9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator theHon. T: Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Scopeof Inquiry by Royal Commission.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he can yet advise me if it is intended to comply with my request to extend the scope of the Royal Commission which has been appointed to inquire into the loss of the Sumatra?
SenatorWILSON.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) has supplied me with a. reply to the honorable senator’s request that -
The answer is as follows: -
With regard to the first request, it is pointed out. that the personswho will inquire into the loss of the Sumatra will be those who, if the ship had not been a Government ship, would have constituted a Count of Marine Inquiry to investigate andreport on her loss. The only reason for appointing them aRoyal Commis- sion is that the Sumatra, as a Government ship, was exempt from the provisions of the New South Wales Navigation Act. The Commission is being appointed for the one definite purpose, and it would, under the circumstances, be improper to extend the scope of its inquiries as suggested. As regards the alternative request that a special Commission or Board of Inquiry be appointed, it is pointed out that hitherto, and until 1st October next, the control of surveys of ships for the purpose of securing their seaworthiness has been and is. in the hands of the respective State Governments. The manner in which this controlhas been exercised would not, it is considered, bo a proper subject for investigation by a Commission, or other body appointed by. the Commonwealth Government. It maybe added, however, that when the surveys of ships, and the general question of securing their seaworthiness, comes under Federal control in October next, no effort will be spared to insure that no ship shall be permitted to goto sea in an unseaworthy condition.
– I ask the. Minister for Home and Territories if it is a fact, as has been alleged, that the Boll weevil has been discovered in the Northern Territory?
– Immediately this alarming report appeared,. I instituted inquiries in the Northern Territory. In the Northern Territory the report was said to have originated in Brisbane, and that inquiries there led to the assumption that it had originated with the Queensland Department of Agriculture. I have had inquiries made of the Queensland Department of Agriculture, and of the BritishAustralian Cotton Association. Both say that they have not originated any such suggestion. There is no truth whatever in the accusation that the Boll weevil has been discovered in the Northern Territory. I regret that slanderous statements should be made against Australia in this loose and general fashion.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No8 of 1923 - Postmaster-General’s Department - State Heads of Branches Association.
No. 9 of 1923 - Commonwealth Legal Professional Officers’ Association.
Imperial Shipping Committee - Final Report on the Deferred Rebate System. (Paper presented to British Parliament.)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Treasurer bring down an amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act to -
Increase the present rate of pension.
Abolish the deduction of 2s.6d. weekly from the pension when the pensioner is admitted into any old men’s or old women’s home, or other similar institution in the Commonwealth.
Remove the embargo againstthe granting of a pension to any person who has been an inmate of any sanatorium or hospital for the insane.
– The Treasurer supplies the following answer: -
The proposals of the Government in regard to invalid and old-age pensions will lie announced in the forthcoming Budget.
Discount and Exchange Rate
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer supplies the following answers : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
This matter is receiving the attention of the Government, but it is not anticipated that a decision will be arrived at during this session.
Appointments in Western Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister supplies the following reply : -
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That, for the remainder of the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Tuesday shall be a meeting day of the Senate; and that the hour of meeting on that day shall be 3 p.m., and Government business shall take precedence of all other business, except questions and formal motions on that day.
Motion (by Senator Wilson) pro posed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I congratulate the Minister and the Government on having carried this Bill to its present stage. Honorable senators on this side did not succeed in inducing the Minister to provide in the Bill for the representation of the workers in the industry on the Board of Control. I propose to him now - and it is not yet too late for him to consider the suggestion - that the Board should follow the example which has been set by many firms that employ a large number of men. Those firms have adopted the practice of appointing an officer whose duty it is to intervene in all disagreements between the employer and the employees before the matter is carried to the Court. I could name a number of firms in New South Wales who employ officers such as
I have described to act as “ go-betweens “ between themselves and the men. The officer appointed for this purpose by the Sydney Water and Sewerage Board has been most successful in carrying out his duties. He has made a close study of industrial legislation, and having a thorough acquaintance with all the awards affecting the employees of the Board, he has succeeded in averting a great deal of industrial trouble. I want the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers to be successful, and as it will be impossible for the manager to make himself thoroughly acquainted with all the awards affecting the employees of the Line, I suggest that an officer should he appointed to make himself conversant with those awards, and to meet the men before trouble arises. He should thus be able to avoid disputes and save the country a considerable sum of money. I trust that the Government or the Board will see that such an officer is appointed.
– As I assured the Senate during the secondreading debate, the Prime Minister intends to call a meeting of the Board and representatives of the men, at which he will preside. His purpose is to see if something cannot be achieved in the direction suggested by . Senator McDougall. The honorable senator can rest assured that his suggestion will be brought under the notice of the Board, because the Government are anxious that the Board shall make a success of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, and that the seamen and other employees of the Line shall work under the best conditions possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 24th July, vide page 1465) :
Schedule (An Ordinance relating to Crown lands) -
Clauses 50 and 51 agreed to.
Clause 52 (Rental of leases exchanged for lease existing at commencement of Ordinance) .
– The rents proposed to be charged in the case of a lease given in exchange for a lease granted under an
Act of the State of South Australia are as follows : - 2s. per square mile in the Darwin and Gulf district; 2s. 6d. per square mile in the Victoria River district ; 3s. per square mile in the Barkly Tablelands district, and 2s. per square mile iu the Alice Springs district. In the case of a lease issued in exchange for a lease’ granted under the Crown Lands Ordinance 1912-18, the rentals are to be as determined by the Board in accordance with a scale set OUt in the clause. In view of the fact that a highly paid Board is to be appointed to deal with all matters relating to leases in the Northern Territory, is it wise foi’ this Parliament to fix the rentals to be paid by lessees? The fixing of a hard and fast mileage rental seems to me to be an absurdity. Pastoral country through which a river runs should be ten times as valuable as country where there is no such river. Yet this clause fixes the rentals without taking into consideration the natural advantages under which some persons may work their leases, and the equally natural disadvantages under which others may work.
– This clause fixes the rentals only until the leases are re-, appraised.
– But we are fixing them, and I take it that at the first re-appraisement the rentals will be based on those which are now proposed to be charged.
– That is so.
– The Board will consist of practical men. The Committee was so bent on having practical men as members of the Board that it was not prepared to provide that they should be returned soldiers.
– No one asked for that.
– Some of us asked for it last night. In such a large tract of country there must be varieties of land, the value of which’ ought to be assessed, and it would be better to permit the Board of specialists which is to be appointed to assess the varying values of the land and fix the rentals accordingly. The rentals fixed in this clause are based on those which were charged by the South Australian Parliament twenty-two years ago ; but if that Parliament were fixing rentals for the same leases to-day it would pos sibly charge more for some portions of the Territory. I realize that the majority of the Committee will pay no serious attention to any attempt to improve the-. Ordinance, and that they will accept, whatever crude ideas the Minister may have inserted in it ; but it is my duty to*. protest against this Parliament fixing; rentals for leases of whose value we can/ have no knowledge.
– The honorable senator is pre-supposing that the Government have done that.
– It is the honorable senator who pre-supposes that. I am supposing that the leases will be taken at the prices stipulated in the old Acts, and that such prices will be increased or reduced. When the South Australian Parliament was dealing with these leases many years ago a Land Board was not in existence to investigate all the details. There is ample time for members of the Board, even if they walk through the Territory, to make the necessary investigations in order to fix adequate rentals. The Government are not justified in rushing this matter through when the principal provisions of an Ordinance they are submitting in 1923 will not become operative until 1935. The question of rentals should be dealt by us as if we were fixing the rentals of our own properties. No man should endeavour to fix the rentals without a knowledge of the true value of the country. I am not an advocate of high rentals or of taking the. money out of the pockets of the people who are settled in these areas; but I always have in mind the necessity of settling people in the North. The rentals paid during the next 60 years will be insignificant, and will not perhaps meet the cost of keeping the accounts. I do not object to that, however, because those engaged in the developmental work incidental to the opening up of portion of a huge continent should not be called upon to pay excessive rentals. I do not see, however, why a man leasing a large tract of country through which a fine river flows, on which irrigationparticularly rice production to the extent of forty-four bushels an acre as pictured by the Minister - can be undertaken, should pay the same rent as is paid by another unfortunate individual some distance away who has to spend a couple of thousand pounds in tapping the subartesian water supply. The members of the Committee have ROt the information at their disposal to enable them to fix fair rentals.
– Rice is grown in the agricultural districts of the Territory.
– I do not know exactly where it is grown, but I trust we shall have an opportunity of accepting before very long the Minister’s invitation to visit the Territory. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the fact that the rental of hundreds of square miles of country has been fixed at 3s. per square mile. In closely settled districts land is sold at so much per foot, but in this instance we are dealing with square miles each of which comprises 640 acres and the maximum rental is 3s., which shows that we are not taking the money from the leaseholders to pay for developmental work. Surely the Minister will admit that this is a question which should be settled by experts. We have not been told what the members of the Board are to be paid, but. seeing that the Committee decided last night that returned soldiers were not to be appointed to the Board we can safely assume that the salaries will be fairly high.
– Who decided that?
– Apparently the honorable senator did not know what he was voting on. The Committee decided last night that returned soldiers should not have a statutory right to these positions, and I therefore assume that .as they have been debarred that right the positions will be highly paid. I. have asked the Minister to give consideration to some of the helpful suggestions submitted from this side, and whether he takes them seriously or not, our only desire is to improve the Ordinance in an endeavour to more rapidly develop the Northern Territory I do not favour high rentals for leases but they should be somewhat commensurate with the value of the land.
– I do not think the Leader of the Opposition (Senator .Gardiner) has much to complain of concerning the manner in which the Government have treated the Opposition in connexion with this Ordinance as one of the few amendments car-
Tied was submitted by a member of the Opposition. The lessees who now hold
South Australian leases know that if they continue in possession and refuse to come under this Ordinance, the terms of the leases will not be altered for the next twenty-one years, and that the stocking conditions’ will be made more stringent than they are at present. That being so, if they are to surrender their leases under the terms of this Ordinance, they must know the rent they will be expected to pay. It would not be sufficient to say that we have appointed a competent Board and that if they surrender their leases the Board will decide the rents in future to be paid. Let us consider if we are giving away very much. In the Darwin and Gulf district the area occupied under South Australian leases is 11,325 square miles, which yields an average rental of ls. 8d. per square mile. We are making the commencing rental 2s. per square mile, or id. per square mile more than .the present leaseholders will have to pay for the next twenty-one years if they do not elect .to surrender and come under this Ordinance. In the Victoria River district the area held under these leases is 39,128 square miles, and yields an average rental of ls. 6d. per square mile. We are making the commencing rental 2s. 6d. per square ‘mile, or ls. per square mile more than the present average. In the Barkly Tableland district the area, held is 27,473 square miles, and yields an average rental of ls. 5^,-d. per square mile. We are making the commencing rental 3s. per square mile.
– Why the increase in that case?
– Because we think the land is worth it, and because the proposed rental will approximate more closely to what we are getting for similar land under existing Ordinances. The only district in which we have made a reduction is that known as No. 4 Alice Springs. There the. area occupied is 16,373 square miles, and yields an average rental of 2s. 6d. per square mile. We are making the commencing rental 2s. per square mile because, in the opinion of the Classification Board, land there is inferior ‘to that in both the Victoria River and the Barkly Tableland districts. To sum up, there is a total area of 77,926 square miles, the rental of which will be increased above the average now being paid, and 16,373 square miles, which, under this new Ordinance, will yield rentals slightly below the average now being paid.. The Classification Board, which fixed the rentals, consists of three of the senior Lands Officers in the Northern Territory and was guided by rentals paid for similar land under existing Commonwealth Ordinances. That the rentals axe not too low is shown by the fact that so much land is available, and that they are not high is shown by the fact that we have been able in some cases to get higher rentals for Commonwealth leases of similar country. The rentals have been fixed as the result of careful thought, and they have been accepted by the pastoralists as fair in all the circumstances. I therefore ask the Committee to adopt the clause. I can assure Senator Gardiner that any helpful suggestion made by honorable senators opposite will receive full consideration, and, if it is an improvement on the Bill as introduced, will he accepted. But the honorable senator cannot expect me to regard this suggestion as a gift from the gods. Naturally, I want to look carefully at any proposal, and, before accepting it, to be quite sure that it will improve the Bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 53 to 57 agreed to.
Clause 58 - (1.) The Minister shall, on the request of a lessee, made at least two years before any date of resumption, in lieu of resuming any lands’ held under a lease, permit the lessees to subdivide, for closer pastoral settlement purposes -
.- This clause might very well be amended since it might have a very important effect in preventing the subdivision of leaseholds. Yesterday the honorable senators from South’. Australia laid bare the evil of huge areas’ of land being monopolized by a few leaseholders. In the State of New South Wales the fight between the big and the small land -holder has been waged very bitterly almost from the inception of responsible Government. In that State “ dummying “ and. “ peacocking “ have been resorted to by the capitalist landowners in order to pick the eyes out of the country. This clause would appear to have been designed for the purpose of perpetuating the evil of land monopoly. Let us take as an illustration the Bovril (Australian Estates) leasehold of 12,000 square miles, and see what is likely to happen. Under this Ordinance the first one-fourth subdivision will take place in 1935. But a year or two before then the company, I have no doubt, will be able to put before the Minister of the day a reasonable proposal to subdivide 3,000 square miles of the leasehold, representing the one-fourth subdivision, amongst twenty men whom they will equip with capital to carry on the subdivided leaseholds. These men, in all probability, will be shareholders of the company. The Minister, if he is a fair-minded man, will be unable to withhold permission to such a proposition. Then, ten years later, the company will proceed with the second subdivision:, and allot another 3,000 square miles among twenty more shareholders. The same process may be repeated in 1955., and again in 1965, when the Bovril Estates leasehold will ostensibly belong to a number of small leaseholders, who may be shareholders in the company, but actually the company will still be the owner, and there will be no development. The Bill could not have been better drafted for “ dummying “ purposes. I ask the Minister to postpone the clause, and consider the advisability of inserting a provision to prevent the big. estates being placed in the permanent possession of the leaseholders. This clause will have the effect of making the present leases permanent. These is nothing to prevent the original leaseholders, who have put their money into the Territory, from having their estates subdivided, in. 1935, amongst certain individuals, and the process continued every ten years until the subdivision is complete. The Government could not object to such an action; and the result of it would be practically to render ineffective this attempt on the part of the Ministry to develop the Territory. I am putting, as briefly as I can, my objection to clause 58. It does, perhaps, aim at bringing about a system of small holdings, but it leaves the subdivision in the hands of the present lessees, and takes it altogether out of the hands of the Minister. I hope the Minister will view the clause with the suspicion of those who have seen, watched, and participated in the fight against the big land-owners in New South Wales. It is hard to picture the means that were used there to prevent the real workers of the soil from taking up land.
