12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to announce that Senator Hoare has been appointed Government Whip in the Senate.
– I should like to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether Senator Hoare is working in partnership with Senator Dunn, or whether Senator Dunn has ceased tobe Government Whip? I should also like to know the reason for the change.
– Is the question in order?
– No; the last part of the question is not in order. The Government is not obliged to give reasons for any action it has taken, and most certainly a question is not in order when it is based upon a purely formal statement such as the Minister has just made.
The following paper was presented: -
Transport Workers’ Act - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 158- No. 159; 1931, No. 10.
– I should like to know if the Treasurer has received representations from various soldiers’ organizations asking that instalments of payments on war service homes should be considerably reduced in view of the present unfortunate depression and the reduction in the basic wage.
– So far as I know, no such representations have been received, but if the honorable senator will give notice of his question, I shall endeavour to obtain the required information.
Appointment of Director of Minks
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
What was the total amount of money borrowed by the Commonwealth Government during the three years - 1926-27, 1927-28, and 1928-29 - (a) on behalf of the Commonwealth; (b) on behalf of the States?
How much of this was, in each case - (a) new money; (i) renewals?
What was the amount of Commonwealth indebtedness paid off during the abovementioned period from - (a) sinking fund; (b) other sources?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow:- 1. (a) £114,376,557; (b) £75,840,871. These amounts do not include moneys totalling £30,354,251 raised by the States in 1928-29 by means of counter sales of Commonwealth securities. 2. fa) Commonwealth, £24,329,957; States, £50,687,037; (6) Commonwealth, £90,046,600: States, £25,153,834. 3. (a) £15,926,478; (b) £4,075,401, representing payments to Great Britain in reduction of Australia’s war indebtedness, which were made directly from revenue.
Requested Amendment by Western Australia - Remuneration of Trustees.
asked the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Double Dissolution. - Statement by the Treasurer.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Vice-Presi dent of the Executive Council, upon notice -
What is the latest information received from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research relating to the hydrodization process for obtaining fuel oil from coal?
- Dr. A. C. D. Rivett, Chief Executive Officer, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, conducted investigations, during his recent visit overseas, into the latest developments in connexion with what is known as the “ hydrogenation process.” Dr. Rivett’s report has now been received, and is being considered by the Government. ‘
Price in London.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
Willhe ascertain from the Overseas Marketing Department whether it is a fact that Australian beef sold in London invariably sells at approximately seven-eighths of a penny per pound less than similar beef from New Zealand; and, if so, why?
– The expert officers of the Department of Markets, who are in close touch with the position, advise that the average price obtained for Australian frozen beef in Great Britain is higher than that obtained for New Zealand frozen beef. They further state that the consensus of expert opinion is that the quality of Australian frozen beef is in no way inferior to that of the New Zealand product. Inquiries are being made from the Commonwealth Veterinary Officer in London as to the reason why New Zealand frozen beef was quoted higher than Australian in the London market recently, and I shall be glad to advise the honorable senator of the result of these inquiries.
Trip to Western Australia
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers te the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Has the Government received a telegram from the Bank of New South Wales, the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited and the Australian Bank of Commerce Limited, drawing attention to Income Tax Act (No. 2), recently passed by the Parliament, and pointing out that this legislation appears to enact unfair discrimination against income of banks and financial institutions, and will reduce the capacity of these institutions to assist governments and the community, also that it will militate against a reduction of interest rates, and have other serious consequences ?
Will the Government give early and serious consideration to these representations, with a view to affording some relief by amending legislation?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
The information regarding parts 1 to 4 and 7 to 10 is being compiled by the Public Service Board and will be made available at an early date. The board advises, however, that the preparation of the particulars asked for in 5 and 0 will necessitate the employment of several officers after the usual hours of duty, involving the payment of a considerable amount of overtime. It is hoped in the circumstances that the honorable senator will not press for the supply of this information.
– I suggest to honorable senators that questions similar in nature to this one might with advantage take the form of a motion asking that a return be tabled giving the desired information. That would give the Senate an opportunity to decide whether such action should or should not be taken.’
£28,000,000 CONVERSION LOAN.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that in December, 1930, whilst subscriptions were being invited to the Commonwealth conversion loan of £28,000,000, an assurance was given by the then Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) that no action would be taken by the Government in the direction of inflating the currency ?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
In most cases, the writers desired some assurance that the Government would not countenance repudiation of Commonwealth loan obligations or resort to such inflation as would be tantamount to repudiation.
On behalf of the Government, Mr. Lyons stated he had no hesitation in giving the desired assurances.
He did this not only as Acting Treasurer of the Commonwealth, but also in his capacity as chairman of the Australian Loan Council, which body, representing the Commonwealth and all the States, had approved the terms of the present loan. 2, 3, 4, and 5. The assurances were given on behalf of the Scullin Government, but as the Prime Minister was then absent from the Commonwealth, the fact that such assurances were given was not within his knowledge at the time, nor was his assent sought. The Prime Minister, however, agrees with the assurances given by Mr. Lyons as Acting Treasurer and regards such assurances as binding on the present Government.
Is the Prime Minister in receipt of a letter dated6th February, and a telegram dated 28th February, from the secretary of the executive of the South Australian Labour party, appealing for a reduction of the duty on 12 x 6 Oregon from 14s. to 8s. per 100 feet super ?
Will the Prime Minister take steps to have the duty reduced in accordance with the appeal ? ,
Will the Prime Minister cause an investigation to be made as to the reasons for increasing the duties above the figure recommended by the Tariff Board?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The Government is aware of the serious position of the wheat-growers of Australia, owing to the fall in world prices of wheat, and owing to the absence of that pro tection which the Wheat Marketing Bill would have afforded them.
Suggested Fiduciary Loan
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The right honorable the Prime Minister has furnished the following reply to the honorable senator’s questions: -
The honorable senator brought under notice a telegram whichhe had received from the Wheatbelt Tribune requesting him to ask a question in the Senate, but the terms of the telegram were such as to indicate that the matter did not call for serious consideration. No direct communication has, however, been received by the Government from the company.
Minister representing the Treasurer. upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Notice of motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce), vide page 49, called on, and - by leave - withdrawn.
Order of the day for resumption of debate from 4th December (vide page 971) on motion by Senator McLachlan, called and discharged.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Barnes) read a. first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Dooley), read a first time.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [3.24]. - I move -
That North Australia Ordinance No. 18 of 1930, and Central Australia Ordinance No. 15 of 1930, made under the Northern Australia Act 1926, be disallowed.
In submitting this motion I should like to be permitted to express the hope that, now that Senator R. D. Elliott has returned to Australia from, his trip to Great Britain and Europe, he will proceed with the discussion of a subject which has been held in abeyance during his absence. I refer to the appointment of select committees under the standing committee system, particularly the appointment of a select committee whose business it should be to review regulations that are tabled so frequently and in such number that, in the absence of some orderly system, it is impossible for honorable senators to be conversant with them. This Parliament is singular in the scope which it gives to the executive government in the making of regulations. Under the Rules Publication Act 1903, provision was made that no regulation should come into force until it had been published for a period of 60 days. In that respect our legislation followed the British precedent. But, during the war, it was found here and in Great Britain, as well as in other countries, that sometimes regulations were demanded almost on the spur of the moment, and that this prohibition against their coming into force until they had been published for 60 days was likely to do more harm than good. To get over this difficulty the Imperial Parliament enacted that, where it was considered likely that regulations would need to be framed and come into operation at once, provision should be included in the act itself that any regulations made under a particular section of it should not be subject to the Rules Publication Act. By that means every facility was provided for prompt action ; but, at the same time, nothing was done to destroy the power of Parliament, or to extend the power of the Government, in the matter of issuing regulations. The Commonwealth Parliament, not satisfied to follow British precedent, took the very extreme step of repealing that portion of the Rules Publication Act which provided for the pre-publication of regulations. The result is that regulations can be brought into force immediately they are gazetted. Parliament may not be in session when they are gazetted, and even after Parliament meets there may be a long interval - as long as 30 days - before they are tabled, so that regulations may be framed and be in operation for a long time without the knowledge or consent of Parliament.
In connexion with Northern Territory matters, the. Government has gone a step further. The fault did not rest originally with the present Government, but with one of its predecessors. Under the Northern Australia Act of 1926 an ordinance was framed in which provision was made that the Administrator of either of the territories could himself frame regulations, which when framed should be subject only to the Minister. Parliament missed its opportunity when it failed to disallow that ordinance. Actually, the fault did not rest with the Parliament, because Parliament was not wilfully, but inadvertently, deprived of its opportunity. That particular ordinance which gave the administrators power to frame regulations over which Parliament had no control was promulgated in 1918, but was not tabled in Parliament until March of last year - some twelve years after it came into operation. The position set up was that a Minister framing a regulation was compelled to table it in Parliament, and Parliament had the right to disallow it. But under this ordinance, an administrator could make a regulation and, so long as it was approved by the Minister, Parliament was robbed of any opportunity to pass judgment upon it. On the 9th April of last year I submitted a motion to the effect that the ordinance framed in 191S - which had not been tabled, until a week or two before my motion was submitted - be disallowed. I said that the Government should amend it by providing that, in future, no regulation framed by an administrator should be exempt from the review of Parliament. The then Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly), in replying to the motion, said -
I entirely agree with the principles laid down by Senator Colebatch. I can assure honorable senators that there is no need to press this motion to impress upon the present Government the necessity for legislating on different lines from those adopted in the past. The present Government is opposed to legislation by regulation. The Minister has also advised me that I can assure the Senate that, while this ordinance is in course of reconsideration
He had previously given an assurance that the particular regulation framed under this ordinance had been suspended, and was being reconsidered - he has taken the precaution to advise the Government Residents in the territory that they are not to issue regulations under it until they have first been submitted to the Minister. In future the Minister will not permit the Government Resident to make any regulations which, under this ordinance, the Minister can make. The Senate can rest assured that the Government is taking all the necessary precautions, but does not desire the “ordinance to be disallowed, because of the chaos that would be created-
Quite a natural contention, as the ordinance had been in operation for twelve years.
In view of the assurance which I now give the Senate on behalf of the Government, that the principles enunciated by Senator Colebatch are those with which I think we arc all in full accord, and that immediate steps are being taken to give legislative effect to what is desired, I trust the honorable senator will withdraw his motion.
Then, in reply to an interjection, he said -
Under the new system it is proposed that regulations of any description whatever shall be tabled in Parliament before they shall have any legal effect.
On the strength of that assurance I withdrew the motion. What has happened? These particular regulations, relating to the employment of half-castes, were gazetted in the Northern Territory Gazette on, I think, the 29th October, or at any rate some time in October, as regulations made by the Administrator, not as regulations made by the Minister, and, therefore, exempt from any review by this House or the other branch of the legislature. A few days later, the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) made certain trifling amendments - merely an alteration of “words in the regulations - and those alterations, utterly unimportant, correcting only a few words, were then tabled in the Senate as regulations made by the Minister. All this House could do was, if it chose, to disallow the utterly unimportant alterations made by the Minister. The effect of those alterations was something like this : In the original regulations relating to agreements and framed by the Administrator, the word “ employee “ was used before the word “ employer “. The Minister apparently thought that that was not quite right, and placed the “ employer “ before the “ employee The only effect of the alteration was that the agreement in question had first to be signed by the employer and then by the employee. I do not think that an employer would care two straws as to the order in which the words were used. The position now is that, in spite of the undertaking of the then Minister (Senator Daly), in response to which I withdrew my motion, which, no doubt, the Senate would have carried, the whole pf the material portion of these regulations which we were then discussing has been gazetted, the regulations are in force as regulations framed under an ordinance, but have not been tabled in Parliament, and are not subject to parliamentary approval. All that has been tabled in Parliament are those utterly unimportant alterations which the Minister saw fit to make. Obviously we have no power to disallow the regulations framed by the administrator. They are, however, part of a policy by which the Government appears determined to hamper to the greatest possible extent those persons who, in the face of the greatest difficulties, are endeavouring to develop industries in the northern portion of the continent.
The regulations with which we can deal - those which are the subject of this motion - have been discussed between the parties; but in every instance in which there was a difference of opinion the Government has accepted the view of the local trades union ‘organization and ignored that of the station owners and others. For instance, the lessees association suggested that a provision should be inserted along the lines of the legislation in operation in New South “Wales which exempts from certain provisions small employers with fewer than five employees. The Government disregarded that request. The association also suggested that in the case of buildings already erected, or in course of erection, not more than three persons should be allowed to occupy each compartment, and that buildings erected in the future should be constructed to accommodate not more than two persons in each compartment. The Government refused to comply with that request.
Instead, it insisted that in every building erected prior to the commencement of the ordinance provision be made for not more than two persons to occupy each compartment, and that in the case of buildings erected after the passing of the ordinance, only one person should occupy each compartment.
