12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– On the 13th March I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriationa question concerning the reported outbreak of influenza on the SS. Bakara, which left Sydney with troops on 4th September, 1918, and the Minister informed me that the necessary inquiries were being made. Is he in a position to answer my question to-day?
– The information has not yet been received. I shall furnish it to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
– Would I be in order, Mr. President, if I asked a private member of the Senate a question ?
– Yes, if the question is asked through the chair.
– In view of the fact that the Prime Minister has appealed to the wheat-growers of Australia to grow more wheat so as to help the Commonwealth to correct its adverse trade balance, and in view also of the statement made by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) yesterday that it was improbable that any onerous impost would be laid upon the farmers, I ask SenatorRae if he can inform the Senatehow wheat can be produced in Australia for 4s. a bushel, unless the growers are prepared to work nine hours, ten hours, or even eleven hours a day?
SenatorRAE. - I ask the honorable senator to give notice of his question.
– Since the honorable senator is unable to answer my question without notice, I shall put it on the noticepaper for the next day of sitting.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the whole of the shipping space for apples for the coming season has been booked up?
– No official advice has been received respecting this matter, but inquiries are being made with a view to ascertaining the position.
Use of Totalizator
– The honorable the Minister for Home Affairs has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions :- 1 and 2. Yes.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made, and the information will be furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
Debate resumed from 27th March (vide page 571) on motion by Senator Daly -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.8]. - I regret that the Government has introduced this bill. At the outset I would lay down for the consideration of honorable senators the pro-, positions that no matter how poor a country may be, it can always afford to pay for brains and ability; that to save expenditure is not necessarily to secure economy; that expenditure is justified if it can be shown that it will furnish an adequate or payable re-: turn; and that expenditure which does this is true economy. I am afraid that this bill is but another instance of the Government’s intention to follow rash election promises, to destroy organizations established by the BrucePage Government. During, and for some months prior, to the last election campaign, candidates representing the Labour party went up and down the country talking at large about all the boards and commissions which had been appointed by the then Government. They criticized such appointments without any examination whatever of the circumstances that were responsible for their creation. They condemned the Bruce-Page administration root and branch, horse, foot and artillery, and endeavoured to persuade the people that the establishment of the boards and commissions in question was a waste of public money. I am sure, and I am confirmed in my opinion by statements made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, that when members of the Labour party were denouncing the Bruce-Page Government in respect of the appointment of the Development and Migration Commission, they had not the faintest conception of the work which the commission was doing. They did not understand its functions, nor did they understand the £34,000,000 agreement and the relations, under it, of the three partner governments.
Without any knowledge at all of these essential facts they denounced the Government and even committed themselves to such an extent that when, to their surprise, they were returned to power, they felt obliged to give effect to their expressed intention to abolish it. I believe, however, that Ministers realize they are making a mistake. I am confirmed in this view by the fact that the measure now before the Senate does not contemplate the total abolition of the commission, but proposes a continuation of it in an emasculated and mangled form. The bill is neither fish, flesh nor good red herring.. Now that they are in power, I am sure Ministers realize the need for an examination of all such schemes which it was the /function of the Development and Migration Commission to inquire into. If honorable senators will turn to page 50 of the Labour Campaign Manual of 192S, edited by Mr. E. G. Theodore, now the Federal Treasurer, they will find reference to no fewer than 46 Commoonwealth boards and commissions. It is significant that the list includes many royal commissions which have long since completed their inquiries, and even such bodies as the Taxation Board of Review, and the Commonwealth Literary Fund Board. The latter, I may add, meets about once in six mouths, and costs the Commonwealth about £125. It is significant that of this formidable list of boards and commissions the present Government up to date has dealt with only two - the Federal Capital Commission and the Development and Migration Commission. It sh”ould be noted also that the Government does not purpose abolishing altogether the commission form of control. All that it has done to date is to transform and rename the commissions, and it is allowing them to function in a somewhat different guise.
The speech of Senator Daly, in moving the second reading of this bill, was not so much a condemnation of the Develop.mel t and Migration Commission as it was a criticism of the £34,000,000 agreement. Neither the Bruce-Page Government nor the British Government was entirely satisfied with that arrangement. Certain amendments were made to it in 1926. These will be found in the last report of the Development and Migration Commission. When Lieut.-Colonel Amery, then Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, visited Canberra, there was n conference between him and representatives of the Commonwealth and State Governments. Further amendments were then discussed, and Lieut.-Colonel Amery undertook to submit them to his Government for consideration. These further amendments were being dealt with by the Bruce-Page Government when it left office, and I venture to say they are still being considered by this Government. I remind the Senate that Lord Lovat was actually on his way to Australia to confer with the Commonwealth Government concerning these suggested amendments of the agreement when he was overtaken by illness in New Zealand.
The commission was established in 1926, and I submit that three years is too short a term to judge of the economic value of its work. That body had two functions - development and migration. Its developmental functions were, first, to examine the schemes of development forwarded by the State Governments, under the £34,000,000 agreement, and, secondly, to inquire into the economic conditions of industry. ‘ That latter function was a valuable phase of the commission’s work, of which too much cannot be said. Its investigations into the dried and canned fruits industries, for instance, had nothing to do with the £34,000,000 agreement; but they were of the most valuable character, as was also its cooperation with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research regarding the intensification of production in the dairying industry. Its work in connexion with migration consisted of interviewing and examining intending migrants in the United Kingdom, and arranging for their transport to Australia and reception on arrival. The expenditure of the commission under the heading of Migration was of such a nature as to justify any government in increasing or decreasing it, according to the flow of migrants. Had there been no change of government, the Bruce-Page Government would undoubtedly have reduced the London staff as well as the expenditure in Australia this year because of the fewer migrants coming to Australia. Indeed, in the last year of its term of office, that Government did reduce the amount of money placed on the Estimates for that year for the purpose mentioned. Th, amount actually voted by Parliament was reduced by between £20,000 and £30,000 owing to the number of migrants having fallen off. I shall give the exact figures later.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes, I shall prove it from the Estimates themselves.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Some people protest against heaven and the Divine Being; but their protest does not disprove the existence of the former or the blessings which humanity derives from the latter. The people of the United States of America, who are shrewd and take a business-like view of government, have recognized that the creation of bodies and commissions is an effective and economic way of dealing with questions arising from the modern complicated system of government. Parliamentary government originated at a time when society was not so complex as it is to-day. As business has developed its ramifications have extended, with the result that every year government is becoming more and more complex. For that reason it is incumbent on organized government to bring to its aid the advice of bodies such as the Development and Migration Commission. Some time ago the British Economic Mission, comprising men of high business standing not connected with politics, visited Australia to survey this country from an economic point of view. They devoted a good deal of study to the work of the Development and Migration Commission. I desire to quote from The Australian Quarterly an extract taken by it from the report of the mission -
We welcome the creation of the Development and Migration Commission, and of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
The Development and Migration Commission is in a position, not only to bring its own critical faculty to bear on the projects laid before it, and to give its valuable services for their perfection, but also, working as it does through committees established in each State, that collection and co-ordination of available knowledge before, schemes are undertaken which has been too often lacking in the past. The Development and Migration Commission is, in short, the nucleus of combined and coordinated efforts for prudent development, and for the work which it has done, upon the subjects specially referred to it by the Commonwealth Government, as well as for what has been done in consequence, we have nothing but praise to offer.
That is the opinion of an entirely disinterested body of men who made an exhaustive study of our economic problems. I should also like to direct attention to an article which appeared in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald on a subject with which the Government and all thinking people are concerned - the present depression. In that publication Professor E. Ronald Walker, acting Dean of the Faculty of Economics at the Sydney University, deals with long and short-term causes of that depression. I should like to read the whole of the article, because it is very pertinent to the question with which we are dealing, but shall content myself with reading only a portion of it. After examining the causes of the depression, and setting them out lucidly, Professor Walker says -
But unless we make more progress in the long-term trends of productive efficiency and financial stability, we may expect similar depressions to occur every few years, and a continuing high average rate of unemployment. On the practical side, Australia needs more than short-range measures, such as public economy, some wage reductions, higher interest rates, higher exchange rates, a temporary super tariff, and further exports of gold. All these will assist us to -weather the present temporary phase. But we must take a longer view, and the establishment of an effective central bank and the development of Mr. Bruce’s original plans for expert advice on economic policy (thu Development and Migration Commission and the Bureau for Economic Research), are essential if we desire any permanent improvement in our condition.
The Government has invited Parliament to constitute itself an economic committee to consider the problems confronting Australia. Here in this article is the advice of an expert in economics, a man apart from politics who has applied his scientific mind to the study of those problems.
The Development and Migration Commission was appointed to examine and report on schemes of development having for their object the expansion of our population and the increasing of the absorptive powers of the Commonwealth. Let us consider the position of these schemes subject to review, not by the Development and Migration Commission, but by a Government department. The schemes will be submitted by the State Governments, and will, no doubt, before submission to the federal authorities, have been examined, if not initiated, by State Government departments, the officers of which consider themselves to be quite the equal of the Commonwealth officials who will examine their proposals. It is easy to see how friction between the two sets of officers can arise.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I do not see the analogy.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.It does not inquire into the merits of the schemes submitted. Under the migration agreement the Commonwealth is called upon to inquire into the merits of schemes initiated by the States. The late Government established the Development and Migration Commission to undertake those inquiries, so that the balance would be held fairly between the Commonwealth and the States. Although the members of the Development and Migration Commission were not departmental officials in the ordinary sense, they were regarded with considerable suspicion by State departments. However, as time passed and the commission showed that it was desirous, not of scoring off the States, or of exhibiting the weaknesses of State departments, but of co-operating with the States, it gradually won the confidence of State officials, so that now, when it is about to be destroyed, it is working in hearty co-operation with, and has the goodwill of, every State government department in Australia.
