13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, without notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.As the honorable senator last week gave me unofficial notice of this question, I have been able to obtain the following replies from the Minister for the Interior -
– On the 3rd May, Senator Thompson referred to the fact that he had not received replies to the following questions which were asked by him on the 24th November, 1931, of the Minister who represented the exMinister for Trade and iCustoms : -
The Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs has had inquiries made and is now able to furnish the following replies: -
What is the annual production of petrol by the Colonial Oil Refining Company?
In which States are the products of this company marketed?
Why are the residents of Western Australia denied the privilege of purchasing the products of this company which is controlled by the Federal Government; and also the benefits of this company’s competition in regard to the price of petrol in that State?
The Managing Director, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, has furnished replies in the following terms : - 1 The refining plant in the Laverton refinery will produce up to, approximately, 35,000 tons of petrol per annum.
– On the 28th and the 29th April, Senator E. B. Johnston asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs two questions, which for convenience of reply, may he summarized thus -
On behalf of the Minister, 1 am now able to furnish the honorable senator the following information : -
The following papers were presented : -
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1932 -
No. 12 - Industrial Board (No. 2).
No. 13 - Administration and Probate.
[3.10]. - by leave - I desire to announce to the Senate that, upon the receipt of the news of the tragic death of M. Paul Doumer, President of the French Republic, His Excellency the Governor-General sent the following message to the British Ambassador in Paris: -
On behalf of the Commonwealth Government and people of Australia, I request Your Excellency to convey sincere sympathy to the relatives of the late M. Paul Doumer, President of the French Republic, and to the whole French nation.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill from being passed through all ite stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir George PEARCE) read a first time.
[3.14]. - In moving -
That the bill be now read a second time,
I may well remind honorable senators of its genealogy.
It was the desire of the Commonwealth Government that, in co-operation with the whole of the States, an endeavour should be made to evolve a well-conceived plan for dealing with the most tragic of all our problems, that of unemployment, in both its long-range and short-range aspects. With that end in view a committee was appointed, consisting of a number of political economists, and two well known and capable business men.. After many weeks of consultation and study, that committee presented a report which covered a very wide field, and contained proposals, both economic and financial, of a very definite character. The Commonwealth Government then convened a conference of the Premiers of the States, and laid before it a comprehensive proposal embodying, among other things, the raising of a loan of £10,000,000, half by the Commonwealth and half by the States, to be expended as part of the short-range plan for dealing with unemployment in its immediate aspects. It also stated to the conference its view regarding certain principles which should be adopted in our economic life with a view to dealing with unemployment in its long-range aspect. Considerable difficulty was encountered at that conference. It was, of course, a con dition of the proposition, that the Premiers plan should be rigidly adhered to. The Government of New South Wales immediately refused to accept such a condition, and later the Victorian Government also, shall I say, defaulted in its adherence to the plan, and would not give the assurance that, so far as it was concerned, the plan would be continued in operation after June of this year. Obviously, therefore, it became impossible to proceed with the larger scheme, and the proposition that is associated with this bill can be nothing more - we do not pretend that it is anything more - than a palliative and a partial dealing with the problem from a short-range aspect. But we do not flatter ourselves that, by this proposal, the Commonwealth and the States have evaded the necessity for facing the causes that underlie unemployment in Australia to-day; those causes are inescapable, and must be faced sooner or later.
I cannot enumerate the proposals associated with this measure better than they are set out in the terms of the resolutions that were agreed to at a conference that subsequently ensued between the Commonwealth Government and the governments of the remaining four States of Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The following resolutions were conjointly agreed to : -
As the Government of New South Wales is in default in respect of both its internal and external interest payments, the Government of the Commonwealth is not prepared to issue Commonwealth securities on behalf of that State. The attitude taken up by New South Wales presented great difficulties. It was obviously impossible for the Commonwealth to borrow moneys for a State which refused to meet the interest on its earlier borrowings - a natural result of the Lang plan is that the credit . of the State is absolutely destroyed - but a greater difficulty arose from the fact that this policy of repudiation adopted by the New South Wales Government made it impossible for the Loan Council, or any of the members of the Loan Council, to borrow money from the public, either for unemployment or for any other purpose. Any attempt to float a public loan in present circumstances would most surely fail. It was because of this disability that the Commonwealth was forced to limit the present programme of unemployment, relief to an amount of £3,000,000.
Although the New South Wales Government has placed this obstacle in the way of unemployment relief, the Commonwealth Government proposes to make available £600,000 to provide work for the unemployed in New South Wales. In the event of the Government, or of a government, of New South Wales meeting its obligations with regard to its interest indebtedness, and adhering to the Premiers plan, the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to make similar arrangements with that State to those contemplated with regard to the other States. On the basis of the above figures, this would mean an expenditure in the State of New South Wales of £1,200,000 for the relief of unemployment during the winter months.
The bill now before the Senate provides for the carrying out of the arrangements made by the Commonwealth in Melbourne. The amount involved under the scheme is £3,000,000. Of this, £1,200,000 is to be raised by the States, and £1,800,000 by the Commonwealth. The Loan Council has given the States and the Commonwealth authority to borrow money by the issue of treasury-bills on certain terms and conditions, and it is intended to finance the proposed relief works in this manner. The Government has the assurance of the Commonwealth Bank Board that the moneys required under the bill, if not obtainable in any other way, wilt be provided by the Commonwealth Bank on the security of treasury-bills.
So far as the works in New South Wales are concerned, an employment council, consisting of not less than five nor more than seven persons, will be appointed by the Commonwealth Government. No work will be undertaken which is not recommended by this council, and approved by the Treasurer. It is proposed that members of this council shall be asked to give their services without remuneration. Iii each of the other States, similar employment councils will be appointed, the members generally being selected by the State Governments, but two of the members of each council will be selected by the Commonwealth Government. In the event of any work being proposed which is not approved by the two Commonwealth representatives on the council, the approval, so far as Commonwealth expenditure is concerned, will then be referred to the Commonwealth Government. If this Government gives its assent to , the expenditure, the work will be proceeded with; but, if not. no federal money may be used upon it. though, of course, State money may be spent upon it. It is felt that the duty of selecting the most suitable work for the provision of the maximum amount of employment, at the same time seeing that money is usefully expended, is one: that calls for very great, judgment, and, therefore., the Government places great reliance on the employment councils.
An endeavour is being made to secure the services of reliable and well-informed business men to co-operate with the councils, so that all proposals for expenditure may be closely scrutinized. The Commonwealth Government does not intend to interfere with the industrial conditions observed in any State. The work may be carried on under the industrial conditions obtaining in the States concerned. The Commonwealth Government, as I have already indicated, does not suggest that this, scheme provides a permanent solution of the problem of unemployment. It is regarded merely as a means of providing temporary relief; but it is hoped that, while this relief is being afforded, both the Commonwealth and the States will lay to heart the lessons contained in the report of the economists, and that all governments will be found facing the facts, and prepared to put forward proposals in accordance with those facts.
No provision is made in this bill to cope with unemployment in federal territories, because those territories are the sole responsibility of the Commonwealth Government; but relief works have been undertaken in each and these will be extended so that relief shall be given commensurate with that accorded in the States. For instance, in the Federal Capital Territory the amount of £10,000 will be made available under the works vote, as may be necessary. I shall not discuss this measure at length, because I know that it is the desire of honorable senators that there should be no delay in putting it into operation.
.- I have certainly no objection to the passage of this bill as speedily as possible. I am glad to see that the Government is endeavouring, though tardily, to keep its election promise to put the unemployed of Australia into useful occupations. The amount proposed to be expended under this measure is comparatively small, and will not provide work for the great majority of the unemployed in this country; but, after all, the Government has made an attempt to do something towards meeting a difficult situation. No words of mine are needed to emphasize the importance of providing as much employment as possible for the workless without delay.
– I do not intend to oppose this bill, but I regret that the Leader of the Government did not explain the position brought about by ‘ the demand^ made upon the Government of New South Wales in connexion with this proposal. According to the Premier of that State, as reported in the official organ of the Lang party, the Premiers Conference laid down the condition that the price New South Wale3 would have to pay for being entitled to a share of the sum to be provided for the relief of unemployment, was that the basic wage in that State must be reduced to £2 lis. per week. According to Mr. Lang the demand was for a 10 per cent, reduction of the real wage of the wage-earner, and that the payment of child endowment and widows’ pensions should be discontinued. I am not prepared to accept that statement as being a true representation of the facts. Many statements of that character were circulated throughout New South Wales, but little has been done through the medium of the public press to counteract their effects by advising the people of the true position. Although I appreciate what the Government has -done, I regret, that New South Wales has been left out of this distribution. The party to which I belong telegraphed to the Prime Minister asking him not to penalize the people of New South Wales because the Premier of that State considered that the price demanded for a share of the unemployment grant was too great. I was glad to hear the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) say that award rates will be paid on these relief works. In that case, little objection can be taken to this bill. It appears that even had the New South Wales Government honoured its obligations and given effect to the original Premiers plan a 10 per cent, reduction of expenditure would not have been sufficient. The sooner the people of New South Wales know the true position the better.
– I welcome this bill, which seeks to provide employment for our people and to meet the urgent needs of this country in a time of difficulty. In this measure an appeal is made to the only class in the community which can help the country - a class which has of late been subjected to considerable criticism. Both in this chamber and outside of it, the bondholder has been held up as a kind of bogeyman - a person to be regarded with suspicion - but now that the country is in financial difficulties, it is to him, and to him alone, that we go for relief. The bill tells us that, unless the bondholder makes available to the nation some of his surplus wealth, the condition of the country will become worse; in fact, almost desperate. Who is this bondholder? Mr. Fenton, when Acting Prime Minister, told us that there were nearly 3,000,000 bondholders in Australia. They, therefore, comprise a considerable section of the community. To that section an appeal is now being made to help this country in its time of need. It is curious indeed that those who have been described as men and women unworthy of our respect should now be approached to save the country.
– These bondholders have been called “ bloodsuckers.”
– These same “bloodsuckers “ are the only persons in the community who can now come to our. assistance. They are now the life-savers of this country in spite of all the abuse. To be consistent, those who have condemned them should not support, this bill, for surely it is inconsistent to seek the assistance of those who have been sucking the lifeblood of the people. An attempt has been made to get the public generally to regard money-lenders, both great and small, as persons not to be trusted. Those who have condemned the bondholders have tried to poison the public mind against nearly 3,000,000 of their fellow citizens. Every shareholder in a benefit society, every depositor with a savings bank, whether his deposit be £50, £100, or £400, is a bondholder. In” many instances, bonds represent a man’s life savings; the interest on them is his sole means of livelihood. It is all- very well for political neophytes, with only a smattering of economics, to get up on soap-boxes and declaim against the bondholders - their fellow citizens who hav» saved a proportion of their earnings and are now the only people in the community who can .save the nation - but the stern fact remains that -the assistance of these “ shylocks,” as I am reminded by interjection they are frequently described, is necessary for our financial and economic salvation. Those who have denounced the bondholders and now appeal to them for assistance should be ashamed of themselves. Day after day the position of the bondholder is dinned into the ears of the public. There are 3,000,000 of them in Australia. In Great Britain there are 500,000 who have lent money to Australia, and whose average holding, as we have been responsibly informed, is £500, which, after all, is not much. A person holding that amount of bonds is not in possession of a competence. Even if his money is lent at 5’ per cent., he receives only £25 a year, which is not as much as the old-age pensioner in Australia is receiving. We do not hear these persons, who condemn the bondholder, speaking in disrespectful terms of the old-age pensioner. They know that he possesses a vote as well as a wide circle of friends. Where is the justice of it all? There is no justice in it at all. There never will be until there is a cleaning-up of this sample of parading politicians who infest this country and whose harbourage is at the Trades Hall.
– Order ! The honorable senator is digressing from the subjectmatter of the bill.
– I think I am, but I cannot help referring to the fact that it is the duty of the Australian people to recognize their obligations to the bondholder. Without his money we could not feed the hungry men, women and children in this country, concerning whom one gentleman endeavours to make it appear that he has a monopoly of sympathy with them. This gentleman, who protests so much, forgets that when he enters into a private speculation he contracts himself outside the law, as he has already done. The people are deluded and fooled again and again by so-called demagogues, who rise from time to time to spoil a glorious cause.
This measure, which provides for the appropriation of £1,800,000 of Commonwealth money should do a great deal of good. But my advice to the Government is to see that the money is spent in a way that will give the best results. It is quite true that the State Governments will supplement the amount which the Commonwealth is to provide to the extent of £1,200,000, thus making a total of £3,000,000. I am sorry that a larger sum cannot be made available. We must, however, consider that the Commonwealth is heavily weighted at present in the matter of interest payments and other commitments, which make a very heavy inroad upon our earnings. People have not the money to spare. Expenditure has so increased that they have not the wherewithal to launch out into new enterprises as they otherwise would. I ask the Government to see that every pound of the amount which is to be raised is spent in a way that will produce at least one pound’s worth of benefit. It would be even better if each £1 spent could give 30s. or £2 worth of benefit. I sincerely trust that the Government will not spend this money in the neighbourhood of cities on fancy schemes, from which no benefit will be obtained. When a Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition suggested that relief money, such as this, should be spent on sewerage schemes. Who ever heard of a septic tank paying a dividend? How could income be derived from undertakings of- that nature? The suggestion is unworthy of one charged with the responsible work of directing the political .destiny of a country.
