15th Parliament · 1st Session
ThePresident (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - read a statement which was made simultaneously in the House of Representatives with regard to a trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States of America (vide pp. 1713-1716).
– Can the Leader of the Senate state whether honorable senators will be afforded an opportunity to discuss the agreement?
– I hope to be able to make a statement on the subject this afternoon.
- by leave. - The Commonwealth Government has again had under consideration the exportation of pig iron from Australia. After going into the matter in all its phases, it has been decided that this trade will be permitted to continue for the time being. Viewed in relation to the quantity of iron ore which would have been exported, had restrictive action not been taken, the volume of exports’ is comparatively small. The Government’s technical advisers affirm that the present volume of exports of this commodity is not prejudicially affecting the ability of industry to meet Australia’s requirements of iron and steel products. The whole position will, however, be kept constantly under review, and if it appears at any time that the exportation of pig iron is likely to increase to such an extent as to affect detrimentally Australian industry and development, the question of restriction of export will receive immediate consideration. The present action of the waterside workers at Port Kembla in refusing to load pig iron for Japanis regarded very seriously by the Government. The 8,000 tons to he loaded on the Dalfram is part of a total order of 24,000 tons.
The Government cannot permit the usurpation of the functions of the Government by any section of the community. It has the full responsibility to determine what attitude it shall adopt in regard to the Sino-Japanese dispute, and cannot permit that responsibility to be taken out of its hands. It is sincerely trusted that the decision of the Government with regard to pig iron will have the effect of bringing clearly to the minds of the waterside workers at Port Kembla that the action they have taken is in conflict with the recognized principles of orderly government and international trading. The Government hopes that the waterside workers will realize that their position is untenable and that they will at once resume the loading of pig iron for export.
– I understand that the Government is receiving representations from various organizations, and that discussions are taking place between the Government of the United Kingdom and this Government concerning foreign refugees. Will the Leader of the Senate confer with the Prime Minister with a view to stating the Government’s policy in the matter?
– I shall see if the honorable senator’s wishes can be complied with.
Rank and Salary of Commander
– On the 17th November Senator Collett asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence the following questions, upon notice: -
The Minister for Defence has now supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
The Honorable Member for Bendigo - Ministeb fob Defence.
– On the 17th November Senator Collings asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence the following questions, upon notice: -
The Minister for Defence has now supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
confeeence of delegates of Approved Societies.
– On the 17th November Senator Aylett asked the Minister representing the Treasurer the following question, upon notice: -
What was the cost to the Government of the conference of delegates of approved societies on the national health and pensions insurance scheme, held at Canberra on the 24th and 25th October, 1938?
The answer to the honorable senator’s question is that the cost was £808.
– On the 16th November Senator Arthur asked the Minister representing the Treasurer the following questions, upon notice: -
What is the total amount of reserves held by those hanks at the same date? 3. (a) What, is the average rate of dividend disclosed on paid-up capital of such banks a year for the period the 30th June, 1915, to the 30th June, 1932; and
What was the cost of establishing the Commonwealth Bank, and the Commonwealth Savings Bank? 5.(a) What is the total profit shown by the Commonwealth Bank (general banking), exclusive of the Rural Credits Department, from its inception up to the 31st December, 1932?
What is the total profit of the Commonwealth Savings Bank from the date of its inception as a separate institution in 1928, to the 31st December, 1937? 8. (a) What is the total profit on the Commonwealth note issue since its inception to the 31st December, 1932?
The Treasurer has now supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
£30,465,000 (at the 30th September, 1938). 3. (a) Simple average 1915 to 1932 equals 10.42 per cent.
The exact purport of this question is not clear. The Commonwealth Bank commenced business by taking over all Commonwealth Government accounts which included large credit balances. It was therefore unnecessary, at the commencement of business, to supply capital beyond a small initial advance which was repaid. 5. (a) £8,738,454.
Flour Tax - Drought
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Following upon the conference of Federal and State Ministers of the16th instant with reference to stabilizing the price of wheat for home consumption at 4s. 8d. a bushel, will the Minister inform the Senate what provision (if any) has been made for payment on an acreage basis to wheat-growers who have suffered crop failures as a result of drought conditions this season?
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer: -
An amount of £500,000 will be allocated from the fund established by means of the Commonwealth levy on flour and will be used for assistance to wheat-growers who have been adversely affected by drought this year.
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commercehas supplied the following answers: -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
With reference to the report in the Melbourne Sun of the 14th November, 1938, in which he is reported as saying, “ During the depression the Senate had asserted itself by preventing the enactment of legislation which would have destroyed the credit of the Commonwealth.” - to what legislation docs thisrefer?
– I accept full responsibility for that statement and my personal reply is that the legislation referred to includes the Commonwealth Bank Bill 1931 and the Wheat Marketing Bill 1931.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: -
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - I have received a communication from Senator Dein resigning his position as a Temporary Chairman of Committees. In pursuance of Standing Order 28a, I hereby nominate Senator Herbert Hays to act as Temporary Chairman of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
Motion (by Senator Allan MacDonald) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– I move-
That the bill be recommitted with a view to the reconsideration of clauses 4 and 9.
Last night when Senator McBrida asked for certain information in connexion with clause 9, a misunderstandirig arose between the honorable senator and myself. I had informed him that it waa intended to report progress, and that he would be given an opportunity to look into the matter overnight. However, the Assistant Minister, who was in charge of the bill, took a vote on the clause. That is my reason for including clause 9 in the motion for recommittal.
– The recommittal of the bill is, of course, in the hands of the Government, but the statement just made by the Leader of the Senate contains more than appears on the surface. I am perfectly willing to concede the point that misunderstandings must have occurred in connexion with clause 9; indeed, we of the Opposition were of opinion that a complete miracle had occurred when we were supported in the last division by two ministerial senators, and I can imagine the excitement which permeated all sections of the composite Government which is ruling - or rather ruining - the destinies of this country, until it was able to marshal its forces this morning and decide on the recommittal of clause 9. These manoeuvrings are not new; they have been going on continuously as the result of the incongruous elements which make up this composite Government and, every now and again, of course, honorable senators feel the repercussions. I shall be satisfied, however, so long as such machinations are exposed. I realize that since last night the Government steamroller has been at work, and that the different parties of which it is composed have held their respective meetings, with the result that disciplinary measures have been taken against the two honorable senators who, because of a misunderstanding, voted with the Opposition last night; consequently, they are prepared this morning to be good little boys.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. President. I take exception to the remark just make by the Leader of the Opposition. As a member of this national Parliament, I propose always to act according to the dictates of my conscience, and I regard as a personal reflection upon myself the suggestion made by the honorable senator that I would yield to influence in my duty as a legislator. I ask, therefore, that the honorable senator withdraw the remark to which I have taken exception.
– If the honorable senator feels hurt, I willingly withdraw the reflection which he considers is contained in my remarks. I hope he will not think that I am repeating the offence when I say that 1 am glad to know that the position is not so serious as I thought it was, that the honorable senator has a conscience and obeys it sometimes, that last night was an occasion on which he obeyed it, and that he will obey it again this morning. The fact remains, however, that the action now being taken by the Leader of the Senate is another of the little jokes which discredit this democratic institution. I realize that the Government is master of its own procedure and, in any case, the bill had to be re-committed because of some things which were held over last night by common consent.
is acting within his rights in asking for a recommittal of the bill, but 1 resent his attempt to buttress his request by referring to an incident which occurred last night. It would appear that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) is right in assuming that conversations have taken place with certain senators, who then voted against the Government. In my opinion, the Leader of the Senate should have moved for a recommittal of the bill without making remarks which placed senators in an invidious position. I do not know that any honorable senator is in a position to say that another honorable senator will revoke the vote that he gave last night. To say the least, the Leader of the Government has committed a breach of parliamentary procedure. I am not prepared to believe that, as the result of the refusal of the Minister in charge of the bill to agree to report progress, two honorable senators who usually support the Government voted with the Opposition; I prefer to believe that the two honorable senators referred to cast their votes conscientiously.
