9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Building Blocks - “ Canberra Freeholds.
– Can the Minister for Home and Territories say whether the regulations governing the leasing of buildingblocks at Canberra are yet available, and if not, who is responsible for the delay?
– I take it that the honorable senator is referring to the amending Ordinance that will be necessary to set out the conditions under which building allotments at Canberra will be made available. Before the regulations to which the honorable senator has referred can be promulgated they have to be carefully considered and compared with the conditions under which similar blocks are made available in the capital cities’ in the Commonwealth. That is now being done, in order to obviate future difficulty, and if any delay has occurred I suppose the blame is partly mine, and partly that of the Department.
– Is the Minister aware that an estate called “ Canberra Freeholds “ is being widely advertised in Great Britain with most misleading advertisements, implying that it is portion of the Federal Territory, with great prospective value; and if his attention has been called to that fact will he take steps to see that the people of Great Britain are not misinformed or deluded, as the owners ofthis estate seek to mislead and delude them?
– I understand that the advertisements referred to by the honorable senator are issued from an agency whichhas an office in Australia House, and that the matter having been brought under the notice of the Prime Minister, steps were taken to bring it also under the notice of the High Commissioner. At any rate, so far as I am aware, since that has been done no other advertisements thatcould be called misleading have been issued. I have seen one advertisement issued from this agency which says that the vendor is prepared to sell the nearest freehold land to Canberra, but that advertisement cannot be called misleading, because, as a matter of fact, the land in question is the nearest freehold land to Canberra.
– The people of England are being led to believe that it is, as it were, next door to the city.
-I have been supplied with a map that has been issued from this agency, and I am having it compared with the actual plan of the Federal Territory in order to see whether, from the point of view of distance, the advertisements are misleading.
Protection of Women and Children
– Has the Minister for Home and Territories any further information to give concerning the matter referred to by me last night, during the debate on the Nauru Island Agreement Bill, particularly in reference to the Convention for the protection of women and children in Mandated Territories?
– The Convention for the protection of women and children has not been applied to Nauru. There is nothing to prevent a Chinese from taking his wife with him to Nauru to remain there during the term of his indenture. As a matter of practice, the Chinese are averse to taking their wives with them, but, of course, the entry of wives could, if necessary, be prevented by the application of the Immigration Restriction Act; that is to say, that they could only come in under a permit. The Nauruan natives very seldom engage for employment, and when they do it is only for casual em ployment from day to day. The native owners of land are paid £20 per acre for all phosphate land taken up by the Commission. They receive a royalty of 2d. per ton on all phosphates shipped from their respective lands, and an additional royalty of1d. per ton which is paid to the Administration to be held in trust for the benefit of Nauruans generally. As to the terms of indenture, the period is three years. All labourers are employed under an agreement voluntarily entered into on the Island. The rates of pay, hours of work, and conditions of labour and living are subject to the approval of the Administrator,
Senator REID brought up the report, together with minutes of evidence, of the Public Works Committee on the proposed erection of additional block of seamen’s barracks at Flinders Naval Depot.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired-
For Federal Capital purposes - Tuggeranong, Federal Territory.
For Postal purposes - Lower Mitcham,
Quarantine Act- Regulations amendedStatutory Rules 1924, No. 49.
Bill presented by Senator Pearce, and read a first time.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
If it is a fact that Parliament in 1922 removed the duty on wire netting imported from England, and in 1923 approved of”a large sum of money being loaned, to the State Governments free of interest for wire netting purposes, in order that the land-owners aud landworkers might more successfully cope with rabbits, will he suspend the operation of the dumping duty on wire netting until after an opportunity is given to fully discuss and consider the question?
– Parliament in 1922 did remove the duty on wire netting imported from England, and in 1923 also approved of a large sum of money being loaned to the State Governments free of interest for wire netting purposes. At the same time Parliament definitely resolved that the Australian industry concerned in the manufacture of wire netting should be protected. In addition to the Tariff, Parliament passed the Industries Preservation Act, andthe Ministermust respect the wishes of Parliament. The operation of the dumping duty on wire netting cannot be suspended, but should evidence be made availablethatShe duty should not be imposed the matter will be reopened.
SenatorGUTHRIE asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the Senate papers giving the treason for the Government imposing a dumping duty upon wire netting manufactured in ‘Great (Britain?
- The Minister will be glad to make the papers available for the information of the honorable member.
Visit to Tasmania
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Tasmania has already been visited by representative of the Public Service Board for the purpose of classification of one section of the Public Service. Further (visits will be made by theBoard or its representatives as the necessity arises in other sections.
askedthe Minister representingthe Minister forTrade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
-The answers are -
SenatorGARDINER asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representingthe Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the advisability of encouraging aviation in Australia, will ‘the Government at an early date, provide ‘for the unpacking, recondition ing, and proper accommodation forthe gift aeroplanes now going to waste?
– The provision of necessary accommodation and the reconditioning of aeroplanes is receiving the serious consideration of the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will the Government take immediate steps to prevent the sale of unsuitable and absurdly dear Australian apples at the British Empire Exhibition, in view of the incalculable harm which it is alleged is being done to the Australian fruit industry?
– No official information is available, but it is understood that a special committee has already thoroughly investigated the complaints made regarding apples and has found that such complaints generally were not justified.
Bill (on motion by Senator Crawford) read a third time.