– In what State?
– I know that New South Wales. in respect of corrupt land practices, is not a patch on Victoria, but in the Mother State we have more land on which the land-owners may operate. That is the only difference between those States. As I travel down each week-end from Albury to Melbourne I realize how materially the big landowner continues to retard the development of even the small but fertile State of Victoria. The effect of giving the lessee the right to subdivide will be practically to compel any fair-minded Minister to grant him a permanent lease. The Minister cannot’ refuse a request to issue leases to individuals nominated by the big land-holders. Although the Minister pretends that this . is an Ordinance to develop the Northern Territory, if the clause remains as it stands, not one acre of the leases concerned will be available to the general public. These areas will remain for all time the property of the present leaseholders.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Home and Territories) [3.4£ . - I cannot help but recall the line, “ Suspicion always haunts’ the guilty mind.” Senator Gardiner says that he has a close acquaintance with land transactions in New South Wales, and he wants us to believe that he knows more about that subject than he ought to know. Surely, if possible, we should induce the holders of these leases themselves to subdivide. What could he the objection, if the holder of any one of these large leases anticipated by two years Government action in regard to subdivision? Surely it would be an advantage? It would save the Government a lot of trouble, and also the expense of sending out survey parties, because the lessee, by subdividing, would have to pay for his own survey. Senator Gardiner seems to have a rooted antipathy to the present lessees. He appears to think that there is some virtue in turning out an existing lessee, and putting some one else in his place. I fail to see any virtue in such an action. I frankly confess that I do not want to turn out any of the old lessees. I want to keep them all. I want to subdivide and to place other lessees beside them. I see no particular advantage in turning Brown off a lease and putting Jones in his place. If we can place Brown and Jones where Brown has held land previously, then we shall confer a benefit on the Commonwealth. I assure Senator Gardiner that there is no hidden motive behind this clause. It means what it says. Instead of waiting for the Minister to take the arbitrary action of resumption, as provided for in other clauses, this clause will enable ‘ the lessee himself to subdivide. Senator Gardiner took the case of a certain company, and assumed that the subdivision to be made on certain leases held by companies would be bogus, as the land would be subdivided and sold to the shareholders. I draw his attention to sabclause 2, under which the person to whom the subdivided lease is transferred must be approved of by the Minister. It is quite an easy thing for the Minister to examine the registry of shareholders and ascertain what is taking place. Assuming that Senator Gardiner’s contention is correct, and that this practice does take place, at any rate, the company will lose their original lease. Does he mean to say that a company would be so- foolish as to transfer one-quarter, of its holding to its shareholders, to be registered in their names ? It would be “making a present of the lease to them. The shareholders would have the power, not only to sell, but to mortgage the land. It would be their own personal property, and the company would have no defence whatever in a court of law for recovery of the lease. The Minister would have approved of the transfer, and it would have been registered in the name of the shareholders. They could therefore sell it.What would a company have to gain by adopting such a course? I cannot see how a company would he so foolish as to do what Senator Gardiner suggests. We all know that “ dummying “ is carried on wherever, possible. It is attempted, and too often succeeds. This Ordinance has been framed in the light of the experience of all the States, and has incorporated in it all the latest amendments of the Queensland and Western Australian laws, to prevent this practice. We cannot do more. Under the clause the approval of the Minister has to be secured by each individual sub-lessee. I do not see what more we can do. I feel that the temper of this Committee is thatif we can induce these people to subdivide their own leases, instead of waiting for the Government to take action, our purpose will be served.
.- The Minister (Senator Pearce) hinted that with the suspicious mind guilt must be associated. I thank him for that remark, because I would rather he thought of me in that way than otherwise. Nothing on the part of the Minister is so surprising as his innocence. He says that if a company were to hand over one-third of its lease to its shareholders they might dispose of the area so transferred. The Minister does not know half what I know of land transactions in New South Wales: My knowledge has been gained by delving into the records of land swindling companies in order to ascertain the facts. I know that the Minister’s approval would have to be obtained by a company for the transfer of a lease to sub-lessees. That is how “dummying” and “peacocking” is practised. On one hand there is a provision in the Ordinance that one-fourth of the area covered by these leases shall be resumed at the end of twelve years, and, on the other hand, this clause provides that one-quarter of the areas covered by the leases concerned shall be resumed, unless the leaseholders themselves subdivide them. If the lessees subdivide, the land will continue to be theirs, and there will be no resumption. In my opinion the big lessees are using their influence to have this Bill passed while the present Government is in power.
I indorse almost everything that has been said by Senator Gardiner in regard to dummying. Dummying is a realdanger. The Queensland Parliament has passed all kinds of laws to try to prevent dummying, and has not succeeded in. doing so. Although, under this Ordinance, some lessees may subdivide their leases, it may be a dummy subdivision, and no more stock will be carried on the land.
– All the new leases will contain the power of resumption by the Government.
– This takes the power away if the lessee makes the subdivision.
– No; the lease will be issued by the Crown, not by the present lessee.
– The present lessee, prior to the Government taking action, can subdivide his lease amongst his employees.
– He will not issue the new leases; that will be done by the Crown, and those new leases will contain the power of resumption.
– When the Minister (Senator Pearce) has been administering this law for a few years he will be more fully seized of the danger of dummying than he now is. An existing lessee will be able to transfer to his relations all the land which has a water frontage, leaving the dry portion for the Government to resume.
– His subdivision will have to be approved by the Board, and will have to be carried out in thesame manner as if it were carried out by the Government.
– I know that the Board will do its duty. The Northern Territory, however, embraces an immense area. I am fully acquainted with the difficulties that have been experienced in Queensland. A Lands Commissioner is sometimes very friendly with the station owners, and without any suggestion of corruption or bribery he lets a thing go through. The dummies hold the river frontages and the area which is open for. resumption is a dry area. Every precaution should be taken to see that the dummy does not get the water frontages and so prevent the future development of the Northern Territory.
– There is one point which is worthy of notice. Clause 58 (2) provides -
The lessee may transfer the subdivisions to persons approved by the Minister’ for the remainder of the term, and subject to the terms and conditions (other than resumption) of the original lease.
The lessee will not have any desire to transfer these subdivisions for other than a monetary consideration. Failing a monetary consideration he will require to be furnished with some equivalent. That is where the difficulty will come in. I take it that the object of the Government m providing for the subdivision of portions of the leases is to encourage settlement on smaller areas. The majority of those who will take up the smaller areas will not have much capital, otherwise they would take up a larger area. They will require for stocking purposes and for the making of improvements whatever capital they have. How are they going to pay the original lessee for the subdivision which theytake from him?Will the Minister permit a mortgage to be given to the original lessee by the man who takes up the subdivision ? If so, upon what is the mortgage to be given ?
– Any mortgage upon any lease will have to receive the approval of the Minister.
– If there is any mortgage, the big companies will, to all intents and purposes, retain the active direction of the leases they subdivide.
– Clause 29 provides that applications for permission to assign, transfer, mortgage, or sub-let any agricultural or pastoral lease granted in pursuance of this Ordinance shall be made in writing to the Minister. The Minister may, if he thinks fit, refuse to give that permission.
– The Minister must see the danger of allowing the original lessees to hold mortgages over the smaller men to whom the subdivisions are allotted. I trust that he will watch that matter carefully.
– The land laws of Australia, although passedwith the ostensible object of providing access to land, have prevented settlement upon the land . South Australia affords an illustration of that fact. Look at the bungle the State made of the Northern Territory. Notwithstanding -the fact that millions of pounds have been expended upon that greattract of country, the population at present does not total 4,000 people. The Commonwealth took ‘over the control of the Territory, and for the ostensible purpose of securing additional settlement this Ordinance has been brought forward. In my opinion, the Ordinance will not have that effect. In South Australia, many years ago, Crown land was made available on a nominal payment of 10s. per acre. A large number of people went to South Australia from Great Britain. Many of them hired themselves out to the owners of estates, but before long discovered that they could be their own employers, andthey promptly left their masters. Land was comparatively cheap, and unemployment was unheard of, because the people were given access to the land. The South Australian Parliament - dominated, no doubt, by the owners of land - increased the price to ?1 per acre, with the clear and definite object of preventing new settlers from securing access to land, and tying them down to their employers. Even at that time it was most difficult in South Australia to secure the transfer of a small piece of land.
– I rise to a point of order. What connexion is there between the remarks of the honorableSenator and subdivision by a lessee in lieu of resumption ?
-(Senator Newland). - I conclude that the honorable senator is going to connect his remarks with the question of the subdivision of land. I take it that he is developing his argument in his own way. I am closely following his remarks.
– I refer to this matter in order to demonstrate to the Minister and to the Committee the extreme care which has been taken in all civilized countries to prevent ready access to land. Senators Gardiner and Reid have told us that a good deal of shady business has taken place.
– I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the clausebefore the Committee.
– Very few honorable senators have first-hand knowledge of the conditions in the Northern Territory. If they stayed in the Territory for six months their knowledge would be very limited . Yet honorable senators are asked to arbitrarily fix the rental value of these blocks of land. Settlement will not take place in the Northern Territory under the operation of this Ordinance. We have decided to appoint aBoard. Why not give that Board something to do? I do not know what is the rental value of these lands.
– This clause does not refer to rentals. The clause dealing with rentals has been passed by the Committee.
– It. is provided in sub-clause 4 that the rental payable for subdivided land is to be the same as would be charged if the land had not been subdivided, and generally the clause deals with the question of the rentals to be paid. The proper course -is to throw upon the Board the responsibility of fixing these rentals. They willknow what is a fair rental to charge.
– The rentals to be charged have already been fixed by clause 52. The clause now before the Committee deals simply with’ the subdivision of leases. The honorable senator’s remarks are out of order.
– I shall not dispute your ruling, but as the clause is inimical to the best interests of the Commonwealth and will not lead to the settlement which is so urgently desired in the Northern Territory, I shall vote against it.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 59 to 61 agreed to.
Where two or more leases granted under this Divisionare held by one person and worked as one run, the lessee may surrender the leases for a single lease including all the lands included in the surrendered leases.
The Board may fix a rental for the new lease at a flat rate, provided the rental is not lower than the minimumrental prescribed for the district in which the land is situated.
– I move -
That the words “ provided the rental is not lower than the minimumrental prescribed for the district in which the land is situated,” sub-clause 2,be left out.
I move this amendment because the Board will be the best authority to assess the rental of a consolidated lease. From its knowledge of the district, it may be of opinion that the rental for the consolidated lease should be lower than the minimum rental prescribed for the district in which the land is situated. Why should we from this distance direct that a higher rental should be fixed? We should throw the whole of the responsibility on the Board.
– If the honorable senator’s amendment were agreed to the lessee who consolidated two leases might secure an advantage over other lessees who had not consolidated their holdings. While they would be required to pay the minimum rental fixed for the district in which their leases were situated, the Board would not be bound to fix the rental of the consolidated leases on the same basis. The object of the clause is to put all lessees on the same basis. It will be an advantage to the Government as well as to the lessees if holdings are consolidated.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Grant’s amendment) be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 63 and 64 agreed to.
Clause 65 (Classification and maxi mum area).
– Will the Minister (Senator Pearce) explain the attitude of the Government in regard to agricultural lands and the form of tenure to be instituted in the Northern Territory? I do not recall having heard a declaration on that point.
– I intimated in my secondreading speech that we are simply carrying on and incorporating in this Ordinance the existing provisions as regards agricultural and town lands. We propose, however, to submit an amendment to the Northern Territory Administration Act under which freeholds of both town and agricultural lands will be granted. In this instance the existing sections of present Ordinances are merely being repeated.
– It is not clear from the clause what authority will be responsible for fixing the area. Is the Board to have power to define the area?
– Yes, subject to this clause.
– For cultivation farms the maximum area in class 1 is 1,280 acres, and in class 2 2,560 acres. For mixed farming and grazing propositions the maximum area in class 1 is 12,800 acres, and in class 2 38,400 acres. When dealing with pastoral leases we have been speaking in thousands of square miles, but when considering pastoral and culti vation leases combined the maximum area is 60 square miles. I am glad that a reduction in area has been made in this instance; but it is necessary to direct attention to the fact that, although large companies can obtain the renewal of leases over thousands of square miles, a new settler can obtain a mixed farming and grazing lease for only 60 square miles. I am merely directing attention to the different methods employed in dealing with different sections of the people.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 66 to70 agreed to.
Clause 71 (Leases of town lands to be offered at auction).
.- Will the Minister (Senator Pearce) explain if the town blocks will be available only to people who intend to reside on them, and whether residence will be a necessary condition? If that obligation is not imposed private speculators will secure leases of as many blocks as they desire merely for the sake of waiting until they can secure the freehold.
– Under clause 70, a lessee will be bound to erect buildings of a value to be specified in the conditions under which the land is offered.
.- I do not think the Minister (Senator Pearce) has answered the question raised by Senator Gardiner. Senator. Gardiner’s contention is that the absentee landlord or the person who purchases for speculative purpose and who afterwards disposes of his lease, will not be prevented from trafficking.
– He has to build on the block.
– He could erect a structure of some kind and then dispose of the lease and building. Further consideration should be given to this provision.
– Clause 70 does not cover the point I wish to make. Probably I shall not live to see the day when towns of great importance will be established in different parts of the Territory, but it is reasonable to assume that at no far distant date Port Darwin, for instance, will have as great a population as Sydney has to-day. In the event of an important gold discovery, those who were on the spot could secure leases of the whole of the town blocks, and even if buildings were erected the individuals or company erecting them would be able to charge whatever rents they liked.
– That has not happened elsewhere.
– But we have to recall what is happening at present. Land monopolists who have secured control of large areas ‘of town lands are charging rentals undreamt of forty years ago. We should endeavour to prevent a form of speculation which would ultimately prove a detriment to the community. As we are dealing with town lands, I am anxious to know whether residence upon a block is a necessary qualification.
– Residence is not compulsory in connexion with town blocks ; bub a lessee will be compelled to construct a building on his lease.
– That is unsatisfactory to me, because there is nothing to prevent a speculator purchasing leases of town blocks and erecting buildings for letting at exorbitant rentals to the unfortunate individuals who maybe compelled to occupy them. Years ago there might not have been any danger in legislating in this way, because a person was able then to secure what he desired, but we have reached the stage whenwe must prevent combines and companies securing what belongs to the people, and later selling them their own property at whatever price they choose to demand. The clause quoted by the Minister is not a sufficient safeguard, because, if expensive buildings have to be erected, those who require accommodation will not be able to pay the cost and, on the other hand, if only cheap buildings are constructed., speculators will be able to operate to the detriment of all and sundry. The Minister should pay close attention to this possibility, and a roughandready way to meet it would be to provide that town blocks shall be sold only to those who desire to reside on them. Agents operating on behalf of companies incur losses in some instances, but more than recover their position by one successful deal. We should not leave any loop-holes for speculators to secure leases of town blocks at nominal rentals, and the only safeguard appears to be to compel purchasers of leases to reside on the blocks.
