10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J.Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers. .
– In view of the fact that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) has tabled in another place a report by the Tariff Board, relating to a bounty on cotton, which has been ordered to be printed, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs do all in his power to expedite the printing of that paper, so that it may be made availableto honorable senators at the earliest possible moment?
– I shall do so.
Senator Reid brought up the report of the Public Works Committee, together with minutes of evidence, &c, relating to the proposed erection of permanent administrative offices at Canberra.
The following papers were presented : -
Papua - Annual Report for the year 1924-25. Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c- Nos. 10, 11, and 12 of 1926 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 90.
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act - Statement, dated 30th June, 1926, setting out reasons for allowing the use of certain imported materials in manufactures on which bounty is payable.
Naval Defence Act-Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. S3.
Northern Territory - Ordinance No. 16 of 1926 - Public Service.
The President announced the receipt of letters from Senators Payne and Plain resigning their positions as members of the Electoral Law and Procedure Joint Committee by reason of their having been appointed a member of the Public Works Committee and Chairman of Committees if the Senate respectively.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That Senators Payne and Plain be discharged from attendance on the Electoral Law and Procedure Joint Committee.
The President announcedthat he had received from the Governor-General a commission authorizing him to administer to honorable senators the Oath or Affirmation of Allegiance.
The President laid on the table his warrant appointing Senator Thompson to be > a member of the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications to fill the vacancy existing on the committee.
Opening of Parliament
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice - .
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The Government is giving close attention to the whole question of the form the official ceremony will take on the occasion of the opening of Parliament at Canberra, but no announcement can yet be made on the subject. A visit to Australia by one of the Royal Princes would naturally be greatly welcomed by the Government, which fully appreciates the desire of the people of Australia that such a visit might possibly be arranged in connexion with the opening ceremony at Canberra.
Message reported transmitting a copy of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General’s Deputy recommending amendments in this bill, and inti- mating that the House of Representatives had agreed to the several amendments, and desired the concurrence of the Senate therein.
That the message be taken into consideration in committee forthwith.
Item 6 - Acetone.
Recommended amendment : - Sub-item (b), after “ 1st January, 1927,” insert “ (b) Acetone “.
Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland-
Honorary Minister)[3.11]. - The procedure being adopted in this instance is not altogether new, but is provided for under section 58 of the Constitution. A similar course has been followed on a number of previous occasions, for instance, in connexion with the Customs Tariff Bill of 1921. The second paragraph of section 58 of the Constitution provides that - “ The Governor-General may return to the House in which it originated any proposed law so presented to him, and may transmit therewith any amendments which he may recommend, and the House may deal with the recommendation.”
Whenever a bill is presented to the Governor-General for assent, His Excellency asks the Attorney-General whether any amendments require to be recommended by him ; and not until the AttorneyGeneral certifies that no amendments need be made does the GovernorGeneral give his assent. The purpose of the procedure is to enable the draftsman, on a final perusal of a bill, to make any formal corrections and consequential amendments which may have become necessary as a result of amendments made, the necessity for which is not apparent till a stage is reached at which the forms of parliamentary procedure make it difficult to correct them in the ordinary way. The amendments recommended are then submitted to the House. These amendments have been recommended to the Governor-General in the ordinary way by the Attorney-General. None of the amendments recommended alters the incidence of the tariff. The amendments which have been agreed to in another place are all directed to removing possible ambiguities, and making the intention of Parliament clear. The first amendment is to insert in sub-item b, after “1st January, 1927,” the following- “ (b) Acetone”, in order to make it clear that the deferred duty provided under sub-item b refers only to acetone. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– Although this procedure has been followed on one or two previous occasions, it seems unusual that we should have to consider amendments made on the recommendation of the GovernorGeneral. It suggests that the tariff schedule was not drafted with sufficient care, and that the bill was unnecessarily rushed through Parliament. Although there was ample time in which to discuss the tariff schedule in both branches of the legislature, and the requests made in this chamber, it now appears that it contains some errors. I enter my protest against the procedure, and suggest that in future greater care be exercised in seeing that measures are in proper form before they are finally disposed of. The necessity to follow this course does not reflect credit upon the officers of the Customs Department who have been assisting the Minister.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) suggests that this method has to be adopted owing to the lack of care taken by the officers of the Department of Trade and Customs, who have been assisting the Minister. If the honorable senator had any conception of the work the officers of the department have to undertake, and of the tremendous amount of care they exercise, he would recognize that his statement is very uncharitable.
