6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President tookthe chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask leave to make a statement in connexion with submarine AE2, which I think will be of interest to the Senate.
– We have been in communication with the Ambassador for the United States of America to obtain information as to the fate of the officers and crew of the submarine AE2, sunk in the Sea of Marmora, and have received the following message: -
United States Ambassador reports that three officers and twenty-nine men were saved from Submarine AE2. This is total number of officers and men on board when the vessel sank; therefore all have been saved.
– Is the Minister representing the . Minister of Home Affairs aware that a firm of contractors in Adelaide are working on some contracts for the Commonwealth Government, that they established a system of preference to non-unionists in their works, and that each man applying for a job has to sign a paper saying that he does not belong to a union? If so, will he see that the decision of the people at the last general electionis given effect to?
– I am not yet aware of the facts as stated by the honorable senator, but it is quite correct that, in the form of a private letter, the matter was brought under my notice. I have submitted the letter to the Minister of Home Affairs for inquiry, and will let the honorable senator know the result at a later stage.
Letter Carriers and Sorters
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General lay upon the table of the Senate, for perusal by honorable senators, the whole of the evidence given in the recent arbitration case in connexion with the letter carriers’ award ? .
– I will bring the matter under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral, and see what the evidence is bearing on the subject.
– Will the Minister take similar action in connexion with the arbitration award in the sorters’case?
– Full consideration will be given to the matter, with the view to putting the evidence before honorable senators if it is considered of sufficient importance.
– Will the Minister of Defence be good enough to makea general statement with regard to the effects of deceased soldiers) I understood from the honorable senator some time ago that he had made a statement, but, so far as Queensland is concerned, we have not seen it.
– The statement is too long to quote from memory.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in making a statement in reply to a question.
– I suggest to the honorable senator that, if he will put a question on the notice-paper, I will get the regulations dealing with the subject put before the Senate.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
How many persons have enlisted in each of the six States of the Commonwealth -
Between 18 and 19 years of age?
Between 19 and 20 years of age?
Between 20 and 21 years of age?
– I have to inform the honorable senator that the compilation of this information would take some months, and necessitate the appointment of a special staff of clerks to go through the papers. In addition to that, the papers are the subject of daily reference in regard to casualty lists, separation allowances, and allotment allowances. I suggest to the honorable senator, therefore, that he should not press the request.
– Very well.
– Has the Minister of Defence any power to prevent persons from associating uniformed men, both naval and military, in conjunction with the Australian flag and the Union Jack, with beer and whisky advertisements; and, if so, will action be taken to prevent such persons from using uniformed men in connexion with advertisements in newspapers and placards all over the Commonwealth ?
– I have not seen any of the advertisements or placards in question, but if the honorable senator will give me privately an indication of where one can be seen, I will have the question submitted to the AttorneyGeneral. I think it is an undesirable practice, and will see what power we have to deal with the persons resorting to it.
The following papers were presented : -
Small Arms Factory, Lithgow - Report of Committee appointed by Minister for Defence.
War Precautions Act 1914-1915.- Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 81.
– -Relative to questions asked by me some time ago with regard to employees at the Colonial Ammunition Company, has the inquiry then promised by the Minister of Defence been made, and, if so, with what result ?
– What were the questions?
– If I may be permitted, sir, I will read the questions and answers as they appear in the Journal of 27th May: -
Relative to the following extract from the Footscray Independent of l5th May inst. : “A deputation from the employees of the Colonial Ammunition Company waited on the management this week with a request that German workmen employed should be discharged. The matter will probably be remitted to the Government to decide “ -
Is the Minister aware of the circumstances therein detailed? - No.
Is the Government therein referred to the Commonwealth Government? - Not aware which Government is referred to, but presume Commonwealth Government is meant.
Has the matter been “ remitted “ to that Government ? - No.
Does the company referred to supply the Commonwealth Government with any of its products? - Yes.
Will the Government take steps to prevent Germans being employed in the manufacture of such products as those of the company referred to? - Inquiry will be made, and if any action is necessary it will be taken.
– An inquiry was made into the matter, and as the result of it a German who was employed there has been interned.
– How long had he been there?
– I cannot say.
– May I ask the Minister if the individual referred to is the person whose duty was to test, and, in consequence, to accept or reject, the ammunition, and, if not, will he have inquiries made with regard to the nationality or origin of the officer who discharges those duties?
– The German in question was not an employee of the Commonwealth.
– Quite so.
– He was an employee of the Colonial Ammunition Company, hut I am not aware what his duties were. If the honorable senator will give notice of a question concerning his duties, I will endeavour to ascertain what they were.
Analytical Work, Perth
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are-
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 postponed.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Land-owners of the Commonwealth - Parliament art Drafting - Development of Northern Territory : Establishment of Sheep and Cattle Stations - Food Production: Cost of Living - Land Tax.
– I should like to tell the Minister representing the Treasurer that I find it quite impossible, no matter to whomI apply, to ascertain the number of landowners in the Commonwealth whose estates are of less value than £5,000. I have applied to the Land Tax Commissioner, and he has not the information available. I made application in other directions, and have always met with the same answer. There should be no insuperable difficulty in supplying the information.
– Do you want the number, or a list of the individual owners?
– I do not want the names. I -want the number of individual owners in each State who own land of less value than £5,000, and the total value of their holdings. The Land Tax Commissioner informs us of the number and value of the estates of the value of £5,000 and upwards. Will the Minister instruct him to supply the other information in his next report?
– You can get it through the States or the Statistician.
– As a matter of fact, it cannot be secured from any of them.
– Is not there some information approximating to what you want in theY car-Book of Australia?
– No. A good deal of information is given on a groat variety of subjects, but on this subject the author has carefully refrained from disclosing the position. The information can be secured when the census returns are being prepared. There is no difficulty in the way of providing an additional column in the census papers in which each person would be required to set out the value of the land held by him. At a later date I will endeavour to see that this is done. But in the meantime the Land Tax Commissioner should be in possession of the information, and that information should be available to the community. It is all very well for us to tax for war purposes land-holders who own real estate in excess of £5,000 unimproved value, but if it can be shown that other persons hold real estate which at present is exempt from Federal taxation, of an aggregate value of millions sterling, it seems obvious that they should be asked to contribute something towards defraying our war expenditure.
– They have already been taxed in several of the States.
– They have not been taxed in regard to their lands. Will the Assistant Minister instruct the Land Tax Commissioner to obtain the desired information ?
. -I am not prepared to say off-hand that I will give any instructions to the Land Tax Commissioner, because I understand that to do what the honorable senator desires would materially add to the labour and expense that are involved in securing land tax returns. Further, I think that statistics such as Senator Grant wishes to secure are already obtainable at the offices of the State Statisticians. Every property is valued for municipal purposes. However, if the honorable senator will give notice of a question relating to this matter, I will endeavour to obtain for him the fullest information from the Commonwealth Statistician. But I cannot undertake to issue instructions to the Land Tax Commissioner to secure it under the existing law.
– I have already interrogated the Land Tax Commissioner on this point, and he has assured me that he has not the desired information. Consequently it would be idle for the Assistant Minister to approach him.
– I did not say that I would approach him. I promised that I would go to the Commonwealth Statistician.
– The information is not available in any of the States.
– The honorable senator can get it, so far as Tasmania is concerned, from the State Statistician.
– I hope that the Assistant Minister will request the Land Tax Commissioner to so amend the Land Tax schedules that the information which I seek will be embodied in them.
– I can only repeat that I will do all that is possible to supply the honorable senator with the information which he requires. But I am not prepared to say that I will add to the expense to which the Commonwealth is already subjected by providing for the duplication of schedules. I will endeavour to get the fullest information from the Commonwealth Statistician. If that is not sufficient we can at a later date consider the advisableness of extending the functions of the Land Tax Commissioner.
– There is a little matter which I desire to bring before the Committee in connexion with the Attorney-General’s Department. I recollect one occasion on which I was deputed by the party with which I am associated to introduce a certain Bill in the Senate. Accordingly, I appealed to the Attorney-General of the day, Sir William Irvine, to permit his draftsman to supply me with certain information. My request met with a straight-out refusal. Subsequently, after the Labour party had assumed office, I desired to move an amendment in a Bill, and as I wished to put it in the best legal phraseology I asked Mr. Garran to frame it for me. He replied that he could not do so until he had obtained the permission of the Attorney-General. Two or three days later I telephoned him and asked if anything had been done in the matter. “Oh, no,” he answered; “Mr. Hughes is so busy that I cannot see him.” I telephoned him once or twice afterwards, and received the same reply. Consequently, I arrived at the conclusion that, while Sir William Irvine had declined my request straight out, Mr. Hughes was merely evading my application. He did not want to say that he would not permit the draftsman to frame my amendment. Consequently, the draftsman said that he could not see Mr. Hughes.
– Did the honorable senator see Mr. Hughes?
– I did not, and I did not feel called upon to run after him. I decided that the only course open to me was to draft the amendment myself. I did so; it was accepted by the Committee, and is now embodied in the Statute. What I wish to know is whether honorable senators have any claim whatever on the services of the Attorney- General and his officers, if they desire to introduce a measure into this Chamber? It appears to me that the Attorney-General’s Department is one which has been instituted in the interests of the Parliament; but the various AttorneysGeneral seem to imagine that the Department exists merely for the purpose of drafting Bills which the Government desire to translate into law. That impression may or may not be correct, but I think that Parliament ought to have some voice in this matter. It is not often that members of Parliament trouble themselves either to introduce Bills or to seek to effect amendments in them. In the House of Commons, and, I believe, in the Parliaments of other Englishspeaking communities, private members have on many occasions introduced Bills. I think it is only proper that if an honorable senator wishes to submit a measure to this Chamber, or to move an amendment upon a clause in any Bill, the resources of the Attorney-General’s office ought to be available to him.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that a draftsman is not available? Is not a draftsman provided for that purpose?
– I have merely given my own experience in this matter.
– The honorable senator knows that in Queensland a draftsman was always available to members of the Parliament of that State.
– I think that the services of a draftsman should be available to honorable senators. I bring this matter under the notice of the Government in order that some improvement may be effected.
– In reply to the remarks of Senator Stewart, I wish to say that not only during the term of office of the present Government, but during the tenure of the late Government, an officer has always been in attendance here to assist honorable senators in the direction he desires. No obstacle whatever has been placed in the way of honorable senators getting amendments which they desired to move, drafted. A competent officer of the Attorney-General’s Department is always in attendance here, and everything that can be done will be done to meet the wishes of honorable senators in the direction indicated.
– In the case of a private member introducing a Bill, would an honorable senator then have the assistance of that officer?
– His services would be available.
– That is all right, then.
– That is news to me.
– I have availed myself of his services. It is a recognised thing, and has been done for years.
– I always understood that honorable senators knew that when amendments to Bills were proposed, the services of the officer were available to put them into shape, and to render any assistance that might be required. I recognise the importance of Senator Stewart’s complaint; but I think that probably he is partly responsible himself, because with his aloof manner he might scarcely deign to make an inquiry, and probably would go to someother place. I am glad, however, that the matter lias been brought up. There is not much in it. Assistance will be rendered to honorable senators whenever required.
– I have listened with some surprise to the statement by the Minister on this subject. I think I am as old a member of this Chamber as anybody else, and this is the first time that I ever knew that an official was here at the service of honorable senators. There is art officer here; his position, I think, figures on the Estimates as Secretary to the representatives of the Government in the Senate. He is, therefore, the servant of Ministers, and I have never known him in any other capacity than that.. I think that honorable senators desiring to move amendments to measures before the Senate have been able to confer with the officer with the sanction of Ministers; but it is news to me that they have this privilege as a matter of right.