– As my name has been introduced into the discussion, I wish to explain that, last night, when clause 9 was under discussion, I approached the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) and asked for some further information regarding it. I understood him to say, and I believe that he did say, that, in order that I might have the fullest information, he would report progress. I said that would meet my wishes. Subsequently, the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Allan MacDonald) decided to take a. vote last night. Not having the information which I desired to enable me to come to a decision, I voted against the Government. I claim that I am entitled to have sufficient information to enable me to cast an intelligent vote upon any matter which is discussed in this chamber. The information which I sought has just been handed to me ; after considering it, I shall vote as I think right.
Amendment agreed to.
In committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 4 -
After section 5 of the principal act the following sections are inserted : - “ 5a. In addition to any compensation payable . . . the employershall pay the cost, not exceeding in any case the sum of Twentyfive pounds, of such medical, surgical and hospital expenses in relation to the injury as are, in the opinion of the Minister administering this act, reasonably necessary:
– Following suggestions made by Senator Armstrong for the clarifying of certain definitions, a series of amendments will be proposed. I move -
That the word “ expenses “, first occurring, proposed new section 5a, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ treatment and ambulance services “.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause further consequentially amended.
Amendment (by Senator Allan MacDonald) proposed -
That at the end of proposed section 5a thu following new sub-section be inserted: “ (2.) For the purposes of this section - “ ambulance services “ includes any conveyance of an injured workman to a medical practitioner or to a hospital; “ medical treatment “ includes -
treatment by a duly qualified medical practitioner, a registered dentist, or a masseur;
the provision of skiagrams, crutches and artificial members; and
any nursing, medicines, medical or surgical supplies or curative apparatus supplied or provided for him otherwise than as a patient at a hospital and “hospital treatment” means treatment at any hospital and includes the maintenance of the workman as a patient at the hospital, and the provision or supply by the hospital of nursing, attendance, medicines, medical or surgical supplies or other curative apparatus, and any other ancillary service.”
– The proposed definition of “ ambulance services “ reads : “ ‘ Ambulance services ‘ includes any conveyance of an injured workman to a medical man or to a hospital ‘ “. I do not desire to load the definition unnecessarily, but I suggest that it should include the words “ or to his place of abode “. An injured workman may elect to be taken to his home rather than to a hospital.
– I do not think that there is any need to insert the words suggested. The term “ ambulance services “ would naturally cover the conveyance of the injured man to his home.
– I agree that it may be possible to read that into the definition, but I can imagine difficulties arising should the home of the injured man be, say, three miles from the scene of the accident, whereas the hospital or the medical practitioner may be only half a mile away. Definite provision for the conveyance of an injured man to his home, or his place of abode, should be inserted in this proposed new sub-section.
– There is provision in the sub-section.
– I should like to be sure of that. In the majority of cases, unless an accident is very serious, the injured person prefers to be taken straight to his home.
– Proposed new sub-section (.2) states -
For the purposes of this section: - “ ambulance services “ includes any conveyance of an injured workman to a medical practitioner or to a hospital;
It is therefore apparent that conveyance of an injured person to his home, if he so desires, comes within the meaning of “ ambulance services “ although it is not definitely specified.
– I am still not convinced. I would like it to be made quite clear that an injured seaman would be legally entitled to claim compensation for conveyance to his home following an accident.
.- Proposed sub-section (2) enacts - “Medical treatment” includes: -
To what extent may treatment be given by a registered dentist? It is conceivable that, as the result of an accident, a seaman might require the treatment of a tooth. Upon going to a dentist, he might be informed that the rest of his teeth should be extracted, and a set of dentures substituted. Unless the dental treatment to be provided is definitely specified, shipowners or insurance companies might be called upon to meet the cost of dental work not actually necessitated by injury sustained in the course of employment.
– Proposed new section 5a lays down conditions governing the payment of compensation for injuries arising out of, or received in course of, employment. The inclusion of the words “ registered dentist “ would make provision for dental treatment of a kind which could not be given by an ordinary medical practitioner. Should a seaman sustain an injury such as a broken jaw, probably all the treatment necessary could be given by a hospital doctor; but if the replacement of a denture was necessary that work would be carried out by a registered dentist. That is what the section implies.
– It does not say so.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD. Proposed new section 5a also provides that compensation for costs incurred in the treatment of injuries, is a matter for decision by the Minister.
– I have no opposition to the remainder of this clause, but I should like some enlightenment on the point which I raised previously in connexion with “ ambulance services “. As I read the provision, no payment for the conveyance of an injured seaman to his home would be allowable.
– If an in jured man were an ambulance case, he would be taken straight to a hospital.
– Apparently the Minister does not appreciate the point I wish to make. If an injured man were unconscious he would be taken by an ambulance to a hospital; but if the injury were not so serious, a man might wish to be taken straight home in order to save worrying his wife or members of his family. Under this proposed new section, he could not recover expenses incurred in conveying him to his home by ambulance. Expenses would be recoverable only if the injured person were taken, to a medical practitioner or a hospital.
– The word “ only “ is not used in the proposed sub-section. If it were, I could understand the honorable senator’s argument.
– Why not specifically include provision for conveyance of an injured seaman to his home or place of. abode?
– Legislation cannot be generalized in that way.
.- I am not satisfied about the inclusion of the words “ registered dentist “. If a man were involved in an accident, and had to have a tooth extracted, the cost would be rightly payable out of the amount of compensation payable; but if an injury were the result of say, a brawl, free dental treatment should not be available.
– It would not be. If a man were injured in a brawl, the injury would be due to his personal negligence.
– Claims in respect of injuries received in this way will be made, however, and I think that the legislation should be tightened up. It would be very difficult for the Minister to determine in all cases what would be fair and reasonable compensation for the cost of treatment of accident injuries.
– - I understand Senator Leckie’s opposition to the provision relating to treatment by a registered dentist; the honorable gentleman is associated with manufacturing enterprises, and probably also with shipping companies. He has admitted to being a director of an insurance company. The Manufacturers Mutual Insurance Company and other insurance companies would probably feel that if this provision were allowed to remain in the bill, their business activities might be adversely affected. I resent Senator Leckie’s insinuation that seamen are in the habit of brawling. There should be no quibbling in this matter. If a man sustained an injury to the jaw necessitating surgical as well as dental treatment,it is quite possible that it could be given by doctors at the hospital to which he was taken. On the other hand, an injury might be such that skilled dental treatment would be necessitated. If that treatment could not be given by the hospital doctors, it would have to be given by a registered dentist.
– I appreciate the point raised by Senator Collings with regard to the definition of “ ambulance services “ and I give him my assurance that the subsection as drafted will not prevent an injured man from receiving compensation for conveyance to his home.
– I accept the Minister’s explanation.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The words employed in the proposed new sub-section are the same as those used in the Workers’ Compensation Act of New ‘South Wales. The expression “ registered dentist “ is preferable to “ dentist “ because many unqualified persons call themselves dentists. Similarly, a doctor is referred to in legal phraseology as a “ qualified ‘medical practitioner “. That is the answer to Senator Leckie. In reply to hia contention that dental expenses might be claimed by a seaman who had been involved in a brawl ashore, I point out that, under the proposed new section 5a, compensation is payable only in regard to injuries sustained in the course of the seaman’s occupation.
