has exhausted the time at his disposal.
– I hope that the debate which has taken place this afternoon will have the effect of expediting the consideration of the claims for old-age pensions which have been lodged in Western Australia. The opinions which have ‘been expressed should show the Government the way in which they ought to move. A more sympathetic administration of the Act is required, and if the magistrates who have already been appointed to deal with the claims of applicants are insufficient for the purpose their number should be increased. By acting in that way the Government will be consulting the welfare of all concerned. I can assure the Vice-President of the Executive Council that in Western Australia the complaints as to the mal-administration of the Act which are daily published in the press do not emanate from party newspapers. They are of a general character - thus evidencing the urgent need which exists for reform. In the circumstances I ask leave to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth Statistician has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will the Minister lay upon the table of the Senate or the Library all papers in connexion with the recent inquiry as to the dealings and actions of the alleged combine in the confectionery trade?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The papers contain confidential information obtained in exercise of powers under the Australian Industries Preservation Act, section 15E of which Act expressly forbids disclosure of such information except to persons mentioned in that section.
Under these circumstances it is not considered advisable to lay the papers on the table of the Senate or the Library.
– Arising out of that answer, I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether it is possible to make a précis of such papers as are not private and confidential?
– Who is to be the judge of what is private and confidential ?
– I am prepared to allow the Minister to be the judge.
– Of course, there will have to be a very careful observation of the terms of the Act in that connexion, but I will consider what information can be given to my honorable friend.
asked the Minister of
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In reference to the reply given to Senator Pulsford on the 29th September, as to the variety and quantity of ingredients admitted free of duty to be used in connexion with the manufacture of tobacco -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. According to the official information in the Department any ingredient is allowed in the manufacture of tobacco in Great Britain free of duty. The only ingredients which are dutiable under the British Tariff, however, are Spirits and Sugar (Glucose and Saccharine are included under this heading) - all the others mentioned in the return being free. Sam’s Customs Year Book 1909, page 80, gives full particulars.
asked the Vice-
President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. Consideration of the proposed inquiry will not be completed until the decision of Parliament upon the main financial question has been obtained.
asked the Vice-Presi dent of the Executive Council,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions’ are as follow : -
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Can the Minister say when he will be able to definitely inform the Senate as to the results of the recent Imperial Naval . and Military Conference, and make available “the full text of any agreement arrived at?
– The information to hand is incomplete, but the full text of the proposals is expected shortly.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is the steam-ship Manapouri, which has just arrived with a cargo of bananas from Fiji, a State subsidized steamer?
– On inquiry from the Agricultural Department of Victoria it has been ascertained that the Manapouri is not subsidized by the State of Victoria.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Conference between Commonwealth and State Ministers, Hobart, March, 1909 : Report of Proceedings.-
Inter-State Conference, Melbourne, August, 1909 : Report of Agreement, Resolutions, Proceedings, and Debates; together with Appendix.
Inter-State Commission Bill 1909 - Summary of English and American Legislation, prepared by the Hon. Sir R. W. Best, K.C.M.G., Minister for Trade and Customs.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Fremantle, Western Australia : Defence Purposes. - Notification of the Acquisition of Land.
Defence Acts 1903-4. - Regulations (Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. - Amendment of Regulation 540. - Statutory- Rules 1909, No. no.
Federal Capital. - Proposed Site at YassCanberra. - Further papers respecting the Selection of Territory and proposed site for the City. (Dated 17th August to 30th September, 1909.)
Agricultural Implement Makers Employes : Provision for Reimbursement of Legal Outlay.
The Clerk Assistant laid upon the table : -
Return to Order of the Senate of 15th September,1909. - Military Examinations, Melbourne, March,1909. - Particulars regarding.
Bill read a third time.
[4.39]- - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Section101 of the Constitution Act provides -
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
Then section 103 reads -
The members of the Inter-State Commission - (i.) Shall be appointed by the GovernorGeneral in Council : (ii.) Shall hold office for seven years, but may be removed within that time by the Governor-General in Council, on an address from both Houses of the Parliament in the same session praying for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity : (iii.) Shall receive such remuneration as the Parliament may fix; but such remuneration shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
In those terms, the Constitution refers to the creation of an Inter-State Commission ; and the Bill which is now before the Senate has for its object the establishment of such a Commission. The Commission will be second in importance probably only to the High Court itself, and will exercise jurisdiction which in some respects is more extensive than that exercised even by that exalted body. In 1901, a Bill for the establishment of an Inter-State Commission was introduced in another place. It contained what I shall term the trade and commerce provisions of the present measure - that is to say, those contained in Parts I. to IV. It also possibly contained within its scope greater powers than are here included. The Bill was discussed at considerable length, but ultimately it was felt that it was somewhat premature, and consequently it was shelved. Section 92 of the Constitution provides that intercourse between the States and throughout the Commonwealth shall be absolutely free ; and, in order to insure its freedom, the Constitution provides for the creation of an Inter-State Commission with such extensive duties as to guarantee that those conditions of freedom shall be observed. It has been stated - and properly stated - in regard to this measure, that its provisions are wide, comprehensive, and far reaching. But, while that is perfectly correct, I would, at the same time, point out that these trade and commerce provisions are by no means novel. I will venture, moreover, to say that, not only are they well founded, but that in their purport they are fair, reasonable, and just. The Commission, according to the terms of the Bill, will have jurisdiction over transport and carriage on land and water, so far as Inter-State trade is concerned. In England, there is a similar or corresponding body, which has full and like control over railways, canals, and ships chartered by railway companies in connexion with their traffic. In the United States, there is also an Inter-State Commission, which has full and complete jurisdiction over land and water carriage when both are used and are under common control, management, or arrangement for the continuous carriage or shipment of goods; but the Inter-State Commission of the United States has not jurisdiction over exclusively water, as apart from land, traffic. I have already indicated that these trade and commerce provisions are well founded, and1 I think that I can convince the Senate that they are recognised provisions of British and American law. In respect to English legislation, we draw upon the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act of 1845, the Railway and Canal Act of 1854, the Regulation of Railways Act of 1873, and particularly upon the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1888. The Railway Clauses Consolidation Act of 1845 contains what is called an equality section, which provides that tolls shall at all times be charged equally to all persons at the same rates. The Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1854 especially dealt with undue preference and traffic facilities; and, amongst other things, provided : hat no company should make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to, or in favour of, any particular person or . company, or any particular description of traffic. Under the Act of 1873, provision was made for the appointment of three Railway Commissioners, of whom one was to be of experience in the law, and one of experience in railways ; but that section was subsequently altered in the Act of 1888, to which I shall afterwards refer. The same Act provided for the publication of rates. We do not attempt to go so far in our Bill. The English Act of 1888 provided for a Court and procedure of Railway and Canal Commissioners; and section 2 especially set up in place of the Railway Commissioners a Railway and Canal Commission, consisting of two appointed and three ex officio Commissioners, who were to be a Court of Record. It provided, moreover, that the Commissioners should be appointed by Her Majesty the Queen, and that one of them was to be experienced in railway business. They were to be removable by the Lord Chancellor. General powers were given to the Commission in regard to power to hear and determine all matters, whether of law or fact. In the same Act provision was’ made against undue preference. Section 58 provided, as did the Acts of 1854 and 1873, for the publication of rates, and also applied to traffic by sea worked by any railway company, or in- which any railway company caused merchandise to be carried.
– Does that. Act define “undue preference”?
– It says that any railway company charging to one trader, or class of traders, in any district, lower tolls or charges on the same or similar merchandise, than those charged for similar services to other traders or classes of traders, or making any difference in terms in respect of any such trade, shall be faced with the onus of proving that such lower charge does not amount to undue preference. We have a similar provision in our Bill. The English Act again provided for publication and classification, which, however, we do not provide for. I have alluded to some of the leading provisions of the English law, which will become familiar to honorable senators as consideration of this Bill proceeds. Turning to the legislation of the United States, the parent Act there is the Act to regulate commerce of 1887. That Act was amended in 1891, in 1893, in 1895, twice in 1903, and again in 1906. We, of course, have the benefit of those various amendments in framing our own measure. The Act to regulate commerce of 1887, amongst other things, applies to any common carrier or carriers engaged in the transport of passengers or property wholly by railway, or partly by railway and partly by water, where both are used continuously.
– This Bill applies the provisions against a State Government.
– I will deal with that matter later on. It must be understood that the operation of the Bill is subject to constitutional limitations, which I shall afterwards explain. I have next to refer to the powers contained in clause 15 of the Bill, which follows the American Act. It is provided that all charges made for any services rendered in the transportation of passengers or of goods shall be reasonable and just, and that if unreasonable and unjust charges are made for such services, they shall be unlawful. Then follow, in the American Act, provisions with regard to equality of charges and unjust discriminations, which we do not include in our Bill; but so far as certain special rates and rebate methods are concerned, we have dealt with them in our anti-Trust legislation. These equality clauses are contained in section 2 of the American Act, and are applicable to railways. They make it unlawful for any common carrier to make or give any unreasonable preference to any person.
– Have the authorities been able to enforce the law in the United States ?
– Undoubtedly, but the provision of our Bill is really derived from section 23 of the English Act of 1854. As regards the InterState Commission itself, section 11 of the American Act creates a Commission consisting of Commissioners appointed by the President with the consent of the States. There were five Commissioners holding office for six years, one retiring each year ; “ and not more than three to be chosen from the same political party.” The salaries were, at first, $7,500, but, in 1906, the amending Act increased the number of the Inter-State Commission to seven, and the salaries were then fixed at $10,000 each.
– Have the Government copied the provisions of the American Act in regard to the political parties from which the Commissioners are to be chosen ?
– No. There are drastic powers in the American Act which we have not seen fit to follow. Then comes the very important provision regarding the power to prescribe rates. It is one to which I shall have occasion to direct attention later on. We propose a similar clause - 29 - in our Bill. It provides for the investigation of any complaint that may be made if it appears to the Commissioners that anything is being done which is unreasonable or unjust, or is unfairly discriminatory or unduly preferential or prejudicial, or otherwise in violation- of the provisions of this measure ; and it gives the Commissioners power to prescribe reasonable and just rates, and to lay down a maximum to be charged in any particular case. That is the general tenor and effect of the provision, which is founded upon British and American legislation. I mention this now for the purpose of indicating that some of the main provisions of this Bill are founded upon well-recognised and tried provisions of British and American legislation.
– Clause 29 speaks of “ Contravention of this Act or of the provisions of the Constitution.” No Act can be in contravention of the Constitution.
-Of course it cannot; but does not my honorable friend see that the Inter-State Commission is to be specially formed for the purpose of maintaining and securing the observation of the provisions of the Constitution? We also propose endowing the Inter-State Commission with jurisdiction so far as railways are concerned, and for this purpose to exercise the powers under sections 102 and 104 of the Constitution. These are very important provisions of the Constitution! Section 102 reads -
The Parliament may, by any law with respect to trade or commerce, forbid, as to railways, any preference or discrimination by any State, or by any authority constituted under a State, if such preference or discrimination is undue or unreasonable, or unjust to any State ; due regard being had to the financial responsibility incurred by any State in connexion with the construction and maintenance of its railways. But no preference or discrimination shall, within the meaning of- this section, be taken to be undue or unreasonable, or unjust to any State, unless so adjudged by the InterState Commission.
The position, therefore, is that the InterState Commission must come to the determination that certain rates are undue, unreasonable, or unjust to a State, and constitute a preference or discrimination ; but in arriving at that determination they must have due regard to the financial responsibilities of the State. The rights of the States are further protected under section 104 of the Constitution, which reads -
Nothing in this Constitution shall render unlawful any rate for the carriage of goods upon a railway, the property of a State, if the rate is deemed by the Inter-State Commission to be necessary for the development of the territory of the State, and if the rate applies, equally to goods within the State, and to goods passing into the State from other States.
Honorable senators will see, therefore, that due regard must be had to the financial re sponsibilities of the States, and also to the rights and powers of development within the several States. Subject to these limitations, the onus is cast upon the InterState Commission of supervising railway rates and preventing any preference or discrimination.
– If it is alleged that there is undue preference, does the Bill contemplate that those who allege it must prove their case before the Commission?
– They must make a complaint to the Inter-State Commission, and the Commission will then investigate the matter. In deciding whether there is a preference or discrimination they must have due regard to the financial responsibilities of the States, and to the rights and powers of the State authorities to develop their States. We have in the Commonwealth something like 15,000 miles of railway, which cost about ^150,000,000 ; but I am glad to say that we are relieved from the grave difficulties which are experienced in America and the Mother Country owing to the existence of privately -owned lines. Experience has shown that in those countries the railway interest is so powerful and influential that the control exercised is but partial and unsatisfactory, even with the most drastic legislation; and it is impossible to prevent excessive charges being made from time to time. If, pursuant to a complaint, the public are granted assistance in one direction, their privileges are curtailed in another. I say that we are, fortunately, relieved from difficulties of this kind in the Commonwealth, and, subject to the constitutional limitations I have referred to, the onus will be thrown upon the InterState Commission to see that in the control and management of the railways.no injustice shall be done as between the States. In common with most of our people, the framers of” the Constitution were familiar with what, at the time, were called preferential, differential, and discriminatory rates involved in the war of railway tariffs, which then was carried on between the States. It was recognised that freedom of trade and intercourse might thus be easily defeated, and hence it was decided to throw upon an Inter-State Commission the duty and responsibility of preventing the continuance of such conditions.
– Is it not a fact that since the Bill of 1901 was dropped the railway authorities of the States have met and have abolished discriminating rates?
– The fact is that there were many conferences of railway authorities of the States prior to 1905, but they were more or less abortive. Ti May, 1905, an arrangement was made for an adjustment of rates in respect of the competitive traffic between New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria. The conditions and rates were scheduled in an agreement, which was to last for twelve months, but was to be terminable upon three months’ notice. The agreement was based on the right of each. State to retain whatever traffic it had acquired. Subsequently, and only quite recently, representations were made to the authorities in Queensland, and that State has also fallen into line. So that the position now is that there is a recognised working arrangement between the States. It is not intended to interfere with that arrangement, so long as the State authorities do not exceed the limits of their powers under the Constitution. Indeed, I venture to say that the appointment of the Inter- State Commission will necessarily have the result of assuring its continuance. At all events, it will be an independent body exercising great powers and functions under the Constitution, and will be available at any time for the State authorities to appeal to should any disruption of the existing agreement take place. This tribunal will not only afford a guarantee for the continuance of the agreement, but also for the prevention in the future of the adoption of the preferential and discriminating rates which in the past were so detrimental to the highest and best interests of the Commonwealth generally.
