7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Conscriptionof italian Reservists.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the Government consent to the modification or removal of the censorship so far as to admit of the press giving the facts in connexion with the conscription of Italians in Australia?
SenatorPEARCE. - The answer is No.
Motion (by Senator de Largie) agreed to-
That Senator Foll be granted two months’ leave of absence on account of urgent private business.
Motion (by Senator Grant) agreed to-
That a return be laid on the table of the Senate showing -
In Committee: Consideration resumed from 16tlh May (vide page 4734). of motion by Senator Gardiner -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ The Public Works Committee shall report to Parliament as to the suitability of this site for Ordnance Stores before the land is finally resumed by the Federal Government.”
– I understand that some promise has been made to the Leichhardt Muni cipal Council, on behalf of the Commonwealth or State Government, that the money received from the 5 acres of reclaimed land at the proposed site will be made available for the purchase in or near the centre of the municipality of an area for public recreation purposes. If that be so, the Government, in asking the Committee to agree to this measure should supply honorable senators with all the particulars of that undertaking. I should like to say that even if that is done, and quite regardless of the course followed in connexion with the resumption of sites in the past, we should not be afraid to establish the precedent that when lands are being resumed, one, two, or even a greater number of sites should be placed under review by the Public Works Committee. We shall, no doubt, be told that if it is suggested that for any purpose the Government propose to resume land, the immediate effect will be to send up the value of all lands in the vicinity. No doubt that would be so, but I take advantage of this opportunity to point out that that might be very easily circumvented if, during this great war crisis, when we must have additional revenue, the Government made use of the majority they command to carry a measure imposing a flat rate of taxation upon all land values. If they did that, they would have reason to be delighted when they discovered that local land-jobbers were putting up the price of land.
-(Senator Shannon). - Order! I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the clause before the Committee.
– The fear has been expressed that if it were made known that the Government intended to resume land anywhere for Ordnance Stores, or any other public purpose, local land jobbers would immediately get to work and demand an exorbitant price. In view of the fact that only one site would be resumed, I say that if the. Government carried such a measure as I have referred to-
– Order ! I remind the honorable senator that there is a new clause before the Committee, proposing the reference of the matter to the Public Works Committee.
– I dare say that I was a little wide of the mark, but I notice the anxiety expressed by honorable senators to discover the remedy for the difficulty to which I have referred. I should have liked to tell them what it was, and will take another opportunity of doing so. It is scandalous that the Government cannot propose to acquire a site anywhere for a public purpose without grave rumours being circulated that some one has acquired land in the vicinity in order to reap something which he has not sown. Such rumours may be entirely without foundation, but it is not too much to ask that the whole proposal withwhich this Bill deals should be referred to the Public Works Committee for inquiry and report. I regret that Senator Gardiner should have suggestedthat the inquiry might be spread over five or six weeks. I feel quite sure that the members of the Public Works Committee could visit the site and obtain all the information required before next Thursday, to enable us to decide whether it is suitable for the purpose of Ordnance Stores or not. As, however, the honorable senator has asked that the matter should be postponed until a later date, no serious consequences are likely to follow. It is a perfectly fairrequest that nothing more should be done in connexion with the acquisition of this site until it has been reported on bythe Public Works Committee.
– I am sorry that Senator Grant should have. discussed a matter that has already been dealt with. The new clause I have proposed deals only with the reference of the matter to the Public Works Committee, and that might be done to-morrow. I want to answer the statement of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) that it is degrading to Parliament to fetch the outside gossip into this chamber. I can quite understand the very dignified attitude assumed. by the honorable senator, but I claim that he was himself responsible for the introduction of outside gossip. He told us that the reason for the hush and secrecy about the purchase of land by the Government is that outside speculators may learn what is proposed. The outside gossip in connexion with this proposal is that outside speculators inthe honorable senator’s Department have got in, and he knows that the outside gossip is sure to be reported by disappointed men.
– Does the honorable senator take the responsibility of making the statement?
– Certainly not. I am not supporting these people or approving of their action or of the circulation of the gossip; but when I see that hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money are to be spent,’ I take the risk of letting those responsible for the expenditure of the money know the kind of gossip that is going on. It is better to have Parliament and Governments and Departments free from suspicion, by instituting the fullest and freest investigation before anything is done.
– Will you give usthe name of any man outside who is prepared to make those statements publicly?
– That is the level to which the Minister wants to reduce the matter, so that the Government can come down on that individual possibly with all the force of the War Precautions Act for saying these things. The Minister’s own statements justify my action. He said that secrecy in purchasing land must be maintained, because otherwise speculators will get in when it is known that the Government intend to acquire land. What if we say that speculators mayhave already got in - that the whole business is that speculators may get in? What harm is there in referring the matter to the Public Works Committee? What is the duty of the Committee if it is not to investigate these matters?
– Does the honorable senator make those statements?
– All I say is what the Minister for Defence said. He said he purchased the land promptly to prevent speculators getting in. Then, I say, submit the matter to the Public Works Committee to stop speculators who have already got in from reaping any advantage.
– I think that is what is worrying some of the Sydney people - that we got in first.
– It is quite possible that disgruntled speculators are responsible for the rumours to which I have referred.
– Then why take notice of them?
– Because during the whole of his public career the man inside Parliament is up against persistent slanders and degradation of Parliament outside by whisperings of jobs.
– Then why repeat them inside?
– I am not repeating them inside. I am simply letting the Minister know that statements are being made outside that undue influences are at work as to where this huge sum of public money shall be expended. I asked the Minister to submit the question to the Works Committee, but he definitely and deliberately refused. I am therefore compelled to make it clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that this is the particular and peculiar kind of business that should be referred to a standing committee on public works. When he asks me to put my reputation behind the rumours, I tell him I shall do nothing of the kind. I believe that an investigation by the Committee will leave the matter quite free from suspicion, even as regards any one in his Department; The proposal is to have new Ordnance Stores.
– What is the matter with the old ones?
– Exactly ; the old ones rebuilt or reconstructed on a perfect site would easily fill the bill. The chief purpose of Ordnance Stores is to supply the soldiers with their requirements in the way of arms, munitions, clothing, and equipment. Will it not be better for the factories to deliver to the railways and the railways to deliver to the camp where the soldiers can be supplied direct instead of going out on another branch line? The Minister said the cost of the work would not be £50,000. If it is to be a water frontage, and one of the claims in favour of it is that it is, and if that water frontage is to be of any advantage, a swing-bridge will have to be - constructed to allow vessels of any size to come through. That would mop up the greater part of the £50,000, because these things cannot be done for twopence halfpenny’. Then wharfage frontages will have to be constructed, and land will have to be resumed to construct a railway to link up, because this site is not now linked up with the New South Wales railway system. Then the store will have to be built, and goods will have to be continually sent to and from the particular site which the Minister’s officers have selected. I am not imputing anything against the Minister’s officers as regards their selection. I have no desire to do so, and have never done so. The stores will have to :be continually carried to the Liverpool Camp, where the men are in training, and vice versa, a distance of about 20 miles. Are not these things sufficiently serious ? Is money so plentiful in this country that £250,000 may be expended now without an investigation ? A cost of £11,000 has already been inkcurred to acquire the private lands already resumed, with the cottages thereon, without Parliament knowing anything about it and without any investigation.
– Where are the present Ordnance Stores in connexion with the Liverpool Camp?
– On Circular Quay - an excellent place if water frontage is required. If they are to be shifted they should be established at Liverpool Camp itself, where, according to Senator Millen, there is 40,000 acres of land available and a railway running right through it. The old Ordnance Stores have been in the possession of the Government since the Defence Department went over to the Commonwealth, and were used by the State Government for ordnance purposes before that. I am prepared to admit that the buildings are old and out of date, but when it is proposed to establish new Stores the officers of the Department pick a site, which is not a proper, one. I know that Senator Reid meant by his interjection to elicit the fact that the present Stores are not at Liverpool Camp. That is so, but the Liverpool land was resumed while the old Ordnance Stores were in use by the Department, and they have never been shifted. Liverpool is a camp where probably from 15,000 to 20,000- men will be in training, not only to-day and to-morrow, but in the future.
– Distributions from the Stores go further than Liverpool Camp. They go all over New South Wales.
– They go all over Australia.