– I did not anticipate that the Minister would accept Senator Leckie’s suggestion. I draw that honorable senator’s attention to the fact that an accident to a seaman wearing artificial teeth might cause both upper and lower dentures to be broken.
.- I agree that, if a seaman sustained an accident of that kind in the course of his employment, he would be entitled to have the dentures repaired free of cost. My passing reference to a brawl may have been unfortunate, but I do not appreciate the imputation that I assume that the insurance company with which I am associated might be involved in a claim over a matter of this kind. That insurance company would not be involved in such a claim at any time. I point out’, however, that if extra benefits be inserted in the act the insurance companies concerned will increase their rates, and this will be reflected in increased interstate shipping fares and freights. Perhaps the Minister has not had sufficient time to realize the implication of his amendment. Claims may arise in many directions if the position is not safeguarded. I feel in duty bound to direct attention to the dangers of this loosely drawn provision.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 -
After the second schedule of the principal act the following schedules are inserted: -
DESCRIPTION OF DISEASE.
Poisoning by benzol or its homologues.
Poisoning by carbon monoxide.
Any disease contracted in the course of or as the result of the employment.
– I move-
That the words - “ Pneumonia.
Any disease contracted in the course ot or as the result of the employment” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ produced by oil or grease or dust or caustic or corrosive liquids “.
The latter words were originally in the schedule, but they were deleted last night in accordance with an amendment submitted by the Opposition. The object of the recommittal of the clause is to restore the original wording of the fourth schedule. The Seamen’s Compensation Act now rnakes no provision for the payment of compensation to cover what are usually known as occupational or industrial diseases. Most workmen’s compensation acts make such provision, and any act for the compensation of seamen such as that now under consideration would undoubtedly be incomplete if this defect in the present law were not remedied. The Opposition succeeded in having added to the list of specified diseases pneumonia and pleurisy, as being occupational diseases in respect of which seamen should be paid compensation. The inclusion of those particular diseases in the schedule has been very carefully considered ; but, from an administrative point of view, it is regarded as impracticable to include them, because of the difficulty of associating pneumonia and pleurisy at any particular time with the occupation of a seaman. It is conceivable that a seaman might contract pneumonia or pleurisy when ashore, but that the disease might become apparent only some days later, when the employee was at sea. How difficult it would be for a medical referee to say that the disease was the result of some incident ashore, or that, in the case of a fireman, it was due to his calling, will be evident to honorable senators. The most important aspect, which apparently ha3 been overlooked, is that neither the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act nor any one of the workmen’s compensation acts of the various States includes pneumonia or pleurisy amongst occupational or industrial diseases. This fact alone demonstrates conclusively that there arc real and vital reasons for the exclusion of these diseases. Their inclusion solely in the Seamen’s Compensation Act, it is submitted, would impose an almost impossible task on medical referees. The further addition to the schedule of the words “ Any disease contracted in the course of or as the result of the employment” would, if adhered to, make the fourth schedule superfluous. Moreover, in the administration of the act, the whole of the onus would be thrown on the medical referee to determine in respect of which disease or diseases compensation should be payable. Such a delegation of responsibility in such a matter would be most undesirable. The Parliament alone should decide that point. It is unthinkable that such a wide power should be handed over to the administration. I reiterate that no other compensa- tion act, Commonwealth or State, includes such a far reaching phrase as “ any disease contracted in the course of or as the result of the employment.”
The deletion of the words originally occurring after “ dermatitis “ is not acceptable, as that particular disease could be contracted in many ways. It is desirable that shipowners should not bo called upon to pay compensation in respect of dermatitis contracted by a seaman from a cause not associated with his calling as a seaman. The medical opinion is to the effect that the words following dermatitis in the fourth schedule as originally drafted are. necessary limitations which should, in no circumstances, be removed. I point out that the Government has decided upon the course of action now being taken because of the impracticability of administering the schedule as it has been amended. In the brief time available to me this morning, I endeavoured to ascertain, approximately, what would be the cost to the shipping industry if this allembracing item were allowed to remain in the schedule. The figures were rather divergent, but the cost to the industry might be anything from £10,000 to £20,000 per annum. I remind honorable senators of what I said in this regard yesterday. That extra expenditure alone might not be responsible for the bankruptcy of the shipping companies, but added to other increased costs it might be a factor contributing . to the displacement of the Australian mercantile marine by overseas vessels not registered in Australia. The seamen on those vessels do not enjoy the labour and other conditions which apply to Australian seamen; of course, over those vessels Australia has no control whatever. An island continent, such as Australia, should have an efficient mercantile marine, and this Parliament should not place any unnecessary additional burdens upon those controlling it. The Australian shipping industry is as much entitled to its degree of protection as is any other Australian industry. In the event of war, the Australian mercantile marine would be, in the matter of transport, an important line of defence. I urge honorable senators opposite to reflect upon the amendments carried last night, which make the fourth schedule too embracing.
– I congratulate the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) upon the painstaking way in which he has dealt with this matter, but, unfortunately, the further he proceeded the worse his case became. In effect, the Assistant Minister suggested that, if pleurisy and pneumonia be included in the schedule, the stability of the British Empire may be threatened. The extraordinary present vulnerability of the British Isles is due to the fact that many of the vessels of the British mercantile marine are manned, not by Britishers, but by foreigners, who cannot be relied upon in a national emergency. One would imagine from the utterances of the Assistant Minister that the Government has not the power to control the ships operating in Australian waters. It has the power to determine that only ships manned by Australians,, working under Australian conditions, and owned and controlled by the nation or by Australian companies shall operate in Australian waters. The Assistant Minister estimates that at least an additional £10,000 would be involved if the inclusive terms of the fourth schedule were allowed to remain ; but he did not say that even lOd. may not have to be expended. No cost whatever would be incurred unless it could be proved that the disease was contracted in the course of the seaman’s employment. He further said that pleurisy and pneumonia contracted ashore might not develop until the seaman had returned to his ship. It is also reasonable to assume that such diseases are more likely to be contracted on board owing to the nature of the occupations which seamen follow, and that they may not develop until seamen have left their ships. In such cases they would be penalized, and the shipping companies would escape all responsibility. There is no reason why seamen should be denied the. benefits to which they are entitled, merely in order to permit the shipping companies to escape their responsibilities. Dermatitis can be contracted in. ways other than those suggested by the Minister. It can be contracted by a person who has to handle articles previously handled by per sons suffering from the disease. It could even be contracted by a seaman who with bare feet walked over a deck on which a bare-footed passenger suffering from the complaint had walked when going to and from the bath or swimming pool. The Assistant Minister contends that too much responsibility would be placed on the medical referee and that Parliament should decide. That is exactly what we are endeavouring to do. If such diseases were included in the schedule, the medical referee would have no difficulty whatever. The Government wishes a medical referee to be able to say, “ It is useless to tell me that you contracted dermatitis through contact with oil, grease, dust or corrosive liquid as you cannot show that your work necessitated any such contact.” Should the amendment inserted by the Opposition last night be retained, a seaman would be able to say that he knew that he was not handling such commodities, but that, in performing other work he could have contracted the disease. Neither the amendment moved by the Assistant Minister nor the explanation which he has given will stand a logical examination. The onus should be placed on Parliament and not on tha medical referee. Every argument adduced by honorable senators on this side of the chamber last night stands. I ask honorable senators opposite to treat fairly those seamen whom the Assistant Minister admitted constitute a very important section of the community. He even said that, in the matter of transport, the mercantile marine is practically our second line of naval defence. Pleurisy and pneumonia are more easily contracted on board ship than anywhere else, with the exception perhaps of boiler rooms in factories and other places where there are marked variations of temperature.