– As the State authorities have themselves prevented the adoption of such rates, there would be no work for the Inter- State Commission to do.
– I venture to think that the State railway authorities were influenced to some extent by the powers given to the Inter-State Commission under the Constitution when they came to this arrangement in 1905. But, as I have already stated, that arrangement might be upset on three months’ notice.
– It has lasted for four years.
– It is not altogether a fair arrangement as it stands.
– That may be so ; but the point is that this inde pendent body was designed, under the Constitution, to prevent the warfare of railway rates that I have referred to. When constituted, it will be there to be appealed to in the event of the State Railway Commissioners again entering upon a war of railway tariffs.
– Will this apply equally to Inter-State shipping traffic?
– The Bill will also cover Inter-State shipping traffic.
– The honorable senator has pointed out that our position is very different from that of the United States and Great Britain, and that our railway authorities are absolutely agreed as to the rates to be fixed.
– I have pointed out that there is a temporary working arrangement between the States which may be terminated at any time, on three months’ notice. I say that the Inter- State Commission, as an independent body, will operate as a guarantee for its continuance if it is within the terms of the Constitution. I come now to what I suppose will be regarded as the controversial portion of this measure. I refer to Part V., which deals with industrial matters.
– Before the honorable senator deals with that matter, would he mind stating on what subjects an appeal will lie from the Inter-State Commission to the High Court?
– On questions of fact, the judgment of the Inter-State Commission will be final, but on questions of law appeals may be made from their judgments to the High Court. In dealing with Part V. of the Bill, I premise, by reading the resolutions arrived at by the Inter-State Conference of Premiers held in August, 1909–
– Has the Minister also a report of the debates at that Conference ?
– The paper .before me contains a report of some debates, but we are really not concerned, at the present time, with the matter to which the honorable senator refers. I quote the following from page vi. of the report dealing with the vesting in the Commonwealth by the States of certain powers in respect to industrial matters -
When the Court of a State determines on complaint of an industrial tribunal that -
– Is the honorable senator quoting from a Parliamentary paper available to honorable senators generally?
– I quote from a report of the resolutions and agreement arrived at at the Inter-State Conference held in Melbourne in August, 1909.
– Has the paper been laid on the table?
– It was “presented to both Houses of Parliament.” I have no doubt it is available to honorable senators. The object of this Bill is to substantially carry out the terms of the resolution I have read. I say substantially, because any variation has been made after consultation with the States. Indeed, a model Bill has been agreed upon as between the States and the Commonwealth.
– A model Bill which the States should pass?
– Is this a legislative power that can only be exercised at the request of the Parliaments of the States ?
– In paragraph xxxvii. of section 51 of the Constitution, power is given to the States to refer to the Federal Parliament any particular matter for legislation thereon, and the States have agreed that they shall refer this subject to it. What we are now doing is in contemplation of what they have agreed to do.
– Ought we not first to have resolutions of the State Parliaments referring the matter to us?
– I think not, but if my honorable friend will allow me I shall be very pleased to discuss that phase of the question a little later. At present I want to follow out the scheme which is in my mind. I have referred to . this part of the Bill as probably that round which the greatest amount of controversy will take place. The Government are prepared to trust the States and to rely upon their magnificent network of industrial tribunals. By arrangement with the States, it is proposed to link up the Wages Boards and other industrial tribunals which have been created throughout the Commonwealth, and to constitute a Federal body which shall have for its object the adjustment of differences whenever unfair competition is alleged on the part of one State as against another.
– A Federal body with no original jurisdiction ?
– To some extent with original jurisdiction, too; but I shall explain that when I come to the provisions.
– What about the unfair competition existing between1 country districts and cities?
– I am dealing with a very difficultsubject, and if the honorable senator will allow me to proceed in my own way I shall make the position as clear as I possibly can. Every State except Tasmania has in existence industrial tribunals, and we want to secure the advantage of them, representing as they do the most advanced industrial machinery in the world.
– Except that this legislation is a dead letter in South Australia.
– In the first place I want to draw attention to the tribunals which exist in the several States. In Victoria, they are constituted under the Factories and Shops Acts; in New South Wales under the Industrial Disputes Act of 1908 ; in South Australia under the Factories Act;in Western Australia under the Industrial ‘Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1902 ; in- Queensland under the Wages Board Act of 1908 ; and in New Zealand under the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act. These Acts are operative in their respective States.
– In portions of them.
– Only partially in Victoria.
– My honorable friend knows that the Factories and Shops Acts apply to populous portions of the State.
– I do not know that.
– As a matter of fact that is so.
– But it is not so.
– Where the law does not so apply the necessary machinery exists to insure its application.
– Is not Warrnambool, with a population of 7,000, a populous place?
– In New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia the number of tribunals is unlimited. Western Australia and New Zealand have each several Conciliation Courts and one Arbitration Court. The actual tribunal in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland is what is known as a Wages Board j in Western Australia, an Arbitration Court ; and in New Zealand an Arbitration Court. It is brought into existence in Victoria by a resolution of the Parliament ; in New South Wales by the Industrial ‘Court ; in South Australia and Queensland by the Governor in Council; in Western Australia and New Zealand by the Act. The Act applies in Victoria to trades carried on in factories, to businesses in shops, building trades, &c. ; in New South Wales, to all occupations except domestic service; in South Australia, practically to trades carried on in factories; in Western Australia, to all occupations ; in Queensland, either to the whole State or such part as the Governor in Council may determine, and in New Zealand to all occupations.
– And in Tasmania?
– The Premier of Tasmania has promised to provide an industrial tribunal, and, what is more, all the Premiers have agreed, as far as possible, to introduce uniform legislation practically adopting the Wages Board systems of Victoria and New South Wales. A trade is brought under review in Victoria usually by petition to the Minister ; in New South Wales, by application of the Union ; in South Australia, by petition, &c. ; in Western Australia, by’ application of the Union ; in Queensland, probably bv petitions and representations to the Minister; and in New Zealand, by application of the Union. The chairman of the tribunal is in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, any person elected by the Board, and if not elected he is appointed by the Governor in Council. In South Australia he is elected by the Board, but, if not, the chairman is a stipendiary magistrate. In Western Australia he is a Judge of the Supreme Court. In New Zealand he is a Judge of the Supreme Court. The number of members of the tribunal in Victoria does not exceed eleven ; in New South Wales, not less than two nor more than eleven ; in South Australia, not less than five nor exceeding eleven; in Western Australia, three; in Queensland, not less than five nor more than eleven ; and in New Zealand, three. The members are nominated in Victoria by the Minister, but if one-fifth of the employers or employes object within twentyone days to such nominations, then the representatives are elected by the employers or employes, as the case may be. In New South Wales the members are chosen on the recommendation of the Industrial Court ; in South Australia and Queensland, by the employers and employes respectively ; in Western Australia, practically by the employers and employes respectively ; and in New Zealand, by the Councils of Employers and the Employes’ Associations respectively. The decisions are enforced in Victoria by the Factories Department, in Courts of Petty Sessions ; in New South Wales, by the Industrial Court-; in South Australia, by the Factories Department; in Western Australia, by the Arbitration Court on complaint of Union or Registrar ; in Queensland, apparently by the Factories Department ; and in New Zealand by the Arbitration Court on complaint by Union. The duration of a decision is in Victoria, until altered by Board; in New South Wales, for period fixed by the Court ; in South Australia, until altered bv Board; in Western Australia, for period fixed by the Court not exceeding three years ; in Queensland, until altered by Board; and in New Zealand, for the period fixed by the Court not exceeding two years. There is an appeal against a decision to the Court of- Industrial Appeals in Victoria and South Australia; and to the Industrial Court, in New South Wales ; whilst in Western Australia, Queensland, and New Zealand, there is no appeal. In Victoria, a suspension of a decision is pos- sible for not more than twelve months; no suspension is allowed in New South Wales, South Australia, or Western Australia; in Queensland, a suspension is not allowed for more than six months ; and no suspension is allowed in New Zealand. 1 want to point out - and I propose to take Victoria as a special example - how far-reaching and how complete is its system of Wages Boards. It has 58 Wages Boards affecting 68,000 workers, and comprising 500 skilled representatives of employers and employes in the several trades, with, of course, .58 chairmen. Where alterations have been rendered necessary from time to time by reason of changes in trades, the Boards have readily adapted themselves to the varying conditions. They have sat together and mutually agreed as to what were fair and reasonable rates of wages.
– Has not the State Parliament to grant a request for a Wages Board ?
-Yes ; by resolution.
– Only last week they rejected the request for a Wages Board in the paper industry.
– It is unfair for my honorable friend to pick out a chance instance of the kind, where, for the present, a request for a Wages Board has been refused by one House of the State Parliament.
– That does not affect this Bill at all.
– It does. The point is that we are relying upon the system of Wages Boards which has been established by the various- States, and which honorable senators opposite are seeking to discredit in various ways.
– No, we complain of the want of Wages Boards in many trades.
– What about the decision of a Judge upsetting the bakers’ award on appeal?
– Such things are incidental to the carrying on of any industrial tribunal.
– That killed the Board.
– Nothing of the kind. It was .done in pursuance of the law, and, no doubt, it was done by reason of certain impelling conditions.
– That is a weak point of the law.
-Yes; but, no matter what system of tribunals may be established, defects will be found, and decisions, for various reasons, will be upset.
– Because the Boards have sometimes exceeded their powers.
– Will not the award of a Wages Board sitting in Victoria under this Bill be subject to three appeals? Who is going to pay all the costs ?
– According to the law of Victoria, there is an appeal to the Industrial Court. That is the only appeal that I am aware of.
– - There will be an appeal to this Commission, and an- appeal to the High Court.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Surely on points of law !
– That is not by way of appeal, as I shall explain presently. When a complaint is made that in some other States certain industrial conditions are unfair, then it will be competent for the industrial tribunal in the complaining. State to apply to a Judge to have the matter referred. The matter will then go to the Court of adjustment which will be created under the Bill. It is not a matter for appeal at all but merely one for adjustment which is quite different. The point which I was making when I was interrupted, was that these Boards find it necessary to vary their determinations from time to time, in order to accommodate themselves to the conditions of trade. It would be simply impossible for one Arbitration Court, or for half-a-dozen Arbitration Courts, to deal with the whole of the industrial conditions of Victoria alone, much less with the whole of the industrial conditions of the Commonwealth.
– Is this tribunal to be an advisory body as well ?
– What was the experience of the New South Wales Arbitration Court ?
– My honorable friends must recollect that as Wages Boards are representative of employers and employes they are constituted of skilled persons. Those persons confer together. They know perfectly well what would represent a. fair and reasonable wage in any industry with which they may be dealing. The’ experience of the working of these Boards in that connexion has been eminently satisfactory. So far as the Labour party is concerned ‘there has recently been quite a new development. Up to 1906 they were full of admiration - as they had a right to be - of the system of Wages Boards.
– And we are still.
– I am very glad to hear it. Up till 1906, I repeat they were full of admiration of Wages Boards. Indeed, the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act of 1906 has been said by them to be the foundation-stone of the new Protection, whereas the new Protection had ‘been operative for years before it was passed. That Act was regarded by some as an ideal piece of legislation, whereas it was really intended to carry out and further apply the system of Wages Boards and other industrial tribunals. Let me point to the special circumstances which ledup to the introduction of that measure. There were certain manufacturers of stripper harvesters in the community who enjoyed a substantial measure of Protection, and some of their employes complained of the wages which they paid. No Wages Boards had been established in connexion with the manufacture of these agricultural implements, and a certain manufacturer was extremely unpopular because it was stated that he had deliberately evaded the jurisdiction of the Wages Boards by removing his works to a place outside the prescribed area. The Tariff Commission thereupon recommended that the duty upon stripper harvesters should be suspended unless fair and reasonable wages . were paid by the manufacturers to their employes. In pursuance of that idea the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act of 1906 was introduced.
– Does the Minister of Trade and Customs say that that Act was introduced as the result of a suggestion by the Tariff Commission?
– I do not definitely say that. But the Tariff Commission recommended that the duty upon stripper harvesters should be suspended unless fair and reasonable wages were paid to the employes in the industry. When the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act was introduced the idea was - and Mr. Watson was one of the first to urge it - that it should recognise Wages Boards. But there were constitutional difficulties in the way of that being done. The Act was a taxation Act, and it was thought by the Attorney -General of the day that if we recognised, the Wages Boards or other local tribunals of the several States specifically, it would amount to a discrimination as between the several States, in addition to which in two of the States there were no industrial Boards, and, therefore, the measure might be regarded as unconstitutional. But the Attorney- General of the day, in response to the feeling of Parliament on the subject, went as far as he could in a proviso to the Act. The proviso reads -
Provided that this Act shall not apply to goods manufactured by any person in any part of the Commonwealth under conditions as to the remuneration of labour which -
Honorable senators will notice that, in that legislation, an attempt was made to recognise Wages Boards, and if those Boards could have been recognised without any fear of the constitutionality of the measure being formally challenged they would have been. It has since transpired that the Act is not regarded by the High Court as a taxation measure, but merely as one which attempted to regulate industry, and upon that ground it was held to be ultra vires. But now my honorable friends opposite have swung round and developed an extraordinary admiration for the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Their admiration is really the outcome of a passing circumstance. It is quite true that the President of that tribunal has laid it down that a living wage - that is a wage sufficient to permit of a man maintaining himself and his family in comfort - must be paid irrespective of whether the industry could afford it or not. For the moment I have had no quarrel with that dictum, but I should like - if it were possible to do so - to enforce it also against our competitors in the markets of the world. That mere passing circumstance has caused the Labour party to swing round and to endeavour to wrest from the States the industrial powers which have been solemnly vested in them.
