18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
BIRTH of a Son.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Is it a fact that many broadcasting stations throughout Queensland announced the news nf the birth of a son to Her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth as much as 56 minutes ahead of national stations? If so, will the Postmaster-General inform the Senate the cause of the delay by the national stations in announcing this news?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is a* follows : -
News of the birth of a son to Her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth was broadcast hy commercial stations in Brisbane at 8.24 a.m.
National stations broadcast the news at 8.24 .ian., eastern standard time, in all States other than Queensland, in which State national stations made the announcement at 0.10 a.m. - As the national programme at 8.24 a.m. was emanating from Brisbane, it was not possible to reverse the landline to make the announcement direct to Queensland listeners. It waa, therefore, necessary for the commission to send a telegram conveying the news to its Brisbane office, and this was the cause of the regrettable delay in broadcasting the information from Queensland national stations.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
In view of the fact that 22 people have died in three major air crashes in Australia during the last two months, and of the press statement that, in the case of the Kurana which crashed into Mount Macedon on the 8th November, the Civil Aviation Department’s ground control was at fault, will the Minister investigate and report on the use of the G.C.A. system, viz., a ground control approach by aircraft in zero visibility, controlled entirely from the ground by means of radar screens, which is now standard practice in the United States Army Air Force?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answer: -
It is assumed that the question refers to two civil and one Royal Australian Air Force crash. The crash of the Kurana at Mount Macedon on 8th November was quite unrelated to the Civil Aviation ground control, and if any such statement has appeared in the press there is no foundation for it. The G.C.A., or ground control approach, referred to is a radar system designed for landing aircraft at prepared airports in conditions of bad visibility. It has a range of the order of 10 miles and would therefore be of little use for the control of aircraft on the air routes.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are a* follows : -
– On the 27tL October, Senator Critchley asked whether wire netting is being imported into Australia from Japan and if so, could I inform the Senate of the purpose for which is was being used and the names of the users? The honorable senator also asked whether any arrangements had been made by the Government to ensure that primary producers in South Australia would receive a fair share of the wire netting imported from Japan.
I now inform the honorable senator that, although a licence has been issued for the importation of a quantity of wire netting from Japan, no commercial importation has yet been made, as the example received by the licensee was, it is understood, well below Australian standard. The value of the proposed importation as disclosed by the licence is approximately double the wholesale selling price of Australian-made wire netting.
Should there be any commercial importation, distribution would be a matter tor the importer and not the Government, and the names of the users and the States in which they reside would not become known to the Government.
– On the 11th November, Senator Lamp asked what quantity of sugar was being sent to Tasmania for domestic purposes and for the manufacture of goods that are re-exported from that State.
For comparative purposes I have set out the sugar supplied to Tasmania for the year immediately preceding the war with the supplies received during the last four years -
I regret that it is impracticable to determine the quantity of sugar used by Tasmanian manufacturers in the production of goods subsequently exported from that State.
– On the 11th November, Senator Large asked the following question : -
In view of the forecast of enormous prices for ham, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture hu ve a statement prepared showing the situation in relation to pig meats in Australia so wre shall be in a position to judge whether or not the prices which have been foreshadowed are justified f
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has furnished the following reply :-
The figures of pig production shown in detail in the accompanying table, reveal a decline in total overall production and ex ports. In addition to the export figures shown, considerable quantities of pork and bacon and ham were required by the services during 1943-44 and 1945-46. The Australian consumption of bacon and ham has increased over pre-war levels, when it averaged about 30,000 tons per annum. This increased demand, taken in conjunction with the overall decline in pig meat production, has created » situation where high prices are being paid for pigs, and those costs are being passed on to the consumer.
– On the 17tb November, Senator Clothier asked the following question: -
Can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the Government has decided to guarantee » fixed price for oats to cover this year’s harvest? Will the Minister outline the details of the scheme and state whether the Government intends to guarantee a fixed price f0 this year’s crop?
