8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Bill returned from the House ofRepresentatives, with amendments.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the message being at once considered and all consequent action taken
– In moving
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I ask honorable senators, in view of the fact that we shall not be sitting next week, to recognise the necessity for passing it through all its stages, if possible, to-day. The present position in Australia is that there is practically no law in existence relating to aerial navigation other than the police laws of the States. With the progress that is being made in aviation here that is an extremely undesirable and dangerous state of affairs. To-day a person is at liberty to fly in any kind of machine whatsoever. That machine may be absolutely unsafe, it may have undergone no test, and yet, in respect of civil aviation, a man may not only fly in it,but may also carry passengers. When we reflect that a motor-driver is required to pass an examination and to obtain a licence before being permitted to drive any motor vehicle, we must recognise, especially in view of the greater risks that are attendant upon air traffic, how essential it is that at the earliest possible moment this traffic should be regulated. Up to date the Commonwealth Government have not placed anything in regard to. air navigation upon a statutory basis. We are just now inviting applicants for the position of Controller of Civil Aviation. Consequently, we are not yet in a position to initiate any departure from the legislation which has been enacted in other parts of the world concerning aerial navigation. We know that other countries have passed legislation in respect of this subject - legislation which has been tested and which has proved efficacious. Therefore, the Government feel that the best course for them to follow is to bring down a “Bill empowering them to make regulations similar to those which are in existence in the United Kingdom, but with such alterations as may be necessary, to meet our somewhat different circumstances. Later on, after a Controller of Civil Aviation has been appointed, and in the light of the experience which we shall then have gained, we shall be able to bring down a more comprehensive Bill dealing with this subject. One of the difficulties encountered at present is that at the time our Constitution was framed aerial navigation was not thought of. Consequently, there is no provision in it which directly confers upon the Commonwealth the power’ to control aviation. It is held, however, by high legal authorities, that the Commonwealth possesses this power, partly through its trade and commerce power, and partly through its defence power. But, jest there should be any doubt upon the point, it was brought before the State Governments, who at once recognised that this is essentially a subject for Federal control ; that it would be impossible to create artificial State boundaries in the air; that it is desirable that any legislation upon- this matter should be of a uniform character, and should be centralized.
– Will aviation be an absolute Government monopoly, for instance, as between Melbourne and Hobart?
– That matter is not dealt with in the Bill. At the present time there are aeroplanes in the Commonwealth which are owned by private enterprise, and in some cases they are carrying both passengers- and parcels. There is no legislation governing thom. All that this Bill- purports to do is to enable us to enact the necessary legislation to provide for the inspection of machines.
– it -will not wipe out private enterprise in aerial navigation 1
– No. It will simply regulate and legalize that traffic. It is essential that there should be some testing of machines before they are allowed to carry passengers. Still more important is it that aviators should be subjected to some examination regarding their qualifications, and possibly also regarding their physical condition. At present we have no power to provide for that. The Government, therefore, have introduced this Bill, which will empower them to frame regulations dealing with these matters. We propose to adopt the regulations which are in force in the United Kingdom, with such modifications as are obviously necessary to meet our local conditions. At a Conference of State Premiers recently a resolution was passed affirming that they would bring forward Bills conferring upon the Commonwealth Parliament the power to legislate in this regard. There are only two qualifications attaching to that decision, a qualification saving the police powers of the State - which, of course, is essential - and a qualification providing that any State shall have the right to own aeroplanes. Subject to these two qualifications, a draft Bill has been prepared by the Kew South Wales Government, upon whom this obligation was laid by the Conference, and the various State Governments are now proceeding to pass that measure into law. As the different States pas3 their enabling Acts, we oan proclaim the Bill which is now before us.
– Suppose that one State will not agree to pass that legislation 1
– All the States have pledged themselves to pass it. ‘ Honorable senators may be disposed to inquire what benefits we anticipate will flow from the passing of this measure. Probably it will induce the States, to take earlier action than they would otherwise take. I have already said that we propose to appoint a Controller of Civil Aviation. Provision is made in regard to the applications which we are inviting for the position, that preference -shall be given to returned sailors and soldiers with actual experience of aviation. We are assured that there is quite a number of men in the Commonwealth who possess these qualifications, and I have no doubt that we shall be able to secure the services of a competent man. It will be his duty to advise the Government upon this (matter, upon the administration of the regulations, and also the drawing up of conditions to govern both the examination of machines and of pilots. In other words, his duties in regard to aerial navigation will be similar to those which , are discharged by the Director of Navigation in regard to marine navigation. It is recognised by the Government that the development of civil aviation in the Commonwealth will be a big factor in the defence of this country. The more we establish civil aviation, and the more aeroplanes, pilots, and mechanics we have devoted to this art, the safer we shall “be from a defence stand-point. If we can encourage civil aviation it will doubtless relieve the Commonwealth of a large expenditure upon military aviation in connexion with its Permanent Forces. In order that defence aviation may be linked up with civil aviation, the Controller of Civil Aviation is to be given a seat upon the Defence Council of Aviation. This will not confer on that Council control of civil aviation, but it will give the Controller of Civil Aviation a voice in the defence aviation of the Commonwealth. It will thus create a liaison between these two branches; it will coordinate them, and it will lead to economy and to the development to the fullest possible extent of civil aviation within the Commonwealth.
Australia was a party to an Interna- ‘tional Convention which dealt with the subject of air control from the international viewpoint. I have in my hand a copy of that Convention, which was signed in Paris on the 13th October, 1919. I represented the Commonwealth at the Convention and signed on its behalf. The subject-matter embraces a very wide field ; it is interesting to examine the lists of countries which were represented. They are as follow: -
America, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Great Britain and Ireland, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, India, China, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Hellenes, Guatemala, Haiti, Hedjaz, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Liberia, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Roumania, Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Siam, Czecho-Slovak Republic, Uruguay.
The matters dealt with by the Convention are indicated under the following headings :-
Nationality of aircraft; certificates of airworthiness and competency; rules to be observed on departure, when under way, and on landing; prohibited transport; International Commission for air navigation; table of marks; rules as to lights; rules as to signals; rules of the air; rules for air traffic on and in the vicinity of aerodromes; minimum qualifications necessary for obtaining certificates as pilots and navigators; international aeronautical maps and ground markings.
It will be seen that the main items deemed necessary for the control of air navigation have now been made the subject of an international agreement. This latter lays down the minimum requirements. Any national signatory to the Convention may make more stringent regulations if it so wishes. It can have a more exacting set of conditions, but the various nations mentioned have agreed to these minimum conditions.
– In Australia we can say that no pilot shall be licensed unless he is an Australian?
– We can say that no pilot shall have a licence unless he is a Presbyterian. There is no limitation, but there are certain minimum conditions to which we have subscribed, and by which we must abide. The very fact of the Convention having been held affords the clearest indication that this whole subject must be a Federal matter. It is not feasible that the six individual States should have their representatives separately attending a Convention such as was held in Paris. Australia must speak with one voice.
While, for the present, international flying does not affect Australia to the same extent as it does the United Kingdom and France, where planes are passing to and fro daily and many times a day, the flight of Sir Boss Smith and his companions, and, later, of Lieutenants Parer and Mcintosh,, demonstrated that Australia is within the scope of international flying; and, with the greater developments which one is bound to anticipate, it is quite possible that before many years regular air services will have been established between Australia and the other countries of the world. There is complete justification, therefore, for the introduction of this Bill. We can scarcely pick up a newspaper in which there is not reference to some incident concerning aviation in Australia, revealing a danger owing to the lack of regulation of air traffic. Aerodromes are established and landing grounds are marked out; but, apart from the ordinary police power resting in the various States, there is no authority to prevent people from getting in the way of aeroplanes. There is nothing to prevent a machine from landing amongst, or in the vicinity of, a crowd. I read some time ago of a case where a throng numbering several thousands had assembled in a provincial town where an aviator was giving a display for purely advertising purposes. He deliberately flew close over the heads of the people, and eventually there was an accident. His machine crashed and crippled two of the spectators. There is no authority in Australia at present vested with power of control and intervention. That lack should be remedied at the earliest possible moment. There are young enthusiasts in the Common wealth of an adventurous turn of mind; the development of aviation has naturally turned their attention to that field of endeavour. Here, however, there is a prolific source of danger. For example, some six months ago a young fellow communicated with the Defence Department asking for information and for certain supplies to assist him in completing the manufacture of an aeroplane which he and a comrade were constructing. One of our officers was despatched to examine the machine. It was the intention of the young inventor to fly it during the following week. He was not deterred by the fact that he had never been up in an aeroplane before. As a matter of fact, his contrivance was an absolute menace.It is possible that he may have got up into the air with it, but it is practically certain that he would have speedily returned to earth and killed himself, as well as, possibly, others who were witnessing his demonstration. Today there is nobody authorized, and no power existing, to prevent that kind of thing. I might add that this young man remarked to the officer that it was his intention, after a trial flight or two, to carry passengers.