. The Leader of the Opposition instanced some ways in which dermatitis may be contracted. The Government does not wish to do anything detrimental to the seamen, but wishes to facilitate the administration of the set. Iri the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act dermatitis is referred to as being produced by dust or caustic or corrosive liquids. In the “Western Australian Workmen’s Compensation Act reference is made to mining, stonecrushing or stone-cutting, and the Queensland act relates to any employment involving the use of vegetable or mineral matter. The words used in this bill have not been inserted in order to reduce the amount of compensation payable, but to facilitate administration.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
– At the appropriate moment I shall move -
That the words “ Any disease contracted in the course of or as the result of the employment “ be left out,
I am not convinced by the explanation which the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) gave this morning of the amendment which he has moved to this schedule. The reasons he gave as to why pneumonia and pleurisy could not be included in this list of diseases do not impress me. In the light of the experience gained in connexion with workers’ compensation legislation in the various States, I realize that some limitation is necessary, and for that reason 1 agree that the dragnet proposal submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) and adopted by the committee last evening should be deleted. However, I cannot see why pneumonia and pleurisy should not be covered in this schedule. Sufficient safeguards for the shipowners are provided in the measure which lays down that an applicant for compensation must prove that his complaint was contracted in the course of his employment. This is made clear in clause 4, which also affords the shipowners protection against malingering, and provides that a claimant must produce a certificate from a duly qualified medical practitioner that his disease is included among those specified in this schedule, and was contracted in the course of his employment. It is also provided that the medical inspectors appointed under the Navigation Act 1912-1930 must be satisfied that the disease was so contracted. These provisions, I suggest, afford the greatest possible protection to the shipowners. The contention of the Assistant Minister that the inclusion of pneumonia and pleurisy among the diseases in respect of which compensation will be payable would involve insurmountable administrative difficulties is somewhat an exaggeration, because we know that State workers’ compensation legislation places upon the shoulders of the medical profession the responsibility of deciding whether or not diseases in respect of which claims are made, have been contracted in the course of the applicant’s employment. We shall not, therefore, place an unduly heavy responsibility upon medical practitioners if we include pleurisy and pneumonia among these diseases. For similar reasons the qualifications in respect of dermatitis are also unnecessary. A medical doctor is surely capable of saying whether a case of dermatitis had been contracted in the course of the claimant’s employment. However, I am not so anxious that the proposed restrictions in respect of cases of dermatitis should be removed, but I do think that the Government should agree to the inclusion of pleurisy and pneumonia among these diseases.
The Government is to be complimented on having brought down this measure, which represents a tremendous liberalization of the benefits to seamen under our compensation legislation. We should not be influenced entirely by what is provided in State workers’ compensation legislation, in deciding whether we should provide more generous benefits in our own law. In many instances this Parliament has introduced social legislation far in advance of that adopted hy the States. As the Assistant Minister pointed out in his second-reading speech, the compensation provisions applying to the Commonwealth Public Service are far more generous than those provided by the States for their public servants. I hope that the Assistant Minister will see his way clear to accept my amendment. If it be adopted it will extend a measure of justice to the seamen who perform important work in the interests of the country.
. The opposition of the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) to the amendment is based more upon its probable cost than upon any difficulties which it will present to the medical profession.
It is generally recognized that any duly qualified medical practitioner could undertake the workwhich would devolve upon him should the amendment be adopted. The Assistant Minister suggested that this proposal would involve an additional expenditure of from ?10,000 to ?20,000 a year. His reasoning is similar to that which is always advanced when any measure of social reform is proposed. The cry of cost is always raised, and opposition on that ground must be broken down before many people will be convinced of the need for such reform. Such arguments are bused upon the principle of money before men. In this instance it is the principle of ships before seamen, an argument which is similar to Hitler’s ediet, “guns before butter”. I take the opposite view. The health of the seamen shouldbe of more importance than the economic interests or profits of the shipowners. If proper working conditions were provided for the seamen, the liabilities of the shipowners in respect of compensation of this kind would be considerably reduced. Most of the seamen who contract pleurisy and pneumonia work below deck. It is significant that these diseases are not so prevalent among those who work above deck. Below the deck the air is foul and conditions generally are unhealthy. Therefore, if the shipowners were obliged to provide for the health of the seamen these diseases would be less prevalent, and consequently the liabilities of the shipowners in respect of compensation would be decreased. I suggest that if our mines were made as safe as our underground railways, disease would be less prevalent amongst our miners.
- (Senator James McLachlan). -I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– The health of the seamen should mean more to the shipowners and the community generally than the expenditure of a few pounds. The healthier the men are the better it will be for all concerned. On the other hand, if unhealthy conditions be allowed to prevail in any industry, the community as a whole will pay the penalty. I suggest that the amendment offers something in the nature of a preventative in that it will operate as a check to shipowners who might he disposed to ignore their responsibility to provide healthy working conditions for their employees. I did not exaggerate in the slightest degree when 1 directed attention to the “glory hole” in which seamen, particularly stewards, have to sleep. The air in. them is about as foul as it can possibly he, particularly in rough weather, when all the port-holes are closed and there is not sufficient ventilation. Similar conditions exist on most ships in respect of the accommodation provided for firemen and seamen generally.
– The honorable senator must deal with the amendment before the Chair; he may not make a second-reading speech at this stage.
– I was attempting to reply to the argument advanced by the Assistant Minister that it would be difficult to associate certain diseases with the occupation of a seaman.
– The remarks of the Assistant Minister had nothing to do with the quarters provided for sailors.
– As the Assistant Minister referred to the difficulty of associating diseases with a seaman’s occupation, I thought that I should be permitted to direct attention to the conditions under which these men work. 1 disagree with the contention of the Assistant Minister regarding the onus that would be thrown on the examining doctors. The medical profession has overcome many greater difficulties. I suggest that the real reason is not that almost insurmountable difficulty would be experienced in associating certain diseases with a seaman’s occupations, but that the Minister is opposed to anything being donewhich might increase the cost to the employers. I submit that the cost of compliance with the wishes of tho Opposition would be negligible; but the effect would be to compel shipowners to take precautions to prevent diseases from being contracted. The arguments of the Assistant Minister have been advanced every time a proposal has been submitted for the improvement of working conditions or for social reform. Experience has shown that the health of the workers has improved as better conditions have been provided, with the result that the welfare of the community as a whole has been advanced.
– I ask for leave to withdraw my amendment temporarily in order that another amendment may be submitted.
– First, an amendment was moved by the Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald), and then Senator McBride intimated that he desired to move an amendment. Before the Opposition grants leave to the Assistant Minister to withdraw his amendment, it wants to know the reason for the withdrawal, and the substance of the amendment which he desires to substitute for it. Instead of asking for leave to withdraw his amendment, the Assistant Minister could give notice of a further amendment.
– The Assistant Minister is in order in asking for leave to withdraw his amendment, but any honorable senator may refuse that leave. Is there any objection to the granting of leave?
– I object until we know the terms of the proposed amendment to be substituted for it.
– The amendment I desire to move would occur prior to the one now before the committee. If leave be refused, I shall have no further opportunity to do what I desire unless the bill be further recommitted. I ask that permission be given for the temporary withdrawal of my amendment.
– Is there any objection?
– I object, until we know what the other amendment is.
– The amendment which I wish to move is that after the word “dermatitis” in the fourth schedule the words “ produced by oil or grease or dust or caustic or corrosive liquids “, which were originally in the bill, but were struck out last night, be inserted.
– Is leave granted for the withdrawal of the amendment?