– No such thing.
– Is it not the policy of my honorable friends to wrest from the States; their industrial powers, and to vest them in the Federation?
– Nothing of the sort.
– At any rate, that statement was made by the AttorneyGeneral, and by various other members of the late Labour Government, and I say that such was its policy. If I can obtain any assurance from my honorable friends that they are still prepared to stand by the network of State industrial tribunals which exist, we shall be at one upon this subject. But, as far as I have read their representations, they are determined - in opposition to the will of the States - that all industrial powers shall be vested in the Federal body.
– Nothing of the kind.
– I am glad to be corrected in that way. At the same time, Senator Pearce will scarcely be prepared to deny the accuracy of my statement. To wrest those powers from the States was certainly the distinct policy of the late Government, as it was announced by the Attorney-General and other Ministers.
Senator Pearce. - Recognising that the Minister has been ill, I have refrained from interjecting; but I will put a different construction upon the matter when I address myself to the Bill.
– I have no desire to misrepresent honorable senators opposite. I merely wish to ascertain how far we are in agreement on this matter. I have distinctly understood-
– The Minister need not qualify his former statement.
– I am not seeking to qualify it. I have always understood that the policy of honorable senators opposite was to wrest from the States their industrial powers, and to vest them in the Federal authority. I shall be very glad to have that impression corrected. The industrial powers contained in this Bill are of pressing urgency. In the judgment which he delivered on Saturday last, Mr. Justice Higgins is reported to have said -
It appeared that the State tribunals were sadly hampered in their task of givingproper conditions of labour by the fact that in” other States the conditions were low, and to award what seemed proper would aid the manufac turers in the other States in underselling and give them an advantage in Inter-State competition. Judge Heydon, thePresident of the New South Wales Court, felt this difficulty and expressed it clearly in the boot operatives’ case. The New South Wales Court was compelled to fix the wage at 8s. (as in Victoria) instead of 95. a day, as it wished, but it added, as a part of the award, that if the Victorian Wages Board should increase the Victorian wage, the New South Wales wage should automatically follow it up to the wage of 9s. per day.
This unfair competition as . between the States is, therefore, a real and pressing difficulty. Under this Bill it is proposed to constitute a Commonwealth industrial tribunal for the purpose of adjusting these differences.
– Upon whom will the expense connected with the proceedings before that tribunal fall ?
– The cost of the Board will be defrayed out of the general revenue. The same course is adopted in connexion with proceedings before our Wages Boards and our Arbitration Courts. I am dealing with Part V. of the Bill which has reference to industrial matters. Amongst other things, it provides that -
The Governor-General may by proclamation apply this part of this Act to any State the Parliament of which has referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth the matters dealt with in this part.
Under the Constitution, as I have already mentioned, it is competent for the States to refer any particular matter to the Commonwealth Parliament, and any such procedure by them will vest this Parliament with jurisdiction to act. Now the State Premiers, on behalf of their Parliaments, have agreed to refer this industrial legislation to the Commonwealth, and a model Bill is being drafted for the purpose.
– Which Parliaments have agreed to refer that legislation to the Commonwealth ?
– The Premiers of all the State Parliaments have agreed to do so.
– Have the Government heard from the Legislative Councils of the States?
– I am dealing with the agreement which has been entered into between the State Premiers and the Government. Of course, we are now submitting it for the confirmation of Parliament itself. It has . been objected by my honorable friends that it is somewhat premature to proceed with this part of the measure. I would say in answer to that objection first of all that there is ari agreement with the Premiers representing the Legislatures of the States. We are justified in believing that that agreement will be observed.
– Notwithstanding the Legislative Councils?
– -If the agreement is not carried out, a new situation will be created which will have to be dealt with. But we are relying upon the agreement being carried out. It is desirable in submitting the Bill that we should show the full scope of the Inter-State Commission and the jurisdiction we intend to confer upon it. This part of the Bill, however, does not come into operation until a proclamation has been issued.
– Can the Bill be applied to one State and not to all ?
– Under the terms of the Constitution itself, it applies to States that refer, so that if four or five States wish to come in, they may do so.
– Those are hardly the terms of the Constitution.
– I think so.
– There must first be a reference to the Parliament. We cannot legislate until there is a reference.
– The Constitution gives an option. ‘First of all the matter may be referred to the Federal Parliament, and we then have power to legislate upon it.
– If the hon.orable senator will read the section, I think he will find there must be a reference by some State first.
– The Minister’s attitude is that the portion of the Bill referred to will not be legislation until a proclamation is issued.
– The Minister says that we may legislate. But surely our right to legislate depends upon the preliminary reference?
– I contend that there is nothing to prevent us from legislating in anticipation, so long as our Act does not come into operation.
– There is nothing to prevent us, except the words of the Constitution.
– As soon as a reference is made by the several States a proclamation will issue, and then only will this part of the Bill become law.
– How can we legislate upon a matter as to which the States must request us to legislate, until we know what they want?
– First, there is an agreement with the States, and, secondly, a model Bill has been arranged.
– I wish to assist my honorable friend.
– I appredate the honorable senator’s endeavours in that direction. We want to save time and to let the States see the full effect of our legislation. We also desire the Senate and the other House to be informed of the full scope of the proposed InterState Commission.
– Is it not a fact that we are now proposing to legislate on a matter outside our jurisdiction?
– For the purpose of argument I will say yes ; but I also point out that this legislation will not become law until after Acts have been passed by the several States. We want to carry out our part of the bargain made with the States ; and the States have agreed that they will carry out theirs. But this part of the measure will not become operative until they actually pass the necessary legislation. Then we shall issue a proclamation making our measure law.
– Is there any Commission in England and America dealing with industrial matters in the manner proposed bv this Bill?
– There is an Inter-State Commission in Amenca, but it has no power to deal with industrial matters.
– Then these provisions are entirely new.
– That is so.
– If only one State makes a reference can the Government proclaim the Act?
– Yes. The Constitution gives us power to legislate with regard to - matters referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States, but so that the law shall extend only to States by whose Parliaments the matter is referred or which afterwards adopt the law.
– But there must be a preliminary reference first by some one State.
– I am not denying that. We are legislating in advance, but I say again, that this part of the Bill will not come into operation until jurisdiction is given by a reference by the States.
– But this Bill will become an Act, and come into operation when the Governor-General’s assent is given to it.
– The validity of this part of the Bill depends upon the issue of a proclamation.
– The Bill will become the valid law of the Commonwealth when it is passed.
– Certainly not.
– It will become a permissive law only.
– This part will be mere waste paper until the proclamation issues. The proclamation will vitalise the measure, and bring it into operation. Nothing is more usual than to pass an Act subject to certain parts coming into operation on the issue of a proclamation.
– But that is not what the Bill says. The Bill, is to come into operation when the Governor-General gives his assent, but it is not to apply to any State until there is a proclamation.
– I repeat that so far as concerns Part V. of the Bill, it will not come into operation, or apply to any State, until a proclamation is issued, and that proclamation will only issue when the enabling power has been granted by the States.
– Must all the States accept the measure before it becomes effective?
– If the arrangement made by the States is not carried out, as we have every reason to believe it will be, a new situation will, of course, arise. Here is the procedure -
Where a Court of a State has, on the complaint of a State Industrial Authority in the State, referred any industrial matter to the Commission, the Commission shall have jurisdiction to inquire into and determine the industrial matter so far as in its judgment is necessary for the purpose of preventing unfair competition in one State, whereby the establishment or maintenance of fair industrial conditions in another State is hindered
– Will the honorable senator show from this Bill, what Court of a State will make the order? lis it to be a Police Court, or the Full Court?
– I will make a note of that point. It may be necessary to define what Court of a State shall issue the order. I think it was intended to be the Industrial Court or the Supreme Court.
– It had better be the Supreme Court.
– Suppose all the States accept and it is complained in New South Wales that in Tasmania in a particular industry very low wages are being paid, and that, therefore, the competition with New South Wales is unfair. It will be competent for the Industrial Authority in New South Wales to apply to the local Court, and the Judge of that Court will then refer the matter to the proposed industrial tribunal, which will be competent to adjudicate, and, if it thinks proper, to issue an order binding on the particular industry in Tasmania and New South Wales.
– If Tasmania has not referred the matter?
– The Commonwealth must not be permitted to suffer by reason of the laches of any State in the direction of establishing industrial tribunals. If any State suffers by reason of the unfair competition of Tasmania, the Court has power to order that certain rates shall be observed in the competing industries in Tasmania.
– That cannot possibly be. Can we settle the whole industrial conditions of the Commonwealth against States which have not referred matters to us ?
– I am not referring to States that have not referred matters. I am relying upon the agreement being carried out. If it is not carried out, an alteration of the Constitution will be necessary.
– Then the Inter- State Commission will not have jurisdiction over a State that does not refer ?
– Certainly not. I have been arguing on the assumption that the Premiers will carry out their agreement as we are carrying out ours.
– A very uncertain foundation.
– I think not. The tribunal to be established is to sit with assessors. Its purpose is to be to inquire and determine. “The assessors are to be -
That is to say the complainant State elects an employer, and what I shall call the respondent ‘ State elects an employer, and these’ two employers sit with the InterState Commission. The same process it gone through so far as the employés are concerned. The complainant State and the respondent State each elect a representative, and they also sit with such other asses sors as the Commission may think proper to appoint.
– Suppose Victoria is paying 8s. a day, and a complaint is made’ that New South Wales is paying only 7s., will the Inter-State Commission have power to say that the wages paid by both are too low, and fix them at9s. per day ?
– Or that both are too high, and fix them at 6s. per day?
– Yes ; assuming, of course, that both States have referred- the matter to the Commission. Clause 45 provides that-
In determining any industrial matter under this Part, the Commission may, so far as is necessary for the purposes of the determination, regulate the terms and conditions of employment in each State concerned.
– But the” honorable senator will see that both States might not refer the matter to the Commission. One State might refer it adversely to the other.
– Even where that is done, the respondent States will be bound by the terms of the order.
– This will set the States by the ears.
– This is to be by arrangement with the States.
– Arrangement with the Premiers, not with the States.
– It is only for election purposes.
– It is a good election cry.
– If it is a good election cry, 1 hope that my honorable friends opposite will support it.
– We are here to expose it.
– To expose it ? Is it too good ?
– There is too much humbug about it.
– If honorable senators opposite believe, as they must do, that it will be a good thing, it is their duty to support it, and let us take responsibility for the so-called humbug.
– The Government are evading the responsibility of the real issue.
– No. We are taking the responsibility. It is provided that in exercising its powers the Commission “ shall make due allowance for the difference of economic conditions in different parts of the Commonwealth, and shall have due regard to the interests of producers, workers, and consumers, and of the public generally.” Clause 49 reads -
The determination of the Commission under this Part shall, subject only to the Constitution, and the laws of the Commonwealth, have the force of law.
Clause 51 provides that -
I venture to think that that will be found to be a most useful power. It will be open for the Arbitration Court to refer to this Commission certain cases for further investigation and report, and the clause goes on to provide -
I do not propose to say anything further on this particular portion of the Bill.
– Will the honorable senator mention who will be the parties, under clause 43, to conduct proceedings when they are once commenced, before the Inter-State Commission. The clause does not say.
– Clause 44 reads -
For the purpose of the inquiry and determination the Commission shall sit as a Board with the following assessors.
A Board is constituted by the Inter-State Commission with assessors. .
– But who will conduct the matter on one side and the other. Who will the parties be?
– One State as against the other.
– The Bill does not say so.
– I think so. First of all, it provides for a complaint, “ Where a Court of a- State has on the complaint of a State.” That means where employers and employes of a State make a complaint against another State.
– Not employers and employes, but a State Industrial Authority.
– Yes; and then the evidence will be taken in the usual way.
– Who will bear the cost of producing the evidence before the Commission - the States Governments?
– The parties.
– The cost of the Court will, of course, be borne by the Commonwealth; but, so far as the parties are concerned, they will appear before the Court attheir own expense. In the fewest possible words I will now deal with Part vi. of the Bill. I personally look upon this as a very important portion of the Bill. I may refer to it as the Board of Trade division of the Bill. In the investigations which we cast upon the Inter-State Commission, we are following largely the work undertaken by corresponding bodies, such as the Board of Tradein Great Britain, and the Department of Commerce and Labour, and the Bureau of Manufactures in America. It will be observed that it is proposed, under clause 52, that -
The Commission shall be charged with the investigation of and the diffusion of such information as is desirable relating to, matters affecting -
the production of and trade in commodities ;
the encouragement, improvement, and extension of Australian industries and manufactures ;
markets outside Australia, and the opening of external trade generally.
In addition to judicial duties, the Commission will have the hardly less important duty of making investigations, procuring information, and disseminating it, in regard to various matters of the utmost concern to the community. Grouping a, b, and c together, the course of inquiry will embrace everything relating to manufacture and industries of all kinds; the best methods of production of manufacture; what have the best chance of success ; how trade in them can be extended ; the best markets abroad and at home, and internal distribution. By this means persons interested will be told where in Australia commodities of the kind they require are produced ; how they are to be obtained, their prices, &c. Producers will learn where to obtain a market, whether here or abroad; how to set about doing so, and the expenses connected with transit. The Commission will be a Bureau to give information on every point in reference to these subjects which should be known. It will probably be worked in conjunction with the office of the High Commissioner in London, and be in communication with the Commercial Attaches or Consuls of Great Britain throughout the world, and the conditions of, and prospects in, each foreign market for our products will be made known. As an encouragement to the starting of new industries, bounties may be recommended under, I think, section 90 of the Constitution, where, after inquiry, they may seem likely to produce good effects. Paragraph d of the clause refers to - the effect and operation of any Tariff Act in regard to revenue, Australian manufactures, and industry and trade generally.
As to Tariffs, they will be renewed and reported on from every aspect - as a means of producing revenue, as instruments of protection to local industries, cases where duties may be too high, or too low, how importation of necessary raw material for industries may be affected, and in every way how they carry out the policy and intention of Parliament. Paragraph e reads - bounties paid by foreign countries to encourage shipping or export trade.
