14th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator Duncan-Hughes brought up the third report of the Standing Committee on regulations and ordinances, and moved -
That the report be printed.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the annual report on the Territory of Papua for the year 1933-34, laid on the table of the Senate on the 10th April, 1935, be printed.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 103.
Raw Cotton Bounty Act - Regulations amendedStatutory Rules 1935, No. 105.
– As a matter of privilege, I direct your attention, Mr. President, to statements which appeared in a Western Australian newspaper during last week-end to the effect that the Senate had reassembled after a holiday of ten days. I point out that, within the time mentioned, there were two Saturdays and two Sundays, and that the Senate, having completed the business on the noticepaper, had adjourned over three sitting days. I resent this unfair criticism of Senate proceedings, and ask whether you consider it incumbent upon you to take some official notice of the manner in which this branch of the legislature is treated by certain newspapers.
– I remind the honorable senator that when raising a question of privilege it is customary to conclude with a motion. As regards the newspaper criticism to which he has alluded, all I need say is that the Senate is so firmly based that it can well afford to ignore the trifling and paltry attacks that are made upon it from time to time by irresponsible persons.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate: (1) Is it a fact that the iron ore deposit at Koolan Island, Yampi Sound, has been sold to the British firm of Connolly and Brassarts Limited? (2) Is it a fact that a Japanese mining company (the Nippon Mining Company) has been admitted to the deal, and will now be in a position to supply Japan with iron ore in unlimited quantities? (3) Was the sale made by the Government of Western. Australia or by the Commonwealth Government? (4) Docs the Minister consider the sale a safe policy for Australia in view of possible international complications which art said to be likely in the Pacific?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The subject mentioned by the honorable senator does not come within the province of the Commonwealth Government. The sale or the granting of mineral leases is controlled by State governments. I shall endeavour to obtain from the Government of Western Australia the information desired by the honorable senator.
POWER OF’ PARLIAMENT TO DlSALLOW.
– With reference to the statement made in the Senate yesterday by the Minister representing the Attorney-General relating to the power of the Parliament to disallow regulations, I ask the honorable gentleman: (1) Where a regulation contained in a statutory rule consists of seventeen sub-regulations and twelve paragraphs, could a motion be made to disallow or amend a sub-regulation or a paragraph? (2) If the reply is in the negative, or if there is doubt about the matter, will the Government take steps to amend the Acts Interpretation Act to clarify or alterthe position in order to give to the Parliament this power? (3) If a regulation repealing a previous regulation is disallowed, does the previous regulation continue in force?
– The Government cannot and does not undertake to offer legal advice to honorable senators in reply to questions. The honorable gentleman has raised an issue about which opinions may differ. I therefore suggest that he mention it on the adjournment, and, if he gives the Senate the benefit of his views, they will have the consideration which they deserve.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate, in the absence of the Postmaster-General, whether it is a fact that at a conference representative of 60 commercial broadcasting stations in Melbourne, it was decided to ask the Government to repeal certain regulations dealing with wireless transmission, which were laid on the table of the Senate recently? Also, in view of the fact that the commercial broadcasting stations consider that the regulations will seriously hamper the development of broadcasting, will he ask the PostmasterGeneral to call for a report on the subject ?
– I happen to know that representations with regard to the matter mentioned by the honorable senator have been made to the Postmaster-General, who will, no doubt, give them careful consideration.
The Postmaster-General states that information is- being obtained, and replies will be furnished as soon as possible to Senator Arkins, in answer to his questions concerning the employment, in the Postal Department, of’ returned soldiers who have qualified by examination for positions as mechanics, but who could not pass the necessary medical tests owing to disabilities caused by war.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What amounts of primage duty have been received in respect of imports of goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom for each year from the year 1931-32 (inclusive) down to the present time?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer: -
Prior to the year 1933-34 a separate record of . the amount of primage duty collected on imports of goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom was not kept, the total primage duty collections from all countries being grouped . together in one total amount. For the years 1933-34 and 1934-35 the gross primage duty collected on imports from the United Kingdom was as follows: - 1933-34, ?l,642,424; 1934-35, ?1,562,099.
Line Staff, Canberra: Transmission of Publication Refused
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Postmaster General has supplied the following answers:
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Postmaster General has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister in charge of War Service Homes, upon notice -
– The Minister in charge of War Service Homes has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Government was informed that the New Zealand Government had received an application from Pan-American Airways to extend their proposed Pacific service to New Zealand, and that the latter government was disposed to grant the necessary permission.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 30th October, (vide page 1106) on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Through the courtesy of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), I have had an opportunity to peruse the right honorable gentleman’s, remarks in moving the second reading of this bill yesterday. There appears to me to be very little in the bill requiring further elucidation. In June, 1933, when the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Bill was before the Senate honorable senators in opposition complained because they had very little information concerning that measure. I repeat what I said on that occasion, that, in assuming control over such territories, Australia is placing itself in a position which may be difficult to maintain, and we maybe brought into conflict with other countries. The Minister, in moving the second reading of the bill, practically confirmed that opinion. He said -
At the conference of Ministers it seemed that the States were disposed to be sympathetic towards the proposal to amend the Constitution along the lines suggested, partly because of the recognition by the States of the Commonwealth’s situation in regard to whaling, and partly because State fisheries, with particular reference to pearlshell, trochus and beche-de-mer, had been adversely affected by poaching and operations within territorial waters by foreign nationals.
That statement supports the opinion of the Labour party that Australia cannot afford to become a colonizing country, and that there is a constant danger that the acquisition by Australia of new territories may bring it into conflict with other nations. If this bill is enacted the Commonwealth may be able to obtain some revenue from those engaged in the whaling industry,, but that has yet to be proved. The Minister stated that the New Zealand Government has made sufficient revenue from the- issue of licences to cover the cost of inspecting whaling vessels. This is really a machinery bill following upon the measure passed by Parliament in 1933, and the Opposition will not oppose the second reading.
– I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (SenatorCollings). We recognize that there is always a need for the governments of various countries to protect industry from the depredations of private enterprise, which’ has no regard for the interests of nations so long as huge profits can be made. The Leader of the Senate has informed honorable senators that in many cases whaling companies operating in the antarctic seas have ruthlessly slaughtered whales irrespective of the requirements, of the future. Whilst the Labour party supports this bill, and recognizes the need for government action to uphold the- convention to which the Commonwealth is a signatory with Great Britain and Norway, wehope that the measures to policethe whaling industry in Antarctica will be more effective than those undertaken by the Government to safeguard the fisheries in our northern and north-western waters. In those latitudes, depredations have been committed by the nationals of a certain power in the north. In the absence of adequate supervision, they have ruthlessly poached trochus shell, beche de mer and other marine products, and broken customs and immigration laws, without having been brought to book for so doing. In what way will the whaling industry be policed ; and how does the Government in tend to see that whalers in Antarctica operating under licences issued by this Government fulfil their obligations? If this country through its government is unable to safeguard fisheries off the northern and north-west shores of Australia from depredations by nationals of another country, what hope has it of supervising the whaling industry? Foreigners have denuded the Queensland beds of trochus shell, they have broken the immigration and customs laws, they have had dealings with aboriginal women, and their sampans have, apparently, had unrestricted right of entry into the territorial waters. According to the bill whales of a certain size, a calf, suckling or immature whale, and a female accompanied by a calf or suckling shall not be taken. It is all very well for the Government to insert that provision in the measure, and I hope it willbe able to police it, but honorable senators are entitled to know how this will be- done.
