7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
. -(By leave) - I desire to make a statement with regard to certain matters arising out of the report of the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration.
On Friday last the Acting Prime Minister was asked to ascertain who the Ministers were referred to in paragraph 5 of the Royal Commission on the Navy and Defence Administration . Report, dated 18th September, 1918, and what . were the circumstances and dates of the transactions alluded to.
On Saturday (the 26th instant) the . Acting Prime Minister addressed the following letter to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral : -
I should be glad if Your Excellency would be so good as to direct a communication to the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration with a view of ascertaining, for the information of the Government, who is the Minister referred to in paragraph 5 of their report on Navy Administration, dated 18th September, 1918, and what is the nature, also “the dates and the circumstances . of the transactions there referred to., and on Monday (the 28th instant) he received the following reply from the Governor General : -
Referring to your letter of the 26th instant requesting bo be furnished with certain information in connexion with paragraph 5of the Report of the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration, I have to inform you that I am “ad- vised by the Chairman of the Commission as follows -
that the nature of the transactions referred to are -
We had hoped that this report would contain the results of our complete inquiries, but we have recently had placed before us other matters seriously affecting the administration of the Navy Department which demand further and close investigation. These matters will form the subject of a further report.
On Tuesday, 22nd October, the Chairman of the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration, through its Secretary, made a request to the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. L. E. Groom) for legal assistance. This request was granted immediately, and an officer from the Crown Solicitor’s Office was placed at the disposal of the Commission. The officer attended the Commission on the following day, 23rd instant, and on Monday, 28th, the Acting Attorney-General received, through the Acting SolicitorGeneral, a report from this officer acquainting him that he was asked to assist the Commission in an investigation into the conditionsunder which the Navy Department had purchased the Shaw wireless works, at Randwick. The reportdisclosed a suggestion of such a character conderning the then Minister for the Navy,the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. J. A. Jensen), that Mr. Groom felt it his duty to place the matter before Mr. Watt at once. On the same day Mr. Watt advised Mr. Jensen of the nature of the report. He then asked the Acting Prime Minister to relieve him from the duty of administering the Customs Department until the completion of the investigation. Mr. Watt at once agreed. On Tuesday, the 29th instant, the Acting Prime Minister sent a letter to the Chairman of the Commission informing him that he would be glad if the Commission would expedite the investigation, and furnish the result to the Governor-General with all possible despatch.
Mr. Massy Greene will administer the Customs Department during the absence of Mr. Jensen.
The Commission was appointed on 2nd July, 1917, to inquire into and report upon the following matters: -
The Commission is vested with full statutory powers under the Royal Commissions Act to conduct its . inquiries and investigations, and has full and complete control over the conduct of its own proceedings. The Commission has not advised the Government whether it proposes to conduct this investigation in public, but yesterday the Acting Prime Minister communicated with the Chairman asking what is the intention of the Commission. As the investigations being undertaken will include a full and impartial examination of the acquisition by the Government of the Shaw wireless plant, the matter now being sub judice, in accordance with the recognised procedure of Parliament, I am not in a position to further discuss the matter at this stage.
Assent to the following Bills reported : - .
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1918-19.
Post and Telegraph Rates Bill (No. 2).
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he has yet received replies to the questions previously put by me with regard to the Commonwealth Line of Steamers and the personnel of Commonwealth Boards and Committees ?
– The honorable senator asked -
What are the approximate earnings of the Commonwealth Shipping Line for the year ending 30th June, 1918? Has any depreciation been allowed for since the purchase of the steamers?
The answer now supplied is as follows : -
Some time ago Senator Pratten asked a question as to the approximate net earnings of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers for the year ending 30th June, 1918, and as to whether any depreciation had been allowed for since the purchase of the steamers.
I have now ascertained that some time ago the net earnings for the year mentioned, after providing for interest and one year’s depreciation, were estimated to be about £659,000. No depreciation was provided for in the balance-sheet for the period ended 30th June, 1917, but at a conference held in January last regarding the accounts of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers it was decided to make provision for depreciation by writing off annually a sum equal to 10 per cent, of their original cost in the ease of the Austral vessels, and 15 per cent, in the case of the wooden vessels and the sailing vessel John Murray. This decision will be given effect to in the balance-sheet ‘for the year ended 30th June, 1918.
– Arising out of that question, can the Minister tell me whether the vessels which have been lost have been taken into account?
– I suggest that the honorable senator give notice. I have not the information.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund Act 1916. - Report by Auditor-General on Accounts of Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund for period 31st May, 1916, to 6th April, 1918.
Boards, Committees, Pools, &c, operating under Commonwealth Government control - Return showing names, &c, of persons appointed since 10th May, 1918.
Commonwealth Bank Act 1911. - True Copy of Aggregate Balance-sheet of Commonwealth Bank of Australia at 30th June, 1918; together with Auditor-General’s Report thereon.
Commonwealth Railways Act 1917. - Report on Operations to 30th June, 1918.
Customs Act 1901-1916. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 277.
Defence Act 1903-1918. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 239, 259, 260, 271, 272, 273, and 276.
Defence: Commonwealth Government. Factories - Reports for year ended 30th June, 1917.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1916. - Land acquired at Randwick, New South Wales - for Defence purposes.
Ordinance No. 7 of 1917 - Supply 1917- 1918 (No. 2).
Ordinance No. 9 of 1918-SuppIy 1918- 1919 (No. 1).
Public Service Act 1902-1917. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 188 (substituted copy), 196 (substituted copy), 266, 267.
The War: (Papers presented to British Parliament) -
Dutch Convoy - Correspondence respecting despatch to East Indies.
Roumania - Observations by Allied Ministers at Jassy with regard to conditions of peace imposed by Central Powers.
War Precautions Act 1914-1916. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 238, 250, 257, 270.
Supply of Civilian Suits
– I desire to know if the Minister for Defence has seen a statement in the press recently that, in reply to a question by Mr. Sinclair, in another place, the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) said that the practice of the Defence Department had been to grant 30s. each to discharged soldiers for civilian clothes, and that hewould make representations to see if that grant could be increased ? Is it the practice of the
Department to make grants of 30s., or to issue suits of civilian clothes to soldiers which, I understand, cost, the Department about 30s. each, but which are worth a greater amount outside?
– The practice has been varied recently, by which we now issue a’ suit which costs the Department, roughly, 30s., but the outside value of which is very much higher.
– Is it practicable in the not distant future for the Minister for Defence to make public some balancesheet with respect to moneys which have passed through that Department during the whole course of the war? A very large amount has been spent, and I understand–
– The honorable senator cannot make a statement.
– I suggest that the honorable senator give notice, and I suggest, also, that his question be directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer in the Senate.
– But arising out of that, can I ask whether the presentation of such a comprehensive balancesheet would be practicable just now?
– As the method by which Commonwealth accounts is kept is a matter for the Treasurer’s primary responsibility, I would prefer not to answer the question.
– Practically all the particulars the honorable senator seeks are contained in the Gazette everymonth.
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The following answers are supplied by the Acting Minister for the Navy : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The following replies have been furnished by the Acting Minister for the Navy: -
No, the contract conditions do not contain a white-labour clause; but the following condition regarding conditions of labour, Sc., is included, viz.: - Conditions of Labour, Wages paid, &c. - “The contractor shall pay all persons employed by him in connexion with the contract, wages at rates, and employ such persons under conditions of labour, determined as follows: -
The rates of wages and conditions of labour determined, as aforesaid shall be binding on the contractor, and a schedule setting forth such rates and conditions shall on each occasion on which the Minister shall order to fix the rate of wages and conditions of labour from time to time be signed by the contractor, and together with the specification (if any), and the tender of the contractor and the terms of tender hereinbefore set out shall he deemed to he incorporated into and form part of these conditions of contract.
In the event of any person producing to the contractor or any permitted sub-contractor an authority in writing so to do signed by the Minister, Naval Secretary, or a district naval officer, and signed by the president or secretary of any trade union of the employees engaged in work of a similar nature to the work or any part of the work to be done by any persons employedby the contractor or subcontractor in the performance of the contract, the contractor or sub-contractor, as the case may be, shall permit such person so authorized to enter at meal times upon the premises where the work is being carried on, being that portion of the premises where meals are taken, and interview, in the absence of the contractor or sub-contractor, or any foreman or forewoman, any persons employed by the contractor or sub-contractor on work of the said character in regard to wages and labour conditions.”
Ships Built in America.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The following reply has been furnished by the Acting Prime Minister : - 1 and 2. It is presumed that the honorable senator’s questions refer to the Cethana. Certain repairs were carried out in connexion with this vessel, as is almost inevitable in all ships, and especially to be expected in such a vessel as the Cethana, which is believed to be the first of her kind ever built. It is hardly possible to give a list of all repairs. The main portion consisted of caulking the hull, which, of course; was expected to be required in a ship of this description, and the fitting of wireless gear in accordance with an arrangement that this work should be done in Australia. 3 and 4. The donkey boiler was replaced. Cost of the new boiler is £475. This matter is being taken up with the builders.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
– I move -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill passing through all its stages without delay.
I do not intend to deprive honorable senators of a full opportunity to discuss the merits or demerits of this Bill. All I desire is to move the first, and, subsequently, the second, reading, after which I will agree to any honorable senator moving the adjournment of the debate, so that the debate will then go over to the next day of sitting, and honorable senators will have a full opportunity of considering their attitude towards the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The object of the measure is to alter the rate of the entertainments tax. Up to the present the tax has been levied on all payments for admission to entertainments exceeding 6d. Hitherto sixpenny and threepenny tickets have not been taxed, and it is now proposed to levy a tax of1d. on all tickets not exceeding1s.; but the tax upon the higherpriced tickets will stand at. the existing rate. At present the tax is not charged on tickets of admission to entertainments if theCommissioner is satisfied that the entertainment in question is intended for children, and that the rate of admission does not exceed 6d. This is provided for in the Entertainments Tax Assessment Act, which is untouched fay this measure. It may be of interest to honorable senators to know that the corresponding tax in Great Britain is as follows : - On tickets not exceeding 2½d., the taxis½d. ; between 2½d. and 4d.,1d.; between 4d.-and 7d., 2d.; between 7d. and 1s., 3d.; between ls. and 2s., 4d.; between 2s. and 3s., 6d. ; between 3s. and 5s., 9d. ; between 5s. and 7s. 6d.,1s.; between 7s. 6d. and 10s. 6d.,1s. 6d. ; between 10s. 6d. and 15s., 2s.; exceeding 15s., 2s. for the first 15s., and 6d. for every 5s. or part thereof above 5s. In the Commonwealth, if this Bill is passed, the tax will be1d. on tickets not exceeding1s., and½d. for every 6d. or part thereof by which the payment exceeds ls.