Honorable senators will be aware that some countries pay a bounty or bonus on each ton of foreign shipping, which thus comes into competition with British shipping, having the advantage of a subsidy which enables them to undercut British owners. Again, a foreign country may give a bounty on goods exported in order to secure trade abroad. Such a bounty would, of course, neutralize the intention of our Tariff in protecting Australian manufactures, and the results and effects of such subsidies or bounties should be, and will be, carefully noted; with a view to a remedy or some counteracting action. With regard to paragraphs g and h of the clause, referring to population and industrial conditions, and to immigration, the Commission will consider and go into such questions as to how our population may be increased, the condition of living in every part of Australia, the prospects of employment or of making a living, the congestion of population in towns and schemes to counteract that congestion, and the openings in various ways for newcomers, attractions for ‘ immigrants, as well as the classes of people to be encouraged to come here. Patient investigation year after year, the careful collation of facts; and intelligent deductions from those facts, will enable such a review of the whole industrial life of the community to be given as will prove a guide of incalculable benefit to the Commonwealth. All this information will be disseminated, I hope, in an attractive form, bear fruit, and its value and importance increase every year. Paragraph / of clause 52 refers to “ Unemployment and insurance relating thereto.” Honorable senators on both sides of this chamber will agree that unemployment is one of the gravest and most serious of modern problems. It is being grappled with, I venture to say, in a scientific manner in Germany, and in various parts of the Continent. 1 am glad to be able to . say that in Great Britain also some decisive action has recently been taken in regard to it. Notwithstanding the splendid work that has been undertaken by trade unions arid benefit societies, we are obliged to recognise the fact that unemployment still exists.
-And will continue to exist.
– It is a fact that has to be dealt with. We throw upon the Inter- State Commission the responsibility of making special investigations in this connexion, with a view to the preparation of a scheme, I hope, on the lines of that adopted in Germany, whereby the unfortunate effects of unemployment may, at least, be greatly diminished.
– The Commission will have a nice little contract on hand.
– They will have a big contract, I admit; but that is no reason why necessary investigation should not be undertaken with a view, if possible, to the mitigation, at least to some extent, of the evils of unemployment.
– Germany has not yet provided for unemployment, though there is a Bill dealing with the subject before the Reichstag.
– That is so, but the German people have in other directions, in providing for invalidity and disability due to . accident, placed some magnificent legislation on their statutebook, and they are at present grappling with this all-important question of unemployment, which will continue to exist so long as there are spasmodic movements in trade and commerce, new fashions, new inventions, and trade depressions. If by some means, though we cannot solve the problem, we can mitigate its hideous effects, something should be done in this direction. Of course, an essential element is the creation, throughout the Commonwealth of a network of labour exchanges. Billets are wanting men, and men are wanting billets, and the establishment of these labour exchanges should have the result of providing information which will find men for the billets that are open.
– If we compel all to register through them !
– Of course, much will depend on the efficiency of the network of labour exchanges to which I refer. Some substantial advance in this direction is now being made in the Mother Country, where a Bill has been introduced by Mr. Winston Churchill, which has for its object the inclusion in its benefits of the workers in a number of trades, the building trade, the shipbuilding trade,engineering, vehiclemaking, and construction works, representing something like 2,250,000 workers. The proposal in thatBill is that the workers shallpay 2½d. a week, the employers 2½d. a week, and the State a similar contribution. I am sure we all earnestly hope that as the result of the investigations made by this Commission a scheme will be devised which will be crowned with success. I now come to sub-clause 2 of clause 52, which deals with Tariff anomalies. The Commission will be empowered, at the request of the Government, to make recommendations from time to timein regard to any amendment of the Tariff which may be considered advisable, and also in regard to granting preference to any
British countries. It will be able to consider the whole question from all points of view. This work will be in addition to, and form a natural corollary of, that performed under paragraph d. Having all the information at their command, the Commission will be able to come to a speedy decision on any question referred to them, and their conclusion will be of the greatest assistance to the Government and the Parliament. The advantages of having a body of this kind to make recommendations which could be accepted without hesitation are so obvious as not to require dwelling upon. In dealing with Tariff matters, however, it is not intended that the Commission shall make what is known as “ decisions “ under the Tariff. That is, it will not be part of their duty to say whether any particular article comes under item a or item b. That will still be left to the Department concerned as before, and for very good reasons. I may first of all mention what the present system is in regard to these decisions. When there is any doubt’ on the part of any officer, or any disagreement with an importer as regards classification for duty of an article, the question is either by wire, where the case admits of it, or by letter, immediately referred to the head office for decision. There is a special branch of able, intelligent, and experienced men in the Customs which deals with such matters. The Department has under its control experts in many professions, such as engineers, analytical chemists, medical men, &c. Besides these, it has all the standard- works of reference, the assistance of outside experts of every kind, and particularly its past experience, which is very great, and has been acquired from the practice of many years. Making use of all the means at its disposal to acquire a complete knowledge of .the subject, and marshalling all the facts - all this is done with the greatest promptitude possible - the question then comes before the Permanent Head for decision, and his decision is at once, often by wire, communicated to the persons concerned. Should, however, an importer dissent from such decision, he is encouraged to appeal to the Minister, who hears or considers all that is said in the matter, reviews the whole case, and supports or reverses the decision of the Department. The Minister’s ruling, however, is not final. The importer has a right to appeal to the Courts for final decision, and the Department offers no objection to such a course, but assists the importer frequently by
waiving, technical objections, and agreeing to state a case. It should be borne in mind that the officers can have no personal bias or feeling in the matter, and no object to gain in going against an importer. This system is now working excellently. The whole of the thousands of decisions to date under the present Tariff have been printed in a handy book, and lists of new ones are issued at very rapid intervals, so that importers are fully informed. By this time practice has become settled, and the Tariff better understood by all. As against this system, others have from time to time been strongly urged by Chambers of Commerce and others, but certainly no improvement has been suggested. Some have urged that there should be at each leading port what is called a .board of experts, who- should decide such questions locally in each case. It is difficult to see how such a suggestion could be seriously made. The result would be hideous confusion and disagreements of all kinds, inflicting great injustice. As regards these decisions, it must be remembered that the essentials are not so much that they are absolutely correct in the abstract, but that the practice should be uniform throughout the whole of Australia, and, next, that there should be promptitude in giving them. In many cases all, for instance, that A wishes to secure is that he has to pay no more than B on his imports. . He does not care very much so long as all pay alike. In such case he is on the same footing as his neighbour. But if A finds that while he, say, in Victoria, is paying 20 per cent., his competitor, B, in New South Wales, is charged! only to per cent., then the iron enters into his soul, because he soon finds B underselling him in his own market. So many men, so many minds ! With more than one Board or body there would be inevitable contradictory or inconsistent decisions, and consequent trouble. It would be quite out of the question, and contrary to all business principles, to have more than one authority dealing with these questions, not to mention the great expense of paying competent and independent men at each port. Then; if there is such a. system, it can. only be carried out by a body sitting at head’ quarters. Again, remember promptitude is an essential. Now, such a body must, be always in session. Questions come up every day, and if not quickly dealt with, grievous complaint is made. Then, according to - suggestions made, the members of such a body cannot, of course, be men in business themselves; otherwise their competitors would object, and New South Welshmen would say Victorians -were settling their questions. They must be men independent of business. Next, the idea is that they should! be what are called “experts.” Now, it is utterly ridiculous to suppose that you could get any three men who would be experts in a tenth of the trades that come before them.. The range of manufacture is so enormous; the changes so rapid, the new inventions so many, and the processes of manufacture so varied, that the idea is inconceivable. Whoever the men were, they would have to deal with matters just as a Judge has to deal with all sorts of technical questions, by evidence; and that is just what is done now. The same evidence that would come before a Board is available now; and made use of. It must be remembered that, as to a certain proportion of the questions that come up, a great deal of difference of opinion is inseparable from the nature of them. There is room for argument on each side. . Experts themselves may be at variance. And, as I before, said, the main thing is not absolute correctness, but uniformity. It would be quite impossible to remit such questions to this Commission. The latter would always have to be sitting, and at head-quarters, which alone makes the idea impracticable. Next, . to enlarge the Commission so as to admit of this being done, as would be absolutely necessary, would be an unjustifiable expense. Further, the Commission, if it had to perform this duty, would require to have a special staff of analysts, &c, for the work, at increased expense and considerable duplication of work. No hardship is inflicted by the present system. Courts are always open to those aggrieved as a last resource, and there is not the slightest reason to suppose that an importer would be more satisfied if told by a Commission to pay duty he does not wish to than if so required by the Department. The proceedings of the Commission would be more cumbersome, lead to delay, and give no more satisfaction in matters which would be trivial when compared with those other questions of great importance they have to consider and deal with. I have now dealt with the general scope of the Bill, and it only remains for me to say a few words regarding a few of its leading provisions.
– The honorable” senator did not mention the names of the Commissioners.
– The Commission will be composed of three members; the Chief Commissioner to receive a salary of £2,500, and each of the others a salary of£2, 000. Clause 15 deals with rates and preferences. It says -
All rates fixed or made by any common carrier -
for any service rendered in respect of Inter-State commerce ; or
which affect Inter-State commerce, shall be reasonable and just, and every such rate which is unreasonable or unjust is hereby prohibited.
It will be remembered that I drew attention to the corresponding provision in the United States Act. Clause 16 deals with the rates on State railways, and the Com-“ mission are given control, subject to the constitutional, limitations which I referred to. Clause 18 provides -
No common carrier or State authority, other than a State Railway Authority, shall, in respect of Inter-State commerce, or so as to effect such commerce -
make or give any undue . or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person, State, locality, or description of traffic ; or
subject any particular person, State, locality, or description of traffic to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage.
That provision is taken from British and American legislation. Clauses 21 and 22 throw upon the Commission the obligation of securing the maintenance of the. provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce. Practically, the only portion of the Bill referring to external trade is clause 24, under which -
Any complaint, dispute, question, or difference whatever relating to external or InterState commerce may, upon the application of the parties, and with the consent of the Commission, be referred to the Commission for decision ; and the Commission shall thereupon have the same jurisdiction to hear and determine the complaint, dispute, question, or difference, and the decision of the Commission thereon may be carried into effect in the same way as in other matters in which the. Commission has jurisdiction.
Clause 25 gives power to the Commission to grant general relief ; clause 26, power to award damages; and clause 27, power to grant an injunction. Clause 29, which empowers the Commission to prescribe future action, is a very important one. It reads as follows : - (1.) If it appears to the Commission, on the hearing of any complaint, that anything has been done or left undone by any party in contravention of this Act, or of the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce, it may, by the order made on the hearing or by any subsequent order, declare the thing which the party is required to do or not to do for the future to bring himself into conformity with this Act or with the Constitution and for that purpose it shall have power -
Paragraphs d and e provide for other contingencies. This important clause is founded upon a provision in the Inter-State Commerce Act of the United States. Power is given to enforce penalties for nonobedience to an order. The penalty is not to exceed£200, or, in the case of a continuing disobedience, , £200 a day during its continuance. Further power for the enforcement of orders is given in clause 31, under which, on application, an order may be made a rule of Court. Clause 33 empowers the Commissioners to call in assessors, while clause 37 provides -
The Commission may review and rescind or vary any order made by it, but save as is by this Act provided every order of the Commission shall be final.
In certain circumstances, appeals are allowed to the High Court. The only other clause to which I need refer is clause 53 - (1.) The Commission, when required to do so by the Governor-General, may investigate, take evidence, and report as to -
– Is there a broad power given to the Commission to engage the services of experts?
– Yes ; in clause 32, power is given to call in asses sors for the purpose of assisting the Commission.
– Is it usual to give a Commission power to define terms of imprisonment and penalties?
– The honorable senator should remember that it will be a Court of Record.
– But these powers will be exercised under regulations.
– Precisely, just in the same way as the High Court has power to do certain things. In fact, some parts of the Bill provide for the necessary procedure to be created by a Judge of the High Court. I have now given a general summary of this very comprehensive Bill. It is well founded on the working provisions of British and American legislation. It is just, fair, and reasonable in. its terms, and it is a complement of the Constitution. It is part and parcel of the machinery for carrying out the Constitution. Its industrial provisions are new, and linking up, as they do, the Wages Boards and other industrial tribunals throughout the Commonwealth, the Bill marks a substantial, Democratic and Liberal advance in industrial legislation in Australia. I hope that honorable senators will assist us in the completion of this piece of legislation, with a view to securing its greater efficiency ; and with a view to carrying out the object which the various States had in their minds, that of giving the benefits of new Protection to the workers, as well as to the manufacturers. If honorable senators will view the matter from this general stand-point, I think they will see that, in the Inter-State Commission, we are proposing to create a useful body, which will be able to carry out work of an advantageous character to the Commonwealth.
– In moving the adjournment of the debate, may I ask the Minister whether he will be prepared to lay upon the table of the Senate the industrial agreement which he quoted from, and which I find has not yet been printed as a Parliamentary paper ?
– I am surprised to hear that. I shall lay it upon the table of the Senate.
– The agreement relating to finance has been tabled, but not the other agreement. If it is the intention of the Government to resume this debate at an early date, may I . suggest that honorable senators should be supplied with proofs of the Minister’s speech tomorrow? I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 7.45 p.m.