– The signatories to the convention put on board the whaling vessels government inspectors who accompany the ships on each expedition.
– Then I presume that the Commonwealth Government will do likewise. I hope that this supervision will be carried out properly, because it is necessary to safeguard the industry. The Government has failed adequately to supervise the fisheries in the northern waters, and yet it is preparing to assume additional responsibilities in Antarctica.
– The Commonwealth is not empowered to police fisheries in Queensland; that is the responsibility of the State Government.
– I admit that the State governments have a certain measure of control over the fisheries in territorial waters, but at the same time I feel obliged to point out to the Leader of the Senate that in answer to a question by me, he replied that a patrol ship would shortly be put into commission by the Commonwealth Government. This vessel, I believe, is now being built.
– That vessel will police the waters of the Northern Territory.
– If the operations of the patrol ship are to be confined to the Northern Territory, I can foresee complications arising. For example, if the immigration laws are broken by a foreigner on any island, atoll, or part of the Barrier Reef which belongs to Australia, will not the patrol ship be called upon to take action?
– Yes, but the Commonwealth has no power to enforce laws relating to fisheries.
– The Federal Government can enforce its own laws, such as those relating to customs and migration, and they are constantly being broken. Twenty foreign boats were beached on. Bathurst Island contrary to the laws of the Commonwealth, but practically no action was taken. I mention this merely to show that difficulties may arise in the operation of this measure. From another source complications may arise. Japan is no longer a member of the League of Nations, and is not a signatory to the Whaling Convention. Would it be possible for the Japanese to catch whales in the antarctic waters controlled by Australia and avoid payment of licence-fees? Recently a number of chasers and a factory ship went down into the antarctic seas and according to press reports, they intended to catch as many as 900 whales. Perhaps they will go into the waters adjacent to the land controlled by Australia. I would- like to know from the Government whether poaching of that nature can be stopped, in view of the fact that the Government has- not been able to prevent poaching in the northern waters.
– in reply - [3.28]. - Apparently the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) sees some danger in Australia possessing territories. Admittedly an element of danger does exist, for heavy responsibilities are placed on. the Commonwealth once itaccepts territories. But a far greater danger would present itself if those lands fell into the hand’s of a foreign power. Ownership of those territories gives Australia the advantage, apart from any others, of being , able to keep at a greater distance foreign nations who might constitute- a potential source of danger.
– A number of nations share Australia’s responsibility in Antarctica.
– Honorable senators may be interested in the following extract from the minutes of the Second Committee of the Twelfth Assembly of the League, of Nations in 1931 indicating the attitude of the Japanese Government towards the question of adherence to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, 1931 :- -
To the general principles underlying the Convention, the Japanese Government had no objection, and he was not opposed to its being approved by the Assembly and submitted to the governments for signature. At the same time, the Japanese Government was of opinion that there were still sufficient right whales in the Northern Pacific to preclude any apprehension of the disappearance of the species.
He had not as yet received precise instructions from his Government as to the question, but he believed that it would in all probability sign the Convention, if the reservation to which he had referred were adopted, and if all the other States of the North Pacific littoral signed it.
Another extract from the minutes reveals the Australian attitude -
Mr. Watt (Australia) argued in favour of the restrictions proposed by the draft Convention. He even thought they should be strengthened, particularly in regard to the limitation of the number of whale-chasers; but he thought it wiser not to take any decision on the point pending the receipt of more accurate information from the International Bureau of Whaling Statistics at Oslo, which, under the Convention, was the institution centralizing and distributing information. The information to be supplied by the bureau would enable a definite opinion to be formed on the point. As matters stood, the Australian Government waa satisfied with the present draft and would sign it, if the final text were not substantially different from the draft text at present before the Committee.
The representative of the British Empire, Sir Arthur Salter, said -
As regards the exception which the Japanese Government wished to be made for the Northern Pacific, the point had been considered carefully in Berlin and Geneva, and the present text had been drawn up after mature reflection. It was open to the Japanese Government to make a reservation at the moment of signing the Convention, and the other countries would then bc in a position to decide whether they were prepared to accept the reservation or not. He hoped, how-‘ ever, that the Japanese Government would ultimately decide to accept the text as it stood without any reservation.
So far as the Commonwealth is able to judge, the attitude of Japan is still the same as was expressed by M. Kawashima in 1931. Should Australia ratify the Convention, there is no doubt that representations will be made by the signatory powers - Great Britain, Norway, and Australia - to Japan and other countries in an effort to make the application of the Convention as widespread as possible. So far as the South Pacific is concerned, there is every hope that Japan, although not a member of the League of Nations, will become a signatory to the Convention. There is nothing to prevent it.
As to fishing in the Antarctic by fleets of other nations, the position there is not different from what it is off the coasts of Australia. The territorial waters of any country have a definite limit, which is recognized internationally. No country professes that its laws operate beyond its territorial waters. The only way in which whaling outside territorial waters can be regulated by a country is by exercising some . control over whaling vessels when they enter territorial waters. Because of the limited control possible to individual nations, those nations which undertake whaling operations should become signatories to the Convention. Seeing that the whaling industry is in danger of extinction unless this Convention is accepted and given effect, I believe that Japan, as a civilized nation, will in its own interests sign the Convention and see that it is effectively carried out. It is a measure of self-preservation. Although Norway regards whaling as one of its most profitable industries, it has accepted the Convention, recognizing that, if the industry is to continue, it must be regulated. Although, like Japan, the United States of America is not a member of the League of Nations, it is interested in whaling, and it is hoped that that country, too, will become a signatory to the Convention, so as to make it more effective.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 - in this act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Right whale “ includes “ southern right whale, Pacific right whaleand southern pigmy right whale “.
– Ishould like the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to indicate what is meant by “ right whale “.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [3.39]. - I am sure that Senator Brown does not expect me to give, offhand, a learned dissertation on the various kinds of whales. At this stage, I can only say that the kinds of whales set out in the clause are well recognized by all authorities on fish. When a decision has to be made as to whether or not a whale has been illegally caught, the responsibility will rest, not with me, but on some one more closely associated with the whaling industry.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Application of act).
