6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister of Defence yet received a report of the finding of the court which was held at Brisbane into the alleged mutiny of firemen on board the troopship Kanowna, and, if so, will he lay a copy on the table of the Senate?
– I have received the report, and will be pleased to lay on thetable of the Senate a copy of the finding, and also my decision thereon.
– A little time ago I asked the Minister of. Defence- a question relative to the number of wireless stationswhich had been dismantled in accordancewith certain instructions issued by his or the Postal Department ? He did’ not have the information in his possession then, and I desire to know if he can make it available now ?
– I have the information, and also the further information which Senator Millen asked for on the same subject -
The number of holders of wireless apparatus whose apparatus . has been dismantled by the authority of the Defence Department, or in pursuance of orders issued- by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department at the request of the Defence Department, since the commencement of the war is -
– I do not know, sir, if I will be in order in bringing under your notice a matter which I think deserves attention, and that, is the lighting of the chamber. We meet here in the daytime under what seem to me very unnatural conditions regarding light.
– Order! I remind the honorable senator that the businessbefore the- Senate at this stage is the asking of questions without notice.
– He is seeking light, sir.
– The honorable senator may ask me a question, but he must not argue the matter. I would point out to him that a far better opportunity for discussing a question like that is afforded on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate.
– I thank you, sir, for the suggestion, and will take that opportunity.
The PRESIDENT announced that he had received from Senator Millen a notice that he desired to move the adjournment of the Senate in order to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the alleged irregularities in connexion with Red Cross goods despatched to Rabaul, and matters incidental thereto.”
Four honorable senators having risen in their places,
– In conformity with that notice, sir, I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until eleven a.m. to-morrow.
I experience some measure of regret at having to bring before the Senate any matter’ which may, on the face of it, appear somewhat in the nature of a criticism of what is taking place in connexion with our military operations. I recognise that any member of this, or any other Parliament, is necessarily under an incentive to restrain himself, as far as possible, from bringing before public attention any matters of complaint. But I feel that I would be acting the part of the ostrich if attention was not drawn by me to facts which have been made public. I propose to make no accusations against anybody. It is my simple business to place before the Senate, and the Minister, some facts, and to direct attention to the conflict between certain definite statements, with the view to asking him, in the interest of all concerned, to probe the matter to the bottom. It seems to me first that the honour of our troops is concerned. In. addition to that, the enthusiasm of Red Cross workers may bo affected if these statements are allowed to pass unnoticed. The history of this case may be stated very briefly^ and I will rely entirely upon matter which has appeared in the newspapers, and in an official report to the Minister by Colonel
Holmes, for the statements I am about’ to place before the Senate. On the 7th December last the Sydney Sun published an article headed, “Shopping in Rabaul. Soldier’s Experience. Presents Sold.’r The portion of the article which is relevant to the matter under discussion reads -
By the last mail from Rabaul, Mrs. A. Campbell, of Randwick, received a letter from her eon in which was a piece of news calculated) to damp the ardour of the Red Cross workers. Mr. Campbell stated in his letter “to his mother that he and a mate went into the English store at Rabaul and bought two sets or pyjamas, for which they paid lis. 6d. each. After taking them home they examined them, and found in the pockets notes from the ladies who had evidently made thorn. One was signed by a Miss Simpson, of Vaucluse, and the other was from a Mrs. Dalton, of North Sydney, and the purport of the notes was to wish the. receiver of the pyjamas the best of luck and every good wish in his undertaking.
The existence of the notes in the pockets led the boys to believe that the pyjamas were Red Cross goods which had been sold them,, as it has been quite a’ custom for ladies to pin little notes and cards andsprigs of wattle in the pockets of pyjamas they sent to the Red Cross Society.
That statement, I need hardly tell honorable senators, caused some apprehension in Red Cross circles in Sydney, and1 generally there was a little uneasy feeling as a consequence of that very definitestatement. I must assume from what was published later that Colonel Holmes, either of his own volition, or at the instance or the Minister, made a report on this matter. In the report he gives the statement a very emphatic denial, but he goes on to say -
The -man referred to is Private R. B. Campbell, and he is writing the following letter tothe newspaper to correct the false report.