– It is a matter of custom.
– Then, if that is the position, I think it is a wrong one. It seems to me that it would be an anomaly for the Secretary to the representatives of the Government to be available to honorable senators who might wish to draft amendments to defeat .a Government Bill, and it would place him in a false position. Suppose this officer were to do his best to draft an amendment to defeat a Ministerial proposal, and suppose afterwards it was discovered, as we frequently do, that there was a fault in the draftsmanship; the thought that would at once flash through the minds of honorable senators would be that, because of some preconceived notion, the official had been unconsciously prevented from drafting an effective amendment. What is wanted here is a position such as that occupied by an officer of the New South Wales Parliament - a parliamentary draftsman, and not a secretary to Ministers, or under the direction of Ministers. We should have a parliamentary officer who should be responsible to Parliament, and whose services should be available to members without the sanction of Ministers.
– The parliamentary draftsman of South Australia is not avail, able to members without the consent of the Minister of the Department to which he is attached.
– I do not know what they do in a State which is sometimes charged with doing peculiar things; but I know that in my own State the practice is that members wishing to draftBills that they propose to introduce, or amendments, have available to them the services of a competent draftsman, and that practice has worked with entire satisfaction to all concerned. . It seems anomalous that the Secretary to the representatives of the Government, if called upon to advise a Minister in the course of a debate as to the terms of a motion which the Minister himself is submitting, should be suddenly required to draft an amendment to destroy that measure. I submit that it would not be satisfactory to the Minister, and, in my opinion, it would be unfair to the officer himself. I trust, therefore, that if anything is done a parliamentary draftsman will be made available and be responsible to Parliament, and to Parliament alone.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania) [3.37”. - I think the Minister has correctly stated the position. I have been associated with the Senate since the beginning, and was closely connected with the members of the first Government. The first private Bill which was introduced into the Senate, within my recollection, was that of a colleague of mine from Tasmania, Senator Dobson. It was known as the Divorce Bill, and was drafted and prepared for Senator Dobson by the then Secretary to the representatives of the Government in the Senate.
– Had permission been obtained from a Minister?
– Whether formal permission was obtained I cannot say.
– That is my whole point.
– I know the Bill was drafted and prepared by the Secretary to the then representatives of the Government, who had had some experience of the law of divorce in New South Wales. I know, also, that during the earlier Governments of the Commonwealth the Secretary to the representatives of the Government in the Senate was in the habit of drafting amendments for honorable senators, irrespective of what the views of the Government were with regard to any particular proposal for amendment.
– More often than not when the Government were prepared to extend a friendly welcome to the amendment.
– When 1 was ia office for over three years the Secretary invariably rendered assistance to private members who desired to move amendments, irrespective of the views of the Government. The Government felt that if a private member desired to submit an amendment, and if the sense of the Senate were with him, the amendment should be placed in the Bill in proper form. It was thought to be in the interests of the Government and the Senate that every amendment to a Bill, even if carried against the Government, should be in proper form. That was the motive underlying the reasons for making that assistance available. I agree with what Senator Millen has said, that this work is properly within the province of a parliamentary draftsman, if we had such an official, but one individual could not be in attendance simultaneously upon both Houses. It so happens that from the first we have made the Secretary 7to the Attorney-General’s Department the Parliamentary Draftsman, and he appears in the Estimates as Secretary to the Department and the Parliamentary Draftsman. I have long held the view that Mr. Garran has too much work for any single individual, and it would be desirable if there were a Parliamentary Draftsman’s Department, as a sub-Department of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, with the Parliamentary Draftsman in control, and a staff of one or two draftsmen to assist him. We could then have one officer constantly in attendance in the Senate during the session. In the recess the time of these officers would not be fully occupied with parliamentary draftsmanship, but there are other duties in the office of the AttorneyGeneral or Crown Solicitor which they could be called upon to discharge. The officer who occupies the joint position of Secretary to the Attorney-General and Parliamentary Draftsman is subject to an enormous strain, and carries a great responsibility in connexion with other work as well as draftsmanship. He is expected to keep in touch at one time with a variety of different subjects, and I suppose that there is not another official in the Commonwealth whose mind, in the waking hours of the twenty-four during a parliamentary session, has to switch itself on and off such a variety of matters with such rapidity as is the case with Mr. Garran. That we have in him a most efficient officer is undoubted. We have had excellent service from him, and if at any time there has been some suggestion of faultiness in measures submitted, in view of what the Parliamentary Draftsman has been called upon to do, it is not to be wondered at. Considering the vast variety ““of subjects dealt with in our legislation, notwithstanding the limited ambit of our powers, I think the time has arrived when we should have permanently attached to the Senate during the session an officer who would be free to give his undivided attention during the sittings of Parliament to the requirements of honorable senators who desire amendments to measures under consideration to be submitted in proper form.
– There would not be enough of that work to occupy an officer’s undivided attention.
– I am suggesting that he should give his undivided attention to such matters during the actual sittings of the Senate. It seems to me that an officer of the Attorney-General’s Department might be present during sittings of the Senate to give attention to this work. There would, of course, be occasions when measures such as that now under consideration were being dealt with, and in connexion with which it was not likely that any amendments involving a knowledge of draftsmanship would be suggested. A Supply Bill may occupy the time of the Senate for one or two days, and on such occasions the officer would not be required to give his attendance. But as soon as the Senate entered upon the consideration of a measure like the Insurance Bill, or the Bankruptcy Bill, he could be immediately summoned and his services availed of. I think that too much work is cast upon the Parliamentary Draftsman. Had Senator Stewart approached the Secretary to the representatives of the Government in the Senate, the drafting of the amendment he desired to submit would have been facilitated. I have given my experience, and it is that various members of the Senate have been in the habit of availing themselves of the services of the Secretary to the representatives of the Government in the Senate for the purpose for which Senator Stewart sought assistance from Mr. Garran.
– I was somewhat surprised to hear the statement made by Senator Stewart, because in 1909 I had occasion to introduce a Bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Senator Keating was at the time Minister of Home Affairs,’ and Sir Robert Best Vice-President of the Executive Council. Mr. Brown was then Secretary to Ministers in the Senate. I was informed, I think by Senator Pearce, that if I desired assistance in the drafting of my Bill, Mr. Brown would render it. I went to Mr. Brown without the permission of Ministers at the time, and he drafted the measure in accordance with the ideas I had in mind, and further advised me as to the procedure to be adopted in getting the Bill through the Senate. It did not reach finality prior to the combination of parties, and Senator Millen’s assumption of the office of VicePresident of the Executive Council, with Sir Robert Best as Minister of Trade and Customs. I still continued to receive assistance from Mr. Brown in getting my Bill through the Senate, and, with some amendments by the House of Representatives, it eventually became, law. I remember that I also received assistance from Mr. Knowles in the drafting of amendments. Whether they did right or wrong, those officers did not refuse to assist me, and I did not ask the permission of Ministers to appeal to them.
– That, as the VicePresident of the Executive Council says, . has been the custom, but we have not established the practice formally.
– It was Senator Pearce who told me that if I went to Mr. Brown he would give me the assistance I required. I was under the impression that any honorable senator who desires assistance in the drafting of an amendment to a Bill might avail himself of the services of the Secretary to the Ministers in this Chamber. That courtesy was extended to me, and I thought that it was a right to which honorable senators were entitled.
, - I gather from what honorable senators have said that it has been the custom for the Secretary to Ministers in this Chamber to undertake drafting work for honorable senators, but only, I take it, with the consent of Ministers.
– It is curious that Mr. Garran did not tell me about the Secretary to Ministers. When I went to see him, he distinctly told me that he could do nothing without the consent of the Attorney-General.
– Perhaps he thought the honorable senator wished to go past the officer here to him direct.
– He could not have thought anything of the kind.
– He should have been able to inform the honorable senator of the existence of a long established custom.
– That is what I say.
– Perhaps he took it for granted that, being a member of the Senate, you knew all about it.
– Probably he did not know anything about it. I think that honorable senators generally would like to have an officer appointed to whom they could go for this kind of assistance without applying to Ministers representing the Government in the Senate, or to the Attorney-General.
– According to the statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, they do so now.
– Let the honorable senator try to secure the services of the officer when a Minister wants him, and then see where he is.
– I have stated what I should like to see done. It is for the Government to say whether they will do anything in the matter.
– I recognise that the services of a drafting officer would be of great use to the Senate, and the suggestion made will be placed before the AttorneyGeneral. Senator Millen, by interjection, has asked what would happen if the services of the officer we have were sought when Ministers required him, and my answer to that is that while we have here an officer of great capacity, and well qualified for work of this’ kind, if Min isters were making use of his services, a private member of the Senate could not expect to engage his attention at the same time. In just the same way, if a private member of the Senate had secured his services, another private member could not engage his attention at the same time. The question arises whether there is really enough . drafting work required to warrant the appointment of an additional officer. I do not think that there is. In my opinion the requirements of honorable senators could be reasonably met with the officers we have at the present time. ‘
– Does the honorable senator not think that Mr. Garran might be relieved of the work of draftsmanship 1
– I recognise the value of the work which Mr. Garran does. I do not know how any one man can keep pace with the work of the Crown Law Offices at the present time. There is surely a necessity for some relief in that quarter. The suggestion which has been made is worthy of consideration, and it will be attended to. The remarks made by Senator Keating and other honorable senators support the statement I made as to the custom which has grown up in the Senate, and I thought that Senator Millen and other honorable senators were acquainted with it.
.- On the vote for the External Affairs Department, I would like the Minister to give some information with regard to the Northern Territory and its development. We have heard a great deal about the richness of its soil and the excellence of its climate; but apparently nothing has yet been done towards promoting settlement. I see that the sum of £2,000 has been spent in the United States of America on advertising, I take it, the Territory. Probably the Minister can tell us how many settlers have come from the United States of America and taken up land there. There is a suggestion which I would like to put before the Committee. I do not know whether the Government would be willing to accept it or not; at any rate, I think it is worth while to ventilate it. In Australia the cost of living is a burning question at the present moment, more especially the price of meat. My own opinion is that if the production of our meat supplies is left in the hands of private enterprise, the price of meat in Australia within a few years will be on a level with the European price. I think it is inevitable, unless something is done, that that will be the result. I see no reason why the people of Australia should be compelled to pay the European price. We produce large numbers of sheep and cattle, and, I believe, could produce millions more than we do. My suggestion is that the Commonwealth Government should establish sheep and cattle stations in the Northern Territory. I know that until the passing of tine referenda proposals the Government cannot enter the market as a dealer in meat ; hut I hope that within a comparatively short period the people of Australia will agree to such an alteration of the Constitution as will enable the Government to do everything and anything in that direction. ‘ I consider that we have a most excellent opportunity in the Northern Territory. If I am to take the reports of persons who have been over that country, portions of it are well suited to the production, not only of sheep, cattle, and horses, but also of wheat. It seems to me that the solution of the cost of living question lies largely in this direction. If the Commonwealth Government will establish large sheep and cattle stations, and, when they get the power, go into the meat business just as large companies have done, establishing abattoirs, freezing works, and all that kind of thing; and if the State Governments will also take up the question, seeing that five of the States are now in the hands of the Labour party, I do not see any reason why this project should not be gone into right away. Of course, we cannot say anything in regard to the State Governments, but if the Common wealth Government were to set an example and establish big stations in the Northern Territory, in the course of a few years they would be able to provide a very considerable portion of the meat required for the people of Australia. That meat could be sold to the people at the cost of production, and there would be no trouble with regard to the fixing of prices.
