9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) toot the chair at. 11 a.m., and read prayers.
” Ferndale “ AND “ Fordsdale
– Is the Minister representing the Prime Minister yet in a position: to furnish me with the information that I asked for some days ago relative to the construction, costs, and other details of the s.s. Ferndale.
– On the 13th June last. Senator Kingsmill asked the following questions: -
I promised to have inquiries made. The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
Charge against Thompson.
asked the .Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
It is the intention of the New Guinea Administrationto proceed further against the officer in question.
Removal of Embargo
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
That they are accompanied by an official certificate, dated and signed by a responsible officer of the Department) of Agriculture, New Zealand, identifying the potatoes, specifying the quantity, and certifying -
That the bags,crates, or other packagescontaining the potatoes are marked on the outside with the word “ Potatoes “ and thename and address of the grower.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Crawford) read a first time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 19th June, vide page 1412) :
Clause 6- (1.) The Commission shall consist of three members who shall be appointed by the GovernorGeneral.
Upon which Senator McDougall had moved by way of amendment -
That the words “ three members “ sub-clause 1, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “one member.”
– I support the amendment, since on a previous division we failed to secure the elimination of the Commission altogether. Judging by the speeches of several honorable senators opposite on the second reading of the Bill, we on this side shall have considerable support for this amendment. Some of them supported the Government’s proposal in part, but expressed the bpinion that one Commissioner would be quite sufficient to control the Federal Territory. The Minister, in reply, enumerated the various duties which the Commissioners, if appointed, would have to perform. If his argument were valid we should require at least half a dozen Commissioners to cope with the various duties that would come, under their jurisdiction. Included in those duties were the control and management of Crown lands, the levying and collection of taxes, construction and maintenance of tramways, works and buildings, roads, ‘ and bridges the destruction of weeds and vermin, and, generally, municipal government of the Territory. It would be impossible for any three Commissioners to carry out those duties. We should at least require an expert on land legislation and taxation, and on financial matters ; an engineer would be necessary for the construction of roads and bridges and other works. The destruction of vermin and weeds would require special attention, and health and sanitation would come under the supervision of a medical officer. For municipal and local government we should require the services of an expert on local administration. On the argument advanced by the Minister we should require at least half a dozen instead of three Commissioners. What does the Minister himself do when he is dealing with the various branches of- the Department under his control? He cannot possibly be expected to be conversant with all the details of those various branches. He, consequently, calls in to his assistance the services of the heads of those branches, and, if necessary, of other Departments to assist him in his deliberations. If one Commissioner were appointed he would have at his disposal the experts in the various Government Departments. A legal matter would be attended to by the Attorney-General’s Department, and an engineering matter concerning roads and bridges, by the Works and Railways Department. When the new system of administration operates at Canberra, the various Departments will gradually be located there, and, therefore, the opportunity to obtain technical advice will be very much facilitated. The experts will reside within the Federal Territory, and can be easily consulted by the Commission. It seems extraordinary, now that practically most of the spade work in laying out the new capital has been accomplished, that the Government should require to appoint an expensive Department, which will eventually become very -extensive, when the wheels- of progress are to a great extent in working order, and can be kept going without undue friction with a little lubrication.
– I am not sure that the amendment proposed by my colleague will be agreed to by the Committee, and I give notice that if it is rejected I shall move a further amendment. In the meantime, in the hope that it may be agreed to, I wish to point out some of the advantages that would accrue from its adoption. The Commissioner would have the right to call to his aid, not necessarily the services of the two Commissioners, who, the Minister suggests, would have experience of a valuable character, but those . of men experienced in other directions. Just as I believe that it is improbable that the Chief Commissioner himself would have an aliembracing knowledge of the subjects set out in ‘clause 14, so to some extent do I believe that the additional two Commissioners would also be lacking in a complete knowledge of those subjects. I disagree with the view of the Minister (Senator Pearce), and believe that we cannot, reasonably expect any man, no matter how closely he may devote himself to these matters, to possess an expert and valuable knowledge of ©very one of them. Sub-clause c of clause 14 proposes to confer upon, the Commission the right to construct, maintain, and operate tramways. , If Canberra is to make the progress that we expect it to make, it will be necessary for one man to devote the whole of his time to looking after that utility. I presume that he will .also have, to deal with motor traffic and other means of transport. In Sydney one man has been appointed as manager or general superintendent to control the tramway undertaking, but he is not expected to be expert in local government matters. His whole time is occupied with the working of the tramway system, and he is aided by the heads of various sub-departments. Sub-clause d confers on the Commission power to construct, maintain, and control roads, bridges’ culverts, levees, sewers, drains, and watercourses. A man who is expert in the management of a tramway system may not know anything about the construction i of a culvert or a sew.er. If one commissioner 6’niy is appointed he will have to be in a position to call in specialists to assist him. This is. the age of specialization. The man who today is expert in a variety of matters finds it difficult to secure any employment. To excel, a man must devote him- , self almost exclusively to one subject. It is true that some men launch out in a business which involves the handling and distribution of a number of different articles, but such a. concern generally develops into a limited liability company, in which the principal delegates the control of sub-departments to a number of persons. No matter how well informed the Commissioner may be, he will not have a knowledge of all the matters that will come before him. Provision will nave to be made for gas, electricity, water, and sewerage. In Sydney an expert engineer devotes the whole of his time to controlling the generation and distribution of electricity. Is it expected that the Commissioner at Canberra will be any better equipped than, say, the Lord Mayor of Sydney ? I do not suppose that he will. He will have to be advised on a variety of matters, in addition to the municipal government of the territory. I believe that mention has not been made in the Bill of a number of duties that he will be required to perform. I should like the Minister to state who is going to take charge of education at Canberra. At present it is under, the direction of the New South Wales Department of Education.
– Why not continue that policy?
– I do not anticipate that the education of the residents of Canberra will be entrusted even to the efficient administration of the New South Wales Department of Education for other than a limited period.
– The New, South Wales system is the best obtainable in Australia.
– That will require to be added to the many duties to be controlled by the Commissioner. I have no desire to recite the full list of duties detailed in clause 14, because I think that I have referred to a sufficient number to show that the appointment of two additional advisers will be totally inadequate to meet the requirements. . An unsatisfactory feature of the Bill is that the remuneration of the two proposed additional Commissioners is not clearly set out. If they work in harmony with the Commissioner, and he pays close attention to his business, these gentlemen may draw up to ?10,000 or ?20,000 per annum.
-(Senator Newland). - The matter of the remuneration of those gentlemen is not dealt with by this clause.
– This clause provides for the appointment of three commissioners, and the contention of the mover of the amendment (Senator McDougall) is that one commissioner will be sufficient. In a later clause, towhich the Minister yesterday was allowed to refer, provision is made for the remuneration of the two additional commissioners by way of fees. It would be better if the remuneration were clearly stated; then the public would know what the cost was likely to be. It would be an advantage to the Commissioner if he could call to his aid experts, of which there is an innumerable supply in the Commonwealth. The clause might, therefore, be amended to provide for the appointment of only one commissioner, and in a later clause provision could be made to enable the Commissioner to call to his aid men expert in the matters detailed in clause 14.
– Of course the Government cannot accept this amendment. I can well imagine that if it had brought down a Bill providing for the appointment of one Commissioner, the Opposition would have said that it was proposed to appoint an autocrat. As the Bill provides for the appointment of three commissioners, only one is favoured by them. An instance of a Commission constituted on practically the same lines as this is to be is the Electricity Commission, which is charged with the responsibility of the big electrical distribution scheme at Yallourn. That Commission consists of a full-time salaried chairman and two other members, who are paid by fees. As every one knows, it has carried out a very big engineering work with satisfactory results, and it is a good illustration of the value of enlisting the services of persons who are experts in a particular line to assist -a permanent chairman.