– Sub-clause 2 reads -
The Governor-General may, by proclamation, declare that this act shall apply in Australian territorial waters or any portion of such waters.
I take it that this provision is dependent upon the consent of the States; otherwise it would be inconsistent with the Constitution to provide that the GovernorGeneral may, by proclamation, declare that this measure shall apply in Australian territorial waters or any portion of such waters. Our territorial waters are, for the most part, under the jurisdiction of the States. I would like the Minister to explain this matter.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [3.41].- Evidently the honorable senator did not hear my second reading speech in which I explained that we had endeavoured to persuade the States to transfer control of fisheries to the ‘Commonwealth. Some were willing, but others were unwilling to do this, and therefore we abandoned that course. As, however, we were anxious to take the necessary action, we decided to pass this legislation and to ask the States to pass similar measures. When that has been done, the Governor-General may issue this proclamation as he will then do so virtually with the consent of the States.
– Such a proclamation could not be ‘ issued by the GovernorGeneral without the consent of the States?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE. No; the Governor General could not issue proclamations on behalf of the States without their consent, but if they pass the complementary legislation the States will virtually give such consent and it will be quite competent for the Governor-General to issue this proclamation.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Appointment of officers.)
– There is a flavour about this clause which I do not like. I ask the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) to explain briefly just what “ powers and authorities “ under the Crimes Act will be vested in a constable for the purposes of this measure.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affiairs) [3.43]. - As such a constable will have. to deal with whales and whalers I assure honorable senators that there is no sinister intention behind this provision. An “ officer “ for purposes of this measure means “ an officer performing duties under this act”, and this clause provides that “ every officer shall, for the purposes of the enforcement of the provisions of this act, have the same powers and authorities as a constable has under the Crimes Act 1914-32 “. Among those powers and authorities is the power to arrest without warrant in cases where proceedings by summons would be ineffective. When honorable senators visualize conditions as they exist in the Antarctic, they will readily recognize that a constable could hardly proceed by way of summons; he must proceed without a warrant. An inspector who may go to the Antarctic, either on an Australian or a British ship, will have the powers of a constable within the meaning of the Crimes Act only so far as this measure is concerned.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 (Remuneration of crew not to depend on results.)
– Contrary to the statement in the marginal note, the wording of this clause itself shows that the remuneration of crews may depend on results of a certain kind.
– That is so.
– Evidently what is known as a “ lay “ can be arranged.
– But it must not be based only on the number of whales taken.
– I have never known a lay to be arranged on the basis of the number of whales taken; it is usually arranged on the basis of the value of oil obtained by a ship or its crew. In olden days it was customary for whaling crews to be engaged at a certain rate of pay and they were entitled also to an agreed percentage of the value of the oil obtained. I take it that this clause will allow of such an arrangement to be made, subject to certain restrictions, but the marginal note does not fully convey the meaning of the clause itself.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [3.47]. - Of course, a marginal note is only descriptive and has no effect. In connexion with this and a number of other clauses in this measure, I point out that their wording repeats the wording of the articles of the convention, which was drawn up by experts of nations like Great Britain and Norway which have been whaling for centuries. The object of these clauses is to give effect to the purport of the convention which, in the main, was that indiscriminate destruction of certain kinds of whales, such as young whales, should be prevented. Many clauses in this measure repeat the exact words contained in the convention.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 to . 20 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 30th October (vide page 1116), on motion ‘by Senator Brennan -
Thatthe bill be now read a second time.
– Yesterday I emphasized the enormity of the offence which has been committed by this Government in introducing legislation that abrogates all traditions of British justice by requiring a person accused to prove his innocence. This morning I received a copy of a Melbourne publication containing an opinion given by a well-known Melbourne barrister on this bill. He criticizes it in language much more severe than I have been accustomed to use in this chamber, in the press, or on the public platform.
– Probably, for a fee, he would express the contrary opinion in equally severe language.
– I prefer , to consider the views which he has expressed as his honest conviction,, and I know that they are endorsed by a considerable number of people in this country. After studying the provisions of this bill, he states -
In the realm of political offences the right of trial by jury goes by the board. An accusation has become prima facie evidence of guilt.
We all know that when, in the lower courts, a prima facie case is made against an accused person, the case goes before a higher tribunal presided over by a judge of the Supreme Court. That, I contend, is what may, and probably will, happen to persons who may be proceeded against under the Crimes Act as amended by this bill.
We on this side have always endeavoured to defend the bottom dog; we have always stood up for the rights of the people against unjust pressure of executive authority. And that is our attitude to this bill. No Minister should have authority to appoint a special magistrate and invest him with extraordinary powers to deal with suspected persons.
– Every State has its Crown prosecutor.
– That is on the legal side. The Senate is expected to accept without question all the provisions of this bill, many of which are repugnant to our sense of fair play. For instance, section 9, as amended by clause 3, will enact -
That, I suggest, is extraordinary power to place in the hands of any Minister. During a civil disturbance such authority might be seriously abused, and the responsible Minister would justify what had been done by pointing to the provisions in the act.
– What authority should make such seizures?
– Action, I think, might very well be taken by the police under their ordinary powers.
– Would it not be better for the Minister to be responsible for the appointment of responsible persons ?
– I again remind the honorable senator that, through the centuries, the masses of the people in all countries have always been restive because of the repressive and tyranous actions of persons in authority. Always there have been students and thinkers, philosophers and scientists, prepared to accept whatever fate might have in store for them simply because they were in advance of contemporary thought. Giordano Bruno went to the stake because he would not recant, and Galileo was also a sufferer, though he recanted because his scientific researches - one of which indicated that the world was flat - so profoundly disturbed the current beliefs of the scholastic and ecclesiastical authorities of his time.
But I am digressing. The Melbourne barrister to whom I have alluded has expressed the view that the privileges secured for the people under Magna Charta have been abrogated by the Crimes Act.
– That statement appears in a recent issue of the Melbourne Truth.
– I am well aware of that. Truth sometimes is discovered in Truth as well as in other places. Senator Allan MacDonald has not been long a member of this chamber, otherwise he would know that in 1932 a serious attempt was made by the Government to interfere with the liberties of the people by amendments, having retrospective effect, proposed to be made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Those amendments sought to penalize unions which had been connected with some unlawful association twelve months previously. They endeavoured to create an offence and make it retrospective for twelve months. The proposals aroused such a storm of indignation throughout Australia that the Government was glad to drop the bill. It was bitterly opposed in the Senate, where it originated. That is the kind of treatment which the masses of the people may expect from this Government.
– “What the honorable senator is suggesting as likely to happen following the passage of this bill could happen under the existing law.