– I do not question it; but, speaking generally, the supplies for each State are kept in the State concerned. If stores are required for other States, the site on Circular Quay is a very convenient one to ship them from. I am speaking, however, purely in relation to New South Wales, which supplies half the troops sent from Australia, and half the money, and is therefore the chief factor in these matters. If I forget to mention the smaller sections of Australia, it does not mean that I am altogether overlooking them; but I know that Melbourne has its Ordnance Stores, and so has Adelaide. The departmental officers propose to erect new Stores at a spot which it is quite as difficult for the contractors to reach as is the Liverpool Camp. If they had to send to Liverpool, all they would have had to do would be to despatch the goods to the nearest railway station, and the railway runs right through the camp at Liverpool.
– Every’ one of these points will be referred to the Works Committee.
– If the Minister had only said that before he proceeded to buy the land, I should not have said a word against the Bill; and I appealed to him to say it before I spoke on the Bill. But these matters will go to the Committee only when the site has been acquired, the park x taken . from the people, and private lands resumed. I believe they have already been resumed, yet Parliament knows nothing about it.
– That is why the land speculators did not know anything about it.
– If the Minister is so suspicious of outside land speculators, he ought to be the last to blame other people for being suspicious of inside ones. We are living in a time when money is important to the people of this country. Every shilling counts, yet the Minister tells us that he has already resumed the land. I do not think the Government, in paying .£11,000, paid an exorbitant price for the land and cottages.
– That shows the business way the deal was carried out.
– I cannot argue with people who are willing to leave the whole business to officers and to a Minister who accepts the advice of those offi cers, and who consider that Parliament should take a secondary place. I want to discuss the question from the standpoint that we are responsible for the people’s money, and should take every reasonable, fair, and legitimate means to see that a full and fair inquiry is made into how and when that public money is to be expended.
– Do you argue that before any land is resumed the Government should come down to Parliament and say, “ We propose to resume such and such’ a site,” and have a discussion in Parliament before we actually resume it?
– I ,do. If the Government desire to resume land they can take such steps as will stop it changing hands and prevent any alteration in value. They have no right to buy land for a purpose for which it is unsuitable.
– All we have done is to post the notice of acquisition on the land. The money is not paid, and the land is net actually acquired in that sense.
– I am glad that we are getting the Minister a little further.
– If honorable senators opposite read the Lands Acquisition Act they would know that that is the procedure.
– Does that involve the acquisition of the land ?
– Order ! This cross-questioning across the chamber is disorderly.
– You should not stop those questions, because they are eliciting information.
– Every honorable senator has the right to speak in Committee as long as he likes.
– I would remind you, sir, that I am the only person who is not allowed to speak in the Senate. I arrive at my estimate of an expenditure of £250,000 in this way. There will have to be a swing bridge to allow the ships to come up to the Stores, if we are to consider this as a waterside site.
– That is an invention of your own. It is not so.
– I appeal to Senators Grant and McDougall, who saw the site, to say whether I am not correct.
– It is not proposed to take ships up to the site.
– Then my statement is correct. All I said was that if it was to be a waterside frontage the existing bridge would have to be broken and a swing bridge made. The Minister now says that it is not to be used as a water frontage.
– I say nothing of the kind. We are going to take barges up.
– Then what I have said has not been in vain, because it is being made clear to honorable senators that this is not an ideal waterside site. We all thought that the Government wanted a site where the goods for other States could be loaded direct into the vessels. I will cut £50,000 out of my estimate for the swing bridge. If the Government are not going to load the goods direct on to the ship, they might as well at once wipe out all pretence that this is a water site. As a matter of fact, it will be no better than a railway site, because, if stores have to. be unloaded from and loaded into lighters, why should not the Government establish the Ordnance Stores at Liverpool Camp, where the stores may be loaded into railway trains.
– Because railway handling is about twice as expensive.
– The Minister Is ill-informed as to the. cost of railway carriage in New South Wales if he says that. Let us consider this matter from a business point of view. Unfortunately, the men who load goods into railway trucks are paid only 10s. a day, whereas other men get 2s. an hour; so, of course, it is more expensive, viewed from that stand-point. But if we are going to construct Ordnance Stores which will cost a huge sum of money - the Minister has already intimated that private land with cottages upon it to the value of £11,000 is to be resumed - why should we’ take park lands from the people in what will eventually be a crowded district, while, at the same time, we have Ordnance Stores at Pyrmont, Circular Quay, and ample room at the Liverpool Training Area for the construction of new premises thought to be necessary ? If the Stores are established at Leichhardt, an enormous expenditure will be incurred in the carriage of goods to and from the camps. Blankets, for instance, will be a considerable item.
These will have to be taken to the camps, and, when not further required, sent back again to the Ordnance Stores; and the carriage will not be by train so much as by motor lorries. At Liverpool the Government have an area comprising thousands of acres, so that there is no necessity whatever for the Minister to look around for more land and to select a site which, in my opinion, is most unsuitable. I am only asking that the Committee should instruct that the whole proposal be submitted to the Public Works Committee before more expenditure is incuired. This is a fair proposal, and if the Minister had accepted it I would not have addressed the Senate further upon the matter. I have been endeavouring to make it clear that the Government proposal meansthe expenditure of a huge sum of money, when, all the time, they have ample land in. suitable places elsewhere for Ordnance Stores, and we ought to use (hose lands, and make them more valuable. I submit my amendment with no heat or desire to impugn the bona fides of any officer or of the Minister. I have mentioned rumours about land transactions, but they are only rumours, and it is possible that some disappointed speculators are largely responsible for them; so an inquiry by the Public Works Committee will give those gentlemen an opportunity of tendering evidence upon oath if they desire to do so. I have no information, and I have never pretended that I had; but I feel it is my duty to lift Parliament, the Government, and the Department above suspicion. We can do that by insisting upon the fullest publicity being given to this particular matter before further expenditure is incurred. If the Minister persists in claiming his right to tie this country down to a huge expenditure before the matter even goes before the Public Works Committee, I ask honorable senators to support my amendment. I know, however, that it will be decided on party lines, which are more tightly drawn among honorable senators opposite than among members on this side of the Senate, and that they must vote as they are told to vote.
– I would not have said any more about this matter but for a remark which the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) made that the New
South Wales senators who are opposing the Government proposal have something up their sleeve. He did not use those words exactly, but I understood him to mean that we had some ulterior motive in opposing the Bill. I have not. I have heard none of the rumours about “ boodle,” and know nothing about them. I am opposing this Bill on the ground that it means the spoliation of park land, and that the site is not a good one. Only a few years ago Darling Island was selected as a site for Ordnance Stores, and the large buildings put up there should last this country for many years. Those Stores, I understand, are now to be sold by public auction.
– Who says that?
– I asked the Minister yesterday, and he said “ Yes.”
– I said nothing of the kind.
– I am sorry I said that, then. I made the statement yesterday, and the Minister did not deny it. I think Colonel Sands told me.
– He had no authority to say that.
– I am sorry, then, that I said anything about the matter. If the Darling Island Stores are not to be sold, much of my objection to the Bill is removed. I was given to understand, however, that the property has been valued for the purpose of the sale.
– Not to my knowledge.
– I believe that the Darling Island Stores have been valued at £50,000, and the other Stores at £40,000; but I am glad to learn that the Commonwealth does not intend to sell them, because I think the Government should hold all the land they have in the capital cities of the Commonwealth. Now, that removes one of my objections to the Bill ; but my other objection is that the site selected is absolutely unsuitable. There are better sites within a quarter of a mile, and these could be investigated if the Public Works Committee had authority to make inquiries. Land close to the site chosen by the Government has been available for private enterprise for years, but it was not looked at because of an impediment to water carriage, viz., a low-level bridge. The Minister has told us that he got in early, so that the land specu lators would not have an opportunity to do anything ; but I point out that speculators will be powerless in this matter, because the Government have a right to acquire any land they need in New South Wales at the value put upon it by the owner himself, because all land in New South Wales comes under the operation of unimproved land values taxation, under which the owner fixes his own valuation, and the Government have the right to take land at that value.
– But the owner has the right of appeal, and I have never yet known a Court to enforce that particular section of the Act. It does not work.
– Yes, it does. I have some land that I would like to sell to the Government. There is a tax on it to-day, and I would give it to them for nothing. I protest against the suggestion of the Minister that we are opposing the Bill from ulterior motives. I am objecting to it because it means the spoliation of a park land, and because the site is not a good one. I have heard the Minister himself, when in Opposition, using much the same arguments as have been employed by Senator Gardiner - all the “ tittle-tattle “ he heard in other places - and, when asked, refuse to give the source of his information.