Again, instead of adopting the legislation in operation in New South “Wales and Queensland, which provides that each person shall be provided with 4S0 cubic feet of air space - a generous provision - he should be provided with 600 cubic feet of air space.
There are many other minor matters which are scarcely worth detailing. One of them refers to the provision of baths. The employers suggested that shower baths should be regarded as adequate, but their views were not upheld by the Government.
The general tenor of the regulations is greatly to increase the cost of providing accommodation, and to harass employers unnecessarily. There is no desire on the part of any of the employers to give their officers other than decent accommodation. If the Government is determined to ignore entirely the view point of the employers, to issue regulations which go far beyond those framed by labour governments in Queensland and New South Wales, and to continue the process of allowing the administrator to frame regulations which cannot be reviewed by Parliament, then those persons who are endeavouring to carry on industries in Central Australia and North Australia, will be placed in an impossible position.
I hope that the Senate will disallow these regulations, not so much because they are, in themselves, of great importance, but in order to indicate, first, that it resents the breach of faith which has been committed in regard to the previous reflations and, secondly, that it considers that the reasonable wishes of employers who are endeavouring to establish industries under difficult conditions should be given due consideration.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (West ern Australia) [3.45]. - I second the motion. I have had the opportunity of travelling through that, part of the Northern Territory to which these regulations will apply, and I know that they will be a public nuisance. These regulations might be all right if applied only to districts adjacent to railways where the necessary material could be obtained comparatively easily; but they should not be made to apply to outback cattle stations on the Barkly Tableland, the Victoria Downs country, and, to some extent, the Alice Springs district also. The enforcement of the regulations in those areas would practically force lessees oft’ their holdings. I shall endeavour to bring home to the Government the cost of complying with these regulations in the case of people on the Barkly Tableland. When I was in that district some years ago, I was informed that a ton of flour, which had been purchased in Sydney for £12, cost £52 landed at the station, £40 having been added to the purchase price to meet freight, handling and other charges. Flour is an article not difficult to handle ; the cost would be greater in the case of some other articles. Is the Government aware that there is no timber suitable for building purposes on the Barkly Tableland? Does it know that the timber necessary for pumping engines has to be conveyed 20 or 30 miles on camels? That timber, moreover, is entirely unsuitable for building purposes. Timber suitable for building purposes would have to be carted, at tremendous expense, from districts far removed from that part of the territory. Notwithstanding these difficulties, the Government has brought in regulations which, as Senator Colebatch has already pointed out, are more stringent than those in operation in New South Wales and Queensland, where, in most instances, there is an abundant supply of timber within easy reach or obtainable by rail. Galvanized iron, which is an essential material for building construction in those areas, would have to be carried hundreds of miles on camels. The persons responsible for the framing of these regulations cannot have the slightest conception of the conditions under which those who live in the outback portions of the continent carry on.
There are some extraordinary* provisions in this ordinance which do not appear at first sight. I point out, first, that they are not applicable only to cattle stations. “Employer” means any owner or manager of a cattle station, and includes a part owner or acting manager, or any person in charge of a station, or, in respect of work or occupation declared by the Governor-General under section 4 of this ordinance to be works or occupations to which this ordinance shall apply, means any owner, master, manager, foreman, overseer, contractor, or other person having control of employees engaged on those works or the works carried on in connexion with these occupations. Theregulations could, if desired by the Government, be made to apply to a tin mine, or any other of those industries which even now are barely able to keep on their feet. They could be applied to the peanut-growing industry, which, apart from cattle raising, is probably the only industry in Northern Australia which at present offers satisfactory prospects.
I also . desire to point out that theseregulations will not necessarily be administered by the members of the police force. Regulation 8 reads -
For the purposes of carrying out the provisions of this ordinance any inspector may a,t any time enter any premises or any building used for accommodating employees and anr tent or other structure used for accommodating employees employed temporarily.
Regulations 6 and 7 indicate the persons who may be appointed inspectors. They read -
Regulation 7 also provides that members of the police force shall be ex-officio inspectors for the purpose of this ordinance. Who are the persons whom it is intended to appoint? Will they be paid officers? Is it suggested that further appointments are to be made to the army of officials already in existence?
All buildings erected after the commencement ot this ordinance shall be divided into compartments each compartment to accommodate not more than one person.
That provision is not in force, I venture to say, on farms within easy reach of this capital city, where labour is employed, yet it is proposed to enforce it upon people who are at the back of beyond. Here is another delicate provision - (d)No room used for sleeping shall be used for the cooking or serving of meals or for the storage of food, and, except as is prescribed in any particular class of cases, sleepingrooms must not adjoin or directly communicate with rooms used for cooking meals ;
In our own homes, those of us who are of modest means have perforce to have rooms adjoining the cooking place, but in this far-distant locality, where the cost of transporting wood and iron is £40 a ton, we are to demand that people shall not have a living room adjoining the cooking place. It is also provided in this ordinance that sleeping accommodation shall be provided for cooks and their assistants in a compartment or compartments separate from the sleeping accommodation provided for other employees. Class distinction ! We have heard of the doctrine of class hatred, but it is carrying that doctrine to an extreme when the cook is not supposed to be allowed to sleep in the same compartment as other employees. How ridiculous it is to impose such a burden on struggling unfortunates who are barely able to live under present conditions. I trust the Senate will disallow the whole ordinance. We ought to try to assist these people instead of preventing them from making a living. I wish I could take Senator Dooley and Senator Barnes to some of the localities where this ordinance would operate, and show them some of the hardships the people there are undergoing.
– In submitting his motion, Senator Colebatch traversed the whole principle of laying ordinances on the table, and the effect of Ordinance No. 15 of 1930 was evidently of minor concern. His remarks had certainly little bearing on the particular ordinance chosen by him for his onslaught.
-They had a very definite bearing on it, because the Government has done exactly the same in this ordinance as it did before.
– The contents of this ordinance were not taken into account by SenatorColebatch except to a minor degree. The ordinance, which he said was of a drastic character, was one giving the administrators of the Northern Territory power to make regulations which should be subject only to the approval of the Minister, and need not be laid before the Senate. The present ordinance has been framed as the result of conferences between representatives of the men, the health authorities, and the pastoral lessees.
– Yes, but the wishes of the pastoralists have been ignored.
– The pastoralists were consulted. As a matter of fact the system of administration has been altered at the request of the pastoralists.
In consequence of a suggestion made by way of interjection, Senator Pearce said that this ordinance represented Mr. Nelson’s idea of getting his union organizers appointed as inspectors. No provision is made for the appointment of any special number of inspectors, and at the present time there is no need for any. The Government Resident or the Administrator, as the case may be, would only have this regulation brought into force subject to the Minister’s approval. No hardship need be imposed on those struggling pastoralists in the back country referred to by Senator Pearce, the men whose flour has to be conveyed to them on camels at great cost. Section 4, sub-section 3 provides -
Under special circumstances the Minister may, by notice in the Gazette, exempt any employer wholly or partly from the operation of this ordinance for such period ashe thinks fit.
– It would be necessary to exempt the lot.
– No. Those who have had experience of the back country and know the conditions under which many employees are obliged to live, would not agree to that. The employees are entitled to some consideration, and I am sure that the men in the Northern Territory must be suffering greater hardships than their fellows in New South Wales, for whom proper accommodation has to be provided, although the general surroundings and climatic conditions are very much better there than they are in the territory. The accommodation regulations are to be applied to structures erected in the future. Honorable senators may hold that many employers in the territory are not in a position at present to erect new buildings. If that is so, no hardship will be imposed upon them. The regulations will apply to buildings already erected, which do not comply with any form of decency. Until the Shearers Accommodation Act became law in New South Wales there were many shacks which were not fit for human occupation.
– They were not fit for dogs.
– That is so. On a previous occasion I mentioned a case which came under my notice. Three weeks before men took possession of a certain shearers’ camp it had been used for cattle. The earth floor had been so dug up by cattle that before the shearers could enter they had to throw water on it to lay the dust. In the shed the bunks were arranged in three tiers and were alive with vermin.
– I have seen a good many of these places, and I have never yet seen vermin in them.
– I am sure that the honorable senator cannot have had much experience of the back country in the days before the Shearers Accommodation Act came into force.
– Yes, I have had that experience. There was never any vermin to be seen in those huts.
– In the case to which I am referring, the men had to remove the carcass of a bullock which had died in the hut from cancer. No honorable senator would agree that that was decent accommodation to provide for human beings. The bunks were arranged all round the hut and the cook camped among the others and among the food. According to Senator Pearce it is ridiculous to have the cook and cook’s mate sleeping away from the cook house.
– No, apart from the other men.
– In our homes we do not have roaring fires and breadbaking; consequently there is not that degree of heat which would make it uncomfortable for us to sleep alongside the cooking place. The sleeping accommo- elation provided for cooks and their assistants is separated from that of other employees, because of the irregular working hours of the cooks. It would be very injudicious to have men who may have to begin work at midnight or 4 o’clock in the morning sleeping alongside others who work during the normal hours of the day. The sleeping accommodation is separated from that space set aside for dining purposes for hygienic reasons, and also in order that the men should not have their sleeping quarters alongside the oven, the heat from which would make their resting place very unpleasant indeed. The principal object of the ordinance is to provide decent living conditions for employees, in an effort to preserve their health. Objection lias been taken to the amount of cubic feet of air space provided by the ordinance. It must be remembered that the conditions in that area are far different from those obtaining in, say, New South Wales. The restriction as to the number of persons sleeping in a compartment is a reasonable one. I am sure that honorable senators would object to being herded with a number of strangers, or, perhaps, even domiciled with blacks. Those employees are just as much entitled to decent living conditions as are others in more privileged circumstances.
To justify my contention as to the necessity for this ordinance, I shall quote an extract from an award given by His Honour Chief Judge Dethridge in 1927, in the matter of the North Australia Workers Union and the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association and others. In delivering his judgment, His Honour made the following remarks as to accommodation for employees in the cattle station industry in the Northern Territory : -
The present award requires accommodation to be provided “ at least equal to the general accommodation at present in the tableland,’’ a requirement which is so vague as to offer no definite criterion. It is clearly disclosed from the evidence that on some stations the accommodation provided for employees is poor, and that some improvement may reasonably be urged, but for me to insert the clause claimed by the union would be a more futility unless some Government department properly equipped with inspectors and other officers were in existence in the territory to enforce the award. There is no such department, and, even if there wore, it would probably have to be vested with wide discretionary powers in view of the present unprosperous state of the cattle industry. In the circumstances, I shall continue the present award clause for what it is worth.
This ordinance makes the necessary provision to bring the accommodation for employees up to a satisfactory standard. The subject has been carefully considered from every angle, and the action of the Government has the approval of the health authorities. A draft copy of the ordinance was submitted to the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association for comment, and, on the 19th May of last year, that body suggested the following alterations : -
That where less than five employees are employed and reside on the premises during their employment, the accommodation required shall be deemed proper and sufficient for their comfort and health if the following conditions are fulfilled: -
1 ) Not less than 480 cubic feet of air space shall be allowed to each employee in any sleeping compartment.
– The ordinance provides for 600 cubic feet.
– The Chief Medical Officer of North Australia strongly urges that the minimum amount of air space shall be 600 cubic feet, and in his report stated that he did not think that the objecting pastoralists realized how little space 480 cubic feet really affords. He also pointed out that, in the Half-caste Home in the territory, each child has 450 cubic feet of air space with the outside walls latticed, and, therefore, continually open.
– That is at Darwin. Conditions in this area cannot be compared with those at Darwin.
– The second part asked for by the pastoralists was that -
In buildings constructed prior to the passing of the ordinance, or in the course of erection, not more than three persons shall be accommodated in any one sleeping compartment.
The difference is merely that of one person, the ordinance providing for two. The association further urged that -
In buildings constructed after the passing of this ordinance, not more than two persons shall be accommodated in any one sleeping compartment.
The ordinance provides for one. I do not wish to labour the subject. I feel sure that honorable senators will appreciate the wisdom of the ordinance, and that they are not so much opposed to it as to the one under which the Administrator of the Northern Territory is empowered to make regulations, subject only to the approval of the Minister. I am confident that they realize that this ordinance will not impose any hardship on the pastoralists, but will merely ensure that buildings which are not fit for human habitation will be improved. If the employer cannot obtain the necessary material, the Administrator has discretionary powers in the matter.
– It is not so much a matter of obtaining the material, as of the price that will have to be paid.
– I am satisfied that if the price were excessive the employer would not be called upon to erect the building. All such factors would be considered. I am confident that the ordinance will be administered in a fair and impartial manner. That is all that the Government asks. I commend the ordinance to honorable senators, and express the hope that it will meet with their approval.
