9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The Deputy President (Senator Newland) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for Home and Territories inform the Senate whether the Government have yet fixed the date for the sale of city leases at Canberra ?
– As Senator Cox intimated to me that he proposed to submit this question, I ask leave to make a statement.
– It was intended that the first sale of leases for business and residential purposes at Canberra should be held during October, but consideration has been given to the question of postponing the date, owing to the additional time required in which to complete the necessary plans and consider certain legal matters involved in the leasing proposal. Another reason for delaying the sale is to afford accommodation for visitors in the main hostel. Steps have, therefore, been taken to expedite the completion of the main building and five pavilions of the hostel, and applications will shortly be invited from persons willing to lease and conduct the hostel and commence business early in December. It is, therefore, possible to fix a definite date for the sale which will ensure ample time for distribution of the plans and conditions, and admit of visitors obtaining accommodation which would otherwise be a matter of difficulty. It has accordingly been decided that Friday, the 12th December, 1924, shall be the first day of the sale of city leases, and that the sale, if it is not concluded on that date, it shall be continued on the following day, Saturday, the 13th December, 1924. The Government will not undertake any responsibility in regard to transport, accommodation, or refreshments for intending buyers, beyond arranging for the opening of the hostel. Plans of the proposed subdivisions, together with conditions of sale and regulations, are now being completed, and will be available within eight weeks of the date of the sale.
– Can the Minister explain why he has for months postponed giving an answer upon this matter to an honorable senator of the Opposition, and yet makes a full statement of the position when an honorable senator on the Government side asks a question about it ?
– It is not to be understood that an honorable senator who asks a question on any subject is the only honorable senator interested in it. As a matter of fact, Senator Cox intimated to me that he proposed to ask a question relating to the sale of the city leases at Canberra, and as I had been for some time dealing with the matter I told him that having at length completed it, I would be in a position to-day to name the date upon which the sale would be held. That is how I happened to have a statement prepared.
Rescue of White Women - Application of Captain Wilkins - Wireless Operator
– Can the Minister for Home and Territories furnish any further information in connexion with the attempt to rescue white women supposed to be held by aborigines in the north, and can he say whether the reports appearing in last night’s and this morning’s newspapers are correct?
– The honorable senator’s reference to reports in last night’s and this morning’s newspapers is rather too wide. I am sorry to say that no further information has been received as to whether the rescue party has been successful or not. No boat has reached Darwin from the locality, and the only means of communicating with Darwin from that point is by sea. My attention was drawn to a statement appearing in an evening paper last night, the headline on which seemed to indicate that later news had come to hand. The letterpress, however, served to show that it was merely the same story that was told by the blacks who gave the information to Dr. Wade, and could have been picked up by any one who happened to be in Darwin at the time Dr. Wade arrived there. Furthermore, the statementwas made that Captain Wilkins had been refused permission to accompany the rescue party. It is quite true that Captain Wilkins asked me for permission to accompany the party. He wished to do wo, as he stated, in order to obtain specimens of fauna, that being the object of his visit to the north. However, as he was then at Townsville, and as he could not reach Darwin before the 12th August, he was informed that the expedition could not be delayed to enable him to accompany it for the purpose of collecting specimens of fauna. He subsequently applied to the Administrator, who practically sent him the same reply. A telegram has been sent to the Administrator, asking him to endeavour to forward by the schooner John Alce any wireless equipment which theH udders field may be lacking, and to try to send a wireless operator from Darwin.He has also been informed that if there is any difficulty in obtaining a wireless operator in Darwin the department will endeavour to make arrangements with Amalgamated Wireless for the services of a suitable man.
– Why not send a warship ?
– There is no warship within thousands of miles of the locality.
– Has the Minister also seen a statement in lastnight’s press to the effect that a report that white women were in the hands of the natives was made to his department twelve months ago, and was “ pooh-poohed “ by the officials? Will he have a search made in his department to see whether there is any truthin that statement, so that he may be able to “ nail the lie “ by proving that no such report has been made to his department?
– I saw the statement referred to by the honorable senator. A search has already been made in the Home and Territories Department, and I can say that no such report has ever been made to the department in Mel bourne. A telegram has been sent to the Administrator at Darwin, asking him if such a report was made to him.
– Is it a fact that Dr. Wade in a report to the Government on the Elcho Island oil leases has made a statement that, although sinking has not gone below 50 feet, payment has been made to the company for sinking to a depth of 500 feet?
– Payment by whom?
– By the Government.