It may be argued that there is an objection to this Bill in that it does not enact directly, but simply gives power for the making of regulations. The Government intend, with experience, and under proper advice, to consider at a later stage, the drafting of a more comprehensive Bill; and in that ultimate measure there will be included many provisions covered by the regulations. That is why power is here sought to adopt the British regulations. I need scarcely remind honorable senators that all regulations must be laid on the table of the Parliament in the ordinary way, and that any of them may be objected to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Power to give effect to Convention) .
– I wish to know if the provisions of the Convention have been laid on the table of the Senate. If not, are they available to honorable senators for perusal ?
– Yes, they have been circulated to all honorable senators.
– Will the regulations provide for the registration of private aeroplanes? If so, is it proposed that there shall be a fee charged ? And, further, if there is to be such a charge, will the revenue go to the respective States in which the machines have been registered ?
.- There will, undoubtedly, beprovision for registration, and I assume that there will be a fee charged, just as in the case of the registration of motor cars. I do not think, however, that the money will go to the various States. Seeing that the Commonwealth is to bear the expense of the administration of its Act, I take it that any revenue will be Commonwealth revenue.
– Will the regulations extend to the control of airships as well as aeroplanes ?
– The term employed in the provisions of the Convention is “ aircraft,” which includes every kind of craft which travels through the air.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– Has the subject of air navigation been dealt with bythe Commonwealth and State authorities, and is there any likelihood of conflict arising between them regarding control of air-flight over an individual State ?
.- I have explained that the question was brought forward at a recent Premiers’ Conference, at which a resolution was agreed to pledging the States to consent to Commonwealth control, subject to certain reservations, one of which is that it should not interfere with the right of any State to own aviation machines. Subsequently NewSouth Wales was delegated to draft an enabling Bill, which has been submitted to and accepted by the Commonwealth, and the States have now undertaken to pass this legislation at the earliest possible moment. This Bill provides that the Act may be brought into effect by proclamation when any State passes the necessary enabling Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4th November (vide page 6163), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- When I asked leave yesterday to continue my remarks on this Bill, I was under the impression that the verdict of the High Court in Stewart v. Robinson would be delivered this morning. Immediately the Senate rose yesterday I made inquiries, with a view to getting the earliest possible information as to the terms of the judgment, but ascertained that it will not be delivered until the Court meets in Sydney, which, I understand, will be some time next week. Consequently we are no further advanced to-day than we were yesterday, and I hesitate to go on when at the very best, consideration of the Bill can only be based on uncertain premises.
Yesterday I ventured the opinion, which I still hold, that the Minister for Customs (Mr. Greene) is wrong in his interpretation of the law with regard to Customs duties.
– That is, the present law.
– Yes. Since I understand that there is no immediate urgency for the passing of this measure, and that it is doubtful if amending legislation will be required, and in view of the fact that the Senate will be meeting the week after next, I again ask leave to continue my remarks.
– I regret that the Minister has not assented to my request. The position now is that we, as a Senate, are compelled to give consideration to a Bill on very meagre information. The matter is being contested in the High Court, and we ought to have the judgment of that Court before us when we are considering an alteration of the existing law.. At all events, we should know what is the law before we attempt to alter it.
– It is ten to one that the High Court will say that it does not need altering.
– That is my contention. I listened to the arguments in the case before the High Court, and have come to the conclusion that the Court will decide that there is no occasion for any alteration of the law as indicated in this Bill. I have no doubt that the High Court will say that the interpretation of the law by the Minister for Customs is wrong, and that consequently the alteration of the law as now proposed is based on false premises.
– The honorable senator contends that if the existing law is deemed by the High Court to be sufficient, this Bill will be superfluous?
– To a great extent, yes.
– But you are prophesying upon what the High Court will do.
– I want to be certain what is the existing law. At present I am in the unfortunate position that I have continued the debate, and if I resume my seat I shall not be able to make any further comment upon the Bill except in Committee. I understand the attitude of the Government to be that Australia has deliberately adopted the policy of Protection with certain preferences to Great Britain, and has determined that France and Italy, our principal Allies in the late war, and particularly France, shall at least have the very best trading advantages with Australia. This Bill is an attempt on the part of the Government to give effect to that policy, the principles of which, according to the interpretation of the law by the Minister, are not effective. I very much regret that, in view of the fact that we are debating a matter concerning which we are unable to get at the real facts, I am not in a position to deal exhaustively with this subject upon which I have a lot of information.
– But surely, as a Parliament, we can decide this matter independently of the High Court decision ?
– Precisely. Of course we are superior to the High Court. We enact legislation, and the High Court interprets it. We have, on our statute-books already certain legislation which has been interpreted by the Minister for Customs in one way, but, which, I think, the High Court will interpret in another way, and we are being asked to alter it on the assumption that the interpretation by the Minister for Customs is the correct one. If the matter were not being contested in the High Court, well and good. But it is being contested, and we do not know what the law is. We have only to wait another week for the decision of the High Court. In view of these circumstances I urge the Government to postpone consideration of the Bill, and shall reserve whatever additional remarks I have to make for the Committee stages.
– It is open to the honorable senator to again request leave to continue his remarks.
– We cannot consent to that.
– As the Government refuse to meet me in the matter I shall conclude by protesting against the procedure adopted.
.- Obviously a request for the adjournment of a debate is one that must appeal to the Government, coming as it does from their supporters; but I think that in view of the present state of the business-paper, and the length of the session, good and sufficient reasons ought to be advanced when an adjournment is asked for. Senator Drake-Brockman’s reasons do not appeal to the Government. They seem to be beside the question altogether. What are the facts ? They are these : Exchange throughout the world is in a condition of chaos. The Minister for Customs (Mr. Greene) has, I understand, interpreted the Customs law in consonance with the interpretation that has always been placed upon it in regard to this question of exchange; and his interpretation has brought about a very different state of affairs from that which existed previously. Certain importers have challenged the Minister’s interpretation, and this question is now before the High Court. Those who represent the trade interests of. France, where the exchange is about 57 francs to the £1 sterling compared with about 35 francs when I left the United Kingdom in September, 1919, have represented to the Minister that France is being penalized, and their trade practically destroyed. On the other hand countries like the United States, and to a lesser extent Japan, where the balance of exchange is the other way about, are benefiting to such an enormous extent as to destroy, practically, the preference given in our Tariff to the United Kingdom.
– That has been brought about by the interpretation of the present law by the Minister for Customs.
– The Government want to be able to deal fairly by France, and at the same time to retain the Tariff preference for the United Kingdom, which this country has deliberately provided for. We want also to maintain the incidence of protection in our Tariff against the United States, Japan, and other countries. The Minister with his advisers, after giving careful consideration to this subject has devised the wellthoughtout scheme set out in the Bill.
Those who make the representations are satisfied that, if the scheme is administered in the spirit in which it has been introduced, it will have the effect which Parliament desired.
– Will this scheme be necessary if the decision of the High Court is as anticipated by Senator Drake- Brockman?
– It will still be necessary under any system. No matter what system is adopted, if it is arbitrary, and cannot take note of the fluctuations and disturbances that are occurring from week to week in the exchange market, it will work harm to somebody and to some set of principles. The crux of the whole position is an adaptable and rapidly adjustable system of interpretation to meet the chaotic exchange market. The Bill constitutes the Board of Trade, which is comprised of men who have a knowledge of the exchange and trade questions, as the advisers of the Minister in that respect. The only limitation on them is that they have to uphold the two principles laid down in the Tariff.
– Will this scheme stabilize the administration if there is any recurring chaotic exchange situation like the present?
-It will. That is why it is adjustable from time to time. It will uphold the two principles of the Tariff - first, protection of Australian industries, and, secondly, preference to the United Kingdom as against all other countries. It will at the same time put other countries on an equality, and will not penalize them because of the fluctuations of exchange in their trade against coun tries which, like theUnited States of America, are in an advantageous position. In what way is that affected by any case before the Court? Even if the Court declares that the Minister’s interpretation of the Customs Act is not right, it will still be found that we cannot frame a law containing the express conditions which will meet every one of these fluctuating and chaotic circumstances that we see to-day in the exchange and trade market.
