8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senatorthe Hon.T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m.,and read prayers.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate if he can arrange to give me an opportunity this session to direct attention to the unnecessarydisparity between the cost of raw commodities and the cost of necessaries of life to the consumers of the Commonwealth?
– Iregret, especially as I know the interest the honorable senatorhas displayed in thematter referred to in his question,that, owing to the state of business, it is not possible to give the assurance heseeks. Should any untoward developmenttakeplace which will prolong the session, we may consider whether an opportunity can be found.
The following paper was presented : -
Railways Act - (Report,with appendices, on Commonwealth Railways, 1920-21.
Creation of Irish Free State
– I desire, byleave, to submit a motion referring to the settlement of the Irish question. .
– I point out that if the honorable senator obtains leave to submit his motion it must be treated as formal and put without debate.
– (By leave.)-I move -
That the Senate desires to convey to the British Prime Minister (Mr. Lloyd George) its fervent feeling of gratitude and appreciation for his crowning act of statesmanship in reconciling the interests of theIrish people with those of the other communities withinthe Empire, and thus bringing to an end a long and bitter estrangement.
That the Senate further desires to have conveyed to the leaders of the Convention, through Mr. Lloyd George, its warm greetings on the accomplishment of such a happy understanding, and sincerely trusts that the harmony and goodwill that have always prevailed amongst the sons of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales in the flourishing Commonwealths overseas will be fully manifested under the new order of things in their ancienthomes for the enduring peace and prosperity of the people of the Motherland of these Commonwealths.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Application of Arbitration Court Awards to State Instrumentalities
– I ask the Leader of the Senate the simple question whether the Government has noted that an address was made by the AttorneyGeneral of Victoria to a gathering of members of the legal profession, in which grave anxiety was expressed concerning the comparatively recent decision of their Honours the Justices of the High Court of Australia, which had the effect of substantially reversing the decision that had been formerly given by members of that august tribunal? Has the Government noted the matter, and taken it into consideration ?
– I cannot vouch for the statement that every one of my colleagues has seen the paragraph referred to, but I have seen it.
– It was not a paragraph, but a lengthy address.
-That is so, and it discounts the use of the word “ simple “ in the ‘honorable senator’s question. The most important thing is that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) hasannounced that the Government will take steps to maintain the prerogatives of the Commonwealth. It is obvious, from that announcement, that he has noted the matter to which the honorable senator has referred.
– It was from the stand-point of the States that I asked the question.
asked the Min ister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The annual report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, which is being tabled today, gives the Department’s experience in the matter referred to.
Agreement with Conference Lines.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answer supplied is - 1 and 2. The Commonwealth Government Line is free to fix its own rates of freight.
Motion by Senator Gardiner (by leave) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Gardiner from moving private members’ business notice of motion No. 2 without delay.
.- I move-
That a Select Committee be appointed with power to send for persons and papers to inquire into the claims of Captain J. Strasburg for a War Gratuity; the Committee to consist of Senators Sir T. W. Glasgow, Drake-Brockman, Foster, Cox, Henderson, Wilson, and the mover.
Although the Government and the Department are not in accord with the view I take, I do not intend to put the case at this juncture, because the facts can be submitted to the Select Committee.
– I merely wish to say that the Government are not opposing this motion, but it must not be assumed on that account that we regard the claim as justified. The attitude of the Government and the Department is well known to Senator Gardiner and to the Senate, but in view of the continued claims made and the contradictory statements circulated, the Government think it will possibly be desirable for a Committee to be appointed to investigate the whole matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) proposed -
That the date of bringing up the report of the Select Committee be the 31st May, 1922.
– I desire to point out that if Parliament merely adjourns, the Select Committee will have a perfect right to sit, but if it should prorogue all Committees cease to exist.
– Could not the Committee be permitted to sit during the recess ?
-Notif Parliament should prorogue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That so much of standing order No. 407a be suspended as would limit the time of speaking of any honorable senator in connexion with the consideration by the Committee of Divisions 156 to 158 of the Appropriation Bill 1921-22.
I have moved that motion in order that there can be the freest possible discussion on the Department concerned, particularly in relation to War Service Homes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 7th December, vide page 13,895) :
War Services Payable out ofrevenue.
Divisions 156 to 158 (Department of Repatriation), £2,360,946.
– So much has been said during the last six months in reference to the administration of the War Service Homes Department that I feel it does not require any apology on my part for the course I am adopting; but, indeed, places upon me an obligation to deal with this Department more fully than would ordinarily be the case in considering this portion of the schedule. I do not desire to speak at unnecessary length, but in view of the nature of the criticism which has been rampant throughout the country for some months, and particularly in this State, I am sure honorable senators will pardon me if I enter somewhat into detail in connexion with many of these matters. I wish first of all to say that no man in public life has a right to object to any reasonable criticism or to the disclosure of any real defects; but I feel that the nature of the criticism and the manner in which it has been conducted entitle me to describe it, not so much as criticism in order to clarify affairs, but something which of late has generated into a man hunt. On the most flimsy statements men in responsible positions have made declarations as if they were proved facts, and those who have made the statements have been allowed time after time to repeat them, and have had all the publicity they could desire. I know it is assumed that politicians are always sensitive, and resent to some extent criticism; but I desire to quote one or two statements which have been made concerning the administration of this Department to show how inaccurate they are.
A gentleman occupying a high and responsible position in this country, and a leader of a party, recently stated in Sydney that “the Department had millions of bricks which were lying about deteriorating, and for which it had no use.” The words “ millions of bricks “ literally imply two or more millions, and in the ordinary sense people would assume that there were several millions. At the time that statement was made, and for some months before, the total quantity of bricks in New SouthWales in the exact locality referred to was 361,000. Those bricks were on the allotments upon which houses were to be erected, and were merely awaiting the arrival of the operatives who were to use them.
– Was he referring to that locality, or to the whole of the Commonwealth ?
– The name, Concord, was specifically given. Bricks stacked at Concord were placed upon that site for the erection of ten cottages. Approximately 24,000 to 30,000 bricks are required for every cottage. Therefore, with a total of ten homes to be constructed, the utmost number of bricks which could have been placed there would be 300,000. But the honorable member for Cowper in the House of Representatives (Dr. Earle Page) makes the statement that we have millions of bricks at Concord. Either that gentleman has listened to some irresponsible busybody and tatler, or, if he saw a small stack of bricks a.t Concord, he has proved himself incompetent to judge the number of bricks which a stack contains. The illustration may seem a small matter, but it is typical of much criticism which is being indulged in to-day, because it has become fashionable to attack the Department on anyflimsy basis. Public men should hesitate to repeat unwarranted and unsubstantial accusations. They should be prepared, first, if only in their own interests, to accept full responsibility for undertaking an inquiry. I could multiply instances of this kind; but here I have given full particulars, the name of the person who made the accusation; tho whole of the facts, indeed, not forgetting to set out the reason why the bricks were placed upon the allotments in question. If any one thinks that brick houses can be built without first having bricks deposited upon the site, he must imagine that the War Service Homes Department is capable of performing the impossible.
There is so much of detail in the subject-matter, and’ so little time at my disposal, that I must confine my attention to the more important aspects. Many considerations with which I would like to deal must be put aside. I trust, however, that before reaching the end of my task I shall have omitted no major issues;and, if I should inadvertently overlook certain features upon which honorable senators desire information, I ask them to accept my assurance that such omission will have been made with no desire tol suppress facts. If there should be further points requiring elucidation, I shall be glad if honorable senators will call my attention thereto.
First, I desire to make the admission that errors, numerous and serious, have been made. That statement, unfortunately, may be allowed to stand without any argument.
– But does not that kind of thing happen in respect of every new Department?
– That must be so. Fortunately, Australia has not had to experience much in the direction of the hasty creation of new activities. The war forced this new Department upon the country. It had to be built up without prior training on the part of the staff, and without any opportunity to establish tests in order to learn who could and who could not undertake responsibilities. The War Service Homes Department had to be started in full working order from “scratch.” Military gentlemen in this Chamber need not be asked what would happen if an Army, enlisted oin one day, were sent into action on the next. It may be taken for granted that those men would go to certain disaster. The War Service Homes Department was enlisted, and in process of enlistment, in the very midst of being required to go right speedily ahead with the task which Parliament had intrusted to it. It will be remembered that there was a tremendous cry that the Government should provide soldiers’ homes with all possible rapidity, and that they had to be begun while the staff was still in process of organization. The staff was composed almost entirely of returned soldiers. I am bound to say that much the same experience would have followed had the Department been staffed otherwise. The ideal man for every job is not to be found by merely holding up one’s hand. I am saying this as much in fairness to Lieut. - Colonel Walker as to the Government.
While errors must be admitted, the point which touches me personally, and the Government generally, is comprised in the question, “ Who is responsible for those errors ? “An effort has been made outside toinsist that in this country a system of responsiblegovernment exists, and that, therefore, the Government must tate full responsibility* I do not desire to shirk my share, but I ask honorable senators, in fairness, to examine the question of where the responsibility rests, and not - in response to any popular clamour - to throw upon my shoulders, or on those of the Government, responsibility for acts which were distinctly forbidden, by the Government, committed without my knowledge, and perpetrated in violation of definite instructions. It would be absolutely unfair- and would be butchering a man to make a Roman holiday - for any one to say in such circumstances that the Government, or myself, as the Minister controlling, should be held responsible. I say at once that I would not be prepared to make that comment unless I had proof to support it. I now propose to furnish that proof, from the records of the Department. The War Service Homes Act established, or created, a Commissioner. Stress has been laid on the fact that the Act provides that there shall be a Commissioner - who shall, subject to the directions of Uie Minister, be responsible for the execution of this Act.
There may be some variation of opinion concerning the extent to which the control of the Minister- should be exercised, but that may be judged from the specific powers given to the Commissioner’ in the phraseology of the Act itself. It’ may be argued that the words “ under the control of the Minister” dominate everything. If the responsible Minister is to have the same full measure of control under an Act which provides- for a Commissioner as in respect of a measure which does not make su’ch’ provision, what is the use of a Commissioner ?’ I direct the attention- of honorable senators to various Acts which create Commissioners. and to other Statutes which make no such provision. A very brief comparison will reveal- the difference. In the War Service Homes Act the Commissioner is made a body corporate. He is given perpetual succession and a common seal. He is capable of suing and being sued; and he is given power to- acquire, purchase, sell, lease, and hold land, tenements, and so- on, for the purposes of the Act. Further, all Courts* Judges, and persons- acting judicially, are required) to take judicial notice of the seal of the Commis sioner affixed to any document sighed or sealed by him. The Commissioner is given power to appoint his own officers, and to pay them such salaries as he deems fit. If honorable senators will turn to other Acts - such, for example, as the Statute administered by the Minister for Trade and Customs - they will perceive that, there being no Commissioner created thereby, all those .powers are given to the Minister direct. Did not Parliament intend that there should be a difference? Or was the difference merely so much verbiage? In the one case, the Commissioner is vested with all those powers which I have enumerated; on the other hand, the powers are specifically vested in the Minister. Where a Commissioner is appointed, the purpose is that the Minister shall lay down policy, and that the Commissioner shall be responsible for its execution. The Railways Commissioners in New South Wales on one occasion refused to act in the way in which the Minister desired. The Commissioners had their independent authority, and they exercised it. Never, until quite recently, have I heard it questioned that the War Service Homes Commissioner, with his wide powers - too wide, as has since been proved - was the responsible officer intrusted with carrying out the policy while the Minister was responsible solely for laying down that policy. It is necessary for me to qualify that statement, and to say that the Minister must have power - if he thinks, at any time, that matters are- going wrong - to interpose. If he is of opinion that- his policy is not being carried out he must certainly have the ri’ght to intervene. But,- until he has reason; to- question the manner in which “ the Commissioner is performing his duties, he has no right to step in. When Parliament gave specific powers to one man, Parliament could not honestly and fairly, at the same time, place the responsibility for their execution upon the shoulders of another. Power and responsibility must go together. To say that one mau has “the right to do a thing, and that another nian is to be Held’ responsible for the way he does it, is to violate what I regard as the canons of fair play and justice. I have mentioned that the Commissioner had power to appoint his own officers. Let me say that I never appointed one of them, nor was I consulted as to the appointments. I was only consulted by LieutColonel “Walker as to whether it would be convenient to allow him to take an officer from the Repatriation Department for duty in connexion with the War Service Homes. As to appointments, LieutColonel Walker had a perfectly free hand, and I never interfered.
Section 17 of the Act states -
The Commissioner may erect dwelling-houses on land acquired for the purpose of this Act, ot may enter into contracts for’ the erection of dwelling-houses on land so acquired.
I quote that because much has been said about the adoption of the day-labour system. Parliament gave power to the Commissioner to adopt whichever system he liked. Not only was that put into the Bill itself, but, if honorable senators will refer to the speech that I made in introducing the measure, they will see that it was pointed out clearly that it was left to the Commissioner to adopt whichever method he chose.
I also desire to refer to the right to purchase land and material. In section 16 the method is set out as follows : -
Subject to this Act, any private land, or, with the consent of the Minister, any land, being Crown land of a State, road, or land which has been dedicated, reserved, or set apar.t for any public or other purpose, whether by any State or by any private person, and whether or not such land is vacant or has dwelling-houses or other buildings already erected thereon, may be acquired by the Commissioner for the purposes of this Act.
The fact that the Minister’s consent was required for the purchase of these semipublic lands makes it clear that, outside of that, the Commissioner had a free hand. That view is strengthened by a later sub-section, which says -
Before exercising any .power under this section which involves expenditure of more than £5,000, the Commissioner shall submit his proposal for the approval of the Minister.
Again I say that, by stipulating that the Minister’s consent was required in the purchase of land over the value of £5,000, the Commissioner was left a free hand with regard to the purchase of material.
– I do not think there is any doubt about that. (Senator E. D. MILLEN. - I am glad to hear that remark, because I am speak- ing under some sense of the injustice that has been perpetrated towards me by this continued propaganda. There was a free hand given to the Commissioner to purchase material without that limitation of £5,000.
– Then he could purchase to an unlimited amount, with or without the Minister’s consent.
– Exactly. Later on, having discovered that that power was being exercised, as I thought, too widely, we brought down an amending Bill, placing a limitation of £5,000 on the purchase of material, as on land. Unfortunately it was a case of locking the stable door after the steed had gone. All that was laid down as a matter of policy was placed before Parliament at the time the Bill was introduced. The intention to purchase large blocks of land for subdivision, and to purchase material in a wholesale fashion, was explained to Parliament.
The agreement with the Bank was tabled here. The propriety of the proposal was discussed, and, later on, the finalized agreement was laid on the table. Did any of these gentlemen, who are now wise after the event, point out defects at that time? Everybody was then saying, “ Get on with the job. Why are you so slow about it V That cry came from both inside and outside Parliament.
I first turn to the land question. I have stated what the power of the Commissioner was - that there was a limitation of £5,000 under the first Act, which was continued in later amendments, and in October, 1920, was made to apply to the purchase of materials also. The charges are that there have been overpurchases and bad purchases. As to over-purchase, it was obviously, in ,my judgment - and I shall show that I have placed it down in the records of the Department - a doubtful, if not entirely reprehensible, practice to purchase too far ahead of requirements. Lieut. -Colonel Walker sent to me Mr. Earle, who was the gentleman deputed to inspect land and recommend purchases. Lieut. -Colonel Walker, with whom. I had some discussion, sent that gentleman to me to discuss generally the broad outlines of the policy to be followed, and I dictated to Mr. Earle the headings of the various matters that I thought ought to guide the Department, He took them down, and drafted a letter that was sent on to the head office. This letter is recorded in the office books as having been received, and, if not that letter, the general tenor of it was sent out afterwards as instructions to tha various Deputy Commissioners. Lieut. -Colonel Walker, therefore, cannot plead that he did not know of the letter. Neither he nor anybody else can contend that, because the receipt of the letter is recorded in the head office, and action was taken on it at the time. What I laid down in that letter was this -
The Minister disapproves of very large areas being purchased, owing to - (a) segregation, lb) the considerable time the property would be on our hands before complete development and the sale of homes. This means the Commissioner is burdened with large interest rates and overhead charges, which must be recharged, and makes the not immediately developed areas expensive. The Minister considers the present estimation of our requirements too high, and does not approve of considerable land areas being purchased for anticipated requirements over and above our building capacity. No lond should be purchased for more than our requirements for twelve months hence.
I ask honorable senators to say whether that was a fair, reasonable, and cautious policy.
– What is the date of that?
– It was at the end of 1919. I remember that it waa in December, and I think it was on the eve of the elections.
– That was at the time when they had sufficient land for some considerable time ahead.
– They did not have very much in excess of their requirements then. Here and there a little moire land may have been acquired than was needed in a particular district. I am just reminded that not only is that minute recorded in the head office, but it carries Lieut. -Colonel Walker’s own minute, showing that he must have been. personally aware of it.
Yet, in spite of that,- a few weeks later, in February, the following direction was sent out to the Deputy Commissioners of all the States: -
Land values in the vicinity of the Commission’s building operations will undoubtedly increase considerably. Therefore, a resolute policy of land acquisition must be maintained, and land must be acquired in advance of requirements. On the lines indicated in statement in paragraph (/) “ a minimum programme of three years and a maximum of five years’ acquisition should be effected in the near future.
I had laid down twelve months aa the maximum, and the responsible officer, Lieut. -Colonel Walker, clothed with the power the Act gave him, within a few weeks sent out directions to purchase up to a minimum of three years and a maximum of five years. Can any one say that I was responsible for that deliberate violation of the policy I had laid down ?
– That is when Lieut. -Colonel Walker ought to have been dismissed.
– Yes, had the irregularities been discovered at the time. These things were not- discovered until a considerable time afterwards. I will deal with the gradual discovery of them later on.
– How long was it after that instruction was sent out to the Departments that Lieut. -Colonel Walker left the Department?
– He left in March of this year. These things, I am informed, were discovered about the time he left. The position I put to this Chamber and to’ the people outside is this : When a Minister has given a definite instruction for one thing to be done, and when, within a few weeks, an entirely contrary direction is sent out to the Deputy-Commissioners who, in all fairness, is to be charged with the responsibility for that act? There can only be one answer to that question by men who are anxious to deal out justice.
– Would it not have been possible to have kept a closer check to discover these discrepancies?
– I have no doubt there are super-men who could attend to all these details of a Department, but, personally, I admit that I am not equal to it.
– I suppose the Minister would be more of a superman if he had to do the job again?
– I would do some things differently if I had to do them again. Wisdom after the event is easy and cheap. I had laid down my policy, and I had a right to assume that it was being carried out. If there were any difficulties in the way of carrying it out, or if the Commissioner desired to make any modifications, he should have come to me.
As the Committee which has been inquiring into the matter has pointed out, there have been over-purchases of land, but I do not think the over-purchases were as great, in the aggregate, as they appear to be. Allowing five or six homes to the acre, it will be seen that the land was purchased a little too soon, but that, if building operations had been continued, it would have been absorbed in a reasonable time. I desire to show how much of these purchases were authorized by me, and how much by the Commission. I shall quote figures up to the 31st March, 1920, which was the date of my last approval of the purchase of land. At that time £314,663 worth of land had been purchased, representing an area of 1,501 acres, which was equal to providing for about 8,000 or 9,000 homes. I submit that that does not. look excessive when the fact is borne in mind that we had 17,000 applications in the office to satisfy. Of that area. I had approved of the purchase of 363 acres, and the Commissioner had himself purchased 1,138 acres without any reference to me. After that date I ceased to approve of land purchases. To date 2,540 acres have been purchased, of which I have approved of 363 acres, and the Commissioner purchased 2,160 acres without my authority.
– Is tho Senate to understand that the Commissioner purchased land exceeding £5,000 in value without submitting it to the Minister?
– There are some purchases of that kind to which I shall refer later. I am dealing now with other purchases. The value of the purchases I authorized was £97,000, and of those which the Commissioner authorized £441,819. It is necessary to remember, also, that the purchases of which I approved were made in the early days, when, I submit, no excess was visible. The excess occurred later when purchases were made by the Commissioner without reference to the Minister. I admit that in the majority of cases he had authority to buy, and was not bound to refer to the Minister.
– Is the Senate to understand that the 2,160 acres of land was in lots capable of carrying more than one house, and that there were no single blocks ?
– I think there probably were single blocks. There is one factor which contributed very much to this over-purchase, and which I advance in fairness to lieut. -Colonel Walker. He had endeavoured to give a very wide effect to the policy of decentralization. We hear a great deal about that policy, but after -my experience in this Department I am going to say that thereis another side to the medal than that which is generally held up for publicreprobation. The Commissioner had given powers to the Deputy Commissioners, and in view of the fact that six Deputy Commissioners were working under the direction that I have just read - a direction which was contrary to my policy - it is perhaps understandable, if not excusable, that there should have been an over-purchase of land. Had the purchase of land been more centralized, I venture to say the over -purchase would have been discovered and a check applied sooner.
When the Department was formed, Lieut.-Colonel Walker called a meeting of the Deputy Commissioners and discussed with them to what extent, and in what manner, he should delegate powers to them. The Act provided that he could delegate certain powers to the Deputy Commissioners. The result of the Conference was submitted to me. It gave the Deputy Commissioners power topurchase land up to the- value of £1,000. I did not see much to object to in that. We were anxious to get ahead, and the desire for prompt action seemed to justify it. That was on the 23rd May, 1919.
– If each of the Deputy Commissioners had purchased to the limit of his power, the Department would have been committed to £6,000 worth of land.
– With sixteen thousand homes to be provided, £6,000 worth of land did not appear to beexcessive.
– If the individual purchases were kept within £1,000, each Deputy Commissioner could purchaseseveral thousand pounds’ worth.
– Everybody was calling upon the Department to provide the homes rapidly, and there did not appear to be any undue risk in givingthe power to the Deputy Commissioners. I assumed that the Central Office would watch the operations of the branches.
– They did not do so, but that is no argument against decentralization. It only shows that therewas bad supervision.
– When officers have to be appointed to look after a wide continent like Australia, when no man has been specially trained for the job, and when there are no means of testing the capabilities of men and ascertaining which can be safely trusted, the task becomes exceedingly difficult. Sometimes two or three applicants would want the same block of land. Unless everything was going to be centralized in Melbourne it appeared necessary to give some measure of authority to_the Deputy Commissioners. The authority was given with some little hesitancy on my part, but without any reference to me six or seven months later Lieut. -Colonel Walker increased that authority to £2,000. I am not certain that in the first instance he was under an obligation to refer the matter to me, but having done so and obtained my consent, I submit that he was under an obligation to come to me on the second occasion before he increased the limit. Under this direction from Lieut.-Colonel Walker there was, I think, some justification for much of what the Deputy Commissioners’ did.
– Are we to understand, then, that the Deputy Commissioners had a free hand and could have purchased land to an unlimited amount, provided each purchase did not exceed the sum stated ?
– Yes; and it is necessary to point out that they were directed to proceed with the acquisition of land as rapidly as possible, purchasing for a minimum* of three years’ and a maximum of five years’ requirements. These were the sailing orders issued by Lieut.-Colonel Walker to the Deputy Commissioners.
– There was a reason for it. He believed land values would increase.
– Whether the reason was good or bad the direction given was distinctly contrary to the policy which I had laid down.
– Did that direction mean that the Deputy Commissioners had authority to purchase ten times £2,000 worth of land in separate transactions?
– Yes, in just the same way that Lieut.-Colonel Walker could have bought millions of pounds’ worth of land, provided no single transaction exceeded £5,000 in value.
– If he could do that the Act was loosely drawn.
– That may be said for it. The experience has shown that the power given was too wide altogether. But I would remind honorable senators that the Bill was fully discussed in this Chamber, ‘and I do not think that Parliament should altogether hold the Minister responsible for what the Act specially authorized the Commissioner to do. Honorable senators will find much the’ same provision in other Acts appointing Commissioners; but, generally speaking, Commissioners hitherto have been gentlemen who have been trained in the Public Service, and know the limitations under which they are expected to work.
– And, generally, they pay some regard to the policy of the. Minister.
– They also recognise the wisdom of consulting the Minister on matters of policy. When I spoke on this subject to Lieut.-Colonel Walker he said to me, “ The Act lays the responsibility on me; I do not think it is right that I should come and bother you about these matters.” An officer trained in the Public Service would have seen the wisdom of very close relationship in ‘administration with his Minister, who is held responsible to Parliament. Apparently, Lieut.-Colonel Walker did not appreciate that point.
I have dealt with the excess purchases. On a previous occasion I referred to some unwise purchases. I do nob want to weary honorable senators by reiterating what I said on that occasion, bub I shall ask the indulgence of the Committee while I quote from a report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, which inquired into this matter. Accusations under this head have been repeated every day of the week ‘and every week of the month for the last six months.
– It is necessary that we should (have the fullest information concerning these matters.
– That is so, and I hope honorable senators will bear with me if I refresh their memories as to some of the circumstances. I refer, first, to Roe’s Estate, at Newcastle, a purchase which was condemned by the Public Accounts Committee in these terms -
Roe’s Estate should not have been acquired. The report by Mr. W. J. Earle, indorsed by the Commonwealth Surveyor-General, was incorrect and misleading. .”‘…’
That was a purchase of over £5,000 in value, approved of by me after perusal of a report and recommendation. I now want honorable senators to see the nature of Mr. Earle’s report upon which the purchase was approved by me -
I beg to submit the above subdivision for purchase for immediate building operations.
I have made an inspection, and the property is four minutes from the Waratah Railway Station and four minutes from the Mayfield tram (fares - railway, 5d., 4d. ; tram, 3d.), and contains approximately 124 acres, and is right in the centre of a large industrial area with tram service, and is about 2f miles from the General Post Office, Newcastle.
The property has been subdivided, all the roads constructed, blue-metalled, and gravelled, with footpaths, and have been taken over by the municipal council.
The land is excellent good top, splendid bottom for building sites, level, well drained, is very healthy, and is situated in a very popular residential and industrial area, self contained.
The location appears to have been all right.
In connexion with this subdivision, the vendor has also offered the seven blocks in row at Southern-street adjoining, and negotiations were opened for £8,500 for the total properties.
After subsequent interviews, the vendor has now placed under offer to me the whole of the property for the sum, of £8,100.
The area gives me a total of 3,728 feet frontage to roads upon which we could enter into possession and commence immediate building operations.
This price works out at approximately £2 3s. per foot. Although this is not cheap for our purpose, it compares very favorably with property in the vicinity.
This subdivision is, without doubt, one of the best propositions in Waratah, and much inferior land in the area has recently been sold for £2 10s. to £3 per foot.
As a good, sound, ready-to-build proposition, I do not think we could do better in order to expedite our immediate building operations.
The subdivisional plan attached hereto shows the blocks averaging 39.7 feet each, consequently these blocks would cost the soldier applicants an average of £85 8s., which would be very reasonable for this class of property.
I have an option, and this offer remains open to me until the 20th instant.
Plan of the subdivision is attached hereto, and I recommend the property for purchase, viz., the subdivision and the seven blocks aforesaid, at a total price not exceeding £8,100.
Water, sewer, and gas mains are laid on. (Sgd.) W. J. E.,
That recommendation was indorsed by the Surveyor-General, one of the permament officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. He now admits that he was misled to some extent by the fact that the plan of subdivision had been approved by the local municipal council, and he regarded that as sufficient evidence of the suitability of the land for residential purposes. It is now stated that the land is swampy and quite unsuitable, in its present condition, for human habitation.
– That is why it was available. No one else wanted it.
– I am not going into the merits of the purchase now. All I want to do is to try and drive home to honorable senators the fact that there was placed before me a recommendation from a responsible officer of my Department, supported by the report of the Surveyor-General, an officer not of my Department. In such circumstances what would any Minister do?
– What could he do?
– I see just now a gentleman pushing himself into public prominence in connexion with this matter. Mr. Ashworth has twitted me with stating that it was not possible for me to go round making my own valuations in regard to these land purchases. I repeat that assertion in all seriousness. I am not a valuer of town lots, and in this case it was not my job. I would have been very much at fault if I had attempted to override the recommendation and report, of an officer whose duty it was to make the fullest investigation into this matter. The Commissioner’s recommendation was favorable. It was confirmed by Mr. Goodwin’s report. The land was wanted, and, being assured that there was a large number of applicants - more than sufficient to justify the purchase - I approved of it. That report has now been proved to be incorrect. I think I could, without much exaggeration, apply a much stronger term to it, but I submit that, in the circumstances, the responsibility is not one that can be entirely charged against the Minister.
– Is there any way by which you may call that man to account?’ It is practically fraud.
– There is no doubt about that.
– I prefer to leave my legal friend to determine that issue. It is possible that the officer was either ill-informed, inexperienced, or stupid.
– Who was the surveyor who backed up that report?
– Mr. Goodwin, an officer of the Home and Terri- tories Department. I understand that Mr. Earle still maintains that the land is suitable if properly drained.
– Is Mr. Earle in the Public Service yet?
– He is not in the Public Service of the Commonwealth, but he is in the Public Service of a State.
– Have all these men retained their positions ?
– Have any of them retained their positions?
– With the exception of Mr. Goodwin, who is a permanent officer of the Commonwealth Public Service, none of the men to whom I have referred are now in the Department.
– Are they in any other Department?
– They are not in any Federal Department. I understand that Mr. Earle is now in the employ of the State Government of South Australia.
– He is town-planner in Adelaide.
– I want to give two other instances of the acquisition of land which have excited comment by the Public Accounts Committee, and which, in the opinion of the Committee, were not desirable purchases. One was the Lydwin Estate, near Toowoomba. I will read the minute on the purchase which, it will be found, is backed up by the records in the Department.
On the 20th September, 1919, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr. D. J. Hutchings, Brisbane, recommended that approximately 10 acres of land at Toowoomba be purchased from Mr. E. W. Robinson at a price not exceeding £5,310, inclusive of residence erected on the site. The land was valued by Mr. Hutchings at £5,000. On the 30th September, 1919, the Commonwealth Surveyor-General minuted the file as follows : -
Should I be requested to purchase this property, I would certainly make further inquiries before committing the Commonwealth , as there is no evidence to show at what price land is selling in the vicinity, or by what method the estimate of £5,000 was arrived at. It is suggested that if you propose to purchase, the matter be referred to me for valuation.
On 16th October, 1919, the Commonwealth Surveyor-General communicated with the Commissioner, and stated that the check valuation of the land was £5,000 and building £500. On the land acquisition proposal form following Mr. Hutchings’ recommendation is a notation to the following effect : -
Recommended that this property be acquired at a price not exceeding £5,500, in accordance with Commonwealth SurveyorGeneral’s check valuation. Estimated number of houses that can be suitably erected thereon, 70.
This is unsigned. A further minute dated 18th October. 1919, by the Commissioner’s personal clerk reads as follows: -
Commissioner directs that a telegram be sent to Deputy Commissioner offering £5,000 for property, including house.
In accordance with the latter minute the Commonwealth Surveyor-General was authorized to offer £5,000 for the land and buildings complete, and on the 23rd October that gentleman reported that he had purchased the estate for £5,000. It was stated at the outset that 70 homes could be erected on the site.
This was not the only case that never came before me at all, nor was it necessary that it should under the Act. I refer to it as one of the cases with which fault has been found, and in connexion with which it is suggested that the Minister and the Government are in some way responsible.
Since the purchase of this estate further purchases in Toowoomba were made by the Commission, the total area being 21 acres 1 rood 21 perches, at a total cost of £7,180.
– Has thatToowoomba land been used, or is it now vacant ?
– One states ment made by the Public Accounts Committee, and it is a statement of fact, is that very little of it has been used.
– Is it worth the money? Was there an independent valuation made?
– Therewas a check valuation made. I do not think that the value was so much in question, but it is claimed that it was an overpurchase which was not warranted by the demand for land by returned soldiers in the district. I think it is referred to by the Public Accounts Committee as land purchased for which there was no use.
– There were similar over-charges all over Queensland. .
– My purpose has been to show, in this case, that £5,000 worth of land was purchased, that the purchase never came before the Minister, and that, under the Act, it was not necessary that it should.
– Was not the purchase price in excess of the statutory limit?
– No, it was just up to the- statutory limit.
I come now to the Hendra land, to which the Public Accounts Committee has referred. I could multiply instances of this kind, but I have taken notice for the purpose of illustration only of those cases to which that Committee has directed, attention -
Two estates were purchased at Hendra by the fate Deputy Commissioner, Mr. D. J. Hutch ings. One comprises1 acre 2 roods, and was purchased for £450 from Mr. E. Dickenson, on 22hd September. 1910. The other comprises 1acre 2 roods 16 perches, and was purchased for £600 from Mr. H. A. Peterson, on 6th October, 1919. Nothing was known at Melbourne regarding the swampy nature of these areas until April last.
I may remind honorable senators that this was swampy land which required filling in before it could be utilized -
In April, 1921, the present Deputy Commissioner reported as to the estate purchased from Mr. Peterson, and recommended that the site bo filled in. This recommendation was approved bv the Acting Commissioner at an estimated cost of £80.
I might interpose here that nothing w’as known in Melbourne beyond the statisti cal reports that came in as to this purchase. It was never referred to the head office, much less to me -
On 30th July last the present Deputy Commissioner reported as bo the state of the area purchased from Mr.Hickenson, when approval was immediately given. for the site to be filled in at an estimated cost of £35. Fourteen houses have been built on the two estates, and according to the latest return dated 31st October last, ail the houses were occupied.
I am. not now raising the question whether a good or a bad deal has been made, but I am trying to show, as I think I am justified in doing, that whether these purchases were good or bad they were carried out without Ministerial authority which, under the Act in these cases, was not necessary.
– The last purchase referred to was one of the worst of the tot. I cannot find words in which to sufficiently condemn it.
– I have shown the Committee that the land purchased by the War Service Homes Commissioner was as four to one compared to the land the purchase of which was authorized by the Minister. I have shown that in cases to which special attention has been drawn as instances of bad purchases the reports submitted to me justified my approval. I have shown with regard to other cases to which exception has been taken that not only did they not come to me, but they did not come to the Melbourne head office. In all the cases of which I approved the papers will show that I satisfied myself that the purchases were justified by reason of the demand in the locality, since the number of returned soldiers in the district justified the acquisition of certain areas. I satisfied myself also that the areas proposed to be purchased possessed the requisite facilities, accessibility, water, gas, drainage, and so on, and that the value placed upon them was, according to the reports submitted to me, a fair one. Having satisfied myself as Minister on these essentials, I contend that I had discharged my duty.
– One difficulty about the Roe’s Estate was that it was purchased for £2,600 a year before it waa bought for the War Service Homes Commissionfor £8,000. That was not disclosed in the report to the Minister, as it should have been.
– Senator Guthrie will understand that I am not now dealing with the merits of these cases, as to do so would require an exhaustive examination of the facts which the Public Accounts. Committee and others have inquired into. What I think I am entitled to say is that whether these purchases were good or bad, I gave my assent to them on reports submitted to me which would have secured for them the assent of any member of this Committee.
– Did the Minister reject any propositions on the ground that they were bad ?
– Yes, and I intend to Tefer to cases of the kind. With regard to the cases to which I have referred, I could have done no more than I did. I say that, acting honestly and fairly, I could not be asked to do more.
I come now to a case which I turned down, and will show honorable senators what followed. I take this case as typical. There are other similar cases, but I cannot say, at present, how many. This is a case in which the area of land sought to be acquired was over £5,000 in value, and should, therefore!, have been sub- mittedtomeformyassent, but the land was purchased in two parts in order to bring each single transaction below the £5,000 limit authorized by the Act to be purchased without the consent of the Minister. I want to read the minutes in this case in order that the Committee may see that I am not making statements except such as are justified by the official files of the Department. This case refers to the purchase of the Grove Estate in Tasmania
TheGoveEstate, containing 60 acres, was recommended for purchase by Mr. W. J. Earle, Deputy Commissioner. Tasmania, for £12,000, on 23rd October, 1919. The matter was discussed with the Commissioner, who forwarded aletter tohis deputy on 66h July, 1920, of which the following isanextract : -
When the above proposition was placed before the Minister for approval, it was found that insufficient data was given to enable the Minister to arrive at a decision. To enable this matter to be now put in order, I will beglad if you will forward Form 35 in duplicate,
That was the form on which the price should have been set out. supported by detailed particulars as set out in my memorandum, No. 6026, of 31st ult.
It was sent back by me with the minute that the information disclosed was insufficient to enable me to arrive at a judgment. The case having been submitted to me, one of two things should have followed : The proposition should have been dropped altogether, or should again have been referred to me with further information. This is what was done -
On 5th January, Mr. Earle, the Deputy Commissioner, reported to the Commissioner that he had purchased 54 blocks for £3,700, although his delegation waa limited to £1,000.
Here is another point. His delegation to purchase at that time was limited to £1,’000. He, therefore, violated two provisions; first, by purchasing the estate in that way without obtaining my assent, and then by exceeding his delegated authority and purchasing for £3,700.
– For which he bad Lieut.Colonel Walker’s instructions in writing.
– I was not aware of that. I am going by the papers.
– Would that purchase be valid ?
– The land has been paid for, but I must leavethe honorable senator, as a legal gentleman. to answer his own question. On the14th April, which was fiveorsix weeks later -
Colonel Walker gave authorityfor the purchase of an additional area of 14 acres at a price of £3,500, making a total purchase in this estate of £7,200.
That was done without any reference of the purchase to , me for approval First of all the purchase of the Grove Estate was put tome as one proposition with the recommendation that £12,000 should be paid for it. I sent the proposal away for further information, andthen some one, and it appears to have been Mr. Earle, boughtthe estate in two paris in order toevade the provision of the Act requiring purchases involving over £5,000 to be submitted to me.
– He bought part of the estate in two parts?
– No, he bought the lot in two parts. On the 14th April hereported that he had purchased 14 acres, and on the 14th May he reportedhaving purchased 16 acres, although therewas no approval on the file authorizing it.. Curiously enough, the figures on the form on which the original 14 acres had been approved had been altered to 16 acres, but the person who made that alteration forgot to alter the value, consequently there was an amount of £500 for which authority had not been obtained from any one.
– What did the total amountto in connexion with the purchase of the allotment ?
– Speaking with some reservation, I think £.7,200 was the price of the two first purchases, and £500 must be added for the extra 2 acres. Apart from the exact figures, those before me disclose that the amount was over £5,000, and to avoid theresponsibility imposed by the Act, the land was purchased in two parte.
– Was the land purchased for £7,200 the same land which was acquired for £12,000 ?
– At this juncture I am unable to say definitely.
– I do not think it was. I think it was onlyaportionofit.
– Whether thetotal area was included I amunable to say ; but the areasubmitted tome in the first instancecontained thatpurchased for £7,200. Whether they dealt with thewhole or a portion, thevalue was over £5,000, and they were therefore required, as provided in the Act, to submit the matter to me. They recognised that I was likely to demur on the ground that they wanted to proceed with too great rapidity, or for some other reason which need not be mentioned,, and they, therefore, purchased the two blocks for £7,200.
– I think t”he Criminal Court is the. place for that to be investigated.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral been consulted concerning the legality of such purchases?
– I ask the honorable senator to excuse me from answering that question at this stage.
– How long was the Minister kept in ignorance of the facts ?
– It was only discovered by me after my return from Europe, and I shall give the honorable senator the date later. These officers were dealing with this block by “ making two bites at one cherry,” and I desire to point out that it could hardly have been done by accident, because at the Conference of the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners to which I have previously referred the question of delegation of authority on this very point arose. It was asked at that gathering whether a Deputy Commissioner should purchase two blocks adjoining for £1,000 each, and it was laid down that if the area purchased was to cost over £1,000 a Deputy Commissioner would have to secure the necessary approval. The question was asked by the Deputy Commissioners” in this way :
Say, for instance, there are two blocks adjoining that the Deputy Commissioner may wish to acquire, the two blocks are owned by two different people, and each is worth, say, £1,000, can the Deputy Commissioner purchase the two blocks and call it two separate transactions, or must he, by reason of personally acquiring one parcel of land, call it one transaction, and limit his expenditure to £1,000 accordingly »
The Commissioner’s answer was: -
The expenditure must be limited to £1,000. and the land for this purpose considered as one piece. If the word “ transaction “ be used literally, it would mean that the Deputy Commissioner could purchase both blocks without reference to the Commissioner. . . .