– Before we proceed further, I should like to know what really is before the Chair.
– The committee has before it an amendment moved by the Assistant Minister namely, that the words “ Pneumonia, pleurisy, any disease contracted in the course of or as the result of the employment “ be left out. He has intimated that he wishes to propose a prior amendment to insert after “ dermatitis “ the words “ produced by oil or grease or dust or caustic or corrosive liquids “. In order to do that he has asked for leave to withdraw his first amendment. Senator McBride has forecast an amendment to delete from the fourth schedule the words “ any disease contracted in the course of or as the result of the employment “. I cannot take Senator McBride’s amendment until that of the Assistant Minister has been disposed of.
Motion (by Senator Allan MacDonald) put -
That progress be reported.
The committee divided. (Ch airman. - Senator James McLachlan).
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator LECKIE brought up the third report of the Printing Committee, and moved -
That the report be adopted.
SenatorCollings. - I should like to be informed of the contents of the report, as I have certain proposals to make with regard to printing for the Senate.
– In the circumstances, I suggest that the motion be withdrawn and notice given.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
– In order to permit the matter to be debated, I lay on the table a copy of the statement which I made to the Senate this morning with reference to the trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the Government of the United States of America, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Bill received from House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator McLeay) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
Status of Senate: Statements by Senators Arthur and Leckie.
– In moving -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I direct the attention of honorable senators to the following report which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald onWednesdayla st, the 16th instant: -
Speaking at a picnic of railway employees, Senator T. C. Arthur, who took his seat on July 1. stated that being a senator was merely “ajoke”. “ The sooner the policy of the Labour party to abolish the Senate is carried out the better for the country. Since September 28 we have sat on only fifteen days “.
I have no desire to introduce a personal note into this discussion, but I do think that the statement of Senator Arthur should be definitely challenged in this chamber. I remind the honorable gentleman that the Senate is what senators make it. I resent very much the implication contained in the report of Senator Arthur’s speech. I should like to make it clear that I do not associate the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) with the opinion expressed by one of his Labour colleagues. On the contrary, I sympathize with the honorable gentleman. If, however, he agrees with Senator Arthur that being a senator is a joke, can he say whether it is the policy of the Labour party to abolish this chamber?
– On a previous occasion I expressed my views in these terms : - “ The Senate is the second chamber in a bi-cameral legislative system. Its functions are set out in very clear terms in the Constitution. True it is that the Senate may not originate laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or laws imposing taxes. Nor may the Senate amend laws imposing taxes, appropriating certain moneys, or laws increasing any proposed charge or burden od the people. With these exceptions, the Senate has equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws “.
I now draw attention to some remarks made by the Leader of fie Opposition (Senator Collings) in the Senate on the 1st June last, as reported in Ilansard, page 1598. The honorable gentleman was referring to a. reflection that had been made on the Senate and stated -
Those of us who believe in democracy and in the soundness of our own democratic institutions, surely feel that there is something to bc proud of in British constitutional methods of government as compared with the dictatorships in many other parts of the world. I say, without fear of successful contradiction, that there is less factious opposition in this chamber, and greater concentration on the business brought before us, than there is in the House of Representatives.
Bearing in mind what the Leader of the Opposition said on the occasion mentioned, I suggest that he should now join with me in denouncing the statement made by Senator Arthur at Lithgow on Wednesday last, assuming, of course, that the honorable senator has been correctly reported. I say definitely that I do not agree with Senator Arthur, that being a senator is a joke. Nor do I believe that the Senate should be abolished. It has, as I have stated, a definite place in our Constitution, since all States have equal representation in this chamber, and it plays a very important part in the working of the Constitution, from time to time criticism of the Senate has emanated from the smaller States in respect of certain legislation, but I have always taken the view that the fault is not with the system so much as with the personnel elected by the people. As the three smaller States have one-half of the total representation in this chamber, their interests are well protected. I go further and say that, during the last seven years, the smaller States have received every consideration in this chamber. In this connexion, I pay a tribute to the Leader of the Opposition for his breadth of vision whenever matters affecting the smaller States have been under discussion. Substantial payments from the Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue have been made to claimant States in recent years.
– That legislation was not initiated in the Senate.
– .That is true; but if honorable senators representing the three larger States had not supported government measures to aid the claimant States, the grants would not have been made. It is my considered opinion that Senator Arthur’s statement is not the true view - on the contrary, it is the asinine view of an “A” grouper from New South Wales, with which, I feel sure, not even his own party agrees. If Senator Arthur believes that being a senator is a joke, I suggest that the joke is greatest in New South Wales, where Labour selects its Senate candidates from the ranks of those whose names begin with the letter “ A “.
– In other circumstances, I suppose that I would expand my chest and feel somewhat flattered at the kindly references to me, made by the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay). But, having regard to the nature of his statement, and the manner in which he made it, I am in a different mood. I am inclined to think that the objective of the honorable gentleman was to create a breach between one of my colleagues and myself rather than to say kindly things about me. I have not one word to retract from that part of my speech which the Leader of the Senate has just read; not a solitary word. I do not approve of any statement made by any honorable senator for the purpose of leading the people to believe that the Senate is a joke; but I say, definitely, that, if this chamber has become more or less a joke, the responsibility for it lies, not with the Opposition, but with the ministerial party in this chamber. I could have agreed with the honorable senator had he associated with the name of Senator Arthur that of Senator Leckie, a report of whose speech about the Senate was published at about the same time. The honorable gentleman must have noticed the report of the speech of Senator Leckie.
– He would not see that.
- Senator Leckie, who is one of the representatives of Victoria in this chamber, stated that the Senate was a fifth-rate power.
– No, I did not.
– He said several other things as well,’ and I promptly clipped out the newspaper report of his statement.
For a long period this. Senate has been treated as a joke by the government; party in the matter of accommodation in this building. 1 did ]lot wish to bring that matter up; but, under cover of this motion, I feel impelled to refer to it. Personally, I have no complaint in this regard. The Opposition has all the accommodation that it requires for the time being. When, some day, by an accession of numbers, it requires more accommodation, it can be relied upon to see that it gets it, no matter what government may be in power. But day after day, and month after month, the accommodation definitely allotted to the Senate has been filched from it, until to-day Parliament House has become a secretariat building in which Ministers house their secretaries, typists and a host of other individuals who ought not to be accommodated in the building at all. The Opposition does not claim for the Senate one-half of the accommodation in this building, because it realizes that the 36 senators are not entitled to so much accommodation as the 75 members of the House of Representatives; but, on every occasion when accommodation has been required by the Government, the Senate, without so much as “ by your leave “, has been deliberately treated by the government party as a joke. It has helped itself to the accommodation, and the Senate has not been consulted in any way as to how the available accommodation should be distributed.
I am not trying to offer an apology for Senator Arthur; he is quite capable of protecting himself. All I need observe in regard to him has already been said by me; hut I do not approve of remarks which tend to belittle this chamber in the eyes of the people.