– Does not this Bill make the Board of Trade, instead of the Minister, the interpreter of the law?
– No. It enables adjustments to be made, and varying decisions to be given to meet varying sets of circumstances. No one interpretation and no one rule can meet them all.
– Has not the Minister that authority now ?
– No; he has to give an interpretation which applies equally to all. He says, “ These goods are to be valued on a certain principle,” and that decision applies to all goods coming into Australia.
– No matter from what country they come?
– That is so. The provisions of the Billwill enable the Board of Trade to recommend to the Minister procedures which will meet the varying exchange conditions. No matter what the judgment of the High Court may be, we ought to have that power, and while this chaotic condition of exchangeand trade obtains, this Bill is desirable. From that point of view the Government do not see that any good purpose can be served by adjourning the debate. We ask the Senate to pass the Bill to enable relief to be given to a country like France, which is being penalized by the existing conditions, and to restore to the United Kingdom that preference in trade which to-day has been taken away from it, and given to the United States of America.
Motion (by Senator Keating) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I very much regret that the Government did not see their way to postpone the further discussion o.t the measure. The reasons of urgency for the measure which have been put forward by Senator Pearce have been in existence in all their force since the early part of this year. Honorable senators, honorable members of another place, and members of the public have not ceased to impress upon the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) the necessity for a revision of his decision in relation to the matters dealt with in this Bill. Throughout the months that have intervened since the early part of this year, the Government have shown no disposition whatever to hurry remedial legislation or administration.
– You surely recognise that it is an intricate matter, which could not be decided hurriedly?
– I propose to speak later of its intricacy and involved character. For months past I have been giving a good deal of consideration to representations made to me from the. different States on this question, and, like Senator Drake-Brockman, I have agreat deal of material on the < subject. The hours allotted to the sitting of the Senate to-day would not suffice me if I were to deal adequately with the representations made to me, and to which I have given special attention.
The Bill as it stands at present is. double-barrelled. It provides, first of all, for an adjustment of the rate of exchange between Australia and foreign countries with which Australian merchants may be doing business. Secondly, it provides for a Board that will take into consideration, in certain events, the question of whether the bank or commercial rate of exchange or the mim par rate of exchange should prevail. In taking these matters into consideration, the Board has also to consider the established Protectionist policy of the Commonwealth, and the established policy of preference to Great Britain. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) said that, apart altogether from what the decision of the High Court may be in the case of Stewart v. Robinson now before it, the establishment of a Board of that character, charged with those functions, can very well be dealt with by
Parliament at this stage. I am in accord with that statement, but only to this extent: What Board is to be charged with this responsibility? We are told that it is the Board of Trade. Criticism has been levelled at such a decision elsewhere on the ground that, statutorily, there is no such body in Australia as a Board of Trade. But is the Board of Trade prepared to function in this matter if this Bill is passed this week? I venture to say that it is not. Whether the Bill is passed this week or this month I believe the Board of Trade will not get to functioning under it any more rapidly.
– Why ?
– Because I do not think it will be prepared to do so.
– Its .other duties are not so heavy as to preclude it from attending to this question.
– I know very little about the Board of Trade, and the honorable senator knows about as much.
– The Board of Trade has been on this question, not for weeks, but for months.
– Has it the procedure ready. to deal with the Bill?
– Yes. All ready when the Bill comes into operation.
– I have referred to the question^ of the inclusion in this Bill - for the first time in any Statute - of a body known as the Board of Trade. The Government might well have waited for the determination of the law in this matter. One thing I take exception to is this: In the first place, the Bill purports to amend the existing law, and in doing so it assumes that the view of the law that has been taken by the Minister for Trade and Customs is the existing law. I venture to think that it is not. I do not say that from anything I have gathered recently. Early in this year I gave my own opinion legally that the Minister for Trade and Customs was wrong, and I have seen nothing since to alter my conclusion that the Minister’s interpretation of the law is not sound. If the Senate adopts this Bill as it stands, it impliedly assumes that the law hitherto has been as the Minister for Trade and Customs has viewed and administered it. I, for one, if this measure .passes, dissociate myself entirely and distinctly from any such attitude. We are asked by this measure to affirm, as a Senate, that the law is as the Minister for Trade and Customs has viewed and administered it. If the decision of the High Court is adverse to the Government in the pending case of Stewart v. Robinson, it is quite possible that the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Government will have to review their position very seriously, because I understand that thousands of pounds have been paid into the Customs under protest against the view that the Minister for Trade and Customs has sought to impose, and hitherto has succeeded in imposing, upon the commercial community. What will be the position if £1,000,000 has been overpaid in that respect? How much has been lost to the Commonwealth by the view taken by the Minister in respect of importations from the United States of America and Japan? The Customs operations will about balance, but the individual consumer who has purchased goods, which, for the purposes of duty, have been valued at double and treble their value, cannot get any redress whatever. As far as the Government is concerned it is quitepossible that, if the decision is adverse, Parliament will be invited to adoptsome other legislative means to redress the grievances of the past, as they affect either the merchants or the Customs Department. I think that this question should be thoroughly investigated in all its bearings, and now that we have the Bill before us it is wrong for the Government to object to an adjournment. What advantage will be gained by pushing it through ? What is the immediate urgency for expediting its passage when the necessity has existed since February last?
– To redress grievances.
– Surely we can wait until the High Court gives its decision.
– If this is an effective means of redressing grievances, why not put it into force?
– If the High Court gives an adverse decision in Sydney early next week, the Minister will have to administer the law differently from what he has been doing. Any one who was present during the discussion of the case before the High Court has a fair idea of what the judgment of that tribunal will be, and the Chief Justice announced from the Bench that he thought they would be able to give a decision before they left for Sydney, although they might not wait to prepare reasons. There is only one conclusion that can be arrived at, and it was obvious to the minds of all present what that conclusion would be. We should not be called upon to go through a form purporting to amend a law which isnot a law, so to speak, and which exists only in the intrepretation of the Minister for Trade and Customs. Apart from the provisions of the Bill, with this decision pending, we might well allow the matter to stand over for a week or so. When the measure was under discussion yesterday, Senator Drake-Brockman asked that the discussion should be allowed to stand over until the High Court should deliver its judgment, probably today, in the’ case of Stewart v. Robinson. There was not any objection to an adjournment being granted, and if the delay was justified on that occasion, it is justified now.
– The honorable senator also asked for more time to prepare his matter.
– Senator DrakeBrockman was justified in expecting that that decision would be given to-day.
Senator Bakhap. - If the High Court gives its decision on the lines indicated by Senator Drake-Brockman, no such machinery will be necessary ?
– The situation as far as exchange is concerned will be settled, but there will be no decision affecting dumping and our trade relations with those countries suffering from a depreciated currency.
– What is the position concerning the importation of carbide in the honorablesenator’s own State?
– I do not know how the currency in the country of its origin has been affected. Does the VicePresident of the Executive Council know?
– Carbide comes from Norway, where the currency has enormously depreciated.
– Does the Minister know what the rate of exchange is? This method of hitching the question of dumping on to that of exchange is mere camouflage. The Department has begun to recognise the pressure of public and professional opinion concerning its policy, and its legality, as demonstrating that it is not a correct one, and I think these two matters have been brought together and the rectification of exchange is being camouflaged.
I have prepared a great deal of matter upon this subject, but I did not contemplate, after the discussion yesterday, that further consideration of the Bill would come on before the decision of the High Court was given ; and, from my own view, realizing the limited issue of that case, I considered there was a good deal that I had prepared that would be of no use whatever. I think it would have materially shortened the discussion upon this question if we had known definitely how the law stood. The matter of vesting the Board of Trade with authority to regulate or adjust exchanges, to uphold Protection, to give preference to Great Britain, and to prevent dumping are questions upon which there would be little debate at all. I think the established policy of the Commonwealth is such that provisions relating to those matters would commend themselves to honorable senators, even though the provision we may be making tnay he only small,because by means of other legislation we could achieve our object. If the question of exchange is dealt with, and we know exactly what our legal position is, and what it has been in the past, in the light of the interpretation of the High Court, I think we could, on the resumption of the debate, considerably narrow the scope, and discuss the Bill, in conjunction with the existing legislation, in such a way as to turn out a thoroughly effective and useful measure.