Debate resumed from ist ^October (vide page 4036) on motion by Senator Millen -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– To my mind, the action which is contemplated under this Bill means placing another stone in the stately edifice of the British Empire - taking another step to advance the Commonwealth to the position which should be hers by right of her potential wealth. I am pleased to know that the acceptance of the measure by the Senate is assured. Under these circumstances, no arguments need be advanced in support of it. But there are one or two matters to which I should like briefly to refer. Paragraph b of clause 4 may fairly be said to contain the essence of the measure. The duties of the office of High Commissioner pertain to the commercial, the financial, and the general interests of Australia. We all know perfectly well what is meant by the “ commercial and financial interests” of Australia. ‘ The term “ general interests “ is a wide one, but clearly the most important feature under that heading relates to immigration. There is no doubt that in the future it will be a matter of very great moment. From a perusal of the Bill, I learn that the .High Commissioner in London will act, not merely on behalf of the Commonwealth, but on behalf of the States. Finally, I notice that his sphere of operations will be “’ the United Kingdom and elsewhere.” I am pleased to see the words “ and elsewhere” in the measure, because they embody a recognition of the world that is outside the United Kingdom. I say this advisedly, because I intend briefly to refer to a matter which was brought forward by Senator McColl. He declared that it would be the duty of the High Commissioner to forward preferential trade arrangements - and generally to make things hum - as between the United Kingdom and Australia. That honorable senator and the Vice-President of the Executive Council both appeared to think that so long as we have good trade relations with the United Kingdom everything will be well with us. I should like them to reconsider the position. If they will study, the details of our trade, they will find that for some time past Australia has been more dependent upon foreign countries for the consumption of her products than she has. been upon the United Kingdom. It is all very well to say that there are 45,000,000 people in the Old Country. But they have only 45,000,000 bodies to clothe, and if we produce sufficient wool to clothe 200,000,000 bodies, what is to become of the surplus? Undoubtedly we must rely upon the rest of the world to take our products. It is simply idle for Australians and delegates from oversea to talk as ifthey constituted the universe, and could live without the aid of persons outside of the Empire. If the countries which we designate “ foreign “ were to disappear to-morrow, Australia might generals proclaim itself bankrupt - bankrupt because its industries would more or less cease to exist. When we recollect that foreign countries contain territories equal1 in area to two or three times that of Europe, we must realize how absolutely necessary is’ the trade of the rest of the. world to all parts of the Empire, and especially to Australia. In no way can we assist the United Kingdom more than byselling large quantities of goods to foreign nations. That is all I wish to say in this connexion. I am glad to know that the. High Commissioner will discharge duties, to Australia and the States in the United’ Kingdom “ and elsewhere.” I confess that I was very much surprised at the remarks made by Senator Dobson in discussing this measure. I know that quite recently he visited the Old World, and I naturally thought he would return with an- increased store of knowledge. But the honorable senator is accustomed to wearing Tasmanian spectacles, and to viewing everything from a Tasmanian stand-point. I own myself a victim to the charms of the State which he represents, and there is no warmer advocate of its real rights than I am. But Senator Dobson should not ask us, upon all occasions, to judge proposals by the effect which they are likely to have upon Tasmania.
– The honorable senator thinks that Senator Dobson looks through the wrong end of the tele-, scope ?
– He does not view matters from the right stand-point.
– The honorable senator is not criticising my speech.
– I am glad to know that the honorable senator’s ears are open. There are four people in Tasmania to every ninety-six people on the continent of Australia ; and I think that the interests of the ninety-six are greater than those of the four, although on all occasions we wish to do what is right, becoming and proper to the four. Senator Dobson is very much exercised in mind about the cost of the High Commissioner’s Office.
– About the cost of a seventh Department when we already have six.
– The honorable senator knows very well that when this Bill becomes law his glorious little State will be able to close her London office and save practically the whole of what she is now spending upon it.
– £400 a year.
– No,£1,000 a year.
– I read a few days ago that” the salary of the Tasmanian Agent-General had been raised to , £1,000 a year, and, in addition, there, is an office to maintain. But when the Commonwealth High Commissioner is appointed Tasmania will be able to save that money.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong, because Tasmania has appointed her Agent- General for a term of years, owing to the manner’ in which this matter has been delayed and humbugged.
– That is largelyowing to the influence of Senator Dobson. At all events, Tasmania will be able to close her London office in a little time. Consequently the whole of Senator Dobson’s objection to the Bill is removed. When 1 was in England not long ago I saw two or three things which made me somewhat ashamed of the slowness of Australia in regard to immigration. At one time I was down in the pleasant little city of Exeter, in Devonshire. One day I had to send a cable message to Canada. I went to the Telegraph Office, wrote out my message, and had to ask what was the particular town to which I should send it in order that it might reach the address given. The official was not sure, but said that I had better go to the Canada Office where I could inquire. I said “ What do you mean by the Canada Office? “ The clerk said, “ Canada has an office in this city.” I went out and found the place, which was a good sized office in one of the main streets of Exeter, with the name “ Canada Office “ inscribed in large letters. I got the information which 1 wanted, and while I was there I also took advantage of the opportunity to find out a few things as to what Canada was doing. I found that the office at Exeter - and it was a spacious one, at which interesting samples of Canadian produce were exhibited, and where literature about the Dominion was to be obtained - was one of ten provincial offices maintained by Canada in the United Kingdom. When I went to London I saw in Trafalgar Square the large Canadian Immigration Office. But I saw no corresponding place for Australia. I found, on all hands, evidence of the activity of Canada. I have no hesitation in saying that while Canada has spent thousands or tens of thousands of pounds in advertising her resources and attracting immigration she has increased her wealth by millions. Last year, I believe,£40,000,000 of British capital was invested in Canada, in addition to other moneys invested from the United States. But practically Australia has been shut out of this great business. I have no hesitation in saying that by her apathy and neglect in this matter during the last four or five years- Australia has lost tens of millions sterling. Therefore, I look with great pleasure and hopefulness to this measure, believing that it will be the means of bringing about a better, state of affairs, and that it will tend to bring to Australia a very large accession, not onlyof capital, but of people.
– I regret to. say that on the question now under consideration my opinions are likely to be somewhat unpopular in the Senate. I can quite understand that my views do not matter to the Government, who have their numbers. But, nevertheless, I am here to say what I think. It is not often that Senator Dobson and I sail in the same boat, but of all the speeches to which I have had the pleasure of listening concerningthe High Commissioner Bill, his was the best.
– A new party !
– There is no party consideration affecting this matter. I belong to the Labour party, and Senator Dobson belongs to the Fusion party. But I ‘believe that he willnot desert his party any more than I shall desert mine. We can rise above party considerations oh a question ‘of this kind. I am. free to admit my belief that the time will come, and that at no distant date, when a High Commissioner will be necessary. I am in favour of appointing such an officer when the proper time arrives for the creation of the office.
– How long will that be?
– We cannot ‘ tell. But before we go to the expense of appointing a High Commissioner, I should like to know what work there will be for him to do, unless the States are willing to hand over the management of their London business to him. I see no signs of their being inclined to do so yet. Before the Bill was brought in the States should have been consulted. They were consulted on another matter lately, when a quiet Premiers’ Conference was held.
– The honorable senator’s party gets angry when we talk of consulting the States.
– A secret caucus was held, at which special pains were taken to prevent the opinions of individual members from becoming known. What took place was concealed, and the records, if. there were any, were consigned to the flames.
– The Premiers knew that this Bill was coming on, and could have protested had they chosen.
– Does the honorable senator know of any State in the Commonwealth that is in favour of this Bill being passed? Does any State show an inclination to reduce its London expenditure? Some States have not even reduced the number of members of their State Parliaments since the establishment of the Commonwealth. South Australia, however, led the way in that direction. I was an antiFederaiist before the adoption of the Constitution, I urged the rejection of the Commonwealth Bill on account of the expense that it would involve. But the champions of Federation, Senator Sir Josiah Symon, Mr. Kingston, and others, carried the people away . with the idea that great and wonderful savings would be effected. What savings have been made?
– There would have been no Federation if the Labour party had had its way.
– The honorable senator has the Labour party on the brain.
– More than on the brain ! . .
– The honorable senator cannot accuse the party to which I belong of being unprogressive ; but we believe in discretion in the use of borrowed, money. At present it seems to me to be wrong to establish additional machinery at the cost of probably £20,000 per annum; whilst we have in existence State machinery that can carry on all the business that we require to have done. For instance, South Australia not only has an Agent-General, but a General Agent. On some other occasion I shall take the opportunity of showing what South Australia is doing for the primary producer. I venture to say that South Australia has no wish that a High Commisiioner should be appointed. On this question I can speak with as much authority as can the Premier of the State, Mr. Peake, for, while he has twenty members of the State Parliament behind, the Labour party has twenty in front, of him. Practically, he has only eight direct followers. Have the States been approached with reference to the matter?
– I reminded the honorable senator just now that his party become angry when we talk of consulting the States.
– Surely the Government ought to have consulted them on this question. But the Government have not consulted them.
– They were consulted when they adopted the Constitution.
– The question is one of pounds, shillings, and pence, and I ask Senator Millen to say whether, if the Commissioner were appointed this week, the end would justify the means. Is there work to be done in London on behalf of Australia which cannot be effectively done by the existing representatives of this country in London? We hear a good deal about immigration, and I know that honorable senators opposite are in favour of it, because they wish to secure cheap labour. I also desire that people should be induced to come to Australia, but I think we should first have land available on which to settle them. We ought to be very careful in dealing with these matters, because, when the Federal Parliament was brought into existence the people expected that we would have some consideration for the expense to them. We have just laid aside until tomorrow the consideration of a Bill which will involve very considerable expenditure. Some honorable members will say that Senator Pearce has supported this Bill, but that has nothing to do with me. It is not on our platform. I am one of those who like to know where the money is to come from, and when I ask the question of the Government I very seldom get an answer. I believe that the second reading of the Bill will be carried by an overwhelming majority, and if it is I shall- assist to make it as perfect as possible. I do not wish to unduly occupy the time of honorable senators in repeating what has already been said by others better than I could say it ; but I wish them to face the question and say whether we are justified as a Parliament in committing the country to the expenditure of an additional £20,000 a year before we are ready for the appointment of a High Commissioner. I admit that the time may not be far distant when such an appointment will be necessary ; but we should first of all negotiate with the State Governments in order that we mav know what they want. In view of the approaching elections, I have no doubt that the present Federal Government would be willing to give the State Governments almost anything they asked for.
– Why should we always be going begging to the State Governments?
– We should not be begging, but suggesting. We have the handle of the whip, and might r.ay that unless they are prepared to meet us as reasonable men, and agree to reduce their expenditure, we shall not feel justified in passing a Bill to further add to the extpenditure of the Commonwealth. Referring to the provisions of the Bill, I should like to say that I believe in the term of five years provided for It -is just possible that the man sent to London to represent the Commonwealth might lose his head to some extent; and in five years’ time he might be a very different man from what he is-to-day. On the question of the salary to be paid, I have listened to what has been said by other honorable senators, and I believe that the amount proposed in the Bill would not be too much. To get a good man, it might even be necessary to increase the salary proposed. If the Bill is to be passed, then for goodness sake let us try to get the best man available.
– Is the honorable senator available?
- Senator Neild need not interject in that way. I am too serious at the present time to have a “lark” with him. Is the honorable senator himself available? If he is, there is no one iri the Senate who thinks him more fitted for the position than he does himself. The honorable senator is a man of extraordinary ability, but perhaps he is going to let a better man step in before him. I should not have referred to him if he had not interrupted me in the middle of an earnest little speech. I do not care to be knocked! off my perch or to be made a laughing stock for the Senate. It is possible that it might be well even to increase the salary provided for in the Bill if by doing so we could secure the appointment of a certain man.
– Who is the certain man ?
– I shall tell the honorable senator directly. I heard Senator Pearce refer to a motion carried by the Senate some four or five years ago, which ought to be respected by the Senate, and especially by representatives of the Government in this Chamber. The honorable senator urged that if the name of the High Commissioner was not included in the Bill, at least, the Government should give some information at an early date as to the person to be appointed. On a previous, occasion, the Senate went further than that, and asked that the members of both Houses of this Parliament should sit and vote together to select the person to be appointed to this position. 1 should approve of the adoption of that course.
– Applications to be submitted to the Senate; no reasonable offer refused.
– When I look around me, I can see at least one member of the Senate who would fill the position with honour to himself, and advantage to Australia. But, according to the Government, it would be rude, stupid, and unworthy of the Senate for any honorable senator,- particularly from this side, to suggest the name of a person for the appointment. .1 remind honorable senators that, some years ago,, my countryman, Senator Walker, did this very thing. He gave the Senate four or six names of persons whom he considered desirable men for this position. If it was not wrong of Senator Walker then to express his opinion as to the persons most eligible, why should it be regarded as irregular for me to do the same thing now? I am particularly anxious- that Parliament should have a say in the appointment of the High Commissioner. I am very anxious to know who he is to be. I heard the statement made, when this matter was- under discussion the other night, that we should remember that we have responsible government, and. that if .the
Government make a mistake, they will be blamed and chastized for it. We do not know what will happen in this case; but I can quote a similar instance from the political history of South Australia, and can tell the Senate what did happen in that case. An ex-Premier, Mr. Jenkins - whom 1 do not wish to speak disrepectfully of as a man, far from it - at the close of his term in Parliament, felt that his seat was somewhat shaky, and that it would not be safe for him to appeal to the electors, because he had gone back on his principles. No one can deny that he did so. He was a smart man ; he was a “ Yank,” and what did he do to make proper provision for himself?
– The honorable senator should not give him away.
– I am not giving him away. I am telling honorable senators how nicely Mr. Jenkins managed things. If the incident were related of a member of the Labour party, Senator Chataway. would not be so ready to object. Mr. Jenkins felt that he was not likely to be returned again by the electors, and that the seats of some of his colleagues in the Ministry were also in danger. The position of Agent-General for South Australia was to be open in a few months’ time, and Mr. Jenkins had himself appointed to that high position, some two or three months before the vacancy was created.
– Does not the honorable senator think it is rather mean of him to say that-?
– Nothing of the kind. I refer to something that is historical; and if the reference were to the Labour party, the honorable senator would have no objection.
– The fact that Mr. Watson is in South Africa is also historical.
– The honorable senator desires to lead me off the track ; but he will not succeed in doing so. 1 say that Mr. Jenkins secured the position of Agent-General for the State for himself.
– He is not here ; he cannot deny it.
– Not only did Mr. Jenkins secure the position of AgentGeneral for himself in good time, but he found that there would be a vacancy on the Supreme Court Bench, and sent his AttorneyGeneral there. That was not all. The Government Whip had to be provided for, and so he was sentaway to the North ern Territory. I am not suggesting that any one of them was not a good man, but I hold that it was a contemptible thing for the Government to appoint some of its members to high positions.
– I rise to a point of order. I want to know what connexion there is between this Bill and the question of State appointmaits in the Northern Territory and the legal Departments of another Government?