– Whenever people came to me with yarns, I always told them to put their statement in writing and sign it.
– When the Minister was on this side of the Senate he did not do that.
– Yes, I did. .
– Then I invite the Minister to look up Hansard, and he will find that he did not. I say that the New South Wales senators have no other motive, in their opposition to this Bill, than that of watching the interests of their constituency and the peoplethey represent. I am satisfied the site is not suitable. I was shown over it by Colonel Sands, and, while I agree that the railway facilities are not unsatisfactory, it should never have been chosen on the ground that it provides a water front. The Minister said that the local council have offered no objection. I say they did; but they have been consoled by the belief that the Commonwealth Government will take the bodies out of the old burying ground in the heart of Leichardt, and give them that property for a park. If this is not done, I think the Government will meet with opposition from the local council. The Minister also said that he believed the State Government would recompense the people; but, so far as I know, the New South Wales Government have given no such guarantee, the only undertaking being a word-of-mouth promise that somebody would recompense the council by purchasing unoccupied lands in the district and handing them over for parkland purposes. The promise, however, is too indefinite and insecure, and there is no guarantee that it will be given effect to.
– I am rather perplexed at the determined opposition to this Bill, particularly by the Leader of the Opposition in this Chamber (Senator Gardiner).
– Did not the honorable senator offer determined opposition to measures when he was against the Government?
– Yes. I understand all about that ; but, in this case, the whole of the objections raised by the Leader of the Opposition are met by the promise of the Government, and, indeed, by the Act appointing a Public Works Committee.
– Is the honorable senator always ready to accept the promise of the Government?
– I am ready to take the promise of this Government, and I recognise also that they are compelled by Statute law to refer this matter to the Public Works Committee. Senator McDougall’s contention is rather on different lines. He has raised strong objection to the alienation of any land suitable for the recreation of the people. That is a position which I have always strongly taken up myself. Were I not convinced by the arguments of the honorable senator himself, and by others who have contributed to the debate, that this small strip of land is altogether unsuitable for a recreation ground or public park, I should be strongly tempted to assist him; but I am convinced that it is not suited to such purpose, and, therefore, that it should be put to the use for which it is suitable, and that other breathing spaces should be provided for the people concerned.
– I assure you it is most suitable for a recreation ground.
– You say it is on the border of a sewer.
– A pellucid watercourse.
– A polluted watercourse! I think you, yourself, said last night that it was odoriferous.
– I did not.
– The fact that there are not more public reserves for that district is unfortunate. It should be the duty of the municipal authorities concerned, and of the State Government, to provide ample breathing spaces for the people. The Commonwealth Government have already acquired an option over 5 acres of private land.
– They have purchased that.
– They have not paid for it.
– They are not committed to the purchase.
– If honorable senators desire to attack the Government for having taken that step, they should do so in the form of some specific motion, and should base their complaint on the fact of the acquisition of the land before the matter was introduced to the Legislature or submitted to the Public Works Committee. I could understand such an attitude ; but the attempt to prevent the passage of this Bill will not affect the point that the authorities still have that specific piece of land. The passing of this measure will in no wise bear upon that situation; but if the Bill becomes law it will give to the Commonwealth power to acquire another 5 acres adjacent to that over which they at present hold an option. The Government have given the assurance that the whole matter must be submitted to the Public Works Committee.
– Not the site; the buildings only.
– Is it not competent for the Committee to report that it opposes the expenditure of any money on that particular site because it is not suitable? Even the Public Accounts Committee, which inquires into the expenditure of public money, may also take into consideration whether it is economically sound to spend money upon a specific site.
– But after an Act has been passed, where are they?
– This Bill will not affect the position one iota, because, if the Committee reports that the site is unsuitable, and that it would be a waste of money to erect buildings thereon, this land would revert to the State Government.
– I say yes.
– You are wrong.
– This Act will be only permissive. It does not close the bargain.
– What about the £11,000?
– That is another matter, which is already settled. This Act will not bind the bargain.
– It will give power to acquire only.
– Yes; but that does not actually acquire.
– If the Government use that power, where is the Committee?
– If they use it, of course, the contract is closed; but the argument of Senator Gardiner to the effect that if they do not want the power they should not ask for it, is not comprehensible. The Government have taken the responsibility of saying that they believe the site is suitable for a necessary public institution connected with the Defence Department.
– Senator Pearce has stated that even if the Public Works Committee reported against it, it would still rest with the Government to carry out the project.
– Yes; and it would then . rest with Parliament to. deal with the Government. Does the honorable senator mean to tell me that the Government would fly in the face of a report of the Public Works Committee?
– A Government with such supporters as you can do as they like.
– The honorable senator need not jibe at me; I can stand all that kind of thing.
– Order! HonorableSenators must not interject.
– We have to take a practical view of the situation.
– Avery practical view you are taking.
– Order! I appeal to honorable senators to assist me in maintaining order.
– If the Senate passes the Bill, and gives the Governmentthe power to acquire this land, then, before any money has been expended-other than what has been already disbursed in the acquisition of the private land - if it is intended to attack the Government, it will be necessary to do so by way of some resolution. Before any more money is spent, the Public Works Committee have the power to inquire into all the arguments advanced by Senator Gardiner-
– The Public Works Committee have no such power.
– They have the power.
– You do not know what you are talking about.
– Senator Newland is a member of the Committee, and he requires to read the Act.
– It is because I. have read the Act, and that you, apparently, have not, that I say what I have said.
– Senator Earle read it at the wrong page.
– The fact stands that any expenditure which exceeds £25,000 must be considered by the Public Works Committee.
– You are very much wrong.
– You are absolutely correct.
– Then, why am I told by some honorable senators that I am wrong?
– That is a different thing from what you said before ; but you are incorrect when you hold that the Committee has a right to investigate anything at all in connexion with a proposed work. We can only investigate what is referred to us, and, in this instance, it is the matter of the cost of the buildings.
– I cannot understand why Senator Newland adopts that attitude.
– It is because it is the right one.
– It is not. Here is a proposition which Senator Gardiner says will cost a quarter of a million sterling. He has not been sufficiently contradicted upon that, at any rate, to warrant us in believing tha; it will be a matter of less than £25,000. If we are sure, then, that it will exceed £25,000, it must come under the consideration of the Public Works Committee.
– Hear, hear ! That as right.
– It must not.
– Then why should honorable senators contradict me?
– I will prove my contradiction directly.
– The Committee will also take into consideration the site on which the money it to be expended. It will be the duty of the Committee to advise the Government as to the suitability of the site, just as much as upon the suitability of the structure.
– That will be only if the site is referred to the Committee for consideration. It :is there that you are going wrong.
– I cannot understand the Public Works Committee, or any publicly constituted authority intrusted to advise the Government and Parliament upon the wisdom of spending public money on the construction of public buildings, failing to take into consideration the best selection of a site.
– What the Com- mittee will be instructed to investigate will be what the Minister puts before the Senate and intimates that it is desired that the Committee shall make its inquiries upon.
– If the site is referred to the Committee, its members will investigate that matter; but they cannot do so otherwise.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that if the Public Works Committee was convinced that an Ordnance Store wa,j absolutely necessary, and that the proposed structure would be worth the money, b it that it waa planned to erect the structure in Timbuctoo, the question of the site would not interest the Committee at all?
– Hear, hear !
– Do I understand that such a site would not interest the Committee?
– That is so.
– Then the sooner we get another Public Works Committee the better.
– No ; the sooner we get another Public Works Committee Act the better.
– I cannot understand the view adopted by certain honorable senators. The Committee, when inquiring into the expenditure, or the proposed outlay, of money on the erection of buildings for Ordnance Stores upon this site, would surely consider also whether or not the locality is ‘suited to such purpose.
– It would be inseparably interwoven.
– If the Committee did not do. so, I hold that it would fail in its duty to Parliament. But I am convinced the Committee would do so, notwithstanding what certain members of that Committee in this chamber have already said. I know that they would consider the suitability of the site, and that, if they reported adversely upon it, the responsibility would then rest with the Government in that they had incurred certain expenditure beforehand in the purchase of private land. However, to carry this amendment will effect no purpose at all, because Senator Gardiner has the assurance-:-
– What assurance?