– It would not be very cheap meat, for all that.
– That may be very true. I do not know whether the honorable senator is prophesying rightly or not. All that I say is that the people of Australia would be on sound ground. They would be producing their own meat, and it would be sold to them at the cost of production. The present position seems to me to be extremely unsatisfactory.
– At the cost of Government production !
– The honorable senator can give his views on this question when I am finished. A great number of the people in Australia seem to have arrived at the conclusion that they can seise the product of the people who live on the soil, and pay them any price they please for it. I do not doubt for a moment that the Governments in Australia have that power, but they have no moral right to do anything of the kind. Men do not go into meat-raising or wheatraising, or any other industry for fun, but to make a living out of it. Hitherto the price of meat, wheat, and various other commodities have been fixed for Australian producers by the price ruling in the markets of the world. If hitherto we have left these producers exposed to the competition of other countries, and many of them cheap labour countries, it has been morally wrong, however legally it may be right, to refuse to allow producers to get the present benefit of the markets of the world. With regard to meat, the price is undoubtedly going higher and higher, and the reason is obvious. The number of persons who arc producing meat, indeed, all kinds of food, not only in Australia, but in almost every other country in the world, is becoming less and less, while the number of those who are consuming meat and wheat is growing greater and greater everywhere. Take the United States of America. Some time ago that country was an exporter of meat, but now it is an importer. Take some of the eastern countries where the use of meat as an article of food aitherto has been almost unknown. These people are getting the taste for meat now, and it is entering very largely into their diet In Australia, half of our people live in cities, while the other half live in the bush. Yet the people in the cities think that these should go out on the soil of the country to produce food and to procure them cheap living.___
– Hear, hear ! The honorable senator is addressing himself to a very pertinent matter.
– The thing cannot be done. If you have more people eating food than you have producing food undoubtedly the price of food must go up and up. Here “we have a very delicate problem. It may seem to some persons very easy to fix prices and all that kind of thing. But if the prices do not suit the producer, what happens? He ceases to produce. Instead of having this Board and that Board, and fighting elections on the cost of living question, why not launch out and grow our own food; sell it, retail it, do everything in connexion with it? There is not any reason that I know of why there should not be a butcher’s shop in every street in every town and township in the Commonwealth. And until we reach that point something could be done.
– You would want a lot of tan yards to tan the hides.
– Certainly we would want tan yards, boot factories, and a great number of things. The vista it opens up before me is immense. I see great possibilities.
– Do you propose to travel down the whole length of it this afternoon ?
– No, I spare the honorable senator that. Until the system ‘ could be completely established the meat might be sold to wholesalers at a certain price, and the rate to be charged by the retailers might be fixed by some authority established by the Commonwealth. In that way, I think the people of Australia would be able to get their meat at a very much more reasonable price than they are likely to get it otherwise.
– What would they work at to cam the money to buy the meat with?
– What do they work at now?
– All Government jobs?
– The honorable senator is putting to me what seems to him to be a conundrum. Why not Government jobs? Could not the Federal Government sell meat, wheat, and every other commodity which is produced here to buyers outside of the Commonwealth much more easily than people who conduct private enterprise can do? I do not propose, in the meantime, to interfere with private enterprise. I would say to the cattle and sheep-owners, “Go ahead, produce meat, mutton, wool, and everything else you can, and sell wherever you can get the best price.” We would not interfere with their operations. All that I ask the Government to do in the meantime is to produce the meat for the people of this country. So far as I can see, that is the only solution of the dear meat question. Senator Bakhap appears to think that the’ cost of production would be extremely high. I agree with him that probably there might be some difficulties, in that connexion, but surely they would not be insurmountable. As we got further and further into a condition of collective production, I think that the” cost under that system would become less and less. The continual struggles between capital and labour in the past have produced a class of capitalists and a ‘class of workmen who each try all the time to get the better of the other. The capitalist wants to get as much work out of his workmen for as little money as he can pay, and the workers, on the other hand, conserves his labour as much as possible. He gets as much wages as he can for the minimum of work. That is the object of both parties in the industrial arena to-day. But under a system of collective production, there would be no hostility of that character; everybody connected with an industry would, in time, feel impelled to do his or her very best for the industry, realizing that thereby he wasdoing, not only the best for himself, but the . best for his country. That,, as Senator Bakhap can see, is a matter of evolution. I do not say it can, or will, be done all at once; but it is* desirable that, having a unique opportunity - and I know of no other country with equal opportunities in this direction - the Government should take advantage of it. The objection may be raised that our fate is trembling in the balance ; but the war will not last for ever, and after it is over the old war between Capital and Labour will rage as fiercely as hitherto. Whether this country is owned by Germany or Britain, that war will continue. It was going on in Germany before the present conflict broke out, and it will go on in Germany after the present conflict is forgotten. Within a comparatively short period the war, with all its results, will be out of men’s minds, and the old problems of life will insist upon solution. I, therefore, see no reason for staying our hand in this or any other direction. I ask the Government to give the matter their serious consideration. In this direction, I believe, lies the only solution of the dear food question; and if the Commonwealth Government lead the way, I am sure some of the State Governments will follow their example, and probably the whole of them will do so.
– I am delighted to see Senator Stewart in the new role of a constructive statesman. His ability in destructive criticism of previous Administrations was so much admired that to see him developing in the other direction gives me great hopes of him. I can easily understand, after listening to him, how that great victory was recently won in Queensland, when the honorable senator was enjoying his month’s leave of absence on account of urgent business. The honorable senator suggested that the Commonwealth should grow sheep and cattle, and go into the business of production generally. There can be no question that there will be no cheap meat in Australia while the Meat Rings are allowed to control the market; and I believe there is no power outside the Commonwealth Government itself that can control the Meat Rings. So far as concerns the Government undertaking the retail business, I am pleased to learn that in New South Wales each suburb is to have its cart carrying fish to the people. Already their bread carts are running. This is coming right down to the food question, and until we have Unification I am a good enough Federalist to leave to the State Governments the things they can do most effectively. I hope to live to see the time when some Government will give full effect to Senator Stewart’s proposals for utilizing the Northern Territory. His remarks, recall to my mind a statement credited to the late Pierpont Morgan in addressing a gathering at a banquet to celebrate the organization of some great ring in America.
Speaking to the money magnates, who had organized the Ring, he said that -
They were the advanced Socialists, as they had discovered that combination, not competition, was the secret of success in trade, and that they would take the profits of combination until the people were sufficiently intelligent to take them for themselves. I am looking forward to the time when the people will be sufficiently intelligent to take the profits themselves.
As the Territory undoubtedly offers a grand opportunity for the Government to undertake work of this kind, I have interested myself in the historical records of New South Wales, and can assure honorable senators that it will be found thatgrowing wheat, mutton and beef was a Government undertaking in that State 100 years ago.
– We have evolved beyond that.
– I know the honorable senator’s idea of evolution. He would like the Government to undertake everything unprofitable and expensive, leaving all the profitable arrangements to private people. He questioned, this afternoon, whether the people would get the meat at the Government cost, indicating, by his emphasis on the word “ Government,” that it would be higher than the private cost of production. Within the last twelve months we have had the finest possible object lesson of the cost of Government and private enterprise in connexion with the eastwest railway. It cost the Government, through a private contractor, 7s. a yard to shift earth out of the cuttings. It cost the Government on the next succeeding 14 miles only 2s. 3d. per yard. It cost the Government by the contractor £21,000 to build embankments on the line, and it cost them by day labour nothing.
– Have the Government yet had any earnest that the line will be constructed for the amount originally estimated)
– I am sure that, had the private contractor had his way, the estimate would have been exceeded, measuring the rest by that 14 miles, by many millions of pounds, but subject to the ordinary alterations there will be no very great difference between the estimated and the actual cost of the line when completed. Senator Stewart asked what was being done in the Northern
Territory. If nothing great has been attempted, or if no policy has been put forward this year, the war and its cost are an all-sufficient reason. The calls upon the taxpayers are such as do not warrant the Government at present entering into the consideration of any large schemes for the development of the Northern Territory, but the railway from Pine Creek to Katherine River is going on expeditiously, the development of the country . in other directions, by experimental farms, is proceeding, and I have private information from Dr. Jensen, one of the best geologists in the world, holding out very high hopes with regard to the future of mining in the Territory. All the old claims, some of which had ceased working, are again working; many new shows are being developed, and, although there is nothing much to “ blow “ about yet with regard to mining in the Territory, solid pioneering work is going ahead, and we shall yet see the Territory progressing in a way creditable to all those responsible for it.
– It is a pity he did not include that optimistic statement in his official . report.
– I was under the impression that he had done so. His official report regarding the Mount Bonney mine and the Maranboy field bears out exactly the statement he made to me. We cannot go very fast in a country of that kind, and Senator Stewart knows that we have no constitutional powers to enter into the retail business. I hope we shall get them.
– You can lay the foundations before you get the powers.
– It would be better to get the powers first, and lay the foundations afterwards.
– Could you not sell meat in the Northern Territory?
– There would be a fine opening for business there if we only had the meat and the people to buy it. I believe from what I have read that there is excellent country in different parts of the Territory.
– How is it held ?
– Much is held on long leases issued by the South Australian Government before the Commonwealth Government took possession.
– The Commonwealth Government has no control over that, it is private property.
– The conditions of those leases will have to be considered, and if their terms have to be varied, that will be done with due, fair, just, and honest consideration to the holders.
– With due confiscation !
– The honorable senator talks to-day of confiscation. Yesterday he talked of conscription, with the old Tory idea that individuals are the property of the lord of the manor, and to be sent to the front to fight for the country at his behest. The honorable senator would take men and make them fight, but I doubt whether he would take the wealth of the lord of the manor to supply the wherewithal for fighting. He would confiscate men, and not property.
– You are avowedly out to confiscate. I am willing to tax equitably.
– If we, as a party, are to be judged by our actions, the people of the Commonwealth will realize that during this war we have refrained as much as it was possible for any Government to refrain from interfering with business men or with capital. Our taxation has been as moderate as it was possible to make it to carry on the responsibilities of government, and however much the honorable senator may accuse us of being out to confiscate, our actions speak louder than words. Our attitude is not only that it must be “ business as usual,” but that business must be prosecuted in a sane manner, calculated to create, and not dispel, confidence. That is what we are out to do. I am not out to confiscate either men or property, but should it come to the question of the last man and the last shilling, and of which is to be thrown in first, so far as I am concerned, the last shilling goes in before the last man. The question of the development of the Northern Territory is necessarily slow of solution. All developmental work must be slow, but the railway construction authorized by tho previous Parliament, and set on foot by the previous Government, is being actively carried out. Farming and other experiments are being made, and the reports regarding mining and other propositions are satisfactory. As Senator Stewart forecasts, the war will not last for ever, and we hope that within the next year or two peace conditions will return.
– Only the next year or two?
– I am sorry I cannot hope for anything better, but I hope that even before then we shall have a definite scheme for the development of the Territory, and that by that time the Commonwealth will have sufficient constitutional powers to put it into effect in the most up-to-date manner possible.
