9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Charges in the Sydney “ Labour Daily.” - Grievances of Officers.
– Has the Leader of the Senate received a telegram from The Labour Daily newspaper, Sydney, denying the truth of his statement ill the Senate last Friday that Mr. Moorhouse was offered by that newspaper a salary of£8 8s. per week ? If so, is he prepared to make a statement on the subject ?
– I have received a telegram from The Labour Daily, Sydney, in which that newspaper attributes to’ me the statement that it had made the offer to Moorhouse. My statement to the Senate on Friday last was to the effect that Mr. Moorhouse came to the Department, and in the presence of two officers of the Department, who have made a signed statement on the subject, said that he had been offered by The Labour Daily, of Sydney, an engagement for six months at £8 8s. per week. In reply to the telegram received from The LabourDaily, I quoted from Hansard the words which I had usedto the Senate, and suggested that if it wished to challenge the accuracy of the statement, the person to whom it should direct its attention was not myself, but Mr. Moorhouse.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories say whether Mr. Moorhouse paid him a visit recently, whether he has been re-employed as an officer of the Now Guinea Administration; and, if so, has the Expropriation Board or the Government paid his return fare to New Guinea?
– To rny knowledge, Ihave never met Mr. Moorhouse. He visited the Department and interviewed two officers - Messrs. Carradus andHalligan - whose names I mentioned in the Senate on Friday last.
So far as I know, Mr. Moorhouse has not, ceased bo be an officer of the New Guinea Administration.
– In view of the Minister’s latest statement, and the statement made by him on Friday last, does he consider Mr. Moorhouse a fit person to be a member of the Commonwealth Public Service?
– We have the statement by Mr. Moorhouse and the denial by The Labour Daily. We have to judge between the two.
– If I may be permitted, I should now like to ask the Minister for Home and Territories if he did not make the statement attributed to him : that Mr. Moorhouse said that if the money had been forthcoming he would have made a statement concerning faulty administration in New Guinea?
– No . If the honorable member will refer to Hansard, he will see that my statement with regard to Mr. Moorhouse had relation to a statement made by him to Mr. Carradus and Mr. Halligan.
– Has the Minister received a lengthy document from the Secretary of the Civil Service Association in New Guinea ; and, if so, is he prepared to lay it on the table of the Senate ?
– I have received quite a number of documents from the Civil Service Association of New Guinea. If the honorable senator will indicate the one to which he refers, I may perhapsbe able to answer his question.
– I am referring to the one which, I understand., was presented to Senator Crawford during his recent visit to New Guinea, setting put the grievances of members of the Civil Service Association stationed at Rabaul.
– I ask the honor-‘ able senator to give notice of his question.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been drawn to the statement made by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) that if the Federal Country party organization did not endorse the pact between the National and Country parties,he would resign from the Leadership of that party? In view of the fact that the pact has not been endorsed by the Country Party Conference, can he say whether Dr. Earle Page intends to resign his portfolio as Treasurer, and also the leadership of the Federal Country party ?
– These incursions into the domestic affairs of our respective parties are, no doubt, very interesting ; but I suggest that if the honorable senator directs his attention to certain incidents in connexion with the domestic affairs of his own party in New South Wales, he will probably be better employed.
– That is not an answer to my question.
– On the same subject, I should like to ask the Minister if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the pact between the respective leaders in the composite Ministry has been referred to a special meeting of both parties, with a view to re-assuring and restoring confidence in high financial circles? Can the Minister state that if both the National and the Country parties reject the pact, the Government will carry on business as usual?
– I repeat the advice which I have just given to Senator Needham. In the honorable senator’s case, that advice, I think, is even more appropriate.
S ydne y-Newc astle-Ma itland Telegraph Cable.
Senator REID brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence and plan, relating to the proposed provision of a telegraph cable between Sydney and Newcastle and Newcastle and West Maitland.
Amount of Duty Paid
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
SenatorPEARCE.- There is no official record of any persons having arrived under contract at Sydney from Great Britain during the period mentioned.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will the provision of letter-boxes bythe people be a means of reducing the number of postal employees?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
There will be no reduction in the number of postal employees as a result of the provision of letter-boxes on the lines stipulated in the Department’s regulations, but it is anticipated there will be an appreciable improvement in service.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
– Would I be in order, Mr. President, in asking for a definite answer to my question ?
– The question cannot be debated. When questions without notice are being asked, an honorable senator is entitled to submit a supplementary question, but the time for so doing has now passed.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determina tions by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 19 of 1924- General Division of Officers’ Union, Trade and Customs Department.
No. 21 of 1924- Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 23 of 1924- Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1923-24- Dated 11th June, 1924.
International Labour Conference - Recommendation re Factory Inspection adopted at Fifth Session, held at Geneva, October, 1923.
Lands Acquisition Act - Notifications of Land acquired for Postal purposes -
New South Wales - Enfield; Maroubra Junction; Stockton.
South Australia - Port Noarlunga.
Tasmania - Lower Sandy Bay.
Victoria - Derrinallum.
Northern Territory - Ordinance No. 14 of 1924- Dingo Destruction.
– I move-
That Ordinance No.6 of 1924, entitled “ City Leases Ordinance,” be disallowed.
I do not wish to convey the impression that all the clauses in the Ordinances are faulty, but there are so many objectionable features in this Ordinance that it. should be disallowed, and a new one submitted. At a very early stage in the history of Federation an almost unanimous desire was expressed by all parties that the land in the Federal Capital Territory should not be disposed of, but should be leased, and, therefore, remain for all time the property of the Commonwealth. One of the first statements I noticed in regard to this matter was over the names of Samuel Smith and Donald Macdonnell, and read -
The site for the Federal Capital should be decided at the earliest possible moment. The land must remain the property of the Government for all time. Periodic re-appraisements should be made, so that the constantly increasing values put upon the land by the growth of this city and the development of the nation should be credited to those who create it.
So far as I can recollect, that principle was supported by all parties. At a later date the Seat of Government (Administration) Act was passed. In section 9 of that Act it is definitely provided that the freehold of the land in the Territory shall not be disposed of, but that the land shall be made available under the leasehold system. For a number of years nothing was done, but in 1911 a commencement was made with the issue of Ordinances and regulations, and that practice was continued until 1921. Despite the fact that many Ordinances and regulations were issued, land was not made available, and, consequently, could not be utilized. The first Ordinance, published in 1911, was a very vague document, but in. it expression was given to the principle embodied in the Seat of Government (Administration) Act that the freehold of the land should, not be disposed of. Amongst other things it was provided that the Minister should appraise the value of the land, the rental value of which should be at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum. Fortunately, no land was disposed of under those conditions. Later, the regulations were “ amended, but nothing was done. The only effort prior to the present one was in 1921, when a City Leases Ordinance was issued by the then Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Poynton), in which the period for which lauds could be leased was set down at 99 years. Various clauses of the Ordinance were framed, apparently with a view to protect the .interests of the Commonwealth. But fortunately, even under that Ordinance nothing a.t all was done. We now come to the latest effort made by the Government in this matter. At a meeting held at Yarralumla House on the 31st January this year, Cabinet decided to amend the City Leases Ordinance, and it has now produced this proposed amending Ordinance, which should be rejected for a number of reasons. Any land-owner, who attempts to dispose of his property, usually takes very good care to advertise the sale by the publication of substantial advertisements, by. lithographs, or by many of the other methods known to land dealers. The Government propose nothing of that sort, but merely to insert an advertisement in the Government Gazette.
– Who told the honorable senator that?
– Paragraph 2 of clause 3a, says that the Minister shall cause to be published in the Gazette at least fourteen days prior to the date of any sale a notice setting forth the date, time, and place of the proposed sale. There is nothing at all in the proposed Ordinance, as far as I can see, to make it mandatory on the part of the Government to give any further advertisement of the sale of leases at Canberra than the mere publication of a notice in the Government Gazette.
– The honorable senator does not think that, the Government propose to do no more than that ?
– Even that will be ample and sufficient under the proposed Ordinance. The Ordinance should be amended so as to make it compulsory on the part of the Government to give a very much wider publicity to the sale of leases at Canberra. I should like to make quite certain that the public will be provided, if they so desire, with a lithograph showing the area and location of each block to be sold.
– The honorable senator need not worry about that; there will be ample publicity.
– Up to date the publicity given to the proposed sale of these leases has been very trivial indeed.
– The amending Ordinance was only laid on the table last Friday, and the honorable senator promptly gave notice of motion that it be disallowed. With that motion impending, the honorable senator could not expect the Government to take any action.
– The honorable senator ought to know that this proposed Ordinance was published some considerable time ago in the Government Gazette.
– That was only a notification of the intention to amend the Ordinance.
– The publication of this Ordinance in the Gazette enabled me to ascertain its exact contents, and when the Minister tabled it, I lost no time in giving notice that it be disallowed. Formerly the Minister placed a value on the land, and on that valuation rental had to be paid. Considerable development has taken place since that time, and now quite rightly it has been decided to dispose of the leases of blocks of land at Canberra by auction, and that the highest bidder shall bo the purchaser. With that portion of the amending- Ordinance I Quite agree, arid also that the rent should be paid annually in advance.
– The honorable senator desires that there shall be an upset price fixed by the Department ?
– That is not so. I desire that the prospective purchaser shall bid at auction, and thus fix the price.
– The honorable senator desires that there shall be a minimum price fixed by the Department below which the lease cannot be sold.
– I presume that the Government itself will take pood care that the leases shall not be disposed of for a mere bagatelle.
– I thought that was the advice that you were giving to the Government.
– I should not be prepared to dispose of the leases, without some such provision, if only a fortnight’s notice of the sale had to be given, but, if the sale were widely advertised, I should be prepared to forgo entirely the fixing of a minimum price as suggested by the honorable senator.
– Why does the honorable senator refer to a fortnight’s notice ? One would think that the sale was to take place in a fortnight’s time.
– The clause provides that fourteen days’ notice, published in the Gazette, shall be sufficient.
– It was announced that the sale would not take place earlier than the 1st October, 1924.
– That statement appeared in the daily press. It may be common knowledge to certain people, but not many of the general public are aware that the 1st October has been decided upon.
– When the amending Ordinance is passed, the Government will make an announcement.
– These objections, important as they are, fade into insignificance compared with my main objections to the proposed Ordinance. One objection is to the proposed period between the date of the sale and the first re-appraisement. Paragraph 1, clause 3c reads -
The unimproved value of any land leased in pursuance of section 3a of this Ordinance shall be re-appraised by the prescribed authority at the expiration of the twentieth year from the commencement of the lease and at the expiration of each period of ten years thereafter, and upon any such re-appraisement being effected thelessee shall pay as rent 5 per centum of the re-appraised value, or such value as is determined on appeal in pursuance of this Ordinance.
It is my desire, and I presume that of every honorable senator, that the lessee shall be required to pay to the Commonwealth a fair rental value for each of the leases purchased, and that the Commonwealth shall receive annually a fair rental value. But it is proposed to sell the leases of these blocks at auction to the highest bidder, with no re-appraisement for 20 years. I deny that any one in this Commonwealth, or anywhere else, is capable of correctly estimating what the values of these blocks will be even five years hence. To fix their value ten, fifteen, or twenty years ahead, is entirely beyond any one’s ability, and any attempt to do so will be unfair to the lessee. It is remotely passible that many of the blocks in the Territory will not increase in’ value a great deal, even for the next 20 years; but, on the other hand, it is almost certain that a phenomenal increase will take place in the value of every block in Canberra itself. I submit that it is not fair to the Commonwealth that a limited number of individuals, whoever they may be, should secure the lease of this land for the long period of 20 years at its present rental value. It is quite true that the price paid may be too high or too low. To get over that difficulty, what is the remedy ?
– The blocks have no real rental value at present. They have merely a prospective rental value.
– It is impossible to say what the value is, because the Government has taken good care not to submit any of the land to auction. The moment it does that it will be discovered that in the opinion of a considerable number of people the land has a very substantial rental value, even at the present time.
– We hope so.
– We all hope so. There is no desire on my part to deprive the lessee or the Commonwealth of anything to which they are entitled. The Government should receive the full rental value, no more and no less, and that cannot be obtained by leasing the land for 20 years at a fixed rental, with reappraisements every ten years thereafter. I may be permitted to refer briefly to the experience of the Queensland Government in making land available on the leasehold principle.
– City land?
– I should call it suburban land. About the year 1918, in pursuance of its leasehold policy, the Queensland Government made available in the municipality of Coolangatta a strip of country along the sea coast, about a mile in length. The leases of the blocks were put up and sold to the highest bidder, but no improvement conditions were imposed. Every block was promptly annexed, and they have remained private property ever since. The land was leased at the rent fixed for a preliminary period of fifteen’ years, and thereafter, I think, it was to be re-appraised in ten-yearly periods. Although a mile of frontages was made available on one of the best beaches in the Commonwealth, not more than about 20 houses have been erected on it to this day. The object of the Queensland Government was the same as that of the Federal Government at Canberra in the present instance.
– The law is different, because the Commonwealth proposes to compel the lessees to build within two years.
– Not quite.
– They can obtain a year’s extension of time for special reasons.
– The object of the Queensland Government was to induce the lessees to build on the land, but the effect of the failure to impose improvement conditions was quickly made apparent. When the next mile of land was offered, in the direction of Coolangatta, a condition was imposed that improvements to the value of not less than £25 must be made on each block. Again, the whole of the blocks were at once snapped up, and they have remained practically unimproved for five years. The only improvements placed on them by the lessees were in the nature of fences. A fence can by no stretch of the imagination be regarded as a home, and to-day a very large portion of the second mile is merely fenced, the object of the Queensland Government having again been practically thwarted.
– That Government did not shut out the traffickers in land ; but under’ the laws obtaining in the Federal Territory we are almost bound to keep out the speculator.