– The question of foreign exchange is so intricate that any person who is not directly in touch with banking cannot be expected to give anything like a satisfactory definition of the present position. I have had some practical experience of the result in regard to exchange as between Eastern countries and Australia, and the only doubt I have in my mind concerning the Bill itself is whetherthe Commonwealth Board of Trade is the proper authority to make recommendations in connexion with this matter. I do not know what the Commonwealth Board of Trade has to do ordinarily, but I can make a very good guess. I do not think it is overwhelmed with work, and, therefore, in all probability it will be able to give immediate attention to this matter as soon as the Bill is passed. My impression is that the question is one with which bankers should deal, and that some banking authority ought to be associated with the Board of Trade in making recommendations. There are two definitions in the Bill -one in regard to mint par rate of exchange, and the other in regard to the bank rate of exchange - and I will defy anybody who has not had considerable practical knowledge of banking to understand these definitions, or to illustrate how they actually work out. I will give honorable senators an illustration of the intricacies in connexion with exchange rates. Those who are operating in the East inform us that the rate of exchange is very much against this country in connexion with importations from the Orient. Before the war, the Hong Kong dollar was worth 2s., and, consequently, the sovereign remitted to the East represented at least 10 dollars’ worth of goods; but now, in consequence of the fluctuations in exchange, it represents a reduced number of dollars, and consequently an Oriental merchant, sending money to his own country, finds himself in great difficulty because of the fact that the value of the dollar has risen. I will give an illustration as between the East and Australia, and show how,, in some instances, it may operate to our tremendous advantage. As an act of courtesy to some of my Chinese friends, I agreed to subscribe a few hundred dollars towards the first Chinese Republican loan, and I gave, as an equivalent for 100 dollars, less than 8 sovereigns. Some of those bonds have been redeemed, and I had the experience some time ago of receiving nearly 20 sovereigns, or their equivalent, because a bond, for which I paid £8, had matured.
– That was an excellent investment.
– It was, as, instead of drawing only 6 per cent. interest, I received 12 per cent. and approximately the equivalent of twenty sovereigns for an £8 bond. When the bond was redeemed I had my capital more than doubled, so that in that instance the rate of exchange, although unsatis factory in commercial transactions, was particularly advantageous to me. Australian investors in such bonds have received double their capital because of the exchange rate, which operates at present detrimentally in commercial transactions, but favorably in such an instance as that I have mentioned. It is an intricate question, and it is useless to assume that it. is one that is easy to understand. It is a problem that should be handled by bankers of the greatest ability and those well versed in commercial transactions in all their ramifications. The only suspicion I have in regard to the measure being unsatisfactory is that no provision is madefor the Board of Trade to have associated with it, in making recommendations to the Government, the highest banking authorities in the Commonwealth. I can quite understand the Minister’s contention, and I believe there is a good deal of reason in it - and that is whyI opposed an adjournment of the debate - that the measure will be necessary, no matter what the decision of the High Court may be. If that is so, the Government is doing only what is right in asking the Senate to pass it. My only doubt is concerning the ability of the Board of Trade to satisfactorily and effectively deal with such an intricate problem and be able to make recommendations to the Minister without having associated with it some of the bankers of repute in our community. After all, the matter is one that requires the attention of men with considerable banking ability.
– The object of the Board is to get into touch with those vitally concerned. It will have the powers of a Royal Commission.
– The Minister will understand that, in matters of this kind, prompt action will have to be taken, seeing that foreign exchange is in a state of flux and chameleon-like in character.
– Over 99 per cent, of 250 propositions submitted to the Board of Trade have been effectively dealt with.
– That is highly satisfactory in view of the unobtrusive way in which it is doing its work. It has not forced upon the public the excellence of its work in the way of advertisements.
– Because itacts in an advitory capacity to the Cabinet.
– I am very pleased to hear that the results of its advice have been of such a salutary character. If Ministers have had experience of its work in that satisfactory way, I can understand their desire to secure the services of the Board of Trade in the solution of a question such as that which is involved in this measure. However, I do hope that this matter will not be dealt with off-handedly by anybody without consultation with the highest banking authorities in the Commonwealth.
– I attended here to-day fully expecting that those honorable senators who have given personal attention to this Bill would give us the benefit of their views upon it. Senator Drake-Brockman asked for the adjournment of the debate yesterday after having heard addresses delivered in the High Court upon the case which is pending there, and after having devoted close attention to this measure. To-day ‘Senator Keating dealt very fully with the whole position. To me, as a layman, it is extremely difficult to discuss a Bill of this character in detail, especially when I am required to follow two such legal luminaries. Nevertheless, honorable senators have the obligation cast upon them to record an intelligent vote upon the measure. I very much regret that the Government have resolved to push the Bill through to-day. I have a great deal of matter which has been forwarded to me - -
– Suppose that an appeal were made to the Privy Council, ought we still to wait?
– Circumstances alter cases. The conditions which existed yesterday exist to-day. The Government had an opportunity to bring this measure forward earlier, and I have no hesitation in saying that we are entitled to the fullest information before we are asked to vote upon it. Upon the facts which have been submitted to the Senate to-day, and the speeches which have been delivered here, it is my duty to vote against proceeding with the Bill.
– Although Senator Keating said that a Board of Trade is necessary?
– I may have misunderstood what Senator Keating said; hut I scarcely think so. In view of the magnitude of the issues which are involved in the Bill, I ask leave to continue my remarks.
– Is it the pleasure of the Senate that the honorable senator be granted leave to continue his remarks upon a future occasion?
– I object..
– Leave must begranted unanimously, and, consequently, the honorable senator must continue .his speech.
– I am not in the habit of addressing the Chamber upon a subject to which I have not given detailed attention, and which I can scarcely be expected to understand. I protest against honorable senators being asked to record a vote upon a matter which two-thirds of them do not understand in detail.
– This Bill has been before Parliament for three weeks.
– ‘But there have been reasons why its introduction into this Chamber has been delayed. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) is thoroughly .conversant with those reasons. I protest against putting the measure through until we are in a position to give it close and detailed attention.
– The speech of the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat compels mc to make one or two remarks. It is a very old saying that suspicion is the tribute which ignorance pays to the unknown. If we do not understand a thing, we are very prone to be Suspicious of it. According to Senator Wilson, those of us who are not absolutely familiar with the details of this measure should certainly insist upon the adjournment of its consideration until somebody has become familiar with those details and is able to give us the result of his investigations.
– The question beatsthe bankers themselves.
– -From its inception I regarded this Bill as a very important one, and consequently I sought the advice of many men who ought to know what is necessary in the legislative provisions governing the rates of exchange between different countries. The advice which I have received from these experts is that the measure is quite satisfactory, and that it goes as far as it is humanly possible to go at the present time. Acting upon that advice, I was quite .prepared to retain my seat, and to cast a silent vote for the Bill unless some strong objections were urged to it. I heard the speech delivered by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) in moving its second reading in another place, and I listened to others who styled themselves critics of it; and, from the debate which then took place, as well as from private information, I concluded that the measure is quite all right. Because honorable senators do not make themselves familiar with the Bill, it is altogether unfair to the Government to insist upon its consideration being adjourned.
– It is the duty of the Government to adjourn consideration of the measure until we understand it.
– Then it was the honorable senator’s- duty to be familiar with the Bill to-day.
– What about yourself?
– The Bill has been before Parliament for three or four weeks. Does the honorable senator suggest that he does not consider measures which go before the other Branch of the Legislature? Of course he does, and he prepares himself for the discussion of them which will take place here.
– When a Bill is introduced in another Chamber, a copy of it is sent to every honorable senator.
– Exactly. Immediately I received a copy of this measure I sought expert advice upon it.
– The decision of . the High Court will not affect the honorable senator’s opinion of it?
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) has ‘ explained that it does not matter what may be the decision of the High Court; an arrangement will have to be made to enable us to deal equitably with the matter of exchange rates as between the Commonwealth and all countries doing business with it. Senator Wilson does not contradict that statement. It was admitted by
Senator Keating that such a law would have to be enacted, no matter what might bo the decision of the High Court. That being so, why does Senator Wilson accuse other honorable senators who are prepared to cast a silent vote upon the measure with having failed to consider it? I arn convinced that the Bill is all right.
– What is the opinion of the Associated Chamber of Commerce?
– That body, so far as I know, has not expressed any opinion upon the Bill. .
– It offered, in a resolution, to co-operate with the Board of Trade in every way.
– That is the answer to the honorable senator’s question. If it is imperative that such a Bill shall become law, why should we defer its passing indefinitely?
– We do not wash to defer action indefinitely.
– There has been a good deal of trouble this morning in connexion with this Bill, but I do not blame honorable senators for not being familiar with its provisions. Its object is to create machinery for the carrying out of certain work, which will principally be in the nature of inquiry. Senator DrakeBrockman has asserted that the Customs Tariff is based upon uncertain duties. The position is the very reverse. The facts are that prior to the 24th May, 1918, valuation of goods for Customs duty was based upon what was then known as the mint par rate of exchange. Of course, when gold possessed its normal value, things were all right. But as I remarked yesterday, things are not what they seem, as we shall speedily realize if we institute, a comparison between the value of the sovereign to-day and its value only a few years ago.