Bill (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Ogden) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1923.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators will remember that some time ago we passed an Act providing for the representation of the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives, and obviously, in applying the electoral provisions common to the rest of the Commonwealth, we were not quite seized with the difficulty that would be experienced in extending them to such a distant place as is the Northern Territory, where the means of communication are limited. Consequently, in the working of the Act, certain weaknesses disclosed themselves, notably concerning the Hearing of petitions disputing an election, which, under the existing law and procedure, must be lodged with, and heard by, the High Court in the capital city of one of the States. At the time of the last election there was some talk of a petition being presented. I believe it was not actually presented, because the petitioner at that time could not possibly comply with the law. It is, therefore, desirable that we should amend the law so that any persons who think they have a just cause to present a petition shall have the same facilities for so doing as have those in other parts of the Commonwealth. In order to do that it is necessary to provide that a petition may be lodged with the Registrar of the Supreme Court at Darwin, and when it is so lodged can be telegraphed to the High Court, which then, in the exercise of its jurisdiction, may communicate by telegraph with the Supreme Court at Darwin. The High Court may refer the matter to the Supreme Court at Darwin for hearing. In doing that we also provide for an appeal being made from the Supreme Court to the High Court on matters of law or mixed law and fact, so that a petitioner in the Northern Territory has the same protection as a petitioner in any other part of the Commonwealth, and can, in the last resort, have his petition beard by the High Court of the Commonwealth. Machinery is providedfor communicating by telegraph, instead of by written communication, to enable this to be done. That is briefly the purport of the Bill.
– Has a petitioner no redress whatever as the law stands at present.
– He has redress if he can comply with certain conditions. But if he should happen to be in the southern portion of the Northern Territory, the provisions of our electoral law would practically make it a physical impossibility, within the time specified, because the petition has to be referred to the High Court. This is not an attempt to extend a privilege to the Northern
Territory which is not enjoyed by the rest of the Commonwealth; but is rather an effort, as far as possible, to recognize the difficulties associated with, long distances and. the slow means of communication, and to give to a petitioner in the Northern Territory the same rights that a petitioner in any electorate throughout this Commonwealth enjoys.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
– I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a somewhat technical measure, and I do not propose to ask the Senate to proceed to debate it either to-day or to-morrow. I am quite prepared to agree to an adjournment of the debate until Wednesday next to enable honorable senators to compare the measure with the existing law. Honorable senators are aware that some years ago we passed a very necessary measure to give to the Government the power to acquire land throughout the Commonwealth for Commonwealth purposes, aud, if necessary, by compulsory process. That measure has been in operation for a number of years, and has been the subject of a number of legal decisions. It is quite natural that in the course of time, and with the benefit; of these legal decisions, it has been found necessary to amend the law in order to bring it into conformity with the decisions which the various Courts in Australia have given. In other words, certain defects in the Act have been disclosed either as a result of litigation or of administration. I shall indicate to the Senate the principal amendments proposed. There are minor alterations, however, with which I shall not deal at this stage, because they can be more effectively handled in Committee. The Act at present is defective as regards the acquisition and disposal by the Commonwealth of interests in land less than the fee simple. The Commonwealth should not only be in a position to acquire land, but also, if necessary, to dispose of land. We have frequently to acquire land for various Commonwealth activities in large cities, and in many cases the land so acquired is subject to leases held under varying conditions. In many instances there are, besides the head lessee’s interest, those of sub-lessees to be considered. Under the existing Act, on the compulsory acquisition of a property which is subject to a lease or leases, such lease or leases are terminated, and the uncompleted term is converted into a claim, or claims for compensation. In practice it is frequently found desirable that a certain lease or leases should not be terminated, as the portion of the property covered byit or them is not needed for immediate Commonwealth requirements. It is considered in such cases that the leases should continue under the conditions existing at the time of the acquisition until the completion of their term or until terminated by the Commonwealth. Provision is, therefore, made in the Bill to deal with such cases. Certain provisions in regard to the question of compensation f or leases are included in the Bill which it is thought will materially assist the administration of the Act in the settlement and adjustment of claims. Provision is made in the present Bill for the revocation of an acquisition, either wholly or as to any part of the land acquired. This provision has already been embodied in the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1916, as modified by regulation for War Service Homes purposes, and has been found in practice to be of great benefit and assistance to the Commonwealth. No person affected by such revocation would be hardly dealt with, as provision is made in the Bill to compensate the owner for any damage which he may actually and unavoidably suffer by reason of the notification. The power to revoke an acquisition, either wholly or as to any part of the land acquired, is necessary to safeguard the Commonwealth from any claims that might occur, due to the Commonwealth acquiring some interest in the land other than that disclosed at the time of acquisition, such as coal or mining rights not known to the title or referred to therein. In the administration of the Act there have been many cases in which considerable difficulty has been experienced in settling with claimants who have produced evidence of certain coal interests not disclosed by exhaustive searches against the title. Under the existing law, in cases when actions are . instituted by claimants for compensation, costs are in the discretion of the Court. The Court may make such order as to costs as it thinks just. This has been found in practice, in the litigation that has taken place in view of, in some instances, exorbitant claims made by claimants, to result detrimentally to the Commonwealth. It is, therefore, proposed to amend the Act with regard to the question of the allocation of costs, so that it will be definitely provided as to when the Commonwealth or the plaintiff shall pay the costs of an action. The amendment suggested is nothing new so far as the method of allocation of costs is concerned. It is similar to the provision with regard to this matter provided in the Lands Compensation Act 1915, section 30, of the State of Victoria. Amendment of the law on the lines suggested is desirable