Here follows a copy of the letter which Campbell is alleged- to be sending to the: Sydney newspaper -
Be the article in the Sun, Monday, 7th December, in reference to certain articles whichwere sold to one of the members of the Expeditionary Force, you mentioned in your letter that the articles were purchased at an English store. As a matter of fact, the articles mentioned were purchased from another member of the Force privately, and whether the articles were sent from Sydney by the people mentioned to the person who sold them or not, I do not know ; but when this man, whom 1 happened to be with at the time, discovered the names of the ladies mentioned, he came to the conclusion that they must have been sent for the benefit of the troops, and I also came to the same conclusion. However, as you mention in your letter, the pyjamas may have gone astray, or may have been stolen while unloading, but I am not in a position to state my opinion.
The letter, if it had stopped at that, would practically have disposed of the question, but a few days ago the Sun came out with the astonishing statement that, not only had it not received that letter from Campbell, but that it had received a. letter from Campbell in which he denied ever having written such a letter. In his letter to the newspaper Campbell states that he had never written a letter to the Sun, and proceeds - » The pyjamas in question had been purchased by Private Jones while in my company - two suits for 23s. When he arrived at the garrison barracks he was admiring the suits, and discovered Red Cross tickets in the pocket by Mrs. Walton, of Mosman, and Miss Wilson, of Vaucluse. As far as writing to the paper is concerned, I never wrote the report. The only description of the affair was written to my mother, who was connected with Red Cross duties.
He goes on to another aspect of the case - As soon as the word came to hand that the report had drifted into publication, 1 was promptly sent for by the officer commanding troops, and asked what I meant by writing to the Sydney newspapers. I replied that I never wrote to the paper. After the discussion at the office I was ordered to pack up my traps and report to the officer commanding troops’ office at 2 p.m. This I did, and was promptly sent away on board. the s.s. Mecklong as ship’s guard to deliver, stores to various outlying islands.
T want to emphasize that statement.
– Is that Campbell’s statement ?
– This is his letter -to the Sun, published on the 1st May, and his reply to the report in which Colonel Holmes embodied a copy of a letter which he alleged had been sent by Campbell to the Sun. Campbell denies having written that letter, and practically reaffirms the original statement. To clear up one point as to where the articles were purchased, some little exception having been taken to the words “ English store,” he says -
The much-discussed pyjamas were purchased -at the dry canteen.
That locates the point of distribution very clearly -
If any- mess got the benefit of profits from this canteen I can only say it wasn’t the soldiers’. The troops were being fed on seven hardware biscuits and tea without sugar.
After I had been allowed to leave the Meeklong I bought a suit of pyjamas at the dry canteen myself, and paid 9s. for them. They did not have the Red Cross tickets in the pockets, but were initialed O.S.M.. which I took to be the initials of some Red Cross -worker.
What the initials O.S.M. stand for I do not know.
– Probably the initials of the worker.
– That is what the writer assumes, and it does appear to me not an unreasonable assumption. I have never seen any initials worked on any pyjamas I have purchased at a store in the ordinary course of events. It must strike honorable senators as little short of extraordinary that an officer, in the responsible position of Colonel Holmes, should write an official report to the Minister enclosing a copy of a letter which Campbell is alleged to have sent to the Sun, and that Campbell should deny ever having written such a letter.
– It is extraordinary?
– It is. I think T have said enough to show that there is such a conflict here between men whose names are given, and who are gat-at-able that, in the interests of not only the particular men, but of the comrades associated with them in the enterprise against the Germans, the whole of our Red Cross workers, and everything connected with our military operations, an inquiry should be held into this matter. I have no desire to labour the question, because I feel sure that I shall receive a sympathetic reply from the Minister, and one expressing his determination to sift it to the bottom. It is in that spirit that I leave the matter at this stage.
.- The Leader of the Opposition need make no apology for having brought this matter before the Senate. He mentioned it to me last night, and I think the facts that he has brought forward to-day will provide us with the connected story in a much better form than would the correspondence. All that the Department knows about the matter is that it was first raised by Mr. Burns upon a question in another place. After that question had been; asked, Colonel Holmes, who was then at Rabaul, was called upon for a report, a copy of the question being transmitted to him by wire. The following is the text of the telegram which was despatched to the Administrator on the 2Sth December last year -
Represented in Parliament that two members Expeditionary Force on duty Rabaul purchased two pairs pyjamas from local storekeeper, and found in each pair a note showing that pyjamas had been donated to Bed Cross League for men serving at front. Minister desires inquiries made how these articles got into hands of traders and report by wire.