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answer : -
There is no guarantee of price applying ti> the 1948-49 oat crop. I indicated some months ago to the States the conditions under which the possibility of a co-ordinated marketing scheme for oats would receive the considers tion of the Commonwealth Government. In the absence of proposals from the States which would make such a marketing arrange ment practicable there have not been anr developments in that direction.
– On the 13th October, Senator O’Byrne asked the following question: -
In view of the fantastic price of meat, which has reached 2s. Cd. per lb. in Tasmania, and of fish - fillet of whiting is 5s. per lb., while flounder, trumpeter and garfish are unprocurable - will the Minister for Trade and Customs investigate the possibility of importing meat anil fish from New Zealand so that working people may buy those commodities which to-day are beyond their meant, 1
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has examined the matter and has supplied the following answer: -
There are no restrictions on the import of fish from New Zealand and trade in New Zealand in frozen and smoked fish is well established. However, the New Zealand export capacity in fish is limited and it is doubtful if the present volume of trade could be increased. Further, owing to the appreciation of the New Zealand £1, there has been some increase in the prices of New Zealand fish and this may bc tending to make prices less attractive. Australia is an exporter of meat, *nd has entered into a long-term arrangement for the sale of her exportable surplus to the Government of the United Kingdom. The Vew Zealand Government likewise has entered into a similar agreement with the United Kingdom,, and it is suggested that for this and other reasons it would not be possible to consider the suggestion that meat be imported into this country from New Zealand.
– by leave - I desire to inform the Senate that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has been asked to act as Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation during the absence in New Zealand of Mr. Drakeford, as from the 26th November, 1948.
– I lay on the
Table the following paper: -
Sugar - International Agreement - Protocol, dated 31st August, 1048, signed in London.
This protocol was signed in London on r.he 31st August, 1948, by representatives of the governments of the Union of South Africa, Commonwealth of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, French Republic, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Haiti, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, United States of America, and the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia.
This protocol is similar in content to that signed on the 29th August, 1947, and extends the International Sugar Agreement, which initially operated from 1937, for a further period of one year from the 1st September, 1948. The original agreement was to remain in force for five years until the 31st August, 1942, but has been continued by successive protocols. The first protocol continued the agreement unchanged until the 31st August, 1944, but in the four subsequent protocols, which extended the agreement until the 31st August, 1948, it was provided thai certain portions, particularly the quota provisions, should remain inoperative. The present protocol also declares such portions inoperative during the period of one year ending the 31st August, 1949.
The main purposes of the renewal of the agreement are to maintain the central machinery for establishing an orderly relationship between the supply and demand for sugar, and to facilitate the conclusion of a new scheme, when the time is considered appropriate. Article 3 (3) of the protocol provides that in revising the agreement due account shall be taken of any general principles of commodity policy embodied in any agreement which may be concluded under the auspices of the United Nations. In the event of an agreement based on such revision coming into force before the 31si August, 1949, the present protocol shall thereupon terminate.
At a meeting of the International Sugar Council in London on the 28th August last, a committee on which Australia is represented, was appointed - (1) to study the changing sugar situation as it relates to the need or desirability for negotiating a new agreement: and (2) to report to the council, as occasion arises, its findings and recommendations as to the possible basis for a new agreement in the future.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide means for the determination of questions which have arisen relating to the employment of persons in the construction of the Kemira Tunnel in the County of Camden in the State of New South Wales, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator ASHLEY) put -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, [ -declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure is in furtherance of the co-operative policy which exists between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales in relation to the coal industry in that State. Steps have already been taken by the two Governments in implementation of this policy. They are evidenced by the Coal Industry Act 1946 of the Commonwealth and a similar act of the State which set up a Joint Coal Board and a Coal Industry Tribunal. The latter body i3 invested with power to deal with industrial disputes in the coal industry.
No doubt honorable senators are aware of the dispute which recently arose in respect of the work of constructing a certain tunnel in New South “Wales known as the Kemira tunnel. The work was being carried out largely by members of the Australian Workers Union and it was claimed by the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation that the work was proper to be performed by its members and there was a general strike in the coal-fields arising out of this claim. Ministers of the two governments intervened in the matter and it was announced^ on behalf of both governments, on Saturday, the 6th November, 194S, that, if work was resumed on the coal-fields, steps would be taken forthwith to set up an appropriate arbitration authority to settle the question as to which is the industrial organization the members of which should carry out the work. On Monday, the Sth November, 1948, the Federal Council of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation ordered the resumption of work and work was resumed on the following morning.
