8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator Hon. T. Givens) took thechair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following paper was presented:-
Territory for the Seat of Government. - Ordinance No. 2 of 1921. - Noxious weeds.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories -
– The answers are -
Motions (by Senator de Largie) agreed to -
That Senators Newland and Foll be granted two months’ leave of absence in order to attend to a matter of urgent public business.
That Senator Fairbairn be granted leave of absence for six months, on account of urgent private business.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be granted to Senator Pearce on account of urgent public business.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
– I move -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
On moving yesterday for theprinting of papers presentedby the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) on the occasion of the delivery of his Budget speech, I informed the Senate, with regret, of the position in which I should find myself to-day. When, a few weeks ago, we entered upon a temporary recess, we agreed that the day to be fixed for the resumption of business should be notified by you, Mr. President, by letter or telegram to each senator, and yesterday, was accordingly fixed as the date for resuming, in the full belief that the House of Representatives would have passed the Supply Bill last week, so that we could take it up immediately, and proceed with its consideration in accordance with the ordinary procedure provided for by the Standing Orders. But the very important statement which it was incumbent on the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to make to the other House and the debate which followed its delivery, prevented that House from concluding the consideration of the Supply Bill until yesterday, and, therefore, the measure has only just reached us. In the circumstances, I ask honorable members to co-operate with the Government in passing the Bill through all its stages to-day, because payment is due to the Public Service tomorrow, and it is important that the Treasury should be in a position to meet its obligations then. Speaking yesterday, I told honorable senators that an opportunity was being given to them by the motion which I was then moving to anticipate much of the* discussion which ordinarily would take place on a Supply Bill, and I hope that Senator Gardiner was only partly serious when he said that he would take advantage of both opportunities. In view of the facts, I ask honorable senators to minimize debate as far as they can do so consistently with their conceptions of public duty, so that the Bill may be passed! through all its stages before we rise to-day.
– I take advantage of the motion to let honorable senators who expect me to open the debate on the first reading know that I do not intend to do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Finance and Taxation - Uncollected Taxation - The Treasurer - War Exeenditure - Senator Pearce and Washington Disarmament Conference - “White” Australia : Relations of White and Coloured Peoples - Natural Resources of Australia: Queensland - Imperial Conference: The Prime Minister - Amendment of Constitution : Proposed Convention - North Queensland : Climate and Health - Commonwealth and State Powers : Arbitration and IndustrialConditions - Naval Defence : Press Reports - Trade Representative in China - Wheat Cargoes for Germany - Taxation Department and Returned Soldiers - Uniform Railway Gauge - Federal Capital - Defence Department: Administrative and Instructional Staffs.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
– I intended to speak briefly yesterday on one or two matters, but as it seemed to be the general desire to conclude the debate on the motion then moved by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) before the dinner adjournment, I decided to defer my remarks until to-day.
– I hope the honorable senator does not associate me with the desire to conclude yesterday’s debate before the. dinner hour. I had no desire to curtail it.
– I am prepared to exempt the honorable senator from any association with the desire I have mentioned. Dealingfirst of all with the Budget, of which a brief summary was given by the Minister for Repatriation, I feel that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) should be congratulated upon his management of the finances of the Commonwealth. I note with very particular gratification that no new taxation is proposed, because I think we have reached the limit of taxation, which it is possible for the industries of the country to stand. I know the feeling on the part of some people that the wealthy citizens of the community cannot be taxed too heavily, but there is a limit beyond which taxation cannot go without suffering to the community as a whole. Money which is takenfrom individuals by way of taxation doesnot in many instances deprive persons of private expenditure, but what it does do is to withdraw money from investments, and prevent additions to the working capital of the country, which at this time more than any other is so urgently needed to establish fresh enterprises, and to extend those already in existence, thereby giving employment and increasing the wealth of the whole of our citizens.
It is true that the Treasurer forecasts a deficit of £2,817,108, which will reduce the balance of £6,618,327 brought forward last* year to £3,801,219. I do not think that he has been unduly optimistic, so far as his forecast for the current year is concerned, any more than he was in regard to the year 1920-21, when the actual receipts were £2,152,908 more than his estimate, and the expenditure £4,248,491 under the estimate of the Budget. I think that our financial position is very satisfactory indeed, particularly in view of the fact that there is outstanding at the present time, in the shape of uncollected taxation, a sum of no less than £7,000,000. The value of our exportable products has fallen, but not, I think, permanently. Recent information shows that there is a strongupward tendency in the price of wool, and in Victoria and the other wheat-growing States there is promise of a. most excellent” crop during the coming season.
It is a matter of common knowledge, although no official pronouncement on the subject has been made, that the Commonwealth will very shortly lose the services of Sir Joseph Cook as Treasurer. I feel that no matter how useful the right honorable gentleman will prove in another sphere, the good work he has done as custodian of the finances of the Commonwealth will’ not be, . and ought not to be, readily forgotten. I believe in economy. It goes without saying that we all believe in economy, but in view of all the circumstances I regard the Budget recently presented by the Treasurer as, if not better than, at least quite as good as might have been expected. Taking all things into consideration there is, in my opinion, every reason for congratulation on the present financial position of the Commonwealth.
– It might have been a little better. The Government might have remitted some of the income tax.
– I know that there is complaint on the part of taxpayers concerning the amount they have to contribute to the revenue, but I believe that on the whole their payments are made quite cheerfully, because, speaking generally, they know why our heavy expenditure was incurred. Australia, having done all that could very well be done in the way of supplying man power for the prosecution of the war, is not now going to complain when the bill is presented for payment. Senator Thomas’ interjection reminds me that on page 63 of the Budget-papers there appears a most interesting tabulated statement setting out in detail the war expenditure of the Commonwealth defrayed from revenue. It shows that including the expenditure estimated in the present Budget, the amount which Australia has spent from revenue in connexion with the war is no less than £132,628,928, of which amount £106,370,117 was provided from direct taxation.
I wish to join with honorable senators who have spoken in expressing my very strong approval of the appointment of Senator Pearce as Commonwealth delegate to the Washington Disarmament Conference. 1 am very glad, indeed, to know that when questions in which the Com-: monwealth is vitally interested are under discussion at Washington, “Australia will be there,” in the person of Senator Pearce, whose views I am satisfied will be listened to with deference and respect, and will carry a great deal of weight in the deliberations of the Conference. Although Australia has a population of only some 5,500,000, the Commonwealth is of very great importance, not only in the eyes of. the United States of America, but of the whole civilized world, white and coloured. Australia is bound to have a most potent influence upon the futurehistory of the world. It is the only country outside Europe in which it is possible to build up a purely white nation. Although it has but a comparatively small population, its area is slightly in excess of that of it,ne United States of America. Our population - ‘and I think we have every reason to be thankful for this fact - is at the present time as white as that of almost any other country in the world. That cannot be said of the great Republic itself, where there are very many millions of coloured people. America, besides being menaced with an influx of coloured population from without, has. already a very large coloured population within her borders, and in that respect differs most materially from Australia. The relations of the coloured and white peoples of the world have received recently a great deal of attention, not only in Australia, but in almost every other country. Quite recently there has been published a book entitled The Rising Tide of Colour j which I would commend to every honorable senator, and indeed, to all who are interested in the subject. I purpose making from this work a small quotation containing information which certainly can be gleaned from other sources, but which I do not ‘think is so succinctly expressed as it is on pages 6 and 7 of this book -
The “statistical disproportion between the white and coloured worlds becomes still more marked when we turn from surveys of area -to tables of population. The total number of human beings alive to-day is about 1,700,000,000. Of these 550,000,000 are white, while 1,150,000,000 are coloured. The coloured “races thus outnumber the whites more than two to one. Another fact of capital importance is that the great ,bulk of the white race is concentrated in the European continent. En 1914 the population of Europe was approximately 450,000,000.
The late war has undoubtedly caused an absolute decrease of many millions of souls. Nevertheless, the basic fact remains that some fourfifths of the entire white race is concentrated on .less than one-fifth of the white world’s territorial area (Europe), while the remaining one-fifth of the race (some 110,000,000 souls) scattered to the ends of the earth must protect four-fifths of the white territorial heritage against the pressure of coloured races eleven times its numerical strength.
As to the 1,150,000,000 of the coloured world they are divided, as already stated, into four primary categories - yellows, ‘browns, blacks and reds.’ The yellows are the most numerous of the coloured races, numbering over 500,000,000. Their habitat is eastern Asia. Nearly as numerous, and much more widespread than the yellows, are the browns, numbering some 450000,000. The browns spread in a broad belt from the Pacific Ocean “vestward across southern Asia and northern Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. The blacks total about 150,000,000. Their centre is Africa, south of the Sahara Desert, but besides the- African continent there are vestigial black traces across southern Asia to the Pacific, and also strong black outposts in the Americas. Least numerous of the coloured races are the reds - the “Indians” of the western hemisphere. Mustering a total of less than 40,000,000 the reds are almost all located south of the Rio Grande in “Latin America.”
This quotation clearly shows that the only part of the world outside Europe in which it is possible to build up a great white nation is the Commonwealth of Australia. I say, therefore, that our delegate at the Washington Conference will, for that reason amongst others, be most heartily welcomed. It is, for that reason amongst others, most important that we should be represented there, and for that reason, also, the representations of our delegate arc sure to carry additional weight.