I may say that the question put by Mr. Burns in another place did not allege that the pyjamas were bought at the dry canteen, but at the store.
– That is explainable by the fact that the report referred to them as having been purchased at the store.
– I have here the report of Colonel Holmes, which had apparently been drafted before our inquiry reached him, because it commences -
My attention has been drawn to a paragraph which appeared in a Sydney newspaper, the Sun, dated 7th December, alleging that certain garments which were forwarded by a Bed Cross Society in Australia for the use of hospital patients had been purchased at the English store at Rabaul by a man of the Force under my command. I immediately caused inquiries to be made into the matter, and find that the report in question has no foundation whatever in fact. The man referred to is Private R. B. Campbell, and ho is writing the following letter to the newspaper to correct the false report.
Then follows the letter which has been quoted by Senator Millen. Colonel Holmes thus reported that Private Camp- bell was writing that letter to the newspapers. The Colonel then proceeds -
Certain parcels of goods were received from the Red Cross Society, and went straight into the possession of the principal medical officer at the hospital, and have been used exclusively for the purpose for which they were sent.
None of these articles were broached on the voyage or before unloading. It may be that a. man who had received these whilst a patient in the hospital afterwards disposed of them, but I have been unable to ascertain whether this is so. Certainly the report as to the pyjamas having been purchased in an English store in Rabaul is quite wrong, as there is no English store in existence here, withthe exception of the Government Store under the control of my Supply Officer, and at this store nothing whatever is sold to the troops, and no pyjamas whatever have at any time been stored there.
I consider the report as published a serious reflection upon the honour of those under my command, and is also a damper on the efforts of those good ladies who are doing so much at home for the comfort of the troops on service. It is to be regretted that respectable newspapers should publish statements of this kind before they have first established their facts. I have no hesitation in saying that the’ accusation is entirely false. * ‘As’ Parliament had adjourned when that reply was received, a copy of it was for warded to Mr.. Burns on the 27th February last. Now, anybody reading that reply would come to the conclusion that it constituted a complete rebuttal of the charges that had been made. Nobody would ever dream that an officer of Colonel Holmes’ standing would deliberately say that Private Campbell was writing that letter to the press unless he had good reason for saying so. Yet we now have put before us the startling statement that Campbell denies ever having written such a letter to the Sun, and the allegation of the Sun that it has never received such a communication. I shall have a searching inquiry made into these statements. Colonel Holmes should be able to produce the letter, or, at any rate, the authority that he had for making the statement which he did. Both Colonel Holmes and Private Campbell are now in Sydney, so . that they are readily accessible. We shall do all that is possible to ascertaiu who is telling the truth in this matter. In regard to the statement that Campbell waspacked away in a transport - which seemsto imply that he was got out of the road - I say unhesitatingly that that also warrants inquiry, with a view to determiningwhether he was sent away at that time, and, if so, why. Of course, in all the ships despatched to the various islands, soldiers were sent, and it may be that the unit to which Campbell was attached wasone of those which were sent away.
– That can be easily determined by ascertaining whether the orders given to Campbell varied from those given to other men.
– Exactly. It can be very easily determined. I can assure the Senate that I shall ask Senator Millen to supply me with a proof of his remarks, and I shall then have an inquiry instituted into this matter.
– I merely desire to say that I have received from the Minister such a reply as I anticipated, in view of the definite statement which I made. I only wish to supplement what I have already said by directing attention to the possibility of confusion arising from the useof the two terms “ store “ and “ dry canteen.” Colonel Holmes, in his report, deals exclusively with the . supply store, from which he says no goods are sold to- the troops, whereas Private Campbell makes the definite statement that the pyjamas were purchased at the dry canteen. Having directed attention to the possibility of misunderstanding, owing to the confusion that might otherwise arise from the use of these two terms, I have no desire to say anything further. I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon, notice. -
Relative to the. inquiry recently made by the Minister in several of the States, as stated in the Argus newspaper of 27th ult., concerning the excessive slaughtering of female stock for export -
Did the inquiry extend to Tasmania?
If so, with what result?