– I am not so sure of that, but it is quite likely that an attempt would be made so to adminster the act if the occasion arose. Senator Dein appears to be imbued with the idea that such things as I halve suggested could not happen in Australia. If the honorable gentleman would refresh his memory of events of the last five years, he would have to admit that all our preconceived ideas of British justice were forgotten by a government which endeavoured to deport Walsh and Johnson. But such are the vicissitudes of party politics that Walsh, once the declared enemy of Nationalist thought, is now in the counsels of that party.
– He saw the light.
– If the government of the day had had its way, he would have been thrown out of the country before he had a. chance to sue the light.
– The answer I received to a question to-day indicates clearly what the Government proposes ,to do when this measure is enacted.
– Yes. It will be interesting to see what actually happens if this measure becomes law. [ do not think that any honorable senator opposite really believes that the onus of proving innocence should be placed upon a defendant. As a Melbourne barrister said, trial by jury is being destroyed by the Crimes Act. I am satisfied that honorable senators opposite, ‘ who are the lineal descendants of those who burned Bruno at the stake and who supported King John, arc prepared to do what was done in those days.
– Does the bill contain any reference to trial by jury?
– It does not.
– Then the honorable senator is not entitled to refer to it.
– The people of Australia will be shocked to find that a charge can be laid against a citizen of this country who may, while in custody and unable to obtain any assistance, be asked to prove his innocence.
– The honorable senator has already referred to that subject several times.
– I am endeavouring to make the position clear to honorable senators in reply to their interjections.
– To what portion of the bill is the honorable senator opposed?
– Proposed new section 30ab, sub-section 2, is particularly objectionable. It reads -
Any person who without just cause (proof whereof shall lie upon him) -
Penalty: One hundred pounds or imprisonment for six months.
That provision is unduly severe, particularly paragraph d. The opinions expressed throughout Australia against the proposed amendments cannot all be wrong. Some honorable senators opposite are so complacent that they have not even bothered to ascertain what the measure actually contains. They will not even give a patient hearing to those who are endeavouring to explain its provisions. I trust that honorable senators will have an opportunity in committee to direct attention to the unsatisfactory nature of some of these provisions.
.- I have studied the proposed amendments contained in this bill in conjunction with the Crimes Act 1914-32. Somewhat similar amendments are embodied in the British Official Secrets Act 1911, and were passed by an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons on the 2nd December, 1920. If I thought that this bill had ‘been introduced to stifle honest criticism by any individual or by the publisher of any newspaper or pamphlet I should oppose it. In almost every clause the words “prejudicial to the safety and interests of the Commonwealth or any other part of the King’s dominion “ are used, and no citizens or associations of citizens need have the slightest fear unless their actions, words or designs are directed against the well-being of the Commonwealth.
– Who is to be the judge ?
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) knows only too well of the white-anting methods adopted by a certain organization to destroy the Labour party in Australia. Yet when the Government introduces legislation to chock the underground working of such organizations which are aiming at the destruction of the Commonwealth constitution, honorable senators opposite protest. Proposed new section 30ab does not necessarily refer to communistic associations. It is a dragnet provision covering unlawful associations generally, and may include the NewGuard or organizations controlled by Fascists or Blue Shirts. I am generally in accord with the bill because many persons with foreign or anti-British sympathies have been given too much f reedom. When the bill is in committee honorable senators must be sure that nothing contrary to traditional British fair play finds its way on to the statutebook. The proposed legislation may be necessary, but it is always well to investigate and remove the causes of unrest. Some are international, over which we have no control, but over others we have control and the power to provide remedies. When there was any indication of discontent or disorder in the Australian Imperial Forces the generals sought the cause and, invariably, found it, and its elimination resulted in contentment, loyalty and efficiency. But even then there were agitators who never reached the front line, and who were only a menace to the Australian Imperial Force. Their solo aim was to sow the seeds of discontent. The only deterrent was heavy punishment, which was inflicted only after trial by court martial, which every man who has been in the service admits is the fairest court in the world. If offenders were found guilty a heavy penalty was inflicted, and it always acted as a deterrent. It is equally necessary that heavy penalties should be provided for the offences set out in the Crimes Act, which are a check on those who wish to bring about a state of revolution in this country. I support the bill.
.- 3 feel that I am justified in saying that the Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) did not explain the provisions of the bill sufficiently to justify its introduction. He should have told the Senate the effect of the proposed amendments.
– I think that he is ashamed of the bill.
– I do not think so. I am inclined to believe that the Government, with its big majority in this chamber, considered it unnecessary to give honorable senators as full an explanation of the bill as otherwise would have been given. In presenting a measure containing such drastic provisions the Government should not think that the Senate is behind it willy nilly, and that we will support whatever measures are brought forward. It may be that I am not quite fair to the Assistant Minister, because he may intend to explain more fully the effect of each proposed amendment in committee. This is the more necessary in that the Senate does not possess what I may term a legal mind. The principal act has been amended on numerous occasions ‘between 1914 to 1932, and I am beginning to wonder why it hasbeen necessaryto alter it so frequently. Apparently the bill is to give to the Go vernment increased power to deal with traitors in our midst, to prevent disruption and generally to ensure the safety of Australia. Clause 8 of the bill reads -
After section thirtyR of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 30s. - (1.) An offence against thisPart of this Act shall not be prosecuted summarily without the consent in writing of the Attorney-General, . or of a person thereto authorized in writing by the Attorney-General, and an offence against this Part shall not be prosecuted upon indictment except in the name of the Attorney-General or of such other person as the Governor-General appoints in that behalf:
Provided that a person charged with any offence against this Part of this Act may be arrested, or a warrant for his arrest issued and executed, and he may be remanded in custody or on bail, notwithstanding that the consent of the Attorney-General or a person acting under his direction has not been obtained, but no further proceedings shall be taken until that consent has been obtained.
– A person may be kept in prison indefinitely.
– That is the point I am coming to.
– The honorable senator should read proposed new subsection 2.
– It reads- (2.) Nothing in this section shall prevent the discharging of the accused if proceedings are not continued within a reasonable time.
By whom is he to be discharged and to whom can he appeal? A person may be arrested and placed in gaol. He may, however,’ be discharged if proceedings are not continued within “ a reasonable time “. But who is to decide what is a reasonable time? That and other points should -be explained by the Assistant Minister. Honorable senators opposite proclaimed in strong language their opposition to any interference with the right of free speech, but I have a very vivid recollection of the rights of free speech being seriously interfered with during the last general election campaign- in the electorates represented ‘by members of the Labour party. It seems to me that the only portions of Australia in which there is not the right of free speech are those electorates. Honorable senators opposite and their colleagues should put their own house in order before protesting against the action of others. The Leader of the Opposition raised the subject of censorship.
I am not satisfied with the method of censorship as applied to either political works or to fiction entering the country. There seems to be too much restriction and too much differentiation. The people of Australia desire to be educated in regard to the political movements taking place on the other side of the world. Unless they are given that opportunity they are unable to obtain a proper idea of how the world is. developing. In the case of fiction, the differentiation made between one author and another verges on the ridiculous.