In the way government business in this chamber is dealt with, also, the Senate is treated as a joke. One day this week, at a moment’s notice, I was called upon to proceed with the discussion of a motion on the International Labour Conference, because I had secured the adjournment of the debate as long ago as the 17th December, 1937. This sudden call upon me occurred because of the utter incapacity of the Government to provide a working programme for the Senate. The Government has power to arrange for the Senate to have work to do. It can so arrange its legislative programme that measures passed by the House of Representatives may be transmitted to the Senate at sufficiently regular intervals to keep this chamber occupied. I was called upon to proceed with the debate which was ad journed nearly a year ago because the Government had no business to place before the Senate. It may be contended that the Government meets with obstruction in the House of Representatives and that the delay is caused by the Opposition in that chamber. If that be the reason why Ministers have no business for the Senate to transact, that is the Government’s problem and not mine. But when it says that it is a crime to call the Senate a joke, I suggest that a little introspection would not do the Government any harm. It pillories one honorable senator for a certain remark attributed to him, .although I have not yet heard an admission by Senator Arthur that he made such a statement. The Government would have been fairer, and a little more honorable, had it associated with the remarks of Senator Arthur the observations of an honorable senator sitting behind the Government, who made a somewhat similar statement at another gathering during the same week. I can understand Senator Arthur being jubilant among his comrades at the railway-men’s picnic at Lithgow, and I should not be surprised if Senator Leckie was overjoyed to foregather with his compatriots at the conference of manufacturers in Western Australia. I have no objection to their having a jolly time; but, if we are to pick out a statement made by a member ..of the Opposition at a railway picnic, we should not ignore a similar statement made by an honorable senator on the Government side at a gathering of » another kind.
Perhaps, the remarks of the Minister will do some good. If I may be permitted to assume the role of fatherly school-master, for which I think I am more fitted than my younger, more rotund aud darker-haired friend, the Leader of the Senate, let me say that, in my opinion, he spoiled whatever he had of a good case by the terms he employed at the conclusion of his remarks. They were not only in bad taste, but they are likely to cause retaliation in similarly bad form. If there be one way more than another in which we can belittle the Senate and ourselves, it is by being extravagant in the use of adjectives when criticizing our opponents. I am prepared to fight as hard as ‘ any man in this chamber in supporting my party and its policy, but I do not think that I have ever accused honorable senators on the Government side of being asinine.
– The honorable gentleman has used worse expressions than that.
– I have said that they are stupid.
– I do not think that I have ever said that, although I have believed it. If I have wished to convey such an impression I have selected more tactful words. I suggest to the Leader of the Senate that he should not assume the role of heavy father. That does not suit him at all ; he is too young. I also advise him to remember that, in any criticism which he has to offer at any time, he should bear in mind the fact that we are all equally charged with responsibility. My friends, Senators Arthur, McLeay and Leckie, and myself, all have to accept a share of the responsibility devolving upon us to uphold the dignity of this chamber, and to increase its usefulness in every possible way. If we do that, we shall be applying the best available antidote to the statements of the press, and of various people throughout Australia, who desire the Senate to be abolished, and are adopting devious means to that end.
– I do not know whether 1 should treat the remarks of the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) with the con- tempt which I think they deserve. Naturally, I assume that they come from a perfect gentleman. I admit that I made the statement attributed to me, and I said a great deal more about the Senate being a joke. The sooner this chamber is abolished the better it will be. The party with which I am associated has a policy which includes the abolition of the Senate. This has been a plank of its platform for a considerable period. If the Leader of the Senate had taken any part in the framing of the Constitution, and its operation in the early days of the Commonwealth, possibly he would have endorsed the sentiment which I expressed. I shall publicly advocate the abolition of this chamber, in accordance with the platform of the Labour party, on every occasion when I have a chance to do so.
– On the 16th November, Senator Amour addressed certain questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs regarding the quantities of petrol, crude petroleum and kerosene imported into Australia during 1937-38. The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following additional information with respect to the first portion of the honorable senator’s question, showing the countries from which those substances were imported: -
– Seeing that Senator Arthur’s statement at a railwaymen’s picnic at Lithgow, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, has been referred to by the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay), I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) that the Minister might have been decent enough to refer also to the statement by Senator Leckie, which also was published in that journal, that the Senate bad become a fifth-rate power. If the Leader of the Senate felt justified in criticizing the statement made by Senator Arthur, he should, if he wished to be fair, also have criticized the statement made by
Senator Leckie, who is a supporter of the Government. This morning, in answer to a question, the Minister gave certain information concerning legislation which he alleges the then Opposition prevented a Labour government from passing through this chamber. I challenge the Minister to deny that he has received little assistance from some of his supporters in connexion with the legislation .which this Government has introduced into the Senate. Only this afternoon the Senate became a joke owing to the confusion which arose over certain amendments to be made to the Seamen’s Compensation Bill. The position became so acute that the Minister in charge of the bill was compelled to report progress. Probably this confusion would not have arisen had the Prime Minister exercised greater care in selecting the Leader of the Senate. Had that been done Senator McLeay would not be occupying the position which he now holds. The Minister’s reference to the senators representing New South Wales was uncalled for and undignified. We were elected by the supporters of the Labour party, including many trade unionists. I received over 6,700 votes in the pre-selection ballot, and 1 should like to ‘know how many the Leader of the Senate received when he was selected by his party to be a candidate for the Senate. In New South Wales there is a virile Labour movement which decides that those selected to carry the Labour banner shall have had extensive experience and have laboured in the interests of the working class. The Minister should make some inquiries concerning what the New South Wales senators have done for the workers in that State, and the positions which they have occupied on various public bodies.
– They did not appear anxious to help the seamen.
– The interjection of the Assistant Minister is unfair. When Labour has a majority in the House of Representatives and in this chamber the seamen will receive more consideration than they have received from this Government. The representatives of Labour in this chamber have always conducted them selves in a dignified and becoming manner.
– Hear, hear!
– We have not made personal interjections such as have been made to me concerning my association with the Bankstown Council. The “ four A’s “, as they have been designated, do not come from Bankstown. The concluding remarks of the Minister, which should be published in the press which supports him and the Government of which he is a member, were vicious propaganda to discredit certain honorable senators. Those who read his speech will agree with Senator Arthur that the Senate has become a joke. Nothing wa9 said when Abbott, Courtney and Dein were elected because I suppose they represent the intelligentsia.
– Who is the genius who suggested the “ A “ method ?
– He did not come from Bankstown. The representatives of the Labour party are not selected by a coterie; a good deal of work is involved in the selection of suitable candidates. The intelligence of those selected at the last general election to represent New South Wales in this chamber is equal to that of the Leader of the Senate, and their sole desire is to represent the views of those who elected them. I trust that if there is any further re-organization of the Cabinet the Prime Minister will select a leader in this chamber who will not set himself out to use propaganda in the. interests of the United Australia party in New South Wales.
– I read the statement referred to by the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay), and I hesitated to believe that any honorable senator, particularly one from New South Wales, could make such a foolish and ridiculous utterance. Senator Arthur has, however, admitted that he used the words attributed to him, and that he believes what he said. The honorable senator is entitled to that opinion. But I would remind the honorable senator that the status of the Senate and the part which it plays in the national life of Australia depends upon the character of each individual senator. This chamber is either strengthened or weakened by the action and utterances of individual senators. If we accept the honorable senator’s words at their face value, he condemns himself as a senator. Would he have us believe that he does not possess the qualifications that a representative of such an important State as New South Wales should possess? The Senate is no more a joke than is the House of Representatives. Before any bill can become law - whether it originates in this chamber or in the House of Representatives - it must pass both houses of Parliament. If this chamber is a farce, so is the House of Representatives. It may be that Senator Arthur does not believe in parliamentary institutions at all. He may prefer a dictatorship, somewhat similar to that which controls or governs the party to which he belongs. I contrast his attitude and utterances with those of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). If there is any one in this chamber who does apply himself to his duties to the utmost of his capacity it is the Leader of the Opposition.
– Hear, hear!