– I can only express my regret that a practical suggestion put forward by Senator Stewart in quite unimpassioned tones - and it was practical whether one regards it favorably or not - should have been met by the speech to which we have just listened. Instead of proceeding to deal with the suggestion as a practical one, Senator Gardiner attempted to refer to quite a variety of other matters which had no bearing on the point, and sought, following his usual custom, to obscure the issue by an appeal to passion and the use of rather reckless assertions. He made some reference to conscription, and drew a distinction between conscripting men and property. If we could terminate this war by a levy on property, there is not a man in Australia who would not say at once, “ Strike the levy.” But we are not going to end the war by money. It is men who are going to end it.
– The men are of no. use without the money.
– But men and money should not be regarded as alternatives. Whether the war is to be settled by a levy of men or a levy of money, we must have the men, and the suggestion made yesterday was in no way put forward as expressing a preference for levying upon men in contradistinction to money. It was a little ungenerous on the part of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to place the utterances of my friend in an entirely false light. Senator Stewart is to be commended for having had the courage - a quality in which he has never been lacking since he has occupied a seat in this chamber, and I make this acknowledgment without the slightest reserve, although I differ from him in his fundamental articles of faith - to put before us not only an important matter to-day, but one the importance of which will grow. He affirms that there is a tendency on the part of people living in the cities to consider that they are entitled to take the produce of our rural population and to pay for it just what they choose. He went on to point out that, whilst legally we can do that, and whilst legally we can fix prices of commodities, there must necessarily be a limit to the extent of these operations, otherwise the producer would cease to produce.
– It is sheer nonsense to suggest that the course indicated by the honorable senator has ever been seriously entertained.
– One has only to pick up any public print or to listen to the speech of any member associated with the Labour party to learn that my statement is founded upon fact.
– There have been propositions to submit the prices of commodities to competent Boards.
– I will go no further than the speech of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, who, in dealing with this matter, sought to show that the high price of meat to-day is due to the operations of rings and trusts. Senator Stewart knows better. He knows that the high price of meat is due to increased export facilities, which enable our producers to place that commodity on the London market at a less cost, and with greater surety, than they could place it there some years ago. It was for this reason he affirmed that the day of cheap meat has gone, and that in future the price of meat in Australia will be on a parity with its price in London, less the expense of getting it there.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that the city people do not know what Commodities cost to produce ?
– I do not think that they do.
– What they do not know they are prepared to submit to competent Boards.
– Senator Stewart pointed out that for years, when the prices of his commodities in the world’s market were low, we left the producer to struggle along as best he could. When our wheat-growers had to compete with the cereal-growers of India and Egypt, and when they were getting only 2s. 3d. per bushel for their grain, the community did not come forward with offers to assist them.
– I never knew of the honorable senator doing anything in that direction.
-I might say the same of the Assistant Minister, but it would not help my argument. I do not remember the honorable gentleman doing anything to help anybody. It is significant that whenever a practical proposition is submitted, an attempt is at once made to defeat it by an appeal to prejudice rather than to reason. Senator Stewart has properly pointed out that; so far as our producers are concerned, when the prices of their commodities in the world’s markets were low, we left them to struggle along as best they could. Now that the world offers them higher prices, we step in and deny them the right to obtain those prices. With what object? In order that the consumer may obtain the cheap loaf. I am convinced that the interference, of the Government in New South Wales has made the price of wheat higher than it otherwise would have been.
– Does the honorable senator believe that?
– I am not like the Assistant Minister. I should not have made the statement if I did not believe it. If there had been no threat of Government interference in New South Wales some months ago, the ordinary operators of wheat would have imported at a time when they could have imported at a lower rate than they can to-day. But as the result of Government intervention the whole industry was paralysed. Not a single importer was prepared to import. They all stopped operating. What has been the result? The Government have had to go abroad, and pay for the cheaply-produced wheat outside of Australia a higher price than they would have had to pay our own farmers, whom we pretend to protect.
– The honorable senator says that we now have to pay more for wheat than was paid by the New South Wales Government when they commandeered the wheat supply in that State?
– Does the honorable senator say that we could not have bought wheat outside of New South Wales for less than the price paid by the Government of that State?
– When it was first known that there would be a shortage of wheat, we could have bought wheat in the markets of the world at a lower price than we can now. To-day we cannot import a single bushel for less than 5s.
– But we could have imported for less then.
– Yes; and but for Government interference that would have been done. Wheat operators were preparing to bring in a sufficient supply of grain to make good the shortage. But the moment the New South Wales Government intervened every private individual said, “I am not going to import wheat until I know the price at which I will have to sell it. If the Government are going to impose a limit on its selling price, I will not import.” The result is that to-day the Government of New South Wales have to pay a higher price for wheat than that which they paid for the grain which they seized.
– The price would have gone up, anyhow.
– Undoubtedly. Time was the essence of the contract. The people of New South Wales, as the result of Government interference, will unquestionably have to pay more for their loaf than they otherwise would have paid.
– Is it not a fact that they thought there was a quantity of surplus wheat in New South Wales?
– I am not responsible for what they thought. Until recently nobody imagined that there would be a material shortage in Australia. Only about eleven months ago, when the war broke out, steps were taken to ascertain whether there would be a shortage or not. From that time onwards the harvest prospects commenced to become less favorable.
– Only a few months ago the people of New South Wales thought they had a surplus, because they exported wheat to Tasmania.
– I do not think that they thought they had a surplus then. They sent that wheat to Tasmania- in order to help that State round a tight corner, and upon the understanding that Tasmania would return an equal quantity of wheat, which was to be obtained from abroad.
– If the people of New South Wales required it?
– Yes. I wish, however, to get back to the point raised by Senator Stewart. It seems to me that the suggestion that the high price of meat is due to trusts - though it may be a very good electioneering cry - does not assist us to solve the problem with which we are confronted. “The high price of meat is due to the fact that a man who has that commodity to sell can obtain - as our wheat-growers have been doing for years - the London value of it, less the cost of placing it there.
– Why, in this city, meat was 12s. per cwt. higher than it was in London !
– There will always be isolated instances of that kind. The people of New South Wales, I repeat, have to pay more for their wheat as the result of Government action than they would have paid.
– Liberals generally are opposed to interference, and yet the position was so serious that they had to abandon their political principles.
– To-day not a single proof has been offered that the price of meat is being kept high as the result of the operation of trusts. But we do know that the increased demand for that commodity in Europe and in other parts of the world, particularly since the outbreak of war, together with the certainty with which producers can now export, has enabled them to send their stock outside Australia. Now comes the very point to which Senator Stewart has directed attention. Are we to turn round and say to our producers, “ We will not let you get the benefits of the markets of the world. So long as you are receiving only £1 per 100 for your meat, you can sell as much as you like; but now that the markets of the world are favorable to you, we intend to stand between you and those markets, and to prevent you making more from the results of your industry “ ? To my mind, Senator Stewart has put forward a proposition which does offer a practical solution of the difficulty. Of course, I do not approve of his methods in their entirety. He has pointed to the unwisdom of any attempt to stand between the producer and his legitimate market. He has affirmed that the real solution of this difficulty is to be found in an increase of production. Now, there are two ways in which production may be increased. He has pointed to one of them. But may I ask: What has Senator Stewart done to stimulate production? We have been accustomed to hear him declaring that, given a progressive land tax, land would be made so cheap that there would be an abundant supply of it. In a Labour manifesto, issued some time ago, stress was laid upon the large number of people who reside in our cities as compared with the small number who reside in the country. We were assured that the imposition of the land tax would alter that. Yet to-day we have had the pathetic avowal by Senator Stewart that this panacea has failed, and that, instead of there being a larger number of country producers and a smaller number of residents in the cities the evil of which complaint was made still remains.
– The honorable senator ought also to say that that tax does not suit Senator Stewart.
– The honorable senator means that Senator Stewart thinks there is not enough of it. Apropos of a remark by Senator Gardiner to the effect that his party should be judged by its actions rather than by its words, I would remind him that one of his party’s actions quite recently was to affirm that an increased land tax is desirable. I am referring to a resolution adopted at the Adelaide Labour Conference. That increased tax will be paid by the rural producers. Thus Senator Stewart, who is so anxious to see production stimulated, is a member of a party which is willing to prevent that object being attained by levying an increased impost on our producers. The way in which to stimulate production it not to place additional taxation on the people who go into the Northern Territory to settle it, but to render lifethere more attractive by making theburden upon them as light as possible.
SenatorSenior. - But you will puta burden on the workers. If you donot increase the land tax you mustincrease the Customs duties.
– The resolutionof the Adelaide Labour Conferencewould practically take away from the land owner that which would represent afair interest upon his capital outlay.
– It is not proposed to do anything but what is correct.
– My honorable friend can wrap it up in whatever phrase he likes. But I want to tell him that I am just as familiar with the subject as he is. I have not lived in the same State as Senator Grant without having become familiar with the magic of the term “ unearned increment,” and all the rest of it. Now, with regard to the Northern Territory, what inducement are we holding out to people to settle that land ? They would have to abandon all the social surroundings of a fairly civilized life in the settled States to go out there and spend the best years of their lives in a wilderness, with a tremendous risk as to whether their ventures would be successful or not. If a man settled there he, with other pioneers, would be robbed of the value which he himself had created, if effect were given to the proposal of the Adelaide Conference.
– Does the honorable senator know the present land value as estimated by the price paid for leases?
– I do not know; it is not a matter of importance.
– Then how can it be taken away?
– Does the honorable senator suggest that there is no value ? #
– It is small, and will be small until a community creates it.
– Sooner or later some policy for repurchase will have to be adopted.
– But that will be confiscation, so you say.
– If buying from a man is confiscation, I would like the honorable senator to confiscate some of my things. I never heard the term used in that way.
– It is the term which you applied to us.
– It would not be so applied if the honorable member’s party are prepared to pay for a thing. I call an act “confiscation” when a Government, under the guise of taxation, appropriates the whole capital value.
– That has never been done yet.
– And that was the reason for the Adelaide resolution calling upon the Government to go faster.
– They never used the term.
– Of course, they did not use it in that sense, but they wanted the Government to take action.
– You are very good at putting words into other people’s mouths.
– I do not care whether it is called confiscation or not. That is the effect of it.
– Is it not a fact that a community creates a value in land ?
– I am not going to argue that phase of the subject now. The position of my honorable friend is well known. For very many years he has been a persistent advocate of the appropriation by the State of what he calls the community-created values, and I think I am correct in saying that, at conference after conference, he has endeavoured to remove the exemption on the land tax.
– It is a pity that you left the track.
– I accept the compliment, whether deserved or not, as to my ability.
– But the honorable senator has not left the track yet, has he?
– I never stray, but sometimes the track goes in the wrong direction. Now in the consideration of this Northern Territory problem, the object is to stimulate production. How can that be done ?
– By making land cheap, of course.
– The land tax would not cheapen it.
– It was not heavy enough
– Surely if a 6d. land tax did not prove effective, a land tax of ls. would not. The object should be to make land cheap, so that the settler could be induced to provide money for its development. We have been wasting time fooling about to see whit tropical products we can grow in the Territory. If I want to grow tropical products I would not want to go to the Territory to do it, when I could get as good, and possibly better, land in Queensland, with a market open to me, and good trade routes established, as well as all the accessories of social life provided, such as schools, churches, ‘ and other institutions.