If not. will be extend the inquiry to that State?
– The answers are : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will he institute inquiries as to the reasons which actuated the Deputy Postmaster-General in Tasmania in abolishing the motor tricars in Launceston, and reverting to horse vehicles for letter-clearing purposes? If the change is. made to secure savings in expense, will the Minister ascertain the full details of the anticipated savings, also what the Department intend doing with the discarded tricars, and lay particulars on the table of the Library?
– The answer is- - Yes.
asked the Minister of Defence, -upon notice -
– The answers are -
The total note issue to date;
the total amount of gold in Treasury?
– The answer is-.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the judgment of the High Court in connexion with the powers and constitutionality of the Inter-State Commission, the members of which are paid very high salaries, and’ the proceedings of which entail considerable expenditure, will he inform the Senate what’ the Government intend to do to make this expensive body much more useful to the Commonwealth than ithas been since its creation ?
– The answer is -
The Inter-State Commission is engaged’ upon work of a very great importance to the Commonwealth. The Government is satisfied that there will be no lack of important questions which may properly be referred for investigation by the Commission.
Motion (by Senator Needham) agreed to-
That one month’s leave of absence be granted to Senator Lynch, on account of urgent business.
Motion (by Senator Ready) agreed to-
That one. month’s leave of absence be granted- to Senator Maughan, on account of urgent’’ business.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Gardiner) read a first time.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I wish to make it clear to honorable senators that the measure is both urgent: and necessary, if certain crimes againstthe Commonwealth- are to be promptly1 dealt with. Last week the Senate passed the Judiciary Bill, and in the early part of the session it agreed to a Bill dealing with crimes against the Commonwealth. The Judiciary Bill vested the High Court with jurisdiction to deal with criminal cases for the Commonwealth. The principal portion of the measure which is now before us is clause 2, which seeks to amend section 68 of the Crimes Act 1914. At the present time, offenders may be tried by State law for conspiracy against the Commonwealth. But, in the legislation which we have enacted empowering the High Court to deal with criminal cases, offenders conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth cannot be tried by that Court in accordance with the powers which have already been conferred upon it. This is a simple measure which seeks to remedy that defect.
– Will this deal with contractors who put in bad material?
– This provision will enable us to deal with them. That is one of the reasons for the urgency of the measure. Under the State law at present such contractors can be prosecuted, but it is urgent that power should be given to the High Court to deal with matters of the kind as crimes against the Commonwealth.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - The Bill is limited for a period of six months after the war, so that it will apply to nobody but war contractors.
– That is so.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - There will be no method of dealing with any one else who defrauds the Commonwealth.
– They can be still dealt with by the State Courts. We are not dating back any offences by the Bill. We are simply putting the Commonwealth into the same position that the States are in with regard to the trial of criminal cases.
– It seems extraordinary that the High Court should not have the powers proposed to be given to’ it. It is a mere waste of time to pass legislation giving them that power, and then to limit it. The High Court jurisdiction should not be limited in this regard to conspiracy cases. Senator Gould put his finger on the weakness of the Bill when he pointed out by interjection that it will cover only offences arising out of the war. Now that we are legislating in the matter, why not give the High Court full powers to deal with all criminal casesagainst the Commonwealth, whether connected with the war or nott
– To introduce thebroader question might cause a great deal of discussion.
– There may besomething in that, but it seems a strangeomission in the original Act that it did; not empower the High Court to dea] with all important cases of this kind, no matter when they crop up. It is only right that the High Court, which is supposed to be the highest Court in Australia, should have power to deal with all crimes of this kind arising in peaceor war. I hope the Government will1 consider the desirableness of extending its jurisdiction on those lines.