– That is the Commonwealth tax only.
– Yes. Several of the States have a similar tax.
– Are you exempting threepenny and sixpenny tickets?
– No; we are taxing such tickets.
– Making the kiddies pay!
– In 1917 and 1918 the entertainments tax yielded £245,890. A decrease is anticipated this year on account of the curtailed schedule of rating that has been promulgated by the Government, as a result of which we estimate that only £205,000. will be collected. Under the operation of this Bill it is estimated that an additional £275,000 will be received.
– Thatis more than the Government are deriving from the War-time Profits Tax Act.
– The statement of the honorable senator is not correct. The taxation proposed in this Bill is not of a retrospective character, and, consequently, the Government are anxious to bring it into operation without delay. Unlike the land and income taxes, these imposts cannot be made retrospective.
– It is a wonder that the Government do not tax the old-age pensions.
– I would remind’ honorable senators that additional taxation is necessary, and the method outlined in this Bill is regarded by the Government as one means of raising extra revenue. Consequently, it should not be judged by itself , but as part of the policy which the Ministry have put forward. When that policv is regarded as a whole, it will be seen that what is proposed is justifiable as a tax on luxury - a tax upon non-essentials.
– A tax on the poor “kiddies.”
– May I remind the honorable senator that more than “poor kiddies “ attend picture shows. It has been suggested that we should also increase the impost that is levied on the higher-priced entertainment tickets. Now it is pretty sure - just as sure as that two of the most certain things in life are death and taxation - that when wo reassemble here in the new financial year additional taxation will have to be imposed. It has been necessary for the Government, therefore, in reviewing its taxation proposals as a whole, to leave some forms of taxation untouched, so that the whole field will not have been exploited before next year.
– Could not the Government allow the “ kiddies “ to remain free of taxation in the meantime?
– When the Bill reaches Committee I shall’ propose an amendment to exempt from taxation tickets costing not more than 3d. for admission to entertainments on Saturdays between the hours of 12 and 6 p.m., and purchased by children apparently under the age of twelve years. That will allow the “ kiddies” to attend their picture shows every week. It is a concession which, I am sure, Senator Needham will appreciate. Having satisfied him in that regard, I look forward to his enthusiastic support of the Bill.
– The amendment outlined by the Minister will not benefit children in country districts where picture shows are not open on Saturday afternoon.
– I am not convinced of that. I have attended matinee performances in countrytowns on Saturday afternoon. The position indicated by the honorable senator may obtain in the benighted State from which he hails, but in practically all the country towns of Western Australia picture shows are open on Saturday afternoon. I think it is a fair tiling to say that amusements of all kinds are luxuries. Certainly nobody can claim that they are necessities. The principal Act imposes taxation upon all forms of amusement, and it seems to me that there is no logical reason why tickets of the lower denomination should escape taxation altogether.
– Why do not the Government have a shot at “ joy “ rides in motor cars ?
– Joy-riding is already taxed by the States. Almost every State has a tax upon motors. We have recently submitted a proposal which is now before another branch of the Legislature in regard to the taxation of motor accessories, which involves a taxation of joy-riding.
– Do the Government still intend to exempt the taxation of land up to £5,000 worth of unimproved value ?
– I am sorry that 1 cannot accept the tempting invitation of the honorable senator to discuss that question. If the forms of the Senate, and your good-will, sir, permit it, I have no doubt that before this Bill is passed. Senator Grant will give us good reasons why the course he has outlined should not be adopted.
– Do the Government mean to tax the threepenny tickets issued on merry-go-rounds.
– That question has not yet been thought of. But our hardpressed Treasurer (Mr. Watt) will no doubt take the hint given by the honorable senator and deyote some attention to merry-go-rounds.
Debate (on motion by Senator McDougall) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 17th October (vide page 6982), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I have very little to say upon this Bill. I listened attentively to the speech delivered by the Minister in explaining its provisions, and I gather that it is intended to remedy the evil cf allowing large manufacturers to pay smaller licence-fees than they should pay. In other words he affirmed that its object is to make the big corporations pay more in the future for the supervision which they will get. Apparently it is a Bill which can be best dealt with in Committee, and when that stage is reached I shall have a few amendments to submit. From my point of view, the most objectionable feature of the measure is that the graduated scale of the licencefees embodied in it is not sufficiently severe. Under that scale the large manufacturer will still get off in too easy a way. Another evil is that even if we penalize the large manufacturers they will merely pass the tax on to the consumers. No provision is contained in the Bill under which the tax will be collected from the proprietors of these factories in order to prevent them from passing it on to the consumers. If such a provision had been embodied in it, I would have no objection whatever to offer to it. I see no other very objectionable features in it, and therefore I shall not delay its passage.
– I should like to say a word or two about this Bill, which has for its object an amendment of the machinery under which Excise duties are collected. I take it that it is intended to deal not merely with the licences for the manufacture of tobacco, but also with spirits and other excisable commodities. Generally speaking, it may be said that the measure provides amending machinery in connexion with duties ou imported goods, which are to be increased by about 25 per cent., while the increase in the duties upon goods made within the Commonwealth ranges from 33 to 50 per cent. [ do not think that any exception can be taken to the proposals of the Government so far as alcoholic liquors are concerned. But there is one proposal in connexion with the new Excise duties to which I desire to direct attention.
– Order! I think that the honorable senator misconceives the purpose of this Bill, which does not deal with rates of taxation at all. The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing the rates of taxation or Excise.
– The last paragraph of section 4 of the principal Act provides that “ ‘ Excisable goods ‘ means goods in respect of which Excise duty is imposed by the Parliament.” Therefore, in dealing with a machinery Bill of this character one should also be able to deal with the suggested duties that “will be imposed under it.
– I rule that the honorable senator cannot do so. The standing order provides that in the discussion of an amending Bill only those matters in the principal Act which are dealt with by the proposed amendments may be discussed.
– Concurrently with this Bill there was also tabled in another place a list of amended Excise duties that will be affected by the amendments we make in this Bill.
– No such amended Excise duties are included in this Bill. The honorable senator must either accept my ruling or take the ordinary course. I desire to allow the honorable senator the fullest latitude to which every honorable senator is entitled in discussing every matter of relevance to a Bill, but this Bill has nothing to do with the rates of taxation or Excise. It merely imposes certain fees upon people who manufacture excisable goods.
– The difficulty is . that certain proposals to increase the Excise duties have been laid on the table of another place.
– No Excise duties of that kind can become law without every honorable senator having a full opportunity to discuss them. That being so, it would be mere” waste of time and contrary to parliamentary practice to attempt to discuss them before they came before us. The honorable senator will lose no opportunity of debating the proposed Excise duties to which he refers.
– If the Minister (Senator Russell) will assure the Senate that those amending duties will come before us at an early date and be discussed, I assure him that none of us wish to debate now matters outside this Bill. I am under the impression, however, that, following precedents established since the war began, the schedule of those duties has been laid on the table of another place, and the duties are being collected accordingly, without any obligation resting on the Government to push them, through Parliament at any early date.
– I am not concerned with- the question whether the Government will introduce the proposed amendments of the Excise duties early or late. My duty is to see that the discus sion of any motion or measure proposed in this chamber is in order, and that the discussion on no proposal is anticipated. . The honorable senator must know that it is entirely out of order to discuss on this measure a matter which is not properly included in it. The only assurance I can give the honorable senator is that none of the duties to which he refers can become law without every honorable senator having a full opportunity to discuss them. They may be collected in the meantime, but if they fail to become law the moneys so collected must be refunded.
– I bow to your rulings always, because, so far as my experience goes, they are invariably right; but it will be proper for the Government, as they desire us to pass this Bill, to bring the list of new Excise duties before us at an early date, so that the commercial and manufacturing community will know exactly where they stand..’ This list of duties comprises one ‘ or two new principles
– I can assure the honorable senator that ihe Government are anxious to get all their Bills through at the earliest possible moment.
– The honorable senator must not evade my ruling by attempting to discuss the matter in another form.
– Then I _ shall content myself by accepting the Minister’s assurance that at a not far-distant date this session the new Excise schedule will be brought before .the Senate, which will then be able to discuss the matter that I desired to discuss just now.
– How much extra revenue do the Government expect to receive under the new schedules embodied in clause 21?
– The Bill has nothing whatever to do with taxation. Its object is largely to bring the Excise Act up to date. In 1901, owing to the transfer of the Customs Department from the States to the Commonwealth, various anomalies were left in the Act, and special provisions in regard to taxation for a number of years were included in the case ofWestern Australia, as were certain horder duties. Much of that stuff is now mere dead matter in the Act, and this Bill practically effects a cleaning up. The one exception is the increase in the licence-fees payable by big tobacco manufacturers. The Bill has nothing to do with whisky or other spirits. It covers tobacco, rice, starch, and one or two other items. The licence-fees are not being increased in order to raise revenue. In the old days, the maximum licence-fee was . £250, but tobacco was then manufactured in many factories. Since then, there has been a concentration of effort in the trade, with the result that, whilst we employ Excise officers to protect the revenue and supervise the work of large factories, the fees charged do not pay the expenses of supervision. We have no desire to make any profit out of the licence-fees, but no one can disagree with the principle that large factories, representing big combinations of capital, should find sufficient licencefees to pay the cost to the country of the Excise officers engaged in them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 4 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the definition of “ Collector,” and inserting in its stead the following definition: - “ Collector “ includes the Comptroller and any Collector of Customs for the State and any principal officer of Customs doing duty at the time and place, and any officer doing duty in the matter in relation to which the expression is used.