It may be that, although Australia is a country of vast area., there are certain portions of it which are not very productive; but that holds good of almost every country, although, perhaps, not exactly for the same reasons as in our case. I have a fair knowledge of quite a number of the States of the. Commonwealth, and I claim to have1, as I presume every honorable senator has of his own State, a very comprehensive knowledge of the conditions and the productiveness of the State1 of which I am one of the representatives in the Senate. Upon looking into the question, I find that Queensland, although it has a population of less than 750,000 - a population less than that of the city of Melbourne, notwithstanding that it is nearly eight times the size of Victoria - exceeds in area Germany, Holland, Belgium,. France, Spain, and Portugal by no less than 2,000 square miles. Those European countries before the war had a population of just under 150,000,000, so that this one State of the Commonwealth alone i9 capable of supporting a population equal to that of any of the great nations of the world. Queensland is rich in all that is essential to the development of a large population in. healthy and prosperous conditions. It is rich in timber and minerals, and has a vast area of fertile soil, including some of the richest in Australia. While it is true that its seasons are variable, nevertheless, on the average, its rainfall is good, and it has vast possibilities in the way of irrigation.. One of the greatest assets which Queensland lias - and Senator Sir Thomas Glasgow, who is a pastoralist, will be able to speak with still greater authority on this subject - is its natural grasses. About two years ago I was in a portion of Queensland that I had not visited before, and, although no rain had fallen there for eight months, there was dry grass in abundance. The cattle and sheep were in good marketable condition, and the horses looked just as well as those which we see in the streets of Melbourne, which are corn-fed and are groomed twice a. day. Queensland has suffered a great deal because of what has been said in regard to its climate, but having lived now for a. quarter of a century in the far north of that State, I can say without fear of successful contradiction that the climate of Queensland, whether judged by a part or the whole of the State, is equal to that of any other State in the Commonwealth, and that people can live healthy lives and rear healthy families there just as in any other part of Australia. At this point I should like to quote some interesting figures from one of our latest T ear-Books dealing with infant mortality rates which have an important bearing upon my . remarks. During the eleven years, 1908- 18, the infant mortality per thousand in respect of children under 5 years of age, in the capital cities of the Commonwealth was as follows: - Sydney, 75; Melbourne, 84.23; Brisbane, 79.16; Adelaide, 74.82; Perth, 80.28; Hobart, 87.51; Townsville, 62.62; and Cairns, . nearly 1,000 miles north of the New South Wales border, 60.92. It has to be remembered also that Cairns is only a few feet above sea level and, like Townsville, it is unsewered. Judged by this test, therefore, it is quite clear that the tropical districts of Queensland are as healthy as any other portion of Australia.
– Then there was no necessity to introduce kanaka labour.
– Kanaka labour was introduced, not because white men could not work in the itropical districts of Queensland, but because tropical production there could not be carried on in open competition with tropical production in other countries where there is an abundant supply of cheap labour. I should like also to quote from a Commonwealth official paper, Tropical Australia, being the report of the discussion at the Australasian Medical Congress in Brisbane, on 27th August, 1920.. The report refers to a paper read by Mr. C. A. Elliott, chief actuary of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, on the subject, “ The life assurance aspect of residence in tropical Australia,” and it is as follows : -
It is obvious that any substantial, or even apparent, . influence, tending to curtail . life in any part of Australia, will be of acute commercial interest to life insurance offices -doing business in that part of the continent. As Mr. Elliott . points out : “ Offices do not seek business in unhealthy localities, nor issue policies in the case of persons who they know are going to reside in unhealthy localities.” It is common knowledge tomedical men that insurance offices “ load “ in various ways for extra risks, and that “their actuarial advisers are very much alive to the necessity for locating risks and securing corresponding protection. As a result of examination of nearly 5,000 policies issued to adults during the ten years from 1910 to 1919, inclusive, from the Cairns and Townsville offices ofthe Australian Mutual Provident Society, Mr. Elliott arrives at the following conclusions, after including exposures and deaths on active service: -
The rates of mortality deduced from the inquiry were surprisingly low.
The actual deaths for the period reviewed were 68. The number of deaths expected from A.M.P. experience, 1849-1903, if all policies had been whole-life assurances, was 88, or if endowment 81. “ I have no hesitation in saying that as far as we know at present there is no need for life assurance offices to treat proponents who live in North Queensland differently from proponents who live in other parts of Australia.”
– But societies do load the policies of people who live in the tropics, although there appears to be no necessity for doing that.
– The Australian Mutual Provident’ Society does not load the policies of people living in North Queensland. It is, of course, a common practice for societies to load life assurance policies, but not necessarily because the proponents live in tropical areas. It is well-known, I think, that visitors to North Queensland frequently remark upon the pallor of local residents, and under the heading “ Blood conditions,” Dr. Breinl, who for several years was director of the Tropical Institute in Townsville, has something of interest to say in a paper which is included in the report of the Congress to which I have just referred. He states -
Much has been said and written about the occurrence of tropical anaemia, and anaemia due to the influence of climate only. Any one visiting North Queensland, coming from a temperate climate, is struck by the pale and pasty appearance of the skin, especially of the women and children who have lived there for any length of time, and on many occasions we have been able to observe how the ruddy complexion of new comers from temperate climates becomes after some time changed into the same pale colour so characteristic of the people resident for longer periods. The pale skin colour naturally would lead the untrained observer to the conclusion that there exists an anaemia for which no pathological cause can be found.
Blood counts on a large scale on school children as well as on adult women and men however proved that in children between the ages of seven and fourteen the number of erythrocytes, and the colour index showed no difference when compared with averages considered normal for Europe; and in healthy adult women of pale complexion the colour index was found frequently very high. These observations thus prove that an anaemia due to climate does not exist in North Queensland, and the pallor of the skin must, therefore, he explained in a different way. It is just possible that a tender skin, exposed to the sunlight, may seek protection against the sun rays in the formation of a thicker horny layer, brought about by a more active production of cells in the germinative layer of the exposed skin. An extra thickness of the horny layer would make the skin less transparent, and the real colour due to the red blood in the capillaries wouldbe more diffuse, and the skin would appear paler.
Perhaps the continuous and profuse pouring out of sweat causes the cells of the epidermis to become sodden, and thus alters their transparency. It has been frequently observed that a stay of a few months in a cooler climate changes the pale, sallow skin to a pink complexion, which, however, disappears again some time after the return to tropical North Queensland.
– People require two skins when they go there !
– I am under the impression that nature has furnished us -with three skins. I have, as I stated, lived for a great many years in the far north of Queensland, and I have come into contact with a great number of men of almost all the Asiatic and Polynesian races. To be quite candid, I must confess that I have found much, more good in those men than I expected - much more to admire than I thought. But for all that, I am convinced that the right policy for Australia is that of the absolute exclusion of all coloured races; and we should not flinch or falter in our determination to keep the population of the Commonwealth absolutely white.
It seems to me that the Washington Conference, with the departure of Senator Pearce, has, for the moment, overshadowed the return of our representative at the Imperial Conference (Mr. Hughes), and the great work he accomplished on behalf of Australia at that historic gathering. It is my intention to make only a passing reference to the Imperial Conference. The Prime Minister has returned to us, resumed his place in Parliament, and given an account of his stewardship. Though no great public demonstration has been made on his return, I feel sure that the Prime Minister to-day stands higher in the estimation of the people of Australia than he ever did before, and that any event- which would deprive this country of his services in his present high office would be regarded by all good Australians as a national calamity.
Having said so much in approval of the Prime Minister, I wish to turn to a question on which I hold very strong convictions, and on which I am reluctantly opposed to what I understand to be the proposals of the Government. I refer to the proposed Constitution Convention. I am opposed to that Convention for many reasons, three of which I shall briefly state. In the first place, I object to the Convention because there is no real need for any revision of the Constitution; secondly, because there is no popular demand for any amendment of the Constitution; and thirdly, because, if there were either a need or a demand, or both, the proposed method is both unconstitutional and ineffective. As Senator Bakhap very ably pointed out yester day, when discussing this matter, the Constitution itself provides the method for its revision. What is proposed? First of all, it is understood that we are to have an election of delegates, but whether they are to be elected by the several State Parliaments or by popular vote has not, as yet, I think, been announced by the Government. Then there are to be the meetings of the Convention, after which the whole of the Convention’s proposals will have to be submitted to, and run the gauntlet of, both Houses of this Parliament, because they must receive the imprimatur of Parliament before they can be referred to the people. Assuming all this to have been done, it is absolutely certain that when the proposals are referred to the people they will be turned down by an overwhelming majority. De we not remember that quite recently, when the Commonwealth Government, having received the sanction of Parliament, submitted certain proposals to the people for amendments of the Constitution, a majority voted against them? The people were then asked to vote on only one or two minor proposed amendments to take effect for the duration of the war and for six months thereafter; and yet the increased powers sought were refused. We have to remember that at that time conditions were abnormal, and a much better case could be made out for an increase of Commonwealth powers for a limited period than can be made out now for a permanent increase. Personally, I think that unless a great change comes over the people of the Commonwealth, it will be, either now or in the future, practically impossible to get the people to carry by popular vote any proposal to which strong objection is shown. There is no doubt that the principal rule in the referendum’ game is, “ When in doubt, vote N/o.” If the people were in doubt with regard to the one or two proposals previously submitted, how can they be expected to have clear convictions regarding a number of points, which, if the Convention takes place, will in all probability be referred to them? All I can see as likely to come ‘out of the proposed Convention is heavy expenditure, several months of’ political turmoil, and absolutely negative results. This Convention will distract the attention of members of this Parliament, and of other
Parliaments, too, fromurgent matters requiring their most earnest consideration.