– He works hard and for long hours. He is always on the alert and nothing is done in this chamber without his knowledge. The Leader of the Opposition claims that he is worth more than he receives, but Senator Arthur contends that he himself is not worth anything. If that be so and he believes that his services are valueless, and that the Senate is a joke, why does he not resign his position as a senator? I would be very much surprised if he adopted that course. The honorable senator should do one of two things. He should either aim at making the Senate more dignified and able to take a more prominent part in our political Ufa, or admit that his efforts are worthless and pursue the honorable course. It is easy for Senator Arthur or any other member of this Parliament to attend a railway picnic or any similar gathering and indulge in cheap sneers for base political purposes. The motive underlying his utterance is to dig a knife into the Government. His statement reflects very little credit upon him. If an honorable senator sincerely believes that he is wasting his time in this chamber, he should resign. If I joined an institution and found that it was a farce and that I was merely wasting my time, I would not continue my membership of it. Some time ago. Senator Arthur also made sneering references to the national insurance scheme. It may be that some criticism is justified. When the bill was before this chamber, I read a somewhat similar statement made by a certain gentleman in Mew South Wales that national insurance is a ramp. That is utterly untrue. He could have explained briefly the principal aims and objects of the scheme, compared the contributions with the benefits, and left the people to form their own conclusions. I realize that the national health and pensions insurance scheme has its critics; I have been one of them.
– The criticisms have not been confined to the workers.
– No; there is a proper way in which to offer criticism. The fair and reasonable way is to tell the people that in return for certain contributions they will receive certain benefits, and allow them to form their own judgment. It is unjust and unfair to say that the national insurance scheme is a ramp. Certain representatives of the people in this Parliament, and particularly some from New South Wales, are hot game to tell the people of the benefits they will receive under that act.
The main part -of this discussion has related to the value of the Senate. I believe that as time goes on this chamber will play a more prominent part in our national life than it has done previously. I agree with the remarks of Senator Leckie, His complaint was not that the Senate is useless and should be abolished, but that it is not playing as big a part in our legislature as it should. Senator Leckie’s complaint, therefore, is entirely different from that made by Senator Arthur, who declared that the Senate is a joke and should be abolished. Senator Arthur, apparently, is content to say, “Although I am doing nothing in the Senate, and am but an excrescence, I shall remain here and continue to draw my pay.”
.- As my name has been drawn into this discussion I take this opportunity merely to say that the tenor of my remarks was the exact opposite ofthe comment by Senator Arthur. I do not propose at this juncture to talk at length on this matter, but I intend next week to take an opportunity in this chamber to amplify my remarks. What I said, as reported in the press, was not based on any feeling of disrespect for the Senate; 1 made those remarks very deliberately in an interview, and the impression I had then I retain.
– That the Senate is a fifth-rate chamber?
– What I said was that the method adopted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in the selection of Ministers in the Senate was not in consonance with the dignity and influence of this chamber, and that the Senate, believing that to be so, should take some action to show its resentment of being degraded to a fifth-rate power.
– I think that our new Ministers are good.
– I have not criticized them. However, I shall not allow myself to be led on at this particular juncture; next week I shall take the opportunity to elaborate those remarks, which were to the effect that this Senate should insist on exercising to the full its powers and privileges as a co-partner with another place in this legislature, and refuse to be degraded by the House of Representatives or any other body.
– The statement made by the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) this afternoon will do more to make this Senate a joke than any other comment reported in the press. I ask honorable senators to realize what will be the reaction of the public when they read the Minister’s statement, and when they learn that the men whom they send to represent them in this National Parliament have nothing better to do than to listen to such trivialities. The Minister’s remarks reflect on the dignity and intelligence of honorable senators. Has the Government nothing else to put before us as representatives’ of the States but a statement made by a certain individual, and reported in the press? The Minister’s remarks will merely bring more ridicule on the Senate. His reference to the “ four A’s from New Sou’th
Wales “ was most unwarranted, the insinuation being that the people who elected those honorable senators simply did so because their surnames commenced with the letter “ A “. I remind the Minister that the names of the three honorable senators elected at the last election in Western Australia appeared at the top of the ballot-paper, but at the previous election Labour’s candidates were also at the top but did not win. The Minister cannot have it both ways. That, however, is by the way. My main point is that the people of this country expect something more from members of this branch of the National Parliament than is represented by the statement just made by the Leader of the Senate. I regret that he has seen fit to bring such a trifling matter before the notice of the National Parliament. However, it is in keeping with many other statements made from time to time by responsible Ministers on behalf of this Government, which the people look upon as mere jokes.
.- I did not intend to take any notice of the statement just made by the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay), until I heard Senator Dein, characteristically, with his tongue in his cheek, attack Senator Arthur, at the same time ignoring the comment made by his colleague, Senator Leckie, concerning this chamber.
– I mentioned Senator Leekie’s remarks, and contrasted them with the statement made by Senator Arthur.
– The point is that Senator Leckie likened the Senate to a fifth-rate power, and that, I suggest, is a far more serious reflection upon this chamber than was the comment by Senator Arthur. Whether or not the names of my three colleagues from New South Wales and myself begin with the letter “ A “, we have a record of public service of which any honorable senator might well be proud. For over twenty years, Senator Ashleyhas figured in the public life of Lithgow, of which he was twice mayor. The citizens of Lithgow held such a high opinion of him that when they built their new showground and pavilion, they named the pavilion after him. I do not know whether any honorable senator opposite has achieved a record in public life to compare with that of Senator Ashley. A man need only confer with the head of a bank and Bertie Stevens, behind closed doors in Bligh-street, to emerge suddenly as the accredited representative of the United Australia party. Members of that partyare not only charged a “ bob a nob “, but tickets were sold for admission to the United Australia party convention last week in Sydney.
– What has that to do with this matter?
– It is very relevant to any comparison of the qualifications of honorable senators from New South Wales who represent the Nationalist party and those who represent the Labour party.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator has said that tickets were sold at a United Australia party convention in Sydney last week. That remark is utterly untrue, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - No point of order is involved in the matter raised by the honorable senator. If the honorable senator regards the statement as incorrect, he may contradict it.
– In any case, seeing that my statement is correct, I have no intention to withdraw it.
– It is incorrect.
– The United Australia party selection method of a “ bob a nob “, as it is called, is a scandal. T invite honorable senators to compare that method of preselection with the method by which the four Labour senators from New South Wales were chosen by the Australian Labour party. Over 22,000 votes were cast in that ballot, and, after preferences had been counted, I had the honour of topping the poll with just over 12.000 votes. The success of my three colleagues and myself in such a ballot was highly complimentary because over 23 candidates contested it. Our party does not reject a candidate because he has not two A’s in his name, or doe? not happen, for instance, to have a Jewish nose, like Mr. Aarons, of North Sydney fame. The reason why Mr.
Aarons withdrew from the United Australia party Senate ballot in New South Wales was because the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited wanted Mr. Hillmore to be one of its representatives in this chamber.
– That is entirely untrue.
– That is the view which is generally accepted in New South Wales. The Country party held no selection ballot at all. As it was feared that Senator Hardy might be beaten, the edict was sent forth that he must not be opposed. I suggest that the record of any honorable senator opposite will suffer by comparison with that of any of the four Labour senators from New South Wales. I have described the method by which we were selected to stand in the Labour party’s interests, and our preselection campaign was one of the hardest on record. With Senator Ashley and Senator Amour, I travelled thousands of miles, going as far north as Newcastle, south to Wollongong, and as far west as Blayney, in order to address Labour leagues and councils.
– If the honorable senator’s name had been Zacharias, he would not be in the Senate.
– I suggest that the United Australia party will soon be known as the “ zac a nob “ party, because it will have some trouble in getting a “ bob a nob “. It is noteworthy that the United Australia party convention which sat in Sydney last week, and which dominates the party to which honorable senators opposite belong, was mostly composed of women over 60 years of age. Those are the people who select honorable senators opposite.