The money which the Government proposes to appropriate should be spent in the countryside, where its expenditure will show some return. Money spent on farms, on mining, or even in connexion with the timber , industry will show some return. The Leader of the Government will know from practical experience, as also will you, sir, what can be done in the western State. If I may say so, I was the direct means of obtaining financial assistance for many unemployed in Western Australia. At that time 10s. a week was made available in the form of sustenance to country workers, who otherwise would have drifted into Perth and assisted in swelling the already swollen ranks of the unemployed in that city. In addition to the sustenance allowance provided at that time the farmers were able to pay the men a further amount, which enabled them to carry on instead of drifting into the city. The men whom the Government proposes to help could be employed on important reproductive works, such as clearing forest, erecting fences, sinking and cleaning dams, and trapping and poisoning rabbits. They could also be profitably engaged in grubbing poison weed, which, if destroyed, would enable Mother Earth to produce) even more. Ensilage pits could also be sunk so that when there was an abundance of fodder it could be stored for use during lean years, and give an infinitely better return than septic pits as foolishly proposed. We should follow the example of the busy bee, and, during periods of plenty, store sufficient to carry us over periods of drought. We should also get away from the dictatorship of that young man’ who has authorized the distribution of the bulk of our surplus military clothing in one State. I want the Leader of the Government not to allow more than a fair share of such clothing to be distributed in the way it has been,.
– Order ! The honorable senator knows that he is out of order.
– I do not know that I am. We have been informed that a much larger percentage of the surplus military clothing available in the Commonwealth has been distributed in New South Wales, more than her fair share, even, of old clothes. That statement was made by a Minister of the Crown.
– We are not now considering the distribution of surplus military clothing.
– Its distribution is closely allied to the subject we are discussing. This expedient has been adopted in order to relieve the unemployed, and I do not want an unnecessarily large quantity to be taken from the western State, which may, as a result of what has happened in New South Wales, need its own old clothes.
– Again I must ask the honorable senator to return to the subject-matter of the bill.
– Yes, Mr. President. My advice to this Ministry is to apply every pound of the amount to be raised to, so to speak, the base of the industrial cone so that the people as a whole may reap the most benefit from its expenditure. It is a well-known principle in mechanical engineering that force, scientifically applied at the base, will develop enormous power, much more than at the point of execution or operation; and acting on this principle, the Government should insist on this money being spent in those places, and on those schemes which are likely to secure the best return. At least one half of the amount should be set aside for expenditure in our rural area3 by farmers, orchardists, and men engaged in the gold-mining industry, thus giving some encouragement to young men to leave our cities for the countryside. Under existing conditions they evince a decided disinclination to get away from the urban areas, notwithstanding that many young women are setting an example which should, but unfortunately does not, inspire these “ he-men “ to get away from our capital cities. Since money wisely spent in the rural areas “will return a hundredfold and largely increase the spending power of the community, I again urge the Government to see that a large proportion of this loan is set aside for such works as I have indicated. I know that the representatives of the people in the urban areas will reach out for it. Possibly, if I represented an urban district, I also would be weakkneed enough to do likewise, but I doubt it, because I should scorn to do the wrong thing merely for the purpose of obtaining votes.
.- I have no doubt that the .Senate will agree, without much further discussion, to the passage of this bill, which gives authority to borrow £1,800,000, determines the method by which the money may be borrowed, fixes the amount to be allocated to the different States, makes special provision for New South Wales, and contains a clause dealing with the making of regulations. This matter has been the subject of considerable public discussion in the State which I have the honour to assist in representing in the Senate, and while I have no desire to introduce anything in the nature of election excitement into the serene atmosphere of this chamber, I take this opportunity to seek certain information from the Government.’ It has been stated over and over again in Victoria that certain conditions attach to this unemployment relief grant, and I should like to get, from the Leader of the Senate, an explicit statement on that point. One condition appears to be that the amount provided shall be covered by a similar sum to be raised by each State participating in the loan ;. another that the works shall be approved by unemployment councils to be set up in each State, and a third, that the Commonwealth Treasurer has the right of veto with regard to any proposed works. But it has been said in Victoria that this offer by the Commonwealth to assist in providing work for the relief of unemployment is made on certain inescapable conditions, one being a 30 per cent, cut in wages. This statement may or may not be due to a misunderstanding of the position, or it may be a wilful mis-statement, so it is desirable to have oh record an official pronouncement from the Leader of the Senate as to what conditions, if any, other than those set out in the bill, are to operate. It has further been stated that another condition to be observed by States wishing to participate in the loan is that they shall agree to the establishment of subsistence farms under slave-wage conditions. These, and many other things of a like nature, have been said in Victoria from one platform after another day after day, and night after night. I can find in the bill no> suggestion of any such conditions being attached to the Commonwealth Government’s offer. The Minister has stated that this proposal is only a palliative, and not a cure for unemployment, but in view of the fact that winter is well nigh upon us, and that there are well-grounded fears as to the conditions that may obtain during the winter months, we can all cordially approve of the Government’s attempt to alleviate the distress which, we fear, we may have to face this winter. If I have not mentioned any other conditions that may be attached to the Government’s proposal, I shall be glad if the Minister will elaborate them, and tell us exactly what they are.
– We are all cognizant of the difficulties which face the Commonwealth and State Governments, and welcome this proposal, which is the outcome of a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Melbourne a few weeks ago. Anxious as we may be to maintain a high rate of wages for all sections of the working classes, we all realize, I think, that in many country districts the payment of high wages is impossible. It would be well,therefore, if, in the expenditure of this money, the State Governments exercised every care to see that works which may be put in hand under this scheme do not enter into competition with existing relief proposals by offering inducements to those who may be employed part time in a number of rural industries, such as timber mills, to throw up their jobs and register for work on the new schemes at possibly higher rates of wages.
– Employees in those undertakings would not be on the list of unemployed.
– No, but they could readily qualify by throwing up their present employment, and registering at the nearest-labour bureau. It is difficult to lay down any hard and fast conditions relating to the expenditure of this money, but I emphasize that in Tasmania, at all events, it is quite impossible for all employers to pay the standard rate of wages and still carry on. Many of them have been compelled to make private arrangements with their employees - this applies particularly to the timber mills - to work on a co-operative basis. I fear that the expenditure of government money on relief works may encourage some persons, who are at present being employed part time, and at least are making a living, to throw up their jobs in the hope of securing employment on government relief works.
– I welcome the billwhich (has been described by the Minister as a palliative but not a cure for unemployment. We are not likely ‘to get out of our present difficulties until we can find a market for our products, preferably overseas, and produce under such terms and conditions as will show a profit. There is no lack of work in Australia. The trouble is that it will not show a profit. That is particularly true in country districts. Throughout all the mainland States, station properties, which ought to be employing five or six persons, are maintaining only one or two, and other stations, which ought to be giving work to twenty or more men, are employing only five or six. We cannot expect to return to prosperity unless we come together in a spirit of goodwill, and, by loyal co-operation between employer and employee and between political parties not fight our way out, but think it out. Prosperity will return and employment be plentiful when the products of our farms or factories show a return above production costs. It is true that we are exporting considerable quantities of butter, fruit., &c, but this is only possible because the producers have to be content with a recompense which would be scorned by the average member of an industrial organization. The price of butter would need to be 3s. a lb. for the dairymen to make the wages fixed by arbitration courts.
This money must be spent in such a way as to furnish the maximum amount of employment and to obtain the best results. I commend to the Commonwealth Government a scheme that the Tasmanian Government has operated in a relatively small way for the relief of unemployment; that is, to pay to those farmers who will employ genuine unemployed on work that is outside the ordinary routine of farming - such as clearing, fencing, draining and grubbing - one-third of the cost of such work. Under this scheme, the farmers made their own bargains with the men and saw that good work was done. 1 have witnessed the results in a portion of Tasmania with which I am well acquainted, and know that men have been taken off the unemployed register and put on work that would not have been done but for the assistance given by the Government; and that assistance probably did not represent more than would have had to be expended upon sustenance. Local committees could work under the direction of the unemployment council that is to be appointed under this measure, and they would see that good value was obtained for the amount expended.
There is another method, also, that I commend for the consideration of the council. The expenditure, I suggest, would be most economically carried out by shire or municipal councils, who are comprised of men of enthusiasm who give their services for nothing. I know of no method that would give better results.
– Would the money be spent on road improvements?
– Upon repairs rather than improvements. Unfortunately, on account of bad seasons, low prices, and other causes outside the control of the farmers, it has not been possible for many of them to pay their rates, willing and honest though they may be. Consequently, the revenue of the different councils is becoming depleted, and they have had to discharge men who, in some cases, have been in their employ for years, good men who knew all that was to be known about road repairs. Thousands of pounds have been, spent in making roads all over Australia, but because of the diminution of the number of municipal council employees, signs of wear are beginning to be evident, and before long it will be found that the expenditure upon their construction has been partially wasted or the fullest benefits not obtained from it. If, under this scheme, the Government could assist the municipal councils to re-employ those whom they have had to discharge, for the purpose of keeping the roads in repair, especially in the winter time when so much damage is caused ,by wet weather, considerable relief would be afforded and the property of the nation would be preserved.
Towards the end of last year, the Scullin Government made available the sum of £100,000 for the painting of public buildings. Some of this work was carried out in districts with which I am acquainted. The men employed, although good workmen, were not tradesmen, yet the Government insisted upon paying them award rates of pay, with the result that the money was wasted. Farmers have said to me “ What is the use of the Commonwealth Government claiming that it is hard up, when it throws money away like this?” If the expenditure under this measure is to be governed by artificial conditions and restrictions, it will he partially wasted. But if it is given to farmers and municipal councils, full value will be obtained.
– I welcome this effort by the Government to afford some relief to the unemployed, but I am sorry that it involves further borrowing, which . I should like to see given a rest for a number of years. That, however, I am afraid is inescapable.
We have heard suggestions for assisting men on, the land, and other propositions relating to the expenditure of this money. I contend that it would be better to assist the mining industry than to encourage men on the land. If we increased the production of gold we should obtain, from the exchange position the benefit that if now being reaped by the primary producer at the expense of the rest of the community. I take it that what is desired is the employment of the maximum number of persons and continuity of employment.
A proposition that I believe has already been placed before the Prime Minister is deserving of the consideration of the Government; it relates to the once famous Mount Morgan gold mine in Central Queensland. In that mine there are 660,000 tons of high-grade ore which could be worked profitably if a certain sum were made available for that purpose. In the present restricted state of finance, and the -absence of confidence generally in Australia, it has not so far been practicable to obtain the necessary capital from private sources.
– What is the value of the ore available?
– I cannot answer that inquiry, the figures having slipped my memory. It is believed that, if an advance of £35,000 were made to the present controllers of the Mount Morgan mine, this 660,000 tons of ore could be handled at a profit, and that the loan could be refunded within eighteen months. Employment would b* given for a number of years to 300 men ; and possibly, the bulk of the ore remaining in the mine, about 8,000,000 tons, could be handled in the future. Once the mine re-commenced operations, it is quite on the cards that, with the wonderful advance that has been made within the last few years in the flotation process, the 8,000,000 tons of ore that have been proved and assayed could be dealt with on a profitable basis. If that were assuredand there is every possibility of it - there would be work for 3,000 men for at least eight years. Thus, both continuity and quantity of employment would be provided, while at the same time the output would be increased of probably the most valuable product in Australia - gold.
In supporting this bill, I commend this proposition to the favour of the Government, and hope that the scheme will be given effect. According to to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald, Mr. EL W. Gepp has gone to Mount Morgan at the request of the Queensland Government to investigate the practicability of acceding to the request for a loan of £35,000. No great hardship would be caused if such a loan were not repaid for several years, because considerable employment would be provided, and the advantages thus accruing would very greatly outweigh the withholding of repayment for longer than eighteen months. I hope that Mr. Gepp will he more successful on this than on a former occasion when he investigated the position at Mount Morgan. He then had to deal with entirely different conditions of labour, and a flotation process that was not nearly so far advanced as it is to-day. I trust that he will see his way to recommend, as I am doing to-day, the subsidizing of this plan which 1 consider would provide considerable employment, perhaps for a lengthy period.
.- I n common with every other honorable senator who has spoken, I welcome the introduction of a measure of this character. But I deplore the necessity for it, and endorse what was said by one of my colleagues from Tasmania, Senator J. B. Hayes, when he characterized it as merely a palliative. Wo must go much further than a measure of this kind before we can deal effectively with tin- problem of unemployment. This ii- not. the time to discuss the causes c>r that problem, and the very many remedies for it that are proposed from all quarters. But it is a time, no matter to what party we belong, to evolve some scheme by which a definite remedy may be applied.