– I would point out to Senator Gardiner that a provision, such as he indicates, may be inserted in the leases of town lands if it is thought advisable to do so. In paragraph 6 of clause 70. there is the provision that leases of town lands shall contain such other reservations, covenants, conditions, and provisions as are prescribed. The Minister may prescribe residence as one of the conditions upon which a lease of town lands shall be issued.
– I think it ought to be mandatory in the Ordinance.
– I hardly agree with the honorable senator. I can easily understand why there should be some elasticity. For instance, church authorities might acquire land for church purposes, or some other body might want to secure a block for public purposes such as an institute.
– The leases should really be occupation licences.
– That is so, but there should be elasticity in the conditions. I remember, in the early days, what funny-looking places Silverton and Broken Hill were, owing to the nature of the buildings. Some of the houses were made out of kerosene-tins. Now Broken Hill is a fine city. The Minister, in this clause, should have discretion to exempt certain blocks from residential conditions. I think SenatorGardiner’s objection is amply met by paragraph 6 of clause 70.
– I agree with Senator Kingsmill, but I doubt if the existing safeguard in clause 70 will be sufficient. I have had some experience in matters of this kind in my own State. I know that speculators who bought town lots at the upset price were able subsequently to make a great deal of money out of them. These people seem to know, sometimes, what towns are likely to go ahead. Accordingly they buy a number of township blocks at the upset price, and then, after the expenditure of public money on developmental works, they reap huge profits out of the people who want to live in the town. I should like to amend the clause by inserting some residential qualification in the terms for the issue of the leases. I am optimistic regarding the Northern Territory. I believe that important developments are pending in the near future, and I fear it will be possible, as Senator Gardiner has pointed out, for a small ring of men to capture the most important of these town leases and hold them against people who genuinely desire to reside on the blocks. In the case of one Smith Australian town, which is now an important railway junction, speculators bought blocks at the upset price of ?5 each, and within three years sold some of the blocks for ?300 each.
– That was a good “ spec.”
– Yes, but it was bad for the workers who had to live in. the town. It is the duty of this Parliament to safeguard the interests of those people who are likely to live in the Territory and play an important part in its development. It should not be possible for a land speculator in Melbourne or anywhere else to capture the best of the town leases. These gentlemen are to be found all over Australia, taking advantage of the expenditure of public money in developmental schemes. They should be checked, if possible. If I am in. order, I shall submit an amendment in. the direction I have indicated.
-(Senator Newland) - The clause merely provides that the leases of town lands shall be offered by public auction.. It imposes no conditions upon the lessee. These are dealt with, in the preceding clause, and therefore the amendment suggested by the honorable senator would not be relevant to this clause. He will have an opportunity later to submit a new clause if he thinks it necessary to do so.
. - In clause 34 it is provided that town blocks shall be re-appraised every fourteen years. An effort was made to reduce the term, but it was defeated. Now there seems to be a fear that speculators will get in, mop up all these town leases, and. then fleece unsparingly the honest workers who, byandby, will set out to do the real developmental work of the Territory Senator McHugh has given us a striking example of how speculators make money out of town lots, quoting as an example one South Australian town lot that was bought for ?5 and sold subsequently for ?300. The transaction immediately appealed to Senator Drake-Brockman, who interjected, “ A good spec.” That sentiment is shared by tens of thousands of people throughout the Commonwealth. So long as it is profitable for any one to speculate in land it will be done. Senator Drake-Brockman’s remark has merely crystallized public opinion on that subject. In this clause we are asked to approve of something that appeals to me very strongly, namely, that the blocks shall be sold to the highest bidder. But I am at a loss to understand why we treat the artisan, the mechanic, and the labourer, in a manner different from the pastoralists. The latter will have no competition in the matter of the price to be paid for the leasehold’s. They will simply be required to make application. If this is a good principle for the pastoralists, it ought to be equally good and desirable for people who want to secure sites for their homes. But evidently that is not the view of the Government. It appears that the Board will fix the minimum rent for each block, and that prospective owners of the lease may bid as high as they like. I take it that the principle is that the highest bidder shall be the purchaser. The clause is utterly futile as a check on the speculators. If the blocks were to be re-appraised annually, or once every three years, the speculator would be eliminated, but some regard apparently is evidenced by the trainers of. the Ordinance for the speculator, inasmuch, as it is laid down that he shall be left in undisturbed possession for fourteen years, at the end of which term, apparently, the Board will have the right to increase or decrease the rent of the lease. This, is perfectly fair,only, in. my opinion, the period is too long. As I cannot hope to amend the clause, I shall content myself with supporting Senator McHugh’s view.
– There is a difference between pastoral lands and town blocks. Certain conditions are made mandatory in regard to pastoral areas, but we do not lay down definite conditions in respect of town blocks which are more essential to the people of Australia.
– The honorable senator should examine the previous clause. The conditions may be laid down under it.
– It is just as well to remove any doubt whether the Board will have power to enforce certain conditions in respect of town blocks. Clause 71. provides that leases of town lands shall be offered for sale by auction, but we have not been told whether the successful bidder will be able to keep the land idle for an indefinite period, or whether he will be compelled to put it to its fullest use.
– The information is contained in clause 70.
– We have not been told what the conditions are.
– The holders of the blocks have to build.
– What is the definition of “building?”
– That will be prescribed.
– Any sort of a building may be erected.
– Would the honorable senator provide in the Ordinance that a two-story building must be erected?
– On town blocks I would not allow any sort of a building to be erected. Unless we specify the class of building, or the approximate price of it, there will be a danger of speculation..
– Will not the prices vary ?
– They will.
– Therefore it is necessary to prescribe the conditions.
– A minimum amount should be specified. The Minister should inform the Committee what is the area of these town blocks in the Northern Territory.
– (Senator Newland). - I would point out to the honorable senator that this clause refers only to the sale of land by public auction at an upset annual rental fixed by the Board.
– It has application to Crown lands.
– The question raised by the honorable senator should have been raised on clause 70; which provides certain conditions. This clause provides that the leases shall be offered at auction, and the discussion should be confined to that subject.
– I have no desire to unnecessarily delay the passing of the Ordinance. I have visited Darwin, and
I know that it contains many valuable blocks.
– That matter can be discussed when this clause is disposed of and Senator. McHugh’s amendment is before the Committee.
– Can the Minister inform us what is the area of the town blocks ?
– Half an acre.
– I am. not at all satisfied with the way in which the. Minister has dealt with the remarks made from this side of the Chamber.
– I do not intend to reply to arguments which have nothing to do with this clause.
– My argument applies directly to this clause, which refers to town lands only. Special treatment is meted out to peoplewho live in towns arid cities-. The people of this country and of the civilised world are rapidly congregating in the cities, and nothing will prevent that tendency. In the matter of the Northern Territory, the very best conditions should be offered to intending settlers. . The Minister stated that the town blocks would consist of half an acre. That is a very small area.
– This clause in no way refers to the size of the town blocks. The question is whether they shall be sold bypublic auction to the highest bidder.
– Although this provision is not applied to any other section of the Territory, I am glad to know, that it will at least apply to the leases of town lands. I have no fear whatever that the speculators, who are a menace to Australia, wherever the freehold is obtainable, will be permitted to operate, to any great extent, in the Northern Territory. If it had been possible to incorporate in the Ordinance a clause providing: for a frequent reappraisement of town, blocks, the speculator would have been eliminated altogether. I support the clause as it stands, subject to the later amendment foreshadowed by Senator McHugh.
Clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be added : - 71a. The lease of any town lands shall contain a provision that residence on the lease for at least three months out of each year shall be a condition of the lease.
This is a fair proposal, and I cannot anticipate any danger or harm from its incorporation in the Ordinance. It is a protective provision concerning the people who are to develop the Northern Territory, and as such I commend it to the Minister.
– I ask the Committee not to insert this new clause. I have several times pointed out that the clausedealing with town and agricultural lands simply carries out the existing law. It is proposed to bring in new conditions affecting town and agricultural lands, including one to grant a freeholdin respect of those lands. With the grant of freehold, the proposed new clause is not necessary. Honorable senators talk as if the Northern Territory possessed a population of 3,000,000 instead of 3,000. The present condition of the Northern Territory will not alter for “many years to come. Obviously there will be no competition for the leases. Even in Darwin a person can, if required, obtain a leasehold close to the centre of the town. We provide that a person shall erect a building on any lease taken up by him. He may also be required, in certain cases, to comply with other conditions, concerning residence or the erection of a shop. It all depends where the lease is. To say that, in every case, the leaseholder must reside on the property for three months out of the year would be ridiculous. As is frequently the case in country towns, a person might wish to erect a slaughter-yard. Would honorable senators say that he must live three months in the year at those yards? Persons might wish to erect garages, business premises, factories, workshops, blacksmiths’ or carpenters’ shops, and why should they be compelled to reside three months in those places? Even if such a condition were imposed, it could not in every case be strictly adhered to. It would depend on the locality and the purpose for which the block was to be used.
– A shopping area could be set apart.
– Even that would not cover everything; it would not cover slaughter-yards.
– Slaughter-yards would not be . erected in the middle of a town.
– In the case of Adelaide, the slaughter-yards are not far from the city. They are within the suburban radius.
– They are seven miles from Adelaide.
– I ask honorable senators to reject the new. clause proposed by Senator McHugh.
.- The Minister is outlining difficulties thatwill never be experienced. He is setting out objections that have really no application, and I hope he will re-consider the position and support the proposed new clause. I am prepared to give to those desirous of settling on agricultural and pastoral lands the freest facilities possible. But in the case of towns it is a different proposition. This clause will never be very effective unless there is a sudden andrapid development, such as the discovery of gold to cause a great influx of population. Then there would naturally be a demand for residential blocks in the towns affected. It would be quite wrong to allow any one to take up these blocks for speculative purposes. They are purely and simply designed for residential blocks. In the laws of many States - and I can speak for Tasmaniaoccupation licences are issued for blocks in mining and. other towns, and are subject to forfeiture if the persons taking out the licences fail to occupy the holdings within certain reasonable limits. Some such provision should certainly apply in connexion with the town blocks in the Northern Territory. The Minister stated that it was impracticable to insert the new clause in the Ordinance, but I might inform him that such a provision obtains in the laws of Tasmanian and many other States.
– It obtains in the Western Australian law.
– In most of the States residential conditions are attached to the selection of land. In respect of all agricultural lands in Tasmania., under the Crown Lands Act, the selector has to occupy the land before he can obtain a Crown grant. He must comply with the residential clause. Human nature is such that no roan is above indulging in a little speculation. It is a natural propensity to try to accumulate wealth. If it can be done more quickly by annexing land which ought to be left for those who require it more and can put it to greater use, very few people will decline the opportunity. I hope that the Minister will agree to this reasonable proposal. Clause 72 provides that any land, which is not sold, may be dealt with by the Board. A mining revival may bring population to a township, only to find that the land has been handed over to others, perhaps to speculators. The Minister cannot have any real objection to this proposed new clause, and I hope that he will reconsider his decision not to accept it. If the amendment is defeated, the Committee ought seriously to .consider the wiping out of clause 72.
– I agree, without reservation, to the principle involved in the new clause; but I cannot agree to the form in which it has been put. On occasions this residential condition cannot be reasonably enforced. We do not want to place in our legislation anything that is unreasonable. I maintain that the difficulties of the case are met by paragraph b of clause 70. There is an inclination on the part of honorable senators opposite to contend that the Ministry exists solely in the interests of speculators.
– Oh, no.
– I am pleased to hear Senator Findley’s disclaimer. I disclaim any intention to encourage the speculator. We on this side have at heart the ‘good of humanity to as great an extent as have honorable senators opposite. We do not sot out to benefit only one class. I credit the Ministry and the Leader of the Senate particularly, with the desire to do” good for everybody. It is wrong to assume that our actions are dictated solely .by a desire to assist the speculator. Such an assumption is utterly unfounded. I am content to trust the administration of this clause to “the powers that be” at the present time and in the future. The position of this Ministry, of course, is not impregnable. It is quite possible that within the space of, say, ten years, they may have successors. Those of us who are still in political life, to see those successors will find that they will claim to act in the interests of humanity in general, and not of one particular class. I am sorry, therefore, that I cannot support the new clause.
– I am opposed to the whole of this division, but I shall support it, because I have the assurance of the Minister that in future legislation the question of freehold will be considered. -The’ only satisfactory way of- dealing with town lands at any time is by way of free- hold.
.- I do not say that the Minister or honorable senators supporting the Government are opposed to the proposed new clause because they are interested in speculation or speculators. The Committee is dealing with a principle, not with persons. There may be difficulties in the way of carrying out the proposal embodied in Senator McHugh’s amendment. The Minister (Senator Pearce) pictured the difficulties that might arise, and asked how it would be possible to provide for them. He mentioned that some one might desire to erect abattoirs, or to establish a motor garage. Town blocks in Darwin will be limited in area. In any case, in the interest of the health of the citizens, no one should be permitted to establish slaughter yards, or to erect abattoirs in the centre of the town. If the Board satisfies itself that the applicants for town blocks intend to erect buildings on those blocks, and to conduct businesses there, no harm will be done.
– We will never induce people to go to the Territory if we impose all these- conditions.
– People will ‘go wherever there are opportunities for their advancement. The Government have a developmental policy which, I hope, will add very considerably to the white population of Darwin before very long. Probably, Vestey Brothers will be operating within the next six or twelve months, and that will result in a considerable addition to the population of the town. Town blocks will be keenly sought after. We want to see that the successful applicants for town blocks do that which will advance the interests of the Territory. Senator McHugh’s proposed new clause will make perfectly clear what, the applicants shall do. The difficulties mentioned by the .Minister could be easily overcome by regulation. We do not charge the Government with being anxious to encourage speculators, but on principle we do not think thai any individual shouldhave an opportunity to amass riches at the expense of the rest of the community, as speculators have done in the past.
.- Honorable senators who support the proposal submitted by Senator McHugh are probably anxious to do the best they can for their country, but they are adopting the wrong attitude. One would imagine, from their remarks, that people were falling over one another in an endeavour to secure land in the Northern Territory. Do they know of any part of Australia thathas been developed under such stringent conditions as are laid down in the proposed new clause? Had such conditions applied in days gone by,there wouldhave been very little development in “Australia. . A clause already passed by the Committee provides that the applicant for a town lot must enter into a covenant to erect on the block a building of certain value within a’ given time. Surely that condition is rigid enough to prevent any possibility of speculating? No speculator would embarrass himself by covenanting to erect buildings on blocks of land unlesshe were assured of occupants for those buildings. Otherwise he would have no means of recouping himself for his expenditure. In considering this question, we should keep clearly in view the fact that we must offer inducements to people to go to the Northern Territory.We must not raise barriers that may impede the development which we may reasonably expect to take place when fair conditions are laid down. The covenant to be entered into by the purchaser of ablock of land is quite sufficient to guarantee not only that the block will be immediately improved, but also that the leaseholder will use it as a place of residence or for business purposes.