– Who has asked for’ it?
– I have not met any one who has expressed any interest whatever in the proposed Convention.
– There has been a good deal of agitation in Victoria.
– There may be soma kind of agitation in this State, because Victorians can see the trend of events, and are beginning to learn that Victoria is not going to be a dominating factor in Federal politics to the extent (she has been up to the present. Already New South Wales has a much greater population than Victoria, and I have sufficient faith in the State I help to represent to believe that when we have sane State government it will not be long before Queensland will overtake New South Wales in regard to population and production.
– Will not Queensland do it in spite of all Governments?
– My faith will carry me even that far, but with good government the progress will be more rapid.
During recent years a very great change has taken place in the activities and responsibilities of the Commonwealth. Government and of the Commonwealth Parliament owing to the status we have attained as active partners-‘ in the British Empire. I read with very great interest a speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in another place in regard to the business transacted at the Imperial Conference. I also read what is stated to be an official summary of the proceedings at the Conference as published in the Glasgow Herald on the 6th August last. In addition, I perused a most interesting statement made by the Prime Minister of New Zealand (Mr. Massey), who said - “Whilst I do not desire to go into details at the present moment, I regard the Imperial Conference, which has just concluded its sittings, as being far and away the most important gathering of representatives from the different parts of the Empire which has ever yet been held. A great deal of the work has been essentially the work which is usually dealt with by a Cabinet rather than by a Conference. Apart from matters connected with the war, which were considered when the Imperial War Cabinet was in existence, the Conference was epoch-making in that it has marked the first occasion that the representatives of. the Dominions have joined in the government ‘of the Empire as a whole. Veryimportant matters have been dealt with, and momentous decisions have been arrived at which will have a far-reaching effect in the direction of Empire unity. I am very strongly of opinion that we have laid the foundation’s of a system which will, in years to come, develop into a satisfactory form of government for the British Empire. I believe that when the public realize the importance of what has taken place they will be of the opinion that the result has been good work well done.”
– Can we realize what is taking place until we get the information ?
– Possibly not.
– One must have a very poor vision if he cannot realize what occurred at the Conference.
– I think we know sufficient to agree with what Mr. Massey has said in regard to its importance. During the last two or three years five different Commonwealth Ministers have gone overseas on very important business. The Prime Minister has been to London om two or three different occasions, as also has the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) and the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Watt). The Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) attended the Geneva Conference, and the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) is on his way to Washington as our delegate at the Disarmament Conference. The responsibilities of “ Ministers and members of Parliament are extending beyond the limits of the Commonwealth, and we are assuming great responsibilities in connexion with the Mandated Territories, the affairs of which are to be administered by the Commonwealth. Therefore, the Commonwealth, instead of seeking to obtain additional powers from the State authorities, should be considering whether it could not advantageously return to the States some of the powers they now possess.
– What powers does the honorable senator suggest should be returned to the States?
– I agree with the suggestion made yesterday that further limitations should be placed upon the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, because that work can be done by the State Courts quite as efficiently and, I am sure, with greater expedition.
– And with much, greater -variety.
– I do not know whether there is any advantage in that regard. All arbitration legislation is still in the experimental stage, and I think we could arrive at what is right and proper if different authorities were making experiments concurrently, instead of bo much of the work being thrown on the one Court. The Judges of State Arbitration Courts must necessarily have a better knowledge of the conditions existing in their own States than a Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court can possibly possess.
– There must be a reasonable amount of uniformity.
– Quite so. Instead of appointing a Basic Wage Commission, the Government should have called a conference of the Arbitration Court Judges of the different States, under the presidency of Mr. Justice Higgins, to consider the whole position, because more satisfactory results would probably have been achieved at less cost. I do not know whether it is yet too late to convene such a conference. Satisfactory industrial conditions are of greater importance to the Commonwealth than anything else. I do not support the contention of some that reduced wages will solve all our difficulties. Wages should be as high as industry can afford to pay, otherwise we shall have over-production. What is the use of producing extensively if the workers engaged in production do not receive sufficient of the wealth they help to produce to enable them to purchase what they need? After all, the workers are the principal consumers in any country, and create the demand. If wages are lower than industry can afford to pay, the result is reduced consumption, which leads to overproduction. One would think that before seeking fresh fields to conquer, the Commonwealth would exploit those which at present come within the compass of its legislative and administrative authority. But there are quite a number of matters upon which the Commonwealth has authority to legislate, but which, so far, it has not touched. Insurance, weights and measures, bankruptcy and insolvency, public companies, banking, and marriage and divorce, are matters in ‘ respect of which it is desirable that there should be uniformity throughout the States, but to them the Commonwealth has not, so far, given the slightest consideration.
– This Parliament is afraid to touch marriage and divorce.
– Not for personal reasons, I am sure. I hope that before introducing any legislation in regard to the proposed Convention the Government will give the matter their very earnest consideration, but if such legislation is proceeded with, I believe that honorable senators will do their duty and take the responsibility of saving Australia from the turmoil and expense which the Constitution Convention would necessarily involve.
– My attention has been called to the f act that in this morning’s Argus appears a rather important statement regarding the proposed scrapping of the Australian Fleet, and the establishment at Singapore of a strong fleet of the British Navy to defend the British interests in the Pacific generally. Seldom do I notice in this Chamber matters that are published in the public press, but I think it would be unwise to delay for one moment in asking, I might almost say demanding, from the Government a statement as to the truth or otherwise of this newspaper article. If it be true, as stated in the Argus, that this matter has been discussed ; if the inference as to the probable discontinuance of an Australian Navy controlled by the Australian Government be correct, and the proposal has been discussed at the Imperial Conference, the Government should be in a position to say now whether the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) participated in such discussion, and whether he has reported to Cabinet that there is a proposal to dispense with the Australian Fleet and substitute a branch of the Royal Navy at Singapore. If the Prime Minister has participated in a discussion of that character and has reported the result to his Government, the Minister leading the Senate should not lose a moment in taking Parliament and the people of Australia into his confidence, and saying whether the Government intend to proceed on the lines indicated or adhere to what has been the policy for the last ten years-‘-the building and establishment of an Australian Navy. I realize that my enthusiasm for Australia frequently leaves me open to more than a suspicion that. I am opposed to things British. I disclaim that accusation although I know it is useless to do so. It is my great love for Australia, and not any hatred of Britain, that makes me always desire to put Australia first, but I am particularly anxious that the Government should not make a mistake in regard to future Naval policy. We have only to cast our memories back to the years 1908-10, when the alternatives of a continuance of the subsidy of the Imperial Navy or the establishment of an Australian Fleet were threshed out. We know the miserably inadequate subsidy that Australia was paying to Britain for Naval protection, and we know that it was paid without interest, and without enthusiasm. We recollect how bitter was the feeling aroused when Sir Joseph Cook, the then Liberal Leader, in 1909, made his political cry to the electors, “ We nail our flag to the mast of a continued subsidy to the British Navy,” and when Andrew Fisher was conducting a campaign on behalf of the establishment of an Australian Navy. The present Speaker (Sir Elliot Johnson) said on one occasion that the Labour party wanted an Australian Navy only for the purpose of turning its guns against the Motherland. What has been the experience during the last ten years? When. Mr. Andrew Fisher formed the Labour Government, which took over from the Cook Government the control of Commonwealth affairs, shortly after the outbreak of war, he used the most earnest and bitter expression I have ever heard from his lips, when he said that, but for the fact that he had been out of office for twelve months, Australia would have had another capital ship to defend its shores. I am not assuming that all the statements published in the newspaper article this morning are correct, but where there is smoke there is some fire. If the intention is to scrap the Australian Fleet with the Australian Naval sentiment that is behind it, the Imperial Conference, the” Imperial Government, and the Imperiallyminded Commonwealth Government are travelling in the wrong direction. What defended Australia’s shores during the’ war? In answer to a question the Minister told me that it was the five ships of the British Navy, of which four represented the Australian section. I warn Ministers that if they are seriously preparing to scrap the Australian Navy they will at the same time scrap the sentiment that makes it possible to finance an Australian Navy, and if they do scrap that sentiment they will not improve the Empire defence. During the five weeks in which Senator E. D. Millen was Minister for Defence following the outbreak of war - and I have several times referred in not unfavorable terms to his conduct of the Defence Department at that time - the thing that caused him more anxiety than any other was the uncertainty as to the whereabouts of the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and other ships of the German Pacific Fleet. And the knowledge that gave him most relief and satisfaction was the fact that the battleship Australia carried bigger guss than’ did any of the German vessels. That superiority of guns alone saved the Australian seaboard cities from destruction. The Australia would not have been in existence but for the Australian sentiment’ which established an Australian Navy. I am not in the habit of discussing matters in this Chamber merely because the press has been giving publicity to them.; but in this morning’s press statements have been published which vitally concern the Australian Navy and its future. It is announced that following upon a Naval Conference at Singapore, and upon discussions at the Imperial Conference in London, it has been practically decided that the chief Naval Base of the Pacific shall be established at Singapore, and that the Australian Navy shall be disbanded, and that the Australian authorities will for the future devote naval expenditure to the building of docks to accommodate the biggest war vessels. In fact, the defence of Australia is to be conducted from a point outside of the Commonwealth, and is to be the concern of the British Naval authorities. If there is any truth in the press statements, and I invite the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) to immediately inform the Senate whether there is or not; the proposals amount to one of the most serious backward steps which could ever be taken by Australia.