– It is not likely that we shall obtain the services of a Monash to administer Canberra.
– There are in the Commonwealth men who would capably fill this position.
– It would be a very great reflection on the people of Australia if such a man could not be found.
– The Electricity Commission has operated for some time, and if it were defective the defect would by now have been disclosed.
– Senator Pearce has stated that if the Bill had provided for the appointment of one Commissioner we on this side would have asserted that it was proposed to appoint a dictator. I agree with the honorable senator. I am of the opinion that the proposal is wholly bad, but if we can reduce the evil by twothirds it will be a point gained.
– The honorable senator’s objection is not to the composition of the proposed Commission, but to the Bill.
– Yes. My objection is based upon the fact that the Government has in its service at present officers who for ten years have been regarded as competent to carry on this work. I, therefore, do not favour the appointments of three other persons to take control. There has not been any charge of inefficiency or of mismanagement.
– So far, there has not been any local government in Canberra, and the borrowing has been only through the Government.
– I agree with the honorable senator that the powers of the officials are at present curtailed, and that they are subject to the will of this Parliament - exercised, of course, through the Government. That is an excellent position in which to place them, and they should be kept there. I have always been taught that the lesser of two evils is to be preferred, and I, therefore, favour the appointment of one Commissioner instead of three, particularly as the Bill provides for the payment of fees to’ two of them. Men who are worthy to hold these offices will not accept employment tinder such conditions. The existing administration at Canberra, with a few alterations, can carry out all the constructional work as efficiently as it has been carried out in the past. When Parliament is sitting at Canberra orit will exercise a moral effect on the officials, because members will move about with an eye to the prevention of waste and extravagance and the expeditious carrying on of the work. The number of practical men who find their way into Parliament is remarkable. We shall then be able to establish a local governing body from the ranks of the residents. If I am not supported sufficiently to enable me to destroy the whole provision, I shall certainly join Senator McDougall in his efforts to prevent the appointment of more than one Commissioner, on the ground that a Commission as a form of government is not understood in Australia, has not been asked for - and, of course, has emanated from this Government. I can safely say that no good. thing can cornel from the party opposite, and I gladly support the amendment by Senator McDougall.
– I have supported the idea of a Commission because I feel that its appointment will ensure continuity of policy. To have this continuity it is essential that the Commission should ‘ be clothed with powers to borrow. T am not in favour of giving officers of the Public Service such wide powers in that connexion as are proposed in the Bill. I do not favour the appointment of a single Commissioner. I recall the initial experience in regard to the construction of Canberra under a single head-. Under the auspices of the Labour Government then in power the work was started with a fanfare of trumpets, the laying of many foundation stones, and numerous ceremonies. The Government of that day selected a gentleman who should have been in every way qualified for the work of supervision, seeing that he was the designer of the Capital, and was specially brought to Australia for the purpose. I refer to Mr. Griffin, who was appointed the sole constructional authority, and began operations with a very elaborate staff. I have not the slightest feeling against that gentleman; but the fact remains that all the mistakes for which the work at Canberra has been criticized, occurred while the control was under » single: head.
– To what mistakes does the honorable senator refer?
– I could mention several. Every time a person visits the Capital,- and goes from Yarralumla to
Acton,he Las to pass through a deep tunnel-like cutting, and it will cost a good deal of money to remedy that mistake alone. In the construction of other roads similar errors of judgment were committed.
– It is intended to be a street.
– The cutting is an eyesore, and the mistakes made when there was one-man control furnish an answer to the argument of those honorable senators who say that the work should be done under a sole director in co-operation with the officers of the Department. Under Mr. Griffin’s regime there was continual clashing between him and the officers of the various Departments employed at Canberra. The position was unsatisfactory from beginning to end. That is why the Government of the day put an end to the arrangement, and almost everybody in Parliament agreed that the farce should be stopped. I have not heard any honorable senator - no matter to what party he belongs - attempting to justify the administration as it existedin those daysunder a single head. Statements have been made that the position has been everything that could be desired since the one-man regime was ended, and I quite agree that the work of remedying the earlier errors has been and is still being well done. If it were only a matter of carrying out the programme of works set down by this Parliament it would be quite a good plan to continue the present administration, leaving the officers of the Departments at Canberra to carry out thedevelopmental policy as directed by Parliament. I am not in favor of one-man control in any circumstances whereit is possible to have three Commissioners. There is a good deal of truth in the Biblical saying, that “in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” It will not be necessary to have an expert in every department that will come under the purview of the proposed Commission. It is quite sufficient that the three Commissioners should have a general working knowledge of the whole scheme, and should act on the reports of their officers. It would be foolish to dissociate, say, the Engineering Branch from the Construction Branch, and it is, therefore, necessary that there should be some authority to hold the balance between the contentions of the different Departments operat ing at the Capital, in order to arrive at the best policy in the general interests of its development. If we had one Commissioner, and he made a mistake, it would be much less likely to be admitted and rectified than if we had a Board of three. I know that the present officers are now doing their work well, and would be capable of giving equally satisfactory service in future were it not for the allimportant point that it is desired to give the Commission the power to borrow money, to do its own work in its own way, and at its own speed, which I feel sure will be at an accelerated rate. I would not give to any public servant the power to raise loans for such works as are to be carried out at Canberra. That power should only be given to a Board of Commissioners who would be responsible to a Minister, and through him to the Parliament.
– There could be no stronger argument in favour of the amendment by Senator McDougall than that advanced by. Senator Duncan. He said that the officers now engaged in the work at Canberra were doing it well. He told us that they were efficient officers, with whose services he had not the slightest fault to find ; but he would not trust public servants with the duty of floating loans and doing the work that the proposed Commission would have to undertake. Nobody outside a lunatic asylum would ever suggest that these public servants should have the power to float loans for public purposes. No one in this Chamber has suggested such a foolish idea. What we on this side said yesterday, what we say now, and what we shall continue to say, is that there are Ministers in the Cabinet who have not yet been given portfolios, and that there are still some members of the National party who would appreciate being included in the Ministry. The present Government is in a precarious state of health, and it is calling for all sorts of prescriptions for tonics. It is weak and anaemic. One can see from the expressions on the faces of Ministers that they are far from healthy. The chief physician of the Cabinet has told the people plainly that it is in a very precarious condition, and requires a stimulant. Apparently there are not sufficient members in the Cabinet to do the work necessary at Canberra. If that isso, why not appoint an additional Minister, who could, with the approval of Cabinet and Parliament, float the necessary loans and instruct the present officers to carry on the work ? Yesterday I made the statement that it would prove very expensive to have three Commissioners. I remarked, incidentally, that there was no limit in the Bill to the amount that could be paid by way of fees to two of them;- .but the ‘guide, philosopher, and friend of the BrucePage combination, who advises Ministers in the Senate on all matters - I refer to the Government Whip - said that I had not read the Bill. As a matter of fact, I had, and I was not in error in saying that one Commissioner would be paid £3,000 per annum, and the other two could receive any sum prescribed by regulation. When I looked at the Bill again, at the suggestion of Senator DrakeBrockman, and still maintained my point of view, I was advised to “ read on.” I have “ read on.” My contention is substantiated. The honorable senator and Senator Duncan, who followed him, now discover that they made a mistake. Evidently they had not read the Bill, and did not understand it. Coming back to the question of three Commissioners, I reiterate that even one is not necessary. I do not believe in government by Commissioners at all. Apparently, we shall not be able to defeat the Government on this issue, but if there is anything in what honorable senators supporting the Ministry have been saying in their second-reading speeches, the Government ought to accept the amendment, even if it does come from this side. Some of their strongest supporters share our views on this question. Senator Payne may be cited as one. If there is anything I admire in Senator Payne, it is his consistency. Unlike other honorable senators opposite who speak in disapproval of the provisions in a Bill, but vote in opposition to their expressed views, Senator Payne may be depended upon to stand up to his convictions. I have watched the honorable senator very carefully. It is true that although he is opposed to my party, and at times makes statements which are not altogether accurate, he is not like other honorable senators of his party - consistent only. in their inconsistency. Senator Payne, I am sure, will support us in our endeavour to make this a more workable measure. His was one of the best speeches made by Minis terial supporters in their demand for economy in administration and continuity of policy. He told the Committee that for a long time he had been a strong, opponent of the Federal Capital proposal. Unlike certain go-slow members of the Bruce-Page combination, he was not afflicted with “ Canberraitis.” He informed us that at one time he did not wish to see any expenditure of public money at the Capital City site. - On the occasion of his first visit to Canberra, so we are told, he was prejudiced in regard, .both to its climate and situation, but he came back convinced that the site had been well chosen and that, in the course of time, we should have a -very important and beautiful city there. Senator Payne also pointed out that nearly all the big works had been practically completed. We may presume, therefore, that his view is that if there was ever any justification for the appointment of these three Commissioners, the appointments should have been made .before all this pioneering work had been done, and that the Government, is putting forward this proposal rather late in the day. If;. at the commencement of their career, Ministers had outlined it, perhaps it would have been taken more seriously.