– Under the Public Works Committee Act, that the amount of money - totalling more than £25,000 - will enforce the consideration of the subject upon the Committee. Senator Gardiner then must.be positively assured that the transaction will be referred to the Committee.
The passage of this Act will incur no further expense. A certain amount of expenditure has been already undertaken with respect to the acquisition of a certain space of private land. This measure will merely give the Commonwealth Government power to acquire from the State Government an area which no law at present authorizes them to take. Altogether, I cannot understand or appreciate the viewpoint of certain honorable senators. I can, and do, sympathize with Senator McDougall, for he argues that we should alienate no land suitable for recreation purposes. And, as I have already indicated, were I not convinced that this particular area is not suited to its dedication as a public reserve, I would support the honorable senator. However, I intend to support the Bill as it stands.
– I listened very attentively to the speech which has just been delivered by Senator Earle, who assured us again and again that he had carefully read the Act under which the Public Works Committee was appointed. If hehas done so, it is quite evident that he does not understand it. He devoted practically the whole of his remarks to the question of the proposed >site. May I be permitted to quote an extract from the evidence given before the Public Works Committee in connexion with the inquiry into the proposed extension of the Postal Stores buildings in Harbor-street, Sydney ? Mr. Edmund James Young, Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales, under examination by the Chairman, Mr. Riley, stated -
The question of the foundations of such a building does not come within my province. That particular matter will be dealt with by officers of the Home Affairs Department. If they reported a difficulty about getting good foundations, we would not go on with the project. We were primarily responsible for the selection of the locality, and, as I have already said, it would be the duty of the officers of the Home Affairs Department to report on the nature of the foundations.
– Was that site referred to the Public Works Committee?
– No. It was purchased by the Government at a cost of £13,000 before the Public Works Committee had anything to do with the matter.
– It was purchased after Public Works officers had seen it and reported upon it.
– That does not touch my point. I am speaking of the Public Works Committee.
– But that was a purchase which involved an expenditure of only £13,000- not of £25,000.
– I suggest that the honorable senator has been somewhat misled by Senator Earle. Seeing that only £11,000 was expended upon that site, obviously it could not be referred to the Public Works Committee. Senator Earle stated,- amongst other things, that there should be a new. Public Works Committee appointed. Probably there will be. He also affirmed, without any reservation whatever, that every -public work the cost of which will exceed £25,000 must be referred to that body.
– That was my statement.. Look at section 15 of the Act.
– I will prove that the honorable senator’s statement is wrong. Section 15 of the Public Works Committee Act provides -
No public work of any kind whatsoever, except such works as have already been authorized by Parliament or which are authorized during the present session, and except works for the naval or military defence of the Commonwealth exempted by Order in Council from the operation of the Act, the estimated cost of completing which exceeds £25,000, and whether such work ia a continuation, completion, repair, reconstruction, extension, or a new work, shall be commenced unless sanctioned as in this section provided.
Senator Earle emphasized his statement that every work the cost of which will exceed £25,000 has, of necessity, to be referred to the Public Works Committee. The provision which I have quoted conclusively proves that he is wrong.
– Then the honorable senator holds that the work which, we are now considering will be exempted by an Order in Council?
– As a matter of fact, whilst the Public Works Committee was investigating one of the biggest propositions ever placed before any Committee of the kind in Australia - I . refer to the works at the Henderson Naval Base, the estimated cost of which had been set down at something over £5,000,000 - an Order in Council was published under which practically everything connected with those works was cut out of the reference to the Committee. When, therefore, Senator Earle reads the Public Works Committee Act, he ought, at least, to endeavour to understand it. In view of my experience as a member of that body in connexion with the extension of the Postal Stores in Harbor-street, Sydney, I think it would be wise if in all cases the site upon which it is proposed to erect buildings should be referred to it. I have conclusively proved that Senator Earles contention is absolutely wrong. “When he reads the Hansard report of this debate he will see that he stated most definitely that every work the cost of which will exceed £25,000 must be referred to the Public Works Committee.
– I also said that the Government have v,o accept the responsibility if they refuge to adopt the recommendations of that body.
– I do not dispute that. But the honorable senator also affirmed, without any qualification, that every work the cost of which will exceed £25,000 must be referred to the Committee.
– The Government can divide works into two parts and obviate the necessity for referring them to the Public Works Committee in that way.
– They are doing that. For example, it is proposed to make certain alterations to the old General Post Office ‘buildings in Mel- < bourne. But the work of effecting those alterations has been so arranged that, notwithstanding that the expenditure involved will exceed £25,000, the Public Works Committee will not have a chance of investigating it.
– They are repairs, are they not?
– They are additions to buildings. I say that works the cost of- which will exceed £25,000 need not necessarily be referred to the Public Works Committee. I t further maintain that the site upon which it is proposed to erect any buildings need not be referred to that body.
– -The Committee would not be doing its duty if it did not consider the question of site.
– May I point out to the honorable senator that the site for the Flinders Naval Base was not referred to the Public Works Committee, nor was the site for the Henderson Naval Base, nor the site far the Automatic Telephone Exchange in Sydney, nor the site for the extension of the Postal Stores in Harbor-street, Sydney ? In regard to the last-mentioned’ work, I have already told honorable senators that the Public Works Committee expressed its opinion regarding the unsuitability of the site. It did so in paragraph 13 of its report, which reads -
The matter o£ the foundation was carefully considered by the Committee, and it was shown that to obtain any foundation that can be trusted it will be essential to go down to the solid rock. The advantage of erecting the building on piling, as compared with concrete piers, was duly weighed, and the Committee recommends the adoption of solid concrete piers as being eminently suitable and cheaper than piles to the extent of approximately £1,000. .
Not a single member of the Committee would have chosen the site selected for such a building. But that site had already been acquired, and consequently we had to do the best that we could in the circumstances.
– The honorable senator sets the opinion of the Public Works Committee against that of the Government experts?
– There are a lot of experts in this world.
– Some of them are to be found on the Public Works Committee.
– They are also to be found in the Government Departments. I do not pose as an expert, but I think I can listen to evidence and sift it. “I have already quoted the testimony of the responsible officer of one of the Departments on this matter, and I have no hesitation in saying that any layman could see at a glance that the site was not a suitable one. There was not a member of the Committee who would have risked erecting a dog kennel upon it, let alone paying £13,000 for its acquisition.
– Senator Earle is, apparently, of opinion that this site is not suitable for a park. If he were convinced that it is, he would hesitate about assisting the Government to take it out of the hands of the residents of Leichhardt. I know the site well, and I consider that it is eminently suitable for a park. It is about 5 acres in extent. The ground is level, and fairly covered with grass, and is about 4 feet above the mean level of the Harbor. It is at the edge of a very closely-settled district, and there is no other park in the vicinity.
– What about the old cemetery there; could not that be turned into a park?
– It is only persons like Senator Reid who could find enjoyment in a cemetery. The ordinary citizen would go elsewhere for recreation. It is incorrect to suggest that a sewer, in the ordinary sense of the term, bounds the site on one side, because the whole of suburban Sydney in this district isconnected with the underground sewers, and no offensive matter can reach the storm water channels. This channel has been used exclusively to promptly carry off storm waters. It is fairly wide and deep, and might be made deeper very easily. The prevailing winds are from the north-east, and carry a continuous stream of fresh air over the site.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks more closely to the clause.
– I have spoken in order to show that the site is an ideal one for a park, and it is the only area in the district suitable for that purpose. The Government have so far not made any definite statement as to the relations which it is suggested should exist between them and the trustees of the cemetery in the centre of the municipality of Leichhardt. I do not see why the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) should not follow the course adopted in another place in this connexion, and take honorable senators into his confidence.’ I have spoken to inform Senator Earle, who does not know the locality, that this site is in every way suitable for a public park, but for a progressive suburb like Leichhardt it might well be ten times its present size.
.- I have listened with the closest attention throughout the debate. I know nothing of the locality of the site selected for the proposed Ordnance Stores, but it appears to me that Senators Gardiner and McDougall have made out a very strong case for the reference of the whole proposal to the Public Works Committee. If it is not the duty of that Committee to take into consideration the site upon which many thousand pounds of public money are to be spent, then the Act under which the Committee is constituted should be altered to give it some say in the expenditure of public money upon the purchase of sites for proposed buildings. I agree with the view . that Senator McDougall has expressed in opposition to the alienation of public recreation grounds. The modern idea everywhere is to enlarge rather than to restrict these lungs of the people. We are told that this site is the only piece of land in the municipality of Leichhardt available for a public park.