– In connexion with the first mile, the speculator was present in all his glory, although there was to be a re-appraisement at the end of fifteen years. In the case of the second mile, the provision of improvement conditions was somewhat of a deterrent to the speculator, but it was not very effective. When the third section w.as offered about three years ago, a condition was laid down that the lessee should expend £25 in improvements, and “ improvement “ was held to mean that the lessee must erect a building.- This precaution had the desired effect, and practically the whole of the land in the last mile has been built upon-.
– How did the price of the last land allotted compare with the price on the first occasion ‘?
– I understand that the average price in the first instance was £50 per block, and on that a rental of 3 per cent., or 30s., was charged. The average price .realized at auction in connexion with the third section was £100 per block, and the interest charged was 3 per cent. The point I desire to make is thai even in this short time the blocks disposed of at the first sale have changed hands, in some cases, more than once at a substantial increase in price. But the benefit of added value has not gone to the Government of Queensland, which, although it is a Labour Administration, would, I believe, be glad of a little extra revenue occasionally. The increment has gone to those who acquired the land in the first place, not for building, but merely for speculative purposes. A similar thing happened in regard to the second subdivision. In one case a Mrs. Skinner bought three blocks on the third mile, and, believing she was acting in accordance with the regulations, built a substantial residence in the middle of the three blocks leased by her, but the Government did not regard the fact of her having built one home on the central block as a fulfilment of the provisions of the Act. and it took the necessary steps to make her forfeit the two remaining blocks. When the latter were put up to auction one fetched £400 and the other £460. Thus the value increased within about three years by nearly 400 per cent. The same increase can reasonably be expected to take place at Canberra. I desire to see the twenty-year period set aside and one of five years substituted, re-appraisements to be made at intervals not greater than five years. That would not prevent any person from becoming the lessee of one of these blocks, but on the contrary, it would provide him with the assurance of an early readjustment of the rental if in the first place it had been fixed too high. Some time ago, in Sydney, the leasesof certain lands were submitted to auction.” Included in the conditions was the stipulation that seven guineas should be paid for the transfer of the lease. It was also laid down that rates and taxes - local, State and Federal - present and prospective must be paid by the lessee. Despite those conditions some of the blocks brought at auction as much as £2 per foot per annum. With the addition of rates and taxes, that amount would probably be increased to not less than £3 per foot per annum. I consider that the lessees paid too highly. As a matter of fact, a large portion of the land has not yet been utilized for building purposes. Every block leased at Canberra should, at the earliest possible moment, be put to the use for which it is intended. It is quite true that a clause of the Ordinance states that building must be commenced within two years. There is, however, a proviso thatthe time may, with the consent of the Minister, be extended. There is nothing of a sacred nature about the term of a lease - it may be for 25 years, 20 years, 15 years, 10 years or 5 years- but there is a substantial reason for taking the- proper steps at this, the most important stage, to ensure that the tenant on the one hand and the Commonwealth on the other shall get a fair deal. I do not expect that a very large rental will be paid for these blocks, but I do anticipate -that their value will increase substantially; and as that increase will not have been brought about by the tenant - except to an infinitesimal extent-the Commonwealth ought to reap the full benefit. That will not be possible if a lease is granted for 20 years; the term should, therefore, be fixed at 5 years, with re-appraisement of rental every subsequent 5 years. I offer no objection to the clause dealing with appeals against re-appraisement. The last clause is somewhat new in character, and is very interesting. It provides -
After section live of the Principal Ordinance the following section is inserted: - “ 5a. -(1.) The Minister may, subject to this section, grant leases of land for church purposes. “ (3.) Leases under this section shall be subjectto the following conditions : -
That, I think, could be amended advantageously by providing that the Minister may grant leases for the purposes of a Trades Hall or a School of Arts.
-Or a hall for the National Federation?
– Quite so; or a hall for the Australian Labour party.
– The Single Tax League also might be provided for.
– That is a most important body. Honorable senators will notice that the phraseology of this Ordiance frequently accords with the principles laid down by Henry George. There is not in it any provision so ridiculous in its nature as that which disgraces the municipal laws of the city of Melbourne. In this city, if a person builds a home he is immediately pounced upon and, by the imposition of a tax on improvements, is fined every year by the City Council.”
– Yet no sooner is the Ordinance promulgated than the honorable senator evinces a desire to “ slaughter “ it.
– Portions of the Ordinance are all right, but it also contains provisions thatare exceedingly objectionable andwhich will, for a time, withhold from the Commonwealth the benefits that are expected ‘to accrue under’ it. I suggest to theMinister that the last clausebe amended to provide that theTrades Hall be granted an area of 5 acres.
– Would not the honorable senator also make provision for the other organizations to which he referred?
– I have no objection to that course being followed.
– Limited only by the acreage available?
– About 1,000 square miles of land are available, and are being held out of use at the present time. On my recent visit to Queensland I consulted Messrs. A. Meyes (Billinga), G. Dixon (Currumbin), A. E. Mills, and F. S. Charles (Tugan), and W. Lockwood (Billinga), secretary of the progress association. I was careful to ascertain from them the exact position. I am satisfied, and my views are supported by those gentlemen, that what is desired is that, just as in Queensland, the land at Canberra shall be used for the purpose intended, and that the full rental value of each block - no more and no less - shall by some means be secured to the Commonwealth. That will not happen if the twenty -year period is persisted in. I defy any man to correctly gauge the value of these leases even for a very much shorter period than twenty years. I take it that every honorable senator desires to see building operations proceeded with at Canberra. So far as I know the Government does not intend to build all the homes that will be required; it is its intention to give private individuals an opportunity to build homes for themselves and with that object to make land available on the easiest possible terms. In my opinion it has failed to do so. Every effort made elsewhere to make land available under the leasehold principle, unless building conditions have been attached, has been more or less a failure. A glaring case was brought under my notice quite recently by Mr. Hardacre of Queensland. The Secretary of the Waterside Workers’ Federation at Rock- hampton urgently requested the Ministry of the day to make available under the leasehold principle 30 blocks near the town. The sale took place, and as no conditions were laid down the whole of the blocks were annexed by a local land and estate agent, and have remained out of use ever since. I do not wish to see that experience repeated in Canberra. I desire the blocks to be built on at the earliest possible moment. I understand that there are about 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 bricks: available for building purposes, that the sewerage works are nearing completion, that the water supply is available, and that, generally speaking, modern conveniences have been provided for people who may desire to reside inCanberra. All that is required is that the land shall be leased on terms fair to the leaseholder and to the Commonwealth. My object in asking the Senate to disallow the regulation is to secure an improvement in the conditions. The first Ordinance was faulty. Those issued up to date, including that promulgated by Mr. Poynton when he was Minister for Home and Territories, also contain many faults. The Ordinance which I am now discussing is an improvement on previous Ordinances, but still it is far from being all that I want it to be. I impress upon the Leader of the Senate the value of the teachings of Henry George, which he has permitted to be overlain by these noxious Protectionist weeds. I remind him that the rental value of the lands of this country should belong to the people. The land at Canberra is the property of the Commonwealth, and it is utterly wrong to allow people to get possession of it without re-appraisement for 20 years, even in competition with their fellow citizens. On these grounds I urge that the Ordinance be disallowed and that the Government be requested to bring in a fresh Ordinance at the earliest possible moment, on the lines I have indicatd.
– I thought that, if there was one piece of legislation which should receive the hearty endorsement of the honorable senator it was this Ordinance to which he now takes exception. When he placed his motion on the notice-paper I was puzzled to know what possible objection he could find in the Ordinance, because it seemed to be quite in conformity with the many speeches which he had delivered in the Senate on this subject of land legislation. As he proceeded this afternoon I began to wonder whether he had not really made a mistake and whether, after all, he had not intended to commend the Government for the Ordinance. Nearly the whole of his preliminary remarks were really in support of the Ordinance and the principle contained in it. When we come to analyse his speech, however, there is apparently one point, or possibly two - certainly not more than two - upon which he joins issue with the Government. One is upon the question of re-appraisement.
– An important point.
– The honorable senator’s reference to the difficulties experienced in Queensland go by the board for the simple reason that the Queensland law is not the same as this Ordinance or the regulations.
– The last section was.
– The honorable senator is wrong.
– Where is the difference ?
– I shall tell the honorable senator. In clause 4 of the regulations it is provided that the land shall be leased, subject to the following conditions: -
Minister is erected on the land, the erection of a building suitable for the purpose for which the lease is granted shall be commenced within one year after the granting of the lease.
That is not contained in the Queensland law -
That, too, is not in the Queensland law.
– In one section of the Queensland Act there is that provision, which was overridden because the blocks were not built on.
– The fact is, those provisions are not in the Queensland Act. Then, also, we have this condition -
There is the further provision that any building erected on the land must be maintained during the currency of the lease, and shall be kept in a state of repair satisfactory to the Minister; that the lease shall not be mortgaged until the building has been completed, and that the land must not be subdivided during the currency of the lease. What the honorable senator has been talking about as having happened in Queensland could not happen in Canberra, because, if. they were not built upon, the blocks would be forfeited. The conditions of the lease would not have been carried out. So much for that objection. In regard to re-appraisement, I take it that our desire is to attract the necessary population to Canberra and to make effective the occupation of the city by providing all the requirements for the civil population. It is obvious that, as Canberra is not yet a city, we cannot speak of its lands in the same terms as land in, say, Melbourne or Sydney. In both these capital cities considerable areas are leased by private enterprise on building leases. We must presume that private enterprise knows its business, and yet - we know, because, in the Home and. Territories Department, we have to deal with many of these lands - the leasehold conditions contain no provision for reappraisement during the whole term of a lease. Under this Ordinance we are not doing that. We are providing for reappraisements.
– But at long periods
– We have done that because, the shorter the periods, the less attractive will be the leases.
– That is open to question.
– “One objection urged against the principle of leaseholds is insecurity of tenure. Everybody, we are told, likes a freehold because of the security of ownership it gives. Undoubtedly this principle of reappraisement introduces an element of insecurity, since if in a lease for 99 years there is a condition that it shall be subject to re-appraisement in 20 years’ time, the rent may be so raised as the result of re-appraisements, that the land may cease to be profitable to the lessee.
– I do not think that is likely to happen.
– It is a factor that counts in all leasehold propositions.
– Not where the Government is the owner of the land.
– Yes, even in those circumstances. I remember what happened in South Australia when the Kingston Government made available what were known as working-men’s blocks. No doubt honorable senators from that State will remember the outcome of that experiment. I think Senator O’Loghlin was a member of the Government at the time.
– No; that was before I joined the Kingston Government.
– The Kingston Government allotted a number of blocks of land on leasehold to working men who were unemployed at the time. The men, the majority of whom were ‘members of the Labour party, were all enthusiastic believers in the principle, but they soon banded themselves together ‘ and agitated for the freehold of their blocks. So effective was their organization that they were able to defeat the Labour member who represented their district because he would not give way on the question of freehold instead of leasehold. I cite that as evidence of the desire of people for security of tenure. Notwithstanding the liberal conditions that were laid down at the time, the men were not satisfied until they got the freehold of their blocks. Therefore, I hold that if we wish to attract capital to Canberra, and to ensure the building of the necessary shops and offices as well as homes for the people, we should make the leasehold conditions as attractive as possible.
– Does the Minister fear that 20 years’ hence the rent will be too high?
– No; but a lessee, I have no doubt, always lias that fear. At all events, there is au important difference between leasehold and freehold conditions. Most of* the cities of Australia have been built on the freehold principle, whereas in Canberra we shall bo starting an experiment to build a city on the leasehold system. If the conditions are unattractive there will not bc that competition which we look for to ensure the payment of a fair economic rent for the land, and there will not be a sufficient investment of capital, with the result that we shall get a poorer class of building. The more attractive we make the leaseholds the . better chance there will be of inducing people with capital to build shops/ offices, and houses in the Capital city. For these reasons the Government decided that the the first, reappraisement should be at the end of 20 year3. 17or the first five years of that period, it must be remembered, the city will be practically growing, and, therefore, the lessees will. not be able to expect much in the way of return for their capital. After the first five years lessees will probably get some returns from their leaseholds.
– The leases will be negotiable.
– But in regard to their negotiability they will be hampered by the knowledge .that there will be a large area of other land, equally valuable, remaining iri the hands of the Government, and which the Government will seek to make available as soon as possible. This factor, I suggest, will destroy any speculative value which these city lands may have in the early years of the growth of the Capital city.
– Their only value will be the use value.
– They cannot have much speculative value, because of the operation of the well-known principle, as expounded by Henry George, that scarcity of land gives to it its speculative value. The city lands will represent only a small portion of the Federal Capital area. They will be surrounded by similar land, which “will be made available as the demand increases. For the first five or ten years there will be little speculative value attaching to the land, but thereafter, if the city grows as we hope it will, the speculative value may have to be considered, and there will be the ten-year period of re-appraisement. The Government feel that that is a fair period. It gives some security It is fair to the tenant and to the landlord. The only point upon which Senator Grant appears to join issue with us is as to this period of re-appraisement.
– It is an important one.
– We have endeavoured to hold the balance fairly, and I nsk the Senate not to agree to the motion.
– What are the terms of re-appraisement in regard to pastoral lands in the Territory?
– T do not think the terms have been fixed, but I think leases are being given for 5, 10, and 25 year periods. For various reasons pastoral lands will not be leased for long periods. As we wish to make Canberra a success, to attract capital, and to induce people to make their homes there, we should make the conditions as favorable as possible. As we are building a city on leasehold land for the first time in Australia, let ns not in our desire to follow the pathway of theory load these leaseholds with conditions that will make them so unattractive that the people will not settle there.
.- The only reason which prompted me to second the motion submitted by Senator Grant was the chief point raised by the honorable senator in regard to the period of re-appraisement. Notwithstanding what the Minister (Senator Pearce) has said, I still think the period is too long. The Ordinance under consideration deals only with city lands, and. we may presume that the first land to be leased will be that in what is likely to become the business centre.
– Small portions of the business area and also a small portion of the residential area will be offered.
– It is difficult to say what will become the business centre.