– I understand that the honorable senator was endeavouring, of intended, to lead up to something in connexion with the Bill as an example of the danger of leaving the power of appoint-: ment in the hands of the Government, without mentioning in Parliament the officer to be appointed. It arose out of a re-; mark made in that way, but, unless the honorable senator intends to connect his observations with the Bill, he certainly is not in order in making an attack upon the. gentleman he mentioned.
– I have no desire to depart from the Bill. ‘ In my opinion, I have not departed for a moment from my argument, and that is that the Parliament should take it out of the power of a Government to act as that Government did.
– Whom did Mr. Priceappoint as Agent-General?
– It is most difficult, sir, for me, who am unaccustomed to interruptions, to proceed.
– It is said that the honorable senator dare not answer that Question.
– Order ! I ask honorable senators not to make interjections, which are calculated to take the speaker off the track.
– I ask Senator Vardon to state the question plainly.
– Whom did Mr. Price appoint as Agent-General ? Was it his own Chief Secretary?
- Mr. Price appointed his colleague, Mr. Thomas Kirkpatrick, while the House was in session -r but Mr. Jenkins, who’ was a colleague of the honorable senator, did what most persons called diplomatic, if not yankee,. dirty work.
– Whom did Mr. Price appoint as Director of Education?
– I am not here to defend the late Mr. Price.
– Was there not some nepotism about the appointment?
– When Mr. Price was removed from earth to. a higher sphere, the character he received, even from his enemies, excuses me from entering upon a defence of him in any form. I want to drive this thing home to Senator Millen.
– The honorable senator will drive us all home presently.
– I am astonished at the honorable senator remaining in his seat so long. It is very seldom that he does.
– This is my week of self-denial.
– When the honorable senator is on his feet, no one else can speak.
– I am not going to be blocked in that way. My remarks are pertinent. Every word I have saidis true.
– Will the honorable senator prove the contrary?
– Mr. Kirkpatrick was not appointed when the House was in session. It was in recess.
– That is a mere -quibble. Mr. Jenkins went away three months before the position of Agent-General was vacant, another colleague became a Judge, another went to the Northern Territory, and the honorable senator was the only member of that Ministry who was left.
– Again the honorable senator is not right.
– I do not wish to make any mistakes. I would impress upon the Government the necessity of allowing the Parliament to have a say in the appointment of the High Commissioner. If the Bill is passed, and an appointment is made while Parliament is sitting, the action of the Government can foe commented upon. I intend to be as bold as Senator Walker. I have heard the names of several gentlemen mentioned as suitable appointees. I intend to mention them here.
-Do not do that, please.
– I am not going to consult my colleagues. I take the responsibility of mentioning the names. The last, and the one that surprised me most, was that of Senator Sir Robert Best. The names of Sir John Forrest, Senator
Sir Josiah Symon, and the Right Honorable G. H. Reid were also mentioned. How remarkable that they are all Scotchmen. My countrymen come to the top every time.
– The honorable senator surely does not say that Senator Best is a Scotchman?
– Well, do not tell anybody, as he is no credit to us. I hope that in filling this position the Government will select the best man, irrespective of party. There was another matter to which I wished to refer, but the noise of honorable senators has pretty well driven it out of my mind. I have had a bad time in addressing the Senate. I have, however, the consolation that I have spoken from the heart, and I trust that the Government will appoint a man who will grace the position. No doubt Senator Millen will remember that my suggestion was considered worth something, when it related “to the selection of a Federal Capital site. On this occasion, my suggestion is that- if the Government cannot appoint the Right Honorable G. H. Reid, a representative of New South Wales, let them appoint Senator Sir Josiah Symon, and South Australia will be for ever thankful.
– I am pleased that the Ministry have brought in this measure in time to be dealt with this session. I was rather disappointed to hear some honorable senators record their opinions against the appointment of a High Commissioner. I regretted to hear Senator Dobson say that there is no necessity for the Commonwealth to have such a representative in London. In view of the growth and importance of the Commonwealth, we cannot afford to remain much longer without having an authoritative mouthpiece to represent Australian interests whenever it is required. Apparently the opponents of this proposal want to keep the Commonwealth in knickerbockers, although it is developing on all sides. It has a Parliament and a High Court, and now it is to get an Inter-State Commission. It is very hard to understand the attitude of those who object to the appointment of a High Commissioner. I intend to vote for the second reading of the Bill, which, I hope will be carried. I am pleased that this officer is to be chosen while the Ministerial benches are graced by their present occupants. A famous feat of diplomacy was consummated recently in bringing together many divergent elements in politics, and it is fortunate for the Commonwealth to have in power a party which can supply an abundance of eligible men for this post. It is surprising that men holding directly opposite opinions should have been brought under one canopy. Some of them proclaimed their firm belief in the wisdom of having coloured labour.
– I ask the honorable senator how he intends to connect these remarks with the Bill.
– The way in which I intended to do so, sir, was by showing my enthusiasm at the fact that we have ‘in power a party which can supply so many budding diplomats to fill this position adequately, owing to the way in which the Fusion was brought about.
– The honorable senator cannot discuss the various opinions expressed by honorable senators on a matter which has nothing to do with the appointment of a High Commissioner. Although names have been mentioned, I do not consider that on this motion any criticism of individuals should be permitted.
– I did not mention any names, sir.
– I know that the honorable senator did not mention any names, but I thought he was leading up to that.
– The way in which I intended to connect my remarks with the subject before the Chair was by complimenting this Parliament - in fact, the people of this country - upon having a party which can supply so many eligible candidates for this position - a party which is a fusion of elements in politics, brought about by a subtlety and a diplomacy which, so far as my knowledge goes, have not been equalled. According to some authorities, one great qualification for the occupant of the position seems to be an ability to economize the truth for the good of his country. It has been said in the past that a diplomat’ was a man who could lie abroad most magnificently for the good of his country. I do not suggest that in that regard our representative will be well equipped. I believe that the main reason for appointing a High Commissioner is to get the public mind in the Old Country out of the false focus in which it has been regarding Australia and its affairs. In the past it has been too much the custom of persons who have drawn their incomes from Australia - who have been provided with food and raiment by this country - to slander it. I would vote for the immediate appointment of a High Commissioner, if it were for no other purpose than to protect Australia from some alleged Australians. My honorable friend, Senator St. Ledger, went so far as to select an outside critic who has striven to damage this country in the eyes of the world. He referred to Mr. Wilson, a financial critic in England; but he forgot to haul the beam out of the eyes of some who are amongst us. By way of emphasizing the need which exists for removing the false impression of Australia that has been created, I propose to read a letter which appeared in the Age quite recently, and which has been quoted to our disadvantage in London. The writer says -
In the leading pages of the Daily Mail in London the following appears : - “ Not a single Australian Government has made a success of its railways. They have always been nearly bankrupt and get deeper and deeper into the mire every year, besides which’ in some of the States they are years behind the times. If the lines were run by private companies with no general taxpayer to draw upon they would have been wound up years ago.”
These statements were originally made in the Pastoralists’ Review, a journal which is published in Melbourne. The same writer, in addressing the Age, says -
I have proof that this untruth has hurt Australian credit here, and as a crime against Australia and Australians it is necessary that the author of this slander should be punished.
I repeat that there is need for the appointment of a High Commissioner in London,, if for no other purpose than to correct such misrepresentations. As to the qualifications of the occupant of this distinguished office, I hold that we require to select a representative Australian - one who will give faithful expression to Australian aspirations and sentiment. Some people may be inclined’ to underrate the importance of that qualification; but my owns view is that in all our future transactions,, there will be two points of view from which any subject must be approached, namely, the Australian, and the Imperial. It is necessary that our High Commissioner should be imbued with Australian sentiment, and that he should not be too readily disposed to yield to the Imperial idea.
– The Imperial Parliament has never thwarted the desire of the Commonwealth by one iota.
– We have only to recall what took place at the Navigation Conference. There were two stand-points from which matters had to be viewed at that Conference. Even at the recent Imperial-
Defence Conference, it was necessary that the Australian view should be presented. Consequently, 1 hold that the High Commissioner should be a representative Australian in the fullest sense of the word. It may be argued that his duties will be so nicely defined that there will be no need for him to depart from the path which has been carved. out for him by one hair’s breadth. But, in enumerating the duties performed by the Canadian High Commissioner, the Vice-President of the Executive Council said that, “ in many cases, personal action .is necessary.” In those pregnant words, he indicated that a large amount of discretion must be vested in our High Commissioner. Consequently, it is necessary that we should select for the office a man who will give true expression to Australian aspirations. I think, too, that we should have a thorough financier, one who has made a study of finance, and who has proved himself to be more than an ordinary financial adept. We need also a keen business man, who will not only be able to oversee his subordinates, but also to supervise their work, and to point out when and where they have succeeded or failed in the discharge of their duties. Lastly, we require a person who will be a forceful and lucid exponent of his impressions in London and will command attention when he addresses a public audience. In my judgment these are the qualifications which our High Commissioner should possess. It has been urged that any selection which maybe made by the Government should have the approval of Parliament. That is a reasonable ‘ proposition. Of course, it may be argued that it is unusual to adopt the course suggested, and that those who favour it are underestimating the importance of Executive functions, But surely a line must be drawn between the appointment of the youngest officer in the Commonwealth service and an appointment to the highest position within the gift of the Government. We have the example of Canada to guide us in this connexion. When in 1880 the late Sir John Macdonald introduced into the Dominion Parliament a Bill authorizing the appointment of a High Commissioner he did not think it beneath his dignity or outside his duty to mention the name of the gentleman who had been selected for the office by his Government. He said -
Although it is not well to mix up personal questions with the consideration of the Bill it is known that Sir A. T. Gait has been selected to £11 the office.
I submit that the Government ought to emulate that example, and thus afford Parliament an opportunity of recording its approval or disapproval of their selection. They should tell us the name of the individual whom they intend to send to London as High Commissioner. I feel that the Senate has a special claim tobe consulted in this matter, seeing that it consists of thirty -six members in a Parliament whichis composed of in members. In other words, it has a membership of slightly less than a third of the entire Parliament, and yet it possesses only about one-fifth of the Executive power. I would further point out that in the United States the Senate is consulted in regard to the appointment of quite a number of officials. It has to approve of a great many appointments which are made by the President as Chief Executive Officer. For instance, the Inter- State Commissioners cannot be appointed by the President in the absence of the approval of the Senate. The same remark is applicable to the appointment of postmasters down to officers who are receiving not less than 1,000 dollars per annum. The Ambassadors to foreign countries are appointed in the same way. I feel, therefore, that this Chamber ought to be consulted in the appointment of a High Commissioner. The Bill provides that that officer may be recalled either by the Governor-General or upon an address being adopted by both Houses of this Parliament. Seeing that we have the power to recall the High Commissioner it seems to me logically to follow that we ought also to have the power to appoint him. The authority is vested in Parliament when, in its collective capacity, it considers that the occupant of this high office is not properly discharging his duties to recall him by a joint address to the Governor-General. By the very fact of that joint address being passed, the High Commissioner is recalled. I hold that it is a necessary corollary of the power of withdrawal that we should have a voice in the appointment. Later on, in Committee, I shall move to the effect that Parliament be afforded an opportunity of expressing its approval in the appointment of this officer. I have nothing to urge against the salary proposed to be paid. I believe that when we send a person to London to represent the Commonwealth, he should be thoroughly worthy. of his office, and we should be prepared to pay him an adequate salary commensurate with the duties he will have to discharge. . The salaries of managers of banking institutions, insurance companies, and even large mines, are far higher than that which it is proposed to pay to this official.
Some mining managers in Western Australia, according to reports, receive £2,500 a year, with, of course, the opportunity of making more by other means. When we appoint an officer to represent 4,000,000 people, and cast weighty responsibilities on his shoulders, expecting him to render faithful services to this Commonwealth, and to carry out important negotiations involving thousands of pounds, we shall be failing in our duty unless .we pay him adequately. If a movement is made to increase the salary, it will have my support, because 1 believe that we should have to represent us in London a person who will not have te draw on his private means to maintain his position. If we were to pare down the salary to such a figure that the High Commissioner had to spend money of his own, it would be most injurious to our interests.
– I could live on the salary proposed to be paid.
– I have no doubt that my honorable friend could. But I remind him that the High Commissioner, will have to occupy a position which will involve the expenditure of large sums in the discharge of his duties. When, in 1880, the first Canadian High Commissioner was appointed, the salary was fixed at $10,000 per annum. The amount has since been increased. I again express the hope that the Government will take Parliament into their confidence in some degree in selecting the High Commissioner, and that, at any rate, the man chosen to represent the Commonwealth will be one who will be worthy ofthe position, and who will make the office worthy of himself.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [9.0]. - I rather deprecate the introduction of a series of names in a discussion of this kind. Such a course is in the first place fatal to the proper consideration of the subject; and, in the next place, it is likely to open up a debate which would be largely, if not entirely, personal, and would at any rate divert attention from the main purpose of the Bill, which is to make provision for the selection of a suitable man for the highest position within the gift of the Commonwealth. I say this with every appreciation of what my honorable friend Senator W. Russell has said, with so much feeling and so much effect, and I quite believe that he spoke from the heart and was thoroughly sincere. I also think it is rather inadvisable, even by way of illustration, if it can be avoided, to introduce matters of past Executive action on the part of State Governments. These matters affect individuals who are not here to defend themselves. I feel quite sure that my honorable friend made his observations merely to illustrate the danger - as he would put it - of uncontrolled Executive appointment. But we must all recognise the fact that every Government is human, and that, however much the action of a Government may deserve criticism, still the tendency is to appoint to offices within its gift those who are more or less connected with itself ; or, at any rate, to see the virtues of those connected with it, rather than the virtues of others. So- much must, I think, be recognised, and therefore we gain nothing by recalling what has taken place in relation to various individuals whose affairs are not now in question. If a debate on a second reading of a Bill is to deal with principles, very little remains to be said on the present occasion, because every section of the Senate, every party in it, with trifling exceptions, is in favour of the measure. The purpose of the Bill is to make provision for the appointment of a direct and duly and worthily accredited representative of this Commonwealth of Australia at the Seat of the Imperial Government in London. Almost every one who has spoken has approved of that proposal. My object in rising is to say that my individual opinion has not changed from what it was during the Convention. It was always contemplated that there should be a High Commissioner. It seemed to me when the Constitution was drafted, and it seems to me still, that there should be due representation in London of this young nation of Australia, which entered upon its national career at the time of the inauguration of the Commonwealth. On every suitable occasion since then I myself have advocated the appointment of a High Commissioner. My only concern and regret is that the appointment was not made long ago. Senator Pulsford was, I think, a little hard on Senator Dobson.’ I listened to the speech of my honorable friend with very great interest. But it seemed to me that- as is not unusual with “ Senator Dobson - it was merely blank cartridge. He is accustomed to expend a good deal of that kind of ammunition. My honorable friend had no intention of dividing the Senate upon the Bill - not the slightest. Senator Pulsford has known my honorable friend long enough not to be surprised at anything of that kind which he does. At any rate, I am sure that, having delivered himself of that particular criticism - having fired his blank cartridge - he has no intention of seriously objecting to the appointment of a High Commissioner. I was very glad to hear what Senator Pearce said last week in vindication of Captain Collins. I interjected - perhaps irregularly - my assent to his view. I think we have been rather fortunate in having Captain Collins in the particular kind of office which he has filled. In my opinion, he has discharged his duties fairly well. We must remember that he has acted, and is still acting, under very great restrictions as to the sphere of his operations. What is even more important, he has acted under the difficulty of inadequacy of status. That is a very important matter. Every one acquainted either with diplomatic affairs in London, or with matters affecting Executive government, with which we in Australia are more immediately concerned, is aware that status is of the very highest importance; and inadequacy of status is fatal to any man, no matter what his qualifications may be, who represents this great Commonwealth in England.