– Have any local authorities made that assertion ?
– I make it, as one who knows the district well.
– I began by saying that I personally know nothing about the site, but Senators McDougall and Grant have said that it is absolutely the only piece of land available in the locality for a public park.
– If that be so, is it not strange that the local authorities have not communicated with Parliament on the subject?
– In answer to that very pertinent interjection, I must say that it appeared to me extraordinary that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), in submitting the measure, was unable to refer honorable senators to any official statement showing that the local authorities of Leichhardt favoured the alienation of this land. The most he was able to say was that he understood that that was the case. It occurs to me that he might well have been fortified with an official statement from the local authorities approving of the Government proposal. I have a very strong objection to the alienation of land set apart for the recreation of the public. I can readily understand that a certain class of people do not care a twopenny dump about the alienation of public reserves, because they own land in the neighbourhood of those reserves. They know that if the reserves are alienated, and public factories erected upon them, the result must be a considerable addition to the residents of the locality, and an increased demand for land in the vicinity, which would, consequently, rise in value. The general public do not take that view, and if We took the voice generally of the people of the locality, I make bold to say that the people of Leichhardt would be found pronounced in their objection to the alienation of this site. A proposal of this kind could only be justified if there were no other locality in which the Government might secure a suitable site for the erection of Ordnance Stores. That has not been suggested. I should be prepared to oppose giving the Government power to alienate this land on the ground of my general objection to permitting the alienation of the people’s parks. Senator Gardiner has made an extremely . reasonable” request in asking that the whole proposal should be referred to the Public Works Committee. Nothing would be lost if that were done.
– What would be gained ?
– I:r the Public Works Committee were satisfied that this is a suitable site, and recommended the erection of Ordnance Stores there, many of the rumours, in circulation would be disproved, and suspicion concerning the proposal would be removed from the public mind.
– The Works Committee will be able to make the inquiries referred to.
– Then what is the Minister’s objection to submitting the whole proposal to tie Works Committee now ? Doubts have been expressed as to the suitability of the site, and, taking everything into consideration, it has been suggested that even Liverpool would afford a better site for the erection of Ordnance Stores. It is suggested that the water frontage at this site is of little value, because of the obstruction to navigation in the shape of the Iron Cove Bridge.
– Barges could very easily be brought under the bridge. ‘
– Senator Reid must be very hard pressed when he talks of barges being used. Does he know anything of the difficulty of handling goods on barges ?
– I meant lighters.
– 7. know something of the difficulty. It means the transhipping of goods from the vessel to the barge, from the barge to the wharf, and, perhaps, afterwards from the wharf to a train. The damage to goods by all this handling would more than balance the extra cost involved in making provision for transhipping direct from the ship’s slings to a wharf. Lightering everywhere is being reduced. I venture to say that there is not one-tenth- of the lightering done in Melbourne now that used to be done -years ago.
– There is no railway to Circular Quay.
– There is a tramway.
– But it is impossible to carry a big gun on a tram.
– I am quite unable to understand the objection to submit this ‘ proposal to the Public Works Committee.
– That is going to be done.
– Then why not do it in the manner indicated by Senator Gardiner?
– Why not give honorable senators opposite a chance to score a victory?
– I have not the faintest thought of such a thing, nor am I imputing motives to any one. .Senator Gardiner’s proposal appeals to me as a commonsense one, and, as such, ought to commend itself to every honorable senator. Senator Gardiner raised an important question when ‘he suggested .that it would be more advantageous to the Department to build the store at Liverpool Camp.
– How are you going to get your barges to Liverpool ?
– A better river goes right up to it than the one that goes up to Leichhardt.
– I never proposed > to take barges to Liverpool. If goods are imported, and have to be carried from the ships’ side to Liverpool, I should imagine that the train would be used.
– Where is your train? There is no train from Circular Quay.
– There is a train to Darling Harbor, where more imports are landed than at any other port. I am not saying that it would be better to put the store at Liverpool Camp, but Senator Gardiner made out a very fair case. If that question was submitted, with the general question, to the Public Works Committee, and they reported adversely on it, I should he satisfied, and so would the public outside. But if the people get the idea that this proposal is being forced through, in spite of all objections, they will naturally feel suspicious that the Government are doing it for some ulterior purpose. I shall support the amendment because it commends itself to me as the most reasonable and sensible method of solving the problem.
– Senator Earle misapprehended some remarks of mine. He said that, by calling the channel a sewer,
I led him to believe that the site at Leichhardt was not a suitable place for a park. I called the channel a sewer because it is a storm-water sewer or channel. It was built to carry off the storm water from the upper lands about Petersham and Lewisham. This place was filled in, and is absolutely suitable for a park, because right alongside it there is a boatshed containing 100 or more boats, and the young people come there and hire boats to go out on the bay. They do not go out on the storm-water channel. I only mentioned the .channel to show that the site was useless as a water frontage. A road runs right round it, .and goods will have to be carted wherever they go; hut I cast no slurs on the land ‘as a site for a recreation ground. The Public “Works Department of New South “Wales have had special punts built to go up to this place, because there is only 3 ft. 6 in. of water there ; so the idea of calling it a water frontage is absolutely ridiculous. “Within a quarter pf a mile a water frontage could be got with deep water right up against the rocks, and railway communication. Even if land had to be bought, I would sooner see the Government buy it than take a public park. They could huy the land at the valuation put on it by the owners .themselves for land tax purposes.
– I am voting against the Bill on the one principle that we have absolutely no right to take away the recreation grounds of the people, which are small enough at the present time in every one of our cities; but I cannot see why that principle should be referred to the Public “Works Committee. I am entirely against the amendment. Our present Ordnance Stores in Sydney are in Georgestreet, one of the most valuable sites’ in the city. What are we going to do with them?
– They are all over the place; we have twenty-five of them.
– The principal one is the old Imperial Barracks, in George-street.
– At the foot of George-street.
– Yes; and adjacent to Circular Quay, where all the liners lie that bring the ordnance from the Old Country. It - is only a matter of a conveyor belt to take the goods from the ships into the Stores on the present site. We also have Garden Island, with huge stores. What is the matter with it ?
– The Government do not want them.
– We have them already. The buildings are there, with, huge cranes and gantries erected all round. Again, we have Darling Harbor, with a railway to it. If the goods are landed at Circular Quay or Woolloomooloo Bay, Where most of them are, there is no railway at either place to pick them up, and they have to be transferred into motor vans or trolleys and carted 3 or 4 miles to the railway. It is ridiculous to suggest placing the Stores at Liverpool. The question is not one for the Public Works Committee or the Accounts Committee. It is a matter for thorough investigation to find out if the proposal is necessary.
– Would not either of those Committees do it?
– I do not think so; it is not their work. A Select Committee of the Senate .would be far better than the Public Works Committee to investigate this matter. A Select Committee would have nothing to do with the construction of the buildings or the foundations, but would simply have to find the most suitable site for Ordnance Stores. The Government will be well advised to hold this proposal over. I intend, on the principle I mentioned at the beginning, to vote against Cbe third reading.