Lieut.-Colonel Walker put his foot down on purchasing one block in two parts, and I have shown that, in spite of what he said, it was done. I cannot say in how many cases this has occurred, but I know several were disclosed to me when searching through files. I do not think there are many, but I believe there were two in Sydney, and one in the Belmore district.
– Were there any transactions of the kind outside Brisbane?
-I am not in a position to say, but I do not remember an occasion on which approval was given, but there was only one instance in which it was sought.
I now come! to the matter of excess costs. The Act provided that the cost of the houses, in the first instance, was not to exceed £700 each, and, later, the amount was increased to £800. I knew nothing of the excess cost until I received a cable when in Europe. I had not been informed in any way as to the increased prices, and the Assistant Minister, for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers), who had not been notified, made a discovery when the Commissioner reported that, for some reason or- another, the costs were proving excessive. On 9th December of last year, the Assistant Minister accidentally made the discovery. I had not only been not told that prices were being exceeded, but I had official proof that everything was in order when I was making full inquiries from time to time1, and endeavouring to ascertain what the houses were costing. When the discussion was going on outside and also in Parliament as to the cost of day labour and contract work, I called for a return, which showed that for one group the tender price was £706, and the cost of houses built by the Commissioner £625.
– When was that ?
– On the 2nd March, 1920. I have referred to this matter before, and the figures are on record. The next list of tenders for group houses showed that ‘those built by tender would cost £791, and those being built by the Commissioner £527. The next figures show that the price by tender was £624, and the estimated cost of the Commissioner £527. The figures in the first two instances show the price1 of the houses actually built by the Commissioner, and it cannot be said that they were only estimates, because the Commissioner has drawn the distinction him- self by referring to the estimated cost in the last instance. There was the assurance I sought, and on the statement given the following memorandum appeared:
In no case has the amount, £700, for building and land, been exceeded by the War Service Homes Commissioner, except where the applicant has supplemented the amount by additional capital.
I hope that statement will sink into the minds of honorable senators and others who are interested in the work of this Department.
– That is a statement of the late Commissioner.
– Yes. It is all very well for loose-mouthed orators outside to make sweeping statements, but I have quoted the words of the late Commissioner, by which I had to be guided. Many critics have been endeavouring to secure personal advantage or to injure political opponents; but I ask the Committee, if a Minister makes inquiries and is told by a responsible officer that in no case has the price been exceeded, what can he do? Is every statement to be regarded as so untrustworthy that I must go into and check all the details? It would be1 utterly impossible. It will be clear, from the information I have placed before the Committee, that I was fully alive to the situation,’ but that I had been grossly misled by the inaccurate statements placed before me.
– There are numerous critics about.
– This Department has never lacked criticism from the day it opened its doors.
– And the Minister’s own statement shows that there is good’ grounds for criticism.
– I do not object to criticism, as far as the Act is concerned; but what I am attempting to disprove is that there is no justification for placing the responsibility on me.
I now come to the timber purchases. Approximately 3,750,000 feet of oregon has been purchased without Ministerial approval being sought for one foot of it. That purchase has turned out to be unprofitable ; but whether good or bad it has bean done, and by the late Commissioner under the powers vested in him by the Act. If the market had continued as it was it would have been a good purchase; but in view of subsequent events, which, could not be foreseen even by those closely associated with the business, it has proved to be a bad one. Successful efforts are now being made to dispose of all the Oregon which is not required by the Department.
Much has been said and written concerning the contract between the War Service Homes Department and Mr. Driver. Mr. Ashworth, who has taken this matter up, and who has dealt with it so voluminously, still contends that the Department i3 losing over it. He has lost himself in a maze of figures, and is endeavouring to confuse others by entering into detail when the whole proposition is fairly simple. The contract is based on a maximum and minimum price, and Mr. Ashworth, ignoring the fact that there is a minimum figure, is endeavouring to prove that there has been a fabulous loss. The maximum . price provided was at so much per 100 feet, and was one which was considerably below the price at which the timber could be obtained’ in the market at that time. It must be remembered that, no matter how the market fell, the Commissioner was to obtain his supplies at 10 per cent, less than the market rates. The market is falling - it had to fall a good way before it reached the lowest price that Mr. Driver was to expect - and if it falls to 10s. per 100 feet the Department will get its timber at 10s. per 100 feet, less 10 per cent., and all this juggling of figures on the part of Mr. Ashworth is quite unnecessary. One naturally wonders why a gentleman who poses as an authority on these matters should ignore such a simple explanation. The Joint Committee of Public Accounts, after making the fullest investigation into the whole matter, takes the view which I am presenting to the Committee.
– Has the provision that the price shall be 10 per cent, less than the market value always ‘been in operation?
– It is not always in operation, because the prices at which Driver was to supply the Department were lower than the market rates, and it was only as they commenced to come down that the 10 per cent, reduction became operative.
– Did not the Committee point out that there was difficulty in defining what “market rates” actually meant? It appears to be a loose expression, because it may mean the mill price, the wholesale, or retail price.
– That point was, I believe, raised, but I think it could be taken by any Court as meaning the current market rate for the material supplied at the same time, and under the same conditions, as it was being supplied to the Department. That was the view that appealed to me at the time.
– Mr. Ashworth made some reference to delivery charges having been manipulated for the benefit of the timber people.
– I am not prepared at this moment to discuss that aspect, because I really do not think it necessary. The Public Accounts Committeehas dealt with it. I understand that the Committee has probed the matter fully, and that, after inquiring into all the details, it has formed the same opinion as that which I have endeavoured in a few words to express to-day ; that is, that the 10 per cent. prevision is in the nature of a protection to the Department.
– Can the Minister give the assurance that the Department is now receiving timber at 10 per cent. less than the wholesale rates?
– The contract provides for that. Does the honorable senator ask me personally to guarantee that all the present-day activities of the Department are free from mistakes? Surely he does not. I have no reason to doubt that the contract is being properly carried out.
SenatorWilson. - The point is, to whom is Parliament to look, if not to the Minister, to insure that the contract is being observed.?
– I say that, officially, Parliament must look to the responsible Minister. But if I had been asked twelve months ago whether any of the houses built for returned soldiers had been, or were being, constructed at excess cost,I would have said “ No.”
– The Minister did say “ No.”
– I did.
– But, in view of the revelations which have been made, can the Minister assure Parliament that, improvements have now been effected? Cannot the Minister definitely say that the contract is actually and faithfully being carried out?
– The reorganization which has now been put in working order will insure reasonable supervision of the contract. The Commission has employed the best accountants available, and has inaugurated a new accounting system ; and, so far as one is able to say so, I do now assert that the contract is being adhered to.
I come now to the question of the purchase of the Queensland forest areas and mills; and, in doing so, I ask honorable senators to throw their minds back to the time when the purchases were made. Lieut.Colonel Walker represented to me that which was an undoubted fact, namely, that he could not obtain supplies of timber either with continuity or at reasonable prices. As a result, the proposition was advanced to acquire the Queensland areas in order that the Commissioner might be able to secure his own supplies. At the time, tremendous pressure was being placed upon the Government to get busy with the provision of houses for the clamourous returned soldiers. It was in these circumstances that the Queensland areas were bought. The strongest justification which I can advance for the purchase, in the light of conditions as they then existed, has been furnished by investigations and a subsequent report of the Public Accounts Committee. That body, when it undertook to probe the acquisition of the Queensland forest properties, endeavoured to visualize the circumstances as they existed at the timeof purchase. Having completed its inquiries, the Committee reported that the purchase was justified. The evidence which led it to announce that conclusion was exactly that evidence which had induced me to approve of Lieut. -Colonel Walker’s proposition. If a public body can look into a transaction some months after it has been completed, and can say,” Yes, as conditions then existed, the purchase was justifiable,” may not that confirmation be accepted in justification of what was done?
-. - It certainly was a good purchase, then.
– And, but for a breakdown in the policy of the Department, that purchase would still have been- all right..
As affording an indication of how much the Commissioner exercised his authority - I admit, legally - and to show bow lightly he regarded his obligation to inform the Minister of what he was about to do, I could do no better than make known the particulars of the Queensland timber purchases. I have been personally accused, by the way, of having closed down those areas. An article appeared in the newspapers drawing attention to my “ scandalous ineptitude “ because I had made no provision for looking after the logs which had been felled on the areas, or the machinery at the mills. When those works were closed down I was 10,000 miles away, in Europe. Yet the cry was raised, “ Blame Millen !” Neither was the Assistant Minister (Mr. Rodgers) informed by the Commissioner, in my absence, of his purpose to close the mills. The Minister learned of the circumstances only upon visiting Queensland. The Commissioner probably had the technical right to do as he did ; but he closed those areas without reference to the Assistant Minister. Whatever may have been the Commissioner’s rights, I submit that a wiser man - a man more familiar with procedure in public Departments - would, at any rate, have informed his Minister of what he proposed to do. The Assistant Minister was not so acquainted; and it is unfair to hold him responsible, while it is still less fair to endeavour to fix the responsibility upon. myself, seeing that I was at the time on the other side of the world, with my thoughts fixed upon public matters far removed from that of timber supplies.
– Still, the people in those forest areas and mill townships are continuing to starve. A whole town has “ gone to the pack,” and it is months since urgent attention was first drawn to the state of affairs.
– I deeply regret that, but it is one of the consequences of the administrative acts of Lieut. -Colonel Walker. I am not justifying it ; but - good or bad - the Commissioner did what he did upon his own responsibility. To indicate’ something of the conditions which existed at thee time, I shall refer to an article published in the Age: If honorable senators care to look at the files of that, newspaper about that period they will be able to read, not one, but two or three editorials strongly urging the Commissioner, rather than that he should go into a depleted market and draw therefrom the already seriously limited supplies available to the ordinary brad, to provide his own timber. On the 11th September, 1920, in an article dealing with the- building trade, the *Argus pointed out that master builders were unable to obtain more than onethird of their requirements, even of the hardwood grown in this State. There was, indeed, a desperate shortage of material; and those who were in the trade were complaining of the Commissioner hampering their already restricted operations. 1 come now to the matter of faulty construction. Here, again, I wish to draw attention to the tremendous power which public speakers and writers can sway with respect to- the colour that they are free to give to their statements. There has been some faulty construction. Bub if a stranger from overseas had entered Australia without knowing anything of the prior facts, and had been asked to form an impression, based upon public writings and utterances concerning how many faulty houses had been built for returned soldiers, he would have been constrained to say, “ Obviously, nearly all.” I have before me a newspaper article headed, ‘ Wai- Service Homes Scandal: More Faulty Construction.” The Department has provided 17,334 homes, including buildings purchased and those on which mortgages have been lifted. At the time when the Public Accounts Committee reported on construction in New South Wales there were, in that State, 2,267 homes provided. The Committee found fault with 47 of these. I regret to say that the report was only too. well-founded. Those 47 ill-constructed homes were all built by contract - twenty-seven of them by the Commonwealth Bank, and twenty by the Department. The total represents, however, somewhat less than 2 per cent, of the houses erected for soldiers in New South Wales.
– Were the faulty jobs in an)T particular districts?
– Principally at Goulburn and Cessnock. A private individual - even that great authority, Mr. Ashworth - if he were called upon to build on a large scale, and were to let out the work by contract, would be lucky, indeed, if he did not find, here and there, a> contractor ‘ getting past him.” The fact is that those faults were known in the Department, and that steps’ were being taken to insure that, at the contractors’ expense, the errors were righted.’ To make the tremendous noise which ha* been raised over this matter for the sake of so small a proportion of houses, however, regrettably correct may have been the record of fault, is unfair both to the Department and to the public. Honorable senators have read and heard statements concerning jerry-building. Have they ever seen anything published in contrast to such reports? Have they ever known any individual, or newspaper, to give publicity to the following, for example, taken from a report of the Public Accounts Committee concerning building operations in another State? -
Generally speaking, both in regard to contract and day labour, materials and workmanship were very satisfactory. There were no very serious complaints in this regard.
Have any of the newspapers or any of the critics “ starred “ that item as a setoff to the acknowledgment of the unfortunate state of affairs in New South Wales ?
– The Ashworth “ stunters “ do not read those things.
– They cerTtainly do not pass the facts on. The press to-day does not want the truth; it wants sensation.
When a house is faultily built, who is responsible? Is the Minister, seated in his office in Melbourne, to be held responsible for the efficiency of a foreman or an inspector who has been appointed to oversee jobs in distant parts? The Minister has a right to assume that the executive officer concerned, through the organization, looks after all such matters. It is ridiculous to say that, because somewhere a man has appointed his son, or the son of a contractor, to be the inspector of certain works, the Minister should know all about it, or that he should have taken steps to prevent the possibility of such a thing. The faults discovered in various homes were due to many reasons; not one of these, however, could the Minister be said to have had a personal knowledge of, or could he have been expected, person ally, to guard against. The same remarks apply to thefts from jobs, to loafing workmen, to faulty drainage, to misleading information supplied to the Department by clerks, to the Ringwood land purchase, to the building of a garage alongside the house of a responsible officer ; and so on. Surely, no one will say that the Minister ought to have been able to keep in touch with all such things. That there was wrong-doing, and that those wrongs should not have been permitted to occur, I admit. But those who are earnestly seeking to place responsibility upon the proper shoulders, and those who know me personally, may be confidently expected to measure out fair and even justice in the light of all the facts.
I desire to devote brief attention now to another consideration, namely, the charges laid concerning Mr. Caldwell. I prepared the particulars which I have before me prior to last evening, -but I have read a statement in. to-day’s press, from the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler), and if honorable senators care to consider it in conjunction with the statement which that honorable member recently made in tho House of Representatives, they will agree, I think, that it almost relieves me of responsibility for dealing with the matter to-day. I prefer, however, to do so. There are two considerations which call for my’ attention. The first is that Mr. Caldwell’s interests are said to have been jeopardized by some action taken by the Department; and the second is that my personal conduct is involved. The Public Accounts Committee consists, of nine members of Parliament. We know one another personally and politically. There is not a majority of Government supporters on the Committee. There are five who are politically opposed to the Government, and there are four who honour the Government with their confidence. That is rather important, because I quite expect that it will be said that the Committee is being impugned for not giving a verdict that Ashworth would like. The opinion of that Committee is against Ashworth, and I wish to deprive him of any ground for saying, if he attempted to say it, that this Committee is out to “ whitewash “ the Government.
– Do you call the Country members your opponents?
– I have quoted the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) on the operations of my Department, and if, after the statement I have made, he does not offer a public apology, I shall know in what category to place him. The Committee states -
Under ordinary circumstances the action taken by the War Service Homes authorities in endeavouring to supplant Mr. Caldwell would be sharp .practice of a very reprehensible character. But in this instance it may reasonably be held that the complainant himself cancelled all obligations towards him by professing to sell interests which were nonexistent, and if Mr. Caldwell bases any grievance upon his priority of application, then it has to be remembered that there was a prior application to his made by Fairley, Rigby, and Company Limited in 1913.
– That was the unanimous decision of the Committee.
– I thank the honorable senator for that remark. I now learn that it was a unanimous finding. It was found that Caldwell had no interests in the Island of Vanikoro, in the South Pacific, and that there was a prior application.
– Was there not a communication sent to the Commissioner which was practically an acknowledgment of Caldwell’s priority?
– On Caldwell’s own showing only.
– I shall come to that directly. I am now dealing with the justification for the Department’s action, and I am trying to show that Caldwell could not have been materially injured, because he had nothing to sell, even if he thought he had. Confirming the finding of the Committee, we have the following letter from the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, dated 16th December last: - “ 1 find on looking into the earlier records that an application was made by Messrs. Fairley, Rigby, and Company about seven years ago’ for permission to cut kauri timber on Vanikoro over an area of approximately lft square miles, but that final consideration of the application was deferred until a plan could be . obtained showing the boundaries of the aTea claimed by the French New Hebrides Company. Although no actual undertaking was given to the company, it seems that but for the absence of the plan in question they would, in all probability, have been granted a lease; and, in the circumstances, I venture to suggest to Your Excellency that it would be equitable if the Commonwealth Government were to afford Mr. Fairley an opportunity of explaining his position in the matter, and, if possible, of coming to an understanding.”
– Did not that firm sleep, or rather die, on its rights?
– No. The correspondence showed that it had pressed its claim, but delay had occurred in consequence of the war.
– Apparently, when Caldwell made his ‘application, he was not advised by the authorities that there was somebody seven years in front of him.
– I shall leave that point for the moment; but, whether he was advised or not by the Fijian authorities, what has that to dowith me? The High Commissioner for the Western Pacific went on to say -
I regret that my attention was not drawn to this matter before; but the earlier correspondence took place before my time, and I was not aware of the existence of the application.
There is a clear admission that there was a prior application, and a suggestion that the prior applicant should be allowed ‘an opportunity to get into touch with the Commonwealth Government with a view to coming to an understanding. The following is an extract from a statement by Mr. Fowler, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, which had before it Mr. Workman, the Resident Commissioner at Vanikoro: -
It is quite legitimate to say, however, that Mr. Workman, at the time he forwarded the application, warned Mr. Caldwell that there were difficulties in the way of granting it, and he also made it quite clear while giving his evidence before the Committee that he considered it most unlikely Mr. Caldwell’s application could, in the circumstances, be granted.
Mr. Fowler stated that Mr. Workman warned Mr. Caldwell that there were difficulties, and that in the circumstances Mr. Caldwell was not likely to get the lease. Yet Caldwell states that he had an assurance of a lease, which was just as good as the lease itself. That is sufficient to prove that Caldwell’s material interests could not have been injured.
It has been suggested that the action taken by the Commission, which has been denounced by the Committee, and which I do not approve of, was known and supported by myself, and to the extent that sharp practice was displayed towardsCaldwell I was supposed to be r&~ sponsible.
– There was no doubt in the mind of the Committee that that was not so.
– I desire to publicly thank that Committee for its action, which, prompted by a sense of fair play; was most opportune. The other day a question was asked by Mr. Lister in the House of Representatives which contained a suggestion that was neither nattering nor pleasing to me. A reply was furnished by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes),, and then a most unusual thing occurred. The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee asked for leave to supplement the Prime Minister’s answer. Mr. Fowler said -
So far as the Minister (Senator Millen) is concerned, the Committee wish me to say that- throughout the whole of this business the attitude and action of the honorable gentleman waa correct and honorable in every regard. If he erred at. all, it was, in my opinion, in showing undue consideration to the person who tried to inveigle the W.S.H. Commission into a transaction in regard to property in which the would-.be vendor has acquired no rights whatever.
That was so unusual that one might have expected the press to report it. The remarks of Mr. Fowler were as much an answer to Mr. Lister’s question as was the Prime Minister’s reply. The question by Mr. Lister, which really confirmed the statements of Ashworth, was published, but the other matter did not appear in a majority of the newspapers. After I had protested to one of the newspapers, it did publish Mr. Fowler’s remarks. The incident itself was sufficiently novel in the history of Parliament to have justified a press reference to it, more particularly as the columns of that same press had been open for weeks for the publication of suggestions reflecting on myself. I pass that by, and come to the main question.
I shall describe the position on 9th March, 1920, the first date on which I learnt anything of the matter. I wish to show from the documents exactly what happened, and point out what there is to support my statement that until that date I was in entire ignorance of what had been going on. Prior to that date negotiations had been carried on by the Commissioner with Caldwell; a draft lease had been prepared, and signed on 7th March by Caldwell, and it was await ing the signature of the Commissioner. An extract from the report of the Public Accounts Committee states -
In the meantime, however, the Commissioner had expressly stated to Mr. Bradshaw, the Director of Supplies, that “there was something which needed looking into..” Mr. Bradshaw asked Mr. Duigan “ where the copies of the lease were.” Mr. Duigan was unable to satisfy him, and after another conversation with the Commissioner Mr. Bradshaw was instructed by him to make every effort to ascertain whether or not. a lease had been granted, and to take whatever action might be necessary in this regard. Mr. Bradshaw then called om the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department, with the file of papers’, and discussed the position, with him,, and a few days later (2nd February) followed the matter up by a memorandum.
My first knowledge of the matter was the receipt of the. letter from Caldwell, which itself contained proof that I was in ignorance, and that Mr. Caldwell knew it. He wrote -
Sir, - I have the honour to address yon in reference to a dispute which has arisen between the officials of the War Service Homes Commission and myself.
That is a clear indication that he was approaching a man who was not involved in the dispute at all. The letter went on -
The particulars of my negotiations with the Commissioner are set out in the copy of a letter which I have forwarded to the Commissioner, Colonel Walker, and of which I enclose a copy for your personal information.
If I had known anything about it, why should he send me a copy of that letter? Mr. Caldwell went on to say -
I approach you now to ask you to UBe your influence, as the political head of the Commission, to prevent the Commonwealth Government being made a party to a dishonorable, and, to my mind, a very despicable-, action.
If I were involved in the action, what was the use of appealing to me? That supports my statement that I knew nothing of the matter at that time. When I received that letter, I made inquiries and called on Caldwell for a memorandum setting out what had been done, and where we stood. That memorandum was presented. In the meantime, Mr. Caldwell had apparently got into touch with my colleague, the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie). I am not ‘sure whether he told the Assistant Minister whether he was a Sydney or a North Sydney .man. I told Sir Granville
Ryrie that I had just received Caldwell’s letter, and that I would arrange the interview, or that I had already taken steps to do so. As Sir Granville Eyrie’s name has been mentioned, I desire to show how small a part he played in the transaction.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended, I directed attention to portions of a letter by Mr. Caldwell which confirmed my statement that he knew I was in ignorance of the subject when he wrote. That statement is further confirmed by evidence given by him before the Committee. He said - “ On the following day, I wrote to Senator Millen and others regarding my treatment.” Later he was -asked, “ Did you see Senator Millen ?” He replied -
Let me have time. Mr. Combes was waiting for me on my return, anil he reported that Mr. Gilbert, of the Repatriation Department, said that the Minister was not cognisant of what ‘had been done, and, further, he thought that I would have a claim in equity against the Government, which, of course, . they would not .risk. That was Mr. Combes’ opinion also. On the morning of the following day, the 11th, I met Senator Millen for the first time.
When I first heard of it, I saw Lieut. - Colonel Walker, and obtained from him his account of the transaction. I was naturally impressed by his version, as I had not heard the other side. I was at that Stage prepared to accept his statement, which was that Mr. Caldwell had endeavoured to sell him something that be did not possess. Mr. Caldwell is a type of man with whom, it is very difficult to carry an. interview through. He was free with ‘his charges, and on one occasion he likened the Government to “ jumpers,” “ spielers,” or something similar. More than once I felt tempted to show him the door, ‘but, seeing that he had a complaint to make, I was very patient with nim. I regret now that I was so considerate. It seemed to me at the time that there was something in what he said, and that he had not received the treatment from the Commissioner which he had a right to expect. I did not dis.close that to Mr. Caldwell, but I. said to faim, before he went away, “ I see your point of view. I shall inquire further, into the matter, and go more into detail. I shall make myself acquainted with it thoroughly, and, if necessary, shall consult my colleagues on the matter. You may rely upon getting a fair deal.” Mr. Caldwell has said that I promised to consult the Cabinet “ that evening.” Any person who has any knowledge of Parliaments and ‘ Cabinets knows that no one but the Prime Minister, can say when the Cabinet will meet. Further, the House was in session. The day of the week was Thursday, and the House was meeting that night. For me to say that I would consult the Cabinet at any particular time was an impossibility, but to say that I would 3ee it “ that evening “ when the House was sitting, was a rank absurdity. What I did say was that if I had any doubt in my mind I would consult Cabinet “ as early as possible.” Jil the meanwhile, on the minute which Lieut. -Colonel Walker had submitted to me outlining the various steps iu the negotiations, I had written, “ Will the Commissioner .please suspend action until my return from Sydney on Monday next, when I should like to discuss the matter with him.” That was dated the 12th of the month, which was Friday. I went to Sydney that night, and returned on the following Monday. As I met Mr. Caldwell on the Thursday, and on the next day wrote to Lieut. -Colonel Walker saying, “ Suspend action,” which safeguarded Mr. Caldwell from any further effort on the part of .the Commissioner, and arranged that the matter, should wait until my return from Sydney, it is evident that I did not give a date for consulting the Cabinet. The. next thing that happened was the receipt of an -undated letter from Mr. Caldwell. The date can be fixed with safety as the 26th or the 27th March, iu view of the date of the reply. The letter is marked “ Private,” and in it he says -
I saw Mr. Bayley, M.H.R.., at. the House last night, and he gave -me the gist of what took place at an interview with you on my matter. He .says if you can be satisfied the War Service Homes Commission acted on information supplied by me, .you would withdraw the application for the island.
I want honorable senators to take particular notice of that. It is net my statement of my attitude; it is Mr. Caldwell’s. I remember the conversation with Mr. Bayley. I told him I took the view that if it was clear that the Commissioner, in applying for the island, had acted on information supplied by Mr. Caldwell, I should interpose and stop it, but ‘that in the ‘interests of the Department and the soldiers I was -bound to se© that we were not bluffed out of the thing. That was the correct attitude to take. It does not disclose any malevolent intention towards Mr. Caldwell. The letter goes on to say -
This can be proved, for Colonel Walker had not only never heard of the island previously, but thought it was in the late German colony at the Solomons, over 2,000 miles away. Perhaps we could come to an understanding if we met privately and discussed the matter without prejudice and without the acerbity induced by conflicting opinions, or, failing that, if you would consult Mr. Combes, who initiated the negotiations, you would realize that the War Service Homes officials are not right in their action.
To that letter I sent the following reply, through the Comptroller : -
Senator Millen is in receipt of your letter undated. At the first opportunity he proposes to submit the matter for Cabinet consideration, as he intimated at the’ interview with yourself, Mr. Sleigh, and the Commissioner for War Service Homes. No necessity, therefore, appears to him to exist for the appointment which you suggest.
Throughout my association with the Department I have refused to see any one alone in connexion with a business deal for War Service Homes. I thank God I did that, in view of what has happened. To the letter I have just read Mr. Caldwell sent the following reply : -
Your letter of the 29th inst. to hand this morning. Willi le it is a fact that after our interview on list inst. Senator Millen said he would lay the matter of my difficulty with the War Service Homes Commission before the Cabinet, he promised to do so that evening or the next day. On 14th inst. I spoke to him, and he said there were so many matters before the Cabinet in the interval, and he was unable to bring it up, but would do so next day. On 25th Mr. Bayley, M.H.B., gave me certain information which induced me to write the Senator next morning suggesting a private interview. In the interval between our interview of 11th and the present I have been obliged to remain here at considerable monetary expense and unnecessary loss of time, while apparently there is no immediate prospect of settlement. Senator Millen must recognise that my time is of some consequence to me for the reasons given him on 11th inst., at our interview. That my letter of 26th was undated may be ascribed to the fact that the typiste usually writes my correspondence, and this was a private note personally written.
There are two points I want to make. I have dealt with the assertion that 1 promised to place the matter before Cabinet “that evening.” I did promise that I would place it before Cabinet, but certainly gave no date or time. There is not a man who holds Ministerial office to-day but who knows that it is impos sible for any one, except the Prime Minister, to state definitely when he can bring any matter before the Cabinet. Every Minister has many matters waiting for Cabinet consideration. I carried out the promise to bring the matter before my colleagues at the earliest opportunity. That is disclosed beyond doubt by the quotations from Mr. Caldwell’s letter, and it is also made clear that I intended to look into the’ matter, and that if 1 thought the Commissioner was wrong, I was going to stop him. There is further evidence of that in what transpired at the Cabinet. It is not usual for Ministers to disclose Cabinet minutes. There is an unwritten law against it. I do not know how far that law goes, but I have the permission of my colleagues to disclose the minute which I submitted to them. It shows that my attitude was what I have stated it to be. The minute is as follows: -
In October last year the Housing Commissioner appointed an officer to visit Papua (German New Guinea) and the Pacific Islands with the object of ascertaining whether any useful supplies of timber were available with a view, if such existed, to obtaining rights over the same. Some little time afterwards, whilst this officer was making hia arrangements for the projected tour, he met a Mr. J. T. Caldwell, of 524 Collins-street, Melbourne, who had just returned from the Solomons, where he had been on a similar mission. He is backed by Messrs. Lahey and Sons, of Brisbane, and Mr. Sleigh, of Melbourne. Mr. Caldwell, during his tour, discovered suitable timber areas on the Islands of Vanikoro and Tevai, and lodged an application for the lease of same with the Resident Commissioner. The Resident Commissioner is not empowered himself to grant concessions of this character, such authority residing in the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, but the Resident Commissioner intimated that he would strongly recommend the application. As an outcome of the meeting of Mr. Caldwell and the officer of the Housing Commission, the former offered to the Commissioner an option over his rights for the sum of £5, which was paid.”
The sum of £5 referred to was not paid, but the’ statement made to the Cabinet was justified by the fact that Mr. Caldwell had signed a receipt for it, which said, “In consideration of a sum of £5 hereby received I “ do so-and-so. In preparing the minute for Cabinet I assumed that the man’s signature indicated that the money had been paid. Afterwards it was proved that, although. Mr. Caldwell signed his name, he did not receive the £5. However, that is not material to the issue. The minute proceeds -
The Commissioner affirms that Caldwell represented himself as being possessed of a lease, and this view is supported by the fact that in the draft agreement covering the option and submitted by Caldwell the term “lease” is used. Mr. Caldwell replies to this that he regarded the Resident Commissioner’s promise and recommendation as tantamount to a lease, and that but for the later interposition of the Housing Commissioner the consent of the higher authorities in Fiji would have been duly forthcoming, and that, as a layman, he usedthe word “ lease “ without proper regard to its legal significance. The Housing Commissioner, having accepted the option, then requested that the following cable should be despatched to the High Commissioner for the Pacific: - “Melbourne, 5th February, 1920. “Glad to learn if you will grant lease of Islands of Vanikoro and Tevai to Commonwealth War Service’ Homes Commission for purpose obtaining timber supplies for soldiers’ homes in Australia. Understood option granted Caldwell who has made representations War Service. Homes Commission asking £50,000 for same. In view national importance building suitable homes returned soldiers esteem it favour if lease granted. In event concurrence inspection will at once be arranged and necessary guarantee entered into.”
This cable was sent in the first instance to the Prime Minister’s Department” and was forwarded at request by His Excellency the Governor-General. Mr. Caldwell says that he never asked £50,000, but that the price was suggested by the Commissioner. I submit that that is playing with words when he signed an agreement to sell for £50,000. The question of who first suggested the price is neither here nor there. The agreement sets out that for that sum he would sell. The minute further says -
It will be noted from the cable referred to that the Housing Commissioner, while under the impression that a definite tenure had been granted to Caldwell, and option over which he had contracted to purchase, sought to obtain a lease of the lands involved in the said option. To this the following reply was received: - “Fiji, 13th February, 1920. “ With reference to your telegram February 7th matter is receiving immediate attention but I await information from Resident Commissioner for/ which I have telegraphed before replying further. So far as I arn aware Government is in no way committed to Caldwell.”
Let me remind honorable senators of the statement made by the Resident Com missioner, Mr. Workman, who informed the Public Accounts Committee nhat he had warned Caldwell that it was highly improbable that he would get the lease. The minute continues -
The Housing Commissioner then caused the following cable to be despatched to the High Commissioner for the Pacific: - “Melbourne, 8th March, 1920. “Please grant six months’ option to War Service Homes Commissioner to lease islands Vanikoro and Tevai to justify expenditure by Commissioner in providing survey and inspection party. Taking immediate steps to arrange latter.”
He also sent the undermentioned communication to Mr. Caldwell: - “ 8th March, 1920. “In view of information received from the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, 1 wish to inform you that the position as represented by you does not exist in regard to the lease. The agreement signed by you, and submitted to me for my signature, stated -
In consideration of Five pounds paid to him by the Commissioner the lessor hereby grants to the Commissioner an option of purchase of the timber rights of the lessor under a lease granted to him by the High Commissioner of the Western Pacific . . granting the lessor the sole right to cut and remove timber from the islands of Vanikoro and Tevai, in the Santa Cruz Group, in the Pacific Ocean.
To prevent misunderstanding, I wish to inform you that I am now in direct communication with the High Commissioner over the matter, and that I am not prepared to further discuss the matter as submitted by you.”
That was from Lieut. -Colonel Walker to Mr. Caldwell. I am still quoting from my minute to Cabinet, not tell ing the Committee merely what I remember, but what I had actually written when the whole of the circumstances were fresh in my mind -
At this stage Mr. Caldwell addressed me personally, and I thus became aware for the first time of what was in progress. I then minuted the papers, asking the Housing Commissioner to suspend’ action until I had an opportunity of discussing the matter with Cabinet. Mr. Caldwell’s contention is that the Housing Commissioner, having learned of his discovery of the timber area, and the steps he was taking to secure same, went behind his back, and cabled the Fijian Government, in order to secure a lease direct, and that, but for his having imparted to the Housing Commissioner the information he had gained during his trip to Vanikoro, the Commissioner would not have known of the areas in question, and would certainly not have presented an application for a lease of same.
The Housing Commissioner contends, first, that Caldwell represented himself as being possessed of a lease, and that when he learned that such lease was not in existence, he felt justified in lodging an application.
I must,, however, point out, by again directing attention to the first cable, that the Housing Commissioner definitely applied for the lease before he had learned the exact character of Caldwell’s title, and his statement on this point, therefore, must,. I think,be discounted.
I cannot resist the conclusion that the Housing Commissioner’s Department has acted with a questionable smartness in this matter. But for the action of Caldwell in imparting information hehad gained, it may be accepted as incontrovertible that the Housing Commissioner, being in ignorance of the existence of the timber area forming the subject of negotiations, would not have cabled to the Fijian Government asking for a lease.
The agreement arranged with Mr. Caldwell provided for the transfer of ‘his rights over the islands of Vanikoro and Tevai to the Commissioner for ten years in consideration for £1,500 cash and 2s. per 100 feet royalty on at least 10,000,000 feet per annum, or, as an alternative, to sell the whole of his risrhts for £50,000 cash.
While my view of the action of the Housing Commissioners Department is stated above that action is probably within the law, and that, subject to the decision of the Fijian authorities, by exercising his legal rights the Commissioner could probably obtain a lease direct, and thus avoid the contemplated payment to Caldwell. I submit, for Cabinet consideration, the advisability of adopting the following course: - That a cable be sent to the Fijian Government intimating that the Commonwealth does not desire that its application should be permitted to prejudice Caldwell’s prior one, and if the Fijian Government would, but for the interposition of the Housing Commissioner, have granted Caldwell’s application that the Commonwealth application should be disregarded: but that if the Fijian Government was not disposed to grantCaldwell’s application, the Housing Commissioner’s application should stand, and the Fijian Government informed that steps willbe taken immediately to give effect to its suggestion set our in its cable of the 2nd March.
Broadly, Cabinet approved of that minute. Perhaps I may be permitted to say that I presented a fair and impartial statement of the negotiations. I pointed out the strength of Mr. Caldwell’s claim and the position of the Commissioner, expressed my own opinion as to the latter’s action, and outlined the course which I thought ought to be taken. Cabinet, as I have said, approved of that minute, and, following on its decision, Iinformed Mr. Caldwell of the position. The Commissioner telegraphed the High Commissioner for the Pacific as follows : -
Yourcable 15th ultimo islands. Vanikoro Tevai,Government prefers withdraw its application pending your decision upon) Caldwell’s prior one. Please advise nature of decision when arrived at.
I sent this communication to Mr. Caldwell -
With reference to your recent interview and subsequent correspondence, I desire to inform you that, as promised, I placed the question of the acquisition of the timber rights- of the islands of Vanikoro and Tevai before the Cabinet, which, after consideration, of all the facts, has decided that the Commissioner shall terminate all negotiations either with yourself or the Fijian Government for an option over the islands referred to.
– You. were really surrendering the field to him?
– Yes. We stood on one side. Mr. Caldwell, after waiting for a fortnight, sent me this letter under date 29th April -
I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of yours of the 14th inst., and have since been waiting for a letter from the War Service Homes Commissioner in confirmation, ….
I want to know what this man means, andI ask honorable senators whether they do not think the terms of his letter are a little more than a fair thing. He says he was waiting for a letter from the Commissioner in confirmation of my action. People outside are sometimes very touchy when dealing with public men, but I venture te think that public men have their rights as well, also some feelings of self-respect. Mr. Caldwell’s letter continues - also to learn whether he has cabled the High Commissioner at Fiji intimating the withdrawal of his application for the islands of Vanikoro and Tevai. He caused a cable to be sent intimating that I was here endeavouring to sell the islands for £50,000, obviously with the intention of prejudicing me in His Excellency’s estimation, and that should be withdrawn also.
The letter is too long to read to honorable senators, and, except for the portion I have quoted, has no bearing upon the matter. To that letter I sent this reply -
I am in receipt of yours of the 29th instant, and enclosure. Inmy previous communication I informed you of the decision of the Government, and I naturally assumed that you would understand that the necessary action would be taken to give effect to that decision. f had a right to assume that. In reply he sent me a very long letter, which I shall not weary honorable senators by reading. It is on; the file of papers tabled in the Library. If they care to see it, it is available to them. I may add that its tone is disclosed by the nature of my reply, which was as follows : -
I am in receipt of yours of the l9th instant. I see no reason, either from the tone or subjectmatter of your letter, why I should continue this correspondence.
On the 12th July this cable was received from, the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific -
With reference to your telegram, July 5th, regret delay which has occurred, because Caldwell wrote stating his- desire for an interview with mc in Fiji. Caldwell has not arrived, and no later communication has been received. Greene, Secretary to High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, will be in Sydney for a few days, arriving July 20th, care Burns, Philp. Have instructed him to make inquiry about Caldwell’s intentions, and, if you so dettre, will instruct him to discuss the matter with any representative of your Government the Minister for Repatriation may select. 1 got in touch with Mr. Greene. I interviewed that gentleman in company with Lieut. -Colonel Walker, and afterwards f wrote this memorandum of the interview, which Lieut. -Colonel Walker initialed as well as myself.
Following the recent cables announcing the presence in Australia of Mr. B. Greene, Secretary to the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, an interview was arranged on the 29th -July last between that gentleman, Colonel Walker, and myself.
That has1 been abundantly confirmed since by Mr. Workman’s statement to the Public Accounts Committee.
From the conversation which ensued I learnt that -the High Commissioner was not in any way committed to Mr. Caldwell; that, indeed, the -propositions the latter had submitted were of too nebulous a character to be correctly described as offers to lease, and that no definite proposition had been submitted, even though some months have elapsed since the date of Caldwell’s inspection, .and that although Caldwell had stated his intention to again visit Tulagi with a view of finalizing the negotiations, he had not done so. That being so, ‘the High Commissioner was free to receive applications from this Government.
The Housing Commissioner agrees with me in the above.
There being no apparent obstacle in the way, negotiations may be re-opened.