– The sovereign is worth 30s. to-day in certain countries, whilst in other countries it is not worth 15s. ‘
– Exactly. In May, 1918, in valuing goods for Customs duty, the current bank rate of exchange was substituted for the mint par rate of exchange. But owing to continual fluctuations in the bank rate, it was found impracticable to continue that system, with the result that on the 15th August, 1918, a reversion was made to the system which had existed since the establishment of the Commonwealth. The Minister’s interpretation of the system upon which the valuation of goods for Customs purposes should be calculated, was given only when the impracticability of calculating their value upon the bank rate of exchange had been demonstrated. It has been said that the Minister’s interpretation was a wrong one, and upon that matter we shall presently have a High. Court decision. Senator Keating stated in the course of his remarks this morning that there is no hurry for the passing of this Bill, because ‘ the Government have already delayed its introduction so long. May I point out that the Government have been inquiring into the matter, and that the whole of the machinery necessary for the operation of the Board of Trade is now in readiness. The moment this Bill passes Ministers will not only confer with, but will accept the advice of, bankers and merchants, and, indeed, of anybody else who may be willing to assist them. The powers proposed to be vested in the Board of Trade are those which are vested in a Royal Commission.
– The Board of Trade will not be a statutory body ; it could consist of Mr. Massy Greene and his office boy.
– It is constituted of a representative of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, namely, Mr. Elder; of a representative of the Chambers of Manufactures, in the person of Mr. Herbert Brookes; of two Ministers, namely, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) and myself; a representative of the primary producers; and two other gentlemen beside.
– Are there any bankers?
– No, this is a trading matter. We have in our Departments accountants available for consultation who are quite as competent to give advice and opinion upon any point of finance as a banking authority. Everybody, of course, knows, in a general way, what is the condition of the exchange question; but we require specific information which can only be obtained from the people most closely interested. There is a lack of solid information upon which to base our decisions, and, by the examination of importers and exporters - business men, actually concerned - we can secure what is required. Senator Keating has not realized, apparently, what has actually been going on in Australia. In 1917- 1918 we imported from Norway 884 cwt. of carbide. An industry concerned in the production of carbide was started in Tasmania, and it received every encouragement and protection which the Government could afford. Owing to the operation of low exchange, very considerably favouring Norway, there was imported in 1919-1920 55,568 cwt. of carbide. The drop in exchange rates was utilized in such a way as effectively to defeat the measure of protection which had been given to the infant carbide industry in Australia. The Tasmanian works had to be closed down.
– Does the Minister say that that was due to the exchange being adverse to Norway ?
– No, but owing to its being advantageous. The mint par rate in respect of Norway to-day is 18.159; the current bank rate is 24.85.
– But that would not bc a factor in the dumping.
– If not, then the fullest inquiry is necessary, because the Tasmanian works have had to be closed down. Prior to the war we imported most of our carbide from Norway. Owing to lack of shipping that country ceased to be an exporter to Australia. Japan came in, and the proportion of the importation of this commodity from Japan went up from about 15 per cent, to nearly 100 per cent, during the war. Such a condition of affairs is sufficient to break up and prevent the reestablishment of the industry here. Our duty is to inquire into the circumstances operating to the detriment of Australian industries, and to those of the Empire as well. The Board of Trade does not claim perfection, but it has been operating for a long while and has done some valuable work - more valuable, indeed, than has been generally recognised. It has had no statutory powers but has been acting in an advisory capacity ;. and its recommendations have been almost unanimously accepted by Cabinet and indorsed by Parliament. It has a wonderful record over a most difficult and complicated period.
Senator Keating, after remarking that the Government had already delayed matters long enough, suggested still further delay. That involves a peculiar argument. It is possible that an appeal may be lodged against the decision of the High Court, when it is announced, and finality may not be reached for six or nine months.
– That might have been said yesterday with as much force as to-day..
– And one might inquire, if it is logical to. postpone consideration still further, why not for ever?
I have been asked to indicate how long the Board of ‘Trade is likely to take in getting its necessary working machinery going. The Board is an honorary one, but it has been very active and enthusiastic. As soon as this Bill was introduced I called the members together, in the capacity of Chairman; and, to-day, the whole of the machinery is ready to be set iu operation. We, at any rate, have not delayed. There are special reasons for urgency in order that the Board may get to work at once.
– This Bill would never have been introduced if a case had not been taken up against the Commonwealth. This measure was introduced to Parliament at the point of the bayonet.
– Not at all. The question has been prominently before the public for months past.
– But the Government did nothing until some one took action in the High Court.
– Even if that were so, now that we are endeavouring to do something we are being asked to accede to delay after delay. It is demanding something more than a courtesy when an effort is made to take the business of the Senate out of the hands of the Government. This Bill is the outcome of conferences between responsible Ministers and persons vitally interested. I take it that representatives of banking interests will be among the principal witnesses called before the Board; and, in. that direction, their services will be of more value than if there were actual representatives of the banks upon the Board. As for the statement that the Chambers of Commerce and Manufactures have not indicated their agreement with this Bill, both organizations have carried explicit resolutions indicating their readiness to co-operate with the Board of Trade in trying to bring about a workable state of affairs. Whether the Board of Trade is the best body which could have been established in the circumstances I do not intend to argue. But the Government do not wish to create new bodies for every fresh purpose which may arise. The Bill represents, in the opinion of the Government, the most practicable scheme that could have been devised. We intend for our guidance to definitely ascertain, as far as possible, all the- pertinent facts.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Reference to Board of decline in bank rate of exchange).
– Will the provisions of the proposed new sections embraced within this clause make it impossible in future for the United Kingdom to be penalized, or will they make it possible for the United States of America and Japan to continue to be placed, by comparison, at an advantage? Statistics to-day reveal that the Commonwealth Customs Department has lost very heavily in the aggregate, owing to the conditions which have existed hitherto. Exchange rates, in the matter of imports, have operated to such an extent against Great Britain, and the United States of America has so gained, that the 10 per cent, preference which should operate in favour of the United Kingdom has been obliterated. We have short-collected in Australia a total sum of £2,789,000, and have overpaid £884,000; so that the balance against us is considerable.
– Without questioning the accuracy of the honorable senator’s statement, I can tell him that there are no definite figures available, and nobody really knows.
– All I am anxious about is that the preference to Great Britain shall be assured in the future.
– And we are determined to preserve it. If this Bill does not giveus sufficient power, we can make representations to Parliament for increased power.
– You mean that this Bill is a security; not a guarantee.
– I would not like to say that.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria- Vice-
President of the Executive Council) [12.48].- I move-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
I am not particularly anxious to put the Bill through, but as we have reached the final stages I do not think anything is to be gained by delaying the measure. If it is not successful in achieving the desired object, the necessary adjustments can be made in accordance with the desire of honorable senators on both sides.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.50 to 2.30 p.m.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ amendments) :
House ofRepresentatives’ Amendment. -
After clause 13 insert the following new clause : - “ 13.A. For the purposes of the last two preceding sections ‘ certificate of naturalization ‘ includes a certificate of naturalization issued under the Act repealed by this Act or under any State Act.”
– Another place has made eight amendments in this Bill, but only two or three of them involve any principle. The balance are merely consequential or drafting amendments. It was necessary during the war period, owing to some of the (peculiar sources from which we had to get information, to allow statutory declarations regarding the right of certain foreigners to hold naturalization certificates to. be kept secret. When this Bill was being passed here., we indorsed that principle, but the Government now believe that it is unnecessary for the same secrecy to be observed. It is, therefore, provided in one of the amendments made by another place that any charge against a man for the purpose of revoking a certificate of naturalization should be heard in open Court. What was done during Avar time applied particularly to old State certificates and to certificates issued under the existing Commonwealth Act. As we are now in times of peace, we think it wiser to provide that, in the case of everybody who holds an old, naturalization certificate, or who obtains one in the future, should it be thought desirable to take proceedings for the revocation of naturalization, an open trial shall be given in a public Court. This is a little more generous than the existing law, and will probably work out quite satisfactorily to Australia. If it errs at all, it errs on the side of mercy, which, perhaps, after all, is not a bad thing. One amendment, which adds a proviso to clause 26, has been put in so that any person affected by a declaration made under this legislation may be entitled to examine and crossexamine the declarant publicly before such declaration is acted upon by the Minister. That will allow a full and open inquiry to protect the interest of any person or persons affected. During war time the absence of power to revoke or withdraw a naturalization certificate without considerable trouble was a very serious handicap to the Government in the case of numbers of men who should have been sent out of the country owing to their rank disloyalty. They could not be deported, because they held certificates issued under the old States’ naturalization laws, and aswe could not cancel their certificates many of them remained in Australia for long periods, although they ought to have been sent back to Germany long before. It is provided that all who hold naturalization certificates which are deemed to be good under the law should have exactly the same opportunity of appealing for an open trial before they are disqualified. That is quite a sound principle to establish. We do not desire to use this measure for war purposes; but if we are ever involved in war again it will still be possible to extend our legislation to meet any difficulties arising out of war conditions. . The amendments all tend to improve the Bill, and if they enat all err on the side of mercy. We ought, I think, to take a little broader view now than we did during the troublous period of the war. The Government, after full consideration, arc willing to accept all the amendments. In fact, most of them were suggested by the Government, to meet the altered conditions of peace. I move -
Thatthe amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Amendment in clause 25 agreed to.