– We did. It was included in the Governor-General’s speech.
– But we all know that proposals mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s speech are like items on the bill of fare-“ We had it on the bill of fare, sir, but I am sorry, it is now off.’.’ How long has this Government been in office ?
– Too long.
– The Government has been in office for eighteen months. Senator Pearce says this proposal was included in the Governor-General’s speech at the opening of Parliament. Obviously it was more urgent then, because there was the work to do. During the last year or two the constructional programme has ‘been carried on more expeditiously than at any other period in the history of the Capital City.
– Formerly, there was only one man in charge.
– Who ?
– Mr. Griffin.
– As a matter of f act,,, . the important works have been carried out under tho authority of two responsible Ministers - the Minister for Works and Railways and the Minister for Home and Territories.
-(Senator Newland). - The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I listened very carefully to Senator Duncan’s remarks with regard to Mx. Griffin’s alleged failure as director of the Capital City in regard to the works programme. I remind the Committee that in open competition with all the city designers in the world - Australians included - an Australian examination board chose Mr. Walter B. Griffin’s plan as the most suitable.
– The honorable senator’s remarks nave nothing whatever to do with the clause.
– Very’ well, Mr. Chairman. Senator Duncan pointed out that, during Mr. Griffin’s administration, there was a good deal of insurbordination on the part of officers whose duty it should have been to assist him. They were determined, as Senator Duncan very well knows, to-
– Combat . his stupidity.
– They were determined to upset his plan, which had received the endorsement of the properly constituted authority to judge between the designs submitted for the future Seat of Government. They left nothing undone, in season and out of season, to defeat it.
– I again ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the clause, and not to elaborate his present line of argument.
– I repeat, Mr. Chairman, that those officers did all they could to upset Mr. Griffin’s plans. They refused to co-operate with him. Mr. Griffin had not the necessary authority to insist on the work being carried out according to his design.,
– Order! I ask the honorable senator to obey the Chair. I have already ruled that he has proceeded far enough in his present line of argument. He must confine himself to the clause.
– If I have made my point clear to you, Mr. Chairman, I am sure that it must be understood equally well by other honorable senators. In ad vocating the appointment of one Commissioner instead of three, we believe that if he is clothed with the proper authority, which Mr. Griffin never had-
– Thank God!
– We believe that he will be able to carry on the administration of the Federal Territory efficiently. Is it not a fact that the departmental officers, to whom I have referred, drew up and submitted what was known as the departmental plan, which secured the tentative approval of the Minister? Is it not a fact also that it required the combined determination of all the architects and designers in the Commonwealth to upset that scheme, and restore to the people of Australia Mr. Griffin’s plan? That was why Mr. Griffin was not able to carry out his duties effectively. I doubt if any man would have been able to do better in similar circumstances. With regard to the alleged mistake of making a deep cutting in constructing a permanent roadway, it ought to be remembered that Mr. Grifiin-
– Order ! The honorable senator must not offend again.
– It is surprising that Senator Duncan should have been allowed to “ scally-wag “ Mr. Griffin at length, whilst I am not allowed to defend him.
– The honorable senator must confine himself to the clause, otherwise I shall direct him to resume . his seat.
– I have no intention of contravening your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I am aware that, if I do so, I shall have to sit down. At the same time I cannot help saying that it does not appear to me to be quite fair that Senator Duncan should have been allowed to proceed along the same line in his denunciation of Mr. Griffin-
- Senator Duncan made only an incidental reference to Mr. Griffin’s work.
– With all due respect to you, Mr. Chairman, his references were somewhat lengthy. I hope, however, that I have made my position clear. I stand by Mr. Griffin in regard to his work at Canberra, and I believe that we can carry on the development of the city quite as well with only one Commissioner. .Senator HELD (Queensland) [12.0].- I have listened carefully to the speeches made by honorable senators opposite. I understand that the proposed Commission is to be a local authority responsible for the control of operations at Canberra, and that it will have little to do with constructional work. It will not be expected to give effect to the proposals of Mr. Griffin. Its main function will, I understand, be to deal with the construction of streets, and other works of a similar character, such as are usually undertaken by local governing bodies
– Its powers are set out in Clause 16 of the Bill. They are more extensive than the honorable member suggests.
– I was not under the impression that it would exercise the authority now possessed by the Advisory Committee. If the whole of the constructional work at the Federal Capital is to be undertaken by the proposed Commission it is necessary to have at least three Commissioners, because the task is a stupendous one, and more than one man could effectively undertake.
– By whom is the work being done to-day?
– The Advisory Committee is directing operations, and every one who has visited Canberra will admit that they are proceeding very satisfactorily. Prior to the appointment of the Advisory Committee some costly mistakes were made, and quite a lot of useless work was undertaken. With three Commissioners there would be continuity of policy and less likelihood of unnecessary expenditure. The responsibility should not rest upon Ministers, because, at present, they have more important duties to perform, and their time should not be taken Up in administering what are purely local affairs. Parliament will have control over the Commission, as it will have to submit reports and make recommendations on important issues. Parliament should not be reduced to the level of a municipal council and waste its time in dealing with details which could more effectively be settled by a Commission established at the Capital City. Too much time is now wasted, not only in the National Parliament, but in the State Legislatures, in dealing with questions which should be settled by local governing bodies. With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I should like to briefly comment upon a statement I made yesterday, that mechanics at Canberra were being paid 23s. per day.
– (Senator Newland) - The honorable senator will not he in order in doing so at this juncture.
– I wish to inform the Committee, and the public, that inaccurate statements have been made concerning the work being undertaken at Canberra. I shall, however, deal with the matter on some other occasion.
– Senator Duncan used as an illustration of the failure of control by one man the construction of a nutting at Canberra, for which he said Mr. Griffin was responsible. In replying to those who ‘ criticize work only partially complete, I could quote an old saying, which refers to children and others. As the speeches of honorable senators are fully reported, I should like, if I were permitted, to defend Mr. Griffin, who rendered very valuable service to the Commonwealth. It has been said that one bad general is better than two good ones.