– When Senator Gardiner was speaking, I asked the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), by interjection, what the effect would be of the Gazette notice having been published authorizing the acquisition of the land; but I could not get an answer at the time. Will the Minister say if that procedure will necessarily involve any actual payment of money for private lands so acquired? It is a very good thing that the debate on this monstrous proposal has been continued this morning, because we have heard some most important admissions, and important light has been thrown on’ the subject. There was first the admission of the Minister for Defence, which would have saved a lot of discussion if he had made it yesterday, that barges would have to be used to take the goods to and from the new Stores. Senator Guthrie said that to land the goods at Circular- Quay wo lid entail 2 or 3 miles carriage by motor or horse lorry. On the other hand, t”ie additional handling in and out of barges would be infinitely more expensive, both from the wages point of view and from the point of view of the detrimental effect on the goods handled. Anybody who has seen the methods employee, at waterside fronts, where cargo has to be handled two or three times, knows what that means to the goods themselves, and’ also what it means in expenses. ‘Senator Pearce’s admission that barges would have to be used to reach the proposed site did away with the whole of his contention of yesterday - that the water frontage to the locality was a most important consideration. Senator Needham also gave prominence to another important phase of the question. He pointed out that, under the Public “Works Committee Act, the Defence Department ot the Department of the Navy could, at any time after the Committee had begun an inquiry into a naval or military work properly referred to them by Parliament, instigate the issue of an Order in Council by the Government to bring about a cessation of the inquiry. Are we to accept the Minister’s assurance so repeatedly given in this chamber, that thin work will be referred to the Committee, and then find, twentyfour hours afterwards, that an order has been issued by the Governor-General in Council, under thi) plea of naval or military necessity - as has been so often done - abrogating all reference of the proposal to that Committee? The Minister yesterday did not give the Senate full information on this phase of the question. He appeared to keep back full reference to the points with which he was dealing - reference to which, in fairness, honorable senators were entitled. Another most serious aspect was raised this morning by Senator McDougall, who said that he had been informed that the sites of the old Ordnance Stores at Darling Harbor and Circular Quay hid undergone valuation for the purpose of being sold by the Defence Department. When the Minister for Defence was asked directly by that honorable senator if that was so, all he could say was “Not to my knowledge.” It is a monstrous situation that a responsible Minister, in an ultra-responsible position, in an ultra-important Department like that of Defence, should not be in a position to say “Yes” or “No” to such a question.
– Oan you say that it did’ happen ? All that was said was that it was rumoured that it had happened, and I said that I had no knowledge of it having been done.
– The Minister was asked to say whether those old sites had undergone valuation for the purpose of sale, and his reply was, “ Not to any knowledge.”
– Is not that correct?
– The Minister said it had not been gone into, so far as he was aware.
– Yes. 0
– But cannot the Minister say whether a valuation has been made by. any officer ?
– No, because another Department values all Government properties.
– Does that apply to the Defence Department?
– Then, who would be able to give information on this question ?
– The Home and Territories Department. They would make any valuation, and communicate the matter to me.
– We now appear to be getting some light on the subject, and I say that Senator Pearce ought to be in a position to say “ Yes “ or “ No “ to the question that has been raised.
– But how could he if he did not know?
– That brings me back to the point that it is most remarkable that things should be going on in this Department without the knowledge of the Minister.
– If I should say to the honorable senator, “ Do you know your hat has been stolen from the Senate club-room?” what would he say?
– The stealing of a hat does not compare with the selling of Defence Department’s properties at Darling Island, Sydney. The Minister, as the responsible head of his Department, should be in a position to know what is going on. As the Bill now before the Committee deals with the establishment of another Ordnance Store, the Minister ought to be in a position to say if it is the intention of his Department, or of the Home and Territories Department, to part with the old Ordnance properties. He ought to be able to say “ Yes “ or “ No “ to a question like that, irrespective of which Department values the properties.
– I know I will not satisfy the honorable senator ; but I have said that, as far as I am concerned, I have not the least intention of selling the properties.
– The reply is, indeed, unsatisfactory, because it is well known that criticism of the Defence Department turns almost exclusively on the fact that things have been going on without the knowledge of the Minister.
– That is another wholesale rumour.
-It is very true. Another phase of the question which honorable senators opposite have attached much importance to is that the area affected by the Bill is hot park lands; but I maintain that any open space in a densely-populated city like Sydney is a requisite, necessary to the population in that locality. It would not be so bad if this resumption were a single and isolated instance; but as was pointed out last night, thisfilching of the public parks of Australia is apparently the settled policy of the Government, and of the party supporting them. Action in another direction parallel almost with this, has proved what I say. The working classes and poorer people generally suffer by this policy of filching and inroading upon the public parks, for which commercialism is largely responsible, in densely-populated cities, where tenements and small residential terraces are numerous. Concern for the welfare and health of the children of the working classes is not a matter of consideration with this Government, according to their policy as indicated in the Bill, because the same policy is being followed by administrative acts in other portions of Sydney. It matters not who suffer, so long as commercialism may seize, with its rapacious maw, the public parks and other avenues of recreation for the children of the working people in densely-populated areas, where, I may remark, the large families are to be found.Unfortunatelyit is in these centres that the Government are pursuing their outrageous policy. Then we have the contention put forth, to buttress up this proposal, thatresponsible business men in Sydney have recommended that it would be a very good thing. Of course it would, from their point of view. If they could centralize the whole of the commercial activities of the Commonwealth in Sydney, they would do it, irrespective of what harm may be done to the rest of Australia, or to the citizens of Sydney themselves. From their point of view, anything making for the advancement of commercialism, even should the interest of every other section of the community be sacrificed, would be quite right. These gentry themselves, who make these glowing representations, and urge the Government to rest their crime - speaking in a political sense - of taking away these public parks from the people, do not suffer by the enforcement of this pernicious doctrine. No, I have no doubt that, after the compilation of the reportr extracts of which the Minister for Defence read so elaborately yesterday, on the second reading of the Bill, they would probably turn into their club at half-past 3, and perhaps at 4 o’clock would be seated in their well -cushioned motor cars, driving home to some suburban residence, where they would not be deprived of the opportunity of breathing fresh air, as the citizens in densely-populated cities like Sydney are, by the policy of this Government.
– The Sydney people are not badly off for parks.
– According to the evidence of Senator McDougall, Senator Grant, and Senator Gardiner, they are badly off in this particular locality. I agree with the honorable senator that Sydney, comparatively, is richly endowed with parks, but not so richly endowed as it should be, in view of the enormous area of land that was available for these purposes. I think the honorable senator will also agree that Adelaide is well favoured in this respect; but I regret that Brisbane is not.
– I do not wish to unduly harass the honorable senator; but I do not think he can connect his remarks with the question to refer this matter to the Public Works Committee.
– The contention which honorable senators on this side advance in support of the amendment is that Senator Pearce - and Senator Earle, who followed him - said it was not proposed to do anything except put the Bill through. Indeed, Senator Pearce yesterday gave strong reasons for delaying this matter until it had. been submitted to the Public Works Committee. The quotations made by Senator Needham from the Public Works Committee Act nullified any assurance that we have received from Senator Pearce, because the Government, simply by issuing an Order in Council, may authorize that inquiries be not made into matters of this kind. I can assure the Coramittee that I have no ulterior motive in opposing this proposal and supporting the amendment. If Senator Gardiner had not moved it, I would have voted against the Bill, for the reasons stated yesterday, and which have been repeated by Senator Guthrie this morning. I would always vote against this policy of filching public parks from the community. It has been said that the site is no; desirable for a public park; but I maintain that any site is desirable as an open space in denselypopulated cities like Sydney. Honorable senators opposite, who are going to vote against the amendment, and support the Bill to take away the public parks of the people, should, in justice to the Committee and the people outside, give sound reasons for their action. This is due to the Committee, in answer to the arguments from this side, which appear to me to be irrefutable.
– I think any honorable senator would be a political neophyte if be could not see through the tactics of honorable senators opposite with regard to this Bill. When it was before another place, the whole debate centred round the fact that it was proposed to take away a public park; but in my second-reading speech in this Chamber I think I so completely cut away any ground for that argument that honorable senators opposite decided that they must find some other reason for opposition to the Bill ; and so, in the desperate effort to reinforce their sadly depleted ranks, they have made an appeal to honorable senators on this side. Thus we find that an amendment has been moved to refer this matter to the Public Works Committee. Is it not strange that such action was not taken in another place by these staunch guardians of public morals and public honesty? Is it not strange that Senator Needham, who has constituted himself the guardian of the Public Works Committee, did not convey to the Chairman of that body, who sits in another place, the intimation that the rights of the Committee were being ignored? Is it not wonderful that when this Bill was being debated in another place with some force for a considerable time, Senator Needham did not suggest to honorable members there that the time had come for them to assert themselves, and demand that the Public Works Committee be given an opportunity to save the country from this huge expenditure - from this injustice which was about to be perpetrated?
– Give us some argument. Sneering is too frequent in this chamber.
– I am sorry that my friend opposite seems to resent the little humour I am indulging in. I do not know why he should-
– Every time the Minister mentions my name, he sneers at me.
– I am sorry that, connected as I am with a Department mostly associated with silence and sadness, I should always be expected to keep up that role.
– You have spleen and venom in your heart.