The Government proposes that the work of the commission shall be undertaken by a Commonwealth department. I predict that the result will be friction, dissatisfaction, and suspicion. I point out, moreover, that in the case of a Government department there is a limitation which does not apply to a specially selected body. Having in view the nature of the work to be undertaken, the late Government exercised a very careful scrutiny in the choice of the personnel of the commission. While not desirous of introducing personalities into this discussion, it is, perhaps, well for us to consider what kind of men were appointed to the commission. Let us consider, first, the nature of the work they were called upon to perform. The commission was appointed to investigate schemes of development, including railways, water supply and roads, the capacity of the land to produce, the conditions and terms under which it could be made available to migrants, and also the prospect of the settlers making a living.
The Government invited Mr. Gepp to become the chairman of that commission. Mr. Gepp is a man of very wide experience and the possessor of a scientific mind. Ail his life he has been associated with the development of big industrial projects. He is consumed with a restless energy, has an engaging personality and a remarkably wide knowledge of human nature. 3?o more suitable man could have been found for the position. Then let us consider the remaining personnel: Mr. Devereux, whose whole life has been connected with one of our great primary industries, the wool industry, aud who by reason of that experience is thoroughly acquainted with the problems associated with land settlement, and Mr. Gunn, a man who well understands the characteristics of Australian labour, its limitations and eccentricities. By reason of his political experience he has a sound knowledge of the limitations of political effort, and he knows a great deal about the virtues and failings of parliaments and politicians. The fourth member of the board, Mr. Mulvany, is a public servant with a very successful departmental administrative record. That body represented a combination of minds well fitted to deal with the problems that would come before it, and to gain the confidence of the State departments, which is so essential if the work is to .proceed in harmony and produce the best results.
Let me examine the other side of the picture: a government department. A youth gains admittance to the Public Service by sitting for a clerical examination at an early age. Throughout his departmental life his attention is confined to Public Service matters. He has no contact with the affairs of the business world, and no knowledge of our primary or secondary industries. His whole career is a clerical one associated with administration. This Government expects men trained in such circumstances to report on important developmental schemes put forward by State Governments, schemes involving land development, the construction of railways, the development of mining, water supplies, and so forth. How futile it is to expect clerically trained public servants to check and report upon developmental schemes put forward by highly trained State technical staffs.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Development and Migration Commission had a very delicate task to perform in carrying out the migration agreement. It had very carefully to watch iia step in connexion with its activities with State departments, and the greatest praise that one can pay to the commission, is to point to the cordial relations that have existed between it and the State Governments of Australia. Perhaps no more striking tribute could be paid to its success than that by Mr. Collier, the Labour Premier of Western Australia. He was one of the first to deprecate the abolition of the Development and Migration Commission and to speak in eulogistic terms of the valuable co-operative work it had done in collaboration with the Western Australian Government.
Some people are doubtful as to the need of such a commission. Let me examine the tragic lessons taught by the history of Australia in regard ‘ to schemes initiated by members of a government, endorsed by the government and parliament, and put into effect. Take. Australia’s soldier land settlement. Senator Daly holds up the doctrine of ministerial responsibility, and says that the failures of the past in connexion with the migration agreement would have been avoided had there been such responsibility. ‘ Our soldier land settlement schemes were initiated and carried out under ministerial responsibility, unfortunately without reference to anybody else. Had such a body as the Development and Migration Commission existed many of our attempts at soldier land settlement, would never had eventuated. Those schemes involved Australia in a” futile expenditure of from £10,000.000 to £12,000,000 and probably cost ‘ the returned soldiers themselves an equal amount, together with a phenomenal waste of effort. Think of the Beerburrum scheme in Queensland. When I was Commonwealth Minister for Defence many years ‘ago that land was handed over to the Commonwealth as an artillery range because it was considered to be useless for agricultural purposes. Yetwhen our soldiers returned and had to be repatriated the Labour Government of Queensland chose’ that sterile tract of country upon which to settle many of our returned men. Without doubt they “ settled “ them. After years of struggling against adversity most of those unfortunate men relinquished their holdings, ruined and broken in heart. A similar story, may be told of soldier land settlement in other Australian States. Those calamities were the result of Ministers entering into hair-brained schemes without first consulting adequately informed authorities. Had they been subjected to investigation by such, a body as the Development and Migration Commission they would never have been carried out-
How many tragedies can be pointed to in connexion with Australian railways built and other schemes carried out under political responsibility and influence, upon which the light of public opinion was not turned until the work was completed and the money wasted. Take the unfortunate history of the river Murray irrigation scheme. I ask Senator Daly to turn up the records of a certain conference that took place in an endeavour to arrive at some definite policy, at which Mr. Gepp and Mr. Gunn attended. Its records show that one of the States of Australia interested in -the river Murray - at a time when our soldiers were returning, and when dried fruits were bringing high prices because Greece, Smyrna, and Turkey had not resumed export to Great Britain - conceived the idea of repatriating returned soldiers on that area. .One of its Ministers obtained the assent of Parliament to the development of a tract of river Murray country, I believe 300,000 acres, for this purpose. That was fenced and cleared. In order to improve on previous performances that Minister, instead of having surface channeling, ordered a costly pumping plant and put in underground concrete channels. Only then did he wake up to the fact that the essential preliminary had not been taken, a soil survey. The soil survey was made, and it was discovered that the soil was saline, with the result that £SOO,000 of borrowed money is to-day lying idle in that project. Not one single settler has gone or will go on that land. The pumping plant has been removed, but all the rest of the expenditure has been wasted.
I shall refer, later on, to the history of group settlement in Western Australia. I believe that in the south-west of Western Australia we have one of the finest areas for dairy production that exists in the Commonwealth. Although the scheme may now be on the road to success, i: involved the squandering of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and the waste of much human effort, all of which would have been avoided had there first been on adequate inquiry as to lines on which the scheme should proceed. That is admitted by all parties. Then I think of the catastrophe of our Northern Territory. Without proper inquiry the Government entered into an arrangement to erect a meat works ever so many times too large to cope with the number of cattle available in the Territory. An independent inquiry would have revealed the fact that the cattle supply of the Territory would be for many years too small to keep such a project going. and that, in any case, there was uo possibility of holding those cattle in the vicinity of Darwin.
The Development and Migration Commission has inquired into and recommended many schemes, involving an expenditure of something like £8,000,000, and it has deferred for further consideration schemes involving an expenditure of over £5,000,000. Take, for instance, the Dawson Valley irrigation scheme in Queensland. I shall quote a reference to it made in the election Campaign Manual of the Labour party.
On page 39 of Labour’s Campaign Manual, 1928, edited by the Hon. E. Gr. Theodore, M.P., now the Commonwealth Treasurer, appears a reference to the report of the Development and Migration
Commission recommending a suspension of thu Dawson Valley irrigation scheme in Queensland, as follows: - lt is n somewhat ironical commentary on the success of the commission that two of its reports have resulted in curtailing development and reducing settlement
The other report referred to was the commission’s report on dried fruits production. If that comment means anything, it means that if the Development and Migration Commission had not been in existence the Queensland Government, headed by Mr. Theodore, would have gone on with the Dawson Valley irrigation scheme, which involved an expenditure of £3,3-70,000. As a matter of fact, it had practically committed itself to that scheme, but in order to take advantage of the cheap money under the migration agreement, it made an application to the Commonwealth Government. In the investigation that naturally followed, the Development and Migration Commission obtained technical reports from Mr. T. Hill, the chief engineer of
I he Commonwealth Works and Railways Department; . Mr. C. C. Halkyard hydraulic engineer, formerly in the employ of the Hydro-electric Department, Tasmania ; Mr. W. G. Wells, the cotton specialist, Department of Agriculture and Stock, Queensland; Mr. G. B. Brooks, instructor in agriculture, the Department of Agriculture and Stock, Queensland ; Mr. O. McGrath, the Chief Dairy instructor, Queensland, and Mr. W. G. Brown, the instructor in sheep and wool, Queensland. I mention these names, because the Queensland Government had practically committed itself to this irrigation scheme without asking the opinion of the experts in its own departments. Here was ministerial .responsibility in its highest form, a kind of responsibility Senator Daly would praise, in excelsis. When the Development and Migration Commission set about its investigation the first questions it asked were, “ What is proposed to be done when you get the water dammed back? What are you going to grow when you irrigate the land?” It was informed by the Queensland Government that the proposal was to go in for dairying and growing cotton, and this, that and the oilier. Naturally, the commission made inquiries from the dairying expert in the Queensland Government’s Department, and asked, “ What is your opinion on this proposal from a dairying point of view*” His opinion was altogether unfavorable. The commission said, “Have you not reported this to your Government?” and he said, “I have never been asked for a report.” The commission then sent for the Queensland Government’s cotton expert, and asked him what he thought of the scheme from a cottongrowing viewpoint. He did not think that it would be a success. He was asked, “Why did you not tell this to the Government?” and he said, “I was never asked.” Other inquiries brought the same result. Here was the Queensland Government, in the exercise of its ministerial responsibility, putting forward a scheme to cost nearly £4,000,000, without seeking expert advice upon it.