Whatever party may be in power, I am afraid that it may administer this bill in a way that may not be quite fair. I do not question the necessity for this measure; I simply say that the manner of presentation is not all that I would have expected in a deliberative body like the Senate. At the same time, I grant that the Assistant Minister possibly intends to explain very closely the purport of the various clauses in committee. I fear the effect that some of the clauses may have, and I trust that the Assistant Minister will explain them in detail when replying to the second reading debate.
– in reply - Frankly, I resent the allegation by Senator Leckie that because the Government has a large majority in the Senate, I failed to give a proper explanation of this bill- There is nothing recondite about the measure^, and nothing difficult to comprehend in it; it was introduced into this chamber over a month ago, with a. full explanation, so it seemed to me, of its provisions, together with a statement that many or most of them were based on. the Official Secrets Act of Great Britain.
– - Fifteen years after !
– That indicates that in the introduction of this bill there was nothing hurried- or precipitate. When moving the second reading, I explained that I did not propose to give a very full explanation of the details of the bill, because it was essentially a measure to be considered in committee. And that is the attitude which I take up to-day, one month, after the measure was introduced. If, as a result of consideration, or of reading the bill through, hon orable senators have discovered any points which require elucidation, I shall be very happy to explain, them, and if necessary, to state why the Government has thought fit to insert them in the measure.
– Is the Assistant Minister quite happy about the bill ?
– I cannot say that my condition is either one of unhappiness or of pleasure. It has not depressed me, it has not elated me. I brought the bill before- honorable senators for their consideration as one of the things that a Minister in the conscientious discharge of his duty must do, but I have not. myself been able to discover, nor has any honorable senator pointed out, anything in it that should sadden my feelings while I consider it.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has said that he is not sympathetic with the Communist party. I am glad that he gave us that assurance because if one had regard only to his speech and the contentions that he put forward, one might form a wrong opinion on that point. Senator Brown has said that every Government has a right to safeguard itself and its people. That is what the Government thinks, and this is a measure of precaution taken to safeguard this country and its people.
– The people can be safeguarded without some of the proposed amendments.
– It could be said, before we proceeded to introduce any bill, that the people can safeguard themselves. What the Government is seeking to do, is to safeguard the people of this country.
– The people have been safe enough up to the present.
– I am not so sure of that. Honorable senators opposite have evidently forgotten that we are living in a developing world, that conditions are not static, and that we have to face enemies in our midst, which Senator Collings’ father, to whom the honorable senator referred in his speech, had not to confront when he came to this country. We are to-day faced with an organization whose ramifications are world-wide; it is seeking to under- mine the whole of organized society, and Australia has not escaped its attentions.
– Are they the Fascists? Of course not! This measure is aimed at the Labour party.
– The Fascists have been called into existence by the previous existence of this very organization to which. I have referred.
– The Communists brought the Fascists into existence.
– Exactly. Fascism is a counter-stroke to communism. Communism may yet drive other nations into fascism. Senator Collings declared that this measure is aimed at the Labour people, and he wasted much sympathy upon the so-called underdog. As Senator Sampson stated, this measure is directed against the dirty dog.
– That is the spirit of this bill.
– The reference to dogs did not come first from this side of the chamber. While we move forward to-day, Ave may have to move further forward in future, if the menace with which we are faced continues to grow, because we are not in the van of progress in respect of repressive legislation. Senator Hardy’s painstaking speech showed that we have still a long way to go before we overtake other nations in the matter of repressing those who are opposed to our political opinions.
– This bill is one further step in that direction.
– Very likely, because this Government prefers to step forward rather than to step backward. The Leader of the Opposition spent a great deal of his valuable time in academic references to the suppression of the liberty of the press. It is rather unfortunate that .just a little earlier on the same day he had expressed the view that die best use the press could be put to was for stuffing the windows of those so-called hovels- at Molonglo, about which he had expatiated. I remind the honorable gentleman that there is no clause of this bill which deals with, or seeks to curtail, the liberty of the press. Attempts may be made to curtail the licence- of the press, but unless the honorable senator realizes the distinction to be drawn between liberty and licence, his 50 years of political education, of which he has spoken more than once, have been wasted in some important respects. Senator Brown had a great deal to say about the Liberty of the subject. This bill, from its title to its schedule, contains not a solitary line which curtails liberty of speech.
– I used the phrase “ liberty of expression.”
– I conceded that, for the honorable senator’s benefit, while he was talking. One may refer to curtailment of speech, meaning the curtailment of any means of expression. He gave it that wide interpretation, but what does this bill curtail in the matter of printing? I refer the honorable senator to the proposed amendment to section 25 - ( La. ) Any person who publishes any book, periodical, pamphlet, handbill, poster or newspaper containing any matter of such a nature iis to, or us to be likely to -
seduce any person serving in the King’s Forces from his duty and allegiance: or
incite any person serving in the King’s Forces to make or endeavour to make a mutinous assembly, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
Does the honora’ble senator who talks about the curtailment of liberty of expression advocate that the people of Australia ought to stand by and allow such things as these to be done, and make no effort to protect ourselves?
– I explained very clearly that my objection was to the words “ likely to “ and used in illustration the view of the Leader of the Senate. I added that if the judge and jury were of the same opinion, a limitation would be imposed.
– In other words, the honorable senator strikes at one of the fundamental principles of our legal system ; that of trial -by one’s peers, trial by jury. The person who commits an offence under proposed sub-section 1a. shall be guilty of an indictable offence. The use of the word “ indictable “ means that before he can be found guilty, he must be tried by a jury of his fellow citizens, a common jury as it is called, because the jurors are ordinary men, drawn from the community as a whole.
– Why not omit the words “ likely to “ and merely provide that a person who incites another to mutiny shall be guilty of an indictable offence. That would be quite a different proposition.
– No ; the words have to be published first, and it is then for a jury to decide whether they are likely to seduce a person serving in the King’s forces.
– We object to the words “ likely to “.
– The safeguard is the trial by jury. When the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has had the experience of juries that I have had he will know that they will not convict a man unless the evidence “leaves no room for reasonable doubt “.
As to the criticism of the bill by Senator Leckie I can only say that the honorable senator should know that the bill is designed to prevent the spread of communism. Are we to understand that Senator Leckie, a citizen of the second largest city in Australia, knows nothing of the activities of communists and sees no reason to restrict them?
Senator J. V. MacDonald objected to clause 2 which gives a definition of “ Superintendent of police “. In my second-reading speech I drew attention to the link between clause 2 and clause 13. The latter clause amends section 82 of the Principal Act by inserting at the end thereof the following sub-section -
Clause 2 defines “ Superintendent of police “ as any member of the police force of the Commonwealth or of a State or of a territory, being part of the Commonwealth, occupying that position or a similar or higher position.