– The honorable senator can scarcely reconcile the Budget figures having to do with the Navy with the particulars contained in the press article.
– Since his return from England the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has made several statements concerning what he did at the Imperial Conference and during his stay in Europe generally, but he has not referred to anything of the kind respecting the Australian Navy. I trust that I shall be officially informed that the press announcements are all wrong. Indeed, I cannot conceive of the Prime Minister returning to Australia, reporting to the National Legislature on the events with which he has had to do, and refraining from making any mention of so serious a proposed alteration ofpolicyas has been to-day fore- shadowed. I am inclined rather to accept his silence as a proof that the newspaper report is far from the truth. As an Australian I am bound to say that I read the articles with considerable concern. What is therein suggested amounts to a very drastic change, a dangerously retrogressive step, from Australianism to Imperialism. I feel sure that the Australian people would refuse to follow any Government backward along the indicated lines of Navy control. Australia’s defence in the early stages of the war was undertaken by the Fleet which Australia had created. I recall to the minds of honorable senators that the light cruiser Sydney was stationed during the first few months at Thursday Island. Australia’s first Expeditionary Force was about to be convoyed to the other side of the world, but at the last moment one of the Japanese war vessels, which was to have formed part of the escort to the transports, broke down. At full speed the Sydney steamed down to Sydney. She put into dock, was cleaned, and was out again in time to take her place in the convoy. Every Australian vividly remembers the historic outcome of the presence of the Sydney in the convoy, for she was the first to strike a decisive blow in the war as a unit of the Australian Navy. If Australian sentiment is now to be submerged in Imperial sentiment the result will not be successful. Australian ideals will be harmed - Imperial interests will suffer. If the Prime Minister has entered into secret negotiations for the establish- ment of the Pacific Base at Singapore and for submerging Australia’s naval policy in an. Imperial scheme, the matter, of course, is one for the Government, and the time for making any public announcement upon the change of policy is also entirely a matter for the Government; but, as an Australian, I warn the Government that any step such as is outlined in to-day’s press, will be a wrong one. The best way in which Australia can be expected to remain as a valuable unit in the Empire Naval defence scheme is to permit her to retain her independence, as she has enjoyed it, and not to try to take away her naval individuality. I again appeal strongly to the Government to make at once a definite announcement.
– Senator Earle made some remarks yesterday respecting the proposed Constitution Convention with which I am in full accord. The honorable senator was quite right when he said that if members of this Chamber are opposed to the holding of the Convention next year, it would be well for them to say so, in order that the Government may be made acquainted with the temper of the Senate upon the matter. Some time ago the Government introduced in this Chamber a Bill for the purpose of conferring upon the Northern Territory a form of representation here. The Government could not have been satisfied with the treatment accorded to that measure. The only senators who voted directly in favour of the Bill were the three Ministers who occupy seats in this Chamber, the Government Whip, and I think, Senator Gardiner. With respect to the proposed Convention, the Government would be wisely advised to ascertainthe views of honorable senators at this stage in order that there should not be a repetition of their experience in connexion with the Bill to which I have just alluded. Like Senator Earle, I see no reason why a Constitution Convention should be held at present. It would be a complete waste of time. While SenatorCrawford was speaking I asked’ if he could’ tell me who had been asking for the Convention, but the honorable senator obviously knew no more than I -did. An interjection followed from one of the Ministers to the effect that there was quite a strong feeling in Victoria in favour of holding the Convention. So far as I know, only one meeting has been held in any part of Australia in support of the proposal. That gathering was convened by two ardent supporters of the Country party.
A meeting held in Melbourne was addressed by the Leader of that party (Dr. Earle Page), and by the honorable member for the Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who, I believe, is the financial member of the Country party. The meeting was advertised a good deal. I was not present, but I heard that there were about 120 people in attendance, and I was informed, by one who took part in calling the meeting, that out of that number 40 were professional organizers, who came with the idea that there would be a certain amount of work for them to do. That is about the only meeting I know of that “has been held in favour of a Convention. There are some who think that by holding a Convention there would be a possibility of dividing some of the larger States like Queensland, Western Australia, or New South Wales, and in that way creating new States. That is not a matter upon which I am called upon to express an opinion.
– You are more concerned about the State of Canberra.
– Yes, at present. There may be a good deal to be said in favour of dividing some of the States, but to my mind there is no necessity for a Convention to do that. The most a Convention could possibly do would be to refer the question to the people for a vote. This Parliament, or a State Parliament, could refer it to the people without a Convention. I am opposed to the Federal Parliament,* as at present constituted, receiving any more powers - although perhaps on different grounds from those of Senator Crawford - except such powers as were originally supposed to be within the. ambit of this Parliament. Senators Gardiner, Senior, Earle and others, including myself, have advocated certain alterations of the Constitution, which were ito give to the Federal Parliament some added powers which we thought the Parliament had when Federation was brought about. Beyond .that, I would not add a single power to the Federal Parliament with the Senate constituted as at present. I am not prepared to hand over the railways, or the development of the land in New South
Wales to a Parliament where there are six Senate- representatives from a State with a population of 100,000, and only the same number of representatives from a State with 1,250,000 people.
– Look at the power they .have in another place.
– That does not matter. <
– Do you favour a Senate on a population basis ?
– I am hot a political candidate answering questions at a public meeting, but I may say that I am not in favour of the States being equally represented, and I -never was. I voted against the Federal Constitution twice in New South Wales on that account. Senator Earle said yesterday that rightly or wrongly - he thought wrongly - the people had decided to have the Federal Capital at Canberra, and as they had come to that decision he was in favour of keeping the compact. My opinion is that the people also wrongly decided on the constitution of the Senate; so we must put up with that too, and keep the compact honorably, but beyond that 1 am not prepared to go.
When the last Supply Bill was before us I raised the question of economy. The Minister had been good enough to state that the Government had practised economy, because in the last Budget £4,000,000 which had been provided had not been expended. I pointed out that it was possible to have saved the £4,000,000, because to that extent more money had been provided than could be spent. The Minister then told me that, whilst we had not any detailed account of the economy that had been effected, he would be in a position to give it when the Budget came on. I do not know whether there is any provision in the present Supply Bill for the proportional payment to the trade representative whom we have sent to China. In the completed Estimates there is an item of £2,000 for that representative, and, if there is an item in the schedule, I would be prepared to move that the Supply be reduced to that extent. I see no advantage in sending a representative to China to build up trade,, after we have spent six laborious weeks here in trying to prevent trade.
– In stopping Chinese goods from coming into Australia.
– I understand that the cry of Australia is that it wishes to be self-contained, and in that case it does not want anything from any other country. We are to give an officer £2,000 a year to go to China £o sell something on our behalf - or is he to give away something on our behalf 1 Here is an extract headed “Back from Germany,” from one of the newspapers. -
Melbourne, Saturday. - Owing to the inability to obtain cargo at European ports, the Commonwealth Government steamer Australplain returned to Melbourne this week in ballast from Hamburg. The vessel, which left Portland on March 31, with 5,821 tons of wheat for Hamburg, is the second Australian steamer to return from Germany after having discharged wheat. The other vessel was the Government line steamer Australpeak, which also returned to Melbourne in ballast recently. The crew of the Australplain has been paid off.
What do we get back from Germany? I ask the Minister who represents the Minister for Trade and Customs whether we gave that wheat to the people at Hamburg. There were two shiploads sent, and the boats came back empty. .
– You are making out a good case for the freights on wheat.
– I was not thinking about that. I was troubling about what was to become of the wheat. Are we giving it to the people in Germany? Sometimes I am bewildered, and do not know what to think. Parliament devotes a week or two to the passing of duties to keep goods out of Australia, and if a duty of 25 per cent, is not sufficient to keep them, out we raise the duty to 50 per cent.
– We had seven weeks of this. Why repeat it?
– I am coming back to tho Trade Commissioner for China. We are paying £2,000 a year, and it means the beginning” of a new Department, which will swell.
– You apply at the Customs House, and you will get a surprise concerning the work the representative is doing.
– Is he selling goods for us ?
– The Minister does not object to our stuff going into China.
– Call for a report.
– What I wish to know is whether we are getting something back from China. I am very fond of China tea, and do not object to drinking it, even if it has been produced by Chinese labour; but tea can be grown in Australia. Messrs. Griffiths Brothers have grown some here, but because of Protectionists who prefer to drink China tea, the project was abandoned. We can grow rice and cotton in Australia, so why spend £2,000 a year on a trade representative in China?
– Is your argument that we should produce more than we can use?
– I am talking about what the Senate is doing and what the cry of Australia is. I am a great believer in trade with other countries. I do not see why the people of Australia should work for more than eight hours; but if. people in China wish to work sixteen hours for our benefit, let them do it.
– Why not apply the same principle in Australia, as you apply outside ?
– I do not ask men in China to work for more than eight hours, but, if they are prepared to do so, Why object? It seems absurd to pay a man £2,000 a year to sell goods for us when the desire of Australia is to be selfcontained, and produce for itself all that its people require.
– I have some correspondence which was handed to the president of the Returned Sailors and .Soldiers Imperial League (Captain Dyett) relative to the employment of returned soldiers in the Federal Public Service, particularly in the Taxation Department. Exception has been taken, I understand”, by the returned soldiers’ section of the Public Service to tho seventh annual report of the Federal Commissioner of Taxation, and more particularly to the last paragraph of that report, at page 7. The Federal Commissioner of Taxation, dealing with the employment of returned soldiers in the Department, made the following statement : -
The employment of returned soldiers who were formerly officers of the Department has not been an unqualified success. Many were employed temporarily to meet emergencies of work, but they could not be dispensed with upon the termination of the work until the general policy of the Government regarding employment of returned soldiers had been settled. Host of these men have not had the necessary education or experience to enable them to apply their minds to the technical problems connected with taxation, and if the Department is to render efficient service to the community they must give way to persons better qualified for the work.