– The business centre is governed by the lay-out of the city.
– The land first leased for business purposes will more rapidly increase in value. The fact that large areas will be available in other portions of the city will not affect the price of the blocks already leased in the business centre. I do not wish to do anything to deter settlement and building activities generally, but it occurred to me that it might be possible for a few individuals fortunate enough to secure blocks in the business centre to reap large profits as a result of negotiations before the period of reappraisement arrives. I still think it would be wise for the Government to reduce the period to ten years, with further reappraisements every ten years.
– It is quite true, as the Minister (Senator Pearce) states, that my main objection to the Ordinance is that leases are to be held for 20 years without reappraisement and that thereafter there are to be re-appraisements every ten years. I should have preferred leases to be granted for five years, as in those circumstances the lessees and the Government would both have a fair deal. The Minister is somewhat in error as to the statement I made in respect to the leases in the Coolangatta municipality, because the first term is for fifteen years, and in the short period of three years some leases have appreciated in value to the extent of 400.per cent. If the capital makes the progress we hope it will, these leases will appreciate to an even greater extent; and it is not fair that the lessees should have the use of the land without paying its full rental value. I understand that under another regulation a local rate will be imposed on the value fixed when a lease is granted, and not on the then value of the lease. If such is the case, one man may be paying local rates on a block valued at £200, and another on a similar adjoining block, which is valued at only £100. It is to rectify anomalies of that character that re-appraisements at shorter periods are necessary. The Minister might have dealt with the suggestion that it should be competent for the Minister under regulations to make, say, 5 acres available for the erection of a Trades Hall. Under the proposed Ordinance it will, I presume, be competent for those interested to acquire a block for that purpose. I trust the Senate will support the motion which I have submitted.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 13th June (vide page 1237), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I notice in the schedule of the Bill that the sum of £500,000 is to be spent on the construction and extension of telegraphs and telephones, the construction of conduits, and the laying of wires underground. I believe the Post and Telegraph ‘Department will show a profit this year, and if that is the case I am wondering why some of the money proposed to be expended from loan should not be taken out of revenue. To-day I asked if the Government had considered what would be the cost to the people of supplying themselves with letter-boxes, as I was anxious to know what the aggregate cost to the people would be. Personally, I think it will be in the vicinity of £200,000. According to the Minister’s statement letter-boxes can be obtained at a very reasonable rate, but even if that is the case, the total amount coming out of the pockets of the people will be very large, and the. cost should be met out of the money proposed to be raised. According to the Minister’s statement the only benefit derived by the Department will he a little saving in overtime, but the responsibility placed upon . the people is out of all proportion to the benefit to be gained. In a service such as the Post and Telegraph Department, which is borrowing money to construct public works, and. showing a profit, it very often happens that by placing certain items, such, for instance, as the cost of door locks, under the heading of new works, a credit for the year’s operations is shown, because such items are paid out of the Loan Fund.
– That would be charged against maintenance and paid out of revenue.
– I realize that it would not come under this loan of £500,000. An improvement in the supply of telephones and in the system itself is long overdue. For years the public have waited for telephones. A huge Department such as the Postal Department should manufacture its own telephones. I can see nothing extraordinary in the make-up of telephones to prevent their construction by the Department. Under the loan system we are not quite so far behind in supplying telephones as we were a few years ago, but no person who wants a telephone can make application to the Department and expect to have it installed within a few days. He has to wait his turn, which, in many cases, is too long.
– It is not more than six months !
– I thank the honorable senator forhis interjection. Unfortunately an applicant has to wait a considerable time before he can obtain a telephone. I have been asked by many people in Sydney to interview the Department to see if the installation of telephones could not be expedited, but generally it has very good reasons for delays. A concern like the Post Office, dealing with rapidly-growing cities, such as Sydney, should have on hand a considerable number of telephones so as to be able to meet all demands at short notice. I cannot imagine any private business of a similar magnitude making inadequate provision to meet its customers’ requirements. Telephones are not given away. To my mind, therental value is about the capital value, if not more. At any rate, it would be about the cost of a telephone if it were manufactured by the Department under an efficient system. I ask the Minister to say in reply whether the amount included in this Loan Bill has already been expended. If not, and if the expenditure is for this year, there is very little hope of doing anything between now and the end of the financial year, but, if the money has been expended, then all we have to do is to give the Government authority for spending it. I congratulate the Minister for giving honorable senators an opportunity of even discussing the Bill. If the work has been done and the money paid, it is quite in keeping with the financial methods of the present Government. It is a long way behind in its system of borrowing money for work of this description. With its banking system it could have well arranged to finance matters of this kind without going to the public for money that private individuals require for the development of their businesses, lands, and other purposes. The Government should borrow as little as possible, particularly when -other sources of revenue are open to it. It is evident that there must be a huge surplus, and the working class will this year pay to the Government, through the Customs Tariff, a tax of about £36,000,000. When suchan amount can be taken from hard-earned incomes, then surely an amount of £500,000 for the improvement of the postal services may well be placed upon the shoulders of people more able to bear it.
– What an extraordinary policy!
– An extraordinary thing may happen between the present time and the next general election. The honorable senator is supporting a Government that must fall, since it has failed to consider the people’s interests. It must go the way of the British Conservative Government, the French Government, the Japanese Government, the Western Australian Government, the South Australian Government, and what looks to me will be the way of the South African Government.
– Including the British Government.
– That Government was the first to feel the weight of public opinion. I do not know whether I should warn this Government or allow it to go unheedingly to its fate. But nothing can prevent the fall of any Government that borrows money when it is unnecessary, thus adding to the burden of the working class and allowing the profiteers to go free. Surely this Government could introduce a cash system of conducting its business concerns. The Postal Department is purely a business concern.
– Cash on delivery.
– In many respects it is cash on delivery. If the Postal Department is earning revenue over and above the cost of management, that surplus revenue might very well be used for the purposes of this Loan Bill. We are passing this measure as a matter of form, but we should have a better business method of dealing with loan moneys. Could not the Government have anticipated, when the last Loan Bill was being discussed, that it would require this additional amount of loan money? It is not only a big margin of expenditure but also an evidence of a lack of business capacity in estimating what works are to be carried out from loan moneys, and evidence of an extravagant administration. We have reached the period when money is borrowed indiscriminately, in the belief that the next generation or somebody else can bear the burden. It is time that that system was ended. What better action could we take than to use the surplus revenue of the Postal Departmentto increase the postal, telegraphic and telephonic facilities? I for get for the moment whether it was last year or the beginning of the present year when the Government reduced the postage rate. If no reduction had then been made, there would have been no occasion to borrow £500,000, as the people having the benefit of the postal service would have subscribed enough to meet present requirements. I shall be pleased to learn from the Minister whether this money has been expended.
.- There is an item in the Bill dealing with proposed expenditure on works, services, and the acquisition of land in the Federal Capital Territory. I desire to refer to certain expenditure at Canberra, more particularly in connexion with the erection of various buildings.’ I had the opportunity recently of visiting the Federal Capital, and I was very pleased to notice the rapid progress being made in the erection of dwelling houses, but I was appalled when I learned the cost of an ordinary four or five-roomed residence. There is no justification for such a building costing considerably more at Canberra than it does in Melbourne or its suburbs, especially in view of the fact that we have at Canberra one of the finest deposits in Australia of raw material for the manufacture of bricks and tiles. The bricks made on the spot are equal if not superior to any firstclass bricks obtainable in Melbourne or Sydney, and this fact should tend to cheapen construction. I understand that the average cost of a five-roomed dwelling at Canberra is in the neighbourhood- of £1,100, and that a four-roomed house costs £900 or £950.
– A house of that size could not be obtained for very much less in any city of Australia.
– I think it could in Melbourne.
– They are not built for less in Sydney.
– I am afraid that the rental it will be necessary to charge for buildings erected at such a cost will be too great, in proportion to the earnings of the average workman at Canberra, to ensure to him a fair standard of comfort. People acquainted with the building trade there admit that the cost of the houses is too high. I concede that the cost of timber at Canberra is greater than it is in Melbourne or Sydney because of the charge for transit, bub some effort should be made to reduce the general building costa in view of the fact that bricks and tiles are manufactured near the site of the works.
I cannot understand why Senator Gardiner makes statements that are misleading, and are, I believe, intended to mislead the masses of the people, when he suggests that the bulk of the taxation in Australia is paid by the working classes, whilst the wealthy are allowed to escape their fair measure of taxation. The assertion does not accord with the facts.
– Those who work are the only people who pay anything.
– Eighty per cent, of the Commonwealth taxation is contributed by less than 10 per cent, of the people, so that 90 per cent, escape what might be termed heavy direct taxation.
In no direction could loan money be more justifiably expended than in the extension of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities, since these are of benefit not to one section only, but to the whole community. Telephones are the lifeblood of a city like Melbourne, and I am anxious to see them provided as speedily as possible for all who require them. I take it that one of the items in the Bill is for the purpose of carrying out the speeding-up policy in connexion with telephone services. After all, this is not an expenditure the result of which will disappear within the next year or two. It can, therefore, reasonably be met by the sinking fund provided for it, and, by the time the work has outlived its usefulness, payment for it will have been made.
– I was interested in the remarks of Senator Payne concerning the cost of the dwelling houses being erected at the Federal Capital. Like him I have recently visited Canberra and have noted for myself the progress being made. I admit that the cost of construction, when compared with prices in Melbourne and Sydney is somewhat high, but when one looks carefully into the matter it is easy to understand why in some cases the costs are higher, and in a few instances very much higher, than one would expect to pay for the same amount pf accommodation in any of the capital cities where brick cottages with tiled roofs are being built. In the first place, i there is no comparison between the cottages being erected at Canberra and those ordinarily obtainable in other parts of Australia. The average building for sale in Melbourne, or any other capital city, is run up haphazard, with little regard to ‘ workmanship, so long as the four walls remain standing until the contractor gets rid of the property. Several cottages have been sold lately in my district, and it is remarkable that some of them have not already fallen to the ground. The houses at Canberra, however, are built of the best materials obtainable, and they are erected to last. Indeed, it is a moot question whether or not too much money is being expended upon them. I endorse what Senator Payne has said regarding the quality of the bricks used. There is not a brick employed in cottage construction in any city of the Commonwealth to-day that is as good as those used at Canberra. In ordinary circumstances they would be too good for cottage construction, and this fact makes it difficult for me to understand why some gentleman at the Federal Capital has developed a passion for rough-cast work. It is a crying shame that such splendid bricks should be covered with rough-cast.
– It is a matter of taste. The cottages so treated look particularly well.
– It certainly is a matter of taste, and it may be that the man responsible for this method of treatment thinks that a rough-cast Capital is what is required. I maintain, however, that, if rough-cast is to be used it is advisable to purchase cheaper bricks. Much dust has been stirred up at Canberra through building operations, and some of the cottages that have been rough-cast have lost their dove-like appearance, and taken on quite a Red Indian aspect, for the white walls have been covered with red dust.
– Is there any dust at Canberra?
– On certain days it is very prevalent owing to cartage operations. At Canberra, where the cartage is being done over roads that axe almost as nature made them, there is a certain amount of dust, which is making an unholy mess of the rough-cast walls. This is a needless expense ; it would be infinitely better, in the interest of economy, in the interest of the appearance of the city, and in the interest of permanency, if the rough-cast idea were discarded. I should like to see the Government take action in the matter as soon as possible. I did not find at Canberra any person who would attempt to justify the action taken, nor could 1 ascertain under whose instructions the work was being carried out. I should like to protest to that gentleman, personally, against what I consider to be a waste of public money, in a vain attempt to give to the city an appearance it ought not to possess - that of a collection of fowlhouses - and one which is foreign to my ideas of the dignity of the Federal Capital city. It ought to be possible in future to reduce the cost of construction. The high cost has not been the faultof those charged with the administration, nor of the workmen engaged in the construction of the cottages ; it has been due largely to the action of persons who, like Senator Guthrie, have refused to approve of a sufficient amount of money being made available to allow of a continuity of policy. Only recently have we been able to establish at Canberra a staff worthy of the name to carry on the construction work. Workmen could not be expected to go to Canberra for a few weeks or months when they were assured of permanent work in Melbourne, Sydney, or other capital cities. The New South Wales members, assisted by some others, who feel that the obligation rests on the Commonwealth to complete the city, have now succeeded in ensuring a continuity of work ; and there are reasonable grounds for assuming that building operations will proceed rapidly, and thus give the workmen the confidence that they previously lacked. The administrators have informed me that they can easily secure the services of all the workmen they require. That is in marked contrast to the conditions with which they were faced during 1922 and 1923, when it was almost impossible to obtain the services of men, no matter what terms were offered. The more rapid construction has resulted in the lowering of costs, and I believe there will be a further reduction as the work proceeds. Even though the nominal costs were somewhat higher than is the case with houses providing similar accommodation in Sydney or Melbourne, the effective cost is very little greater because of the quality of the material and the work put into the cottages. I have made these few remarks because I felt there was a danger of honorable senators misinterpreting certain statements made by Senator Payne. Inquiries which I have recently made on the spot convince me that the work is progressing satisfactorily. I invite those who frequently assert that money is being wasted at Canberra to point to the work upon which they claim it is being wasted, and to show the manner in which it is being wasted.
– It has been represented to me, and to other members of a delegation that recently visited New Guinea, that there are two items on which expenditure is absolutely essential. The complaint was general that the speed of the small boats provided by the Administration is altogether inadequate. Some of the boatsare capable of making a maximum speed of only between 3½ and 4 knots per hour. Although time does not possess the same value in New Guinea as it does in Australia, there is yet room for considerable improvement in the speed of the boats engaged in the trade there. If the Government intends to provide money for New Guinea, it should consider the desirability of placing in the trade a more speedy type of vessel. Another burning question in New Guinea is the absence of sufficient housing accommodation. Housing is scarce in many parts of Australia at present, and the efforts of all the organizations and Governments interested have failed to over- take the shortage. The position is much more acute, however, in New Guinea. I do not know the directions in which it is intended to expend the £10,000 set apart in the schedule for works in New Guinea. That sum would not go very far in the erection of bungalows, but, even if only ten or twelve were erected at Rabaul, the situation would be immensely relieved. I entirely disagree with the remarks of Senator Payne, and some of those of Senator Duncan, regarding the cost of building operations at Canberra. I donot think it is possible to use in the construction of the cottages at Canberra bricks of too good a quality. Those cottages will be inhabited by the workers, who ought to be given the very best accommodation.