The question which has arisen as to the performance of work at the Kemira tunnel is one which, from one angle at least, affects the coal industry in New South Wales, but the Coal Industry Tribunal set up by* the existing legislation has no jurisdiction to deal with the present question. It is now proposed that the two Governments shall, acting jointly as they did in 1946, provide for the appointment of an arbitrator with power to settle the present question and, having done ‘so, to make any necessary order as to rates of pay and conditionsof employment. It is proposed that the arbitrator may, instead of dealing withrates and conditions himself, refer these matters to an appropriate industrial tribunal for determination. The arbitrator appointed under this act and under a State act on identical lines which willi be passed by the State Parliament forthwith, will not be a continuing authority. His appointment will be entirely to deal with the questions specified in this bill. His decision on the demarcation question will stand and have effect overriding, to the necessary extent, any inconsistent award or order by any other Commonwealth or State authority. Any award he may make as to rates of pay and conditions of employment will, however, be subject to variation by any industrial authority within the competence of which such questions normally fall. It is necessary that this should be so as undoubtedly some questions as to rates and/or conditions will arise during the not inconsiderable period required for the completion of the work. I commend the bill to the Senate as one which the circumstances amply justify and which is also necessary for the purpose of honouring the undertaking of the Government to the employees concerned.
– Inasmuch as the measure is designed to put the finishing touches to the settlement of a dispute which threatened to be most disastrous to the coal industry of Australia, I do not intend to delay its progress. However, the appointment of a special arbitration tribunal to settle the dispute creates a precedent, and 1 record my protest against the establishment pf such a precedent, particularly as we were assured by the Government, when it introduced its proposals last year to “ streamline “ our arbitration system, that the new system would provide complete power to settle industrial disputes. I quite agree with the Minister who introduced the bill when he stated that the Coal Industry Tribunal was so constituted that the dispute was outside its purview. Notwithstanding that fact, however, the definition of “ Industrial dispute” under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act which was recently sreamlined, or allegedly streamlined, is sufficiently wide co embrace this particular dispute that, happily, has been settled. My objection to the measure is not that it is merely to complete a settlement already reached; I object to it also because I believe that we should have as simple an arbitration system as pos sible. As I have stated, that system was supposed to have been streamlined recently; but, if every time a dispute occurs we are to set up an extra body to settle it, we shall undermine the prestige and dignity of the arbitration courts and do much to destroy the confidence of the people^ both, employers and employees, in those institutions.
– In 1944, the honorable senator’s party opposed the Government’s referendum proposals.
– The wide powers of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court are set out very clearly in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and I view with grave concern the establishment of special tribunals to deal with special sets of circumstances. All industrial disputes should be dealt with by the same tribunal.
Senator 0’BYB.lTE (Tasmania) [3.22]. -I commend the bill because it indicates that this Government is fully aware of the need for flexibility and mobility in dealing with industrial matters. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) has stated that what is proposed in the bill could have been done tinder the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1946. That is not so, otherwise this bill would not be necessary. It is typical of the attitude of mind of some people, particularly of some members of the legal profession, that they believe that laws cannot be changed unless a long rigmarole is gone through. Flexibility and mobility is the keynote of successful management. I commend the Government for introducing this bill which, I consider, is a very valuable contribution to the laws of this country.
– in reply - I am interested in the comments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan). I appreciate his support of the measure, but I must express my surprise at his statement that his view is that there is complete power under the existing Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act to resolve this particular industrial issue.
– The Opposition parties persuaded the people to refuse the Government that power in 1944.