”. - The measure could have been discussed’ entirely on its merits, apart from any reference to the Judiciary Act, although I do not object to the Minister’s remarks regarding that Act. Last year we passed the Crimes Act. enumeratinga number of crimes against the Commonwealth, and these became at oncestatutory crimes against the Commonwealth. Last week we passed an amending Judiciary Act, and until we passed it the High Court had no criminal jurisdiction. By that measure we invested it with criminal jurisdiction. We went further by making it competent for the Court to deal upon indictment or information with alleged crimes against, the Commonwealth law. We went further, still, by providing that proceedings could be taken in theHigh Court in cases of such information or indictment direct, without the intervention of any preliminary inquiry before justices. Until we passed that Act, any prosecution for an offense under the Crimes Act of last year had to take place in the Supreme Court of the State; but before it reached that Court there had to be a preliminary inquiry before justices who were competent to dismiss the charge or commit the accused for trial. If committed, he was charged before a Judge of the Supreme Court of a State and jury. Last week . we made it competent for a Judge of the High Court and jury to dea] with such offences, and further provided that, in -; order to expedite the”se matters, there should be no need for a preliminary inquiry before justices. During the discussion on the Judiciary Bill some honorable senators strongly urged that it should be limited to matters arising out of the war. Fortunately, the Senate did not agree to that, because it would be difficult to construe in all cases what did or did not “ arise out of the war;” but the Government made the Bill operative during the period of the war, and for six months afterwards. Before that period elapses, it will be competent for us to review the whole question of the jurisdiction of the High Court in criminal matters. By this Bill we are really adding one to the list of crimes enumerated in the Crimes Act passed last year, since which we invested the High Court with criminal jurisdiction, and made it the first and only resort without preliminary inquiry. That was rather a radical departure from the established principles of criminal jurisprudence, although there is in the States, in certain cases, the power to commit direct by grand jury. The Government rightly decided to restrict the operation of the Bill to the war and six months afterwards.
– Simply because courts martial were included ; they are not included in this Bill.
– I have followed the progress of the judiciary measure very closely through both Chambers, and one of the reasons why it was limited in its period of operation was that it contained that very important clause, which Mr. Glynn and others dealt with, abolishing the preliminary inquiry before justices. It should be competent for us, before the end of the war, to review the position of the High Court in relation to its criminal jurisdiction, and decide whether we shall invest it with such jurisdiction permanently, and also whether criminal proceedings in that Court shall be permanently surrounded with the directness that will now characterize them. The High Court is a very busy Court. No one can charge it with dilatoriness or indisposition to grapple with the large amount of civil appellate work that it has always on hand. If we are to invest it permanently with criminal jurisdiction, we shall have to strengthen it numerically very considerably. It is practically the only Federal
Court in Australia. In the United States of America there are dozens and dozens of Courts exercising nothing but Federal jurisdiction. The increase of the strength of the High Court would require lengthy consideration by the Government, because they would have to proportion the numerical strength of the Bench to the added duties imposed on it. It might even be better to invest some other purely Federal Court with criminal jurisdiction, as has been done in the United States of America. Yesterday the first criminal appeal was heard by the Supreme Court of Victoria. During the argument it was urged by counsel for the appellant that the full strength of five Judges should sit. It was pointed out that there had been two trials of the appellant, one an abortive trial, and the other resulting in a conviction, and that the two different Judges who heard those trials constituted two of the three sitting yesterday in the Court of Appeal. The Chief Justice, according to the newspaper report, replied that if five Judges had to sit to deal with criminal appeals, the full judicial strength of the State Supreme Court would be called upon to hear every criminal appeal that arose, thus hanging up all its other business. We cannot at one stroke invest the High Court with permanent criminal jurisdiction. The business would have to be allocated to avoid interrupting the ordinary work of the Court. I do not disagree with Senator de Largie’s contention that the High Court or some other Federal Court should have permanent criminal jurisdiction, but we cannot do it by a measure of this character.
– Why should we not increase the strength of the Bench if we increase the work?
– This is not the time or place to do it. It should be done in a separate measure, apart altogether from the war, and would require first a full inquiry as to the amount of new business which would fall to the Court, so that- adequate provision might be made to increase its numerical strength to cope with its added duties.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [11.45].- It appears to me that the real object of Senator de Largie’s remarks was not to raise the very important point to which Senator Keating has alluded. I understood Senator de Largie took exception to the limitation of High Court jurisdiction to the period of the war and six months thereafter. I agree with Senator Keating that it would be practically impossible to invest our Court with criminal jurisdiction throughout the whole length and breadth of the country; but, at the present time, it should have jurisdiction to deal with all cases against the Commonwealth.