– Why cover the bricks with roughcast?
– Roughcast has never had my approval. If the red dust gets thoroughly into the Avails, it will be impossible to clean them. The proper method to adopt in apl ace like Canberra is to erect cottages with a cavity wall, the bricks being neatly struck. Unfortunately, this Government has declined to permit private individuals to compete with Government officials. The officials are supreme, yet they have only a few designs. Up to date between 70 and 100 cottages have been erected.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of private, as opposed to governmental, enterprise?
– I favour private individuals being permitted to erect cottages at Canberra; unless that policy is adopted, very few will be erected. Generally speaking, the designs have not my approval, although they may be no worse than are met with elsewhere.
– Some of them are absurd.
– I think the quality of the bricks is only equal to that of the double-pressed bricks used inbuilding construction in Sydney and elsewhere. I do not agree that the houses in Sydney and Melbourne contain inferior materials, and that they would almostcollapse if one were to lean against them. Those erected by competent builders have been well built, and the designs are equal, if not superior,to those of the cottages erected at Canberra.
– Hear, hear! But they are not all erected by competent builders.
– The houses in the suburbs of Sydney are, generally speaking, well built, and contain a good-quality brick. I object strongly to the manner in which the cottages at Canberra have been finished externally ; the finishing is entirely unsuitable for that climate. The sooner we have outside competition with the officers of the Works and Railways Department, the better.
– Senator Gardiner has asked whether this money has been spent. In moving the motion for the second reading of the Bill I pointed out that during the time that Parliament was not sitting the Treasurer made an advance out of Treasurer’s Advance for the carrying on of the works at Canberra and the
Post Office works. That course was found necessary because the Government anticipated that the Bill providing for the appointment of a Commission to manage the Federal Capital Territory would become law before the sittings of Parliament ended last year. Towards the end of those sittings it became apparent that that object would not be achieved. No provision was made in the Loan Bill which had then passed for carrying on the works at Canberra, and it is now necessary to pass this Loan Bill to recoup the Treasurer for the money advanced out of Treasurer’s Advance. The sum provided for the Post Office work represents an amount which the Treasurer agreed to advance in order to accelerate the supply of telephone material. Senator Grant has referred to the vote for New Guinea. That money is to be spent on wharfs, drainage, and buildings. It will not, of course, be sufficient to do all that the honorable senator thinks ought to be done. Further provision will have to be made in the next Estimates, and those matters are now under consideration. I desire to inform the Senate that two firms of ship-owners have intimated their intention to engage in interisland shipping in New Guinea, and one has already commenced operations. That action renders it unnecessary for the Government to replace the somewhat outofdate boats which were previously engaged in the inter-island service, and no provision has been made in this Bill for that purpose-. I wish to correct the figures of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) in regard to Customs revenue. I think the honorable senator stated that the total receipts would amount to £35,000,000. The receipts from Customs and Excise for 1922-23 were £32,872,000. The latest figures in the possession of the Treasury have just been supplied to me. They relate to the nine months ended 31st March, 1924, and total, approximately, £27,000,000.
– The next three months’ receipts will make up the difference between that figure and mine.
– They may, but they have not yet been received.
– If in nine months £27,000,000 are received, surely it is only fair to assume that the receipts in the twelve months will total £36,000,000? The last month’s figures prove that my estimate is very nearly correct.
– The receipts will not be far short of the honorable senator’s estimate.
– The honorable senator’s figures were a guess. Mine are the actual figures. The honorable senator also tried to make it appear that this Customs and Excise taxation was borne entirely by the working classes. As a matter of fact, we find that in 1920-21 we raised from Customs and Excise £31,810,000, and by direct taxation £20,617,000. In 1922-23 we raised £32,872,000 from Customs and Excise, and just under £17,000,000 by direct taxation. When we come to examine the Customs and Excise figures, we find that they do not by any means relate solely to revenue duties. For instance, the total Customs and Excise revenue in 1920-21 totalled £21,731,000, of which £6,195,000 represented the duty on apparel and textiles, and £4,728,000 the duty on metals and machinery, totalling in all nearly £11,000,000. One-half of the total Customs revenue for that financial year was received from what are regarded as Protectionist duties.
– Which are endorsed by Senator Gardiner’s party.
– How can they be Protective duties when the goods still come in ?
– They are entirely Protectionist duties. I venture to suggest that neither Senator McDougall nor Senator Needham would agree to any proposal to remove the duties on apparel and textiles.
– In respect of those items it is purely a revenue-producing Tariff.
– Those honorable senators endorse these Protectionist duties, which, as I have shown,’ were responsible for one-half of the Customs revenue for the year 1920-21. I have no doubt that, if I had the figures for last year, I should find much the same result. It may be said, therefore, that Customs duties are not imposed merely for the purpose of taxing the working classes, as Senator Gardiner urged. They protect local industry and, incidentally, bring in a large revenue. In addition, there is a sum of £17,000,000, almost equivalent to the amount raised by Customs duties, leaving out Excise, raised by direct taxation.
This does not fall upon the working class at all, because of the exemptions allowed. It is raised entirely from the wealthier classes of the community. I think it just as well that the figures I have quoted should appear in the same Hansard as that in which Senator Gardiner, by his remarks, has endeavoured to poison the minds of the people in regard to this question of the taxation of the working classes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Authority to borrow £850,000).
– This Bill proposes to authorize the expenditure of £320,000 on works, services, and acquisition of land in the Federal Capital Territory, from which will be deducted the estimated receipts, £45,000, leaving a total of £275,000. I should like to know from the Minister how much additional land it is proposed to acquire, and how much money is to be devoted to works and services.
– It is intended to acquire about £12,000 worth of land.
Clause agreed to.
Clause- 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Issue and application of £822,000).
Senator GARDINER (New South
Wales) [5.12]. - In my second-reading speech I was reasoning that, in view of the fact that this year the Government would take out of the pockets of the workers the sum of £36,000,000 or thereabouts in indirect taxation, this £822,000 for the works mentioned might very well come out of the pockets of the well-to-do people instead of being raised by loan. Senator Pearce seemed to think that I was astray in my figures. I can assure him that I am always approximately correct, because I pay special attention to, and make a mental note of, figures bearing on any subject to which I address myself. I know that including the returns’ for the last two months the figures relating to Customs and Excise revenue for the current financial year were nearly £34,000,000. By the end of this month the return must be close up to £36,000,000 - indeed, I am of the opinion that it will be over that amount. It is no use trying to show that the workers are not paying the great bulk of this sum, or that a high Tariff, under which goods still come in so freely, is Protectionist in its effects. If goods come into Australia from the United States of America, and if, in spite of the high Tariff, they are used in preference to Australian goods, clearly Australian industries are not being protected to that extent. I know, Mr. Chairman, you would not let me enter into a dissertation on the respective merits of Free Trade and Protectionist policies, so I shall simply say that since we. raise such enormous sums from Customs and Excise, the Government, instead of asking us to pass a Loan Bill for these works, should have submitted a Bill for the purpose of raising this money by direct taxation, just as we raise our ordinary revenue through Customs and Excise duties from the workin class section of the community. SenaPearce referred to the £17,000,000 raised by direct taxation, which he said the workers did not pay; but I venture to assert that when the inflated prices made it compulsory for our working classes to demand from the Arbitration Court a living wage - which they barely obtained - they at once came within, the scope of the Income Tax Act, and they have also to contribute to the revenue through that source. Unfortunately, I have never been able to ascertain how many wage-earners, how many business men, and how many financiers are included in the number of our income tax payers. These are questions of general concern to the community. I realize, of course, that the Department cannot give away information that may affect a man’s business, and I have no desire that they should do so. Nevertheless, I think the time has come when we should be able to get some information on the points I have raised. I submit that the money asked for in this Bill should have been raised from revenue. If we borrow this money,’ in fourteen years we shall have paid in interest the’ amount of the capital sum, and we shall still have the debt; whereas if we paid from a buoyant revenue, there would be no grevious burden for those who come after. Financially we are going from bad to worse. I admit frankly that I should have remembered that
Senator Pearce told us in his secondreading speech that this money has been expended. That is not a fair position for the Senate to be placed in. I endorse what Senator Duncan said with regard to the roughcasting of the brick cottages at Canberra. As a builder my-, self - and I speak with some experience - the roughcasting of those beautiful bricks means additional cost and I think represents a distinct waste.
– Was roughcasting done where good bricks were used?
– Well, Senator Duncan has told us that the Canberra bricks are perhaps the best in Australia. In my opinion - and I have no doubt that Senator Pearce, as an authority on building, will agree with me - nothing looks better in a cottage than well-struck brick work. There is no necessity for ornamentation with roughcast.
– It is an abortion.
– In the cheaper class of cottages the speculative builder employs roughcasting very often to dispense with bricks altogether. In his case roughcasting serves a definite purpose ; but it is a waste in my opinion, to smother up sound, well-made bricks and good brick work with roughcast. I congratulate Senator Duncan on having brought this matter forward. If we were now legislating at Canberra we should have an opportunity of personal inspection and would speak with first-hand information on all these matters. I do not pretend to have seen all the bricks at Canberra, but I have seen stacks that would run into millions of bricks. They were excellent bricks, of splendid colour, with a good metallic ring, and altogether very satisfactory. I do not know if cement has been used in the rough-cast, but if it has it has been wasted, particularly when many of the roads over which enormous traffic has to be carried in connexion with building operations are practically unmade. If the white roughcast is to have the rosy blush of the red Canberra soil, the portions exposed to the rain will become very streaky, and anything but attractive. These are, however, matters that can, perhaps, be more fully discussed when another Bill, which is now before the Senate, is under consideration. I have no desire to discuss the cla.use at length, but merely to join in legitimate criticism concerning the expenditure of the money, particularly at Canberra, and to say that it should be disbursed in a way that will bring the best results.’
As regards our telephone services, I have no hope of the present Government ever affording any relief, particularly to the people of Sydney, who should be in a position to go down to the Post Office, requisition a telephone connexion, and have an instrument at once installed. The present practice, which has been in operation for many years, is to record the name of a prospective subscriber, who has to wait an indefinite period before a service is supplied . I am not even going to question the Government on this matter, as it has evidently become their set policy to neglect the business interests of Sydney. Tn cities extending as rapidly as Sydney is, the Department is quite incapable of keeping in touch with development. These telephone grievances are not of to-day or yesterday, but have extended through the years. In conversation with a gentleman in Sydney last week, I was asked how long he would have to wait for telephonic connexion after his name had been added to the list, but, of course, it was impossible for me to enlighten him. This is a matter of great urgency; and were any other Government in office, I would feel justified in asking that attention be given to it. It appears, however, to be the policy of the Government to go slow and wait and see. We will probably have to wait until the 2lst July to see if the supporters of the Government outside can agree, and then the representatives of the people inside will have an opportunity. Although the Post and Telegraph Department is more closely associated with the commercial activity of the community than any other, I am not going to urge the Minister to expedite the extension of its services, because it is useless to do so. For the last five years the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department has been a disgrace to the Minister in charge, as the Department, which is a huge one, is not in a position to provide the services which the community requires.
– I should not have taken up the time in discussing this clause .were it not for the fact- that the Minister referred to Senator McDougall and myself as Protectionists, and questioned our fiscal belief. It is quite true that I am a Protectionist, but I agree with my leader (Senator Gardiner), who, I think, does not share my fiscal belief, that to-day we have not the Protectionist policy which Australia demands. In consequence of the receipts from Customs and Excise, there will be a surplus of ?6,000,000 at the end of the present financial year.
-(Senator Newland). - The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing the fiscal question.
– The Minister was allowed to discuss the matter.
– The Minister spoke on the second reading of the Bill. We are now dealing with clause 4, which relates to the issue and application of a certain sum of. money. The honorable senator will not be in order in raising the fiscal issue on this clause.
– I do not wish to come into conflict with your ruling. I am endeavouring to’ show you, sir, and the Minister where I stand, and in discussing this clause I am in order in referring to the fact that on the 30th June, the Commonwealth Treasurer will have in hand a sum of money which would not be tinder his control if the workers of Australia had not been unduly taxed. Notwithstanding this large surplus the Government propose, in this case, to borrow ?822,000. The burden of taxation to-day is more than it should be, and as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out it will be further increased by this Bill. Why cannot the expenditure mentioned in the Bill be met by the money derived from indirect taxation? The estimated surplus will, I believe, be unprecedented in the history of the Commonwealth, and if that is the case why should we be borrowing money, the interest on which will have to be borne by the taxpayers? Fancy a Government wallowing in millions as a result of indirect taxation when the taxation should be direct and equally distributed ! I am still of the same fiscal belief that I was when the Minister (Senator Pearce) and I were political associates in Western Australia. The Minister is now the member of a Government which has twisted and is derivingmoney by indirect means., but my views are unchanged.