– In 1937, the New Caledonian Collieries instituted a case against the miners’ federation, during the hearing of which the ambit of the federal .power was very widely canvassed by the judges. It appears to be necessary to re-state now that the Government’s constitutional power with respect to conciliation and arbitration is limited to the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the borders of any one State. Until it is realized in this country that the federal power is essentially over two things - conciliation and arbitration - there will be a great deal of misunderstanding. The Commonwealth’s power goes no further than to permit it to set up industrial tribunals to conciliate and arbitrate in disputes. When established, such tribunals do not possess unlimited, jurisdiction. There must be a dispute between employers on the one side and employees on the other, and, moreover, the dispute must relate in some way to the industrial relationship that exists between those two classes of persons. Even that is not enough to give jurisdiction to a Commonwealth conciliation or arbitration tribunal, if that set of circumstances arises in only one State. It must arise in at least two States.
likely to arise in more than one State.
– I concede that point, but the honorable senator who has just interjected will admit the difficulty of establishing likelihood in many of the complicated industrial situations that arise. “What I have just submitted to the Senate was clearly laid down by the High Court in the case to which I have referred. There is a great deal of misunderstanding regarding the ambit of that power. If the honorable senator will refer to the section dealing with demarcation disputes in the recently streamlined Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, he will find that that section tas been created under the incidental powers in the Constitution and is restricted to demarcation disputes between unions which are registered in the Federal Arbitration Court. Neither State law nor Commonwealth law fitted the facts of the Kemira dispute. In New South Wales, the law provides that the Industrial Commission may resolve demarcation disputes between unions which are registered under the State act, and the miners’ federation, as such, is not registered under the State act. Most of the men working on the Kemira tunnel were members of the Australian Workers Union, whose operations were governed, not by a Commonwealth award, but by a State award. In the circumstances that [ have outlined, the State tribunal could not take charge of the dispute, and federal jurisdiction did not arise because it was not a matter that in situ affected two bodies registered in the Federal Arbitration Court.
I think that that dispute has served a particularly useful purpose in pointing to a gap that exists in Australia’s industrial arbitral system. The dispute was important because it could have had, and, in fact, nearly did have, very serious consequences. It demonstrated the need for some tribunal such as will be created by this bill, which, regardless of State law and Commonwealth law, can pick up a dispute and resolve it. I express only a. personal opinion which has not been discussed with the Government when I say that it may well be found, in the course of time, if demarcation disputes are to develop and cause real disruption in Australia, that the Commonwealth and the States will have to get together so that there can be one tribunal that can instantly seize hold of a dispute, armed with all the powers that can be conferred by the States, supplemented by all the powers that can be given to it by this Parliament. This bill has been framed in pursuance of such an arrangement. It has been born of the legal need for legisla- tion to deal with the special circumstance.which I have outlined, as well as of thithought that I expressed in my opening speech, in which I referred to the measure as a further instance of the cooperation that exists between this Government and the Government of New South Wales in the very important field of coa! production. The Coal Tribunal could not take charge of the Kemira dispute because it is authorized only to deal with disputes between members of the miners’ federation and the employers in the coal industry, and that was not a dispute between employees and employers in the coal industry. There was an additional reason, which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, as a lawyer, will readily appreciate. The Coal Tribunal, which consists of one man, Mr. Gallagher, had expressed an opinion, in the course o’ interlocutory proceedings, as to where the right to undertake the work in the Kemira tunnel should lie. Long before the matter became the subject of a strike, Mr. Gallagher intimated plainly that it would not be proper for him to adjudicate in it. Moreover, I suggest that it would have been quite improper for the governments to have suggested adjudication by the Coal Tribunal when one of the bodies concerned was altogether outside the ambit of the coal industry. I am very happy to say that, when the two governments intimated that there must be an immediate return to work, they were obeyed. The one undertaking that was given by this Government was that, if the direction were obeyed, an arbitral tribunal such as the bill proposes would be established as soon as was physically possible. The bill honours that undertaking. I consider that but for the co-operation, of the two governments in regard to the dispute, Australia might have