Question - That the proposed new clause (Senator McHugh’ s amendment) be inserted - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
If any lease of town lands has been offered for sale by public auction and has not been sold, the lease may be allotted by the Board to any person who applies for it at the rental fixed by the Board.
– This provision is to be found in many old Land Acts, but has been discarded in recent legislation because it was found that the State did not get the highest possible price for town lots by making them available as is now proposed at a fixed upset price. When blocks in New South Wales were made available for sale to the highest bidder at an auction sale it was the practice to permit of unsold blocks being applied for after the auction sale. That system has now been discarded.For instance, after a recent sale at Maroubra, close to Sydney, the unsold blocks were held over and submitted at another auction sale. ‘ In every case the highest bidder became the purchaser. I take it that in making land available in the Northern Territory the interests of the Commonwealth are notto be entirely neglected. I know that every fourteen years the Commonwealth will be in a position to review the rentals paid for town blocks, so that if lessees are paying too much or too little their rentals may be adjusted to their proper proportions. The period to my mind is too long. It would remove a certain amount of dissatisfaction and suspicion if the Chairman of the Board were instructed to submit unsold blocks at auction at a later date, thus giving persons who desired to become industrial settlers in a township an opportunity to bid for them. Possibly no one at present will pay the upset price fixed by the Board, but if the Territory develops as we expect it will do, it is probable that the price fixed by the
Board may be exceeded by those who desire to purchase. In fairness to the Commonwealth the proper course is to submit these blocks for sale by auction, and, if they are not sold then, to retain and re-submit them, at a later auction sale. The Board will no doubt consist of reasonable men. It is quite possible that three or four hundred blocks in some of the prospective townships of the Territory may be submitted at auction, and because the Board has fixed a certain upset price on them they will be available for all time at that price under the clause as it stands. That method of disposing of blocks does not appeal to me, and with a view of testing the feeling of the Committee, and also for the purpose of taking a step in the right direction, I move -
That all the words after “sold” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the land will not be available for after-auction sale.”
– Only a certain number of blocks will be offered at auction, when, of course, the best will bring more than the upset price, but others may realize only the amount fixed by the Board. There is no reason why we should not dispose of any balance at that figure. This practice is adopted in every State in connexion with city and suburban properties, and I ask the Committee to pass the clause in its present form.
– I prefer the procedure which obtains in Western Australia. When a sale is held a number of blocks are offered, and later, if applications are received from intending purchasers, the remaining blocks are offered at auction. If no sale is effected above the upset price, the applicants obtain them at that figure. The intending purchasers have the right to bid above the upset price, and the best possible value for the land is thus obtained. This method preserves the principle of selling by auction to which Senator Grant so closely adheres.
– And which the honorable senator supports.
– Yes, in connexion with town lands, but not in regard to agricultural or pastoral lands, because in those instances the suitability of the applicant should be considered.
I should like the Government to adopt the Western Australian system, but I am not particularly anxious. I understand that this Ordinance will possibly be amended in the future. I have no strong desire to have the provision amended, and I would prefer the clause in its present form to the amendment submitted by Senator Grant.
.- Clause 72 provides that if any town lands are not disposed of byauction, they may be allotted atthe upset annual rental fixed by the Board to any persons applying for them. Does that mean the upset annual rental provided for in clause 71 ?
– If an applicant is not prepared to give the upset price, what course will the Board adopt in regard to the disposal of the land?
– The land will remain under the control of the Board until it is sold or the price is readjusted.
– There is no provision in the Ordinance for a readjustment.
– The land will still be under the control of the Board.
– But there is no reference to a’ revision of the upset annual rental fixed by the Board.
– I am satisfied that there is.
– What is the procedure if there is more than one applicant for a certain block at the upset price fixed by the Board ?
– It will be offered at auction.
– The clause reads -
If any lease of town lands has been offered for sale by public auction and has not been sold, the lease may be allotted by the Board to any person who applies for it at the rental fixed by the Board.
Does “any person” mean any individual who succeeds in securing land under the conditions set out in the Ordinance? Many nationalities are represented in the Northern Territory, and I should like to know whether” foreigners will have the same rights as other members of the community to purchase these blocks.
– There is no prohibition in the law, and I do not think it desirable to show preference in cases of this kind, particularly as it is not the practice in connexion with our White Australia legislation.
– A lease could be held by a coloured man.
– Yes; if the Minister approved.
. -In New South Wales this, method of disposing of town blocks has been discarded for many years, and it is now pro vided that blocks shall mot be available for private sale to purchasers after being offered at auction. When land in the Maroubra district was made available some years ago on the leasehold principle, the rents were fixed at such a high rate and the conditions imposed were so stringent, that no one would take them up; but since then blocks have been made available on a freehold basis at the upset price fixed by the Land Board, and higher prices have been obtained. Whether the upset price in this instance will, be ex,ceeded or not, the principle is one that we should support.
– I wish to express my strong disapproval of the conditions proposed for the sale of leases by auction without first making provision for every resident in the locality to secure land on which to erect a home . The right of a man to own a piece of land on which to build a house for the accommodation of his family has not been sufficiently recognised in civilized communities ; but when we realize our strength we will demand that that right shall be given. We are living in an advanced age, and surely, under this Ordinance, we should set an example, by providing that in a part of the Commonwealth where we have control of the land any man who wishes to make a home shall have .only to “apply for a lease of the necessary land. I can see no virtue whatever in land being sold to the highest bidder, as that is the principle upon which speculation is based. Heads of families endeavouring to secure accommodation are being tossed from pillar to post in the most unceremonious way, and if the records of tyrannical landlords-particularly in Sydney - were published, they would form some of the blackest pages in Australian history. Not only have those in receipt of comparatively small remuneration and those out of employment been tyrannically treated, but many who live in so-called aristocratic localities have been penalized. Speculators who own the land erect dwellings, and then demand exorbitant rents, which are not due, as some honorable senators suggest, to the increased cost of building, the additional comforts provided, or close proximity to the city. In New South Wales the position has been relieved by the> decisions of the Fair Rents Court. I nave in my mind the case of an individual whose rent was increased from 25s. to 46s. per week after the house had been purchased by a speculator, but was subsequently reduced Tay the Court to the original figure.
– What effect has the Fair Rents Court had upon the building trade?
– During the last thirty years the building trade in Sydney has never been more active than it is to-day.
– Four families living in one home.
– The honor.able senator should remember that for four years men were destroying, instead of constructing. That is responsible for the shortage of houses, and that shortage cannot be overcome ‘ for a considerable period.
– Has not the decisions of the Fair Rents Court restricted the investment of capital?
– I do not wish to enter into a discussion concerning the Fair Rents Court, but if the honorable senator will peruse the Commonwealth Year Boole he will find that a larger number of houses per annum has been built in Sydney and the suburbs since the war than in any previous year.
– I am sorry to interrupt the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner), but I should like to know, Mr. Temporary Chairman, if the honorable senator,is discussing the clause before the Committee.
– The honorable senator was replying to an interjection by Senator Reid. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to confine his remarks to the clause under discussion.
– I had not been on my feet more than three minutes before the honorable senator was interject1 ing.
– I nave been trying to connect the honorable senator’s remarks with the clause, but up to the present have failed.
– I connect my remarks by saying that the evil of every community is the lack of provision to give every man the right to a piece of land upon which to live. That is not asking too much. Until we secure to the people this right we shall have conditions rendering necessary the institution of fair rents Courts, which, after all, are but expedients. I well remember how earnestly I used to plead for -
The right to rear an independent shed,
And give the lips we love unborrowed bread.
To whom does that right belong if not to the people of the community? And yet under this system of public auction of Crown lands it is often denied to them. I believe it has been shown that under existing conditions not more than three persons out of every hundred ever enjoy this right to a piece of land. I should like the Minister to insert in the. regulations which he will draft in connexion with this Ordinance a clause that any person who wants land for the building of a home may get it.
– His own selection?
– Exactly, as under the old mining system. A miner would put down his pegs and begin to work his claim. Another man could peg out alongside and he, too, would work his claim. The right of occupancy was determined by the working conditions. If a miner neglected his claim it was “ jumped “ by some one else. If we had similar provisions in connexion with the ownership of town lands, we should not have whole terraces of houses owned by one man. Our Darling Points and our Tooraks then would soon be populated by a more intelligent community. If we are going to continue under the old system I see nothing much wrong with the clause, but having my mind fixed upon the future development of the Northern Territory, I put it to the Minister that here is a splendid opportunity for him to associate his name with a regulation that would live long after he and I had gone hence to, let us hope, a happier place, although I find this Chamber most comfortable.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 73 to 77 agreed to.
Clause 78 -
Subject to this Ordinance the GovernorGeneral may, at any time, by proclamation -
for places for the recreation or amusement of the public;
– I move -
That after the word “ reserves,” paragraph (iii), the words” or for the purposes . of afforestation and sylviculture” be added.
No one will deny that afforestation is likely to play an important part in the future development of Australia. We have large areas of waste lands for which I can imagine no better use than the cultivation of forests. The paragraph, so far as it goes, is well-meaning, but it does not go far enough. The use of the words “ forest reserves “ presupposes the existence of forests, which, we have been assured by the Minister (Senator Pearce), who has travelled through the Territory, do not exist. Forestry may be divided into three branches, namely, conservation, afforestation, and sylviculture. The amendment will make it easy for the Government to resume lands for these purposes.
– Will the honorable senator define sylviculture.
-Afforestation is generally confined to the planting of the trees. Sylviculture means the attention given to the forest after it has been planted. When I spoke on this subject recently I quoted an example of what had been done at Bordeaux, in France, where 2,000,000 acres of absolutely barren and useless country had been converted into forests, which in sixty or seventy years, returned to France millions of pounds sterling. Instances of the neglect of forests may also be quoted. I am sorry to say one has occurred in Australia. I regret still more to have to say that the offence was committed in my own State. It is apropos that I should mention this, because it occurred in country which is really adjoining the
Northern Territory. In the East Kimberley district, on the eastern side of Cambridge Gulf, where Wyndham is situated, there is an area of 300,000 acres of country which, undoubtedly, fifteen or twenty years ago carried a splendid cypress pine forest, worth at a moderate estimate fully £5,000,000. This country was taken up for pastoral purposes, and as the grass wastoo rank for cattle it was periodically burnt by the lessees. At last, after a great deal of pressure had been brought to hear by someone in authority who desired to see the land put to better use, the Forestry Department of my State resolved to send an officer to investigate and report upon the forest. Unfortunately he found only the remains of what had been a forest fifteen or twenty years before. The periodical burning of the pastoral area had absolutely destroyed that magnificent cypress pine forest. If there are any cypress pine forests in the Northern Territory, and it is likely that there are because the same class of country extends right across the border from Western Australia, I want, by the inclusion of this clause, to prevent any recurrence of. sucha calamity. As the years go by the question of afforestation and the preservation of our timbered areas will appeal more strongly to the public mind. At present there appears to be only a dim awakening of the forest conscience, if I may so describe it, in the people of. Australia. When there is a true awakening it is desirable that we should have ample legislative provision to enable afforestation to be placed on a satisfactory basis. In the Northern Territory we have a great reservoir of resources. I want to see them safeguarded, and my amendment, to which I think no honorable senator can take legitimate objection, has that end in view. I presume that the work of planting will be undertaken by the State Forestry Departments. What is capable of being done is shown by the example I have quoted, and what is also possible by neglect of ordinary precautions is illustrated by the terrible example of the destruction of the pine forest in the East Kimberley district.
– It is desirable that we should have this provision in the Ordinance, if it is not already there. There appears to be some doubt as to whether the paragraph, in its original form, was sufficient, but no harm can be done by making quite sure. I therefore ask the Committee to accept the amendment.
– I should have allowed the amendment to pass without comment but for the fact that I am so heartily in accord with the mover, Senator Kingsmill, that I want to associate honorable senators on this side with anything in the direction of progressive legislation. As proof of my earnestness in this matter I may state that when the East- West Railway Bill was under consideration I sought to include an amendment to provide for the reservation of any suitable land for forest reserves, but we were not then sufficiently progressive. The Minister will be well’ advised if he takes his cue from Senator Kingsmill’s remarks and provides, if necessary by regulation, that wherever Government money is expended in developmental works such as sub-artesian bores, a certain area adjacent to the bores shall be set aside for afforestation purposes.
Amendment agreed to.
– I desire to move -
That after the words “ recreation “ in paragraph (vi) of sub-clause (a), the words “ and education” be inserted.
– That would come under the heading of “ public purpose.”
– I wish provision to be made for the education of the children in the Northern Territory..
– We have that power. As a matter of fact, it has already been exercised. Education is a “ public purpose.”
– If the Minister will assure me that provision is made in this clause for schools for the education of the children, I shall not persist in my amendment.
– This clause is the same as the existing law, and under it we resume land for educational purposes.
– Are there schools in the Northern Territory at present ?
– I accept the Minister’s assurance.
.- I move -
That the following new paragraph be inserted after paragraph (b) of sub-clause (1) : - “ (6(t) reserve for any purpose mentioned in paragraph (a) of this sub-section any unalienated Crown lands not subject to any right of, or contract for, purchase; and”
It looks like duplication, but as a matter of fact, although we refer to Crown lands in the clause, they may be leased Crown lands, and this provision will give us the right to reserve unalienated Crown lands for the purpose set out in the paragraph.
– Why not reserve the right to resume any land?
– In previous clauses we have the right to resume land for any purpose.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 79 to 86 agreed to.
Clause 87 (Leases of land to aborigines).
– I am glad that provision is made in this clause to lease lands to aborigines. Portions of the Northern Territory, perhaps the most fertile areas, should be resumed and set aside for the aborigines, where they should be allowed to live under sufficient supervision in their natural surroundings, with improved stocking and other conditions, in order to prevent the extinction of the remnant of the race. I am told that the ultimate extinction of the aborigines of the mainland of Australia is inevitable, and that they will disappear just as the aborigines of Tasmania have become extinct. That is a great pity. Senator Kingsmill has provided for the planting of the trees, and the Minister has inserted a clause in the Ordinance providing for building regulations. Some wise old philosopher once said that a man’s duty was performed when he had built a house, planted a tree, and begotten a son. I understand from Senator McDougall that the Public Service of the Northern Territory will look .after this last duty. I know that we do make certain provision for the Australian natives’, but, in the great unoccupied spaces of the Northern Territory, a great benefit would be conferred upon them by setting aside certain reservations and encouraging them, under white supervision, to develop the pastoral possibilities of that country. They make excellent stockmen. I remember on’e in particular, who bought 11,000 sheep in one flock. He was a dealer in sheep in the Northern Territory, although an aborigine of New South Wales. He was just as competent as was any white .man in that particular business. Another full-blooded aboriginal is a very effective farmer at Goulburn.