– In anything arising out of Acts passed by this Parliament.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - Any legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament should not have the effect of excluding the jurisdiction in the State Courts in cases of ordinary offences such as violence, robbery, or anything of that kind which might take place from day to day. These matters should properly come uuder the jurisdiction of the State Courts, and should not go to the High Court except on appeal, because the High Court could not attend to all that work unless it were numerically strengthened. If that were done, people might very well say : “If we are not a lawyer-ridden community, we are at all events a Judge-ridden community.” Offences against Customs law, smuggling, and crimes of that kind, of course, should come under the jurisdiction of the High Court. I agree with the. honorable senator that, so far as offences in the Commonwealth are primarily concerned, or under Commonwealth legislation, tho power should be in the hands of the High Court to deal with cases on their criminal side, but J would not take away the power from the State Courts, because it would be a very great convenience to have available the services of experienced Judges who occupy tho State Court benches. So far as this Bill is concerned, it is only making good a little omission in the first instance, and the limitation of the period within which this particular class of offences may be tried to six months after the war will give us ample time to consider more fully, if necessary, whether we should amend the principal Act by giving permanent jurisdiction to the High Court in the cases referred to.
– - I merely rise to say that, so far as the suggestion brought forward by Senator de Largie is concerned, it already has had consideration. The limitation of the duration of tho power of the High Court was introduced in view of the urgency of the matter, and to get this legislation through. When the period has expired, I hope that there will be a consensus of opinion that the High Court should have powers of a similar character permanently conferred upon it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Gardiner) read a first time.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Senator GARDINER (New South
Wales - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [11.58].- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is one of the Bills with which we have become somewhat familiar in the Senate this session, and I have to inform honorable senators that tho Government regard it as urgent. In the earlier stages of the war, we passed laws rapidly, conferring upon the Government powers in relation to matters affected by the war, and it was not unexpected that there would be some defects which later on would have to be made good by way of amending legislation. The Patents Act is no exception, and the Bill which I am now asking the Senate to approve of aims at remedying certain defects in the existing law. Under the Act as it stands, there is uo provision for the suspension of patents granted under the State Patents Act, and this Bill makes that provision, for, in clause 2, it is provided that a “ patent “ shall include a patent granted under a State Patents Act, and “ trade mark ‘ ‘ shall include a trade mark registered under a State Act. But, as honorable senators will see, the more important part of the Bill is that which deals with the infringement of suspended patents, trade marks, and designs. Under the present law, although the AttorneyGeneral has the power to avoid patents, when patents are so avoided, everyone has the right to the use of such patents except the person from whom the rights may be taken, and those to whom the Attorney-General may have given a licence to use such patents would have no protection from outside competition. Therefore, where large sums of money would be necessary for the manufacture of commodities, it is necessary that some protection should be afforded.
– I mean that any individual in the community could engage in the manufacture of articles after the avoidance of the patent rights, because, under the law as it stands, no protection could be given to the men who had a licence to use the patent. This Bill proposes to give that protection by empowering the Attorney-General to take action against any one who infringes the rights of a licensee after it has been taken from the original patentee. Clause 3 states that if any person other than the person in whose favour the patent or the registration has been suspended infringes the right of the licensee, he shall be liable to a fine of £500.
Debate (on motion by Senator Keating) adjourned.
– I move - That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Thursday next.
T have just been in touch with another place, and I find that there is not much prospect of the Estimates being here by Wednesday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I take advantage of the opportunity which you, sir, pointed out to me was provided by this motion to mention the defective lighting of this chamber. I have heard complaints from honorable senators who have served here much longer than I have, and who have found that the sys tem of lighting adopted has been detrimental to their eyesight. My own experience has been somewhat limited, but I1 have to say that the lighting of this chamber has affected my sight more than any other system of lighting of which I havehad experience.
– My eyes were all’ right before I came here, but they have troubled me ever since I came into thischamber.
– The honorablesenator’s experience is the same as my own. It might be thought that my eyesight was affected by advancing age, because some people have said that I have a venerable appearance, but, as a matter of fact, I am only a middle-aged man, and I consider it rather early for my eyes to be affected by artificial lighting, as they have been since I entered this chamber. I believe that there are many modern systems of lighting which would be more satisfactory than that which has been adopted here.
– There is a great deal “of glare also from the heating ap*paratus in this chamber.