– But the honorable senator does not believe that?
– My authority is Napoleon,- who we all believe knew something concerning military strategy.
– But he is not in the Senate!
– No ; but we have in the Senate to-day a man as small in stature and as great in knowledge. The difficulties which existed during the period Mr. Griflin was in control were caused because public officers felt that they were placed in a false position in consequence of the conditions under which they had to work, and they almost challenged his authority. This Bill does not leave any doubt as to who shall be the controlling authority, and the measure gives the proposed Commission powers which Mr. Griffin: never possessed. I say, unhesitatingly, that if this Bill is passed, and a Commission is appointed, the next Parliament will repeal the Act.
– Surely the Minister (Senator Pearce) does not accuse me of moving “ this amendment “with the object of harassing the Government. He said, that if the Government had proposed one Commissioner we on this side of the Chamber would have offered opposition on the ground that the person appointed would become an autocrat and dictator; but that is not so. A Board of three appointed by the Government to control an important branch of the Service was absolutely powerless in consequence of a misunderstanding which existed between two of its members, and any recommendation made was overruled by two men.
– To what Board is the honorable senator referring ?
– The Naval Board. In consequence of the dispute which existed, the position became so acute that the chairman resigned; and similar trouble will probably arise if a Commission consisting of three members is appointed. I am strongly of the opinion that the work at Canberra can be more effectively controlled by one Commissioner than by a Board of three, and I trust the Committee will support my amendment.
.- I wish, as briefly as possible, to give my reasons for supporting the appointment of three’ Commissioners to control the work at the Federal Capital. I do so because of the opinion I have formed, after three visists to Canberra, during which I had ample opportunity to study the whole question at issue, that the work, as it is at present, naturally divides itself into two portions - the administration of the land and the. administration of works. To those duties may presently be added the administration of the city. It would be impossible for one man to combine the necessary knowledge, or to have the necessary time, even if he worked twenty-four hours a day, to carry out satisfactorily all the duties relating to those three branches. That being so, the Commissioners should number three. I have no doubt that the system which has worked so well - as honorable senators have admitted during the debate - respecting the two activities which at present exist at the Federal, site, will still work well when the municipal duties that must be attended to as soon as Canberra. becomes a city, come into being. I therefore intend to support the clause as it stands.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (Senator McDougall’s amendment) be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator GRANT (New South Wales) 1 12.20] -It would be quite impossible at the present moment to persuade the Government to agree to the Commission being elected by the residents of Canberra, but I think it might go a little part of the way and agree to at least one of the Commissioners being so elected. With that object in view I propose to move to amend sub-clause 1, so that it will read -
The Commission shall consist of three members, two of whom shall tie appointed by the Governor -General, and one by the residents of the Federal Territory.
As a first step in that direction, I move -
That the word “who”, sub-clause 1, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ two of whom “.
Amendment negatived. Clause agreed to.
– As Senator Grant’s amendment has been def eated-
– (Senator Newland) . - I would inform the honorable senator that I have already put the question that the clause, as printed, be agreed to. , Senator 3TEEDHAM.- I was under the impression that you, Mr. Chairman, were repeating the question that was put respecting the amendment. Is it now too late for me to move an amendment to clause 6?
– The honorable senator can move at the report stage that the clause be recommitted.
Clause 7 -
The remuneration of the Chairman of the Commission shall not exceed three thousand pounds , per annum, and the remuneration of each of the other members shall be by way of fees as prescribed.
– I hope that the clause as printed will not be agreed to. The Minister yesterday stated that the approximate amount would not exceed £7,000, which amount was embodied in the Bill. The Bill, however, contains nothing at all respecting tho amount by way of fees that may be paid to the two part-time members of the Commission. As originally introduced in another place, it did state a specific amount, but that provision was eliminated. I feel sure- that the Committee, notwithstanding what Senator DrakeBrockrnan said yesterday, does not desire that the part-time Commissioners shall receive other than a reasonable reward for their services; hut it should not be left to the Minister to so frame regulations as to permit these Commissioners to receive more than was originally intended. In another place, exception was taken to the original clause by members supporting the Government, and objection was also raised by the press of the Commonwealth, because the amount specified for the remuneration of the Commissioners would have to be obtained by placing additional taxation on the people of Australia. Three Commissioners were considered to be unnecessary, and the total salaries of £7,000 to he excessive. After conferring, the Government supporters concluded, that it would be better to have one permanent Commissioner and two part-time Commissioners. The belief was entertained by those who entered their protest against the appointment of three Commissioners that if this were done the salaries and fees would not in any way approximate £7,000. “What guarantee have we of that? There. is no limitation to the fees that may be paid to these gentlemen. As a representative! of the people of Victoria, I protest against the payment of excessive fees to the part-time Commissioners for any services that they may render. I am not opposed to the payment of reasonable or proper salaii.es, but I do not intend to vote blindly for this clause. It is too ambiguous, and gives too much power- to the Minister to frame regulations respecting salaries. We should lay down definitely the salary we think ought to be paid. I move -
That the words “ and the remuneration of each of the other members shall be by way of fees, as prescribed “ be left out.
– In what way would the other two Commissioners be remunerated?
– It would then rest with the Government to tell us exactly what those Commissioners are to’ receive, and we should know what we. were doing.
– Senator H. Hays drew attention to the fact that no limitation was imposed on the amount of fees that could be paid. That is a fact for which the Government is not responsible, excepting in so far1 as it accepted an amendment that was moved in another place. ,When the Bill was introduced it provided a limitation of £2,000 in respect to each of the two part-time Commissioners. I cannot accept the destructive amendment moved by Senator Findley it is clearly intended to accomplish, in another way, the limitation desired on the number of Commissioners. If , Senator H. Hays desires to pursue the matter,, I am prepared to accept an amendment to add to the clause the words “the total amount of remuneration paid, by way of fees shall not exceed the sum of £4,000: per annum.” It is desirable that the Government shall he able to prescribe the amount of fees and the manner in. which they are to be paid. It may be found desirable and necessary to pay a retaining fee. The Commissioners must obviously make inspections to see themanner in which the work is being carried out. Therefore, some portion of the £2,000’ may have to be paid as a retaining fee, the balance to bo drawn by the two Commissioners as fees for sittings. That is the reason why we wish the clause to contain the words “ as prescribed.”
– Did I understand the Minister to say that he would agree to an amendment providing that the fees shall not exceed £2,000 per annum each, a portion of that sum to be paid as a retaining fee; in other words, that one or both of the two part-time Commissioners shall be paid a straightout salary of £1,000 per annum, the other £1,000 per annum in each case to be drawn as fees? If these gentlemen met only once a week the payment per sitting would considerably exceed that made to honorable senators. I do not for a moment consider that the services of these gentlemen will be more valuable to the country than are those of honorable senators. They will certainly be not nearly so valuable as the services of Ministers. If it is intended to pay them at the rate of £40 per sitting, that ought to be made clear. I realize that the cost of living has considerably advanced and that, at a remuneration of less than £40 or £50 per sitting, these mythical gentlemen would not be able to make available any of the vast store of information that they have gathered !