– A teacher in the Education Department of New South Wales is a full-blooded aborigine.
– Whilst making provision under this Ordinance for aborigines, the Minister should accomplish something on a huge scale. The people of Australia would not object to the expenditure of a large sum of money, chiefly for stocking and grazing purposes on areas where the aborigines should be kept free from the invasion of the white man - that peaceful invasion which has been so disastrous to their race. A settlement should not be established near a town, where the natives would be subject to the contamination bf the white races. There is not a very wide gap between the most intelligent aboriginal and the least intelligent squatter. There is certainly’ a difference ‘in the use to which they put their intellects. While I was in the Werriwa electorate on one occasion, I visited an aboriginal farmer’s home. The man did not make a practice of voting, although his white wife and five sons did. I was conducting a campaign, and I wished to obtain his vote and the .votes of his family for our party candidate. I called on him. Placing my hand on his shoulder, I said, “ Well, countryman.” “ Countryman of mine,” said he; “ You might be an Irishman !” He was a fairly intelligent man. These men, although shrewd and sharp, have never had a fair deal, and I appeal to the Minister, on the eve of their extinction, to treat them fairly. If we are to believe what we read, the death rate among the natives is terrific. Something more should be done for them. As ex-Senator Fairbairn pointed out in one of hi3 last speeches in this Chamber, many benefits “have been conferred by the white people upon the Australian natives- by means of “Boards and organizations established for that purpose. But I claim that we are on the wrong track. Large areas of land should be stocked bv the Government for them. We should make full allowance for the fact that we have inherited their country. Since the first trespassers came to Australia the natives have been’ driven further and further into the interior, until now they have left to them only, the north-western corner of Australia and reservations in Queensland. A large area set aside for them, and separated from the white race, would be a haven of refuge for the remnant of the race. I was impressed with the Minister’s desire to link his name with the development of the Northern Territory. He could not choose a finer way to be thought well of by posterity, than by doing something big, which will enable these people to develop their unquestioned and undoubted brain power. Rusden’s History of Australia contains a remarkable statement with regard to the natives. Rusden states that he met one old man who made him a Masonic sign. He found subsequently that the men who had reached a certain age could respond to many Masonic signs, which are used by the highly ‘civilized peoples of the world. It is possible that they are older than some of the ancient secret “ societies ; maybe they are a branch of a very old civilization. The solemn duty devolves upon us of doing all in our power to preserve the remnants of the race. They should be given tracts of country and a certain number of head of stock, and trained in pastoral pursuits. In addition to assisting in the development of this country they would thus support themselves.
– I sympathize with all that Senator Gardiner has said; my mind runs in the same direction as his. Reserves for aborigines are established in the south-west corner, the northwest corner, and the extreme north of the Territory. A big area of very valuable land has been set aside for that purpose. I agree with Senator Gardiner that it is necessary to do something drastic if the aborigines are to be given a chance. Contact with the whites undoubtedly kills them out more quickly than anything else. The half-caste prob-lem is even more serious. Recently I invited Sir Baldwin Spencer to visit the Territory and to recommend what should be done. Honorable senators are aware that that gentleman has made a special study ‘ of the aborigines, and perhaps knows more about them than any other white man. He has now returned from the Territory, and I expect to receive his report shortly. I hope that I shall then be able to do something in the direction suggested by Senator Gardiner.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 88 to 105 agreed to.
Schedule to Ordinance.
– Can the Minister obtain for honorable senators a copy of the Actsmentioned in this schedule? It is proposed to repeal a number of Acts. With all due respect^ to honorable senators, I contend that we are trusting the Minister in everything.- We ought to know what “is contained in the Acts which are being repealed.
– Will the carrying of this schedule repeal all the South Australian legislation dealing with the NorthernTerritory?
– Everything exceptthat which is saved by clause 3 of the Ordinance.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– This schedule repeals a number of South Australian Acts. I welcome this step , of repudiation on the part of the Government. I am pleased that the Government have definitely decided that the Sovereign Parliament of Australia must progress, and that the dead hand of past generations shall not be allowed for all time to handicap the development of a great country like the Northern Territory. I welcome the step taken by the Government, because if ever the people intrust the Labor party with the control of affairs, it will put us in the happy position of being able to repeal whatever the Nationalist Government have done that is not, in our opinion, in the interests of the a people, without laying ourselves open to any accusation of breach of faith. Senator Pearce will no doubt point out that although the South Australian Acts are’ to be repealed under this Ordinance, clause 3 preserves to the lessees all the rights accruing to them under, the South Australian legislation : but three years hence we may have an opportunity of undoing what this Parliament has done in that respect. I also welcome this step of repudiation on the part of the Nationalist Government, because hitherto it has been the Labour party that has been held up as being no respecter of contracts. Senator Pearce, not having provided honorable senators with copies of the South Australian legislation affected by this Ordinance, should have read out the Acts to the Committee.
– I explained them on the second reading.
– But there may be sections in them which the Committee would refuse to repeal if honorable senators knew what they were. This Bill has been rushed through at a terrific speed. I have endeavoured to put on the brake, but my efforts have been useless. However, as I am aware that the Minister is anxious to make an important statement on another matter, I shall do no more than emphasize the fact that the schedule to this Ordinance is a complete repudiation.
Schedule to Ordinance agreed to.
Schedule to the Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Subjects Listed for Discussion
Debate resumed from 24th July (vide page 1465), on . motion by Senator Pearce. -
That the paper (Imperial Conference and Economic Conference, 1923 - Subjects listed for discussion) be printed.
.- The motion which I submitted last night will give honorable senators an opportunity, of which the Government invite them to avail themselves, to discuss the various subjects that will come up for consideration at the forthcoming Imperial Conference and the Economic Conference. It is desirable that they should be approached from an Australian stand-point, because, whatever may be our differences in regard to domestic politics, the Imperial relationship is a matter in respect of which we oughtto be able to take a broader view. All parties in the Commonwealth owe to the nation a responsibility that transcends responsibility to particular parties. The matters set down for discussion at these conferences intimately concern the present and future well-being of the Commonwealth. The first three subjects listed for discussion at the Imperial Conference are -
Statement as to the general position on main issues of Imperial policy.
Review of foreign affairs since 1921 Conference, and consideration of present problems and future policy.
Naval, military, and air defence. This would comprise reviews of naval situation resulting from Washington Conference, and arrangements for future co-operation in all branches of defence.
One can see what these important subjects mean to Australia, as well as to the Empire as a. whole. Then again, the first three matters listed for discussion at the Economic Conference - Overseas settlement, co-operation and assistance towards Imperial preference, and trade development - are of the utmost importance to Australia.
Let me tell honorable senators how it happens that these Conferences are to be held at the latter portion of this year. On the 29th November last, the first cablegram on the subject was received. In this it was stated that it was proposed to hold an Economic Conference in April of this year to discuss the development of trade with the Empire. Those who are familiar with the recent political history of Australia will know that at the time this cablegram was received, Australia was in the throes of an election and they will be aware also of the events that followed the election. When the present Government took office in February last it found this cablegram still awaiting reply from Australia, because, owing to the disturbing political situation, it was impossible for the previous Government to send a reply. On the 24th February, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) sent a cablegram approving of the proposal to hold the Conference, but suggesting that as an Imperial Conference was to be held during this year the two Conferences might be held simultaneously later in the year. In regard to the proposed Economic Conference the Prime Minister cabled -
It is useless to approach such a Conference unless prepared to face practical issues. Commonwealth position such that it will have to press for some further preference in return for substantial preference granted British goods. Consider that both Conferences should take place simultaneously, as success of Economic Conference depends absolutely on presence Prime Ministers, who could not spare the time to visit England on two separate occasions.
The. British Government replied that they had consulted the other Dominions and the general opinion was that the two Conferences could he held concurrently, the opening date to be the 1st November next. However, subsequent events proved that that date was not then finally fixed, because it was stated in the English press and cabled to Australia that it was proposed to consider the possibility of postponing the Imperial Conference .until next year. Mr. Bruce then cabled to the British Government stating that our defence policy depended upon the result of the Imperial Conference, and pointed out that according to’ reports the Economic- Conference was to be held in September and October, its work to be subject to ratification by the Imperial Conference of 1924. In regard to that- point he cabled -
It is unnecessary to point out that the. work of the Imperial Conference must in return receive the consideration, ratification, or amendment of each Dominion Parliament ‘before ‘being translated into law, so no practical results can he expected from Economic Conference until at least -1925. Your telegram suggests that subjects in your mind are so important and urgent that they will not admit of such delay. I sincerely trust, therefore, that there shall be no suggestion of abandonment or postponement until every possible avenue Bag been, exhausted and the Dominions fully consulted.
On the 23rd March Mr. Bruce received a cablegram which stated that further replies had been received from the Dominions, and that as the original date, 1st November, could not be adhered to, the 1st October would be generally acceptable. In view of our parliamentary arrangements, the 1st October appeared to the Government to be too early a date, and the Prime Minister, having heard that the suggestion that the Conference should be held on the 1st November had come originally from General Smuts, the Prime Minister of South Africa, cabled to him as follows:-
From previous cables received I understood that Conference .being held this autumn would begin 1st November. In view of political situation in Australia, this date is earliest that I can attend without gravest inconvenience.
Am, therefore, cabling Secretary of State for the Colonies, urging that original proposal for 1st November be adhered to, and if you can see your way to agree to this date it will assist me greatly.
General Smuts was unable to comply with our request in that respect, and he replied -
I regret very much not to bc able to meet you, but 1st October is latest date opening of Conference to which I can agree. I have informed British Prime Minister accordingly.
The Prime Minister then cabled to the British Prime Minister -
As House has requested opportunity to discuss Imperial defence, foreign policy, and economic relations before my departure, it is quite out of the question foi- me to attend to this discussion as well as ordinary work of Parliament, which must be accomplished, and arrive in London before October. In fact, it seems now that I shall not arrive before November.
On the 27th March the British Government cabled -
Agree’ with, you that, postponement of Prime Ministers’ Conference until next year most undesirable. The difficulties of arranging any other opening date than 1st October are, however, so great that I do not really see any alternative to arranging for meeting to start on 1st October, as proposed. Hope state of Parliamentary business in Commonwealth willpermit of your arriving there.
In reply to that message the Prime Minister cabled saying that he; would, do his best to- attend on that date. The forthcoming Conferences are of much interest to Australia, and will have as great an effect upon it and its future as upon any other part of the British Empire. That is indicated by the list of subjects I have read. Australia is a portion of the British Empire which is not a mere political abstraction or theory, but an actual living entity. It may be that in the future ‘ our position as a. part of the Empire will bring to us greater responsibility and even greater, risks, but so long as we remain united we are not regarded by foreign nations as so manly separate nations, combined in a commonwealth, of nations. That may be our view of the Empire, but foreign nations do not so regard us. Foreign nations consider the Empire as a whole, regardless of our domestic or constitutional relations, and if our foreign policy brings the Empire or any portion of it into war, the whole Empire is involved. Whilst it is true that the Government of the United Kingdom have the direction of foreign policy, it is also true that selfgoverning Dominions are intrusted with certain legislative and executive powers which in themselves are in the nature of “foreign policy. In the exercise of those legislative powers, and even in the exercise of the administrative powers reposed in the Dominions, we may not merely bring the country for which we - are legislating,’ but the whole of the British Empire, into war. I need only remind honorable senators of some of the legislation upon our statute-book to-day, and with which they are familiar, . to enable them to realize that legislation passed in the full exercise of self-governing rights, without any interference from any other part of the Empire, affects other countries in their relation with lis as a part of the Empire. Therefore, those countries which may be affected by such legislation look upon it not merely as legislation passed by Australia, but as legislation passed by Australia, as a portion of the British Empire, by virtue of its right of self-government, which we value so highly, but which also carries with it tremendous responsibilities. That being so, we should be foolish if we took up the position that we were in the Empire, but not of it. We should be foolish, if when opportunity arises, and we are invited to meet the representatives of the other Dominions and of the United Kingdom to discuss matters of common concern that affect us all, we took up the stand that we should not endeavour to arrive at an agreement upon these subjects, but that we should either refuse or treat as of no account such an opportunity to deal with questions vitally concerning Australia. Immigration is one of the chief phases of our national life, which could not exist for a moment if we were not a part of the British Empire, because every law ultimately rests upon force, and the force behind the law is the naval and military power of the British Empire.
I now pass from a general survey of one aspect of the question to another phase of the Empire’s foreign policy, for which the Government ‘of the “United Kingdom, under present arrangements, must be responsible. The Empire can speak with only one voice and not with six. Whilst the Empire is as it is to-day, it is obvious that one of the many Governments of the Empire - and that the British Government - must be the mouth-piece of the Empire when we deal with foreign nations. The Government of the United Kingdom, being the Government of the Mother Country, from which these young nations have sprung, has always had that prerogative and responsibility, and -it is not easy to see how one could define a system compatible with the full exercise of the rights of the self-governing Dominions under which it could effectively be altered. Many proposals have’ been submitted in order to substitute some machinery, such as the establishment of an Empire executive, to enable the Dominions to speak with one voice. I was privileged to attend an Imperial. Conference in 1911, and I remember Sir Joseph Ward, then Premier of New Zealand, submitting a most carefully .prepared scheme for the establishment of an Imperial Parliament and Imperial Government. That gentleman took some hours to placethe proposal before the Conference, and -I shall never forget the rapid manner in which Mi Asquith, who was then in the prime of his intellectual life, in a few brief sentences, brought that magnificent edifice which Sir Joseph Ward had constructed, tumbling to the ground. Mr. Asquith put two questions to him, which have only to be quoted to enable honorable senators to realize the practical diaculty that stood in the way of such a proposal. He said - “ Do you propose to have an Imperial Navy and an Imperial Army V Sir Joseph saw where that was leading him, and he replied, “ No.” Each Dominion would still have control of its military forces, and so would the United Kingdom.” Mr. Asquith then said,. “ Do you. propose to give to the Imperial Government the right to make war and peace ?” To- that Sir- Joseph Ward replied in the affirmative. Mr. Asquith then said, “ Then the Imperial Government proceeds to make war, and having, declared war, it proceeds to approach the various Dominions, and says to them, ‘ Will you please lend us your army, as the Empire is going to waa?.’ i’ He could not imagine the Imperial Government functioning under those conditions, neither could he imagine that the self-governing Dominions would be prepared to place - absolutely without a voice other than through this intricate machinery - their military forces at the disposal of an Imperial Government. We of the
British race are animated by that practical common sense which has made us. so successful in the art -of governing, and we find that an Imperial Parliament or Government is incompatible with that sense of liberty which animates, not only the individuals who make up the Dominions, but the Dominions themselves. In dealing with this great Empire, and its varying conditions, we have to try to improvise some means by which we -can harmonize the views of the various Dominions and of the Mother Country. on all questions which affect us in our relations with foreign nations. Imperial Conferences were first held, and not even then was any decisive step made in the matter of foreign policy until 3911, when for the first time the Dominion representatives were invited to a secret meeting, which was addressed by the then Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Sir Edward Grey. At that Conference, Sir Edward Grey - now Viscount Grey of Fallodon - outlined to the representatives of the Dominions the foreign policy of the Government of the United Kingdom “as it existed at that time. He also outlined what he believed to be the immediate possibilities of the future in Europe and un other parts of the world, and what he hoped, in certain eventualities, would happen if the Empire had to declare war. At that juncture, the Dominion representatives were not invited to suggest any alteration in policy, or to discuss it. They were simply called together to hear what was the foreign policy of the Government pf the United, Kingdom at that time. It was made quite clear to the delegates that the Government of the United Kingdom took full responsibility for that policy, because they felt that, owing to constitutional difficulties, it could not be shared with any one else. Their only hope was that they would be able, as far as possible, so to inform themselves concerning the public opinion of the Dominions that the foreign policy of the British Empire would be shaped so as to commend itself not only to the electors of the United Kingdom, but also to the electors of the Dominions of the British Empire. Subsequent to that Conference came the war, the possibility of which was foreshadowed by Sir Edward Grey in 1911.
