10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m., andread prayers.
Gift from the Government of Canada.
– During the visit to Australia of the Empire Parliamentary Association, reference was made, particularly by Senator the Hon. F. L. Schaffner, to the desire of the Government of Canada to presentto this Senate a chair for the use of the President. The offer was accepted, and drawings of a chair, together with samples of the fittings of this chamber, were forwarded to Canada. The chair, which is made of Canadian timhers, bus now arrived, and is being used by me, for the first time, to-day. It is particularly appropriate that the Government of a sister Dominion should follow the example set by the members of the British Parliament, when not long ago they presented to the House of Representatives a chair for the use of Mr. Speaker. This Parliament is now in the unique position of having in one branch of the legislature a chair presented for the use of the presiding officer by the Mother of Parliaments, and in the other a chair presented for the use of the President by the Government of a sister Dominion. I know that I am voicing the sentiments of honorable senators when I express my appreciation of this very appropriate and excellent gift.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
8.8.* - I move -
That this Senate recordsits high appreciation of the gift of the chair which the Government of Canada has been so graciously pleased to make to this Parliament for the use of the President of the Senate of the Commonwealth. We value it for what it is - a splendid example of the products of Canada and the handicraft of her people. We shall treasure it for what it represents - the friendly interestof the citizens of our great sister Dominion in our welfare and progress - and shall cherish it as another link binding together our peoples in common loyalty to one Throne, and as integral parts of one Empire, within which we enjoy the heritage of our great free parliamentary institutions.
As the President remarked, it is fitting that the Senate should be the recipient of a chair, from the great sister Dominion of Canada, for the use of its presiding officer. The chair reveals not only the beauty of Canada’s timbers, but also the excellent craftsmanship of her artisans. It will be a constant reminder of the freedom which we and. our sister dominions enjoy within the Empire, and of our common heritage from the Mother of Parliaments. We accept the gift with a keenappreciation of the generosity of the Government of Canada. Its presence in this chamber will be a constant reminder to us that Canada and Australia are part of the one great Empire, and that both owe allegiance to the one Crown.
– With very great pleasure I second the motion expressing our thanks for, and appreciation of, the splendid gift we have received from the Government of Canada. We shall value the chair not only for its intrinsic worth and its excellent workmanship, but also because it symbolizes the ties that exist between the people of this country and those of the sister Dominion of Canada. We appreciate the kindly thought that prompted the gift, which will be the companion of the chair presented to another place by the British Parliament. Its presence in this chamber will, I feel sure, constantly remind us of the bond that now exists between this country and Canada, and strengthen the friendship that exists between the people of the two Dominions. On behalf of honorable senators on your left, Mr. President, I support the motion moved by the Acting Leader of the Senate.
Question unanimously resolved in the affirmative.
– Is the Minister aware that a month has elapsedwithout the appointment ofa board or a royal commission by the Government to inquire intosome matter? As the royal commission industry appears to be languishing, will the Government do something to give it a fillip?
– As the honorable senator and others behind him are usually looking for appointments, I regret to inform him that no positions are available.
– I shall see whether anything can be done in the direction indicated by the honorable senaator, and inform the Senate of the result of my inquiry.
– On the 30th September last the Senate passed the following resolution : -
That a return be laid upon the table of the Senate showing -
The number of persons employed on the staff of the Migration and Development Commission.
The number of experts and advisers attached to it, together with their duties and salaries.
The total cost of the commission since its inception up to the end of August, 1027.
Has the information been obtained?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.I havenot yet received it, but I shall endeavour to expedite the matter.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Can the Acting Leader of the Senate inform us when the first report of the North Australia Commission will bo to hand ?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.I cannot ; but I shall endeavour to ascertain by to-morrow morning.
Arms for Telegraph Poles
– The Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, yesterday informed me, in reply to a question, that a Western Australian tender for arms for telegraph poles was accepted in preference to a lower tender from Tasmania because of the difference in the class of the timber from the point of view of suitability for the department’s special work. Can the Minister indicate the special work for which those arms for telegraph poles are required?
– As I am not a technical adviser to ‘the Postmaster-General’s Department, I am afraid that I cannot. If the honorable senator will put his question on the notice paper I shall see if the information can be obtained.
Representation of Australia
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether Australia is represented on the Imperial Defence College, at. which military problems relating to the co-ordination of the defences of the Empire are studied? If so, bywhom? If not, why not?
– Each year two officers are sent from Australia to the Imperial Defence College. This year one officer was sent from the Navy Department and another from the Air Force. It is proposed to send next year an officer from the army and one other officer.
The following paper was presented: -
Wine Export Bounty Act - Return for 1926-27.
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
In view of the great possibilities for the profitable growing of tobacco in Australia, will the Minister cause to be issued, by pamphlets or otherwise, instructions regarding -
land suitable for tobacco growing on profitable lines;
the proper method of growing tobacco :
the gathering of the leaf and treating it for marketing purposes.
– I am advised that the Agricultural Departments of the States interested have already issued publications regarding the growing and marketing of tobacco. Under an arrangement between the Commonwealth Government and the governments of the five mainland States and the British-Australasian Tobacco Company, an exhaustive investigation is now taking place into the tobacco growing industry in Australia, with a view to placing it on a sound basis. The results of this investigation will be made available to the States Governments, which will be responsible for disseminating such results amongst growers and others interested.
discoveryby New Zealand Chemist.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
Advances to States
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The answers are : -
Fee for Securing Recruits
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The replies are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Leader of the
Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.It is expected that the report will be received within the next few days, when it will be tabled and made available to members.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will he communicated to the honorable senator when received.
Conference of Heads of Missions - Tenders for Expropriated Properties
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The information is not yet available, but will be supplied as soon as possible.
Offer by Queensland Government.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate. upon notice -
Was an offer received early in February last by the Federal Government from the Queensland Government to place 25,000 acres of land in Central Queensland at a nil rental, for any term desired, at the disposal of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, for the pur. pose particularly of investigating losses in sheep from wastage droughts, blowfly, and other causes. If so,w hat has been, or is being, done in the matter ?
– The following answer has been supplied : -
Such an offer was made by the Queensland Government and is receiving consideration.
Motions (by Senator Sir William glasgow) agreed to -
That during the remainder of the present session, unless otherwise ordered, at 4 o’clock p.m. on Fridays the President shall put the question - That the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall not be open to debate; if the Senate be in Committee at that hour, the Chairman shall in like manner put the question - That he do leave the chair and report to the Senate; and upon such report being made the President shall forthwith put the question - That the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall not be open to debate: Provided that if the Senate, or the Committee, be in division at the time named, the President or the Chairman shall not put the question referred to until the result of such division has been declared; and if the business under discussion shall not have been disposed of at such adjournment it shall appear on the business-paper for the next sitting day.
That during the remainder of the present session, unless otherwise ordered, the sittings of the Senate, or of a Committee of the whole Senate, on Fridays, be suspended from 1 o’clock p.m. until half-past 2 p.m.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 12th October (vide page 421).
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - 12b. After section 96 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “ 96a.No person who is a member of any organization formed for the purpose of organizing, assisting, or returning any political party or members of such party to Parliament shall be capable of being nominated or of sitting as a senator.”
The amendment is a very simple one. It is easily understood, and I hope it will have the support of a majority of the Committee. My object is to free the Senate from the evil effects of party influences. The objective of the framers of the Constitution was that the Senate should be a chamber of revision and review, and the defender of State rights. It was to be an entirely independent part of the legislative machine, subject to no party influences - a chamber in which there should be complete freedom of discussion. In fact, it was designed to provide a healthy check upon anything that might be done hastily in another place. Its Constitution was debated at length by the several conventions. One section of opinion desired the Senate to be elected by the State legislatures; another wished it to be elected on a limited franchise; and a third section, which was in the majority, advocated its election under the present system. As at present constituted, the Senate does not meet the requirements of the people of Australia, nor does it fulfil the purpose intended by the framers of the Constitution. The adoption of the present method was due, in my opinion, to an excess of democratic zeal on the part of members of the convention which finalized the details of the Constitution.
– I think much of the trouble is due to equal representation of the States.
– Those who favoured the election of the Senate by popular vote urged that equal representation would make it a strong branch of the legislature, and so that senators might be free from divisional influences and interests they provided that each State should be polled as one electorate. However, matters have not worked out according to those high ideals. A good deal of valuable work was done by the Senate in the early days of federation simply because there was no strict regimentation of parties within its four walls.
– But the honorable senator came here on a party ticket.
– Does the honorable senator propose that his amendment shall be retrospective?
– The remedy for the implication contained in Senator Foil’s interjection is a simple one. If any member of this chamber is tied blindly to any party, he can resign at once. Under existing conditions the
Senate may be an ornament, but certainly it is of no use as a deliberative chamber; on the contrary, it has become merely the echo of another place.
– It was once responsible for a double dissolution.
– I may deal with that aspect of the position on another occasion. I wish for the moment to confine my attention to the amendment which I have submitted. The Senate rarely attempts to amend a bill sent here from another place. Ministers bring down a measure, tells us it represents Government policy, and ask the Senate to endorse it. On many occasions honorable senators have voted against their honest convictions merely to save the Government from a difficulty. Under existing conditions the usefulness of the Senate is destroyed. If it continues on these lines it is facing certain suicide.
– How would the honorable senator provide for the filling of extraordinary vacancies?
– That is provided for in the Constitution.
– Does the honorable senator consider that a member of this chamber should nol vote merely to suit the Government?
– There should be no party influences in the Senate. All members of it should vote according to their honest convictions.
– I rise to a point of order. The amendment submitted by Senator Ogden is not competent for several reasons. The qualifications for a seat in the Senate cannot be affected by anything that may be done in this way. The matter is governed by certain provisions in the Constitution, and they may not be amended by the insertion of a proposed new section in the Electoral Act. I submit that the amendment of which Senator Ogden has given notice is not within the competence of the Senate, as it purports to interfere with the qualifications or disqualifications of senators. That, cannot be done by amending an electoral bill, but only by an amendment of the Constitution. The amendment is a violation of the provisions of the Constitution inasmuch as it attempts to determine who shall be eligible for election as senators. The provisions of the Constitution governing the qualifications for election to Parliament are rigid, and until they are amended in the proper manner must be adhered to. I submit that the amendment is an attempt to override the provisions of the Constitution, and that it is also outside the ambit of the bill we are now discussing.
– Whilst I do not agree with the amendment of which Senator Ogden has given notice, I cannot support the point of order raised by the Honorary Minister (Senator McLach-Ian). He contends that it is not within’ the power of the Senate to say who shall and who shall not be qualified to act as senators. Such is not the case, because the Parliament itself determined that a member of a State Parliament could not be nominated for the Federal legislature until, he had resigned his seat. If it is within the power of the Senate to legislate in that way, it is also within our power to amend the bill in the manner Senator Ogden suggests.
– Was the amendment to which the honorable senator has referred one that could be made constitutionally by the Parliament?
– I do not know
– I have not had an opportunity to peruse the provisions of the Constitution, but I think the Honorary Minister (Senator McLachlan) will find that in connexion with the election of senators it provides for certain qualifications until “ the Parliament otherwise provides.” It is within the power of this Parliament to alter the qualifications, as has been done on two or three occasions by an amending electoral bill. For instance, a member of a State Parliament was precluded from nominating for election as a senator until he had resigned his seat in the State Legislature. If the amendment of which I have given notice embodies a breach of the Constitution, the amending legislation to which I hive referred is also unconstitutional. Some time later we went even further when Tasmania attempted to override the Commonwealth law. I now find that section 34 of the Constitution provides that “Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the qualifications of a member of the House of Representatives shall be as follows.” Then follow the qualifications. Section 16 of the Constitution provides that the qualifications of a senator shall be the same as those of a member of the House of Representatives. The section further provides that a candidate must be of the full age of 21 years, and must also he an elector, &c. We cannot alter the term that senators are to serve, neither can we alter the representation of the States; hut we can alter the qualifications of a senator.
– The Constitution goes a good deal further than Senator Ogden suggests. Section 16 provides thai; the qualifications of a senator sh.’ill he the same as those of a member of the House of Representatives. Section 34 reads-
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the qualifications of a member of the House of Representatives shall be as follows: -
He must be of the full age of 21 years, and must be an elector entitled to vote at the election of members of the House of Representatives.
Then follow other qualifications. Section 43 provides that “ a member of either House of the Parliament shall be incapable of being chosen, or of sitting as a. member of the other House.” Section 44 deals with disqualifications which are set out in rigid terms.
– That section dials with a specific question.