I have only one word more to say about the matter. Throughout the whole negotiations my one desire was to ascertain the equities of the position, and to see -that no injury was done to Mr. Caldwell -or any other man, but, at the same time, to see that the Department was not going to be bluffed into a transaction and the payment of money for which there was no justification. I may add that at that time there were in progress many negotiations that required very careful watching indeed. I think I have shown that by stopping the -action immediately I learned what was proceeding, and by /placing my minute before Cabinet, and by the conversations which Mr. Caldwell had with me and Mr. Bayley, my sole object was to ascertain if the Commissioner had acted upon information supplied by Mr. Caldwell, and, if so, to stop his interposition in regard to the lease of the island. Having satisfied myself on that point, I made recommendations to the Cabinet that we should withdraw, pending a decision in regard to Mr. Caldwell’s application. This is proved by the” fact that he wrote, as I have shown, saying that he was waiting for a communication from Lieut.Colonel Walker in confirmation of my statement that we had withdrawn. It is clear also from the letters that when I learned that Mr. Caldwell was not taking steps to make his title good, I renewed the negotiations. I was entitled to do that, because the Commissioner himself had indicated that Caldwell was not moving in any “way, and that nothing was being done. I was then in this position : The Commissioner was still reporting to me that timber was urgently needed, and it would have been a very doubtful proceeding on my part if, knowing that timber was required, and that Mr. Caldwell had failed to move, I had waited until some one else had applied for the lease, and ‘then purchased it from him . It seemed to me that if the timber rights were available it was far better that, in the circumstances, we should secure them without waiting for the intervention of a third party, because while Caldwell was protected there was no protection to’ others. Shortly after that, the evidence disclosed that no matter what we might do there was a prior application in respect of the timber rights from Fairly, Rigby, and Company, which may be said to have disposed of the matter. At all events, it resulted in the withdrawal of our application.
– What was the final result?
– .The last I heard was that Fairly, Rigby, and Company were still pressing their claim. Apparently there was difficulty owing ‘to the fact that -a French New Hebrides Company had lodged a claim for portion of the area, I .think, on sentimental grounds as being portion of the island made historical by its association with La Perouse. This company had not obtained the lease owing to some outstanding difficulty as to the particular area, which had to be determined by the Imperial authorities. However, Fairly, Rigby, and Company’s application is still alive, and until it is disposed of it must stand in the way of Mr.. Caldwell, the Government, or anybody else.
I pass now to one other aspect of this matter, and that is the contracts that have been made. Here again I want to read a copy of a letter to show how far the Commissioner had gone before any knowledge of his action had come to the ears of the Government. On the 29th March I wrote the following letter to Lieut.Colonel Walker: -
Dear Colonel Walker,
On Wednesday evening last, the 24th inst., in consequence of a statement which had been made, I asked you by telephone to come and see me. This you did, and at the interview I mentioned that I had been informed that you were about to enter into a contract of considerable magnitude concerning which I expressed some doubts. You promised to send me the following day particulars of all contracts concluded or then being negotiated for timber supplies. This you did on the 26th, but among the papers I find that on the 25th you made a formal and definite offer to complete a contract with a Mr. Driver. In view of my conversation with you, I submit that action in this matter should have been delayed until I had had an opportunity of reading the file which you promised to send.
From the file sent I now learn that you have definitely completed the purchase for £45,000 of certain milling plant and forest concessions, and that, having completed this purchase, you have agreed in turn to hand it over for re-sale on terms to Mr. Driver; also that steps for the acquisition of properties and even for the construction of a railway are being taken.
I do not in any way raise the question as to the wisdom or otherwise of these actual or projected undertakings, but to me it appears they involve matters of policy upon which, as Minister, I should have been consulted.
I hope that honorable senators have noticed the significance of the dates. On the 24th I had an interview with Lieut. - Colonel Walker, told him of the information Ihad received, and asked him to send me particulars of all contracts made, or for which he was negotiating. He sent the particulars on the 26th, and yet on the intervening day, the 25th, he completed two other contracts. That seemed to me to be wrong. Perhaps, it is only fair to Lieut. -Colonel Walker that I should say that when I discussed the matter with him afterwards, he explained that although these contracts were not formally signed, letters had been interchanged, which made them legal contracts, and all that remained to be done was to attach his signature, which he did on the 25th. All the same, I think that, in view of my letter, Lieut. -Colonel Walker should not have proceeded one step further with those contracts.
– The honorable senator says that letters had been exchanged.
– I think it is possible that, the contracts signed on the 25thhad been completed so far as the interchange of letters was concerned, but they were signed on the day between that on which 1 had my conversation with Lieut.Colonel Walker, and the day on which he remitted the particulars for which I asked. I went on to say in my letter -
I understood you to say that youhave consulted the Crown Law officers, who advise that you are acting within the powers conferred by the War Service Homes Act, but I venture to express the opinion that they will not dispute the contention that on all matters of policy the Minister, and through him, the Government, should be kept informed.
To me the purchase of sawmilling plants and other requisites to meet your timber needs is a matter of policy, as distinct from the acquisition of material through the ordinary channels. Still more does it seem a matter on which the Government should have been afforded an opportunity for consideration before an offer was made to sell upon as the result of private negotiations a property which, I assume, was purchased with this object in view.
I have not yet had time to read through the details of these or the other matters referred to in the file. I propose to do so, but it appears desirable that I should place my views upon the main outstanding question before you as early as possible.
With regard to Senator Lynch’s question as to whether the final letters constituting the existence of a contract were in before my interview with Lieut. -Colonel Walker, 1 find that they were in on the 25th, and Lieut.Colonel Walker’s letter containing the particulars of contracts for which I asked was sent on the 26th. I should like, in dealing with contracts, to indicate at this stage the reason which influenced the Government to approve of this policy. Lieut.Colonel Walker was stressing frequently and urgently the importance of obtaining supplies from any and every quarter. I have quite a number of memorandums of his on this point which would take too long to read now, but I shall quote the final paragraph of one. He submitted a lengthy memorandum which he called “ Policy regarding future supplies.” Tliis covered timber, building material, and other supplies, and stressed the; fact that the only way to get them at reasonable prices with continuity of supply was the way he indicated. He concluded that memorandum with the following paragraph : -
Unless the requirements of the Commission are protected at this stage in regard to timber, I gravely doubt the success of the War Service Homes Commission.
He was continually stressing the contention that the whole business would come to a stand-still unless by these means he was placed in a position to obtain timber and other materials. I received no reply to my letter which I have just quoted, and about a week later, after I had received Lieut. -Colonel Walker’s memorandum regarding supplies, to which I have just referred, I sent him the following memorandum -
The statements contained in your memorandum headed “ Policy regarding supplies of building materials” gave me considerable surprise. I had not the slightest idea you were taking such action until recently, when I learned from outside sources of the arrangement en tered into with Mr. ‘Driver, and when I immediately communicated with you, as per memorandum of the 29th March last, to which I have not yet received any reply. I do not, at this juncture, express any opinion as to the soundness or otherwise regarding the engagements in which you have entered, but it appears to me that in many respects matters of policy are involved, and that upon these reference should have been made to me as Minister. I am quite aware that, with the exception of land, no limit is placed upon the Commissioner’s right to purchase the things necessary to carry out the purposes of the War Service Homes Act, but I also direct attention to clause 5 (1) of that measure, reading as follows: - . “ There shall be a Commissioner, who shall, subject to the directions of the Minister, be responsible for the execution of this Act.”
It was, obviously, the intention of Parliament that in all matters of policy the Minister should stand as the final authority, and this is the practice invariably followed in other Departments controlled by Commissioners.
I specially direct attention to the agreements made by the Commissioner, under which he is advancing large sums of money to manufacturers to enable them to erect new plant and machinery, and for the purchase by cash of five mills and the resale of these upon terms.
Will you please supply me with full details of each of the arrangements referred to in your memorandum, and of any others which have been completed, as also of any in respect of which negotiations may be in progress.
In view of this memorandum you will, I am sure, recognise the desirability of refraining, for . the present, from completing any other arrangements or contracts of the character referred to.
May I say here that that is ample justification for my statement that these matters were in progress. That contracts were made before the Minister was informed I learned only by an accidental remark made by some gentleman. The action I took tihen was to report to the Cabinet Lieut. -Colonel Walker’s views as to the necessity of obtaining supplies in the way he indicated. The members of the Government, after consideration, and lengthy consideration, were greatly impressed by Lieut. -Colonel Walker’s statement, supported as it was by outside evidence, that building material was not readily available, that the cost was excessive, and the supply uncertain, and approved of the policy of these contracts, but with the stipulation that each separate negotiation was to be submitted for Ministerial approval. The Cabinet threw upon me the onus of determining which of these contracts should be approved. That being the case, I thought I was entitled to getfurther advice than was available to me, and I therefore sought and obtained the assistance of Mr. Barton, a well-known accountant of Sydney, who had acted at one time for the Business Board associated with the Defence Department. After Lieut.-Colonel Walker had set out different requirements with costs, I submitted his proposals to Mr. Barton for examination and report, and it was not until Mr. Barton reported that Lieut.Colonel Walker’s proposals represented a sound business deal thatI approved of any of these . matters. Some of the contracts are going to be the subject of litigation? I may particularly mention one which was entered into as shown by my letters before I knew anything of its existence. I shall not say more on matters that are still in dispute except that the Government, as soon as they became aware of what had taken place, took steps to clean them up. We called in business men and appointed an Advisory Committee on which there was an accountant and one of Sydney’s best-known timber men, who, with General McCay, went into these matters. General McCay is still engaged on some of them. I fear that in some cases litigation will still have to take place. With regard to all these matters, a thorough examination is being made with a view tol compiling completed balance-sheets in respect of each of these transactions for presentation to Parliament and the country.
These matters became known to me, as I have said, quite by accident, and I do not think it should be left to accident to have them brought to my knowledge. The persistency with which Lieut.-Colonel Walker or his Department proceeded to carry on this class of business was remarkable. It was when I discovered what he was doing that I brought down the amending Bill placing the £5,000 limit on .. his powers of purchasing material, bringing them into line with his powers in respect to the purchase of land. One would think that that would have been sufficient, but it was not. Even since under the law there has been a prohibition against the War Service Homes Commissioner making contracts for material over £5,000 in value, contracts in. excess of that amount have been . entered into. It is startling to think that any official would dare Ito do such a thing, but it has been done. Certain .contracts have been entered into- one for £26,000, .another for £33,000, a third for £15,000, and one in Western Australia for £34,000.
– Are not these contracts invalid under the Act?
– I shall not express an opinion on that point. In Western Australia, the Deputy Commissioner, whose authority for the purchase of material is limited to an expenditure not in excess of £2,000, makes a contract, and purchases a lot of jarrah held by the Wheat Board, and writes over to the Department, ‘ ‘ I have purchased this material, and I have purchased a joinery mill. I now seek confirmation.” ‘
– Did he “get the sack1’ there and then ‘!
– It was not found out there and then.
– Did he not say that he had purchased the timber?
– That was his communication to Lieut.-Colonel Walker.
– What did Walker do?
– So far as I can see, nothing.
– Is that gentleman still in his job?
– I cannot answer that question offhand. It is quite clear that in that case tie Deputy Commissioner in Western Australia acted without Lieut.-Colonel Walker’s knowledge, just as Lieut.-Colonel Walker was acting without mine. I mention that as showing that while it is said that these things were going on during the time I controlled the Department, and so must have been due in some way to my want of care and oversight, they continued’ even after Parliament had definitely laid down instructions that there was to be no purchase of material amounting to over £5,000 in. value to be made without the approval of the Minister. In spite of that parliamentary direction, it was done. I submit that I cannot be held responsible for those who go about breaking the law.
There are many other matters with which I should like to deal, but I feel that in spite of the consideration which honorable senators are extending to me, because of the extent to which I am personally concerned, I have already trespassed heavily upon their patience. Some surprise has been expressed that Lieut.Colonel Walker should .have been able to get the money to carry on these transactions. That again is due largely to the fact that the Act created a Trust Fund. Parliament voted, I think, £7,000,000 in this case, and as money was required by the Commissioner, it was paid into the Trust Fund. It was drawn upon by the Commissioner or his delegated officer., and the result was that many of these contracts were entered into, and amounts in respect of them paid, before these matters came under notice. Another thing that accounted very largely for what took place was that .many contracts were made in respect of which no money was paid, but commitments were entered into which had to be met later on. There is one way in which that acted very seriously. I approved of Estimates amounting to £7,000,000, and the Treasurer allowed £6,000,000. In the Estimates which I approved an amount of £150j000 was set down for the purchase of existing houses, leaving the major portion available for the building of new houses. Lieut.Colonel Walker, having proceeded to get in all kinds of material, would have been able to utilize that material if he had built houses. Instead of spending only £150,000 on already-erected houses owing to influence, the continual clamour to buy houses, and the individual soldiers’ natural desire to secure a property quickly, the pressure became so great that,, instead of spending the amount I have mentioned , something approximating £3,000,000 was spent. The Government could not repudiate the whole of that.
– Was that large amount spent in purchasing occupied houses?
– I could not say whether they were occupied or not; but they were properties returned soldiers would’ come along and say they wished to buy. The point of Senator Reid’s interjection is that if these houses were occupied the housing difficulty would not be eased in the slightest degree; but the soldier was not concerned in the least about that. The amount allowed for purchasing already-erected houses, and which had been provided to meet emergency cases, was necessary with certain reservations; but in pursuing that policy this is what happened : There came a great outcry from Sydney, when I was away, concerning the number of men who had received departmental approval for the purchase of houses already erected, and, as a result of examination, and full inquiry, it was found that some of the officials in the Sydney office, apparently with the knowledge of the Deputy Commissioner, had been advising returned soldiers who were anxious to secure dwellings that the quickest way in which to achieve their end was not to bother about submitting an application to the Department to build a house, but to select a property already erected, and to pay a small deposit, and the Commissioner would have to see them through. The result of that unauthorized intimation was that quite a number paid deposits- in anticipation of the Department financing them and completing the purchase.
– And a number of land agents told the same story ..
– They did, and those gentlemen were responsible for many things, and in some cases,. I believe’, supplied the deposits.
– They apparently knew how weak the administration was.
– I do not think that is fair:
– I think it is.
– They probably did. I am not disputing it ; but I am telling the Committee the facts. A number of officers told the returned soldiers, apparently with the knowledge of the Deputy Commissioner, to purchase houses, and the Government would not repudiate the contract. We could have said, “ No, you have no authority for doing that. It is not our policy.” The returned soldiers were not supposed to know whether officers were authorized or not, and (hey had the right to believe that those who made that intimation did so on the advice of a superior authority. If the Government had repudiated the contracts it would have left the men between the devil and the deep sea. We said, however, that ‘ bond fide cases would be honoured, and I venture to say that if that had not been done, the action of the Government would have been condemned. We,, therefore, appointed a Committee, presided over by Mr. Stinson, and as a result of the evidence submitted before that body, from 900 to 1,000 applications were granted.
– Have any of the officials responsible for making unauthorized statements been dismissed 1
– The Deputy Commissioner is no longer there”; bub I :cannot say what number of clerks who gave the information over the counter are still employed by the Department. Possibly the Deputy Commissioner did not have proper control over his staff, but it would be difficult to trace the individual clerks who were responsible, and in some cases it would be unjust to dispense with their services when they made the statement believing it to- be true. After the expenditure of such a large sum on already erected Mouses, the amount left for carrying, on building operations was- very insignificant, and ih consequence the material that had been supplied under . contract was left on hand.
– Does the Act authorize him to purchase to that extent ?
– Authorize whom ?
– The Deputy Commissioner to go oh purchasing completed houses.
– He did not. We stopped him at once.
– He was authorized to purchase a certain number.
– Exactly . But as the result of advice received contracts were made and deposits paid to the vendors in an unreasonable number of cases.
Sentor Elliott. - Even as far as they went they crippled the legitimate operations of the Department.
– Exactly. The alternative was to compel 900 or 1.000 returned soldiers to forfeit their deposits, and if that had been done there would have been considerable agitation concerning what was a legitimate grievance.
– Is it the policy to buy houses already erected ?
– I have shown that £150,000 out of £6,000,000 was provided to meet emergency cases, such as might arise in country towns, where it would possibly pay better to buy already erected houses rather than to build new ones. There may also have been instances where purchasers would be prepared to buy a house in a particular spot in a metropolitan area.
– Although £3,000,000 has been spent on already erected houses in one year, apparently in the cities, material .was going to waste, and returned soldiers settled on the land in country districts have not been able to get a home to this day. On one settlement in Victoria in which I am interested nineteen soldiers have been waiting for over a year, and up to date only one cottage has been erected. Many of them are living in tents.
– Is not that a State question ?
Senaor E. D. MILLEN.- I think the Committee will admit that ‘I have sufficient to do to deal with War Service homes matters without bringing land settlement, which is a State responsibility, into consideration.
– But it is very annoying.
– I admit that ; but the erection of War Service homes must not be confused with land settlement. It is under an entirely different administration.
– But they are War Service homes, and the erection should be speeded up.
– Are they not homes for those settled on the land ?
– They are returned soldiers settled on the land.
– That is a matter for which the States are responsible, and what the Government have done is to advance the States sums of money to assist in that direction.
– Were these commitments, amounting to £3,000,000, made before the Minister was aware of it?
– Not to the last £1, because we provided £150,000 for that purpose. But when the great rush came inquiries were made, and it was found that the men had been misled by certain officials in the Sydney office.
– Was it confined to the Sydney office?
– I would not say definitely, but I believe that such is the case. I apologize to honorable senators for the time I have taken in placing this matter before them, but I want them to bear with me because I make no secret of the fact, in speaking to men with whom I have been associated for many years, that the criticism and propaganda have been so organized and so continuous that they have harassed me considerably during the last few months. I know a public man is supposed to be an Aunt Sally, at which any one can shy, and that he must take his share of reasonable criticism, which I am always prepared to do. But I submit, in view of the statements which have been made - not all of them disinterested - that I have some justification for taking this course and in asking the indulgence of the Committee to enable me to place the position fully before it. Even if a most unworthy citizen makes a charge which can be substantiated it must be considered, because it is the charge that counts and not the man. In. this instance I am justified in asking who is shielding himself and who is bringing personalities into this controversy? I am going to refer to two men who have had a good deal to do in connexion- with this matter. I refer in the first case to Mr. Caldwell, who has been making accusations broadcast about the integrity of all and sundry. He gave evidence before the Joint Committee of Public- Accounts, and practically charged all public Depart- ments with being corrupt. He said that it was useless to endeavour to obtain anything from a Government Department unless one was prepared to resort to bribery, or something to that effect. He made a general and sweeping charge concerning the Government and their officers.
– Where does he come from?
– I do not know, but I can make a good guess as to where he will go. Having made a general accusation of corruption in regard to certain officers in my Department, and charging them with having some sinister design, he was pressed for information in support of his evidence, and little by little he eventually admitted that he could not support it by experience, but that it was the opinion of every one. This question was put to him -
Then we have to regard all your statements as assumption for which there is no proof?
His answer was -
Yes, I suppose so.
– Was that before the Public Accounts Committee?
– Yes, it is to be found on page 279.
– I think that he was in the first instance acting on the belief that he would be able to meet the Minister quietly, but he could not manage it.
– I am giving the Committee details of exactly what happened, and although the information
I now come to the superman. This man, who has saved Australia once, but who, being unable to secure the confidence and attention of the electors by reason of his own ability, seeks to malign other people, and, acting on a policy of prejudice and deception, is hoping to be returned to Parliament on the back of what may be termed the Kyabram movement.
– What is that ?
– I think the honorable senator knows what I mean. The Kyabram movement preceded the economy agitation. This gentleman served his term as a member of the State Parliament, and the people said that one experience of him was enough. Mr. Ashworth was also before the Com- mittee, and I am beginning to think that this body is serving a very useful purpose, if it is not doing more than ascertaining the accuracy or otherwise of wild statements made by such gentlemen. The following is culled from the questions and answers, as recorded in the official reports of evidence: -
I presume you have no desire to do an injustice to those who conduct the War Service Homes Department? - Not the slightest. The only individuals I am after are the official and political chiefs, who should be held responsible for bad administration.
I know nothing about politics in this matter? - I do. It is the politician I am after, the man who should shoulder the responsibility for bad administration.
– He was honest, anyhow.
– Yes ; I do not know that any other answer would have been believed, especially as, at the time, Mr. Ashworth was presenting himself as a candidate for a political vacancy in this State. I hold that I am entitled to refer to these motives of his. In all my association with War Service Homes activities, I have had no personal objects to serve. I have sought to do my duty to the Department, the Government, and the country. When critics such as this gentleman speak of their reputations, and of the confidence which is placed in them, I feel that 1 am entitled to say that I have some reputation to maintain. It is not the right or duty of any man to speak lightly of the reputation of another, any more than it is mine to make known to the world my inmost thoughts concerning these two persons to whom I have been referring. I have been for twenty-five years in public life. When Mr. Ashworth can show such evidence of the continued confidence of his constituents in his character and his conduct of public affairs, he will be entitled to speak in a way which he has not the right to do to-day. I have been concerned in public affairs for twenty-five years side by side with some who are still my political friends and colleagues. This Senate knows me, and should be familiar, I think, with my conduct of public interests. It is here, in the hear! of the political life of the Commonwealth, that one really gets tei know the personality and public capacity of his fellows. Believing, as I do, in the capacity of the Senate to judge fairly upon the evidence before it, I am confidently ready to take the decision of this Chamber concerning whether my conduct merits censure or otherwise.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
.: - I have listened with considerable interest to the address of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen). I hold that no one can take exception to his statements, or can cavil at the amount of trouble to which he has gone to provide this Committee with complete details of War Service Homes activities. Public men sometimes find themselves pursued with really unaccountable vindictiveness by individuals outside of public life. It is only light that they should always be prepared, and actively ready, to defend themselves. Ministers, particularly, of course, when they have became involved in criticism of their Departments, should be ready and anxious to give full and satisfactory answers. I am prepared to- go out of my way to say that the reply of the Minister to-day has been most effective. I have had occasional brushes with the Minister, but my criticisms have always been levelled across the table, in this Chamber. I have never gone outside of these precincts to hint at anything derogatory to a Minister’s personal or public honour. What Senator E. D. Millen has’ said, however, confirms me in the opinion that there is ample ground for very wide criticism of the whole business of War Service Homes activities. In saying that, I do not imply that I hold the Minister personally responsible. He, himself, has recognised that responsibility, if it were only by reason of the fact of his dispensing with the services of the Commissioner, Lieut.-Colonel Walker. In tribute to the Minister I must say that, so soon as he realized that things were going wrong - blunderings for which he must take the responsibility - he at once assumed that responsibility. I recall the circumstances in which the late Commissioner dispensed with the services of a Major Evans, in New South Wales. I thought that that official had been most unfairly and unjustly treated, and I brought bis case before this Chamber, and “had it out” with the Minister. The circumstances had to do with a land purchase comparatively nearSydney. I had made myself personally familiar with the details. I knew the land. I had bought and sold land within three miles of the area in question, and I considered that I was an authority upon land values in the neighbourhood. I repeat that the defence furnished by the Minister at the time appeared to be inadequate and unfair. I am more satisfied than ever to-day, in the light of subsequent events, that the dismissal of Major Evans was unmerited. Of course, a Minister is bound to stand by and act upon the reports of his responsible officers in respect of proposed purchases of land. As for the areas purchased near Newcastle, any Minister in control at the time would have accepted the recommendations of departmental officers concerning the Waratah property. AMinister cannot be blamed if he has been the victim of misleading reports, but hecertainly is to blame if he retains officials whose reports have been proved to be unreliable.
The War Service homes project was a huge undertaking. An initial mistake was made when the Government proclaimed, with a flourish of trumpets, that they were going to spend millions of pounds in building soldiers’ homes. Private enterprise naturally read that announcement with considerable interest. Private enterprise pricked up its ears. Here was an opportunity for business men to “get in” early, and make something out of . the vast concern. That comment applies to the whole system of trade and commerce to-day. The soldiers who fought for us, and the Government, were to be the victims. Private enterprise intended to get some good pickings. Our returned men were to be made to pay from 20 per cent, to 30 per cent, more than necessary for their homes, all because of the heartless cupidity of private enterprise. Undoubtedly, then, an initial error was committed in respect of that first Government proclamation. Private enterprise got to work upon all the material requisite for the building of soldiers’ homes. Speculation and robbery became rife, and the Government and the soldiers were the victims. I shall always be prepared to listen sympathetically to one who is defending himself against unfair attacks; but, in the light of the publicitygiven by the Government concerning their intentions, and having such knowledge as I now possess of the predatory ways of private enterprise, I cannot see that anything else could have resulted but a widespread conspiracy to rob the Government. No matter what may have been the line of supply, private enterprise was out to rob and plunder. If it was a matter of bricks, the Combine got to work and increased its quotations. If it was a question of timber, the merchants put their heads together. Such is the nature of the competitive system existing to-day, wherein the most successful men are those who are the smartest in getting in early - buying up required supplies at their own prices, and selling them again at their own prices.
In the Minister’s statement particulars were given of purchases made by the Commissioner, or his deputies, who in doing so went beyond their rights and powers. In this regard, the Government are not altogether to be blamed. It was inevi-table that they should have chosen to stand by those purchases because of the fear of greater injury being done to the soldiers if they refused to recognise them. Any average man with a fair knowledge of what has been taking place must admit that there has been a great deal of blundering which might have been avoided. I do not propose to attack Lieut.-Colonel Walker. I have attacked him in this Chamber for having discharged Major Evans, and I have defended him here for having been discharged by a mean, technical subterfuge. I criticised the Government for having got rid of Lieut.-Colonel Walker on a pretence; in short, for having raised the fact of his being an uncertificated insolvent. It appeared to me that the Government wanted to get rid of the Commissioner, and that, instead of dispensing with his services because of his inability to carry out his duties, he was “ sacked “ in an underhand fashion.
In dealing with thousands of homes and millions of pounds it was easy enough for the Department to lose a good deal of money. I say so with some knowledge of the building trade. Last year I had the task of supervising the building of a cottage for a friend. Finding that 1 had grown somewhat rusty in the matter of preparing estimates, I got another friend to do the job with me. And, upon a cottage costing £1,000, each of us was out to the extent of £200. In the light of that, I am bound to say that he would be a fool who could not find some basis on which to criticise the War Service Homes Commission.
– The honorable senator’s experience as an individual should make him very charitable in criticising the building of War Service homes.
– That is the reason for the charitable tone of my criticism. The Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) will confirm the statement that, so> far as concerns his Department, I have had very little to say at any time by way of criticism.
– Practically all the honorable senator has had to say he has said here.
– I thank the Minister. I congratulate him also. He has made a clear and complete statement. This Committee has been informed upon matters concerning War Service homes so fully and frankly that they should find themselves advantageously placed in respect of future deliberations. I do not think that any man, inside or out of Parliament), could personally connect the Minister either with actual bungling or with detailed ‘responsibility for mistakes. I make that comment aside altogether, of course, from the fact that the Minister, and the Government, must take thegeneral ultimate responsibility for administration under their policy. We are a long way from finishing the task of building soldiers’ homes.
– It is only a little while since I informed honorable senators concerning what would “be the future policy of the Department in carrying on building operations.
– That is so.
– Does not, the honorable senator think, as a practical man, that the soldiers’ homes, which have been built for £700 and £800 represent, in the great majority of cases, very good value ?
– I have exam.ined quite a number; and the opinion which I have formed concerning those is that they are excellent structures! I will not say that, here and there, a house may not be seen which will not stand the closest inspection. For example, a housemay .be begun upon a foundation which shifts soon afterwards. Defects may be subsequently discovered, but a contractor or a day labourer who builds a house is quite unable to anticipate what will happen afterwards. I have inspected soldiers’ homes occasionally, and I do not remember seeing one housie which did not represent fair value for the money ; in most instances the value was exceptionally good. When the Government proclaimed from the housetops that they were going to spend millions on these homes they made a great mistake, because it gave every speculator a chance to buy up building material and make money through the activities of the Government. The Ministry would have been well advised if they had sent out agents to secure material at reasonable rates before their policy was generally known.
– The Government agents would have been well “ rubbed down “ for the material.
– That may or may not be the case. The Government would not have been imposed upon if they had sent agents to America. I suppose I would not be far wrong in saying that the average cost of the soldiers’ homes has been increased to the extent of £100 each owing to the greed of speculators. I have no complaint against the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), who has been subjected to a great deal of most unfair criticism ; but he must recognise that it is almost impossible for the public to separate a Minister from his Department. No fairminded man can say that the administration of the War Service Homes Department has not lent itself to a good deal of adverse* criticism.
– That is admitted.
– The Government were not very successful in their first appointment of a Commissioner. I remember stating, on the second reading of the Bill, that a good man for the position would be worth all the Government could pay him, and that an incompetent man would be dear at any price. Most of those who have condemned the undertaking have not considered its magnitude. It is well known that large losses are made even in well-organized private businesses, and it i* not surprising, that there have been mistakes in connexion with this huge enterprise. The soldiers have been over anxious to obtain these homes, and have become impatient at having to wait their turn. The Commissioner himself had no opportunity of inspecting all the land that was offered to the Depart ment, from Perth to Brisbane, and so he had to rely on the reports of his officers, and it would be easy for mistakes to be made. Lieut.-Colonel Walker was offered £1,500 worth of land at Lithgow free, but he would not take it, and within the last twelve months this land has been sold at auction for about £1,800.
– I think the Government turned the offer down because they were afraid some soldiers would get cheaper houses than others.
– That would be an idiotic reason for declining to accept the land. I am glad to have heard the frank statement by the Minister concerning his administration of the Department over which he presides.
.- - I sympathize with the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen), particularly in regard to the very severe and unreasonable criticism which has been hurled against him in the last few months. My sympathy is also with those soldiers who have suffered through the mistakes that have occurred. When the Government began to build homes for soldiers they launched an enterprise which in its extent had no parallel in modern times. There was no precedent as to how to form an executive body, or on what lines to proceed. It would be expecting too much of humanity to imagine that such a scheme could be carried out faultlessly. From the correspondence and the statements read by the Minister, there is no doubt that the Government were unfortunate in the appointment of the gentleman who was given authority to carry out this immense task. I believe, however, that if those who have criticised the Department so much were as energetic in emphasizing its good features as they have been in stressing the regrettable results, the case against the Department would not be so black as has been represented. I believe that hundreds of young Australians halve been provided with comfortable homes at a reasonable price, and that these could rot have been acquired had the Department not built the homes. Much of what I have said I uttered when the Bill was before the Senate. I was of the opinion that the Department did not launch out into this undertaking as thoroughly as it ought to have done. There is, a great deal of truth in what Senator Gardiner has said. When it be- comes known that the Government are going to spend enormous sums of money in carrying out any enterprise, naturally numbers of people at once lay themselves out to participate in the benefits to be derived from that expenditure. I believe that, as far as possible, the Government should have had their own cement works, saw-mills, and brick-kilns.. They would then have been able to control supplies and obtain reliable material in quantities.
– That sounds all right on paper.
– It ought to be all right in practice.
– It never is.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. I think that the control of the War Service Homes activities in all the States was too big a job for one man. Had the different States operated as central entities, I believe better results would have been achieved.
My principal reason for desiring to speak following Senator Gardiner was to put in a plea on behalf of a namesake of mine. He is no relation of mine, and I never saw him until he became Deputy Commissioner for War Service Homes in Tasmania. I did business with him then on behalf of some soldiers. He has since become a friend of mine; and I think that, in the reports and discussion in this Chamber, and in the evidence given before the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, he has been treated with very scant courtesy. I have seen correspondence to show how far Captain Earle’s responsibility went in connexion with the purchase of land. I have seen letters from the Commissioner instructing Captain Earle to obtain sufficient land for 5,000 homes. That instruction was issued on the 27th November, 1919, and on the same date a ridiculous order was issued to obtain immediately, before the end of the financial year, sufficient land for 3,400 homes in New South Wales. In regard to the land which has been reported upon, Captain Earle maintainsthat he did not investigate it alone, but in conjunction with the SurveyorGeneral, and that he also had the advice of the Commissioner himself. He says today that the land is not what it is described to be in criticisms, but is the best land procurable at a reasonable price.
Statements have been made that it is below high- water mark; but he says he is satisfied from the records he has obtained that it is well above the highest tidal or flood watermark that has yet occurred.
– Is the land swampy?
– Captain Earle says that it is flat, and requires further drainage.
-Houses ought not to be built on swampy land.
– It depends upon what is meant by “ swampy land.” River flats can !be drained and made quite healthy to build on. Captain Earle admits that the land requires draining. In compliance with the order received direct from the Commissioner he purchased, on behalf of the Department, something like £150,000 worth of land in different places in New South Wales. Some was purchased in Sydney, and some at Belmore, Canterbury, Newcastle, and other places.
– Did he buy any in Queensland ?
– Ido not think so. In regard to the Grove Estate, near Hobart, he maintains that it would have been an excellent bargain to buy the whole estate at £12,000; but he knew that that would require Ministerial authority. The proposal was submitted for Ministerial authority, and he told the Commissioner that he was very sorry he could not buy the whole estate. He was instructed by the Commissioner to buy what he could. He says, ‘ ‘ I am prepared to make a sworn statement to that effect, and if proof is needed I can back the statement up with a photograph of myself and the Commissioner examining the land.” Not only has the administration of his Department been criticised rather severely but his private honour has been impugned by the evidence given before the Joint Public Accounts Committee. Statements have been made referring to some of his private acts. I was the first to urge the Joint Public Accounts Committee to make an inquiry into the War Service Homes Department. I was a member of the Committee before the last election, and I advised them strongly to inaugurate an investigation of the War Service Homes administration. I was urged to do that by Captain Earle He was the man who came to me and said, “ You ought certainly to do something to start an agitation for a more thorough organization and a better method of administration in this Department.’’ He pointed out that he had had offers of considerable quantities of material which he had had to turn down, and that an increased expenditure of20 per cent., 30 per cent., and even more, had been incurred subsequently in consequence of losing the contracts. He said, “ It is one Government undertaking where an investigation is necessary.” After the elections some one else was appointed in my place on the Committee. I went to the Chairman, and, I think, to the Deputy Chairman, and to some other members of the Committee, and advised them to take the matter up. They made an inquiry and held meetings in several States. They took evidence in Hobart concerning the administration of this man, and heard evidence concerning his private character. They reported upon that evidence, but never called Captain Earle as a witness. That is a most remarkable omission, and, naturally, the man is smarting under what he regards as an injustice. In the speech made by the Minister to-day there were further statements which brought from one honorable senator the remark, “There ought to be a criminal prosecution.” According to this man, he has not had an opportunity to give evidence before the Committee ‘ regarding either his administration or his private affairs.
SenatorFoll. - There was * feeling that there was something serious wrong.
– Then why was not Captain Earle called as a witness? His private character has been impugned in connexion with the purchase of a motor car. He purchased the car from a firm whohappened to be the agents or vendors of an estate with which the War Service Homes Department was doing business. I believe Tregear was the name of the agent of the Grove estate. Captain Earle is prepared to make a sworn statement that he paid every penny of the value of that car, namely, £500. I am ready to believe him. Statements made before the Committee left the impression that he acquired the car as a half present for some favours he had given to the vendor. I am very much surprised at the action of the Committee in first hearing evidence concerning a man., and then commenting on it without calling the man in rebuttal or self-defence. I am quite sure that if they had telegraphed to him from Hobart that a certain statement had been made, and had invited him to give evidence, he would have been there by the next boat. At the time, I think, he was in Sydney or Melbourne.
– Did he offer to give evidence? Does the Committee call witnesses or expect them to volunteer?
– I do not know whether he would feel it incumbent upon him to seek to give evidence. I think the witnesses were all summoned.
– The Committee ought to have informed him of the adverse evidence given against him.
– Undoubtedly. He first knew of it when comments were made in the press subsequent to the publication of the first report of the Committee. Naturally, he was very sore about it. Before anything further is said along these lines thisman ought to have a chance of defending himself. As far as the administration of the whole Department is concerned, I am inclined to think that there is much more good in the undertaking than the publio is aware of. The practice of critics, and particularly of press critics, is always to give prominence of space and position to anything condemnatory of a Government undertaking. It is always destructive. Other phases of undertakings are passed over unnoticed. No doubt the statement made by the Minister this afternoon will clear up much misunderstanding, and a great deal of the misconception that exists as to the real position. I should like to know how many homes are occupied by returned soldiers in the different States, and also if the occupants are a, contented community. Is there all this dissatisfaction about which we hear so much in some quarters? I know of one or two instances where homes estimated to cost about £700 have cost in the neighbourhood of £900, but I understand that the Government policy is to meet all extra cost that may have been due to any fault on the part of the Commission. The illustration given by. Senator Gardiner in a measure accounts for many of the mistakes that were made and the higher cost of building. We have to take account of the increased cost of materials, and the rising scale of wages; and if we do blame the Commissioner for the unfortunate state of affairs that has been disclosed, we should remember that per- haps we were asking too much from any one man. My full sympathy goes out to the Minister in connexion with the criticism which has been directed against him. in this matter.
.- Like the previous speakers, I have been much impressed by the statement made by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) concerning the charges that have been made against his administration, and X want to assure him that I did not pay much heed, to them. I think, speaking generally, that also is the atitude of the community. To some extent, we can hardly wonder that a certain amount of criticism has been directed against the administration of the War Service Homes Department. If honorable senators will carry their minds back to! the first Repatriation Act, they will remember that practically the entire control was vested in the hands of Senator E. D. Millen, with honorary Boards in the various States, and a Central Board to advise him in the general administration of the Act. From then onwards, bitter attacks were made upon the Minister by the press, and, in many cases, by the returned soldiers’ organiza-tions, urging the Government to amend the Act so as to free the administration from political control. On every hand we were told by these carping critics that the main reason for much of the dissatisfaction which then existed was that the Department was under political control. The Act was amended, and I remember that, in reply to about the first question which I asked in connexion with administration, the Minister informed me that a certain decision had been come to, not by himself, but by the Board, and that he did not propose to override its decision. When the Bill for the creation of the War Service Homes Department was under consideration, honorable senators had in mind the severe criticism that had been levelled at the Department previously, and the Minister himself, in his second-reading speech, urged that as much power as possible should be given to the Commissioner to be appointed. Parliament was’ impressed with the wisdom of this course, and the result, as we have seen, was that too much power was given to the Commissioner, with the disastrous results that have been disclosed. Senator Gardiner, Senator Earle, and, .to some extent, the Min ister himself, have almost given us to understand that all the builders and contractors with whom the Common’ wealth had anything to do were desirous of getting as much, a? they could out of the Government, and of reaping exorbitant profits. That has not been my experience of the business community of this country. Officials of the War Service Homes Department would have, done well had they consulted more with reputable master builders and contractors, and endeavoured to secure from them contracts for the erection of houses, instead of adopting the principle of day labour
– I think trade unionists also demanded higher wages on these contracts.
– I cannot verify that statement. But we do know that complaints have been made about the continually increasing cost of War Service homes. Senator Gardiner and Senator Earle would have us believe that certain individuals associated with this work had no regard whatever for the welfare of the soldiers, and no interest in making this scheme a success; but they had nothing to say about the effect on costs of fresh awards for carpenters, builders, builders’ labourers, and other workmen employed on these contracts. Another factor was the principle of giving preference to returned soldiers. On the “administrative side of the Repatriation Department, this principle was observed to the extent of 90 per cent, of its employees. Returned soldiers, after a few months’ training, were also employed by the Commissioner on the housing scheme itself. We all know it is impossible to turn out a tradesman in six or even twelve months. Although it was very desirable that returned soldier trainees should, wherever possible, be employed on the erection of War Service homes, we must not overlook the fact that the policy helped to increase the cost of these houses. One well-known building firm in [Brisbane made certain overtures to the Government for the erection of what are known as ready -cut houses. Firms like Messrs. Brown and Broad, Campbell’s, and others, are continually turning out this class of house, and I am satisfied that if they were intrusted with the work the War Service Homes Department would get much cheaper and perfectly satisfactory dwellings. I hope that the future policy will include some such proposal as this. Senator Earle suggested that the Commission, in order to insure adequate supplies of materials, should have gone in for their own brick works and their own cement works. The Commission did go into the timber business, with most disastrous results, and I am satisfied that their experience in the brick and cement business would have been on the same lines. It would have been far better if the Commissioner had conducted operations more on the lines of a building society. As the Minister has said, it is easy to be wise after the event. I am not going to indulge in any carping criticism, but I cannot help drawing attention to the fact that the position is far from satisfactory in the State I represent. At Sandgate, a suburb of Brisbane, homes built by the Commissioner have been standing idle for many months.