in the interests of the Commonwealth. The existing provision in the Act as to evidence of title of any person in possession of land acquired by the Commonwealth who claims purchase money or compensation in respect thereof, has been found in practice to be of little value. It is, therefore, considered desirable that, where land is acquired which is under what is known as the common or general law, and not under the Torrens system, the section dealing with this matter be amended, so as to bring the Act into line with the Conveyancing Acts of the several States. These Acts are the Conveyancing Act No. 6 of 1919. of New South Wales, and the Conveyancing Act 1.915, section 4, of Victoria, which have been introduced in connexion with conveyancing. They provide that the purchaser is not allowed to require proof of title for more than 40 years. Unfortunately, the amendment that waspreviously suggested to the Act, providing a simple method of bringing under the Torrens system land which, when acquired by compulsory process, was under the general law, cannot, in view of the decision given on the 9th August, 1923, by the High Court in what is known as the minerals case, be adopted, and will, therefore, be deleted from the Bill. The power conferred on the Minister under the present Act, to make an offer of compensation to a claimant, is retained ; but, in addition, in cases where there are two or more claimants, the Minister may, if he think fit, make an offer to all or any two or more of the claimants jointly, without apportioning the amount offered among those claimants. As considerable difficulty has been experienced in the past in determining the compensation payable to the mortgagee, and making the necessary adjustments as between the mortgagee and mortgagor, the question has. been again considered, and certain amendments have been provided which it is thought will materially assist the working of the Act. A mortgagee will, under the Bill, be entitled only to statutory interest as from the expiration of six months from the date of the acquisition of the land, instead of from the date of acquisition. In view of the provisions as to the payment of compensation, to a mortgagee, this is considered, a more equitable arrangement. Certain amendments are provided wherein the owner of an acquired property may continue to occupy and use it after the date of acquisition, and provision is made for the interest to commence from the time the Commonwealth enters in occupation and the use of the land by the claimant ceases. This is a brief resume of the chief features of the Bill. I invite honorable senators to compare the Bill with the existing Act. Our desire is to keep our legislation on this matter up to date, and without in any way interfering with the legitimate rights of land-owners to take such steps, as are necessary to protect the interests of the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gardiner) adjourned.
Exemption of British Ships from Coastal Provisions.
Debate resumed from 2nd August, 1923 (vide page 2026, Volume 104), on motion by Senator Ogden -
Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western
Australia) [3.36]. - This motion has been on the business-paper for some considerable time. Before it was moved there had not come into existence the Commission which was appointed for the purpose of inquiring into and reporting upon the effect of the Navigation Act on Australian trade. Consequently I am inclined to the belief that no very good purpose can be served by now discussing the matter at any great length. Before taking definite action I think we might await the report of that Commission. There is no doubt in my mind’ that certain portions of the Commonwealth, in particular Tasmania and Western Australia, suffer very great disadvantages because of the existence of the Navigation Act. I personally hope that the inquiry which is now taking place will result in some relief being afforded to those two States.
– The view of the Government is that it is inadvisable that the Senate should be asked to vote upon a motion of this character until the Royal Commission on Navigation,, which is inquiring into the effect of the Navigation Act, has made its report. I invite Senator Ogden to. withdraw his motion; otherwise the Government feels itself bound to ask honorable senators to vote against it. We would not thereby be voting on the- merits of the question, because our view is that the Senate should not be asked to commit itself on a matter that is the subject of inquiry by a Royal Commission-, which will make a report to Parliament upon it. It would be far better to wait until that report has been furnished, as this matter will be dealt with in it, and we shall then have the evidence and the views of the Commission upon it.
– Adjourn the debate until the report is available.
– I have no objection to that course being followed. .
Motion (by Senator Gabdiner) proposed -
That the Senate do now divide.
– Does Senator Ogden desire a division to be taken ?
– Am I entitled to speak on. the question “ That the Senate do now divide “ ! I should prefer the debate to be adjourned.
– I was on my feet for the purpose of moving the adjournment of the debate when the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) rose.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Newland). - The motion cannot be debated.
– I suggest allowing the motion to stand over until the report of the Navigation Commission has been received. My motion might then be withdrawn.
Question - That the Senate- do now divide- - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator H. Hays) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– The motion cannot bo debated. Honorable senators who wish to discuss the main, question at this stage are, of. course, at liberty to vote against the motion, and, if it. is defeated, the debate must proceed.
Question - That the debate be adjourned - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 7
Question- so resolved in the affirmative
Motion (by Senator Ogden) - That the resumption of the debate be an Order of the Day for Thursday next - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That all papers relating to the initiation, conduct, and subsequent closing down of the Federal Forest Products’ Laboratory, at Perth, Western Australia, be laid upon the table of the Senate.
I have adopted a somewhat unusual course in not classing this motion as formal, because I think that an honorable senator should give reasons for taking the somewhat important, step of moving that papers be laid on the table of the Senate, and because this particular case is of considerable importance to honorable senators who represent the smaller States, seeing that the papers in question contain the history of a transaction in which gross injustice has been done to. Western Australia, which in the matter of population, is one of the smaller States. In order that I may not express myself too strongly on the subject - and I fear that I need some repression, since I feel very strongly on it. - I propose to submit my reasons for moving this, motion in a form which has been supplied to me, namely, the official history of the case taken from the- files of the Forest De partment in Western Australia, with such few interpolations and amplifications as may be necessary to bring home more fully perhaps the- facts contained in it. Those- facts, which will be revealed by the papers when they are laid on the table, and which I am anxious to compare with the information that I have at my command, are as follow: -
In 1916 the Western Australian Committee of the Council of Science and Industry called for a report on the forest products of Western Australia. Mr. Lane-Poole, in this report; urged the establishment of a Forest Products Laboratory.