– Senator Ogden is endeavouring to add a further disqualification to those mentioned in section 44. No further disqualifications can he imposed unless by an amendment of the Constitution. The point raised by Senator Thomas is covered by a constitutional provision, the number of which I cannot recall at the moment.
– It is not covered1 by the Constitution.
– I maintain that by an amendment of an electoral bill we cannot add to the disqualifications imposed in the Constitution.
– It has been done before.
– The Senate has at times done certain things which have been found to be beyond its powers. I submit that the proposed amendment would be a violation of the provisions of Section 44 of the Constitution.
– Although I do not agree with the amendment, I submit that it is competent for Senator Ogden to move it, and for Parliament to agree to it. The Minister has overlooked the fact that section 44 of the Constitution applies to both Houses of Parliament. In respect of certain matters it imposes a common bar, applying to both houses, which the Senate cannot remove, but it is equally clear that the Constitution leaves it in the power of the Parliament to determine what shall disqualify an elector from membership of the Senate, and Parliament may at any time exercise that power.
– I rule that the point of order taken by the Minister cannot be sustained. The amendment moved by Senator Ogden is in order. Neither this Senate nor Parliament itself is, under the Constitution, charged with the responsibility of interpreting the Constitution. So far as my knowledge goes, it has always been the practice in the Senate foi the President, when a point of order affecting the interpretation of the Constitution has been raised, to declare that it is within the power of the Senate to do as it pleases so long as its standing orders are observed. The standing orders do not require the Senate to interpret the Constitution. That is the function of the High Court. As has already been pointed out, Ave have on other occasions added to the grounds on which certain persons may be prevented from voting at an election and from taking their seats as members of this parliament. In sub-section 4 of section 39 of the Electoral Act it is provided :: -
No person who is of unsound mind and no person attainted of treason or who has been convicted and is under sentence for any offence punishable under the law of any part of the King’s dominions ‘by imprisonment for one year or longer, shall be entitled to have his name placed on or retained on any roll or to vote at any Senate election or House of Representatives election.
– That is contained in sub-section 2 of section 44 of the Constitution.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.There is nothing in that sub-section relating to persons of unsound mind. That sub-section is an additional disqualification imposed by parliament.
– I have brought forward this amendment with the object of drawing public attention to what I consider is a great weakness in connexion with the representation of electors in the Senate. To accomplish my objective by an alteration of the Constitution would be difficult ;. but believing - a belief which is now an assurance because of the ruling of the Temporary Chairman - that there is power under the Constitution for Parliament to alter the qualifications for membership of the Senate, I adopted this method of endeavouring to make the Senate what the framers of the Constitution believed it should be. It may be said that I have departed from the democratic principles which I held at one time. That is not so. In my opinion there should be an” alteration of the existing practice of filling vacancies in the Senate by a vote of the members of the State legislature.
– That is not democratic.
– The members of the Senate should be elected by the people.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine his . remarks to the amendment before the Chair.
– Under existing conditions the Senate has lost its value to the community. It is becoming a weak, impotent body.
– It will never be that so long as the honorable senator remains a member of it.
– I am a member of no political party. The Senate of the
United Stated of America is the strongest body in the world. It is elected by the legislatures of the several States. The French Senate is also a strong body. This Senate should be paramount in the community and not merely a body to carry out the wishes of a government or a party. Instead of acting independently, however it is guided by party considerations. Should I again be returned to this Senate I shall not attend any caucus meeting. Honorable senators should be above sectional interests.
– Since the honorable senator entered this chamber has he attended any caucus. meetings?
– I have attended about three caucus meetings. I told the electors that I did not consider that I should attend them. No vote in this chamber can effect the fate of any government. For that reason no senator should attend a party meeting to vote on a resolution which may upset the government in power.
– What would this amendment accomplish, if agreed to?
– It would ensure that no person who belongs to a political organization would be elected to the Senate. Honorable senators may think I have moved this amendment because I am a disgruntled individual. My object in bringing it forward is, however, to pre.serve the dignity of the Senate, to magnify its strength, and to make it what it was intended to be - a strong, virile body above the strife of party warfare. While I have the opportunity I shall do what I can to get the Senate back to first principles, to make honorable senators free individuals, and the Senate an institution which will be respected by all sections of the comunity. If the Senate continues to act as it has acted during recent years it will destroy itself.
– I am surprised that Senator Ogden has brought forward this amendment. If he wants the Senate to be the strong, virile, independent body to which he has referred, he can assist to make it so by tendering his resignation as a member of it. The honorable senator is out of touch with public sentiment throughout Australia. I remind him that he would not now be a member of the Senate if ha had not at one time been a member of a party organization. For many years Senator Ogden was a prominent member of the Labour party. His presence in this chamber is directly due to his former activity as a member of that party.
– I entered this Senate to attempt to reform it.
- Senator Ogden now desires to destroy the foundation of a democratic edifice. Subject to certain, limitations it is the right of every adult to aspire to membership of the Senate. The honorable senator proposes, by his amendment, to abolish that well -won right.
– There is nothing to prevent a person from seeking election as an -independent candidate.
– If the Senate is a party chamber, it is the fault of honorable senators supporting the Government.
– Does not the honorable senator advocate the abolition of the Senate ?
– The first man to announce in the Senate that he had been elected Leader of the Opposition was the late Senator E. D. Millen. That was about the year 1913, when the Opposition consisted of five members of the party that now sits opposite. That practice has since prevailed, and I do not think it has done any harm. Senator Ogden argued that the Senate is useless. I point out that, except in relation to the initiation of legislation dealing -with finance, its powers are co-equal with those of the other branch of the legislature. Where I say it has acted wrongly is in having fallen into the habit of waiting for .legislation to be initiated by another place. That, however, is’ not a reason for our acceptance of the amendment. We hear a great deal about interference with the liberty of the subject. This would certainly interfere with the right of citizens to attempt to win a seat in this chamber. I do not think that a parliament will ever be elected without the aid of party organizations; human nature will first have to be radically altered.
The principle underlying the amendment is a wrong one. I hope that the committee will reject it.
[4.7]. - I urge the committee not to accept the amendment. I shall not discuss the merits or the demerits of the case which has been made out .for the removal of the party system from this chamber. I question very much whether the proposed new clause would achieve the object that the honorable senator has in view. If a man belonged to an organization there would be nothing to prevent his resigning if he contemplated submitting himself as a candidate for the Senate.
– He would not be able to take part in the meetings of the caucus.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Does the honorable senator suggest that, after a man had been elected to this, chamber, he would be disqualified if ha took part in a caucus meeting?
– Such action on his part would be evidence of membership of a party.
– Senator Needham asserted that members of the party to which I belong were responsible for making this a party chamber. Honorable senators on both sides are well aware that until the Labour party arrived on the scene the second chambers in both the States and the Commonwealth were not party chambers.
.- - Senator Ogden ought to recognize that it was the party machine which first introduced him to public life, and found for him a place in this chamber. That machine has grown, and today no candidate could be elected if he did not have it behind him. Greater men than Senator Ogden have endeavoured to win elections without its aid. I instance Sir Josiah Symon, of South Australia, who, I suppose, was one of the greatest men in politics that Australia has known. He fell between the two parties, with the result that, instead of repeating the experience of the previous election, when, as a member of a party, lie was returned at the head of the poll, he found himself at the bottom. I am not able to grasp what Senator Ogden hopes to accomplish. How would honorable senators reach a common understanding if they were prevented from attending meetings of their parties ? I do not think that the amendment will help the honorable senator along the road that he wishes to travel. He has argued that it would be a democratic move to have honorable senators elected by the parliaments of the States. I should regard that as a conservative plan.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Senator Duncan). - The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing forms of election.
– If the great Labour movement of Australia possesses the reasoning faculty that I believe it has, it will hang on to the Senate as long as it has life in its body.
– The honorable senator is pledged to abolish the Senate.
– I am now stating my individual opinion, not. that of the Labour movement. There is always a possibility that that movement will change its view. The Senate is elected upon the broadest franchise that exists in the world. Nothing could be fairer. The electors may return whom they please. I am opposed to the amendment, and do not think the committee ought to agree to it.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland) [4.15]. - Senator Ogden made a statement to which I take strong exception. He said that, by reason of the system which operates in this chamber, honorable senators times without number have recorded a vote in opposition to the dictates of their consciences. The honorable senator appears to consider that he has a monopoly of conscience, and is the only member of this chamber who votes according to it. If other honorable senators do not see eye to eye with him he charges them with voting against their conscience. I throw that charge back in his teeth. He would not have been returned to the Senate if he had not had the assistance of the party machine. I have been in this chamber for a longer period than he has, and my experience has been that honorable senators vote according to their consciences. . I can recall the time when there was only one member of the Labour party in this Senate, and 35 alleged supporters of the Government. On at least two occasions Government bills were thrown out on the motion for their second reading. That is proof that the Senate has not lost its usefulness as a chamber of review. Senator Ogden’s conscience is probably worrying him. Perhaps that is the reason he is having so much to say on this subject.
.- It was amusing to listen to SenatorFoll. If he would approach me quietly I would give him half a dozen instances of honorable senators having voted against their consciences. He knows that that is so.
– It is not true.
– The honorable senator is not in order in imputing motives to other honorable senators.
– I am not, and would not think of doing so. All that I say is that they are misguided by excessive zeal. Senator Needham said that I was elected to the Senate as a party man. Probably I had the support of a portion of the Labour movement; but I also obtained 10,000 national votes. On the platform I made the definite statement that I did not consider I had a right if elected to the Senate to attend the caucus, and that I would not continue to do so. When I came to the Senate the first thing I received was a summons to appear before the executive of the Parliamentary Labour Party. I was then asked, “ Did you say that . you would not attend caucus meetings as a Labour man? I said, “ Yes, I did “. I said further, “ Everything you have there I have said.” The principal cause of complaint against me was that I had said that senators ought not to attend caucus meetings. I did not attend caucus meetings.
– Was not the honorable senator a selected Labour candidate at the election?
– No, I was the only nominee. The party called for nominations but received none. No one in Tasmania thought that Labour had a dog’s chance of winning.
– But the honorable senator had the endorsement of the Labour party for his candidature.
– I had the endorsement of the party, but I did not sign a pledge. I thought that I should submit this amendment, but I did not expect that Senator Foll would rage and fume and create a false impression as to what my intention was. I have never voted, nor shall I ever vote, for anything to which I do not agree, no matter what party I may be attached to. If I were a member of another place I would be compelled to belong to a party, but while I am a member of this Senate I shall belong to no party, and I shall not attend any party caucus. I hope that the honorable senators will have compassion upon me even if they cannot sympathize with my proposal, and I trust that the discussion which has arisen upon my amendment may draw us nearer to that very much desired day when the Senate will be set free from party, as it was intended to be and as undoubtedly it should be.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted - “ 12n. Section one hundred and five a of the Principal Act is amended by omitting paragraph (b) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: -
the order in which the names in each group shall be printed shall be as follows: -
where the candidates whose names are comprised in a group agree to have their names printed in a certain order and each candidate notifies the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, in the prescribed manner, not later than twelve o’clock noon on the day of nomination, that he consents to that order - the names in the group shall be printed in that order;
where no notification in pursuance of the last preceding paragraph is received by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer by twelve o’clock noonon the day of nomination, or if notifications are not received by him from every member of a group - the names in the group shall be printed in the alphabetical order of the surnames comprised in the group.’ “
Section proposed to be amended -
In printing the ballot-papers to be used in a Senate election -
I am opposed to Senator Ogden’s ideas about party Houses; I strongly believe in parties. I agree with one of England’s greatest statesmen, who laid it down that parliamentary government depends upon party government, and that party government has made England great, and, he hoped, would continue to keep it great.
– I am not opposed to political parties.
– I take it that the Senate stands for the continuance of parties, and in those circumstances it is our duty to make voting as simple as possible. Four or five years ago in the Senate I strongly urged the adoption of the system of grouping the names of candidates on Senate ballot papers. Provision for that had been made in a bill introduced by the then government, and it was supported by honorable senators of the Labour party, but Nationalist senators rejected it. I remember pointing out at the time that in the absence of grouping ex-Senator Garling, who was a Nationalist, would lose his seat at the following election because his name would appear alphabetically on the. ballot paper after that of ex-Senator Gardiner. It is problematical whether ex-Senator Garling did lose his seat on that account - exSenator Gardiner may deny it - but the fact remains that, although ex-Senator Garling was the third Nationalist in alphabetical order on the ballot-paper, he was not elected, and ex-Senator Gardiner was elected. Had the names been grouped on the ballot-papers, as I desired, I fee! certain that ex-Senator Garling would have been re-elected. However, as the outcome of that election we saw the virtue of the grouping system, and adopted it for future Senate elections. I believe that it has worked satisfactorily. Tt rnakes it easy for the people to record their votes. Many persons say that if a party is running three candidates for a Senate election, and if the supporters of the party vote 1, 2 and 3 for those three candidates, it makes no particular difference how the .names of candidates are arranged on the ballot-paper, so long as they are in one particular group. But with an electorate like New South Wales, with its 1,000,000 voters, is it possible to expect over 500,000 people to vote exactly in the way I have indicated? I understand that candidates are grouped for Tasmanian State elections, but that the Nationalist organization does not ask its supporters to vote 1, 2, 3 in any order.