That section of the report deals with the employment of the soldiers who were formerly officers of the Department.
– I do not read it in that way.
– I think there has been an omission of one word from that paragraph.
– I have read it as it was handed to me. I understand that some of these men were employed by the Taxation Department; but probably not in that particular section of it where technical problems are dealt with. The men who go into the returned soldiers’ section have to pass a certain qualifying examination for admittance into the Taxation Department of the Public Service. T take it that this particular paragraph, so far as the Taxation Commissioner is concerned, deals particularly with those who have not had, as he says, the necessary education or experience to enable them to apply their minds to the technical problems connected with taxation. That would lead me to suppose that it is in the’ highest branches of the Taxation Department that returned soldiers feel themselves particularly penalized in applying for, or endeavouring to achieve, promotion. In pursuance of the communication from the Department, the following application was made to the Deputy Federal Commissioner of Taxation, at the Central Office: -
In accordance with staff direction No. 43, application is hereby made for permission to hold a meeting of returned soldiers attached to the central staff, at Anzac House, at 4.40 p.m. this day, 30th June. The subject for discussion is the Commissioner’s Seventh Annal Report, in so far as it relates to the employment of returned soldiers.
The object of the meeting is to forward a report to CaptainG. J. C. Dyett, President of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, as requested in a letter from him dated the 27th instant, copy of which is annexed.
There was a verbal reply given to the application. It was conveyed by the Chief Clerk, and was to the effect that the
Deputy Commissioner would neither refuse nor grant permission. Consequently the returned soldiers concerned assembled in meeting at Anzac House, and, conr sistent with the League’s policy of following constitutional methods, decided not to discuss the report, owing to the disability imposed upon them by the Deputy Commissioner’s non-committal reply. That disability was subsequently removed, and they were given permission. The Commissioner’s report, and particularly that part of it which I have read, was fully discussed. It was resolved that the matter should be put before the League, and, later, before Parliament, in the hope that an inquiry would be held as to whether the returned soldiers were getting the fair deal that they claimed they ought to receive. As I understand the position, these men say that, in the first place, the dictum of Parliament, and the policy of the Government, was that no man should be penalized because of his having served abroad. They allege that if a man who ought to have gone abroad stayed in the Department, and thus for five years had the opportunity to acquire the necessary qualifications in the technical branches of the Department, he had an advantage over the man who went away. Both were expected to compete on the same level. The men submitted a request to the Department - I do not know whether the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) actually received it - that the Government, in view of the fact that it was spending money in the education of returned soldiers, technically and otherwise, should devote a certain sum of money to engaging teachers and providing classes in which the men who were prepared to study and to. do the work might acquire the necessary qualifications.
– Do yon mean night study?
– That is available to every soldier.
– I will say something in regard to that shortly. The returned soldiers state that the men who did not enlist, who had the opportunity and the advantage of practical administrative experience, and who studied and obtained technical qualifications, are appointed to the highest positions. They consider that the Commissioner, in his report, evidences a lack of sympathetic consideration of the difficulties confronting returned soldiers in their reestablishment in civil life, and they cite evidence to show that at no time has he conceded to returned soldiers facilities necessary to enable them to compete fairly with non-returned soldiers. In March, 1919, before the large majority of the A.I.F. »!had returned to Australia the matter was brou’ght under the notice of the Commissioner. It was admitted that it would be fallacious, merely because of service in the A.I.F., to appoint returned soldiers to positions, the duties of which they could not efficiently perform, but it was claimed that some concession should be granted until such time as returned soldiers could reasonably be expected to undertake the duties for which they would be temporarily inefficient only because of absence on active service.- As far as that claim by the men is concerned, I think it is very fair. To meet this transient contingency, it was suggested that the Commissioner should initiate a scheme based on a comprehensive review of the Department’s functions, and which would include an intensive instructional course, continuous for a period prescribed, according to the requirements of each returned soldier, and of the position to which he might be appointed. * It was further represented that as the Government had made, in the Repatriation- Act and regulations, provisions which were tantamount to paying private employers to train returned soldiers, it would be equally willing, if the position were brought under notice by the Commissioner, to make provision during the repatriation period for a staff to give the necessary instruction to its employees during the usual hours, as obtained in civilian employment. That, of course, was not for night study, as the Minister suggested. The Commissioner took no action in connexion with this suggestion.. Returned soldiers say they were required to commence the duties of their respective positions without any system and co-ordination in training, in a manner devoid of the essentials to ultimate efficiency, and under conditions which must perpetuate to non-returned soldiers the undoubted advantage of experience gained during the absence of others on active service. Following upon this, the Commissioner, at the unveiling of the Central Office honour board, stated, inter alia, “Returned soldiers must remember that they have been given their start, that they are now in ‘ competition with other men, and the best man must go up.” Returned soldiers say that, provided reasonable facilities are given to them to bridge the period of active service, no objection can be taken to this policy. They allege, however, that no reasonable facilities have been granted. Further, they say that at a conference of senior officers, at which -views fairly representative of returned soldiers were not presented, it was determined to increase the efficiency and general knowledge of the staff by instituting a series of voluntarily-attended classes after the usual office hours, the classes to be open to returned soldiers and non-returned soldiers alike. This scheme, and the Deputy Commissioner’s minute on an individual representation to him, showed that the Department had decided that the returned soldiers should be given only the same facilities as were available to non-returned soldiers. At this stage it was proposed to hold competitive efficiency tests, but in view of the inequitable conditions imposed, returned soldiers decided not to ait for such tests. Subsequently the tests and the classes were abandoned. The above-mentioned classes were to be held after office hours in the months of July to December, and to be discontinued from January to June, which is the busy period of the Department, when overtime work is introduced. Returned soldiers are not exempted from overtime whilst engaged in studies essential to their reestablishment, and, consequently, some of them have been unable satisfactorily to present themselves for recent technical examinations. To non-returned soldiers, who have obtained taxation experience and technical qualifications without interruption by active service, these encroachments upon their private time are not of much moment, but they penalize the returned soldiers, delay their technical studies to increase their efficiency. and thus prejudice their prospects for future advancement. The returned soldiers then complained that, they were required, at their own expense, to -go to a medical officer to get an exemption from working overtime, and that only when an exemption was granted did the Department pay the fee. They say that, seeing that they have not been given the ‘ opportunity of getting the necessary technical education, they have been penalized. The Commissioner has now laid it down that, having been given their opportunity - and ‘they deny that they have had the opportunity - they must compete with others, and that the best mau must go up. I have always agreed that efficiency must be obtained, and that if one man who has not been away from Australia is, in the matter of technical knowledge, head and shoulders over a man who has been away, the best man must be appointed.; but the returned soldiers in the Public Service should be given an opportunity, even if it means conceding what they ask, for an intensive course of instruction in the technical” duties of their Department, so that they may at least have a chance of competing successfully with the men who did not go away. They go further, and say that they have every confidence that if an inquiry is instituted by the Minister for Repatriation or any one else with respect to their position in the Service they will be able to prove that they have not had a reasonable opportunity, and that if given that opportunity they will be in a position to compete with men who did not go to the Front. I have said on a number of occasions that I disagree with the policy of the Government in respect to preference to returned soldiers, if by that is meant preference “ other things being equal.” The Minister for Repatriation reminded me on one occasion that the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League approved of that interpretation of the policy, with, I believe, a reservation giving the returned soldier an allowance of 10 per cent, inefficiency. This, however, is not a fair way in which to judge the returned soldiers, particularly in a Department of this character. Time is getting on, and I do not desire to be now repeating the things which, at one time, it was necessary to say in regard to the men who did not go to the Front. I will say, however, that every man in a Department such as that to which I refer, who could “ have gone to the Front, ought to have done so. While others were fighting, these men were gaining greater efficiency and wider knowledge of the technical details and administrative work of the Department, and it is not fair that the soldiers should be asked on their return to compete with those men on level terms. This, instead of representing preference to the returned soldier, is really preference to the men who did not go to the .Front, whilst penalizing those who made sacrifices for the country. I leave the matter now with the statement that if an inquiry is made it will be f found that the returned soldiers are asking only for a fair thing..
Senator SENIOR (South Australia^ [12.54]. - We generally have to complain that the Senate is not given a reasonable opportunity to discuss Supply Bills. They come to us at a time when we are told that the money is urgently required, for the payment of the Public Service, and -the practice followed is scarcely courteous to the Senate or just to honorable senators. I do not ‘know where the evil lies, for evil it ‘ certainly is ; but it does’ appear as if the practice were followed of set purpose, suggesting that as the Senate has not the right to initiate money Bills it should not have the right to discuss them. It might be said that there ia not much ground for objection in the case of a Supply Bill for only one month, but I have noticed that in the discussion of previous Bills of this character advantage has frequently been taken of the fact that the Senate has already agreed to payments on a basis similar, to that of those proposed in the measure under consideration. We are placed in a peculiar position. We must vote Supply, and we have not .sufficient time in which to discuss the, measure, and yet later on, in dealing with a Supply Bill for a longer term, we may be met with the argument that we have already voted Supplies on a similar basis. I enter my protest against the practice adopted, and express the opinion that greater interest should be taken in and more time given to the discussion of money Bills in the Senate.