In this matter of the development of the Territory we have been directing our attention to the wrong end by carrying out experiments close to the coast to see what can be done in agriculture, instead of turning attention to the pastoral possibilities as a starting point for closer cultivation later on. Why bother about these silly little farms, trying to grow rice and such things? It will be a ghastly revelation to the Government and to the Parliament, as well as to the country, when the cost per acre, or per settler, in respect to these schemes is disclosed. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has urged that the Government’s hands were tied because of the financial position. I recognise that, but I say that what I am speaking of has nothing to do with the financial side of the question. The problem is to devise a policy which will enable us to persuade people to go out and develop the Territory. I know there is a prejudice against the grazing industry, but whether there is a prejudice or not, I am satisfied that we will never break up that Territory unless we make a start from the grazing standpoint. And the first question to consider is: How we are going to make the land available? There is a great deal of land which is not under lease, and there is a much larger proportion of land held under lease. We must start by multiplying the number of graziers. There is a prejudice against large holdings, but we have to remember that this is a comparative term, and when applied to the Territory, what might seem to be a large area in a more settled State would, in the Territory, be regarded as only a horse-paddock. Therefore, we must not be frightened when we deal with thousands of acres instead of hundreds of acres.
– Thousands of square miles, do you mean ?
– No. I am speaking of holdings which would be sufficiently large to invite to the Territory a new class of settlers, a class of men who would have a chance of success. It is idle to ask any man to go out there unless he has money, because cattle raising is not a business upon which a man can expect a return to-morrow. The chief instrument for the development of the Territory is going to be capital, and in order to tempt men with capital to go out there, there must be a reasonable op portunity to secure a return on the outlay.
– You can have capital without the capitalists. The Government freezing works would represent capital, would it not?
– Yes; but the Government will not freeze stock for nothing.
– The main obstacle to the development of the Territory is the incurable prejudice against the use of capital.
– No; it is prejudiceagainst monopoly. What was the inducement given to private capitalists to go there?
– An area of land was given to provide resting paddocks.
– It was practically giving them enough land to make a State.
– We are- told that we have given a State to the company that started the works there. There is not the slightest justification for that statement. The land given to the company was only a small area, comparatively speaking, and sufficiently large to be used as a” resting paddock for the stock coming in.
– What was the area?
– It might have been about 200,000 acres.
– A mere unconsidered trifle!
– Any man who hae had experience of that part of the country would not regard it as a large area.
– That is a new definition of a small area to me.
– I invite the, Assistant Minister to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if he regards it as a large area. What might appear a large area in a State like Victoria would only be a fair-sized holding in the Territory.
– I agree with Senator Russell that the area is large enough for a State.
– Two hundred thousand acres large enough for a State f 1 am afraid it would be a state of depression if that constituted a State. Surely the Honorary Minister does not mean, what he said. Why, it is ridiculous to say that 200,000 acres of country like that out west of the Darling is a large estate.
– You cannot compare the Darling with the Northern Territory country.
– The honorable senator isright. The western district of New South Wales is infinitely superior country to that of the Territory.
– But you will find very few estates of 200,000 acres where the land has been developed by pastoral industries.
– It does not matter. The question only arose through an interjection. The area was given to secure for the stock owners a resting paddock at the head of the railway line. Stock brought in to be frozen cannot be dealt with at once. They have to be held there until they can be brought down to the freezing works. It is a necessary adjunct of the business of freezing.
– I am not complaining of that at all.
– That is what the Assistant Minister did. He said that we could get private capital there if we gave the capitalist an entire State.
– I said an area of and almost equivalent to a State.
– The honorable senator said “an entire State.” Really, the company were given nothing, because the 200,000 acres, or whatever the area was that was made available, was for the benefit of graziers sending in their stock, the object being to rest them there in order that they might follow in a regulated order to the freezing works.
– Is the honorable senator not prepared to accept my denial ? I did not make the statement he has attributed to me.
– If the Minister says that he did not mean to make it, I will accept that; but that he said what I have attributed to him I am quite satisfied.
– It is not very often that the Leader of an Opposition will not accept an honorable member’s denial. I say distinctly that I did not say “an entire State,” and the honorable senator should withdraw his statement.
– Withdraw what?
– My statement was not that an entire State had been given; and I object to Senator Millen getting into Hansard a statement, as coming from me, which I did not make. It ought to be withdrawn.
– I should like to know what it is that the Minister wishes me to withdraw.
– The honorable senator is asked to withdraw a statement to the effect that Senator Russell said, “ You have given them an entire State.”
– I will withdraw the statement, but I ask Senator Russell to pay me the compliment of showing me hisproof when he receives it later.
– I shall do so, and I shall be willing to withdraw what I have said if I am wrong.
– If it is shown that I have been wrong, I will apologize to the Assistant Minister for having misconstrued his words. I have been making an effort for some time to suggest to honorable senators how it is possible to do something to stimulate development in the Northern Territory. I have been met by a statement that what I propose is to superimpose the capitalist upon the Territory. I repeat that to send people there whose capital consists solely of their labour is to court failure. If we invite a number of people without sufficient capital to settle in the Northern Territory, one or two things will happen. We shall break their hearts and ruin their lives, or else we shall impose a financial obligation upon the Commonwealth greater than anything we have hitherto had in contemplation. That being so, it is, in my opinion, useless to talk of dividing the country into small holdings. We must provide for holdings sufficiently large to attract people with a reasonable amount of capital.
– Has not that been done in the Northern Territory?
– We have offered settlers there 300, 400, and 600 acre farms on which to grow maize, cotton and other tropical products.
– They were picked sites.
– What has happened to the picked sites ? The honorable senator is confirming what I said half an hour ago, when I complained that an attempt isbeing made to develop the Territory from the wrong end. In trying to develop it from the coast we are asking people to solve three problems at once.
– The honorable senator’s Government destroyed the means of transport, and practically ruined those men.
– The only answer to that is to say that it is not true. The Government of which I was a member did not destroy the livelihood of those men; but the honorable senator cannot get away from the party aspect of the matter. I am not concerned with what some other Government did. I was asked by Senator Ready to say whether fairly large holdings have not been granted in the Northern Territory. I say that the holdings to which he refers were designed for farms, and for the growth of tropical and sub-tropical products. Maize was suggested, with other products, and dairying. To undertake even that form of settlement, men going to the Northern Territory must be possessed of considerable capital. But men who have capital are not going to start dairying in the Northern Territory at the present time. Why should they go there to engage in dairying when they may do so in districts where there are schools and everything else that is required for the civilized upbringing of their families ? We can do no good with holdings of that kind, and the only thing to do to develop the Territory is to offer sufficient attraction to the grazier with some capital to go there. We have an area there to-day absolutely at the disposal of the Government. Nothing has been done with it, except that a Land Ordinance was passed which contains some of the most objectionable features that it is possible to put into a Land Bill designed to attract settlement. I do not suggest that we should adopt the freehold principle in dealing with grazing holdings in the Northern Territory. I have said that I am opposed to granting freeholds for large grazing holdings there, but theremay be prohibitive conditions imposed by provisions for a leasehold tenure. I do not propose to review the Northern Territory Land Ordinance to-day; I made my attitude upon the subject clear when it was before us for consideration. I say that to remove the first obstacle to settlement in that country there must be a revision of the Land Ordinance. There is, at the present time, a considerable area of land held in the Northern Territory under leases obtained from the South Australian Government. A great portion of that land is not being used. I think I might safely say that a majority of those leaseholders are using but an infinitely small portion of their estates. We propose to construct a railway through the Territory. I do not think that it would be at all objectionable, or in any way a violation of public faith or policy, if, as a condition of the construction of the railway, which will add greatly to the value of those leases, and will facilitate the transport of produce by the lessees, we should claim the right to resume, upon reasonable terms a portion of the holdings benefited by the railway. If that were done, we should have land reasonably close to the railway which might be offered in blocks of from 50,000 to 100,000 acres. I am not concerned about a few thousand acres in the size of a holding when dealing with a territory like that on the leasehold system. If that course were adopted, I venture to say the Government might expect to attract a class of settlers who, by temperament and training, would give a big lift to the development of the Northern Territory. That is the way in which to attack the problem before us there. The sooner we cease the little experiments going on there for the spoon-feeding by the Government of a class of men who cannot succeed because the conditions are against them, the sooner we shall have made a practical step towards the solution of one of the biggest problems confronting the Government of the Commonwealth.
Schedule agreed to.
Postponed clause 3, preamble, and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted. .
Debate resumed from 27th May (vide page 3456), on motion by Senator Gardiner -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I am very pleased to see this Bill introduced for consideration by Parliament. I hope that it will be proceeded with with due despatch, and placed upon the statute-book in as perfect a form as possible. I recognise that some delay is inevitable. It has already been hinted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council that representations have been made to the Government by those who will be peculiarly affected by the Bill, and who have had, and expect to have, considerable experience in insurance matters. If it is intended to submit to the Government organized representations of that character, it is only fair that they should be given adequate consideration. The Minister has referred to the fact that the Government are largely indebted to the recommendations and reports of the Royal Commission appointed a few years ago to consider and report upon this very large subject. I have read the recommendations and the two reports presented by the Commission, but I cannot say that I have gone through them line by line. I am not aware that in all respects in the framing of this Bill the Government have adhered to the recommendations of the Commission, but I understand that, broadly speaking, those recommendations are the basis of the Bill. I think that the measure can be generally characterized as a Bill to unify, modernize, and codify the law of insurance for Australia. .In each of the States legislation upon the subject has been passed following similar models. There have been some diversions, as has been the case in connexion with other subjects upon which the States have separately legislated. But the fundamental principles of the law of insurance are apparent in the legislation of each of the States. If this Bill becomes law, we shall be unifying the law for Australia. We shall also be modernizing and codifying it. Each of these operations will be attended with advantages. It will be much easier to ascertain what is the statute law in any part of Australia bearing upon an insurance question. The advantages of the modernizing effect of the measure will be the result to a large extent of the adoption of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The codification of the law is, generally speaking, an advantage, because it enables one almost to put one’s finger upon the exact provision of the law dealing with the subject in which one is interested. Where, on the other hand - as in several of the States, probably in relation to this subject, and certainly in relation to many other subjects of importance - there is a whole series of Acts and amending enactments, it is very difficult even for the most accomplished and astute lawyer at a moment, or in a very brief space of time, to be able to advise exactly how a client stands in regard to a matter. He may have his Statutes, but he may have omitted to note them up with the consequences of the different amendments as they have been passed; and it may be necessary for him to go through several Statutes before he ascertains for himself what is the exact position in law in regard to a certain matter. This means that a lawyer who looks after his business has constantly to be watching the Legislature, and so soon as an enactment is passed which amends an existing Statute, he must note his Statutes accordingly. Although he may he most attentive to this necessary operation, there do arise occasions when an omission will occur, and, in consequence, he himself may be misled and may mislead a client. With a codified system of law on any subject, difficulties of that kind are, to a certain extent, obviated. That is one advantage which we will have in this codification.
– For a little while.
– Naturally, of course, will come again the question of amendments.
– But the amendments will be made by only one Parliament, not by six, as hitherto.