– The candidates are not grouped on the ballot-paper as Nationalists; they are brought together in a group.
– Candidates are also grouped in Western Australia. So desirous are the electors of being assisted to vote that the select committee, which has just done most excellent work, has submitted a recommendation that candidates should be grouped in Senate ballot-papers as Nationalists, Labour, Country party, or Independents. The Government. however, despite its wish to help the elector to fill in his ballot-paper, thinks that it would be rather difficult to cai-ry out the committee’s recommendation. Many honorable senators do not understand the presentsystem of counting votes at elections for the Senate. When it was first adopted, I venture to say that only two of the then senators, ex-Senator Gardiner and ex-Senator Garling, understood it. Under our present system, so long as a candidate’s organization votes solidly 1, 2 and 3 for its three candidates, it makes little difference whether his name appears first, second or third on the ballot-paper. But all the supporters of the party cannot be relied on to do this in the case of a very large constituency. When Senator Glasgow was first elected to the Senate, there were three candidates standing in Queensland in the interests of the Nationalist party - Mr. Adamson, Senator Givens, and the honorable senator. Their names were placed on the ballot-paper in alphabetical order, and the Nationalist organization in Queensland asked its supporters to vote Adamson 1, Givens 2, Glasgow 3. ‘ The three of them were returned, but until Mr. Adamson was declared elected, Senator Givens or Senator Glasgow could not be returned.
– That was so because each senator is elected as if he were contesting a single electorate.
– That is so ; but if a candidate misses his first chance, he may still have another. For instance, at the last Senate election in New South Wales, ex-Senator Gardiner had five chances of being returned ; whereas Mr. Donald Grant never had a chance of being elected, because he did not come into the lead at any stage of the count.
– Senator Gardiner had no more chance of success on his second, third, fourth, or fifth opportunity than he had on the first count.
– He had not, so long as the supporters of the Nationalist candidates voted solidly for their party. But can we expect 500,000 voters all to be true to their party? We were told in New South Wales that Mr. Donald Grant, at the pre-selection, had polled more votes than ex-Senator Gardiner; but, at any rate, the executive of the Labour party very wisely, I think, put up ex-Senator Gardiner as its first candidate. There were five Nationalist candidates, and immediately it was seen that Mr. Donald Grant was put in the second position by the Labour party, we knew that he could not possibly be elected. If every elector voted the party ticket, it would make no difference where a candidate’s name appeared on the ballot-paper. Under the present system the candidate whose name is below that of another is just as anxious for the candidate preceding him to secure election as he is for his own success, because he realizes that he has no chance of election until the other candidate has secured the required majority.
– Not necessarily.
– At the last Senate election in New South Wales the Nationalist candidates received 400,000 votes and the Country party representatives 136,000 votes. When the scrutiny had reached the stage that necessitated the transfer of the Country party’s preferences the Nationalists lost about 5,000 votes which went over to Labour; but since the Nationalists had a surplus of 70,000 votes it did not . matter very much. I think Senator Abbott and Senator Duncan each lost about 5,000 votes, and Senator Greene and myself lost about 6,000. If the votes had been given to Senator Abbott, and not to us to keep either Senator Greene or myself out, Senator Abbott himself would have been defeated. As it happened, he received 1,000 votes more than Senator Duncan, Senator Greene, or myself, but the result was not affected. If, however, the election figures had been as close as they were when the late Senator E. D. Millen secured election by only 450 votes over the late Senator McDougall, the votes that we lost in the way I have described would have been sufficient to turn the election against us and keep Senator Abbott out.
– Will the honorable senator’s amendment help?
– It will a little,’ because the ballot-paper will be arranged on more definite party lines.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [4.40]. - I hope the committee will not accept the amendment. The grouping system has been in operation for the last two elections. Friction is likely to occur if any attempt is ma.de to arrange the order in which the supporters of a party shall be .asked to vote for the several candidates. At present the names are arranged in alphabetical order within the groups. This prevents argument and the possibility of friction ; and the respective parties arrange to give the preferences to the several candidates in a certain definite order. Senator Thomas has referred to the position in Queensland. I suggest that, if he desires candidates belonging to his own party to be returned he should do nothing to alter the present system, because it has not worked to our disadvantage.
– Is it not probable that the fact, that the Labour party has been in power in Queensland for several years has helped Queensland Nationalist candidates at federal elections?
– The fact remains that the candidates names are arranged alphabetically, and the system has worked well. The grouping of candidates under party designations prevents confusion on the part of electors. A voter may have some knowledge of certain candidates whom he wishes to see elected, but he may not know the whole of them. The gouping system thus comes to his aid.
– I should have been pleased if Senator Thomas had gone a step further, and had proposed to have the names of the party printed on the ballot-paper opposite each group. It is not too late even now to do that. Senator Glasgow has stated that the amendment will, if adopted, cause friction amongst candidates comprising the respective groups. I do not think it will, because, as I understand it, the order in which the names of candidates within a group appear on the ballot-paper must be the result of an arrangement between the candidates themselves. If they are satisfied to have their names printed in a certain order, how can any friction be caused? I could understand the objection made by the Minister if Senator Thomas had suggested that Parliament should arbitrarily determine how the names of candidates should appear on the ballot-paper; but Senator Thomas does not propose to do that at all. All he suggests is that the candidates in the different groups shall agree amongst themselves as to the order in which their names shall appear. It is well known that the respective party organizations agree, prior to an election, as to which candidate shall receive No. 1 vote, and how the other preferences shall be distributed. The proposal submitted by Senator Thomas, will simplify the postion and is worthy of a trial.
– I was sorry to hear the Minister (Senator Glasgow) raise objection to my amendment on the ground that it would cause friction amongst the candidates.
Again I cite what happened at the last federal election in New SouthWales. The Nationalist party was supporting five candidates for the Senate - four Nationalists and one Country party representative. On that occasion the alphabetical arrangement worked satisfactorily. Senator Cox, Senator Duncan, and Senator Greene were seeking re-election, so it was arranged that they should be Nos. 1, 2, and 3. I came fourth. That was a perfectly reasonable arrangement. If my name had been “Bowden” instead of “ Thomas “ the voter would have merely had to mark his preferences in the order named against the three other candidates, and then, instead of working down the ballotpaper to my name, to look above the name of Senator Cox for “ Bowden “ and give me the fourth preference.
– Suppose the honorable senator’s name were “ Bowden “ and he did not agree to the order in which it was proposed by the organization that the names should appear on the ballotpaper. What would happen then?
– I assume that the Nationalist party would drop me and ‘put forward someone else. When Mr. Swinburne, Senator Plain, and ex-Senator Bolton were contesting a Senate election some time ago, the Nationalist supporters were asked by the organization to give their No. 1 vote to Mr. Swinburne, their No. 2 to Senator Plain, and their No. 3 to ex-Senator Bolton. This meant that in marking the ballot-paper they had to commence at the bottom and work upwards, which led to a good deal of confusion. Under my proposal that difficulty would be obviated. Even intelligent persons are sometimes confused in correctly marking a ballot-paper, and we should make the work as simple as possible. Why have we the grouping system?
– It has reduced the number of informal votes.
– That may be so. Although some of the ballot-papers are not informal, the votes are not always recorded as the electors intended. During the last Senate elections in South Australia the Nationalist supporters were asked to give their No. 1 vote to Senator
Newlands, and their No. 2 vote to Senator McLachlan; but Senator McLachlan’s votes were not counted until Senator Newlands’s votes had been disposed of. At the last Senate elections for Victoria, Senator Andrew’s votes were not counted until those of Senators Elliott, Guthrie, and Plain had been disposed of. The Nationalist supporters were asked to give him their No. 4 votes.
– Trouble arises from the linking up of the grouping system with preferential voting. If I had my way I wouldhave no transfers.
– Then the honorable member must prefer the old method. Where there are four senators to be elected under the present system, the fourth candidate may be returned for a period of three years, and the other three for six years. In some cases a candidate may have a majority and yet not be returned because the candidate whose name precedes his own on the ballotpaper is not disposed of.
– That isnot so.
– Then the member does not understand the system. Although I am not a betting man, I made a wager with ex-Senator Gardiner on the same point. I then thought as the Minister does; but after a brief interview with a returning officer I was convinced that I was wrong. Senator Abbott, whose name appeared at the top of the ballotpaper, obtained 1,000 more votes than Senator Greene, Senator Duncan, and myself, and that number of votes might have been sufficient to bring about not only our our defeat, but his as well. The system whichI advocate would simplify voting, and would, I believe, he acceptable to the electors.
.- I cannot support the amendment moved by Senator Thomas, because it is a direct negation of what I favour. It would have the effect of perpetuating a system which seeks to embody in our legislation the vicious and undesirable principle of party. The system adopted does not matter so long as the best men are selected to represent the people. I believe in elective ministries ; but that is another matter.
– Yes, and one which the honorable senator will not be in order in discussing on this amendment.
– It embodies block voting. If the Senate were elected on the basis of proportional representation–
– The honorable senator may not discuss proportional representation on this amendment.
– The proposal is to perpetuate the system of voting for parties instead of for individuals. We should allow the electors a free choice in the selection of candidates. I do not think the amendment should receive the support of the committee.
.- I am inclined to support the amendment moved by Senator Thomas, as I believe that, if it were adopted, it would assist in making the grouping system more effective. Senator Thomas wishes to further simplify the duty of the electors. As mentioned by him, Nationalist supporters in Victoria were once asked to mark their ballot-papers from the bottom, because the Nationalist party desired that Mr. Swinburne should receive the No. 1 votes. Electoral officers and scrutineers experienced in the counting of votes have said that many informal votes are recorded when electors have to mark the ballot-paper from the bottom.
– Why is that necessary?
– Because the names are arranged alphabetically, and, in the case mentioned, the Victorian Nationalist organization wished the electors to give their No. 1 votes to Mr. Swinburne, whose name was last on the list.
– That is a mistake.
-I do not know anything about that. The three candidates agreed to the arrangement. Mr. Swinburne’s name was at the bottom of the. ballot-paper, the names being printed in alphabetical order. If his name had been placed at the top of the list the result would have been different. The ability of the late Senator E. D. Millen has never been exceeded by that of any member of the Senate; yet, because of the position of his name on the ballot-paper at one election which he contested, he received less votes than did a comparatively unknown candidate. The list was arranged alphabetically. His record as a statesman should have placed him at the head of the group-. The arrangement suggested by Senator Thomas would be of great assistance to the electors. It would not be compulsory, but would operate only where the party organization was agreeable to it.
– It would be the end of a candidate if he did not agree to it.
– That would not be different from the conditions operating now. No candidate can with impunity oppose the organization behind him.
– What would happen if the two parties comprising one group did not agree?
– The position would be the same as it is now.
– Then we should be no better off.
– It would be a matter for arrangement between the candidates. As things are at present, the names must necessarily be placed in alphabetical order.
– Does not the system by which the names are placed in alphabetical order obviate a lot of heartburning ?
– No system will prevent heart-burning. There was heartburning in New South Wales when it was found that the late Senator E. D. Millen did not head his group.
– The late Senator E. D. Millen was a man of outstanding ability; but it might happen that the three candidates were men of equal calibre.
– The alphabetical system does not prevent heart-burning. To agree to the amendment of Senator Thomas would simplify matters for the electors, and result in less informal votes being cast.
– I have a great deal of sympathy with the object which Senator Thomas seeks to attain ; but I am doubtful whether the cure that he suggests would not be worse than the disease. The trouble with the honorable senator is probably that, under the existing arrangement between the two parties forming the Government, the names of the candidates belonging to the weaker organization come first on the ballot-paper.
– Is that an advantage ?
– It helps those candidates a little, for the reason that some electors, more or less ignorant of the qualifications of the respective candidates, place their preferences in order, beginning at the top of the ballot-paper. Those candidates whose names begin with letters near the beginning of the alphabet consequently obtain a number of votes which they would not receive if their names commenced with letters lower down in the alphabet. That, probably, is the honorable senator’s difficulty.