– I think that the Minister has misapprehended one of the provisions of the ordinance which brought down what he was pleased to describe as an “ onslaught “ from Senator Colebatch. The very vice to which Senator Colebatch referred is again being perpetrated under section 16 of the ordinance, which gives the Government Resident power to make regulations. It was in complaint of that, as well as of the general provisions of the ordinance, that the honorable senator made reference to what has been done in another matter. I should welcome the relief that Senator Dooley visualizes will be given under the ordinance, but repeat that the Minister has mis-apprehended the force of Senator Colebatch’s contention, which has a direct bearing on the matter to which I have referred.
I believe that the members of the Government and those responsible for the ordinance have the position of Central Australia altogether out of its true perspective. They hope to develop the interior of this country. Heaven knows. there are difficulties enough in the way of its development, as was pointed out by Senator Pearce; difficulties of which the practical men of the country have to their sorrow and great expense become very familiar. Those who are persisting in imposing hampering restrictions on our pioneers advance no satisfactory argument in justification of their action when they quote as a parallel the development of those parts of New South Wales and Queensland which adjoin the territory. These people are living under pioneering conditions. If hampering restrictions are imposed upon them, a great deal of country now in process of development will be thrown back into the hands of the Government. I was glad to hear the reference, by the Minister, to the suggestions contained in the letter of the 19th of May last from the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association. The correspondence on this subject shows that the making of these ordinances was in the first place submitted by the Minister to the organization, which had an opportunity of offering certain recommendations. It appears that the Government embarked on this business of making ordinances for the accommodation of employees of pastoralists some time in March of last year, for I find that, on the 19th and the 23rd May, the Lessees Association communicated with the Government, setting out its views with regard to the matter. A perusal of that letter of the 19th May shows clearly that there was no desire, on the part of the lessees, to evade compliance with the ordinary decencies of nature or with as many of them as could be provided under pioneering conditions. The people who are developing that vast area of country in North and Central Australia have to put up with conditions which would not, of course, be tolerated in the more densely populated centres of the Commonwealth. Many of us have had actual experience of the mode of living that obtains in our out-back country. We know what the people there have to endure. In his communication of the 19th May, 1930, the secretary of the Lessees Association, referring to the draft accommodation ordinance, mentioned in the department’s communication of the 30th of March, recommended that a new clause, 9a, be inserted, to read as follows: -
Whore less than five persons are employed and reside on the premises during their employment, the accommodation provided shall be deemed proper and sufficient for their comfort and health if the following conditions are fulfilled . . .
The letter then goes on to mention that the first condition should be the provision of not less than 480 cubic feet of air space for each employee in any sleeping compartment. This, I may add, is exactly in accordance with the provisions of the Queensland and New South Wales acts. There is no reason why more than 480 cubic feet of air space should be necessary in North and Central Australia, as such air space is considered sufficient for any part of Queensland.
– Is it sufficient for any part of Queensland?
– The people of Queensland have found it sufficient, for I understand that there have been no complaints. I am familiar with the accommodation provided for shearers in New South Wales. In my judgment it is ample. It must be remembered, also, that the climatic conditions of the Barkly Tableland are unrivalled. Nevertheless, this Government, acting, I understand, on the advice of some medical officer residing in Darwin, who has not had an opportunity to make himself acquainted with the actual conditions of the hinterland, has ordered that the pastoralists there shall provide 600 cubic feet of air space for each person in a sleeping compartment.
– The Barkly Tableland is not the whole of the Northern Territory.
– It is that port of the territory which is vitally affected by one of these ordinances, and it is the only part which this or any other Government can expect to see developed to any considerable extent in the near future. This so-called legislation is, I regret to say, anything but an incentive to our pioneers. The Lessees Association recommended, further, that -
In buildings constructed prior to the passing of this ordinance, not more than three persons shall be accommodated in any one sleeping compartment, and in buildings constructed after the passing of this ordinance, not more than two persons shall be accommodated in any on? sleeping compartment.
That is not unreasonable. The association also recommended that section 10, sub-section b, of the proposed ordinance be altered to read -
All buildings used, or in course of erection at the commencement of this ordinance, for sleeping, shall be divided into compartments, each compartment to accommodate not more than three persons.
All buildings erected after the commencement of this ordinance, for sleeping, shall be divided into compartments, each to accommodate not more than two persons.
This recommendation was made for the purpose of relieving the position of those lessees who had already erected buildings for the accommodation of their employees. It indicated, also, that the pastoralists were prepared to comply with all reasonable requirements in future structures. It is obvious that the medical officer upon whose suggestions the Government acted was not conversant with conditions in the out-back country. Senator O’Halloran, who has had considerable experience in this matter, will, I am sure, admit that certain of the recommendations made by the medical officer referred to were not quite reasonable. The Government, in making these regulations, has adopted an entirely wrong attitude. In the matter of baths, for example, the Lessees Association suggested that shower baths and an adequate supply of water should be supplied if available. Surely that should meet the requirements in our outback country. Is it reasonable to ask that these unfortunate lessees, who are engaged in the development of Northern and Central Australia, shall be put to all the expense of obtaining material from Sydney, Brisbane, or other centres for the purpose of providing plunge baths for their employees? Even if the conveniences were made available they would not be used by the employees, because their preference is for a shower if it is provided. These ordinances are a travesty on governmental policy for ostensibly the development of our outback pastoral areas. The association explained that it? proposals were mainly based on the Shearers’ Accommodation Act as at present in force in Queensland, and, in one particular, on the New South Wales Rural Workers Accommodation Act. T may add that the pastoral employees also based their suggestions on the provisions of the Queensland and New South Wale# acts, which, we may assume, they regard as extremely fair. At all events they were prepared to accept similar provisions in an ordinance relating to the Northern Territory; but the Government, without by your leave, or with your leave, made regulations without further reference to the New South Wales or Queensland legislation on this subject. The letter from the secretary of the Pastoral Lessees Association referring to the accommodation to be provided for employees, stated -
Our first proposal is with a view to assisting the smaller pastoralists. It has been found in New South Wales that the limitation which we propose has been of very great importance to the smaller land-owner, and has been one which has given him a justifiable measure of relief, and it is consequently felt that it would be only reasonable to have this clause inserted in the Ordinance…..
I might point out, at this juncture, that any question of imposing a liability on pastoralists to expend money at the present time, is one which should be very carefully considered in view of the very critical period through which pastoralists in Northern aud Central Australia are, and have been, passing.
The responsible Minister must have been aware, after the receipt of that communication of the 19th May, from the Lessees Association, that it objected to the inclusion of clause 16 in the ordinance, which gives the government resident power to make regulations relating to the industry. In all the circumstances the Government would be well advised to withdraw the ordinance and substitute another containing more reasonable provisions to govern the development of the Northern Territory. Nobody would object to regulations requiring reasonable facilities and conveniences to be provided for employees of pastoralists in that portion’ of the Commonwealth. It would, however, appear that the Government is looking at this matter from the wrong point of view. The Minister has been influenced by his environment, which as we know, counts for a great deal. If this Government believes that the country can be developed under the conditions provided in these ordinances, it is mistaken; rather will they redound to the detriment of this vast area of our unoccupied hinterland.
– I am astounded at what I regard as this inhuman proposal to disallow the ordinances, simply because objection is taken to the manner in which they have been brought in. Senator Colebatch admitted that he did not have very much to offer by way of criticism of the regulations, but he objected to the manner in which the Government proposed to give effect to its policy. This, in my judgment, is not a sufficient reason for the disallowance of the ordinances. The Assistant Minister (Senator Dooley) has, I think, fully answered most of the points that were raised in the debate. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) indulged in a certain amount of sobstuff. The right honorable gentleman stated that those engaged in pioneering work in the Northern Territory could not hope to educate their children because of the long distance from any school. We all know that every mau who goes into that country expects to suffer a number of disabilities. He takes up his work with full knowledge of the hardships that he will have to endure, and with the hope that his energies will be amply rewarded by his future prosperity. Although I have been an employee for the greater part of my life, I was, at one time, an employer on a small scale, and I know that every employer is inspired by the hope that, as a result of his perseverance and energy he will, in time, attain a competence. A man engaged in pioneering work cheerfully faces the prospect of hardships for a number of years, because of the hope of future success; but he has no right to expect paid employees to suffer the same disabilities. If I were an owner of a station or farm property I would be willing to work longer hours, expend more energy, and experience greater hardship in building up a fortune than I could reasonably expect any employee to do. That is the point of view which honorable senators opposite and those whom they represent almost invariably fail to recognize. Although an employer may experience certain disabilities and take some risks, he possesses opportunities to improve his position. He is on a totally different basis from that of a daily or weekly employee who receives only a meagre wage for his services. Senator McLachlan and Senator Sir Hal Colebatch have, I suppose, spent their lives in proximity to such large cities as Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, but honorable senators on this side of the chamber, who have spent most of their time in the more remote portions of the different States, are more intimate with the conditions under which men there have to labour. I have not seen these regulations until to-day; but I cannot find anything unreasonable in them. There may. be few instances in which concessions might be made, but it is ridiculous to suggest that the future settlement of North or Central Australia is likely to be seriously imperilled, or that those engaged in industry in that portion of the Commonwealth are likely to be driven out of business by reason of these regulations. It is utterly absurd to make such a suggestion. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) referred to the difficulty in obtaining timber suitable for providing housing accommodation in those districts far removed from timbered country. We admit that. But how many men would be ruined by having to obtain the quantity of timber necessary to build a decent hut for a few men? Why should not decent housing accommodation be provided for men who are employed in the more remote parts of Australia 1 I see no reason why five men should not be as decently housed as 500 should be. Furthermore, is it suggested that only timber can be used in building these structures? In the tropical or semi-tropical districts there is nothing to prevent fibro plaster, which is a comparatively cheap material, from being used. Huts constructed of such material would be clean, cool and sanitary and the freightage on it would be less than on timber.
– Timber framework would have to be obtained.
– I admit that some timber would be required. I am sure Senator Cooper will not dispute the fact that the number of employees required to be housed on the average station in Northern Australia is not so great as to necessitate the erection of large structures. The cost of the timber required for a hut to comply with these regulations would not seriously affect the annual expense of any station-owner. It is an absurdly exaggerated contention to suggest that the future settlement of
Northern Australia would be seriously imperilled if these regulations were not disallowed. It appears to me that nothing is too mean or too trivial for honorable senators opposite to base an attack upon the conditions under which the wage-earners shall live. On more than one occasion I have heard Senator Colebatch assert that the alleged high standard of living in Australia was not nearly high enough, and is merely sham and humbug. Shall we improve the standard of living by disallowing these regulations ? The honorable senator objects to the conditions under which they are framed ; but there is nothing in them that is likely to seriously affect the financial position of even the humblest stationowner in Northern Australia. Disregarding for the moment the position of those employed on the tablelands, where, owing to the altitude, the air is fresh and the temperature lower, it is fair to assume that most of the men affected by these regulations will be living in tropical country, where the heat is very pronounced, and where the summer lasts for the greater portion of the year. The conditions in that part of Australia are not so temperate as they are in Victoria, New South Wales, and the southern portion of Queensland. In these circumstances, additional air space is necessary. The Senate should devote its time to more serious problems instead of attacking the wage-earners of this country in such a paltry fashion. If these regulations are disallowed, the persons employed in the districts to which they apply, will be left without proper protection. I am aware of the regulations in operation in New South Wales referred to by Senator McLachlan, and recall the bitter fight put up by the friends of honorable senators opposite against the conditions imposed upon employers with respect to the provision of decent accommodation for their employees. Those who have toiled in country districts know that in some instances the most abominable accommodation was provided by some employers. It was far worse than that provided for a pet dog, and infinitely worse than the stables for a racehorse. Everything we have gained has been obtained in face of the most conservative and bitter opposition of those who are now trying to disallow these regulations. It would be a disgrace to the Senate to agree to the motion, because of the manner in which the regulations have been framed, since their disallowance would leave the employees at the tender mercies of the employers.
.- I am in agreement with some of the views expressed by Senator Rae ; but he should remember that conditions have changed during recent years. The Assistant Minister (Senator Dooley) spoke of the existence of vermin in many of the buildings provided for station hands, but, as I stated by interjection, he grossly exaggerated the position. They were not verminous in my day. I have travelled extensively in the back country of Australia, and know the conditions which existed in the shearing sheds and in the men’s huts in the earlydays to which Senator Rae has referred in such graphic language. But things have changed. The accommodation now provided is a great improvement upon that which was available years ago. There are very few buildings in which vermin could be found. Years ago I saw huts provided for men which were a disgrace, and many of which had to be thoroughly cleansed before they could be occupied. The Minister’s references to shearing sheds have no bearing on this matter, as very little shearing is done in Northern Australia.
– Suitable accommodation should be provided for those employed on cattle stations.