Mr. LanePoole at the time was Conservator of Forests in Western Australia -
At the Inter-State Forestry Conference, held in Perth in 1917, Mr. Lane-Poole read a paper on the establishment of a Forest Products Laboratory in Western Australia,, and the conference passed a resolution advocating it. The then Minister for Forests (Mr. R. T. Robinson ) was wholly in aceord with the idea, and wrote to the Western Australian senators asking for their support. The Premier also wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes), stressing the importance of the matter. Later, in 1917, the Council of Industrial Development was formed, with Mr. C. S. Nathan as chairman, who was also an executive member of the Council of Science and Industry. Through Mr Nathan, Dr. Gcllatly, the Director of the Institute of Science and Industry, visited Western Australia, and, after inspecting the. forest areas, decided that this State was the best suited for the Forest Products Laboratory, on account of its great possibilities in this direction. Before Dr. Gellatly left, the following proposal was established: -
Western Australia would supply a site of20 acres at Crawley for the Laboratory.
Incidentally I may say the estate would be under-valued at ?1,000 an acre -
This ?5,000 was to be devoted to the building of suitable premises for the laboratory -
Also before Dr. Gellatly left, he appointed the Hon. Walter Kingsmill and Messrs. LanePoole and Nathan as provisional directors of the laboratory, to. look after the; interest of the scheme until the passing of the necessary legislative enactment establishing the status of the Institute of Science and Industry. The Western Australian Cabinet approved the proposal set out above on 20th August,. 1918.
The Director of the Institute of Science and Industry set about making all arrangements towards getting the machinery of his Department going, and gave Mr. I. H. Boas to understand that he would be appointed as Director of the Forest Products Laboratory when the Science and Industry Bill became law.
The Bill was not passed as quickly as was expected, and, in 1919, the director of the institute, realizing that time was being lost, arranged for Mr. Boas to make a tour of inspection of those countries which had made a special study of forest products, in order to obtain the latest information regarding type’s of buildings, equipment, . &c, and to choose the necessary staff.
Mr. Boas left Western Australia in June, 1919, and arrived back in December, 1919, after visiting allplaces of interest as regards forests products work in the United States of America, Canada, England, Scandinavia, France, and India.
The Government of Western Australia bore half the cost of this trip, such half amounting to £556 3s.6d.
In August, 1919, the Science and Industry Bill still not having passed both Houses, the Premier again drew the attention of the Prime Minister to the position, setting out what Western Australia was prepared to do, and what the Federal Government had agreed to do in connexion with the establishment of the Laboratory in this State (copy of letter attached).
The Prime Minister replied in September, and while not binding himself to the terms set out in the Premier’s letter, said it was understood that the proposal to establish a Forest Products Laboratory in Western Australia, on the terms indicated, would be favorably considered when the Institute of Science and Industry Bill was passed. (Copy of letter attached.)
In the same month (September, 19th), the prospect was darkened by the death of Dr. Gellatly, who had been carrying on all negotiations, and who advocated the placing of the laboratory in this State.
In November, 1919. the Premier again wrote to the Prime Minister, stressing the importance of the early establishment of the Laboratory, and saying that the State Government was prepared to give immediate effect to its proposals in this connexion.
When Mr. Boas returned in December, 1919, things were not much better advanced than whenhe left, except that Mr. Lane-Poole had provided for the promised £5,000 under the Forests Act, and had commenced investigations into timber impregnation and kiln drying, both of which were ready to be handed over to the Laboratory, and the site was also in readiness at Crawley.
Mr. Boas, on his return, prepared a report on his trip, and drew up sketches and suggestions for the building of the institution, and commenced certain investigations in temporary premises. He read this paper at the Inter-State Forestry Conference held in
Hobart, in 1920, and the following resolution was passed by the conference: - “ That the cordial support of this conference be given to the early establishment of a Forest Products Laboratory, in Perth, Western Australia, as set forth in the paper read to the conference by Mr. Boas, M.Sc, and that it be intimated the Eight Honorable the Prime Minister that, in the opinion of the conference, early steps should be taken to forward the formation of this much needed institution.”
The Federal authorities would do nothing to further the formation of the laboratory, or as regards Mr. Boas’ permanent appointment, while the Science and Industry Bill was on its way through Parliament. This Bill was assented to on the 14th September, 1920.
Here I may mention that the case appeared desperate, and as the Bill presented to Parliament contained clauses which practically meant the death-knell of this laboratory, the Government of Western. Australia asked me to visit Melbourne, and make certain suggestions in regard to having amendments embodied in the measure. This I did. I spent some days in Melbourne, and I am glad to say I was successful in having the amendments suggested embodied in the Bill. For this I owe many thanks to Senator Greene, who was then Minister for Trade and Customs, and under whose purview the Bill came. As soon as I presented what I thought was a reasonable case, that honorable gentleman, who was kindness itself, had the necessary amendments drafted and embodied in the Bill while it was going through the House of Representatives. The report continues -
The laboratory is at present housed in temporary buildings in portion of the King’s Warehouse at the Customs House. The tannin section was opened in November, 1920, and the administration and general chemical sections in April, 1921. The pulp and paper section, started previously, was housed in a shed belonging to the Perth Technical School. Towards the end of 1920, Mr. Boas wrote to the executive officer of the Institute of Science and Industry, tendering his resignation as director of the Forest Products Laboratory. He could see no prospect of the establishment of the laboratory on a sound basis, and felt that he could not remain in the position hampered as ho was in not being able to go ahead and put into effect the suggestions and knowledge he had gained on his tour of inspection through Europe. His resignation as from the 31st January, 1921, was accepted. Mr. G.H. Knibbs - now Sir George Knibbs - was appointed as director of the Institute of Science and Industry in April, 1921, and in June of that year he visited Western Australia.