– Did he give the Conference a good tip as to when it would commence ?
– He did. Basing his opinion on the preparations that Germany was then apparently making, and on other information received, he hazarded the view that Germany would be ready to strike in 1914. I “may add. that that information had considerable influence upon the Fisher Government,*, and affected materially the defence policy of the Commonwealth during the three years following 1911.
– It is a pity it did not have more influence at Home.
– It is. There is a strong conviction that had Great Britain heeded the warning in 1911, the war would not have occurred. In 1915, when the former Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) was in England, the outlook was most serious. The Prime Ministers of Canada and South Africa were also in England, and with the Prime Minister of Australia were invited to join the joint Imperial War Cabinet. They continued throughout the war as members of that Cabinet, being invited to take part in.- all discussions as to the policy, and conduct of the war by the British Government.
Attempts have since been made, by improving the channels of communication, to obtain more promptly the views of the Dominions in relation to foreign policy. Prior to the war, all communications from the Dominions had to pass through the Governor-General to the Secretary of State for . the Colonies, and thence through the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to the British Minister concerned. If the matter touched foreign affairs, it would be sent on by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to the British Prime Minister, and thence to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Dur- ing the war an attempt was made to get rid of much of this circumlocution by providing foi’ direct communication between the British Prime Minister and the Prime Ministers of the various Dominions. A recent incident arising out of thedifficulties at Constantinople and the Dardanelles showed that, notwithstanding this arrangement, no single Dominion was kept fully informed of the events immediately preceding that crisis, which resulted in a startling and dramatic message being despatched by the then Prime Minister of Great Britain (Mr. Lloyd George) to the Prime Ministers of the several Dominions making an urgent appeal to them to stand by the British Government in the event of the crisis developing into a still more serious situation.
So much for the situation as it has developed. The fact is that to-day ‘there is no effective means by which the Governments of the Dominions can be informed as to the development of Empire foreign’ policy, nor are they consulted at such a time or in such a manner as to give them an opportunity to state the view of the Dominions upon any particular question that might arise. The approaching Conference will deal with questions of foreign policy, the history of which I have given briefly. It is important that Australia should be kept fully informed of the British foreign policy. I leave out altogether the question of our- loyalty, or what sentiment might prompt us to “do in a certain event. If the foreign policy of the British Government should bring the Empire into war, Australia would be at war also; and if a country with which the Empire was at war felt that by the invasion of Australia it could inflict a most deadly blow at the Empire, it would not hesitate to do so. These questions of defence, communications, foreign policy, and trade all have deep significance to Australia, and we should be consulted with regard to them. As to how the Dominions can be given this opportunity, I have outlined what has been done in the past. I come now to another suggestion that has been made, namely, that there should be a responsible Minister of the Commonwealth in London to inform the Government of the United Kingdom as to the view of the Commonwealth Government upon any particular question, and to enable lis to be kept informed of the viewpoint of the British Government. We have a High Commissioner in London, but by . the terms of his appointment if at the date of his .selection for the office he is a Minister of the Crown he ceases to bc a member of the Government. He becomes, in a sense, a public official, and as such is not, in the same sense, responsible to the Government as a member of the Cabinet would be. Then, again, we could hardly expect members of the British Cabinet to invite him to their councils, however able he might be, because he would not be a member of any responsible Government. It is obvious, therefore, that we could not avail ourselves of the services of the High Commissioner in such an important matter. Whatever we may think ourselves, Ave can visualize the objections that would be taken to this course by members of the British Cabinet. There are difficulties in’ connexion with every proposition that has been made for the solution of this problem. One of the objections to the appointment of a - resident Minister in London is that after a little while he would get out of touch with Australian sentiment or with his fellow Ministers here, and, therefore, could not be regarded as a safe channel of communication. It is urged that he would not be om fait with the development of public opinion on various questions. This objection would b© minimized according to the length of time for which he might be sent to London. It would be still further minimized if we had more rapid means of communication between the United Kingdom and Australia. In this respect, Australia and New Zealand are in a worse position than any of the other Dominions. To demonstrate the value of resident Ministers in London under exceptional conditions, I may state that Canada found it necessary to ‘be so represen’ted ‘during !the whole of the war. Indeed, for a considerable portion of that time there were two Canadian Ministers in London dealing with questions affecting the conduct of the war so far as the Canadian Military Forces were concerned. Australia suffered in this respect because for some time we had no Minister in London. Had we been represented there by a member of the Cabinet, it would have been greatly to our advantage. I realized this after I had been in London for only a little while. When I was there, in 1919, I found that the High ‘Commissioner was seldom able to get the ear of the British Minister whenever he desired to raise any question in regard to transportation of our troops or accommodation in camps, whereas a Minister from Canada or Australia could always promptlyplace his views directly before the British Minister. But when we come to this larger question of direct representation in London, I freely admit that I see many difficulties in the way. We have to regard the position, not only from our stand-point, but also from the standpoint of the British Government. As the British Government is constituted, it cannot avoid thedifficulties, and it cannot share them. British -Cabinet Ministers are responsible to their Parliament, and their Parliamentto the electors of the United Kingdom. It would not be sufficient for them to offer, as an excuse for certainaction in regard to foreign policy, that theyhadbeen advisedby the Minister of a certain Dominion. The British Parliament would hold them entirely responsible. It would not help very much if a Commonwealth Minister in London merely had the right of consultation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs. To serve any useful purpose, he must have the right, not only of consultation, but also to be present when the various matters are under discussion. He must have beforehim the information upon which the British Government may decide to act.
– He would have power without responsibility.
– It is a responsibility notto the British Parliament, but to the Australian Parliament, and obviously hecould not have any powerin the British Cabinet. We could hardly ask that an Australian or Canadian Minister should have the same right as a British Minister indetermining such questions, when he would not have any responsibility to the Parliamentto which the British Cabinet is responsible.A great deal depends, therefore, on the status of that Minister. I do not intend to dogmatize on the matter; but it is worthy of consideration, and it will be dealt with at the forthcoming Conference. Before any matter of foreign policy is determined, the Parliaments of the Dominions should be informed and consulted. One of the objects of the Conference is to discuss such questions, and if honorable senators have any views on the matter to which I have just been referring, I hope that they will express them.
I now come to the subject of defence, which is of the utmost importance to Australia, because we are isolated and far removed from any other considerable white race. I should like to believe that there will be no more war. No doubt we should all like to believe that; but, human nature being what it is, I am unable to think that war is a thing of the past. I should like to believe that the League of Nations, and ‘the Treaties drawn up at Washington, together give an absolute guarantee of peace. I cannot accept that view,however, because I know what human nature is; and, after all, nations are but aggregations of individuals. What do we see of human nature inthe individual? Australia has on itsstatute-books the most -advanced system so far devised - although I realize that it its not perfect - of industrial arbitration. I well remember, as a young politician, expressing the beliefthat when that legislation was passed the day of strikes and industrial disturbances would be gone forever. I firmly believed that at the time. But I have seen Act after Actflouted and awards broken, both by employers and employees, and I have not seen industrial peace. Why ? Because human nature is what it is. If we cannot secure industrial peace, even in this Democracy, where the people are allpowerful, and where we have devised excellent legislative machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes without recourse to industrial war, I frankly confess that I am not more hopeful of peace betweennations, many of which have not reached thestage of development attained by ourselves, and some of which, whilst they have developed in the arts and sciences that make them powerful from a military point of view, are still almost in the mediaeval stages in so far as their outlook on matters of human liberty and freedom is concerned. Should we shut our eyes to these facts ? We have seen many demonstrations of the truth of my assertionthat nations that are now only emerging from the mediaeval stages in regard to their social and economic conditions, are inthe front rank in regard to naval and military power. This fact should convince us that whilst we may trust that the spirit behind the League of Nations will gradually lead humanity to the millennium of peace, the present position is that we are living in a world of war. As common- sense individuals we must therefore see that our position is madesafe. Not that wo desire, or should desire, to make waron any other nation. I am sure that young democracies, such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand would never wilfully make war upon any other nation. Any action that they may take will be in the nature of co-operation, not for aggression, but for defence. Great Britain is rapidly becoming a. Democracy. The people there have the political power to-day, and at the last elections that power was shown. Looking at Great Britain as a political entity, I cannot believe that Democracy there is going to lend itself to a war of aggression. Any common policy that may be agreed upon will notbe a policy of aggression, but one of defence. We, in Australia, have the greatest interest of all the Dominions in this matter, because we have the most to lose. From the point of view of defence, we are the weakest link in the Imperial chain. We have the greatest coast-line to defend of any of the Dominions. We have the smallest population per square mile, and we are the richest in our possessions. If one looks for a weak point in the armour of the British Empire, it is to be found in this Australia of ours.
– Where is the danger tocome from ?
– I leave it to the honorablesenator’s intelligence to supply the answer.
– That is an important question.
– I think the honorable senator could answer it himself. Wherever the danger may come from,, we should be fools if we did not prepare to meet it before it came. I am reminded of an interjection made some little while ago by Senator John D. Millen, that if Great Britain had acted on the information she evidently had in 1911, and had taken steps to meet the danger, there would have been nowar in 1914.It is unthinkable that if Germany had known that Great Britain was prepared for war, she would have thrown down thegage of battle. It was because Germany thought Britain was unprepared and on the point of disruption that she took the chance. Our weakness and unpreparedness are not going to be of any assistance to us. We may receive credit for altruistic motives, but that will not carry us far when faced by a nation prepared for aggression.
– Was not Great Britain as prepared on the water as Germany was on the land?
– Yes; but, unfortunately, the early stages of the war were not fought on the water, but on land. Germany’s plan was to overwhelm the continental nations opposed to her, and then to starve out Britain. That fact was shown by her tactics. Australia needs the assistance of the rest of the Empire, because, first of all, it cannot afford to carry the burden of a defence sufficient to maintain this country inviolate. If Australia is to be defended, it must be protected in the first place at sea. If we had to fight for our existence on land it would be the most desperate and the last resort of all. Therefore, if we contemplate the possibility of having to defend Australia we must contemplate a form of defence that will keep an enemy from our shores. That must be done on the sea, under the sea, and in the air. When we recall what navies other countries are capable of putting into the Pacific, we must realise how hopeless it would be to make an attempt to defend Australia without the assistance of the rest of the Empire. I amnot deprecating what Australia has achieved in the direction of defence. It has done magnificently, and morethan any other Dominion. I never felt prouder of that fact than when, quite recently, I was looking at the manuscript of the naval history of Australia’s partin the late war. When I read of the part played by the Sydney at Cocos Island, and by the Australia in driving the German fleet across the Pacific, I was indeed proud of Australia. When the shores of America were menaced by the submarines of Germany, subsequent to the trip across the Atlantic of the. German cargo submarine, the coasts ofCanada were protected by the Melbourne and the Sydney of the Australian Navy. Australia certainly has done well, and I think its policy has proceeded along right lines. I am as strong a believer as ever in the principle of a Dominion Navy, and there could not be a greater justification of that policy than was provided by the happenings in the late war. But Australia alone cannot carry the burden that a Dominion Navy would impose. We have so much todo indeveloping our vast heritage that every pound devoted to defence necessarily results in a slowing down of the rate of development of this vast country. The Dominions have common ‘interests in the matter of defence. Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa are concerned equally with Australia. At the coming Conference the various Dominions will discuss what action they can take. The taxpayers of the United Kingdom are carrying far more than their fair share of the expenditure involved in the naval defence of the Empire. I do not know that a taxpayer living in London or Manchester would have as much to lose in the event of war as .one living in Perth or Melbourne. I venture to say that I should prefer to be a taxpayer in Australia than in the United Kingdom.
– What are the figures ?
– The following were the contributions per head of the population in the various parts of the Empire in 1913-14 and in 1922: -
It will thus be seen that Australia contributed per head only about one-fourth of ‘that which was contributed by the United Kingdom, but nearly double that contributed by New Zealand, and more than double that contributed by Canada.
– And Australia is the only place which has reduced its expenditure.
– Australia shows a reduction compared with 1913-14. No matter to what extent we tax ourselves, we cannot put into the ocean a fleet that will keep an enemy from the shores of Australia. Therefore, Australia must be guarded by an Empire fleet. We know that the guardian of Australia to-day is the British fleet. Has the time not arrived for the Dominions to do something more, on a concerted plan, and without impairing their power of selfgovernment, to provide for their own defence? We are growing up. Surely it is necessary for us, therefore, to play a man’s part, and provide for our own defences as far as we possibly can. This Conference’ will discuss the manner in which that shall bo done, and how the responsibility shall be shared. This Parliament will not be committed to anything that is agreed to at the Conference ; everything that is agreed to will be brought before this Parliament for its ratification. I ask honorable senators, is there not resting upon us a great responsibility, which we cannot evade? Looked at solely from the point of view of Australia, hae not the time arrived for us to set our house in order, and to. endeavour, along with our sister Dominions, to bear our fair share of the heavy burden of defence ? I believe that in the long rim it will be cheaper for Australia to have a wellthoughtout Imperial scheme df naval and air defence. Honorable senators have seen the announcement that the British Government proposes to establish a naval base at Singapore. I believe that the establishment of that base will savethis country the expenditure of millions of pounds. It does not, however, appear to me to be a manly course for this rich, young, growing country to be content to save those millions at the expense of the taxpayers of the United Kingdom. Itdoes seem to me that some action on our part is called for. I am not saying that we should contribute towards the cost of the establishment of that base. There are other means by which we can take upon ourselves some of this load, and by which New Zealand and Canada also can bear a share. It would not impose too heavy a burden on this Commonwealth, but at the same time we would be making a fairer contribution to the joint scheme.