So far as it goes, the bill is a good one. I regret that Senator Dooley so greatly misunderstood it when he made his explanation of it. I can find in it no reference to the rate of wage to be paid for any work done under it. That matter, I understand, is to be left entirely to the State authorities, who will have the distribution of the labour.
– Surely, it was understood by Parliament that award rates would be paid?
– I do not think that anything was understood except that Parliament was asked to agree to the provision of a sum of money for apportionment among the various States, in order that as much work as possible may be put in hand for the relief of a section of the unemployed in Australia. If we embark upon a discussion of the rate of wage that is to be paid for that employment, there is no knowing where we may find ourselves. The intention of the measure, and the desire of every rightthinking man, is to see that the money is expended in such a way that the maximum possible amount of relief is afforded. Rather than give half a dozen unemployed men a certain quantity of work, it would be better to distribute it among a dozen men who are out of work, and thus, partially, at any rate, relieve their distress. I wish it to be clearly understood that, in my opinion, it would be fatal to the success of the measure if undue restrictions were placed upon the distribution of the money by requiring that a certain rate of wages should be paid. That matter should be left to the common sense of the local authorities who are to be charged with the responsibility of disbursing this grant.
I draw attention to the deplorable tactics being used in one portion of Australia, for political purposes, apparently, to belittle, the Commonwealth Government at this juncture when it is making an attempt to provide a palliative for the widespread unemployment. Reference was made to these tactics by Senator Lawson. On Saturday evening, I picked up on a motor bus a leaflet issued by the Australian Labour Party, and the name “D. L. McNamara, secretary of the A.L.P.”, appears at the bottom of the circular.It is addressed to wageearners, unemployed, manufacturers and primary producers, and has been circulated freely in Melbourne and suburbs. The leaflet reads -
At the December Federal Elections you were asked to “ Trust U.A..I’. Candidates for the Next Three Years “
And within Four Months, in return for that trust
The Lyons . Government has proposed to reduce wages another 20 per cent.
Smashed the tobacco-growing industry.
Increased unemployment throughout Australia.
Stopped the growth of Australian industries by loweringScullin’s tariff wall.
Threatened that unless State Governments dictate wage reductions to wages boards and arbitration tribunals, nothing will be done for the unemployed.
I need go no further than that.
– That statement is true.
– Everything that J have read is totally untrue. Any person who has considered what has happened in the last few months must come to the conclusion that those statements are false. To declare that the Lyons Government threatened that nothing would be done for the unemployed unless the State Governments “ dictated wage reductions to wages boards and arbitration tribunals “, was to sink to the depths of infamy, having regard to the fact that it was known to the public of Australia that a bill of this nature was on the stocks, and was to be introduced immediately, without imposing any industrial conditions whatever.
Several good suggestions have been made as to works on. which men might be usefully employed. I endorse what has been said by Senator Lynch, because I believe that much good would be done if portion of the money were spent in the direction indicated by him. I know how much good resulted from the action of the Tasmanian Government last year in subsidizing farmers to do work which they would not otherwise have been able to undertake. The subsidy provided by that Government, together with the funds contributed by primary producers, made some work available for the unemployed, and I arn in a position to say, from personal observation, that lands were im proved to such an extent by this wise action that the production will be greater this year than it was last year, and the State as a whole will reap the benefit. We have the satisfaction also of knowing that the expenditure gave a return both to the individual and to the State as a whole. That system, I think, should be the basis of any future effort to relieve unemployment. Instead of relying on temporary assistance to the unfortunate section now in receipt of the dole, we should endeavour to evolve a system whereby for every pound received by the unemployed an equivalent return should be given in some direction either through the State or through the local governing authorities. It is the only method by which we can restore to that section of our community the feeling of independence which it so prized a few years ago, but which it is now losing day by day.
The suggestion that shire and municipal councils should be utilized to the full in the distribution of this money is a good one.
– Would they select reproductive works?
-Expenditure under their control, if not directly, would be indirectly reproductive. This Parliament has advanced enormous sums of money to the States in the past under the federalaidroads scheme. (Surely we ought to see that the roads upon which the money has been spent are maintained in good repair. If, through force of circumstances, the local governing authorities are unable fully to maintain them, there is danger of the roads falling into such disrepair that the day will soon come when it may be necessary entirely to reconstruct them. It would therefore be well to use, in that direction, some of the money for which provision is made in this bill. The grant is to be made by the Commonwealth Government to the States, and the States are to provide an equal amount. There is nothing incongruous in suggesting that the money might be used to assist local bodies in doing necessary works provided those works are done by unemployed. That procedure would comply entirely with the spirit of the bill.
Senator Thompson has raised the subject of mining. In Tasmania, there are mining fields, such as the Magnet, which are practically closed. If the field I have mentioned were absolutely shut down it might never be reopened. Something might be done under the present bill to obviate that contingency, which is not very remote. If, with the help of a portion of this money, continuity of work could be assured, its restoration would be an asset to Tasmania. That surely would be reproductive work in the strictest sense of the term. I approve of this first effort in the direction of solving the problem of unemployment, and I hope that it will be supplemented later on by a much greater effort as the outcome of a keen and close study of this problem.
[4.28]. - Senator Dooley seemed to misunderstand something which I said in regard to the industrial conditions under which work would be made available to the unemployed. What I said was that the Commonwealth Government imposed no industrial conditions, but left that matter entirely to the States themselves. The honorable senator also referred to a statement which I understood him to say, had been attributed to the Premier of New South Wales by the newspaper in Sydney which supports Mr. Lang - that the price Mr. Langwould have had to pay to entitle New South Wales to a share of the grants to be distributed by the Commonwealth, was that he would have to’ reduce wages in that State, and do away with child endowment, and social services of that nature. No such condition was laid down. The only condition stipulated was that New South Wales, ‘‘before it could share in this expenditure, was to adhere to the Premiers plan. We all know that that plan was a reduction of adjustable expenditure to bring the budget deficit within a given figure, and that that adjustable expenditure was to be reduced by approximately 20 per cent. That step was taken by every State except New South Wales. It was upon that point that Mr. Lang and his representative refused to have anything more to do with the present proposal. Any statement to the contrary, whether by Mr Lang himself or by his newspaper, is entirely false. Mr. Lang’s justification for leaving the Premiers Conference was not that the scheme involved a reduction of wages and social services. At any rate, that was not the reason which he put forward at the conference itself; but, apparently, he used it when he got away from the conference.
Another statement made is that Mr. Tunnecliffe, the Acting Premier of Victoria, had said that the proposal of the Commonwealth Government involved a reduction of wages, the employment of slave labour on farms and other things of that character, as mentioned by Senator Lawson. Those allegations are totally untrue, and I shall prove it. Mr. Tunnecliffe, as Acting Premier of Victoria, has refused to be associated with any reduction of wages yet Victoria is to receive her share of the unemployment grant. Why is that? It is because Victoria up to June next, even if the present Government of Victoria remains in power, is adhering to the Premiers plan.
– Is there anything in the mind of the Government to suggest that this money is to be expended other than at the rates provided for under awards ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.We say that that is not our business; it is a matter for the States. The money will be disbursed by the States, and not by the Commonwealth.
– The Commonwealth Government has imposed no conditions at all?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE None at all. I was pointing out that Victoria is to receive her share of this money. She is not to be treated in the same way as New South Wales, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Tunnecliffe, in his policy-speech, has not adhered to the Premiers plan. Although Mr. Tunnecliffe has made that statement, Victoria is, as a fact, adhering to the Premiers plan up to the 30th of June, and before that date a new government will be elected, which, I feel sure, will most certainly adhere to that plan. Mr. Lang is not participating in this grant because the New South Wales Government has refused to do what the Victorian Government is now doing.
Allegations have been made which are half-truths, and half-truths are worse than lies.
The economists’ committee made reference to what it believed was the only way in which economic recovery could be brought about. It said that the Governments had not carried out the full spirit of the Premiers plan. It pointed out that that plan was based on a 20 per cent. reduction of adjustable expenditure, and the basis upon which it took that stand was the cut made by the Federal Arbitration Court in its award. That cut was 20 per cent., of which 10 per cent. was due to the fall in the cost of living, and 10 per cent. to the cut in real wages. The economists said the quickest way to bring about economic recovery in Australia was to make that 10 per cent. reduction general throughout Australia, so as to reduce the cost of production. Exception was taken to that by several governments, notably the Government of Queensland, which would not subscribe to that view. That it was not a condition attaching to the grants is shown by the fact that those governments which did not subscribe to that view are still participating in them. It will be seen, therefore, that the charges are without foundation ; they have been made only for political purposes, with a view to winning an election on false representations.
Several honorable senators have made interesting suggestions as to the manner in which this money could be expended. I suggest that they write either to the Governments of their several States, or to the employment councils which will be set up, and make their suggestions to them. They would come with better grace from honorable senators representing the States than from the Commonwealth Government, for in the latter case it might appear that the Commonwealth was endeavouring to direct the State Governments as to how the money should be spent. The Commonwealth’s representatives on the several councils would be placed in an embarrassing position if schemes submitted by the Commonwealth Government came up for consideration. I assure honorable senators that any suggestions put forward will receive full consideration by the Government and the employment councils. It may be that some of the schemes mentioned to-day will be adopted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - (2.) No payment shall be made under this section to a State -
(3.) . ……
Provided that, for the purposes of paragraph (a) of the last preceding sub-section, no work shall be deemed to be an approved work unless -
.- In this bill the Commonwealth Government is pledging itself to borrow £l,800,000, which it proposes to hand over to the authorities in the States to be spent for the relief of unemployment. This clause should provide that in the carrying out of relief works the rates of pay and conditions of work set out in Arbitration Court or wages board awards operating in the State shall qperate. If provision to that effect is not made, it may be that a State authority will impose condition? which arc abhorrent to the workers of this country. The workers should be safeguarded.
– Surely we can leave that to the States.
– The Commonwealth is to provide the money, and it should stipulate that awards rates shall be paid to those engaged on relief work. I am not satisfied to leave this matter to the State authorities. We should provide definitely in this bill that award rates shall be paid, otherwise we may have in Australia a repetition of what took place recently in New Zealand, when men were compelled to work on farms for nothing beyond their keep. Does this Parliament want to see those conditions in Australia? During the debate painting and: road making have been mentioned as works! which might be undertaken. There are probably other branches of work on which this money will be spent. All the worker? engaged in those classes of work are covered by awards, and we should see that those awards shall apply to any relief work on which they are engaged. Senator
Brennan says that we should be prepared to trust the States. I am not prepared to do that; this is our responsibility. Before the money is handed over, the States should be required to agree to abide by the awards applicable to the work to be performed. I suggest that a new paragraph bo added to sub-clause 2, as follows : -
– The Leader of the Opposition can test the feeling of the committee by moving an amendment in the terms he has suggested, and if it is adopted it can be drafted in the proper form.
– I cannot imagine the Government’s opposing such a reasonable proposition.
– This is relief work.
– Even if it is, men should not he expected to work for less than award rates. Surely the Government does not propose to allow £1,800,000 to be spent by employment councils without imposing any conditions whatever !
– Order! The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I agree with the principle outlined by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes); but the suggested amendment would not overcome the difficulties referred to by him. Senator Reid mentioned a real difficulty when he said that this money is to be spent on relief work. Arbitration awards do not apply to relief work in South Australia in certain instances. The clause could be amended by adding after paragraph c of sub-clause 3, the words, “ Where an award or determination, covers work of a character for which approval is sought, the approved work shall be carried out under such award or determination”. In explaining the provisions of the bill the Minister made it clear that the proposed councils will have the right to submit schemes under which those engaged may not be employed by the State or by district councils, but, as Senator J. B. Hayes suggested, by private employers.
Their employment would be governed by the conditions operating in particular localities.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [4.55]. - The Government cannot accept the amendment even in its amended form. The first objection is that it would constitute a direction to the State Government concerned. I do not think that in making a grant of this description for the relief of unemployment we are justified in dictating to the States the industrial conditions which shall apply. In the second place, it would unduly hamper the State Governments and the employment councils concerned. In Western Australia, a system was once in operation which, so far as I know, was not opposed by the Opposition. It provided that if a farmer was employing two men and he agreed to take on an additional man who was on the unemployed register, for new work, such as clearing timber, fencing or dam-sinking, he was paid so much by the farmer and the balance by the State. That system was not operated under arbitration court awards. If the farmers of Western Australia had been told that they must observe the award rates and, say, a 44-hour week, as well as other industrial conditions, no additional employment would have been available. Under this proposal men may be employed in clearing timber, dam-sinking” or fencing, who have not had any experience in the work, and consequently may not be able to earn full award rates, even if they could be paid. I cannot recall reading or hearing of the Western Australian scheme being denounced by Labour men, and I believe that if a Labour Government came into power in that State to-day, a relief scheme such as that previously in operation would be acceptable to both political parties. Employment has also to be found for men who may be fullyqualified tradesmen, but who at present cannot find work at their particular callings. Under this scheme they would have an opportunity to make a living. It is unreasonable to endeavour to impose ideal industrial conditions in cases of this kind. I remind honorable senators that, in normal conditions, no such conditions were imposed in connexion with the federal aid roads scheme. The only conditions laid down by the Commonwealth were as to the class of roads on which the money was to be spent; but it is unwise, during a period of acute depression, to lay down hard and fast rules which were not even considered in normal times.