Something has been said with respect to the suggested amendment of the Constitution. Senator Thomas has said that” he has no sympathy with the proposed Convention. Everything depends on whe:ther or not it is the intention to put tha
Constitution into the melting-pot, and permit the Convention to consider its amendment at their own sweet will. I do not believe that the Convention should deal with the. whole of the Constitution. We have not resumed normal conditions, and it would not be wise for us to-day to undertake the complete remodelling of the Constitution. Senator Thomas expressed himself in favour of granting more powers to the Commonwealth than it already possesses.I am not by any means a Unificationist, but I think that our experience has proved that, in respect to many important matters, whilst specific powers should be given to the Commonwealth, unspecified powers should be left with the States. With me it is almost a basic principle that, where certain functions can be best and most conveniently carried out by the State, they should be left to the Government, and not to private enterprise. A great deal of correspondence has passed regarding the constitution of the proposed Convention, and the method of convening it. Some comical suggestions have been offered in this connexion, and if some of them were adopted it is very likely that the recommendations of the Convention would be repudiated by this Parliament and by the people.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– One looks back to the time prior to Federation with feelings of pride at the magnificent choice which Australia made in the delegates for the Convention who framed the Commonwealth Constitution. It would be difficult, to-day, to gather together, such a group of men, far-seeing in vision and wise in judgment, such as assembled at those historic gatherings, and I submit it would be a grave mistake now to cast the Constitution which they gave to us into the melting pot.
– Nonsense! They knew that they were only laying the foundations, and that the future needs would be decided by the people of the Commonwealth.
– They builded better than they knew. If we keep in view the psychological circumstances of the time, we shall, I think, agree that they differed widely from existing conditions, and that it would be unwise to interfere, at this juncture, with the superstructure reared upon the foundations that were laid by those statesmen over twenty years ago.
– And we have done good work under the present Constitution.
– Magnificent work has been done. Both parties have paid a tribute to the value of the legislation that has been passed by the Commonwealth Parliament during the past twenty years. We would be ill advised, therefore, to seek now to remodel the Constitution. Twenty years ago there was, I think, a sounder national outlook, and a more intense view of Australian conditions.
– And a very narrow Australian point of view at that.
– I do not think many will agree with Senator de Largie.
– Was it a narrow point of view to say that the Australian Parliament should be elected on the adult franchise, that is to say, on the votes of all persons who had attained their majority ? Was it” a narrow point of view that took in the humanities of Australia, as well as its commercial requirements? Not by any means. There was, I think, a larger conception of our individual and national responsibilities than to-day. We appear scarcely to realize that we are on the threshold of nationhood in regard to taking our place beside the other nations of the world. Our National Parliament should function in the truest sense of the word. All State jealousies should be absent from our deliberations.
– Does the honorable senator believe in Unification?
Senator SENIOR.I believe, not in Unification, but in unity. There is an essential difference between the two things. We have just sent our delegate to the Washington Conference, which will deal with one of the most momentous subjects that the nations of the world have ever been called upon to consider.
– The position will not be helped very much by the Conference, I am afraid.
– Let us not prophesy until we know. Sometimes small beginnings have important results. The forthcoming gathering at Washington only serves to emphasize what I have already said, namely, that the Commonwealth Parliament should function as an Australian Legislature, and not as representative of the various States.
– But this was intended to be a States’ House..
– A National House.
– Now, two points of view have just been expressed concerning the constitution of this Chamber. I am sure Senator Pratten” will not acquiesce in the suggestion that in our deliberations in this Chamber each honorable senator should see nothing outside the interests of his own State. The Senate, as a matter of fact, should be a. National Chamber. The point of view I am stressing is touched, I think, by a paper that has just been laid upon the table of the Senate, dealing with the breakofgauge railway problem, the solution of which will mean a great deal to the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole. We must not forget that we have not yet done with war. I wish we had.
– Does my honorable friend assume that this Parliament is going to vote over £50,000,000 to unify the railway gauges?
– Why not?
– In reply to Senator Pratten I may perhaps suggest that if in 1912 it was prophesied that in 1914 we should becommitting ourselves to an initial war expenditure which ultimately would be in the vicinity of £400,000,000, it is possible we might have hesitated and urged that there was no justification for such an outlay. Possibly we would have paused to assess the value of Australian liberty as against an expenditure of £400,000,000 and the loss of 60,000 representatives of our young manhood. But the history of the war has taught us that no sacrifice was too great for the preservation of our liberty. Therefore, I think this Parliament would be well advised to give very serious attention to the break-of-gauge problem at an early date.
– Do you mean that we should unify the gauges?
– We should do away with the break of gauge as far as possible in all the main trunk lines.
– Would it not be better to build new main trunk lines on a uniform gauge?
– That may be a matter for consideration. The breakofgauge question is a national problem, and its solution is essential to the progress of the Commonwealth; because a uniform railway gauge in operation will help to bring the people of the Commonwealth closer together in just the same way that communication by wireless telegraphy and aerial navigation will draw the Dominions and the Motherland together. It will also be of incalculable benefit in time of war by making it possible to transfer troops speedily from one part of the Commonwealth to another.
– Does the honorable senator think that a more up-to-date wireless system and a speedier aeroplane service would help the passage of this Bill?
– I think I am justified in dealing briefly with matters of such great importance at this juncture, because they are subjects which are growing in importance, and require the closest possible attention. We should do all in our power to bring the people closer together, so that business may be conducted more expeditiously, which will naturally tend to assist development that is most essential. It is not simply a matter of improving communications between 5,500,000 people, because I am looking forward to the time when this continent will be populated by 500,000,000.
– Why not start with 50,000,000 ?
– We have been a long while in reaching the 5,500,000 mark, but when honorable senators remember that’ the whole of Europe and a large portion of Russia in Asia could be placed on the Australian continent, and still leave space, it is time to consider the vastness of the territory we are occupying.
– I think the honorable senator’s geography is slightly wrong.
– Honorable senators will remember that some time ago a map was displayed in the Queen’s Hall, from which it could be seen that if the whole of Europe were placed on the Australian continent it would cover only the fringe.
– Russia was not included.
– If I remember aright, Russia in Asia was placed in the centre.
– That is not so; it did not include the whole of Europe.
– The people who produced that map realized the possibilities of Australia perhaps more keenly than we do to-day. It is only when we consider such matters that we can hope1 to move forward as a nation.
– There appears to be differences of opinion concerning the national view- point, as an honorable senator from New South Wales was referring to Canberra from, what he considered a national view-point, and we did not agree with him-.
– So soon as we touch upon that question we must recognise that our cities are built up with the support of the country, and if the country fails, the cities must also fail.
– Why blame the cities ?
– If a city is to prosper, it must be in consequence of the development of the country, and not merely as a result of the passing of a motion. We must establish a Federal Capital that will be a success. We are proceeding with the initial stages of the work, and I have nothing to say against honouring the compact made.
– The honorable senator has never helped us.
– I have never been found opposing the proposition. I have always been in favour of the work proceeding steadily.
– Slower than at present ?
– No. I believe in construction being proceeded with at a mere rapid rate; but I am not in favour of plunging Australia into an unnecessary debt for the sake of establishing a Federal Capital. I would not retard the development by procrastination, amounting to repudiation. I desire to place those views on record, because some honorable senators from New South Wales think that I am opposed to the transfer of the Seat of Government. I recognise that when the six States came together there was a desire for reciprocity; and I am in favour of the compact being honoured without plunging us into unnecessary debt.
– The honorable senator recognises the debt, but would prefer that it should remain unpaid.
– No. There is some truth in what Senator Gardiner said last night, that the debt is long overdue, and the position which confronted us in 1912- was much better than it is to-day. I trust the measure before the Senate will have a speedy passage, because it is only a salaries Bill for the period it covers.
– I desire to take this opportunity of making a correction - I believe every honorable senator is big enough to do that when he finds that he has made a mistake - in a hurriedly prepared statement I made when speaking on a motion relating to the Budget. On a closer investigation., I find that I made some reflection upon the Defence Department which the facts do not warrant. I referred to the1 large increase in the Administrative and Instructional Staffs of the Permanent Forces, and said that the number had been increased from 1,620 to 2,502. I also quoted figures showing that the increase in the pay under that one heading amounted to £338,890. The amount voted for the financial year 1920-21 was £323,409, and that proposed for 1921-22 is £607,319, an increase of £338,890. The item appeared to me to have been unduly increased, but I was not aware at the time that the method of arranging the Estimates had been altered. I find now that in 1920-21 the pay of the Administrative and Instructional Staffs, which amounted to £249,257, was shown under separate headings, and that in the 1921-22 Estimates that amount has been grouped, which accounts for a large proportion of the increase. Instead of the increase being in the vicinity of £300”,000, it is approximately £100,000, and the remarks which I made on a previous occasion, which to a certain extent still apply, because there has been a fairly considerable increase, do not do so to the same extent. As I have said, the increase is in the vicinity of £100,000, and the increase in the personnel of the Permanent Forces about 900.
There is one item in the schedule under the Department of the Navy on which I would like some information.
– Would it not be better to deal with the details when the Bill is in Committee?
– I am quite prepared to do that.