– Because the suburb is too far distant from the city for men in receipt of a small salary.
– But some one must have made application for the houses, otherwise they would not have been built.
– No. Those houses were built on the group system in the hope that returned soldiers in need of houses would take them oyer when completed. After they had been lying idle for some time, the Commissioner made an effort to find tenants for them; but as only a weekly tenancy was offered, there was never much prospect of their being occupied. No one is likely to go into a house of that description with the knowledge that it might at any time be taken by a returned soldier, and that they would be kicked put at short notice. The affairs of the Commission ought to be conducted on a more business-like footing. When it “was seen that no returned soldier would taits over the houses to which I referred, they should have been sold in the open market. It is probable that the Department, would have got their money back at the time. I do not think they will now, unless timber prices firm again. They will probably have to cut their loss and sell the houses at the best price offering, though I do not think the loss will be very great.
Senator Earle mentioned some cases that have given rise to a good deal of criticism. He referred to the fact thatmany of the homes which have been built have been found to cost much more than the original estimates for them. Many of the returned men occupying these homes are earning but small salaries, and an increase of 2s. 6d. or 3s. per week in their repayments makes all the difference between the men being able to keep them up and getting behind in their payments. For instance, a house estimated to cost £700 has cost £850, with the result that the repayments asked for are more than the occupant of the house can afford. I brought a case of the kind under the notice of the Deputy Commissioner in Brisbane, Mr. Loynes, who, I must say, has treated sympathetically every matter to which I have called his attention, and is, I believe, a good officer. In this case, a soldier’s-‘widow had to be relieved of her obligations because the house was found to cost a good deal more than the original estimate.
To my mind one of the most remarkable statements of the Minister was that he had set down a sum of £150,000 for the purchase of existing houses, and before he knew anything about the matter the money spent in the purchase of houses already erected had mounted up to no less than £3,000,000. This occurred although time after time questions were asked in this Chamber to discover the policy of the Department in the matter of the purchase of houses already erected. The records of the Senate will show that at least- on one occasion I raised the question, and the Minister for Repatriation told me in reply that it was not the policy of the Department to purchase houses already built, but to build new homes for the soldiers, because in that way homes would not only be provided for returned soldiers, but something would be done to remedy the difficulty arising from the shortage of houses in the larger cities.
– The comparatively small sum which the Minister set down for the purchase of houses already erected is the best proof that he tried to carry out that policy.
– I quite agree with that statement, but the Minister must have been extremely unfortunate in his selection of officers when a proposed expenditure of £150,000 was increased to £3,000,000 without his knowledge. It is clear that there should be some cleaning up in the War Service Homes Department, if that work has not already been carried out.
If the price of timber had remained as high as it was some time ago, I believe that the purchases of timber in Queenslaud could not have been considered a very bad bargain, although it is said that some of the timber lauds ‘that were purchased are not worth what was paid for them. “However, I do not condemn the War Service Homes administration for the fact that Canungra is to-day a dormant village. Prior to the Government taking over Lahey’s mill Canungra was a thriving township. To-day the mill is closed down, and Canungra is practically a city of the dead. Machinery is left idle and rusting, and valuable timber is lying about exposed to destruction by the weather and by white ants. When the taxpayers see hundreds of pounds’ worth of timber being wasted, when they see a thriving township like Canungra shut up through the action of the War Service Homes Commission, and when, in various suburbs, they see empty houses which were built with their money, we cannot wonder that criticism is indulged in against the War Service Homes Commission. I have nothing but admiration for the Minister for Repatriation personally, but I believe he has been most unfortunate in his, selection of officers. .1 do not suppose any member of the Committee believes that there is the slightest foundation for the charges made against him by men of the Caldwell type. I certainly do not. I have every faith in the honorable senator, but I do think that he has been unfortunate in the officers under his control, and that those officers are responsible for the many unpleasant things which have been said about him. There can be no doubt that the criticism generally of the administration is justified, although the criticism of the Minister is not. I sincerely hope that from this time on we shall see a better state of affairs, and that there will be no occasion to adversely criticise the War Service Homes Commission, which the people believe is at the present time wasting their money.
.- I am glad to have the opportunity of congratulating the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) on the very clear and explicit statement he has made to the Committee. I trust that means will be taken to circulate it through the country in answer to the reckless charges made against the Minister and his Department by the press without definite information. During my life I have put up a good many buildings, and have superintended the erection of many. more. I have inspected soldiers’ homes erected in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, aud I can indorse the statement made by Senator Gardiner, who is also a practical man, that, speaking generally, a very good class of homes has been erected by the Department for the returned soldiers. No doubt, a mechanic will be able to point out small defects, and in some cases bad workmanship; but I think that, on the whole, the War Service Homes Commission deserves great praise, and, in view of the uncertainty of supplies, and the price of materials, is to be congratulated, not only on the quality of the homes, but also on the number erected.
Many returned soldiers have complained through the press that they are being asked to pay more for their homes than they were originally estimated to cost. I can mention an experience which has some bearing on this complaint. In one street in a suburb of Brisbane the houses erected on one side of the street were put up by men who were not returned soldiers. All the houses on the other side were put up by returned soldiers. Unfortunately for the returned soldiers who have to occupy the homes erected by their mates, they have cost a great deal more than the houses erected on the other side of the street by men who are not returned soldiers. The necessity of giving preference to returned soldiers in employment has turned out to be one of the difficulties which has confronted the War Service Homes Department, and that preference will result rather in the injury than in the benefit of returned ‘soldiers. Very many men who might have been employed in the Department were men who, because they were too old, or for some other reason, were not able to go to the Front; and it would have been better for the returned soldiers if they had been employed. The Minister will bear me out that I- mentioned this matter to him while the work of building soldiers’ homes, was going on.
I went round with a Committee that inspected a number of houses in the suburbs of Brisbane, and I must say that many of the complaints that were made to the Committee were trivial and insignificant. Any man with a pair of hands, and the slightest sense that it was his own home that he would be improving,
Would have remedied the defects complained of himself. The time of the Com- mittee was wasted day after day in going around and inspecting houses, and there was only one out of all those which we saw which, as a mechanic. I should say was a disgrace to those who put it up. There was evidence in the case of that house that those who built it did not know much about their business, or took very little pride in their work.
Senator Poll has mentioned Canungra, where Lahey’s saw-mill was established. The mill is now lying idle, and timbergetters in the district and other persons in Canungra have, in consequence, been unemployed for a very long time. The village is now practically deserted. Still it must be said that all the stores and every available piece of ground in the hands of the War Service Homes Commission in Brisbane are crowded out with sawn timber. There are millions of feet of all kinds of timber stored up there, and often, under such conditions, that should a fire break out the damage to the timber and, possibly, also to places adjoining would be enormous. I should like to know what action the Department proposes to take for the disposal of all this sawn timber. There is a very big demand for Queensland pine in the south. Sydney is fairly well supplied from Queensland, but in Melbourne there is great difficulty in getting supplies of timber, and I suggest that it should be the duty ofsome one to take immediate steps for the disposal of the timber that is stored at the present time in Queensland.
– I understand that that is being done.
– I am very glad to bear it.
- Senator E. D. -Millen said, in the course of his statement, that the timber is being disposed of under very good conditions.
– I paid close attention to what Senator E. D. Millen said, but I missed this statement as to what is being done with the mills acquired by the Commission, and with’ the sawn timber. To start the mills working again without first disposing of the saw.n timber in stock would only add to our difficulties. Many of the mills cannot be started until the timber stored at them is got out of the way. There are a number of patriotic master builders in Brisbane, many of whom had sons at the Front, who would have supplied timber and constructed houses for the Department. In the early stages of the work some Queensland builders satisfactorily carried out contract work for the Department without making any profit, and they would have continued on a, very small margin if friction had not arisen in the Department owing to the difficulty associated with supplies and the increased wages which had to be paid. In many cases the work was done cheaper and better by contract; and, after inspecting the houses erected by contract by the Department and by the Commonwealth Bank, I came to the conclusion that those erected under the contract system were preferable, because the price was lower and in most instances the work better. A man who has had any experience in building can. easily detect the difference between the houses erected by contract and those built by day labour. I understand that it is now the intention to construct houses by contract, and unless the work done is very carefully inspected difficulty will arise in the future, because owing to the scarcity of employment a number of tradesmen will take contracts at an unreasonably low price, and without adequate supervision heavy expenditure will be entailed in repairs. Is the Minister in a position to supply the number of purchasers behind in their payments on houses?
– I understand that the amount involved is £36,000, which is equal to 3.2 per cent.
– That is not unreasonable in view of the total expenditure. I wish to congratulate the Minister for Repatriation on his able defence conceiving the administration of his Department. I trust that his speech will be printed and circulated in all the States, not only for the information of the returned soldiers who have purchased properties, but for the benefit of those critics who have been misrepre- senting him whilst he has been awaiting an opportunity to defend himself.
– To put it bluntly, the statement made by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) proves conclusively that a number of the officers; from the Commissioner downwards, were either “ crooks “ or fools. I cannot arrive at any other ‘determination after listening to the Minister’s speech and the reading of correspondence which passed between the Minister and the head of the Department. The members of this Chamber, in common with those in another branch of the Legislature, were approached by Lieut. -Colonel Walker, and practically asked to do something on his behalf, because, as he said, he had been unjustly dismissed from the service of the Commonwealth. But if the statements of the Minister in regard to his acts are correct, he is lucky to have remained in his position as long as he did. I do not think there is any honorable senator who has for one moment taken any notice of the charges of corruption and bribery which have been circulated. The Minister’s explanation should be sufficient to satisfy even a political opponent, and prove that as far as he was concerned he acted fairly and cleanly.
– I have never heard corruption associated with the Minister in this matter.
SenatorFOSTER. - I think it was clearly stated in the press that Mr. Ashworth was prepared to prove charges of that character against the Minister or some one else in the Department.
– That was insinuated.
– I regret the Minister’s temporary absence, because I would not like it to be said that I made a statement in his absence which I would not utter if he were present. But the Minister is responsible for the appointment of Lieut.Colonel Walker, who, right from the timeof his appointment, was criticised by members of the Legislature because he was not considered a fit and proper man for the job, and lacked the necessary knowledge to control such a huge undertaking. Despite the altered conditions to-day, I want to know whether the Government and the Minister are satisfied with the change of policy. We have now another gentleman serving as an Acting ‘Commissioner, and we passed a measure validating his appointment. I know him personally, and have nothing against him; but has he any knowledge of the building trade? If he has been appointed merely as an administrative head, his appointment may be justified; but if he has not any knowledge of building, architecture, or values, why has he been placed in such a responsible position?
– He is acting temporarily.
– Yes; but he has been there for some months.
– We are awaiting legislation.
– At present we have £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 worth of stores, and mills scattered all over Australia, and we should have an officer who knows something concerning values, and whose recommendations to the Minister will be worth considering. I am sorry the Minister did not have more to say regarding the future activities of this Department, although he stated, by interjection, that he had given the information some time ago.
-We intend bringing down an amended Bill.
– If that is the measure which was read a first time in another place, I do not think it has anything to do with what I have in mind. But in case I do not have the opportunity of speaking when that Bill is under discussion, I may say that a number of members of Parliament understand, from statements made in regard to the activities of the Department, that its operations are practically being discontinued. If we do that we shall not be fulfilling our obligations to the returned soldiers. Parliament . should : be consulted before operations cease. The Department has been blamed on the one hand and criticised on the other; it deserves a good deal of both. Senator Reid said that the Department has done good work in Queensland, and that the complaints which have occurred were very trifling. Those in Tasmania have been anything but trivial, and, according to the report of the Joint Public Accounts Committee a number of complaints have been made in regard to the cost of houses. I admit that the Minister has stated, since the recommendation was received from the Committee, that some adjustment would be made. An Adjustment Board has also been mentioned in another place.
– I said there were few complaints about the houses, not about the price.
– The principal complaints have been in regard to the price. The reason why we have so many complaints and such a number of empty houses is because the “ diggers “ expected to pay a certain amount, which has, in some cases, been exceeded by £200. Some time ago I introduced a deputation to the Minister on behalf of a number of war widows, who had purchased houses in a group settlement, on the understanding that the properties were to cost £700. They made their calculations on that basis, and came to the conclusion that they would be able to carry on ; but after being in occupation for nine or ten months they were suddenly informed that the houses were to cost £836, and they were asked to forward their cheque for £36. Good God! did any one ever hear of poor widows possessing a chequebook, quite apart from forwarding a remittance of £36? I have not heard of any adjustment being made, and although the Department has refrained from hurling these poor people into the street, it is time a decision was reached. The Department may not be responsible for some of the larger transactions entered into without authority, but it is surely in a position “to let these people know where they stand, because the matter was brought forward eight or nine months ago. I do not agree with Senator Reid’s suggestion that the stocks of timber on hand should be sold, because, if the Department intends calling for tenders for constructing houses, they should supply the material to the contractors.
– They are doing that. They have millions of feet of cut timber in Queensland. There are million? of feet of timber which must be got rid of in Queensland.
– It was not the original intention of the Commissioner, when he purchased the Queensland mills, that the whole of the timber should be used in that State. What is there as a surplus to-day might well be devoted to construction in other States. It would prove an economy if that timber were shipped to the southern States and placed on the open market after departmental supplies had been secured. The surplus might be handed over to merchants for private sale; and thus the Department could make a profit.
Senator- Reid. - There is any quantity available for sale to the public after all supplies for soldiers’ homes have been provided.
– So I understand. Probably a great deal of the trouble which has arisen in respect of the cost of soldiers’ homes has been due to the fact that certain standardized plans have been prepared, which are rigidly adhered to. There are many soldier applicants who would be glad to take a house with a room less than the plans provide, and, consequently, costing £100 to £150 less. There are two factors which govern these matters. The first has to do with the size of the digger’s family, and the second with the extent of his purse. Many applicants would be only too ready to take a house which would fit their purse rather more comfortably than it would hold their family.
– The soldier applicants are permitted to modify the plans considerably.
– That is the first I have heard of it.
– There is nothing to prevent them from doing so.
– Probably, no Federal legislator has had more to do with the interests of soldier applicants than myself. I have not heard of any applicant, being given permission to vary the strict plans of the Department. The idea behind the preparation of these standardized plans was that the Department would be able to erect £800 houses for a sum ranging between £600 and £700. I have known instances of returned men layingbefore the Department cheap and adequate plans furnished for them by architects; but not one such has ever been accepted. Under the Credit Foncier system applicants are not tied down in anysuch fashion. If a man’s proposition passes the Bank’s inspectors, a contract is proceeded with, subject to the applicantfinding 10 per cent. The same practice should be applicable in respect of returned soldiers through the War Ser- vice pomes Department with this difference, however, that there should be no question of a 10 per cent, deposit. Provided there is sufficient “ cover” for the money which is to be advanced, a soldier should be permitted to have his home constructed upon his own plans, subject to their official acceptance. I have heard a suggestion that, with respect to houses which have cost between £60Q and £700, there is £800 worth of value if a man should desire to sell. But I have heard only too often’ that soldiers have been charged £800 for a house which they had expected to get for £600 or £700. Eventually, many of these places have cost returned men as much as a private builder would have charged, and it is evident that the Department should have made as much profit as an outside builder would have done.
– Committees are now being appointed in all the States to deal with the adjustment of overcharges.
– If selections are made as has been proposed there will be further trouble. An Adjustments Board should consist of experts. , It is said, however, that one member in each State will be the nominee of the Returned Soldiers’ Association. These adjusters will not be paid salaries commensurate with the abilities that they should possess in order to carry out their difficult technical tasks. Payments will probably be made at the rate of a guinea a sitting. However, I shall have something further to say upon this matter at the proper time.
Even though unfortunate mistakes have been made by the appointment of returned soldiers in the War Service Homes Department, there will never be justification for departure from the principle of preference to soldiers. The Government, in making their appointments, must shoulder the responsibility. The fact of one returned man having made a mistake does not prove that there are not others capable of doing the same work with the utmost success. About four years ago, when I was a member of the Tasmanian Parliament, I was asked by the responsible Minister, after I had succeeded in amending a Bill dealing with soldier settlement, if I would care to nominate a returned man to sit upon the Closer Settlement Board. I told the Minister that such a selection was his responsibility, and that.it would be for him to take the blame if his nomination proved to be unsatisfactory.
– Ninety-five per cent, of soldier appointees have proved satisfactory.
– The Minister for Repatriation said that some of the soldiers in the offices of the Department had told their “ pals “ that if they wanted to get their houses built they had better go outside, fix up a contract to purchase and pay a deposit, and then come back to the Department, when their transaction would be put through. Returned soldiers are only human, but I am of opinion that no man could have got away with a trick such as that unless the Deputy Commissioner himself had allowed the practice to be carried on. The Department was responsible.
– The Minister admitted that.
– T am bound to say . that if I were in the office and a relative cr friend of mine came to me with a plea that I should suggest a way of hurrying forward his chances of getting a home - after he had been humbugged for many months - I would “ put him fly,” and would care nothing about the blame. I know of one soldier who waited for twelve months. He had paid £150 for his land, which had to be transferred to the Department. Of course, he had to pay the necessary expenses straightaway. He waited another nine months for the house which had been promised him, and the plans for which had been approved; but nothing was done. So he said to the officers of the Department, “ Give rae back my land and I will sell it and make my own arrangements outside.” He eventually got his land back, but his papers were accompanied by a bill of costs. What sort of treatment was that? However, what is more essential than a discussion of the past activities of the Department is the consideration of definite arrangements for future work, with a view to insuring absolute Ministerial control.
.- When speaking previously iu this debate I forgot to draw attention to a matter which should be dealt with at an early date. A month or two ago I inspected some soldiers’ homes at Hendra, where there were six or seven houses built oh a swamp. The ground resembled a lake. There was water 2 or 3 inches deep on ©very block except one, where there was a mud spring. On the lower side of the paddock a road had been built in such a way that the water was held back. The land was not purchased by the Brisbane officer. It may have been bought in dry weather, but had a local man .been consulted regarding the purchase he would have known it was swampy land. Steps should be taken at once to drain this area. I suggest that loads of ashes be procured to level the ground. Several men from the Department were sent out to drain the water away, but the manner in which the work was done showed that they had no idea of how to do it. Instead of the water being run off it was banked back. I hope that early steps will be taken to instruct the Deputy Commissioner at Brisbane to level the land, and that the local governing body will be asked to construct a drain under the road. Otherwise, with the wet season approaching, the conditions will become intolerable for 6…. householders.
– I understand that an order was sent two months ago for the work to be done.
– It is about two months since I was there. I am glad to hear that the matter is being attended to, because it is one of the most scandalous things in connexion with soldiers’ homes that has come under my notice.
.- I am very glad that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) has made a complete statement. Such a reply from him was necessary in view of the feeling which very evidently exists throughout the Commonwealth in regard to the operations of the War Service Homes Commission. As a matter of fact, a great deal of the criticism levelled at the administration of the Department has been deserved. No one was more pleased than I that the Minister was able to show clearly that many of the charges levelled at him through the press, and otherwise, were quite unjustifiable so far as he personally was concerned. Especially did I welcome his remarks concerning, the Caldwell case. I certainly had doubts as to whether Caldwell- had had a fair deal ; bub I was not aware of the contents of the file from which the Minister quoted. Th”9 documents furnish a most telling re futation of any suggestion that the, Minister has treated Caldwell unfairly or dishonestly, because they clearly show that, through the action of “the Minister, the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific was. requested to ignore altogether the application of the War Service Homes Commissioner for certain leases pending investigation as to any prior right which. Caldwell might have. I hope that that fact will receive full publicity throughout Australia, because it exonerates the Minister from any suspicion of being a party to the sharp practice which was evident elsewhere.
– That is the kernel of the whole affair.
– Yes. The Department has been taught a severe lesson, and I am hopeful that it will benefit by it. Many mistakes have occurred, and much unnecessary expenditure has been caused owing to the inefficiency of certain officials, who were given the responsibility of carrying out particular work. This, in conjunction, probably, with the inauguration of the day-labour system in connexion with the construction of many of the homes erected, is responsible for the heavy losses that we shall have to meet. There has been a great deal of dissatisfaction concerning the cost of the buildings. I am quite prepared to admit that, in the main, the constructional work has been very satisfactory compared with the quality of buildings of a similar character erected by private contractors; but the cost has been excessive. A certain amount of blame must be attached to those who had the supervision of the arrangements, because that supervision was not as close as it ought to have been, and the neglect resulted in unnecessarily increasing the cost of building. I have repeatedly had cases brought under my notice where the prices quoted to the applicants for homes have been considerably exceeded. I am very glad to know that, where it is shown that the additional cost is attributable to departmental neglect, the burden will not have to be borne by the soldiers. No one would contend that it would be fair to charge an applicant £900 or £950 for a house actually worth only £800, if the added cost was- due either to neglect or inefficiency on the part of the Department. The Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers), has made a .public announcement that, where it canbe shown that the Department is to blame, the soldier will not be penalized.
– The average increased cost would not be anything like £150.
– Perhaps not. Building costs have been increasing year after year owing, in my opinion, entirely to the lack of skilled labour in Australia. Improperly trained men are often engaged on work requiring skilled labour. A sensible view should be taken of the apprentice question.It is time the restrictions which have been imposed for the last seven or eight years in connexion with the employment of apprentices were removed.
SenatorFoll. - That aspect ought to be discussed.
– Those restrictions have certainly contributed to a very great extent to the enormous cost of the soldiers’homes, and of buildings generally.
SenatorFoster. - In some cases the partially-skilled men were Repatriation Department trainees. The Department should bear the increased cost due to that want of skill rather than the individual soldiers.
– Thatmay be so. Apart from that aspect, the fact must be recognised that in any trade or industry we may investigate to-day, the cost of materials is due to the lack of skilled labour. A glance at the statute-books in every State in Australia shows that Wages Boards have been created to determine the rate of wages, the hours of work, and the number of apprentices that may be employed. In neary every industry only one apprentice is allowed to every three adults.
– And the unskilled worker receives only a few shillings less than a skilled man.
– In some instances he gets more.
– When workmen are paid a flat rate the skilled man is not likely to put forth his best efforts. An instance was brought under my notice the other day by an architect. He said he visited a building - not a War Service home - of which he was the architect. He saw a wall that had been erected, and asked the foreman who was responsible for the work. The foreman pointed out the man, and the architect said, “ He is not a tradesman.” The foreman replied, “ Oh, yes, he is.” The architect made inquiries and ascertained that up to a week previously the man had been a hodcarrier. The result was that the wallhad to be pulled down and re-built.The foreman had done the best he could with the means at his disposal, a bricklayer not being available because the law says that boys shall not learn skilled trades. If we are to cope with this difficulty, we must do one of two things - import skilled labour from overseas, or repeal this ridiculous legislation.
– Is this not a matter for Wages Boards?
– Yes; but I take it that the utterances of members of this National Parliament will be taken some notice of by members of the State Parliaments. If they are not prepared to take the matter up, the Commonwealth Parliament ought to legislate for the whole of Australiato stop this iniquitous thing, which is having such a prejudicial effect on theindustries and the lads of Australia. We are spending thousands of poundsannually on technical education to enable lads passing through the State schools to discover the trade for which Providence has fitted them. We spend further money in giving them a preliminary introduction to the trade for which they are fitted. Then their parents roam all over the cities looking for that occupation, and, in nine cases out of ten, return to their homes disgusted and disappointed, because every employer they have interviewed has told them that he is employing the full number of lads permitted by the Law Members of the rank and file of Labour organizations are often of the same opinion as I in this matter. Why do they not voice their protests to the Labour organizations? They realize that the weapon which they brought into existence for the purpose of creating a close corporation is turning against them, and that they cannot get their own lads into trades. That has contributed largely to the enormous cost of building operations in Australia.
Some astounding revelations havebeen made regarding the prices paid for the areas of laud which, from time to time, have been acquired by the War Service Homes Commission. The most astounding statements, however, have been those relating to the unsuitable character of the land. I cannot understand how any man professing to have knowledge of land values and of the suitability of land for dwellings, could have recommended to the Commissioner or the Government the purchase ofRoe’s land at Waratah, one of the suburbs of Newcastle, which, on evidence given by local residents, has 9 inches of water over it in the wet season.
– The man who bought the land for £2,000, and sold it to the Government for £8,000 for returned soldiers, ought to be in gaol.
– Yes; but he is not. I do not claim to be an expert inspector, valuator, or judge of the suitability of land for the erection of dwellings, but L have sufficient common sense, I hope, to be able to judge from the contour of country and the visible marks on land, even when visiting it in summer time, whether it would be submerged in winter. I cannot understand a man who is drawing a large salary from, the Commonwealth recommending the purchase of land of that character.
– As a matter of fact, Waratah is a well-known swamp. It is the most swampy part of New South Wales, and is famous for its mosquitoes.
– I was there recently, and saw a dwelling-house which was within an inch or two of the water. The land on which it was built had been filled in, but the adjacent block, which was vacant, had 6 or 9 inches of water on it. That portion of the suburb, at all events, is a veritable swamp. I hope the result of this serious trouble will be that the Department in future will see that only those who can be thoroughly relied upon, and have some knowledge of land for building purposes, are employed. No Minister could do otherwise than accept such a strong recommendation as that which was; sent in regarding this block, especially as it was supported by a Commonwealth officer. In justice to him, however, it should be mentioned that his indorsement of the recommendation was not made from personal observa tion, but as the result of something which he had learned from the local authority.
With regard to the timber areas secured in Queensland by the late Commissioner, I would like to know what the Government is doing, or propose to do, to minimize the loss. When plant is lying idle, and logs are cut, there must be heavy depreciation. Looking at it even from the most optimistic point of view, it is obvious that there will be heavy losses, and that the sooner the proposition is tackled in a business-like way the better it will be for the community. Although matters of this kind naturally cause irritation among the taxpayers for a certain time, the people of the Commonwealth are fair enough to exonerate from blame those who deserve exoneration. I hope that when the Department is satisfied that an officer is not true to his trust he will not be retained in the Department. Ifhe is absolutely inefficient he should be compelled to find other work to do. Although this . will entail much work on the Minister and those associated with him, the effort will be more than justifiedby the results.
It was with a great deal of gratification that I learned from the Assistant Minister (Mr. Rodgers) thatthe Department intended in future to adopt the system of open competition for the erection of War Service homes. I feel sure that in that direction our safety lies. I would not, from what” I know of the possibilities of unnecessarily heavy expenditure being incurred under the day-labour system, give my vote for a continuance of it. I believe that if the erection of these homes is submitted to open competition we shall get a fairer deal, and shall have the satisfaction of knowing that every home is supervised by a man who has his own interests at stake - that is to say, by the contractor, who understands his business, and whose interest it is to see that good value is given to the Department.
– He will watch the work, but some one else will have to watch him.
– That -will be all right.
– Up to date the supervision has been all wrong.
– In addition to the work being supervised by the supervisors of the Department, it will also, be supervised by the contractor.
– His interest will be to get as much out of the job as possible.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the contract system will give more satisfaction than the day-labour system ? I know of a public work in Australia for which a sum of money was voted seven years ago by the State Parliament. That sum was certified to by departmental officials as being all that was necessary to complete the job, but in addition to it, there has been an annual vote for seven years, and the job is not yet finished. The reason for that is that there was a change of Government, and the new Government introduced the day-labour system in place of the former system of tender and contract. I doubt whether 40 per cent. of the work that ought to have been done for the money originally provided was carried out. I think the experience of every one who has had anything to do with building houses, or carrying out other work, is that the contract system, on the whole, is more economical than the daylabour system for the individual who carries but the work and for the Department. I hope the information given to-day will not discourage us, but that, on the contrary, we shall do what we can to assist the Minister in trying to recover some of the lost ground in connexion with this big venture.
– I do not care to allow an item like this to pass without saying a few words. I think that I heard every word of the speech delivered by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), and I am glad I did, not that I had doubted his ability, or, what is more, his integrity, but because of the enlightenment which I received on this important subject. Mistakes have been made. That is admitted. Indeed, we may classify them as something worse than mistakes, and the wonder of many people is that those who have been guilty of these mistakes have not been more severely dealt with. The gentleman who was acting as Commissioner is out of that position now. He was discharged, I believe, because he was supposed to be an uncertificated insolvent ; but I should think that his gross maladministration would be the real reason for the Government dispensing with his services. The Deputy
Commissioner is no longer in his’ office, but I understand that he occupies the position of assistant town-planner in one of the sister States, where, no doubt, he will have some important work to do, and I think the people in that State should clearly understand what are his qualifications for that particular job. It is not to be wondered at that mistakes have been made. Judging by my own experience and the experience of my friends during the last few years, I know that mistakes could not very well have been avoided. Materials have gone up in price, and notwithstanding that we considered we had a good deal of foresight in buying ahead, we found ourselves on a declining market, and stocked up with material at prices above existing values. There i3 one other matter. I think Senator Wilson interjected while the Min7ister was speaking, and asked a question with regard to the officials who were responsible for this blundering, and the Minister was unable to say if they had been discharged. In view of all the mistakes, and, in some cases, worse than mistakes, those responsible for them should have been cleared out of the Department . altogether. I know it is no use flogging this trouble now. The Government have admitted that mistakes have been made. I believe they are endeavouring to rectify them, and to place the whole of the work of the Department on a much sounder footing. I hope this will be done without delay.
– I listened very carefully to the speech delivered by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen). I think that as a very exhaustive inquiry is being made into this very question by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, apart from the personal statement made by the Minister, any debate on this issue at the present time is out of place. We should withhold our comments until the final report of the Committee to which I refer has been presented to the Senate. Senator E. D. Millen has no greater admirer in the Senate than I am. From the time I entered this Chamber, I have admired him “for his many qualities. As parliamentarian, I think he stands alone. But I do not lose sight of the fact that I have a certain responsibility to the taxpayers of this country. This is a most serious matter. The Minister has been unfortunate in the agents appointed to assist him in the administration of this Department.
– He did not choose them.
– A sub-Committee of the Cabinet appointed Lieut.-Colonel Walker.
– And a subCommittee, having done that, must accept the responsibility for Lieut. -Colonel Walker and his work. It cannot be shifted either to the right or to the left. I wish to be clearly understood on this matter. Not long ago the Federal Government had a man arrested because he was desperately unfortunate in the agents with whom he worked. Subsequently the Crown Law authorities discovered that they had no case against him, and that he was guilty of no wrong-doing. But the Government did not send for him and reinstate him in his position. To-day he is out of that job, but has got another, because the people who knew him recognised his qualities, and realized that he bad been the victim of unfortunate circumstances. Now, the Minister, as I have said, has been exceedingly unfortunate in the responsible officers appointed to Iris Department. Who, other than the Minister, can be the connecting link between Parliament and the Department ? The Minister admitted to-day that he is not in touch with all the details of his Department.
– Can you expect him lo be?
– No. I have too many irons in the fire myself, and I know bow easily many of them, can get burnt. According to the Minister, a certain official in Western Australia spent £25,000 in the purchase of timber and joinery mills, and then advised the Central administration. I asked the Minister what he had done with the man, and he said that Lieut.-Colonel Walker had got him. When I asked if he was still in the employ of the Government, the Minister said, “ I do not know.” I put it to honorable senators, how can we expect responsible government to be successful if a man can spend £25,000 of public money in that way without being dealt with? The Minister should have known. He should have made himself personally acquainted with what was being done in that matter. Another loophole is provided when large sums of money are made available to some understudies or officials in another State. We had an experience of this in New South Wales. Treasury warrants were sent across, and certain officials over there went ahead full gallop until they had spent the lot. The! Government have assured us, in reply, I think, to a question of mine, that all this has been altered now. I hope it has. But the same trouble has cropped up in this Department, and I say that Parliament cannot shirk its responsibility. We definitely gave Lieut.-Colonel Walker authority to do certain things. Parliament cannot now load that responsibility on to another man. I am satisfied that, had Senator E. D. Millen been in control, he would never have allowed things to drift as they did. I am afraid his trouble is due to some extent to our practice of passing Bills as a matter of form. It would have been much better if a Committee of the Senate had gone into the details, and watched the progress of this huge Department.
– -But there was a clamour at the time to free the Department from political influence.
– My honorable friend is only indorsing my argument. I say that Parliament placed wide powers in the hands of one man, and Parliament must now accept the responsibility. This public outcry against the Minister is unjustified: but, notwithstanding the authority vested in the Commissioner, the Minister should have been aquainted with the more important details of his administration. The Commissioner, at least once a. month, should have been /required to furnish a full statement of the transactions of his Department to the Minister. Any private business man would demand this safeguard. We have had a statement from the Minister concerning the details of certain transactions by the Commissioner aud his deputies. They were a nice gang, I will admit. If I were the Minister I would know whether there was a son-of-a-gun of them left in the Commonwealth Service or not. I would “out” the lot of them, quick and lively. Instead of that, there is some doubt today as to whether all the men who were implicated in the mistakes of the Commission have paid the price. There is no doubt that the public have lost their money. If the .matter were one in which any member of this Committee ‘ were personally interested he would see that justice was done and that the people responsible suffered for what they did. But it is not our money that has been wasted, and it is perfectly astonishing to me that in connexion with the administration of. public affairs apparently huge sums of money may be lost, and no one is in a position to say that this man or that man has paid the price of his wrong-doing.
– A number of the officials were dismissed for the wrong they did.
– I asked whether they had all been dismissed. Senator Reid has said that he listened to every word of the Minister’s statement, and when I asked the Minister what was done with this officer in Western Australia what did ha say?
– He said he was not sure.
– I have made inquiries, and the reason that no action was taken was that the action of the officer referred to was indorsed by his chief, Lieut.-Colonel Walker.
– I say in reply to that, that if Lieut.-Colonel Walker had been charged and found guilty in a Criminal Court, and it was shown that the other chap had done the same thing in wrongfully signing a cheque for the expenditure of public money the fact that Walker indorsed what he did would not exonerate him. I accept Senator E. D. Millen’s statement in this matter, that this Western Australian officer did what he did without authority. Senator Russell says now that he acted with authority, and I prefer to accept Senator E. D. Millen’s statement that he acted without authority, although Lieut.Colonel Walker may have indorsed what he did afterwards.
– I said that Lieut.Colonel Walker had indorsed his action.
– I want to be quite fair, but, in my opinion, it is unfortunate, from the point of view of the taxpayer, that up to date no one seems to have suffered for what has occurred. No writs have been issued that I know of, . and, listening to the statement of the Minister to-day, I could not but come to the conclusion that half of these “ coves “ should be standing in a criminal dock to answer for what they did.
– I think that the honorable senator’s conception of the case is entirely wrong when he says a thing like that.
– That is my opinion. I listened to the statements quoted by the Minister with regard to valuations, drainage, and other matters which the evidence proved to be absolutely wrong, and if Senator Bolton, on hearing the documents read recommending the purchase of places that were bog-holes as suitable sites on which to build soldiers’ homes, and can say that there was not something behind it all, I am unable to do so.
– It is only a question of two people differing in opinion - one says that they were rogues and the other says that they were fools.
– It is not my duty to call them either rogues or fools, but it is my duty to say that their misdeeds should be sheeted home to them, and we have Courts of justice in which that should be done. Senator Reid has said that he hopes the statement of the Minister will be circulated through the length and breadth of the land.
– Hear, hear !
– I do not know that I indorse that, because the Minister’s statement was an ex parte deliverance.
– The honorable senator is cutting it down very fine when he says that.
– I say that what should-be sent throughout the length and breadth of the land is the report of the inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee into the operations of the War Service Homes Commission.
– That report can be circulated afterwards. The 1 Minister’s statement was in answer to accusations made against himself.
– The Minister is quite justified in defending himself against what has been said outside in criticism of him as a public man.
– The Minister was answering charges made against him personally.
– I say that he was quite, justified in doing so. But I have always understood that when a matter has been submitted* to a judicial body, as the Public Accounts Committee may be said to be, we are not justified, before that body bas published its conclusions, in saying who was right and who was wrong. It has been said that it is not my duty to draw deductions; but I do not draw deductions; I await the publication of the Public Accounts Committee’s report.
– Surely it is the duty of the Government not to interfere with a judicial body?
– Most decidedly.
– They will not do so.
– If the Government will not, why does the honorable senator do it?
– I am not doing it. I am waiting for their verdict ; but many speakers in this Chamber have already delivered their judgment, and I think my honorable friend is one, of them.
– The honorable senator delivered his verdict just now.
– I did not. I believe that Senator Bolton is a member of the Public Accounts Committee, and no one has a better right to speak on the subject, on the floor of this Chamber, at the proper time, than a member of that Committee. I would be one of the first to admit that no man occupying a judicial position should stand up and take sides in a matter of this kind.
– If we should- await the report of the Public Accounts Committee, why did the honorable ^senator deliver his verdict and say that this man and that man were guilty?
– I do not say that any man is guilty. Every honorable senator admits that shocking mistakes were made; and I still say that, that being so, the Government should have taken action in the Criminal Courts.
– Mistakes are not necessarily criminal. The use of that word has already been questioned this afternoon.
– One may hold opinions which it might not be discreet to publish. A’ man must take responsibility for the statements he makes.
– I am prepared to take responsibility for every statement I make. I should be sorry to shirk it. I have already expressed my opinion of Senator E. D. Millen, from my experience in this Chamber, and it is not for me to jump up and throw bouquets at him.
– Senator E. D. Millen is not a man who seeks bouquets.
– That is true. That is what I think of the honorable senator. I am glad that he has now entered the Chamber, and sorry that he was not present earlier. I take it that in matters of this sort I must accept my share of responsibility. I, no doubt, will make mistakes; but when they are pointed out I shall be ready to remedy them. I am still of opinion that as members of the Senate we occupy positions of trust, and we are not given the details of public expenditure which I think we should have from time to time. I am aware that that is due to the way in which things are done; but I make bold to say that if the details of the operations of the War Service Homes Commission had been submitted every month to a Committee of the Senate, the Department would never have got into the position in which it has been placed. I claim that it is my duty to criticise these matters. In the criticism levelled against the Minister, I have personally never seen any suggestion of corruption, or that the honorable senator was doing a little sleight-of-hand business; but I do say that a great deal of the criticism that has been levelled against the War Service Homes Commission throughout Australia has been amply justified.
I am sorry that I have not in front of me the minutes to which the Minister was able to refer; but, speaking from-memory, I think the honorable senator said that” he was not consulted by Lieut.-Colonel Walker in connexion with the big timber purchase in Queensland. Soon after I entered this Chamber questions were asked on the subject by Senator Foll, and The Minister’s reply is on record to the effect that this matter had been submitted to the Government, and that the Government indorsed it. We all make transactions which we regret afterwards ; but” the Government must take responsibility for the timber purchases in Queensland.
– No one disputes that, nor did I say that I was not consulted about that purchase.
– The Minister does not dispute that ?
– I was speaking from memory on the point.
– The honorable senator is probably confusing that purchase with the Driver contract, which was completed before I knew anything of it, and he is probably also confusing it with the statement that the Queensland mills are closed.
– We will agree that the Minister did know all about that purchase of timber in Queensland, and we are led to believe now that it was a horrid blunder.
– The Public Accounts Committee said that the purchase was justified.
– It was a good purchase, too. The money is in it to-day.
– Another good Queensland investment.
– There is nothing the matter with that purchase even now.