– Senator Gardiner is wrong in his conclusions. If the Committee were to reject this clause and the Government were compelled to pay for works out of revenue it would not necessarily follow that the whole of the expenditure would be met out of the revenue derived from Customs and Excise. Taking the honorable senator’s figures of ?36,000,000 derived from Customs and Excise Revenue, and ?18,000,000 from direct taxation - that was the sum obtained last year - it would mean that ?2 would be subscribed by Customs and Excise to every ?1 by direct taxation. A large proportion of the Customs and Excise revenue is obtained from the high tax on spirits and wines - particularly sparkling wines - and approximately ?1,000,000 is raised by the duty on motor vehicles, and I have yet to learn that either sparkling wines or motor vehicles are used to any extent by the working section of the community. The proportion paid by the wealthy classes in the form of direct taxation is mentioned on page 20 of the Budget papers, where the honorable senator will find that of the income tax after . allowing for the exemption, 70 per cent is paid on taxable incomes of ?1,001 and over, and only 28 per cent. of incomes below that. On a taxable income of ?201 and over - which means an income of ?450, because there is an exemption of ?250 - only 8 per cent. of the total is paid; so that it cannot be said that that taxation is placed upon the shoulders of the workers. Respecting Senator Gardiner’s attempt to make the people of this country believe that this Government is going slow in its postal programme, the Bill itself is a refutation of that allegation. It is because of the necessity to expedite that programme, which involves an expenditure of ?10,000,000 spread over three years, and which was instituted by the National Government, that the present Government has advanced money from the Treasurer’s Advance in addition to what has already been voted out of loan. The increased demand for telephones was created, not by this Government, but by the prosperity of Australia, in which this Government is certainly a factor. Then, again, during the war years, the supply could not nearly meet the demand. The honorable senator himself was a member of a Government during those years, when it was found impossible to obtain telephone material. We could not purchase copper wire or telephone machines. Every country had the same experience as ourselves. They were for the first three years after the war all on the market for telephone materials, andwe found it impossible to obtain them. It is now possible to purchase those materials, and the Treasurer, recognizing that, has made available to the Department out of the Treasurer’s Advance an additional amount over and above that authorized by Parliament. The Government are now asking the Senate to endorse that action. I therefore invite honorable senators to assist the Government in obtaining a sufficient supply of telephones.
– It appears that some honorable senators who have referred to the payment of income tax are under a complete misapprehension. As a matter of hard, solid fact, a person cannot pay income tax unless he produces something, or unless he, by some subterfuge, extracts productions from those who do work. I quite agree that the bulk of the Customs and Excise taxation falls very heavily indeed upon the working section of the community. We have never had in this Commonwealth a policy which could fairly and squarely be called a Protectionist policy. I understand that the honest Protectionist is one who’ believes in excluding from Australia the low-wage productions of foreign Protectionist countries.
– A Protectionist believes in evening up the difference in the cost of production here and elsewhere, but a prohibitionist believes in keeping out foreign goods altogether.
– The practical Protectionists of Australia are those in charge of the Treasury bench, and their idea is to get a substantial sum every year by the taxation of goods imported from foreign, low-wage Protectionist countries. There are Protectionists, of course, who would exclude such goods from the Commonwealth, but they are in a hopeless minority.
-(Senator Newland). - The honorable member has been allowed a great deal of latitude, and I ask him to confine his remarks to the clause.
– Instead of borrowing this money the Government would have been well advised to use for this purpose a portion of what we are told will be an unprecedented surplus at the end of the current year. It is most extraordinary that a Government should borrow money when it is apparent that the surplus revenue this financial year will be from £6,000,000 to £12,000,000.
– Over £10,000,000.
– It is problematical, but if it is over- £10,000,000 it is extraordinary that the Government should persist in borrowing even the nominal sum of £822,000. It is a great mistake to imagine that income tax is not paid by the ordinary worker. Who on earth pays it? When a manufacturer is called upon to pay a substantial income tax, does any one imagine that he pays it? He does nothing of the kind.
– The clause has nothing at all to do with income tax, and I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the subject before the Committee.
– Senators Pearce, Payne, Gardiner and Needham all discussed this question. If they were out of order I certainly have no desire to join with them. The amount of direct taxation which is not paid by the working community is very small indeed. In the last analysis, the only people who do pay taxation are those who work; those who i do not work cannot pay anything at all.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 13th June (vide page 1243), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– As I listened, last week, to the speech of Senator Pearce, I frequently rubbed my eyes and wiped my glasses to enable me to better look at him before I could make myself really believe that, in introducing a measure dealing with the future government of the Federal Capital, he could have so far departed from the principles of democracy that he at one time advocated. I am not holding that a change of opinion is wrong, as the Minister has been a long time in the Senate, and while here has heard and seen much that might’ have led him to change his opinions. But when I heard a Minister of the Crown, who once had pretensions as a democrat - who believed in government of the people, by the people, for the people - giving illustrations of certain cities in America where he said there was an excellent form of government by commission, I could scarcely believe the evidence of my ears. This Bill strikes at the very root of self-government in Australia. In America there may be quite a number of examples of the incapacity of the people to conduct their own municipal government, and to manage the affairs of their own cities, but if we look for examples in Australia we will find that the British section of the community and their offspring, the Australian section, have developed a very keen sense of the requirements of local government, and that a mighty good work has been done by interesting the whole of the people in the government and management of the towns or cities in which they live. This Bill once and for all ends any pretension that the people who are to reside in Canberra will have a voice in its administration or government. The city is to be administered for them by a Commission of three.
– It is not their city, but the city of the whole of the Australian people.
– I realize that the whole of the people own the city, but who are the most interested in its management - men living, say, in Melbourne or those living in Canberra? Surely the honorable senator will not try to reason that because this particular city is the property of the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, the local residents should not be entrusted with its local government.
– Would the honorable senator put that form of government into operation forthwith?
– Yes, because a form of local self-government could be exercised by a few hundreds of people in Canberra, the population of which in a few years will increase to a few thousands, and so permit of the continuation and expansion of that system in a way that I believe would be very beneficial to Canberra.
– Would the honorable senator give the residents of Canberra the power to rate Government property?
– -That question is very easily settled, because, so far as the Government is concerned, the cost’ of administration of the Federal Territory will come out of the pockets of the whole of the people, whereas if local selfgovernment were entrusted to the residents, then the persons leasing land from the Commonwealth would be called upon to pay taxation, exactly as does the man leasing property on a 99 years’ lease in the city of Sydney. I feel sure that in the early stages of the development of Canberra - that portion of the Territory within the municipality, township, or city boundary - -there would be no difficulty in arranging with a sane Government that works carried out by the local governing body and benefiting Government property should be paid for by the Commonwealth.
– Would you give to a local municipal council the power to expend large sums of Commonwealth money ?
– I am not contemplating the transfer of the control of the building of Canberra to a municipal council. If I understand the Bill and the Minister’s speech, what the Government proposes is to hand over to a Commission, not only the building of the Capital, but also the government of the city until such time as this Bill is repealed.
– That is so.
– Then let us face the matter quite openly. Personally, I do not think that control by a Commission would be a desirable form of government. Satisfactory results might be obtained from a good dictator, but the trouble is that although the first dictator might be a good one the next might prove to be a bad one. A system of government has been established in Australia, both in the State and Federal arenas, under which the people have power to correct failures in administration ; but who would bo responsible for the failure of a Commission? By a cumbersome method it might be possible to prove a Commission’s ineptitude, or worse, and by a good deal of labour we might be able to convince an unwilling Commonwealth Government that a Commission should be changed. I do not desire any honorable senator who may follow me in this debate to suggest that I have hinted that any person appointed to the Commission might be corrupt - I am not suggesting anything of the kind - but I point out that a great check against wrong-doing in matters of government is the fact that at brief intervals the governing powers may be changed. The building of Canberra ‘is one question and the future government of the Federal Capital Territory is another and entirely different subject; nevertheless the Government has conveniently combined the two matters in this Bill. When the measure was introduced in another place, the Government was forced to break away from one of the fixed principles of the Bill. In order to meet the wishes of a disgruntled section of the supporters of the Composite Government, which complained of the proposed method of payment of the Commission, the Government devised a method of achieving, in a roundabout fashion,, its original purpose. Instead of paying a fixed annual salary to each member of the Commission, it was’ decided that one Commissioner should get a fixed annual amount while the other two should receive so much per sitting.
– If the honorable senator will move in Committee to restore what was originally proposed, I promise to support him.
– I cannot undertake to do that, because I object altogether to the appointment of a Commission. The Capital belongs to the Australian people; it should be under the control of the Australian Parliament, and the expenditure on its construction should he voted from year to year by the representatives of those who have to foot 41.r bill.
– And so it will, of course.
– When the original intention of the Government to pay a fixed sum to each Commissioner was objected to in a quarter from which the Government receives support, it altered its intention and decided to pay two members of the Commission so much per eftting. Seeing that there are most ‘important works to be carried out, it is contemptible that the Government should be satisfied to employ men whose emolument will depend on the number of times they sit. If excellent men are required for the work this is not the way to get them. It is consistent with the outlook of a representative of the Country party to consent to such an arrangement, but a member possessed of a truly national outlook would oppose it. The Commission will have to handle, I venture to say, millions of pounds in the next few years, and if members of this body are made to feel that they are not sufficiently paid we may have an unscrupulous Commissioner coming to the conclusion that it is time he did something for himself. If the Government insists on adopting the American system of control by a Commission, then let us provide conditions that will leave a chance of success. This Bill is either a serious measure based upon the deliberate judgment of a Government that thought out how best the problem could be solved, or it is one of those measures thrown before us to fill in a little time. Let us assume that it is a serious proposal, and that the building of the Australian Capital is to be placed beyond the control of the representatives of the people in Parliament and removed entirely from what is termed political influence. No greater safeguard, I contend, could be adopted in regard to the control of public moneys than to make the expenditure subject to so-called political influence, which, in turn, reflects the will of the people. Broadly speaking, ever since we have had representative government in Australia the influence of members of Parliament generally has been for the public good. Whether Senator Drake-Brockman, or any other honorable senator, will submit an amendment to alter the method of payment of the Commissioners I do not know, but any amendment that tends to improve the Bill will receive my support, irrespective of party considerations. Senator Pearce reminded us that the United States of America tried to govern Washington under several systems, and finally returned, as many other American cities have, to government by commission. That system may admirably suit the Americans, but we happen to be legislating for the people of Australia, who desire to have some voice in the government of their own country. One of the most pleasing aspects of government in this land is the fact that many folk are prepared to inconvenience themselves to such an extent as to take an active part in the affairs of government, whether municipal, State, or Federal. The sacrifice made by these men, who are imbued with a desire to do something for their fellow-citizens would, to my mind, have justified the Minister in bringing in a Bill for the government of the Federal Capital, not on the American system, but according to the good old British method.
– In no city in Great Britain is there a case that is analogous to that of Canberra.
– I realize that in many respects Canberra is in a different position from Sydney or Melbourne, but I do not think the Minister can claim that local government has failed in any part of Australia.
– It is not too satisfactory in Sydney.
– The present aldermen think it is splendid.
– Sydney has gone to greater lengths than any other city in the world in the matter of wise and progressive municipal legislation.
– The honorable senator expresses a biased opinion.
– I base that remark on what I have seen.
– Wonderful work has been done there in the last ten years.
– Land values taxation has proved to be an excellent principle to adopt.
– It was put into operation in Brisbane 30 years ago.
– I am not claiming that Sydney originated it, but it can now be said to the credit of Sydney that the municipality is receiving the benefit of enhanced values that have been created by the community. Even if a doubt could be thrown upon the success of municipal government in Sydney or elsewhere, would that be a good reason for rejecting that system for government by commission? Some years ago the Labour aldermen of Sydney inaugurated an electric lighting system, the earnings of which have, year after year, paid not only the interest and working expenses, but have returned a handsome revenue to the municipality.
– It is a straight-out subsidy from the light users to the Sydney land-holders.
– It is, but my point is that the users of light have also received an excellent supply of electricity at a cheap rate, and surely one can point to that as an example of fine municipal achievement. A knowledge of this matter probably will not travel as far as Western Australia.
– I believe that the city to which the honorable senator refers possesses a harbour.
-I have no occasion to refer to the natural beauties for which the system of self-government in Sydney is not responsible. I was referring to the artificial additions brought about by the wisdom of the selfgoverning inhabitants of Sydney, and was comparing their sagacity with the unwisdom of this Parliament in declining to avail itself of the ideas of the people who, in future, will reside in Canberra. Instead of inaugurating a system of selfgovernment which would lend itself to the welding together of the community, and serve the best interests of the people, it is proposed to depend entirely upon one Commissioner, with the assistanceof two part-time Commissioners. It is said that the permanent Commissioner will be an expert. Expert in what ? Will he be an expert in engineering, in architecture, in the control of buildings, in finance - including the methods by which revenue should be raised and rates levied? I take it that the people will not be allowed to live rate free. What will be the qualifications of this man for the government of a great and rapidlygrowing city? I confess that I do not know. One of the features of local government is that each elected representative possesses individual ideas, and although there may not be total agreement a considerable amount of ability is placed at the service of the municipality. That could never be the case if matters were handled by one Commissioner, no matter how well informed he might be. He may possess every professional qualification, but lack the capacity to control the people with whom he is brought into contact. He may have all the qualifications of an expert, but none of a man of the world whose individuality makes up for that which he lacks because he does not possess a university degree. I can see that in all these appointments the man selected will remain in office, even though the development is not as great as it should be. That would act detrimentally to Canberra, and would continue until he so gravely offended that some reasonable charge could be brought against him, and he could be removed’ from office. I do not base my opposition to this measure on the belief that the proposed Commissioner will be likely to offend. I believe we should adhere to the system under which we have been reared, and that we understand - the right to govern ourselves by electing representatives to self-governing bodies. That system has proved such a great success that I, and those who think with me, will not throw it away and place in its stead an American system about which we know very little. This Bill strikes a blow at the future government of Canberra, and makes impossible the constitution of anything in the form of a municipal body. That ought not to be allowed. It strikes a blow at the control of the building of Canberra by this Parliament. The Commissioner whom it is proposed to appoint will be absolutely independent of the Federal Parliament. After all, this Parliament is the only medium by which the electors can check the expenditure of public money. The Bill proposes that one Commissioner shall be appointed.