Here, I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that there was no director of this small but. at all events to Western Australia, somewhat importantinstitution from September, 1919, to June, 1921. A director was always “ about “ to be appointed. As a matter of fact it was an open secret that the services of a gentleman who is now holding a very high position under the Government of Victoria, were available, and would have been very acceptable; but, owing to the dilly-dallying of the Government of the day, the opportunity of getting that gentleman’s services, and the use of Mr. Boas’ services was lost. In June of 1921, Sir George Knibbs visited Western Australia. I regret to say that this gentleman was ill during the whole time of his visit. It was a matter of extrme regret to myself and others who were taking a keen interest in the laboratory, because we were not able to discuss as fully as possible with Sir George Knibbs the prospects, possibilities, and needs of that institution. In the short discussion, that we were able to hold he certainly gave us the impression of being very much in favour of retaining this institution in Western Australia, and of granting adequate sums of money for its maintenance. He voiced no opinion as to the possibility of either closing down the institution, or shifting it to Melbourne. I fear that during his illness, which may ha vo been caused by the arduous nature of the journey on the transcontinental railway from Melbourne to Perth-
– It is a very comfortable journey.
– It must be remembered that Sir George Knibbs is a very aged gentleman.
– That is so. I fear that this may have induced him to form the idea that it would be very much more comfortable to conduct this laboratory if it were situated in Melbourne. That, possibly, may have been one of the predisposing causes .that led to closing down the laboratory at Perth and re-opening the shadow of it in Melbourne. But, after all, when we consider that the Director of the Institute of Science and Industry draws a very high salary indeed - £2,000 a year and, I presume, travelling expenses commensurate with such a salary - it surely .is not too much to expect that he should, in the exercise of his duty, visit the outlying portions of Australia to see how the work is going on - work which, from its very nature, cannot be centralized in any one of the capital cities of Australia. Then, again, we have to remember that the work which was then being carried on by this laboratory was not Western Australian in character. We were testing forest products from every State in the Commonwealth, and doing it, I think, satisfactorily. As a matter of fact, I may say, without any fear of real, solid contradiction, that during the time this little institution - half -starved as it was, for want of financial support - was in existence, it did more in the way of scientific research than was being done in the rest of Australia.
– That laboratory made some very fine paper from Western Australian timber.
– It did.
– It was made from Queensland timber.
– The first paper was made from New South Wales or Victorian mountain ash.
– It was made from New South Wales mountain ash.
– I yield to my honorable colleague’s patriotism. Paper was made from New South Wales mountain ash, Western Australian karri, and Queensland silky oak. The history continues -
In October, 1921, the Advisory Committee of the laboratory resigned, stating that, “ In view of the extremely restricted scheme of research now put forward by the Director, its further advice to the Institute is not necessary.” This was consequent on the. Director, in laying down a financial scheme, reducing the expenditure for the current year, from all sources in the activities of the laboratory, from an amount of £10,900, considered barely sufficient by the Advisory Committee, to £3,400. In a letter dated 8th October, the Director (Mr. Knibbs) informed the officer in charge of the laboratory in Perth that “ the scheme for the larger laboratory is not acceptable to the Government.”
One of the matters which I wish to clear up from the papers which will be laid on the table of the Senate is whether the Government ever expressed an opinion that the scheme for a larger laboratory was not acceptable to it. That is a very important point. The report continues -
On 18th November, 1921, the Honorable the Premier again wrote to the Prime Minister stating that Western Australia was prepared to carry out the obligations resting upon her as set out in the tentative agreement, and urging hint to give the matter his most serious consideration. At this time the State of Western Australia had expended £1,567 16s. 8d. on a laboratory (jil addition to £556 odd that it advanced towards Ki’. Boas’ expenses). In December, 1921, a semi-commercial paper pulp plant was made in .Western Australia and was shipped to the Geelong Paper Mills, Victoria, early in 1922, for the carrying out of semi-commercial tests on the actual making of paper from Australian timbers.
That is a very important paragraph, because if thi3 plant could be made, as it was apparently, in Western Australia by that State’s officials, it could have been run there, I venture to say, more cheaply and to better purpose than elsewhere in Australia. There was no necessity, except perhaps to suit the convenience of the director, to shift this laboratory to Melbourne. Further, I would like to say that the whole of the paper experiments were rendered possible by the munificence of private individuals in Western Australia. The newspapers of that .State, or some of them, banded together, and were good enough to give money to the Forest Products Laboratory to buy, in London, an experimental paper plant at a cost of about £600 and thus enabled these experiments to be carried out. With this little plant the paper, which has been alluded to by Senator Foll, was made, and proved, contrary to public opinion in nearly every land, that it was quite possible to make the best quality paper from the hardwoods of Australia which had hitherto been looked upon as incapable of use . for this purpose. The history continues -
In April, 1922, when the Prime Minister (Mr.. W. M. Hughes) visited Western Australia, n deputation consisting of representatives from the University Senate, the Council o’f Industrial Development, the Sawmillers’ Association, the Chemical Institute, and the Chemical Society, waited upon him to protest against the removal of the Forest Products Laboratory from Perth to ‘the Eastern States. On this occasion Mr. Hughes said - “ I will do everything I can to see that this laboratory, which has done good work, is hot Bide-tracked hy any fanatical attempt to centralize things iri Melbourne. … I sympathize with you entirely, and I will support you as far as the finances of the Commonwealth will permit.”