– Under existing conditions, with the names of the candidates belonging to the different groups arranged in alphabetical order, the various political organizations advise their supporters as to the manner in which they should distribute their preferences. That, at times, causes trouble, but not so much as would be the case if the honorable senator’s amendment were agreed to. In any case, there is likely to be trouble ; no system can be satisfactory to all. At the last election my name appeared third in the group in which it was placed. I am satisfied to continue in that position. Seeing that there will be difficulties connected with whatever system is adopted, I think that we should adhere to the present arrangement, by which the names of the candidate are placed in alphabetical order on the ballotpaper in the particular group to which they belong. The party organization should then shoulder the responsibility of advising its supporters as to the order in which they should east their preferences.
– Throughout Australia the names of the candidates at municipal and State elections are invariably placed on the ballot-papers in alphabetical order. So far as I know, in no State election are the names of the candidates divided into groups. Since the establishment of the Commonwealth, the names of candidates for election to another place have always been placed in alphabetical order on the ballot-paper. That also was the practice for some years in connexion with Senate elections ; but on account of the large number of informal votes, or for some other reason, it was decided later to divide the candidates into groups according to the political parties to which they belonged, placing their names in alphabetical order in each group. The object was to make it easier for the electors to identify the candidates belonging to the party they supported. The number of informal votes cast in connexion with Senate elections has not decreased because of the alteration in the system of placing the names of candidates on the ballotpapers. I believe that the number runs into a good many thousands in some of the States?
– In New South Wales at the last elections it was 73,000.
– That is probably about 8 per cent. or 9 per cent. of the total number of votes cast. It is extraordinary that in a country which has compulsory education, and where practically every person can read and write, such a large number of adults fail to mark their ballot-papers as required and in accordance with their real desires. I do not know what are the principal causes of informality. An elector has merely to mark his or her ballot-paper in the order of preference. That should not be beyond the ability of the average elector. A wrangle occurred in the ranks of the Nationalist party prior to an election, at which the late Senator E. D. Millen, ex-Senator Garling and Senator Thomas were the candidates of that party for the Senate. The controllers of the party decided that the order of preference should be “ Garling (1), Millen (2), Thomas (3).” Whilst Garling was absent from headquarters another caucus meeting was held, and, rightly or wrongly, Millen was placed first in order of preference. I believe, although I am not quite sure, that the others were placed “ Thomas (2), Garling (3).” That was the official ticket throughout the State, and electors had merely to follow the orderset out on the “ How to vote cards that were placed in their hands on election day. We must all admit that every possible care is taken and no expense is spared, at least by the Nationalist party, to inculcate in the minds of the electors the order of preference they wish to have observed. Senator Thomas appears to think that it would make an enormous difference to have the names arranged not only in groups, but also in the order decided upon by the head-quarters of the different parties. That might or might not have made a difference at the election to which I have referred. I do not consider that Senator Thomas has made- out a case sufficiently strong to justify the committee in accepting his proposal. I doubt whether the number of informal votes has been reduced as a result of the adoption of the existing system, under which the names of candidates are arranged in alphabetical order. The election of a man to the Senate is dependent upon a number of factors which are quite distinct from that mentioned by Senator Thomas. I cannot support the amendment.
– That the electors appreciate the group system is evidenced by the fact that in one electorate in New South Wales 16,000 of the 24,000 electors who voted for the Nationalist candidates observed the party arrangement. It appears to me that a scheme such as I propose would make the task of the electors much easier than it now is. I should be sorry to think that I had done anything which had led an elector to vote in a manner different from his or her intentions. Our ballotpapers should be made as simple as possible. We should not regard the alphabetical arrangement as sacrosanct.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– For some considerable time the number of informalities in the votes cast for the Senate has been simply appalling. This is one of the subjects to which the Electoral Committee devoted close attention. It took a mass of evidence from men of all shades of political opinion. Informal voting has in recent years shown a decrease, which is a proof that the electors are becoming educated up to the requirements and that the group system is having a beneficial effect. The committee decided that one way of reducing informality was to have the names of the parties printed opposite each group. I therefore move -
That the following new clause be .inserted, after Clause 12a : - 12b. After section 100 of the principal act the following section is inserted - 106a. - Upon receipt within the prescribed time of a request in the prescribed form signed by a candidate or by all the members of u group of candidates and corroborated in such manner as is prescribed, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer may cause to be printed on the ballot paper against the name of the candidate or group of candidates, the name of the political party represented by the candidate or group of candidates.
In support of my contention that that provision would lead to a reduction in the number of informal votes cast, to an extent previously unknown, I 3hall quote from the report of the committee, which reads as follows : -
It was suggested in evidence that in order to reduce the number of informalities in elections, and to enable an elector more readily to carry out his own intention, the names of the parties to which the candidates belong, if any, should be shown on the ballot paper.
Many witnesses were questioned upon this point, including official representatives of political associations and private citizens. In practically all cases the witnesses assured the committee that this innovation would result in much more accurate voting, and would conduce to a reduction in informal voting.
The committee believes that with proper safeguards to prevent the use of unauthorised or inappropriate party names, this procedure would have the result indicated in the evidence, and that it would materially assist the electors in voting in accordance with their desires, and would reduce the number of informal votes.
It is pointed out that the principle has been partly accepted in the system now in use in Senate elections of grouping the candidates, which hus resulted in an appreciable reduction in the number of informal votes.
The only difficulty which was brought to the notice of the committee was a possible confusion of parties. It is perfectly true that an. independent candidate may seek election. Such a candidate would have no clear, definite party, and in the circumstances his name would appear on the ballot-paper without any notation alongside it. The Minister would be very well advised to accept this amendment. It transgresses no principle of the electoral law.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [5.36]. - If the Committee agrees to the proposed new clause, it will he necessary to provide machinery for the registration not only of the various political parties, but also of the officers of those parties who are expected to determine the right of candidates to have the names of the parties opposite their names on the ballotpapers.
– Each candidate will declare his own party.
– There is nothing to prevent any one from calling himself Labour or Nationalist.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Exactly. Unless the parties are registered, and also the officers, upon whose authority the officers of the Electoral Department group the candidates, there will be nothing to prevent any man from claiming the right to be regarded as belonging to a particular political party.
– At the present time an independent candidate can stand for election.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.If three candidates belonging to an organization supporting the present Labour party are desirous of seeking election, what is there to prevent them from grouping themselves as Labour on the ballot-paper?
– There are now two Labour parties in New South Wales.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.As a matter of fact there are two Labour parties throughout the Commonwealth. Are they to be grouped on the ballotpapers as Labour No. 1 and Labour No. 2?
– No. A candidate will declare himself Labour or Nationalist as the case may be.
Senator Sir WILLI AM GLASGOW.But to what groups will the candidates of the two Labour parties belong?
– To Labour, of course.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Candidates of the official Labour party would not be very pleased to have the representatives of the other Labour wing grouped with them under the name of Labour. I ask the committee not to agree to the amendment.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia [5.40]. - The Minister seems determined to have the bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill. The Committee must not dot an “ i “ or cross a “ t.” I thought that the Minister would adduce some solid argument against Senator Thompson’s proposal. No difficulty need be feared on the allegation that there are two Labour parties in Australia. There are some people who call themselves the National Labour party; but they are not members of the Labour party. There is only one Labour party in Australia, and that is the Australian Labour party.
– Would the honorable senator prevent any group of persons from calling themselves Labour if they thought that they were entitled to do so?
– They shouldbe penalized for making a false statement. The grouping system now in existence is a recognition of the respective political parties. If Senator Thompson had not done so, I intended to move that the name of the party to which a group of candidates belonged should be placed on the ballot-paper. That could be done by agreement.
– But by whose authority?
– By the authority and with the consent of the organization that endorses the candidate, and also by arrangement among the candidates themselves. We have already gone a long way on the road to Senator Thompson’s proposal by having the grouping system on ballot-papers, and by designating the groups A, B, C and so on. As a matter of fact when the provision in this respect was debated in the Senate it was regarded as a compromise. If we went a little further and placed the names of the parties on the ballot papers it would be of great assistance to the electors.
– When I first stood for election to the Senate there were twelve names on the ballot-paper, and the candidates represented four different parties. Although some of them might not have been sponsored by the parties whom they claimed to represent, there would have been no difficulty on that occasion in putting into practice the method of giving on the ballot-paper the names of the- parties to which the candidates belonged.. Each candidate could himself have declared his party.
– On that occasion there were two different sections calling themselves Country party - the one repudiating the other.
– In that case they would have a,U declared themselves to bc of the Country party. If I am a Country party man. I am entitled so to declare myself whether the organization consents or not. If there are sixteen candidates, some of whom are not endorsed by their organizations, they can still declare themselves to be Nationalists, Labour or Independent. It should be open for each candidate to declare his party. Any man can stand for parliament, and likewise any man should have the right to declare himself to be representing the party to which he has chosen to attach himself. The new clause I propose would enable him to do so, and at the same time would, I am sure, lead to a reduction in the number of informal votes.
– (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [5.46]. - Senator Thompson has referred to the fact that there was a multiplicity of candidates at the Queensland Senate elections in 1922. No matter what confusion there may be among the candidates, it is of the utmost importance that that confusion shall not be brought into the electoral . office. We should so frame our laws as not to bring the various contending political parties into conflict with the electoral authority. There is no simpler way of putting the names of the candidates on the ballot-paper than that which at present is followed. The names are placed on the ballot-paper in alphabetical order, and the groups themselves are arranged in alphabetical order. There is no need for Senator Thompson’s amendment.
– Apparently Senator Thompson’s object is to make the position clearer to an elector when he goes to vote, but if his proposal were agreed to it might create a very difficult and even dangerous position. At the present time certain candidates can group themselves. Let us assume that candidates A, B and C are endorsed as the selected candidates of a party, and agree to group themselves on the ballot-paper. At the same time candidates D, E and F, who are not endorsed or selected candidates, are seeking election as representing the same party. Thus there may be two sets of candidates grouped - A, B and C, with the word “ Nationalist “ opposite them, and D, E and F also declaring themselves to be Nationalists, as possibly they’ may be. As a matter of fact there may be three groups of Nationalists, and two or three groups of Labour candidates.
– There would be one group of each.
– There could not be one group of each. If I am a candidate I am grouped with two other candidates, a fid we describe ourselves as of the one party. But other people have the right to do the same thing. The adoption of the honorable senator’s proposal would therefore make it difficult for people to record their votes in the way desired by them. Another thing that strikes me is that we are losing sight of the individual. The proposal before the Senate” is merely for the glorification of party. The act deals with the individual up to this point, but now the honorable senator wants to introduce party The respective organizations might as well be allowed to go a step further and have printed on the ballot-paper a paragraph setting out the virtues of the Nationalist candidates and the Nationalist party as far as Australia is concerned. The Labour party would have as much right to do the same, and in a short time the proposed system would become a perfect farce.
– I do not think there is much in the contention of Senator Millen, because even now the names of candidates are grouped on the ballot-papers.
– That applies only to those candidates who desire to be grouped.
– Electors know from the grouping of names which parties the respective candidates represent. Every person who follows politics at all closely knows that the Labour group is the “official” Labour group. Similarly, Nationalist candidates are looked upon as the “ official “ Nationalist group.
– That is not always the case.
– There is nothing in our electoral law to prevent any candidate from nominating and stating whether he is or is not a member of any particular party. Therefore I sec no harm in allowing candidates “ A, B, and C “ to be known as the “ official “ Labour group and candidates “ D, E, and F “ as the “ official “ Nationalist group.
– But other candidates might nominate and, whilst not being endorsed by a party, claim to be representative of it.
– Any difficulty in that regard would be overcome if the endorsed candidates were designated “ official Labour “ or “ official Nationalist.” The voters would then know in whose interests the respective candidates were standing. The proposed amendment will give to other candidates who do not belong to a recognized party an opportunity to group themselves if they so desire.
– And give them an opportunity also to use the name of one of the parties.
– They can do that to-day.
– But not on the ballotpaper.
– During an election campaign the candidates declare themselves. If they are not endorsed by one of the parties, they make it clear to the electors that they are standing as, say, independent Nationalists or independent. Labour. Having gone that far, why should they not be permitted to have their party designations printed on the ballot-paper ?
– How would it be possible to prevent them from calling themselves “ Nationalists “ or “Labour “ candidates?