experienced a period of the gravest difficulty industrially, and it is certain that there would have been a very black Christmas not only for the people of New South Wales but also probably for most of the people elsewhere in Australia. I think that all of the parties who were connected with the dispute, including the unions, showed a great deal of restraint in negotiating a settlement of what could have been an exceedingly awkward situation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 18th November (vide page 3159), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. -The bill proposes some vital departures from practices hitherto honoured and observed in all matters of public accounting. However, before dealing with two or three of them, I refer to the last annual report of the Auditor-General, in which he complained, dealing with his powers, that it was impossible for him, in prevailing circumstances, to give a proper audit of income tax receipts, unless he enjoyed the powers of access to income tax information and files now enjoyed by the Director of Pensions, the Director of Maternity Allowances, the DirectorGeneral of Health .and several other authorities who, very properly, have access to otherwise very secret files for the purpose of protecting the revenue, [f the Auditor-General considers it to be necessary, I urge that access be afforded him in order that he may more correctly carry out his duties and functions as the financial watch-dog, as it were, over the people’s money .and the way in which the Commonwealth handles it. The bill contains a provision in clause 36 which causes great concern. The clause proposes, amongst other things, to insert the following new sub-section 4 in section <52a of the Audit Act :-
The Treasurer may direct that any Trust Account shall be closed and thereupon after all liabilities of the Account have been met the Account shall be closed accordingly. in that, I detect a still further handing over of power by the Parliament to the Executive. This is a power which properly, and traditionally, belongs to the Parliament itself. There is no suggestion, of course, that the moneys will be misappropriated. That is not the point; but it is the duty of the Parliament to know precisely what is happening to public money. It is a dereliction by the Parliament of its duty if it says, “ We shall not worry about that. We shall leave it to the Treasurer to close those accounts, and to use the proceeds to liquidate outstanding loans, or to pay them into Consolidated Revenue “. When such moneys are paid into the ocean of consolidated revenue, it is impossible for members of the Parliament, in the little time that is available to us once each year when we are examining accounts, to ascertain where they have gone. I understand that last year there were approximately 100 trust accounts in which there was a total of approximately £200,000,000. That is a lot of money, and, under this legislation, the Treasurer may close any or all of those accounts, and allocate the £200,000,000 either to the liquidation of indebtedness or to Consolidated Revenue where it will be lost so far as our capacity and ability to pursue its destination is concerned. In these circumstances, I submit that if power must be given to the Treasurer to close such accounts, such closure should be reported immediately to the Parliament. I should much prefer, of course, that the Treasurer should be obliged first to obtain express parliamentary approval to close an account, and that the reasons for such action should be explained to the Parliament. It might be the wish of the Parliament that a particular account should be kept open and the onus would be on the Treasurer to satisfy the Parliament that the circumstances warranted the closing of the account. Direct control of those moneys should not pass out of the hands of the Parliament to the Executive. . That applies, not only in this country, but also throughout the world. When Lord Hewart was Lord Chief Justice in the 1930’s, he wrote an interesting little book called The New Despotism, which showed the growth of executive authority and the lessening of legislative authority. This is a matter with which all governments are confronted. It confronts the Labour Government to-day, just as, next year, it will confront a Liberal-Australian Country party government. It is general legislative practice that the Parliament should retain complete control of public moneys, and should be able to observe their destination. I urge the Minister to insert in this bill the proviso “ subject to the approval of Parliament “. There should be an onus on the Treasurer to report to the Parliament immediately an account is closed., thus giving the Parliament an opportunity to debate the wisdom of such action.
There is one other whittling down of traditional practices in this legislation. The Governor-General has exercised certain powers under sections 15 to 35 of the principal act. Those powers are now to be exercised by the Treasurer, and under clause 39, the Treasurer will have the power of delegation. That means that the powers which hitherto have been exercised by the Governor-General or by the Treasurer under delegated authority will pass to the Treasurer, and that the Treasurer may delegate them to any minor Treasury official. There again is evidence of the tendency of which I spoke earlier, namely, too much power on the part of the Executive, and too little on the part of the legislature. I commend to the Minister the suggestions that I have made.