– My honorable friend loses sight of the fact that by his noisy interjection he condemns the Government, because if it is such a good thing, and there is such a lot of money in it, can Senator Read tell me. why the mills are shut up to-day and the whole thing has gone to the pack ? If the Queensland purchase is such a good deal, is it not strange that the Government or their officials have decided to shut down the mill? The Government should open it up and get to work if it is as good a business as Senator Reid suggests.
I am very pleased to say that I have no fault to find with the soldiers’ homes that have been erected in South Australia.
– There never is any fault to find with South Australia.
– But the honorable senator would suggest that there are some South Australians who find fault. I say, advisedly, that we have been very fortunate that matters have been handled as well as they have been in that State. There have been, of course, some mistakes made in South Australia. That was to be expected in taking on such a huge business at a moment’s notice. One of the biggest contractors for War Service homes in South Australia has the receiver in now, and I am afraid that some of the shareholders in the business will set a lot of experience and very little money. Senator Gardiner referred to the syndicates that went into the business to make a few thousand pounds a year; but he said nothing of the other side, and the experience that some of those people gained.
– That shows that there can be failures in other than governmental activities.
– I quite admit that. In that instance the shareholders got the experience, but not any money.
– What caused the failure ?
– High prices . and faulty administration, and the latter defect is usually responsible where extensive work is undertaken. I am glad to note that the Government have at last decided that houses shall be constructed by contract, and it should now be their endeavour to dispense with the Department, dispose of their stocks, and undertake all such work in the manner I have suggested. I had an opportunity quite recently of conversing with a representative of New South Wales, who, in a general advocacy of Socialism, suggested that all work should be undertaken by the Government. I gave him a few illustrations of some ghastly failures in connexion with State enterprise, and he said that they were only a few weak links in what would ultimately be a chain of success. The taxpayers of the Commonwealth are not anxious to buy their experience in this costly manner, and I trust that the Government will soon cease undertaking work which should be done by private enterprise. I do not wish my statements to be misunderstood. I do not think there was any occasion for the Minister for Repatriation to defend himself. [ was quite satisfied to leave it to the Department; but we must pin some one down, and the Government must take the responsibility; otherwise there would be no connexion between the Parliament and the Treasury. It is to be regretted that there should have been so much criticism at this juncture, and it is to be hoped that the Public Accounts Committee will make their final report available as soon as possible. It is most unusual for the actions of any man who is charged to be criticised before the Court gives a decision, and when it is done the Judge has power to deal with an offender rather severely. That principle should have been applied in this instance.
– I listened with interest, and a good deal of pleasure, to the speech of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen). I have read some of the criticisms concerning hia administration, and I desire to state that when the Department of Repatriation was first established I was frequently in touch with the Minister, and always found him most exacting and exceedingly careful concerning the details of the work under his control. I was in Queensland when the War Service Homes Department was established, and it was then generally recognised by a very large number of people that the Minister was one who was always prepared, not only to give the returned soldiers a fair deal, but to act as a guardian of the interests of the people generally. Seeing that so much adverse criticism has been levelled against the Minister from outside, I consider it my duty to say that, ‘whenever I have been brought in contact with him in connexion with his administration of the War Service Homes and Repatriation Departments, I found him most anxious to protect the taxpayers’ interests, and I trust that we shall soon revert to the time when those who are guilty of maladministration will be responsible only to Parliament, as that is as it ought to be. I know Lieut.-Colonel Walker, who may have acted unwisely in many ways, but he has mow paid the penalty for his faults, and I do not feel disposed to punish him in the way some are inclined to do. I am glad the ‘Minister has had an opportunity of stating the true position, and I believe the people pf Queensland will have even greater confidence in him than they had before.
.- I indorse the opinions voiced uy some honorable senators that it is unwise to say too much at the present juncture; but I desire to express my regret that that spirit of fair play which we all regard and respect, did not characterize the actions of honorable members in another branch of the Legislature, by allowing the Minister for Repatriation to make a statement in that Chamber similar to the one delivered here.
Prom September, 1916, until the latter part of 1919, I was in close associa tion with the returned soldiers’ organizations, and it was my duty and privilege during that time to come into contact with the officials of the Repatriation Department, and particularly the Minister. I believe Parliament correctly interpreted public sentiment, and had behind it the whole of the people of this continent in regard to our responsibilities to returned soldiers, and the only charge that could be levelled against the Parliament, the Government, and the Minister is that they have been over-generous in some directions towards the returned soldiers. During my association with returned soldiers, I have had a good deal to do with many requests which were submitted to the Minister, and I always found that, although he was at all times willing to give them a fair’ deal, he also stood fast in the interests of the taxpayers. He demonstrated’ a keen insight into the possibilities of the future, and although the views of others were frequently clouded by sentiment and the desire to do what they thought was right, the Minister, with wonderful foresight, did what was best for them in the end. Every fair-minded man will realize what a colossal undertaking the work of the Department has been. What were the conditions necessary to give this venture even a promise of success? The necessary elements were normal conditions and a perfectly trained and well-disciplined staff, but the conditions were abnormal, and the Minister had, at very short notice, to select the best men available. It is useless to make a comparison between the War Service Homes Department and any similar undertaking throughout Australia, and if a comparison were made I think it would be found that the difficulties experienced by others would be equal tc those concerning which we have heard so much. I trust the people of Australia will realize that the Minister has made great mental and physical sacrifices in the interests of the returned soldiers of the Commonwealth.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Postponed first schedule, and clauses 2 and 3, preamble, and title agreed to.
Bill reported with requests; report adopted.
Sitting suspended from 6.80 to 8 p.m.
Bill returned from House of Representatives with a message intimating that it had agreed to certain of the Senate’s amendments, had agreed to one amendment with amendments, and had disagreed to another amendment.
That the message be considered forthwith.
In Committee :
Clause 25 - (Acts or omissions ou different days to constitute separate offences).
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out all the words after “penalty”, insert “not exceeding Five hundred pounds or to imprisonment ior a period not exceeding three months or both “.
House ofRepresentatives’ Message. - Amendment amended by the omission of the word “or” (first occurring) and by the insertion of the word “and” in place thereof; and by the omission of the words “ or both “.
– A slight modification has been made by the other Chamber, which I think is an improvement. The amendment makes it clear that a mixed penalty of both fine and imprisonment can be imposed within the limits specified. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 8 - (Remuneration of members of Board).
Senate’s Amendment. - At end of clause add the following new sub-clause: - “ (3.) The total amount chargeable on and payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the establishment and maintenance of the Board, including the salary of the Chairman and the fees to members, shall not during any financial year exceed Four thousand pounds.”.
Houseof Representatives’ Message. - Amendment disagreed to.
– A clause was inserted in this Chamber providing that the total cost of tie Board should not exceed £4,000. The reason given by the House of Representatives for disagreeing to the amendment is as follows: -
The limit as proposed may seriously hamper ihe operations of the Board, which will immediately have many important matters to investigate. The functions of the Department and the Board will be so interwoven that it will be impossible to discriminate between what is ordinary Customs business and what is caused solely through the existence of the Board..
I submit that that is a sound reason. Honorable senators will be able to see by the Estimates from year to year to what extent, if any, the cost of the Board is increasing. I move–
That the amendment be not insistedon.
– I believe the reasons given by the House of Representatives are those which actuated this Chamber in making the amendment. The deliberate intention was that the ramifications of the Board should not be too widely extended. There was a great deal of opposition to the Bill in this Chamber. The majority in favour of it was very small, and was obtained only because there- was a limitation of its cost. I am not prepared to say that the sum of £4,000 would be too little. The Committee wished to guard against the establishment of a new Department. Experience shows that small Departments have an extraordinary way of growing in size and importance. I think we might add to the £4,000, which was arrived at by consultation with the Minister in charge of the Bill, and the Customs officials who were available at the time. The Department thought that £5,000 should be the amount. Honorable senators favoured the sum of £3,000, and a compromise of £4,000 was accepted. In the circumstances, it would be wise, I think, to accept the original estimate of £5,000.
– I accept the statement of Senator Drake-Brockman. I would remind him that two checks have been placed on the proposed Board; one is a limit to the operations of the Bill of two years, and the other a limit to the amount of money to be spent. The other Chamber met us with regard to the two years’ limitation, and I think we might give way on the question of the cost of the Board.
Motion agreed to”.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is purely a formal measure to enable the Treaty of Peace with Hungary to be carried into effect. It is on similar terms to the Acts passed to carry into effect the Treaties of Peace with Austria and Bulgaria, and the Act to give effect to the Treaty of Peace with Germany. It provides that the Treaty shall be given effect to by such regulations as are necessary.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
The regulations may provide for the punishment of offences against the regulations, by the imposition of the following penalties: -
If the offence is prosecuted summarily - a fine not exceeding Five hundred pounds or imprisonment for any term not exceeding twelve months, or both;
if the offence is prosecuted upon indictment - a fine of any amount or imprisonment for not more than seven years, or both.
.- May I ask the Minister (Senator Russell) if this provision is necessary owing to Australia having become a nation ? Is it necessary as part of our responsibility as a nation, or is it a habit that we have got into since the war?
– Australia took part in the war, and this must be placed on record.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by Senator E. D. Millen) read a first time.
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is really a machinery Bill providing for the authorizing of those steps which are necessary to carry out the decision arrived at by Parliament. As honorable senators are aware, the Commonwealth has issued loans maturing at different dates. The first of the loans to fall due is one of £4,000,000, which was issued to provide moneys for the States in accordance with an agreement entered into between the States and the Commonwealth during the war time. That loan falls due in August next. It is necessary that the Treasurer be given a standing authority to redeem loans, for it is often desirable that conversion or redemption operations be undertaken some time prior to the actual date of maturity. In that case, special application to Parliament would give an indication to bond-holders that action was contemplated, and the Treasurer would probably be hampered in his efforts to secure the best terms. It is in the highest degree important that the Treasurer should be placed in a position to act whenever favorable opportunity occurs. The Bill gives authority to the Treasurer either to raise new moneys in order to pay off the old bond-holders or, instead of raising new moneys, to arrange with the old bond-holders for conversion of their holdings into fresh securities. The Bill does not in any way give the Treasurer the right to increase public expenditure. It merely authorizes him to substitute new loans for old as and when convenient.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
The Governor-General may authorize the Treasurer to pay off, repurchase, or redeem any loan raised either before or after the commencement of this Act by the Commonwealth, or to convert any such loan into any other Commonwealth loan.
– I would like some further information upon this clause. There are a number of loans falling due at 41/2 per cent. This Bill will allow the Treasury to convert, as well as to pay off, those loans. Will it include conversion at current rates - say 61/2 per cent, in the case of the conversion of a 41/2 per cent, loan? In the case of the last flotation people who subscribed to the new loan were allowed to convert an equal quantity of the old loan.
– There is no such provision in this Bill, but in the covering Act the Government has the authority at the time it converts a loan to determine the terms and conditions of it. It is quite clear to honorable senators that it is not possible to determine to-day what conditions can be set out in the prospectus of a loan to be issued, say, six months hence. I submit that that matter must be left to the Treasurer, who is responsible for the flotation.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 8 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from House of Represen. tatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion of Senator E. D. Millen) read a first time. .
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Under the Loan Appropriation Bill recently passed by Parliament, the expenditure required to be made in 1921-22 is estimated at £9,039,650. Of that amount £3,000,000 is for the redemption of Treasury bills raised from the investment of trust funds. The discount and expenses in connexion with the borrowing of the necessary money will probably amount to about £400,00.0, so that, in round figures, a sum of about £9,500,000 in all must be raised. Under Act No. 9, which was recently passed, authority was issued for a loan of £5,000,000 for works purposes. In order to carry out the programme of the year it is therefore necessary to obtain authority for an additional loan of £4,500,000. It is intended to raise the money in London. The present Bill is to give authority to the Treasurer to obtain the cash required to make payments covered by appropriations already approved by Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative. - Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and. Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
.- -I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is to make available out of the Consolidated Revenue a further sum of £10,000,000 for the purpose of meeting invalid and old-age pensions. The appropriation hitherto granted by Parliament will be exhausted about the middle of April next. The estimated expenditure for this purpose during this financial year is £5,200,000. A larger appropriation than is actually needed up to the 30th J une is being asked for in order that an appropriation of revenue will be available to absorb the revenue surplus which it is anticipated will remain at the 30th June next. In order that such revenue surplus may be retained by the Commonwealth, and not distributed to the States under the Surplus Revenue Act, it is the practice under the authority of Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation to place in TrustFund any surplus remaining at the end of the financial year. The Bill is exactly on the lines of previous similar measures ito provide funds for invalid and old-age pensions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I should like to know why it is necessary to appropriate over £10,000,000, in view of the fact that the average amount required for the purposes of this Bill is in the neighbourhood of £5,000,000.
– It is done in order that the States may not get the surplus revenue.
– That, no doubt, is an ingenious device for preventing the States from getting what is their just due.
Apart from what has been mentioned sub rosa by my honorable friend, I should like to know the reason for the appropriation of this huge sum as compared with the normal requirements under this Act.
– The subject mentioned by Senator Lynch came up for consideration a good many years ago, when the Invalid and Old-age Pensions scheme was first introduced. As honorable senators are aware, for the first ten years after the establishment of Federation there was a constitutional obligation on the part of the Commonwealth to repay to the States three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue; and the section of the Constitution dealing with this matter was so interpreted that we were bound, not merely to return three-fourths, but any excess of the remaining one-fourth which we did not appropriate for Commonwealth needs. For several years,therefore, we used to return, not merely three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, but all of the remaining portion of the onefourth which we did not ourselves expend. When we launched the Commonwealth invalid and old-age pensions scheme, the financial means at our disposal and readiest to hand wasthe unexpended portion of this one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue, which was availed of accordingly, and appropriated. Since 1908 we have always provided that the remainder should not go back to the States. We relieved the States of their responsibility of paying old-age and invalid pensions, and made appropriations against the one-fourth that we were able to operate upon under the Braddon clause of the Constitution. I was not quite sure that since we passed the Surplus Revenue Act in 1910 it has been necessary to do this every year. I thought that when wo came to the end of the ten-year period under the Braddon clause of the Constitution it was left to this Parliament to arrange for the distribution of revenue amongst the States in a manner which Parliament might think appropriate. I thought that the Statute we passed in 1910. established a permanent system for the distribution of the per capita payments to the States, and that the Commonwealth was free to draw on all the remainder of the revenue. But it would appear from what is contained in this Bill, and what the Minister has said, that there is still some constitutional obligation to make specific appropriations, otherwise the States would get the money.
– Senator Keating has done me some service by mentioning this fact. I was under the impression, and apparently he was, too, that the agreement to pay 25s. per capita to the States was introduced to overcome the difficulty to which he refers, but I am informed that it is not so. The States are entitled to 25s. now, as originally they were entitled to 75 per cent, of the net Customs and Excise revenue, plus any surplus that remained. Consequently there is still a necessity to pay any surplus info this Trust Fund.
.- I should like once more to impress upon the Government the necessity of giving greater consideration to those pensioners domiciled in the public institutions of the various States. I think this matter was mentioned by Senator Foster the other evening. It has also been referred to by Senator Pratten, Senator Newland, and other honorable senators, and by myself on several occasions. When the pension paid was at the rate of 10s. per week, the States provided for the maintenance of these old people in State institutions, and the Commonwealth made them an allowance of 2s. per week as pocket money. Since then the pension’ has been increased to 15s. per week, and although the cost of the little luxuries which the old people enjoy has increased, perhaps, one hundredfold, they are still getting only 2s. per week. In this respect the Government are, in my opinion, somewhat parsimonious. They might strain a point, and at least double the amount of pocket money. As I have said, I have brought this matter before the Government on former occasions, and have always had. sympathetic consideration ; but, so far, nothing has been done. I trust the Govvernment will make the remaining years of these old people a little more enjoyable by increasing their pocket-money allowance.
– Senator Earle has always been, a consistent advocate of the inmates of our State institutions. He has mentioned this matter on several occasions. I regret, however, that the Government cannot acquiesce in the proposal. It is true that the amount of the pensions has been increased ; but so also has the cost of maintenance of the institutionsreferred to.
– If they stayed outside they would get 15s. per week. We ought to encourage them to go into these homes, where they may be properly cared for.
– I regret that in the present state of the public finances we are unable to do anything in the direction indicated this year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by Senator E. D. Millen) read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill for legalizing certain steps which have already been taken, of which the Senate is well aware, and which, I think I am entitled to say, the Senate approves. During the war, the British Government advanced for services in Europe, to the Commonwealth Government in round figures about £50,000,000, all of which was used in connexion with our war expenditure. In addition, the British Government made numerous payments on behalf of Australia in connexion with the maintenance of Australian Forces in the field, for supplies to our Navy, transport of troops, and other services. Payments on account of all the services were made from time to time by the Commonwealth, but a large amount was always owing by the Commonwealth to Great Britain in this respect. Neither as regards cash advanced to the Commonwealth or as regards payments made on behalf of the Commonwealth were any arrangements made as to the time at which the balance due by the Commonwealth should be paid, and in the absence of any such arrangement the British Government could, strictly speaking, demand immediate payment, the moneys being due on open account. It was in connexion with these outstanding amounts that, as part of. my mission when in London, I was authorized to see the Imperial Treasury authorities, and make some arrangements. The principle outlined in the arrangements was that we were to pay a flat rate of 6 per cent, on the various amounts, which included both interest and sinking fund, for varying periods, in the majority of cases from thirty-five to thirty-six years. At the time that agreement was made, it was possible to purchase Australian securities in Australia on a basis which’ would return 8 per cent, interest. In the circumstances, acharge of 6 per cent, interest, covering also sinking fund, was a good arrangement for Australia, and another evidence of the invariable tendency of the British Government to treat the Dominions with all possible consideration. In arranging the agreement there were certain accounts which were debits against Australia, the exact amount of which could not at that time be determined. One of the clauses of the agreement provided that when those amounts were ascertained, they should be included in the principal sum shown by the agreement to represent Australia’s debts to the Imperial authorities. Mr. Collins, of the Treasury, who was then in London, was appointed to act for the Commonwealth with an Imperial Treasury official to determine what these outstanding amounts were. When ascertained they were included in the principal sum But it becomes necessary to legalize the agreements by an Act of this Parliament, and this Bill is introduced for that purpose.
– I presume that this Bill is all right. It contains but few clauses, and merely amounts to approval of the schedules to the measure. There are two schedules. The first is a memorandum of agreement made upon lines indicated in the speech just made by the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen). To that agreement, . which covers two closely printed pages, there are added two schedules. A second schedule to the Bill is another memorandum of agreement, to which Mr. James R. Collins, Secretary to the Commonwealth Treasury, was a party on behalf of Australia, and to that agreement there are appended two schedules, and it covers a couple of pages of closely printed matter. It is impossible for honorable senators to familiarize themselves with all the details set out in the schedules to this Bill in the short time given them. The Bill did not originate in the Senate, and was not circulated amongst honorable senators until a few moments ago. We are asked to pass the various stages of the Bill without delay. I have occasionally seen, when I have been to a cinematograph show, a form of picture in which the movements of the figures are so slow as to enable the spectator to follow every muscular movement. We are not adopting that slow movement here. On the contrary, it seems to me that we are asked to greatly accelerate the pace in passing this legislation. I know that when the Minister for Repatriation returned from Great Britain, after the visit to which he has just referred, we were informed in detail of the arrangements he had made with the Imperial Government They were eminently satisfactory, and commended themselves, I think, to members of both Houses of the Parliament, and also to the general public. Parliament and the public congratulated themselves on the result of the honorable senator’s negotiations during his visit to the United Kingdom, before we knew the details of the agreement he succeeded in making. When he returned, the first satisfaction expressed by Parliament and the public was intensified, if anything, by a realization of the details. I take it that those details are properly expressed in the agreements contained in the schedules to this Bill, and what we are asked to do is to give formal effect to what we have been informed was arranged. If we have the assurance of the Minister that if there is any error in what we are doing now it will be merely a printer’s or clerical error, which can readily be amended later on, there is no reason why we should not pass the Bill through all its stages.
i - In keeping with the remarks of Senator Keating, I agree with the opinion that we have no reason to anticipate that any error will be found in the closely printed schedules to this Bill, because the gentlemen who represent the Commonwealth in carrying the negotiations to a successful issue rightly earned the name of ‘‘The Taxpayers’ Watch-dog” at the
Geneva Conference. I am sure that when carrying through this financial arrangement he was equally watchful of the interests of the Commonwealth. I notice in one of the schedules a curious, charge made in respect of bread subsidy on account of flour and bread supplied to Commonwealth troops. I suggest that the inclusion of that item goes to show that the interests of the Imperial Government were also very closely watched, when it was provided that the whole of the bread subsidy paid by the Imperial Government should not be met by the Imperial taxpayers, and that the Commonwealth should be called upon to bear a share of it. What I want to know is why, in this account, running up to over £80,000,000, the item of £60,000 bread subsidy was not included in another item covering assistance to troops in the field? It seems a very nice adjustment of accounts that an item of this description should appear separately in a Bill covering over £80,000,000. It shows, as I have already said, that if those representing the Commonwealth were watchful of its interests, the interests of the Imperial authorities were ako carefully’ guarded.
– As Senator Keating has pointed out, the purpose of the Bill is really to give parliamentary ratification to the agreements which have been made. Those agreements are taken word for word from the actual documents, and, whilst one cannot vouch that there will be no error in printing, they may be accepted as correct. As to the point raised by Senator Lynch, it is quite true that the gentlemen looking after the Imperial interests represented not the least of my difficulties. They were very keen. but I did not find them at all niggardly or Shylock-like. They were keen for Imperial interests, but I venture to say that if Mr. Collins had been in their place, and I had been, in the place of Mr. Austen Chamberlain, Imperial interests, would have been watched a little more closely than they were. The £60,000 item arose in this way : The Commonwealth of Australia had undertaken to feed and maintain its troops in the field. It was not possible to send the food from Australia directly to the tr )ops, and as the result of an interchange of views in the early stages, the Imperial Government agreed to supply our troops at a fixed rate per day in the form of a capitation grant. Later on, when the pressure on the English bread supply became greater, the Imperial Government gave a subsidy in respect of bread, in order to see that the price was not unduly inflated to the people of England. Seeing that the British Government was paying asubsidy on the bread eaten by our troops, the question arose as to whether that -was not a fair charge against us. I admitted that it was. The charge could, as a matter of accountancy, have . been included under that head of the capitation grant. There being no reason for any secrecy in the matter, it was put down in the way referred to by Senator Lynch.
– It does not look very well.
– I do not know that £1 looks any worse under one heading than under another. The amount which the British authorities could show as a fair charge against the Commonwealth in respect of the bread subsidy was greatly in excess of £60,000, and that item is another instance of the liberality with which the Imperial authorities treated the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
– I notice that in the first schedule there is an item ‘ ‘ Railway warrants - £61,000.” That item appears as “£60,000” in two other places in the accounts. Perhaps the Minister can give some explanation of this.
– I mentioned just now that in connexion with the main agreement there were certain outstanding amounts, and that we agreed to the main headings under which the amounts were to be set out in the second schedule; but the exact figures were to be adjusted after investigation, and that adjustment is shown in the second schedule.
First schedule agreed to.
Second schedule, preamble, and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
.- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The amount which this Bill covers represents the Treasurer’s Advance for two years. The delay in presenting the Bill covering the 1919-20 advance has been occasioned by the late arrival of the AuditorGeneral’s certificate. The 1919-20 and 1920-21 figures are, therefore, being submitted together. These Supplementary Estimates are introduced in order that legal appropriation may be obtained for expenditure made out of Treasurer’s Advance. That vote provides that any expenditure made therefrom shall afterwards be included in parliamentary appropriation. As usual, the Estimates are divided into two parts, namely, for ordinary services and for additions, new works, and buildings. For ordinary services the amount to be appropriated is £1,653,804, and for additions, new works, and buildings, £32,641. The audited accounts have already been presented to Parliament, and I do . not propose at this stage to deal with them in detail.
– Are they all included in this Bill?
– Yes. Any information desired by honorable senators will be available during the consideration of the Bill in Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
.- It is to be regretted that such an important Bill should be introduced during the last hours of the session, because it is utterly impossible for honorable senators to fully grasp its meaning. I understand that the money has all been expended,” and it is now our responsibility to indorse the action of the Government.
– It could not have been introduced before, because we had not received the Auditor-General’s certificate.
– I quite understand that; but there are certain items which I should like to have discussed. There is, for instance, £23,980 in item 19, subdivision 3, for granting relief in cases of distress caused by the maritime strike. There are one or two other items that are probably debatable, but I can merely enter a mild protest against a measure of this description being introduced at the end of the session.
.- -There are several items on which I think the Minister (Senator Russell) should give some information. There is, for instance, the one mentioned by Senator Earle in connexion with the relieving of distress caused by the maritime strike. I understand that that covers two years, and two of the maritime strikes.
– This is for the financial year 1920-21.
– That makes it all the more necessary for the Minister to give some explanation. A sum of £23,980 is a very solid sum to pay out of the Treasurer’s Advance for relieving distress caused by the strike. I would like to know to whom it was distributed. ‘Was it given to those who promoted the strike, or to the victims?
– The victims.
– In Tasmania, in Victoria, or where? I believe those who suffered most in consequence of the maritime strike were on the other, and not on this, side of Bass- Strait, because I know of many instances where the people of Tasmania suffered the greatest possible hardship, particularly small traders. A number of business people visited Melbourne to make their final Christmas purchases, and found that their goods were held up indefinitely, and, in consequence, trade was lost, their business closed, and they were compelled to remain away from home for an unnecessarily long period. I am wondering whether they participated in this distribution, or whether the money was given to those who were responsible for the strike or to their immediate relatives. As the Minister has invited requests for information, perhaps he can give some in this instance.
There is another item under the Prime Minister’s Department in connexion with the High Commissioner’s Office, where £3,657 has been spent on the upkeep of Australia House. Is that for one or two years?
– For one year.
– And this is over and above the ordinary appropriation for that specific purpose?
– It is for the year 1919-20.
– It seems an alarming amount in excess of what Parliament has previously appropriated. The sum of £3,657 is not the total appropriation for the upkeep of Australia House, but merely an excess amount. It has nothing to do with cables, telegrams, the British Chamber of Commerce, Paris, travelling expenses, War pensions, or the supply of Year-books. Such an amount would go a long way towards financing the whole of a Department in some of the States. In passing this amount, are we agreeing to an additional sum to that passed in previous Appropriation Acts?
– The money has been spent out of the Treasurer’s Advance.
– In previous Appropriation Acts, we have provided a substantial sum for a Treasurer’s Advance.
– This is the amount for 1919-20.
– Did the amount we previously passed exceed the amount in this Bill ?
– It was £1,653,804.
– Is that what we actually appropriated for the Treasurer’s Advance for 1920-21 ?
– The amount we appropriated for ordinary services was £1,653,804, and for additions, new works, and buildings, £’32,641.
-. - Has the amount we previously passed . been overdrawn ?
– We could not ex.ceed it, so it must have been more.
– Is it included in the 1920-21 appropriation?
– Yes. -The total estimated cost of Australia House is as follows : - Salary of Controller, £286 ; municipal and other taxes, £12,250; cost of upkeep, £15,250- total, £27,786. We receive, as a set-off against that expenditure, rents, &c, amounting to £23,000.
SenatorFoster - What is the £610 set down for rent in connexion with the High Commissioner’s Office?
– It may have been for accommodation for temporary clerks. The total amount required for 1920-21 was £2,000,000.
– With previous speakers, I wish to record my protest against the policy of bringing down a schedule of expenses that are nearly two years old, and contain items which Parliament would have had a great deal of hesitation in passing before the expenditure was incurred. There is a large sum for the relief of distress in connexion with the maritime strike. There is an item of £10,000 for the Royal Commission on the basic wage. These items come under the Prime Minister’s Department, and I am not going to hold -myself responsible for them. I presume that the sum of £1,400, expended in connexion with the Conference regarding the coal industry was to pay the fares of the delegates who attended the Conference in Melbourne. If there are any people who can afford to pay their own expenses, they are the coal-miners in New South Waleswho, according to the press, are earning from £2 to £3 per day. These workers in New South Wales are dictating their own terms to the people, and this Government recognise their lawless act by paying their fares to a conference. The men concerned in the maritimestrike violated the award of the Court. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and his Government, in lending its power to override the operation of the various awards, have done more to bring arbitration into contempt than anything I know of. There was a wild-goose chase to determine what was the basic wage. Apart from the Government Service, what was the effect of that decision?
– It had a very detrimental effect, from one end of Australia to the other.
– Yes. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has put the country to the unwarranted expense of £10,000. I repudiate the action of the Government, and particularly of the Prime Minister in labour circles, in attempting to interfere with the legitimate functions of the Arbitration Court. The Arbitration Court could well determine that that is its special job. Parliament has not been treated with any semblance of respect.
– The Prime Minister was away when this money was spent.
– All that the aristocrats of Labour in New South Wales have to do is to point- a pistol at the Prime Minister’s head, and he surrenders. The smaller, weaker, loyal unions get no such countenance or favour. In order to draw attention to this expenditure, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the proposed vote, Prime Minister’s Department, £127,032, by £1.
– These amounts are nearly two years old. They have been paid, and have been certified by the AuditorGeneral. It is all very well for Senator Lynch to be heroic, but- the Prime Minister was in England when the expenditure to which the honorable senator has referred was incurred. The expenditure in connexion with the maritime strike was necessary in order that innocent people, women and children, might not be left to starve. The money was not distributed through the unions, but through charitable societies. If the States are prepared to help to feed the poor, surely the Commonwealth should be. These were girls, mostly, who had been thrown out of work by the thousand because there was no coal to keep the factories going. If we ever again meet the same conditions that we encountered during the maritime strike, I am one who will vote £50,000, if necessary, to feed the people who are starving through no fault of their own. I do not think there is any reason for condemning a Government for feeding the people in a time like that. It is not a question of policy; there is no option. The coal strike cost- the Commonwealth £1,400, and the money was probably spent in fares. Shall we look on with our arms folded while the coal mines and the factories are closed down, and refuse to spend £1,400 to obtain a settlement?
– The delegates ought to pay their own expenses.
– And if they refuse to come, what else can be done but, to pay their fares? I do not support doing such things. I hate to be associated with them, but something has to be done when people fold their arms to defeat the nation. We paid the money, and I believe we would pay it again tomorrow in similar circumstances.
– With, regard to the item under Attorney-General’s1 Department, “ Expenses in law case, Merton v. Hughes, £3,087,” I have a recollection that in the annual appropriation for last year a specific sum of about £3,000 was set’ down for this purpose. I desire to know whether the item in the present Bill is in addition to the previous item. If it is additional, why was the expenditure split up, and some of it paid out of a direct appropriation and some out of an ordinary Treasurer’s Advance? It seems remarkable that at the time the Estimates were framed the Government was not in a position to know what the costs in the case were.
.- In the Estimates for 1920-21 an amount was set down for Merton v. Hughes of £3,369. The total expenditure on the case, therefore, is a little over £6,000.
– Included in the Estimates for the Home and Territories Department is an item of £1,223 for the relief of distress at Darwin. This is another example of the weak-kneed action of the Government in dealing with situations that call for some strength in order to see that fair play is given to lawabiding citizens and hard workers throughout the Commonwealth who have not the knack, the intention, or the impudence to complain to the Government on the slightest provocation. This grant was for the relief of distress at Darwin, where the highest wages obtainable in the Commonwealth are paid. I protest absolutely and unequivocally against this expenditure of public money. If I could get -anybody to support me in striking out the item, or reducing the vote, I should be only too happy to move in that direction.
– It is very easy for Senator Lynch to say these things, but when they happen to Governments something has tobe done. This expenditure was incurred when Vestey Brothers closed down. We could not let women and children of our own kith and kin die at Darwin. They were not getting high wages; they were getting nothing.
– But it was their own fault.
– That may be so, but it was too late to blame them when the women and children were starving. The expenditure was for shipping them away from Darwin. The only trouble was that we took the wrong people away from the Territory.
– The statement made by the Minister (Senator Russell) is another proof of the belated way in which this Senate is asked to consider the Estimates. The Minister has said that £1,223 was spent in moving these people from Darwin. I remember that when- this money was provided by the Government it was freely stated that individuals who had gone up .to Darwin, who had made money there, and had banked amounts running into hundreds of pounds, ‘and, I think, in one case amounting to £1,000, had succeeded in getting free passages out of the Territory to Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane. And it was said that was typical of many others. This form of granting relief for distress is one that should be thoroughly investigated by Parliament. As has been pointed out on a previous item, people who were supposed to have been victimized by the disturbances in Darwin were paid certain amounts. Even some of . those who contributed to the disturbance, and who certainly were not in distressful circumstances, were enabled to get the benefit of Government assistance.
– That would indicate weakness on the part- of the officials there. It was never intended that relief should be given in that way.
– It also indicates lack of proper supervision.
– Do I understand, Mr. Chairman, that the Committee has passed the vote for the Home and Territories Department?
– The Home and Territories Department has been dealt with by the Committee.
– Everything is being rushed so much that I have been denied an opportunity of protesting against the proposed expenditure on the Federal Capital.
– These accounts are two years old.
-Then what is the use of discussing them ?
– I rise once again to protest against this method of conducting public business. No honorable senator has had an opportunity of reading the Bill, which has been put in our hands within the last few minutes. We are told that this expenditure is two years old. It is all very well for the Minister (Senator Russell) to say that measures like this must receive parliamentary authority. The whole system is wrong.
– On the second leading, the Minister said all the moneys had been paid, but that if any honorable senator wanted information in Committee, it would be forthcoming.
– And I am endeavouring to supply that information.
– I understand that there is another Bill to follow this. Is this fair? Are we to have no opportunity to scrutinize these measures ? How can we be expected to give an intelligent vote when business is rushed through like this?
– If we chip £1 off the account, we will bring the Government to their senses.
– I have not had time to read this Bill yet. If it is necessary, and in the public interests, that we should sit next week, then let us sit rather than rush Bills through in this way, I, for one, decline to accept this responsibility.
– It is not the fault of the Government that we are going to close down. We are prepared to go on.
– Am I entitled to read this Bill before I agree to it?
– Then I feel disposed to move the adjournment of the debate till to-morrow, and put the Government to the test. I take my public duties seriously, and I object most strongly to the present procedure.
– This expenditure has all been approved of by Parliament, and is1 certified to by the AuditorGeneral as having been correctly paid. We did not delay the Bill. We did not get his certificate before.
– Does the Minister say that the Auditor-General is over twelve months behind with his work. If so, the position is a most serious one.
– His certificate was a little bit too late for last year.
– But why has the Bill been brought in at this eleventh hour ?
– Because of the pressure of public business.
– That statement might go down with the people outside, but not in this Chamber.
– The honorable senator must not forget that money Bills have to be initiated in another place.
– I know all about that. What I want to know is, WAy has this Bill been hung up for twelve months after the Auditor- General had reported upon it?
– It is merely a record of expenditure. The honorable senator is not being asked to vote any money.
– But the Minister will admit that if I support the measure I am necessarily indorsing certain expenditure that has been incurred, and I submit that I am entitled to know what I am doing, and what is in the Bill.
– The money was all spent before the honorable senator came into this Parliament.
– I realize that; but still I contend that we should have sufficient time to become acquainted with the details of this- measure, and to be able to say whether or not there has been any unjustifiable expenditure. If we pass the Bill now, and six months hence some irregularity is discovered, the Government will be able to say, “Well, Parliament- passed it.” I am entitled to ample opportunity to read all these money Bills. In this case the Government are not giving me that opportunity. I protest against this procedure.
– I indorse, the remarks made by Senator Wilson. As a business man, I take exception to being brought here at nighttime, or any other time, and being made a fool of, by being asked to approve details of expenditure of which I cannot possibly be expected to know anything. I have not even had time to read the Bill. I did want to protest against the expenditure of money for the relief of the people at Darwin, and against expenditure by the Government upon the Federal Capital, but the vote for the Home and Territories Department was passed before I was able to do so. I take strong exception to all this waste of public money at a time when there is such an insistent cry on every hand for economy. So urgent was this demand in another place that, in the Defence Estimates, the other day the Government, with one stroke of the pen, cut out an item of £40,000 intended for the purchase of necessary machinery for the extension of the Woollen Cloth Factory at Geelong, a concern that has been magnificently managed. It ia turning cut an infinite variety of material for all the Departments, as well as splendid tweeds, at a reasonable price, for our returned soldiers, and it shows a. net profit of £26,000 a year. This item of £40,000 which the Government have. cut out, was to have been expended in the purchase of necessary machinery, which should have been ordered long ago, to extend the output from the mills. The Factory is one of the finest institutions we have in Australia, and yet its activities are to be curtailed. Without knowing anything of the contents of this Bill, we are asked, at this eleventh hour, to meekly accept it at the hands of the Government, and refrain from criticism. T object to this method of rushing business through. Of course, we can do nothing except protest; otherwise we would be taking the business out of the hands of the Government. We might just as well be at home as here transacting public business in this way.
– This Bill is merely a statement df accounts already paid.
– Who authorized the payment of these accounts?
– We did, under the £2,000,000 advance.
– Then what is the good of this Bill?
– The honorable senator is making much ado about nothing, apparently.
– Well, I wanted to protest against the action of the Government in cutting out the veto of £40,000 for the purchase of necessary machinery for the development of the Geelong Woollen Mills, which, as I have shown, is a national asset.
– I should like some explanation from the Minister concerning the item £10,976, expenses in connexion with the aerial flight, England to Australia, because I notice that, under the Prime Minister’s Department, which we have passed, there is an item of £10,000, representing the Commonwealth Government’s prize won by Sir Ross Smith for the first aerial flight from Great Britain to Australia.
– The amount to which the honorable senator refers has reference to the flight of Sir Ross Smith from England to Australia.
– The prize awarded to Sir Ross Smith is appropriated under the Estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department. The vote now under consideration probably includes the expense of the removal of a tree at Port Darwin.
– I am informed that this vote of £10,976 covers the expense of establishing landing places and oil depots. It will be remembered that one man went from Melbourne to Darwin to meet Sir Ross Smith, and succeeded in getting there in time to do so. Two men, Messrs. Fish and McGuinness, journeyed by motor car, and marked out the route across Australia, and their expenses are also covered by the vote. In addition, the oil companies were asked to provide supplies of petrol at various depots along the route.
– I had the pleasure of listening to Senator Guthrie just now in his denunciation of Supplementary Estimates. If the honorable senator could show the present or any other Government how to avoid them he would be conferring a great favour. Parliament is by no means a new institution, and it has never yet been found possible to do without Supplementary Estimates. From his wide experience of private- business, the honorable senator must know that unexpected expenditures will always be necessary. He has himself just assented to one item covering the preparation of landing grounds in connexion with the British-Australian flight. That expenditure was not contemplated when Parliament was asked to approve of the original Estimates.
– I do not like that payment to the strikers at Port Darwin.
– Whether right or wrong, that was an emergency which the Government had to meet. The honorable senator does not like that item, but it is possible that he favours others which other honorable senators do not approve. It is . necessary that the Government should be given some latitude to spend without waiting for parliamentary approval. Parliament not having made provision for these expenditures, they were met from the Treasurer’s Advance. If a building were approaching 95 per cent, of completion, and, owing to some unexpected delay, increased cost of material, a strike, or an increase in wages, an amount in excess of that appropriated by Parliament for the building were required, the honorable senator would not say that the building should stand still until Parliament met again and could appropriate the amount necessary to complete it. It is not correct to say that these Supplementary Estimates are being pushed through without honorable senators having an opportunity to properly consider them, because the particulars are published every year in the AuditorGeneral’s report, from which honorable senators may make themselves acquainted with the items to the smallest detail before they are asked to approve of them in Parliament. In defence of Supplementary Estimates, I repeat that unless Parliament is prepared to give the Government some loose cash to meet emergencies, the whole course of government must come to a stand-still.