– By using the designation “ endorsed “ or “ official “ for those candidates that had the backing of their parties. The suggestion I make would materially assist a considerable number of electors who do not follow too closely the trend of politics in Australia.
-Would not that suggestion require the consent of the party as well as the consent of the individual? .
– That, after all, is a matter of form. There would be no difficulty so far as our organization was concerned.
– Why not go a step further and say that only certain organizations shall have the right to nominate candidates.
– That would he absurd.
– It is the logical outcome of the honorable senator’s argument.
– The object of grouping candidates is to make it clear to electors that one group is representative of official Labour and the second group is representative of official Nationalist.
– Who makes them “ official “ candidates ?
– The organization that endorses them. Personally I see no harm whatever in printing on the ballot-paper, not only the group names of candidates, but also alongside the respective groups the names of the parties on whose behalf the candidates so grouped are contesting an election. This would not in any way prevent other candidates for either House from seeking election and having set out on the ballot-paper the party they represented. At times there is a certain amount of haziness on the part of some voters as to whether group “ A “ represents official Labour and group “B” official Nationalist or vice versa. These doubts would be entirely removed if the proposal were adopted, and electors would be able to cast a more intelligent and effective vote. . It is almost impossible for an independent candidate to win an election. It is only when a candidate is endorsed by his organization that he can hope to succeed. In other respects the independent candidate is also at a disadvantage. He is handicapped financially and in addition has to make all his own arrangements.
– But suppose the independent Labour candidate describes himself on the ballot-paper as “ Labour “. What are you going to do?
– I have already stilted that the difficulty may be overcome by designating the endorsed candidates as “ official candidates “ of the respective parties. The people would then know from the two main groups who were the official and endorsed candidates of the different parties. This system would not prevent other candidates from nominating as independent Labourites or independent Nationalists.
Question - That the new clause proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Clause 13 -
Suction one hundred and eleven of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from paragraph (b) the word “eight” (second occuring) and inserting in its stead the word “ seven “;
by omitting from paragraph (c) the “ eight “ and inserting in its stead the word “seven”: and
by adding at the end of the section the following proviso: - “ Provided that, where the scrutiny is proceeded with immediately after the close’ of the poll at the polling booth at which the votes are taken, it shall notbe necessary for the presiding officer to publicly close, fasten, or seal the ballot-box as required by paragraph (d) of this section.”.
That paragraphs (a) and (b) be left out.
The effect of this amendment is to retain the present hour at which polling booths shall close. This has been done in deference to the views of certain religious bodies.
– I am glad that the Government is retaining the present closing hour. Apart from meeting the religious objections of the Jewish section of the community it will be a great convenience to farmers and others engaged in rural pursuits, to be able to record their votes up to8 p.m. I have received an authoritative communication stating that the Jewish people are not allowed towrite on their Sabbath, which ends at dark on Saturday. It is obvious that many Jewish citizens would he debarred from marking their ballot-papers if the polls closed at 7 p.m. They contend that in most places in Australia they would not have the opportunity to record their votes at elections held in midsummer, as night falls much later than 7 p.m.
– I am sorry that the Government has backed down in this matter, because it was only after very careful investigatons that the committee’s recommendation, which was strongly supported by the evidence, was made. The committee carefully inquired into the disabilities likely to be experienced by the Jews, Seventh Day Adven tists, and the members of other religious bodies, and found that the objections were not sufficient to justify the retention of the present hour of closing the poll. I feel it my duty to support the recommendation of the committee, which was made on substantial grounds and after consideration of the customs in other States; but in view of the division just taken I feel that it is hardly worth while pressing the point.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 14 to 19 agreed to.
Section one hundred and thirty-six a of the principal act is amended -
by omitting the words “ absent voters’ “ballot-papers (first occurring), and inserting in their stead the words “ ballot-papers issued at some remote polling place in connexion with the election “ ;
by omitting from paragraph (c) the words “sub-section (3) of section one hundred and fifteen “ ; and
by omitting the words “absent voters’” (last occurring).
Section proposed to be amended - 136a. Where the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for a State in the case of a Senate election, or the divisional returning officer in the case of aHouse of Representatives election, is satisfied that the votes’ . . .
on. any ballot-papers used for voting in pursuance of section onehundred and twenty-one of this act, andin relation to which the divisional returning officerhas not completed the action specified by subsection (5) of that section . . . cannot having regard to the number of those ballot-papers, possibly affect the result of the election, the Commonwealth Electoal Officer in the ease of a Senate election, or the divisional returning officer in the case of a House of Representatives election, may, subject to the concurrence of the Chief Electoral Officer, proceed with the scrutiny without awaiting the receipt of the absent voters’ ballot-papers or completing the action, as the case may be.
Amendments (by Senator Sir William Glasgow) agreed to -
That the word “and,” second occurring, in paragraph (b) be left out.
That after paragraph (c) the following be added: - “ and
by inserting after paragraph (c) the following paragraph : - ‘ or on any postal ballot-papers posted or delivered to any divisional returning officer in pursuance of sub-section
of section ninety-two of this act.’ “
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Section one hundred and forty-one of the principal act is amended -
Section proposed to be amended - 141. (2) Where theCommonwealth Electoral Officer for the State -
Has been advised by a divisional returning officer that certain absent voters’ ballot-papers, issued at some remote polling place in connexion with the election, cannot reach him for the purpose of the scrutiny without unduly delaying the declaration of the poll; or
has been advised by a divisional returning officer that he cannot complete his inquiries into the facts set out in the declarations of certain persoiis to whom ballot-papers were issuedunder the provisions of section ninetyone a, subjection (3), of section one hundred and fifteen, section one hundred and twenty - one, or section one hundred and twenty-one a of this act, without unduly delaying the declaration of the poll … he may, subject to the concurrence of the Chief Electoral Officer, declare the result of the election and return the writ without awaiting the receipt of the absent voters’ ballot-papers or the completion of inquiries, as thecase may be.
[6.19].- I move-
That paragraph (b) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraphs: -
By inserting in paragraph (a) of subsection (2), after the word “election “ the words “ or posted or delivered to any divisional returning officer in pursuance of subsection (2) of section ninety-two of this act,” and
By omitting from paragraph (b) of sub-section (2) the words “subsection (3) of section one hundred and fifteen.”
This is a consequential amendment, and enables an elector to forward a postal vote to the nearest divisional returning officer.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Section one hundred and forty-two of the Prinicipal Act is amended -
By. omitting the words “absent voters’” (wherever occurring) ; and
By omitting from paragraph (b) of sub-section (2.) the words “subsection (3.) of section one hundred and fifteen.”
Section proposed to be amended -
Where the divisional returning officer -
cannot complete his inquiries in to the facts set out in the declarations received by him in pursuance of the provisions of section ninety-one a, subsection (3) of section one hundred and fifteen….. without unduly delayingthe declaration of poll, and
Amendments (by Senator Sir William Glasgow) agreed to -
That the word “and,” paragraph (a), be left out.
That paragraph (b ) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraphs : -
By inserting in paragraph (a) of subsection (2) after the word “election “ the words “ or posted or delivered to any divisional returning officer in pursuance of sub-seetion ( 2 ) of section ninety-two of this Act”; and
By omitting from paragraph (b) of sub-section (2) the words “subsection (3) of section one hundred and fifteen.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 28 - (Gifts by Senators and Members of the House of Representatives) .
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia [6.22]. - I hope that the Committee will reject this clause. Members of Parliament should have the courage of their convictions, and decide for themselves whether they shall make gifts or donations. If agreed to, the clause would place members at a disadvantage compared with other men who might aspire to take their places in this Parliament. But that is not the reason for my opposition to the clause. I advocate its deletion because I believe that members of Parliament should be free to determine these matters for themselves.
.- I move -
That the following proviso be added: -
Provided further that it shall not be a contravention of this section for a member of Parliament, being an officer or member of the military forces of the Commonwealth, to contribute, or to offer or promise to contribute, to any gift, donation, or prize for any competition held by, or in connexion with, any unit of those forces with which he is for the time being actively associated.
– The honorable senator willattain his end if the clause is deleted.
– The clause, as drafted, may serve a useful purpose; but it would be a pity if the commanding officer of a battalion were prevented from contributing to its sports fund because he was a member of Parliament. I hope that the Minister will see his way to accept the amendment.
.- The inclusion of this clause might give the impression that members of Parliament want to protect themselves against the charge that they are becoming more and more parsimonious, or are afraid to say “ no “ to appeals made to them. There is no reason why they should be treated differently from other members of the community. As Senator Needham has said, the clause would place them at a disadvantage compared with other persons who may oppose them at elections. Members of Parliament who desire to assist some worthy object should be free to do so. I hope that the Minister will agree to the deletion of the clause. The generosity of some members of Parliament may have given rise to the belief that they will respond to every appeal, and to that extent this clause would offer them some protection; but any person who is elected to Parliament should be manly enough to decide this matter for himself.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
Private business taking precedence after 8 p.m.,
Connexion with New SouthWales Railway System.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this Senate, the Federal Government should enter into negotiations with the Governments of New South Wales and South Australia to link up the east-west railway with the New South Wales railway system via Broken Hill or Hay.
It is not necessary for me to refer to the advisability of unifying the railway gauges of Australia. Every honorable senator must hold that view very strongly. The question is, when and how should it be done ? If we were just making a commencement with the laying down of a railway system we should regard as absurd the construction of lines having varying gauges.
– The honorable senator’s proposal would accentuate the break-of -gauge difficulties that now exist.
– The honorable senator made that statement at one of the conferences which were held between the Commonwealth and State Ministers, and it was most ably answered by the then Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart). We cannot develop Australia properly until we have one railway gauge. It is not fair for us to ask that preference should be given to our products in Great Britain unless they are produced in the most efficient manner. A tremendous amount of waste is caused by our having different gauges. Some little while ago the Queensland authorities complained of the absence of trucks for the transport of their produce from the border of New South Wales. I wrote to the Commissioner for Railways in that State, Mr. Davidson, asking ifhe could estimate the amount wasted because of the break of gauge at the border. He wrote me an extremely kind letter in which he said that he could not state the amount definitely, but that 150,000 tons of produce were transferred from the Queensland to the New South Wales trucks at Wallangarra, at a cost of at least1s.10d. a ton. That would amount to nearly £15,000. There must, therefore,bea tremendous wastage over the whole of the continent.
– The unification of all lines would involve a large interest charge.
– That is so. The honorable senator, however, must admit that he is in agreement with the general idea of auniform gauge. In the last analysis Australia has to depend on her railways for the transport of her produce, although, I admit, good roads are an excellent adjunct. I understand that Commissioner Webb in South Australia was able to shift the whole of that State’s wheat harvest with the larger type of engines and trucks that he introduced some little time ago. Conferences have been held from time to time to consider the advisability of bringing about a unification of the gauges. The stumbling block to an agreement has been the claim by the Victorian and South Australian engineers that 5 ft. 3 in. is the proper gauge; whilst the New South Wales engineers insist upon 4 ft. 81/2 in. With a view to ascertaining which was the better gauge Mr. W. M. Hughes, as Prime Minister, called a conference of the Premiers of the different States. That conference agreed to refer the matter to two outside experts and a financial man from within Australia.
– They stated deliberately that they did not find that it was wise to bring about unification.
– That was at a later date. I realise that the Premiers of the States could not bind their Parliaments to accept any finding. When the conference broke up the understanding was that the Premiers would do their best to secure the acceptance of the gauge decided upon.
– They undertook only to accept the opinion of the experts as to which was the better gauge. They did not commit themselves in regard to the wisdom or otherwise of proceeding with the work.
– It was further decided that the Commonwealth should pay a certain proportion of the cost and that the States should contribute on a per capita basis. The experts decided that 4 ft. 81/2 in. was the most suitable gauge. Some six years ago I raised in the Senate the question of having a line constructed via either Hay or Condobolin to junction with the east-west railway. I was then met with the argument, which I could not but accept, that a decision had not been come to as to whether the gauge should be 4 ft. in. or 5 ft. 3 in., and consequently the discussion was premature. Subsequent to the decision in favour of 4 ft. 81/2 in., I again advanced the proposition. I then contended that the object of the conference was to bring about the unification of the gauges betweenFremantle and Brisbane.
– The other place now has before it a bill for the unification of the line from Port Augusta to Adelaide, which is a part of that scheme.
– I asked whether, in view of the fact that South. Australia and Victoria had retired from the scheme, the Commonwealth Government would negotiate with South Australia aud New South Wales with a view to the construction of a railway via Hay to link up with the east-west railway.
– When was that?