I pass, then, to the question of trade. This country has established a preferential Tariff, under which we give preference in our markets to the products of the United Kingdom. I venture to say that the adoption of that policy has been of great assistance to the United Kingdom. If, without injuring ourselves, wb can give of that trade which we must do with other countries a greater and an increasing share to the United Kingdom and to the other Dominions, we shall be helping to build up their strength, and shall possess the knowledge that in time of trouble that strength will be joined with ours. The remarkable fact is gradually impressing itself upon the minds .of the British people that one Australian is, from the point of view of trade, worth more to them than ten men of any other country.
Taking the figures from 1913 to 1921, the significant f act is disclosed that Australia is the second-best customer of the United Kingdom. The total value of the produce and manufactures of the United Kingdom exported to the British Indies in 1913 was £70,000,000, while in 1921 it was £108,000,000. The British Indies, however, contain a population of 247,000,000 péople. Australia has a population of only 5,500,000, yet the value of our imports from the United Kingdom was, in 1913, £34,000,000, and in 1921, £76,000,000. The figures in relation to South Africa were £22,000,000 in 1913, and £29,000,000 in 1921. Canada, with its 9,000,000 people, imported in 1913 goods valued at £23,000,000, which figure was reduced in 1921 to £19,000,000. The figures forNew Zealand were £10,000,000 in 1913 and £14,000,000 in 1921. The United States of America have 105,000,000 people, of whom over 90,000,000 are white people. The imports into the United States of America from the United Kingdom in 1913 were valued at £29,000,000- £5,000,000 less than in the case of Australia; while in 1921 the value was £43,000,000- a little more than half the value of the goods exported to Australia. The figures relating to other countries are: -
– What was the value of the trade done with Germany before the war?
– I have not those figures. The figures that I have quoted show what a valuable market Australia is for the United Kingdom. Then there is also to be considered the question of a reciprocal trade arrangement with India. We have a reciprocal trade arrangement with New Zealand, and we hope to have one with Canada. In that direction, also, I believe that much can. be done, without injuring any of the component parts of the Empire, to build up, naturally, our strength. Then there is the important question of migration. The trade figures show how important it is that the migration of the white population shall be within the Empire and not without it. [Extension of time granted.]
I want, in conclusion, to deal with the question of communication. That opens up the questions of wireless, air communication, and sea communication. If we can, by the establishment of wireless, bring the various parts of the Empire closer together - if we can, by the use of air ships, bring London many days nearer to Melbourne, Sydney, or Perth; if we can improve the sea communication - consider what those improvements will mean, not merely from the point of view of strengthening the Empire as an Empire, but to the individual Dominions, in assisting the development of their country and in providing openings for their trade. What would it mean to the export trade of Australia - that portion of it which has to be carried in refrigerated space - if we could cut several days off the time required to send that refrigerated cargo to the markets of the world? It would mean ever so much in material wealth to this country. These questions will be discussed at these Conferences, and an endeavour will be made to effect an improvement in the existing conditions.
I thank honorable senators for their attention. I invite them to discuss freely the matters I have raised. I hope that we shall discuss them, not with any party bias, but from an Australian stand-point, recognising that the nation stands above all parties, and that, if the nation dies, our parties die with it. We are all equally interested in building up this Empire, under whose shelter our parties and our Parliaments have come into being and live.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gardiner) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 12th July, vide page 1026 (on motion by Senator Pearce) -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– With my mind wandering over the details of the Northern Territory Crown Lands Bill, and being enchanted with the Minister’s delightful speech on foreign matters, I do not feel greatly disposed to deal at length, with this Bill. I take it that there are some good provisions in’ the Bill, and I know that there are some bad provisions, in it. This1 legislation appears to- me to be a legacy from the War Precautions legislation. This free country of Australia, which before the war concerned itself very little with the question of who came into it or who went out of it, now finds itself so- closely linked up with the bad systems of the Old World that it is necessary to legislate frequently to put up some barrier here or some barrier there. One of the provisions of the Bill deal’s with the fraudulent use of passports. We cannot object to that. I do object, however, to the compulsory use of passports. If I want to leave this country, and’ go somewhere else, I do not see why the Government should step in and say, “ You can go, but before you do so you must pay a flee for a passport.” For very many years we got on very well without the system of passports. A few years ago I remember taking a trip to England as a representative of this Parliament. I applied for a passport, as I thought it would be very handy while in foreign countries. Every one got a passport except me; hut I got through all right. I long to get back to the conditions that existed- in pre-war ‘ days, when an Australian could leave his country without being compelled to obtain a passport. We do not want to do everything through the Government. We are rapidly moulding the whole of our legislation upon the worst conditions - the military conditions of the Old World. There are some people in the community who imagine that they can make its ^better by compelling us to conform to practices which some petty little nations in Europe have kept in existence for very many years. I remember the freedom that existed ten years ago, and I recall the sacrifice of life that Australia has made to make lt safe for Democracy. As far as the present Government are concerned, I think we ought to have an “ iron safe “ for Democracy. I plead guilty to having repeated time after time that splendid sentence, “ The war must be continued to make this country safe for Democracy;” yet now we have this sort of nibbling piecemeal legislation that is eating its way into the freedom enjoyed by us in the past.
I know that this Bill is one for discussion in- Committee- rather than for an impromptu debate on the second reading, when honorable senators are not prepared to deal with it. The Minister, might have been satisfied tq allow his speech to stand as the only item of business tonight, but he is such a modest man that he does not care for too much limelight and prefers, apparently, to. have his speech crowded in with the ordinary discussion on a Nationality Bill. No doubt if honorable senators -agree to the second reading immediately,, and proceed to consider the Bill in Committee, the Minister will be determined to get to the end of the Committee stage. He will say, “ The evening is not far advanced, and we might as well push the Bill through, because not much business has, been done to-day,” forgetting that we have already passed about eighty clauses of a Land Bill and that honorable senators made sacrifices in order to let him deliver a speech on the very important matter of the Imperial Conferences. He has delivered that speech and now he puts on us a new task. I admire his energy and persistence, but I have neither the energy nor the persistence, nor even the mental capacity, to make myself acquainted with legislation turned out in> this Parliament just as a butcher turns out sausages by machinery; nor am I inclined to do so. I find’, on glancing at this Bill, that it proposes to do quite a number of things which have already been done in Great Britain.. Are we obliged to copy British legislation because we are portion of the British Empire? Is it likely that there are many persons of Australian parentage who are born outside Australia, to whom we ought to give the right to be regarded as of Australian nationality? If there are I suppose it is necessary for us to follow the. example set by Great Britain. Apparently British legislation must be followed by us at all costs, and possibly without reason. Does the Minister ever reason things out? How’ is it that in the pre-war years, we managed to get along without all this legislation ? Why is it that since the war Parliament every session has had measures of this kind under consideration ?’
– This Bill is mainly a Committee measure.
– But will the Minister give honorable senators an opportunity to consider it and bring forward amendments, or will he say that he has carefully studied its provisions and does not think it necessary to alter them 1 I hope that in Committee honorable senators will have an opportunity to devote attention to the various matters dealt with, and, if necessary, call attention to the necessity for alterations or improvements. I do not like legislation that circumscribes the liberty of the subject. I like that atmosphere of freedom in which our fathers were reared in Australia. I should like to get away from everything in the nature of officialdom. A man who proposes to leave Australia by a vessel leaving its great central port - I refer to Port Jackson, whence half the shipping of Australia takes its departure - is obliged to communicate with Melbourne before he can get a passport. All this crippling legislation has to be administered by Melbourne officials, and that is why its effect is so hampering on people situated at a distance from Melbourne. I have seen families making preparations for a voyage outside Australia unable to leave, because the official work which had to be undertaken in Melbourne to enable them to get passports could not be put through before the vessel on which they proposed to depart was timed to sail. I have a natural antipathy to legislation that restricts the liberty of the subject, and to the pettifogging interference of Governments in matters in which there should be no interference. If other nations will not let Australians travel through their countries without passports, so much the worse for them. The Australian traveller is such a source of wealth to those countries that they will be obliged to remove the restrictions they now impose when they find that Australians who are unable to get passports no longer visit them. The photographs on’ some of the passports are enough to prevent men travelling.
– There is nothing about passports in this Bill.
– That being the case, I do not propose to speak any further on the second-reading motion.
Senator GRANT (New South Wales) [9.26). - Prior to the war, restriction on the entry of people into Great Britain was almost unknown, and England was regarded as the refuge of all political outcasts, but despite that fact it was in a very favorable position among the nations of the world’ as regards freedom. Since then efforts have been made in one way or another .to restrict the inherent right of people to move about.
– There is nothing in this Bill dealing with that.
– I was under the impression that it interfered with the rights of people to move about and become citizens of a country.
– That is dealt with in the Immigration Restriction Bill.
– To my mind this Bill is unnecessary. There are far too many restrictions upon liberty, making it more difficult for people to become citizens of Australia. When the Bill is in Committee, I intend to take steps to upset some of the proposed amendments to the existing law.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definition of natural-born British subjects).
– Will the Minister explain the special reason for this amendment of the Act*.
– In moving the second reading, I explained that this was the main provision of the Bill. It is to enable the children of British parents, born in foreign countries, to acquire the nationality of their parents by the registration of their birth at the office of the British Consul. That right can be acquired” up to the second generation.
– Is this a limitation of a power already in existence 1
– No; it is an extension of the right, and these sub-clauses provide the machinery through which that right is acquired.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Order of the Day for the resumption of the debate on the motion for the second reading of this Bill called on, and debate (on motion by Senator . Gardiner) further adjourned.
Debate resumed from 12th- July (vide. page 1031), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- Section 3 of the principal Act is to be amended by omitting paragraph /, and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: -
Any person who, in the opinion of an officer, is likely, if he enters the Commonwealth, to become -a charge upon .the .public by reason of infirmity of mind- or body, insufficiency of means to support himself, or any other cause, shall be deemed to be a prohibited immigrant. My principal objection to the proposed amendment is that a person who comes to Australia without money may possibly be deported. Is poverty a crime, and should the impecunious be punished ? It is necessary, of course, to provide that those who come into this country should’ be mentally and physically fit, so that they will not be likely to become a charge upon the community; but why should a man arriving in Australia with £100 in his pocket be treated more considerately than one who possesses only a shilling? The person who arrives here with little or no money may become a good citizen, whereas the’ one who lands here with a certain amount of cash might’ have been sent overseas merely because he was useless, or had caused trouble in some other country. Many of our most worthy pioneers came to Australia not only without funds, but at the expense of the British Government, and they laid’ the foundations of a nation which is likely to excel even that from which they sprang. The strictest attention should be given to the health and character of a prospective settler, but the possession of money should not be a necessary qualification. I. gathered from the statement made by the Minister (Senator Pearce) this evening that if the Empire is at war, Australia’s manhood will be required, but if an efficient unit of the Empire, living in the Old World, where he never had a chance to accumulate sufficient money to pass the immigration officers, lands in Australia, he may possibly find himself in difficulties. ‘ Is it right to impose such restrictions when, according to the Minister’s statement, additional population is necessary if our security is to be assured ? Those who have come to Australia with clear brains and strong ‘ hands, but without money, have, in many instances, proved the best colonists. In regard to * the question of immigration generally, we are up against a very grave situation , because we are bringing people to Australia before first making provision for their employment. Representatives of different nations may be debarred from entering the Commonwealth because they cannot pass an irregular educational test, because the officials merely submit one which they believe certain intending settlers cannot pass. If this practice, is continued, it will be found that Australians visiting other countries will be asked to comply with objectionable laws imposed to restrict the movements of our people. Already in’ some countries ordinary tourists have to pay higher railway fares than the natives do. Our policy in this regard has probably been recommended by British diplomats who, in order to prevent offence to our Allies, have suggested that we should provide for a test which shall be applied to people of all nationalities. . Even those who dodge the authorities for a time can still be called upon to comply with the law, and if they do not, they can be deported. I realize the extent to which the Government are prepared to go in an attempt to provide for the exclusion of those guilty of certain so-called offences. Australia . is so isolated that many of , the provisions of our immigration legislation are totally unwarranted. The Act will be administered spasmodically. Occasionally some officious official will get to work on some unfortunate person who may be brought within the provisions of the law ; but, generally ‘ speaking, it will be a dead letter. I am directing my attention more particularly to the proposed amendment of paragraph g of section 3 of the principal Act, which states that any person who, in the opinion of an - officer, is not under the age of sixteen years andwho fails to prove that he is the holder of a passport issued to ‘him on behalf of the Government of the United Kingdom, or any Government recognised by the Imperial Government, shall be a prohibited immigrant. I am wondering if the phrase “ any Government recognised by the Imperial Government “ refers to the Governments of the Dominions or the Governments of outside countries.
– The Government of outside countries.
– Then I suggest that we shall be putting the people concerned to a great deal of trouble. Many persons who under this provision will find it exceedingly difficult to get passports would prove useful citizens of Australia. Then there is the provision that persons of German, Austro-German, Bulgarian or Hungarian parentage, or of Turkish nationality, shall not be admitted for a period of five years. The time has come, surely, when we should be able to deal with the people of those nationalities upon their merits and not upon their enmity towards us during the war. We can safely rely upon such people who are already here to play their part in the defence of this country in future wars. Many of them have proved good citizens. They have been industrious and progressive, and have done their share of the pioneer work. The German farmers in Queensland, New South Wales, and South Australia are excellent examples of all that a farmer ought to be. As it is nearly five years since the war ended, we should eliminate all Avar passions and legislate in a normal spirit.
– The restriction mentioned by the honorable senator is in the Act itself, not in this Bill.