Clause 26 -
Any declaration made under this Act or under any Act hereby repealed may be proved in any legal proceeding by the production of the original declaration, or of any copy thereof certified to bea true copy by the Governor-General, or by any person authorized by him in that behalf, and the production of the declaration or copy shall be evidence of the person therein named as declarant having made the declaration at the date therein mentioned.
Mouse of Representatives’ Amendment. -
At the end of clause add “ Provided that the person affected by such declaration will be entitled to publicly examine and cross-examine the declarant before such declaration is acted upon by the Minister.”
.- I move-
That the amendment be agreed to with the following amendments: - (a) The omission of the words “ the person “ and the insertion in their stead of the words, “‘if any person other than the person making the declaration is “ and (b) the omission of the word “will” and the insertion in its stead of the words “ he shall.”
These alterations are merely designedto make our meaning clearer.
– I cannot quite comprehend the exact meaning of the proposal.
– The amendments I have moved are only technical. It is quite possible that when sonic person brings a charge against an alien somebody else may be dragged into the case. This provides that any person so affected shall have a perfect right to have all the facts brought out in open Court, by examining and cross-examining the man who made the declaration.
– Can he crossexamine through the medium of counsel ?
– I presume that will be provided for by regulations made under this Bill. So far as I know, there is nothing to prevent any person affected being represented by counsel.
The principle which we are seeking to affirm is that there must be an open public trial before any man can be deprived of his naturalization. There will not be many of these cases, and, therefore, it is not necessary to establish a permanent Court to hear them. Probably, what will be done will be to provide a temporary Board to hear each case in the locality where it arises.
Motion agreed to.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit “ revoked or amended, he may revoke or,” in sub-clause 1. and insert “ amended, he may.”
– I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
Under the old Act a man’s naturalization certificate could be revoked without any evidence being taken. That was, perhaps, essential for war purposes, but we now make it necessary for a properly constituted open trial to take place before anything of the sort can be done. It is also provided that the conditions of the old certificates can be amended and made uniform throughout the States, but that is quite a different thing from revoking or cancelling a naturalization certificate.
Motion agreed to.
Rouse oi Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit sub-clause 2.
– This and the three following amendments do not involve any new principle, and are merely consequential. I mover -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I merely desire to say that, inasmuch as these amendments seem to be in the direction of altering war legislation
– The last four are merely consequential.
– Yes, but they are being put through with such rapidity that it is somewhat difficult to follow them. Now that the war is over and we are working on a peace basis, these amendments are probably necessary. I believe that they will be the means of giving, even a foreigner, justice and the full advantages of the Commonwealth law in the matter of naturalization, and with that I am in hearty accord, because I believe that as the months go on it is obvious to us all that the war is getting a long way behind, and it is time we began to legislate on a peace basis.
Motion agreed to.
Remaining amendments agreed to.
Resolutions reported ; report adopted .
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ amendments) :
Clause 3 -
Subject to this Act, no person who is, or appears to an officer to be, more than sixteen years of age, shall embark at any place in the Commonwealth for a journey to any place beyond the Commonwealth unless -
his passport has been viséed or indorsed in the prescribed manner for that journey.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After “journey” in paragraph (6) insert “ and the vise or indorsement has not been cancelled.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
As I mentioned in connexion with the Nationality Bill, these amendments do not involve any alteration in principle, hut merely omit certain words that appear somewhat harsh, and generally improve the measure. “With the exception of three, they are merely consequential. It is provided that a vise or indorsement must be still in operation; it must not have been cancelled, and therefore a passport that is not up to date cannot be utilized. This amendment is necessary, because many people retain possession of passports longer than they are entitled to. In the Bill, as it originally left the Senate, a penalty of not less than £100 or not less than six months’ imprisonment was provided, and, judging by my experience during the war period, that penalty was not unduly severe. Now that the war is over the Government have decided to reduce the penalty from £100 to £50,, and from six months’ imprisonment to three months. I think we ought to be a little more merciful, and in consequence of the decision that has been arrived at the amendments made by the House of Representatives in this connexion are necessary. A reciprocal arrangement has also been made between the Commonwealth and New Zealand, which has necessitated amendments. When the Bill passed the Senate it provided that any person going from Australia to New Zealand should obtain a passport, but as suitable arrangements have been made with that Dominion for dealing with aliens, it is not now intended that British subjects shall be required to obtain a passport when travelling between the two countries, although an alien will have to do so. An amendment in clause 6 trans fers the power of cancelling passports from the permanent head of the Department to the Minister. Although I do not intend to criticise the administration of this Act in the past, I think it will be generally admitted by honorable senators that it is desirable that that power should be in the hands of the Minister who is responsible to Parliament. When the head of the Department is criticised for any action he may take he is unable to be heard before Parliament, and therefore it has been thought desirable to place the power in the hands of the Minister.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Minister (Senator Russell) to the position in which I am placed. There is not a copy of the Bill as passed by the Senate on my file, and the printed schedule of sixteen amendments was placed in. my hands about two minutes before the Minister rose. I am utterly unable to see in the time what effect the amendments the Minister is asking us to agree to will have upon the Bill as it left this Chamber.
– I cannot help that. I have endeavoured briefly to explain the amendments, many of which are merely consequential.
– We may not agree with the amendments.
– Perhaps the Minister is not aware that this Bill passed the Senate before the 1st July last, when many honorable senators who are now present were not members of this Parliament, and I believe they would indorse my statement that they have no personal knowledge of the Bill as it passed this Chamber.
– I have just received it.
– And so have I.
– Does not the Minister think it desirable to adjourn the discussion until honorable senators have had an opportunity of perusing the amendments ?
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria- VicePresident of the Executive Council) [2.571. - I had overlooked the fact that the Bill was passed by this Chamber before some of the honorable senators who are now present were members of this Parliament. As I have already explained, eight of the amendments have been necessitated in consequence of the penalty being ‘reduced from £100 or six months’ imprisonment to £50 or three months’ imprisonment, so that disposes of one-half of the number. I have also mentioned that in consequence of a reciprocal arrangement between the Commonwealth and New Zealand that passports will not be required by British subjects travelling between those countries. There are also amendments providing that no person shall be entitled to use a passport that is not a modern instrument, and that where a man obtains one by fraud or deception he shall be liable to punishment. If any honorable senator desires a fuller explanation on any particular amendment I shall be pleased to give it to the ‘best of my ability. I realize that new senators are in a somewhat difficult position; but if I were in their place I would not feel it my duty, to peruse legislation that has already been passed before coming to a decision.
– And you expect us to give an intelligent vote?
– It is impossible for the Government to again bring the Bill before the Senate to enable those who were not here when it was passed to consider it.
– Is there any urgency in the matter?
– No; but the amendments are not important, and we cannot re-introduce the Bill merely because the personnel of the Senate has changed.
– I very much appreciate the reference of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) to the new senators. But the responsibility of my vote rests upon my own shoulders, and until five minutes ago I had not even seen a copy of the Bill.
– A copy of the amendments, but not of the Bill.
– No. It is only within the past five minutes that a copy of the Bill has been placed in my hands. Now we are asked to vote upon amendments to it of which we know absolutely nothing. If there were any need for urgency in this matter, I could understand the position taken up by the VicePresident of the Executive Council; but the honorable gentleman might well allow us an opportunity to become familiar with the amendments in order that we may discuss them intelligently. To expect us to vote upon a measure which was passed by the Senate before we entered it is an absurdity. At any rate, I am not prepared to adopt that course.