– I did not mean it that way.
– The schedule is so intricate and so involved that the omission of a comma may alter the whole meaning of an item. It is almost impossible to detect slight errors of draftsmanship whilst the schedule is before the House. On many occasions, when in charge of a previous tariff schedule, I would have fallen into hopeless errors if it had not been for the care exercised by the officers of the department who were assisting me, and I am sure the Minister for Trade and Customs would support me in what I have said in this regard. It is regrettable that these mistakes do occur, but at the same time, in the rush of business, it is practically impossible to avoid them.
– I listened to Senator Greene in reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham), and I wish to repeat, with emphasis, what Senator Needham said. The Government is adopting an extraordinary procedure in respect to this bill. I was a member of this Chamber in 1903, and for some years afterwards. On that occasion, although we passed the first Commonwealth tariff, we were not asked subsequently to deal with it in this way.
– It would have been an advantage had that course been taken.
– Compared with the principal act, this is only a minor bill.
– The amendments are merely formal, and will not in airy way alter the tariff.
– If, as the Minister has said, the amendments are merely formal, why were they not detected when the schedule was being passed, either in this Chamber or in another place. If informalities are likely to escape notice in tariff bills they are likely to appear in any bill.
– This is an extraordinary procedure, and I enter my protest against it.
– This procedure is provided for in the Constitution.
– No doubt that is because the framers of the Constitution feared that an unbusinesslike Government such as we have to-day would be in charge of the affairs of the Commonwealth. There appears to be no finality in the business which this Government introduces, because much of the time of Parliament is occupied in amending its measures and correcting its mistakes.
– Much of the time of every Parliament is spent in amending acts.
– The Government is so anxious to end the session that it does not give proper attention to its measures, and the committee should register its disapproval of this procedure. 1 attach no blame to departmental officers. I know that, in the main, they are very painstaking and thorough in their work. I wish I could say the same about members of the Cabinet.
– And what about members of the Senate? They are primarily responsible for these errors.
– Members of this Chamber cannot be held responsible for the actions of the Government.
– Sometimes amendments which render necessary other consequential amendments of a measure are inserted at the instance of an honorable senator who is not a member of the Government.
– Then the Minister should see to it that Government supporters do their work properly, and thus avoid this unnecessary waste of time and expense.
– These are only trifling amendments.
– If they are trifling, why should the time of Parliament be occupied in this way?
– If the honorable senator had not intervened, the whole of the amendments recommended would have been disposed of by this time.
– That is not a reason why I, as a member of the Opposition, should not protest against this unbusinesslike way of conducting the affairs of the Senate. The tariff was exhaustively discussed iri another place before it reached this chamber, so before it reached its final stages it should have been as nearly perfect a’s it was possible to make it.
– In some Parliaments it is the practice to send bills back to the draftsmen before they are finalized.
– I am not concerned with what is done in other Parliaments. I hope that this will be the last time that we shall have a bill brought before us so often before it is finalized.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) [3.25]. - I cannot allow the absurd, ridiculous, and extravagant statement made by Senator Findley to pass without some comment. He charges the Government with want of care and attention in connexion with this bill. One might just as well charge honorable members of the Opposition in this Chamber with the same dereliction of duty. These formal errors would not have occurred had members of the Opposition been alert, so they are just as much to blame as are members of the Government. It is absurd for the honorable senator to say that this procedure is extraordinary. It is taken in connexion with many bills in all Parliaments.
SenatorFindley. - Can the honorable senator mention a similar instance in this Chamber ?
-I do not know if this procedure has been followed previously in the Senate, but it is frequently adopted in other Parliaments to correct formal errors in a bill. It is as well that we have in the Constitution provision for this procedure, so as to clear up all informalities before a bill is finally disposed of. It is ridiculous for members of the Opposition to charge the Government with want of care and attention without shouldering some portion of the blame themselves.
Motion agreed to.
Item 84 - Bennett.
Recommended Amendment. - Before subitem (b) insert “on and after 23rd March, 1926.”
– I move -
Th at the amendment be agreed to.
The object of the amendment is to make it clear that the duty on sub-itemB Rennett, n.e.i, will operate from the date mentioned.