.- I move -
That the following new paragraph be added to sub-clause 3: - “(c) where an award or determination or industrial agreement covers work of a character similar to that for which approval is sought, the approved work shall be carried out as if the employer were bound by such award, determination or industrial agreement “.
I sincerely trust that the Government will accept the amendment, which is in accordance with the principle of arbitration supported by all political parties. Although some of the men who will be provided with relief work may not be expert in the duties they are to undertake, they should not receive a wage lower than the arbitration courts consider fair and reasonable. Why should a man inexperienced in the particular work upon which he is engaged be paid lower than the ruling rate? Every person who performs a particular task efficiently is entitled to the pay provided for that work in an award of the Arbitration Court. Are we to understand that this Government is designedly raising this money to enable the various employment councils or other authorized bodies to spend it on works, and pay wages less than award rates, thus bringing our workers down to the level of 30 or 4’0 years ago? Surely the Government does not suggest that because people may be hungry they shall be required to work merely for their tucker? If it stands for this policy, the people of this country should know it. Although tens of thousands of good honest Australian workmen are in desperate straits they should not be expected to accept work unconditionally. This Parliament should throw its mantle of protection over them in their time of need. Certainly they should not be asked to work for less than a rate which our Arbitration Courts have declared to be necessary for every adult worker if he or she is to maintain himself or herself under decent conditions. I hope that the com mittee will not reject an amendment which is in accordance with the industrial legislation passed by the various State Parliaments of this country. Surely no one desires to put the industrial clock back 40 years; no one wishes to see our people employed under conditions that obtained when the “ sweater “ employer was unhampered by industrial legislation. If it is the intention of the Government to allow the State employment councils to use this money unconditionally, the proposal will not nave my approval nor that of my party. The Commonwealth Government should lay down the conditions under which this money is to be expended.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) has said he Could not imagine that any honorable senator would oppose’ the amendment. I intend to do so, for two very good reasons. The first was given by the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), namely, that to attach conditions to the expenditure of moneys allocated to the States would be a direction to the States as to how they were to spend it. Any such condition would be, in my opinion, offensive. Senator Barnes assumes that all righteousness resides only in this Parliament. He forgets that most of the ameliorative industrial legislation now on our statute-books, had its origin in State Parliaments. Surely then, State Governments in the expenditure of this money which, although coming from the Commonwealth Parliament, none the less comes from the people of Australia, would not be guilty of any of those heinous crimes suggested by the honorable senator. My second reason for opposing the amendment is that, apart from its being offensive to the States, it would also be an unwise direction. The: question of whether in disposing of money which is purely gratuitous the Government should insist that those upon whom it is to be expended must be paid full award rates, was the subject of keen controversy in the Victorian Parliament a little while ago, and was the cause of a serious difference between the two Houses. Personally I do not think that it is to the advantage of persons whom the money is intended to benefit that they should be paid award rates. Part of the policy of the party to which the honorable senator belongs is to ensure award conditions for those who are in employment, forgetful always of those who are deserving of our most careful thought - those persons who have no employment of any kind. Senator Barnes said that men experienced in all kinds of industry were without work. Unfortunately that is true I suppose. Then, becoming rhetorical, he asked if, under this proposal, they were to be victimized by being required to work for some extraordinarily low wages which, he imagined State Governments would pay. The honorable senator forgot, apparently, that this is a scheme for the relief of unemployment, and that the persons whom he depicts as being victimized by being given employment at less than award rates of wages are, by the very terms of this grant, receiving no income at all, so that whatever wage rate is paid to them, it must improve their present position. The purpose of the scheme, as T understand it, is to spread relief over a greater number of persons than would be possible in any other way. I, therefore, consider it would be advantageous’ if the conditions governing award rates, which were fixed in times of prosperity, and when the cost of living was higher than it is to-day, were somewhat relaxed. I shall oppose the amendment.
– I hope that the committee will agree to the amendment. No hardship will be imposed upon any State merely through being obliged to pay award rates of wages for employment provided under this scheme. Senator Lynch outlined a number of works upon which this money might be expended. His suggestion was that employment should be given in country areas on such works as the digging out of rabbits, grubbing poison weeds, and fencing, at whatever rates of wages the employer could afford to pay. I remember the time when our workers had no protection whatever, and I should deeply regret a return to those conditions. I appreciate the difficulties that confront the Government, and I agree, to a certain extent, with what the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has said. In some of the States relief works have already been started, and in New South Wales award conditions have been set aside. Persons employed for 30 hours on relief works are paid at the hourly rate, but do not receive allowances for skill, time off for travelling, or any other concessions that might be covered by an arbitration award. When the Bavin Government introduced its Unemployment Relief Bill, under which these concessions and allowances were abrogated, there was strong criticism from the Opposition, but since its accession to office, the Lang Government has made no attempt to enforce award rates and conditions on relief works. To that extent the right honorable the Leader of the Senate was correct when he said that already -State Governments were not observing award rates on relief works. Nevertheless two wrongs do not make a right. The worker is entitled to the award wage, which is determined by a tribunal consisting of representatives of employers and employees, presided over by an independent arbitrator. The workers’ viewpoint has been well summarized in these words: “Why do we work? We work to get the cash to buy the food to give us strength to go to work.” If that is all that is done by the award rate, there will not be sufficient in the rate to be paid under this proposal to provide the worker with sufficient strength to carry on. Any nation that is so foolhardy as to expect from its people morethan they are able to give, must fall. We have always boasted of our soldiers and our workpeople being at least equal to any that the world can produce. The attributes that they possess have been made possible only because they have been properly fed and clothed. I take it that it is the desire of the Government that the people of Australia shall continue to occupy thai proud position. I should be reluctant, to believe that it is taking advantage of the existing distress to compel the workers to accept what is not fair or reasonable, and is insufficient to feed or clothe them properly. No one wishes the dole to be the only means of subsistence. Who, two or three years ago, contemplated, the possibility or such a state of affairs a? that which exists to-day, under which hundreds of thousands of our people are rely- ing wholly on the dole ? Can we expect to obtain employment for 5s. or 6s. a week? Of course not. I realize that one cannot take out of a jug more than it holds, and that it may not be possible for greater provision to be made. But sufficient must be paid to those who are employed to produce enough energy to enable them to continue; otherwise the race must degenerate. At least award rates should be paid. It is no slight upon a State that such a condition should be laid down to govern the employment to be provided. The committee should agree to it.
.- The attitude adopted by the Opposition towards this problem is rather disheartening, considering that the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with some of the States, has gone out of its way to provide means for relieving the distress that exists. The circumstances are entirely exceptional. Every effort is being made to restore Australia to the position that it formerly occupied. The proposal that award rates of wages shall he paid for relief work is one of the most selfish that could be made, considering the number of persons who are out of work. The Government proposes merely temporary relief. It is better to pay for twelve months what is just sufficient to enable a man to live, than to pay a larger amount for six months and give him nothing “for the remainder of the year. I am astonished that any responsible person should make such a suggestion. The remarks of the Leader of , the Opposition (Senator Barnes) were dictated by his heart rather than by his head. The honorable gentleman also was advocating the cause of the Australian Workers Union, which is always a staunch supporter of award conditions. The State of Queensland has handled the unemployment problem to much better advantage than has any other State, and consequently has comparatively fewer unemployed. As the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) has pointed out, many of the men who are engaged on relief work are not fitted for it, because it is outside their line of occupation.
– On the other hand, some of the most expert artisans are thus employed.
– Those who are performing work to which they are accustomed earn their wages easily. But we may be dealing with men who have not been trained for this class of work, and who are totally unfitted for it. The payment of award rates of wages to such men would be throwing money away, because there would be no return from it. I am confident that the Queensland Government would not accept the proposal if it were incorporated in the bill.
– Would the honorable senator pay award rates for ringbarking?
– I have had a good deal to do with ring-barking in the past, and know something about it. Those who had been reared in the cities, if engaged on ring-barking, would not earn in a month the wage that is paid for a week, because they are totally unfitted for it. So long as they strip the bark from the tree they are satisfied, and do not bother to sap it. To be effective, ring-barking must be done properly; otherwise, the time and money involved are wasted. That applies also to other relief works. The best possible use has been made in Queensland of the funds available for this class of work, yet the unemployment account is overdrawn to the extent of £150,000. Workers who are ; rationed, especially those who are receiving not much more than the unemployed, cannot be further taxed. We must apply common sense to the problem^ and recognize the immediate need for restoring the manhood of those who are unemployed. Thousands to-day are living on the dole, and many of them do not wish to alter their condition. They would be much better off engaged on relief works. The stipulation that award rates of wages must be paid would destroy this scheme. I do not believe that the Commonwealth has the- right to make it, because the States are to be responsible for half the amount that is raised. Action along these lines will never enable us to overcome our difficulties. Our honorable friends opposite are everlastingly putting forward what will not assist either Australia or those whom they claim to represent. No one is lacking in sympathy with the unemployed. We who sit on this side have it in full measure, but we also possess a good deal more common sense than honorable ; senators opposite, because we look at things in a practical way. Those who evolved this scheme at the Premiers Conference deserve to be congratulated, notwithstanding the fact that there will be no return from the expenditure, because men will be put to work for which they are totally unfitted.
– Senator Daly has never had anything to do with the engagement of labour. I have, both as an employer and as a foreman, for a number of years. Very few members of unemployed gangs even now earn their wages, because the good workman keeps pace with the unfitted. The shire councils cannot collect their rates at the present time, and it will be sufficiently difficult for them to find their quota without being burdened with the necessity for paying award rates of wages. I am confident that both the governments and the councils in the different States will see that a fair deal is given, not only to those who are employed, but also to the public, who have to find the money.
– I cannot follow the reasoning of Senator Reid.
– It is too simple for the honorable senator; but there is common sense behind it.
– All that the Opposition asks for is that, where there is an award or determination covering the authorized work, the rates fixed by it shall be paid. The honorable senator mentioned shire councils, and said that a certain amount of the work to be done would uot be reproductive. I assume that he referred to the cleansing of streets, a section of which would be placed within the category of relief work. If a relief gang in one street receives less than a council gang in another, because the latter is covered by a determination, will not that he provocative of industrial unrest?. Where there is no award or determination covering a particular class of work for which approval is sought, this proviso will not apply. All that is sought under the proviso is that those engaged on unemployment relief works shall be paid the same rate as those enjoying award conditions. “With the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), I desire to know what is wrong with that.
– We have not the money with which to do it.
– I might argue that we have not the money with which to grow sugar and cotton in Queensland; but we grow them. When it comes to fixing wages in industries in which no bounties are paid, Senators Thompson and Reid would have the men work at as low rate as possible ; but, in regard to the wages to be paid in industries that enjoy bounties, a provision was inserted much stronger than the proposed amendment, and not one word of protest came from Senators Thompson or Reid.
– I did not like that provision at all.
– But the honorable senator accepted it. In the case of industries that receive bounties, the honorable senator asks the taxpayers to bear the cost of paying good wages, but when no bounty is given he says, “ Let us adopt the true conservative principle upon which wages should be fixed “.
– That is not fair.
– I believe that Senator Reid is more generously disposed to employees than is Senator Thompson.
– I have given more practical help to the workers than has the honorable senator.
– I am asking the honorable senator to be consistent. When the subject of granting bounties to the sugar and the cotton industries was under consideration he uot only did not raise objection to the insertion of provisions similar to that which Senator Barnes seeks to have inserted in this bill, but supported them. To a large extent, those bounties were paid to help provide permanent relief for the unemployed in that State. I hope that the committee will accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, and consistent with principles argued threadbare in this chamber in respect of bounty legislation, apply them in respect of this legislation.
Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) arguments advanced by Senator Daly. He has sought to establish the proposition that the Commonwealth Government is seeking to override the State authorities by dictating to them as to the terms on which employment shall be granted under this bill ; but I need not worry greatly about that contention. It would be gratuitous impudence on the part of the Commonwealth Government to suggest that the State authorities cannot be trusted with the proper disbursement of this money. The State Governments, like the Commonwealth Ministry, are appointed by the will of the people, and if they do anything of a tyrannical nature, the electors will bring them to book. We are now dealing with an extraordinary situation, the like of which has probably not arisen in the history of federation. If Senator Barnes were trying to cope with an extraordinary set of circumstances, he would not observe ordinary rules. He is noted for his generosity, and if he sallied forth from his office with a pocketful of money for the purpose of granting assistance to persons in distress, he would distribute his bounty among the largest possible number of persons, not asking any one, “ Are you working for award rates ?” Similarly, the money tobe made available under this bill must be so used as to afford the maximum amount of relief. Although the Labour party has always favoured the day-labour principle, it departed from its usual policy, not only in the building of the Perth Trades Hall, but also in carrying out’ certain works in Queensland. I regret that the amount of money to be made available is not £5,000,000. In distributing this relief, we must deal with necessitous cases first, and help, so far as possible, those who have been vainly looking for work for many months past. In supporting this clause, I am merely following the lead of the Labour party in Western Australia in dealing exceptionally with an exceptional case, as this is. This bounty should be distributed evenly among as many men as possible. I wish to signify my intention to move at a later stage a further amendment to provide that 50 per cent. of the grant shall be spent in rural districts.
– Nothing has been said to show why award rates should not be paid to those who will receive employment under the terms of this bill. Senator Lynch raised no objection to award rates being paid in the industry which benefits from the payment of the gold bounty. The workers are out of employment through no fault of their own. Despite what honorable senators opposite have said, there is not one man in a hundred at present out of work who would not willingly work if he could get it. Are we to exploit the 300,000 workers who are out of employment by offering them a form of relief which is not relief at all, but something which is designed to bring down the standard of living of the workers of this country? The Government can have no other objection to the amendment than that it would prevent the workers from being exploited. If we are to give relief to the workless, let it be relief in fact - sufficient for them to live on while employed. Senator Lynch has given notice of an amendment to provide that one-half of the money shall be expended in the development of rural industries. His object is to increase production. Our trouble is not under production, but under consumption. Australia produces more than sufficient to meet the requirements of its people, but, unfortunately, many of them are unable to purchase what they require. Had the Senate agreed to the proposal of the Scullin Government to release credits, or to create a fiduciary currency, the present state of affairs would not have arisen.
Question - That the paragraph proposed to be added (Senator Barnes’s amendment) be so added - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Senator Payne).
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
– With the object of ensuring that one-half of the money to be advanced shall be spent in rural districts, I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added: - “ 4. Provided that 50 per cent, of the amount borrowed under the provisions of this act shall be spent on rural pursuits, apart from works carried out under the control of local authorities duly incorporated “.
The authorities to be constituted under this act should see that half the money made available is spent where it will do the most good. If the money were devoted to the clearing and draining of land, the planting of trees, and in similar directions, the country would derive greater benefits from its expenditure than could possibly accrue from its expenditure on works which will confer no lasting benefit on the country. When a land-owner effects improvements to the countryside, he provides work for those engaged in manufacturing pursuits, such as the making of galvanized iron. A pound spent in the right place will help the country more than will £2 spent in the wrong place. I appeal to the Senate to spend the money at the base of our economic structure, rather than on the surface.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [6.0]. - The Senate could set about making this bill a counsel of perfection in the direction of providing how the State Governments shall expend the money. I have every sympathy with the object underlying the amendment; but why should this Parliament assume a superiority over the State Governments? Why should we assume that the State Governments are any less solicitous for those living in rural areas than we are? Eather am I inclined to think that the State Parliaments are more solicitous for their welfare than is this Parliament, for I do not know that the Federal Parliament has distinguished itself in the direction’ of assisting those engaged in rural industries. Senator Lynch knows that the present Western Australian Government has the interests of the rural settlers at heart. Why, therefore, should we attempt to dictate to it in this arbitrary fashion ? Undoubtedly, the greater part of the money advanced will he spent in rural districts. I suggest that the amendment is open to the objection raised earlier by Senator Lynch himself, when speaking to Senator Daly’s amendment. He then said that a man going down a street distributing largesse does not impose any conditions on the recipients. That is what we should be doing if we imposed conditions on the expenditure of this money. We could give many directions to the States ; but, in doing so, we should be assuming a superiority over them which is not warranted.
– It is quite different to provide how this legislation shall be administered and to prescribe the character of the works to be carried out : one is chalk and the other cheese. This clause may mean the holding of the scales unfairly in this country. Any work approved by the councils to be constituted must have the approval either of the representatives of the Commonwealth thereon or of the Federal Treasurer. There are so many local authorities in Australia that it will be impossible to consider the claims of them all, and consequently those most active in presenting their claims will probably derive the greatest benefit from the expenditure of this money, particularly when half of it will be a free gift. That would be unfair to the other local authorities. The Government is not justified in rushing the bill through in this way. We should have full opportunity to consider it. Certain local authorities with power to present their claims forcibly to the employment councils will have their work done at one-half the cost incurred by other authorities. That is manifestly unjust. All such bodies should be placed on the same basis. One half of the money to be provided should be advanced to such authorities who. should pay interest and contribute to a sinking fund to be used in establishing a permanent fund for relieving unemployment and distress generally. If that were done, all concerned would be placed on the same footing.
– There is nothing in the bill to prevent that being a local stipulation.
– In Western Australia there are 150 roads boards and many municipal councils, all of which cannot share equally in the distribution of this grant. Benefits will be conferred upon some and not upon others. That is one of the manifest weaknesses of the measure. Certain local governing authorities best able to press their claims will have waterworks and sewerage works undertaken at one-half the cost incurred by other authorities. Those with the greatest influence will derive the greatest benefit. My amendment merely provides that one-half of the money shall be spent in connexion with rural pursuits, from which permanent benefit will be derived.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a. third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.9 to8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the. 5th May (vide page 372), on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– It is not necessary that I should speak at length to this debate, or refer in detail to the many remarkable developments that have taken place in the realm of wireless broadcasting, and also in what may be termed its twin sister - the science of television. All that I need say is that a measure of such importance calls for a most careful consideration. I therefore propose to offer a few observations, more by way of friendly criticism than in my capacity as Leader of the Opposition. The object of the bill is to ensure that the future control of this greatest of all discoveries shall be so regulated as to be of the utmost service to our people. I disagree with many provisions in the bill, but my disagreement is more with regard to details than upon any principle involved, and I shall discuss them more fully when the measure is in committee. I refer particularly to those clauses relating to ministerial control, the limitation of expenditure by the commission, the salaries of the commissioners, and the encouragement of Australian artists.I take the view that if members of the proposed commission are to render good service they should receive adequate salaries. The people of this country will expect thoroughly good and comprehensive programmes to be supplied by this new body. Therefore, it will be the duty of the commissioners to see that the programmes suppliedare instructive and entertaining. All phases of important international and Australian current events, it is hoped, will be broadcast. If the commissioners are to fulfil the requirements of their important posts, theirs should be a full-time job; and if we are to obtain the services of a thoroughly capable chairman - a man of wide experience and sound judgment, and one fully alive to, his responsibilities - we should be prepared to pay him more than £500 a year. For the same reason, the vice-chairman should receive more than £400, and each of the other commissioners more than £300 a yearIt is not reasonable to expect men with sufficient ability to justify their appointment to such positions to give their services for the paltry remunerations set out in the bill. Their work will be of a varied and important character. They will be called to do a hundred and one things, and to discriminate wisely as to the nature of the news services or entertainment programmes to be supplied to the people. I do not approve of the clause which imposes a limit of £5,000 on expenditure by the commission for the acquisition or disposal of any property without the consent of the Minister.I think also that the authority of the Minister should be widened somewhat. It might be advantageous if provision were inserted authorizing the commission to consult with the Minister, and possibly also to seek his advice as to the wisdom of broadcasting certain information. A man might swing clubs for 100 hours, but of what interest would that be to the people of Australia? If the Minister’s opinion were sought, he would probably say, “ Why waste the money of the country in broadcasting such a stupid thing?” The Minister should be the last authority to whom appeal might be made, and should be empowered to either veto or approve of proposals of the commission.
Apart from this feature, the bill commends itself to me. We are an uptodate people, and wish to be kept informed of what is happening at home and abroad. We should take advantage of what is made possible by the inventive genius of the sons of Australia and of other countries. I again suggest, however, that the Government should pay sufficient to obtain the services of the best man available for the conduct of this important branch of its intelligence service, if I may so style it.
– It ought to be nationalized.
– Of course it should. I cannot imagine a utility of such importance to the people being controlled by other than the people. It might be said that there is in power, a Government that would use the wireless broadcasting facilities for the furtherance of its own ends; but truth must prevail, and any government that took advantage of its position to mislead the people would not last very long. This instrumentality should be owned by the nation, just as are the postal, railway, and all other big public utilities. The Government should bring down a more comprehensive measure, making it clear that no one except the people owned . . <t&&. . great facility. I commend that sugge-:r.i.ou “to its earnest consideration. Perhaps it ha.? made up its mind not to deviste from the course that is set by this measure. If it has, it certainly possesses the numbers to impose its will. But other days will come, and with them, possibly, other governments. I should say that, politically, the people of Australia are equally divided. Some may not wish to listen to eulogies of a Labour Prime Minister, while others may hold similar views concerning a Nationalist Prime Minister. Therefore, the .broadcasting service must be impartially conducted, and the definite principle laid down that it is the property of the people.
– I join with the Leader of the Opposition “(Senator Barnes), in expressing regret that the Government did not see fit to carry into effect the policy embodied in the legislation that the previous Government drafted prior to leaving office. That legislation admittedly was introduced in another place, but for some unaccountable reason was subsequently withdrawn.
I believe that wireless broadcasting is such an important phase of our national life to-day, that it should be owned and controlled by the nation. Moreover 1 am of the opinion that had the policy of the Scullin Government been given effect, something would have been done for the musicians of Australia, along the lines of what is suggested to-day in connexion with other sections of the community. Walking along the streets of Sydney and Melbourne one may see playing cornets, violins and other musical instruments, men who formerly held posts of honour in various orchestras. These men were deprived of their employment by the “ improvement “ in the motion picture industry, which gave to the public “canned music.” The Scullin Government visualized the day when a national orchestra would be established in Australia, and the talents of its members utilized in connexion with wireless broadcasting. The present Government has seen fit to prevent A class stations from putting on what are called sponsored programmes, and that particular avenue is to be exploited by that section of the broadcasting service, which is in the industry essentially for profit-making ; T refer to stations other than A class stations. The Scullin Government cont.mpiated that the money that might be “earned from this service could be profitably employed in bringing back into those fields where their talents might best be utilized, the large number of men who to-day walk the streets in idleness. But even though the present Government has seen fit to discard our policy and to intro- duce a considerably modified proposal, this is definitely a step in the right direction, and I agree with Senator Barnes that it is a measure which the Opposition should not oppose.
.- I agree that it is the duty of the Government to take charge of broadcasting stations throughout Australia, and that probably the best form of control is by a commission divorced from political influence. It is absolutely necessary that utilities of this nature should be in the hands of a commission, which, while responsible to a certain extent to Parliament, should be given very wide powers.
I wish to complain about the treatment that for many years has been meted out to Tasmania. The people of that State have had to pay the samelicence-fee as those of other States, yet the service given to them cannot be better described than as “ awful “. We are assumed to have had an A class station - 7ZL - but it has been a by-word throughout Tasmania, and, probably, throughout Australia. The only plant which that station has had was scrapped as absolutely useless by 3AR, Melbourne.
This question has been canvassed by the Wireless Listeners League, of Tasmania, since 1927. I have in my hand a whole sheaf of correspondence which has passed between that league and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. As far back as September, 1927, the league was advised as follows: -
The conditions of the station and particulars generally of the service are known to the department, which is continuing its action to improve the broadcasting service in Tasmania.
We are now in May, 1932, yet the conditions are, if anything, worse than they were when that letter was written. We have never had a satisfactory service, and no attempt has been made at improvement either in Tasmania itself or between Tasmania and the mainland. On the 5th December, 1927, the league received the following communication from the department : -
I am directed to say that 7ZL is well known to bc the class A broadcasting station for Tasmania. This, presumably, is the answer to the specific question mentioned in your letter. With regard to the programmes, the class of service rendered and the circumstances generally surrounding the conduct of the service are known to the department, and in conjunction with other matters concerning broadcasting are being considered by the department.
On. the 26th April, 1928, the matter was again taken up by the league, in an endeavour to obtain some slight improvement of the conditions. The letter written to the department on that date states, inter alia-
At a recent meeting of the League it was unanimously decided to again draw your attention to the most unsatisfactory state of affairs existing in regard to the local broadcasting station, 7ZL. My league regards the continued official recognition by your department of this station as A class, to say the least, an affront to licensed listeners, and calculated, if continued, to inflict irreparable injury to wireless development in this State.
The members of the league, although utterly unable to understand the Postmaster-General’s Department’s action in granting this station an A class licence, as the fa’cts placed before the department from time to time have remained undisputed, claim to have given the management itsloyal support and co-operation from the time it was listed A class until the present day, but I regret to Say that the time has arrived for the frank and candid admission that their patience has been exhausted, and that further restraint of criticism would be extremely harmful to all concerned.