Section proposed to be amended - “ Collector “ means the Collector of Customs for a State.
. - There is an alteration proposed in this clause which includes in the definition of “Collector” the Comptroller as well as any Collector of Customs for a
State. I should like the Minister in charge of the Bill to give the Committee some information as to the necessity for this alteration.
– The honorable senator will recognise that Australia covers a very wide area, and there are times when it may be necessary at a far distant port for the Comptroller to delegate all his powers to the Customs officer in charge at that port. The clause proposes really a decentralization of power to meet the convenience of persons interested.
– I disagree with the Minister’s explanation that the proposed alteration of the existing Act involves a decentralization of power. Under the existing Act this authority may be delegated only to a Collector of Customs for a State. But the Bill proposes to give the authority to the Comptroller, and, in fact, will give him power to override the authority of Collectors of Customs for the different States. The tendency of that is not towards decentralization, but rather towards concentration.
– The honorable senator will recognise that in a place like the Northern Territory there is not sufficient Customs and Excise business to warrant the employment of a Collector of Customs, who is an officer occupying a very high position in the Department. There are times when the Customs officer in charge at such remote places should be in a position to exercise all the powers which might be delegated to him by the Comptroller, who would, of course, be responsible to the Commonwealth Government for any action he took in that regard. It will he seen that such a delegation of power might prove to be a very great convenience. The purpose of the clause is to make the machinery of the Excise Act operate more easily and effectively, and to prevent the hanging up of disputes which might arise in such a place as the Northern Territory.
– I ask the Minister to explain where the proposed delegation of authority will cease. The clause provides that the authority may be delegated to the Comptroller, any Collector of Customs for the State, or any principal officer of Customs. I agree with the principle of the clause, but I think there should be some limitation to this power of delegation of authority. Under this provision it might extend to an officer of the lowest grade in the Department. I agree that Australia, being so vast in area, some power of delegation of authority is necessary.
. - In view of the extreme difficulty that has been experienced in inducing people to settle in the Northern Territory, I should like to know whether the Government have considered the advisability of permitting settlers there to manufacture tobacco and other commodities of that description free of Excise duty? Would the Minister be prepared to favorably consider a proposal in that direction?
– Whilst agreeing with the Minister as to the necessity for such a clause as that under consideration, in the cases to which he has referred, I should like an assurance from him that it is not intended under this provision to override in any way the local authority of the Collectors for the States.
– The object of this clause is to bring the Excise Act into line in this respect with the Customs Act, a similar provision in the Customs Act having been found to be very effective and convenient. Under the Customs Act the term “ Collector “ is defined to include -
Comptroller and any Collector of Customs for a State or any principal officer of Customs doing duty at the time and place, and any officer doing duty in the matter in relationto which the expression is used.
– How far down the grade of officers will the delegation of authority go?
– That must be left largely to the discretion of the Comptroller. It may be assumed that an officer appointed to so responsible a posi tion will not be likely to delegate his functions to any man who is not capable of exercising them. The Customs or Excise officer in the Northern Territory might be a man very low down on the list of officers of the Department, but it may be assumed that the Comptroller will have such a knowledge and experience of the officers in charge of the different ports as to be able to decide what power he would be safe in delegating to them.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Application for licence) .
.- Will the Minister in charge of the Bill explain whether the proposed new section 37 will cover the manufacture of exciseable spirits in bond?
-No; it does not affect spirits of any sort, but only tobacco, rice, starch, and such commodities.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Repeal of sections 64, 65, and 66).
.- This clause proposes the repeal of sections 64, 65, and 66 of the principal Act. I am trying to follow the amendments ofthe principal Act proposed by this Bill, and it appears to me that this provision repeals merely the existing sections covering the licence-fees, and the fees are to be amended as shown in the schedule to this Bill.
– That is so.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 -
Section 78 of the principal Act is repealed.
– The section which this clause proposes to repeal provides that -
Until otherwise prescribed, the regulations under schedule 10 hereto shall have force as regulations relating to the manufacture of tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, and. snuff.
Will the Minister explain the purpose of the repeal of that section?
– The section is repealed because we have otherwise provided in the schedule to this Bill.
– This clause doe s not propose the repeal of regulations for the purpose of introducing a new regulation, but the repeal of regulations which would clash with the amendments of the principal Act provided for in this Bill.
– That is so.
Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Amendment of section 134).
– I should like to explain that wherever in this Bill an existing section is proposed to be repealed, the reason is that it has become inoperative, or is otherwise provided for under this Bill. No new regulations other than those provided for under the existing Act are proposed by this Bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 (Amendment of section 143).
– Will the Minister be good enough to explain why it is proposed to leave out the word “ Customs,” and substitute for it the word “ Excise “ ?
– I regret to have to acknowledge that even so highly respected a Department as the Attorney-General’s Department is sometimes responsible for a drafting mistake. The purpose of this clause is to correct such a mistake.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 -
Section one hundred and forty-four of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead : - “ 144. - (1) In any Excise prosecution the averment of the prosecutor or plaintiff contained in the information, complaint, declaration, or claim shall be primâ facie evidence of the matter or matters averred. (2.) This section shall apply to any matter so averred although -
evidence in support or rebuttal of the matter averred or of any other matter is given by witnesses; or
the matter averred is a mixed question of law and fact, but in that case the averment shall be primâ facie evidence of the fact only. (3.) Any evidence given by witnesses in support or rebuttal of a matter so averred shall be considered on its merits, and the credibility and probative value of such evidence shall be neither increased nor diminished by reason of this section. (4.) Sub-section (1) of this section shall not apply to -
an averment of the intent of the defendant; or
proceedings for an indictable offence or anoffence directly punishable by imprisonment. (5.) This section shall not lessen or affect any onus of proof otherwise falling on the defendant.”
Section proposed to be repealed -
In every Excise prosecution the averment of the prosecutor or plaintiff . . . shall be deemed to be proved in the absence of proof to the contrary. . . .
– This seems to me to be a very important clause. It will affect persons who contravene, sometimes deliberately, and sometimes not deliberately, Customs and Excise regulations, and are prosecuted therefor. Personally, I have no objection to persons, who try to swindle or rob, or beat the Government through the Customs being rprosecuted with the utmost rigour of the law. This clause proposes some comparatively extensive alterations affecting urosecutions, and I should like to hear the reasons for it, and some statement of the difficulties and defects of the existing provision!
– I understandthat, in the case of a prosecution, the Customs authorities put in a statement of facts, and if the case is defended, there is no present provision under which the Excise Department can bring facts in rebuttal of the statement of the defence That was a drafting mistake in the existing Act, which it is proposed to remedy under this Bill. In the event of evidence being brought forward in defence, it is proposed that the Department shall have the right to call its officers togive evidence in rebuttal of the statements of the defence. It is not desired to bring the whole army of inspectors and Customs officers into Court for every small prosecution; but, if it is necessary in the interests of the Department, they, in giving evidence, can be subsequently added to the averment already made.
Senator PRATTEN (New South Wales [4.7]. - I am not quite clear on the point now. When an amending Income Tax Bill was before the Senate, it was desired to make a very drastic amendment in connexion with the prosecution of persons under that law in the direction of omitting the words, “ wilfully and knowingly.” I think it is right that the commercial community should have some protection in the matter of prosecutions which the Government must necessarily institute from time to time. But I trust this clause does not go too far. I would ask the Minister to specifically state that it is not intended to take any technical advantage of an individual who has made a breach of the Customs or Excise law, and that this amendment does not place a defendant in a worse position than was previously the case.
– I give that assurance, but I emphasize that the object of the Bill is to protect the revenue of the country. I have a legal statement respecting clause 17, which I shall read; but I do not guarantee that it will make the matter any clearer to the honorable senator. It is as follows : -
This clause provides for an amendment of section 144 of the principal Act, which section, it may he mentioned, is similar in terms to that of section 255 of the Customs Act and section 15a of the Australian Industries Preservation Act. The section provides, in effect, that in any Excise prosecution the averment of the prosecution contained in the information shall he deemed to be proof in the absence of proof to the contrary.
In recent Customs cases it was held by the High Court, first, that in any case in which this section was availed of, reliance must be placed entirely upon the averment, that is to say, the Department could not call evidence on matters in regard to which proof was available and rely upon the averment in regard to other matters. (Coal Vend case, 15 C.L.R., p. 102.) In a more recent case, Whitton v. Schiffman, where reliance was placed wholly upon the averment, it was further ruled that the averments in the information were not averments of fact, but of mixed fact and law, and that the averment was consequently bad, as the term “ averment “ in the section was confined to a pure allegation of fact, and did not include an allegation of mixed law and fact.
So long as the present decision of the High Court stands, section 144 of the principal Act, as also the corresponding sections of the Customs and the Australian Industries Preservation Acts, is practically useless. Theamendment how proposed has been drafted by the Law Department to remedy the defects mentioned.
Under the amended section it will be possible to supplement the averment by the testimony of witnesses, and also at the same time to use a form of averment which would be an averment of mixed fact and law.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 18, 19, and 20 agreed to.
Clause 21 -
Schedules VI., VIII., IX., and X. to the principal Act are repealed and the following schedules inserted in their stead: -
” SCHEDULE VIII.
Scale of Fees fof Licences to Manufacture.
For every factory wherein the weight of tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, and snuff, or any of them proposed to be manufactured in one year, shall in the aggregate .
exceed 1,000,000 lbs.- for the first 1,000,000 lbs., £500, and for each additional 1,000,000 lbs. or part thereof, £100. . . . “
.- With the object of testing the Committee, I move -
That “ £100 “ (Schedule VIII., paragraph (j) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof “£250.”