– Honorable senators ha,ve perhaps overlooked the fact that there has been a continuation of the debate which I fondly hoped had terminated yesterday .afternoon. One statement, which has reference to the Budget-papers which were under discussion on that occasion was in connexion with arrears of income and war-time profits taxes outstanding. The approximate amount is £8,927,000, and the question naturally arises as to why such a large amount has not been collected. I think honorable senators are aware that under the War-time Profits Tax Act a heavy percentage of the profits made was collected, but owing to the diminution in values and assets, many firms would have be&n ruined if they had not been granted time in which to meet their obligations. Had the Government insisted upon their pound of flesh, what would have happened ? I have no doubt in the matter. One dan only express a general view; but I think it is fair to say that if a demand had been made, we might have collected 75 per cent, of the amount, and ruined those responsible for ,the payment of the remaining 25 per cent.
– I mentioned the arrears, but I did not complain of the action of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook).
– I desire to make it clear that, had the Government demanded prompt payment, we would have been rightly denounced by every one from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the South, because many of those owing the money are not at present in a position to pay promptly. I believe the Government have acted aright in this direction.
– The Imperial Government have had to do the same thing.
– Have honorable senators paused to consider what’ the effect on the Budget would have been if we had demanded prompt payment? A good deal has been said outside’ to the effect that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is going to spend more this year than he will receive; but let me say that the Treasurer can at once make up that deficit by demanding that those who owe the Government money shall pay. If I were preparing a balancesheet for a business concern, aud I had outstanding good debts, I would include them as an asset, and would be entitled to do so. If I did not, I would expect to be severely criticised. Seeing that the Commonwealth balance-sheet is a record of cash transactions, it is, perhaps, not legitimate to include such debts, but it gis legitimate to bear them in mind. I shall not deal with the alteration that would be effected if the whole of the debts in arrear were collected; but I shall point out what would happen if we collected only the extra amount of debts outstanding for last year. W,e commenced the year with debts amounting to £6,002,000 owing to the Government, and finished with the sum of £8,928,000 outstanding. That is to say, the Government have given credit over and above the £6,002,000 for £2,926,000, which is, broadly speaking,. the amount of the difference between the receipts and expenditure for this financial year. If the Commonwealth Government demanded, not the whole of the £8,928,000, but merely prompt payment of the excess credit which has been granted, the Treasurer would be able to show that the revenue and expenditure absolutely balanced . The amounts outstanding are : - Land tax, £1,503,000; succession duties, £90,000; income tax, £4,494,000; and war-time profits tax, £2,841,000. When the Federal Treasurer has budgeted for an income which is less than the expenditure, it should also be borne in mind that, if the Commonwealth demanded prompt payment of outstanding debts it would be able to show a Budget in which the revenue and expenditure would balance. If there is that difference, it means that the people Outside who are so loudly clamouring, are those who are getting the benefit, because it is from that very class that the loudest criticism comes.
– From some of the individuals, too.
– They are the class, and if they think it is so serious a defect, let them forgo the consideration shown by the Treasurer, and make prompt payment.
Senator Gardiner referred to a statement in the Argus, and I can take no possible exception to the opinion he expressed. He has been sufficiently long in public and Ministerial life to understand the purposes and reasons for that species of entertainment known as “kiteflying.” His association with the Defence Department, although not particularly with the Naval Branch, will have led him to believe that . such information as was published in the newspaper referred to is particularly prone to come from that quarter. Until I saw the statement published, I knew nothing about the matters referred to. I endeavoured to make inquiries, but they led me nowhere. Of two of the statements made in the Argus- I. am’ in a position to give a flat contradiction. One statement is -
It is proposed that Australia should abandon that portion of Admiral Henderson’s programme which provides for the upkeep of a Fleet controlled by the Commonwealth. .
Proposed by whom ? Some one may have proposed it. I can say at once that no such proposition has been submitted to the Government.
– Was it discussed at the Imperial Conference?
– I am not in a position to say that; in any case, the question would be submitted to the Government iii due course. The Navy Board, or some Admiral, may have made such a proposal. Anybody is free to make any suggestion he likes, but no proposal has been even considered by, much less has it received the consent of, the Government. It is also stated in the Argus -
While the scheme may bo subject to modification or alteration in non-essentials, it is stated that on broad lines, its adoption is favoured by the Commonwealth Ministry.
That is a piece of pure fabrication. No such proposal has been submitted to the Government, a.nd the statement that the Government favorably entertains it, is entitled to be referred to in stronger terms than I have adopted. I do not know what was discussed at the Conference, but I would__ remind the Senate of the definite pledge of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that any conclusions arrived at there would be sub- .mitted to Parliament. I have no doubt that that will be done. This is one ofthe extraordinary statements which have been’ put into the press, and which in my judgment have emanated from officials of the Navy Office itself. That is a serious statement, but during my time there the same thing happened. I shall say nothing more about that matter.
– Somebody ought to be discharged.
– It is very difficult to find out the exact origin of the report. I remember a case, at the outbreak of t H? war, where very serious statements were communicated to the press - statements which had no right to get there.
Senator Foster spoke of the report of the Federal Income Tax Commissioner in regard to ex-soldiers employed in that Department. I know nothing about the matter, but I shall ask the Commissioner to furnish a report. I understood the honorable senator to say that the soldiers decline to attend certain classes which have been formed for them, as well as for other employees. Why do they decline^?
– I understand they were first asked to sit for a competitive examination, and then to attend the classes if they passed. They also said that the evening classes, which the Commissioner was prepared to inaugurate, would involve their working every night for six months at the class, and working overtime at the offices for the other six months.
– I am glad of that explanation:’ I shall ask the Commissioner to read the remarks of the honorable senator and furnish a report. I shall then disclose the information to him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move. -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The total amount set down in the Supply Bill is ?1,997,262. The amount now asked for, together with the amounts granted in the two Supply Bills already passed, provides for the expenditure to the end of October. Provision is made for salaries payable on the 14th and 28th October. Omitting special payments, the position in regard to Supply is as follow? : -The total amount provided for in the three Bills is ?9,618,065. If we deduct payment for interest and sinking fund due to the British Government, ?1,319,881; the Treasurer’s advance, ?1,500,000; and arrears for overseas mails, ?200,000- a total of ?3,019,881- the total for ordinary items is thus ?6,598,184. One-third of the annual votes for 1920-21, other than the special votes for Treasurer’s advance, and interest and sinking fund due to the British
Government, is £8,024,185. The total of the three Supply Bills is less than the proportion of the votes for last year by £1,426,101. The interest and sinking fund payments referred to were included in Supply Bill No. 2, and were payable on the 30th September under the funding arrangement which has already been presented to Parliament. The £200,000 for overseas mails was included in the first Supply Bill, and represents arrears due to the British Government in. respect of mail services during the war. The present Supply Bill included provision for four months’ expenditure on a number of relatively small items. The expenditure to date under these heads has been temporarily charged to the Treasurer’s advance, but is now included in Supply in order that the Treasurer’s advance may be recouped. Apart from these items, the Supply covers the usual month’s requirements, except . in a few cases where the expenditure under the vote is not payable in regular amounts each month. The amount of £53,115 is included for payment to the South Austalian Government, to make good the loss on working the Port AugustaOodnadatta Railway. This amount is payable on the 15th October, and if not paid then interest will be charged until the dateof payment. This arrangement is in accordance with the agreement with South Australia, which provides for payment of the loss within one month from the date of presentation of the balance-sheet/ The Supply Bill includes several amounts under the heading of War Services, for the settlement of old war accounts. Some of the expenditure under these items has already been met temporarily from the Treasurer’s advance, which will be recouped when the Supply Bill is passed. I think that represents the main features of the Bill, and if, in Committee, information is sought on any items, I shall endeavour to furnish it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I take this opportunity to explain briefly what this measure is, although I have no doubt that honorable senators understand it. It is really a formal measure to give effect to a practice which has been adopted in connexion with Commonwealth finance - the practice of appropriating in lump sums certain amounts to be paid into Trust Funds. In this case the appropriation is for the purpose of the War Pensions Trust ‘Fund, from which amounts are drawn when pensions become due. The same practice is followed for many of our other services, but it is necessary to make separate appropriations for each Trust Fund. The previous appropriation, amounting to £10,000,000, was obtained on 19th May, 1920. It is expected that the provision will be exhausted towards the close of the present month. The Bill now submitted is for £10,000,000, and. will probably suffice for eighteen months. As the surplus remaining at the close of the present financial year will be set aside for the payment of invalid and old-age and war pensions, it is desirable to have a considerable appropriation available at the 30th June next. The total expenditure on war pensions from their inception to 30th September last was £23,990,000; and the total estimated expenditure for the current financial year is £6,650,000. The annual liability reached its highest point in August, 1920, when it stood at £7,613,682. Since then, the liability has gradually receded, until at 30th September last it stood at £6,818,262. The number of pensions granted to 30.th June, 1921, was 288,928. These were reduced by cancellations (60,275) and deaths (6,116). The total outstanding at 30th June, 1921, was 222,537. That term “ cancellation,” without a note of explanation, may be misunderstood. Ordinarily the expression might suggest that these were pensions which had been terminated or withdrawn. That would be literally correct, but they include all those cases in which, on the recovery of the patient, the pensions automatically cease. These cases represent by far the largest percentage. They are regarded as cancelled pensions, and in one sense they are; but it must not be assumed that they have been withdrawn by any arbitrary act of the Department, or that they are withheld from any men who have a claim to them. I have not the definite percentages with me, but the term “ cancellation “ represents, in the large proportion of cases, the happy, natural consequences of a recovery of health.
– Among the other cases there are many hard ones.