It is now generally recognized that 7ZL has shown such steady and persistent deterioration in its transmission and modulation during the past few months that it is utterly impossible at the present time to receive anything that could be termed a satisfactory service, due to the fact, I understand, that the allegedly obsolete equipment has broken down under the strain of high power, and the operators have been compelled to revert to the use of discarded and more obsolete low-power gear which was in use prior to the station going on high power.
I do not intend to quote the numerous letters that I have before me regarding Tasmania’s unsatisfactory wireless service, but I draw attention to the fact that from 1927 until the present day the people of Tasmania have not received a satisfactory reply from the department. Have they no rights in this matter? Is any obsolete plant from the mainland to be regarded as good enough for them, when they are expected to pay the same listeners’ licence-fees as the people on the mainland are charged? It is well known that the site of the principal transmitting station is utterly unsuitable. It is impossible to hear that station in any part of Tasmania except within a short radius of Hobart. The department has been aware of this disability for years, and it is but fair that something should be done to improve the service.
I do not imagine that any listeners would approve of A class stations transmitting sponsored programmes including numerous advertisements. The programmes of B class stations are bad enough owing to the large number of advertisements which are transmitted; but so far as the quality of their musical programmes is concerned, the B class stations are superior to A class. Nine times out of ten, I, personally,would prefer to listen to B class programmes, despite the numerous advertisements which are included. I intend to move or support an amendment of the definition of “national broadcasting stations”. Under the present definition it would be quite possible for the Commonwealth to establish stations which could be permitted to broadcast sponsored programmes, or programmes including advertisements, and these could still be called national broadcasting stations. I think that it would be advisable to tighten up the definition clause to make this impossible. Generally speaking, I support the bill because I consider it necessary to place the national broadcasting service under a commission that will be free from political interference.
– I am obliged to honorable senators for their evident desire to expedite the passage of this bill. To most of the criticism offered by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) I shall reply in the committee stage; but I cannot understand his suggestion that an expenditure of only £5,000 a year will be permitted under lie hill. I cannot see that any such limitation is placed upon the commission. As the honorable senator knows, there are about 351,000 listeners, and during the first year of its operation the commission will have at its disposal 12s. from each of those listeners. That will constitute a considerable sum. I ask honorable senators to keep in mind the fact that under this bill we are not dealing with either wireless telegraphy or television, but merely the broadcasting of musical programmes and news for the entertainment and information of the public. Senator Daly suggested that no provision had been made for musicians, but in my opinion the Government has done all that it should in that matter. The position of musicians in this country to-day is due not to wireless or broadcasting, but to the present taste of the public for “ canned “ music. I venture to think that this is only a passing phase, for J have observed personally that that class of music is not now so popular as it was even a few months ago.
It is suggested by the Opposition that the broadcasting service should be nationalized, and placed under Government control. I venture to say that we have not made such a conspicuous success of those activities which the Parliaments and governments of this country have controlled in the past - I might mention, for instance, the railways and a number of other public utilities - that we should undertake the responsibility of controlling the national broadcasting service. If this service is of a national character, it should be controlled by a body of shrewd business men. If the members of the commission do not render satisfactory service, Parliament can relieve them of their positions, but we should manage the service on business lines so that we may not have the spectacle which is now presented by the government-owned railways.
– Why not mention the Post Office?
– A commission has been appointed in Great Britain, and its inquiry is now proceeding, to discover whether it would not be advisable to place the British Post Office under a commission, and keep it free from political control. All members of Parliament know how they are influenced, and are called upon to make various representations to the Government from time to time. No concern can be well managed if it is subject to the vicissitudes of political control.
Senator Grant, who complained of the quality of the broadcasting service in Tasmania, is aware that, of the 351,000 listeners who pay licence-fee in Australia, only about 9,000 are Tasmanians. That probably accounts for the fact, for which the department is in noway responsible, that the plant originally sent over to Tasmania, not by the department, but by a private company, was not up to the standard desired.
– It was promised from time to time that the service would be improved.
– The quality of the broadcasting service in Tasmania may be deficient, but the only steps that can be taken, so far as I am aware - and I do not speak as an expert - would be to connect Tasmania by some sort of cable with the mainland. That, I think, is the only real solution of the difficulty. Extraordinary developments are occurring from day to day in connexion with wireless transmission. On my visit to Geneva only three years ago I discussed this subject with a number of the world’s leading wireless experts who had been brought there for the purpose of considering a proposal by the Swiss Government to establish a high-power station at Geneva. It was considered, however, a hopeless proposition to attempt to transmit from Geneva, and it was thought that it would be necessary to establish the station at Berne, which is at a higher altitude.
Criticism was offered by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) regarding the remuneration to be paid to the members of the commission. I point out, however, that the commissioners are not expected to occupy full-time positions. The Government hopes that, just as in other directions in Australia it has secured the services of disinterested men whose judgment is sound, and who enjoy the confidence of the community, it will be able to obtain the services on this commission of men who will be prepared to give their services for a portion of their time only at the rates laid down in the bill. The commission will ultimately be able to advise the Government as to the best course to adopt in the interests pf national broadcasting. It will ako be able to report as to the future control of B class stations, and the technical services, which, for the. time being, will be rendered by the Postal Department. It will be necessary to know whether an improved service could be given by having all these activities centered in one department. In this important matter of broadcasting it is necessary to more cautiously, and we hope that ultimately we shall reach perfection.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions).
.- I have received a letter, which I presume other members of the Senate have had addressed to them, from the Secretary of the Australian Federation of Broadcasting Stations, calling attention to the wording of the definition of “National broadcasting stations”. The letter, which is dated the 9th May, 1932, is as follows : -
While the Broadcasting Bill was before the House of Representatives, several clauses were amended, including clause 22 which now provides that the commission shall not broadcast advertisements. In bringing in this amendment, the Minister stated that it had never been intended by the Government that the commission should engage in general advertising in competition with other enterprises, and the clause as amended was designed to make this position clear. The matter has’ since beeu referred by this federation to its solicitors in order to see whether the position of the B class stations is now definitely safeguarded. They have pointed out, however, that there is one outstanding weakness, namely, in the definition of “ National Broadcasting Stations “ in clause 4, which reads as follows: - “‘National Broadcasting Stations’ means stations made available by the Minister for the purpose of the transmission of the national broadcasting programmes.”
Under that definition, it is quite possible for a Minister, at any time while the act is in operation, to establish broadcasting stations which would not be handed over to the commission and which, therefore, would not come within the scope of the present legislation. Such stations could be set up without further legislative authority and could, if desired by the Minister, accept advertisements for broadcasting. The federation has been given to understand that it is not the present intention of the Government to establish stations of this nature; but, in order to guard against such action by any future Ministry, the solicitors to the federation strongly urge that tha definition of “National Broadcasting Stations “ in the bill be amended to ensure that it embraces all stations owned or controlled by the Commonwealth. The suggested amendment of the definition is as follows: - “ ‘ National Broadcasting Stations ‘ means and includes all stations owned or controlled by the Commonwealth Government or any commission, board, or other authority set up by the Commonwealth Parliament or Government or made available by the Government or the Minister for the purpose of the transmission of broadcasting programmes.”
The view of the federation is that this amendment is in no way contrary to the views of the Ministry, but that it actually makes definite the declared policy of the Government that national broadcasting stations should be controlled by the commission. I have been instructed to place these facts before you in the hope that you will suppont an amendment as above when the bill is before the Senate. Your support would be greatly appreciated by the members o’f this federation.
The Australian Federation of Broadcasting Stations has apparently taken a very keen interest in this measure, and so far as I can gather, is anxious to assist in perfecting the bill. Personally, I cannot see any objection to the amendment suggested. I do not know if the Government has considered it; but I should like to hear the comments of the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McLachlan) on the letter I have read. If he can show that there is no justification for the fears expressed in that communication, there is no need to say anything further in the matter. If the clause in its present form does not meet the wishes of the federation perhaps the Minister will agree to amend it in the direction desired.
– I have received a letter similar to that quoted by Senator Payne; but I have only had an opportunity to peruse it since the measure came under discussion this evening. Clause 4 of the bill provides that -
In this act, unless the contrary appears - “ National Broadcasting Stations “ means stations made available by the Minister for the purpose of the transmission of the national broadcasting programmes.
If the honorable senator will refer to clauses 16 and 20 and other clauses, he will find that the functions of the commission are clearly defined. In those clauses provision is made for the commission to exercise authority over such stations as are made available for the transmission of national broadcasting programmes. I do not think that an amendment of this clause in the manner suggested would have much effect unless a substantive clause is also inserted in the bill.
– Will the Minister agree to a postponement of the clause?
– I shall consider the point, and if necessary, recom mit the clause. The suggested amendment does not provide for more than is already provided for in the clause.
. I accept the assurance of the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McLachlan) that further consideration will be given to this matter before the bill is disposed of. I think that, on investigation, the Minister will find that the federation has some grounds for bringing the matter forward. On the Minister’s assurance that further attention will be given to the matter, I shall not discuss the clause further at this juncture.
.- In view of the Minister’s statement that the suggested amendment would not overcome the difficulty mentioned by Senator Payne, I quote the following extract from a communication I have received : -
Under the Wireless Telegraphy Act it is competent for the Minister to establish such wireless broadcasting stations as he thinks necessary, and he may hand over to the control of the commission only such of those stations as he desires.
If that information is correct, it would be possible for the Government to arrange for stations, which have not been handed over to the control of the commission, to transmit such sponsored or other programmes as it desired. It is to guard against such action that the suggested amendment has been brought under our notice. The position should be clearly defined, so that it will be compulsory for the Minister to hand over to the commission all broadcasting stations under his control.
– If that is the intention, a substantive clause would have to be inserted.
– If necessary, the Minister could frame an amendment to safeguard the position in that respect.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Remuneration of commissioners).
– Does the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McLachlan) think that the Government will be able to obtain the services of. a chairman of the commission to undertake the important work attaching to the position at a remuneration of £500 a year?
The responsibilities to be placed upon the chairman are great, and the work will be of such a nature that the chairman should devote the whole of his time to his duties. If we are to avoid complaints such as have been made in the Old Country, particularly with respect to the programmes, care must be taken in the appointment of the commission. There has been widespread dissatisfaction with the class of programme broadcast in Great Britain, due to the fact that educationalists and professors who favour the broadcasting of what might be termed “ highbrow “ programmes consisting of too much educational matter have been in control. Here the arrangement of the programmes will be under the control of the commission, which will be influenced by the chairman. In appointing the commission the Government should safeguard the interests of listenersin, many of whom do not want the programmes to be monopolized by highly academic discourses. A majority of listeners wish to be entertained with good music and to receive the latest news. I do not suppose that the Minister will indicate the type of persons the Government proposes to appoint, but I sincerely trust that it will make the positions sufficiently attractive to secure the services of the best men available. I do not think it should be a part-time job. It is work on which only first-class men should be engaged.
– As the success of national broadcasting depends very largely upon those who are appointed to the commission, the Minister should give the committee some indication of the type of person to be appointed. I trust that the- appointments will be devoid of political colouring, and that members of the commission will be chosen because of the undoubted qualifications which they possess. The proposed remuneration does not seem sufficient, and instead of appointing five commissioners, it would, I think, be preferable to appoint three at a higher remuneration. Important as the work of this commission will undoubtedly be, it is nevertheless true that there are in Australia many concerns of considerable magnitude, which are practically con trolled by one commissioner. While I shall not oppose the clause, I think that it would be better to have three commissioners instead of five, and to divide the same total remuneration between the smaller number. In that way I think we should get better men.
.- I suggest to the Minister that the debate might be shortened if he would give a clear explanation of every clause concerning which honorable senators are likely to desire some detailed information. Senator Herbert Hays has raised an important point, and I hope that the Minister will give the committee some information on the subject.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) and Senator Herbert Hays have referred to the importance of the personnel of the commission, and also to the remuneration to be paid to them. In the interests of the general public, the Government feels that as many different points of view as possible should be represented on the committee, and therefore it is of the opinion that five members, rather than three, are desirable. Senator Johnston apparently does not want the programme to be too “highbrow.” The Chairman of Committees would probably like greater prominence given to the bag-pipes; while others might prefer modern opera or light musical comedy. The Government desires that all tastes shall be served.
– We want something for everybody.
– The Government desires to popularize broadcasting by satisfying the public. It considers that five commissioners would be more likely to satisfy the varying requirements of the public than would possibly three commissioners. It hopes to appoint to the commission a number of business men with an all-round knowledge of affairs. Clause 15 provides for the appointment of a general manager, who will be charged with the duty of carrying out the policy laid down by the commissioners. I assure Senator Johnston that the field of selection will not be narrow, and that every class of interest will, as far as possible, be represented in the personnel. of the board. It is with that object that the Government proposes five commissioners at the remuneration set out in the bill. The united judgment of a board chosen to represent varying interests should make for success. During the first year or so of the commission’s existence the chairman will have to bear a heavy responsibility in inaugurating the scheme, but later he should have more time to devote to other matters. The general manager will have the assistance of a technical staff to deal with the various phases of broadcasting, such as news, sporting, education, and so on. I have been a member of various boards of directors, and I know that, generally, the members of such boards do not perform any executive work; they decide matters of policy, leaving the general manager to carry out the policy decided on. The board is always there, should the general manager at any time wish to refer any matter to it. I think that the committee would do well to accept the clause, because it aims at popularizing broadcasting by ensuring that all interests will be considered.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Dismissal of commissioner or acting commissioner).