– I would point out to Senator Wilson that the Bill itself is not before the Committee, and cannot be brought before the Committee. The only thing which is now before us is the message from another place. No honorable senator in voting upon the amendments will commit himself to what is contained in the Bill. Honorable senators who were here during the last Parliament are responsible for the passing of the measure in its original form, and not those honorable senators who entered this chamber upon the 1st July last. The only thing which the new senators are asked to do is to assent to certain amendments which have been made by another place. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) has already explained howfar those amendments go.
– In his opinion.
– It is not a question of opinion, but one of fact. There is only one principle involved in the amendments, all of which make for a liberalization of certain clauses in the Bill. If the consideration of ‘ these amendments were delayed for another month, we should still occupy a similar position to that which we occupy to-day.
– The purport of the amendments can be grasped in a few minutes.
– We are not prepared to accept the responsibility for amendments which we do not understand.
– I think that any honorable senator, after listening to the explanation of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, can understand the purport of the amendments. Here is a simple proposition: The Bill says that if a person travels between Australia and New Zealand he must have a passport. The amendment says that he need not have a passport. Does Senator Wilson really require a week to understand that question ?
– No; to-morrow will do me.
-The honorable senator can understand the position in five minutes, and I ask him not to exaggerate the difficulty in which he is placed.
.- I was not a member of the Senate when this Bill was previously under consideration, and it is only during the past five or ten minutes that I have had an opportunity of looking through the amendments which have been made in it by another place. The “Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) was perfectly correct when he said that we have no power to deal with the principles which are embodied in the measure. We can deal only with the amendments that have been made in it. So far as I can gather from a hasty glance at them, those amendments merely make towards a liberalization of the provisions of the Bill. I shall not offer any opposition to the measure; because, as was stated by Senator Benny in an interjection a moment or two ago, one ought to be able to grasp the purport of the amendments in a few minutes.
– But he is a clever chap.
– There is no question of cleverness involved. The principle of the Bill has not been amended in any way. The other branch of the Legislature has merely amended the. penalties which the measure i;: ils original form prescribed. I am quite prepared ho support the Vice-President of the Executive Council in his desire to get the Bill through to-day. If its principles had been materially altered there would be some justification for the demand that the consideration cf the amendments should be adjourned.
– I emphatically protest against the habit which has been developed by the Government of throwing Bills at us without affording us an opportunity to read and digest them. I did not come here to obey the behests of any Government-
– Or to play the game of “Follow the leader.”
– No, nor to play the game mentioned by the honorable senator. I came here to exercise such intelligence as I have been endowed with by the Almighty on behalf of the electors whom I represent. Whilst 1 appreciate the compliment uttered by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) when he credited new senators with ability to grasp the whole tenor of the Bill at a moment’s glance, it was unfortunate that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) should have rather spoilt the effect of the bouquets which had been thrown at us. He was rather dispose’d to accuse us of being blockheads, because we were unable to comprehend the effect of the amendments at a moment’s notice.
– The honorable senator misunderstood me. I said that honorable senators could readily grasp the effect of those amendments.
– The Government are now unanimous upon the point that the hew senators are possessed of a considerable amount of ability. Although they are probably right, new senators do not possess supernatural powers which enable them by a mere glance at half-a-dozen sheets of paper upon one side to master the contents of those sheets upon the other side. I confess that I have not had an opportunity of understanding the provisions of the Bill. I do not know what will be the effect of the amendments. I am not a simple follower of the Government, who is prepared blindly to do just what they want me to do. I protest against this method of conducting the public business. We should, at least, be afforded an opportunity of adequately representing the people who sent us here, and of fairly digesting the measures with which we are asked to deal. I am not in a position to give an intelligent vote upon this Bill.
– The honorable senator will not be given a chance to do that.
– In order to understand the amendments to the Bill, I must understand the Bill itself.
– Does the honorable senator think that there ought to be an insistence on the part of New Zealand that British subjects going from Australia to that country shall be armed with passports ?
– I do not know whether such a provision is contained in the Bill or not. I am notprepared to say that I disagree with what the Minister has said, but I wart an opportunity to decide whether I do or do not agree with him.
– Whatever sympathy I may have with new senators, I cannot extend, that sympathy to Senator Pratten, who was here when the original Bill passed through this Chamber. That measure has since been dealt with by the other branch of the Legislature, and we arc now asked to “say whether we approve or disapprove of the amendments which have been made in it. Only those amendments can come before the Committee; consequently long speeches upon the general principles of the measure cannot be delivered. It will, therefore, be seen that we can win distinction only by persistently rejecting the amendments, and thus precipitating a double dissolution. The amendments involve no question of principle, and consequently we cannot make intelligent amendments to them, because they, would not apply.
– Give us enough time to study the position.
– Any attempt to amend the amendments would result only in chaos.
– We do not wish to bring about chaos.
– It is not a question of what the honorable senator wishes. We sometimes bring about results :hal we do not wish. Our only desire is to adequately protect Australia., and at the same time avoid being unnecessarily harsh in checking the movements of aliens within the Commonwealth.
– I desire to say a word or two in reply to the reference to myself by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell). I confess that when sixteen amendments are slammed down before me without a copy of the Bill, six months after the measure has passed this Chamber, I am utterly unable to grasp their effect. This is the third time to-day that the Government have attempted “rush” legislation.
– That is not correct.
– I understand that before the luncheon hour a very strong party in this Chamber-
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. T. J. K. Bakhap).- Order! The honorable senator will be out of order in discussing that matter.
– Surely I shall not be out of order in making an incidental reference to it. I object to “ rush “ legislation now, just as I objected to it in respect of another measure which was under review in this Chamber half-an-hour ago. Upon that occasion we actually had under consideration a verbal amendment, a copy of which had not even been -circulated to honorable senators. But, for the fact that I did not understand what it all meant, and » wanted it repeated, I doubt very much whether the Chairman himself would have grasped what he was putting to the Committee. I make that statement most deliberately. I have been here only since the luncheon hour, and yet I find that Ave have now before us an amendment that we have not even had an opportunity to consider. I urge the Government to have some consideration for the reputation of honorable senators. I do not feel inclined to make myself a laughing-stock as a representative of New South Wales, and to lay myself open to the gibe that I will assist to pass any measure which the Government may put before me, whether I have read it cr not, and whether I understand it or not. If the Bill is urgent will the Government say why ? The passport system has been in force for some years, and the matter of urgency is not apparent.
– I indorse the remarks of those honorable senators who have just spoken ; not, however, that I take any objection bo these particular amendments, because they are obviously simple. Indeed, they are of such little moment that they scarcely afford the right opportunity to take the Government to task for the manner in which the)7 are conducting their business. Honorable senators have been sent here to give consideration to every item of public business which may be placed before them, and they should have full scope and opportunity for so doing.
This is not the first occasion when we have been asked to give the Government practically a blank cheque, in that we have been required to vote upon a matter in regard to which, through no fault of our own, we are virtually in ignorance. However, 1 do not think it would be right this afternoon to obstruct Government business; and, having said so, I again express my objection to the way in which we are asked to give blind acquiescence to the proposals of the Ministry.
– It is not the desire of honorable senators to meet on Wednesday next; otherwise there would not have been so much cause for reasonable despatch at this moment. Ministers always endeavour to meet the convenience of honorable senators, and particularly of those who have to travel Ions distances to be in their places here. If, however, we are to be held up over trivial details, it will not be so easy for us ‘to observe honorable senators’ wishes.
– Since speaking to this matter earlier, I have had some few minutes for thought and consideration, and have come to the conclusion that the statement of the Minister (Senator Russell) to the effect that the amendments are simple is correct. I have had an opportunity to peruse the amendments, and I am now in a position, I believe, to give an intelligent vote upon them. I am prepared, therefore, to support the Government.
– What does this particular amendment mean ? Is it merely an extension of the clause for drafting purposes ?
– The sole purpose of the amendment is to afford greater security against fraud. The intention is to provide that the vise or passport may be cancelled even though some person is actually holding it. There may be hundreds of passports out, the return of which cannot be secured either because of their loss or due to the neglect of the parties to whom they have been issued. If any person, other than the rightful possessor, were to attempt to use a passport, its use would be illegal.
– In paragraph a of clause 3- there is provision that a person may leave Australia if his passport has been viséed or indorsed in the prescribed manner for that journey. That assumes that the intending traveller has lodged hispassport with whichever Department is administering the matter, and that he may pay his passage money, secure histicket, and, in due course, embark and leave Australia without further let or hindrance. The amendment introduces, a condition having to do with the fact that a vise or indorsement has not been cancelled. Frankly, I do not know what that means.