– It confers extraordinary powers on him.
– -No ; it confers on him only such powers as are designed to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth.
– He is to be the judge of what constitutes a great emergency.
– Some one must make the decision. Decisions are made almost every day in our courts by judges who, however, do not act arbitrarily, but in accordance with the evidence. The clause does not confer on the superintendent of police any greater authority than may now be exercised by a justice of the peace.
– He is to be given power not only to delegate his authority but, also in times of great excitement, to make decisions.
– That is just the time when a prompt decision is necessary.
– The superintendent of police cannot be in two places at once. In times of great excitement there must be power for some one to act in his absence.
– I have worked under the shadow of this legislation all my life.
– And so far the honorable senator has escaped.
– A justice of the peace must be satisfied, as a result of evidence tendered to him on oath, that a warrant is justified, whereas under this bill a superintendent of police may act without any such evidence. A statement in the Sydney Morning Herald or the Melbourne Argus will be sufficient evidence for him.
– It is true that section S2 of the principal act requires a justice of the peace to be satisfied by information on oath that there are reasonable grounds for the issue of a search warrant.
– This bill abrogates that provision.
– No; it gives certain powers to an officer of police not below the rank of superintendent. The provision has been taken from the English act of 1921, of which we have heard no serious complaints.
– It is none the better for that.
- Senator J. V. MacDonald also complained that clause 3 sought to extend to certain Commonwealth officers powers now reposed in a police constable. The honorable senator’s criticism was based entirely on a wrong assumption. The clause is harmless. The section which it amends reads -
Clause 3 merely amends that section by inserting after the word “ constable “ the words “ or any Commonwealth officer who is authorized in that behalf by a Minister of State “. It will apply principally to unauthorized wireless apparatus. At present a constable has power to seize unlicensed wireless apparatus, but difficulties have arisen both in connexion with the disposal of the apparatus and because of the danger of more important duties not being performed. The purpose of the clause is to empower- inspectors of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to seize such apparatus.
The honorable senator also objected to clause 5, which deals with indeterminate sentences. This clause is directed, not so much against Communists and persons who divulge official secrets, as to the reformation of youths who have been convicted of offences. It has been inserted in the bill on the recommendation of judges, and is almost entirely identical with the provision in the Victorian act.
– Does not that act require a man to be declared an habitual criminal before he is given an indeterminate sentence?
– No. Before a man can be declared an habitual criminal he must have had at least two previous convictions for indictable offences. Clause 5 seeks to amend section 17 of the principal act by authorizing the imposition of an indeterminate sentence on a person apparently of the age of seventeen years or upwards who has been convicted of an indictable offence against any law of the Commonwealth should the court, having regard to his antecedents, character, associates, age, health, or mental condition, think fit. In the interests of the youth, the court may prevent him from mixing with undesirable associates.
– In committee, the Opposition will tell the Minister against whom the clause is directed.
– The Government has a clear conscience in this matter. The principal States have this provision, and I know that they regard it as a very beneficial section because it enables a judge to send a man for reformative treatment and enables the authorities administering that treatment to retain’ him until he reforms.
– During the GovernorGeneral’s pleasure.
– It is reformative rather than punitive.
– It may be made punitive.
– The leader of the Opposition said that this measure gives a policeman power to decide certain things; except in the case of a superintendent of police that is entirely erroneous.
– This is not the only clause which deals with such powers.
– The honorable senator probably had in mind clause 7, which replaces a section in the existing act, and, much as it may surprise members of the Opposition, does so in an ameliorative way. Whereas the act provided that the Attorney-General may be satisfied on certain information given to him, not on oath, this measure requires that, at the very least, a police, stipendiary or special magistrate must be satisfied of certain things on information supplied on oath.
– The Assistant Minister has exhausted his time.
– I shall be glad to make any further explanations of the bill in committee.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time-.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section 9 of the principal act is amended - (a) by inserting in sub-section (1) after the word “ constable “, the words “, or any Commonwealth officer who is authorized in that behalf by a Minister of State,”; and
Section proposed to be amended -
Any constable may, without warrant, seize any articles which are forfeited, or which he has reasonable grounds to believe are forfeited . . .
– What is the meaning of the words “ or any Commonwealth officer who is authorized in that behalf by a Minister of State”? Do they mean a Commonwealth officer, other than a Commonwealth police officer? Is it proposed to make policemen out of Commonwealth public servants?
– The honorable senator having been charged must discharge himself because I have already explained the purpose of this clause. At present police officers are entitled to seize unregistered wireless sets.
– Wireless sets are not mentioned here; this clause refers to forfeitable goods.
– I am aware of that, but section 9 of the act, which this section amends, provides -
Any constable may, without warrant, seize any articles which are forfeited or which he has reasonable ground to believe are forfeited under any law of the Commonwealth, and take them before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction.
I explained . that the reason why that section required amending was that it did not empower inspectors under the Post and Telegraph Act to seize unlicensed wireless sets. It is desirable that such officers should have that power, as it is undesirable that the time of police officers should be taken up in policing a measure of this kind which is essentially administrative and, to a large extent, deals with non-criminal matters.
– Where . can I find that in the act?
– In section 9. It is -quite true that the seizure of unregistered wireless sets is not specifically mentioned in the act, but an officer may be authorized to make such a seizure by the Postmaster-.General. It is not intended to make Commonwealth public servants policemen ; but it is desired to give officers of the Commonwealth, particularly inspectors under the Post and Telegraph Act, power to seize and bring before a justice any article which is forfeited or which they have reason to ‘believe is forfeited. There may be provisions in the bill that are open to criticism, but I assure the Leader of the Opposition that there is nothing sinister in this clause.
– I cannot find any reference to the seizure of- unlicensed wireless sets.
– I have already said that they are not specifically mentioned. I have merely explained that such a deficiency in our power induced the Government to provide for it in this measure.
– Other portions of the bill allude to goods found in the possession of individuals charged under this act, and it appears to me that this particular clause also alludes to such goodsand that it has nothing whatever to do with unlicensed wireless sets. Not a line of this measure is going to be passed until I, as Leader, and my colleagues, as mem-, bers of the Opposition, know what it means. Unless the rights of an Opposition are recognized parliamentary procedure becomes a farce. We must be satisfied of the meaning of these provisions before they are passed.
– I reiterate that only goods which are forfeited, or which an officer has reasonable grounds to believe are forfeited, may be seized by a constable or, as is proposed here, by a special officer.
– It does not refer on ly to unlicensed wireless sets.
– No; section T of the Wireless Telegraphy Act reads -
All appliances erected, maintained, or used in contravention of this act or the regulations, for the purpose of transmitting or receiving messages by means of wireless telegraphy, shall bo forfeited to the King for the use of the Commonwealth.