– That is so. There oan be no doubt that the way in which artificial light is reflected here has an injurious effect upon the optic nerve. I do not complain because I have suddenly become dissatisfied with the palatial conditions in which I find myself in this building. I lived for years in mining camps,, where I had no better light than that of a sperm candle. I think, sir, it is desirable that we should obtain expert advice in order that a system of lighting might be adopted which would be moresatisfactory than that which we have now. Unfortunately this building has been so constructed that it is necessary to have recourse to artificial light, even in the day time. From what I have heard other honorable senators say, many of them find . that their eyesight has been substantially impaired by the somewhat antiquated system of lighting that has been adopted here.
– Senator Bakhap deserves the thanks of honorable senators generally for bringing this matter prominently under notice. It is a strange reflection that land should be so scarce in the Commonwealth that it should be necessary to erect & building which requires to be artificially lighted in the day time.
– That was due, not to the scarcity of land, but to a scarcity of brains in the architect of the building.
– There was evidently something radically wrong when at midday we cannot have the light of the sun in this chamber.
– There is no light from the sun in Melbourne in winter.
– Just what ought to be done I am not prepared to say, but If the President proposes to take the matter into consideration I should like to mention that, in Macdonnell House, the home of Labour Papers Limited, in Sydney, a system of lighting has been adopted which, if not as ‘good as the sun at midday, is certainly a hundred per cent, better than the system adopted here. I mentioned the matter of the lighting of the chamber some time ago, but, apparently, owing to the fact that this building does not belong to the Commonwealth, there is some difficulty in the way of effectively improving the system. I hope that you, sir, will take the necessary steps to have the lighting of this chamber improved as soon as possible.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [12.10].- Every honorable senator must realize how unpleasant it is to nave to put up with the glare from the lights in this chamber. There is a new and indirect system of lighting by means of which it is possible to get the full benefit of the electric light without any glare at all. The light from lamps hung near the ceiling of a chamber is reflected upon the ceiling, and from the ceiling to the floor. The installation of such a system would make a wonderful difference to the comfort of the chamber. It would be a great advantage, as under the indirect system there is no glare in the eyes, and no shadows are cast. Any expense which might be ( incurred in replacing the present lighting system by a system of indirect lighting, would be amply justified by the great benefit honorable senators would derive from the change.
– If you, sir, propose to take into consideration what has been said by honorable senators with a view to having inquiries made as to the best means of improving the lighting of this chamber, I strongly urge the desirableness of some inquiry as to whether it would not be possible to provide for the heating of the chamber by some means more satisfactory than the glaring radiators which are in use at the present time. I think that honorable senators find their sight more affected by the glare from the radiators than by the defective lighting of the chamber, lt is true that some of the lights are near the level of the eye, but the glare into the eyes from the radiators is constant. Although some attempts have been made to screen them, they ‘have not been, very successful. I believe from what I have seen in advertisements in the press that the heating apparatus adopted here has become a thing of the past, and that apparatus from which there is no glare at all is taking its place. I hope that any inquiries that are made will be directed, not only to the lighting of the chamber, but also to the means adopted for heating it.
– Senator Bakhap introduces so many subjects upon which I find it impossible to agree with him that I feel that I ought to compliment him for having on this occasion brought forward a matter upon which I entirely agree with what he has had to say. If comparatively new members of the Senate, like Senators Bakhap and Grant, find that already their eyesight has been affected by the lighting of this chamber, its effect upon martyrs of fourteen years’ standing can be imagined. Speaking for myself, I find that my power of vision has been rapidly declining as the result of attendance in “this chamber, although, like Senator Bakhap, I am an old miner, and I found no difficulty whatever in reading in a mining camp with the modest light of a sperm candle. This chamber is lighted by electric lamps attached to chandeliers, but the glare is such as to be injurious to the eyesight. I am sorry that Senator Gould did not obtain his knowledge of a better lighting system when he occupied the position of President of the Senate, because if he had done so probably a remedy for the defective lighting of the chamber would have been discovered before now. Honorable senators will have noticed that it is not only members of the Senate who suffer from the glare of the lights here. Members of the press are obliged to dodge behind all sorts of shelters to escape the glare.
– The press are very successful in dodging more light.