– A ‘person maysecure a passport by fraud and be actually on his journey. The Minister may discover the fraud, and he is here given power to cancel the passport, even though the person wrongfully holding it is on board ship and has left Australia.
– I have had considerable experience of passports, and am not prepared to give my vote in the direction of placing in the hands of any Department or official a power that should not be held.
– Only the Minister is to have this power; and, if such power were not granted, what protection would there be against the fraudulent use of a passport ?
– There is power given in the Bill for a Minister to cancel a vise or indorsement at any time.
– That is so.
– Is there any power given to any person other than a Minister ?
– Not unless specially authorized by the Minister; and, even so, the Minister retains responsibility.
– Am I to understand that there is no official, other than a Minister, who can interfere with a passenger once he has had his passport viséed and indorsed?
– That is so; but, as I have just indicated, the Minister may authorize some person at a distant portto intercept the wrongful holder of a passport, and, meanwhile, the passport will have been cancelled. The Minister has power of delegation, but retains hip responsibility.
– Actually., then, the Minister himself has very little to do with passports. The regulations which will be made under this measure will practically place the matter in the hands of the Customs Department for dealing with incoming passports, and with the Department of Home and Territories for issuing passports to outgoing travellers. Now that normal conditions are returning, no power should be retained by, or given afresh to, any official with respect to passports. Once a traveller has obtained his passport through the ordinary official channels, then, unless something crops up which would justify the Government - and not an official - in cancelling it, there should be no interference.
– The power of cancellationhas been availed of once or twice in Australia recently, and it was a power whose employment was more than justified in the circumstances.
– Now that normal conditions exist, there should be no more of these little tin gods, these departmental officials, who wielded such autocratic authority in the matter of passports during the war.
– They have all been done away with, so far as passports are concerned. There is only one little god now, and that is the Minister.
– I have seen a good deal . of the passport system, and I will not stand for a continuation of conditions such as existed in the years of the war when departmental gods wielded autocratic control.
Motion agreed to.
Remaining amendments agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 17th November, 1920.
War Gratuity Bonds - Administration in New Guinea - Importation of German Bibles.
– In moving
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I desire to read a reply to a question asked by ‘Senator Foll on the 3rd November concerning the cashing of war gratuity bonds. I promised the honorable senator that I would obtain a reply, and I now have this information from the Treasury -
The position is that a soldier is entitled to cash at any time if his circumstances are such that he would have been entitled to cash when the bond was originally issued, though he did not then apply for cash. He may also be paid cash if his circumstances have changed so as to bring him within the conditions under which cash may be paid as set out in the Act. This means that if, say, six months hence, a soldier becomes in necessitous circumstances, or becomes totally incapacitated for work, or marries, or complies with any other conditions set out in section 13(1) of the Act, the Treasury will provide cash.
. -I desire to say a word or two upon a subject of importance before the Senate adjourns, about the position of affairs in what was formerly known as German New Guinea. Honorable senators will probably remember that some comment has been made about the position in the Melbourne press. Two or three instances of oppression and unfairness, that should not be tolerated, have come under my own notice. I do not wish to pursue this subject to-day, but I feel that something is wrong, and I propose, before the Senate meets again, to bring the matter under the notice of the Minister, with a view to having it righted, if possible-
– I do not think it is quite fair to the Government for the honorable senator to make a charge without giving some particulars.
– I am not making any definite charge; but I have had brought under my notice one or two illustrations of what is going on in that Territory. If the statements are true, the position is unreasonable, and should be righted.
– Seeing that the reputation of the Administration is at stake, I wish the honorable senator would be good enough to let me know what he has in his mind, so that we may right it.
– Very well. One matter is in connexion with the sale of rubber, and concerns a firm known as Carpenter. The other matter is in connexion with a soldier, who has been threatened with dismissal if his wife goes up there as a nurse in a Methodist Mission. I give these cases in response to the Minister’s inquiry; and I only want to say that, inasmuch as the mandate has not yet been received from the League -of Nations, and we have been carrying on the administration under the military law, in the terms of the German capitulation, for over four years, it seems a pity that any alteration should be made pending the receipt of the mandate. I am not quite sure if what is going on now is legal or can be justified, or whether the Government would not be better advised to allow the military administration to continue until such time as the League of Nations gives the Commonwealth the mandate for which we are waiting.
– 1 do not wish to take up the time of the Senate, but I desire to call attention to the very unsatisfactory reply I received from the Minister (Senator Russell) yesterday in connexion with the importation and distribution of German bibles in the Commonwealth. During the war the Government very properly issued a proclamation prohibiting the importation of bibles and hymn-books printed in the German language, with a view to stopping any propaganda work. T do not blame them for that. But we are now at peace, and the Government, under pressure, I presume, from the Lutheran Synod, and also after requests made by the British and Foreign Bible Society, gave permission to the Lutheran Synod to import German bibles and hymn-books. I do not object to that. Those people have a perfect right to worship in their own way, and read the Bible in their own tongue, and I do not wish that right to be withdrawn from them. But, unfortunately, the Government refused permission to the British and Foreign Bible Society to import bibles in the German language. That, I think, is a shocking state of affairs, because the British and Foreign Bible Society is intensely loyal. It is presided over by the Duke of Connaught, and it has done more than any other society to spread the benefits of the Christian religion throughout the world. It is scandalous that the Government should prohibit this society from importing into Australia bibles printed in the German or any other language. This policy is quite at variance with that adopted in other parts of the British Empire. All over the world the British and Foreign Bible Society has the right to print and distribute bibles in any language. The society is entirely supported by private subscriptions, and does not seek to make a profit on its transactions. .
– Were these bibles printed in Germany?
– fi do not know, and, so far as I am .concerned, it does not matter.
– I think it does matter.
– >We do not make war on religion. If our German-born citizens of the Commonwealth desire to read their bibles in their own tongue, they have a right to get these bibles. As a matter of fact, we need not fear Germany now at ail. Germany is down and out, and will never come again. Her great men pretended that there was going to be a second Punic war; that, although they had lost the first war, there would be another, and they would win it. But there will never be another great German war, and we can afford to be indifferent as to what the Germans may think now. Personally, I do not even fear the German propaganda now. All I ask of the Government is that they will accord to the British and Foreign Bible Society those rights which are extended to it throughout the British Empire. I urge the Government to reconsider their attitude in connexion with this matter.
– In regard to the statement made by Senator Pratten, I may say that the question of the best and most effective manner of handling the goods and .commodities of German New Guinea has had the most serious consideration of the Government for some time past. Rather than encourage keen competition among commission agents, we are making suitable arrangements for the control of the whole of the traffic until the mandate and other matters are settled.
– .How can you do that, outside of the military law, until you get the mandate?
-We are acting upon the best legal advice, and are not likely to allow any abuse to continue. The constitutionality or otherwise of our action can only be determined by the Courts of this country.
-. - That action will be tested.
– We are prepared to sea the job through without any technicality. At any rate, we are going to do our best. When we have troubles of our own I do not want honorable senators to make it more difficult for the Government to do a job which everybody in Australia is of opinion ought to be done. I may have misunderstood Senator Pratten, but in the early part of his speech he made what seemed to be equivalent to a charge, and then expected to leave it hanging over the Government for perhaps a fortnight without the Government having a chance to reply. If he has a statement to make, and will give me sonic slight indication of the lines he is going on, so that I may know enough to gather the necessary material, I shall furnish him with a full and complete reply. I was not angry with the honorable senator, but my point was that charges should not be made and then postponed for a month.
– I want the Minister to promise me the rectification of an injustice.
– We shall do the best we can.
– But I want a promise.
– If the honorable senator will give me the particulars, and can prove an injustice–
– If I prove injustice will the Minister promise to rectify it?
– Certainly, if, after investigation, I find that it is an injustice.
I am not an authority on the matter mentioned by Senator Benny. I promised the honorable senator to get the papers to-day, and have them now, but I find that they end where I started to reply to the honorable senator’s question today. What has been done seems to have been something in the nature of a business or semi-business arrangement. The question is whether we ought to have more than one body acting as the distributer of this literature. We have not decided to allow literature printed in the German language to fly around Australia without being under control. Acting with the best intentions, we thought that the organization connected with the Lutheran Church was the best to intrust with the distribution of bibles printed in the German language. Now we are told that we have made a mistake and done some injury to a patriotic British society. I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister, and ask him to consider it well, and to treat sympathetically the application of the patriotic British society in question to be permitted to do the distribution. I can do no more than that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 November 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19201105_senate_8_94/>.