– Ye3; and that is where we have an advantage in a unifying codification. As Senator de Largie points out, any amendments subsequently will be amendments by this Parliament; whereas, if several systems of law in regard to insurance were to prevail, they would be continually amended in different States, and,- in many instances, in different directions. Realizing as I do, and as, I think, all of us do, the advantages of a codification of the law on certain subjects, such as insurance, bankruptcy, banking, and other matters, I think that this Bill is open to very sen. ous criticism. Clause 131 gives power to the Governor-General to make regulations. It has been the experience of all of us to hear from time to time, with regard to certain measures, objections raised to the power to make regulations being so extensive. That criticism has been offered, and not at all times, I think, justifiably, because it is almost impossible to lay down, in an Act provision for every contingency which is likely to arise. It is very difficult even to lay down provisions in regard to administration which, must at times be very minute. But, notwithstanding that, there has always been a disposition on the part of the Senate generally to resent the encroachment on the legislative power of Parliament. Although that criticism has been repeatedly levelled at measures submitted here, the measures, I think, invariably contained! in a corresponding clause the subjects in respect to which, in particular, the power to make regulations should be exercised. Singularly enough, in clause 131 of this Bill no such particularity prevails. It simply reads -
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters and things which by this Act are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which arc necessary or convenient to be prescribed for giving effect to or carrying out this Act.
That power is absolute and unlimited. In all previous legislation we have particularized the matters in respect to which such regulations might be made; but, notwithstanding that fact, we have always been accustomed to hear criticism of the power as being given unthinkingly and too freely by the Senate. I want honorable senators to understand that in clause 131 they are asked to confer on the GovernorGeneral a more extensive, a more unrestrained, power of making regulations than I believe he has under any Statute we have passed. I may be wrong when I express that belief, but I draw attention to the fact that, in the generality of cases, we have prescribed the matters in particular in respect to which regulations might be made. And, notwithstanding that we have done that, we have unhesitatingly and reluctantly, times without number, passed a provision enabling the Governor-General to make regulations, and in particular in regard to specific matters.
– But the Bill also provides for companies to have the right to be heard by the Commissioner before he puts any regulations into practice.
– Yes; I intend to deal with that point. What I am drawing the attention of the Senate to now is that clause 131 confers on the GovernorGeneral a power without any limitation. Our general practice with regard to Statutes has been to particularize the matters in respect to which regulations under the Statutes might be made, and, to some extent, therefore, we limited the authority to make regulations. We are now asked to give the power without a limit. If the Senate sees fit to do that, of course it will be all right ; but I hope that it will be understood that I am drawing attention to a departure from our practice, so that we shall not legislate on the matter with our eyes unopened. One may gather from reading the Bill that there are various matters in respect to which regulations will be required to be prescribed. Senator de Largie has referred to a provision that companies may be heard, and if one turns to clause 24, it will be seen that provision is made for increasing the deposit of a company where the securities deposited have depreciated. The second paragraph of the clause reads -
A notice under this section shall not be issued until after the Commissioner has given an opportunity to the company to be heard in connexion with the matter.
The phrase “ to be heard “ is somewhat novel, and how. the Commissioner will give a company an opportunity “to be heard,” I presume, will be prescribed by regulations. It is not said here, but T think it is a natural assumption that the regulations will prescribe the way in which the Commissioner will enable a company to be heard. “ To be heard “ is, I think, a phrase in legislation which will be novel to most of us. We know what the intention is; we know what the purpose is; but the provision in itself does not achieve the purpose in its entirety, so that we shall have to depend upon regulations. Again, a similar phrase is used in clause 53, the marginal note of which is “ Proposal and policy forms to be submitted for approval.” Sub-clause 3 reads -
The Commissioner shall not decide wholly or partly against any form until he has given the company an opportunity of being heard by him on the matter.
How, where, and within what time the company may “ be heard *’ will, it is to be assumed, be prescribed by regulations. There is nothing specific here saying that “ regulations shall be prescribed,” nor does it say that “the company shall be heard by the Commissioner in the manner prescribed.”
– Any regulations will have to be made in accordance with the Act.
– Exactly ; but our practice in analogous cases would be to say that the company shall have an opportunity of being heard “ in the manner prescribed.” That, in itself, would, under our Acts Interpretation Act, mean that regulations would have to fill up what our legislation has dealt with generally.
– In addition to a special clause applying to regulations, is there not, in most of our Bills, a covering clause that the power to make regulations shall be exercised not inconsistently with the Act?
– Yes. I think that the provision generally runs that the Governor-General shall have power to make regulations not inconsistent with the Act, setting out with particularity the matters.
– That covers the lot?
– Yes. Sometimes in legislation the provision does not give a general power, but prescribes particular matters in respect to which regulations might be made. I am drawing attention to what seems to me to be a departure from a practice, and one which even, as I have said, we have followed with some hesitation and some reluctance.
– Do you mean a practice of verbiage?
– No. I mean a practice of giving power to the GovernorGeneral to make regulations. We have always given the power a little haltingly, even though the subject-matters of the regulations were prescribed in the measure itself. But now we are asked to give the power without any limitation, and I draw attention to that circumstance accordingly. The Bill contains several provisions which, I think, will commend themselves to honorable senators and to others who are particularly interested in insurance. My allusion to the occurrence of the phrase “ to be heard “ reminds me that clause 18 contains a provision with regard to notice. I think it is almost a novel provision. The clause reads -
Any notice which is by this Act required to be sent to a policy-holder may be addressed and sent to .the person to whom notices respecting the policy are usually sent, and any notice so addressed and sent shall be deemed and taken to be notice to the policy-holder.
I think there is an advantage in a provision of that kind. I do. not wish to enter into a discussion of the merits or the demerits of the clause, as that is a matter which should be dealt with in Committee. I believe it is almost invariably the practice to provide by legislation that when a party is to be bound by a notice sent to him, except in the case of the personal service of, say, the process of a Court, the sending of the notice must be done by post. It will be obvious to anybody that to personally address a notice to somebody and to send it to him does not in all cases insure that he will receive it. The messenger himself may make a mistake; he may deliver it to the wrong person, or he may lose it, and may not inform the sender that it has been lost; in fact, a variety of things may happen. I think that we may very fairly draw attention to the (provision at this stage, so that later we may consider the advisableness of not holding a person bound by a notice said to be sent to him unless the notice has been not only addressed to him, but posted to him.
– Do you think that sending a notice by post averts that danger ?’
– It does to some extent.
– In the case of sending a notice to a person, is there not a custom in law or a number of methods usually recognised ?
– There are different methods. In some States a notice is deemed to have been received by a man if it has been sent through the post in a prepaid letter to his last known address.: In some cases; such as Court process, actual personal service is required, and the server must make an affidavit that he has done so, while the matter is still fresh in his memory - within three days in some instances. In other cases it may be personally delivered at his address or to some person apparently above the age of sixteen years. Generally speaking, I think it is desirable to do something a little more rigid than to simply say, “To be put into an envelope, and addressed to him, and sent to .him,” because that leaves a variety of ways of sending a notice. Although this seems an individual matter which might be dealt with better in Committee, still it is one to which I draw attention now because my remarks may occasion some consideration by the Minister, and he may be inclined to tighten up the provision, because it has for its object to bind the person to whom the notice is going. We should insure as far as we reasonably can that he does actually receive the notice. It might apply to and bind any individual in the community at a particular time, and it is a very haphazard method to say, “ I put it into an envelope and sent it by a messenger.” The provision with regard to deposits in connexion with companies deserves consideration. The amounts specified by the Bill are very substantial. I do not quarrel with them; out honorable senators should consider that they will disqualify very small companies. The Bill contains a provision giving a certain amount of elasticity to this clause, enabling the Commissioner to vary the amount to a certain extent, but the general policy of the measure is indicated by the amounts required to be deposited, and that general policy, if adhered to with any rigidity, would prevent the formation and establishment of small companies. Senator Senior. - And close up a number of good but small mutual companies already carrying on.
– Provision is made for small companies already in existence. We should insure that legitimate small companies, that have been carrying on in the Commonwealth satisfactorily to those who deal with them and the community generally, will be protected. We should do nothing unwarrantable to prejudice the formation of small companies.
– But we do not want too many mushroom companies.
– We do not want to facilitate the growth of irresponsible companies, nor do we want to centre insurance business too much in the hands of the very large companies. We know that there have been some very successful small insurance companies, most reasonable in their dealings with the public, and of great assistance to the community generally. We should bear these facts in mind when dealing with the deposit question. When the Minister was speaking, he was asked if the company making the deposit would be entitled to interest on it, I notice that clause 33 provides that the Treasurer may from time to time, at the request and in the name of the company, invest in Government securities of the Commonwealth or of a State any money deposited with him by the company, and the company shall be entitled to the interest accruing from the investment. That is a very reasonable provision. We must also consider in Committee what the position will be when companies are amalgamated or absorbed. If there is a complete amalgamation of two companies or a complete absorption of one company by another, when both have lodged their respective deposits with the Treasurer, will the two deposits still remain with the Treasurer?
– Clause 31 provides for that.
– Clause 31 enables a company to withdraw any security or money deposited in excess of requirements. If an amalgamated company withdrew the amount in excess there would remain with the Treasurer a security only so far as one company was concerned. In that case, would the amalgamated company be entitled, in seeking to do business with the public, to use the name of both companies, or of only one? Many members of the public might consider that they were dealing with a company which, as a matter of fact, had entirely disappeared. That is a matter we should guard against. Mention has been made of the amalgamation of the Australian Widows, the Citizens, and another company. If all the names could be used as the style of the new organization, some member of the public might deal with it, believing that he was dealing with the Australian Widows, and - of course I am only assuming a case - he might find afterwards that the Australian Widows had been completely absorbed, and the security put up by it withdrawn. The whole position in this regard should be made quite clear, and the right to use all or any of the names of the amalgamated companies when deposits have been withdrawn should be defined. The Bill contains provisions illustrating what I regard as its desirable modernizing tendency. One of these is clause 59, dealing with the materiality of certain conditions. That expresses in law what has been decided from time to time by the Courts in concrete cases, and establishes the accepted law of the land as to whether conditions are or are not material. Another desirable provision is that where an increase is to be made in the premium a proper notification to that effect shall be forwarded on a certain coloured slip to the policy-holder. Another commendable provision in clause 59 is the power given to the Court in certain circumstances to reduce the liability in regard to certain contracts. A very beneficial provision deals with the question of the acceptance of age, and another with warranties, asserting in statute form what has been declared to be the law by Courts in specific cases. Clause 81 restrains any combination amongst companies from charging unreasonable or unjust rates. I entirely agree with the principle and object of the clause, which applies to fire insurance business only, but one of the difficulties will be to ascertain what rates are reasonable and just. The problem is similar to that of fixing prices. Clause 80 sets out that the rates in respect of fire insurance shall be reasonable and just, and prohibits every such ‘rate as is unreasonable or unjust. How is it to be determined whether a rate is reasonable or just?
– I suppose that is one of the powers of the Commissioner.
– The Commissioner has power to regulate to a certain extent industrial rates, but I see no such authority conferred upon him with regard to fire rates. It must be remembered that fire rates differ from life rates in that they often vary by reason of locality or other circumstances, such as the presence or absence of facilities for fire prevention and fire extinction. A rate which may be reasonable in a locality which has no fire brigade may be most unreasonable in a more populous neighbourhood. There is also, as Senator de Largie reminds me, a great difference between a brick and wooden building area. If the Commissioner is competent to approve of the maximum rates for industrial insurance, we may, perhaps, repose the same confidence in him in regard to fire rates, but it must not be forgotten that these inevitably fluctuate according to a variety of circumstances. The mention of industrial insurance reminds me of another matter to which attention has been drawn. Under clause 69 provision is made for the forfeiture of an industrial policy in certain circumstances. If certain notice is given, and default is made, the policy is forfeited. But in clause 67 it is provided that ordinary life policies shall not lapse on the nonpayment’ of premiums. I realize the great difference between ordinary life and industrial insurance, but I think it is possible for us to make a provision with regard to industrial insurance analogous to that in clause 67 relating to life insurance.