– Some years ago. The then Leader of the Senate (Senator E. D. Millen) in reply, said : “ We are still negotiating with Victoria and South Australia to see if the bigger scheme can be carried out. Whilst those negotiations are in progress we cannot discuss any other scheme.” The representatives of Victoria and South Australia have turned down the bigger scheme.
– South Australia has agreed to the laying of a 4 ft. Si in. gauge line from Port Augusta to Adelaide.
– But not’ from Adelaide to Melbourne.
– Not yet. We have the other as an instalment. The line proposed by the honorable senator would traverse a different route.
– I admit that it would. There can be no escape from the fact that the main scheme has been turned down. So impressed has this Government been with the idea of having a railway via either Hay or Condobolin that Mr. Bruce, as Prime Minister, and Mr. Stewart, then Minister for Works and Railways, convened a conference of the Premiers of the States to discuss the possibility of linking up with the New South Wales system via Hay and of constructing a’ line from Kyogle to South Brisbane. Unfortunately, considerable disagreement developed in that conference. One- of the principal antagonists of the proposal was the then Treasurer of Victoria, Sir William McPherson. In expressing opposition to anything being done in the way of unification, he argued that we could not afford to pay for it, and that we should wait until we had doubled our population, so that the cost per head would be halved. At our present rate of progress, a considerable time will elapse before the population of Australia is doubled. Sir Henry Barwell was Premier of South Australia at that time, and took part in the deliberations of the conference. He is reported to have said -
We are not prepared to agree to the- unification of the gauges at the present time, for several reasons. In the first place, ve do not think that the time is an opportune one.
It is a regular “ gag,” when any proposal is put forward, to say that the time is not opportune. Sir . Henry Barwell continued -
Taking into consideration the high cost# of money, the high cost of wages, and the. high cost, of material, we feel that an economic readjustment must be made in this country before we can get down to a proper working basis.
It is clearly more expensive to do the work to-day than it was at that time. Wages are higher and material is higher.
– Costs are approaching the breaking point.
– It only shows that we might just as well have got on with the work then. The stand that the representatives of New South Wales took at that conference was very fair. Mr. Bruce was anxious to go on with the Kyogle to Brisbane section, and they agreed to it. Mr. Theodore, who was present on behalf of. Queensland, also agreed to that proposal ; but the representatives of Victoria and South Australia were not keen on it. As a matter of fact, they have not yet paid their share of the cost of the work which is now in progress. Of the two schemes for connecting the New South Wales railway system with Port Augusta, the New South Wales Ministers preferred a route via Broken Hill to that via Hay. From their standpoint there was a good deal to. be said in favour of their attitude, because they had already undertaken to build a line from Condobolin to Broken Hill.
– Is that line now completed ?
– I think that it is completed except for a bridge at Menindie. The New South Wales Ministers said that if the Commonwealth would agree to build a line from Port Augusta to Cockburn, they would undertake on their part to build their railway line beyond Broken Hill to meet with the Commonwealth line at Cockburn, or buy out the private company which owned J:he railway between Cockburn and Broken Hill. They also said that if the Commonwealth preferred to build a railway from
Hay to Port Augusta they would provide the land, but would not contribute anything towards the cost of construction. Their attitude was extremely fair.
– Would not the two lines be running almost in competition with one another?
– Possibly ; but I am not proposing that the Government should build two lines. I am not in a position to say which would be the better route to adopt. Experts differ on the point. My proposal is that the Commonwealth Government should enter into negotiations with the State Governments of New South Wales and South Australia to link Port Augusta with the New South Wales 4 ft.81/2 in. gauge. It would be the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, after conducting the negotiations with the two States, to decide which would be the better route to adopt.
– The honorable senator should show some advantage to be gained apart from the general benefit to be derived from the unification of the gauge.
– I am not in a position to say which would be the better route to follow. The Commonwealth Parliament refers such matters to the PublicWorks Committee.
– We ought to get a report from the Public Works Committee on a proposal of this sort before coming to a decision upon it.
– I have no objection to the honorable senator getting all the reports he can.
– But the honorable senator is asking us to express. an opinion.
–I am not. I know that the Commonwealth Government has expressed a preference for the route via Hay.
– That, was an alternative to the proposal to connect the various capitals by a 4-ft.81/2-in. railway. The Government has long since dropped that scheme.
– Then, it is time to pick’ it up again.
– Ministers have seen the folly of it.
– Thatis open to question. It is amusing to read the debate at the Premiers’ Conference when this matter was under consideration. I have not had the pleasure of meeting Sir James Mitchell, who was representing Western Australia, but I think very highly of him after reading what he had to say about the Commonwealth’s proposal. He said -
When the Prime Minister makes a proposal which is important and necessary, from the point of view of the defence of Australia -
The scheme was submitted to the conference as one that was necessary for the defence of Australia.
More than for any other reason representatives of New South Wales. Victoria and South Australia talk bananas and currants and all sorts of things which have no relevance to the matter under discussion.
He said that it would take three months to get 20,000 troops from the East to Western Australia over the existing railways.
– He knows nothing about the matter.
– I take it that Sir James Mitchell would not have made such a statement without authority.
– He made it on the spur of the moment.
– I have seen a somewhat similar statement by military authorities.
– It would not be done. We would not strip one side of Australia of troops.
Senator THOMAS. Sir James Mitchell was pointing out that troops might be needed in Western Australia, and we could not send them across the continent. I agree- with him when he said -
I say unhesitatingly that I prefer to have a railway on the 4 ft.81/2 in. gauge constructed from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie, from- Port Augusta to Adelaide and right round through Melbourne to Brisbane; but if we are not to be allowed to go into Adelaide and Melbourne, then let us get across the continent by some direct route.
– The Government has already agreed to take the east-west train right to Adelaide. That would wipe out the honorable senator’s scheme.
– We should have the whole scheme right through, via Adelaide, Melbourne and Albury. It must be done at 3ome time or other. Sir James Mitchell went on to say -
It will be the duty of Mr. Bruce to persevere with this matter until some scheme has been accepted.
At that conference much opposition was raised to the Government’s proposal by Sir Henry Barwell. He said that he would object to anything being done until the north-south railway was agreed to.
– Quite right.
– Since then South Australia has had its pound of flesh.
– No, only half a pound.
– South Australia’s objection should now go by the board. Sir Henry Barwell, in reply to Sir James Mitchell said : -
The construction of the proposed line would bc a shocking blunder, and a profligate waste of public money. On the other hand, the Commonwealth is under a legal obligation to construct the north-south railway, which would be an infinitely better line from the point of view of development.
That statement is very amusing.
– It is sound common sense.
– It is amusing to those who know the country.
– It is amusing to hear that the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs will develop anything. The only purpose it will serve will be to bring away the few people who are already settled along the route.
– What country would a railway from Port Augusta to Hay develop?
- Mr. Stewart, the Commonwealth Minister for Works and Railways at the time of the Premiers’ Conference, pointed out that there was a good deal of land along the Hay route which was capable of development.
– It is poor pastoral country with a light rainfall.
– What is the Northern Territory? What is the class of country between Oodnadatta and Alice
Springs? Aline via Hay would save 450 miles and 36 hours of the journey between Perth and Brisbane.
– What advantage would be derived in the shape of passenger and goods traffic?
– The line would, develop country.
– But it is poor pastoral country.
– What about the north-south railway?
– That seems to be a sore point with the honorable senator.
– The money spent on that railway is absolutely wasted. There is not a man in South Australia who would put 2s. 6d. into the country to be served by it. It has been condemned strongly by many people. Mr. Killen, a member of another place, is opposed to it.
– What has that to do with the honorable senator’s proposition?
– If the Commonwealth can afford to spend money on that railway, it should be able to find the necessary finance to carry out the scheme I am advocating.
– The Public Works Committee went thoroughly into that proposal, and recommended it-
– Why does not the honorable member refer to the views expressed by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) ? He isan acknowledged authority.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Order! These interjections must cease. The debate is developing into an argument between one or two honorable senators. I ask the Senate to allow Senator Thomas to proceed without interruption.
– The cost of the scheme is estimated at £4,500,000. It will mean the construction through South Australian territory of about 190 miles of railway. I have no doubt that the South Australian Government would not object very seriously if the Commonwealth shouldered that financial obligation. The completion of the work would enable passengers to travel overland from Kalgoorlie to Sydney, and, when the Kyogle-Brisbane section is completed, right through to the capital of the northern State.
– The cost was estimated at about £8,000,000 five years ago.
– I wish the honorable senator would be more careful. The estimatehe mentions included the Kyogle-Brisbane section, which was estimated to cost about £3,500,000.
– Can the honorable senator state what would be the advantage to Australia if the line he suggests were constructed?
– It would mean the unification of the railway gauges from Kalgoorlie to Sydney; This will have to come sooner or later.
– Why go to Sydney?
– For the sea bathing!
– Why should the Commonwealth build the South Australian section of the railway advocated by the honorable senator?
– Because I understand that South Australia does not wich particularly to see the route I advocate adopted. I am assuming, therefore, that it will have to be constructed by the Commonwealth.
– If the Commonwealth proceeds with the 4 ft. 81/2 in. line from Port Augusta to Adelaide, should the Port Augusta to Hay railway bo built also?
– That would depend upon the attitude of South Australia and Victoria. If the governmentsofthose States were prepared to proceed with the unification of the line from Adelaide through Melbourne to Albury, I should say no. I agree with Sir James Mitchell that that would be the bigger and the proper scheme to adopt. Senator Barwell objects to that work being done now because he thinks that, at some future time, the economic conditions will be more favourable and possibly material will cost less. Why should we wait? The South Australian and Victorian Governments are against the scheme.
– That is so. The South Australian Railways Commissioner, who is one of the best we have ever had, strongly advises against incurring that expenditure at present. He says that it would be uneconomic from every point of view.
– I should prefer to see the bigger scheme carried out; but failing that we should give serious consideration to the proposal I have outlined.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir Henry Barwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on the Commonwealth Government shipping activities, including Cockatoo Island Dockyard, presented to the Senate on 28th September, 1927, be printed.
In the first place I should like to explain that this course is somewhat unusual, although it is not in any way improper. As . a mater of fact, I was actuated in taking it by the knowledge that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) had promised in another place to give honorable members of that chamber an opportunity to discuss the report and I thought it was only fair that the Senate which, in this respect at all events, enjoys equal rights with another place, should have a similar opportunity to consider it. The remarks which I have to make at this juncture will be somewhat formal ; but I have no doubt that, as the debate proceeds, the appearance of formality will disappear altogether and that when I exercise, as I intend to do, my right to reply, I shall be called uponto offer some explanation concerning the various comments that will he made upon the report by honorable senators. It is, I think, a very important report. It deals with what has been, for some years one of the most keenly criticized branches of the Commonwealth Government’s activities. The committee has endeavoured to make the report as selfexplanatory as possible. It is couched in simple language. The opinions which have been expressed by members are set out very definitely. That being so, it only remains for honorable senators, in the ensuing debate, to place on record their opinions upon the conclusions of the committee. Honorable senators will see that the report is not one-sided. That is to say in addition to the report of the majority of the committee, there is a report also from the minority. This, in itself, will probably give rise to some discussion. The* committee has not been hurried over the preparation of its report. Therefore there is no need for me to apologize for, so much as to explain the delay which has occurred. The inquiry was begun in May, 1926, and it was continued without interruption until August of the same year. Then an urgent matter was placed before the committee by the Government, which asked it to conduct an enquiry into the Pacific Islands shipping routes. That work occupied members for about six months. The committee then resumed its inquiry into the Commonwealth’s shipping activities and the reports was ready foi- presentation, as honorable senators will no doubt have heard, when Parliament was opened in Canberra on the 9th of May last. I have no desire to refer to the circumstances which led to the postponement of the presentation, or suppression of the report at that stage. Let me state, however, that the delay up to that stage, was beneficial to the committee, in that it afforded members an opportunity to watch the operations of the line almost intimately for about twelve months, and to see to what extent the prognostications of its officials were correct or otherwise. That undoubtedly was a great advantage because it enabled the committee to obtain a better insight into the workings of the line than would have been possible in other circumstances. Although there is a considerable difference of opinion expressed in the two reports which are now presented to the Senate, I should like to make it clear that the proceedings of the committee were marked by an almost unusual degree of calmness and that members gave careful attention to the evidence which was placed before them. That evidence was given by witnesses in an extremely satisfactory manner. There never was difficulty with any of them. I think I attended every meeting of the committee and for the last few months of the enquiry, was its chairman. I am, therefore, in a position to testify both as to the frankness and willingness of the witnesses which enabled the committee to give its reasons for its findings and also to the industry of its members, who took a keen interest in the preparation of the reports which are now before honorable senators. When the. opportunity is afforded me J shall be prepared to. give such explanations as may lie in my power to any re marks which honorable senators maT make upon the report. If unable to satisfy them, I hope, at all events, to show them that, so far as the majority of the committee is concerned, it had justification - or what may be taken as justification - for expressing the opinions it has in the report we are now considering.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Sub-letting of Leases Ordinance.