I do not think the graduation scale, as set out in the schedule, is sufficient. A manwho manufactures 1,000,000 lbs. of tobacco pays £500 for his licence to manufacture; but for every additional 1,000,000 lbs. he pays only a further £100. That is giving the big manufacturer too great a pull over the smaller man. The graduation is not fair or scientific.
– I trust the Committee will not be under any misapprehension. This is not a Bill to raise Excise taxation. If its object were to impose additional taxation upon tobacco companies, the honorable senator would have my sympathy. But this measure has merely to do with the necessary provision of supervisors in the form of Excise officers; and each industry is required to pay the expenses attached to the duties of those officers. The Government, recognising the growth of the big factories, has placed an additional licence-fee on the larger companies, which equals an increase of from 100 to 200 per cent. This is merely machinery, and the Government holds that machinery should be provided for in every industry, by means of which to pay the full and complete expenses of each Excise officer required. The proposition, as set forth in the schedule, is both fair and scientific.
– I am under no misapprehension as to the purpose of the Bill. -I know it is not intended to raise revenue, but is designed to make manufacturers pay for supervision. I stillhold that the graduation is not fair.
Question - That the figures proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 17th October, vide page 7008) :
Clause 5 -
1 ) The Governor-General may appoint three persons to be Directors, of whom two at least shall be chosen on account of scientific attainments.
On the happening of any vacancy in the office of Director the Governor-General shall appoint a person to the vacant office.
The term for which any such appointment is made shall bc five years, and every person so appointed shall, at the expiration of his term of office, be eligible for reappointment.
In case of the illness, suspension or absence of any Director, the Governor-General may appoint a person to act as DeputyDirector during the illness, suspension or absence, and the Deputy shall, while so acting, have all the powers and perform all the duties of a Director.
Upon which Senator Pratten had moved by way of amendment-
That the words “at least,” line 2, be left out.
Amendment agreed to.
.- When the Bill was last under consideration, I pointed out that it would be better if, instead of appointing three directors, the Government appointed one controller for the present, so that full inquiries might be made before the three directors were selected. The Minister (Senator Russell), in his second-reading speech, and also in the earlier stages of the debate in Committee, . said it was the desire of the Government to exploit the scientific brains of the world in order that the very best’ men obtainable could be secured. If, however, the appointments are made immediately, it will mean that certain directors will be appointed, and probably, at a not distant date, other men far more suitable for the position will be available; but, unfortunately the positions will then be closed against them. Furthermore, I would like to know from the Minister who is going to be the judge in appointing these scientific men? Will the Minister in charge of the Department decide what scientists shall be appointed, or will some advice be given by the various State Boards already in existence?
– Does not the Bill say that the Governor-General shall make the appointments ?
– Yes, and we all know that that means the Government of the day will settle the matter. The Minister himself is not a scientist.
– Why does the honorable senator assume that?
– Because, if the Minister were a scientist he should not be looking about for directors to control this Department, but would undertake the work himself. I understand the Minister takes the stand that the administrative head of the Department will be the right and proper person tomake the appointments; and I would like to know what steps have already been taken toobtain the most suitable men; whether applications have been invited from other parts of the world - a course which I consider should be taken - or whether the matter is all cut and dried. The Committee is entitled to more information.
– I quit© agree with Senator Foll that the very best men available should be procured regardless of expense. Dr. Gellatly has been mentioned. I do not know anything about that gentleman, but there is a good deal in what Senator Foll has said. We would like to know whether the Government, who, I suppose, will appoint the directors, have their eye upon certain men already, or whether they are - going to invite applications from other parts of the world. If we are going to do any good work at all we ought to get the very best men available; but as I have already said, I am afraid that, by establishing this Institute, we shall only interfere with good work that is already being done. Still, if the measure is going through, we want to see that the men selected for the positions possess the very highest attainments. I do not know anything about those -whose names have been already mentioned. They may be the best that can be obtained, but I think considerable time should be taken, over this matter and the greatest care exercised before the appointments are finalized. Professor Lefroy is a man who, I should think, is most eminently suited for one of these positions if he can be induced to remain here. I urge the Minister to do nothing in a hurry. That is my fear in connexion with this matter. The directors, when appointed, will occupy positions similar to those of the Supreme Court Judges. They could not be turned out. And we do not want to see that. I think it would be nothing short of cruelty if the Government appointed men to ‘these positions, and then had to turn them out because of unsuitability. I hope, therefore, that the greatest care will be exercised in making the appointments.
– I do not know why it should be assumed that the Government are going to be more careless in making these appointments than in any other matters. As an indication of what is being done, I may say that I have a complete list of the names and qualifications of every scientist in Australia. Dr. Gellatly has been appointed as a commercial member of the board of directors. I have no hesitation In saying that the Government are quite satisfied as to his ability, and that he will be one of the three directors. Many brilliant young Australian scientists are doing war service in the Old Country, and the Government have cabled to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) asking him to interview them and obtain their qualifications. In this matter I think the Government may be trusted to select the best men available. I have nobody in view, nor have the Government. The only desire is to secure the most suitable men available, and I feel confident that the appointments will reflect credit upon Australia and do much for the scientific development of our industries.
– We have your assurance that the appointments will not be hurried ?
– My assurance should be quite unnecessary. I have never heard the honorable senator criticise my administration, and I can assure him that I shall exercise- the greatest care.
– This clause provides for the appointment of directors for -a term of five years, and clause 8 deals with the manner by which their services may be dispensed with. I see no objection to the appointment of suitable men for five, seven, or ten years, so long as the clause whereby unsuitable men may be got rid of is sufficiently flexible. I think, perhaps, a five years’ term is a reasonable minimum, and I have no objection to that term, although there are some arguments For a shorter period. When we reach clause 8, perhaps the Minister will so enlarge it that no term, such as five, seven, or ten years, will be arbitrary in the event of any man proving unsuitable for his position.
– I agree with Senator Pratten that it is highly important that the Minister should have power, not only to suspend, but to discharge a director for incapacity or misbehaviour.
– One honorable senator will not trust the Minister to make the appointments, and now it appears you want to give the Minister power bo “ sack “ a director.
– I am not at all satisfied with the appointment of the. directors by the Minister. T think’ this ought to be left to the public in the same way th”at members of Parliament are appointed.
– By election ?
– The general public made an awful mess of it in the case of the honorable senator.
– Well, I think the general public have done very well except in the honorable senator’s case. The proposal that the Minister should appoint highly-paid men with continuously accruing salaries does not commend itself to me. I think the idea of appointments being made by the public should be sedulously encouraged, because the men so appointed would then be far more amenable to public opinion than some of them appear to be now.
– For what term do you think they should be appointed ?
– I would give them a reasonable term of office. I am not in favour oT their appointment by the Minister because it seems to me that this would place too much power in his hands.
– Would you require qualifications of the candidates ?
– The candidates would have to place their qualifications before the electors in the same way that members of Parliament do.
– Would you have proportional representation ?
– I might possibly go so far as to elect them on the preferential voting system. At present, the general public know nothing whatever of the qualifications of these men.
– Parliament knows nothing of their qualifications.
– Exactly. My contention is that if they were obliged to submit their qualifications to the electors of this country we should know precisely what they were. What is there about the position of the directors of this Institute which should remove it from the domain of popular election as compared with the position of a member of Parliament? Nothing whatever. Under this Bill an effort is being made to establish some really choice billets for certain gentlemen.
The passing of the Bill is a foregone conclusion, but the proposal to leave the appointment of the directors of the Institute in the hands of Ministers has not been assented to. Considering that Ministers recently had their numbers increased to enable them to cope with the work which they have to perform, I think that it would be wise to relieve them of the appointment of these directors.
– Let us have an election upon it.
– Why not?
– Would the honorablesenator himself be a candidate?
– If it came to a question of submitting a real proposal for the eradication of. the pests which we have to combat, I might be. I would do more effective work in that direction in a week than would the whole of the proposed board of directors. The present Government has established a record in the matter of the appointment of Boards. I do not know how many of these bodies are of an honorary character and how many of them are paid.
– The .majority pf them act in an honorary capacity.
– I am not a believer in honorary Boards. At one time members of Parliament did their work in an honorary capacity, but eventually the good sense of the community resolved that it would be wise to pay them for their services.
– The public do not pay them enough - that is the trouble.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator. I think it would be wise to insist upon candidates for appointment to the board of directors of the Institute submitting their claims to the electors and allowing the latter to vote upon them. I know that such a course would involve the expenditure of a certain sum of money, but that ought not to count, so long as we secured the right men. We ought to recollect that it costs a large sum of money to defray the election of members of Parliament for a limited term. But, under this Bill, it is proposed to appoint the directors of the Institute for a period of five years, with the right of reappointment.
– I have received innumerable applications for appointment to the board of directors. If all those who have applied became candidates at an election we should witness the greatest comedy ever seen.
– I have no doubt that it is intended to secure for the proposed board of directors the finest suite of offices available in Melbourne. If one wanders through the Parliament buildings he cannot fail to notice that, with the exception of Ministers, very little provision is made for the convenience of honorable members. Our telephones, for example, are stuck up on the walls of the building. But in any public office, in Melbourne or elsewhere, the most uptodate telephones are to be found. It is only fair, I repeat. that candidates for the office of director on the Board of the Institute should submit themselves for popular election.
.- While I cannot go so far as Senator Grant, who advocates the election of the board of directors by the people, I would certainly like to see this Parliament endowed with more power in the election of Boards than it has had hitherto. In reply to my remarks, the Vice-President of the Executive Council stated that the same care would be exercised in the selection of the directors of the Institute as had been exercised by the Government in connexion with other appointments.
– I said that the same care would be exercised as had been exercised in the appointments which I have made. I have made many, and I have never had one questioned.