Victoria also provided an instance of the exercise of ministerial responsibility in this regard. The Victorian Labour Government, not the present Government, but the previous Kogan Ministry, proposed to build a railway to Nowingi, in the far western Mallee; but, being rather hard up for money, decided to take advantage of the cheap money available under the Migration Agreement. It had already had the project inquired into by the Railways Standing Committee, which recommended the work, and to that extent it had certainly gone beyond the full exercise of its ministerial responsibility ; but, some of the migration money having been asked for, it was essential for its proposal to be investigated by the Development and Migration Commission. One of the first persons the commission sent for was Mr. Clapp, the Commissioner of Railways in Victoria, who, when asked what he thought of the railway as a proposition, said, “It is rotten.” He was asked whether he had ever been invited by the Victorian Government to express an opinion on it, and said “ No.” He was asked, “ Seeing that you would have to run this railway, what would be the result of building it?” He replied, “A heavy loss.” No wonder the State railways do not pay! The gentleman responsible for running the State railways had not been asked to give an opinion. The commission also found that the question of providing a water supply had not been looked into, although it was obvious that since this was a dry area it was a matter that needed investigation. “When the commission looked into the proposal it found that it would be unpayable.
I come now to the 3,500 farms scheme of Western Australia. The State Government of Western Australia has always welcomed the assistance of and the inquiries made by the Development and Migration Commission. There has been absolutely no friction between the .two bodies; every facility has been afforded to the commission to make its’ investigations. Our knowledge of what happens in politics clearly indicates to us where the danger lies in any scheme such as that proposed by the Western Australian Government. For instance, there is an election in progress in a State to-day. It is quite natural that there should be a demand from farmers who have taken up land 50 or 60 miles from a railway for the immediate extension of railway facilities to enable them to get their produce to market. Under the 3,500 farms scheme, sooner or later, 3,000 .farms will be made available for settlement further out than the district for which the present demand for communication is made, but the pressure on the Government of the day is, without regard to the future, to build railways in this and that direction. The member for the district and candidates who are seeking election all pledge themselves to get an immediate railway extension. The result, however, of the decision of the State Government to refer the whole 3,500 farmers scheme to the Development and Migration Commission has been to have railway development regarded not as a partial undertaking, but in the light of what the whole area will require when it is settled, with lines of communication provided to serve the whole area and not any particular portion of it. Furthermore, as the result of the pause in the development of the scheme brought about by its reference to the Development and Migration Commission, a soil survey has been made, and it has been discovered that there is salinity in the southern part of the area. It is very doubtful whether wheat can be successfully grown there.
I have dealt with the investigations of the Development and Migration Commission into various schemes of development. Now I come to some of the special investigations it has made, one of them being the investigation into, the dried fruits industry. Three States, in a haphazard manner and without any co-ordination, threw open areas of irrigated land for dried fruits production without any inquiry as to whether there would be a market for all the fruit likely to be produced. Eventually, however, recognizing that the happy-go-lucky style they had adopted had led them into trouble, they got together and said, “ We had better have some co-ordination,” and they turned unanimously to the Development and Migration Commission, which body conducted an inquiry very largely’ under the auspices of Mr. Gunn. On page 39- of the summary of the report ofthe commission, honorable senators will find the recommendations made by the commission. It is one of those sneered at by Mr. Theodore in his comment - it is a somewhat ironical commentary on the success of the commission that two of its reports have resulted in curtailing development and reducing settlement.
That investigation was necessary. The dried fruits industry was up against ruin. As a result of the expansion that had taken place, the market was being overloaded, and unless the cost of production could be reduced, the industry had no hope of success. The commission found first of all that it was unwise to bring fresh areas into cultivation until those already in use could assure a living for the people working them. The commission, on investigating the cause of the high cost of production, found that instead of having one central properlyequipped drying plant, each settler had his own improperly equipped and inefficient plant, the effect of which was to add to- the cost of production and produce an inferior article. One of the simple recommendations made by Mr. Gunn was that instead of having these numerous individual plants, the settlers should co-operate and provide one efficient central plant. That has, now been done, and to-day the dried fruits industry is in a better position than ever before to meet competition in the markets of the world; because it is producing at a lower cost than it was prior to the investigation. Time will not permit me to mention quite a number of other recommendations made by Mr. Gunn. It is sufficient for me to say that when they were scrutinized by growers, merchants and others interested in the trade, not a single word of criticism” was directed towards any of them. The result of giving effect to these recommendations is that the dried fruits industry is to-day in a better position than it has been in for many years.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The commission had not the power to do much; but it made certain recommendations which were of great benefit to the gold-mining industry. The commission’s duty was to make recommendations; the responsibility of carrying them out rested with others. As a result of the commission’s recommendations in connexion with the Golden Mile in Western Australia, all the geological data that had been obtained by the different mining companies operating there were brought together. As some honorable senators may be aware the Golden Mile does not consist of only one lode of gold bearing ore; it consists of a number of reefs or veins, which run in various directions through the different companies properties. Until comprehensive geological data had been obtained on attempt had been made by the individual companies to check the direction of the lode or veins, and prepare a complete plan of the ore-bearing formation of the whole field. Each company was in possession of a certain amount of information which it retained for its own use. The veins of .’gold-bearing ore extending to the boundary of a company’s property, were not followed beyond that point, and the company holding the adjoining property was in absolute ignorance of the existence of .that vein or of the value of its gold contents. It. seems extraordinary that -‘the companies should have been operating in that ‘Way, and yet it is a fact, flint was disclosed by the commission’s inquiries!. -‘-The ‘geologist who undertook this task* o4n- the re-, commendation of the corn-mission was in the first place paid by the commission, but he was afterwards taken over .by the Western Australian Government. He has now been engaged on the work for some time and has produced a map, which provides valuable information for every mining company operating on the Golden Mile. I was informed by a mine manager in Western Australia that the data so obtained were of incalculable benefit to his company. Further recommendations were made in connexion with the gold-mining industry, one of which was that a certain taxation exemption should be made to gold-mining companies. The Commonwealth has given complete effect to the commission’s representations in that respect as have several of the State Governments.
Let us now consider the commission’s report on the subject of unemployment. J listened with great interest, as I am sure we all did, to Senator Rae’s remarks in this connexion. The honorable senator is always interesting, even if we do not agree with views he expresses. It is useless striving for the unattainable; but if we cannot see a way by which we can completely abolish unemployment we must adopt every possible means to reduce it. I invite honorable senators to read the commission’s valuable report on the subject of unemployment, certain recommendations in which can be carried
Senator Sir George Pearce. out by the State Governments; there are also some- that can be carried out by the Commonwealth Government, but to a more limited degree, because of its limited powers. Certain practical proposals of an undramatic character were made; it was, I suppose, because of this that they did not attract much public attention. Every one who reads the report will admit that these recommendations, if properly effected would have a great practical value. The difficulty, however, has been that the States, with one or two exceptions, have considered these recommendations in other than a proper spirit, and have dealt with them in a piecemeal manner. Some of the suggestions are worthy of the closest study.
Iri discussing the activities of the commission the Minister (Senator Daly) said that when I was in office there was a lack of coordination between the Government, the Development and Migration Commission, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I resent that statement, because it is absolutely incorrect. I feel inclined to use a much stronger term. There was scarcely a day on which the chairman or some official of the Development and Migration Commission did not spend a considerable time with me, or, if I was absent, with another Minister, in dealing with the various matters into which the commission was inquiring. It was not the responsibility of the Minister to direct the inquiries or to engage or supervise the staff or do other things for which the Minister was not responsible. I am sure Senator Daly will admit that he has not sufficient time at his disposal to visit, say, the gold-mining areas in Western Australia. When I was a Minister I had not the time or the- qualifications to select the men most suited to report on the conditions in the gold-mining, fruit-growing, or any other industry. That was the responsibility of the commission, and work which could be more effectively carried out by experts than by any Minister. Although that course was followed the Minister was not relieved of his responsibility which was to see that the commission as a body carried out its functions and kept within the vote which Parliament authorized. It was the duty of the commission to observe the spirit of the legislation under which it was operating. In order to obtain the necessary coordination a committee, presided over by a Minister, met regularly every fortnight. A representative of the Development and Migration Commission, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the Markets Department, were present, and if I was unable to attend either Senator McLachlan or Senator Ogden presided. Everything that was being done by the different branches of the commission was brought forward for examination in order to see that there was no overlapping.
I should also like to direct the attention of the Senate to the series of inquiries conducted in Tasmania by a representative of the Development and Migration Commission. The Government of that State attached a great deal of value to the reports of the experts who conducted the investigations and keen appreciation has been expressed, both by the Labour and Nationalist Governments, of the value of the work performed in this regard. ‘[Extension of time granted.] As Tasmania, which is not a wealthy State, had not sufficient money at its disposal to spend on such investigations, it was pleased that the Commonwealth was able to place these experts at its disposal to advise it as to the necessary steps to be taken. For instance, the enthusiasm engendered by Dr. Finley in connexion with agricultural bureaux in Tasmania has been most highly appreciated. The report of the transport committee which inquired into the transport services of Tasmania, which, as honorable senators are aware, was largely responsible for the great loss in Tasmania’s public revenue, was also of great benefit to that State.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes; and as a result of those investigations the Tasmanian Government has been able to obtain the concentrated advice of some of the leading transport experts in Australia. The Tasmanian Government is” already giving effect to many of the recommendations of the Transport Board.
The present depression and financial stringency is said to be one reason why the Government proposes to abolish the commission; but that is the last reason which should be given. It is false economy to dispense with a body that is preventing waste by directing into useful channels the expenditure of the money we have available.