– But my sense of humour is excited at the tactics adopted by honorable members opposite in their endeavours to win recruits to secure a Pyrrhic victoryover the Government.
– You are always full of venom and spleen.
– Order! I must insist that the honorable senator cease interjecting.
– You might insist upon the Minister for Defence doing the same thing.
– I am ready to refer this matter to the Public Works Committee. I may say I have no personal animus against the members who compose that body. I am only referring to the desperate attempts being made by my friends opposite to use that body as a weapon to snatch a victory in this, their desperate hour of need.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80’ j).m.
– I do not intend to delay the Committee, but have risen really because it might be said that arguments have been adduced to which the Government had not seen fit to reply. As a matter of fact, they are merely repetitions of those which were brought forward yesterday.
As to the point concerning speculators, no speculators could have got in, or can get in, with regard to the land which is the subject of this Bill, for the reason that it is a reserve. It is a question whether the area concerned remains with the State or with the Commonwealth Government. Therefore, there can be no doubt as to speculators. In the matter of the private land, which is not referred to or dealt with in this Bill, that area has been purchased, so far as we can go at present, under the Lands Acquisition Act, and if private speculators have got in - which I deny - this amendment certainly will not help in any way. If we had not purchased that land, however - if we had introduced this Bill first - private speculators would have had plenty of time to get in. The course which has been adopted is the very practice we were bound to follow in order to protect the public purse. We first secured by gazettal the option to purchase that land at its then price. We thus prevented any transfers taking place with added values subsequently, and before the announcement of what the Government proposed to do. Now, we see that the very action deemed necessary to protect the public purse is that with which the Opposition finds fault.
Senator Gardiner seemed to think that the fact that an official had made the selection discounted its value. Suppose the Public Works Committee had to make the selection. Would it discount the advice of experts? Would it say that Colonel Owen, Director of Public Works in the Works Department, is not a competent man to advise them? Such officials as that gentleman are the very persons whom the Committee always calls as witnesses; so that even if the selection of the site was a proper question to refer to the Public Works Committee this same argument could well be used against that body in making its selection - namely, that it had adopted the advice of expert officials. When the Senate deliberately passes a Public Works Committee Act it does not thereby lay upon that body the right to select sites.
– The Senate thought that went with it, I suppose.
– As to the various other questions raised by Senator Gardiner, with respect to plans, water frontage, rail facilities, and the like, those are all within the competence of the Public Works Committee to report upon.
In regard to the suggestion of Senator Ferricks, I insist that the Government have no intention to, and will not at any time, withdraw this matter from the Committee. Honorable senators know that with respect to those Naval works which have been withdrawn by Order in Council, that power, deliberately placed in the hands of the Government by the Public Works Committee Act, is specifically in regard to works which are in the nature of secret works, and, as to which it would not be desirable that reports should be published either for the perusal of our friends in Australia or our enemies abroad. That is the only reason why the power is vested in the Government to withdraw certain works, by Order in Council, from the Public Works Committee.
Senator Gardiner said that the whole proposal should be submitted to the Public Works Committee before further expenditure was involved. That is exactly what the Government intend to do.
– You will have no objection, then, to my proposed new clause ?
– Honorable senators know that Senator Gardiner’s purpose is to embarrass the Government; and that that is his intention in endeavouring to mutilate or defeat this Bill.
– There will be no harm, then, in allowing it to go on to the Committee.
– There will be harm, because it is obvious that that is not what Senator Gardiner is trying to bring about. If the proposed new clause were carried, and the Government had not made its promise, it would still be perfectly competent f or the Government, by Order in Council, to withdraw the subject, and not send it, in fact, to the Public Works Committee!. Even if the new clause were agreed to, its effect would not be to send the question of the works on to the Public Works Committee, but to forward the matter of this reserve for the consideration and investigation of the Committee.
– But you would have to take the responsibility of your action.
– Of course, and we do not contemplate or intend anything of the kind. I trust, therefore, that honorable senators will be satisfied and allow the Bill to pass.
Question - That the proposed new clause . be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the report be now adopted.
Motion (by Senator Guthrie) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question - That the debate be now adjourned - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . : 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the report be now adopted - resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Newland presented the report of the Public Works Committee, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed breakwaters, excavations, quay walls, &c, for Henderson Naval Base.
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I do not think it is necessary for me to detain the Senate at any length, inasmuch as the measure now before us does not introduce any new principle of taxation. It is a machinery measure, and one that is designed to remedy those imperfections which experience has shown to exist in the law already on our statutebook. It is a Bill which can be much more effectually dealt with in Committee. But I should like to indicate briefly the main purposes of, and the chief amendments that are contemplated in, the measure now submitted for the consideration of honorable senators. The main objects of this Bill are (1) to make provision for arrangements being made with the States for a uniform income tax return, and a uniform system of collecting income tax, and (2) to make various amendments in the principal Act which experience has shown to be desirable in order to facilitate the administration of the Act, to prevent leakages of taxation, and, in one or two cases, to place the incidence of the tax on a more equitable basis. Most of the amendments have been recommended by the Conference of Commonwealth and State Commissioners of Taxation which met in Melbourne in March and April of last year.
Dealing with the more important provisions of the measure, I should like, first, to say a word or two in regard to the clauses relating to the exemptions. Provision is made in the Bill for the exemption of war pensions, and of the income of agricultural, horticultural, or other similar societies, not carried on for the purpose of profit or gain. On the other hand, interest on money invested in the War Loan, after the commencement of the Act, will not be exempt unless it is declared to be exempt in the prospectus issued in connexion with the loan. The section exempting the income from personal exertion of persons on active service has been re-cast to make it clear that that section applies only to the income earned by that person whilst on active service, and not to income earned previously.
In regard to the sections in the Act relating to income, this Bill contemplates certain alterations. For instance, provision is made to include in income the annual rental value of premises occupied by an employee as a residence in connexion with his employment. Previously he had to include in his return 5 per cent, of the capital value of the premises.
– Then this is a tax upon industry?
SenatorMILLEN. - I do not know whether under the heading of income tax my honorable friend can bring forward his usual panacea. But I am perfectly certain that if there be the slightest opportunity for him to do so, he will avail himself of it. In regard to companies, it is provided in the principal Act that amounts carried forward to a profit and loss account are not to be regarded as accumulated income, but are taxable in the hands of the shareholders. It is proposed in this Bill to legalize the departmental interpretation that this provision includes amounts carried forward to an appropriation account, revenue, and expenses account, or any similar account. Shareholders cannot, therefore, claim refunds of tax already paid on dividends received by them, and paid by companies out of funds standing at any time to the credit of any of the accounts mentioned. Where shares have been transferred to the Public Trustee under the provisions of the War Precautions (Enemy Shareholders) Regulations, the Public Trustee is to pay tax on the incomes from those shares without any deduction. It is proposed to omit from the principal Act section 17a dealing with the liability of fire and marine insurance companies in Australia re-insuring with similar companies outside Australia for tax on the premiums paid to those companies. This section has been found to be unnecessary.
With regard to deductions, the measure contains the proposals which follow : - Deductions are to be allowed for all payments made to any patriotic fund and to the Repatriation Department. Previously deductions were only made in the case of payments exceeding £5. Mining syndicates are to be in the same position as mining companies, and a deduction is to be allowed of the whole amount of calls on their shares. In the case of mining companies, amounts appropriated for development or new plant may be deducted, but if any of the money so appropriated is not expended within the year, it is to be liable to taxation. Pay- . ments by husband to wife or wife to husband may be deducted if the Commissioner is satisfied that they were made in the course of business and for services rendered.
The Commissioner may allow a deduction for bad debts in any year, if he is satisfied that the taxpayer has in that or any previous years included those debts as income in his return. An amendment is proposed in regard to the deduction by an employer of wages for his children under fifteen years of age. These wages are not to be deducted unless actually paid. It is proposed to allow a deduction in regard to improvements made by lessees who have no tenant rights in the improvements. This deduction is to be ascertained by dividing the value of the improvements by trie number of years which the lease -has to run.