– I can assure the VicePresident of the Executive Council that when I raised the question I had no idea of casting any aspersion upon him. I merely desired to insure the appointment to this Board of the very best men available. I feel very strongly in regard to some of the gentlemen who have been appointed to various Boards. We know very well that on the Business Board of the Defence Department there are men who are drawing large salaries and expenses - wealthy men, who are probably making more money owing to the war than they have ever made previously. At the same time, men on the Western and other Fronts are sacrificing their lives in the defence of our liberties, and are leaving their wives and families behind to maintain themselves on a mere pittance. While our soldiers are doing this, the individuals serving upon these Boards require a salary of £1,200 a year. It is because I feel strongly on this question that I spoke as I did, although I recognise that the board of directors of the proposed Institute will differ materially from the Business Board of the Defence Department.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
.- This is another instance in which I think Parliament should be consulted. Seeing that every member of the Legislature is responsible to his constituents for the expenditure that is incurred by the Government of the day, we should most certainly have some voice in the salaries and expenses which are to be paid to the proposed board of directors. Personally, I think that those salaries should be specified in the Bill.
– The Bill gives Parliament complete control” over the salaries to be paid to the members of the Board, inasmuch as the amount covering those salaries will have to be appropriated annually. If the salaries are prescribed in the Bill, they will be taken out of the control of Parliament.
– Senator Foll has raised a very interesting point in regard to the directors, officers, and staff of the Institute being placed outside our Public Service Act. Sub-clause 2 of this clause provides -
The salaries of the directors shall be paid out of moneys appropriated by Parliament for Be purpose.
But itdoes not say what thosesalaries shall be. Personally, I see no harm in prescribingby Actof Parliament the salaries to be paidto the directors. If that bedone, I am satisfied that we shall be most generous to the gentlemen concerned if their work justifies it.But, under this Bill,Parliament wall be asked to votea lump sum in connexion with the Institute, and ithe Minister will have the power of allocating thatamount just as he thinks fit.
– I am somewhat puzzled by the conflicting views expressed by honorable senators. In reply to the remarks of Senator Foll, I would point out that if, in this Bill,we fix the salariesbe be paid to the directors,those salaries will be effectually removed from the control of Parliament for five years. On the other hand,if they are subject to an annual appropriationby Parliament, they will remain under our control the whole time. It will then be easyfor honorable senators to express either approval or disapproval of those salaries by submitting a motion in thisChamber.
– The Government might regard it as a want of confidence motion.
– If the Senate affirmed a motion in favour of the reduction of the salaries payable, theGovernment would be compelled to take action. The Bill permits of Parliament exercising the greatest possiblecontrol over the proposed boardof directors,and my advice is thathonorable senators should therefore accept theClause as it stands.
– Ido notknow whether the VicePresidentof the Executive Council means all that his words imply. He lias assuredus that we shall have complete control over thesalaries to be paid to the directorsof this Institute by virtue of anannual parliamentary appropriation. But I venture topoint out that weshall have no more controloverthosesalaries than we haveoverany other Department which is presided over by a Minister. As I understoodSenator Foll’s remarks, he desires that Parliamentshall fixthe salaries to be paid to thedirectors from year toyear in accordance with the valueof thework which they perf orm instead of the Ministerfixing themthrough the Governor-Gen eral .
SenatorRussell. - The GovernorGeneral merelyrecommends - Parliament hasto vote the money.
– Parliament has to vote the money -
– After it hasbeen spent sometimes.
– Yes. And sometimes the money is voted in a minute without any comment whatever. Only a few weeksago a Bill was rushed through this Chamber in that f ashion. The VicePresidentof the ExecutiveCouncil has stated that the amount which will beexpended onthe Institute this year as £17,000. Now, so far asthe Estimates are concerned, they merely disclose that £3,000 is tobe expendedonbuildings, offices, and instruments for the institute. We know nothing whatever about ithe salaries which it is intended to pay to the directors, oras tohow the sumof £1.7,000 is to be allocated. WhatSenator Foll wishes to learn is whatsalaries the Minister proposesto payto the directorsand staff of the Institute, andalso what travelling expanses are tobe allowed. His suggestion is thatParliament may very well deal with these matters instead of the Minister.
.- The Minister (SenatorRussell) told us that the expenditure contemplatedwas £20,000perannum, but I am afraid thatifwemake ithe salary depend on ananimal vote by Parliament,and fixthe term of officeat five years, we shall notget ahigh-class man to accept such a proposition. We hope to get the finest intellects available in the world,otherwisewecannot expect the Institute to doefficientwork. If we tell them that theyare engaged for five years,but that at any time during the term Parliamentmay reduce their salaries tonext to nothing their position will not be satisfactory. I would rather see theclause left out altogether.
SenatorRussell. -Then we could not appoint a director, orpay him.
-Does the Minister think the Government can get a leading scientist to accept a position which may depend on a vote of Parliament, reducing his salary to next to nothing every year?
– He could depend on the good faith of Parliament not to repudiate a contract. But if Parliament wanted to protest against his bad behaviour it could reduce the amount on the Estimates.
– The Minister should look into the point. Parliament might in any year reduce the salary.
– Provided that the Government did not take it .as a motion of want of confidence.
– If they did we could put another Government in power. The honorable senator, as a new member, seems to regard it as an awful thine: for a Government to go out of office.
– The Government must have a free hand to get the best men possible.
– This clause binds their free hand. The Minister says it would be a breach of contract for Parliament to reduce the salary. If that is so. Parliament is not’ getting a free hand, because I cannot contemplate Parliament breaking a contract.
Clause agreed to.
– The clause, although it may never become operative, is most important. Through circumstances that the most prescient Minister cannot foresee, it may be necessary in the interests of the country to get rid of one or more of the directors. The clause provides the machinery whereby a director who is found to be incapable, incompetent, or misbehaving himself, can be charged and practically tried, but the language is not broad enough. A director may not be incapable, incompetent, or misbehaving, but may still be unsuitable, for other reasons, for the position he fills.
– Would that, not be incompetence ?
– Not necessarily. He may be a fine scientist, and, theoretically, one of the best men Australia ever saw, yet he may still be absolutely unsuitable, for other reasons, to be. a director of the Institute. Although the clause is not likely to come into operation if care is used in the choice of the directors, I should like to see the wording’ extended to cover the element of unsuitability.
.- The clause provides that the Minister “ may “ at any time suspend a director, and the Governor-General “may’’ appoint a Board of Inquiry. No obligation is placed on the Governor-General to appoint a Board. If the Government decide not to appoint one, the Minister in charge of the Department will have no authority to do anything to the director except to suspend him. Is the director to remain under suspension for all time, or will his dismissal be in the hands of the Minister? . The word “ shall “ should be substituted for “ may “.
– Will the Minister add unsuitableness “ in sub-clause 1?
– That is covered already.
– If the Minister assures me that under the clause an unsuitable director can be removed, I am satisfied; but the success or failure of a good deal of post-war development will depend on the personnel of the directors of the Institute, and I should like the widest possible wording for this clause.
– Are the provisions of the Public Service Act to apply to a director under suspension? If a member of the Public Service is charged with an offence, he is suspended, and, during suspension, which may last for six weeks or longer, he is not permitted to engage in any other avocation, but must live the best way he can. If he wins his case, his pay goes on, but if he is dismissed he gets no pay for the period of suspension. Is that law to apply to these nien, or will their pay go on all the time under some special regulation?
– It will depend entirely on the Board. If the Board justifies the suspension, the pay stops.
– I intend to move -
That after the word “ incompetence “ the word” unfitness “ he inserted.
– What do you mean by “unfitness”?
– It will he for the Minister to prove unfitness. A dreamer might insist on spending Government money in attempting to extract gold from the ocean, or on expensive experiments, likethose in which so many Sydney people lost their money, to secure gold on the northern shores of New South Wales.
– If you were Minister, you would at once class him as incompetent.
– In fairness to the director concerned, the Minister would have to prove his unfitness under the remaining paragraphs of the clause.
– I am afraid honorable senators are not taking the clause seriously enough. Men of the class that we hope foras directors are not cheap to-day. They have some soul, and brain power, and spirit of independence; and, whilst we want to protect the Government against any mistake occurring through a director becoming unfit subsequent to his appointment, it is not the wish of the Government or the Committee to hold a permanent threat over the heads of men whose minds should be easy to pursue their duties. Our object was to make the clause as wide as possible without being insulting. Men of science should have all the Tespect we can give them on account of their knowledge and ability. In the opinion of the Crown Law authorities, the present wording gives the Minister power to do everything reasonable to get rid of a director, if necessary. The. Minister, after all, has to interpret the cause of suspension. Where a man’s reputa tion is at stake, Ministers do not act without conferring with their colleagues. It is not always possible to get hold of the ideal man for a position,and it may be necessary to induce a man already holding a position to come to us. There are many brilliant young Australians in the British Munitions Department whose claims, I hope, will be recognised.
– Will they get preference?
– I cannot say that, but their applications willreceive sympathetic consideration. We want to make the scheme as perfect as possible to secure the best scientific development of Australia’s primary and secondary industries. The Crown Law Department
Bay the clause will give theMinister power to remove any director, subject to an appeal to a Board, for degrading conduct, or unfitness for holding his position.
– After the statement of the Minister I will not proceed with my amendment.
– I move -
That the word “may,”line 5, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ shall.”
Sub-clause 1 of this clause gives the Minister power only to suspend a director. The director could not remain for all time under suspension, and it is necessary that a Board of Inquiry should be appointed to consider any charge made against him before he can be dismissed.
– I hope the honorable senator will not presshis amendment. Surely the Minister may be given credit for sufficient mental capacity to decide whether a director has been guilty of misbehaviour.
– The Minister has missed the point I endeavoured to make. If a Board of Inquiry is not appointed the Minister will not have the power to dismiss a director even though he should be incompetent. Sub-clause 1 provides merely that the Minister “ may “ at any time suspend a director for incapacity, incompetence, or misbehaviour. Under the Public Service Act there is a vast difference between the
– If the director is fommdi gu-iltv of- the charge against- him by the Board of Inquiry the Minister can. dismiss, him.
– My point is that “the Minister has- no- power: to- dismiss; a. director unless a. Board of Inquiry has been appointed..
– Be- has the powei to- suspend! a director and give him . ai trial.