– I agree that the Government must have a certain amount of cash to go and come upon, but what I take strong exception to is that we should now be asked ,to consider expenditure that was incurred over two years ago. The Government should be able to submit Estimates covering extra expenditure more quickly than that. Honorable senators, with the exception of the few who were members of the last Parliament, can scarcely be expected to be familiar with the details of expenditure which occurred prior to the assembling of this Parliament. I have studied the AuditorGeneral’s report, and I have before me now a schedule containing seventy-eight pages which I have not had time to read, much less to discuss. Senator E. D. Millen cannot be serious when he suggests that we are in a position to give an intelligent vote on these items now. I consider it my duty to make myself acquainted with the contents of measures submitted to the Senate before I record a vote in connexion with them. When the Government ask us to-night to consider items of expenditure which should have been dealt with twelve months ago, it does not say much for the regard they have for the Senate.
.- We have been told that the reason why we are asked to deal with expenditure extending over two years is that the Auditor-General’s report was not obtained at that time. I suppose the reason for that was that the Budget was not presented in time the year before last. The Auditor-General reported on the financial transactions of the Commonwealth for the year ended 30th June last, and for the period from June until the 9th October. It is clear that there were some payments made up to the 30th June, and also some payments made in the year which ended in the preceding June; and because the Budget-papers were not presented to Parliament in time, we are now asked to approve of payments that were made two years ago. I am not finding fault with the Government on that account; but what I do find fault with is that payments were made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), or some one acting in his stead, which were not in the remotest degree reconcilable with the policy of the Government I am supporting. I singled out items for which I do not hold myself responsible. One was the payment of the expenses of Newcastle miners’ delegates to come to this place to represent people who, apparently, can dictate their own terms. The Prime Minister told us the other day that the price of Newcastle coal in Adelaide is 38s., as against 35s. for Welsh coal. We know that Newcastle miners are earning from £2 to £3 per day; and when they declare a strike, hold up the country, and hold a pistol to the heads of members of the Government, the Government weakly say, “ Come over to Melbourne, and your expenses and incidentals will be paid.” That is not in accordance with the policy of the National party. The National
Government was brought into being in order to see fair play to all sections, and rot cower before or lend special consideration to any.
– The honorable senator’s remarks are not in order. He cannot engage in a general discussion on these Estimates. The Committee is ndw dealing with the Department of Defence.
– I suppose that we are permitted to veto any of these items if we think it right to do so. I am only endeavouring to show that the Government have not treated honorable senators as they should be treated, especially in respect to the items I have specially mentioned. At any rate, I enter my protest for what it is worth. I know that I could not secure the support that I should like; but I trust that what has been said will be a warning to the Government to submit their accounts sufficiently early to enable honorable senators to recall the payments that have been made, in order that they may protest against those of which they do not approve.
– I should like some explanation of the item under the Department of the Navy, “ Pay of Permanent Staff, £3,523 Citizen Naval Forces. I am aware that some payments in excess of appropriation, had to be made because of the increased cost of living; but should like to know the details of the expenditure covered by this item. Honorable senators will see that it is a much larger amount than has been expended in other cases, and as it is one of the smallest services in connexion with the Navy, some explanation should be forthcoming.
– Apparently the staff has been increased, which has necessitated an additional payment being made from the Treasurer’s Advance.
Under “Miscellaneous Services,” the Department of the Navy, there is an amount of £10,706 for travelling expenses in connexion with officers and men, and in certain cases, their families, to and from the United Kingdom. Can the Minister explain that amount?
– The expenditure is for the year 1919-20, when we were exchanging officers with Great Britain.
– Under the Department of Trade and Customs, £7,905 is shown for expenditure in connexion with the equipment of a Serum Institute, including pay of exempt officers. Although it is alleged that there is an outbreak of bubonic plague in the Commonwealth - which I very much doubt - we have been informed that the supply of serum is inadequate. Have the stocks been replenished, and if not, is there any likelihood of further supplies being available?
– In the Department of Trade and Customs, £7,946 is shown for the administration of the Commerce Act of 1905. I take it from what the Minister (Senator Russell) has said in. regard to preceding items that this is an appropriation for one year, and it must be remembered is in addition to the ordinary appropriation for this purpose for that year. We are now asked to sanction expenditure over the amount previously appropriated, and as the sum is substantial, I would like some information concerning the amount.
– The original vote was £29,000, and the reason for the increase is due to the fact that more extensive work had to be undertaken. Honorable senators are aware that the services covered by the Commerce Act involve the inspection of exports, and it was found that the work had increased to such an extent that additional appointments had to be made, and, consequently, this amount appears.
– Is it due to an increase in exports?
– Probably, and possibly also to the fact that a greater variety of articles were inspected. We do not wish the good name of Australia to be damaged, and it will’ be admitted that thorough inspection is necessary. Although our. figures do not show the revenue from this source, it has to be remembered that fees are paid and, in the end, the ledger will probably balance. The same remark also applies to Senator Reid’s inquiry, because serum is sold, and this is a profitable undertaking. I understand that the receipts under the Commerce Act were about £34,000, and as £29,000 was originally appropriated, and the authority for an additional £7,000 is now sought, the account is about square.
I am not in a position to answer Senator Reid’s inquiry as to the supplies of serum available, although many reasons may suggest themselves to me as a layman. It is a highly payable institution, and it is only reasonable to suppose that a sudden demand for serum such as in the event of an outbreak of bubonic plague, could not be met immediately.
.- When I left Queensland, two months ago, there was no appearance of plague, and supplies of serum were not available. I think the Federal authorities should be able to give some explanation.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the officer in Brisbane is much to blame for not proclaiming the presence of plague before he did?
– There is also under this Department an amount for expenses in connexion with the control of venereal disease. Are the Federal Government directly dealing with that, or is it a matter for the States?
– An agreement was entered into between the Commonwealth and the States under which the Commonwealth undertook to pay subsidies to assist the States in combating the disease. This represents the Commonwealth share over the estimate, and has been taken from the Treasurer’s Advance.
– There appears under the Department for Works and Railways for the first time under the heading of “ Miscellaneous ‘ ‘ a whole list of items prefaced by the word “ Read,” followed by a list prefaced with the words “In lieu of . “ I . take it that it is intended to substitute the first set of amounts for the subsequent set, but we do not know where the subsequent set appears.
– They were in the previous Estimates, and this is a correction.
SenatorKEATING.- It does not say what Estimates they appeared in.
-i think the Auditor-General may be trusted to see that that is in order.
– Does the list covered by the words “ In lieu of “ occur in the Estimates of 1918-19, corresponding with these Estimates, or in the ordinary Estimates of 1919-20?
– In the main Estimates. We are asked to substitute certain items which wrongly appeared in the main Estimates. Those which wrongly appear amount to £1,850, and if we deduct that figure from £5,528 we get the amount which the Committee is now asked to sanction.
’. - The Division referred to includes Fire insurance, Parliament House, £350. I was under the impression that the Government did their own insurance.
– To insure against fire is one of the conditions under which we occupy this building.
– Is it a fact that a great number of Commonwealth buildings are not insured at all?
– We do not insure Commonwealth buildings, but carry our own risks, except in special cases where there may be an agreement to insure, or where insurance may be considered expedient.
– Under “ Miscellaneous,” Department of Works and Railways, there is an item of £440 for the purchase and maintenance of two rain-producing plants. I should like to know whether any successful result was obtained from the experiments. It would be a fine thing for Australia if a means could be discovered of artificially bringing rain out of the clouds.
– Iendorse the remarks of Senator Reid. Are the plants referred to available, and has the experiment proved satisfactory? Even if the work has not been successful, the plants should be preserved as historical records of this interesting experiment.
– The experiment is said to have produced only negative results. The plants were mainly the property of the gentleman who carried out the work. Nearly the whole of the amount of £440 represents the cost of maintenance. I regret to say that no practical result was obtained.
– Where was the experiment made?
– In the Riverina, in the Mallee, and along the East- West railway.
– There was an item of £250 in the main Estimates of 1919-20 towards the cost of storage and seasoning of timber. Is that work to be continued ? ‘
– The policy is being continued. It is not possible to furnish details such as are being asked for to-night. When the main Estimates are passed, these items all come under review; but it has not been found necessary, from past experience, to have departmental officials present to supply information, during the passage of the Supplementary Estimates.
– I notice that under “War Services” there is a payment of £16 for the dependants of persons who were killed by Turks at Broken Hill. I would like to know if the Federal Treasury can spare that amount, in view of the fact that other people only need to go on strike and to remain there in order to obtain a very considerable sum?
– The amount paid previously was £16 short. That is the reason why this amount is now voted on the Supplementary Estimates.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title passed.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– The Government ought not to have any objection to delaying this Bill long enough to enable honorable senators at least to read it.
– It is only small.
– An amount of £32,641 is big enough for me to give serious consideration to. There are items included under the heading, “ Federal Capital Territory,” for completion of Cotter River Water Supply, £140, and accommodation for school teacher, £337. Under the heading of “ Military,” over £5,000 is mentioned. It is absurd and impossible to expect honorable senators to understand the Bill at such short notice. Surely honorable senators have some accountability in such matters.
– Over what period does this expenditure extend? Is this Bill on allfours with the last Bill, which was, in effect, an invitation to the Senate to say, “ I agree to expending money that was expended over two years ago “ ?
– The expenditure is for the year 1920.
– This Bill represents another supplementary amount of £32,000. It is not a large amount, but the measure is introduced very late in the session and honorable senators know nothing about it. There is an item for further expenditure on the Federal Capital - the bush capital that some people wish to condemn us to at some time in our lives. With the huge external debts of the Commonwealth, amounting to £657,000,000, or £131 per head, it is time we called a halt in unproductive expenditure. The financial outlook is undoubtedly very serious, mainly on account of the fact that the products from which we derive our wealth have decreased in value by 62 per cent, as compared with a year ago. As a result, very little revenue will be received from income tax or Customs dues. I protest emphatically against the expenditure of money on nonproductive works such as the .Federal Capital, especially when the Government has seen the necessity of economizing to the extent of withdrawing £40,000 which was to have gone towards the extension of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong, which were showing a good return on the capital invested in them. It is absolutely absurd to ask honorable senators at the eleventh hour to agree to nonproductive expenditure when consideration has not even been given to the requests of the Limbless Soldiers Association.
– This is . not money to be spent; it is money that has been spent.
– I object to indorsing unnecessary expenditure on the Federal Capital or other non-productive works? I wish to put in a plea for fair, reasonable, and sympathetic consideration of the requests put before the Minister in July last by the Limbless Soldiers Association, who asked for pensions that are fair in every particular, and most moderate. I hope that before the session closes the Minister will give the Senate an opportunity to discuss this matter, and that the Government will agree to expend a few thousand pounds in providing pensions for men who have lost limbs and eye-sight in the service of the country, instead of spending money on nonproductive works.
– I am rather thankful to Senator Guthrie for having spoken. Nothing more than his recent speech is needed to illustrate the want of substance in the complaints that are being made regarding the presentation of these Supplementary Estimates. I say nothing about the offence of having the expenditure at Canberra instead of Geelong, but I draw attention to the fact that the honorable gentleman is now complaining that he has not had time to consider the proposal to approve of an expenditure of £447 at Canberra. The other day he had ample opportunity to protest against expenditure on Canberra when £200, 000 was voted. It is like straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel - in fact, swallowing a whole team of camels. I do not mind the honorable gentleman complaining, but I protest against his saying that these matters are brought forward without giving time for consideration. The Senate had the whole Canberra question before it the other day, and by a majority, which did not have the honour of the support of Senator Guthrie, approved of a proposal to spend £200,000.
– Shame ! Absolutely, shame I
– The honorable member must not reflect in that way upon a vote of the Senate.
– On a less exciting subject Senator Guthrie would not feel any pride in his attitude of the last moment or two.
– We cannot ask a school teacher in the Federal Territory tosleep in the open.
– Apparently some people would allow her to sleep anywhere but in the Federal Territory. The items in this Bill represent works of which Parliament, has approved. The amountprovided was insufficient to carry the works through, and the Treasurer, as any other business man would have done, rather than see works so near completion stand still for the want of a few extra pounds, provided the money out of his till. An account is now submitted of how the extra sums were spent, and Parliament is asked to approve of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
– I would like the Minister to explain the presence in the Bill of the item, “ Aviation - towards acquisition of sites and construction of hangars, workshops and barracks, and provision of equipment * and plant, £19,991.” This appears to be original work. If so, it does not square with the statement made by the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) that all these items have been before honorable senators on previous occasions.
– Last year we voted £40,000 and spent only £19,991.
– I should like some explanation concerning the item £4,830 for Woollen Cloth Factory, additional machinery and plant.
– Last year the vote was £2,000, but the additional machinery and plant cost £4,830.
– There is another item, Field Artillery and Engineers, towards cost of providing guns and vehicles, harness, equipment, and stores, £6. I was wondering how many guns, vehicles, &c, could be provided for that amount.
– That* is where the policy of retrenchment comes in. We wanted £1,000, but only spent £6.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
– In moving -
That this Bill be now. read a second time,
I should like to say that I dealt generally with the position when moving the second reading of a similar Bill for the previous year. ‘ The amount spent out of the Treasurer’s Advance for the ordinary services was £1,294,327, and the balance is represented by additional new works and buildings.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
– This is another Appropriation Bill, and as it has just been received I am not going to accept any personal responsibility for its passage unless I have an opportunity to consider its details, because the items of expenditure dealt with in it have been incurred since I have been a member of this Senate.
– You voted for this expenditure last year.
– Did I? And the Minister now wants me to confirm expenditure in excess of the amount provided last year. Some if the items in this schedule I certainly did not vote for, so the Minister’s statement is absolutely incorrect. At this late hour I do not want to hang up the business of the Government, but I am not going to be a party to doing business in this fashion. I have not yet had time to read the Bill. It is a disgraceful procedure to ask me to vote for items of expenditure which I have not had time even to look at. Surely the Government are not going to rob me of my accountability in a matter of this sort by saying to me, “ Here is the Bill ; vote for it.” At 10 minutes past 11 o’clock the Government, it seems, want me to agree to a Bill representing the expenditure of huge sums of public money without giving me an opportunity to discuss its details and judge whether the expenditure was justifiable or otherwise.
– The money has been spent, so you cannot help it.
– But I am now being asked to indorse that expenditure, and I do not care to agree to that course. I ask the Minister for an adjournment, otherwise I shall have to read every item in the Bill in order to make myself acquainted with its details.
– I regret that I cannot comply with the honorable senator’s request. We have paid this money, and hold the certificate of the AuditorGeneral that it is paid correctly.
– But have I not the right to inquire whether the money has beenwisely spent?
– But the Minister is not prepared to adjourn the consideration of this Bill to give me time to inquire into the items of the schedule.
– All this expenditure is in the Budget.
– I am surprised that the Minister should make such a statement. He cannot be conversant with the Bill himself. There are items in the schedule which have never been discussed by this Parliament before.
– The money was paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance for 1920-21, and the schedule to this Bill shows how it was spent.
– Many of the items of the schedule have never previously been before the Senate.
– That is absolutely wrong.
– No; there are new items included in the schedule.
– In the Appropriation Bill all these items are shown as having been paid last year.
– Then why should we pass them again ?
– Because the Government cannot expend the Treasurer’s Advance without giving an account to Parliament of the way in which it was expended.
– Surely I am not asking too much when I ask for time to make myself conversant with these items of expenditure. The Minister puts this
Bill before me, and asks me to indorse the expenditure of the Government, and make myself conversant with it after I have done so. That is expecting too much of any man who values his position as a member of the Senate. I find an item in the Attorney-General’s Estimates, “Law costs, Merton versus Hughes, £3,269.
– We have already passed a vote of £7,000 for the same purpose.
– The item to which Senator Wilson has referred will be found set out in the Appropriation. Bill which we have been discussing for the last two days.
– If it were a mattier of the honorable senator’s private business, or of mine, we should consider it for a month. I notice another item, “ Petty cash expenditure, including expenses of representatives of organizations, £1,594.” Surely we are entitled to details of that expenditure.
– That refers to representatives of organizations attending the Arbitration Court.
– I feel inclined to read every item in the schedule. Some honorable senators appear to be prepared to let these votes pass as a matter of course, but I protest against that method of doing business. I say that we should adjourn so that honorable senators may have time to investigate these items.
– We can adjourn if it is the wish of the Senate. Let the honorable senator submit a motion, and see. if it is the wish of the Senate.
– Tha Minister might give me credit for knowing better than to do that. He knows that he has the numbers, and when the bell rings I know where the birds go to roost. .
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
. -I may be permitted to express the opinion that a great deal of waste of unnecessary time might be avoided if the Supplementary Estimates were compiled in an intelligible manner. There are two forms of expenditure embodied in these Estimates. There is unforeseen expenditure, which has never come before Parliament in the ordinary Estimates, and there is excess expenditure on items for which Parliament has appropriated money.
– The Minister was wrong in saying that all these items appear in the Budget.
– These Estimates should be compiled in such a way as to separate new expenditure! from excess expenditure on votes which have already been appropriated. The amounts might be shown in separate columns, and that would assist honorable senators materially. These Supplementary Estimates do not fit in with the details furnished to us in the general Estimates which we have just passed. In the general Estimates honorable senators will find in the third column figures indicating the actual amount expended during the previous financial year. In many cases it is shown that those amounts exceeded the amounts appropriated for the previous financial year which are shown in the second column of the general Estimates. In the first column are shown the votes which Parliament is asked to appropriate for the current year. The purpose of including in the third column the amount actually expanded during the previous year i.-) to enable honorable senators to decide whether the amounts asked for to cover the expenditure for the current financial year are warranted. Let us consider some of the items somewhat in detail. Under Divisions Nos. 39 and 42 there are examples of what appear to be inaccuracies. Item No. 7 of subdivision 2 of Division 39 shows £32 for travelling expenses, which means that the vote has been exceeded by that amount.
– The amount has been underestimated by £32. (Senator PAYNE.- Exactly. If the Minister will turn to the Estimates covering that item he will find that travelling expenses last year were stated to have been £180 less than the amount voted, and we are now asked to vote £32 in order to recoup the Treasurer for the excess expenditure over that voted last year. The next item under the same subdivision shows £55 for cleaning Court and offices. If honorable senators will turn to the schedule of the Appropriation Bill just passed they will find, under item No. 8 in the third column, that £205 more than the amount voted last year has been spent, and to meet that we are now asked to sanction the appropriation of £132. The figures do not agree in the least. I understand that the details in the schedule before us show the actual expenditure.
– .That is so.
– But they do not tally, and the figures in one column must be wrong. In item No. 9 of subdivision 2 of Division 44 ?1,000 was voted last year, and the third column shows the actual expenditure as ?2,593, so the vote was exceeded by ?1,593, but to meet that we are now asked to sanction the expenditure of ?1,594. In item No. 10 in the same subdivision for shorthand notes of Court proceedings ?1,000 was Voted last year, and ?2,509 is said to have been spent, but to meet that we are asked to vote ?1,319. Under the Division of Patents, Trade Marks, and Designs there is an amount of ?10,696 for “ other printing.” A sum of ?6,000 was voted in the Estimates of last year, but the information supplied in the third column shows that ?14,946 were spent, so that the vote was exceeded by ?8,946. To meet that excess expenditure we are asked to vote ?10,696. Cannot some explanation be made? There are similar instances in connexion with other Departments, and it is impossible for honorable senators to make the figures agree.
– They cannot always agree, because transfers are allowed.
– No money can be spent without the authority of Parliament, and when figures are submitted for our guidance they should be accurate.
– A vote can be transferred from one item to another.
– There is statutory authority for that, I believe, under the Audit Act.
– That does not affect the position.
– The totals of the subdivisions are subject to the. same criticism, as will be found by reference to the Patent and Trade Marks Division.
– Yes, according to the Estimates, ?3 less was spent on “ office requisites,” and yet we are asked to vote ?73 in the Supplementary Estimates.
– The expenditure shown in the third column of the Estimates cannot be regarded as final, as it is subject to audit. The amounts were classified, and the figures submitted for a rough guide. It is also permissible tq make transfers from one Division to another under section 37 of the Audit Act. That, I think, explains the disparity.
– That information should have been given when the Bill was introduced, ?and would have saved a good deal of unnecessary discussion.
-(Senator Bakhap). : - The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– In subdivision 3 of Division 37 - Attorney-General’s Department - there is ?3,369 in connexion with the law case, Merton versus Hughes. In the Supplementary Estimates for 1919-20, which we have already passed, ?3,087 appeared, and when we were discussing the item I obtained from the Minister an assurance that, apart from the ?3,087 provided for in 1919-20, there was, durin’g that financial year, a sum of ?3,600 specially appropriated for the expenses incurred in that law case, making a total during the financial year 1919-20 of ?6,687. In these Supplementary Estimates we are now asked to appropriate ?3,369 for the same purpose, which makes ?10,056. Is this’ an annually recurring item? Am I right in assuming that the expenditure has been in the vicinity of ?10,000?
– No, about ?7,000.
– Then What is the ?3,369 for?
– Payments have to be met as the accounts come in from London.
– An item of expenditure such as this must have been contemplated, and it should not have appeared in two separate Supplementary Estimates. There could not be a stronger argument as to why these Estimates should be exhaustively analyzed. Is the expenditure finished now, or will it be an annually recurring item?
– It is finished now.
– Were there three sums of ?3,000 odd or only two?
– Only two.
– The ordinary Appropriation Bill of the current year purports to cover expenditure for the year 1920-1921. That is the period covered by the Bill before the Committee. If honorable senators will compare the information contained in the ordinary Appropriation Bill for this year with the expenditure actually incurred during 1920-1921, it will be seen that not one item tallies. In some instances the expenditure exceeds the vote, and in other cases the position is reversed. But there are some items where the expenditure is less than the vote, and yet we are asked for a supplementary vote. Under the amended Audit Act, I believe, it is competent for a Department to transfer a sum from one item of expenditure to another, provided always that it is in the same subdivision. That, to a certain extent, explains the discrepancies. If the Minister (Senator Russell) will look at the totals provided under the subdivisions in the present Bill, he will find that they do not tally with the differences between the actual vote and actual expenditure for the year 1920-1921, as set out in the general Estimates. The Minister states also that the items of actual expenditure are to be taken as subject to alterations, because they have not been finalized. We are dealing with these amounts months after the close of the year 1920-1921, and surely the actual expenditure should be known.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap).The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I should like to know why there is £10,696 put down for excess printing in connexion with the Patents Office?
– I understand that there was a heavy rush of printing in connexion with patents at the conclusion of the war.
– Would not this item include the cost of printing plans and specifications in connexion with patents?
SenatorVardon. - Then, I take it, that the money is recoverable from those using the Patents Office?
– Senator Senior must ‘know that since the termination of the war provision has been made under the Peace Treaty for the preservation and maintenance of applications in respect to patents that. may have lapsed owing to the war. Very liberal provisions were inserted to enable people to renew lapsed applications. I take it that the Bill which is going to be introduced will deal with these postwar matters, and enable people to prosecute their rights. Matters affecting industrial property were largely held up during the war, and since the Armistice there has been a rush by people to establish or confirm their rights.
– I would like some information regarding the item “ Investigation of oil-fields under agreement with the AngloPersian Oil Company, £15,000.” A large amount of money has been expended on that work, and wehave had no information as to the results achieved.
– I understand that the operations have not so far achieved satisfactory results. A little oil was obtained, but certainly not in commercial quantities. There has been a discovery in the Dutch territory adjoining British Papua, and as there is only an imaginary boundary line between the two territories, there is every reason to hope that a valuable discovery will be made. The information the Government have is that we have now the best prospectwe have everhad of discovering oil in Australian territory.
– I noticed in the last annual report regarding Papua that something like fourteen small bores had been put down, with negative results in most cases. In one or two cases there were indications of oil. I take it that the operations are now being carried on at a different place from that previously prospected by the Government.
– That is so. The investigations are now being made right up to the Dutch border.
– Can the Minister (Senator Russell) give the Committee any information regarding the- item of £94,500 for the promotion of immigration? What result has been achieved for that expenditure, and how many immigrants have been brought to Australia ? I believe one of the great drawbacks to getting the best class of citizens out here is the fact that we are so far removed from the Homeland. Large numbers of people flock from Great Britain to Canada and the United States of America, and I believe that in a great majority of cases they say to themselves, ‘ If the new home is not congenial and does not suit me, there is always a reasonable chance of being able to get home again.” In this connexion, a thought has just occurred to me. I would suggest that the Government consider a proposition to guarantee to immigrants a return passage after a certain date. If any prospective immigrant can satisfy the Australian representative in London that he has sufficient money to support himself in Australia for at least six months, the Government might undertake to guarantee him a free return passage should he find ‘Australia unsuitable. Honorable senators may consider that by doing this we would be helping cheap tourists; but if a person is kept in Australia for six months there is a very good prospect of inducing him to remain. Even if, after that period, he- does take the return journey, he will certainly have contributed a good deal to the Commonwealth, and the expenditure will not all have been lost.
. a.m.]. - Can the Minister furnish any information on the important subject of the campaign against the hookworm disease ?
.. - I am not in a position to give details, except to say that the campaign is meeting with satisfactory results, and that the doctors themselves are very hopeful and optimistic regarding the outcome.
– Can the Minister inform the Committee whether the item “ Subsidy for steam-ship service (passengers and cargo) between Melbourne and Darwin, including light dues, £2,900 “ is a subsidy paid to the Burns, Philp line of steamers that run to Darwin ‘once a month? Under present arrangements the boats arrive at Darwin a day or two days after the boat for the south has departed. Consequently business people and others who receive a mail on the sixth or the seventh of the month have to wait until the fourth or the fifth of the following month before they can despatch a reply. It would be a great convenience if the time-table were altered so that the boat from the south arrived a day or two before the outgoing boat departed. If the Government is paying a subsidy for the conveyance of mails I think it would not be unreasonable to ‘ask the shipping company . to give gome consideration to the wishes of the people at Darwin.
Recently the hotels in the Northern Territory have’ been leased to various people, but, as far as I can gather, the Government is retaining the right to control the liquor store. If the Government are going to relax control of the liquor trade, they should not continue control of the liquor store either. I notice another item, £711, grant for the relief of distress in Darwin. I take it that means relief in the form of rations for the unemployed.
– I understand it was to provide for passages of pertain people away from Darwin.
– It is most regrettable that the Government should be providing money for the payment of passages of people away from Darwin at a time when the Northern Territory is crying out for more population. Certain public works have been agreed to, including the Katherine River Bridge, and some ballasting for the railway line from Darwin. It would be better if the Government spent what money may be available in wages to men engaged on such works rather than in financially assisting them to leave the Territory.
– A little while ago I asked for some information with regard to immigration, but received no reply from the Minister. I can assure him that I do not ask questions for fun. I certainly think he should do me the courtesy of replying.
– I regret that I am not in a position to give the honorable senator detailed information on this subject. I understand that about 50,000 people have been brought out since the scheme was initiated-, and we are hopeful that the number will be greatly increased in the near future. I believe one vessel is about due to arrive with about 380 people for Victoria.
– I should like some information on the item, under the Defence
Department, £34,979, described as expenditure in respect of officers - warrant and non-commissioned officers sent abroad for instruction or duty. Can the Minister say how many officers were sent abroad, what were their ranks, and what was the coat?
– Originally that item waa £36,135, so there has been a reduction. The graduates are sent abroad for special training. Some go to India, and some to Great Britain. We all agree that it is desirable they should get the best possible training available to them.
– That is not a reply to my question. I want to know how many officers went abroad, what were_ their ranks, and what was the cost.
– I regret that I am not in a position to tell the honorable senator.
– Now we are getting it. No one seems to know much about these details.
– Give notice of your question.
– The honorable senator evidently is prepared to vote on any of these items without information at all, I am not. Before I pass an item like this I shall know the details.
– The item is only a bookkeeping adjustment.
– I know all about the difference and adjustment between £36,135 and £34,979. What I want to know is what it cost the Government to send these warrant and non-commissioned officers abroad for instruction, and how many were sent.
Senator FOSTER (Tasmania) [12.25 a.m. .- 1 am not concerned so much with the question raised by Senator Wilson as I am with regard to some other items in the Defence Department. I think the Committee is entitled to know something about the item, £19,177, for increased rates of pay in the permanent units, and that sorb of thing. Surely when the financial year closed on 30th. June, 1921, the papers sent by the various Departments to the Treasury should have disclosed the rates of pay paid during the current- year, and the number of people on the staff unless, of course, this means retrospective pay, which had previously not been agreed to, or which had not become the policy of the Government until some two or three months after the close’ of the financial year. There are a number of other items such as the basic wageallowance, and also allowances to family.’ men. All this information ought to have been disclosed in the Budget-papers unless there was some definite reason for bringing these items forward in the Supplementary Estimates. This is the sort of thing I complained of the other’ day when dealing with the Loan Appropriation Bill. It is possible that some of these items were included in special appropriations, with the result that very few honorable senators have any idea at all as towhat is the actual expenditure under certain headings. Any one taking the Appropriation Bill, which we passed the other day, totalling about £27,000,000, and then getting these Supplementary Estimates to-night, and being asked to bear in mind that a certain portion of money has been appropriated under special Acts, has not very much idea how things are really going unless he is an expert, and has Treasury experience. Bills of this nature are brought before us without any notice whatever, the Standing Orders are suspended, and we are expected to agree to them without, delay. Of course we are assured that everything is all right, but we are not in a position to know anything of the details. Can the Minister give us any information about the increased rates of pay, £19,177, and the basic wage allowances, and say why it is we do not get these items until six months after the close of the financial year?
– What I have to say applies to the item to which Senator Foster has referred, and to all” similar items. They represent the amounts expended in excess of the votes appropriated by Parliament for a given year. In this case, a certain amount was provided for the basic wage, and it was found that an extra amount was required. That was taken out of the Treasurer’s Advance, and the Committee1 is now asked to confirm the payment. Senator Foster asks why that should not appear in the next ensuing Estimates ; but the general Estimates do not profess to deal with moneys expended out of the Treasurer’s Advance, but with the expenditure for the current year. These excess payments were made in the year that has gone, and for which appropriations were made. If these amounts were included in the Estimates for the current year, honorable senators would not know what was paid from the Treasurer’s Advance, and what was the fresh appropriation passed. Presented in this way, these Supplementary Estimates show exactly what the Treasurer did with the money made available to him in the Treasurer’s Advance vote.
Sitting suspended from 12.30 to 1.15 a.m. (Friday).
. -Senator E. D. Millen has explained that the amounts about which I inquired do not represent expenditure as against the Estimates for the current year. I quite understand that, but the general Estimates for the current year are supposed to show what was the expenditure for the year 1920-21. And yet two items to which I have referred, covering increased rates of pay, are not shown there at all. I say that as these Estimates were prepared at the end of the last financial year, the Government should have been able to show what was expended during the previous twelve months. The column in the general Estimates which should show the actual expenditure for the previous year does not show it, as is proved by the Supplementary Estimates which we are now considering. I am not blaming the Treasury officials, because I know they can only give the information that is supplied to them by the Departments. I do not suggest that they have been guilty of tricky finance at the instigation of Ministers who desire to cover up things.
– The Estimates were’ prepared in April, and the financial year was not completed until June.
– We heard the exTreasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) say a few months ago that we should not blame him for admitting that he did not know exactly how he stood, because he was waiting for official returns to come in which would not be in until July, when he would be able to inform us as to the actual position of affairs. But in making up his figures in July the Treasurer should not be, as the figures of these Supplementary Estimates indicate, somewhere about 10 per cent, out in his calculations. This ispossibly due to the fact that the Departments are not kept up to the mark in forwarding their returns promptly to the Treasury officials.
– The honorable senator should recognise the difficulty of getting in Defence Department accounts from the country districts.
– I am aware of that difficulty. I have said, time after time, that we cannot expect business methods from some of the Departments, and possibly the Defence Department is a worse offender, in this respect than are many of the others. The Estimates are not submitted until six months of the current year have passed; and I claim that ; by that time the Treasurer should be able to indicate the actual expenditure of the previous year. In the general Estimates we are informed that the actual expenditure for last year was £7,759,000; but when we come to investigate the matter we find that it was more nearly £8,500,000.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Government want him to understand the matter?
– I would not accuse the Government of deliberately misleading honorable senators. I should be the first to make a fuss if I thought there was anything in the nature of tricky finance with the intention to mislead.
– Does the honorable senator not appreciate the task of the officials who have prepared all this information? Does he not think that they have done very well?
– I do not.
– The honorable senator is adopting a very censorious tone at this time of the morning.
– I have heard Senator Bolton concur with other honorable senators that the Departments should adopt business methods; and surely, with the staff we have in the Public Service of Australia! we should be able to get ordinary business accounts fixed up before nine months have elapsed from the time that the Estimates are prepared. I have directed attention to a vote of £19,000 for extra rates of pay. Honorable senators will not tell me that that is to be charged up to late returns from the country districts. Rates of pay are fixed, and they know at headquarters of the Defence Department exactly the number of men on the staff. I undertake to say that Senator Guthrie knows how many men are employed by his firm, and what wages they are getting.
– We used to know the rates of wages, but to-day we cannot tell what they will be twelve months ahead.
– If the honorable senator’s argument is that it was impossible to know what amount would be required because of awards by the Arbitration Court, let me say that those awards do not affect non-commissioned officers in the Army.
– I do not think that the non-commissioned officers get a fair deal.
– I agree with the Minister; and I have been one who has spoken most strongly in favour of giving them a fair deal ; but the Arbitration Court awards do not apply to the Army. The increased rates of pay to which I have referred were granted during the last financial year, and when the Estimates for the current year were supplied to us, the third column of those Estimates should have indicated exactly what the expenditure was on this account.
– I was rather sorry to hear Senator Foster complain of a lack of information. On reviewing the financial statement, the Budget-papers, and the Estimates, I must say that I was personally filled with admiration of the work of the officials when I noted the amount of information that has been prepared for the assistance of honorable senators. I think that it reflects very creditably on the officials, and there is no justification for the censorious tone of the speech which the honorable senator has just delivered.
– In the Estimates for the Department of the Navy I find another item covering increased rates of pay - “Permanent Forces, increased rates of pay, paid to officers and men, £71,058.” Surely I am entitled to know from the Minister (Senator Russell) the details of this expenditure!
– Here is another proof of what I have been saying. The general Estimates presented to us give the expendi ture for last year for the Department of the Navy at £2,429,050. The amount voted last year was £2,279,000. The excess expenditure was £149,712; but we find on reference to these Supplementary Estimates that the total excess expenditure was £163,000. The schedule of the Appropriation Bill passed by this Chamber a few days ago was supposed to contain the latest figures; but shortly after a measure is submitted which makes it appear that one set of figures is incorrect, because there is a difference of £14,000 or £15,000.
– Does the Minister intend to explain why there has been an increase in pay to petty officers and men amounting to £71,058?
– I cannot give details of the amount; but I know that the rates of pay at the Royal Australian Naval College have been increased to meet the increased cost of living. For some time the rates remained as they were in 1913- 1914, and in order to enable the same standard to be maintained considerable expenditure had to be involved.
– What increase does that represent per day?
– From1s. to 2s.
– Can the Minister explain the item “ Compensation to widows of officers, £2,394 “ in subdivision No. 97 ?
– That represents compensation paid to the widows of aerial officers lost in searching for a vessel supposed to have been lost in Tasmanian waters.
– Under the Department of Works and Railways an amount of £7,362 is shown for the loss incurred on the working of the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway. We passed quite recently an amount which showed losses on other Commonwealth railways, and I suggest to the Government that the losses on all their railway systems should be submitted in a comprehensive form, and also accountsof their commercial activities. A balancesheet should be presented so that we could see exactly how they stood. In this instance the total loss on our railway system should be shown.
SenatorRussell.- Each undertaking submits an annual report in which there is a balance sheet.
– Such figures are not- given in the Budget-papers.
SenatorRussell. - It would be impracticable to include them there.
– It would be an advantage if those interested could by means of a marginal note be directed to the source from which full information could be obtained. Some of the States publish balance-sheets in a concise form, and, in Western Australia for instance, one can peruse a comprehensive summary of the various business enterprises.
– Under “Miscellaneous,” Department of Works andRailways, there is an item “ Purchase and maintenance of two rain-producing plants, £1,052.” I should like to know where those plants are installed, and whether they are proving a success?
SenatorRussell. - The Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) informed the Committee when we were discussing a similar Bill that there had been no practical result from the tests.
– Is this work being continued, and if so, what is the total expenditure up to date?
SenatorRussell. - I cannot supply the information just now.
– In the Postmaster-General’s Department, New South Wales, an item appears under “ Contingencies,” of £7,935 for overtime, Sunday and holiday . pay, and meal allowances. 1 would like to know if that is an. amount that could not be foreseen. Another big sum under the same heading is £16,574 for temporary assistance. How many temporary assistants were necessary, and for how long were they employed? Would it not be possible to accede to the request of the limbless soldiers who applied recently for temporary employment?
SenatorRussell. - Nearly all the temporary labour towhich the honorable senator is referring is supplied by returned soldiers.
– There are men who have one or both legs off, but they could do work as sorters, and undertake other similar duties. In July last, the Limbless Soldiers’ Association placed be fore the Government a list of the positions which its members could fill, particularly in the Post Office, and I am informed that not one of its members has received an appointment.
– The Postmaster-General’s Department seems to be the only one whose figures can be depended upon. Although its ramifications extend’ throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, I find that the Supplementary Estimates are within £1 of the expenditure set down in last year’s Estimates. Every Department ought to furnish its returns on similar lines.
– Glancing at the Tasmanian items, Postmaster-General’s Department, I notice that there is an amount of £1,504 under “Miscellaneous” for “Payments as acts of grace to officers or dependants of officers transferred from the Tasmanian State Service.” A similar provision appears in the case of Western Australia, and £1,101 is set down for “ Compassionate allowances and payments as acts of grace to dependants of deceased officials.” In the case of South Australia and Queensland,’ similar verbiage is employed, and the amounts are £616 and £806 respectively. What are these “ compassionate allowances “ and “ payments as acts of grace”? What is the reason for the variation in verbiage?
– The officers may have carried over some rights with them when they passed from the State to the Commonwealth Service.
– In the case of Tasmania, the reference is to officers “ transferred from the Tasmanian State Service.” Does that mean the officers transferred under the Constitution on 21st March, 1901, or officers transferred from any State Department to the Federal Service? I would also like to know why, in all these cases, the payments are referred to as acts of grace. If they are acts of grace, surely they are not made because of legal rights which the officers carried with them on their transfer. Where an officer has died, who would have been entitled to certain furlough, is the corresponding amount of salary paid to his widow or dependants?
– Although there is no legal claim for such payment, the Go- vernment would pay what they considered a fair sum. If a man with twenty years’ service were entitled to six months’ furlough, and he died at the end of- nineteen years’ service, he would probably get nineteen-twentieths of the . amount payable in lieu of that furlough. Under the new Public Service Act that policy is made law.
– Officers having obtained the maximum amount of promotion in their class should, according to the decision of Mr. Justice Powers, receive a solatium in lieu of promotion. For instance, under the Western Australian Division, there is reference to a payment of £10,048 to ‘ Officers of the General Division on the unattached list, pending suitable vacancies.” These officers would come within the scope of Mr. Justice Powers’ decision.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria - VicePresident ofthe Executive Council [2.2 a.m.]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
During the war, owing to industrial dislocation, and lack of opportunity, many men were not able to put their patents on the market; others, because of the difficulty of getting raw materials for industries, were unable to operate them. This Bill is largely a copy of the English Act. Its main abject is to bring the patents law of the Commonwealth into line with English law so far as regards the duration of the original term of a patent and the extension of the term for a further period. At thepresent time the term of a patent is limited to fourteen years from its date. The Billpropones to increase the original term to sixteen years. At the same time, provision will be made to’ reduce the period for which the term of a patent may be extended to five years, or, in exceptional cases, ten years, instead of seven and fourteen years respectively.