- Mr. Hughes had previously promised me that the laboratory would not fee moved from Western Australia.
– Quite so. That is .additional evidence that the Government of that day had no -intention to com mit what I consider to be a gross injustice to the State which I, with others, represent. Continuing -
In July, 1922, the Prime Minister wrote to the Honorable the Premier of Western .Australia, .saying that certain statements made to him by members of the above deputation did not appear to be in accordance with the facts (which was quite wrong), and denying that there had been any breach of faith by tha Commonwealth Government, as no .agreement had been made by the ‘Commonwealth Government to establish a Forest Products Laboratory in Perth. The Federal authorities appear to hase their case on the fact that >no written agreement existed, and to entirely ignore the arrangement entered into by Dr. Gellatly, their accredited representative, as Director of the Council of Science and Industry.
I was present at all the negotiations which took place between Dr. Gellatly and the ‘Government of Western Australia, and Dr. Gellatly promised exactly what is set forth in this report. Furthermore, he expressed tome willingness of the Federal Government to run that institution on the scale on which am Australian Forest Products Laboratory should be run. He was prepared to recommend to the Federal Government expenditure of from £25; 000 to £30,000 a year on this work, and to do other matters which never eventuated, but which, I feel sure, would have been carried out had his death not supervened. It seems to me - and I am sorry to say it- -that it is a somewhat pitiful thing that any Government should deny their obligations on account lot .the death .of the principal witness. The -report continues -
The Prime Minister ‘stated in the >same letter that the financial situation did not permit of the laboratory being established, even if .such a policy ‘were desirable, again’ ignoring the expressed opinion of the Forest authorities of all States. At the and of 1922, Mr. Fowler, who had been acting as officer in charge of the laboratory, was allowed to .return to the Education Department of Western Australia, ‘from which his services had been borrowed. No intimation of this action was sent to the Forests Department, which was responsible for half of Mr. Fowler’s salary. On ‘2nd March, 1923, the Prime Minister wrote to <the Premier stating that ,it .might he necessary <to transfer the work, then being done in Perth, to .the Melbourne Laboratory of the Institute, as soon as it was properly equipped. On the same day a letter was despatched from the Prime Minister’s Department, .signed .by the Secretary, to the Chancellor of .the University of Western Australia stating that the University Senate had been misinformed concerning the intentions of the ‘Commonwealth Government with regard to the laboratory, and that the staff was not being reduced in the way they feared. This letter made no. mention of any intention to shift the site of the laboratory.
So that, it wouldappear,that onthe sameday twoletters wentout from the Prime Minister’s Department, one saying that it might be desirable to shift the laboratory, andthe other, makingno mention of that possibility, and saying that there would be no reduction of officers. The report continues -
At the present time the staff carrying on work in the temporary premises of the laboratory consists of two qualified chemists, two assistants, and a typist,compared with the staff at the beginning of 1920, comprising five qualified chemists, four assistants, and a typist.
This reportwas written in September of last year. I regret to say that at present there is no staff at all carryingon operations inWestern Australia, and the last stage was reached when I received a letter from a former director of the laboratory enclosing the following obituary notice -
F.P.L.- On the 15th February, 1924, at its late residence, the corner of Bazaar-terrace and William-street, Perth, after along and painful decline, the Forest Products Laboratory, aged four years. The body has been conveyed to Melbourne for interment at the Institute of Science and Industry. Very private funeral. Deeply regretted.
On the loth February, this little institution was removedin a manner which can only be described as stealthy. They took everything away from us.; there was nothing in the newspapers about it, and even the little obituary notice which I have just read did not appear in the press. This laboratory, which had been eking out an existence mainly through the generosity of the people of Western Australia, and the energy which they put into it, came to an end as f ar as Western Australia was concerned. I should like to point out that, in the first place, the establishment of the laboratory was determined and voted upon twice by those gentlemen in Australia who are best able to pass a competent opinion on the question - representatives of the Forestry Departments of Australia in conference assembled. Notwithstandingthis, a gentleman has taken it upon himself to fly in the face of expressed opinions of such competent judges and to move this laboratory in order tocentralize it in the grip of this all- absorbing great city in which we meet. Great surprise is expressed when some of the Stateswith a smaller population, such as Western Australia, chafe a little under the Federal yoke.Is it to be wondered at when injustice such as this is meted out to them? Is it a matter for surprisewhen such things are done that very many ofuswish to seethe Seatof Government removed toCanberra? I think not. I believe it is high time thatsome steps were taken to stop this insidious and pernicious centralization which is going on. The casewhich I have detailed, and the matters upon which I have touched, will be fully borne out by the papers which I hope will be laid upon the table. The action in this instance is a mostunFederal one. This littlelaboratory was situated in Western Australia because, from a scientific and administrative point of view, Western Australia was the proper place for it, and yet, in obedience to that law of administrative gravitation which leads all things to the centre, it has now gone out of existence.
– What was the total financial assistance given by the Commonwealth ?
SenatorKINGSMILL.- Only60 per cent. of the total cost.
– In round figures, what wouldbe the total cost?