That is one instance of a forfeited article ; somebody must ‘have power to seize such an article. At present a constable has that power and I am still unable to understand why the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) should see anything sinister in this proposal to give similar power to an officer authorized by the responsible Minister to seize unregistered wireless sets.
– Because in this measure other goods are referred to which may be confiscated.
– If they ‘have been forfeited, or are suspected of having been forfeited, they may be seized. Only under such circumstances can they be seized. I do not deny that goods other than unlicensed wireless sets may be seized under this provision. Under the ‘Customs Act a person carying illicit liquor may be intercepted and the illicit liquor, as well as the vehicle in which it is being conveyed, forfeited to the Crown.
– Under this bill books also may be seized if some authority decides that they are illicit goods, and rho property of a perfectly innocent person may be taken from him.
– They may not bc seized unless they are declared to be forfeited. Wireless receivers used for an illicit purpose would come within this category. I completely fail to understand how the honorable senator can see red ruin staring 113 in the face if we extend to some person authorized by the Minister power which is already vested in a constable.
Senator BROWN (Queensland [5.9]. - I understand from the Assistant Minister that a wireless receiver for which the owner has not paid the licence fee may he seized hy any Commonwealth officer so authorized by the Minister. This means that any Commonwealth officer may be made a police constable.
– No; the Minister may vest him with authority to seize certain articles.
– At all events the proposed amendment empowers the Minister to vest any Commonwealth officer with limited power. I mention this because a few months ago the Deputy-Director of Posts and Telegraphs for Queensland (Mr. Corbett), ordered officers of his department to seize a number of wireless receivers that were owned by working people who had not been able to pay the licence fee. His action caused some excitement. Many prominent people in Brisbane held that the Deputy-Director had no authority to order the seizure of the instruments in question. Apparently, the Minister takes the view that any police constable, or any person authorized hy the Minister, may enter the workers’ homes and seize wireless receivers if the licence has not been renewed. In his second -reading speech, he stated that this provision was inserted to provide for the seizure of certain wireless receivers. Evidently it will be competent for any officer so authorized to enter any person’s home and take away his wireless receiver.
– An unlicensed wireless receiver.
– Does the Minister think that that is right?
– Parliament has said that it is right.
– The effect of this clause will be to make every public servant a policeman. That seems to be the intention of the Government.
– Not in the least. Such action may be taken only by a person who is authorized by the Minister.
– I am aware of that. Senator Leckie this afternoon in a brief’ speech criticized the Government for some of its actions, and pointed out that, if this right of seizure were extended to books, there might be intereference with the opportunity of the people to educate themselves regarding political movements abroad. Although we may not believe in communism, fascism, or naziism, it is desirable that we should have the opportunity to acquire knowledge concerning all systems of government; yet under this bill an authorized official may enter a person’s home and seize books from his library shelves.
– I submit that Senator Brown is now dealing with matters that are not relevant to the clause. All that the proposed new section does is to permit a Commonwealth officer, if so authorized by a Minister, to do what a constable may do under the existing law, namely, seize property which is forfeited under the act.
– I suggest that Senator Brown having heard the Minister’s explanation of the clause, should confine his remarks to the subject-matter of the clause.
– Section 9, as amended by clause 3, will enact that any constable or Commonwealth officer who is authorized in that behalf by a Minister of State, may, without warrant, seize any articles which are forfeited or which he has reasonable ground to believe, are forfeited. I am entitled to discuss the whole clause, and should not be limited to the words in paragraph a which it is proposed to insert.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– The clause provides that section 9 of the principal act is to be amended by inserting certain words in sub-section 1 and by omitting sub-section 4. Section 9 of the principal act provides that -
Any constable may without warrant seize any articles which are forfeited or which he has reasonable ground to believe are forfeited.
At that stage such articles may not have been forfeited. A Commonwealth public officer authorized by a Minister is then to undertake duties which should be performed by a constable. The section continues - under any law of the Commonwealth and take them before a court of summary jurisdiction.
The clause also provides that sub-section 4 of section 9 is to be omitted. That sub-section reads -
All articles which arc condemned as forfeited shall be dealt with as directed by the Attorney-General and pending his direction may be detained in such custody as the court directs.
A Commonwealth public officer who, the Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) has admitted, may be a telegraph messenger, may enter any home and seize any goods which he believes he has the right to seize. I move -
That the words “ or any Commonwealth officer who is authorized in that behalf by a Minister of State “, be left out.
– During my second-reading speech, I opposed this amendment. The Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) endeavoured to show me that I was wrong, and that all that was intended was to give certain persons power to seize wireless sets. It now appears that there is nothing in the principal act concerning wireless sets. If this amendment is agreed to, another force with disciplinary powers will be established. Its members will have authority to enter a man’s home to seize goods including books, letters or documents which a Minister, who after all is only a transient authority, may consider to be forfeitable. The members of the police force are under the control of the Police Commissioner, and if necessary may be called before a court. The proposal is to establish a new force similar, I suppose, to that brought into existence when at Warwick during the war an egg was hurled at the then Prime Minister. Under this legislation, any Commonwealth officer may be called upon to perform duties which should be undertaken by the police. If there are not sufficient police constables, the number should be increased. A Minister should not have the power to force public servants to undertake such duties.
– It is not proposed to force any one.
– It would be exceedingly difficult for any Commonwealth public servant to refuse to carry out instructions. Even some members of the police force have resigned their positions because of the nature of the duties they have been asked to perform. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings).
– Senator J. V. MacDonald said that a Minister should not have the power to force public servants to undertake duties which, presumably, they do not wish to perform.
Apparently, the honorable senator is unaware of the fact that a similar provision is contained in other legislation. Section 203 of the Customs Act passed in 1901 reads -
Anyofficer ofHis Majesty’s forces or any officer of customs or police may seize any forfeited ship or goods upon land or water or any ship or goods which he has reasonable cause to believe are forfeited.
The police officer seizing the goods must be in possession of a warrant, and when the goods have been seized he must take them before a police-magistrate.
– Section 9 of the principal act says “ any constable may without warrant “.
– He may seize them, without a warrant, but he must possess a warrant before he can enter the house. The only goods which can be seized are goods which have been forfeited or which he has reasonable cause to believe have been forfeited.
– The officer will take the property and claim that he has reasonable grounds for doing so.
– If the honorable senator applied the same reasoning to various acts of Parliament, those statutes would break down, for a law can only be administered on the supposition that those who are giving effect to it are honest. If one assumes that they are dishonest, one can imagine all sorts of consequences.
– We are assuming that in connexion with this bill.