– The term “industrial” is used because of the fact that members of the industrial classes take out such policies.
– That is so. In connexion with industrial insurance the premiums are payable at shorter intervals than are ordinary premiums. Clause 67 provides -
In the event of any premium due on any policy remaining unpaid for a longer period than thirty days the company may charge compound interest thereon at a rate not exceeding the rate prescribed, and the policy shall not lapse until the premiums due and unpaid, together with the interest charged thereon, are equal to the reserve value of the policy. For this purpose the reserve value of the policy shall be computed on the assumption that all premiums up to the time have been duly paid.
I think that an industrial policy may lapse very much more easily than an ordinary policy. In drawing attentionto this matter, I hope that we shall be able to give some consideration to the possibility of protecting an industrial policy a little more than is provided for in the Bill.
– Is that a new provision in the law?
-Not wholly. I think that it is operative in some of the States. If we can save an ordinarypolicy from lapsing by a provision of this character, we ought certainly to make some effort to save an industrial policy, It may be that we cannot save it to the same extent,but there ought to be some reserve power which would enable it to survive, even after default has been made in payment.
– That class of policyholders ought to he protected.
– They require protection more than does any other class. The amounts paid by way of premium are usually small, although they are very important to these policy-holders. It often happens that, however well disposed policy-holders may be, they find that they cannot meet the premiums just when they fall due. I call attention to this clause merely for the purpose of suggesting that we may be able to confer uponthese policy-holders some measure of protection. I am glad to see clause 94 in the Bill, because it re-affirms a provision which is contained in the Bankruptcy Bill. That provision did not appear in the measure in question when it was first submitted to this Chamber, but in Committee we unanimously decided to protect the interests of the assured under” a life policy from creditors in bankruptcy. I drew attention to the matter, and the Minister offered no objection to my proposal, with the result that we included life policies among the assets of bankrupts, which are protected. The provision contained in clause 94 is one which is operative in several of the States, and I hope that we shall be unanimous in respect of it. Then I wish to call attention to clause 91, which relates to cover notes. It provides -
A cover note issued by a company in respect of a proposal shall run for a period not less than that for which the amount paid to the company represents premium in respect of the sum specified in the proposal.
As I understand the position, cover notes are frequently issued without any payment being made at all. In that case, if the risk eventuated, there would be, under this provision, no responsibility on the part of the company giving the cover note.
– Has thehonorable senator heard of a case which was tried in Victoria, in which it was held that the cover note afforded no protection, because nothing had been paid by the assured?
– That is so; there is no consideration in respect of a cover note. Where no money has passed, if an assurance company chooses to repudiate its obligation in respect of la cover note, doubtless the Courts would decide in the way that he suggests. But that is not the practice. I know that when I have been absent from my own State in Melbourne the fire insurance company with which I am insured has more than once sent me a cover note, and I have subsequently forwardedit my cheque. I would certainly consider that such a cover note protected me against a risk before the company actually received the cheque. No self-respecting life assurance office would insist upon its legal position in a case of that sort.
– Does that apply wholly to fire assurance offices?
– To fire insurance offices.
– The matter was contested here.
– If a case were contested in such circumstances, the company could easily establish the fact that no contract existed. Let us assume, for a moment, that a man insures his premises for £1,000, and that his premium falls due on 1st June. He overlooks the payment, and the company issues a cover note to protect him until the 1st July. One of the considerations which it receives by so doing is that it may secure a. renewal of his policy, instead of the individual, perhaps, taking out a new policy with another company. If a fire occurred during the month of June, the company could say to him, “ Our contract with you terminated on 31st May. You did not pay the premium when it fell due, and, therefore, we have accepted no legal liability.” Butr in practice, no company of standing would dream of contesting a case like that unless of course it suspected incendiarism, or fraud which it could not actually prove. In such circumstances it could, of course, successfully contest the claim on the ground that no money had passed.
– The Australian Mutual Provident Society allows the assured thirty days’ grace. Is not that practically the same thing?
– It is analogous. If we pass the clause, whenever a cover note is issued it will be necessary for some money to pass - say, one-twelfth of the annual premium in the case of one month’s cover. But, as a matter of fact, cover notes are usually issued without any payment. There is only one other clause to which I desire to direct attention, namely, clause 123. It sets out the persons who may act as actuaries, and as the other associations are expressly mentioned, I should like one or two of our Australian institutions to be designated in it. The clause reads -
A person shall not act as an actuary responsible for the valuation of the liabilities or assets of a company unless he is a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries of Great Britain and Ireland, or a Fellow of the Faculty of. Actuaries in Scotland, or some other institution approved by the Commissioner, or unless he has satisfied the Commissioner that he possesses sufficient knowledge and experience to qualify him to certify to the accuracy of valuation returns.
I would suggest that, before we deal with that clause in Committee, the Government should ascertain the Institute of Actuaries which is of the highest standing in Australia, so that it may be expressly designated in the provision.
– Is there an Australian Institute?
– Yes. Recently I saw in the newspapers the names of certain persons who had passed their examinations for it.
– They were accountants ; that is different.
– I would suggest that the Minister should ascertain the corresponding bodies in Australia, so that at least one of them may be specially mentioned in the clause. Obviously, the words “or some other institution approved by the Commissioner” are intended to apply to one or more institutions in Australia. Then the measure, when read abroad, will show that we are not solely dependent . upon actuaries trained or accredited outside of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Senator Senior) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs if he is yet in a position to reply to the series of special and leading articles which recently appeared in the West Australian, Perth, relative to the construction of the western end of the transcontinental railway?
– I desire to make a statement, which I have received in reply to the articles complained of by Senator Needham. The reply is from Mr. Norman Bell, the Engineer-in-Chief for the Commonwealth, and is addressed to the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, under date 8th June. It is as follows: -
In reply to yours of 3rd instant instructing that I should inquire into and report on a leading article that appeared in the West Australian on the 19th May, which contained allegations in respect to the East-West railway, I have the honour to advise that five articles appeared in the West Australian, commencing on 16th April last, under the following headings:
The Federal Line. A Trip on the Kalgoorlie Section: Some Aspects of Construction Work.
The Federal Line. Industrialism and Politics: Some Effects of Workers’ Control.
The Federal Line. Method of Construction : Some Matters of Detail.
The Federal Line. Changes in Construction Policy: Some Prejudicial Consequences: Protection of Health and Earnings.
The Federal Line. Revised Ministerial Estimates of Time: Shifting of Officers: Culvert Construction.
In addition, there were at least two leading articles dealing with these articles, and with certain reports made by me. I am dealing with each of the five articles separately, so that a complete reply may be given to all the allegations.
Article No. 1. - Reference is first made to a statement of the Prime Minister in April, that the line would be completed in two and a half years. The correctness of this is questioned, and doubt is thrown on the possibility of the “ last yard of ballast “ ‘being in place, and its being “ nicely tamped around the sleepers “ and sidings, and appurtenances necessary for a speed of 50 miles per hour being finished, &c. I desire to point out, however, that so far as the travelling public is concerned, the line will be “ completed “ when through trains can run between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta with safety and comfort, and at a reasonable rate of speed. The completion of the ballasting which is largely necessitated by maintenance economies, the providing of station accommodation along the track which will become necessary as the traffic develops, the fencing of the line as the country becomes stocked, are some of the works, amongst numerous others, which will take some time to carry out, and do not concern the completion of the line as far as through traffic is concerned, which can commence shortly after the rails are connected.
The Prime Minister was well within the mark when he stated that thiswould be accomplished in two and a half years. I have reason to believe it will be accomplished in less than two years. The writer then states that “ it is nearly three years since the work was commenced.” But the tracklayer did not start at the western end until 18th November, 1913, prior to which date only113/4 miles of track had been laid by hand, there not -having been locomotives, rolling-stock, rails, sleepers, or appliances generally to do more. It will be seen, therefore, that practically only nineteen months have elapsed since a start was made, during which time the work was entirely at a standstill for thirteen weeks on account of a strike. In spite of this, the railhead has now reached the 258-mile.
The cost is then referred to, Mr. Deane’s estimate of £4,045,000 mentioned, the expenditure to date given by the writer at £3,205,451, and the statement made that the results are poor “ in comparison with the sums which have been lavished.” The writer is, however, not aware of a number of facts. Some of these facts are -
The writer has no knowledge on which to base any statement with regard to the cost to date, or for comparing that cost with the original estimate.
It is then stated that there are “ methods and appliances galore,” “ there is a Traffic Department and a Construction Department.” As a matter of fact, there is a Construction and Maintenance Branch, a Traffic Branch, and Mechanical Branch. Any one acquainted with railway administration will realize the necessity for such an arrangement. During the period of construction the line, as it is built, has to be maintained to carry the traffic, proper maintenance gangs have to be established, and the gangers and fettlers trained in maintenance work. They have to be made acquainted with the rules and regulations applying to open line working; this is now being supervised by the Construction Engineer, but will later have to be placed under a separate Maintenance Engineer. In the Traffic Branch, the safe working of the trains has been placed under a Traffic Superintendent, who during the construction period, trains a staff of stationmasters, guards, porters, shunters, &c, in the open line working. In the Mechanical Branch, the District Mechanical Superintendent has to get together a staff of competent drivers, firemen, cleaners, &c., and has to provide for the proper repair of locomotives and rolling-stock, &c. To wait until the rails were connected, when fast through passenger traffic had to be dealt with, before taking any steps to acquire and train a competent staff of both officers and men to deal with maintenance, traffic, and locomotive working, would be to seriously hamper the through working and endanger the safety of the travelling public. The staff employed is no greater than is absolutely required in spite of the statement to the contrary, and will be increased as construction advances.
The water supply question is then dealt with. The cost of Mundaring water at Kalgoorlie is 7s. 3d. for the first 20,000 gallons per day, and 5s. 6d. per 1,000 afterwards, not 7s. 3d. all round, as stated. I have not found this water “ altogether unsuitable “ for boiler purposes, as alleged. So far as I am concerned, provision for water at Cardonia was dealt with promptly. The possibility of getting surface water at 104 and 132 miles was discovered by- the present Supervising Engineer, Mr. Darbyshire, shortly after he took charge, and action was immediately taken. It would not have been possible to construct tanks at these places ahead of platelaying. No surface water can be obtained at any other place on the western section, and water will have to be procured from bores, the sinking of which is well ahead of construction. The conveyance of water from’ the Mount Charlotte Reservoir, and the bore at 344 miles in pipes along the line has been fully inquired into, and is impracticable.
The balance of this article deals with the late running of the material trains, a matter which is constantly receiving attention, and which is daily improving, but which is, under the present condition, not such a matter of serious importance as the writer would wish one to believe, with the material depot at 126 miles. With regard to this depot, it is intended to establish a similar one at 235 miles, and at probably two or three points beyond. This was arranged after careful consideration, and is done so as to utilize the rolling-stock to its full extent throughout the construction period, and to employ as nearly as possible a uniform quantity of Tolling-stock for the carriage of material throughout, instead of an ever-increasing quantity, as the platelaying gets further and further from Kalgoorlie. and at the same time keep a stock of material as near to the head of the road as possible to avoid stoppage of the work through engine failures, or accidents which might occur during long runs.