– That is. s&, but that involves the appointment of a. Board of. laqiiiiiJiy.. The: clause provides that suchi a Boand “ may “ be appointed.,, and I think it. should, provide that in the ease of the suspension of a director a Board of Inquiry “ shall “ be appointed!.. It might be better for the Minister to provide that he may at any time suspend and dismiss1 a. director:
– In an obvious case’ the. director might receive an intimation to send’ in his resignation.
– As I. read the clause,, it does not give the Minister any power U/ dismiss a director unless a Board1 of Inquiry is first appointed, and ft then goes on to provide that, the appointment of such a Board’ shall be optional with the Governor-General. I am prepared, by leave, t© wibndfcaw my- amendment, and’ move that- the clause be amended by theinsertion, after the word “suspend!” of the1 words ““and dismiss.’
– That would’ mean that the Minister could dismiss a director without any inquiry.
– -The- clause provides that the; Governor-General- may appoint, a Boazdi of Inquiry.
– Why is the honorable senator “ stone-walling “ this measure?
– I object, to that stated ment,, and. aak that it be withdrawn..
SenatoE Needham.. - I withdraw the statement..
Amendment,, by leave,, withdrawn.
Aanendflmenit, (by. Senator Foll) proposed -
That, after the- wordi “ suspend,” line 1,. the word’s “ and’ dismiss “ be inserted.
SenatorRUSSELL (Victoria - VicePresident . of the Executive CbumciT) [5.12]. - The. Minister will not desire to . take hasty action in a matter of this kind. Generally speaking-, when an officer knows that he is guilty of an offence with: which he is charged’, hesends in lis resignation. If he resigns, it is- unnecessary to appoint a1 “Board to inquire into Ms case. The object of providing for a B’oard of Inquiry is to guarantee to, the officer, that he shall’ not be dismissed! by a hasty action of theMinister, but shall get a fair trial,, which every man in this country is entitled to. Senator Foll, by his new amendment, would give the Minister- power to dismiss a. director of this Institute without any inquiry. That’ is not a power which Bhould be given to any Minister. Ministers have not’ the power under the Public Service Act to’ dismiss even a messenger boy without, inquiry. If it. has been, found necessary to afford! such protection to a letter carrier or a messenger boy, surely it is- not too much to ask that the same, protection should’ be afforded to a man of science, who might ‘ be appreciated and’ looked up t’o in the community?’ If I were a scientist and an- applicant for a position, as a director of this Institute), I should not dream of giving, up some other position for it if I found that I could be dismissed’ from. the: directorate of the Institute at a moment’s notice,,, without inquiry as to whether I was guilty of any ofIem.ce. with which I was charged: or not. The elause provides for a fair deal between the Minister and the directors. It also gives, full power to get rid. of any director, who. may be foundnot, to be upi to. the. standard required to make the Institute a. success or- who may be guilty of any misbehaviour. I ask honorable senators to- agree to. the clause as it stands.
– The first amendment whichI proposed, would have provided a more humanitarian method of dealing with a director charged with any offence than is provided for by the clause as it stands. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that it is necessary that any person appointed as a director should have some assurance that he cannot be dismissed at a moment’s notice, and if. my first amendment had; been accepted, a director would know that he would be entitled to a fair trial by a Board of Inquiry. As the clause stands, the appointment of such a Board is optional, and I should like to know what would happen if the Minister suspended a director, and, the Governor-General decided not to appoint a Board of Inquiry to investigate the charge made against that director.
Clause agreed, to.
Clause 9 verbally amended) and agreed
Clause 10 -
The directors shall devote the whole of; their time to the performance of their duties; and no director shall accept or hold any paid employment outside the duties ofhis office as a director or be a director of a company.
.- This clause goes too, far or it does not go far enough. Its. obvious intention is excellent. The intention evidently is that a director of the proposed Institute shall not be interested directly or indirectly in. any concern outside the work; of the Institute. A director might be a member of a syndicate, a shareholder of a company, or a partner in. a business, and whilst the clause says that he may not be a director of a company, it does not provide that he shall not be interested directly or indirectly in any operations outside those of the Institute.
– Nor do we provide that a member of this Parliament shall not be so interested.
– I am sorry that the Minister should have given that illustration. We are now talking, not of members of Parliament, but of directors of the proposed Institute. There are tens of thousands of. pounds of public money going to. be expended upon the development of. industries and scientificdevelopment.. I should like to see some words incorporated whereby the directors would be prevented from being either directly or indirectly interested in the operations of the Institute; because, if such words were not included, there would be nothing to prevent improper collusion between one or more of the directors in connexion with certain of. theirinvestigations. I suggest that it be provided that no director shall be financially interested, directly or indirectly, in the operations of the Institute..
: - I think the clause meets all requirements. It gives reasonable protection that the Institute shall be. conducted: upon proper lines. Under our Constitution members of Parliament are not prevented from being members of companies, which may even: have contracts with the Government, provided there are more than twenty-five shareholders. Members of Parliament are called on. to vote away millions of pounds, without ever being; suspected of dishonesty, or that they were in any way influenced by the fact of their being members of any company. It would be wrong to hold, therefore, that a public official should be more closely hedged in with respect to his Government duties than is provided for in: the clause as it stands. We do not wish to prevent the directors from participating altogether in the affairs of life. It may be that the directors of the Institute are making experiments in connexion, with some flotation- process, say, after the manner of theDe Bavay treatment. If one of those directors was holding twenty shares in. a Broken Hill company, surely, that would not necessarily corrupt his actions. The fact is that ifa man desires to get past an Act of, Parliament, he wil do so despite all our laws. This clause, as it, is set out, is an indicator rather than being, in any sense, an attempt to control the personal actions of the parties concerned. The- clause goes as far as it should do. If members of Parliament can trust themselves, we should be prepared to trust our various departmental officers.
– I desire to provide that no director of the Institute shall have an opportunity of being dishonestly interested in any experiment, process, or de- velopment which may be subsidized under the authority of the Institute itself. There is nothing to prevent a director from forming himself, practically, into a prospecting or developmental syndicate, or for the exploitation of a certain invention, .and for that syndicate to be subsidized with Government morey, as an outcome of which that director might reap subsequent profits. -
– Would not such action come under the heading of “ misbehaviour,” as indicated in clause 8?
– This clause provides what the directors shall and shall not do. It would be better to leave out the words, “ as a~ director, or be a director of a company,” and to add, “ or be interested financially, directly or indirectly, in the operations of the Institute.” This Institute is for the very purpose of developing certain things, and of taking risks on them .with Government money for the good of the country. If the Institute discovers a specific for the prickly pear, or perfects an electrical prospecting machine, by reason of its activities having been subsidized by Government money, what is there - as the clause stands - to prevent any of the directors from making personal financial gain ? There are men who like to take a chance, not at Flemington or at Randwick, but on a patent, or upon a scheme to exploit this, that and the other. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred their schemes may fail, but the hundredth may bring them a fortune. It is fair that the directors shall not be tempted to be either members of a syndicate or members, as ordinary shareholders, of a company, or partners in any concern, that may be subsidized by Government money through the interests of the Institute. I move -
That the following words be add.ed: - “or be financially interested, directly or indirectly, in the operations of the Institute “.
– The amendment will make the clause much eraser. Unfortunately, there are men placed in positions of honour who sometimes transgress. On occasions, they make use of their office and of their knowledge for their own personal benefit. .We should take every precaution against contingencies in that direction.
.- The amendment would undoubtedly clarify the clause. A man may be the largest shareholder in .a company, and yet not be a director. Because an individual is a director, he is not necessarily the controlling influence. There are -many companies where the man having control does not come into the limelight at all. He exercises his influence on policy through the preponderating proportion of his snares.
.- I hope the Committee will accept the amendment. I have supported the Bill throughout, but it is capable, here, of improvement. I think the Minister (Senator Russell) failed to grasp the purport of the amendment, because he instanced the position of members of Parliament, who are called upon to pass votes for the disbursement of millions of pounds sterling. The Minister remarked that the public evidently trusted our honesty, but his comparison was not analogous. There is nothing in the clause to prevent tlie directors from being tempted to do something which might be construed into an act of -misbehaviour. In the House of Commons, two or three years ago, a gentleman named Isaacs was charged with having an interest in a certain company. That gentleman afterwards became Lord Chief Justice of England. He was practically arraigned on the floor of the. House of Commons on a charge of having been a member of .the -Government which had let a contract of some kind to a firm in Which he was interested. Now, the directors of the proposed Institute will be in a somewhat similar position, and the Committee would be well advised to accept Senator Pratten’s amendment, so as to prevent the slightest suspicion of any corruption. I do not know who the directors will be, but I am quite confident that not one of them would lend himself to anything of a suspicious nature. But we are here to mould the Bill in the be3t form possible, and it would therefore be wise to adopt the amendment.
– Otherwise, the directors may be in a position of great temptation.
– ‘Yes ; and because of that I desire the addition of these words. Seeing that the clause, as drafted, suggests some such danger, we ought to go just a little further and prevent it altogether.
Question - ‘That the words proposed to be added be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Even at this late hour, and m spite of the Bill having been-
– I am treating this matter seriously. My only desire is to make the Bill as workable as possible. We have been told from the day that the Bill was introduced that it was a nonparty measure, but in spite of that, my amendment has been ignominiously defeated by the votes of some honorable senators who have not listened to the why and the wherefore. I still appeal to the Minister-1 -
– The honorable senator is not in order in casting any reflection upon a division.
– I will say,’ then, that in spite of the apparently party character of the division, I hope the Minister (Senator Russell) will insert some provision in this clause whereby the directors of the Institute will be removed from many of the temptations that will inevitably be’ pre- sen ted to them. There could be no objection to omitting the words, “as a director or be a director of a company “ ,and substituting for them the words that have been rejected in the recent division. Though the Minister is silent I think he will agree there is some risk, if the clause is allowed to stand, of the directors feeling that they would be perfectly justified in being holders of some syndicate shares or shares in a com- .pany which may be formed to exploit the development of certain inventions that will come under the aegis of this Institute. My only reason in raising this question is to see that provision is made by Act of Parliament to guard against this position.