– This clause sets out the reasons for which a commissioner’s services may be terminated. It appears to me to be not wide enough to meet all circumstances which may arise. For instance, a government may deem it desirable to reduce the number of commissioners in the interests of economy; or it may consider that, for some other reason, a commissioner should be retired..
– That is a matter for an amendment of the act.
– This clause which has been copied f rom the original constitution of the Commonwealth Bank Board, should be read in conjunction with clause 13. It would be outside the scope of the measure to provide that the Executive may reduce the number of commissioners. If wc legislate for five commissioners, and at the same time provide that that number may be reduced by the Executive, we shall, to some extent, interfere with the authority of Parliament.
– It would be a dangerous precedent to establish.
– Clause 13 sets out the various reasons for which a commissioner shall be deemed to have vacated his office. It is fairly comprehensive. I know that the troubles at which Senator Herbert Hays has hinted do sometimes occur, but we cannot provide for every eventuality in an act of Parliament. There might, for instance, be incompatibility on the part of various members of the board.
– We have had one experience of that kind.
– The chairman will be appointed for five years, the vice-chairman for four years, and the other commissioners for three years. If great care is taken in selecting the members of the commission, I do not think that we need widen the scope of this clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 (Functions of Commission).
– Is it contemplated that the commission shall take over the functions now being performed by the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited? In that case I take it that that company would go out of existence. This clause provides also that the commission shall undertake certain duties in connexion with broadcasting. The language of the clause is emphatic. Clause 51, however, empowers the Minister to overhaul the programmes, and, if he thinks fit, he may request the commission to abstain from broadcasting any item. Who is to be supreme - -the Minister or the commission ?
[9.14 1 . - This clause provides that the commission shall undertake the provision and rendition of adequate and comprehensive programmes for broadcasting from the national broadcasting stations, and generally act in the interests of the public. It has nothing to do with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. That company is undertaking an entirely different class of work; it deals with the transmission and reception of overseas messages by the Beam system, whereas this clause relates to the class of broadcasting which has hitherto been controlled by a broadcasting company. In certain things the Minister must be supreme, since he will be the channel through which the commission will receive the wherewithal to carry on. He also will have certain powers in connexion with licensing plants, broadcasting stations, and so on. The Government’s desire is to make the commission as independent of ministerial or political control as possible. I direct the attention of the honorable senator to clause 54, which protects the company mentioned in its contracts with the Government.
– This clause enacts that the commission shall undertake the provision of programmes which under existing conditions are furnished by the A class stations. I should like now to know if the Government intends to prevent the future exploitation of the public purse by the band of adventurers known as the Performing Right Association. No one seems to know precisely whom it represents. All we know is that no musical item is too big, and none is too small for its attention. It levies tribute upon the people of Australia for practically everything that is broadcast or performed. Last year, it demanded and received from the A class stations £30,000 for the broadcasting of certain music and other copyright works, and I understand that B class stations were exploited to the extent of from £15,000 to £20,000. Claims are also made by the association on promoters of small country entertainments, not excepting even concerts given by school children. The representatives of the association scrutinize the files of the newspapers and whenever they see a report of a country concert they send along a demand for £1 ls. Sometimes the money is paid, sometimes it is not. Not infrequently a refusal is the end of the matter, no further claim being made. Th.is clause seems to-be the proper place for the insertion of a provision to protect the general public from this unfair ex- ploitation by the commercial pirates who comprise the association. No one seems to know whether or not they have a legal claim, or what flag they are flying. The Government should deal with the association at least as far as its relations with our broadcasting stations are concerned and should protect the public from this exploitation. I understand that the public are, to some extent, protected i n New Zealand and Canada. Recently, the Canadian Government passed legislation requiring the Performing Right Association to register every piece of music or work for which it claimed copyright, and to pay to the Registrar General a fee of ls. for each piece of music or work so registered. This enables promoters of entertainments in Canada, upon receipt of these insolent demands for tribute, to make a search at the office of the Registrar General, and, if the music or work in respect of which a claim is made is not registered, there is no oligation to pay the fee demanded. Similar provision in our law would protect our broadcasting stations and the general public. I therefore hope that the committee will not pass this clause until it has had an assurance from the Minister that, failing the insertion of a . provision to protect the public, there will be a full public investigation into the status of the association and the legality of its claims. Even if our broadcasting stations broadcast music of composers who have been dead for periods of anything up to 200 years, in all probability therewould be a claim by the association for the payment’ of copyright fees. Many of the claims made are untenable, if not fictitious. This association has for some considerable time been perpetrating a big bluff on the public 6f Australia, and has been robbing promoters of entertainments, owners of halls, associations and clubs throughout country districts as well as in the metropolitan areas. The Minister should tell us why this huge sum of £30,000 has-been paid to this mysterious association. I doubt if its claims should be legally upheld, and I feel sure that if a public investigation were made, it would be found that many of its claims have been abandoned, when they have been resisted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
[9.25].- I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
The bill, besides making provision for some minor amendments of a machinery nature, deals with two important matters, namely, banking facilities in relation to trust funds, and funds for specific purposes, such as widows’ pensions or child endowment, and the protection of State officials against victimization for obeying the Commonwealth laws relating to enforcement of payment under the Financial Agreements.
Honorable senators will have noticed the continued repetition by the Premier of New South Wales and his Ministers of the assertion that he is prevented from paying child endowment, superannuation payments and widows’ pensions because of the interference by the Commonwealth with his banking facilities. We have stated time after time that these allegations are untrue, and have given definite proof of their untruth. For some time after the order was served on the Commonwealth Bank under the original act, the New South Wales Government continued to pay widows’ pensions in the ordinary way, namely, by depositing a sum of money with the bank, and, at the same time, handing in a list of persons to whom the pensions were payable. The bank, in those circumstances, made the payments as desired. It is obvious that this practice was continued after the Commonwealth had served the order on the banks, and it could have been continued indefinitely if the State Government had wished to do so. Furthermore, the same procedure could have been adopted by the State Government for the payment of child endowment, and payments under the New South Wales Superannuation Act, because the recipients are known to the authorities. Although this course was open to the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Lang has been reiterating his misrepresentation of the facts. To remove the last vestige of excuse that he could have on this ground we are providing in this bill to legalize, if that be necessary - we say it is not - the course indicated. With the passage of this bill Mr. Lang will not have the slightest possible excuse for saying that the Commonwealth Government is in any way interfering with the payment of widows’ pensions, child endowment, superannuation or any other payment in connexion with State social services.
Honorable senators, will recall that the last amending bill, and the resolution which we passed last week, authorized the collection of specified State revenues, and imposed upon State servants obligations with regard to State revenues so attached. Having in mind the temper of the present State Government, it has been suggested that it would not scruple to victimize State servants who obey the law. Accordingly we are inserting in this bill certain provisions for their protection. These are the two main principles in the bill. It is desired, to pass it as early as possible so that it may be operated without delay.
.- This bill has just been placed in my hands and I have had no opportunity to investigate the nature of its proposals. It may be the most innocent thing in the world, and may follow the lines of preceding legislation dealing with the same matter. But how can I be expected to know that? Surely, the need for this legislation is not so pressing as to prevent me from securing the adjournment of the debate, so that I may acquaint myself fully with its exact meaning.
– Ifr deals with Mr. Lang. Is not that sufficient ?
– Even Mr. Lang is entitled to justice. Whatever may be his shortcomings in the opinion of the Government, he surely should not be condemned without a proper consideration of what is proposed. I make no special plea on his behalf; but I consider that he is at least entitled to expect that a legislative body such as the Senate will give calm consideration to any proposal that affects him. Are we expected to shut our eyes, open our mouths, find swallow holus bolus what is served up to us? History records in connexion with the Charge of the Light Brigade, that when Cardigan was handed an order, he asked, “What guns shall I bring?” to which the bearer of the order replied, “ There, My lord, are the guns ; there are your foemen, too”, and turned his charger’s head away. Is that what is expected of me? I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave not granted.
– I have not the brand of clemency that is possessed by the Government. Let some one else carry on.
– I cannot understand the attitude adopted by the Government in this matter. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) said that, in the main, this was simply a proclamation to the people of New South Wales that Mr. Lang was not telling the truth.
– They need no such proclamation.
– If that be so, why is it necessary to force the Opposition to deal with the matter to-night, when they have not had an opportunity to consider the measure? There is in it something more than a proclamation; there is an example of “ leg-pulling “. That is contained in the provision relating to the so-called protection that is to be afforded to public servants.
There has been a good deal of criticism of the Commonwealth’s handling of this particular matter. From the outset, we, on this side, have made our position plain. We have deplored the school-boy tactics that so far have been followed by the Government,, of which I shall give an example. Any person who dismisses another for something done under the act shall be liable to a penalty. What does that mean? Take, as an example, the railway service of New South Wales. Let us suppose that the Governor-General in Council promulgates a regulation, creating the power of dismissal and conferring it on certain railway officials, among whom is a ganger. That ganger sacks the man under him, is brought before the court, and fined. His defence is, “If I had not sacked this man, I should myself have been sacked “. The magistrate would show greater clemency to the defendant than the Government is prepared to show to the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, and conceivably would fine him £5. The public servant who had been sacked might be given half of the fine, which in the opinion of the Government would satisfy him for the loss of his annual leave, superannuation and other benefits. The ganger is again called upon to carry out the instructions of the State and upon refusing to do so is sacked, probably by the stationmaster. The latter is brought before the court and fined £5, of which the ganger receives £2 10s. The stationmaster on the next occasion declines to obey State instructions, and is dismissed by the District Superintendent, in whose case the fine may be £10, of which the stationmaster receives £5.
– Why not the lot?
– For the purpose of my argument, I am prepared to assume that he is given the lot. What indemnity would that be for a State public servant,- who had carried out the instructions of the Commonwealth Government? The State Government could lay it down definitely that its servants must carry out its instructions, but that, being in conflict with the federal law, would be invalid. The plea in mitigation of the offence, when proceedings were instituted, would be most effective in the consideration of the penalty to be imposed; because the court could not assume that the fine would be paid by Mr. Lang., Honorable senators who have had any experience, know that when a penciller is fined it is not on the understanding that the bookmaker will pay the fine. The railway servant would be fined just as though the offence were his own, and all the circumstances surrounding the case would be taken into account when the penalty was being fixed.
– Is not the employer responsible for his actions?
– Of course he is not. The person who commits the offence is he who dismisses; and. he may conceivably be another public servant. But let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that the employer is responsible. If the Commonwealth takes from New .South Wales its revenues, what will Mr. Lang care how many people are fined ? And if the fine in respect of each of 1,000 offences is £100, where will the Commonwealth obtain the £100,000? It will be no satisfaction to the public servant to be told that out of the fine, when collected, a certain proportion may be appropriated for his benefit. We, on this side, suggested when the first instalment of this particular form of legislation was placed before us, that the Commonwealth Government should indemnify every , person who was called upon to do anything in protection of the interests of the Commonwealth in its fight against the Government of New South Wales. The conflict should be confined within those limits, and any public servant innocently dragged into the fight should, at least, be indemnified against loss; but the Government refuses to do that, or to allow the New South Wales Premier to include such an indemnity in the State legislation. The time for this “ leg-pulling “ is over. If Mr. Lang has the Commonwealth Government beaten, it should admit the fact. The Opposition is just as anxious as the Government to see that Mr. Lang meets his obligations, and that the other States are not called upon to meet the obligations of New South Wales; but I protest against the parliamentary system being so abused as it is being abused under this legislation.
– I enter my protest also against the method adopted by the Government. I recognize that it considers it necessary to speed up the work of adjusting the finances of New South Wales, hut where is the matter to end? We are no further advanced to-day than we were three weeks ago, or even when this Government came into power and promised to bring Mr. Lang to heel. 1 remarked the other day that a great many people in New South Wales are of the opinion that Mr. Lang is right in the stand that he has taken. A large number of those who support his policy are found in unexpected places, but events have proved that up to the present time, Mr. Lang is able to carry on. Despite the decision of the High Court that the action of this Par,liament is constitutional, the method adopted by this Government is leading it nowhere. As the Leader of the Opposi tion (Senator Barnes) has aptly expressed it, the Government has now lost sight of the brumby and is chasing the foal. This bill will afford no protection to the State civil servant who may be penalized for carrying out the law of the Commonwealth. This Government proposes to come to the rescue of such an officer by the payment of a fine, but much more than that is involved, if the Government is sincerely desirous of doing the right thing by the people of NewSouth Wale3, its proper course is to take over completely the administration of the affairs of that State. I realize, of course, that the policy of unification is opposed to the principles of the party in power, yet. legislation of this character is a set in that direction. Who will employ State civil, servants after their discharge for having carried out the instructions of the State authorities? I am at a loss to know that, and I am somewhat in the dark in discussing this measure. If the Government does not quickly square up the financial difficulty with respect to New South Wales, it may be faced with a similar trouble in other States. It is time to do something of a concrete nature, and if this Government cannot do that, it should let the people know. I look upon this bill as so much window-dressing, which can have no satisfactory result.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Definitions).