– It cannot be said that Captain Collins has not tried to create a status for himself. .
– Perhaps it is true- that Captain Collins has tried to magnify his office. But the magnifying of his office could not be successful in the sense of giving him a status equivalent to that which, the High Commissioner will possess, i In fact, the things are not parallel at all. We must feel that he has been in a difficult position, and we ought to make allowance for him in that respect. He has had responsible things to do that were desirable in the interests of the Commonwealth, and in magnifying his position, as my honorable friend, Senator Clemons, says, he was probably actuated by a desire to be zealous, and energetic in the interests of Australia. There is one other thing I should like to say here. I think there is a good deal of misapprehension as to what is likely to follow the appointment of a High Commissioner in the direction of economies bv the State Governments. Senator Pulsford this afternoon put it as an answer to Sena tor Dobson’s pessimism that, following upon the . appointment of the High Commissioner, the Agent-General for Tasmania would be wiped out, his office closed, and the whole of the expense in connexion therewith saved to the State. If the honorable senator put that view forward other than as an illustration, as we are accustomed to say, I think he was’ too sanguine, because my belief is that the appointment of a High Commissioner will not be followed by the wiping out of the direct representatives of the States.
– I said it would be possible for the Tasmanian Government if it were found necessary to save expense, to abolish the Tasmanian representation.
– That is what I gathered from my honorable friend. I am not criticising what he said in any adverse spirit. I am venturing, with humility, merely to differ from him as to the effects in relation to the separate representation of the States, which are likely to follow ! he. appointment of a High Commissioner. I have a confession to make myself in connexion with this matter. Some years ago, I was of the opinion that the appointment of a High Commissioner should be deferred until we had, by negotiation, arranged with the State Governments for the merging of the State Agents-Generalships in the office of the High Commissioner.
– That is what I said.
– That is what I said.
– I feel as happy as the day is long in having the concurrence of my honorable friends Senators W. Russell and Dobson.
– Only they now hold the opinions which the honorable senator has discarded.
– That is the opinion I held some years ago, and that was held by the Reid-McLean Government. In unfolding, as well as I was able, the policy of that Government, I said that they intended to enter into negotiations with the State Government before introducing a High Commissioner Bill. I then thought that that was desirable; but i do not think so now ; ,and for this reason : In the first place, it would not be possible, before we pass this Bill, and actin the national interest, to approach the State Governments with any definite arrangement, or to come to any agreement with them on any definite plan of operation, that we might hope would be successful.
We should be unduly sanguine if we anticipated that we should be able to make an arrangement with the Governments of all of the States.
– We should not have the ghost of a show of doing so.
– My honorable friend puts it vigorously and more picturesquely than I could have done. In the next place, I think that economies in connexion with the offices of the State Agents-General in London will follow as a consequence of the appointment of a High Commissioner for the Commonwealth. If we secure, as we are all anxious to do, a man of common sense and skill in the management of such affairs, and in the opening up of avenues by which to attain the goal we all so much desire to attain, it will be found that his appointment will inevitably have the effect of, in the first place, reducing the status of the State Agents-General. There will ‘ then be no need for the payment of high salaries “ to persons filling those offices. The High Commissioner will represent the national interests. He will occupy a position which, in the eloquent language of Senator Pulsford, will be the real culmination, of our appearance at the seat of Empire as a nation. If we are to enter upon that path of nationhood to which we aspire, and which we believe we have entered upon, and intend to tread, I hope, through generations yet unborn, it is absolutely necessary that we should have some one to represent us 12,000 miles away at the seat of the Empire. The moment we place our representative in London, with all the prestige of the wealth, prosperity, and patriotism, of this great Commonwealth behind him, that moment the glamour, so to speak, of the Agents-General must disappear. There cannot be two suns in the firmament. That is one way in which the appointment may be of great advantage to the State Governments. It will not be merely a stimulus to, but an occasion of, economy on their part. Then the diplomatic functions of the Agents- General must be very considerably curtailed, if they do not disappear altogether, upon the appointment of a High Commissioner. It would be absurd in the extreme 10 have some one representing the national interests and power for diplomatic purposes, and at the same time to have State representatives, perhaps, pulling a different way. That would be intolerable. My belief is that we must always have representatives from the different States in order to push special State commercial and producing interests, and to watch over those matters which iti would be impossible for a High Commissioner to attend to.
– General business agents.
– Just so. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council is not thinking that I am dealing with the Bill adversely. It seems to be contemplated that our High Commissioner will be able to act for the different States in connexion with their conflicting commercial and producing interests, and their interests in connexion with their lands and immigration, but I think that will be found to be impossible.
– The clause to which the honorable senator refers does not contemplate that, but merely that some special services might be performed through the High Commissioner on behalf of the States.
– I thought the provision was more elastic. I am glad to hear the honorable senator say that what I have suggested is not comtemplated. I am sure that I am right in saying that, much as we might desire or hope for absolute harmony between the different States in Great Britain, it is not possible, in view of their special material interests, because each is engaged, so to speak, in a separate business. If the State AgentsGeneral disappear, or if their functions and status are reduced, the way will be open to the State Governments to exercise important economies. Further than that, what I should like to see, and what I always contemplated myself, is that we might be able to house the separate representatives of the States under the Commonwealth roof in London.
– I agree with the honorable senator, so far as the representatives of the smaller States are concerned ; but the Agents-General of the larger States will die hard.
– They will die hard ; but they will die. I have been there, as Senator Dobson has been. I was in London twice in the last few years ; and I can say that the anticipation was already growing there that there was to be a change in the position held by the Agents-General, and in the status of those officers.
– Because we have been talking about it for five years.
– It is gradually entering what some people may. think the rather slow minds “of the authorities in the Old Country. I am reminded that Senator Dobson has. been talking against it for seven years; but we shall draw a veil over that. The honorable senator’s last speech on the subject may be regarded as a valedictory utterance, and no doubt he will now advocate the views I have submitted for his consideration.
– What about delaying the appointment of a High Commissioner until the State debts are taken over bv the Commonwealth?
– That is a matter which deserves consideration ; but the interjection reminds me of another rather curious emanation from Tasmania, in the speech delivered by Senator Mulcahy. That honorable senator said he was in favour of the Bill; but he- made it a condition that the financial agreement, in which Tasmanian representatives take so much interest, shall be passed. The honorable senator said that if it was not passed he would have to reconsider his. position. That is about the strangest attitude towards this measure which any honorable senator could adopt.
– There is a great deal of force in what Senator Mulcahy said, because in Tasmania we could not get along with a smaller contribution towards our revenue than 25s. per head of our population.
– According to present appearances, I apprehend that the High Commissioner Bill is likely to be passed through this Parliament before the other measure referred to reaches the Senate. I am not a prophet in these matters, as I am not familiar with their management in another place. I am quite sure that the Governments of most of the States - though perhaps the Governments of the larger States may not take action immediately - will welcome the opportunity afforded by the passage of this Bill, and the appointment of a High Commissioner, to enable them to bring about reductions in expenditure in fulfilment of the obligations which rest upon them. I should like to invite Senator Millen’s attention to a modification of clause 5, which I think would be useful. It seems to me that it is very inadvisable that this high national functionary should, even in appearance, be required to act “ at the request of the Governments of the several States.” It is true that the clause begins with the words “Subject’ to the consent of the Governor-
General “ ; but it is put as if he acted upon requests directed to him by the Governments of the States. I wish to suggest a change in the wording of the clause, which would carry out the same purpose, without bringing, even in appearance, the High Commissioner into communication with the States, having requests addressed to him, and he having probably to obtain the consent of the Governor-General through his own Government. What I suggest is that my honorable friend should eliminate the words “ Subject to the! consent of the Governor-General,” and the words “ at the request of the Governments of the several States “ and insert the words “ if arid as required by the Governor-General.”
– Then the States would have to move the Governor-General.
– Exactly ; it must be done through the Government of the Commonwealth.
– That would mean an arrangement between the States and the Federal Government.
– That is so. This provision as it stands might lead to requests being addressed to the High Commissioner in London, and he would inevitably have to cable or write for the consent of the Government here. Every communication and every request to him to act in the interest of a State should be made to the Executive Government of the Commonwealth. Suppose that on some matter of high public interest the Government of Victoria wishes to have the services of the High Commissioner. Under my proposal they would communicate at once with the Federal Government who would obtain the authority of the Governor-General, and the thing would be done. My honorable friend will see, I think, that that would be not merely an improvement in form, but an improvement in substance, and at the same time it would carry out the intention of the Government.
– Why not leave it to the Minister instead of to the Executive Council ?
– The matter is too important to be left to the Minister. Of course, every member of the present Ministry is a strong man, but by chance we might have a weak Minister, and he might do something which would be a little out of place. It is much Better that the Minister should go through the formality of getting the authority of the Governor-General, which really means the Executive Council, before the High Commissioner acts upon it.
– Sometimes that will mean considerable delay.
– I do not think so. At any rate it can be modified if thought desirable. Of course, one can imagine a position of things in which the interests of the States would be in conflict. That would also have to be carefully considered, and the Executive Council is the’ proper authority to advise the Governor-General in a matter of that kind. I ask my honorable friend whether the last words might not be altered or, perhaps, eliminated, and shall perform the same without discrimination or preference, or to the advantage or disadvantage of any State as regards another State.
If it were a matter in which it was possible that the interests of the States would conflict I apprehend that the Government of the day would not allow the High Commissioner to act.
– Anyhow, the words “without discrimination or preference” appear to me to be sufficiently wide.
– I think so. Of course, the phrase ‘ ‘ without discrimination “ is a little ambiguous ; I imagine that he would not act without discrimination. It would be better to use the words “and in performing the same shall not discriminate between States or prefer one State to another.” That alteration 1 suggest to the Minister for consideration. I agree with him that that is quite enough to give effect to the intention embodied in the earlier words without putting in the words “advantage or disadvantage.” Of course, in a measure of high policy, and in connexion with an appointment of high national importance, it would be a little invidious to set out that so high a functionary as he would be should act impartially and so as not to prefer one State to another. In a measure under which Judges are to be appointed we do not say that a Judge shall act impartially.
– It seems to me that the clause might very well stop at the word “ States.”
– I agree with my honorable friend. I believe that every one of us is agreedthat the High Commissioner will be a great functionary. If he is to be appointed under an Act its language should conform to the dignity of the position, and the duties which we would expect the worthiest man to discharge. 1 am sure that the Minister will find it better to eliminate all the words after “States.” Some reference has been made to the question of remuneration. I think that the Government have done well in adhering to the proposed salary of £3,000. It ought to be remembered that the United States Ambassador receives £3,500 a year.I do not know whether the salary of the Canadian High Commissioner has been increased, but I do not think it is more than £3,000 or £3,500.
– Do they not allow more for expenses?
– I think not.
– They allow less.
– There is a good deal of misapprehension prevailing about that matter. Whilst I think, as we all should think, that an officer of this kind ought to be paid at the highest possible rate which is reasonable and proper we ought to have some regard to the remuneration which is given to corresponding officers. Mr. Whitelaw Reid, the present United States Ambassador at the Court of St. James, is a man of great wealth, but his predecessors - Mr. Russell Lowell, Mr. Bayard, and others - were not; they were literary men of great distinction, but not wealthy men. Mr. Choate, the immediate predecessor of Mr. Whitelaw Reid, may have been well off-, but I doubt if he could be called a wealthy man. Of course, that may, or may not, be a consideration, but we ought not to be carried away by too great enthusiasm or extravagance in connexion with the amount of the salary and allowances, because that is a matter which can afterwards be remedied if necessary. In reply to Senator Lynch, I wish to say that the Canadian, representative has not always been a millionaire like the present . distinguished and greatly revered Lord Strathcona. But he has been fairly well paid. I allude to, for example, Sir Charles Tupper and Sir Alexander Galt. I dare say that the Government have fully weighed the provision which they have made for the High Commissioner, and that we shall hear what myhonorable friend’s views on it are. These are the only points which I desired to refer to. I think that every honorable senator is in favour of an appointment being made. Consideration may be urged in regard to submitting to Parliament the name of the person to be appointed, and so on. I have regretted, in connexion with many matters, that the Senate has not the same share in the Executive and controlling power as the Senate of the United States possesses over appointments of various kinds, and the ratification of treaties. That is one of the weak points in our Senate. Of course, we cannot have everything. For one thing we have a more democratic basis, which is very precious to us, than has the Senate of America. In consequence of that probably, and because the sentiment of Australia was against it, we have not the same Executive functions as the Senate of America. But it is of no use, so to speak, to cry over spilt milk. We have not the pow;er, and it is idle to lament that we cannot exercise it. Therefore, the conditions under which we consider the Bill are very different from those which would have existed if the Senate had been placed on exactly the same footing, and endowed with the same functions and powers, as the Senate of the United States, a very distinguished and powerful body. But such powers as we have we can exercise, and we shall be doing credit to ourselves and to the Parliament of Australia in carrying out one of the necessities of the initiation of our national existence, and of securing the representation of our nationhood, prospects, and aspirations at the seat of the Empire in London.