– I agree with the honorable senator that more light in the reading matter provided by representatives of the press and less in their eyes would be more conducive to the general enlightenment of the people. I think that the first thing that should be done is to remove the antiquated chandeliers which are hung in this chamber. They may be considered highly ornamental by casual visitors, but one’s sense of their beauty is minimized by having to sit under their glare hour after hour. If a better method of artificially lighting this chamber can be devised I hope that it will be -adopted as soon as possible.
– I do not .think it necessary to add anything to what has been said except perhaps to assure you, sir, that the feeling is very general in the Senate that the lighting of this chamber is such as to constitute a distinct physical inconvenience to honorable senators. I had the idea some time ago that my eyes must be phenomenally weak, because of the amount of physical discomfort I suffer after being in this chamber for a few hours. I have been somewhat relieved to find that I have not been singular in this respect, and that my vision is apparently quite normal. It should not be a very difficult matter to remedy the defects which have been complained of. The modern system of lighting is to do away with individual Tights, and by cloaking to distribute the light in such a way that it causes no inconvenience. I understand, sir, that one of the difficulties with which you are confronted is the tenure on which we hold this building. I am quite certain that honorable senators will agree with me when I say that I would prefer to sacrifice a little of the beauty of this place to the comfort of working here.’ If nothing else can be done, it seems to me not difficult to stretch under the lights a few battens, which may be purchased for a few shillings, and cover them with art muslin or other fabric of that kind. That would, of course, shut out our view of the chandeliers.
– Our agreement with the State Government would not permit us to do that without permission.
– I do not know, sir, whether I misjudge your character, but I venture to think that on occasions you take a bigger risk than that; At any rate, I feel that the Chamber would stand by you in any dire consequences that might follow should you venture to break one of the conditions on which we hold the building. I merely rose to support what I take to be the request from honorable senators generally, that you will see what can be done to insure that they shall ‘be able to work with additional comfort in future.
– I am very pleased that Senator Bakhap has brought this matter forward, because I want the Senate to understand what the actual position is. I have suffered very much from the excessive glare in this chamber during all the time I have been here, and have made complaints on more than one occasion, and since I have occupied the chair complaints have been made to me by several honorable senators. I have the fullest sympathy with their complaints, because I do not think that there is any member of the Senate who suffers more constantly than I do and necessarily so.’ .But I find myself in this position, that we are unable to do anything in the chamber without the permission of the State Government. One of the terms of our agreement is that we shall maintain the building exactly as it was handed over to us,’ and before we can make any alteration we have to obtain the permission of the State Government. To show honorable- senators the difficulty there is in doing anything, I may mention that there is one matter in connexion with the appurtenances of Parliament House which I desire to have very much improved. Negotiations have been going on with the State Government for over twelve months in that connexion, but we have not reached finality, although I have been ready on behalf of Parliament to proceed with the work at once. The real trouble in regard to the lighting of these chambers, especially in the daytime, is that they are not independent houses. They are houses within houses, and we cannot get direct daylight into them. In regard to the lighting of this chamber in particular, it appears to me that the gasoliers were put up as much for ornamental as for utilitarian purposes. Even if we could admit daylight, so long as the gasoliers remained we would have a reflected light, which must necessarily be injurious to the eyes. I have had this matter under consideration for some time, and I desire to do what is the right thing in regard to the State Government, and also in regard to safeguarding the eyes and the wellbeing of honorable senators. Of course, the Government and tho people of Victoria are excessively proud, and justly so, of the highly ornate character of this chamber. These gasolicrs were erected, I believe, largely with the view to add to its ornateness, and I think it would be rather difficult to induce the State Government to allow them to bo removed. However, I am waiting for a recess sufficiently long to get the whole of the chamber cleaned down, renovated, and repainted, and at the same time to see what can bo done, with the. consent of the State Government, to alter the character of the lighting. I intend that that shall be done’ as soon as wo have a recess long enough to permit it. I can assure honorable senators that if I occupy the same position then as I do now, I shall leave no endeavour untried to induce tho State Government to consent to such a system of lighting here as will be satisfactory to all concerned. I further want to assure honorable senators that in the meantime I will have inquiries made to see if, with the consent of the State authorities, before we make a final alteration, we cannot devise some means to remove or at least to lessen the injurious effects of the lighting of which they justly complain. I have every sympathy with everything which has been said, and will do my utmost to obviate the complaints.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 12.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 May 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1915/19150507_senate_6_76/>.