– Yes ; but the number employed on cattle stations is not nearly as large as in connexion with sheepshearing, when shearers, musterers, rouseabouts, and others are engaged. Except during the mustering and branding period, only a small ‘number of men are employed on cattle stations.
– The musterers and branders camp out.
– Yes, they prefer to. I have camped out in many places, particularly in Queensland, and during eight months of the year there I would prefer to sleep in the open. Before the days of the gentlemen shearers, who own motor cycles and bicycles, the men engaged in shearing carried their own tents, and occupied them in many cases rather than the huts because they preferred to keep away from the noise of those who devoted their spare time to gambling. They found it preferable to live under canvas. I am surprised that Senator Rae should give us so much sentimental trash concerning these men. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Barnes) knows as well as I do that, in the past, stationowners spent large sums of money in providing accommodation which was not appreciated. The money was wasted. From my experience I should say that the average man employed in North Australia would prefer a bath in a water hole, or at a bore rather than a plunge bath. If plunge baths were provided I do not think tha tone man in a thousand would use them. There are no roofs on the bathrooms. The position is different where large numbers of men are collected at the shearing sheds on big stations. The Government has copied the regulations of New South Wales and Queensland; but they are not applicable to the cattle stations in the Northern Territory. During recent years, many station-owners have gone out of their way to make conditions more attractive to their employees. The dirty conditions of the past have disappeared, as I know from my own experience. These regulations provide that each man should have at least 600 cubic feet of air space. That means a room 8 ft. x 8 ft. x 9 ft. 6 in. high. What an idiotic provision ! Excepting in the wet season, there is little need for doors or windows in Queensland. Already the cattlemen in the Northern Territory have been hard hit; the promulgation of regulations of this kind will neither help them nor encourage others to go out into the back portions of the Commonwealth. Regulations of so stringent a nature are not necessary on cattle stations where generally the number of men is small.
I know from my own experience that many of the men who have been appointed inspectors are utterly unfitted for their job. While keeping within the letter of the law, they force station owners to incur much unnecessary expense. Many of them are ignorant men who, if they do not easily get their own way, use the power of the law to enforce it, instead of acting in a common-sense manner. I have not been in the Northern Territory, but I have been in that part of Queensland which adjoins it. The conditions are so similar that the differences are not worth mentioning. From a climatic point of view the Barkly tableland is probably better than the adjoining country in Queensland. Knowing the conditions as I do, I shall have no hesitation in voting for the disallowance of the regulations if a division is called for by Senator Colebatch.
– I shall certainly force this matter to a division.
– I know what I am speaking about when I say that the men who live in those outback areas deserve all the good things that they can get ; but there is no need for all this spoon-feeding, it is only an annoyance and an expense.
– Would the honorable senator apply to the Northern Territory the regulations in operation in Queensland?
– There is no need for them. The Queensland regulations have been drafted chiefly to deal with shearing sheds on sheep stations. In the Northern Territory the stock raised comprises cattle for the most part. In considering this matter, we should not lose sight of the fact that very few white men are employed on cattle stations; the work is done chiefly by blackfellows, than whom no better cattlemen exist once they have been trained. They are, however, rather hard on horses. Generally, the white men employed on cattle stations belong to the house, and even where they do not, they frequently have their meals with the “ boss “ in the house. Only at branding time are additional white men engaged.
– The branding is nearly always done away from the station buildings.
– That is so. The men live in camps. Although .tents are supplied they prefer to sleep out. Honorable senators may not be aware that in the Northern Territory there is little or no dew. Two days after the heaviest rain there is not sufficient moisture on the ground to wet a handkerchief. In view of the climatic conditions of the Northern Territory, all this talk of the necessity for providing elaborate accommodation for men on cattle stations is so much flapdoodle. In my opinion, the Administrator has too much power, while the inspectors generally do more harm than good.
I remind the Senate that the miners, who really made Australia, were not provided with plunge baths or any of the other comforts set out in these regulations. They camped out in tents in all kinds of weather; they made their own damper; no camp cooks were provided for them. It is true that some of them built huts for themselves on the more permanent fields. I have been in some of those huts, and found them very comfortable. But the majority of the pioneers in the mining industry carried with them a 6 ft. x 8 ft. tent, and camped out in all kinds of weather. Accommodation of that nature was good enough for them, and it is good enough for the men employed on the cattle stations. Indeed, most of them are satisfied with it.
Senator THOMPSON (Queensland) [4.58 J. - I have a lively recollection of a period in my business life when I was what the late Mr. T. J. Ryan used to describe as a beef baron, and when, on visiting a station, I found manager, overseer and stockmen living in well constructed bark huts. They enjoyed none of the luxuries provided in these regulations; yet they were happy and contented, and led good lives,
These regulations appear to have been framed to meet stations on which large numbers of men are employed, and therefore, they are not suitable for cattle stations where generally the number of employees is small. Considerable hardship will be inflicted upon small cattleowners by their enforcement. The lot of men in the Northern Territory is already hard enough without asking them to comply with regulations which, in many instances, require them to provide for their employees better accommodation than they themselves enjoy. It has been said that these regulations have been based on those operating in Queensland, but that can scarcely be the case, for they provide for better conditions than are thought to be necessary in Queensland.
– Has the honorable senator read the Workers’ Accommodation Act of Queensland?
– Yes, and I repeat that the requirements of that Act, which was introduced by a Labour government when the cattle industry was in a better position than it is to-day, are not so elaborate as are those of the regulations now before us. While I agree that the claims of workers on outback stations should be given due consideration, I maintain that we must have regard to present circumstances and not impose on men already hard pressed unreasonable restrictions. Money is difficult to obtain, as all honorable senators know. I ask those who support these regulations where money is to be found to effect the improvements called for by them. The station owners in the Northern Territory in common with other people to-day, cannot get a shilling from their bankers by way of further advances.
In my opinion, regulations which require a station owner to provide a separate room for each man tend to destroy the moral fibre of men. We hear a good deal of the great labour army which is being raised; but I venture to suggest that its leaders will find it difficult to provide separate accommodation for each member. I join with Senator Colebatch in opposing these regulations and in inviting the Government to withdraw them with a view to bringing down others of a less drastic nature and more capable of being complied with.
– Senator Thompson said that the Workers’ Accommodation Act of Queensland was the creation of a Labour government. That may be so ; but there is now in that State a government comprising men belonging to a different political party. It has not yet had the courage to repeal the act.
– The Queensland Government suspended it.
– It could not suspend an act of Parliament.
– It is not in force.
– That is because the present Government of Queensland is out of sympathy with its provisions.
– It refused to carry out the law.
– The Queensland Government has not repealed the act, because it has not the courage to do so.
– The Queensland Government is not lacking in courage.
– I invite it to attempt to repeal the act. Senator Reid would have us believe that the regulations under the Queensland act apply only to shearing sheds on sheep stations, but that is not so. Section 4 of the Workers’ Accommodation Act of Queensland reads -
This Act applies only to buildings, structures, works and premises used for or in connexion with - (a) construction works,
Council may from time to time by order in council declare.
The honorable senator also ridiculed the idea of there being any vermin in shearing sheds. I know from my own experience that vermin exists in them. My mind goes back to the time when I was employed on a sheep station and to the many times when I rolled up my blankets and got out of the accommodation hut in favour of the wool shed. I preferred the smell of the wool and the sheep to the bites of the bugs in the hut. Senator Pearce endeavoured to compare a cattle station with an ordinary home; he asked whether any one wanted the cooking quarters separate from the rest of the house. In my opinion, such a comparison is a stupid one. My mind goes back to one shearing shed at which I was employed. At one end there was a huge kitchen. Then came the combined dining and bedroom for shearers, with bunks three tiers high., You got out of the bunk and sat at the table, and the cooks’ assistant, or slushy, as they termed him in those days, in laying the table rattled the tin plates and pannikins so that the men would not sleep in, but get up in time for breakfast. I have seen as many as 60 men housed in one of these rooms. Is that a decent state of affairs? With all sincerity I say that in the by-gone days the shearer very often had a worse place to sleep in than was provided for the squatter’s horse. Of course, that is not a condition of affairs which exists to-day. Better conditions have been brought about because of the democratic legislation that has been passed in the various States. One honorable senator opposite has spoken of what it would mean to the cattle ranch-owner in the Northern Territory to comply with the requirements of this ordinance. When the Shearers’ Accommodation Bills were under consideration in the State Houses, we were told that if the squatters were compelled to comply with the requirements of that legislation, they would simply be squeezed out of existence. We are hearing the same tale now about the squatters in the Northern Territory. I do not agree with Senator Reid that shearers’ huts cannot be likened to the accommodation required for employees on cattle ranches. Men congregate on sheep runs at shearing time, and men congregate on cattle ranches at branding time, and so on.
– The conditions are entirely different.
– Where the cattle ranches are situated the climate may be warmer than it is in those districts where the Shearers’ Accommodation Act applies but that is the only difference. Surely we ought to study the health of people, and see that they have decent accommodation. I have not paid a visit to the Northern Territory, but I am sure that there are good squatters there, just as there were in the days gone by to which I have referred. But there are also, I am sure, unprincipled men whose last thought is the accommodation of their employees. Those are the men we ought to bring up to the level of the good employers. Senator Reid said that the people who made Australia were the men in the mining camps, who did not have a shower bath provided for them. The first politicians who made the laws for Australia were not provided with shower baths; but that is no reason why we should not have them to-day, or why employees on cattle ranches should not have baths at their disposal. I have worked on sheep stations, and can speak feelingly of the rough treatment meted out to the men in former times by some of the employers. There was any amount of room for the improvement which has been brought about on sheep stations. There is equal room for improvement on cattle stations, and I fail to see that hardship will be imposed on the ranch-owners by requiring it. They may have some difficulty in getting timber and iron, it may be a costly matter to them, but I do not think that any reasonable ranch-holder in the Northern Territory will object to any of the provisions laid down in this ordinance. I have never heard of an inspector exceeding his powers, and I think we must have inspectors iu the Northern Territory because it would be useless to attempt to enforce the provisions of this ordinance, without inspectors to police them. I am hopeful that some good result will come out of these provisions. If these ordinances are disallowed, others must be provided.
– More reasonable ones.
– I see nothing wrong with these provisions. They are almost identical with those in the Workers’ Accommodation Act of Queensland, and there has been no great outcry in that State against their enforcement. I advise honorable senators to let these provisions have a trial in the Northern Territory. If they are found to be unsuitable, the ordinances can be amended. No one is anxious to impose hardships on the ranch-holders of the territory. Labour is always prepared to give a fair deal to employer and employee.
– I am endeavouring to ascertain the real purpose of this motion for disallowance. The mover has disagreed with the procedure adopted in making certain regulations relating to halfcastes without the Senate having an opportunity to disallow them, and the attack of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) and Senator McLachlan, was, in the main, limited to section 16 of this ordinance, which purports to give the Government Resident power to make regulations. It reads as follows : -
So far as I could follow him, Senator Colebatch had no complaint to make about the substance of this particular ordinance, except that he thought that it was really an extension, amounting almost to an abuse, of the power of a government to make regulations by inserting such a provision as section 16. He mentioned that during the period in which I had the honour to be Leader of the Striate, I had given an undertaking that no regulation would be made under a similar provision, until, and unless, Parliament had an opportunity of discussing it. I draw attention to the very important fact, which, apparently has been overlooked by those who have attacked this ordinance, that Ordinance No. 13 of 1930 gives legislative sanction to the undertaking which I then gave. I promised that I would lay before Cabinet the necessity for placing on the table of this chamber and of another place, any regulation made under a power, which we recognize as a delegation of the legislative authority of Parliament.
– Can the honorable senator say whether that has been done in respect to the ordinances which have since been made?
– All I can say is that, when Senator Colebatch made his statement, I felt certain that any undertaking I had given to the Senate I had conscientiously carried out, and as a result of inquiries, I find that this ordinance was tabled in the Senate. The procedure now in regard to regulations which may be made by a government resident is that if the Minister disallows any regulation it is not tabled - no one can complain about that, because the regulation, in such circumstances could not have the force of law - and if the Minister allows any regulation, he has to adopt the selfsame procedure in connexion with it as he has to adopt in regard to any regulation he himself makes.
– Has he done it in connexion with those regulations ?
– The honorable senator knows very well that, through circumstances over which I have no control, I am not in a position to say now whether it has been done or not. It is not my fault that I cannot answer that question. Probably, if it is addressed to the Leader of the Senate at question time to-morrow he may be able to answer it.
– The honorable senator gave an assurance on behalf of the Government.
-Which I definitely carried out by giving the matter legislative sanction. I remind honorable senators that I was not the Minister for Home Affairs. I am instructed by a representative of the Department of Home Affairs that, since the Northern Territory Ordinance, No. 13 of 1930, has been in operation, every regulation has been placed on the table of this chamber.