Article No. 2. - This article deals first with the alleged centralization of administration, and states that the officers are “ vested in such attenuated habiliments of authority that economy and efficiency are impossible,” and that the present Supervising Engineer retains “ the limited authority allowed the local Supervising Engineer.” I can only answer such statements by saying they are absolutely false. The officers at Kalgoorlie have all the authority which similar officers have in State Railway Departments. The Supervising Engineer has sole power to engage or dispense with all labour. He has never been dictated to as to whom he shall engage, or whom he shall dispense with, either politically or by myself. He is responsible to me, as I am to the Minister, for the proper conduct and cost of the work of construction, and as such, he is intrusted with the employment of efficient workmen.
The writer then goes on to say that the command ‘ of the industrial side of it rests with a crowd of workmen who, for the most part, recognise neither responsibility to themselves nor to their employers, the taxpayers. The ‘Government stroke’ is carried on to an extreme which would be considered impossible, did not the lamentable facts testify to it”; and later, “ and for the money they receive the men, on the whole, are not giving a fair return.” Such accusations are not only grossly untrue and unfair to the men, but are a serious reflection on the supervising staff; they have been made without sufficient knowledge, and apparently for political purposes.
I have been occupied continuously for thirtyfive years on the construction and management of railways. For the last fifteen years I have had control of hundreds of miles of line built by day labour. I may therefore presume to nave acquired some knowledge of the subject, and from what I know of the conduct of the work and its cost, and from what I saw during my recent visit to the West, I can assure you that the men are working honestly and conscientiously; that they are working equally as well, if not better, than they would work for a private employer; that the supervising staff is probably as hardworking and efficient a staff as lias ever been got together in Australia on railway construction work; and that there is no doubt that the final result will compare most favorably with any similar work done under contract. The writer of this article quotes the tracklaying gang as an instance where the men are not giving a fair return for their money, and states that the men refuse to “ do a stroke of work after a mile of rail has been laid.” The method of track laying adopted is the method which has been in use throughout Australia for many years. A certain number of men are engaged to lay a certain length of track each day, the number of men to be employed and the length of track to be laid by them each day is a matter of arrangement, or the result of experience. The rail sleepers and fastenings for that length of track are sent out to the head of the road each day. When the work goes smoothly, the material sent out is frequently laid in less than the day. Not having more material to go on with, the men return to camp, and the invariable practice is to pay a full day’s time for this. Such practice has been found to be the most economical and the best for all concerned.
Article No. 3. - A large portion of this article is repetition, and has been previously dealt with. The cost, the water question, the alleged centralization in Melbourne, and the question of material depots, are again referred to. The only fresh subjects referred to are brake power on trains, preparing the road bed, and the number and the length of sleepers. So far as the brake power is concerned, the statement that with a train of thirty odd trucks, only the engine and van were provided with air brakes is a strange one, as instructions have been issued that all trains are to be marshalled so as to provide that trucks fitted with air brakes shall represent 25 per cent, of the total weight of the train. The brake fittings for the balance of the rolling-stock have been under order for a long period, and the supply has been delayed by the war. In any case, the goods stock in most of the Australian and New Zealand States -have only been recently fitted with continuous brakes, if, indeed, they are now all so fitted, so that the Commonwealth railway is in no worse position, especially in view of the absence of steep grades .on the East- West railway. The method of preparing ‘tHe road bed in advance of plate-laying was specially inquired into by me during my recent inspection, and is the best and only way under the circumstances. One hundred and twenty-two men are employed forming the line ahead of rails - not eighty-six, as stated. No damage is done to the permanentway, and the work is completed as a contractor would be required to complete it. The Supervising Engineer is supplied with a specification, such as would be issued to a contractor, and he is required to work to it. With regard to the sleepers, the original number used per 33 feet was thirteen, and they were 9 feet x 10 inches x 5 inches. I altered this to fifteen sleepers per 33-ft. rail, and made them 8 ft. 6 in. x 9 inches x 5 inches, as my experience was I could get a better road by doing so. At the same time, I reduced the formation width from 18 feet to 17 feet. The Powellising Commission recommended sleepers 8 feet x 10 inches x 5 inches.
Article No. 4. - In this article, the first questions raised are the depreciation of the . plant and the altered length of rail. So far as the plant is concerned, it is kept in repair during the progress of the work, and each month a certain percentage is written down for depreciation. On the completion of the line, the plant- will be valued for transfer elsewhere, the East-West line credited, and the new line debited. Should there be no new line to transfer it to, it will be sold, and the EastWest line credited with the amount obtained. The alteration of the length of rail has no connexion with the plant depreciation, the 33- ft. rail waggons will be used for traffic purposes, or still used for carrying longer rails by loading alternate trucks with sleepers. The rails being rolled at Newcastle are 40 feet, not’ 45 feet as stated; although, when the Broken Hill Company are in a position to roll 45-ft. rails, such length will be adopted on future lines constructed. If a longer length than 33 feet had been adopted in the first instance a very considerable saving would have been effected.
The next point raised is the ballasting question again, and the figures - are largely incorrect. Reference is again made to the line not being completely ballasted when opened for traffic, with regard to which please see my comments on Article No. 1.
The statements with regard to the several branches are again repeated, with the addition that the writer states - “ The freight on every ton of railway material is, with all the necessary formalities, booked against the Construction Department, and a monthly bill is sent to the latter showing its indebtedness.” The writer must surely recognise that this is necessary to enable an accurate record being kept of the various operations, and to distribute the cost of conveying material over the different works, such as earthworks, platelaying, bridges, culverts, water supply, &c, and that the method adopted is the most complete and accurate way of doing so.
The balance of the article is in praise of the provisioning, medical, sanitary, postal, savings bank, and .police arrangements, except a brief description of the country through which the line is now passing, . and a still further reference to the dates of completion.
Article No. 5.- The time of completion is again referred to at some length, but I have nothing more to add except that I am not aware if any railway in the history of Australia in which platelaying has proceeded at such a rapid rate as it has on the East-West line during the past twelve months.
The writer states, “ the country offers no’ obstacle.” but he is not aware that altogether over . 4,000,000 cubic yards of earthworks will have to be moved, and. that for a long distance very heavy earthwork indeed exists, much heavier than exists to the best of my knowledge on any part of the Western Australian railways.
The substitution of Mr. Darbyshire for Mr. Smith is referred to; but, as you are aware, Mr. Smith never held the position of Supervising Engineer, but was temporarily transferred from survey work ahead, and merely acted as Supervising Engineer until other arrangements were made.
My opinion is asked if the delay in ballasting the line will adversely affect the rails; in reply, I have to state that there are many miles of unballasted lines in Australia, and that the rails are not affected as long as a reasonable running top is kept on the road.
Some reference is made to culvert construction, the meaning of which is not clear to me, except that twelve months or more ago, a dispute arose as to the quantity of stone carted by a contractor to certain culverts, and allegations were made as to a contractor using his dray for other purposes. I reported fully on the occurrence.
In conclusion, I would state that the writer mentions, in Article No. 2, that he did not see the Supervising Engineer, Mr. Derbyshire. It is to be regretted that he failed to do so, as, if he had, I am of opinion ° that these articles either would not have been written, or, if they had been, the conclusions arrived at would have been different, and the facts and figures more accurate. Instead of going to the responsible officer for information, the writer appears to have relied upon information obtained from juniors and assistants, and has been somewhat misled.
– I wish, briefly to refer to the report which has just been read by the Assistant Minister. It is after all a very good thing that the articles which have appeared in the newspaper referred to should have been printed, because they have given the Government and their officials an opportunity to contradict the statements which have been made from time to time about day labour. We have heard a report on the subject from an engineer whose standing is recognised as second to that of no other constructional engineer in Australia. He goes explicitly into every detail of the huge mass of misrepresentation which the West Australian indulged in in printing the articles which have been referred to. I hope thai; the report will be printed as a parliamentary paper, so that it may be widely circulated, because I know the tactics usually adopted by certain newspapers in Western Australia.
– The report will be printed in Hansard. It cannot be printed as a parliamentary paper unless it is laid on the table.
– Can we not have it laid on the table?
– It will appear in Hansard. A document laid on the table is not usually printed in Hansard, and, vice versâ, a document printed in Hansard is not usually laid on the table.
– Is there anything to prevent us making a recommendation to the Printing Committee on the subject, or is there anything to prevent the Senate giving an instruction that it should be printed?
– There is nothing to prevent the Minister laying the paper on the table.
– We know that valuable information recorded in Hansard is to some extent buried. I think that a valuable report of this kind ought to be printed as a separate paper.
– If there are no obstacles in the way, we will have the report printed.
– It is worth printing. If it were possible for us to get at the root of the matter, I think it would be found that the comments which have been made might be traced to the friends of contractors who have been disappointed because they did not secure the job of constructing the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. Having been prevented from securing what, from their stand-point, they would regard as a good thing, some of them have written these articles misrepresenting the work done on the transcontinental railway. As Mr. Bell’s report says, there is probably no railway construction in Australia where the same mileage of rails per day has been laid as on this line. When we remember that the line runs right into a no-man’s land, where there is no settlement, and where the difficulties of con:struction are apparent, we have a right to congratulate ourselves upon the satisfactory work which is being done there.
– The honesty of the workmen has been vindicated.
– There is no doubt about that. As one who knows the class of men engaged upon the transcontinental railway, I assert that the writer of the articles in the West Australian could not possibly have any knowledge of them, or he would not have brought a charge of loafing against them. There is, perhaps, no work where so little consideration is extended to the pointer or loafer as on railway construction, especially on the gold-fields. Mr. Bell’s report confirms the opinion of those who know the class of men engaged in the construction of this railway. I trust that now that we have this vindication of them it will be printed and distributed broadcast.
– Senator de Largie has made reference to the fact that statements were published in the West Australian directed against the day-labour policy of the present Commonwealth Government. During the last few months we have been engaged in an important political struggle in Queensland, and I do not think that there was a single anti-Labour paper there that did not from time to time, and probably in two or three issues per week, indulge in the severest criticism of that policy, and in connexion with the Kalgoorlie to Fort Augusta railway. Wherever we went throughout the State we found the Tory newspapers saturated with that sort of thing. I have, therefore, been particularly pleased to hear the Assistant Minister read Mr. Bell’s report. Mr. Norris Bell, the EngineerinChief of Commonwealth Railways, was our Erigineer-in-Chief in Queensland. He is a tried man, and I may say that if there was any State that was likely to suffer from day labour, if it was not a wise policy, it was Queensland. I am very pleased that the report of our Chief Engineer bears out what we have always contended, namely, that the railways of Australia can be properly constructed by day labour, without the intervention of the contractor. I trust, with Senator de Largie, that Mr. Bell’s report will he given general publicity, because the matter with which it deals does not affect Western Australia only, but the whole of the Commonwealth.
– I should like, for the information of honorable senators, to refer them to the standing order governing the printing of documents quoted during a debate. There is no difficulty whatever in having the report which has been read laid on the table of the Senate as a public document. The Senate may call for it, or the Assistant Minister may lay it on the table. The standing order dealing with the matter provides that -
A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister of the Crown, unless stated to be of a confidential nature, or such as should more properly be obtained by Address, may be called for and made a public document.
There are, therefore, two ways in which what Senator de Largie desires can be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 June 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1915/19150610_senate_6_77/>.