The Minister referred to the complaints which have been made by certain migrant settlers in Victoria, and suggested that the Development and Migration Commission was responsible.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The difficulties to which the Leader .of the Senate referred arose under the old agreement, when land settlement was being carried out under ministerial responsibility, and with which the commission was not in any way concerned. The complaints to which the Minister referred originated largely because blocks upon which the migrants were settled were over-valued, and the areas insufficient to enable the migrants to make a living. Those settlers alleged that certain promises were made to them, particularly in the matter of sustenance, by State Ministers in public speeches, and in a leaflet issued by the Victorian Government. That scheme was carried out under an arrangement between the British Government and the Government of Victoria, to which the Commonwealth Government was not a party. When the £34,000,000 agreement become operative, it was obvious that the agreement between Great Britain and the Government of Victoria, could not continue. The responsibility of the Commonwealth is to see that the money towards the interest on which the British Government and the Commonwealth Government contribute shall be wisely expended. The expenditure to which the Minister referred had already been incurred, and it could not, therefore, be regarded as an obligation of the Commonwealth Government to take action. It was, however, a responsibility of the Government under the £34,000,000 agreement to rectify injustices, and that was done by me as Minister.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister does not seem to be aware of the fact that the British Government has a representative in Australia whose duty it is ‘to watch the working of the £34,000,000 agreement, and to report to the British Government. Mr. Bankes Amery was the first representative of the British Government in Australia, and he was followed by Mr. Crutchley. The British Government has always had a representative here since the agreement has been in operation. Any complaints would come before the Minister, and in the case mentioned they came before me when I was acting for the Prime Minister. I communicated first with the Government of Victoria, as was my
Obvious duty, and suggested to Mr. Bailey, who was then the responsible Victorian Minister concerned, that a conference should be held. A conference was arranged, which was attended by Mr. Bailey, representing the State Government of Victoria, myself, as representative of the Commonwealth Government, Mr. Bankes Amery, as the representative of the British Government here since the signing of the agreement, Mr. Mulvany and Mr. Gunn, as representatives of the Development and Migration Commission, and Mr. Mclvor as the representative of the Land Settlement Scheme in Victoria. At that conference held at the Commonwealth offices in Melbourne it was agreed that there should be an inquiry under the direction of Mr.
Mulvany into the complaints which had been made. That proposal had my approval, and investigations were carried up to a point where certain recommendations were made to the Victorian Government, but which up to the time I left office had not been acted upon. There was then a change of government in Victoria, and the new administration had to go over the whole matter again. Everything that the Commonwealth could do was done, and the British Government was fully advised through Mr. Bankes Amery, who was in constant consultation with the Government and the members of the Development and Migration Commission.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.But his place was taken by Mr. Crutchley.
The Leader of the Senate told us that the only quarrel he had with the Bruce-Page Government was ‘that it had adopted the expedient of setting up a commission, although the expert investigations could have been directed by a Minister, and the salaries of members of the commission saved. If that really were possible why has not this Government saved the salaries of members of that body?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister’s explanation is altogether too unsatisfactory. After he had moved the second reading of the bill he handed to me a statement of the salaries of members of the commission and the estimate of expenditure for this year, and as he did not have an opportunity to read it, perhaps I had better do so. His communication to me was in the following terms : -
In response to your request 1 submit hereunder details showing how the figure of £50,000, representing the estimated expenditure on the Development and Migration Commission for 1930-31, is arrived at: -
In this memorandum I find no reference to Mr. Devereux, who is still to receive £2,500 per annum, so I should like to know if it contains the whole of the story.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.But is it the whole story?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I do not think it is. I have perused the agreements which the Leader of the Senate laid on the table yesterday, and I find that, although Mr. Gunn’s term of office as member of the Development and Migration Commission would have expired in 1931, it has been extended to 1935.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.But this was important, and I submit it was the duty of the Leader of the Senate to inform honorable senators. Probably °we should not have discovered it if I had not scrutinized the agreements.
– Order ! If the Leader of the Senate wishes to make a personal explanation he will have an opportunity to do so ; he is not in order in keeping up a running fire of interjections.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I particularly direct attention to the’ omission of Mr. Devereux’s name and salary from the memorandum supplied by the Minister to me. The estimated expenditure for the Development and Migration Commission this year was £94,000, and in the memorandum furnished me by the Leader of Senate, it is stated at £50,000, suggesting that the Government has effected a saving of over £40,000.’ But as I have shown, this revised estimate does not include the salary payable to Mr. Devereux, which must be provided for in additional estimates to be brought down later. Nor does it provide for the salaries of officers necessary to carry on the development and migration activities of the Government, for we have been assured by the Minister that at least a certain amount of work is to carried on. We may assume, therefore, that this salary expenditure will be provided for under the Departments of the Prime Minister and Markets and Transport. Actually the saving about which we have heard so much will be a saving on paper only because the bulk of the expenditure will be transferred to other departments.
– The Government is simply juggling with ‘the figures. Senator Daly. - It is not fair to say that.
– In justification of the policy of the preceding Government I should say that for some time before it went out of office it had been cutting down expenditure on migration because the number of migrants coming to Australia was declining. The Estimates for the present year which I remind the Senate were not the Estimates of the Bruce Government show that in 1928-29, the last year of the Bruce-Page Administration, the vote for the Development and Migration Commission was £127,000 and the expenditure only £104,000 or £23,000 less than the amount voted by Parliament. This saving as I have explained, was made possible because the full amount voted was not required owing to the reduction in the number of migrants.
I definitely challenge the statement that this Government is actually making any saving in regard to the salaries of members of the Development and Migration Commission. Will any one contend that it is a saving to pay Mr. Gepp a retainer of £1,250 a /eai’ for part time services instead of £t>,000 a year for full rime services? After ali the value of a man’s services is determined largely by the opportunities afforded to him to concentrate upon a particular problem. 1 assume that under the present arrangement Mr. Gepp is at liberty to accept private employment and that only when developmental schemes have reached a certain stage will he be asked to express an opinion as to their soundness or otherwise. What is the value of any man’s opinion concerning any particular proposal unless he has been responsible for its initiation and has had the direction of all inquiries concerning it and knows exactly what it means to the country?
– Mr. Gepp has been spending eight months on the coal inquiry.
– The interjection by the Minister is an/ absolute justification of the action of the’ Bruce Administration in appointing the Development and Migration Commission.
Another extraordinary statement made by the Minister was that the various public works which the commission had recommended should be put in hand had not increased the absorptive powers of the Commonwealth.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Then 1 advise the Minister to read Hansard, because I assure him he. did make that statement, and when challenged about it he said “I mean it would have been better to spend the money on land settlement.”
– I did not say that. I said the expenditure had not increased the absorptive capacity of the Commonwealth to the extent required under the agreement.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.W eli, let use examine some of these works which the commission recommended should be put, in hand. The first that comes to my mind is the Wyangala scheme on the Lachlan River. That was a proposal to bring under lucerne cultivation an area of 300,000 acres which, under existing conditions, is carrying not more than a sheep to the acre all the year round. The surrounding country can provide large numbers of store sheep and expenditure on the Wyangala scheme was intended to provide lucerne for fattening sheep. Will any one seriously contend that that proposal was not designed to increase the population in New South Wales? Is it not a fact that every additional man who makes a living on the land provides employment for five other men in our cities? Will Senator Daly deny that the carrying out of the Tod River scheme in South Australia increased the absorptive power of his State?
– It did, but not to the extent required under the agreement.
– The point raised by Senator Daly was receiving the attention of the Bruce-Page administration before it left office. It has been suggested that the various States have to honour their population obligations in the year in which they expend money made available under the agreement. That is not the correct reading of the document. Western Australia, for example, lias spent upwards of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 during the last two years, but will have ten years within which to carry out its population liability. It is not necessary for any individual State to take its full quota of migrants in the year in which it incurs financial responsibility under the agreement. It may spread this obligation over the whole period, and no one will be able to say, until the full period has elapsed, whether it has kept its part of the bargain by absorbing its full quota of migrants. I may add that the migrants who have come out under the agreement have already been credited to the States concerned.
Hen a tor Daly. - Britain disputes that.
– Senator Daly’s faith in what he terms ministerial control is really pathetic. I venture to say that in twelve months’ time, as the result of his own personal experience, he will be prepared to modify his present views on this point. Perhaps 1 have had longer experience in office than any other honorable senator, and without being egotistical, I may claim to be as active as most men. At all events I have always discharged my ministerial duties to the be3t of my ability. I have never been a slacker, but long ago I was conscious of the fact that the exercise of ministerial responsibility was subject to severe limitations in the interests of the people. He is a wim Minister who, early in his career, seeks the guidance of the best brains in or outside the Public Service. That actually is the true function of a Minister. The Minister who sets out with the idea that he is going to supervise personally all the work that comes within his purview is certain, sooner or later, to strike trouble. I am sure that Senator Daly does not suggest that he or I, or any one else who has not been scientifically trained, is capable of personally directing investigations into, say, the blow-fly pest or problems of that character.
– Of course I do not suggest that.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.All these problems properly belong to the professional and scientific1 man, and should bo investigated by experts. Moreover, they call for the full-time services of the best brains available. No man who has to carry out his parliamentary duties, and perhaps take part in an election or referenda campaign, can properly do this work. If it is done properly it is a» full-time job for a man trained in the particular field of science involved.