– I am in favour of Senator Findley’s amendment. I understand that the Minister (Senator Pearce) now suggests, as a compromise, that the total fees paid shall not exceed £4,000 per annum. I” should prefer the Minister to state definitely the amount which is to be received by the two part-time Commissioners. Subclause 3 of clause 6 states that the Chairman of the Commission shall devote the whole of his time to the duties of his office, and it is proposed to pay him a salary of £3,000 per annum. I have opposed the appointment of this Commission from the time it was proposed. Yesterday I. stated that I would vote for any amendment which would destroy the Bill. But if the Chairman of the Commission is to bo required to devote the whole of his time to the duties of his office, and there ..are to be three Commissioners in all, let’ the other two be continuously on the job and be paid at least £2,000 a year each.
– The honorable senator is casting overboard his economy argument.
– I have not at any time adduced such an argument. The Government to which Senator Duncan owes allegiance has all the time preached economy. The argument which I have advanced is that if this were a good Government it would be capable of continuing, this work in the manner that it has been carried on for some time.
Senator McHugh (South Australia) [12.41]. - I support Senator Findley’s amendment. I inform Senator Duncan that the Labour party is an economy party, in the sense that it is anxious to see that full value is received for any expenditure incurred. Under the suggested amendment, which I have no doubt Senator H. Hays will’ move, it is not apparent how many sittings will be held or how much per sitting the two part-time Commissioners will receive. I am inclined to the same belief as Senator Needham, that those gentlemen should give the whole of their time to this work. If they are merely given a retainer they will attend meetings without a knowledge of facts that are in the possession of the Chief Commissioner. That gentleman, being on the job all the time, will thoroughly understand it, and the others will have to be guided by him. They may be drawing £3,000 a year from some other source, and will devote only a small portion of their time to this work. They may attend a meeting once a month, and the Government may fix their fee at 50 guineas, 60 guineas, or 70 guineas per sitting. We should be more careful in expending the people’s money than we are with our own. Persons who are paid £2,000 a year ought to be full-time officers. There are not in the Commonwealth Public Service many men who are receiving £2,000 a year. The duties of these men will be of an intermittent character. For £2,000 a year it should be possible to obtain the services of men who are prepared to place at the disposal of the Government the whole of their time. The majority of the public servants to-day are giving the whole of their time to the Commonwealth for less than £500 a year. Seeing that many capable public servants do not receive more than £500 per annum, surely we can get good Commissioners at £2,000 per annum, . who will give the whole of their time to the work.
. -When the Parliament decided some time ago to increase the remuneration of honorable members a great howl went up from the Melbourne Age, and we had the spectacle of a lot of estimable women urging the people to sign a petition against the increased salaries. But what will be the cry when it is generally known that for a job of chairman of a Commission in the alleged wilderness of Canberra, £3,000 a year is to be paid, while two other Commissioners are to receive £2,000 per annum for part-time service? I warn the Government that the Aye will probably get on their tracks and squelch them.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Findley’s amendment), be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I stated on the secondreading of the Bill that it was quite possible, if the clause remained as printed, for the two Commissioner’s to draw a salary in excess of the amount paid to the chairman. I now move -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ The total amount of remuneration paid by fees shall not exceed the sum of £4,000 per annum.”
– Now we have something definite, and we are invited to return to the proposal in the Bill when it was introduced in another place. The intention then was that two Commissioners should receive £2,000 per annum each, and the chairman £3, 000per annum. An alteration was made in another place as the result of a caucus meeting held on account of the hostility of certain honorable members on the Government side. I feel inclined to support the amendment by Senator H. Hays if he consents to add the words “ and the Commissioners shall devotethe whole of their time to the work of their office.” I object to paying any citizen of this country£2,000 per annum for intermittent work, seeing that for half that sum members of Parliament devote practically the whole of their time to their parliamentary duties.
– It only proves that members of this Parliament are underpaid.
– I have not the least doubt but that the whole of the £4,000 will be expended. The members of the Commission will take good care that sufficient sittings are held to exhaust the full allowance.
– Not necessarily.
– -The honorable senator is not a tyro in politics, and he knows perfectly well that not one penny of the £4,000 will revert to the Treasury. We must therefore take it for granted that we shall be adding an. expenditure of £4,000 per annum to the sum of £3,000 per annum to be drawn by the chairman. This means £7,000 additional expenditure at Canberra. Furthermore, we may take it that a secretarial staff will be attached to this glorified Commission, entailing the expenditure of at least another £7,000,
– Theamendment suggested to Senator H. Hays by the Minister (Senator Pearce) is outrageous. The Bill originally provided for three Commissioners. When the press and honorable members supporting the Government in another place opposed the appointment of three full-time men, a compromise was arrived at, with the result that we now have a worse Bill, so far as the expenditure is concerned, than the measure as it was originally introduced. The amendment is mere camouflage. The total expenditure under the first proposition would have been £7,000 per annum. It is now proposed to have a permanent head at£3,000 per annum, and two part-time Commissioners who may be engaged only a third of the year, but will be in a more favorable position financially than the permanent man himself. From such an arrangement we cannot expect to obtain satisfactory results. Personal feeling will be engendered from the very commencement of the Commission’s operations. The part-time Commissioners will attend only when they think it necessary. Honorable senators from Tasmania have told us that the island State is in a very precarious condition financially. Appeals have been made for help, and yet Senator H. Hays, and those who share his views, are prepared to vote for the payment of a higher salary to part-time Commissioners than to the permanent head.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30p.m.
– I cannot understand why Senator H. Hays, who is an advocate of economy, and who, with other honorable senators of Tasmania, is extremely anxious to get financial assistance for that State from the Commonwealth, should have submitted the amendment in its present form.
– As drafted, the clause is really an open cheque.
– We know, as a matter of fact, that the work which the Commissioners may be called upon to performwill be small compared with what would have been required of them had they been appointed when first this Government came into office. Ministers at first said that, owing to the amount of work ahead, it was necessary to appoint three Commissioners, and that, in their opinion, those officers should devote the whole of their time to their duties. In the next breath almost we have been told that it will not be necessary to have three full-time Commissioners; that the chairman will be the only permanent employee, and that the other two will be employed at casual intervals. I cannot understand these contradictory statements. If the two assistant Commissioners are to be only partly employed, as evidently is now the intention, the objections which honorable senators on this side have been urging against the Bill in this respect are-confirmed. The clause provides that the fees for the two assistant Commissioners shall be as prescribed. This means that regulations will be drafted in accordance with the provisions of the Act; those regulations will be placed upon the table of the Senate; and, if Parliament be in session, we shall have an opportunity of saying whether or not we approve of the fees to be paid. But Parliament may not be in session, and the Minister for the time being may draft regulations and prescribe such fees that the assistant commissioners, who, be it remembered, will be employed for only part of their time, may get as much by way of remuneration as was originally intended to be paid to them as permanent and full-time officers. No one can justify that position.. The working of the Commission will not be so satisfactory. It will not be as responsible for work that may be carried out in those circumstances as it would have been had the original proposal been carried into effect. I cannot support the amendment. In all other business activities or Government Boards, assistants or members do not get the same remuneration as the chairman. For this reason £2,000 ought to be sufficient for the assistant Commissioners, who devote the whole of their time to the work. It seems now that, if we agree to this amendment, exorbitant fees may be paid to the assistant Commissioners. Can honorable senators vote for an amendment that is so indefinite in its terms? The Minister has not given the least hint as to the fees that will be paid to the assistant Commissioners. Canberra is in a somewhat isolated position. In all probability, one or two of the gentlemen to be appointed will be resident in a. distant State, with the result that considerable expenses will be incurred in travelling. Suppose, for example, that one of the Commissioners is a resident of Western Australia. Is it likely that he would consider himself well paid if he got less than £2,000 a year? There will, I presume, be a certain number of sittings. Assistant Commissioners, like members of Parliament living in distant States, will occasionally desire to return to their respective homes. Therefore, from a business point of view it would be better to say here and now - not that I support the proposal - that there shall be three Commissioners, who shall devote the whole of their time to the control of the Federal Capital area; and, further, that the sum of their remuneration shall not exceed £7,000. On the contrary, the Government now say that one of the Commissioners shall be a permanent official, and that the other two shall be called upon to assist the chairman whenever he thinks it necessary for them to attend. That is not my view of a business-like proposition. The Government cannot justify it.