– The Committee has negatived an amendment of that character. If the honorable senator desires to carry the matter further he may move to recommit the clause.
– I will give further consideration to the clause, and if there is any risk, such as indicated, I will move to have it recommitted.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 -
– This clause deals with the State Advisory Councils. . I do not know whether the Minister (Senator Russell)” has considered the draftsmanship of the first paragraph in clause -4 in connexion with these Boards, but I do not wish to dwell upon that now. I point out that the present Advisory Committees in no sense carry out the representa.tion of the primary and secondary industries as intended under this Bill. This clause places in the hands of the Minister, through the directors, the exclusive right to appoint the State Advisory Councils, and for the sake of that co-operation about which we ha ve talked so much in connexion with this Bill. I should like a slight amendment made whereby the councils must be appointed in consultation with the States. It has been suggested that the word “ in” should be omitted, and the word “ by “ inserted, but I think that would be too drastic, as it would take all authority fromthe Minister and the directors of the Institute, and make it obligatory on the States to appoint the State Councils. My amendment does not go so far as this, and yet it will meet some of the objections that have been raised by several pf the State Premiers to the Billas it stands. I move -
That after the word “in,” line 3, the words “ consultation with “ be inserted.
If this amendment is carried, I propose to move to add the word “Government “ after the word” State,” so as to make it quite clear that the appointments shall only be made in consultation with theGovernments of the States, and make itdear also that the finalimprimaturof theseappointmentswill rest with theCommonwealth Government. If an unsuccessful attempt be made to consult the State Governments, the appointments will then rest with the Minister who is charged with administering the Act.
– What will happen if the States are consulted and theydisagree ?
– I am endeavouring to avoid a contretemps of that character.
– Ifthe Minister disagrees with a State Governmentwhat will happen ?
– Ifthe Minister will consult the State Premiers beforethese State Advisory Councilsare appointed I am of opinion that the work of theInsitute will proceed very much more smoothly than will otherwise be the case. This clause provides for the representation of our primary and secondary indus tries upon these Councils. The existing Committees do not contain any representativesof our secondary industries. If we are going to have an Institute with Advisory Councils in each State comprised exclusively of professional intelligence, without the intelligence of practical men, the success of the undertaking will not be what we expect it to be.
– I entirely agree with the views that have been expressed by Senator Pratten, but I think that hehas proposed his amendment in the wrong place. Sub-clause (1) of this clause provides that an Advisory Council representing science and the principal primary and secondaryindustries shall be appointed in each State. But.it does not say who is to appoint this Council. I suggest to Senator Pratten that instead of persevering with his proposal,, subclause 2 should be amended by inserting after the words “ Governor-General “ the words “ in consultation with the respective State Governments.”
Amendment,by leave, withdrawn.
– I accept the suggestion which has been made by Senator Foll, and accordingly I move -
That in sub-clause 2, after the words “ GovernorGeneral “,the words “ in consultation with the respectiveState Governments” he inserted.
One of the objects of my amendment is to assist in securing the co-operation of the present- in many respects - very capable State officials. During the course ofthisdebate we have been repeatedly told that Queensland, NewSouth Wales, Victoria, and South Australia particularly, possess a number of capableofficials withqualificationsof a very special character. I think, therefore, we shall be wise in endeavouring to insure the cooperationof theStates, and the adoption of my amendment willbe an aidin that direction.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria - Vice-
President of the Executive Council) : [5.56]. - In my opinion the words proposed to be inserted by Senator Pratten are absolutely valueless. Anybody with experience of negotiations of the character suggested knows perfectly well that in the past the cause of all the bickering between the States and the Commonwealth has. been that final power has not rested with some Government Department. Prior to the war nearly all the difficulties that we experienced resulted from our. constitutional limitations. It was not so much a question of what job was to be done as of what authority was to do it. That was one of the curses of this Parliament. The. Bill under consideration should be either a Federal measure, or a State measure. This Parliament has decided that it shall be a Federal’ measure. Yet we are now told that it must provide for the States being consulted. The Minister charged with administering the Act will unquestionably consult anybody who is in a position to afford him1 valuable information. Bie would be a fool to- do otherwise. But if he is- compelled by Statute to consult the States he will probably sen-cP a letter to. them, and consign- their- replies to. the waste-paper- basket. I repeat that we. mu’st eather make this- a Federal, or a State Bill. I have had’ disputes ia regard to similar matters- before. In this connexion I recollect a- very unsatisfactory correspondence with one State- Government which extended’ over quite a long time. That- Government has since admitted that it was in err.or. But it took, twelve months te* gain that admission, and what we most urgently require in connexion with the. work of the. proposed Institute is. finality. I have had nominations from a State Government that would not. have reflected credit, upon the Institute.
– What Government wasthat?
– I do not- care to say publicly, but I am prepared privately to show any honorable senator the correspondence dealing with the matter.. Not always when we have had) lip protestations by the States of a- desire to cooperate with us has it been’ accompanied by action.. Naturally, we shall invite the fullest co-operation on the part of the States,, but we desire to have final control over the Institute, which is intended to be a Federal Institute, and not one of a mixed character.
Senator PRATTEN (New South Wales) the doctrine that either the Commonwealth Government or this Parliament is sacrosanct. Let me tell honorable senators what is going on just now. In connexion with the establishment of the proposed Institute much prominence has been given to the need for the manufacture of cheap alcohol for power purposes. Yet in the other branch of the Legislature a Bill, has been circulated in which it is proposed to levy an Excise duty of ls. per gallon on methylated spirits, which are the base of a great many industries, and which are largely used in’ our hospital?. Upon the one hand the Government are saying, “ We want this Bill tocheapen the cost of alcohol for industrial purposes,” whilst, on the other, they are proposing to levy an Excise duty upon cheap alcohol which was not previously dutiable. To my own- personal knowledge, they are handicapping the manufacture of anaesthetic chemicals which formerly came from Germany. It seems to me that w& require co-operation in- respect of these matters. I appeal to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) to- recognise that if the State Governments are approached in connexion with matters upon which they haw expended large sums- of money during recent years-,, much valuable information’ for the guidance of the new Department will be- f forthcoming
’. - I intend to support the amendment submitted by Senator Pratten. Personally, I would’ be disinclined either to forgo any of the rights of this Parliament or to- sacrifice any of the rights of Ministers. But the Vice-President of the Executive Council, in moving the second- reading of this Bill, assured us that it would become law with the concurrence of the States’.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– Probably those were not the honorable, gentleman’s actual words, but they represent, the substance, of his remarks. He certainly said that the. States would, have some voice in themaking of this law. If they are, not to have any voice, as. to who shall be. ap*. pointed to these State Advisory Councils, why did the Minister send them a copy of the Bill and ask for their advice?
– There are not going to be any State Governments after the war. We shall have Unification.
– If we are going to have Unification, let the proposal be brought forwardopenly, and not by means of a subterfuge. I certainly understood the Vice-President of the Executive Council, in moving the second reading of this Bill, to say that the State Governments would have a voice in this matter. In reply to an interjection by Senator Fairbairn, he said that “ with the concurrence of the States “ the Bill would become law.
– You show me those words !
– If the Vice-President of the Executive Council will refer to the Hansard report of some remark which 1 made in respect of clause 4 of the Bill, he will see that I quoted the words to which he gave utterance in moving the second reading of this measure.
– What I said was that I would seek the co-operation of all the States interested . in this Federal proposition.
– Is the denial to the Statesof any power in the matter of the appointment of the State Advisory Councils a practical way of seeking their co-operation? If the State Governments are consulted, we are much more likely to secure their active co-operation upon important matters than we are if they are not consulted. While the States do exist, the Minister ought to consult them. If theGovernment intended when the Bill was being framed that the States should have no voice in the appointments to the State Advisory Councils, why did the Minister send copies of the Bill’ to the State Governments, thus leading them to believe that they would have some say in the matter ?
– The Bill is the samenow as it was then, except for a slight” amendment by Senator Pratten.
– Presumably the States did not reply, because they could see that, no matter what they suggested, the Federal Government was to be allpowerful.
– We should have brought the State Governments here to pass the Bill for us!
– Having sent copies of the Bill to them before it came before the Senate, the Federal Government should consider the wishes of the States. I support Senator Pratten’s amendment.
– It is not very important whether Senator Pratten’s amendment is carried or not. It is evident that the Bill is intended entirely to supersede the work being done by the State Governments.
– That is what it is beginning to look like.
– That is the intention of the Bill. This Parliament has no power to prevent the State Governments establishing similar Institutes of a purely State character.
– Will they consult us about appointments to State bodies?
– I do not expect them to do anything of the kind, and I doubt very’ much if it is wise to trouble to consult them about appointments by the Federal Government. The Government are at their wit’s end to find positions for the great army of skilled scientists who are anxious to place their services at. the disposal of the community. The States are in the same position. Those gentlemen will do anything but engage in useful productive work. They are a very substantial army, and the Government have been so pressed in various directions that they are obliged to insist on the Senate passing this Bill to create and impose on the community an additional army of parasites. The Government, having determined on that course, will appoint the men who most persistently press their claims, but I cannot see what they willdo to increase the productiveness of the community. I hope they will justify their existence, butI doubt it. I am tired of the actions of the Government, when I consider the vast army of committees and commissions of various kinds that they have appointed. I suppose they will continue as long as the war continues.
– Why are you raising this party spirit in the debate?
– It would make no difference to me which party was appointing them. The idea of fastening armies of non-producers upon the backs of the workers is exceedingly distasteful to me. I am not surprised at Senator de Largie backing it up, because he must do so as Whip of his party. If he were on this side of the chamber, with a free hand, he would oppose the measure at every point of its passage. The Government having determined to appoint their own men, it would be a waste of effort for the Minister to consult the States, which will appoint an army of their own to do their scientific research work, and to’ work independently of the Commonwealth just as the Commonwealth police are working independently of the State forces. I support the Government in their determination to do this business without reference to the States.