– May I ask the Minister in what respect was the language of the sub-item ambiguous, and why it was necessary further to amend it? Does not the action of the Ministry in this sub-item bear out what I have just said about the unbusinesslike methods of this Government?
– We might as well ask why the honorable senator allowed the sub-item to pass when last it was before us.
– I remind the honorable senator that I am not running this country, and, therefore, I am not responsible for the mistake made by the Government. I should like the Minister to explain in what way the language of this sub-item made it difficult of comprehension for those who will have the administration of the act.
– To those entrusted with the administration of the Customs Tariff Act the language of the item seemed perfectly clear, but the legal advisers of the Government say that there is a doubt as to its exact meaning: as it stands, and in order to remove any possibility of doubt they have advised that this amendment be made.
Motion agreed to.
Recommended Amendment. - Before sub-item (aa) insert “ on and after 25th March, 1926 “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The purpose of this amendment is also to make the language of the item clear, although to the layman there appeared to be no doubt about it.
– We have the admission of the Minister that, although to the ordinary business man an item appeared perfectly clear and understandable, it was really not clear, and lawyers, in order to make it clear to themselves and at the same time ambiguous to the layman, recommended an alteration. Will the Minister be good enough to explain what was previously clear to the layman and not to the legal man?
– The words “on and after 25th March, 1926” have been inserted before sub-item aa as well as item a, so that there will be no doubt as to their application to both sub-items.
Motion agreed to.
On motions (by Senator Crawford) recommended amendments to items 181, 392, and 419 agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and, on motion by Senator Pearce, read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Glasgow) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce abill for an act to amend the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924.
Bill presented by Senator Sir William Glasgow, and read a first time.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
.- I move-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the second reading of the bill being moved forthwith.
I take this action because of the state of the notice-paper. If the motion is agreed to, honorable senators will hear an explanation of the bill on the motion for its second reading, and will thus be in a better position to take it into consideration to-morrow. The Government has no objection to the debate being adjourned immediately the second reading has been moved.
– I hope that the Senate will not agree to the motion. The very fact that the notice-paper is practically devoid of business is a reason for postponing the second reading of this bill until to-morrow, when it can be proceeded with in the ordinary way. The suspension of the Standing Orders is becoming far too frequent an occurrence. Honorable members of the Opposition during the past few weeks have assisted the Government by agreeing to the suspension of the Standing Orders, to pass urgent measures. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) cannot claim that we have placed any obstacle in the way of the suspension of the Standing Orders to meet urgent needs. We have disposed of a considerable amount of business with expedition. We should observe the usual procedure of the Senate, and should not agree to rush through business in the way that is proposed. It would be better if honorable senators were allowed to see the bill, and be given time to digest it before embarking upon a discussion of it. If the matter did not brook of any delay, I should not offer any objection to the suspension of the Standing Orders. Another important bill this afternoon reached the Senate from another place, and is to be discussed to-morrow. Even if this were an important bill, we should still observe the rules and procedure that have stood the test in this Senate for the last 25 years. I urge honorable senators to reject the motion.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 14
– There being more than an absolute majority of the whole Senate voting with the “ayes,” I declare the motion carried.