.- Can the mover of the amendment say if it is proposed that each assistant Commisioner shall receive in fees £2,000 a year, or is it intended that one Commissioner may draw £3,000 and the other only £1,000?
Senator-DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) [2.39]. - The amendment does not prescribe that any portion of the £4,000 shall go to any one of the two assistant Commissioners. It merely states the maximum sum that may be paid. If the honorable senator will look at clause 10, he will find the provision that, if a Commissioner is wilfully absent from duty for a period of fourteen consecutive days, or, where his remuneration is by way of fees only, if he is wilfully absent from three consecutive meetings of the Commission, except when on leave, he shall cease to occupy his seat on the Commission.
– That may make it possible for one Commissioner to draw the larger proportion of the amount offees to be prescribed.
– But it limits the amount which the Government may prescribe to be paid in fees. ‘ Senator PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Home and Territories) [2.41]. - What we have in mind is this: Suppose a Commissioner is appointed to deal with finance. Obviously what will be wanted will be, not a bookkeeper, but some one having a sound knowledge and wide experience of finance; a man competent to advise the Commission in all financial matters. I should say he would probably be the head of an accountancy firm. As such, he will be paid a retaining fee and receive remuneration for attending meetings, inspecting properties and works, and advising the Commission. It is obvious that £2,000 would be more than ample in such circumstances. Some latitude is necessary. We do not want to be tied down to a specific amount for an individual Commissioner. The Commission will require the services of a man experienced in local government problems’. Probably he will be required for the whole of his time in the Capital city. He, too, would receive a retaining fee, and, in addition, such fees as would practically give us the right to the whole of his services. Therefore we ask for a certain amount of latitude, so that the many contingencies may be provided for by regulations. When we constitute the Commission, all these questions will have to be faced and dealt with. The regulations will prescribe the way in which the fees are to: be paid. Those regulations will come before Parliament, and, if Parliament disapproves of the prescribed fees, the regulations may be disallowed. I- ask the Senate not to tie the hands of the Government in regard to the fees to be paid to the two assistant Commissioners. It does not follow that each man will receive £2,000 a year. The work may be distributed in such a way that one man may be required to give more of his time to the work of the Commission than another. As regards the meetings of the Commission, I remind honorable senators that the Minister will be able to exercise authority. If he thinks that meetings are being held simply for the purpose of enabling the Commissioners to draw fees, or if, on the other hand, he thinks the Commission is not meeting often enough to do the work required of it, he will have power to intervene. That is the spirit in which the Act will be administered. In the circumstances, I ask the Committee to accept the amendment.
– Each time the Minister (Senator Pearce) replies to questions he furnishes stronger reasons for our opposition to the proposal. He has just told us that the chairman of the Commission should; be a man with a sound knowledge of- land and kindred problems, and that another member should have wide financial knowledge. Admitting that gentlemen possessing this special- knowledge should be appointed, it makes it all the more imperative that they should be permanent members of the Commission and required to devote the whole of their time to the work. Let us consider the position in connexion with the railways of Australia. In New South Wales and in Victoria there are three Railways Commissioners, who devote the whole of their time to the administration of their respective railway systems. If the Commission is to consist of three members, they should not be allowed to engage in any work other than that for which they are paid by the Commonwealth. Whenever the Minister rises to give reasons - to my mind they are excuses - why the. amendment should be supported, the position becomes worse. I trust that the amendment will be rejected, but if it is accepted I shall test the feeling of the Committee later by moving to add certain words to provide that the assistant Commissioners shall devote the whole of their time to their work.
.- When Senator McDougall raised the point that it would be possible under this amendment, if carried, for one of the assistant Commissioners to draw by way of fees a larger sum than that to be paid to the Chairman, Senator DrakeBrockman said that the position was covered by clause 10. That clause presupposes that there will be three members of the Commission, and in another portion of the Bill provision is made for a quorum. Paragraph b of sub-clause 1 of clause 10 reads - 10. (1) A Commissioner, or an Acting Commissioner, shall be deemed to have vacated his office if -
A member of the Commission would not absent himself from duty unless he had sufficient reason, and’ I wish to know what “ he is wilfully absent from duty “ means. Can it be expected that a gentleman holding such a responsible position will wilfully absent himself when his position carries such a substantial remuneration ? It would be possible, as Senator McDougall has pointed out, for one of the assistant Commissioners to receive more than £3,000 a year. The Minister (Senator Pearce)’ stated that if the matter is left in the hands of the Government, regulations will be drafted, as circumstances arise, which he believes will be acceptable to Parliament. What guarantee have we of that 1 He also said that it might be found necessary to pay a retaining fee. To whom? The Bill does not provide for the payment of a retaining fee to specially skilled men. If that is in the mind of the Government, possibly some one who, in their opinion, is specially fitted for some particular class of work will be appointed. It would be preferable to postpone further consideration of the Bill to give the Government time to ascertain the type of man they require. When inquiries are made, they may find that it is unnecessary to appoint two additional Commissioners. This is the first occasion on which retaining fees have been mentioned. It might be possible to secure the assistance of men in certain spheres of activity for which assistance the Government could pay. We do not want to be running here, there, and everywhere in search of men to deal with, say, engineering and accountancy problems. We wish men to be appointed who are best qualified to perform the duties they are to undertake, and who will render continuous service. The Government realize that they are in a hopeless fix in regard to this Bill. Its handling has been muddled from the time it was first introduced until its present stage. The measure as introduced in another place contained provisions entirely different from those now before us. Can the members of _ the. Government tell us exactly what’ is in their minds? Each Minister seems to have a different opinion. I am sure that if this amendment is agreed to, and it is returned to another place for its concurrence, the Minister in charge of the Bill in that Chamber will express a different opinion from that voiced by the Minister for Home and Territories this afternoon. If a member of the Government were conducting a private business, and found that it was ‘ growing to such an extent that it was necessary to obtain assistance, he would probably form a company. Would he say that the members of the board of directors should be business men’ who must devote the whole of their time to their work, or would he suggest that it would be preferable to appoint a chairman who should have the assistance of two other directors who, if living in different parts of the Commonwealth should, when their services were required, he summoned by urgent telegram? That is what is proposed in this instance. I cannot see any justification for the appointment of two- assistant Commissioners unless they are to devote the whole of their time to the work upon which they are to be engaged. If the services of skilled men can be secured by paying retaining fees, the appointment of additional Commissioners is unnecessary.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added (Senator H. Hays’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Amendment agreed to. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause 8 - (1.) Of the three persons first appointed as members of the Commission, one person shall be appointed for a term of five years, one for a term of four years, and one for a term of three years. (4.) Upon the happening of a vacancy in the office of a Commissioner, the Governor-General may appoint a person to the vacant office, and the person so appointed shall, subject to this Act, hold office until the expiration of the term for which his predecessor was appointed.
.- .1 move -
That the word “five,” paragraph 1, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the, word “ three.”