It is significant that, up-to-date, every act of this Government has been destructive. Ministers appear to be animated with a desire to destroy. This, I believe, is because they were so long in Opposition exercising their critical faculties, that their constructive faculties have become atrophied. They have lost the ability to construct. They have so cultivated their ability to destroy that this is now their dominating instinct. Just as they destroyed the defence system of this country so they are now seeking to destroy one of its economic safeguards. They are destroying this and every other safeguard needed by democracy.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [12.30]. - I shall support the second reading of this bill, although I regret that it does not go a step further. It is surprising to find that, while Senator Daly recognizes that the Development and Migration Commission was to a large extent duplicating services already performed by a federal department, he does not realize that the scheme which he has placed before the Senate means that a federal department will duplicate services which must necessarily be performed by State departments. Even though no honorable senator may agree with me, I am convinced that time will prove that the £34,000,000 agreement was a mistake, root and branch. It had its origin in a desire on the part of the Federal Government to branch out into a sphere with which it should have had nothing to do. With Senator Pearce, I agree that a man is not necessarily expensive because he is paid a big salary. Conversely, an ordinary man docs not become a super man merely by paying him a high salary. Senator Pearce referred to Mr. Gunn. I speak freely regarding the members of the commission, for I know them all. They are fine men. But is it not a fact that, at the time of Mr. Gunn’s appointment to the commission, he was the Premier of South Australia? If he was an exceptionally good Premier, then to take him away from his office was to do a disservice to South Australia. On the other hand, if he was not an exceptionally good Premier, I fail to see how we can justify appointing him to a commission at a salary double that which he received as .Premier of a State. The Ministry responsible for the appointment of the Development and Migration Commission had an altogether exaggerated idea of the offices it created. The appointment of men to those offices at high salaries caused an enormous amount of dissatisfaction among the public servants of Australia, particularly those in the State services who were performing duties just as responsible and arduous, for, in some instances, considerably less than half the amount paid to members of the commission.
Senator Pearce said that, although the States might spend all the money available under the agreement in one or two years, they had ten years in which to absorb all the migrants that that expenditure involved. It might be a tenable proposition to say that we have ten years in which to absorb the migrants represented by the money we have already spent; but I regard it as the grossest possible breach of faith with the Imperial Government. The underlying principle of the agreement with Great Britain was that Australia would spend quickly £34,000,000, and absorb quickly a certain number of migrants from the Old Country. I have always contended that, instead of entering into this agreement, infinitely better results would have followed independent agreements between the Imperial Government and the several States. The people who had to do the job ought to have been compelled to shoulder the responsibility. So far, approximately 100,000 migrants have come to Australia under the agreement. For the sake of convenience, let us assume that we have spent £7,500,000 under the agreement - the actual expenditure is approximately that amount. On that basis, we should exactly have fulfilled our obligation to absorb one migrant for every £75 expended. But can we set up to the satisfaction of the Imperial Government evidence that those 100,000 migrants have been satisfactorily settled in Australia?
– Half of them are unemployed.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Then we have not kept our part of the agreement. Notwithstanding the pretence that we are receiving cheap money from
Britain under the £34,000,000 agreement, I have always contended that it will prove to be the costliest money Australia has ever borrowed. The reason is not far to seek. We are borrowing heavily at a time of high interest rates, which, on the face of it, does not appear to be judicious. Big borrowings of that kind always have, and always will, increase the cost, not only of the works in which they are particularly employed, but also of every other industry. I go so far as to say that the money we have borrowed under this agreement has had a considerable influence in bringing about the present depression, and increasing the cost against other industries. It has probably had a greater detrimental effect, through cutting down _our exports, than any benefit it has conferred by stimulating employment and increasing our absorptive powers. Another objection to the agreement is that nearly all schemes of the kind to which this money will be applied mean the undertaking by governments on the day-labour principle of work which can be performed economically only by private persons. A great deal of money has been wasted in Australia in this way. Reference has been made to two Western Australian developmental schemes. Senator Daly said that, had the Development and Migration Commission been in operation before the Western Australian group settlement scheme was started, it would never have been started. I question the accuracy of his statement, for, without the least desire to detract from the members of the commission, whom I know intimately, I have no hesitation in saying that this scheme was investigated by men whose qualifications were quite as high as those of the members of the Development and Migration Commission. But assuming that had the commission then been in existence, and that the scheme would never have been started, would not the same argument apply to the wheat settlement scheme of from 1905 to 1908? To that scheme, which during the first six or seven years of its existence was condemned right and left, Western Australia owes what prosperity she enjoys to-day. If it is true that the Development and Migration Commission would have rejected the group settlement project, then with much greater enthusiasm it would have turned down the proposal to construct a railway to Southern Cross, or the Coolgardie water scheme. Many schemes owetheir success to the vision of statesmen and the patriotic efforts of citizens-. I agree with Senator Pearce that the group settlement scheme has by no means proved a complete failure, and that in time it will demonstrate to the people of Australia the wonderful wealth of that portion of Western Australia. Already it has resulted in a considerable improvement in the carrying capacity of land held by settlers not within the group scheme. Land, which prior to the group settlement scheme carried less than one sheep to the acre, is now carrying four sheep to the acre. I confess that the cost of the scheme has been excessive.
– Was it approved by experts or politicians?
– It was approved by experts. I do not say that the whole of the details were approved by experts, but that experts examined the land and approved of the scheme generally. In considering that scheme we must not lose sight of the important fact that soon after its initiation there was a change of government. I speak without party political prejudice when I say that a change of government is almost certain to affect the success of any scheme which has just been initiated. The success of any big scheme depends, to a great extent, upon the genius of the man who initiates it. Between 1905 and 1908 a scheme, not dissimilar to the group settlement scheme - for it also had as its basis the placing of moneyless men on idle land-was initiated by Sir James Mitchell in the wheat belt of Western Australia. A few years after the inauguration of that scheme there was a change of government. I am not saying that one government was better than the other; but the fact remains that the new government removed from office the man who had initiated that scheme. The result was that during the succeeding five years there was nothing but the most acute depression in that State.No man in Western Australia was so condemned as was the originator of that project. Not until he was re-instated in his office, in 1916, did that scheme prove to be funda mentally sound. As I have already said, what prosperity . Western Australia is enjoying to-day is due chiefly to that scheme, which for five or six years was condemned as utterly worthless.
– Is that not a good argument for a continuing body?
– It is a good argument for a continuing government. We are now told that the group settlement scheme of Western Australia would not have been initiated had the Development and Migration Commission then been in existence.
– I do not agree with that statement.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Nor do I. Now let us consider for a moment the 3,500 farms scheme of Western Australia. Where does the Development and Migration Commission stand in relation to that scheme? Is it to take the credit for having allowed it to proceed so far, or for not having let it go further? It would be quite simple for any man of fewer qualifications than I know the members of the commission possess to have presented to him a scheme of that kind, and for him to say, as the commission has said, “ Go ahead.” If the scheme proved successful he could say - “ A wonderful scheme “ ; if otherwise, “ Stop it, for it will get us nowhere.” Not one member of the commission was an expert in the matter connected with the 3,500 farms scheme, or had the qualifications of the experts in the government service who, from time to time, reported upon it. When that scheme, which had the approval of experts, was presented to the commission, it could do nothing else than say, “ It is a good scheme; go ahead.” All the commission did was to say that it would watch developments.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to2.15 p.m.
– There are only one or two more points which I wish to emphasize. First, and chiefly, I contend that nothing but harm can ever come from interference by the Federal Government with what properly are State activities. Nothing but dual responsibility and increased expenditure, can result from such interference. Yesterday Senator McLachlan interjected “ How can you control Mr. Hogan “ ?
Why should this Government want to control Mr. Hogan? What business is that of ours ? Is it not sufficient to know that his own electors and Parliament . will exercise whatever control they have over him? rom fi first to last this £34,000,000 agreement was nothing but a substitute for sound economic policy; something to put in the place of running our affairs properly. The last Federal Government was strangely addicted to such economic fallacies. The extent to which those practices permeated those who surrounded that Government was illustrated last night when we had, first the case advanced by the ex-Government Whip, and then a * former member of that Government solemnly and unashamedly putting before this Senate the most extraordinary economic fallacies that ever offended the ears of any deliberative assembly.
What was the aspect that Australia sought to set up before the world, at large? A wonderful country, rich in natural resources, enjoying a splendid climate, deliberately adopting a policy that made it a working man’s paradise;, with high protective duties which excluded the competition of low-paid labour countries. Men employed in city industries, such as our iron industry, were enabled, because of the payment by the Government of a substantial bonus, to work only 44 hours a week and to draw big pay. Tram conductors, with all the amenities of city life, getting their 18s. a day for working fairly short hours; coal-miners able to drive their motor cars to the races on the proceeds of three or four days work each week. . But did we invite migrants to come and participate in those good things? We did not. We told them, “ You may be an expert in this or that trade, but Australia does not want you to work in that capacity in its cities. Australia only wants you to work on the land.” And so to make the proposal attractive to migrants all sorts of promises were made to them. I had the opportunity, on several occasions, to tour England when migration officers were seeking men to fill the requisitions of their State authority, and always it was the same story. “ Tradesmen ! Oh, no. We don’t want you unless you are prepared to abandon your trade and give up the advantages accruing to you from years of study and hard work. You can come out to Australia and work on this or that scheme.” The result was that we brought to Australia numbers of people who, before they left England, learned that they were to lean on the Government. That form of migration will never succeed. The only form that has ever succeeded or will ever succeed is free migration, under which it is said, “ Here is a prosperous country. Come to it and do what you like.” Make no promises, but make the conditions as easy as possible, and the fares as cheap as you can, and tell them to come and join in the general prosperity of the country.