– No; two others are to be paid by the sitting. There is quite a number . of Committees and Commissions of this Parliament at present in existence. Honorable senators must realize that the system of payment for each sitting is not the best that could be evolved. This Composite Government is so mean and paltry in its allowances that those occupying positions on Committees and Commissions are making a good deal of personal sacrifice in order to fulfil their parliamentary duties. What will result from the appointment of one Commissioner at £3,000 a year and a couple of gentlemen at a certain fee for each sitting? I have had some experience of similar bodies. Let me try to conjure up a picture of what may happen. The unfortunate man who will receive a fee for every sitting may find himself in disagreement with the permanent Commissioner on some matter. The passions may be aroused, and the Commissioner may be so irritated that he will not fix another sitting for a considerable time ahead. The Commonwealth may thus lose the services of the most independent and brainy man on the Commission. Too much power is to be placed in one man’s hands. My experience has been that that has resulted in the power being used unfairly. As soon as an individual is given autocratic powers he begins to tyrannize over his fellow men. 1 ask honorable senators whether the man who will control the purse strings will not have an unfair control over his two colleagues; and whether, even though he is the most admirable man for the work, there may not grow up in the minds of those associated with him the idea that if they oppose his wishes they will suffer pecuniarily.
– There is some merit in what the honorable senator says.
– I deal with human nature as I find it. I ask Senator Pearce whether, during the war period, when some of us thought that the existence of the Empire was at stake and that men would make untold sacrifices to prevent friction, even on such bodies as medical boards, composed of educated gentlemen, there was not quibbling of the most childish description? Wherever one goes one has the same experience. Here it is proposed to appoint a Board of three persons, one man drawing a permanent salary and holding the whip hand over the other two; those other two being to a great extent subservient to him. This is proposed at the commencement of building operations, which is the most important stage. It is un-British, it is unAustralian, it is a most unreasonable proposal. I realize that it is the idea not of the Government but of the Country party which makes the Composite Government possible. The Government originally proposed that the members of the Commission should be appointed on a basis of equality, but in view of the threat of an adverse vote and the criticism of one or two of its supporters it compromised and got what it wanted “ under the lap.”
– Was it not the honorable senator’s friends in another place who opposed the appointment of two additional permanent Commissioners ?
– I dare say my friends were, as I am, opposed to the system of government by a Board, and naturally they would use any means ready to their hands to defeat such a pernicious system.
– The Bill was amended at a meeting of the Government party.
– It matters not what action was taken by my party in another place, it will not carry the disgrace of backing down on such an important provision in such an important measure. That disgrace rests upon the Government. This present system of government cannot long continue successfully in Australia, because those charged with the responsibility of government have neither the confidence nor the support of a majority of honorable members in another place or of the. electors. I have beena member of this Senate for fourteen years, and have hungered for the time when we could carry on our deliberations in the natural home of the Commonwealth. In those fourteen years I have seen very little done to bring about that, to ‘me, most desirable change. When the transfer is made we shall enjoy the salubrious atmosphere of Canberra instead of having to come to Melbourne. I, of course, recognize that I have very much to thank the Melbourne people for; I realize that in the early stages at Canberra we shall not be nearly as comfortable as we are here. The State Parliament placed this magnificent building at our disposal, and we should be very grateful to it. To me it is an inspiration to be privileged to occupy this magnificent building and speak in this well-appointed chamber. I remind the Senate that buildings like this were erected by people who governed themselves, and I protest against the proposals to entrust the building activities and development of Canberra to a Commission. If we give such complete power to one man, we shall probably get a style of architecture and appointments that will suit him, but not the people generally. There has been no occasion for the introduction of the Bill to the Senate in its present form. If the Leader of the Government in another place had expressed a determination to stand by the
Bill as it was drafted, and particularly with regard to its provisions for the appointment of the Commission, the Government could have had the Bill.
– I think I have heard the honorable senator on occasions giving us a lecture on the foolishness of stubbornness.
– If some people who have been associated with me think me stubborn, when in reality I am of an easy disposition, I can. realize how unfortunate it will be if we appoint to the Commission a man whose views may appear to be in keeping with the wishes of this Parliament, but whose conduct in the discharge of his duties is utterly at variance with our ideas. That is one of the dangers I see in the appointment of a Commission which may resolve itself into a one-man show. If the other members of the Commission had the right to out-vote the Chairman, or if the Government had some vestige of authority, the position might be more satisfactory; but when once the machinery has been set in motion we may find that something has been overlooked and an amendment of the Act may be necessary. Unfortunately the damage will then have been done. We are starting in the wrong direction. This system of city government by commission may be all right in America, but certainly it is not justified in Australia. Nothing that has happened in this country up to the present warrants a Parliament elected by the people taking from the people the right to govern themselves. That is what we are doing in this Bill. Why should the Commission take over this work of building and all other activities which have been carried on so satisfactorily up to the present? There is a magnificent electric supply plant in working order and a water supply system unsurpassed in the Commonwealth, second not even to–
– The Minister’s interjection reminds me that Sydney’s difficulties in the matter of water supply are due largely to an appointed, not an elected, Board. During the past six months the people of that city have been unable to use the water except under certain conditions.
– On the other hand we have in Perth a water supply system under the control of a Minister which broke or helped to break down the Government.
– That was because instead of having a water supply for domestic uses, Perth - I speak of certain portions of the water supply district - has had a supply that has been used extensively for dyeing clothes. Thus the Minister’s interjection helps my argument and points to the dangers’ that may confront us in Canberra if we appoint this Commission. If anything happens there, members of the Commission may laugh at the people. The chairman will be appointed for a term of five years. I hope that before this Bill is through Committee, the Minister will see the wisdom of altering it so as to provide that when there is a certain number of inhabitants at Canberra they shall be granted the boon of self-government. That is not asking too much. The Bill in its present form is providing for an experiment entirely new to Australia. - the governing of the Seat of Government by a Commission - which the Minister justified only by a few quotations from the results of experiments in America. Washington and a few other cities of the United States, he says, have had this system of government by commission and would never go back to any other form of control. That may be true of America. In that country, possibly, city government by commission is more desirable than government by an elective body. No one can claim that this is likely to be true of Australia. The people of this country have a genius for self-government. The capacity for government evidenced by organizations such as those to which I and Senator Duncan belong is really remarkable. And yet the Government propose to adopt a system hitherto untried in Australia, and apply it to a people who have been reared under a system of local government, and understand all that it means. Washington, so we are told, has tried several systems. Originally it had local self-government. This gave place to some other form, then came government by commission, which in its turn was abandoned and finally adopted again.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Before the adjournment, I inadvertently did certain officers associated with the Military Department an injustice when I referred to disagreements which, occurred among members of the Medical Board. “What was in ‘ my mind at the time was not the Medical but the Naval Board, the operations of which were carried on so harmoniously during the early part of the war that two member’s of the Board - Sir William Clarkson and Sir William Cresswell - declined to converse at meetings of the Board. In such circumstances, one can easily imagine the difficulties experienced by Mr. Jensen, who was then Minister for the Navy. That is an illustration of the extent to which personal disagreement may carry men, even when dealing with most important matters. The principle of government by Boards and Commissions is always objectionable, but the objection is accentuated when the Chairman of a Commission is to be a permanent officer receiving a fixed salary, and the other members are to be paid fees according to the services they render. If three men are sitting at the table under different conditions of employment, the permanent officer with a “fixed salary will assume an air of superiority, and endeavour to override the other members. Honorable members can easily imagine the position which will develop. Sittings will be arranged in order to bring the remuneration of the members who are paid fees up to a certain amount, and if this pernicious system is to be adopted in this instance, we cannot possibly expect satisfactory results. The members of the Commission should give the whole of their services to the’ Government. In one portion of the Bill, the salary of the Chairman has been fixed at £3,000 per annum, and in another clause provision is made whereby the members of the Commission cannot enter into business dealings with a company in which they are interested, unless that company has a stipulated number of shareholders. The principle is wrong, and the Minister should delete the proviso to that clause when the Bill is in Committee, so that a member of the Commission will be prevented from doing business with a company from which he derives any profit. If the members wished to be placed beyond the possibility of corruption, the difficulty could easily be overcome by increasing the number of shareholders beyond the limit provided in the Bill. The members of the Commission should receive ample remuneration for their services, and be debarred from trading with any company from which they, would derive a return from any profits so made. I can instance the case of a newspaper company of 100,000 shares, in which one shareholder holds 90,000 shares, another 5,000 shares, and the remainder are distributed between a few small holders in order to bring the number up to that required for a limited liability company according to the law of the State. I have expressed my objections to the departure from the good system developed in this country of government of the people by the people. I regret that the Government are going headlong in the direction of government by Commissions and Boards, because, irrespective of how good government by experts may be, there is always the serious danger of trouble arising in consequence of men failing to realize their responsibilities.
– As no other honorable senator seems anxious to continue the debate at this juncture I shall give my reasons for opposing the Bill. I have always objected to the creation of boards and commissions, because it means that outside authorities are conducting operations which should be controlled by Parliament. In one instance a Board had the audacity to endeavour to inquire into, and criticize by report, the work of Parliament, which was quite beyond the powers contained in its charter. If the Commonwealth is to be controlled by boards and commissions, why not establish a permanent authority to carry on the whole of the work of government and dispense with the costly methods now employed ? I object to the proposed Commission to control the work at Canberra., because, in establishing the Capital City, Parliament should be supreme. The powers to be given to the proposed Commission are far too comprehensive; but, as the Government are apparently determined to appoint an outside authority, I shall do my best, during the Committee stage, to make the Bill more acceptable by moving amendments to make the measure more in keeping with existing conditions. In introducing the Bill in another place, the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) said that the present arrangements were satisfactory. If that is the case, one naturally asks why a Commission is to be appointed. Why should there be dual control, as stated by the Minister? The control should be under one Department. By the creation of the proposed Commission another Department will be created, and the already large number of public servants now employed will be further increased. The Advisory Committee is doing good work, and the officer now in charge at Canberra is one in whom I am sure we all have every confidence. If the work at Canberra is not expeditiously and economically proceeded with, the Capital Territory will be a burden instead of a paying proposition. The Minister (Senator Pearce), in introducing the measure in this Chamber, said that the Federal Capital Territory would become not only a payable proposition, but a national asset, and his hopes should be realized if we do not allow the control of the land and building operations to pass from the Government. I congratulate the Government on what they have done; and, as the good work should continue, their authority should not be delegated to an outside body. If a Commission is appointed, theofficers now employed by the Department of Home and Territories and the Department of Works and Railways will be transferred to other branches of theService, which are already overmanned.
– The public servants at present at Canberra will remain, but will be under the control of the Commission.
– That may be so; but it is reasonable to assume that additional employees will be engaged. In regard to civic government generally, there is considerable controversy concerning the advantage or otherwise of large cities being controlled by commissions. In our Australian cities progress has been so great, and the planning so ideal, that I do not want to see any American methods introduced in them. Older cities may be more perfect in their arrangement, but with those to guide us we should be able, without the provisions of a. Board of Commissioners, to make the Federal Capital what it should be. There has been a controversy about the go vernment of cities, and, in this respect. I wish to quote the
Sydney Morning Herald, which in a few words criticizes the action of this Government in placing the control of Canberra under a Commission. The paragraph reads : -
In a special article in the Herald, Mr. F. Armand Bland discusses the adoption of the American methods of commission government and town managership in the city of Sydney. Both of these schemes were hatched in the United States under quite different conditions from those which exist in Australia. . A remedy which cures a person suffering from a certain disease cannot be recommended to a person with an entirely different complaint. The commission government was in the nature of a swing-back from the American to the British system of civics, and it is for that reason that no town in Great Britain or Australia has ever applied this system. In fact, even in America the commission government is losing favour, and has been abandoned by some of the towns that first adopted it. The principle of appointing a town manager has now supplanted commission government as a favorite platform among American civic reformers. It also has grave disadvantages of a nature that would deter its adoption in Australia. To hand over the control of the immense revenues and functions of Sydney to one highly-paid all-powerful official is a great responsibility. If the ideal man could be chosen and appointed for life, the plan would succeed. If, on the other hand, a mistake were made in choosing the city director, it would be an utter failure.
It is therein contended that under certain circumstances . the ‘choosing of a city director would be a success, but under others it would be an abject failure. Under the conditions in this Bill, the appointment of a Commission will prove’ a failure, and it will not be very long before an amending Bill is introduced providing for drastic alterations. Too much’ power is to be given to the Commission. The great financial responsibility that is to be placed upon it should be borne by this Parliament alone. In addition, the Commission is to be allowed to borrow money. I believe in giving a free hand to the right stamp of man, but it would be a grave mistake to give such power to the wrong man.
– The Commission cannot act without the consent of the Treasurer.
– A Commissioner is not to have any association with a firm supplying materials, or doing other work for the Federal city, but he is allowed to belong to a company under conditions prescribed. In my opinion he should not he allowed to be interested, in any shape or form, in any service being performed for Parliament itself or for the Commonwealth Government. The salary should be sufficient to command the services of a Commissioner with no financial interests other than those relating to his appointment. I have invariably opposed the creation of Boards, and I shall continue to do so, as they take away the responsibilities of Parliament. I oppose the creation of this Commission, but I have no objection to the payment of a salary of £3,000 per annum, as a fair salary must be paid to secure the services of the right type of man. The Minister has stated that the work already performed at Canberra has been carried out satisfactorily, and that the Advisory Committee and the Departments concerned have done everything possible in the interests of Canberra, and in attempting to lay the foundation of a’ city of which our children shall be proud. The Government is acting on wrong lines altogether. It should abolish dual control by placing the work under the administration of the Minister for Works and Railways. In that Department there are quite sufficient officers with the necessary experience and ability to continue satisfactorily the work at the Federal Capital.
– If there is any reason at all which would impel me to oppose this measure, it is the interjection made by Senator Pearce to Senator McDougall when referring to the probability of an additional staff being created under this Commission if the Bill becomes law. Senator Pearce said that the Public Service staff already at Canberra would carry out the work under the direction of the Commission. If that is so, I see no reason why the Commission should be appointed. It is a reflection on the competency of the present Government to administer such an important part of the Territory as the Federal Capital. To my mind the appointment of Boards is a fetish on the part of the Ministry.