A period of three years for the appointment of each of the Commissioners is quite long enough. We should thus be able to better understand how the work at the Capital was being carried out, and at the expiration of that period we could ascertain whether the expenditure incidental to the appointment of the Commission was justified. That body might then be found to be almost superfluous:” If the Federal Parliament assembles at Canberra within the next two years, as- is anticipated by some of the Government supporters, nearly all the work now in course of construction will have then been completed, so that whatever justification there is now for the appointment of a Commission to control works that are not completed would not exist at the end of three years. I cannot see why there should be any difference between the terms of appointment of any of these Commissioners. The permanent Commissioner under the Bill is to be appointed for five years, one assistant Commissioner for four years, and the other for three years. My amendment should be acceptable to the Committee, because if, as is anticipated’ by the Government, the Commissioners appointed are highly efficient men, they should be able to prove their capabilities within three years. A member of Parliament is appointed for three years.
– Excepting senators.
– That is provided for by the Constitution. Members of the House of Representatives have to face the music - or rather their masters - every three years. If they cannot justify their political existence and give a good account of their stewardship to their constituents, then their prospects of re-election, are not so bright as they would have been if _ they had carried out their duties faithfully and well.
-r-Even when a member of Parliament does that he is turned down.
– The pendulum swings.
– It is the pendulum that alters parliamentary representation.
– Not always, because sometimes the constituents are dissatisfied with the work of their representatives. Why should the members of the Commission be appointed for a longer’ period than are members of Parliament ? If, at the end of three years, there is no real necessity for the further appointment of the Commissioners, Parliament will then be free to make other arrangements. For the good government of the Federal Territory, and on the score of economy, and because these- Commissioners should not be placed in a better position than that of members of Parliament, I ask the committee to support the amendment.
– I hope that the Committee will not accept the amendment. It is desirable that we should be able to attract to the position of Chairman of the Commission a man of high capabilities, and that position would be made less attractive if the period of appointment were shortened. Surely five years is short enough if we are to attract a really first class man, who. will of necessity relinquish any business other than that pertaining to his appointment. Then, again, it is not desirable that the appointment of the three Commissioners should terminate at the same time. There must be some continuity, and- some members of the Commission with previous experience remaining to advise any new member that may be appointed. I would remind the Committee that when dealing with the Public Service Bill we provided exactly the same terms of appointment for the Public Service Commission as are proposed under this Bill - five, four, and three years.. Therefore, if this clause is passed, it will be consistent with what the Committee has previously done.
– Senator Pearce seems to see a likeness between this proposed Commission and the Public Service Commission, but there is nothing of the kind. From experience, we know that the Public Service Board is vitally necessary. In this case it is an experiment in a new form of government, which Senator Findley properly considers will not continue for any length of time. Whoever accepts appointment as Commissioners will know ‘that their services will not be required when a change of Government takes place at the next elections. The elector’s are not educated to the standard of government by an individual, and will not stand for it. I favour an appointment for three years, because it is the lesser evil. I would remind honorable senators of what happened in New South Wales. A Tory* Government wanted to remove a Railway Commissioner .who had been appointed under an Act of Parliament for seven years. That Parliament therefore passed a Bill, taking his office from him, and also his right of appeal to the Law Courts. At that time I did not think the Government acted rightly, and I am still of that opinion. I am merely showing that a Liberal Government created a precedent which can easily be followed by another Government if these appointments are made. This Government, has never had the approval of the people. It was formed by. extraordinary means, and is now trying, behind the backs, of the electors of the Commonwealth, to foist upon Canberra a new system of government. ‘ The Commissioners should not be appointed for a period longer thaw three years.
– Not many years ago, in New South Wales, when a decision was arrived at by an anti-Labour Government to appoint a certain gentleman as AgentGeneral, it was publicly stated by the party to which I have the honour to belong that if they secured the reins of office they would recall him at the earliest possible moment. Labour did come into power, and despite the fiction that these men once appointed have the right, if recalled, to proceed ‘ against the Government for the amount of salary for the full term, this’ Agent-General was recalled before he reached London. That should be an intimation to the prospective appointees to the positions of Commissioners at Canberra that there is perhaps more than a possibility that on the return of the Labour Government after the nextelection, the necessary steps will be immediately taken to terminate what is regarded outside this Chamber as an unnecessary and unjustifiable expenditure.
– The Labour executive now has the power of recall over the honorable senator.
– An erroneous impression to that effect may have been created in the vacant minds of some gentlemen by misleading paragraphs which have appeared in the Sydney press, and which were promptly copied by the hostile press throughout the Commonwealth - The CHAIRMAN (Senator Newland). - I ask the honorable senator not to proceed further on that line of argument, but to confine his remarks to the clause
– It was necessary to correct the interjection by Senator Pearce. There is no ‘intention on the part of the executive that controls the Labour party movement in New South Wales to obtain the power of recall. Owing to the exceptional abilities displayed by the working communities in Australia and to the vast production that they, with the aid of modern machinery, are able to bring about, the Government thinks it necessary to create a very large number of highly-paid positions to dispose of the surplus production and to keep a number of men in employment. This is another step in that direction, but it is worse than usual on account of the five years’ period. The amendment is the lesser of two evils.
– I should have supported the amendment with greater enthusiasm had it provided for a. term of two, instead of three years. That period would synchronize with the advent to power of a Labour Government.
– Da not prophesy so early.
– There is nothing prophetic in that statement. The idea is in the minds of the electors, and it is their intention to make sure that this Government shall not have a further lease of power. As the next general election must take place in the early part of 1926 at the latest, these appointments ought to he limited to two -years. I feel quite confident that . the services of this Commission will be dispensed with by the next Labour Government. There have been occasions when opponents of legislation passed by a Labour Government have threatened to repeal it immediately they attained office. The difference between them and us is that when we make a promise we keep it. We have said that this legislation is iniquitous, and because the proposed expenditure is unnecessary the burden of taxation will be made heavier than it should be.
– Some of the Commission’s decisions may have the effect of saving more than ten times the amount paid to it by way of salaries.
– I appreciate the fact that if the term remains at five years the incoming Government will find it difficult to repeal the legislation without compensating those who are appointed. T want the chief Commissioner and the other Commissioners to realize that this. is experimental legislation, and that two years is a sufficient period in which to test it. My opinion, is that it is foredoomed to failure. The word “ recall “ has been mentioned. The action which will be taken by a Labour Government will not constitute a recall; it will be a complete dismissal . by the repeal of the Act. I shall support the amendment. If carried, those appointed will realize that they will have a year of grace in which to prepare to occupy some other position for which they may be better suited.
– I a- somewhat new to the ways of the Federal Parliament, but in my comparatively long experience elsewhere) I have not heard a line of argument so insidious as that which has been adopted during the discussion of this measure. It appears to . me that the Opposition, despairing of achieving their object in the Senate, are endeavouring to make lit impossible for the Governmentwhich at present, at all events, enjoys the confidence of the people- to secure for these positions persons of the calibre which the importance of the office justifies. I protest against this Americanization of the Public Service, commissions, and boards of management. It is distinctly unfair to endeavour to terrorize probable applicants. The tone of the debate has been such that it is only parliamentary privilege that prevents certain honorable senators from being prosecuted as foretellers of the future.
– Is the honorable senator serious ?
– I am; this is a very serious matter. I invite those honorable senators who claim to. know so. much regarding the future to enter a profession which is recognized by the sporting papers. If th’ey have valuable information to impart, if they can see as. far into the future as they claim they are able to see, they are wasting, not only our time, but theirs. Because I think that the terms proposed are fair, because they are calculated to attract good men. and to ensure continuity, I intend to support the clause as it stands. I extremely deprecate this attempt - premeditated, I suppose, though I. hope it is not, - to induce possible applicants 1o refrain from applying for these positions.