– Dr. Wade has made no such report, nor could he make such a report, as no payment whatever is made by the Government to the Elcho Island Company. The company is not subsidized by the Government. Dr. Wade is at present engaged in compiling his report on his investigations in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, including Elcho Island. But, in order that there may be no misconception, let me say at once that no oil company in the Northern Territory is being subsidized by the Government, and therefore there can be no question of any payment for any depth of sinking.
– In view of the continuous publication of statements of a damaging character concerning the administration of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, is the Minister for Home and Territories prepared to make a statement to the Senate upon such comments ?
– I have nothing to add to the statement I made to the Senate some time ago, in reply to charges made in the Australian press, of which those which are now appearing in London are merely a re-hash.
– On the 12th September, Senator Kingsmill asked me if I would lay on the table of the Library the reports by Customs officers attachedto
Australia House, now in possession of the Customs Department, on the Rayson process and the Alcock-Wagstaff process for defrosting meat, on which reports the portion of the High Commissioner’s report dealing with the subject is based. I then stated that I would place the matter before the Minister for Trade and Customs for his consideration, and furnish his reply to the honorable senator. I am now able to say that the report on the Rayson process, which contains certain confidential opinions by certain meat importers in England, will be made available to the honorable senator at the office of the Minister for Trade and Customs any time convenient to him. No report has been received regarding the Alcock-Wagstaff process.
Erection of Secretariat Building at Canberra.
Senator REID brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed erection of a secretariat building at Canberra including provision for an automatic telephone exchange and post office.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1923-24.- Dated 10th September, 1924.
Customs Act - Proclamation, dated 27th August, 1924, relating to the exportation of Anns and Ammunition.
Lands Acquisition Act - Notification of land acquired for Federal Capital purposes in the Federal Territory.
New Guinea - Ordinance No. 31 of 1924 - Licences (No. 2).
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1924, Nos. 106, 107, 108, and 131.
War Service Homes Act - Notification of land acquired at Hay, New South Wales.
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Thompson) agreed to -
That the report from the Printing Committee presented to the Senate on the 12th September, 1924, be adopted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Wilson) read a first time.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to amendment No. 1 made by the Senate, and had agreed to amendment No. 2 with amendments.
That the message be considered in Committee of the Whole forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message) :
Clause 3 -
Senate’s amendment -
After sub-section (6) insert the following new sub-section: - “ (7) Evidence taken by the board in connexion with any inquiry under the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921-1922 shall be on oath, and shall be reduced to writing and filed with the documents relating to the inquiry.”
House of Representatives’ message -
Amendment amended by inserting the words “ taken in public “ after the word “be” (first occurring); and by the addition of the words, “ subject to clause 3, sub-clauses 5 and 6 of this act” at end of proposed sub-section.
– I move -
That the amendments of the amendment be agreed to.
The amendment made by the House of Representatives makes clearer the intention of the Senate, and ensures that all inquiries under the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act shall be taken on oath and in public. It makes the procedure uniform.
– For once I am in agreement with the Government, but I fail to understand why this chamber was prevented, as the result of action taken by Ministers, from inserting the amendment in the form which is now approved by them.
– In reality this is the amendment that was proposed when the bill was before the Senate.
– That is what I am saying. If this is a revising chamber, why was the debate on the measure conducted on party lines, and why was the Senate denied the credit of inserting this amendment? If it is acceptable to the Government now, surely it should have been acceptable last week. The amendment is certainly an improvement, but the measure itself is iniquitous, because it perpetuates an unwarranted interference with trade and commerce. However, it is something to know that for the future the public will have some knowledge of what is being done by the Tariff Board, because people desiring to reap advantages under it, will have to state their reasons in public and upon oath, instead of being able to get ahead of the other fellow in secret and doing everything behind closed doors. It will ensure publicity to all such transactions. For that reason, I welcome it. At the same time, I cannot help protesting that the amendment was not considered on its merits in this chamber.
– I am wondering what has moved the Government to accept this amendment, which was rejected when I submitted it in committee at least three times during the debate on the bill.
– Probably the honorable senator’s reasons were unsound.