– About £10,000 to £12,000, of which the State contributed 40 per cent. And this for a Federal, not a State laboratory. The State was not called upon to spend a penny. It was simply the public-spiritedness of individuals such as those who gave the experimental paper plant to the laboratory that made its existence possible. I was chairman of the Advisory Committee and conducted a good deal of the correspondence which will appear in the files, and which, I hope, I shall have the pleasure ofreading. I commend it tothe attention of honorable senators. I put the case plainly, if somewhat crudely, before the authoritiesfor the retention of thelaboratory in Western Australia. I have to apologise to the Senate for taking up so much time, but I feel that the laying of the papers on the table of the Senate is of great importance. They deal with a subject that is dear to me, and that is the investigation of our natural resources. I look upon research into our natural resources and their development in very much the same way as a mine-manager views the development of a mine. He has to keep in advance with his developmental work to- insure the payable working of the mine. In the development of a country we have to keep scientific research and development of our natural resources well ahead of our actual industrial progress. If that is not done we must sooner or later come to an end. There is evidence enough in other countries of what should be done it we consider for a moment what smaller countries are spending on this important subject. Some years ago. I visited what is looked upon as a relatively unimportant part of the Dominions - the Straits Settlements. It is hard to believe, but nevertheless a fact, that in 1917 I found, at Kuala Lumpur, in the Straits Settlements, an establishment for aiding scientific research, which is about three times the size of,’ aud about six times as efficient as anything of the sort in Australia. That laboratory is’ investigating the establishment of industries in the Federated Malay States, and the diseases that occur to plant and animal life, which makes the work of establishing industries not experimental, but sure and safe. In this way, the expenditure of a great deal of money by private individuals on useless experiment is avoided. These experiments are made for the general good, and for the saving of money to the central authorities. Is it not worth our while to develop our resources in the same way? Our resources are not confined to the land. We have on the South Coast, for instance, very extensive fishing grounds - probably the most extensive in the world - yet we are paying 2s. per lb. for fish which could be sold for 6d. or 8d. per lb. if proper means of catching and transport were available.^
– I direct the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that the matter which he is now discussing has not anything to do with the motion.
– I was merely pointing out one means bv which our natural resources might be developed, in order that the attention of honorable senators might be directed to the manner in which the Forest Products Laboratory has been handled by the Government. I commend my motion to the favorable consideration of honorable senators.
– I do not intend to deal with the various points raised by Senator Kingsmill, but I shall take steps to have his representations brought under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman), under whose control the Institute of Science and Industry is. I regret that I cannot agree to the honorable senator’s request that the papers be laid on the table of the Senate because they contain information of a confidential nature. The honorable senator is probably aware that the officers associated with this laboratory made investigations into other matters, apart from the manufacture of paper pulp from Australian timbers, and I am informed that in the course of this research work some important and valuable discoveries were made in regard to dyes, tanning materials, and other products. Senator Kingsmill will recognise that it would be improper to disclose that information. I am pleased, however, to be .able to inform the honorable senator that if he will call upon the Director of the Institute of Science and Industry ail the papers which are not of a confidential nature will be made available for his perusal. In view of this, I trust that he will be prepared to withdraw the motion.
Debate (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) adjourned.
The Clerk having called on the following notice of motion in the name of Senator Elliott: -
That the recommendation contained in the dissenting report of the Select .Committee of Inquiry into the. Discharge of Warrant-Officer J. R. Allen from the Australian Military Forces be adopted by the Senate.
– Senator Elliott not being present and the motion not being moved, it therefore lapses.
The Clerk having called on the following notice of motion in the name of Senator Elliott: -
That the Senate is of the opinion that the Parliament should not meet in Canberra until the Yass-Canberra railway line has been completed by the New South Wales Government, and until adequate accommodation has been provided there, not only for the members of the Parliament, hut also for the parliamentary and administrative staffs of the Commonwealth
– Senator Elliott not being present and the motion not being moved, it therefore lapses.
Adelaide to Brisbane Aerial Service - Canberra : Building Leases - Dumping Duty on Wire Netting.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Somite do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Government a matter which demands earnest attention. A few weeks ago I asked a series of questions in regard to a contract let by the late Government to the Larkin-Sopwith Company in connexion with an aerial service between Adelaide and Brisbane. The contract was let many months ago, and the time in which the service was to be commenced has long since elapsed. T have no desire to do the company any harm, but it appears to me that very little effort is being made to fulfil the terms of the contract into which they have entered with the Commonwealth. Government. I want it to be clearly understood that I do not think the Government has proceeded along sound lines in letting a contract of this description for the carriage of mails between the capital cities when that business is catered for by a fast express train service six days a week. Many parts of Australia are isolated, and this money could be spent to very much greater advantage in providing them with an aerial mail service. The total saving in time on the service between Sydney and Brisbane was anticipated to be only seven hours on each of two days a week. Considering the advantages conferred on those two cities by the telephone, the telegraph, and a fast train service, I do not think that this additional benefit was warranted. The company received an advance from the Commonwealth Government of £15,000, on what security I pm not aware. Evidently the Government which let the contract was satisfied that some security existed. Nevertheless, no step has been taken to fulfil the conditions of the contract. I am anxious to see every possible encouragement given to aviation, and I consider that the manner in which this contract has hung fire may operate against the making of contracts in the future. I trust that the Minister will believe that my remarks are prompted by a desire to se© every encouragement given to civil aviation. I urge upon him the necessity of having a thorough investigation made in order that either the service may be put into operation or the contract cancelled.
– Three months ago the Federal Cabinet met at Canberra, and it was stated in the press that it had been decided to compile a set of regulations dealing with the leasing of blocks for building purposes. Up to date, those regulations have not seen the light of day, due partly, I believe, to the Minister, and partly to the Department. Whoever is to blame, tha time which has elapsed is altogether too’ long. 1 ask the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) if he will ascertain who is to blame for this unreasonable and unnecessary delay. We learn from the London press, and from cablegrams that come from London, thatother persons are able to advertise their land for sale immediately, while at Canberra, the Government has deliberately closed down all progress by private enterprise. It is its intention, I relieve, to close down progress until 1st October next. Will the Minister promise to lock into the matter and inform the Senate at the earliest opportunity who is to blame?