Thus, a patentee in ordinary cases will be eligible to have the full benefit of his patent for twenty-one years, as at present. The reduction of two years in the period of extension in exceptional cases is proposed, for the reason that the period of ten years is considered quite sufficient, in view, particularly, of the number of petitions made for extension. The number of petitions made for extension since the commencement of the 1903 Act is seven. The original term of existing patents will be extended to sixteen years, subject to the condition that any licences granted by the patentee, will be extended for a like period. As regards the extension of the term of a patent, under the existing law the Court, in considering its decision, is required to have regard to the nature and merits of the invention in relation to the public, and to the profits made by the patentee as such, and to all the circumstances of the case. During the war, however, some patentees were, on account of the existence of hostilities, prevented from successfully exploiting their inventions, and, consequently, suffered loss or damage. The Bill makesspecialprovision for those cases, and proposes to enable a patentee who has so suffered loss or damage (including loss of opportunity of dealing in or developing his invention owing to his having been engaged in work of national importance connected with the hostilities) to make application to a Judge in chambers for an extension of the term of his patent. In such a case it will only be necessary for the patentee to satisfy the Court that the loss- or damage suffered by him warrants an extension. This privilege is not, however, proposed to be granted to patentees who are subjects of a country with which Great Britain was at war or are companies carried on for the benefit of such subjects. Under the existing Act a petition for extension of the term of a patent- must be made at least six months before the original term lapses, and there is no provision for the extension of the time for presenting the petition. The Bill proposes to give power to the Court to extend the time whether the proceedings are by petition or originating summons. In connexion with rights of priority of patentees under international arrangements, the Bill proposes to extend the protection at present afforded to the patentee only, to the legal representative or assignee of the patentee. Provision is also included to validate the Patents, Trade Marks, and Designs Regulations 1920 (Statutory Rules 1920, No. 61), which relates to the revival of patents, &c, which lapsed during the war, and to extend the Act to New Guinea. I think the provisions of this Bill are fair to those who were unable to work their inventions owing to war conditions or to their being on ‘active service.
, - I think the Minister (Senator Russell) is hardly correct in saying that the Bill is a copy of British legislation. To some extent it is, but we are not following British legislation since the war in its entirety. The Imperial Act, from which this is adopted, is 9-10 George. V., chapter 80, and we are taking from that Act clauses 6 and 7 of this Bill, to which the Minister particularly directed attention. Certainly there are other provisions in the Imperial Act which deal with matters altogether outside the effect of the war on patents. These deal, as a matter of fact, with general provisions of the Patents Act, such as the abuse of monopolies granted by patents legislation, which has no relation specifically to the aftermath of the war. Even if we adopted entirely the British enactment, I do not think we would be going far enough. As a matter of fact, this legislation, and corresponding legislation in other countries, is almost directly a consequence of the Peace Treaty. Under one particular chapter of the Peace Treaty, which is headed “ Industrial Property “ or “ Industrial Proprietary Rights,” there are a number of articles beginning with No. 306. They are lengthy articles, but they amount to this : - Article 306 provides for the establishment of industrial . proprietary rights after the war, such as patents, designs, copyrights, and trade marks. They are re-established as from the date of the Treaty in favour of those who were the holders at the 1st August, 1914. It is provided in the Article that during the period between the 1st August, 1914, and the re-establishment of those rights and their international recognition again as if no war had happened, any intermediate action in allied countries in derogation of the rights of the holders of German patents, and industrial rights will still continue and remain in force. It is also provided that where, by legislation or regulation in any of the belligerent countries during the war - such as in the case of Australia, where permission was given to use patents belonging to individual subjects of enemy countries under certain conditions - if payments were made into a trust fund, to be paid to the German holders of the patents after the war was over, those payments due to Germans would be treated as ordinary debts under the provisions of the Articles of the Treaty of Peace.That is to say, we could set off those amounts against amounts due by Germany under the reparation clauses. The particular provision from which flows all this after-war patent legislation is Article 307. A minimum of one year is provided from the date of the Treaty, during which, without the payment of any extension fee or penalty, any person may be enabled in any one of the countries signatory to the Treaty of Peace, to complete any formality that may be necessary to enable him to obtain, preserve, or oppose any patent right which he was prevented from obtaining, preserving, or opposing during the period of the war. That is to say, within one year of the Treaty of Peace coming into operation, it would be competent for any person in any one of the countries signatory to the Articles of the Treaty, to revive proceedings in connexion with any application in connexion with a patent, the process of which was interrupted on. account of the war. The rights which had elapsed on account of the war were revived by Article 307, subject to a provision that was made for the protection of intermediate users. But if the war had not happened, such users might have been liable in damages for the infringement of the patent. Under clause 307, power is given to the different countries to legislate to protect these intermediate users, and it is also provided in the Article that the period of time from 1st August, 1914, until the date of the Treaty shall be regarded as a dead period. That is to say, if it were necessary for a person to preserve his patent rights, to begin the manufacturing of the invention within a certain time, the time between the 1st August, 1914, and the date of the Treaty of Peace was not to count. These are provisions that were made at Versailles for all the countries that were parties to the Treaty. The only other provision is contained in Article 308, and this has reference to the International rights, to -which Senator Russell referred, and -which, he says, this Bill protects. As honorable senators are no doubt aware, by a Convention in Paris in 1883, and a subsequent Convention in Washington in 1911, provision was made to give priority to certain persons in their applications for patents in other countries that were parties to the Convention. For instance, the patentee of an invention in Australia would have a prior- right of application for the patent rights in any country which was a party to the Convention. That is to say, persons resident in that country could not come in against, say, an Australian, if the latter chose to lodge an application in respect of a patent which he held. Those rights are preserved under Article 308, but only for six months after the Treaty of Peace comes into operation. It is also provided that there shall be protection for bond fide holders of competing or conflicting rights tin respect of the same invention so long as they are iona fide> and not merely assertions of unfounded claims to secure advantages over other applicants.
Under the provisions of the Articles of the Treaty of Peace, it is left to all the countries that wish to avail .themselves of these privileges to take legislative action in order to get the benefit of their patent rights throughout the world. I do not think this Bill goes far enough to protect Australian patentees. ‘ It is possible that during the war Australians in many instances infringed patent rights held by enemy subjects, or perhaps by subjects of Allied Powers; and this Bill, in my judgment, does not go so far as it might to protect our own people from possible claims for damages for infringement of war-restored patents, many of which might have lapsed, and, normally, could have been utilized by the citizens of this country.
– Do you not think that the power under clause 6 is sufficient?
– I was coming to that point. Clause 6 purports to give validity to certain regulations passed in 1920. The only protection which our people have, it seems to me, is that pur’ ported to be given to them by these regulations, No. 61 of 1920; but I am not sure that that protection in itself will be sufficient. New Zealand and Great Bri tain have adopted legislative provisions making it quite clear that their residents shall be protected, by virtue of that legislation and the covering provisions in the Articles of the Treaty of Peace, from any such claims as those I have suggested.
If it were not for the fact that we are close up to the end of the session I would invite the Minister to reconsider the Bill before proceeding further with it, and to make its provisions a little more effective so far as protecting the interests of our people is concerned. The United States of America have always been alert in protecting the rights of their people in designs, patents, and trade marks. The Government of that country have gone to the full length of its possibilities and its responsibilities to its citizens. Quite recently there was passed through Congress a measure known as the Nolan Bill, providing most ample protection for all United States of America citizens against such claims as those which, as I have indicated,’ may be made against Australian citizens. I would, therefore, ask the Minister if this Bill passes to give consideration to the United States of America legislation on this subject at the earliest possible moment, and, if he considers it necessary, to introduce a measure or competent regulations on those lines at an early date. As a community and as a Parliament we played the game with regard to patents during the war. I remember speaking from my then place - I was sitting where Senator Payne now sit3 - when a measure was introduced to enable us to take advantage of patents that belonged to the enemy, but which, at the same time, provided, I think, a means to recoup those who are legitimately entitled to be recouped. I doubt whether this Bill will carry us far enough. The Government might well consider the legislation passed in New Zealand, and more particularly the United States measure to which I have referred. We could not do better than follow the provisions of the Nolan Statute. I have not been able to get a copy of the- measure in our Library, as we do not get copies of the United States Statutes as they pass from day to day. They come to us in the bound volumes, and sometimes that means a considerable delay, but I have had an opportunity of studying the new legislation in the United- States of
America on this subject, and I strongly urge the Government to introduce a measure of a similar character at the earliest possible moment, in order to make it abundantly clear that our citizens will be amply protected. We may be quite sure that if there is any question as to our legal position hereafter, there will be found people, especially in the United States, ever ready to take full advantage of what they may regard as an infringement of their rights, while at the same time they will surround themselves with every possible protection against the citizens of other countries. Our experience in another branch of industrial property, namely, the subject of copyright, should convince us that we should walk very warily indeed when dealing with a matter of this kind. Were it not for the fact that we are in the closing hours of the session, I would ask the Minister to hold hack this Bill and would circulate amendments which I think are necessary. I trust, however, that during the adjournment the Minister will see that our legislation on this subject is perfected, and conformable to the spirit of Articles 307 and 308 of the Treaty of Peace, and provides that protection for our citizens that they are entitled to.
There are just one or two* other matters to which I desire to refer. The Minister said that we had extended the term from fourteen years to sixteen years, but that will be counterbalanced by the fact that the period for the extension will be reduced from seven years to five years, so the period of the existence of the patent and its extension will stand at twenty-one years. I do not know that we should slavishly follow the practice. of the United Kingdom with regard to a reduction in the period for the extension from seven years to five years. There is one direction in which we. might go in our general Patents law, and that is we should insist that when we give patent rights for Australia., the patentee should, within a given time, be required to. manufacture the invention within the Commonwealth, wherever else he may manufacture it. We have never had any such provision as this in our legislation. Sir William Lyne, who passed the original Act, felt strongly on this subject, but it was impossible to get the provision in that Act.
– I think that, or a similar provision, was inserted in the Imperial Act in 1910.
– Tes ; and we might follow the Imperial Parliament in that regard; but there is no justification whatever for following the Imperial Parliament in the matter of reducing the period for the extension from seven years to five years. I trust the Minister will give consideration to the points I have raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time. °
This is a formal .measure, as honorable senators will see, and I indicate its purpose. It is a Bill to enable certain legal proceedings, arising out of the windingup of enemy companies, to be completed. The necessity for this measure has recently become apparent as the result of the decision of the High Court upon an application made by the Controller of the Australian Metal Company. The questions raised in the application related to the settlement out of the assets of that company of certain claims by Australian companies and the Sydney Municipal Council. The Court dismissed the application on the ground (among others) of the absence of procedure applicable to the winding-up of the Australian Metal Company under the Trading with the Enemy a Act 1914-1916. The Bill makes specific provision for the making of applications to the Court by persons claiming to be creditors of an enemy company ordered to be wound up, and authorizes the High Court or a Justice of that Court to hear evidence and determine the question. In the matter of initiating fresh proceedings another difficulty has arisen, namely, that the proposed proceedings will, owing to the lapse of time since the cause of action arose, be barred by statutes of limitation of actions. To meet this difficulty a pro- vision has been inserted in the Billwhich excludes the period of the war from the operation of statutes of limitation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by Senator E. D. Millen) read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time..
This is an Appropriation Bill for the supplementary works and buildings for the year 1920-21. Honorable senators have already dealt with three of these Bills, which represent the clearing up of accounts of the years to which they refer. It is not necessary that I should say any more on this measure than that it asks authority for the various items of expenditure incurred out of the- Treasurer’s Advance in respect of works and buildings for the year indicated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
– I wish to make an inquiry in regard to the item under the Department of the Treasury, “ Purchase of site for Commonwealth Notes Printing Branch, £5,804.” I should like to. know whether this is the full amount, or whether a still further sum will be required for the purchase of the site.
– I understand that the amount mentioned is the sum paid for the site. I am unable to say whether there will be any small charge in connexion with its acquisition.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Under the existing law the Public Works Committee can only deal with proposed works referred to it by a resolution of the House of Representatives, introduced by a Minister. It often happens, therefore, that when another place adjourns for a long period there is delay in the carrying out of works which have to be referred to the Public Works Committee. This Bill is introduced to enable proposed works to be referred to the Committee by the GovernorGeneral when the House of Representatives is in recess, or, if the House has adjourned for a period of one month, or more, or indefinitely. The Committee, in making its report, will deal with the matter as if the proposed works were referred to it in the ordinary way. The object of the Bill is to enable the Public Works Committee to carry on inquiries into proposed works at a time when it would otherwise be in enforced idleness.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Reference of proposed work to Committee when House not sitting).
– I understand that references to the Public Works Committee during a recess will be only in connexion with works for which money has already been appropriated by Parliament.
– No. Questions are referred to the Committee so that investigations can be made, and they can then report as to the desirableness of the work being undertaken, and if a favorable report is submitted Parliament is asked to appropriate the money.
– Has this anything to do with the proposed expenditure at Canberra ?
– The Committee makes inquiries into the desirableness of undertaking certain work, and then report to Parliament.
– I understand that the Public Works Committee is to inquire into and report concerning the works to be carried out at Canberra with the amount of £200,000 recently appropriated. Will the recommendations of the Committee concerning the proposed hostel at Canberra be submitted to this Chamber for consideration?
– This Chamber having sanctioned the appropriation of the money, will not have an opportunity of further discussing the matter.
– I understand that the hostel, which is expected to cost £80,000, is to accommodate members of both Houses and their families, and it has been suggested that families will be provided for under some co-operative system, and that objection has been lodged to business people catering for the requirements of residents. Can the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) say what the intentions of the Government are?
– I was under the impression when I spoke previously that the proposed works at Canberra were to be submitted to the Public Works Committee, and that despite the fact that Parliament has appropriated £200,000 for this purpose, that any work exceeding in cost £25,000 had to be submitted to the Committee. It has been stated that, although the Committee investigates the expenditure on all public works costing over £25,000, it has not to report to Parliament in connexion therewith. I am totally opposed to works being’ referred to such Committees as this unless it is the policy of the Government to carry them out. In some instances inquiries are merely made as a means of window dressing, and when the Government cannot find the money or do not desire to proceed with the work an adverse report is submitted. On the other hand, a favorable report is submitted, and the work undertaken when it suits the Government. The Government should announce its policy in regard to works, and then refer the matter to the Committee for report. Does this particular work- at Canberra represent half-a-dozen different propositions, and are not reports to be submitted to Parliament concerning them ?
– The Committee reports to the other House, and action is then taken upon their report.
In regard to Senator Bolton’s point concerning the suggested co-operative system at Canberra, it is quite clear that such a matter must rest with those who decide to live there. There is nothing to compel them to adopt a co-operative system. They are masters of the situation when they reach there, and may, if they so desire, decline to participate in any such scheme.
– Is it not proposed to prevent business people opening there?
– That is a matter which it is impossible to determine today, an!d’ it is clear that when honorable senators go to Canberra - as I hope they will shortly - this matter can be determined, and those interested can settle the form of the domestic economy to be adopted.
Senator NEWLAND (South Australia) [2.53 a:m.’J. - Honorable senators are aware -that money is appropriated for certain public works by both Houses in the usual way, and then the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) or some other Minister submits a motion in another place referring proposed works to the Committee for investigation and report. In due time the Committee investigates the proposal, examines Government officers and others, and a report is placed before both Houses of Parliament.
– We do not have to wait until the other House meets before the work is commenced.
– The Committee’s reports must be submitted to Parliament, and -many of the works referred to the Committee in connexion with operations at Canberra have not been proceeded with. On the 18th December, 1914, a formal reference was submitted for the construction of a main sewer at Canberra, the estimated cost of which was £75,000. The Committee’s investigations commenced oh the 25th January, 1915, and the report was submitted on the 10th March, 1915. In that instance the work was actually in progress before the investigation began, but it was subsequently stopped. The second work re- ferred to the Committee was for a storage and reticulation reservoir on the Queanbeyan River, the estimated cost of which was £100,000. The question was submitted to the Committee on the 17th December, 1914, the investigation commenced on the 28th January, 1915, and the report was completed on the 17th March, 1915. The Committee did not agree to the proposal, and therefore saved the Commonwealth £100,000. The third reference was a proposed railway at the Federal Capital, the departmental estimate of which was £378,972. That reference was submitted on the 4th June, 1915.
– I do not think the honorable senator is in order in giving a resume of the work of the Committee. This clause simply deals, with, the procedure for referring matters to the Committee for inquiry and report during the recess, which is impossible at present. While, of course, the honorable senator may indicate the scope of the Committee’s work, a general reference to its investigations is not relevant to the point at issue.
– Perhaps I have been speaking a little wide of the clause, but I desired to give honorable senators some idea of the nature of the work performed by the Committee, and also to show where economies have been effected. - The Committee invariably submits reports to Parliament before the operations are commenced, and the work has to ‘be authorized before a commencement is made. The Committee do not delay their investigations, and’ the existing Act is being amended to facilitate their work. There are other directions in which the Act could be improved, but this amendment will enable works to be referred to the Committee during the recess, and thus avoid unnecessary delay.
– I noticed in the Advisory Committee’s report that certain recommendations were made-
– I must apply the same restriction to the honorable senator as I did to Senator Newland. No doubt the work of the Committee, in connexion with certain undertakings at Canberra, may be of interest to some honorable senators, but I must strictly adhere to the Standing Orders which govern discussions in Committee. The past work of the Public Works Committee is not referred to in this clause, which deals solely with facilitating the work during the recess. The work of the Committee cannot be reviewed in any way while the present clause is under discussion. The purport of the clause is to permit works to be sent to the Committee for investigation when the House of Representatives is not in session. It is simply a machinery clause, and has no direct reference to any particular work at present in progress.
– Does the other Chamber alone refer works to this Committee ?
– When the House of Representatives is not in session, the Governor-General may refer matters to it.
– The Canberra and ‘ other works were referred to the Committee before the introduction of this Bill. The object fs to deal with any new works which the Government may wish to have carried out before Parliament meets again.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
By the War Precautions Act Repeal Act 1920, the War Precautions (Coal) Regulations were continued until the 31st December, 1921. This Bill proposes to continue those regulations for a further twelve months. The regulations give power to fix the price of coal, and to regulate the shipment of coal overseas. The regulations also give power to control the use of coal, &c, in times of shortage. The continuance of the regulations for a further twelve months is desired by both the mine-owners and the miners. It is necessary to see that the industriesof Australia are not left without sufficient coal to carry on their operations, as they might be if an unrestricted overseas shipment were permitted.
– We can get cheaper coal now from overseas.
– There may be occasions when the whole of the local supply will be required.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria - Vice-
President of the Executive Council) [3.12 a.m.]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
For some time members of State Parliaments have been wanting the opportunity to contest Federal electorates without retiring from the State Parliaments.
– Yes, but “what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” Section 70 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act at present reads -
No person who is at the date of nomination, or who has at any time within fourteen days prior to the date of nomination, a member of the Parliament of a State, shall he capable of being nominated as a senator or as a member of the House of Representatives.
Provision has, however, been made by certain State Acts whereby a member of the Parliament of a State who resigns his seat in order to contest a Federal seat may, if he is not elected, resume his seat in the State Parliament. This is obviously an attempt to get behind the Commonwealth law, and the amendments proposed by the Bill are intended to nullify the action taken by the States.
– I feel some regret in interrupting the comparatively uneventful passage of legislation that has taken place during the present sitting, but this is one of the measures that seem, to me to be wholly unnecessary and unworthy of the attention of the Commonwealth Parliament. What is all this talk about the States not dealing fairly with us and not playing the game? We used to talk about that sort of thing when we were boys. It is unworthy of grown men, and unworthy, certainly, of senators.
– Who initiated it?
– This Parliament has initiated it, but what does it matter to us what the State Parliaments do? What does it amount to? All it amounts to is that we compel the State members to undergo an election before they can resume their seats in’ theState Parliaments if they happen to be defeated in a Federal election, and we place upon some of the States at this critical juncture in their financial affairs the cost of an unnecessary election. It seems to me that we are exhibiting a petty jealousy in this matter. It is beyond all doubt that this Parliament contains many men of ability and address who did not graduate in the State Parliaments, but it is equally beyond doubt that the majority of the members of this Senate and another place served their apprenticeship in the Parliaments of the States. I plead guilty to the soft impeachment of having passed four years in the Parliament of the State of Tasmania. We have in this Senate an ex-Premier of the State of Tasmania. We have also an ex-Treasurer of that State. My friend Senator Foster has also been a member of the Tasmanian State Legislature. Senators John D. Millen and Keating, it is true, were not members of the State Legislature, but they were not by any means prejudiced by the fact that they had not served a term there.
– What caused the great rush from the State to the Federal field in Tasmania?
– We were compelled by the voice of the people to come over here and represent their interests. I was pre-selected by them at a pre-election at which 14,000 to 15,000 votes were polled. I did not have to resign, because, having been pre-selected, and intending to “ burn my boats,” I had refrained from nominating as a candidate during an election which followed a dissolution of the Tasmanian House of Assembly. Consequently the State wa9 not put to the cost of a by-election in connexion with the constituency in which I held a seat. That is, however, a mere personal matter, and does not affect the principle I am condemning. This is the Chamber in which the States, as States, are supposed to be particularly represented, and if this Chamber specially has to look after the interests of the States as States, it is equally incumbent upon us to look after the rights and privileges and interests of the States’ Legislatures. In what way is any candidate prejudiced simply because a defeated State member can be welcomed again into the bosom of his legislative family without causing the State the cost of an election? In what way is the country prejudiced, and in what way are we or the other candidates prejudiced? Every consideration is given to candidates who are not members of Parliament during a contest. They are given railway passes. >
– They are not in South Australia.
– And all they get in Tasmania is half fares.
– Then, let it go at half fare3. Will anybody contend that a man who has comparatively recently been selected at an election by the people of any Australian State should be compelled to put the State and himself to the cost of an election if he should happen to be rejected in connexion with his candidature at a Federal contest? I say the thing is absurd.
– Cannot the honorable senator see that that statement cuts another way ? Why should a sitting State member put the Federal Government to the expense of an election?
– Does the honorable senator think that if State members did not come forward as candidates we would all have walkovers?
– Is it not a fact that, under the Tasmanian system, the next man on the poll of a State election would automatically take the seat, and there would not be another contest?
– The State legislation at the present time does not pro vide for an election even in the event of the decease of a member. If a member of Parliament unfortunately dies, the runner-up in his particular interest takes his seat. The Legislature of the State of Tasmania has not discriminated invidiously in this matter; and has conferred a benefit or a boon on its members who happen to desire to become candidates at a Federal election. When all is said and done, it is somewhat of an advantage for a member of Parliament to have won his spurs in a State Legislature. When a member of the State Parliament receives sufficient inducement to come out as a candidate at a Federal election, one can generally concede it as a fairly likely fact that he is a man with talents somewhat above the ordinary. I believe that, as long as we have a Commonwealth Legislature, the members of this Parliament will be very largely recruited from the ranks of members of the State Legislatures.
– Then let them resign their commissions in the State Parliaments honestly, and at once. Our Constitution will not allow a member to hold a seat in another Legislature.
– If the Legislatures of the States think fit to facilitate the entry of their members into the National Parliament, and so long as they do not attempt it in an unconstitutional way, what right have we to interfere with them? If they do anything in contravention of the Commonwealth’s Constitution, by all means put the Constitution in operation against them; but why descend to checkmate them if they pass legislation which is not an infringement of the Federal Constitution?
– Why ask them to resign at all? .
– If you ask them not to resign, it is alleged that you come into conflict with the direct terms of the Federal Constitution.
– What the honorable senator suggests is that they should be allowed to “ side-step “ the Constitution.
– No. If they resign, they resign ; but, if the State Legislatures think fit to facilitate their reentry into the State Parliaments in a way that is not unconstitutional, should it not be beneath the dignity of this Parliament ‘to take notice of such action ?
The State Treasury is saved a considerable sum of money by obviating a State election in the event of their defeat. If they are successful, there may be an election, although I think that is not absolutely enjoined ‘ by State law in Tasmania ; but, if they are unsuccessful, and the State thinks it is unnecessary to hold an election, why should one be held? Do honorable senators think that legislation of this kind has been adopted by the State Legislatures for the express purpose of defeating the Federal Constitution? The purpose was to save their Treasuries expense.
– The honorable senator has not read the debates in those Legislatures.
– I know what happened in the Legislature of my State. I know it acted as it did in order to obviate the expense of holding State elections. If the State training grounds furnish satisfactory candidates for the National Parliament, it is only what they may legitimately be expected to do. If the State Parliaments, containing the selected men of their respective States, do not furnish good candidates for seats in this Legislature, the State Parliaments are not what I believe them to be, namely, assemblies, on the whole, of the very best political intellects of Australia. Was there a single man of prominence in the early days of Federation connected with Federal politics who was not a shining light in State politics?
– What about Sir Josiah Symon ?
– Yes, but who else? What about the Honorable Charles Kingston, Sir Frederick Holder, Sir Phillip Fysh, Sir Edward Braddon, Sir George Reid, and Sir Edmund Barton? All these were members of State Legislatures.
– But they did not adopt back-door methods.
– This Bill will not prevent any State member from contesting a Federal seat.
– No; but it will penalize the State Treasury if he is unsuccessful in gaining the Federal seat. I am astonished that the National Parliament of Australia should undertake legislation of this character. It seems to me to be a pity in the extreme. It is unbecoming that we are so forgetful of the fact that we should be so democratic as to throw open all avenues to talent to enter this Legislature. Our action is to be deplored. I hope we shall so rise to an appreciation of the dignity and value of a seat in this Chamber and another place that we will give every facility to State members, who are the selected men of their States, to come here with every facility and every speed. I would think it beneath me to put any obstacle in the way of a State member becoming a candidate for any seat I hold.
– There is no obstacle.
– But we take the trouble to say that they are not “playing the game,” and are not doing fairly, by us in obviating the expense of an election if one or more of them happen to be defeated. I think that the Constitution does not shine so very brilliantly if it can be construed as forbidding members of the State Legislatures to become candidates in the filling of Federal seats. I do not know what object is gained by such a prohibition. I am not defending any attempt to circumvent the Constitution, and I say that the State Parliam’ent of Tasmania, having adopted thi3 procedure for the purpose of obviating expenses in connexion with a by-election, cannot be charged with an attempt to do that.
– When I heard that this Bill was to be introduced I could hardly believe it. I look upon it as an unwarrantable interference, or attempted interference, by the Commonwealth Government in the domestic affairs of a State.
– And beneath the dignity of this Parliament.
– Absolutely. We are asked to pass legislation which in its effect will interfere seriously with the legitimate rights of a State. I am a States righter, and will enter my strongest protest on every possible occasion against any attempt to interfere with the Tights of any State. What right have we, as the Federal Legislature, to concern ourselves with the domestic affairs of a State unless, of course, that State is interfering with the progress of the Commonwealth and doing something that is unconstitutional.
– Was this question ever submitted to the electors in your State?
– No, but the representatives of the people had to answer to the electors, and their action was indorsed. I know of no one who was rejected at the poll for having supported the proposition, which eventually became a aw in Tasmania, and which is now objected to by the Federal Government.
– And you will find that no candidate will be rejected for supporting this Bill either.
– Does the honorable the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) in all seriousness suggest that he would be in favour of submitting such a proposition as this to a referendum of the people?
– I would not insult them by making any such suggestion.
– One would think that the system adopted in Tasmania, and which, I understand, now obtains to South Australia, contravened the Federal Constitution. One would imagine that those States had done something prejudicial to good government, and against the interests of the Commonwealth. I look upon this Bill as an impertinence - I can think of no milder phrase. Can the Minister show that there is any justification for it? Can it be said that the domestic legislation on this subject in Tasmania is a back-door method of evading the Constitution?
– ‘Certainly it is.
– The Minister is incorrect. When a member of the Tasmanian Parliament resigns to contest a Federal constituency he resigns absolutely.
– It is a sham resignation.
– It would be a sham resignation if he continued to draw his salary during the election. I repeat, that a Tasmanian State member wishing to contest a Federal constituency must send in his resignation, but he may notify the Government at the time of his intention to nominate again for the State seat, if unsuccessful in the Federal contest. His nomination is accepted on those conditions, and if unsuccessful in the Federal election he is declared re-elected to the State Parliament, without the necessity for a fresh contest.
– As a matter of fact, there is no constitutional prohibition against a member of the State Parliament being also a member of the . Commonwealth Parliament. There is a prohibition in our electoral law, but not in the Constitution itself.
– Yes, there is. There is a section relating to a paid office of profit under the Crown.
– Our State law provides that a member of the State Parliament must resign his seat fourteen days before the day of nomination. There has never -been any attempt to evade the Commonwealth law in regard to this matter. The legislation was passed, not to give State members any advantage, but because it was recognised that the State Parliaments are the ‘best training ground for Federal legislators. We are supposed to be legislating for the welfare of the entire community, and therefore I protest against this proposal, which is designed to interfere with the domestic concerns of a State. It cannot be contended for a moment that the Bill is in the interests of the people. It is simply an attack upon the legislation of certain of the States. Senator Bakhap was quite right when he said that it was a great advantage for a State to be able to obviate the expenses of a by-election. Senator E. D. Millen did not agree with him, but the honorable senator does not understand the position. Very often no other person who had taken part in the State election previously would be available for the seat, and therefore there would have to be an election in the event of the State member being unsuccessful in a Federal contest. The group system is adopted in Tasmania, and there might be only three Nationalist candidates standing, and the three would be returned. If one resigned to contest a Federal election and was unsuccessful, the balance of parties in the State Parliament might be seriously disturbed.
– Suppose there were four or five candidates.
– I am justified in suggesting that there might be as many cases in which there would be no candidate of the particular party available as cases in which candidates would be available, and consequently I say that Senator Bakhap was correct in what he said. I am sorry that this Bill did not come on for consideration earlier, when one would have been more fit to combat so iniquitous a measure. Honorable senators appear to be prepared to deal with it in a jocular spirit, but they will find that it is no joke, and will be “extremely resented by the States. What right have we to quarrel with the States?
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that Tasmania will secede from the Federation if we pass this measure ?
– If Tasmania did secede it would be a case of God help the Commonwealth. If it were not for Tasmania half the mainlanders would be dead, because that is the only State in which they can find comfort in .the summer months.
– I should like the honorable senator to point to any allusion to the tourist traffic of Tasmania in the Bill.
– I do not wish to introduce the Tasmanian tourist traffic into this debate. In view of the determination of honorable senators to reject the measure, I suggest to the Minister that he should ask leave to withdraw it. If it should become law I am satisfied that honorable senators who support it will feel that they have inflicted an injury which it will take a long time to repair.
– A few minutes ago Senator Payne suggested that we should look at this measure seriously. I venture to say that if it becomes law the honorable senator will look at it seriously. In the meantime I ask whether he is an advocate for lawbreaking 1
– I take it to be the duty of the Parliaments, as well as the citizens o? this country, to observe the law. There is a law in existence to-day.
– Does the honorable senator say that it has been broken by Tasmania ?
– I say that it has been broken by subterfuge.
– Then why did not the Government take action against Tasmania years ago?
– I say that Tasmania has ‘attempted to break a law passed by the Federal Parliament. Reference has been made to the Constitution, and what does it say ? -
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the qualifications of a member shall be as follows : -
That section gives this Parliament the right to determine what the qualifications of a member shall be. This Parliament did set out what the qualifications should be. Certain States - I did not know that Tasmania was amongst the lawbreakers until Senator Payne disclosed the fact - said “ The Commonwealth Parliament has passed a law declaring what the qualifications of membership of the Federal Parliament shall be. We cannot directly break that law, but we will try by a subterfuge to get round it. ‘ ‘ The law passed by this Parliament said that members of State Parliaments should not become candidates for Federal constituencies unless they resigned their membership of the State Parliaments to which they belonged a certain time before nomination for the Federal Parliament.
– The Constitution expressly inhibits a member of one branch of this Legislature becoming a candidate for membership of the other branch, but it does not contain any such inhibition against a member of a States Legislature becoming a candidate for the Federal Parliament.
– No; but the Constitution empowered the Federal Parliament to determine that question.
– lt is questionable whether this Parliament did not make an unwise use of its power in exercising its right under that section in the way it did.
– This Parliament did pass that law, as it had a perfect right to do, and the State Parliaments are now saying “ We cannot break that law, but we can get round it.” I do not think it is quite right that members of the State Parliaments should seek, in that way, to tear up a law constitutionally passed by the National Parliament.
– I can assure the Minister that such a thing was not suggested when the legislation on this subject was passed in the Tasmanian Parliament.
– It is quite clear that this is not a matter of yesterday’s birth. The State Parliaments in the first instance passed a prohibition against Federal members becoming candidates for State constituencies unless they had resigned a certain time before nomination day. This Parliament, in self-defence, then said, “We shall enact similar legislation.” Now the State Parliaments say they will get round that legislation, will dodge it, will side-step it, will erect a smoke-screen, and commit a fraud upon that Act.
– When did they s.ay that?
– In their recent legislation.
– That legislation has been on the statute-book for seven or eight years.
– I am afraid that Senator Payne has unconsciously done Tasmania an injustice in including that State amongst the latest class of criminals. I never heard Tasmania mentioned in this connexion until Senator Payne pleaded guilty on her behalf.
– The Tasmanian measure was introduced only just previous to the 1919 election. -Senator E. D. MILLEN- The legislation to which I am referring is that passed recently in South Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales. The Parliaments of those States have passed legislation providing that a member of those Parliaments can pretend to resign. He can become a candidate for a Federal constituency, and in order to defeat the Federal law he can tender his resignation, which will not become operative if he fails to win the Federal seat. It seems to me that members of the State Parliaments want to be in the position of a man with a properly-constituted legal wife who says to her, “ Well, my dear, I am going off to see if I can make love to some other woman, and if I fail, dear, I am coming back again.”
– The honorable senator does not suggest that that is done in Tasmania?
– I can as- i sure my honorable friend that I know nothing of his past. It is clear that the State Parliaments have attempted to evade a law of which we have expressed approval.
– In the comedy introduced in this debate there is one phase of the question which has been overlooked. In Tasmania we have proportional representation, a system which was recently adopted in New South Wales after study of the Tasmanian law, and should this measure be passed we may find ourselves in a very awkward position. Tasmania is divided into electorates, and if a certain number of. members are not returned for each electorate, the result may be to quite upset the balance of political parties. That is what induced the Tasmanian Legislature to do what it has done in this regard. There are only thirty members in the Tasmanian House of Assembly.
– What about New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia ?
– I am showing honorable senators why this law was passed in Tasmania, and I know what I am talking about. Senators Payne and Bakhap said that the law was seven or eight years old.
– I did not say so.
– The first time it was used was in 1919. I know, because on my return from the war I contested a by-election, which I won, in 1917. On account of two or three resignations of Labour men in 1917, at the by-elections the Nationalists won the seats. Where there is a general election on the proportional system, so long as there is not a difference in, the total aggregate vote of the two political parlies equal to a quota, the result is that three members of each party are returned for the one constituency. Suppose there were six candidates to be elected, and the total vote of the Labour party gave three quotas, whilst the Nationalist vote gave a little more than three quotas; if one of the three Labourites resigned, one man only having to be elected at the by-election, the result might be that for the balance of that Parliament there would be four Nationalist representatives for that electorate and two Labourites. The trouble is, that in a Parliament constituted as the Tasmanian Parliament is under proportional representation, with a balance nearly always of sixteen to fourteen, by the time the majority party put one of their number in the Speaker’s chair they have only a majority of one.
– That indicates how unworkable the system is.
– The people have proportional representation, but it makes it mighty difficult for the Government. For a number of years in Tasmania there have been fifteen members on the Government side and fourteen on the Opposition side in the House of Assembly. If one Government man resigns to contest a Federal seat and goes down, and a byelection has to be held, an Opposition supporter may be elected for the House of Assembly instead of a Government, supporter, and the Government cannot con-_ tinue to carry, on business. The House would then be fifteen to fifteen, and, as the business of the State could not be carried on,’ the Government, after considering the Leader of the other party, considered that the best thing to do was to retain the strength of the parties as it stood at election time. I say quite frankly, as I said in Tasmania at the time, that I believe in effect the law was passed in its present form to overcome the Federal law, and the procedure adopted must be considered if we are to pass this Bill as. it is presented. A member in Tasmania who resigns notifies the Governor that, in the event of being unsuccessful, he will again be a candidate for the seat he is resigning. If he is not returned he nominates, and the electoral officer notifies all the other candidates for that particular division who were unsuccessful, and asks them, if they. also wish to nominate. Instead of conducting an election , the papers are counted, and there may be two or three candidates who consider that they have not a chance. They withdraw from, the contest, but their papers are counted in the order of preference, and, although the candidate resigning had to win by a bare majority, with two or three candidates’ preferences to be counted, he might be displaced.
– Is not that a subterfuge ? If he resigns, and is returned without an election, that is not genuine.
– It is genuine on the count of the ballot-papers, but whether it is an election or not is another matter. How would the Government who are responsible for the introduction of this Bill have fared if the proposed law had been in operation when Senator Earle was elected to the Senate ? With a statute drafted in this way, a member of a State Parliament could not have been elected before being nominated. Senator Earle had been a member of a State Parliament about twenty-four hours before he was brought here by the Government of the day.
– That was not done under the Electoral Act.
– The matter was brought under my notice, and I was under the impression there was something in it.
– And so there is.
– Would it apply to a person elected by the joint votes of the two Houses of a State Parliament! There is a vacancy in New South Wales at present, and, supposing that two Houses sitting together were to select a member of one of their own Houses to fill a Federal vacancy, he would immediately resign. Could they elect him?
– They do not elect him. They choose a candidate.
– Is not that subterfuge? It is election by a smaller body. There is a good deal in what Senator Bakhap has said concerning the cost of an election in Tasmania, because the expenditure of a few thousand pounds to meet the cost is a charge imposed on the Electoral Department. Personally, I think a member of a State House is not treating his constituents fairly, particularly if he has been a member only a short time, if he accepts a Federal seat; and that was the attitude I adopted as a member off the Tasmanian Parliament when I was requested to allow myself to be nominated to come info Federal politics when Senator Mulcahy was elected. I had been elected to the State House, and I did not consider it fair under the circumstances to endeavour to transfer to Melbourne at that juncture. It is contended by some that if a member of a State Parliament says, “ I am going for the bigger thing,” he should not be thrown out on to the cold world, and I admit that there is some justification for reasoning in that way. What actuated the Tasmanian Government in passing their present law was a desire not so much to overcome the Commonwealth law, but rather to remove the difficulties which have arisen from time to time owing to the relative strength of the parties in the House under the proportional system of representation.
– As the Government intend to proceed with this Bill, I am exceedingly sorry that it has been introduced at this stage, because I cannot see how it can receive the attention which a measure of such importance warrants.
– Does it seriously affect Tasmania?
– Senator Cox and other honorable senators interested in this Bill regard it as an attempt to remedy a wrong.
– It is to legalize a wrong.
– I did not hear the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) say that it was to legalize a wrong.
– It is to’ prevent a wrong being perpetuated. 0
– It is surprising to me that, if it is a wrong, the Government have not been alive to their responsibilities long before this.
– Bills have only recently been passed in the State Parliaments.
– That is not so.
– If legislation in .Tasmania has escaped Federal notice, others will also.
– The legislation of Tasmania which enables a member of the Parliament of that State to resign and keep an election held up until after the determination of a Federal election, is of many years’ standing, and after a hurried perusal of the Parliamentary Handbook, it appears that, in 1917, Mr. Hurst and Mr. Belton stood for the Senate, though recently members of the State Parliament. They resigned; but the election to fill their vacancies was, at their request, and under the Tasmanian law, deferred until it was seen if they were elected to this Parliament.