– in reply - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) has not offered strong objection to this bill. The first point that he made was that the Auditor-General should have access to taxation files. One objection to that, of course, is that it would be physically impossible for the Auditor-General to examine all those files unless he had a large staff at his disposal. I point out too, that under section 16 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, the Commissioner of Taxation may give information to certain authorities, but those authorities do not have access to taxation returns.
– The pr of information would be sufficient for my purposes.
– Information is obtainable. The second matter referred to by the honorable senator is the provision giving to the Treasurer power to close trust accounts, and to pay the moneys from those accounts into Consolidated Revenue. That provision has been in the act since 1906. In all instances, money that has been paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund in accordance with this provision, came mainly from that fund originally. I do not think that any serious objection can be raised to this provision.
The honorable senator referred also to the delegation of powers formerly exercised by the Governor-General. Many of those are minor powers and the Government considers that they can best be exercised by the Treasurer.
– And more expeditiously.
– Yes. The matters involved can more rapidly receive the attention of the Treasurer than of the Governor-General.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 35 agreed to.
Clause 36 (Trust accounts).
– I should like to know precisely th, reason for sub-section 4 of proposed new section 62a, which reads - (4. ) The Treasurer may direct that any trust account shall bc closed and thereupon after all liabilities of the account have been met the account shall be closed accordingly.
Why is this new sub-section proposed when that power is already provided for in the sub-section proposed to be omitted from the principal act?
– The proposed new sub-section merely states the existing power in different language.
– I have not a copy of the principal act to hand, but in order that I may be enabled to appreciate the alteration, would the Minister explain the provision of the sub-section proposed to be omitted? 1 understand that the proposed new subsection embodies an entirely new principle or, at least, prescribes an entirely new practice. Hitherto, has the Treasurer had power to direct that any trust account shall be closed without first obtaining the approval of the Parliament, for such direction? I suggest that if the Government is not agreeable to making the consent of the Parliament an antecedent requirement, provision should at least be made to ensure that when any trust account has been closed the Parliament shall immediately be informed of the fact and the reasons for such action.
– Sub-section 4 of section 62a of the principal act reads - (4.) The Treasurer may direct that any trust account be closed, and thereupon the moneys standing to the credit of the account shall, after all liabilities of the account have been met, be paid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
The alteration now being effected is merely an alteration of language.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 37 and 38 agreed to.
Clause 39 (Delegation).
– I should like an assurance that the delegation of powers provided for under this clause will be made only to senior departmental officers. As the clause stands the Treasurer could delegate very important, confidential and onerous duties to even the office boy. No limitation whatever to the extent of the delegation is provided. We must also bear in mind that hitherto there has been no delegation of powers at all by the Treasurer.
– The power of delegation has always been regarded as the prerogative of the Treasurer, and the measure simply proposes to confer legal authority on that prerogative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 40 and 41 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 24th November (vide page 3354), on motion by Senator Armstrong -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
– I have pleasure in supporting the measure. During the recent debate on the Estimates, I suggested that in addition to the general scheme for bringing child migrants to this country, arrangements should be made to encourage the immigration cf children to be adopted by private citizens. I repeat now what I said then, namely, that whilst the various institutions which cater for migrant children are doing a splendid job in a most commendable fashion, it is infinitely preferable that children should, where possible, be reared in private homes. In private homes they acquire a proper social outlook and enjoy the affection and intimacy which they need. The present measure is intended to facilitate the absorption into private homes of migrant children, and contains a safeguarding provision which empowers the Minister for Immigration to intervene in instances in which the welfare of the children may be adversely affected. In the past, we have known had times, and bad people have resorted to such nefarious practices as conducting “ baby farms “. In Queensland, and I believe, also in other States, very effective legislation has been passed to protect children against unscrupulous people who may adopt them, and the legislation is designed particularly to prevent the exploitation of child labour. I am also gratified at the provision of the bill that both the prospective foster parent and the migrant child are to be placed on a period of probation in order to ensure, as far as possible, that they are suited to each other, temperamentally and in other respects. As the legal guardian of all migrant children, the Minister will have the right to intervene where necessary to remove a child from the care of its legal custodian. During the infancy of a migrant child, the Minister will be empowered to exercise at all times parental care and watch over the child. I have great pleasure in supporting the bill, and I trust that its passage will accomplish a great deal in the future.