– I draw the attention of the Senate to the reply which I received to-day from the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs to the following question which I submitted to him : -
If it is a fact that Parliament in 1922 removed the duty on wire netting imported from England, and in 1923 approved of a large sum of money being loaned to the State Governments free of interest for wire netting purposes, in order that the land-owners and land-workers might more successfully cope with rabbits, will he suspend the operation of the dumping duty on wire netting until after an opportunity is given to fully discuss and consider the question?
The reply which I received was that the operation of the dumping duty on wire netting cannotbe suspended; but that, should evidence be made available showing that the duty should not be imposed, the matter will be re-opened. As far as it goes’, that answer may appear to be all right; but to me it makes no appeal. In the first place, what kind of evidence would’ be required to satisfy the Minister that this dumping duty should not continue? We have had evidence to-day that wire netting has been imported from England, in fairly large quantities, to supply farmers and others in Australia, in order that they may make their runs vermin-proof. I understand that the imposition of the dumping duty was sanctioned by the Minister because it w as contended that this wire netting was being exported to Australia at a price lower than that at which it was being supplied for home consumption in England. I have been in communication with men who profess to know the ramifications of the wire netting industry in relation to English consumption, and I have been assured that the particular class of netting which is exported to Australia is used to only a very small extent in England.
– But the honorable senator did not complete the quotation ; it is “ for similar quantities.” That appears on the back of the invoice.
– I have not had the opportunity of seeing that, but I accept the assurance of the Minister that it is so.
– That is the declaration which is made.
– Does it follow that the express desire of the Australian Parliament is to be flouted by the Minister authorizing the imposition of a duty, which will make it more difficult for the lands of Australia to be utilized?
– But there are two expressions of opinion by the Parliament.
– There are three. One expression by Parliament was that there should beno duty, in order that the land worker might be able to obtain his netting at the lowest possible cost. It is our duty to see that production is increased, not decreased. Any attempt to increase the cost of materials necessary to render our land’s vermin -proof is a retrograde step. We should do our utmost to cheapen, in every way possible, the only article which has been found suitable for bringing about the result we desire. I know it will be contended that my remarks are opposed to the welfare of the workers engaged in the manufacture of wire netting in Australia, but it appears to me that the time has arrived to consider this matter from both aspects, and to see whether the good of a comparatively small portion or the community is to be considered before the welfare of a very large and, I claim, the most important section of the community. There is no doubt that the primary producers comprise the most important section of the people of Australia. If our primary production in any direction begins to decrease, we feel the effect from end to end of the continent. I do not want anything done which will hamper our farmers and land workers generally in their efforts to cope with a pest, which is a menace to the whole of Australia. In the locality in which I live, the NorthWest Coast of Tasmania, there are properties on which, a few years ago, one could not see a rabbit, but which are now infested with them. Land which was carrying cattle in large numbers has beenrendered practically useless because of the ravages of this pest. Land-owners, lessees, and workers expected to derive very great benefit from immunity from a Customs duty on wire netting, and from the very generous loan granted by the Federal Parliament with the object of ensuring adequate supplies of wire netting. I should like to see the matter discussed from every point of view. I feel certain that, if an opportunity is given which will lead to a practical result feeing, achieved, it will be found that the welfare of the minority must be subordinated to that of the majority.
– The. Tariff Board would have to be set aside. That is a big job.
– I feel sure that, when the measure was introduced to amend our Customs Tariff in relation to wire netting, it was not contemplated that so early as this a dumping duty would be imposed upon the very material which it was sought to cheapen. I have not had the opportunity to prepare my case, because it was only a few minutes ago that I received the printed answer to my question. I take advantage of this occasion to enter my protest against the continuance of the duty, and I trust that wiser counsels will prevail.
– I protest on behalf of Western Australia. If Tasmania has been hit hard, Western Australia is in a very much worse position. One of the “ benefits “bestowed on this happy land by the Navigation Act. under which we struggle, is that the freight from the source ofproduction in Australia of this wire netting to Western Australian ports is considerably greater than the freight on British wire netting from an English port to a Western Australian port. It will thus be seen how much more heavily this most unjust impost weighs upon the settlers of Western Australia. As a matter of fact, a state of very intense indignation exists in Western Australia at present. I have just received the following wire from the Western Australian Chamber of Commerce: -
Have wired Prime Minister protesting against duty on wire netting on the grounds that it is a breach of an undertaking given last year and an unfair impost on primary producers.
I hope that any reply the Minister may make will be in the nature of stating that the Government wishes to reconsider this matter. Surely, with the bounding Customs revenue that is being received, the Government can well afford toforego this little impost in order to carry out its own scheme for assisting the settlers by giving grants to the various State Governments for the purchase of wire netting.
: - I shall have the remarks of Senator Payne and Senator Kingsmill brought under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman).
– I shall bring the representations of Senator Foll, in regard to the aerial service between Brisbane and Adelaide, under the notice of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden). As to Senator Grant’s remarks, Ihave nothing to add to the intimation I have already made that theGovernment is expediting the drafting of the Ordinance for the regulation of the leasing of land in the FederalCapital Territory. Thenecessary facilities will be made available at the earliest possible moment. In repute the honorable senator’s statement that while the Government is hesitating over this matter, privately-owned land is being offered for sale, I point out that no land in the Federal Capital Territory is being sold. The land advertised in London as available for purchase is not within the boundaries of the Territory.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 May 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1924/19240508_senate_9_106/>.