– I am informed that the regulations that were under suspension at the time have never been tabled.
– Senator Colebatch has had sufficient parliamentary experience to know that I could not give him an assurance which would have retrospective application. I gave an assurance tnat if a certain course were taken I would take certain action. I took that action. If the regulations that were in force at the time of the passing of that law were suspended, they were suspended by administrative instruction. The point is that it is claimed that the vice in Ordinance No. 15 of 1930 is contained in section 16. That section should be read in conjunction with Ordinance No. 13 of 1930. I ask honorable senators is there any danger in section 16, in view of the fact that Ordinance No. 13 compels the Minister, in the event of his not disallowing a regulation of the Government Resident, to place that regulation on the table of the Senate, and of another place, in order that either House may decide whether it is to become law or not.
I appeal to honorable senators to make an attempt to clarify the issue. As I understand it, the real crux of the complaint by Senator Colebatch is that power has been delegated to the Government Resident in the Northern Territory to make regulations, and that this Parliament has no power to correct those regulations. I point out to honorable senators that Ordinance No. 13 provides as complete a corrective as could be applied to any power of legislation by regulation.
If other honorable senators are of the opinion that we should go beyond that and deal with the substance of these regulations, my reply is that unless the Senate is satisfied that the Government has departed from some very well-established principle, it should not disallow any of the regulations. As was pointed out by Senator Hoare, they are, in the main, a fascimile of others which have stood the test of time in Queensland for more than fifteen years.
– These regulations go beyond the Queensland act.
– If time permitted, and honorable senators would bear with me I could take them through the provisions of the Queensland Workers Accommodation Act of 1915, and would be able to prove conclusively that in no vital respect, other than the provision of 480 cubic feet of air space instead of 600 feet, does it differ from these regulations.
– That act was not introduced by a Nationalist Government.
– I am surprised that the honorable senator should make such an interjection. We are dealing with the discretion of the Governor-General sitting in Council, and that should be above party politics.
– Then why is the honorable senator introducing the issue?
– The Northern Terri tory, by some unfortunate circumstance, is deprived of powers of self-government. The only satisfactory method by which it can be governed is that adopted by thiB Government, which has attempted to bring in certain conditions considered fair, not only in relation to the occupants of the Northern Territory, but also to competitors in the adjoining territory, known as Queensland. It is futile and irrelevant to claim that the Queensland Workers’ Accommodation Act was not brought down by a Nationalist Government. We know that there is only one House of Parliament in Queensland, that a party opposed to Labour has been in power in that State for some time and that the act has not been repealed, notwithstanding the suggestion that it was a concession given to the workers in times much more affluent than those which operate in the pastoral industry today. But all that is beside the question. This Government, in attempting to dis cover conditions which might be made the subject matter of regulations, looked around for comparable industries under comparable conditions.
– The conditions are not comparable.
– If I may be permitted to say so, that fact has not been established up to the present. It is very easy to say that the conditions are not comparable, but I should like to know in what respect thai is so.
– To begin with, they are not comparable geographically.
– I suppose that it might also be claimed that the conditions of Toowoomba are not comparable with those of Rockhampton. Yet the provisions of the Workers’ Accommodation Act apply equally to both cities.
– That is rubbish.
– The Workers Accommodation Act applies throughout the State of Queensland, irrespective of how the honorable senator may describe the circumstances.
– Would the honorable senator compare Wave Hill with Rockhampton ?
– No; but I would compare the pastoral areas of Queensland with those of the Northern Territory. That is not rubbish.
– It is rubbish.
– Order! It is quite improper to apply the term “ rubbish “ to any opinions expressed by an honorable Senator.
– I admit that I have never been to the Northern Territory, and I do not know whether Senator Greene, in his travels, has been through it. However, I am of the opinion that the present Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Pearce) was one of the most able ministers in control of that territory, particularly from the point of view of making an endeavour to study its peculiar conditions. I have heard the right honorable senator state in this chamber that the community generally is laboring under an absolute misconception as to the climatic and other conditions prevailing in the Northern Territory. Is it the suggestion of Senator Greene that its climatic conditions differ vastly from those of North Queensland ?
– There are other conditions.
SenatorFoll. - The lack of transport facilities, for instance.
– I do not know which road I am expected to traverse. The lack of transport would have no bearing on the cubic feet of air space required for the accommodation of employees.
– It has a very important bearing on the matter.
– I shall be very pleased to listen to Senator Greeneon that issue. The honorable senator quoted geographical considerations as a, vital factor in which the Northern Territory differs from North Queensland.
– The transport facilities of the Northern Territory differ vastly from those of North Queensland, principally because of its geographical situation.
– The conditions which are prescribed for the Northern Territory are similar to those which have been in operation in the neighbouring State of Queensland for fifteen years. The Senate has power to disallow the regulations if it considers that the Government has made an error ; but the mover’s real objection to the ordinance is to section 16, which purports to give the Government Resident in the Territory power to prescribe regulations, which might be abused.
I hope that even if Senator Greene is able to convince the Senate that, geographically and climatically, the conditions in the territory are such that the Queensland conditions should not be prescribed for them, honorable senators will recognize the fact that there is still just as great a limitation on the powers of the Government Resident to prescribe regulations as there is upon the Minister controlling the Territory to do so.
– Senator Daly has, to some extent, cleared up one point that was raised by Senator Colebatch in the early part of his speech this afternoon. He has shown quite clearly and convincingly that he did give effect to a promise that was made by him in this chamber, so far as he was able to do so, by legislation. Unfortunately, so far as
I am able to learn, that legislation has not been implemented by the Government of which he was a Minister, even during the time that he was Leader of the Senate. I regret intensely that he is not still acting in that capacity, but I suppose that that is neither his fault nor mine.
– It certainly is not mine.
– One of the causes which led to the annoyance resulting from the promulgation of this regulation is that other regulations, which contain provisions similar to those of section 16, of this ordinance have been put into force, without, so far as we know, being laid on the table of the Senate. They were most drastic in their nature and had been the subject of negotiation between the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association and the Government. The Minister suspended their operation at the express request of that association ; but, finally, they were enforced, without being laid on the table of the Senate, notwithstanding the provisions of Ordinance No. 13 of 1930. They refer specifically to the half-castes and aborigines in the territory. That is partly the reason for the motion by Senator Colebatch. However, it is not the whole story by any manner of means. Though I have no pecuniary interests of any nature in the Northern Territory, I have been the chairman of the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association since its inception, and I know that the regulation to which I refer was the subject of negotiation between my association and the Government. At the present time, not one station property in the Northern Territory is showing a profit. Indeed, there is not one that is not losing money. In the circumstances, we asked the Government, as a special favour, not to make these regulations dealing with accommodation of employees; but especially requested that if the Government was determined, despite the condition of the industry, to impose further handicaps upon it, not to proceed beyond a certain point. Our request was not unreasonable. The proposals to which the association consented were, I think, quite reasonable, although perhaps they did not go quite so far as similar regulations in
Queensland. I am perfectly certain that there was nothing in our recommendations to which any reasonable employee could take the slightest exception. Ignoring the request made by our association, the Government, without any further refer ence to it, swept aside all its objections, and brought in these ordinances which, iti some respects, go a great deal further than regulations governing similar classes of employment in Queensland. Senator Daly, comparing the conditions obtaining in Toowoomba and Rockhampton, suggested that, if uniform regulations applied to the pastoral industry in two places so far apart in Queensland, there should not be any objection to similar conditions being imposed on the industry in the Northern Territory.
– I did not say that. What I said was that the pastoral conditions at Wave Hill should not be dissimi lar from the conditions elsewhere in the pastoral areas of the Northern Territory.
– Wave Hill is part of the Northern Territory. The whole trouble, in connexion with these ordinances, is that if they are not disallowed, they will impose very heavy burdens upon large numbers of stationowners. Even if single cubicles for the accommodation of employees were erected on any station in the Northern Territory, they would not be used for ten months in a year.
– And they would be eaton by the white ants.
– They would not be used because the men do not want them. It would appear, therefore, that the lessees are put to all this expenditure for a perfectly useless object. If the pastoralists were rolling in money, if their industry were prosperous, there might be some reason for the making of these ordinances; the Government might have wanted to give more employment. But, as I have stated, not a station in the Northern Territory is, at the present time, paying its way. It may interest honorable senators to know that this week four to five year old fat bullocks were sold in the Claremont district, in Queensland, at £7 per head on trucks.
– What would that mean at Camooweal?
– What would it mean to the station-owner at Wave Hill ? We have only to examine the condition of the industry to realize that it is the height of folly to place any additional burden upon it. Our objective should be to populate and develop the Northern Territory. We shall not attain this objective if the Government brings in aggravating ordinances of this kind. We had, first of all, ordinances relating to the aborigines, then ordinances dealing with the half-castes, and now we are considering ordinances governing accommodation. All these hampering restrictions will make the lot of the man on the land in the Northern Territory quite intolerable. The whole object and aim of the Government should be to do everything possible to lighten the burden of the pioneers wherever they may be. If, however, the Government continues te make ordinances of this kind, at the behest of a few men who are living in Darwin - because that is what it amounts to - much of the country at present being developed in the Northern Territory will be abandoned. These ordinances have not been brought in because they are really necessary, hut because the Australian Workers Union in Darwin has made up its mind that the Minister must do these things.
– Evidently Chief Judge Dethridge thought that they were necessary.
– I do not know that he did. But I do not think he has any practical knowledge of the conditions under which the people in the Northern Territory are making a living.
– He had the evidence before him.
– In this Ministry there are men who have had some practical experience in the pastoral industry. They must know that these regulations are useless, and that, if not disallowed, they will impose an unnecessary burden upon the pastoral industry. The Senate should be grateful to Senator Colebatch for having submitted the motion. I shall vote for it.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [5.43]. - All honorable senators will agree that reasonably good accommodation should be provided for employees in any industry if the industry can afford to do so; but as Senator Greene has pointed out, these ordinances relating to North and Central Australia will hamper development to an extent not appreciated by those who approve of the Government’s action. Most of the complaints made by honorable senators supporting the Government this afternoon have related to the wool industry. Not one speaker on the Government side raised any objections to the conditions obtaining in the cattle industry, which is vitally affected by these ordinances. Practically the whole of the Northern Territory is occupied by cattle stations. Section 4 of the ordinance relating to North Australia, states -
This ordinance shall apply only to buildings, structures, and premises used for or in con- nexion with -
any cattle station: and
such works or occupations as the
Governor-General from time to time by notice in the Gazette declares to be works or occupations to which this ordinance shall apply.
Although it refers specifically to cattle stations, the whole of the remarks of honorable senators supporting the Government, have been directed to the conditions existing on sheep stations. Men are employed in numbers on a sheep station for perhaps one month in each year; but on cattle stations the employees leave the home station twice a year to brand cattle on distant parts of the run, and during that time in the Northern Territory they live in the open air, even without a tent. Senator- Greene referred to the conditions in Queensland and Northern Territory as being geographical in their nature. I am sure the honorable senator will agree that the difference between such places as Claremont and Wave Hill is much greater than the difference in conditions at, say, Toowoomba and Rockhampton. Distance from market, and the cost of transport and stock travelling are important factors. A cattle-owner in the Barkly Tableland, or at Wave Hill, would incur an expenditure of at least £3 a head to deliver cattle at Claremont.
– It would cost him more than that.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.It would cost him at least £3 a head. If he had to sell his cattle on trucks at
Claremont for £7 a head, they would not be worth £4- per head at Wave Hill, or on the Barkly Tableland, because he would have to pay for droving and trucking, and allow for wastage in condition and other losses. Employees in the industry have not made any demand for such regulations as are to be found in these ordinances. We may assume, therefore, that certain union officials in the Northern Territory have been interesting themselves in the matter. The employees are contented with their lot. One never hears them complaining about their conditions, and in view of the position of the industry, the imposition of these hampering restrictions is the height of folly. We must remember, also, that conditions in the Northern Territory to-day are practically pioneering conditions. If any attempt had been made to impose on our pioneers such restrictions as are to be found in these ordinances, the development of Australia would have been seriously retarded. With other honorable senators, I am grateful to Senator Colebatch for having submitted the motion to disallow the ordinances. It will have my heartiest support.
– I support the motion, because the ordinances are wholly unnecessary. The station-owners in the Northern Territory and Queensland are facing the greatest crisis in their lives. It is to their interest to make the conditions for their employees as satisfactory as possible. Employees on the big cattle stations have important and responsible work to perform. It is not to the station-owner’s advantage to ask his employees to work under unfavorable conditions. His objective is to work amicably with his employees, and thus receive good service. The accommodation to be provided under these regulations would impose an unnecessarily heavy burden upon the station-owners, most of whom are conducting their operations at points very far removed from the sources of supply of the material required. It is costly to transport labour ; and practically the whole of the material that would be used in providing accommodation such as is required would have to be carted a very long distance. A friend of mine erected huts in Western Queensland, at a point 130 miles from a railway, to accommodate twelve men.