– Complaints of hard cases reach the Government, and I have no doubt that there are hard cases. It is not every claimant who can prove his eligibility under the Act. New pension claims are being received to the number of between 300 and 400 per week, mainly from wives and children of partially incapacitated soldiers. The new grants are counterbalanced by the number of deaths and cancellations, and the variation in the actual number of pensions in force has been very slight during the past six months. Consequent upon the interjection by Senator Duncan, I would like to draw special attention to the remarks I have just made. If there is any idea that the Pensions authorities are moving in the matter merely with a desire to save money, I ask the Senate to dismiss the idea from their minds entirely. The Repatriation Commissioners are human, and’ may make mistakes, but there is not the slightest ground for the suggestion that a mere desire to save money has influenced them or their subordinate officers. Of that I am quite convinced. When the fact is borne in mind that to-day, so long after the war, when there has been a diminution in the number of pensioners unfortunately by deaths, and when thousands of them have oeased to be pensioners because of recovery and restoration to health, there is practically only a slight diminution in the total number of pensioners, it will indicate that there is no harsh administration of the Pensions Act. If it could be shown that there had been a wholesale cutting down in the number of pensioners, some support might be found for the complaints of harsh treatment.
– I have some individual cases that seem to be very harsh.
– That may beso. They appear harsh to honorable senators who put them up. I find that these cases come under one or two headings. In many of them the question arises, Was the man’s ailment a result of war service or not? Those are the most frequent class of complaint that comes under my notice. Some of the cases may appear to be harsh, but the law says that a pension shall be payable to those suffering because of war services. In view of that stipulation, there is only one thing for the Commissioners to do, the administration of the Act having been intrusted to their care. I venture to say that if the Commissioners have inadvertently made a mistake to the detriment of one applicant, there have, on the other hand, been dozens of cases in which, on the very slightest ground, they have given the benefit of the doubt to the applicants. The Commissioners aim at being on the liberal side in their dealings with the returned men, to whom we owe so much.
– I asked you some time ago whether the Commissioners had asked for further powers, which could only be given by legislative enactment. Have they asked for those powers?
– Not formally. I do not know that it is their duty to do so. The responsibility rests upon Parliament, and I cannot see that there is an obligation upon the Commissioners to suggest an alteration of the law.
– Have they not said that they were unable to do certain things because they had not the power ?
– They have said so frequently. They say it to honorable senators. Notwithstanding that they write to honorable senators to point these things out, I find senators standing up and blaming the Commissioners for harshness. I feel that it is an obligation upon me to say a word or two in defence of these gentlemen. I have been working closely with them, and there is not the slightest ground for saying that they are wanting in sympathy to the returned soldiers.
– When we bring cases under notice, the Ministry sometimes replies, “It has nothing to do with us; go to the Commissioners.” Between the two, the Government on the one side and the Commissioners on the other, we do not know who is responsible.
– There are certain things in regard to which I would be very loath indeed to interfere with the Commissioners, unless it could be shown that’ a great blunder or a great injustice had been committed. The purpose of creating a Commission was to make the administration of the Act as free as possible from political influence. I respect the intention underlying the Act.
– Between the two positions we sometimes do not know whether the policy of the Government or the administration of the Commission is to blame for harsh cases.
– I do not find much difficulty in deciding between policy and administration. I have tried to put in a word regarding what I feel to be right and fair to the Commissioners, who are criticised in certain quarters because they administer the Act as they read it. In th’eir reading of the Act they are supported by the legal authorities of the country. I submit the Bill and ask the Senate to signify its approval-.
– In connexion with this matter, a deputation representing the returned soldiers whose pensions have been reduced as a consequence of the cutting out of living allowances, waited upon the Government; and following upon it I asked a question of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) early this year regarding the pension payable to the dependent widowed. Smother of a deceased soldier who also had children dependent upon him.-
– Those pensions have been increased.
– I do not think they have been increased since I asked the question.
– Certainly they have. They were increased two or three weeks ago
– The question I asked was hot so much in regard to the actual amount of pension as to the provision that the Commission can grant a pension only if it is shown that the widowed mother and family were dependent upon the soldier at the time of enlistment.
– It goes further than that.
– I have been given to understand that the Commission has made it known that, under the policy which the Minister’ has just mentioned, it cannot grant such a pension. I know the circumstances of ‘a case in which a man had enlisted and had gone abroad’. At the time of his enlistment he was not earning more than sufficient to keep himself. After three years he died while still away on active service. Meanwhile his father also had died. It was held by the Commission that since the soldier had not been responsible for .the maintenance of his mother and his brothers and sisters ‘at the time of his enlistment, or at the actual period of his death, no pension could be paid. Honorable senators will agree that in every such case consideration should be given not only to the facts but to the possibility of what the deceased soldier would have been earning, and what he would have been doing with his money, had he been alive to-day. This young man of whom I speak would have been the bread-winner for the family. It may be said, of course, that he might have married, and have had his own home to look after. That is an argument which cannot be gainsaid; but it is quite likely that he would have taken upon himself the responsibility of maintaining his mother and the rest of the family. Steps should be taken to give the Commission power to deal sympathetically with cases of this kind. In the early days of the Returned Soldiers’ League a suggestion was put forward, primarily, I believe, by Senator Bolton, that the Commission should be given certain discretionary powers. Only a few months ago the members of the Commission informed a deputation that, in respect of certain details, they were driving a horse and cart through the Act in their effort to afford relief in hard cases, particularly having in view the fact of the living allowance having been stopped, and the pension scale not having been adequately increased. Meanwhile, however, the Commission has been advised that discretion of this nature cannot any longer be permitted, and that the provisions of the Act must be strictly adhered to. It thus becomes a matter for Parliament to consider whether the funds of the country cannot be devoted to making something like proper provision for needy widows, widowed mothers, and other dependants.
– The original minimum was 35s. The amount has now been restored to what it was previously, namely, £2 2s.
– I am glad to hear that. I hope the Minister will again consider whether there is sufficient power under the Act to permit the Commission to meet cases of hardship where the circumstances are extreme.
– Of my own knowledge the administration of the Repatriation Department by its officials is as fair as the latter can make it. When cases of hardship have been brought under their notice it has been my experience that they have proved willing and ready to quickly rectify them. A sum of £10,000,000 is being allocated in trust for the purpose of paying war pensions for the coming financial year. I think that the war pensions themselves amounted to about £7,500,000 last year. According to the Treasurer’s estimate, as set forth in the Budget, a decrease is anticipated which will bring the total volume of pensions payable to less than £7,000,000 - probably to about £500,000 less than last year. I do not know the nature of the financial operations associated with the allocation of the sum of £10,000,000 to a trust fund.
– What is intended is to give authority to the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) at any time when he may have surplus money,to pay it into that fund.
– If a sum of £10,000,000 is to be ear-marked and kept idle in order to pay war pensions for the coming year, I can only comment that that sum is much in excess of the actual total which it is anticipated will be required. If the intention is to provide that surplus credits may be paid into a trust fund up to a maximum of £10,000,000 for the purpose of paying pensions, and if provision has been made so that no interest shall be lost to the Commonwealth, there is nothing further to be said.
– That is exactly the position. The Treasurer is to be given authority to pay, out of Consolidated Revenue, when he has the money, into the trust fund ; but he will not borrow money to pay into a trust fund and keep it idle there.
– Quite so! But, in connexion with the Notes Fund, and the various surplus amounts of money accumulated by the Commonwealth from time to time, I think that a sum equivalent to 2 per cent. upon call is allowed by the Commonwealth Bank. One does not wish to see a large sum paid in over and above what will actually be required, and to have that 2 per cent. lost. The trust fund itself might be deposited with the Commonwealth Bank, and the 2 per cent. so secured. I merely raise the point to have it made clear; and, in view of the Minister’s explanation, it appears to me that, so far as the nominal sum of £10,000,000 is concerned, the proposition may be called reasonable and fair finance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday, 26th October, at 3 p.m.
I do not anticipate that the next business expected from another place - that is to say, the outcome of its consideration of the Senate’s requests in respect of the Tariff schedule - can possibly come before honorable senators before the date which I have justmentioned. It would be undesirable, therefore, to bring honorable senators from their homes in the various States without some certainty of business being placed before them for consideration. That explanation furnishes the motive of my motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In moving -
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I desire to state that my attention has been called to the fact that, during my temporary absence from this Chamber yesterday, you, sir, felt called upon to express yourself with some feeling in respect of a matter which had arisen in the course of debate. I understand that there seemed to have been indicated in your mind a doubt whether the silence of the Government might not be taken as indicative of sympathy with the criticisms to which you have been subjected. I cannot speak for the Government. I am not able to state what may be the views of the Government, because I have never considered the matter of sufficient importance to bring it before my colleagues in the Ministry. But I can speak for. myself ; and, in doing so, I say that in no sense do I sympathize either with the matter or with the method of the criticisms which have been made.
– So far as the Government are concerned, I do not know why any one should be under misapprehension respectingtheir responsibility. The subjectmatter with which these remarks have to do is not one which can be regarded as Government business. It is a purely parliamentary affair, over which the Government thave no more responsibility or control than have the Opposition. Therefore, I do not know why there should have been any doubt as to the position of the Government. I take the responsibility on myself. I have spoken as a member of the Senate, acting within my rights, which I would decline to allow the Government to interfere with. The Government were not consulted, nor would I think of consulting them, in a matter of the kind. Therefore, the Government are no more responsible for my action than for that of the President (Senator Givens).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 October 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19211013_senate_8_97/>.