[9.52]. - I admit that if is somewhat difficult to follow the effect of this clause. The amendment affects the definition of “ the State,” contained in section 4 of the “ principal act. It is designed to permit the inclusion in that definition of any public authority constituted under the laws of a State, which, although not having power to levy rates and taxes, has power to make charges for services rendered to the public. This is in accord with the original intention of the definition, and the present proposal is to remove doubts which have arisen as to whether the present definition carries out that intention. This doubt exists particularly in connexion with the railways. It is doubtful whether rates of freights and fares are rates and taxes or charges for services rendered.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Application of part to State in case of emergency).
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [9.54]. - The amendments proposed to sub-section 3 of section 6 of the principal act are designed to ensure that the twomonths’ period within which the Attorney-General may apply to the High Court for a declaration that the amount stated in a resolution is due by a State to the Commonwealth shall run, not only from the date of the original resolution passed by both Houses, but, in the event of a further certificate being given by the Auditor-General under section 13 of the act, from the date of the giving of that certificate.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Moneys held by banks on behalf of State).
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [9.55]. - This clause amends section 15, which enables State moneys held by banks to be paid to the Commonwealth. Such payments are made in accordance with a notice issued to the hanks by the Treasurer. It is now proposed to give the Treasurer power to cancel or vary any such notice, and to refund any moneys paid over by a bank in accordance with any such notice. The object of this proposal was explained by me in my secondreading speech. It is also proposed by this clause to exempt from the operation of the main provisions of section 15 such accounts as are, with the Treasurer’s approval, opened in any bank and operated by the State only for purposes specified by the Treasurer.
.- Under this clause, section 15 of the principal act is to be amended by inserting after sub-section 5a three new subsections, the first of which is as follows : - (5b.) The Treasurer may, if he thinks fit, at any time and from time to time during the currency of any proclamation -
While the Government may be justified in bringing down a measure of this character, I confess that it is difficult for me to appreciate the full significance of the clause at such short notice.
– The authority referred to in paragraph b, for instance, might be the State Superannuation Board. Under this clause, money which would otherwise go into the Commonwealth Treasury could be placed in the hands of that board.
– This bill is being rushed through the chamber with undue haste, and to-morrow night another measure of a similar character may be expected.
– On clause 7,I shall be prepared to move that progress be reported. The bill will still be in the hands of the committee tomorrow, and it will be possible for the honorable senator to obtain reconsideration of any clause.
– In that case I must be content. I thank the Leader of the Government for. his courtesy.
– I ask the Leader of the Government to look into the position of persons who supply goods in return for dole tickets and subsequently submit their accounts to the New South Wales Government. A complaint has been made by one person that when he presented to the bank a cheque of the New South Wales Government for £300 for goods supplied under dole coupons, the cheque was returned marked “ No funds “. This is a serious state of affairs.
– Why did he not take his account to the Treasury and obtain cash?
– I do not know. Another point to which attention should be directed has relation to the payment of income tax. Cheques are not now accepted as payment of State income tax ; money orders or notes are required.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [10.3]. - It is not the duty of this Government to find methods by which Mr.
Lang may overcome the difficulties created by his own rotten system of government. I point out, however, that he has found a means of overcoming them in relation to the Public Service. He can pay his Ministers, the members of Parliament and public servants - even those who are on duty in far distant places, like Cobar. If he can do this, surely he can, by the same means, pay business people in Cobar or elsewhere for goods supplied under dole coupons. The absence of banking facilities has not prevented Mr. Lang from meeting certain expenses. If he is refusing to meet demands in respect of dole coupons, he must be doing so for political purposes. It is refreshing to hear that State taxpayers are desiring to pay their income taxation. I thought that all the taxation documents were locked up by order of Mr. Lang, and that no new assessments were being issued. A few Commonwealth taxation papers have been handed over to the Commonwealth. Mr. Lang can. easily clarify this position by unlocking the doors of the taxation offices. It is not for us to provide a means by which taxpayers may pay their State taxation.
– I am concerned about the subject from the point of view of the taxpayer, not that of the Government.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The taxpayer can pay his money into the Commonwealth Bank and its acknowledgment of the receipt of the money will he a sufficient discharge of the debt. We shall not worry ourselves to find a method by which Mr. Lang can continue to evade the federal law.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Protection of State officers complying with Commonwealth laws).
– One of the main reasons for the introduction of this bill, so we were told, was the protection of State public servants who obey orders made under the Financial Agreements Enforcement legislation. We have come to a sorry pass when men are in danger of being penalized for doing their duty. If this is happening an appropriate remedy should be applied. All the Public Service Acts with which I am acquainted contain provisions which put the public servant in an almost impregnable position. He can be removed from office only on certain clearly specified grounds, and even if he is so removed he may appeal to a competent authority, which is not a law court, to consider his case. If a New South Wales public servant is called upon to obey a Commonwealth law, and for doing so is threatened with dismissal or is actually dismissed, will the provisions of the State Public Service. Acts apply to him, or will he have to seek protection under Commonwealth, law? If he has to make an appeal to a State tribunal, it seems to me that he will have little prospect of success. On the other hand, if he appeals to a Commonwealth authority the point may be successfully taken that he should have appealed to the State authority.
– If he has been dismissed for any act done under this act his case would be dealt with under Commonwealth law, which would override the State law.
– If, say, John Smith is dismissed by the Government of New South Wales for doing his duty under the federal law, how and where would he institute proceedings for relief?
– The person who dismissed him could be prosecuted for a breach of this act.
– That would be a Minister of the New South Wales Government.
– We could not prosecute a “Minister of the Crown, because he stands in the same relation as the King.
– We shall see what we can do.
– I want to know where the hypothetical John Smith would apply for relief. He may find himself in the position of having to apply to a State tribunal. If that is so he is not likely to get much relief. We have to remember that the New South Wales Public Service Association has recorded a decision to fall into line with Mr. Lang. That being so, State public servants who obey the federal law will be in a difficult position.
– The object of this provision is to protect public servants in New South Wales who may be dismissed or penalized in some other way for complying with the Com- monwealth law. What will he the position of a State public servant who refuses to hand over State revenue to an authority representing the Commonwealth ? Such a person may believe that “Lang is right.”
– He can be prosecuted by the Commonwealth.
– Could the Premier be prosecuted ?
– If the Premier dismissed a person who dismissed a subordinate he could be prosecuted.
– It is difficult to determine where this procedure will end. If a subordinate officer says that he is acting on behalf of another, and that officer says that he is carrying out the instructions of a superior officer, it will be difficult to say who is really responsible. I do not think that the Premier of a State can be prosecuted.
– This clause presents certain difficulties. It seems to me quite clear that dismissals in the Public Service do not come from the officer immediately above the offending officer. They have to go back some considerable distance, and eventually have to be approved, I take it, by the Cabinet itself.
– Or by the Governor in Council.
– I think every dismissal would come in the long run through the action of the Governor in Council, which means through His Majesty. It is a principle of constitutional law that the King cannot be haled before his own courts without his consent, and certainly he cannot be haled before a foreign court. For the purposes of constitutional law there are only two kinds of courts - the domestic and the foreign. It appears to me that the Governor in Council or the Premier could not be haled before a Commonwealth court. I may be wrong, for I know that in the case of Arbitration Court awards the High Court has held that they bind the Crown in right of the States. There are also practical difficulties in the way. When a subordinate officer collects income tax he does not retain it himself. He passes it on, I suppose, to some higher officer, and it is eventually banked. There will be considerable difficulties, I should say, in declaring who has disobeyed the law of the Commonwealth, just as there will be considerable difficulty on the part of the State in saying who should be dismissed or punished for a breach of the State law. Even assuming the legal position is all right, practical difficulties will arise. How are we to punish any person who prejudices an employee in his position? Supposing, for instance, the Government takes no action whatever, but merely declines to promote a person who should have been promoted. What action can the Commonwealth Government take?
– The honorable senator is assuming that this is to continue for a long period of time - until either the Commonwealth or the State crashes.
– I am sorry to say we do not see the end of it yet. I realize the difficulties created by the action of the New South Wales Government, and I should like to take whatever steps I could to bring it to a crisis; but I feel that there are considerable difficulties in the way. It would be possible to injure an officer in his employment without taking any action whatever - merely by not promoting him when promotion was due or by declining to give him an increase in salary to which in the ordinary course he would be entitled and which he would have received in the ordinary course. Taking Victoria as an analogous case, although officers of the Public Service or railways service are under a law which sets out their real position, and provides what shall be done in cases where charges are made against them - it does not alter the fact that the Governor in Council may dismiss an officer of the Public Service or of the Railway Department without giving any reason for so doing. I feel that dismissals in New South Wales, if any, will come from the Governor in Council, and that there will be considerable difficulty in proceeding against the Governor in Council, which is the King in right of the State. No doubt the Government has considered this question, and has obtained the best, advice it can. I can merely say that I feel some doubt about it, and I do not think that the Government would be safe in , assuming, that, merely because the principal acthas been declared valid by the High Court, it follows that any extensions of its provisions, which in one sense are ancillary to the principal act, will also be held valid by that court. It may be that these provisions will be useful in encouraging State public servants in New South “Wales to give assistance to the Commonwealth Government. I do not intend to carry my opposition to the extent of voting against the clause. I merely voice the opinion that it seems to me that it will be found impracticable to give effect to it.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (West ern Australia - Minister for Defence) [10.19] . -I assume that we are all agreed that it is desirable to protect those State public servants who are carrying out the law of the Commonwealth. The Government has obtained legal advice as to what it can do. I am not competent to argue the legal aspect of the matter with Sena tor Brennan and Senator Daly, but the Government has been informed by its legal advisers that it is competent for it to do what is proposed. I draw attention to the fact that in one of the previous amending bills we have provided that a Minister who disobeys the Commonwealth law may be fined or imprisoned. That action was also taken upon legal advice. The Commonwealth has been actuated by a desire to protect those who carry out the law of the Commonwealth. I remind honorable senators that public servants hold office at the pleasureof the Crown, and may be dismissed at any time. I assume that the Crown, which has the power of dismissal, is the Crown as represented by the Government, which is in the right as regards Commonwealth law, and in this case that is the Commonwealth, and not the State Government. The Crown, as represented by a State Government that acts illegally, would, I should say, have no authority in this matter whatever.
– That is not so. It is still a sovereign State, and “ the ‘King can do no wrong.”
– I put it as it appears to me, a layman. The Governor in Council does not act except on the recommendation of his Ministers.
If a Minister recommends the dismissal of a public servant for compliance with Commonwealth law, he offends against this provision. His recommendation alone is an injury to the public servant.
– In what court would a charge against a Minister under this provision be tried?
– It would be in some court of competent jurisdiction, and there is authority under this legislation to remove the action from a State to a Commonwealth Court.
– I find myself in some difficulty in regard to this clause.
– Would the honorable senator prefer that we deleted it?
– No, but I should like to strengthen its provisions. We should, if possible, provide a fuller indemnity to the State servant in the event of dismissal.
– That would be loading the provision in Mr. Lang’s favour.
– I cannot see that. Mr. Lang, or one of his Ministers - it might he difficult to prove who was actually responsible - could dismiss dozens, or even hundreds of men for obeying the Commonwealth law, and those men would have no right of claim against the Commonwealth. . Their only remedy would be a portion of the fine which might be collected from the Minister responsible. In the meantime they would have lost their jobs, and would have nochance of getting them back. Mr. Lang is able to offer them continuity of employment if they obey him, but the Commonwealth can offer them nothing.
Senator Sir George Pearce. Whatever criticism may be urged against the clause as it now stands, I could urge even more strongly against any proposal to indemnify State servants. That would indeed, be playing into the hands of Mr. Lang.
– I am looking at the matter from the point of view of the State servant. We should place State servants, if possible, beyond the danger of being penalized for obeying instructions of the Commonwealth.
– The Commonwealth would not penalize them. .
– No, but they could be penalized by the State Government. If the clause could be amended in the direction of safeguarding public servants who ““obey the law of the Commonwealth, such amendment would receive my hearty support.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 1 (Validation of regulations, notices, &c).
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [10.24]. - This clause is of a general character, and affirms the validity, of any resolution, certificate, proclamation, or other document passed or issued in pursuance of the principal act. This provision is considered to be desirable as a precautionary measure in case a technical defect should be discovered in any of the documents referred to.
Senate adjourned at 10.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 May 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19320510_senate_13_134/>.