The cost of a ready-cut and marked building was £180 in Brisbane, but, by the time it was erected 130 miles west of Winton, its total cost amounted to £750. The cheapest possible way in which to transport material for use in Northern Australia would be by shipping it to Darwin, and then sending it by team or by camels to the point at which it was required. If a building similar to that which I have just mentioned were erected in Northern Australia, its cost would be double that of the one erected in Western Queensland. The pastoralists in Northern Australia, who are carrying on under great difficulties, cannot be expected to continue if such unnecessary additional burdens are imposed upon them.
– Perhaps the cost could be met by the issue of fiduciary notes !
– At present the people of Camooweal have their own paper currency, but it is not negotiable far beyond that centre.
– But it would compare favorably with the spurious sympathy of honorable senators opposite for the working class.
– It is unreasonable for honorable senators opposite to suggest that the employers have no regard for the welfare of their employees. They are in sympathy with them, and endeavour to do all they possibly can to provide them with decent conditions of living, as by that means they secure good service. Senator Hoare said that he knew of instances in which employers provided their racehorses with better accommodation than that which was made available to their employees. That is an exaggeration. I have had considerable experience in the back country, but I have never heard any complaints concerning the accommodation provided. I recall an experience of a friend of mine who secured a block of land, on which he spent a fair amount of money in erecting necessary Improvements such as fencing, water conservation, &c. He was running about 8,000 sheep. Shortly before shearing time arrived an inspector visited the property, and said that he would not be permitted to carry on shearing operations until the necessary accommodation was provided for the shearers. The nearest place at which the sheep could be shorn was 23 miles distant, and, as the ewes were in lamb, it was quite impracticable for them to be driven that distance. When the position was put to him, the inspector said “ If proper accommodation is not provided the sheep will not be shorn here.”
– That was an instance of absolute union tyranny.
– It was. The owner of the property, who, with his wife and family, was occupying a small house, asked the inspector if it could be used as accommodation for the shearers. After looking over the place, the inspector said it would do for one year. In order to avoid further trouble and expense the house was handed over to the shearers, and the man with his wife and family lived in tents until shearing operations were over. Apparently such accommodation was good enough for them, but, in the opinion of the inspector, was unsuitable for the shearers. These regulations are so far-reaching that they place absolute power in the hands of an inspector who may be an arrogant autocrat. An inspector should not be given absolute authority to say whether certain buildings are unsatisfactory, and whether new ones, which would entail the property-owner in considerable expense, should be erected. Instances such as I have related occur in more remote parts of the Commonwealth where the inconvenience and cost involved in meeting the requirements of the authorities are great. In these circumstances it is difficult to have the position investigated by some high authority who would perhaps agree that the accommodation available was sufficient or make some arrangements satisfactory to both parties. Some of the accommodation provided is occupied for only a few weeks in the year, and it is most unprofitable for capital to be lying idle for such a long time. At Lake Nash station approximately 40 men are employed in attendance to the pumps at the bores, and maintaining the troughs. Yet it is proposed that men whose work keeps them away from the head station must be provided with permanent accommodation, and that each man must have a separate room ?
– The accommodation must be provided where they are working.
– That would mean that huts provided with baths would have to be erected all over the country.
– Yes, and separate kitchens.
– I am endeavouring to deal with this matter from a practical viewpoint, and to show that it is unreasonable to expect these regulations to be complied with. We believe that employees, and particularly those who have to spend most of their life in comparative isolation, are entitled to clean and comfortable accommodation. No one wishes to deny them that right ; but there is a limit. The regulations also provide that each man shall have a separate room. That, from a social viewpoint, appears to be wrong. In Western Queensland the accommodation provided is used in most cases only during the months of June and July. For practically the remainder of thb year the men prefer to sleep in the open. The provision of separate rooms necessitates the use of additional material, and consequently added cost. Th;s is altogether unnecessary. In most of the first-class hotels in Western Queensland there are two beds in each room. On many properties water is not laid on to the station buildings; it has to be carted to the point at which it is required. The cost of the necessary reticulation is more than the returns from the property justify. As water has to be carted, surely a shower which would require only about four gallons of water instead of a plunge bath which would use 12 gallons, is ample. The cartage of water involves loss of time and money, whatever the means of transport may be. In some parts of Australia a plunge bath is a luxury, and I do not think such baths are provided in one out of every ten of the < hotels in Western Queensland. As I am conversant with the conditions in the country concerned, and realize the enormous burden which these regulations would impose upon the employers, I intend to support the motion moved by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Westtern Australia) [6.3]. - I am quite satisfied that when Senator Daly was Leader of the Government in this chamber he did all that he could to keep the undertaking which he gave to the Senate. I have no complaint whatever to make on that score. When I moved a motion in the Senate in April of last year, certain regulations which had been framed by the administrator were in suspense ; but since the undertaking to which I have referred was given those regulations have been gazetted and brought into operation. I have made inquiries from the officers of the Senate to ascertain whether these particular regulations have been tabled, and am advised that they have not, but that a brief regulation in which the Minister made certain alterations was tabled. The point is that those regulations under the Aboriginals Ordinance 1918-28 make, among other things, this provision -
The employer skull, to the satisfaction of a Protector, provide the apprentice with accommodation, free of charge; provided that the accommodation to bc provided shall at least equal to, but not necessarily different nom that to which station employees in North Australia are entitled under any award or ordinance for the time being in force.
There is a further regulation which compels the provision of diet and sustenance on the same scale as for other employees.
– That means that each half-caste must have a separa’te room.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH The two sets of regulations work in with each other. If these regulations are adopted, a half-caste employee between the ages of eighteen and twenty years may be apprenticed and taught a business. During the two years of his apprenticeship he must have separate living accommodation for himself; food on the same scale as for other employees; the same holiday concessions, namely, a day off on full pay for every holiday worked and a week on full pay each year, including an extra 30s. in lieu of sustenance; as well as 16s. 2d. a week pocket money for his own spending. In addition, his employer will have to pay £4 a month into the bank to his credit. So that at the end of two years the half-caste apprentice, in addition to instruction, accommodation and food on the scale mentioned, and 16s. 2d. pocket money per week, will have a bank account of £100. It is a wonderful industry that can do such things for its apprentices. Honorable senators will agree that it is absurd to impose such conditions on any primary industry. The iniquity of the whole thing lies in the fact that the people who have forced these conditions have not acted in the interests of the half-castes. On the contrary, they have done these things in order to make it impossible for half-castes to be employed.
– It has been done to prevent white men from being dragged down to half-caste conditions.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The Government has gone further and made it compulsory for persons employing aboriginal natives also to employ half-castes under these conditions. Many station-owners are now wondering whether it will any longer be possible for them to employ either aboriginals or halfcastes. I have given the prime motive for the framing of these regulations, and I hope that for the reasons I have set out the Senate will disallow them.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill. )
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.12 to 8 p.m.
Private business taking precedence after 8 p.m.,
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [8.0]. - I move -
That all papers, correspondence and reports in connexion with the increasing of the duty on 12 x6 Oregon from 8s. to 14s. per 100 super, feet, and in particular letters from the secretary to the executive of the South Australian branch of the Labour party, addressed respectively to the Acting Prime Minister on 27th October, 1930, and to the Prime Minister on 6th February, 1931 - be laid upon the table of the Senate.
I had hoped that the answers given to certain questions which I submitted this afternoon in regard to the duties on Oregon would have removed any necessity for this motion. I regret that that has not been the case. The answer to the second question I put was that Parliament would have an opportunity to consider the timber duties in the near future. These duties have now been in operation for something like eight months, and other duties imposed since the present Government came into office have been in operation for as long as sixteen months without Parliament having had any chance to review them. It is, therefore, not very satisfying to me nor to the Senate to be told that an opportunity to consider the timber duties will be given in the near future. It really means that we shall never have an opportunity to consider them. Parliament is deprived entirely of the opportunity to do so. How can the Senate, or even another place, if it felt so disposed, disallow a duty which has been collected for sixteen months, and the proceeds of which have been spent by the Government, while the duty paid by the importer has been passed on to consumers? It becomes entirely impossible for Parliament to disallow such a duty.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.That, after all, is a minor point. For long continued periods, years even, these duties are collected without parliamentary sanction. When the Customs Act was originally passed in 1903 or 1904, and that extraordinary provision was inserted making it possible for these duties to be collected for a whole session without any remedy on the part of the people paying them, it was commented on as being something unique in customs legislation, and the predictions were that serious consequences would result. I do not think that the people who made those predictions imagined for a moment that what has happened would happen. “We have altered the meaning of the word “ Session “. A new term has been invented. The volumes of Hansard bear the words, “ Twelfth Session, First Period “, “ Twelfth Session, Second Period “j and “Twelfth Session, Third Period “. “ Period “ is an entirely novel expression in parliamentary practice, and is intended to cover the extraordinary method by which sessions are now prolonged from year to year in order that the Government may go on collecting duties of customs of which Parliament has never approved or disapproved.
From the point of view of the Senate, the matter is of such importance that I think honorable senators should consider it their duty to offer a protest at every possible opportunity. The Senate was intended very largely to protect the interests of the smaller States. In no other subject of legislation are the interests of the smaller States so much involved as they are in this question of the customs tariff. In fact, .those interests are affected more by the customs tariff than by all the rest of the Commonwealth legislation put together; yet, in this matter, which is of such supreme importance to the smaller States, the Senate, which is supposed to protect their rights, is put out of court entirely and completely. “We have not only high duties, but a prohibition of imports, and I venture to say that unless some very vigorous protest is made it will not be long before we shall have, without, a shadow of parliamentary sanction, a prohibition of exports except under licence, and licences to export will contain all sorts of conditions. In fact, this is already threatening. Speaking in another place a day or two ago, the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) said that it might be necessary for the Government under the Customs Act - not through parliamentary action - to prohibit exports except under licence. There is no other country in the world where a course of this kind could be adopted.
It was known that huge stocks of oregon were held in Australia when these duties were imposed. They were held principally in Melbourne by three firms, Gunnerson Nosworthy Ltd., John Sharp and Son, and James Moore and Coy. For the past twenty years, these three firms have been most vigorous in their opposition to any increase of the duties on oregon. They opposed an increase even when the duty was as low as 6d. per 100 super, feet.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Exactly. In the first instance, before the Interstate Commission, and subsequently before the Tariff Board, they exhausted every means at their disposal to prevent an increase of duties. There were also some stocks held in Sydney, but they were comparatively small, and were distributed pretty widely among the merchants. At the time the extra duty referred to in my motion was imposed, the price of Oregon was about 30s. per 100 super, feet, but was falling because of the decreased demand and increased competition. It fell as low as 25s. and 26s. per 100 super, feet. The extent of the drop in demand will be realized from figures recently published in regard to building operations in the suburbs of Sydney for 1928 and 1929. I have the figures in regard to building operations in Sydney itself, but I have excluded them, because, a3 the values are not also included, the figures relating to the numbers of buildings erected seem to me to convey very little information. The figures for the suburbs show that, in each of the years 1928 and 1929, 8,000 buildings were erected and the value was upwards of £9,000,000. In one of these years the value was nearly £10,000,000. But, in 1930, only 2,100 buildings were erected, and the value was only £2,350,000. There was a drop of 75 per cent., which naturally had the effect of decreasing the price of Oregon. But, because of the new duty having been imposed, the price went up again, and it is now 35s. per 100 super, feet, and as stocks in Australia are gradually being depleted, it must increase to about 40s.
It is pretty well known, I think, to honorable senators that the uses of Oregon and Australian hardwood are so widely separated that this practically prohibitive duty on Oregon has probably done more harm than good to the Australian hardwood industry. It has so increased the cost of building generally that timber of all kinds has become a drug on the market.
Let me recall what happened in connexion with these duties. Up to 1914 the tariff on Oregon was 6d. per 100 super, feet. In 1916, the Interstate Commission was asked to investigate the matter, and declared that there was no justification for an increase in the duty. In 1920, apparently without any outside investigation, the duty was increased to 4s. per 100 super, feet. In 1925 the Tariff Board refused to recommend an increase. In 1927, the matter was again referred to it. There was persistence on the part of those who wanted an increase in these duties, and under this pressure the Tariff Board recommended - honorable senators can see in the report with what diffidence it did so - an increase to 5s. 6d. per 100 super, feet. The Minister for Trade and Customs ignored that report, and increased the duty to 8s., at which figure it stood until April, 1930, when a further application was made to the Tariff Board. The board flatly turned it down saying that it was neither justifiable nor desirable, and made as strong a. report in condemnation of the proposed increase as it has made on any matter referred to it. The Government accepted the decision of the Tariff Board, and on the 19th June, 1930, tabled tariff resolutions covering other matters, but retaining the duty on Oregon at _Ss. On the 26th July, however - only five weeks afterwards - the duty was increased to 14s. In the meantime there had been no further reference to’ the Tariff Board, and’ no opportunity was given to the opponents of the duty to protest. There was, on the other hand, a most persistent agitation on the part of interested parties, not persons interested in the industries of Australia and anxious to protect them, but persons who had large stocks of Oregon on hand, to have this prohibitive duty imposed in order that they could demand a higher price for the stocks they held.