– I do not suppose that any man could offer a reasonable objection to the appointment of a High Commissioner representing Australia at the seat of the Empire, but I think that there are other matters to be considered in this connexion, seeing that the people will have to foot the bill. I agree with some previous speakers that before proposing the appointment of a High Commissioner, the Government might very well have attempted to make some arrangement with the States as regards their Agents- General. Senator Symon seems to think that if the Commonwealth makes an appointment the States must inevitably cut down their Departments, but I do not think that we ought to proceed on the assumption that the States will do anything. Before introducing this Bill the Government ought to have ascertained what the States intended to do. Lately, in Melbourne, the Federal and State Governments had a meeting, at which a number of questions were discussed behind the backs of the people.
– How does the Honorable senator know that?
– We have no tangible evidence of the fact that they ever met except the production of an agreement which was said to have been arrived at in some fashion or form, but of which we have no real or substantial proof. In any case, we ought to have some consideration for the purses of the taxpayers. I do not know whether honorable senators are aware of the fact that Australia is now paying close upon £50,000 a year for representation in London. If a High Commissioner is appointed at a total cost of £5,000 a year, and with a huge staff the office will probably cost £25,000 a year, making a total annual payment of ,£75,000 for the representation of Australia in London. That may not be a very large sum to some persons ; but it appears to me that we ought to hesitate before piling more and more burdens upon the taxpayers, I had not the good fortune to hear the speech which was delivered by ‘ the VicePresident of the Executive Council in introducing this Bill. I do not know whether he referred to the Agents-General, but I arn of opinion that some definite statement in this connexion ought to be obtained from the various States before the Commonwealth proceeds to appoint a High Commissioner. I do not suggest for a moment that we ought not to appoint a High Commissioner, but I do say that in the interests of the general taxpayer we ought to see that officials are not duplicated, and that unnecessary expenditure is not piled up either here or elsewhere. Some honorable senators are very sanguine as to what the States will do after the High Commissioner has been appointed. I do not share that feeling. Hitherto the office of Agent-General has been regarded by the States as a sort of escape-door for politicians who have outlived their usefulness. If we look up the names of the various Agents-General we shall find that in almost every instance they are discredited politicians for whom it was desirable to find some way of escape.
– Do not be too hard upon them.
– The Agent-General for New South Wales has never been a politician.
– At any rate, that is what has happened in the case of a large number of the States, and appearances point to a repetition of that condition of affairs. The Commonwealth, therefore, ought to insist upon the States entering into some arrangement with it before the High Commissioner is appointed. That is a duty which absolutely devolves upon the Government. It may be urged that we have nothing whatever to do with the States. But we have. When I, as a representative of one of the States, appear before my constituents, I am twitted with the enormous expenditure of the Commonwealth, and the various State Governments are never tired of telling the people what a huge expenditure Federation has fastened upon them. But here is a matter in connexion with which the Commonwealth ought to make some definite arrangement with the States. Have the Government made any attempt in that direction ? I do not think that they have. If they have not, they have absolutely failed in their duty to the Commonwealth. Quite recently, at that series of meetings which were held behind bolted and barred doors by candle light-
– Surely the honorable senator does not object to that?
– I do not believe in the business of this continent being conducted in secret. This is not a Russiandespotism. It is supposed to be a free country in which public affairs are discussed in the presence of press reporters, and of anybody else who may desire to attend.
– I thought that the honorable senator’s party prided themselves upon their caucus.
– The honorable senator does not seem to recognise the difference between a caucus which is composed of the members of a party who meet together for the purpose of arranging the way in which they will conduct their business, and a caucus of men who are supposed to represent the people of Australia. That is his misfortune, if it be not his fault, and I cannot help him. The assembly to which I was alluding met to make arrangements ‘in regard to certain matters in which both the Commonwealth and the States were concerned, and the subject which we are now discussing is one which ought certainly to have come before it. But the Government have not intimated that the matter was ever thought of. I suppose that they were too busy making arrangements in regard to the coming elections to entertain any thought of the people of the Commonwealth. Now, they coolly propose an added expenditure of probably £[25,000 per annum, without intimating to the Senate whether an arrangement has been arrived at with the States on the subject of their Agents-General. It is absolutely necessary that some such arrangement should be arrived at. I find that Victoria spends £[5,000 on her Agent-General’s office, South Australia £[1,200 - a very modest sum - New South Wales £27,345, Western Australia £4,146, and Queensland £[8,83-2. I have not been able to ascertain how much is expended by Tasmania. Probably if Senator Dobson were present, he could supply me with the information.
– Tasmania spends about £[1,400.
– The gross amount that is already being paid by Australia; for representation in London approximates very closely to £[50,000 per annum. I think that that is too much. We are paying too dearly for our whistle. The AgentsGeneral and their clerks are probably engaged in twiddling their thumbs most of their time in London. The number of immigrants who come to Australia each year is comparatively small, and the information which they can obtain at the offices of the Agents-General is, I am informed, of the most meagre character. In fact, the impression which has been conveyed to the minds of a great many persons who have called there is that the only worry of the officials has reference to the drawing of their salaries, and that, so far as promoting the interests of Australia are concerned, they are absolutely indifferent. When we appoint a High Commissioner, we ought to appoint some person who will be useful to the Commonwealth. I heard one honorable senator declare that a sort of ambassador was necessary, another held that the services. of a diplomat were required, whilst a third maintained that a man possessed of high business qualifications and great financial knowledge should be’ selected. If the statements of these honorable senators are to be credited, we require to choose an individual who is possessed of all the virtues - an all round genius - a sort of “ inquire within “ upon everything. I do not think that we are likely to get a representative of that type. What we require to ascertain is the kind of man’ who is really needed for the position. Other honorable senators may waste their energies in attempting to arrive at a conclusion in that connexion, but I have no such intention. All this talk is so much pretence, seeing that the individual who is to be appointed High Commissioner has- already been selected. Consequently, his qualifications, or lack of qualifications, do not matter.
– The secret has been kept very snugly then.
– It has not been kept snugly at all. The position is open to anybody to see. We are going to have another political appointment - another gate is to be opened to a politician who, if he is not discredited, is at least disappointed. I should be very much surprised if my forecast should prove inaccurate. Any attempt, therefore, to define what ought to be the qualifications of the occupant of this distinguished office represents wasted energy. The High Commissioner is to be chosen for political reasons only.
– We do not yet know who is to be appointed.
– The innocence of the honorable senator is really remarkable. He is one of the most innocent men who ever trod the earth. If he cared to let us know exactly what is his information upon the subject, 1 am not very sure that he could not give a shrewd guess as to who the High Commissioner will be.
– It will not be a member of the Senate, so far as I can gather.
– There is no honorable senator of whom we are particularly anxious to be rid. I agree with several honorable senators who have urged that Parliament ought to have some voice in the appointment of this high official, and that the matter should not be left entirely to the Executive. If the appointment were made by Parliament, it would be much more likely to be a truly representative one. The average man does not feel that he is under any obligation whatever to particular individuals, and he would be more likely to agree to an efficient appointment than would members of the Executive, who might feel under an obligation to those individuals. But I have no hope that the Executive will give up its prerogative. Neither have I any hope that the Senate or House of Representatives will insist upon a voice in the appointment. That being the case, I suppose that we must allow the Government to appoint whoever they please, reserving to ourselves the empty right to criticise afterwards. The only point on which I wish to insist is as to what is going to be done about the State AgentsGeneral? I have said that last year Australia spent about £50,000. Looking again at my notes, I find that a great deal more was spent. Victoria spent nearly £20,000 on works, bringing the total up to £70,000. The probability is that if all the expenditure incurred in one way and another - Commonwealth and Statewere counted, we should find that it amounted, last year, to close on £100,000.
– Upon what kind of work did Victoria spend money?
– She is building an office in London. I believe that Queensland also has been negotiating for a piece of land upon which to build. The Commonwealth has likewise been trying to buy a site.
– Victoria has an agent in the East, and another in South Africa. Are their expenses included in the amount mentioned by the honorable member?
– No; the sum I have mentioned was spent on AgentsGeneral and their offices. These facts show that we are already incurring a huge expenditure on representation in London. On top of that it is proposed to appoint a High Commissioner. As I said at the beginning, I have no objection to an appointment of this character, because I admit at once that.it is necessary that Australia should be represented in London. But is it necessary that each State should also be represented?
– Is not that an argument that should be addressed to the States ?
– I thought that the honorable senator would put that question. I have not an opportunity of addressing an argument to the States. He has. A short time ago, his Government was conferring with certain gentlemen who probably may themselves be AgentsGeneral in the near future. Did he, or any member of the Government, suggest to them that, in view of the appointment of a High Commissioner, they, might very, well reduce their London expenditure? As far as I have heard, such a sensible idea never entered the brain of any Commonwealth Minister.
– The honorable senator is about four years behind the times.
– I am glad to learn that I am no further behind the times than that. The Minister is 400 years behind the times. He -ought to have been living somewhere about the Middle Ages. He would be much more in harmony with the surroundings of that period than with those of to-day. In the fifteenth century, or thereabouts, there was, in Venice-, a secret Council of Ten. We have had a revival of such an institution within this country within the last month or two.
– There were thirtyfour persons at the Conference, according to the photograph.
– Most of them were merely understrappers. The principal persons were the Premiers and the Commonwealth Ministers. In their persons we had a throw back to the conditions of about 500 years ago.
– They were not on the same basis as the Council ‘of Ten in Venice.
– Not exactly, but that was not their fault. They would have been glad, so far as I have been able to discover, to do the business of this country without consulting the people. But they dare not do anything of. the kind, and therefore had to make a virtue of necessity. But they tried to do as much Commonwealth business as they could without letting the people know how they did it.
– I hope the honorable senator is going to connect these remarks with the Bill.
– I have been returned here to look after the interests of Queensland. What I have been saying comes within the scope of a measure for the appointment of a High Commissioner. I am quite within my rights in asking the Government whether it is attempting to come to any arrangement with the States in regard to the Agenis-General,or whether those officers are to be allowed to remain as a sort of “ get out “ for discredited Australian politicians ?
– It is a comfort there are so few of them.
– There are more than the people of Australia can afford; though they may be fewer than the discredited politicians themselves desire. I have no doubt the politicians would be glad if the available offices were multiplied tenfold. Let us all have a “get out.” Some of us may need one before long. But while we are here we ought to have some consideration for the already very much overburdened taxpayer. Canada has been mentioned. I have heard that the whole of the business of- the Canadian Federation in London is conducted in the office of Lord Strathcona. If that be the case, why cannot the business of Australia be conducted in a similar fashion?
– Canada has in addition offices in many large towns in England.
– They are not offices of the Agent-General. They are, I believe, under the direction and control of Lord Strathcona.
– That is not so.
– Is the honorable senator sure?
– I was under the impression that Lord Strathcona was the only direct representative of Canada in Europe.
– He is the only representative in the sense the honorable senator means, but the Agents in the provincial’ towns are some of them independent of him, and work directly under the Ministers in Canada.
– Has Lord Strathcona. no control over them?
– No direct control.
– That is not in accordance1 with my impression.I, wish I had had more time to look into the subject; but even if Canada does that kind of thing - and it is news to me that she does - I do not see why Australia should adopt) an unnecessary system. There is no reason why we should duplicate officials when we can have one big office in London where we can conduct the whole . of the business of the Commonwealth. I think the Federal Government ought to bring influence to bear upon the States to get them to cut down their expenditure ; because, after all, the money for this representation in London must come out of the pockets of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. I consider that £100,000 per year is altogether too much to spend in that direction.
– How does the honorable senator arrive at £100,000 per annum ?
– We are already spending . £50,000.
– Where does the honorable senator get that fact from ?
– From the estimates of the various States.
– The official figures before me are different.
– Last year the estimates of the States showed an expenditure in this direction of £46,000.
– Included in that amount are charges in connexion with the handling of some of the debts. They are not charges which can be fairly debited against the London offices.
– I am npt sure about that. I reckon that the total annual expenditure of the various States on their “London offices .is about’ £50,000, without including the sum voted by the Parliament of Victoria for the erection of offices. In addition, as the honorable senator knows, the Commonwealth has been negotiating for a site in London which has cost a considerable sum. We have also a representative there who has to be paid. There is a Commonwealth office which costs money. So that the total expenditure, I believe, during the past year comes within easy reach of £100,000. On the top of that we propose to create a new office which is estimated to cost at the very least £4,000 per year. Senator Symon laid stress upon the desirableness of maintaining the dignity of the office in London.- For my own part, I do not see the necessity for keeping up dignity. If it is necessary that our representative there should live in state, and that we should appear great as reflected through him, the States should be called upon at once to cut down their’ expenditure ; because, if we are going to keep up the dignity that has been referred to, a very, large proportion of £100,000 will .be required to do it. I do not see, however, why we should, lay such great stress upon dignity. What we want in London, as far as I can discover, is a man who will effectively represent Australia, who will tell the people the real truth about the country, and will neither exaggerate nor err in the opposite direction. It will be extremely difficult to find a man of that description. In any case, I suppose we must be contented with whatever appointment the Government, make, and must await the development of events. I intend to vote for the second reading of the Sill, but I should like to have some assurance from the VicePresident of the Executive Council that- an attempt, has been made to arrange with the various State Governments to cut down the expenditure on their representation in London. I should also very much like, if the Government could see their way to agree to it, that the Senate and this Parliament generally should have some voice in the appointment of the person .who is to fill this office.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gray) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Millen) read a first time.
Senate adjourned at 10.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 October 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19091006_senate_3_52/>.