.- I move -
That the Senate is of opinion that the provisions of the existing’ ordinance requiring the consent of the Federal Capital Commission to any sub-lease of land or part thereof in th< Federal Territory (city area), after the erection of the buildings thereon, should be repealed.
The existing ordinance relating to leases in the Federal Capital Territory provides in the first place, that a building must be constructed on a lease within a specified time. Prior to that the lessee has not the right to assign or sub-let his lease in any way. If a shop or office is constructed, the lessee, if he so desires, may sub-let the whole of the building; but he cannot sub-let a portion of it without the consent of the commission.
– Does the honorable senator think that a lessee should have the right to sub-let the whole of his premises without consent?
– I do not intend to debate that point. As a leasehold system has been inflicted upon the unfortunate inhabitants df this place, the authorities should make it approximate, as nearly as possible, to the freehold system until they reach that happy stage when they are able to obtain the freehold. At present a lease-holder may sub-let the whole of his shop or dwelling; but, for some unknown reason, a lease-holder in the Civic Centre cannot sub-let the upper story of his premises without the consent of the Federal Capital Commission. I do not know why such a distinction should be made. The obligation to obtain the consent of the commission is not set out in all the leases.
– How does it arise?
– It is superimposed upon leases by an ordinance. The average layman when ascertaining the conditions under which he takes up the land, naturally refers to his lease. Theoretically every one is supposed to be conversant with the law; but I venture to say there are very few persons in the Territory who can say what the ordinances provide. They have been amended from time to time.
– Does the honorable senator say that the commission superimposed restrictions upon lease-holders after the leases had actually been signed?
– I cannot say that is so in all cases. In all probability some of the leases were granted before the ordinance to which I refer was adopted ; but it apparently occurred to some one that the arcade at the Civic Centre should be annexed to the leases so as to compel them to keep it in repair. In order to give effect to this proposal the old leases were called in, and new leases were granted so that irrespective of the year of original issue, these uew leases are now subject to an ordinance passed prior to this year.
– Could they be called in before they expired?
– Yes, by mutual consent. In the first place there was an original building scheme when the arcade, as in the case of a verandah, was over the footpath, and then a new proposal to construct an arcade on the lot frontages was submitted. When the first sale was held the original building scheme was in operation, but at the time of the second sale the uew scheme was under consideration.
The commission then approached the original lessees, and asked them to agree to the new proposal.
– Was it justified in imposing any restrictions?
– It could not force the lessees to accept new leases, but they were offered various advantages to induce them to agree to the new arrangement. By mutual consent the whole of the leases are now subject to the ordinance which provides that a portion of a shop or building shall not be sublet, without the consent of the commission first being obtained. This is causing a great amount of inconvenience to those - who may wish to change their tenants. The commission has a tremendous amount of business to transact, and weeks sometimes elapse before a decision is given. In such cases the tenants cannot wait.
– Is the commission adopting this course in order to shut out certain trades?
– No one knows why it is being done. A private owner has a very clear idea what he wants when he insists upon his consent being obtained. In such cases it may be his desire to avoid competition in a particular area, but the commission has no such interests to conserve. The commission says, in effect, that Parliament must have intended it to do something in regard to this wretched thing, but that there is no principle to guide it.
– What are its reasons ?
– I do. not know. The ordinance is in force, but apparently the commission does not know how to interpret it.
– It is not altogether unreasonable that consent should be obtained.
– It depends entirely upon the viewpoint. There are no such restrictions upon the lessees of dwelling houses, where the character of the inhabitants may be of some importance. Houses may be sublet without the consent of the commission,
– Is the Torrens system applicable to the Federal Capital Territory.
– Yes. If the ordinance is not complied with a lease in which £10,000 may be invested may be forfeited, as it would be a breach of the covenant to sublet without the consent of the Commission.
– There is provision for relief against that.
– Not in this ordinance. In Victoria, the law provides that where a private individual inserts in a lease a clause that it shall not he assigned without consent, it shall be implied that such consent shall not be unreasonably or arbitrarily withheld. In this instance no such provision has been made, as the commission has the discretionary right to withhold its consent. So far as I have been able to gather, the ordinance was framed on the recommendation of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Sir George Pearce).
– Is the honorable senator aware of any instance where trouble has arisen in connexion with subletting of such, premises ?
– I know of one case where a man has been almost ruined, by being unable to sublet to a person who was agreeable to pay him £2,000 a year. When this person was told of this arbitrary power in the commission under which it professed to be able to inquire if rents charged were fair, it led to the cancellation of the contract. It will be difficult to find tenants if the commission is to inquire into the rents to be charged. There is a Fair Rents Court in New South Wales, but up to the present no such court has been established in the Federal Capital Territory. Apparently it is the intention of the commission to ascertain whether the rentals to be charged are reasonable or excessive.
– Under the Torrens system no such inquiries can he made.
– Generally speaking the. Torrens system, as adopted here, does not go so far as the honorable senator suggests. r
– Is it not usual for leases to include a provision for subletting?
– The State legislatures have invariably provided that, as such a clause is open to abuse, the proviso that such consent shall not be unreasonably or arbitrarily withheld is implied in all such clauses.
– Did the commission have anything to do with fixing the amount at £2,000?
– The commission asked the lessee whether lie intended to occupy the whole of the property for his business. When he replied that, for a time, he would not need the whole of it for his business, and that in the meantime he proposed to sub-let a portion of the building, he was told that he could not do so.
– I take it that the commission meant that he would have to seek permission to sublet the property.
– He was given to understand that permission to sub-let would not be granted. The commission made it clear that it was opposed to middlemen. The man then feared that he had made a serious mistake in trying to lease the property. This condition of affairs has arisen because of an excess of caution on the part of Sir George Pearce, who at the time was Minister for Home and Territories. The ordinance was passed because it was intended at first that the shops should have residences above them ; later, when it was found that there was no demand for the residences, it was decided that the upstairs rooms should be used for offices. When, the rooms were made available as offices the condition? as to sub-letting residences remained in force. I believe that the commission would be glad to be relieved of its responsibility in the matter, but, with the ordinance in force, it feels that it must take every precaution. Seeing that the whole of a building may be disposed of. there is no reason why the present restrictions regarding sub-letting, of parts of the building should continue. If the desire is to prevent overcrowding, the position could be met by a special ordinance.
– If the ordinance is repealed, how will it be possible to deal with undesirable tenants?
– An undesirable tenant can now be the lessee ofthe whole of a building. It would not be any worse for him to have the lease of the top floor. The whole position is inconsistent. What is to guide the administration ?
– That is an indefinite term. If Canberra is to progress, lessees should know where they stand.
– If a tenant engaged in someundesirable occupation, some regulation to deal with him would be necessary.
– The leases make clear what can and cannot be done.
– Every lease is subject to the ordinances of the Territory.
– That is so. The leases set out clearly that in certain areas only certain business may be conducted. For instance, the lease of a site for a motor service station contained a provision that repairs to motor vehicles could not be carried out on the premises.
– Does the honorable senator contend that if the sublessee violates the conditions of the lease it may be forfeited?
– Yes. The Federal Capital will not develop if lessees are needlessly harassed. The leases themselves contain ample safeguards against undesirable businesses being conducted on the premises. That is the proper place for such conditions. Moreover, there is power to pass any further ordinances considered necessary. For instance, it would be possible to prevent the establishment of boilingdown works in the Territory by passing a special ordinance to prohibit them.
– I take it that the honorable senator wishes to relieve the tenant as well as the commission.
– Yes. While the present uncertainty exists, there will be no expansion of trade. Lessees should know where they stand. In the case that I have mentioned the lessee has gone to Sydney for the purpose of engaging counsel to advise him regarding relinquishing the lease.
– What was the purpose of the ordinance?
– It was apparently in the desire to avoid slum conditions that it was introduced. The matter has not been re-considered in’ the light of the buildings being used as offices. Originally, it was intended that householders in Blandfordia should not be permitted to let rooms to lodgers; but the commission has been forced to disregard the ordinance to that effect. I do not know whether the Minister has discussed this matter with the commission; but I feel sure that its officers will agree that something should be done.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir William Glasgow) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in view oi the great difficulties, financial and otherwise, being experienced by persons desirous of owning their own homes in Canberra, the Senate is of opinion that such persons should be permitted, if they so desire, to obtain the freehold of their residences, and that the Government be requested to bring down a bill to permit of the sale of residential sites to bona fide residents.
This motion involves the reversion of a policy which has been in operation for some years. ‘ That policy is set out in Section 9 of the Seat of Government Administration Act of 1910, which provides -
No Crown lands- in the Territory shallbe sold or disposed of for any estate of freehold, except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the commencement of this act.
That such a vital provision should have been passed without debate in either House is amazing. The measure was introduced into the Senate by Senator Findley and into another place by Mr. King O’Malley, neither of whom in his second reading speech made any reference to the difficulties that might arise from the attempted application of this principle to modern conditions.- In both Houses clauses 1 to 10 were passed without debate. The Ministers in charge of the measure designedly made no reference to clause 9. That clause appears to have been entirely overlooked by the party then in Opposition, “ either inadvertently or because it was hoped and believed that the Federal Capital would never materialize. Whatever may have been the causes of the omission, the fact remains that this most vital and farreaching provision was silently, almost surreptitiously, inserted in the bill, not only without the debate which its importance plainly required, but also without a single questioning voice being raised in regard to it. In the absence of any such debate or question, it is quite impossible for me to fathom the principle, or lack of principle, that was at the bottom of its adoption in 1910. But it appears perfectly clear that none of the difficulties which were likely to arise from its application ‘ received the slightest consideration from either party. I have, therefore, adopted this course to bring it prominently before the Senate, so that we may hear publicly and openly the reasons for and against its being further persisted in. If the principle had been consistently pursued to its logical conclusion; if the Government had said once and for all, “ No one shall own stick or stone in this Territory; the Government will take all the risks ; it willbuild as required for all the inhabitants as they come along; if prices rise it will take all the gains, and if they slump it will face the loss “ that would have been an understandable and a logical policy. But having enunciated the policy the Government was afraid to stand up to it, and so began, in effect, to whittle it away by creating long-term leases. This, in reality, is camouflage. The Government endeavours to get people to sink their capital in the creation of the Federal Capital, but with them it is a case of “ Heads I win, tails you lose. If there is a rise in values I will take it all. If there is a slump you must carry the baby.” It is not as if the Government or the Federal Capital Commission had anything at stake. If they contributed one-half of the cost of the buildings they could claim to have an interest equal to that of the tenant. That is not done. They contribute the land. It cost £4 an acre; but is doled out in minute portions at a ground rent calculated on a capital value enormously in excess of that sum. The Unfortunate tenant has to pay as a first charge £5 per cent, per annum on a ground rent arrived at under unfair conditions.
– Surely the honorable senator agrees that the expenditure which has been incurred by the Government and theCommission in the Federal Capital Territory has contributed towards the increased value of its lands?
– I do not agree that the value has been inflated to the exten t suggested by the last sale. In every possible way the scales are weighted against the tenant.
– The tenant is given many advantages.
– I thought the honorable senator agreed that it was unfair for only a few blocks to be put up to auction when there are many bidders, thus compelling those who want them to pay high prices to obtain them.
– That is another matter.
– So long as the people have the necessary amount of cash to invest in such a proposition some of them will do so ; but they are very, few in number. The fact is being recognized by both the Federal Government and the Governments of the States, that so long as people are required to pay more than a very small deposit they will not take upon themselves the obligation of purchasing a home of their own. The consequence is that those Governments are reaching out with both hands to assist them over the stile. Why is it desirable that our people should own their own homes? In the first place there is in every Anglo-Saxon an inherent desire to be the possessor of a spot that he can truly call his own. Out of the turmoil of the middle ages the axiom emerged, “ The Englishman’s home is his castle.” That principle received the sanction of the law to the utmost extent- It was said of an Englishman’s home, “ The storm may enter, the rain may enter, but the King of England cannot, except with the permission of the owner.” It has always been regarded ‘ as the ‘ principal heritage of the nation. A man strains every nerve to become possessed of a home of his own so that he may bequeath it to his widow and. children and thus make them secure. The effect of the act that I am now attacking is to deprive the coming generation of that heritage. The implication is that it is evil and hateful to wish to own one’s own home and thus make one’s widow and children secure of shelter, and that it must on no account be countenanced. I do not know whether public servants have fully realized the position. A. man may spend thousands of pounds upon a house in the Federal Capital Territory, . believing that he will thus render himself secure. If ill health should come upon him and cause his death, the entire property will revert to the commission in the event of his widow falling into arrears with the ground rent.