[3.50]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for certain amendments of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924, which provided for the appointment of a Federal Capital Commission to control and manage the affairs of the Territory of the Seat of Government, and, generally, prescribed the powers and functions to be exercised by the commission. It was assented to on the 19th July, 1924. The members of the commission were appointed in due course, and assumed their responsibilities on the 1st January, 1925. After eighteen months’ experience of the operation of the act, it has been found that certain amendments are desirable for the more efficient working of the commission; the improvement of the machinery set up for the management of the Territory; and the clarification of the commission’s position in relation to certain of its activities. The amendments proposed are largely of a formal character, and do not introduce any important new principle. One of the most important alterations is for the purpose of authorizing the commission to erect and dispose of residences and other improvements on leaseholds, both for cash and on extended terms of payment. This power is necessary in connexion with the housing of public servants, many of whom it is hoped will undertake the purchase of their own homes instead of renting dwellings. These alterations involve consequential amendments to the section dealing with the commission’s revenue, to provide that any moneys received by the commission as interest or repayments of advances mav be regarded as forming part of the commission’s revenue as prescribed. There has been a difficulty in relation to the lands to be vested in the commission. The existing act prescribes that lands on which utilities and services were provided, and lands contiguous thereto, might be vested in the commission by the Governor-General. As the services include roads, water supply mains, sewerage mains and reticulation, electric mains, parks, depots, and other utilities of a municipal character, it is both difficult and costly to provide for detailed surveys in order to delimit all the lands on which such services arc provided. It would he simpler to vest the whole of the city area in the commission. It now has authority to manage and control, in the name of the Commonwealth, all the lands in the Territory, including tho city lands, and to receive revenue therefrom. The proposed alteration would involve no essential change, but it would simplify the commission’s work, and permit it to carry out in its own name what it now does for the Commonwealth. The vesting of the city area lands in the commission will not make any change in the tenure, or affect the rights of any lessee, as it is proposed that the commission, in leasing such lands in its own name instead, of in the name of the Commonwealth, must comply with the provisions of the ordinances already inforce. The existing act gives the commission power to borrow moneys, subject to a resolution by both Houses of Parliament and to the Treasurer’s approval ofthe terms. The existing legislation does not permit of the commission utilizing the existing machinery of the Treasury for raising loans. For the Federal Capital Commission to go on the market independently for loan moneys would be costly, and would involve duplication. Moreover, that procedure would increase the> number of borrowing authorities, which it is considered should bc discouraged. It will be remembered that steps have already been taken to attain more uniform action between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to the borrowing of moneys. The proposal now made would fit in with that policy. The alterations which will be submitted for consideration will authorize the commission to arrange with the Treasurer to include its requirements in Commonwealth loans. In this respect the act will be brought into conformity with the Northern Australia Act recently passed by Parliament. It is also suggested that the commission shall, from the commencement, make a contribution to a sinking fund in respect of all loans which are raised in that way. The commission will still be able to arrange with the Commonwealth Sank, or other similar institution, for small loans for purposes for which it is not advisable to obtain a large loan by arrangement with the Treasurer. It is also necessary for a clearer definition to he made in respect to the commission’s liability. The existing act provides that the sites allotted for Parliament House and the residence of the Governor-General are not to be vested in the commission. The commission is consequently unable to earn any interest by way of rent or other charges, on the sums expended upon the construction of those buildings.
– The commission should not have jurisdiction over Parliament House.
– It will not. The lands on which Parliament House and the Governor-General’s residence are erected will not be controlled by the commission. It is only equitable that the Commonwealth should meet the cost of construction in both cases, because the commission would have no means of recouping itself if it were to be held liable for the expenditure. It is, therefore, proposed to exempt from the commission’s liability all expenditure incurred on Parliament House prior to the act coming into force, and to provide for all expenditure incurred since that date on Parliament House and the residence of tho Governor-General to be defrayed by the Commonwealth. “With the exception of these two buildings, the commission will be responsible for providing all buildings and services required by the Government in the Federal Capital Territory, subject to a reasonable arrangement as regards charges by way of rent, and for services rendered. Other amendments proposed are chiefly matters of detail. They include the alteration of the title of the chairman of the commission to “ Chief Commissioner “ in order to avoid confusion with chairmen of local boards and committees iti the Territory; provision for convening meetings, so that in cases of difficulty or deadlock the Minister may direct meetings to bc held; investing the Chief Commissioner with the functions of a permanent head under the Public Service Act in respect to permanent public service officers; empowering the commission to make by-laws having immediate operation in case of urgency, subject to possible disallowance by the Governor-General or by Parliament; making clear the commission’s position in relation to leases granted by the Commonwealth, in order that it may take action in its own name, if necessary, for the recovery of rent or other moneys. These minor amendments will be fully explained when dealing with the specific clauses in committee. It will be seen that the bill now submitted deals principally with matters which do not require a great deal of discussion or examination. The Federal Capital Commission has had a very heavy task before it in completing the constructional programme, and in dealing with the many problems that have arisen as the result of leasing lands to the public, and setting up a proper local government organization in the Territory. These amendments, if agreed to, will assist the commission in its work; increase its efficiency; and define its position in relation to certain administrative difficulties which have become apparent as a result of practical experience. They are all in conformity with the policy already laid down by Parliament in respect to the
Federal Capital Territory. It is hoped that honorable senators will facilitate the passage of this bill in order that the amended provisions may come into operation as early as possible.
Debate (on motion by Senator NeedHAM) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 4.0 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 July 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260707_senate_10_114/>.