The Leader of the Government in. the Senate (Senator Barnes), in answering my third question today, said that there was no need for any investigation. He went on to say that the Nationalist Premier of Queensland had expressed the opinion that the Tariff Board was wrong in saying that the old duty was quite high enough. It is extraordinary how we always quote, with the warmest approval, the opinions of our political opponents when they happen to suit us. I suppose that Senator Barnes would not really give very much for the opinion of the Nationalist Premier of Queensland on most subjects, but he quotes it with warm approval when he happens to agree with it. We all do exactly the same thing, and I intend to qoute the words of a gentleman to whose opinion on most matters I should not be inclined to attach a great deal of importance. I refer to the secretary of the South Australian Labour party. I have no doubt that he is a very excellent gentleman.
On the 9th September I received a letter from the South Australian branch of the Australian Timber Workers Union requesting the assistance of our executive in having the duties on oregon reviewed. The union pointed out that if the duty is allowed to remain at 14s. per 100 feet super, on 12 x (i oregon, and the smaller sizes 15s. fid., nearly all Oregon imported in future will be in smaller sizes and will cause nearly all their members to lose employment. They urge that the 12 x 6 and over be brought back to 8s., as recommended by the Tariff Board.
Our executive considered the matter, and I sent you the following telegram, 10th September : - “ Our executive unanimously plead for duty on Oregon 12 x 6 and over to be brought back to 8s., in interest of sawmill employees and buyers of small houses. Reduction urgently needed.”
You replied as follows: - “ Regret no option, but allow present position to stand.”
I was then instructed to go to Melbourne to see you personally on the matter, and saw you on the 14th October. I might say that I was employed in the timber trade for 30 years - the last 24 years as a commercial traveller in that business prior to becoming secretary of the South Australian branch of the Labour party. For eight years I had an interest in a bush saw-mill in this State, but we closed the business down two years ago. I think I can claim to thoroughly understand the trade. I am a prohibitive protectionist whenever it is possible for Australian goods or products to be used, and I have rigidly adhered to buying everything Australian for the past 38 years.
I do not believe in a revenue on goods that we cannot grow or manufacture in Australia.
T know that at the present time you need revenue, but I think 8s. per 100 feet super, on oregon is a high revenue duty. It is nearly Id. per foot. There is no justification for making the duty higher than 8s. It simply adds to the cost of a house, and most houses are required for the workers. The same applies to almost everything else for which oregon is used.
From my conversation with you I know that the duty was increased by you to help the bush saw-mills in Victoria and Tasmania. From my long practical experience in the timber trade I am positively certain that this will not be the case. It is impossible to use Victorian or Tasmanian hardwood (stringy bark or any gum) for roofing purposes for which Oregon is chiefly used.
The Australian hardwoods are not long enough for joists and rafters, and absolutely useless for fascia and barge boards as these have to he in wide boards. Our hardwoods arc too heavy for roofing, even if they were long enough and would not shrink or twist their heaviness alone would cause walls to crack worse than they do at present. Hard- wood is also useless for roofs, as it twists badly and shrinks greatly, causing ceilings to crack, and it would cause galvanized-iron roofs to leak also. If it was thoroughly seasoned it would not be so bad, although it would always be likely to bc affected by any dampness. What might do in a damp climate like Tasmania would never do in the other five States with their warmer climates.
It is practically impossible to season it, as there are very few drying kilns available, and they are too expensive. 1 have one at present idle that was used in connexion with the business that was closed down. It cost £2,000, and it is not a large one. Very few bush mills could afford to have these kilns.
If oregon was shut out altogether the bush mills would only be able to supply requirements for a short time. There are many purposes other than roofing for which our
Australian hardwoods are more suitable than building, and it will be wise to conserve their use for such purposes.
The imposition of the duty of 14s. on oregon 12 x 6 and over is only in the interests of a few large importers of Oregon. It will bo many thousands of pounds in the pockets of a few individuals, and place the great majority of the timber merchants in a position that they will be unable to compete with those who have big stocks in hand. I understand that these few importers used their influence to secure the 14s. duty, but am quite certain that this did not influence your Government, and that you fixed the duty at 14s. to help the Australian bush saw-mills.
I am not concerned about the timber merchants, but T am concerned about the large number of men employed in the sawmills in the capital cities, ports, and other big towns in Australia. I want them to remain in employment, and they certainly will not if the duty on 12 x 6 oregon is 14s., and that on cut sizes only 15s. 6d.
I am also concerned about the workers buying homes or renting them, and the 14s. duty will make them dearer.
The duty of 8s. with freight, wharfage, &c, added, is ample protection. It is much too high even for a revenue duty.
I am absolutely certain that whatever tho rate of duty is that our hardwoods will not replace oregon for roofing of ordinary houses and girders of larger buildings. I would ask you to obtain the opinions of any builders or journeymen carpenters if you are not convinced that my statement is correct. The saw-mills charge 4s. per 100 feet super, for sawing. If 12 x 0 oregon is cut into 12 x 1 boards this means 20s. per 100 feet of 12 x 6, as it takes five cuts each 12 inches to cut it into six pieces of 12 x 1.
I think in the interests of the saw-mill employees and the consumers that the best thing to do is to make the duty on 12 x 6 Oregon 8s., and leave tho duty of 15s. Od. on the smaller sizes. It is not advisable to increase the size of timber above 12 x 0, as 12 x 0 is quite heavy enough for timber-yard employees and saw-mill hands to handle, and you cannot get as good quality oregon in bigger sizes. It would have too much heart, nml that portion is too soft for use. To make the size 12 s. 10 instead of 12 x (i would place Canada at a great disadvantage compared to the United States of America.
It is urgent that this matter he given immediate attention, and I hope that within a few days your Cabinet will lay an amended schedule on the table of the House - preferably to reduce the duty on 12 x 6 to 8s., as recommended by the Tariff Commission.
That is the opinion of a practical man with 36 years’ experience in the timber business, and it is endorsed by the unanimous vote of the executive of the South Australian branch of the Labour party.
So much for the merits of the case so far as the duties are concerned. The third question that I asked was with regard to the institution of an inquiry into the matter. Notwithstanding the answer that was given, I contend that there is every need for an inquiry, and I base that assertion on a further letter from the same gentleman, written only a little more than a month ago. Dated the 6th of February, 1931, it is addressed to the Prime Minister, and reads -
I duly received your letter, of the 4th instant in our request that the duty on 12 x (i oregon should be brought back to 8s. per 100 feet super, as recommended by the Tariff Board and fixed as the duty by your Government in what is known as the June Schedule.
Oregon only costs 4s. per 100 feet super, at the port of shipment, and freight, -wharfage, and other charges amount to 10s. If we add a duty of 8s., this makes a total of charges on cost of 18s., four and one-half times the cost, 450 per cent. duty.
The present duty of 14s. means a duty of 100 per cent, on cost, six times the cost of the material. I feel sure that you will agree that such a duty only should bc imposed to prohibit the importation of any goods.
I am quite aware that the 14s. duty was imposed by your Government for the purpose of protecting the local hardwood saw-milling industry, but from iny employment in the timber and saw-milling business for 3(> years T feci sure that a mistake was made.
If you make inquiries amongst any persons in the building trade (employees or employers) they will tell you that, for the majority of purposes in the building trade, our hardwoods cannot take the place of Oregon. I have given my reasons in the other letters.
Therefore, the excessive duty of 14s. only has the effect of making the workers pay more for any houses they have built or having to pay more rental, and it affects everybody else who have buildings erected or other work requiring Oregon.
There is not a great quantity of hardwood in Australia, and our hardwoods can ho used for many purposes that oregon is not suitable for. It will be in the interest of Australia to use cheap Oregon for building, and retain our own hardwoods for other purposes. Our hardwood supplies will not last long.
I pointed out in my letter the need for drying our hardwoods before they could bo used for many purposes, and that hardly any saw-mill has a drying kiln, and they are very expensive - a small one costing about £2,000.
Here comes the feature of the letter which, to my mind, demands an investigation. I repent the letter is from the secretary of the South Australian Labour party, and was despatched with the unanimous approval of the executive of that party. It states -
I have made inquiries here and in Melbourne as to why the duties on Oregon were increased above the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
I find that three indentors of Oregon (in Melbourne, I think, but may have been in both Melbourne and Sydney) had hig supplies here, and used their utmost influence to get the duties increased, as it meant they would greatly increase their profits as their competitors were at a disadvantage.
It has been stated to me by officials of the union that a representative of the Federal Timber Workers and Saw-millers Union was prevailed upon to support these indentors, hut that he did not have tlie authority of tlie Federated Union.
I hope that the secretary of the South Australian branch of the Federated Timber Workers and Saw-millers Union will have the opportunity of telling you W l 1 Y the union representative assisted the three big indentors
I consider that that secretary should have the opportunity of telling, not only the Prime Minister, but the people of Australia, if he knows, why this union representative assisted those three big indentors, why, as the letter says, he was “ prevailed upon “ to support them.
I feel sure that if you make inquiries you will find that the 8s. per 100 feet super, duty on 12 x. C oregon is ample protection of Australian hardwoods, and that 14s., the present rate of duty, or double that amount would not lead to greater use of Australian hardwoods, and it is not suitable for many purposes. t nin a prohibitive protectionist when it comes to helping Australian industries, but I do not think it is right to impose the present heavy revenue duty of COO per cent, on cost on 12 x fi oregon and making the cost of the home or the rent of the home of the worker much dearer than it should be, and causing other people who need to use Oregon in building to pay such an enormous tax. 1 hope that you will make inquiries into the matter of the duty on 12 x G oregon, and that your Cabinet will decide, within a week or two, to reduce the duty on 12 x (3 oregon to 8s. per 1.00 feet super., as recommended by the Tariff Board and adopted by your Cabinet in June last year.
Here is another point that is worth emphasizing. Speaking of the timber merchants and saw-millers of South Australia, Mr. Ward says - .
The big timber merchant and saw-mills have been very considerate in listening to the representations of the union for the trade not to import the cut sizes of Oregon, but to wait until your Cabinet has reconsidered the matter.
Remember in a previous letter this gentleman referred to the stupid disparity of the duty on 12 in. x 6 in. and smaller oregon, which he claimed would encourage the timber merchants to have all the cutting done in other parts of the world. Now he gives the reasons which delayed the action of the timber merchants. They said : “ We will give your Cabinet a chance. We do not want to throw a lot of men out of work.” The letter proceeds - lt would pay the merchants to import all oregon in cut sizes, as the duty is only 15s. 6d. per 100 feet super., and the duty at present on 12 x C oregon is 14s., u, very small difference. The usual charge for sawing is 4s. per 100 feet super. We want to retain the cutting in Australia. There is not only the sawyer who is given work, but many others. 1. know that you and your Cabinet have many serious matters to attend to, and that your time will bo greatly occupied, and I do not want to add to your worries; but it seems to me that the increase of duty on 12 x 0 oregon from 8s. to 14s. was a grave mistake. I might suggest that you ask the Tariff Board to report to you on the matter. I feci quite certain that if the tariff had come before Parliament that the duty on 12 x 0 Oregon would have been reduced from 14s. to 8s.
As previously stated, the duty of 8s., and 10s. for freight, wharfage, &c., would allow a protective duty of 450 per cent.
Since I was twenty years of age I have bought everything Australian that it is possible to huy.
That letter was dated as recently as the 6th of February of this year. The essence of it is a very grave reflection on certain people, which ought to be investigated. It contains an appeal that the matter be put right in order that the timber merchants themselves may be able to persist in their desire to give employment to the people of Australia, so that greater harm will not be done by throwing additional people out of employment.
On the 28th of February, only a fortnight ago, a telegram was despatched from the same source to the Right Hon. J. H. Scullin, Prime Minister of Australia, which reads -
Trust you are amending duty twelve by six oregon to eight shillings Tariff Board recommendation reverting to your schedule.