– But they have then to again contest an election?
– Yes ; ‘ but the election was held up for them.
– That is the point the Bill is supposed to cover.
– In 1914, Senator Guy and Mr. Nichoiis, a member of the Legislative Council, followed the same course, as also did Mr. Ogden and Mr, Hurst in 1910. I am not quite sure if, in 1906, Mr. Lammerton did not also adopt the same course when opposing Mr. King O’Malley. Shortly after the provision disqualifying a State member, or a person who has been a State member within fourteen days of nomination, became the law of the Commonwealth, the Tasmanian Parliament introduced a provision whereby any State member could, whilst in obedience to the Commonwealth law, resigning to contest a Federal seat, hold up an election for the State by informing the Governor that he was resigning for that purpose. If he was unsuccessful, the law was suspended which required an election to be held within a certain time, to enable him to contest the State election again. If this provision is wrong, that was also wrong, and the matter has been referred to at more than one gathering of State Ministers. Nothing was done, because it affected only eleven men, and the Government did not think it necessary to redress that wrong. But when the other States on the mainland, following Tasmania as they have in connexion with other election matters, passed similar legislation, the “ shoe began to pinch,” and we now find a good deal of enthusiasm here to remedy this wrong.
– And we did not squeal.
– No, we did not. The moment other States adopted legislation of that character the Federal Government professed to realize that it was a wrong that the States were attempting to legalize.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the other States introduced this legislation for the reasons which actuated Tasmania some years ago ?
– Yes. If it were not for the other States following Tasmania it is probable we would not have heard anything of such a measure as this. There has been an outcry on the part of Tasmanian members, because they have had this experience at election after election. Members of this Chamber have been faced with the position of members of a State Parliament holding a seat in this Parliament. There is nothing under the Constitution, but there is under the Commonwealth Electoral Act, to prevent a State member from becoming a candidate for either House of this Parliament whilst retaining his position as a State member.
There is nothing to prevent a member oi the State Parliament from being a member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, because, in the first Federal Parliament, Senator Higgs was elected to the Senate -while a member of the Legislative Assembly in Queensland. He sat in this Parliament, and occasionally left here to carry out his duties as a member of the Legislative Assembly in Queensland.
– Constitutionally, he could not hold two offices of profit at the same time.
– That section of the Constitution refers to holding offices of profit under the Crown.
– That refers to a Minister of the Crown, and not to a member.
– He does not hold an office of profit under the Crown.
– He is paid by the Crown.
– He is not paid, but receives an allowance.
– I am not going to be taken off by that. Senator Higgs - there may have been others - sat in this Parliament while a member of a State Parliament.
– Did he sit in the Assembly in Queensland after being elected to this Chamber?
– Yes. He informed me and other honorable senators when he was here that lie was at times returning to work in the Assembly.
– I do not think he did.
– I am under the impression that he did sit here when a member of the Queensland Assembly.
– That is unwise.
– That may be. But I am speaking of the constitutional position. There is nothing in the Constitution to prevent a State member from being a candidate for election to either House of this Parliament, and there is nothing to prevent a man, although it may not be wise either in his own interests or those of the Commonwealth or a State, from holding a seat in this Parliament and at the same time a seat in a State Legislature. Senator E. D. Millen has said that the States provoked this measure by passing legis lation which debarred a member of either House of the Federal Parliament from becoming a candidate for election to a State Parliament. I am inclined to think that the honorable senator’s memory is a little at fault. I do not remember that having been put forward as one of the reasons for the original legislation.
– Has the honorable senator read the recent legislation on this subject passed by the State Parliaments?
– I have not seen the actual text of such legislation, but I’ know what has been done in Tasmania.’ Originally a member of the Tasmanian Legislature might resign, and have the election for the vacancy so created held back until the Federal election had been decided. Under more recent legislation he can resign, and practically go back without election in the event of his not being returned to this Parliament. That, however, is State legislation. If the electors of the State are not being treated fairly in that regard they can hold their State Parliaments responsible. The State Parliaments are answerable to the State electors. Senator Bakhap, stressed the point that the State Legislatures are good training grounds for intending members of the Federal Parliament. The honorable senator has, perhaps, a more intimate knowledge of State parliamentary life than I have, or he might have been speaking with a certain amount of feeling-
– The fact remains that a majority of the members of every one of our Federal Parliaments have been members of State Legislatures.
– I would not say that the majority have been. The honorable senator in support of his statement referred to the constitution of the first Federal Parliament. It is only natural that it should have been drawn very freely from the then existing State Legislatures. State members were in the eyes of the public who at that time did not take such a direct, active, close, personal, intimate interest in the doings of their several Legislatures as they have since done. The electors generally depended upon the press for their knowledge of public men, and those who were in the forefront in the various State Parliaments were highest in popular estima- tion. It was natural, therefore, that as against nien from outside, they should be returned to the first Parliament. It was only to be expected also that their inclinations, interests, ambitions and sympathies would cause them to gravitate here. Leading men in the State Parliaments recognised that the new era meant a diminution of the power and responsibilities of the State Legislatures and the bringing into being of a superior Parliament, in which they thought their activities would have greater scope.
Senator . Poster has referred to the choosing of a person to fill a vacancy in the Senate so as to avoid the holding of a by-election. That is provided for in the Constitution, which does not disqualify any person from being chosen to fill a vacancy, until the next election of senators, either by the two Houses of the Legislature of a State sitting together and voting as one, or in the event of Parliament not being in session, by the Governor of the State, with the advice of the Executive Council. The provision which debars a State member from being elected to this House is to be found, not in the Commonwealth Constitution, but in the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which declares that amongst other persons disqualified from being nominated as a candidate for election is a member of a State Parliament or one who within fourteen days of nomination has been a State member. If he come here as the choice of the two Houses of a State Parliament sitting together and voting as one, Or as the choice of a State Governor, with the advice of his Executive, no such disqualification applies to him. For the reasons I have given I see no justification for this Bill. If there had been any justification it would have been apparent to me, and should have been apparent to the Government long before this. I am quite satisfied to let things go on as they have been. If the State Parliaments choose to pass legislation which has been characterized in the course of this debate as “reprehensible,” then they are answerable to their constituents, who are also our constituents, and I think it would be for those constituents to mark their sense of displeasure with the action of the State Legislature, or to approve of it.
– I have listened with interest to the speeches made by my fellow representatives of Tasmania, and feel that I also should make a brief ‘contribution to the debate. Senator Keating has clearly and deliberately shown that, under the Commonwealth Electoral Act, it is necessary for a member of a State Parliament to resign hi3 seat in order to qualify for election to the Commonwealth Parliament. The State Legislatures, however, have passed laws by which they endeavour to defeat that provision in the Commonwealth Electoral Act. That being so, surely they have no reason to complain if the Commonwealth Parliament passes a measure of this kind to keep them within the bounds laid down by its original legislation.
– We should either make that provision of the Commonwealth Electoral Act effective or repeal it.
– That is the position which I take up. Why should the State Parliaments step in and say, in effect, “ If a member of a State Parliament wishes to contest a Federal election, we will keep his seat open to him so that he may return to it in the event of his not being elected to the Commonwealth Parliament”? Why should they not go further and say, “ We will compel the employer of a man who wants to stand for election to the State Parliament to keep his billet open for him, so that if he is not successful he may resume his former employment “ ? It seems to me that the argument cuts both ways. But for the statement made by Senator Keating I should have thought that the Commonwealth Government was proposing, by means of this Bill, to commit a wrong with the object of righting a wrong, although two wrongs cannot make a right But on his showing the Commonwealth Parliament, having passed an Electoral Act, is entitled to see that it is carried out in its entirety, and that it shall not be rendered nugatory by a mere subterfuge on the part of the State Parliaments.
– ‘With the exception of Senator John D. Millen, all who have addressed themselves to this question have announced their intention of opposing the Bill. I also intend to oppose it. To pass such a measure would he to suggest that we are afraid of the competition of State members. As a matter of fact, we are not. As mentioned by Senator Bakhap, most honorable senators have, at some time or other, been members of State Legislatures.
– Nearly one-half of the members of the present Senate have been members of State Parliaments.
– Quite so. Speaking generally, I think it is an advantage for a member of this Legislature to have held a seat in a State Parliament. This Bill will, in some respects, restrict the people’s choice of their representatives in this Parliament.
– Not at all.
– A member of a State House might be invited’ by the people to stand for a seat in the Federal Parliament. They might regard him as being pre-eminently fitted to represent them here, but, as the result of the passing of thismeasure, he might say, “Why should I stand for the Federal Parliament? I am quite satisfied. I have a safe seat, and if I resign it I may be defeated’ at the Federal election.”
– So that he would be influenced by purely mercenary reasons?
– No. I am putting the position from the view-point of the people, who might consider that a certain State member was specially fitted to represent them here..
– But the honorable senator suggests that he would think of his billet before his country.
– I suggest nothing of the kind.
– The honorable senator’s argument would apply with equal force to public servants who are called upon to resign from the Service before they can become candidates for election to Parliament.
– Not at all. I think it is entirely beneath the dignity of this Chamber to pass legislation of this kind.
– That is becoming a gag-
– It is nevertheless true, and I think we ought to reject this Bill.
. -I intend to support the Bill. It seems to me that the first three senators from Tasmania to address themselves to- this question have entirely overlooked the principle underlying the Bill. There is no suggestion that the Government, in submitting it, desire in any way to interfere with State rights. This Bill does not interfere with the State electoral laws. It relates only to the electoral law of the Commonwealth, and, as the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) has pointed out, it is within the rights of this Parliament to determine what shall be the qualificationsnecessary to membership of it. As a matter of fact, the Constitution also enumerates a list of disqualifications, and amongst them is the very important one that the holder of an office of profit under the Crown shall not be eligible for election. When, by way of interjection, I drew Senator Keating’s attention to this fact, he replied that a member of Parliament was not a holder of an office of profit under the Crown. It is, however, a recognised fact that he is. We pass the necessary appropriation to provide for the payment of members of this Legislature, but to whom, do we appropriate the money ? We appropriate it to the Crown. The object of this Bill is to prevent members of the State Parliaments who are holding offices of profit under the Crown from being returned to this Legislature. The very State Parliaments which have passed the law to which reference has so frequently been made during this discussion have cheerfully legislated to prevent . members of the Public Service, who hold offices of profit under the Crown, from being eligible for election to the State Legislatures unless they first resign their positions.
– And when they reresign they are unable to get back to the Service.
– That is so. The system’ against which we are legislating is an evil which our forefathers had to grapple with. As far back as the days of Walpole, and even before then, the menace to popular government in Great Britain was the action of the Crown in packing the Parliament with paid servants of the Crown. If the members of the State Parliaments wish to contest Federal electorates, they should act in an open way.
– I oppose the Bill, and I doubt its constitutionality. A member of a State Legislative Council may be nominated to contect a Federal seat, and he may decide to teat the constitutionality of this Bill.
– A very pertinent point.
– The Bill challenges the rights of State members. I do not want this Parliament to be classed as a close parliamentary preserve. In the first Federal Parliament there was no such limitation as the Bill, proposes. Action wad taken by the State Parliaments in the first instance to deprive Federal members of! the opportunity of standing for State electorates. How much did members of this Parliament value the right to stand for State seats? Making use of the pretence that a valuable ‘right had been taken from them, they turned around and said that State members must not stand for Federal seats. I oppose the Bill in the belief that if any parliamentary institution can afford to be magnanimous, it is the Commonwealth Parliament. If we carry a measure of this description, we shall, ere long, be asking the members of road boards and similar institutions to resign their seats before being permitted to contest Federal electorates.
– Why impose a poll on a defeated candidate?
– It is very encouraging to find myself in accord with the Government on this occasion. The opponents of the Bill do not seem to be conversant with the ambition of the State Parliaments, as evidenced by the legislation they have recently passed. Although on the surface the State Parliaments appear to be ready to obey Federal law, they wish to leave a way open to enable them to get back to their seats without any difficulty. I have never seen a better illustration of the use of a double-headed penny in public administration. If a member of the Senate wishes to be elected to the House of Representatives, he must resign. Similarly, a member of the Public Service would have to resign his position before being permitted to nominate for Federal parliamentary honours. If a State member could contest a Federal seat without the fear of losing his own, what incentive would there be to- the Federal parliamen- tari an to conscientiously discharge his duties until the date of the election ? Even Ministers of the Crown are coming out as candidates against Federal representatives.
– Did you ever hean of any Federal member who resigned a seat here to stand for a position as a State member ?
– We have a, right to a fair field and a square deal. The: Bill -will prevent what is an admitted evil.
– If a State candidate is defeated, why put him and his State to the expense of an election subsequently?
– If there is anything in the honorable senator’s argument let him tear up the State provisions, which allow the defeated candidate from, the State Parliament to jump .back into his seat. T ami most ready and willing to support the Government.
– I am a little doubtful about the principle involved, in this Bill. I quite realize the point of view of Senator Wilson. The State Legislatures have, perhaps, not ‘ quite played the game in passing such an enactment as they have, but that is their business. The Bill before us is our business, and it contains a principle of which I ana rather afraid. The Bill lays down that certain classes of people may not stand as candidates for election to the National Parliament. If we accept that principle, why may it not be carried, a little further ? One can picture a time when the Federal Parliament may again; be dominated by those connected with the trade unions. Might not they, in their turn, pass an Act embodying the principle that no person may be eligible unless he is a member of a trade union.
– They would do it if they dared. *
– Yes ; and I do not know why they should not go further and make every trade union a close corporation. Then, where would be our constitutional provision that anybody of the age of. twenty-one years is eligible to be elected.. This Bill establishes a principle which, to my mind, is most dangerous. For that reason I do not like to see any limitation whatever placed on the choice of the people.. The State Parliaments have not altogether! played thegame, and they should never have raised this issue. Simply because the States have taken action with which we do not agree, why should we establish a’ principle which may be seized upon in future by a dominant party in the National Parliament?
Question - That the Bill be now read a secondtime - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by ‘Senator Russell) read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The object of this Bill is to widen the sphere of selection for appointment of persons as Deputy President of the Arbitration Court. At present the only persons eligible for appointment as Deputy President are Justices of the High Court and Judges of the Supreme Court of a State. It is now proposed to include barristers and solicitors of the High Court or of a Supreme Court amongst those eligible for appointment as Deputy
President. It will thus be possible to appoint a much larger number of Deputy Presidents than heretofore when the business of the Court becomes congested, and, as each Deputy President can exercise the jurisdiction of the Court, to expedite the. despatch of business. Provision is also made for the appointment of a Deputy President for a fixed period to be specified in the instrument of his appointment. At the present time a Deputy is entitled to hold office during good behaviour for the unexpired period of the term for which the President holding office at the date of his appointment was appointed. It will, therefore, under the Bill, be possible to appoint a Deputy President or Deputy Presidents, to deal with a. specified case or specified cases only. Provision is also made to make it clear that any agreement made under the Act will bind the successor, or any assignee or transmittee, of the business of a party bound by the agreement. The Commonwealth Parliament has indorsed time after time the principle of arbitration, and this is a measure to cure some faults in the constitution of the Arbitration Court, so that disputes may be settled more quickly. Workers are hardly to be blamed for striking if, having a grievance, they cannot get a hearing in the Court, or have to pay inordinately to secure awards.
– They never pay as dearly for their awards as they, do for a strike.
– Of course not - the two things are not comparable. At the same time it is not fair to ask any set of persons to wait nine and twelve months for the hearing of their cause. We have had difficulty in obtaining Justices for the Arbitration Court. The Justices of the High Court do not like sitting in that Court. To widen the field of selection we have therefore made eligible for the position of Deputy President barristers and solicitors practising in the High Court or in the Supreme Court of a State. This is necessary, because cases in the settlement of which the question of hours arises must be heard by three Justices - a needed check in the present economic conditions of the country. No doubt men working at great distances underground are entitled to short hours, but those employed in healthy and light occupations might well continue to work a forty-eight hour week during the period of severe economic strain through which the country is passing. The Bill is intended to quicken the machinery of the Arbitration Court. With a larger number of Justices it will be possible to deal with .cases more rapidly, and the President of the Court may have time to look more closely into the’ bigger issues than is possible now, when there are, perhaps, twenty or thirty cases awaiting decision.
– The Minister (Senator Russell) has spoken of quickening the machinery of the Arbitration Court, and has made reference to the question of hours, but I may say at the outset that I do not approve of the hours which he is forcing us to keep.
– We have been sitting so long because senators would talk.
– The long sitting has been forced on us by the measures submitted, and legislation has been dealt with in a manner foreign to all my experience. I do not know how many Bills we have passed to-night, but very many of those we have passed came to us only this evening, and we received our copies of them after the first reading, and when the Minister was well into his secondreading speech, and occasionally after he had finished it. It is not work the result of which we can expect to be altogether a credit to a legislative and deliberative body. Daylight is coming into the chamber now, ,hut I do not know that very much daylight has been thrown on this measure. In ordinary circumstances, if we were amending an Act of this character, the print would indicate the amendments by black type anderasions. What senator, since this Bill has come into his hands, has had an opportunity of getting a copy of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904- 1920, or the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1921, and finding out what the Bill purports to effect? I think no one has been able to do that. The Bill has not been circulated, and we are asked to pass it through all its stages. It is work, and it is because we have done so much of this kind of work inthe past that we are constantly tinkering with our statute-book. Whereas our legislation in the early days of Federation was a credit to those responsible for its draftsmanship, to-day it is nothing but a discredit. There is no legislation passed in any of the State Legislatures which can compare in intricacy and its involved character with the legislation passed by this Parliament. I speak not of its provisions or principles, but of its draftsmanship, for which this Parliament cannot be held responsible. The Minister has said. that the principle of conciliation and arbitration has been affirmed by this Senate. I think that each successive re-affirmation has been a. weakened re-affirmation, because it has been found that statutory conciliation and arbitration has not achieved all the purposes its (sponsors claimed for it. If we ever had a dramatic example of something which should take the place of arbitration, something which is similar to the principle underlying the Industrial Peace Act, we have had it this week in what has taken place in relation to Ireland. When we see that the representatives of two huge bodies of public opinion which bave been so antagonistic to each other, so prejudiced one against the other, with feelings deep-rooted and embedded in their very natures, can come together and, around a table, by patience, toleration, mutual forbearance, and consideration, achieve that happy result which was acclaimed here and everywhere throughout the Empire recently, I think it is an indication that a better means than antagonistic arbitration may be found for solving the differences between employers and employees. I hope it is a lesson that will be taken to heart by employers and employees, and by all who have anything to do with bringing about better relations between employers and employees and improved industrial conditions in the community. We have on the statute-book a measure called the Industrial Peace Act, which to some extent may supersede arbitration; but if ever we want a striking testimony to the value of a roundtable conference, we have had it this week; and I believe that before another week or two is over we will have another striking example of its success at Washington. I am sorry that we have not a print of .the relevant sections of the original Act which it is proposed, to amend, with the proposed amendments set out in black type. At this late hour we have to take the assurance of the Minister of what the effect of the/ amendments will be. If the amendments are as he has indicated, and I have every reason to believe they are, because hia speech was a carefully-prepared and read utterance, and if, and so long as arbitration is to remain the principle for governing the differences between employers and employees, I see no reason why we should not pass the Bill through all its stages.
– I regret, with Senator Keating, that we have not had an opportunity of giving this measure the consideration that it deserves. The question of arbitration has been agitating the minds of many public men in Australia recently, and has been discussed between the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the various principal Ministers in the several States of Australia. It has also been receiving very considerable consideration from all the employers’ and employees’ organizations. Here, at the hour of 10 minutes to 5 in the morning, we are asked to turn our minds to a measure which could be made of the utmost importance if we had a proper opportunity of dealing with it.
– The whole question of arbitration will probably come under review early next session.
– Why could it not come under review this session, and in connexion with this ‘measure? A great deal of time has been wasted this year in this Senate, and in another place - time that might very properly have been devoted to such important measures as arbitration. I have learned a very considerable amount about arbitration during the last few months, and I believe that I cou’ld be of assistance to honorable senators in this regard if, at this stage of the proceedings, it was really worth while, which I am inclined to think it is not. There are several defects in this measure which I shall try to remedy when we get into Committee. I believe it would be advisable to alter this Bill in the direction of limiting the activities of the Federal Arbitration Court to those spheres which were intended to be covered by the framers of the
Constitution. It was considered that the Court should deal only with matters which are truly Inter-State, and not with disputes which are created in an artificial manner by the use of a postage stamp, a pen and ink, and paper. I would certainly have liked to have seen an endeavour made to get back to the original intention in matters of arbitration. When the subject was discussed in the Federal Convention, such matters as snipping, shearing, and wool crutching were mentioned as matters which were Federal in nature. It was thought that it would be advisable at the time to mention these industries specifically in the Constitution.
– And remove them from State jurisdiction?
– In Queensland we have both State and Commonwealth awards applying to the same industry.
– BROCKMAN.This is one direction in which remedies are needed. The whole question needs to come under review, instead of legislation being tinkered with as we are tinkering with it. The proposal is to appoint further Deputy Judges to take the place of the High Court Judges and the Supreme Court Judges who refuse to function in the ^Arbitration Court. The Minister proposes that there shall be a very wide selection in their appointment. Anybody who is a barrister and solicitor of any Supreme Court or High Court is to be eligible, without further qualification, to be appointed a Deputy Judge of the Arbitration Court. Personally, I think that is much too wide. A man would not be appointed a Judge of the High Court or die Supreme Court unless he was a barrister of many years’ standing, and I do not think we should depart from that principle in the Arbitration Court. I warn the Minister that when we get into Committee I shall move that barristers and solicitors appointed be of not less than five years’ standing. In the interests of good sense, justice, and wisdom, that is a very desirable course to follow. It is a very simple thing to get a qualification under the High Court, as honorable senators probably do not know. It is not so easy to get a qualification under the Supreme Court. The man who gets a qualification under the High Court is certainly not eligible to practise in any Supreme Court in Australia, but men who may get qualifications in this backdoor fashion are to be eligible at once for appointment as Deputy Judges of the Arbitration Court.
– Are there barristers who may practise before the High Court and not the Supreme Courts?
There is provision for the appointment of them, at all events, and I believe that one has been appointed. I do not know of any others. His knowledge of law and legal practice for general purposes, I am quite sure, is nil. He is a very excellent gentleman in himself, and, under this measure, would be eligible for appointment as a Deputy Judge. The principle is wrong.
– Why not appoint a man with some common sense? That is one of the things the Court has lacked in the past. This gentleman may possess common sense.
-BROCKMAK- He may. I do not know enough about him to say whether he does; but if we are going to confine the appointments to barristers and solicitors, let us, at all events, have a guarantee of a certain amount of experience. Arbitration is surrounded by interesting, intricate, and difficult constitutional questions. The Arbitration Court is not a Court in the ordinary sense, but is a legislating body which, under the Constitution, this Parliament has power to appoint, but once having appointed has absolutely no control over it. It is quite independent of Parliament, and is not responsible to it in any sense.
– -In some respects it is more powerful than Parliament.
– Yes ; because it can legislate for conditions of labour, hours, and wages, and so on, which this Parliament cannot do. All that we can do is to appoint the Court, and if it likes to say that the working week in Australia should be thirty-three hours, and that such a condition of affairs should continue for two years, we cannot undo its work. It is a most extraordinary and unsatisfactory position. In the circumstances the whole matter needs reviewing, and , the Constitution should, certainly be amended to. remedy the difficulty. I have gone into the matter further than I intended. I simply rose to protest against such an important question being dealt with in this haphazard manner.
– Certain contemplated legislation in regard to arbitration matters which has created a great deal of anxiety in the minds of certain State Governments, is likely to be a direct menace to State rights. It is, therefore, the duty of honorable senators, as custodians of those rights, to give serious consideration to this question. I am given to understand that by a recent decision of the High Court theCommonwealth arbitration laws may be applied to the State public servants and employees of State authorities. If that be the case, an anomalous position will be set up, because, whereas the Commonwealth Parliament declares that it is desirable that the Commonwealth public servants should have their wages and conditions of work fixed in accordance with the provisions of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will be empowered to deal with the wages and conditions of work of employees of State authorities, possibly to an extent likely to seriously affect the finances of each State. I shall move an amendment to clause 4, in order to protect State interests.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 14 of the principal Act is amended -
by inserting in sub-section (1) after the word “ State,” the words “ or being a barrister or solicitor or barristers or solicitors of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of a State.”
Section proposed to be amended -
The Governor-General may …. appoint any person or persons holding the office of Justice of the Sigh’ Court or Judge of the Supreme Court of a State to be the Deputy or Deputies of the President……
.- I move -
That at the end of paragraph (a) the following words be inserted, “ of not less than five years’ standing.”
I have alreadyexplained my reason for moving in this direction. Although I, think it would be far better to provide that no barrister or solicitor of less than ten years’ standing should be selected as a Deputy President of the Arbitration Court, I have limited my proposal to men of five years’ standing in their profession. It is, I think, some small measure of protection which ought to be afforded to the community.
– I recognise the wisdom of appointing men of experience as Deputy Presidents of the Arbitration Court, but one of the failures of the arbitration system has been the fact that there have been too many lawyers in it.
– Brockman. - But that is already provided for in the Act.
– That is so, but I was hoping that the choice would be so widened that men who are not too lawridden may be appointed to preside over arbitration proceedings, which, from my experience, are too technical. There is not enough robust common sense exercised to get. at the “ meat “ of things. If Presidents of Arbitration Courts had as much knowledge of industrial matters as they have, of law, they would, probably, prove eminently successful. The successful arbitrator is one who has had business experience, and has been accustomed to handling men.
– Then why limit the choice to barristers or solicitors?
– I was merely remarking that, instead of seeking to narrow the field of choice, I would rather have it widened.
– I am sure that the Government will agree to the amendment. It is aimed at remedying an obvious oversight.
– The Bill has been fully considered by the Government and submitted to the President of the Arbitration Court. There is no need to alter it unless it can be shown that by so doing we are likely to secure the services of a higher type of man. ‘ Of course, T can readily understand that it would not be an advantage to appoint merely book students of the law, and that we ought to secure the services of steady men who can take a. sane outlook on the world . However. I will agree to the proposed amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 (Certified agreement).
– The object of this clause is to provide that, if an award is delivered, a party to it may not dodge his liability by forming his business into a company under a different name.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section 29 of the principal Act is amended by inserting in paragraph (bo), after the words “of the business”, the words “of a party to the dispute or “.
Section proposed to be amended -
The award ofthe Court shall be binding on (ba) in the case of employers, any successor or any assignee or any transmittee of the business ….
Amendment (by Senator Bolton) proposed -
That after “ amended the letter “ (a) “ be inserted, and that at the end of the clause the following new paragraph he inserted : - “ and (b) by adding at the end thereof the following proviso: - “Provided that no award of the Court shall be binding on a State or any authority under aState.”
– In other words, the amendment will exempt State instrumentalities.
– I do not know what is contained in section 29 of the Act, and therefore I cannot say if Senator Bolton’s amendment will be relevant to that section. This Bill is not a Bill to amend the Arbitration Act itself, but ‘ to amend sections 14, 18a, 24, and 29.
– This Bill determines upon whom an award of the Court shall be binding.
– Unfortunately we are considering the Bill without a print showing the effect of the amendments to the main Act, and at the moment I cannot say if section 29 refers to a matter which is included in Senator Bolton’s amendment.
– I understand that the effect of Senator Bolton’s amendment is to interpose in the interpretation by the High Court of the section of the Act referred to. The interpretation of the High . Court is to the effect that State servants definitely engaged in industrial enterprises would come under the provisions of the Act. We are not out to interfere with the Arbitration Court, but to create a little extra machinery to enable it to do its work more effectively, and to remove - the deadlock that exists, by the appointment of additional arbitrators. If this remedy fails we shall have to review the entire position early in the next session, because the industrial position in Australia presents a very serious problem. I suggest, therefore, that the legal aspect of Senator Bolton’s amendment be further considered, and that, in the meantime, the amendment be withdrawn.
– I quite understand what is the purpose of this Bill, and I” also realize that this is the time and place for members of this Chamber to express an opinion upon this important matter. If any branch of the Commonwealth Legislature should state its views, it is, I think, this Chamber, the members of which are properly regarded as the custodians of State Tights.’ I do not feel disposed to withdraw my amendment, as suggested by the Minister.
– I do not propose to vote against Senator Bolton’s amendment, if it is carried to a division, without speaking as to my reasons. I do not agree with Senator Bolton, that here and now i3 the time to decide this issue. If the honorable senator is prepared to stay here till Christmas, and after, I agree with him that we may proceed with the consideration of this problem. It is a very big question. If Senator Bolton does not succeed in carrying his amendment now, it is probable that it will go forth that the States do not want the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court to be reviewed. I have had1 an opportunity of reading a letter which Senator Bolton has passed on to me from some one in authority, dated only yesterday, and emphasizing the importance of this subject, which has exercised the minds of the interested parties for a very considerable time. A legal opinion has been taken about the position that has arisen from the more recent decision of the High Court, and which conflicts somewhat with an earlier decision which had been accepted for so many years. Reference has been made by the Victorian Attorney-General recently to. the position, and to the means of access to the Privy Council. This is a matter which I do not think can be discussed advantageously .at this stage, and determined upon its merits, at 6 o’clock in the morning. I doubt whether we could insure an attendance of honorable senators, and I doubt whether honorable senators would be able to follow the argument in all its details with proper appreciation. Under the present arrangement, the two Houses will -rise within a few hours, but if this measure goes back to another place with the amendment moved by Senator Bolton, and if members elsewhere choose to take it up and debate it, I am certain it will not be disposed of in anything like the time that is still left for this Parliament to finish its business and carry out the arrangements for the adjournment. I do not think .Senator Bolton’s amendment will result in the proper determination of the matter, and for that reason I cannot support it. Section 29 of the Act states that the awards of the Court are binding on all parties to the industrial dispute who appear, or who are represented before the Court;. on all parties who have been summoned to appear as parties to a dispute; and on all organizations and persons on whom the award is at any time declared to be binding, and so on. Senator Bolton’s amendment proposes that it shall not be binding on the States or authorities under the States. I am doubtful if it will achieve its object. Assuming that the amendment will achieve his purpose if carried, I do not think that, under the circumstances, this is a fitting time to settle this very important question.
– I agree with Senator Keating that this is far too important a matter to consider at this hour of the morning, after such a lengthy sitting. It affects the States which we are sent here to protect and defend, proposing what the States are clamouring for, and yet we are asked to decide a matter of the kind at this time. .If, however, Senator Bolton presses his amendment, I intend to vote for it, although I am exceedingly doubtful whether it will have the effect he desires. Probably it will not; it may have the effect of sending it out to the public that the Senate, which represents the States, is against the principle involved.
– I am opposed to the principle of arbitration as expressed in out Acts. I have had a considerable amount of experience, having been attending the Arbitration Court since 1909 until the end of 1918. I could relate many objections that I have against the Court, but I do not think it is worth my while opposing the Bill; what I desire is to see the Arbitration Court abolished altogether. This,- in my opinion,, is not the time to go into the merits or demerits of such an important question.
– We may express an opinion.
– Yes, but I cannot see that that carries us very far; if it did, I should fight on the side of- the honorable senator tooth and nail.
– The amendment, if carried, may, and probably will, have the effect of excluding from the Arbitration Court all State instrumentalities.
– If the Bill were for the amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, to which I am opposed, I would help its passage as much as possible. It is for a specific ^purpose - merely trying to. clear up the present muddle - and I cannot see that I would gain anything in opposing it.
– I am in sympathy with Senator Bolton in his anxiety to protect State rights ; but, with other speakers, I think that it is rather too comprehensive in its effects for us to decide at this hour in the morning. The amendment is very farreaching, and the question involved cannot be decided unless there is considerable time for discussion.
– It does not alter the present position; it is an attempt to prevent something that would be to the disadvantage of the States.
– If the honorable senator reads the amendment, I think he will see that it is very far-reaching. However, if Senator Bolton insists on his amendment being put to .a division, I shall, in pursuance of what I consider to be my duty to protect State interests, vote for it. Under the circumstances, however, I think that the amendment ought not to be pressed.
– If the amendment is defeated it will make matters look worse.
– .That we wish to avoid, because it will mean the defeat of an amendment in the interests of the States, which, as I nave said, we are here to protect.
– If the amendment be defeated, it will prejudice the claims of the States.
– There is no reason why it should be defeated.
– It may be defeated because of the present state of public business.
– There is just a possibility, if the amendment is carried, of the Bill being thrown out in another place, and that, of course, would give a bad impression.
– Since the decision of the High Court affecting State intrumentalities, this is the first opportunity this Chamber has had to express an opinion, and I do not think that I can with any ‘decency, withdraw my proposal.
– It may be submitted on another occasion.
– ‘When ?
– The honorable senator can make an occasion.
-If the amendment is carried it will, at any rate, establish the fact that the Senate is strongly opposed to any interference with State rights; and it is our business to see that there is no such interference. I regard this as a very opportune time to discuss the question.
– I join in the request that has been made to Senator Bolton to withdraw this amendment. The honorable senator has, quite rightly, in the discharge of what he regards as his duty, submitted the proposal. I remind him, however, that it raises a constitutional question, if ever there was one. It is not a matter that can be disposed of in a few minutes, days, weeks or, possibly, months. The Government have brought down a proposal intended to meet the existing difficulties that have arisen in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and there is a possibility, by means of this Bill, of relieving the congestion that prevails. If Senator Bolton’s amendment is persisted in, he can hardly suppose that it is going to be disposed of. as if it were one of little importance. If we had a few months, or even a few weeks, in front of us there would be a fair opportunity for honorable senators to consider the question, but no ens can think that, in the time remaining to us, there is any possibility of giving serious consideration to the very important point raised. If the amendment is carried, and goes to another place, it may be returned; and I have heard gentlemen in this Chamber suggest that it is rather derogatory when, having voted one way on one occasion, they reverse their vote on another. I suggest that Senator Bolton should assist the Government in passing the measure before us, in order that we may reap the immediate beneficial effects, and leave the larger question for a later opportunity, which is bound to come. In any case, Senator Bolton can bring the matter forward on the re-assembling of the Senate. He has shown the people of Victoria that he realizes the importance of the matter, and has voiced his opinion. In view of the state of public business, and the impossibility of arriving at a decision in the time that remains to us, I suggest that he withdraw the amendment.
– The Minister puts -the case in such a way as to make it very difficult for me to do anything but comply with his request.
– May I add that my request is only in conformity with suggestions made by honorable senators who believe as the honorable senator does. These suggestions do not coma from opponents of the amendment, but from its friends.
– Without further debate, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; re- port adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by Senator E. D. Millen) read a first time.
.- I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure is the one which is generally known as the Anti-Dumping Bill. It provides that in every instance before a duty is imposed there must be full inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, and the Minister for Trade and Customs must be satisfied that action has been taken which may result in detriment to an Australian industry. For instance, the dumping duties should not be applied against motor chassis, but they could be operative in the case of motor bodies, the reason being that motor chassis are not made here and the manufacture of motor bodies is an established industry.
The first dumping duty in clause 4 relates to ordinary dumping. For instance, in the country of manufacture with protection the manufacturer charges a certain price for his goods. When, however, he desires to capture an outside market against other competition he reduces his price for export. This is often done with a view of crushing a local industry, when the exporter can raise his prices. The clause provides that if the price charged to the Australian importer is less than the fair market value in the country of export the dumping duty may be applied. The amount of the dumping duty will be the difference between the fair market value and the export price, subject to the provision in clause 12 that the amount of duty cannot exceed 15 per cent, on the value of the goods. (Honorable senators will note that a special provision (3) has been inserted to protect purchasers where the market values have fallen before the goods are shipped to Australia. In sub-clause 4 of clause 4 certain goods are exempted from the operation of the dumping duty. These exemptions are designed to avoid interfering with goods unless some material disadvantage might operate against an Australian industry. Clause 5 of the Bill will be effective where it is proved to the satisfaction of the Tariff Board and the Minister that goods are being sold to ‘an importer in Australia at a price which is less than a reasonable price, i.e., below the cost of production. In this clause “a reasonable price” means such a price as represents the cost of production of the goods, plus 5 per centum plus free on board charges. In any case, where it is not possible to obtain satisfactory evidence as to the cost of production, the Minister may, after report by the Tariff Board, fix such amount as he thinks fit as the cost of production. Clause 6 provides that where goods are not sold to an importer in Australia, but are forwarded on consignment, as, for instance, to a branch house, for sale, and that they may be sold at less than a reasonable selling price, inquiry shall be made, and if detriment to an Australian industry may result, the dumping duty is to be applied. The duty shall- be the sum which represents the difference between the wholesale selling price in Australia and a reasonable selling price. This duty cannot, however, exceed 15 per cent., as provided by clause 12. Clause 7 refers to dumping by means of subsidized ships at rates of freight lower than the rates of freight prevailing at the time of shipment, and also ballast freights and free freights. This protection is essential, otherwise, by special arrangement, goods may be clumped in Australia to the detriment of a local industry. The rate of duty in this instance is 5 per cent, on the value of the goods. Clause 8 is the first clause dealing with dumping through the depreciated exchange of any country. This is a very real danger, and unless some such action as is provided in this clause is taken our industries must suffer.
I would remind honorable senators that practically all other countries have already taken action to defend themselves against the exports of ‘countries with depreciated exchanges. Nearly twelve months ago Great Britain passed a duty of 33^ per cent, against certain imports from countries with depreciated currencies. Quite recently the list of goods to which the duty is to apply has been .considerably extended, und complaints have been made that the duty is not sufficient. Canada has also imposed a law against dumping through exchange. Canadian law provides that the value of the goods through depreciated exchange shall not be reduced more than 50 per cent., i.e., the German mark, the value of which was ls. before the war, is now to be taken at 6d. As the mark is only worth about £d., it can readily bc understood that trading with Germany, so far as imports are concerned, has been stopped. The United States of
America has also adopted most drastic measures against exchange dumping. New Zealand has passed dumping legislation somewhat on the lines proposed in this Bill.
A remarkable case of exchange dumping recently came under notice. At the time the depreciation of the German mark stood at about 240 to the £1, the Austrian kroner stood at something over 600 to the £1. The manufacturers of Austria commenced exporting certain manures to Germany at prices below which the latter could not compete. Action was then taken by Germany to prohibit the importation of these manures from Austria. All authorities are agreed that the opening of our markets to the exports from countries with depreciated exchanges must result in the closing down of Australian works. At the present time our iron works are suffering through competition with Belgium, and no relief is possible unless it comes through the machinery of this Bill.
Clause 9 provides for the protection of goods manufactured in the United Kingdom. In this instance there is no Aus- . tralian industry affected. The proposal is to enable the United Kingdom to compete against the exports of countries having a depreciated currency. Clause 10 deals with goods manufactured in any country from raw materials obtained from countries with depreciated currencies. Unless .this provision were inserted, any country could obtain raw materials from, say, Germany, at a very low cost, and thus be in a position to unfairly undersell the product of an Australian industry. Clause 11 simply deals with goods sent on consignment from countries with depreciated exchange. Without this provision, the protection afforded by clauses 9 and 10 might be evaded by sending goods to Australia on consignment. Clause 12 limits the amount of duty under clauses 4 to 7 to 15 per cent, severally and collectively. Taken in conjunction with the Tariff protection and exchange dumping duty, it is considered that 15 per cent, should be sufficient to protect local industries. The remaining clauses are machinery ones to enable the foregoing proposals to be put into effect.
Debate (on motion by Senator delargie) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until vi.au p.m. on Friday, 8th inst.
Senate adjourned at 6.10 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 December 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19211208_senate_8_98/>.