– And Royal Commissions.
– I admit that there are in existence quite a number of Commissions and also Standing Com mittees appointed by Parliament. When viewing the list of Boards that have beenappointed by this Ministry, and its immediate predecessors, one pauses and wonders where we are going to end.
– I quite agree with thehonorable senator.
– The next proposal the Government may bring down isa Bill providing for government by Commission, and probably such a thing would be welcome, as it might make a betterjob of the administration .of Australian affairs than the Ministry are doing atpresent.
– The next step would be- “ Mussolini “ rule.
– We have a chocolate “ Mussolini “ in the shape of Dr. Page, who issued an edict to the Country party organizations that if they did not endorse his compact with the Prime Minister he would resign from theleadership of that party. This chocolateMussolini has not resigned his leadership, although the Country party has notconfirmed the compact.
– Is this a compliment to Mussolini.
– I do not know whether it is a compliment or an insult to him; at any rate, the Treasurer hasattempted the role of the dictator. I. have taken from the Melbourne Age, thefollowing list of Boards that this Ministry and its predecessor have appointed: - The* Tariff Board, the Public Service Board,, the Note Issue Board, the Commonwealth Line Board of Management, Canberra. Advisory Committee, Board of Trade,. Fruit Advisory Board, Meat Advisory Board, Expropriation Board, Film Censorship Board, Council of Defence, Military Board, Air Board, Board of” Factory Administration, War RailwayCouncil, Naval Board, Naval Contract and Purchase Board, Central Coal. Board, State Coal Board. Repatriation. Commission, War Service Homes Commission, War Service Homes Advisory Board, War Service Homes Disposals Board, WarMuseum Board, Council of Finance, Stores Supply and Tender Board, Fire Board, Marine Council, Murray Waters - Commission, Practitioners Board, Taxation) Board of ^Appeal,’ Flax Industry Committee, Board of Examiners of Patent Attorneys, Postal Advisory Board, Dairy Produce Board, Wheat Board, Central- and States Wool Committees, Shipping Board, and War Gratuity Board. It is now proposed to appoint a Commonwealth Bank Board, a Northern Territory Commission, and, under this Bill, a Canberra Commission. All of these could have been dispensed with, or, rather, should not have been created, because they simply delegate to other people the responsibility that the Government should bear.
– Would the honorable senator include, in that category, the Public Service Board?
– Yes. When Senator Gardiner was sneaking this afternoon, I said that the Bill now before the Senate was entirely different from what it was as originally introduced in another place on the 2nd April. Clause 7 of the original Bill read -
The remuneration of the Chairman of the Commission shall not exceed £3,000 per annum, and the remuneration of each of the other members shall not exceed £2,000 per annum.
A vast amount of hostility was shown to that clause, the newspapers and also many of the supporters of the Government in another place condemning it. So strong was the condemnation and criticism, that the Bill was referred to a party meeting of Government supporters. A compromise was effected by striking out the words “ and the remuneration of each of the other members shall not exceed £2,000 per annum.” Some one had a sudden brain wave, as it was thought that even with the deletion of those words the two assistant Commissioners would still receive an amount of money payable in fees, equal to £2,000 a year. The veriest tyro in public life would realize that if it was laid down that not more than £4,000 a year was to be expended in the way of fees, a sufficient number of meetings would be held by the Board to enable the whole of the £4,000 to be drawn. Compare the original proposal with that in the Bill as it came from the other House. There is now no limitation whatever on the fees that may be paid. Clause 7 states -
The remuneration of the Chairman of the Commission shall not exceed £3,000 per annum, and the remuneration of each of the other members shall be by way of fees as prescribed.
I am opposed to the constitution of a Commission, but if there is to be one, we should know exactly what the cost will be. Once again Parliament is invited to delegate its authority to the Governor-General in Council. I maintain that, just as the Bill fixes the salary of the Chairman of the Commission, so we should definitely set down the salary to be paid to the other two members. Senator Gardiner very pertinently pointed out the result of one-man rule. Unless the two members agreed with the permanent Chairman, there would be a danger of their not being re-appointed to the Commission. I do not like government by Commission; it is faulty, and that is one of the principal reasons why I oppose the Bill. Had the measure been introduced shortly after Parliament had decided on Canberra as a site of the Capital, one could have imagined the necessity for it; but in view of the fact that the city is well on its way towards, completion, and the officers of the “Works and Railways Department have done excellent work there - the major difficulties have been already overcome - I see no reason for a change of control. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) admitted in the other chamber that these officers had given splendid service. As a. member of the Public Works Committee for three ‘years, and now as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I can say from experience of these officers that their record is a most creditable one.
– I wonder that the honorable senator does not resign from the Public Accounts Committee by way of protest against the creation of another Board or Commission.
– There is a vast difference between a Standing Committee of this Parliament and the proposed Commission. The cases are in no way analogous.
– Has not the Advisory Board done good work ?
– It has, and some of the members of that Board are officers of the Works and Railways Department. The completion of the work at Canberra could be well left to the Government, and the existing staff. Senator Pearce has said that the present staff of public servants at Canberra will become the staff of the Commission, but I have doubts on that point. We do not know what the cost of the Commission will be, and in my opinion it will surround itself with another and an entirely independent staff.
– That is- contemplated in the Bill.
– Exactly . It means an unnecessary waste of money. I was a member of the Senate when Canberra was selected as the sit© for the future Capital. I opposed its establishment then, and although I am still opposed to it, I am prepared to bow to the inevitable and assist in developing the Capital on the best possible lines.
– When was the honorable senator last -at Canberra?
– About six weeks ago. I regard the site as ideal for the purpose, and I think that the Works and Railways Department should continue in control of the work. If the second reading of the Bill is carried I shall assist as far as I can to improve the measure.
– I must confess at once that there are certain aspects of the proposal that cause me grave doubts as to its advisability. From personal knowledge I can say that the constructional work at Canberra, as has been said by Senator Needham, has of recent months at any rate, been proceeding very satisfactorily. Anybody with actual knowledge of the position must realize that whatever change in control is made, the chances are that it will not lead to something superior to the present administration, which has been almost everything that could be desired. Whatever mistakes may have been made’ in connexion with the works ‘ policy adopted prior to the present administrators assuming control,’ those errors have been almost entirely rectified;, and the most rabid opponent of Canberra must surely admit that the work of the Advisory Board has left little room for complaint. The work has been done well at a reasonable cost, and in accordance with the approved plan. Seeing that matters have been proceeding so smoothly, I was astounded when the Government decided to change the present system of control, with the object of carrying on the developmental work on almost new lines. Such a change requires a good deal of justification, but I think that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), in introducing the measure, very largely furnished justification for such a drastic alteration. Although, as I have said, the work appears to be going on well, it is anticipated that within the next few years there will be such an enormous de velopment, and such a need for local responsibility in administrative matters in order to ensure quick action, that some widening of the powers of the administrators is necessary. The question that arises in my mind is whether it would be wise to give wider power to public servants who are under the control of a Minister, and, therefore, under the control of the Government, since they would be subject to the disadvantages that such control might have in the development of the Capital area. It is not proposed to. give the Commission unlimited powers to borrow and do as they like, as Senator McDougall suggested was the case. ‘The Commission’s powers are very limited in regard to borrowing. It is true that it may borrow for developmental works, subject to the approval of the Minister, and through him subject to the will of Parliament itself; but the Commission will not be able to launch out on any extravagant expenditure that cannot be justified by it or by the Government. The annual estimates of the Commission must be presented to Parliament in exactly the same way as those of any Department. Thus Parliament will have an opportunity to criticize the work of the Commission, and will have power to direct the Government to take any course of action it may deem fit, so far as the future conduct of the Commission is concerned. That is not giving unlimited power to the Commission.
– Does the honorable senator not. think that the Commissioners will be overpaid, in view of the powers they will possess ?
– I do not think they will be overpaid; on the contrary, I consider that they will be underpaid, considering the work they will have to do. I do not know whether the Accounts Committee, of which Senator Needham is such a distinguished member, will have an opportunity of reporting upon any of the proposals of the Commission, but constructional proposals estimated to cost over £25,000 will have to be referred to the Public Works Committee, as is the case at present.
– There is no analogy between the Public Works Committee and this Commission.
– Senator McDougall told the Senate that the Commission will have unlimited power. I contend that it will be responsible directly to the Minister, and, through him, to Parliament. It will not be able to embark upon a constructional programme of any magnitude until inquiry into it has been made by the Public Works Committee and approval granted. I cannot agree with Senator McHugh that it is proposed to pay the members too high a salary. They will have the handling of a large sum of money and will have to administer a very big work. The type of man necessary would in almost any circumstances command, outside the Public Service, a higher salary than is proposed in the Bill. We want men of vast experience and very great administrative capacity, and the remuneration proposed appears to me to be entirely inadequate. It will be extremely difficult to obtain the services of the right type of man. I regret that the Government has not given Parliament some indication of the persons it considers should be appointed. It would ease my mind, and perhaps would remove a number of the doubts that I have at present.
– How can the Government approach any person until the Bill becomes law?
– The Minister must have some idea of the men who should be approached. Honorable senators opposite have stated that this matter has been discussed at meetings of the Government party. I do not know the names of the probable members of the Commission, nor what is in the mind of the Government as to who should be approached.
– I endeavoured in my second-reading speech to outline the type of man the Government will require.
– It has been admitted by all that at present the work is proceeding satisfactorily and that the administration is able and active. If a Commission is appointed from men who are not connected with the present administration it will not have any actual knowledge of the position and will take some months to obtain a thorough grasp of the work that is in hand and that which requires to be done. I suggest that the necessity exists to appoint an officer from the present administration in order that there may be continuity of policy and of development. It has been said that matters could be allowed to continue as they are at present. That course is open to the same objection that there is to the proposal of honorable senators opposite to create a city council or some municipal body to control the city area in the manner that Sydney, Melbourne, and other cities are controlled. To continue the work at Canberra by members of the Public Service would leave the administration too much under the thumb of the Minister. Ministers have failed at Canberra in the past. We do not know the type of Ministers who will be entrusted with the responsibility of administering the Federal Capital area in future, and failure may attend their efforts. I want to be quite sure that there will be continuity of policy irrespective of changes of Government, and this proposal appears to me to be one of the surest means of attaining that object.
– The honorable senator wants to give unlimited power to the Commission.
– I do not. I want continuity of policy, and I believe that that will be brought about by the appointment of this Commission.
– The Murray Waters Commission has demonstrated that fact.
– The Commissions will consider the whole position and formulate a definite developmental scheme. If, in. future, any Government should refuse to permit borrowing in order to carry out that developmental policy, it will have to justify itself to Parliament. Considering the degree of enlightenment possessed by the people throughout Australia regarding this matter, I cannot conceive of any Parliament having a majority of its members opposed to the continuance of building operations at Canberra, and the removal of the Parliament there as early as possible. A Government that refused permission to obtain the money required for developmental work would have to face the wrath of Parliament, and I do not believe that it would long continue in office. The appointment of a Commission will provide us with a definite policy of continuity in the constructional work, in administration, and in other directions, ensuring the betterment of affairs in the Federal Capital Territory, greater contentment amongst the staff there, a more speedy removal of the Parliament, and greater comfort for honorable members.
Honorable senators opposite have contended that the control of the city area should be handed over to an elective council. There is no real analogy between the Federal Capital and any other city in Australia to-day. In every other city land is held under freehold title. The whole of the population either owns its homes or rents them, and thus has a voice in the administration of the civic affairs of the city. Here is a city every inch of the ground in which is owned by the Government, and held by it, not for the residents of the area, but for the whole of the people of Australia. Can it be imagined that the people of Australia will be prepared to hand over this great and valuable asset to any chance council that might be elected by those who, for the time being, happen to be resident at Canberra ? They would much prefer that it should be in the hands of a competent body responsible to the Minister and, through him, to this Parliament.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that there will not be any landlords at Canberra I
– There may be; but not the type with which we are familiar. There may be landlords who have leased the ground from the Government, and erected buildings which they have let to those who required them. If the rents charged are greater than they should be the land will receive an added value by reason of the fact that the income of the lessee will be increased, and when re-appraisement becomes due their rentals will be raised.
– All leases must be conditional.
– Of course, all leases must be conditional. The State itself will have almost entire control, and will be able to regulate matters in such a way that no injustice will be done fo any one. If the proposals of honorable senators opposite were carried into effect, and the administration of the, -city area, with its great assets and its developmental work, were handed over to a council elected by the ratepayers, what would be the position ? Who are likely to be the ratepayers in the Federal Capital area ? Not the workers, as my honorable friend knows very well, although during the earlier years and while the constructional programme is being carried out, there will be large numbers of workers there. But when a certain stage has been passed the majority of the residents of Canberra will be public servants, and, estimable as they may be - and there is no doubt on this point - the fact remains that naturally they will be disposed in this regard to look after their own interests rather than the interests’ of the people of Australia generally. That, in my opinion, would be a highly dangerous state of affairs. Members of the Public Service would, to a certain extent, be subject to all kinds of influences which would not be experienced if the area were controlled by a Commission on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth. For these reasons it would not be wise to hand over the enormous powers outlined in the Bill to a council elected merely by the residents in the Capital City area, and which would be in no way responsible to the people of Australia, who have to find the money for the development of the city. It would not be fair to the people to take the administration away, from the control of their elected representatives. It would be injudicious to clothe any local governing body with the powers referred to in clause 14. Any honorable senator who desires to see the city become what it ought to be will, I am sure, agree that such powers are too wide to be handed over to the chance majority of any- city council elected by the people in the Capital City area. That, power should remain more directly in the hands of Parliament, and be administered on its behalf by a Commission.
– The Capital City area will be like a Crown colony. The people will not enjoy citizenship rights.
– I do not think they will for many years.
– Does not the honorable senator believe in full citizenship rights for all the people?