– Is the honorable senator ashamed of women over 60 years of age?
– Well, why belittle them?
– The point I am making is that in politics to-day at least 50 per cent, of those responsible for the selection of parliamentary representatives should be men.
– Does the honorable senator know anything about the United Australia party youth movement?
– I have heard of it. Practically nine out of every ten acts passed by the Stevens Government in New South “Wales deals with starting price betting, or night trotting, or something of that kind.
– I shall give to the Senate next week the inside history of the Labour party in New South Wales.
– The only history of the Labour party with which the honorable senator is acquainted is what appears every morning in the Sydney Morning Herald. Reverting to the records of my colleagues, I point out that Senator Amour is an Alderman of the Bankstown Council, in which capacity he has displayed a deal of talent and spine which honorable senators opposite should envy. He was the first public man to stand up and fight the finefeathered friend of honorable senators opposite, Mr. Spooner, when the latter endeavoured to line up the local authorities.
– In what way?
– Senator Amour would not accept Mr. Spooner’s ideas about relief work, and when the people of Bankstown were subsequently given an opportunity to express their view of the honorable senator’s handling of their case in that incident, they returned him at the top of the poll.
– What about the sanitary contracts?
– We know where Senator Amour stands in the opinion of the people of Bankstown.
Senator Arthur has been in the Labour movement for 40 years, and has held many responsible positions in it. His record will compare favorably with that of any honorable senator opposite.
– He did not even get the selection.
– He was fifth in the plebiscite, but one of the men who was ahead of him did not seek the suffrage of the electors. I shall say no more concerning myself than that I have been an alderman of the Municipal Council of Sydney for four years. As I look across the chamber, and reflect on the meteoric rises that have taken place, including that of the new Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay)-
– What about the honorable senator’s own meteoric rise?
– I started at an earlier age than did the present Leader of the Senate. Five years ago the honorable gentleman was unknown; to-day he is the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– It is another case of “ From Log Cabin to White House “.
– I compliment Senator McLeay on his elevation to his present important position ; but having seen the muddle which occurred in this chamber thiis afternoon, 1 have fears regarding the smooth working of the Senate in the future. Unless greater ability and more common-sense are displayed by Ministers we shall probably soon have another Cabinet reshuffle, resulting in some who are in high positions to-day being relegated to low positions to-morrow. This afternoon we witnessed in this chamber things which should not have occurred. I was pleased that one of the “ inner group “ of the Cabinet, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron) saw the debacle.
– He is not in the “ inner group “.
– He may not be in it to-day, but when he informs the Prime Minister of the happenings here this afternoon, he may be promoted. He and his secretary could not hide their amusement at the tangle into which the Leader of the Senate and the Minister in charge of the bill had got themselves.
– They went to him to unravel it.
– The buzzing that took place was like the buzzing of a hive of bees.
– That was not so bad as the buzzing of the “ A’s “.
– In my opinion, the Leader of the Senate erred when he brought Senator Arthur’s statement before the Senate. Knowing the qualifications of my colleagues, I am proud to be associated with them. I only hope that they have as high an opinion of me as I have of them.
– Does the honorable senator agree with the views expressed bv Senator Arthur ?
– Yes ; this chamber is a joke. That is because it has been under the control of an anaemic government for too long.
– It would do the honorable senator good to see more of it.
– I hope to be a member of the Senate when the Labour party occupies the ministerial bench. When that time comes, the tone of this chamber will improve; the Senate will not long remain a fifth-rate chamber as it is now. During my first week as a senator I offended because I could not resist the temptation to say what I thought of the Senate. Senator Arthur was of the same opinion. Indeed, all the members of the Opposition hold similar views on the subject.
– Is the Leader of the Opposition of the same opinion?
– Yes ; but when he occupies a seat on the front bench opposite to where he now sits, things will be different; not’ only will the prestige of the Senate be raised, but also Australia will benefit.
– I did not intend to engage in this discussion, but I now feel impelled to make a few observations. Only too frequently the proceedings in this chamber are ignored by the press, but evidently it believes that there is justification for the criticism which has been levelled against the Senate by two of its members. Senator Arthur has been a member of this Senate only since the 1st July last. I ask the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) to indicate what legislation of benefit to the people of Australia has passed through this chamber since the 1st July? The strictures passed on the Senate by Senator Arthur are fully justified.
– Does the honorable senator intend to resign?
- Senator Dein need not have any fear on that score. 3 am willing to face the electors from the same platform as the honorable senator. I assure him that I shall be here after the next election. The new senators have endeavoured to conduct themselves decor ously, and have at all times tried to uphold the best traditions of the Senate. Obviously, the Government is short of business of importance to the country; otherwise it would not take up the time of the Senate with such a discussion as has occurred to-day. Not until both branches of the legislature are occupied Avith legislation which will benefit the people of Australia will the Parliament be free from the criticism to which it is so frequently subjected.
– It is significant that these repeated attacks on this honorable chamber come chiefly from representatives of the rich and powerful eastern States. The latest attacks, both of which I condemn, have come,, first, from what may be termed the “reddest” element among the workers of Australia, and, secondly, from an honorable gentleman who, rightly or wrongly, is regarded as representative of the plutocratic manufacturing interests in the second greatest State of the Commonwealth. Only in the powerful eastern States is the abolition of the Senate advocated; such sentiments are scarcely heard in Tasmania or Western Australia. The truth is that the two influential States of New South Wales and Victoria, which are always grasping for more power, desire to govern Australia from Canberra in a way which would be harmful to the best interests of the nation as a whole. Their object is unification, which would mean the ruin of the weaker States. In the powerful eastern States, where most of the wealth and population of Australia are concentrated, there are continual attacks upon the Senate, which is the real bulwark of the weaker States. It is well that in this branch of the legislature Western Australia has six representatives out of a total of 36. That State has more say here than it has in the House of Representatives, where its representatives total only five in a total of 75 members. Moreover, those five give allegiance to three different political parties. It is true that two of the weaker States have found leaders for the two greatest political parties in Australia, but, in spite of that fact, they have little influence on legislation. I compliment my new colleagues from Western Australia on having shown, during their short term a3 senators, that they are prepared to stand for the interests of the smaller States. The Senate is far more truly representative of the democracy of Australia than is the other House. Senators are elected in a wider electorate and they more truly represent the views of the electors on national issues than do honorable members elected to the House of Representatives. As the Senate springs directly from the people, it will remain as long as the Australian nation endures, despite party planks for its abolition. There have been attacks on the new Ministers. Ever since the present Parliament was elected over a year ago, I have been entirely satisfied with the leadership of the Senate. I take this opportunity to compliment SenatorMcLeay on his rapid elevation to leadership in this House.
– The honorable senator did not like Senator Sir George Pearce.
– I confess that I did not like him politically, but he did not like me, so in that respect we were even. However, Sir George Pearce is no longer a member of this chamber, and I would not have referred to him but for the interjection of Senator Collings. In my opinion, the present Leader of the Senate only did his duty when he referred to the attacks that have recently been made on the prestige, honour, and dignity of the Senate. From whatever side of the chamber such attacks come, it is the duty of the Leader of the Senate to condemn them. I believe that the prestige of the Senate has been raised by the recent additions to the Opposition ranks, for this chamber is now more truly representative of the people than it was before the last election. The Senate is the democratic bulwark of the weaker States ; this is recognized by the people in those States. It is the one legislative chamber in which their voice can be heard effectively.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 24 of 1938. - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired on Rottnest Island, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Senate adjourned at 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 November 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1938/19381118_senate_15_158/>.