– If we measure our responsibilities by our empty spaces we should be ready to welcome as citizens of this country all people who are likely to prove satisfactory in the work of developing Australia. In one generation the descendants of Germans have proved themselves to be as much Australian in sentiment as are the sons of Irish, Scotch, or British parents. Many sons of German parents fought on our side during the war. Notwithstanding that their fathers came from Germany, these young men were Australians first and all the time. They did not hesitate to volunteer, although I know that as the war progressed we made it difficult for them to enlist, if, indeed, we did not actually prohibit them from enlisting. But, speaking broadly, judged by the test of war, they were good Australians. Can we afford to say now that our vacant spaces must not be occupied by descendants of these people? The war being over and our fears at rest, we should get. back to pre-war conditions in our legislation. Germans resident in Australia caused no serious trouble to the Commonwealth during the war. It is quite true that a number of them were interned for their own safety. In some cases, perhaps, it was an advantage to the Commonwealth that they were, but in , many instances the wrong men were interned. We should judge these citizens by their conduct during a war that stirred our passions as they were never stirred before, and as, I hope, they will never be stirred again. I venture to say that had we been in their position during a certain trouble we should have stirred up more trouble than they did in Australia. Their capacity for land settlement is of great advantage to this country. This being so, is it wise for us to allow this legislation to remain on our statute-book ? Thomas Carlyle reminds us that the Scotch and German people came from the same stock. I can see a lot of good in people who come from Scotland, and much good and virtue in people who come from Germany. If to-morrow there occurred a breach in the relations between Great Britain and France, the press, which was responsible for much of our hatred of Germany, would be employed to stir up hatred against France. Only a week or two ago I read a significant statement by Admiral Sims, of the United States of America Navy. He got into trouble after the war for his proBritish attitude. In an article dealing with the alleged German submarine operations he declared that the German submarine commanders, during the war, had been guilty of atrocities on only two occasions. He added that if he had been in command of a submarine during the war he would have acted in exactly the same way as did the German commanders. In one of the cases mentioned by him the officer commanding the submarine was tried by German court martial and punished for his offence. So much then for the German atrocities, about which we heard so much during the war. The German submarine commanders were depicted as men who in warfare had entirely disregarded the law of nations, and had engaged in ruthless slaughter. War itself is ruthless slaughter, no matter how it may be pictured. It is not wise now to raise any barrier against the admission of people who, after all, are almost identical with our own. Why should they be debarred for another five, years ?
– The Act was passed in 1920, and as the prohibition was for five years from that date, it will expire two years from now.
– It might be possible to wipe out the provision altogether. I am not going to pretend to be different from any other man. I suppose that, during the war, I was influenced as much as anybody else bv all that I read at the time, but even then I took my stand against the perpetration of any injustice to German- Australians. I ‘defended them on the floor of this Chamber whenever I thought they were being unjustly attacked. The fact that feeling was running high did not prevent me from doing that. I have no desire to shed any portion of my responsibility for anything that was done during the war. But we are now at peace, and should view things in a different light. 1 do not think that many Germans will be flocking to Australia. Probably the feeling created in Germany by the late war is fairly strong against this country. I can take no exception, however, to naturalized British subjects in Australia being whole-heartedly for their own country when that country is at war. I should say that sufficient time has elapsed to enable us to return to pre-war conditions, and if we do that, the future” development of Australia will not be hindered. I take it that the Turks of. Asia would be prohibited under other laws. There is a section in the principal Act relating to the deportation of certain persons, including -
A person who advocates the overthrow, by force or violence, of the established Government of the Commonwealth or of any State,, or of any other civilized country, or of all forms of law, or who advocates the abolition of organized government, or who advocates the assassination of public officials, or who advocates or teaches the unlawful destruction of property, -or who is a member of, or affiliated with, any organization which teaches any of the doctrines and practices specified in this paragraph.
The freedom for which England has always been famed has made it the sanctu ary for the oppressed of all nations. What wrong is there in advocating the overthrow of government by force? What justifies force is the fact that its adoption has proved successful. A well-governed people could not be induced to support the overthrow of government by force, but a disgruntled and oppressed people would readily accept such a doctrine, because where there was little to hope for, there would be little to fear.
– It is not that the advocates of that doctrine .might overthrow the Government, but that they might incite innocent and misguided persons to bloodshed.
– I could mention remarkable instances where men from other countries, after advocating the overthrow of Governments by force, found a refuge in England. For many years England was a sanctuary for those who desired to restore the French monarchy. Australia recently deported a couple of people who, I think, are still on the sea. Had they been left alone they would probably, before this, have departed from Australia of their own volition. I venture to say that these persons did not do the least harm in Australia. Had they been left to themselves they would simply have gathered the sinews of war from their friends; but now that they have been made martyrs they will probably be much more successful iri their efforts. .Such legislation as this makes Australia ridiculous. We should be broadminded enough ibo permit the utmost freedom in the discussion of public affairs. The late Dr. John Dunmore Lang, the eminent Presbyterian divine, the centenary of whose birth was recently celebrated in New South Wales, once declared in the New South Wales Legislature that the flag of a republic would fly over Australia in a few years. He was quite mistaken; but nobody tried to prevent him from .speaking. Freedom of speech is a country’s great safeguard-
– The two men to whom the honorable senator has. referred were not allowed to enter New Zealand.
– No; but I do not regard New Zealand as a country to which one should, look for a pattern in legislation.
– .The authorities there showed common sense in that case.
– It is foolish to suggest that because a man talks about employing force for the overthrow of any Government he is. not fit to be at large. To say that is to cast a reflection upon ourselves. If I were to suggest the overthrow of the- present Government by force people would say that I was mad; hut if legislation were introduced to punish me for advocating such a doctrine the community would! think that the Parliament had lost its senses. We cannot be too careful in drawing the line between freedom and coercion. In my opinion, the greatest Englishman that ever lived was Oliver Cromwell, yet when his opponents resumed control of the Government of England, they regarded him as having been such a dreadful tyrant, that they were not even content to let his body remain in the grave. Much as honorable senators on the other side pride themselves on their broadmindedness, I doubt whether they would have, permitted Milton to live. Their minds are so cramped that on the- subject of liberty they are prepared to return to the darkages. Free speech should be allowed in free Australia, and we should not deport people for advocating the overthrow of a Government by force. The overthrow of the Stuarts was a distinct advantage to the people.
– British liberty is founded- on the doctrine of force.
– The- vote by ballot and. trade unionism were won by force.
– The difference is that to-day the people- have the- right to vote, whereas, formerly, they bad not.
– I admit that there is a slight difference-,, bat when the honorable senator’s party is in power, it counts the votes. I plead for the. wiping out of ali restrictive legislation. Let us accept the direction of men who say that the way in which to safeguard liberty is to practise liberty. One oppression begets another. A man may be driven from his own* country by reason of the fact that the laws are so stringent that he cannot get the people to listen to him. What harm does he do if he gathers a few sympathizers around him here?
– If the honorable- senator’s argument were carried to its logical conclusion it. would mean that there should be no restraint on crime.
– Was it a crime to overturn the Government of the Czar of Russia? I venture to assert that that was one of the most momentous steps ever taken in the direction of liberty. Tha overthrow of that Government had to be carried out by force. The real cause of the troubles in Ireland has been the restrictions imposed upon the people in the past. For -700 years there has been interference. The British Government has done more for the Irish people than any Australian Government would do- for the Australian people. It did not, however, do- the one thing which the Irish people wanted - it did not give them the liberty to govern themselves. It erected beautiful cottages, it made- splendid provision for the return of the land to those- from whom it bad been taken. Those concessions could not be obtained from- any Australian Government by its- people. Yet, because the British Government imposed the restrictions of the conqueror on the- conquered, they were never able to make the conditions in Ireland such as-‘ they are in Australia. The utmost freedom must be given in this country. We must realize that these little things^ - a pressure here. an interference there, a restriction in this< place,, and the prevention of freedom of action in another - enable officialdom to- become paramount. Freedom passes away. Government after Government goes ai step further, each introducing a new idea to enable the official machine to- work more easily, and to make it more difficult fox the community to- transact its business.
– Is it not afact that the majority of the people of Ireland approve of the present position ?
– If we were placed in the position in which the people of Ireland were placed,, we would loudly assert our right to settle our own disputes. If we had a new Constitution thrown at us, and one of our people took a trip across to England to try to induce our sympathizers there to interfere and bring about different conditions, would we not think that we were most unjustly treated if the British Government said, “ This man is a menace to our country : send him back to his own country “ f The sooner we get back to the conditions that obtained twenty-five years ago, the better for the people of Australia. I do not care a snap of the fingers whether Governments are overturned by force or in any other way. It is ho business of mine. I protest, however, against our being held up as a laughing-stock to the rest of the world owing to the action of a Government in taking a steam hammer to crack a watch glass. A murderer or burglar may come to this country, with a passport, to practise his profession. He does not go to. the public parks and tell the people what he thinks; he works at his business secretly and silently, to the detriment of the people of this country, and we have no means of dealing with him.
– Of course we have.
– If he is caught and the case is proved against him, he can be dealt with. He is given trial by jury, but that is denied to the other type of man.
.- It is a great pity that advantage was not taken of the introduction of this Bill to repeal legislation that was passed in the heat and excitement that followed the outbreak of the war, particularly legislation relating to the ex.cl.u- tion of certain, people. Many German people came to Australia in the fifties und sixties to avoid the oppression of the ruling class in their native land. Apart from their natural sympathy with their countrymen - for which we must make allowance - they did not favour the despotism of the Junker party in Germany. I am in entire sympathy with those who desire to exclude from Australia imbeciles, criminals, or people who are suffering from infectious diseases. That is a proper measure of protection. We in this country possess a free Constitution, under which every man and woman has a vote. We can accomplish, in a constitutional manner, any reforms we desire. Therefore, any person who comes to Australia to advocate the overthrow of the Commonwealth Government by force or violence should be excluded. The section in the principal . Act, however, goes a good deal further than that. It provides for the exclusion of any person who advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the established Government of this Commonwealth, or of any State or civilized country. What have we to do with attempts by revolutionists to overthrow the Government of any other civilized country? Our British liberty was founded on revolution. It was by revolution that the Bill of Rights was secured, and it is on that foundation that the liberties of the British people rest. In parts of Europe and America revolutions occur almost every day, and Governments again and again are overturned.
– If we permitted people here to advocate the overthrow of the Japanese Government, and allowed them to accumulate munitions here, we should be at war with Japan before we knew where we were.
– I opposed this provision when the Bill was before the Senate in 1920. I then quoted an instance which I shall repeat. I pointed out that, although we were not then at war with Russia, the British Government were assisting Kolchak and Deniken in an attempt to overthrow the Russian Government and subsidizing that attempt to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Some Australian soldiers after the war participated in the attempt to upset the established Government of Russia. In South Australia there is a brave young fellow who obtained the Victoria Cross. He took part in that expedition. If this principle had been carried to. its logical conclusion, those Australian soldiers would have been excluded from Australia when they attempted to return.
– Had Russia an established Government in the proper sense of the term at the time of which the honorable senator is speaking?
– The Soviet Government had been established for three or four years; and, under the provisions of this Bill, the Australian, soldiers who fought against that Government in 1920 could have been excluded on their .return to Australia, because they had been engaged in an attempt to overthrow an established form of government. I shall be pleased to see that provision excluded from the Act. As Senator Gardiner has pointed out, Great Britain has .always been a refuge for revolutionists. Kossuth, the Hungarian revolutionist, who was the hero of the hour for many months in London and in New York, had been engaged inan attempt to overthrow an established form of government. If honorable senators will follow the provisions of this Bill closely, they will see that it is likely to leadus into all sorts of difficulties in regard to the little troubles of foreign countries which should be no concern of outs. We should not exclude from the Commonwealth any one who has been engaged in a foreign country in a revolutionary movement which may have been justifiable.
– The Minister would lead us to believe that there is nothing of serious moment in this Bill,but Senator Gardiner, in a very excellent speech, has shown us that there are many important principles involved. Paragraph f of section 3 of the principal Act is to he substituted by the following paragraph: - . . any person who, in the opinion of an officer,is likely, if he enters the Commonwealth, to become a charge upon the public by reason of infirmity of mind or body, insufficiency of means to support himself, or any other cause, shall be a prohibited immigrant. That is too drastic a provision. We should not be able to exclude a man “ for any other cause.”
– The person must be likely to “ become a charge upon the public.”
-Who is to judge as to whether a man has or has not the means to support himself? The Government has embarked upon a big immigration scheme. The passages of intending immigrants cost £33 each, of which amount £11 is contributed by the British and Commonwealth Governments. The balance of £22 is advanced to the immigrant if he is unable to pay it himself. It has been said, I believe, correctly, that many immigrants have landed in Australia without means, or, at any rate, with very little means, and have had to be given relief to the extent of £2 or £3 each. Under the provisions of this Bill, as I read if, such men could be denied admittance to Australia.
– Does the honorable senator remember the Italians who were brought to Australia by no one knows whom, and who were practically destitute? We had no power to deal with them, but the proposed amendment of the Act, to which the honorable senator is referring, will give the Government power to deal with such cases.
– The Bill is not intended to deal with such people only.
– This provision clearly states that it is only to deal with those who are likely to ‘become a charge upon the State.
– Another provision gives power to deport men who are absent without leave, or who have deserted from ships. If such a provision had been in operation in the early days of Australia, little or no development would have taken place. Honorable senators laugh ;but let me tell them that when gold was discovered in various parts of Australia there were wholesale desertions of crews from vessels.
– And those who deserted were among the very best men Australia got.
– Dozens and dozens of ships were tied up because their crews had deserted, and to-day some of those so-called deserters are still in the flesh, while many of their descendants are among thebest of Australia’s citizens. Why should the Government he given power to deport a deserter from a ship? Is there not another way of dealing with him? Thisprovision is also too drastic, and will prove unfair to seafaring men. They should be dealt with in the Civil Courts.
– It was only yesterday that Senator Needham introduced to me a deputation from the Seamen’s Union asking me to put the Immigration Restriction Act into force against certain seamen’ who are paid off in Australia by steam-ship companies.
– What Senator Needham brought under the notice of the Minister has nothing to do with the provisionsof this Bill.
– It is on all-fours with the case the honorable senator has cited.
– I do not think that a deserter from a ship should be deported. He should be given a fair trial.. Only the other day some sailors, charged with desertion, declared that gaol was Heaven compared with life on their ship. Under this Bill what chance would such men have of ventilating any grievances they might have against the ship-owner or the shipmaster? They would be treated, not as
Ordinary citizens, but as undesirable immigrants, and would be subject to deportation. At the Committee stage I shall certainly do my best to make some of these provisions much less drastic. Even at this time ofday efforts are made to put yokes on the necks of the masses of the people, rather than to legislate in the direction of liberty and progress. When the war was in progress many declared that if Australia again entered into trade relations with Germany, another Prime Minister for this country would have to be found ; but in August last those same people agreed to the resumption of trade relations. Why not dispassionately, consider the suggestions madeby Senator Gardiner) I hope that the Minister (Senator Pearce)will give us moresubstantial reasons than have been advanced Up to the present for legislation of this kind.
Question resolved in the affimative.
Billread a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Senate adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1923/19230725_senate_9_104/>.