– I do, but my honorable friends opposite have not yet suggested that the residents of Canberra should have those rights.
– Yes, we have.
– Do honorable senators opposite propose that the people of Canberra should have a representative in this Parliament?
– They have not even got the vote, and the Minister refuses to give it to them.
– The time has not yet arrived for that question to be finally determined.
– Why should the people there be disfranchised ?
– I agree that it is desirable to make some arrangement whereby the residents of the Capital City area may exercise the franchise in some contiguous division, if not in their own area.
– Yet the honorable senator is supporting the Government that refuses to give them this right.
– I am supporting the best Government I can get - a Government more in conformity with my ideas of what a Government ought to be than any administration formed of honorable members opposite is ever likely to be. I commend this Bill to the Senate’. Most of the doubts which I had at first have, upon further consideration of the measure, been removed. When I heard first of the proposal to appoint a Commission I confess that I did not like it at all. I can see certain dangers in it now, but it is not necessary that I should dilate upon them. Honorable senators opposite are ready and able enough to do that. In my opinion the advantages contained in the Bill outweigh its disadvantages, and for. that reason I intend to support it, hoping that as these other dangers develop, we shall be able to deal with them, and eventually enjoy all the advantages of this system without any of its disadvantages. I believe that if the administration of this measure reveals the necessity for certain amendments the Government will not hesitate to make them in the interests of the Capital and of the people of Australia.
– The present is an opportune time to, if possible, put Canberra under a proper form of government. There is one provision in the Bill which meets with my approval, and that is that the Commission, if appointed, shall not have the right to interfere with the plan as laid down by Mr. Walter Burley Griffen. A great deal of the trouble that has arisen at Canberra has been due to the persistent determination of certain people to leave nothing undone to prevent that plan being carried out. Fortunately those efforts have, to a large extent, been unsuccessful. I believe that to-day there is no great desire on the part of any considerable section of the Public Service to interfere with the plan. Before the plan can be interfered with any proposed alterations must have the approval of the Minister,, and, necessarily, the approval of Parliament. This provision meets with my approval. It is a reasonable safeguard. The appointment of the Commission ,isquite unnecessary. I do not know whom, the Government have in view. We must accept the assurance of the Minister (Senator Pearce) that they have no onein mind for appointment to the Commission. Since the decision to establish the Seat of Government at Canberra was arrived at, progress has been slow; necessarily it was slow during the war period. Since then, however, the works programme carried out under the present regime will bear very favorable comparison with works of a similar character undertaken under any form of control in any part of the Commonwealth. I do not say. that everything has been faultless, but there is now a very good power house, capable of generating all the power required for the Territory for many years to come. Would a Commission improve on that? There is also ample provision for water supply, unequalled anywhere in the Commonwealth. No Commission, even if its members were each drawing a salary of £3,000 a year, could do better than that. Some hundreds of miles of roads have been made and many other improvements of a permanent and substantial character have been made at a nominal cost. A very large sum of money has been spent, not in works of the kind mentioned, but in the acquisition of additional land necessary for the proper development of the Territory. I think I am correct in saying that the expenditure on the purchase of land has been somethinglike £800,000, and to-day ‘we passed another Bill, which included in its provisions authority to add still another, £12,000 worth of land to the Territory. Had it not been necessary to establish a Commission for the government of the city of Washington there would have been no mention of this proposal to appoint a Commission for Canberra. I am not going to dispute the wisdom of the American experiment, because I know nothing of the conditions existing at Washington, but evidently, in the opinion of the American people it was highly desirable to remove, not only Washington, but about 500 other cities in the United States of America, from local control. But this form of Government is entirely foreign to the people of Australia. Sydney has been under a system of local government for a great number of years. Sometimes it has worked well; at other times it has not been quite so satisfactory. On more than one occasion the Government of the day had to step in and take control out of the hands of the ratepayers. On the whole, however, control by ratepayers of the city of Sydney, which is at least twice the size of Washington, has worked very well. The ratepayers there want to extend their powers. They desire to get possession of the water supply system; they want to manage the ferry services, and a certain section would like to control the tramway and other municipal services, though they are never likely io do so while the present type of aldermen are in the majority in the City Council. Like the civic authorities controlling Glasgow, Belfast, and other cities in the Old World their one desire is to compel the users of services to pay the local taxes, rather than to compel the owners of the’ land to bear this burden . In this Bill there is a proposal which, if given effect to, may be interpreted to mean that the Commission will be entitled to do something in the same direction. I shall do all I can to prevent that. In Sydney, the aldermen have decided that the users of electricity generated at the council’s power-house outside the city shall pay a higher rate than is necessary, in order that the owners of city lands may be relieved of their proper share of taxation. In that city, according to the latest returns, the unimproved value of the land is £44,000,000, and it is a disgrace that persons owning such wealth should endeavour to compel the users of electrical current to assist them to pay a portion of their taxation. The control of the water and sewerage systems and the Sydney ferries is desired to compel the users of those services to contribute largely towards the funds of the municipality rather than to make the land-owners pay their share of taxation. We are indebted to Queensland for having first introduced a system of land taxation, which is, fortunately, clearly provided for in the Bill. But I would remind those inclined to approve of the Queensland principle that for a number of years the benefits were stultified by heavily subsidizing the local councils from the State revenue. We do not wish anything of that kind to be done at Canberra. It is provided that at the Federal Capital taxation shall be imposed on the lines laid down by the world’s greatest economist, the late Henry George, and that the tax shall be on the unimproved capital value of the land. It is unfortunately true that in Melbourne, Hobart, Launceston, and Perth the old method is still in operation, under which a man is penalized for his industry. In Sydney and Brisbane that practice was abandoned many years ago. Its abandonment in Sydney was due largely to the persistent efforts of Mr. Alexander G. Huie, the General Secretary of the Single Tax League, and one of the results today is that there is hardly a city in the Commonwealth in which building operations are more active than they are in Sydney. The proposal to hand over the control of Canberra to a Commission of three is entirely opposed to the Australian idea of local self-government. The only place where it is in operation to-day is in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, and even there, if a vote were taken of the white residents, I do not believe there would be five who would be in favour of the control remaining’ in Mr. Wisdom’s hands. Even in Papua, which is practically a Crown colony, and where the white inhabitants are limited in number, there is a council some of the members of which, at least, are elected by the local people. The Murray Waters scheme is an extensive undertaking controlled by New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and the Commonwealth. I can quite understand that joint control of a permanent character for a work of that kind is necessary; but let me ask the Minister, who has held up this service as a model to be followed, if it is not a fact that, after the first estimates of the cost were submitted, it was found necessary for the Commonwealth to vote another £1,000,000? Is it not also a fact that, notwithstanding the huge expenditure already incurred, it has been agreed by those directly interested to increase the size of the Hume Reservoir, and to impound at least double the volume 6f water originally intended ? The . pro- posed work will cost much more than was estimated in the first instance. This huge undertaking is controlled by a permanent Committee, the personnel of which has not been changed to any extent since it was first appointed. There is no occasion to appoint a Commission’ to carry on the work at Canberra, as the progress made there, at least during the last three years, has been almost all that could be desired. It is true that for a time the commencement of the original Parliament House was delayed. We were, I presume, correctly informed that on account of the numerous alterations - I think there were about 50 - in the design of the temporary structure, it was impracticable to make an earlier start with the work. Since that time, however, owing to the energy displayed by the Minister, for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), good progress has been made. The construction of the city itself has1 been delayed by the refusal of the Government to- provide facilities for people to’ build there, but that difficulty will, I presume, be overcome in the course of a few years. The salaries to be paid to the Commissioners are fairly substantial. The chief Commissioner is to receive more than the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and although it may be said that that is not an argument against the payment of an adequate salary, the Prime Minister should, at least receive as much, or even more, than the chief Commissioner. I entirely disagree with the proposal to employ two Commissioners who are to be paid fees for services rendered. The two Commissioners are supposed to be able to draw up to £40 per week, or £2,000 a year. Are they to be experts to advise the chief Commissioner, who is to be merely a figure-head, prepared to accept the advice of an engineering expert, on one hand, or an architectural authority, on the other, or is the chief Commissioner to control the various works to be undertaken ? If the chief Commissioner is to be in supreme control, he will not seek the assistance of his colleagues, and the whole of the work will be done by one man. Personally, I think it better to continue the work as at present. It ;s futile to say that by the appointment of .a Commission the work will be brought under one control. Are the Crown Law officers to operate under the Commissioner and will the other De partments, apart from the Department of Works and Railways, be directed by the Commission? In looking through the Bill, it will be seen that the Commission will be prevented from undertaking a good deal of work without the consent of the Treasurer or the Minister for the time being.
It has been stated that the position at Canberra, on account of the property being leased instead of sold, is distinctly different from that in any other city in the Commonwealth ; but that is a complete misrepresentation of the case, as in the city of London, and also in Sydney, large areas are held under lease. Would any one dare to suggest that because one man holds a lease from another, he should be deprived of the right to vote for the election of councillors to control local affairs ? 1 think not. The public servants who are to reside at Canberra, and who will lease dwellings, will be in just the same position as those in Melbourne, or in other cities of the .Commonwealth, and will naturally have a desire to take a hand in local government affairs. I do not suggest that in appointing a Commission the Government are creating positions for certain gentlemen. It appears, however, that there is too strong a desire on the part of the Government to appoint Commissions or Boards and to place their own responsibilities on the shoulders of others. At the same time I notice that, according to the Bill, the Ministry is still to have a very considerable voice in the administration of the Federal Capital, even although this expensive Commission is to be foisted on that city. After the 1st of October, when a number of the building leases will be made available, it will be interesting to know what number of leaseholds will have to be sold to pay the fees of the Commissioners. If 500 blocks are made available, the rentals received for the first three years will not be nearly sufficient to pay their salaries. There is no necessity for the Bill, but the Government has a majority, and, for some reason which it has not made sufficiently clear., it seems inclined to push the measure through the Senate. I shall take every advantage of every opportunity, when the Bill reaches the Committee stage, to mould it in the form in which I think it ought to be enacted.
Debate (on motion by Senator H. Hays) adjourned.
.- I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Inadvertently, on the motion for the adjournment on Friday last, when Senator McDougall raised a question respecting a number of alien migrants, mostly European, arriving in Australia, I overlooked replying to him. I would point out that there are only two Commonwealth Acts relating to immigration, one being the Contract Immigrants Act and the other the Immigration Restriction Act. Under the former, we have control only where persons are brought here under contract to perform manual labour. The contracts have to be lodged with the Department, which has to be satisfied that, firstly, there is no undue overloading of the labour market in the particular trade or industry concerned, and, secondly, that the rates of wages and conditions of labour are those recognized in the industry in Australia. The immigrants to whom the honorable senator referred . were not under contract. The Immigration Restriction Act, as every one knows, was aimed particularly at Asiatic immigration, although it does not specifically say so. There is a provision in that law which enables a certain amount of control to be exercised over other immigrants. For instance, if a person is a criminal or a lunatic, or is diseased, a test can be applied and the person declared a prohibited immigrant. On the other hand, if a white alien is not under any of these disabilities, he has the right to come into the Commonwealth. There is no authority under the law to apply a test to such a person. Therefore, the persons in question are not infringing any provision of the Immigration Restriction Act, unless they come under any of the headings I have enumerated. I mention that because I know that an impression is abroad that there is some power under the law to prohibit that kind of immigration. Senator McDougall referred to the loosening of the law respecting the admission of Maltese. What has actually happened is that there has been a tightening up of the provisions relating to the admission of
Maltese. The only restriction hitherto placed on Maltese was the fixing of the quota that could be admitted during twelve months. I think the number was 250. It was represented to us by the British Government that the restriction was being used by certain anti-British elements in Malta as a means of propaganda against British rule, and that it was irksome and somewhat obnoxious to them. It happened that we had some time previously come to an arrangement with the Italian Government. Honorable senators will remember that a shipload of indigent Italians arrived here, no provision having been made for them. They were absolutely stranded, and the Commonwealth Government had to insist on the shipping company taking them back. We then entered into negotiations with the Italian Government, and, as a result, arrived at an agreement whereby that Government bound themselves to see that such a thing would not again happen. They agreed to make certain provisions requiring Italian migrants coming to Australia to have a certain amount of money, and preferably to be nominated by some person who would undertake to look after them on arrival. They agreed that unrestricted immigration should not be permitted. We have been able to obtain practically the same conditions for the immigration of Maltese. They must have some knowledge of the English language, and be in possession of a certain amount of money. To our knowledge the Maltese Government are making it well known that Maltese should not come to Australia unless they have some knowledge of English, some friends here who are prepared to look after them, and unless they are in possession of some money to enable them to keep themselves on arrival here. We have imposed a limit to the number that can arrive in any one ship and with the number of ships bringing immigrants, as a matter of actual practice, apart altogether from the safeguards under the new arrangements which did not exist under the old, the number of Maltese now arriving barely exceeds the previous quota. I can assure the honorable senator that the impression he has obtained from the reports that have appeared in certain sections of the press is quite wrong, and that the general result of the agreement with the Government of Malta has been to tighten up the conditions under which Maltese immigrants can come to Australia.
– The Minister has just stated that contracts entered into between immigrants and those in the Commonwealth who bring them out are deposited with the Department.
– Anybody who brings in a manual labourer under contract without so doing commits a breach of the law, and, on information being given to the Department, can be prosecuted.
– I am informed that a number of people have recently come to Australia under contract.
– In connexion with the North Shore Bridge!
– The statement concerning the North Shore Bridge has been proved to be wrong.
– It is not known whether these immigrants were admitted with the approval of the Minister. There is no dispute about the wages. I should like to know whether it is possible on application to see the contracts which have been entered into within the last six months, and where they are to be seen ?
– These contracts may be seen at the Home and Territories Department, Spring-street, Melbourne. If the honorable senator will call there and indicate what particular contract or person is involved in his investigations, the documents will be made available to him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 June 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1924/19240618_senate_9_106/>.