Executive S.A. Branch LABOUR Party
These people have kept at it, in the hope that the right thing would be done by this Government to prevent further unemployment in Australia and particularly in South Australia. For whose sake and in whose interests has this action been taken by the Government? Unless these people are utterly misinformed all this harm and trouble, including the threatened ruin of legitimate timber merchants, has been done in order that three big timber importers who already had large stocks in Australia, might put more money into their pockets. That a Labour Government or indeed any government should be prepared to do anything of this kind passes my comprehension. While I incline to the belief, as the writer of this letter says, that the Government took this course to encourage the timber industry in Australia, unless the Minister will allow a thorough investigation to be made, it will be difficult indeed for the people of Australia to come to the conclusion that the Government exercised that discretion and that sound judgment, which a government ought to display before imposing duties of this kind.
– One would be justified in wondering at the need for this motion asking for further information, in view of the fact that apparently the whole of the information on the subject is in the hands of the honorable’ senator.
– I have only these two letters. I wish to see the whole of the correspondence.
– The honorable gentleman suggested that the Government, by imposing these duties, played deliberately into the hands of certain individuals who held large stocks of
Oregon, and were now exploiting the people of this country. In support of his contention he quoted a letter written by a representative of the Labour party in South Australia. I have no doubt that the gentleman in question will be gratified to know that he has such a stalwart champion in. this chamber. I can, however, assure the Senate that in framing its tariff schedules the Government acted in the interests of the people. Its one desire was to encourage local industries. Unless we are prepared to face the situation in this way we shall always be at the mercy of exploiters overseas. The Government has no desire to smother up any information relating to these duties, and if the honorable senator will agree to the amendment of his motion so as to provide for the laying of the papers on the table of the library instead of the Senate, I shall accept it. I make this request because, if the papers are laid on the table of the Senate they become the property of this chamber, and are not so readily available for reference purposes by the department.
– I accept the Minister’s suggestion.
Amendment (by Senator Barnes) agreed to -
That the word “ Senate “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “library”.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Bruce-Page Government: Finance Administration - Northern Australia: Appointment of Director of Mines - Central Reserve Bank : Statement by the Treasurer.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I desire to comment briefly upon certain replies given to questions asked this afternoon by Senator Glasgow. The honor able senator asked the Minister representing the Treasurer -
The replies given by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Barnes) were as follow: - 1. (a) £114,376,557; (b) £ 75,840,87 1.
These amounts do not include moneys totalling £30,354,251 raised by the States in 1928- 29 by means of counter sales of Commonwealth Securities. 2. (a) Commonwealth, £24,329,957: States, £50,687,037; (b) Commonwealth. £90,046,600: States, £25,153,834. 3. (a) £15,926,478; (b) £4,075,401, representing payments to Great Britain in reduction of Australia’s war indebtedness, which were made directly from revenue.
The replies completely bear out statements made repeatedly by members of the party with which I am associated.
– Why not leave this matter until we are discussing Supply?
– No; I shall deal with it now. I wish to read an extract from a statement made over the air on 14th inst. by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), when speaking in Brisbane. The Treasurer said -
The Bruce-Page Government had been wantonly extravagant with , wasteful expenditure and reckless exploitation of the overseas money market. In the last three years of its office that Government had raised from London and New York £129,000,000 of loan money, which resulted in the consequences Australia was suffering from to-day, and which left an empty Treasury.
I enter my emphatic protest against the audacity of the Treasurer in making such a statement. He must have known that it was absolutely incorrect. The allegation . that the present condition of Australia is due to extravagant borrowing during the last three years by the Bruce-Page Government is absolutely without foundation. The answers given by the Leader of the Senate to-day showed that the total amount of new money borrowed by the Commonwealth for its own purposes during those three years was £24,329,957, while the amount of Commonwealth indebtedness paid off during the same period from the sinking fund amounted to £15,926,478, so that the total net increase in the Commonwealth debt, allowing for the sum of £4,075,401, repayment to Great Britain in reduction of war indebtedness, was less than £4,500,000, and not £129,000,000, as stated by the Treasurer in Brisbane a few nights ago. This matter is so serious that the true position should receive the greatest publicity. I say without hesitation that any member of a government who makes a statement which, on the face of it, is absolutely false, should be held up to the reprobation of the people of Australia. I do not wish to use extravagant language, but I must confess that my blood almost boils when I hear misleading statements made and repeated for the sole purpose of discrediting a ministry whose one desire was to reduce the burden on the people of Australia. The Bruce-Page Government so far succeeded in its mission that even the present Ministry admits that it paid into the national debt sinking fund £14,000,000 in excess of the statutory requirements.
– By how much did the Bruce-Page Government increase the debt abroad ?
– I have just told the honorable senator. The net increase was £4,328,078- not £129,000,000, as stated by the Treasurer. I do not mind fair criticism of members of the Administration which I supported, but I strongly resent falsehoods being uttered time aftertime, in an endeavour to cast ignominy upon that Administration. I have directed the attention of the Senate to the complete admission by the Government that the statement made by the Treasurer in Brisbane on the date mentioned is without foundation.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [8.46]. - To-day I asked certain questions regarding an appointment to the position of Director of Mines in Northern Australia. I have very great diffidence at any time in commenting upon the appointment of one officer over another in the Public Service; but public servants in North Australia are in a very different position from those in the Public Service generally. I have a knowledge of the officers involved in this matter, and feel that the appointment has no merit whatever. My reason for bringing the subject before the Senate is that I feel that a grave injustice has been done to a very deserving officer. For some years Mr. Playford was at the head of the Mines Department in Northern Australia: He retired from that office a month or two ago. Serving under him was an officer named Bell. As honorable senators are aware I was for some years Minister for Home Affairs, aud, during that period, I obtained a somewhat extensive personal knowledge of the officers in that department and their qualifications. In the Lands Department in Northern Australia there was an officer named Worgan, who is 62 years of age, and just about eligible for retirement. Mr. Worgan has no knowledge of mining; the whole of his experience has been in the Lands Department. I am aware that there are at least two reports in existence of an investigation into the Public Service of Northern Australia, and in .both the references to Mr. Worgan were, to say the least of them, most unsatisfactory. On the other hand, the work of Mr. Bell has been most highly commended. He is a younger man, a good officer and has had quite a brilliant career. He obtained diplomas in mining aud other subjects at the Adelaide School of Mines, and during practically the whole of the time he has been in the Commonwealth Public Service he has worked in that branch. When I was Minister controlling the Northern Territory, Mr. Bell always acted for Mr. Playford when he was on leave, and it was never suggested that any one else should act in his place. One of the reports to which I refer was prepared by Mr. Hicks of the Department of Home Affairs, and would, I am sure, have resulted in Mr. Worgan’s retirement but for one reason. Mr. Worgan was one of the officers taken over from the State of South Australia at the inception of federation. Honorable senators will remember that there was a law suit a year or two ago involving the rights of certain officers of the Commonwealth transferred from the South Australian Service, and it was held that they could not be retired until they had reached the age of 70 years. I cannot recall all the facts of the case, but at any rate it was felt that for various reasons the Commonwealth could not dispense with the services of those officers. I am quite sure that any one who studies the respective merits of Mr. Bell and Mr. Worgan will decide that the more suitable person to place in charge of mining in the Northern Territory was Mr. Bell. Instead of receiving the appointment of Director of Mines, however, he had to make room for Mr. Worgan, who was brought from the Lands Department to fill that position. When the North Australia Commission was appointed, its members would not take Mr. Worgan into its employ. There must have been good reason for that. I suggest that this is not the way in which to encourage officers to become efficient or to reward them for efficient service.
– What is Mr. Bell’s age?
– He is 51 years of age and is in perfect health. I am sure that if the opinion of those interested in mining in North Australia were sought they would have no hesitation in saying who of these two persons is better suited for the position, f do not think the Minister could have been fully informed of the facts when the appointment was made. It is because these people are so distant from the Central Administration that I bring the matter before the Senate, and, even now, with some diffidence. I ask the Minister if even now the appointment cannot be reconsidered, because I think a good officer has been penalized after having equipped himself to render good service in this capacity to the Commonwealth. With a knowledge of the work and qualifications of the other man, I should say that he is not qualified for the position of Director of Mines, and that he has been appointed to that office solely because no other place can be found for him. I regret very much that this has been done, and can only think that the Minister had not the whole of the facts before him at the time, the selection was made. I suggest to the honorable gentleman that he should examine the file and see whether even at this late hour justice cannot be done to Mr. Bell. Mr. Worgan has practically reached the retiring age. If Northern Australia is to be developed, men who are approaching the retiring age should not be placed in responsible positions merely to find jobs for them. We need men who can carry out their work efficiently. In answer to my question as to the qualifications of Mr. Worgan, the Minister said this afternoon that he had once acted as a warden when the warden was away. Mr. Bell, who has acted as warden, and also as the Director of Mines in Mr. Playford’s absence, was actively associated with mining in Western Australia. Although that is the State which I assist to represent in the Senate, he was not known to me in Western Australia, and I am not taking up his case on that account. As I have said, he has been associated with mining for a number of years and possesses high credentials from the Adelaide School of Mines, where he obtained diplomas in mining and metallurgy, the courses taking three years and embracing the subjects of chemistry, physics, mathematics, assaying, metallurgy, mineralogy, geology, fitting and turning, machine designing, surveying and other subjects. After leaving the Adelaide School of Mines he went to Western Australia where for eight years he worked upon various mines in different capacities, mostly as an assayer, including four years in charge of the Gwalia Consolidated Battery and Cyanide Plant at Wiluna. At that time he also gained a second class engineer’s certificate. He then went to the Northern Territory, where for three years he was manager of a tin mine. Thereafter he entered the Government service, and at times performed duties associated with the position of Director of Mines. I have never heard anything but the highest praise of his work. On the other hand, if the Minister will refer to the files he will find adverse reports concerning Mr. Worgan’s work even in the Lands Department.
– I take this opportunity to briefly refer to the reply which I received to-day from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Barnes) to two questions I submitted with respect to a speech by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) which was broadcast from Brisbane on the 14th instant. The questions T asked were -
The answer I received to both questions was “ No “. On the same night that this speech was delivered by the Treasurer, speeches by the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Latham) and the ex-Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) were -also broadcast. T listened in and was distinctly under the impression that the Treasurer said that the object of the Government in introducing the Central Reserve Bank Bill was to bring about a double dissolution. That statement he now denies.
– Is the honorable senator afraid of a double dissolution ?
– That is not the point. I would give my vote to-morrow for a double dissolution, although it would probably mean my end politically. Before I asked these questions I fortified myself by referring to the files of the newspapers in which reports of the speech appeared. I looked up the Brisbane Standard and the Brisbane Courier, and several other newspapers in which the speech was reported, and what I have said regarding the utterances of the Treasurer is supported by them. It is reported in the same way by almost every newspaper. I could only infer from the remarks of the Treasurer that the bill was designed for the purpose of bringing about a double dissolution, which can be brought about at any time on that measure so far as I am concerned. The Treasurer now states, according to the answer given to my question, that what he did say was that if the Senate continued to obstruct the- bill, its action might have the effect referred to. Without wishing to reflect upon the probity of the Treasurer, I may say the statement which he made was heard by thousands of people and was reported in the way I have mentioned in the press. In the circumstances, he should be man enough to admit that he expressed that opinion ; but that it may not necessarily be the opinion of the Labour party. After having heard the Treasurer and having read the reports of his speech, one can only suppose that the bill was introduced to bring about a serious difference between this chamber and another branch of the legislature, which would result in a double dissolution.
– I find myself somewhat at a disadvantage in attempting to reply to the various matters raised by honorable senators on the adjournment, because not knowing that they would be brought up, I have not come prepared with information concerning them.
As regards the matter referred to by Senator Payne, I take it that the meaning of the statement supplied in answer to his question is that the previous Commonwealth Treasurer was not sufficiently careful in controlling borrowing by the States.
– That was not the statement he made. He made a definite statement which he knew to be false.
– If the honorable senator will supply me with a “pull” of his remarks I will endeavour to obtain the information desired by him.
I am unable at the moment to supply the information sought by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), but I shall obtain it, for the right honorable gentleman.
Senator Duncan referred to a statemenalleged to have been made by the Treasurer. Although I did not hear the speech in question, I do not see why my honorable colleague should take the trouble to deny the statement, even if he did not make it. The establishment of a central reserve bank is to important item of Government policy, and, consequently, the Government introduced certain legislation in order to give effect to it. Should that legislation not meet with the approval of both Houses of this Parliament, and should the Government regard it as a vital matter, then it must take steps to allow others to decide. Even supposing that means a double dissolution, I do not see why the Treasurer should deny having made the statement alleged to have been made, if he did, in fact, make it.
– Nor do I.
– I assure the Senate that the Government is in earnest in regard to the Central Reserve Bank Bill. That measure is a vital part of its policy. The Government will go to the limit necessary to give effect to that policy in the event of the bill not meeting with the approval of both Houses of the legislature.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjournedat9.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 March 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1931/19310319_senate_12_128/>.