Senator Rae told the Senate what we had to do to protect ourselves against the cheap labour of China, India, and Japan. I assure the honorable senator that nothing will save the protected industries of this country and those engaged in them from the competition of those who, because of the unfair advantage given to one industry or another, are being forced into unemployment or ruin in their particular class of industry.
The more money that is spent under this £34,000,000 agreement the more we shall lose. The fair thing to do is to cancel the agreement, subject to honoring every obligation that has been made with the States, and subject also to refunding to the Imperial Government any amount that it may have paid in excess of the number of migrants absorbed. And then we should put our own house in order. We should stop bolstering up one industry against another; stop bolstering up conditions of labour and wages that the industry itself cannot pay. I am not talking about reducing or increasing wages, or of reducing or increasing hours of labour. Let us have the best that an industry can possibly afford. But until we cease to bolster up one industry against another we shall never be able to present to the world the spectacle of a prosperous Australia ; the spectacle that in years gone by attracted the very best people from the Old World. Those people came here not with the idea that they were to lean on the Government, but that they themselvs would become pillars of a free and a prosperous State.
– As one who supported the bill authorizing the appointment of the Development and Migration Commission, I must express my regret at the proposal of the Government to abolish that body. In spite of all that has been said about the mistakes that have been made, I believe that the appointment of that commission was one of the wisest actions of the Bruce-Page Government. It is quite easy to see precisely how much that commission cost, according to the Treasurer’s statement, each year, but it is not so easy to appreciate the numerous benefits that its activities conferred upon Australia, and the immense sums of money that it has saved this country. I do not wish to attribute blame to any one in my State, but I express the opinion that had the Development and Migration Commission been appointed years before it was it would have saved Western Australia several million pounds.
I gathered from the second-reading speech of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) that the purpose of this bill is to save the community from £40,000 to £50,000 a year. I do not despise such a saving, but I remind honorable senators that the Labour party has consistently published statements directing attention to the alleged extravagance of the late Government. Honorable senators have been circularized with a published statement of that Government’s activities - at whose expense I do not know - which claims that the present Government is doing much better than that which it succeeded. I remind honorable senators that when the Bruce-Page Government brought down a bill to authorize the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of steamers, because that service was losing £600,000 a year, members of the present Government ‘condemned that action. No epithet was too harsh to apply to the proposal.
– Did the late Government sell the ships or give them away?
– Considering the unenviable economic record that the Line had the Government effected a remarkable sale.
– Pearce. - What was the saving?
– That Line was carrying on at a loss of £600,000 a year, notwithstanding the fact that £8,000,000 of public money had been written off its capital cost. Yet this Labour Government has the hardihood to claim that the Bruce-Page Government was extravagant throughout its existence.
– And itself proposes to pay the coal-miners a bonus of 9d. a ton on coal.
– The coal-miners . have not yet got that 9d. a ton. It might be something like the wine bounty allegedly granted to South Australia. The coal-miners might have to pay it out of their own pockets.
– Do not the sugar and butter people receive assistance from the Government?
– The butter people pay the money out of their own pockets. I give voice to another point that has occurred to me in connexion with this so-called frugal Government. Parliament’s precipitous move to Canberra was due to a motion by two Labour members, Mr. Maloney and Mr. E. Riley, which decreed that we should be here at a certain date. As a result, arrangements had to be rushed to such an extent that we do not yet know how much the consequent disorganization cost the country. Although the Government claims that it will effect a saving of £40,000 a year by the abolition of the Development and Migration Commission, I still believe that Australia will lose ten times that amount through retarded development as a result of the cessation of that commission’s activities. Of course, that will not be visible in any balance sheet.
– I take a keen interest in the development of Australia, and naturally regret deeply the action of the Government in abolishing the Development and Migration Commission. The Government proposes to put the activities of that commission under the control of a Minister. I fear that we shall inevitably be faced with a certain amount of political pull in future when developmental schemes are brought up for consideration, as it is impossible to dissociate political influence from any scheme left in the charge of a Minister, particularly if it affects government policy. As the Leader of the Opposition has shown, we shall have Federal and State departments working in the one sphere, which will probably give rise to friction and ill-feeling, whereas we are likely to get the best results from an outside body quite apart from Parliament, which can give an unbiased opinion on any works submitted to it for investigation. I ;have in mind the Dawson Valley irrigation scheme referred to by the Leader of the Opposition - at one stage the largest scheme submitted to the Development and Migration Commission for investigation. It was in 1923 that the Queensland Government first proposed to irrigate some 100,000 acres in the Dawson Valley and work in conjunction with it 200,000 acres of non-irrigable land close by. The State G overnment proceeded with its project for about three years. It commenced by partly building the township of Theodore and connecting it by rail with Rockhampton, a distance of 134 miles. In November, 1926, the State Government submitted the scheme to the Commonwealth Government for inclusion under the £34,000,000 migration agreement, and the Dawson Valley was first visited by the Development and Migration Commission in March, 1927. Until then, although the State Government had proceeded with the work to a certain extent, no definite soil or crop survey had been made by experts who could give any idea of what was likely to be the result of an irrigation scheme. The method of irrigation proposed was to put a dam across the Dawson River, which would hold back the water for about 65 miles. The area to be served was to be divided into five zones, each about 13 miles in diameter and to be developed separately, with its own civic centre. There were to ba 7,000 farms, each providing a living for five persons - a man, his wife, and three children. No doubt it was a laudable proposal, and on paper it looked as if a great many people could be successfully settled on the area to be served.
I mention these matters to show how far the State Government had deemed it fit to go without first getting expert opinion to indicate, in the first place, whether the scheme would carry the number of persons it was proposed to place on the land, and, secondly, whether it would provide interest and sinking fund on the huge expenditure likely to be incurred. Under the migration agreement an expenditure of £3,370,000, the estimated cost of the scheme, would involve the settlement of 1,685 migrants. The object in view was the growing of cotton, rice, tobacco, and lucerne; and wool, fat lamb raising, dairying and pig-farming. As the Dawson Valley is in the central portion of Queensland, and is accessible by rail to districts where drought affects the pastoral industry at certain periods, it was thought that lucerne could be grown in large quantities and conserved’ with i view to supplying it to the droughtstricken areas during a drought period; and the State Government, therefore, thought it right that 50 per cent, of the interest and sinking fund on the cost of the whole undertaking should be borne by the Consolidated Revenue, which would have meant a charge upon the whole of the taxpayers of the State for the benefit of one particular area. But as the fodder to be grown was not to be distributed free of charge, because the pastoralists who bought it during dry seasons would be required to pay for it, in my opinion the proper economical basis for the project was that the settlers in the valley should carry the full burden of the cost. The estimated average rainfall was set down at 27.6 inches, but, unfortunately, there are good seasons and bad. In 1910-11, an extremely good year, the rainfall was 32.06 inches, whereas in 1922-23 it dropped to 16.58 inches. The irregularity of the rainfall would have given rise to a difficult engineering problem. In some years the water coming down the river would have been far in excess of requirements, and on the occasion of floods the present site of the town of Theodore would be covered to the depth of some feet, whereas in dry years sufficient water to irrigate the area could not have been assured. The suggestion was to provide the farmer with a 20-acre wet block, and a 200-acre dry block some distance away, the idea being that the wet block should grow. sufficient fodder to carry the dry -block over an adverse season. That arrangement was supposed to be suitable for persons who would engage in dairying, pig-raising, or pursuits of that kind.
In July, 1927, when the Development and Migration Commission made its second inspection of the country, it had the assistance of the chief experts of- the- Department of Stock and Agriculture in Queensland, and also the services of Mr. Halkyard, of the Tasmanian Hydro-electric Department. Mr. Halkyard reported that from an engineering viewpoint, the scheme was worthy of consideration, but up to that time there had been no expert advice given or asked for as to the suitability of the country for the growing of the crops supposed to be grown upon it, or as to the soil values. The first step the Development and Migration Commission took with the assistance of the experts of the Stock and Agriculture Department of Queensland was to get the State Government to inquire into the nature of the soil and its adaptability for the growing of the different types of plants and particularly in regard to its ability to stand up to lengthy periods of irrigation. It was found upon investigation that the soil included extremes of types and that the greater portion of the area proposed to be irrigated was an alluvial deposit lying within an area liable to flooding, which immediately made it very doubtful whether the scheme could be carried on.
– Theodore might bc flooded.