– That is not fair.
– Is no compensation payable?
– No. The tendency of governments so far has been to obviate such an occurrence by allowing a man to obtain the freeholdof the land and thus rid himself of the necessity to pay rent.
– If a man owns freehold upon which there is a mortgage, and falls into arrears with his payments, he is dispossessed of the land.
– A mortgagee in those circumstances would have to sell the land and hand to the mortgagor any surplus. These leases do not contain a similar provision. Any default in payment leads to the forfeiture of the lease, with all improvements thereon.
– The Government is the most generous landlord on the face of the earth.
– This matter has been taken out of the hands of the Government, and the Federal Capital Commission has been instructed to handle it on business lines.
– The Government can always alter that.
– What will happen in the. meantime to any widow who may fall into arrears with her pay ments? It may be said that the Governmentis not heartless, and will hot take advantage of a man’s misfortune. My reply is that the commission must insist on the rent being paid, and, if that is not done, dispossess the lessee. It has no power to sell the house and give to the widow whatever is left after the claim for rent has been satisfied. As all houses are built on land the property of thecommission, it must see that they are painted and kept in a proper state of repair, irrespective of the wishes of the tenant. A notice to paint may be served upon the tenant at an inconvenient time. When a man has the freehold of his land he can defer that work for a year or two; but in the circumstances of this case the requirement of the law may impose upon him a very serious hardship. It would be quite a proper provision if the Government built the house. But the interest of these unfortunate people is considerably greater than that of the Government. A man may purchase for £300 the lease of a block of land, and erect upon if a building costing £3,000.
– A man who possessed a house costing £3,000 would take good care of it.
– He may have every intention to do so ; but, as the honorable senator knows -
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men.
Gang aft a-gley.
– The ground rent on a lease costing £300 would be only about £15 a year.
– If a man borrowed that amount of money he would have to pay a great deal more than £15 a year in interest.
– With a house costing £3,000 as security he would get it for very little more than that. The whole frame-work of the law relating to land tenure went by the board when this act was passed. The tenant has been compelled to part with his birthright and to become a slave. A leaseholder cannot leave his home unless he sacrifices all that he has put into it. He has no. refuge, because there is no other place here, where he can go. The owner of a freehold can, if necessity arises, cast his house away, so to speak: the leaseholder cannot. He is boundto the soil as veritably as the Russian serf in the days of the Czar. A person who has. given a mortgage on his freehold is in a much better position. The mortgages cannot turn him out at a moment’s notice,but is compelled to put the place up for sale. That safeguard does not apply in this territory What chance has a Canberra tenant of obtainingcapital to build his house with the insecure tenure that he can offer?
– The Government will advance the money to him.
– I shall have something to say about Queensland in a moment. It is said that the Commonwealth Bank and other banks will give assistance, but they will do so only on terms, of overdraft and in view of the insecurity of the tenure, for their own protection. Their money must always be at call. And they will insist on having a margin that will render their assistance practically useless to any one not overburdened with cash.
– The banks do not want that class of security.
– That is true, but where can any one get money except from them? When a person desires to raise money in this or any other country, he turns to that great reservoir of wealth, the accumulated trust funds in the hands of individuals or corporations, which are allowed to advance money on certain limited investments. The first thing - a municipality does when it wants to- get money is to get its bonds or debentures made a trust, security. Mortgages on freehold land have always been accepted by the courts as a trust security without the need for legislation. But no State has ever suggested that leaseholds are, or ever might be, made a trust security. I am informed that the Queensland Rural Bank is forbidden by law to invest its funds in making advances on Queensland Government leaseholds.
– The trading banks will advance money on them.
– That depends entirely on the rent.
– The value of the land fixes the rent.
–Great difficulty is experienced in Queensland owing tothe fact that there is now no equity in leasehold land on account of the rack rent which has been inserted in the conditions of the leases. Consequently the bigpastoralists have recently been insisting on a substantial reduction in their rents before they restock their runs. In theFederal Capital Territory, -by putting upto auction about three blocks where ten are wanted, the commission gets morethan a rack rent.. The first result of thispolicy is to debar absolutely and forever a home-seeker from obtaining cheap money. When we consider the other disadvantages - lack of security, danger of forfeiture, inspections, reappraisements,. and a hundred other inflictions cast upon the leaseholder - we must realize that from the standpoint of the individual citizen the leasehold system as applied in the Federal Capital Territory has not a good point in favour of it. What was the reason for its adoption? It appears to have been adopted on the unreasonable parrot cry that those who get in early reap the unearned increment. If we follow the course of development of the cities of Australia, and of the country districts also, we find that in very many, perhaps in the majority of, cases there is not only no unearned increment, but also, with one or two exceptions, a fall in values. Much of the high priced country land in Victoria if it reverted to nature, as some of it has done, would cost more to clear, again than its value at the present day prices. There is certainly no unearned increment there. It is true that in the principal capital cities and in certain very confined, areas there has been a great increase in values, but that has not been the case in the large country towns approaching the size which Canberra is likely to reach in the next 100 years. The land in such towns has not greatly increased, and in some cases is lower, in value than it was 30 or 40 years ago. It is only when hundreds of thousands or millions of people congregate that great increases in value have been brought about.
– If people do not think that there will be an increment in the value of Canberra land they will not pay a big price for it.
– Many people have been compelled to come to Canberra.
– Many people have to go to other places; their business takes them.
– That is so; but when people are compelled to come to Canberra we should make their path as easy as possible. The miners who went to Wonthaggi in Victoria were fully impressed with the worth of the leasehold system. They got leases on a low deposit, and the rents theywere to pay were very low, but when they tried to build their homes they discovered that no one would advance money on them.
– The same thing applied at Yallourn.
– No. The Electricity Commission built everything at Yallourn. There is no question of an occupier having to find money there. The Wonthaggi miners were very soon on the doorstep of the Government begging for freeholds.
– That was the fault of the State Government in not advancing money to them.
– You cannot advance money without security. The State Government could have done what Sir John Monash did at Yallourn. Sir John Monash had no delusions on the matter. Seeing that it was absurd to advance money on leaseholds, the Electricity Commission took the bull by the horns, set to work in a logical manner, built the whole township, and let the buildings at reasonable rentals. Had that been done in Canberra there would not have been any complaint except from the taxpayer at the losses that would have resulted.
– Would the honorable senator be prepared to sell the blocks here to the highest bidders?
– Yes ; but I would only offer a sufficient number of blocks to prevent cornering.
– The honorable senator would impose some restrictions?.
– Yes, in the ordinary businessway. When a land-owner makes a subdivision he estimates the probable number of applicants and sells as many blocks as will suit the requirements of that number. On the other band, a monopolist who sees the prospect of a big demand will, as the commission is doing here, limit the number to be offered.
Except in one or two individual instances the unearned increment theory falls to the ground. Another point to which great importance appears to be attached is that under the leasehold system every Australian would consider himself a part owner of the national capital for good or bad. But that idea seems to -me to bechildish. There might be something in it if a man could realize on his share, but obviously he cannot do so. What use would.- it be for a man in Broome, Cooktown, or Townsville to say, “ I have a theoretical share in the Federal Capitals-
While there is not a single argument in support of the leasehold system as applied in Canberra, a great deal can be said, not merely from the point of view of the individual, who would benefit by the freehold security, but also from the standpoint of benefit to the Commonwealth. I suggest to the Government that freehold in Canberra should be sold subject to improvement conditions just as Crown leases arc sold in Victoria.
– Thatis the conditional purchase system.
– Yes. The land becomes freehold when the improvement conditions are fulfilled.
– The honorable senator knows that leases have been sold in Canberra at a premium.
– In the civic centre, leases have been sold at an enhanced value, but that is not due to the intrinsic value of the land itself. It is due to the artificial system of limiting the. supply of blocks.
– Not altogether.
– Yes. If all the lands which are now unoccupied were cut up for sale there would not be a single penny increase in the value of any of it, because to-day no one knows where the real trend of population will be. It is quite evident that development is being forced on artificial lines. It is no use going out on the Duntroon-road when one knows that one will not be allowed to establish any kind of business there. I suggest that Canberra, land should be sold as freehold - not in large areas of course, butinsingle blocks suitable for residences - and preferably on conditional purchase, which would oblige each purchaser in build within a reasonable time. Out of the purchase money of every block £100 should be set aside and placed in the hands of the National Debt Sinking Fund Commis- sioners. A sum of £100 invested at compound interest in Commonwealth loans would in 100 years, the period of a Canberra lease, amount to between £13,000 and £15,000. For the purpose of my argument I. take 100 years, the period of the leasehold system adopted in Canberra.
SenatorReid. - The lessees have the option of renewal.
– I am aware of that, bat the hundred years period is sufficient for my purpose. The principal aim of every man is to secure the freehold of his home, so that his wife and children may enjoy a feeling of security. I am assuming that within 100 years there will be 100,000 people in Canberra. Probably that is an outside estimate.
– The honorable senator is very optimistic.
– Perhaps I am; but the figures are good enough to work upon. Let us assume, therefore, that in 100 years from now there will be 100,000 people in Canberra. If the Government sold 30,000 blocks of land at £100 each - we know that some of the leases sold recently realized £5,000 - it would have an initial sum of £3,000,000. If we multiply that by £13,000 or £l4,000, representing the compound interest on the blocks over the full period, we get a sum of about £40,000,000,000.
– Money cannot be made like that. How does the honorable senator suggest that the capital city should be carried on in the meantime?
– I do not think that the Minister is giving serious attention to the possibilities of the scheme which I have outlined. One of the leases alone, as I have pointed out, realized £5,000 recently. I am suggesting not that the whole but that only part of the purchase money should be set aside. The Government could have the remainder to play with, and might, perhaps, build a few temporary Houses of
Parliament. It is hardly possible to realize the extent to which the fund would grow within the period mentioned; but long before it reached its apex the price of money in Australia would have fallen probably to 21/2 per cent.
SenatorDuncan. - Is the honorable senator advocating that the Government should do what he proposes?
– I am advocating it in all seriousness.
– Where should we find the money to ran the capital city in the meantime? If adopted,the honorable senator’s proposal would merely take the money out of one pocket and put it in the other. At present there is some revenue coming in.
– That is from the interest on leases over the whole of the area. Even now we are being rated for road-making, lighting and other services of a modern city, and no one is complaining on that account. The ordinary charges should be met by the ordinary means of rating. If the amount of £100 for each block were allowed to accumulate we should be able to build up an enormous reserve fund, which in the hands of the sinking fund commissioners, could be used to strengthen our credit.
– The honorable senator’s scheme is better than that propounded by Dr. Maloney in Melbourne.
– It is open to the honorable senator to expose its faults, if there are any.
– I think it is a better scheme.
– I have explained it to Senator Millen, Senator Greene and some members of the Country party; and so far they have not been able to show that my figures are incorrect. I admit it is only in theory that such a huge sum could be built up, because, as I have explained, long before theexpiration of the hundred years’ period the price of money would have fallen appreciably.
– Is the honorable senator basing his figures on the present rate of interest?
– No ; I am basing them on a rate of 5 per cent., which is below the ruling price, and I anticipate that long before the peak is reached the price will be very low. That is what we are aiming at. I understand that the
Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) is directing his energies in that direction. What I wish to point out is that on my figures the fund would grow to such an enormous sum that at the end of the period mentioned - if the population remained at the figure assumed which, I believe, errs on the generous side - the land, which would have remained at about the same value at at present, could be brought back at the original price of about £3,000,000, and the Government would still have a great surplus in hand. The scheme is not one which honorable senators can dismiss as a joke. I put it forward as a serious proposition. If the Government brought, in a bill to compel members of Parliament to purchase a leasehold here, they would then realize the disadvantages of living in Canberra.
– I certainly do not intend to buy a leasehold.
– The majority of members in both Houses are not inclined to buy a lease at any price; but they cheerfully compel other people to do so.
– Very many have bought leaseholds in Canberra.
– And they are all rather sorry ; they wish to get out now. I hope that the Senate will give serious consideration to the proposal which I have submitted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir William’ Glasgow) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 9.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 October 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1927/19271013_senate_10_116/>.