– Senator Pratten has moved one or two valuable amendments, but I cannot see that this one has any value. He ought to move that we should submit our Bills to a State Premiers’ Conference, and ask their permission to go on with our business, because that is really what his amendment means. This Parliament is quite competent to manage its own affairs without consulting the State Premiers. According to the honorable senator, after the State Premiers haveconsidered the matter at a caucus meeting, we should be humbly permitted to proceed with our own ideas, but not before. I commend that suggestion to the honorable senator, and also the suggestion that he should withdraw his amendment.
Motion (bySenator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- On the 25th September I asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy certain questions in connexion with the purchase and sale of the launch Francisca. The answers to my questions were unsatisfactory to me, and I aminformed by men in a position to know that some of them were untrue. I do not say that the Minister personally is aware of this; but the officers of the Department who furnished the answers were guilty of misleading, and an inquiry should be held, in the interests of the departmental officers concerned. The Minister informed me that the vessel was purchased from Mr. A. E. Morgan, of St. George’s Terrace, Perth, for the sum of £1,500. I am told, however, that, for a considerable time before the Navy Department purchased it, it. was hawked all over Australia, and could have been bought for about £1,000. I believe it was brought from America on the deck of another vessel, and the owner thought he would get rid of it in Australia. To arrive at the actual figurethis bad bargain has cost the Government, there must be added to the £1,500 the sum of £177 15s. 6d. expended in repairs and alterations, as follows: - Repairs, &c., May to August, 1913, £110 7s. 2d.; refloating, July and August, 1913, £67 8s. 4d.; thus making a total expenditure on the vessel of £1,677 15s. 6d. Although the Minister stated, in reply to my question as to how long the Francisca was in commission, that it was purchased in September, 1912, and sold in November, 1914, I am informed byone who is in a position to know that the vessel did not do any work for the Department. I asked the Minister whether the engines and boilers were taken out and sold separately, and, if so, why. He replied -
Hull, machinery,and fittings, and small water-tube boiler were sold separately; machinery and fittings were removed when the v esselwas damaged and sank.
As regards the latter portion of the answer, I have been told, on reliable authority, thatthe vessel never sank. It made only three trips between Fremantle and Cockburn Sound, about 30 miles in all, and on each occasion a breakdown occurred, the tubes of the toilers being blown out. The officer in charge at that time was then, ordered to take the boiler out and send it to Melbourne to be retubed. After this was done, orders were issued by the head office, Melbourne, that the vessel “was to be ‘towed to . the Base and moored in a certain position, where she would be exposed to the north-west winds. This the officer in charge refused to do, and subsequently his services were dispensed with. A foreman carpenter was then placed in -charge, and instructions were “issued that a -mooring was to be placed at a certain spot north-west of the Quarantine Jetty. The place indicated had but 1’2 feet of water, with a grassy, bad-holding bottom, and was exposed to the full fury of the north-west winds. The officer in charge of moorings, to whom the instructions were issued, suggested that the launch be moored to the southward of the spit, so ‘that -she would have some protection. The carpenter, however, had written instructions regarding the -matter, and there was nothing left for the officer in charge of moorings but to carry them out. This he did, but with some alterations. Instead of placing the moorings in 12 feet of water, he placed them in IS feet, .laying down a 4-cwt. anchor and 60 fathoms of chain, and also an additional anchor weighing l£ cwt., with 40 fathoms of chain, both being laid to the “north-west. It was at these moorings that the Francisca, in the first stiff blow, dragged her moorings, owing to the grassy nature of the bottom, as had been pointed out must happen. And it did happen. I’ want to know -why this was done.
Another question I asked was whether the vessel was unsuitable .for the work, and who was responsible, for the ‘purchase. The Minister’s reply was - !The Francisca, while , lying .alongside “the jetty in Cockburn Sound, “was ‘badly damaged on 13th- July, 1913, by a heavy northerly gale, and sank. On examination it .was found ‘that the vessel was damaged beyond repair and she was stripped. The Naval Board finally approved df hull, -machinery, and fittings “being sold. The Minister approved of the purchase on the recommendation of the Naval’ Boa-rd.
According .to the information I have, that answer, given by the officers of the Navy Department, is untrue. I.-am given to “understand, first of all, that the vessel was not lying alongside the jetty in Cockburn Sound, but “was at her “moorings, and when it began to blow she dragged her -moorings and collided with the jetty, breaking her port quarter; “but she -was not damaged beyond repair. After she hit the jetty she was patched up with canvas and -towed into Fremantle through a Stiff gale. As a matter of fact, the hull of the vessel, which I was informed in answer to my question was absolutely useless, has been fitted again with .engines, and. is now the hull of one of the best boats on the Swan RiveT. The Minister, in reply to my questions, did not answer my inquiry as to whether this vessel was unsuitable for the work for which she was purchased. “The Francisco, was a gentleman’s steam yacht. She was fitted with triple expansion engines, Thornycroft bailer (containing 142 tubes of Swedish iron)., dynamo for electric light, dining room, sleeping compartment, pantry, and barroom, and every modern convenience. I think that honorable members will readily agree that a vessel of this description was totally unfit for the work for which it was required at the Henderson Naval Base. The officer in charge at the time of the purchase, and “who has -since been dismissed, is said -to be a very clever engineer and to .possess ^engineering knowledge superior to the Director of Naval Works at the time. He objected to being saddled with this launch. He said that it was only =a toy, unfitted for the work for which it was to be used, and that he wanted something with which he could do some work. .The objection ret :this practical man was overmled, .and the toy was purchased.
I now come to consider what was derived from the sa’le of the vessel As the Minister stated in his replies to me, the hull realized £75, and the beautiful fittings of this gentleman’s yacht realized the magnificent sum of £10. Tenders were invited for the boiler, but none was received. That was no wonder, because it was not worth anything. Instructions were issued that the boiler should be disposed .of at an auction sale, and it would be very interesting to know what it brought- “This means, according to the information .given me ‘and the figures supplied by the Department, that, leaving out the .amount received for the boiler, the receipts -amounted to £85, whilst the vessel cost £1,677 15a.6d.. This represents a total ieas to the Commonwealth -of £1,592 15s. 6d -without taking dato . consideration the overhead* charges aad . expenses during tihe two years in which Ithe Francisco wa-s the properly : of ‘lie department.
I- haye . <m mows than ione -occasion^ : xecerved misleading answers to -questions which I have asked from my place in this ahamber.. I received misleading answers to my questions . concerning this vessel, . and if tter-e wer.e . aja inquiry into the matter it wuld be proved -that the answers given ibo my questions were antnte. I do not btarne &e Minister, “but -the officers Ksf (his Department, for this. After the vessel was purchased, site did no work at all $or two yoars, ‘and ^stie was then sold to a private person for. the amount I have stated, and by hat person the hull was repaired, rami the vessel is mow running in the ‘Swaii Ewer. I am enticed to receive itirothful (replies to any questions I put from *my plaoe im this dbamber. I have had ito wm plain on previs’tts occasions that T Ihave received ndsfeadawg ‘and untrane replies te questions I ‘have asJtied. I repeat that ray ‘questions concerning the fWcncwea were replied to in -a way wibich was misleadrag ito mie . and to -the people ovf this country. I was in Perth recently in . coninexian with -an inquiry by a . certain Ooiwmittee, and while I was -there Tumours icoTOSBmimg tihe Franciaca reached me. I tried to seen re . ev3dan;ce >n the tftrbject, tout the witnesses bluffed the questions put ‘to -them,, and I was unable to obtain satisfactory replies. I Irnve since been’ emabled te -obtain information on the strbject f rom a man on the job. at 1/he time, whe is . prepared at any time to substantiate what he says. If what he *has ‘stated to me is true, tihe Francisca was -moored, “where she was Jot a certain purpose, and that purpose was that -She should drag her -moorings the first time a north-west wind came -up. That is a serr&us allegation, tout that is what my information amounts to. If I had received ‘ proper answers to the ^questions I put, I . could have allowed ‘the (matter . to rest there, but, as I did »ot : reoeive truthful replies, I have taken advantage of this opportunity to ventilate ‘the TOattw, tmi I irepe that. in future misleading replies will not’ be given to questions put in the Senate.
– Senator McDougall’s principal charge is that’’ the answers supplied by the Acting Minister for fhe Navy (Mr, Poynton)- to some questions which he submitted . in this chamber were misleading and incorrect.
SenatorGuthrie. - The honorable senator has said that they were untrue.
– That is certainly a serious statement, and one which 1 shall bring under the notice of the Acting Minister for the Navy, who, I have no doubt, forwarded to me in all good faith the answers to Senator McDougall’s questions, which were supplied to him hy the officeis of iris Department. One important feature of Senator M-cDougalFs statement is that he alleges . that this launch was deliberately exposed in such a place -as practically . to -.assure her sinking and destruction. That is a very serious charge to make, and I venture to say that if any officer of the Navy Department has been guilty of an act of thai kind, it is the honorable senator’s duty to - and I am suTe fee will see it -himself in that ligOrt - give the ActingMinister ‘-for the Navy the name pf Ms informant,, In order that the allegation may he sifted to the bottom. Any person . areceptiag . pay from ithe Government of hia country who would %e guilty <o£ am act of tihat fentd should, . daa tMe interests of the coaanatiry, he -discovered at the earliest possible moment aird (dealt -with as ite deserves. I can promise . flaat the -remark made 3rySenator McDougall will be brought under the motice -of the Acting Minister for . theNavy, and I invite him to supply myself or the Acting Minister for the Navy with the name of Ms informant who makes this serious allegation against an officer of the Navy Department - of exposing this vessel to certain destruction. . I shall bring Senator McDougall’s remarks ‘wider the notice of the Acting Minister for the Navy,* in oider . that he may . satisfy himself as to whether Jiis- officers -have or have not given ‘fcruthfnl replies to the questions put by the ItonoraMe senator in this chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at6.29 ipan.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 October 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19181031_senate_7_86/>.