Question - That the word proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Findley’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative. Amendment negatived. Amendment (by Senator Findley) proposed -
That the words “ one for a term of four years and one,” sub-clause 1 be left . out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ and each of the other members for a term of three years.”
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . … 6
Question so resolved in the negative. Amendment negatived.
– It seems to me that sub- clause 4 is quite unnecessary, and may do harm. One of the Commissioners might die within six months of the expiration of his appointment, and a suitable man for the position would probably decline to accept it for a term of six months only. The Government should have power to appoint a new Commissioner for the full term of three years.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10- (1.) A Commissioner, or an Acting Commissioner, shall be deemed to have vacated his office if -
he, in any way, otherwise than as a member, and in common with the other members, of an incorporated company consisting of more than twenty-five persons -
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That the word “ only “, sub-clause 1, paragraph b, be left out; .
– Will the Minister indicate the meaning of sub-clause b ?
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Home and Territories) [3.363. - I take it that the Minister would be the judge as to the meaning of, wilful absence. If the Minister deemed that the Commissioner, had wilfully absented himself from duty without good, reason, he would proceed to take the necessary action, and any action taken would have to be justified in Parliament.
.- The Minister ‘would also probably have to justify his action before a Court of law, if the Commissioner thought that he had ‘been discharged without sufficient cause, and the onus would be on the Minister to justify the course pursued. Wilful absence in this sense means a course of conduct distinct from those involuntary actions that come about as the result of sickness or a pure accident, such as missing a steamer.
Senator McDougall (New South Wales) [3.38].- I move-
That paragraph c of sub-clause 1 be left out.
I fail to see why a member of the Commission should be allowed to be interested in any contract or agreement made by, or on behalf of, the Commission. No explanation was forthcoming from- the Minister in his second-reading speech as to the meaning of this sub-clause.
– The Government have followed the Constitution Act in this matter. Senator McDougall himself is under a similar prohibition in regard to his membership of tho Senate. Section 44 of the Constitution provides -
Any person who . . . (v.) Has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company consisting of more than twentyfive persons : shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
That disqualification applies, not only to members of Parliament, but is also to be found in all legislation that the Commonwealth has passed on similar lines, and, so far as I know, there have been no abuses in connexion with it up to the present time. Seeing that the provision has stood the test of 24 years’ experience in regard to other Commonwealth legislation, I think we can fairly and safely adopt it on this occasion.
Senator McDougall (New South “Wales) [3.42]. - The explanation is not acceptable to me. Simply because certain restrictions are placed on members of the Commonwealth P.arliament, there is no need to put the members of the
Commission in an exactly similar position. If a Commissioner is connected with any company that does business with or work for the Commission he should resign.
– I do not think the honorable senator has quite considered where his argument might lead him. He would prohibit a Commissioner from holding shares in, say, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, which has issued some millions of shares, and that company might very conceivably supply a good deal of the steel work required at Canberra. If a Commissioner held a few shares in that company, his interest in it would be so remote that it would practically amount to nothing. The limitation that the Bill proposes to make is that a Commissioner shall not be a shareholder in a private company when his interest amounts, in effect, to a partnership, if that company is associated with the constructional work at Canberra. That, of course, would be highly improper, because in such circumstances the Commissioner might derive considerable personal benefit as a result of his position by pushing the business of his own company.
– What if he were in a company in which he held seveneighths of the shares?
– In that case, of course, there would be a danger. But such a man would probably be a wealthy person, and would not accept a position on the Commission.
– Members of the Commission might be personally interested in companies that had received contracts from the Commission. Would a member of Parliament be disqualified in such circumstances?
– If he were a member of a public company, no.
– Then I ‘think the position would be dangerous.
– It has not proved dangerous in practice. There is a marked difference between a public company and a partnership disguised as a public company.
– There are so many ways of dodging the law in respect of companies that it might be possible for the Commissioners to draw their Salaries from the Commonwealth, and at the same time to be in enjoyment of big dividends or profits from companies with which they were associated, and which might have contracts with the Commission.
– Would the honorable senator say that the members of the Commission must have no outside interests?
– I say they ought to be fully employed, and paid for their services. In regard to contracts, it would be better for them not to be directly or indirectly interested in companies likely to submit tenders for any work in connexion with the Federal Capital.
– The penalty provided for offences against this provision in the Act arc very substantial - a fine of £500, or imprisonment for three years, or both. Evidently, in the opinion of the Ministers, such offences are of a serious nature.
– So they would be.
– The offences are set out in clause 2, which provides -
If a Commissioner, or an Acting Commissioner, becomes in any way concerned or interested in any contract or agreement made by or on behalf of the Commission, or in any way participates, or claims to he entitled to participate, in the profit thereof, or in any benefit or emolument arising therefrom, otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company consisting of more than twenty-live persons, he shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
I cannot see any difference between a company of 25 and one of 20 persons. Why should a Commissioner be at liberty to be a member of any company likely to be interested in Canberra?
– Suppose a Commissioner were a member of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, and that, in the course of its administration, the Commission borrowed £1,000,000 from the Australian Mutual Provident Society, would the honorable senator say that because a Commissioner happened to be a member of that Society he should, in such circumstances, be obliged to retire from the Commission?
– I do. The offence and the penalty are provided, in the clause. .
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 negatived.
.- I move- .
That the following new clause be inserted to follow clause .11 - “ 12. - (1) The Commissioners shall not, in respect of their services as Commissioners, be subject to the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922. “(2) If an officer of the Public Service of the Commonwealth is appointed Chairman of the Commission, his service as Commissioner shall, for the purpose of determining his existing and accruing rights, ha taken into account as if it were service in the Public Service of the Commonwealth, and if an officer of the Public Service of a State is appointed Chairman, his service as Commissioner shall for the purpose of determining his existing and accruing rights, be taken into account as if it were service in the Public Service of the Commonwealth and as if he had been an officer of a department transferred to the Common wealth and were retained in the service of the Commonwealth.”
As honorable senators are aware, an amendment to the Bill was made in another place. Its effect was to appoint only the Chairman of the Commission as a permanent official, instead of, as originally intended, appointing three permanent Commissioners. As a result, a consequential amendment should have been made to this clause. The amendment which I have just submitted does that-
Proposed new clause agreed to. Clause 13 -
The appointment of all officers required for the purposes of this Act shall be made under and in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Act 1922.
.- I move-
That after, the -word “ all “ the word “ permanent” be inserted.
This clause, as passed in another place, . needs amendment. The intention was that only the permanent officers under the direction of the Commission should be under the Public Service Act. It was never intended that the whole of the temporary staff should come under the Act, but as drafted, the clause provided for that. Obviously we Cannot have two princes of Denmark in the play of’ “ Hamlet.” Either the officers should be under the Public Service Commissioner or under the Commission. Amendment agreed to.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Home and Territories) J. 3.S5J . - I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added - (2) The Chairman of the Commission shall have all the powers of a permanent head under the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922, in relation to permanent officers employed for the purposes of this Act.
If we did not insert this provision, the permanent head of the employees at Canberra, for the purposes of the Public Service Act, would be the Secretary of the Home and Territories Department. It is obvious that the official to exercise the powers of a permanent head, in regard to permanent officers at Canberra, should bp the Chairman of the Commission. Progress reported.
The following papers were presented: - New Guinea- Ordinances of 1924 - No.- 19 - Native- Labour. No. 20 - I,ands Registration (No. 2). No. 21 - Birds and Animals Protection. No 22 - Laws Repeal and Adopting. Semite adjourned nt 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 June 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1924/19240620_senate_9_107/>.