– I am satisfied that no reasons that I could have advanced would have induced the Government to accept it then. But since then, the party whip has been cracked, and Senator Drake-Brockman’s opinions must go by the board. Members of this chamber, apparently, must take instructions from another place. I have already pointed out that a considerable number of people have written to me urging that all these inquiries should be held in public. I have received letters from the Associated Chamber of Commerce in Adelaide, the New South Wales bag manufacturers, and a number of other organizations, all urging that they are being “ crucified” in their business transactions by decisions of the Tariff Board based on statements made behind closed doors. It was urged by those bodies that the inquiries should be held in public. The whole of the arguments advanced in the other place were used without avail in this committee. Honorable senators were informed that it would be very injudicious to disclose to the public the secret formulae in possession of the manufacturers of certain articles. No honorable senator desired that that should be done. Honorable senators opposite would not agree to the amendment providing that these inquiries should be held in public. This bill is objectionable in every way, and it ought not to have been passed by the Senate. I realize, however, that it is a part of our protectionist policy. Although the Government introduces to Parliament a schedule of rates to be imposed upon imported goods, and Parliament fixes the rates, the Tariff Board is able to review them at its own sweet will and submit to the Minister recommendations upon which he can impose what are termed dumping duties. It is an entirely wrong procedure. The taxation imposed by Parliament should stand until Parliament alters it, or withdraws it, no matter how objectionable it may be. The business community to-day does not know where it stands. I recently quoted instances of the remission of duty for one day only, no doubt at the instigation of interested persons. Can anything more absurd be imagined? Probably it was done to meet the convenience of certain persons who had prior knowledge of the action that was to be taken. Had the inquiry into the advisability of remitting that duty been held in public, every one would have been placed on an equal footing.
– Was not that action taken to convenience a public body?
– I should like to know what would happen if the Tariff Board could be induced to proclaim a period of one month or three months during which certain articles would he admitted to Australia free of duty.
– The Tariff Board has nosuch power.
– It had the power in the ease to which I have referred, and it exercised it.
– It did not have the power, and it, therefore, could not exercise it.
– Probably the honorable senator is correct. Let me make my point clear. The Tariff Board makes a recommendation to the Minister. What follows? A pliant Minister approves of the recommendation, and certain articles are admitted free for one day only. The honorable senatorcannot deny that that has been done; nor can he deny that it is solely and exclusively upon the recommendation of the Tariff Board, which sits in secret, that action is taken that puts a number of men to very serious financial loss. I do not stand for that,even though the honorable senator does.
– Is the honorable senator accusing the Minister of corruption ?
– No. I should not think of doing that. But every action of this kind is surrounded with very grave suspicion. Fancy men meeting behind closed doors and quietly and secretly taking action which financially embarrasses certain people I I take it that this amendment means that all inquiries under the Industries Preservation Act will be held in public, and the evidence taken on oath. There is some little satisfaction in that I do not think, however, that the bill provides that every inquiry shall be held in public. The inquiries referred to in clause 3, I take it, will be held in public. The amendment certainly is an improvement upon the billas we were forced by ministerial supporters to accept it last week.
Apparently, this is as much as we can get at the present time. At a future date I shall welcome the repeal of the act.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
– In moving -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay, 1 wish to intimate to honorable senators that I do not take this action with any desire to curtail debate. But, as honorable senators are aware, both Houses are endeavouring to complete their business at an early date,and it may be that the carrying of this motion will enable us at some stage in the proceedings to continue our work without any break. That is the only object I have in moving this motion. As this is a bill which can be debated on the first reading, I propose, after that motion has been submitted, to move that the discussion be taken at a later hour in the day, after honorable senators have had an opportunity to deal with the Quarantine Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That the bill be now read a first time.
. -I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
I do not ask the Senate to pass the second reading of this measure at thisstage.
When I moved for the printing of the budget papers, I made a full statement of the financial position of the Commonwealth, and there are no additional figures to give. If, however, any honorable senator desires to discuss the financial position as set out in this bill, and is not prepared to do so to-day, I am willing that the debate on the second reading shall be adjourned. As, however, there is no other business on the notice-paper, it would suit the convenience of tbe Government, until something comes from another place, if honorable senators were prepared to proceed now with the second-reading debate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grant) adjourned.
Business of the Session.
.- I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The business on the notice-paper, excepting the Appropriation Bill, has been exhausted.I ask honorable senators to come to-morrow prepared to discuss the Appropriation Bill in committee, and to be ready with any criticism they may have of the various departments. A glance at the notice-paper of another place will indicate that, in the latter port of this week, or in the early part of next week, there is likely to be a rush of business, when it may not be possible for us to devote to the Appropriation Bill as much time as we can now give to it.
– Does the Governmen contemplate adjourning Parliament next week?
– That is our desire.
– It would be better if we could go on with the discussion of this measure to-day.
– If I asked for that to be done, the Government would be charged with attempting to unduly rush important measures through. I ask honorable senators, however, to come prepared to deal with the Appropriation Bill tomorrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1924/19240917_senate_9_109/>.