– If a person enters premises and seizes another’s goods without reasonable cause he becomes a trespasser and is liable to heavy penalties. A constable may swear falsely, but policemen can be enlisted only from the material offering, which is represented by the ordinary common citizens. We can make inspectors or authorized persons only of officers who can be trusted. One may conjure up all sorts of imaginary things about dishonest officers, and, going further, conjure up visions of dishonest Ministers of State, and in the last extremity envisage dishonest electors, but we can only use the material which we have at our disposal. We must assume that the administrator who gives effect to an act of Parliament will do his duty. The powers now proposed to be given to inspectors are no different from those already entrusted to policemen. I have quoted the Wireless Telegraphy Act merely as an illustration. It was in the minds of the framers of this legislation, and this provision was inserted to enable inspectors to seize unlicensed sets. Senator Brown has painted a picture of the lengths to which an officer might go; but the official must be authorized by a Minister of State before he can take any action. There is a vast difference between an authorized and an unauthorized officer. If Senator Brown, possessing all the qualifications that go to make an excellent policeman - physique, sense of duty, and calmness of demeanour - enters a house without authority, and commits certain acts, he is liable to be punished for it. But, if he is sworn in as a special constable, and is authorized by the Government to enter the premises, thereafter he may do things which he could not do before. And that is the case of an officer authorized by the Minister.
– Is it the intention of the Government that this clause shall enable the Commonwealth to confiscate wireless receiving sets because the owners have failed to renew their licences? At whom is this clause pointed? I believe there are times when such a provision should be operated; but the Government should be candid, and inform honorable senators as to whom this clause is directed against.
– It would not be correct to say that this section is aimed at any particular person, or class of persons. But I repeat that what was particularly in mind was the forfeiture of unlicensed wireless sets. Before a set can be confiscated there must be some knowledge on the part of those responsible for the administration of the act that no licence-fee has been paid, and therefore that an officer is entitled to seize it. Accordingly the officer is authorized to take possession of the set, but before he does so he must have the necessary warrant to enter the house. It was the necessity for extending to officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department powers which were already exercised by the police which mainly suggested this amendment, but I do not undertake to say any more than that it must be judged by its terms. It might not be limited, and probably will not be limited, to cases dealing with wireless telegraphy. All I said was that unlicensed sets presented a difficulty that suggested the clause, but the provision may be used for all or any of the purposes which the act covers. In no other way does it extend the scope of the powers now possessed by the department. Nor does it increase the harshness of the regulations with regard to the forfeiture of wireless sets. It only enables an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service authorized by the Minister in charge to do what a constable may already do.
– The Minister has stated that there is practically no difference between the amending section and the original act.
– That is not what I said. The only difference is that authorized officers are to be allowed to do what the police may do now.
– The policemen who previously could take action were under State jurisdiction. This section, therefore, changes the jurisdiction from State to Federal. A person who owns a wireless set is liable to have it confiscated by an officer of the Postmaster-General’s Department for failure to pay the licence-fee. Now, the forfeiture of a set worth 20, 30, 40 or 50 guineas for the non-payment of a licence-fee of 21s. is too drastic. The clause gives very large powers to the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– The power exists already.
– An officer may at present take action indirectly, but not directly. I believe with the Minister that the department will not depute foolish servants to carry out administration. But at times departments and their officers do not use judgment, and they have a tendency merely to think of one thing, namely, the obtaining of the licence fee.
– Before the committee disposes of the amendment, I request the Minister to acquit me of any desire to be personal in any remarks that I may make during this discussion. I have the greatest possible respect for Senator Brennan, and for other honorable senators. But I think that the Assistant Minister was guilty of an unworthy act in introducing into the discussion on clause 3, the subject of wireless licences, because he knows, as well as I do, that while this clause may ostensibly be designed to reach people who do not pay the licence-fee, it is deliberately aimed at other things more important to this bill than unlicensed wireless sets.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator has said that although I know that the clause is deliberately aimed at other things, I have told the Senate that it is aimed only at wireless apparatus. My truthfulness is impugned and I ask that the statement be withdrawn.
– If the Minister puts it that way, I withdraw the statement. If clauses 3 and 4 are passed in their present form every vestige of fair play and British justice, let alone Australian justice, which should he superior, disappears. I believe that this bill offends against the interests of the people of Australia and I shall do my best to alter it. Section 9 of the Principal Act, which clause 3 seeks to amend, reads -
Any constable may, without warrant, seize any articles which are forfeited or which he has reasonable ground to believe are forfeited under any law of the Commonwealth, and take them before a court of summary jurisdiction.
He need not be sure. Only in times of great public excitement will this law be put into operation; and then, no matter how weak the evidence, he will be sure. I object strongly to creating another police force by empowering the Minister to authorize public servants to do work which is properly the duty of the police. When a man joins the police force, he knows that he will be called upon to do this class of work, but the ordinary public servant does not expect to be required to do it.
– In my opinion, it is wrong to empower any person to seize a wireless set merely because the owner has not paid his licence-fee. A thing which is wrong in principle is not made right . by extending it, and therefore I object to a wrong power now conferred on a police officer being given to a public servant.
In order to show how unfairly this provision may operate, I instance my own case. Since I left my home for Canberra, my family received a letter from the Postmaster-General’s Depart ment stating that I had not paid my wireless licence-fee. I had paid it ; yet, because of a mistake made by the department, my wireless set could have been seized under this legislation. I should like to know whether the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs must obtain a separate warrant to search each house which he thinks contains an unlicensed wireless set, or whether he can act under a general warrant covering a number of houses. The power to enter a house and seize wireless apparatus merely because thelicence-fee has not been paid is too drastic. It may be that because of the non-payment of a fee of 21s. awireless set worth £24 will be seized. The words “reasonable ground to believe” would have applied in my case. Had I not been a member of the Senate it is more than likely that my wireless set would have been seized and kept indefinitely notwithstanding that I had paid my fee.
– Suppose the apparatus had ‘been purchased under a hirepurchase agreement?
– I was dealing with a wireless set, the property of the householder. It is not right that a man who is out of work, and therefore unable to pay the licence-fee, should have his wireless set confiscated. I shall vote for the amendment.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
Thatthe Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Thursday next at 3 p.m.
[6.6].- I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
On the motion for the adjournment last evening, Senator Allan MacDonald re ferred to a committee formed to distribute a grant of money made available by the Commonwealth Government and the Western Australian Government for the relief of those engaged in the pearlshell industry at Broome. He asked whether this committee had made a -report either . to the Federal Government or to the State government, and, if so, whether the report was available to honorable senators. I have had inquiries made and it appears that a report has not yet been made to the Commonwealth Government. The State government was, however, asked during . the current month whether a report had been submitted to it and, if so, whether a copy could be forwarded to the Commonwealth Government. A reply has notyet been received from the State government. Further consideration will be given to the honorable senator’s request that the report he made available when this reply is received.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 October 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1935/19351031_senate_14_147/>.