Where income consists of income from property and income from personal exertion, the deductions are to be made from the income to which they relate, except in the case of insurance premiums, contributions to. superannuation funds, &c, gifts to patriotic funds, &c, and deductions in respect of children. These deductions are to be’ made from that class of income which is the greater. This amendment was recommended by the recent Taxation Conference. It. is considered that it wil) be more equitable in its operation than is the present provision in the Act. In the case of the special deduction of £156 or £100 provided for in section 19 of the Act, this deduction is to be made in the first place from the income from property. If the deduction exceeds that income, the excess is to be deducted from the income from personal exertion. Under the present law it has. been found that in some cases persons with mixed incomes are entitled to. a deduction much greater than £156, and, in fact, to a greater deduction than persons in receipt of a similar income from personal exertion only. The proposed amendment will remove this anomaly. Where a taxpayer in receipt of income from property carries on one or more businesses and makes a net loss thereon, he may deduct that loss from his income from property. The definition of “ business “ has been widened to include salary or wages
– Is the Minister quoting from the report of the Taxation Commissioners’ Conference ?
– No. But if the honorable senator desires it, I can furnish Lim with a copy of that report which, I think, has already been circulated.
With regard to the collection and payment of the tax, this Bill contemplates a number of alterations. It provides that persons who intend to carry on business for a short time only - that is to say, theatrical artists, for example - may be required to give security that they will furnish a .return and pay tax on the income derived from the business. Provision is also made for the collection of tax due from a taxpayer who dies after furnishing a return or during the financial year.
Tax due by an employee may, if the employee makes default in payment, be collected from the employer from moneys due by him to the employee. If the employee has left his employment, the employer ceases to be liable. When a person’s whereabouts are unknown, the Commissioner may require any person making payments to that person to deduct the amount of the tax, and to pay that amount to him. Persons in receipt, control or disposal of money belonging to absentees are required to pay the tax due from the absentee, but are personally liable only to the extent of any moneys of the absentees in their hands, or which may come into their hands, and are indemnified for any payments made in respect of the absentee’s income. Provision is also made for the payment of tax on cash prizes in lotteries at the source.
Partnerships, as a whole, are not to be subject to taxation, but each partner is to be separately assessed in respect of his interest in the partnership. A similar provision is to be made with regard to trustees with respect to the interest of each beneficiary.
The Bill also contains provision dealing with the administration of the Act. Most of the amendments other than those to which I have referred, will come under that heading. For instance, the definition of “ agent “ is widened in order that persons outside Australia who receive income from Australia may be more effectually reached. Then there is a provision that no refunds will be paid unless application is made within three years after the payment of the tax, and one or two small amendments have been rendered necessary by the appointment of an assistant Commissioner of Taxation. Further amendments designed to facilitate the administration of the Act, relate to the appointment of the, public officer of a company, the power to obtain information and evidence, the onus of proof in regard to false statements, and the penalties for failure to furnish returns, failure to include assessable income in returns, and for making false statements. Briefly, these are the more important of the amendments which are contemplated in this Bill. As I have already indicated, it is a measure with which we can deal more effectually in Committee, and I need only add that when we reach that stage I shall be only too pleased to make quite clear the whole of its purposes.
– What is the net amount that the Government expect to receive from this complicated and unnecessary measure?
– It will be for the Senate to say whether the measure is unnecessary or not. As to the amount which will be raised under the Bill, my reply is “ Not a single penny.” The revenue will be raised under the Bill which levies the tax and imposes the rate.
-How much does the Government expect to collect under the Amending Income Tax Bill?
– I am not in a position to say. At the present time I am merely submitting amendments which are designed to perfect the measure under’ which we shall collect the tax if that tax is authorized by Parliament.
– How much do the Government anticipate they will receive from this wholly unnecessary measure?
– May I paraphrase an old remark by saying that Senator Grant can ask more questions in five minutes than I can answer in a week ?
Debate (on motion by Senator Gardiner) adjourned.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
As honorable senators are aware, there is in the existing law a provision requiring the Treasurer to set aside each year a certain amount by way of a sinking fund for the redemption of the public debt of the Commonwealth. The Bill I now submit repeals the provisions of the Inscribed Stock Act, to which I have referred, and proposes tore-enact them with some alterations in a separate or specific measure. One reason for this is that the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act does not cover loans obtained from the Imperial Government for war purposes, and it has been decided in submitting this special measure to make provision in it for all loans, quite apart from those covered by the Inscribed Stock Act. The Bill proposes the re-enactment of the provision requiring the Treasurer to pay into a sinking fund an amount of not less than 10s. per centum per annum on the public debt, and also any balance of loan moneys raised in excess of requirements. The other clauses of the measure are practically those which already appear in the existing law, and it is therefore not necessary that I should specially refer to them. There is a merely formal provision by which the amount already standing to the credit of the sinking fund created under the existing Act shall automatically be transferred to the sinking fund created as the result of the passing of this measure.
Debate (on motion by Senator McDougall) adjourned.
– I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is another small measure, which I anticipate will go through without exciting much discussion and still less opposition. As honorable senators are aware, an arrangement was completed between the Treasurer and the banks by which the latter were not only enabled, but encouraged, to make advances to those desirous of investing in the war loans. It is thought not only desirable, but entirely proper, that where banks have done that they should be able to record in the stock register the liens which they hold over stock standing in the names of any of their debtors. Provision is made in this Bill to enable that to be done. Another matter which arises in connexion with our war Joans is covered by clause 4 of the Bill. The interest on war savings certificates, which are really Treasury bonds, is payable at the end of three years after the issue of the certificate. The purchaser of a £1 certificate pays 17s. 6d. in cash for it, and at the end of three years the Treasury will redeem the certificate by paying £1 for it. The interest for the whole three years is, therefore, paid at the close of the currency of the bond. The object of clause 4 is to enable the Treasurer to set aside a sum each year for the payment of the interest, so that no undue burden may fall on the year of the maturity of the bond.
The terms of the issue of warsavings certificates include a condition that the Treasurer will repurchase them on being satisfied as to the merits of the application by the holder for the money, and provision is made in this Bill to enable the Treasurer to repurchase war savings certificates from the proceeds of any war loans.
Under the existing law, war loan securities are not liable to stamp duty or other taxation of the Commonwealth or a State. This Bill continues that provision, except where by the prospectus of a loan the securities are declared to be liable.
As the law stands, interest on stock or Treasury bonds is not liable to income tax, and provision is made in this Bill to make this form of income free of income taxation unless it is declared by the prospectus of a loan to be liable to the tax. A similar provision is included in this Bill with regard to State income tax. I anticipate that the provisions of the Bill will secure the ready concurrence of honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is intended to provide funds for the purchase of war loan securities in the open market. The intention is to keep up the price of war loans and enable holders to obtainon the sale of their stock or bonds about as much as they paid on their subscriptions to the loan. The need for action such as this has been recognised in Great Britain, where already a law exists corresponding in all essentials with the Bill now submitted to the Senate.
The operative clause of the measure is clause 2, under which the Treasurer will be required to pay monthly into the Trust Fund, under the head of the “ War Loan Securities Repurchase Account,” a sum equal to one-eighth of 1 per cent. of so much of the public debt as relates to war loans received from lenders other than the Government of the United Kingdom. It is clearly unnecessary that there should be a war loan securities repurchase provision in relation to the money owed by us to Great Britain.
When the unexpended balance of the war loans securities repurchase account is equal to the sum of £1,000,000, the payments into the account will cease, and no further payments will be made until the unexpended balance falls below the sum of £900,000. That is to say, payments will be made from time to time into this account to build up a purchasing power of £1,000,000. When that credit is reached, it is considered safe that payments into the fund may cease. If the fund is depleted by purchases - and they will only be made if there is a tendency on the part of the stock to fall below par - and is reduced below £900,000, the payments will again commence to bring the credit of the account up to £1,000,000, which is regarded as the figure at which it should stand.
– Is there any limit to the number of times that the account may be replenished?
– That will depend on the fluctuations of the market. If the market continues fairly steady, there will be very little repurchasing done, and the fund will remain stationary.
Clause 3 of the Bill forbids the use of the moneys to the credit of the account created by the measure except in the repurchase of war loans. Clause 4 requires that securities repurchased shall he immediately cancelled. Clause 5 enables the Treasurer to close the fund if he thinks fit after the termination of the war. That provision bears to some extent upon the question asked by Senator Ferricks. If that be done, any balance is to he repaid to the Loan Fund, and to be available for the purpose of any appropriation of war loan moneys. The final clause gives the usual permission to make regulations.
Debate (on motion by Senator McDougall) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 3.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 May 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19180517_senate_7_85/>.