– It was said that the town of Theodore, which was already partly built at the time of the investigation, would be 3 feet or 4 feet under flood level. The soil in the dry areas also varied considerably in type, and no attempt had been made to provide the dry areas with water at a reasonable rate; not for irrigating purposes, but for watering stock, and to enable the settlers to carry on dairying, pig-raising, and so forth. In regard to growing cotton, lucerne, and tobacco, the commission found that there had been no report by an expert as to the suitability of the land for the growing of these crops. In the first place the State Government suggested that the whole area to be irrigated should be 70,000 acres, but when experts went into the matter thoroughly, that area varied from 54,000 to 64,000 acres, and the size of the living area blocks varied from 20 acres wet and 200 acres dry to ,40 acres wet and 640 acres dry. The number of farms that could be established on that area was less than half of that originally estimated, and the area which settlers would have required in order to make a living would have been practically double that originally intended. There are large tracts of country with a clay sub-soil, which would be detrimental to drainage in connexion with an irrigation scheme. It was suggested by the Development and Migration Commission that before incurring any further expenditure in constructing a dam the base should be trenched completely across and excavations made to ensure that the foundation would be on solid ground so that seepage would be prevented. Boring operations were undertaken and it was found that a quantity of sandstone existed close to the surface which would have permitted seepage to a greater extent than was anticipated. The expense of doing this preliminary work, which was estimated at from £100,000 to £150,000, was considered too heavy to justify the commission in finding the money to enable the work to be proceeded with. The final decision of the commission was that the suitability of the soil for the growing of the crops which had been suggested had not been sufficiently tested to warrant the project being immediately proceeded with. It, therefore, suggested that as it was a huge scheme, a delay of four or five years would not make any great difference in the development ‘of a country, and that demonstration farms should be established for a period of five years in order to prove the suitability of the soil for the production of the crops suggested. The commission thought that the time 30 occupied would not be wasted as it would give a definite indication of the possible success or otherwise of the project. It was found that instead of the water to be stored being sufficient for, roughly, 70,000 acres as at first suggested, it would only be sufficient for from 54,000 to 60,000 acres, thus further reducing the productive capacity of the land to be irrigated. As that particular type of country had not previously been irrigated, it was not known whether the mineral constituents of the soil would permit of successful irrigation over a lengthy period. It had been found by experience on one experimental farm that lucerne, which was one of the main crops to be produced, could not be successfully grown to any extent. Lucerne was to provide large quantities of fodde to be used in the pastoral areas during drought periods. The work on demonstration farms proved conclusively that the land in question was unsuitable for growing regular crops of lucerne. In the 1.92S report of the commission it was stated that the scheme presented certain attractive features, but the soil, climatic and other conditions were not as suitable for economic production as was first anticipated. It was therefore recommended that in view of the largo amount of capital to be expended., it von lcl be better to discontinue the project pending the decision of the crops to be grown and the possible economic success of the venture. These facts were ascertained by an independent authority which was not under any direct obligation to the Government, and was in a position to express an unbiassed opinion. In consequence of the commission’s recommendations, the taxpayers of Queensland have been saved approximately £4,000,000. The estimated cost of the undertaking was £3,370,000, but it is very unusual for such a big work to be completed within the estimated cost. I am sorry that the services of such a competent body of men are not to be retained, as they have been of great value to the Commonwealth, not only in saving the taxpayers’ money, but in determining exactly what an area is capable of producing before it is developed on a large scale.
– In the first place I desire to. thank honorable senators on both sides of the chamber for the manner in which they have considered this measure. It is, 1 think, recognized that as a change is to be effected the sooner it is made the better. Further, I appreciate the action nf certain honorable senators who were anxious to express their opinions on the
Government’s proposal - for or against - but who are refraining from doing so in order to meet the convenience of the Government.
– Silence is noi to be taken as consent.
– No. The Government is fully seised of the responsibilities mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), and is determined that in the light of previous experience its policy should be to conduct an inquiry first and to incur expenditure afterwards. The only point upon which there is a difference of opinion between the Government and certain honorable senators opposite is that we believe that the work can be done more efficiently and more economically under departmental control than by a commission. Reference has been made to the reports furnished by the Development and Migration Commission, all of which I have had an opportunity of reading. These reports ar:j very valuable contributions to the economic records of this country, but the most regrettable feature in connexion with them is, as I mentioned in my second-reading speech, that little attention has been paid to the recommendations which they contain. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that one of the most valuable suggestions made by the Development and Migration Commission was in. relation to the importation of luxuries. The commission pointed out that Australia was spending approximately £300,000 a year on edible nuts, but no effort was made to stimulate the production of almonds on the river Murray settlements or to keep the supply of Australian peanuts within the confines of the Northern Territory.
– We placed an embargo on the importation of peanuts.
– It was not because of the “ colour “ of the nuts, but because the importation was not in the interests of the heal th of the people. Attention was also drawn to the fact that although we can produce almost any kind of vegetable in Australia, enormous sums of money were being paid for American tinned vegetables. A very small portion of the expenditure of the Development and Migration Commission was incurved cm the actual investigation and supervision of work undertaken under the £34,000,000 agreement. In future the Government will not only authorize these investigations, but will follow them up, step by step, and, in the ultimate result greater efforts than are possible under the present system will be made to see that she remedy prescribed -is put into effect. In the matter of savings, I remind honorable senators that the Government does not suggest that the commissioners and staff are to bo dispensed with and that others receiving similar salaries will be doing the work. As the Government does not consider that the work of the commission warranted the employment of four full-time commissioners, it is arranging for it to be done by one commissioner with several consultants. Instead of retaining the services of Mr. Gepp at £5,000 a year, and pretending to the taxpayers that he was working eight hours a day, we think it honest to arrange that he should be employed for one-fourth of Ids time at a salary of £1,250 a year. Instead of suggesting that we had ample work in connexion “with this work - to occupy the time of Mr. Mulvany, who joined the commission, not, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, because of his administrative ability, but because of his expert knowledge of marketing, at £1,750 a year, we are transferring him to the Department of Markets, where he can be usefully employed. It has been said that no allowance has been made for the staff which will go over to the Prime Minister’s Department. In the schedule prepared by the departmental officers, provision is made for the transfer of the Development and Migration staff to the Prime Minister’s Department to carry out the necessary work. To remove any doubt in the minds of honorable senators as to what I did say with reference to the £34,000,000 migration agreement, I shall quote briefly from my second reading speech of “Wednesday last. The Leader of the Opposition said I stated that public works recommended by the Development and Migration Commission had not increased the absorptive capacity of the Commonwealth. When challenged, the right honorable gentleman invited me to refer to the Hansard report of my speech. I have done so. I find that there was a considerable interchange of views across the chamber, which you, sir, described as something in the nature of a dialogue between Senator Ogden and myself. Referring to the influence of public works on development, I said -
Why has practically the whole of the amount advanced under this agreement been spent on public works instead of in connexion with land settlement?
– What kind of public works?
– Railway and road construction and water conservation.
– That is developmental work and assists land settlement.
To that I assented. I then said -
The Commonwealth Government pledged its word to the British Government that for every £75 advanced it would create an absorptive capacity of one migrant. It told the British Government that if it provided money at a cheap rate of interest we would use it on developmental works which would increase our absorptive capacity to the extent of one migrant for every £75 advanced.
– May not railway construction assist in that direction?
– Perhaps, but the whole of our obsorptive responsibilities had to be discharged by 1935. A new railway certainly increases the absorptive capacity of the country; hut docs any honorable senator suggest that for every £75 spent in constructing a railway through any particular tract of country, the absorptive capacity of land will be increased by only one migrant within ten years ?
The allegation made by the Leader of the Opposition, that I had withheld certain information from the Senate is, perhaps, more serious, and I am prepared to plead guilty if to be guilty means that I neglected to do other than follow the usual practice. Otherwise I deny liability. I fail to see how any honorable senator could think that I was withholding information, because “I placed on the table the agreements with the several gentlemen mentioned, and within five minutes- the Leader of the Opposition was perusing and taking extracts from them.
– The Minister should have directed attention to certain important features contained in the contracts.
– I can assure honorable senators that I had no intention of withholding information or concealing anything. The agreements themselves are specifically referred to in the schedule to the bill. I fail to see how there could be any misunderstanding, because I made it clear that the Government intended to continue the work of the department concerned. It is hardly likely that it would create a department for such a brief period as the balance of the term of contract. I hope the Senate will assist the Government to pass the bill through its remaining stages.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Agreements for services) -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.6]. - This clause provides that agreements specified in the schedule entered into by the Commonwealth with the persons concerned are hereby approved. I notice that, with one exception, the agreements referred to in the schedule are not dated.
– I propose to fill in the dates when the schedule is under consideration.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That was not the point to which I desired to direct attention. In all measures in which there is reference to agreements in the schedule, it has been the practice to incorporate the whole of the agreements. I do not know if that is necessary, or whether it is sufficient merely to make reference to them as in this case.
– I am advised by the Crown Law officers that it is not necessary to include the whole of the agreements.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Agreement dated , 1930, made between the Commonwealth and Herbert William Gepp, Esquire.
Agreement dated 12tu March, 1930, made between the Commonwealth and Walter Page Devereux, Esquire.
Agreement dated , 1930, made between the Commonwealth and the Honorable John Gunn.
Agreement dated , 1930, made between the Commonwealth and Edward Joseph Mulvany, Esquire.
Amendment (by Senator Daly) agreed to-
That after the word “ dated,” lines 1, 7 and 10, the words “26th March” be inserted.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Senator Daly) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– The course now being adopted is not in accordance with the usual parliamentary practice. It is only in circumstances of extreme urgency that it is taken.
– I give honorable senators my assurance that it is urgent that the bill should be passed through its remaining stages so that it may be placed on the business-paper in another place without delay.
– When amendments are made to a bill, the report stage is usually set down on the business-paper for the next day of sitting, because it is necessary that the amendments should be certified by the Chairman of Committees and a fair copy of the bill, as amended, placed in the hands of the President before the motion for the third reading is put. Unless there is extreme urgency, I do not think it is advisable to take this hurried course ; but I am in the hands of the Senate.
– Because of the state of business in another place, it is necessary to pass this measure through its remaining stages as soon as possible.
– Very well.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report adopted, and bill read a third time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 27th March, (vide page 571).
Clause 3 -
The amendment effected by the last preceding section shall be deemed to have commenced on the date of the commencement of the Customs Act 1 901 :
Provided that, notwithstanding anything contained in this section, the amendment made by this act shall not apply so as to affect proceedings, No. 5353 of 1929, commenced in the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
– Progress was reported yesterday after Senator McLachlan had raised the point whether, if the Customs Bill is passed in its present form, Regulation 126 will be validated retrospectively, or whether a special provision validating the regulation retrospectively, will he required. 1 have sought the advice of the Solicitor-General in this matter, and have supplied a copy of his opinion to Senator McLachlan. . The SolicitorGeneral is of the opinion that the Senate would be quite in order in passing the bill in its present form, and that its passing will effect the retrospectivity of the operation of the regulation referred to.
.- I move -
That all the words after “ affect “ he left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ any claim made- or action at law taken before the passing of this Act.”
My decision to move this amendment was taken only after careful consideration of the principle involved in this clause. I conclude that the proceedings referred to as having commenced in the Supreme Court of New South Wales are proceedings in which a claimant, or claimants, have claimed on the department for a refund of duty wrongfully paid. If that surmise and the information supplied, to me are correct, then there are other people who have lodged similar claims against the Customs Department. If my amendment is carried, their claims will also be met.
– They will not be affected by the passing of this legislation.
– If, in the case under consideration in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, it is proved that certain duties of customs ought not to have been paid, and that the moneypaid should be refunded, the same principle should apply to any other persons who, before the passing of this act, have made claims for a refund or have entered an action at law against the department for recovery of money wrongfully paid, provided, of course, that their claims prove to be just. My amendment merely proposes to put into an act of Parliament what the Minister assured me yesterday would be done. In order that there may be no misconception, let me say that I understood the Minister yesterday to say that any just claims made before the passing of this act would be favorably dealt with by the department.
– I said that they would be dealt with in accordance with the existing practice, which this bill does not seek to alter.
– In that case, I hope that the Minister will not raise any objection to the amendemnt. I am not suggesting that claims should be met merely because they have been made, but only when they have been proved to be just.
– Should there not be a time limit? It would scarcely be fair to ask the department to go back beyond a certain date.
– I take it that any claims which may be outstanding are comparatively recent.
– Why not accept the assurance of the department? The amendment would open the way to a flood of claims.
– I do not agree with the Minister. I ask him whether it is the intention of this proviso to meet other just claims which are proved. Surely, his reply can only be in the affirmative. In that case, why should we not insert in this bill a proviso to meet such cases?
– The wording of the amendment goes further than to cover claims already made. It takes us back to 1901.
– Something should be done to make the position beyond doubt. I do not know when the claim now before the Supreme Court of New South Wales was first made; but I assume that it was within the last year or two.
– It is a fairly old claim.
– There should be some time limit, say six months.
– The Senate should be prepared to accept the assurance of the department that the existing practice will not be altered if this bill becomes law.
– Why has this particular case alone been provided for? It may be that twelve claims have been lodged, but that eleven of them have not yet come before the court. Why should there be a distinction in favour of one claimant ?
– Any other claimants will be in no worse position than before.
– I shall not be satisfied merely to know that they will be in no worse position than previously. I want to ensure that if they have legitimate claims they will be met.
– They will be in the same position as before the passing of this act.
– It does not appear to be equitable to select one claimant and say that his claim will be met, while other claims come within the scope of a clause which is retrospective to 1901..
. - Yesterday I pointed out the Government’s attitude towards the amendment now moved by Senator Payne; I shall, therefore, not debate the matter at length. I can find no means by which we can give relief to the persons whom Senator Payne has in mind beyond the assurance which I have already given that the passing of this legislation will not affect the practice of the Customs Department. Hitherto, both the department and its customers have understood that claims must be lodged within three days of the receipt of goods. In proper cases, the Department of Customs has always been willing to grant an extension of time. That procedure will continue after the passing of this act. Any person who considers that he has a just claim against the department, but lias not lodged his claim within three days, will be treated as in the past. If, on inquiry, the department is satisfied that he had good reason for not lodging his claim earlier his case will receive every consideration.
– Why does the proviso apply to only one case?
– On demurrer this particular flaw was discovered, and this provision is inserted because it would be unfair not to protect the rights of the person who has taken these proceedings, at any rate so far as bis legal expenses are concerned.
.- With all respect to the eminent gentleman whose opinion is before me, I am still unconvinced.. Apparently, the Solicitor-General has gone no further than the Minister arid I reached yesterday. I express my con currence in the view he put regarding the effect of this legislation ; but there is a point beyond that. I expressed it yesterday, and shall, therefore, not reiterate it now. However, if there is any blame, it will be on the head of the department. I suggest to Senator Payne that if the persons in whom he is interested are troubled by the refusal of the Minister, they should launch a test case. I do not think that it is unarguable that this bill does not validate a regulation made under a power that was then nonexistent; that it is nothing, in effect. Ex nihilo, nihil fit. I have a certain amount of sympathy with Senator Payne’s amendment. Exactly the same point arose in connexion with Crown leases in the Northampton case. I agree with the Leader of the Government in the Senate that it is customary to preserve the rights of those who are litigants in the court, at the time when any retrospective legislation is passed. Why I am in doubt about supporting the amendment is that I realize that it is difficult to draw the line. I do not think that it would be just to go back beyond the period of time when this point was decided, because everybody accepted the law and the regulation as a valid exercise of the regulating power by the Government. If you go beyond that period of time you get into exceedingly deep water. In view of the ministerial assurance that nobody will be prejudiced by the introduction of thi? bill, I cannot see how any wrong can be done to anybody, as the department will pursue its customary practice. I do not like retrospective legislation, and I protested against it in the Crown lease case,’ but I admit being impressed with what the Minister said.
– The Minister has given his assurance that nothing will be done to prejudice claims that may be made under the old regulation, and I am quite prepared to accept that assurance. At the same time, I think that I am right in saying, that the court will not accept the Minister’s assurance. It has repeatedly stated that it does not know anything at all about ministerial statements, and will not permit extracts from Hansard to be used as evidence.
– But the court would not raise that point unless it was first raised by the department.
SenatorCARROLL. - I agree, but the Minister, as a member of the legal fraternity, knows that the most extraordinary points are raised in the court on the spur of the moment. There is much to be said about the restriction of claims. Surely there are none dating back 30 years? I should say there are none at the present time that date back more than twelve months. But this amendment refers only to any claims outstanding at the time when the bill is passed.
– The reference is to known or unknown claims.
– I am not an importer, but I dare say that it is the practice of importers to pay the duty claimed, and then to lodge a claim for rebate as a matter of principle in case something may turn up afterwards. Although I do not think that the court will take notice of the Minister’s assurance, I am prepared to accept it.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (West ern Australia) [3.35].- I hope that Senator Payne will not press his amendment. I feel that I could not vote for it. There are two points to remember in regard’ to a claim, one dealing with the legal position, and the other with its departmental treatment. Clearly, if the bill is passed as it is, these people will not be prejudiced in regard to the departmental treatment of a claim. If they have lodged a claim the department will treat it as if this amendment of the act had not been made. They will continue to receive their rights from the department as though the existing law had never been challenged. But are we to say that because these men have lodged claims on the department in the belief that the regulation was valid, that they should not pay the duty, for some reason or other, under the section which has been quoted - that they are now to be given a legal claim? They should be satisfied to be left in the same position as every one else.
.- I am sorry that Senator Pearce has adopted that attitude. My amendment does not seek to give any person an opportunity to obtain an unfair advantage from the department, but merely proposes to assist those who are entitled to a refund to have their claims recognized.
SenatorMcLachlan. - If they made their claim within three days, as prescribed by the regulation, they could go to law with the Minister. The only effect of the new provision is that if they have not lodged their claims within the specified period they are in the hands of the Minister. That has always been the position. Senator Daly has given an assurance that there will be no departure from the previous practice.
– I believe that Senator Payne has a specific case in mind. If he will explain it I shall he glad to have it investigated.
-I could not quote an individual case, but I am confident that there are cases in which claims have been lodged and not settled.
– If they are justclaims, those people will retain their right to apply to the court.
– Not if this provision is made retrospective, as the principal act stipulates that the claim must be lodged within three days after the passing of the entries. If this bill passes as it is, those people will have no rights whatever.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing and sessional orders suspended, and bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Daly) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Wednesday,9th April, at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Daly) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.43]. - I wish to draw attention to a statement that appeared in the Canberra Times, based upon a speech made by me in this chamber in regard to the Seat of Government Bill. It is suggested that honorable senators of the Opposition have decided to take certain action in regard to the ordinance foreshadowed by the Government in connexion with the future government of Canberra. Honorable senators on this side have not and do not propose to take any party action in regard to that bill. They have dealt with it as a non-party measure. I personally propose to take some action if that ordinance is on the lines suggested, but I have not consulted honorable senators on this side of the chamber, nor have I the faintest idea of what they think on the subject.
I believe that the Government should seize this opportunity to do something to constitute a municipal council for Canberra, but that is entirely my personal view. I suggest that the Government has time to reconsider the matter. The remarks that I made on the bill were entirely free from any party motive or bias; made only with the desire to bring about a satisfactory solution of the problem. I appeal to the Government, even though it has made its announcement of policy, to reconsider the matter from an entirely non-party point of view, in the endeavour to bring about a more responsible and representative form of government than that foreshadowed by the bill. I give the Government my assurance that so far as I am concerned there will be no crowing on my part if it does alter its decision. It is a matter we should not drag into the party arena, but I think it is a good opportunity for some more satisfactory method to be adopted. I do not think the method suggested by the Government will give satisfaction, and before it brings down its ordinance, I urge it to give further consideration to what has been suggested.
– I assure the Leader of the Opposition that full consideration will be given the representations he has made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 March 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300328_senate_12_123/>.