– I have had considerable experience of the care and training of migrant children through my connexion with a State farm in Western Australia. I am also acquainted with the Big Brother Movement and the
Northcote children’s farms schools, and I quite agree with the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan). Although the institutions that I have mentioned and other similar organizations do a magnificent job for the migrant children who come to this country, every one agrees that where possible children should be reared in private homes. Incidentally, the adoption of migrant and orphan children is not a one-sided transaction, because, in almost every instance, the adopted children cherish throughout their lives the deepest affection for their benefactors. However, the principal reason for my speaking on the bill is to express my agreement with the concluding portion of the second-reading speech made by the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator Armstrong). The Minister said -
Thu purpose of the bill is to ensure that immigrant children shall receive the care and supervision which they would normally expect from their parents or next-of-kin, and the measures contained in the bill will enable this to be done to a greater degree than has been possible under the existing act.
The Minister is to become the legal guardian of migrant children, and that should give to the parents of overseas children who contemplate sending their children to this country as migrants, every assurance that they will be properly cared for. I support the bill and commend its provisions most heartily to honorable senators.
– I consider that honorable senators should view the introduction of this measure with considerable interest and satisfaction. Every one who had anything to do with the British children who were brought to this country during the recent war to escape the horrors endured by the people of Great Britain must have been impressed by the way in which the children thrived in this country, and the very real interest which they displayed in Australia. In fact, when the time came for them to return to the United Kingdom many of them left Australia with almost as much misgiving as they experienced when they left the Old Country to come to Australia in the first place. One of the saddest aspects of war is the suffering which it inevitably imposes upon children. I believe that we can do a great deal of good, not only for the children, but also for Australia by bringing child migrants to this country. The arrival of the children will also confer a great deal of happiness on those who take the opportunity to adopt them.
I am pleased with the provision in the bill for a period of probation for the children and their foster parents so that they can get to know each other before entering into a binding agreement. As one who has had something to do with the many fine institutions in this country which care for migrant and orphan children, I am aware of the splendid services which they are rendering both to the children and to the nation. At the same time, we all realize that it is preferable for a child to be reared by a family rather than by an institution. Children need love and affection and a sense of security, which can only be properly supplied by a private home. I also note the provision for the Minister for Immigration to become the legal guardian of all migrant children. This would seem a most necessary safeguard. I shall not delay the passage of this measure by saying anything further, except to express the hope that its passage will result in attracting to this country many fine children who will become good Australian citizens.
– in reply - I thank honorable senators for the very sympathetic reception which they have given to the measure, and I agree entirely with the remarks of those who have spoken on the bill. One difficulty associated with any large-scale attempt to attract migrants to this country is the provision of adequate reception facilities. Whilst that is serious with adults, it is more serious with children. The existing facilities in Australia, have never been able to handle a large mass immigration of children. The position now is that, whilst we want to be able to bring in more children under the scheme, it will be necessary, if the scheme is to operate smoothly, for the children to be kept moving into Australian homes. In their early days in Australia, the children will stay in institutions, where they will be educated and fitted for their future life in Australia. Unless, however, they can moveout of the institutions in a continuous stream to Australian homes, the avenue for the admission of children to Australia will be clogged. The only way we can keep it open is to keep moving the children out of institutions into homes as quickly as possible. I am sure that there are thousands of Australian people who would be happy to receive such children in their homes. The measure will give the Minister more control over those children so that their welfare will be watched at every turn, and their future in this country safeguarded from every point of view.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
. -Can the Minister inform me, with respect to clause 5, which refers to custody of immigrant children, whether the adoption of such children will be effected through the appropriate departments in the States?
– The adoption of such children would be effected through the Commonwealth, whose agents the various institutions would be. I should imagine that the procedure to he followed in adopting a child would be very simple. For instance, people who wish to adopt a child would make preliminary advances to the institution in which the child was living, and would visit the child and decide whether it was suitable for them. If they so decided, the adoption procedure would be carried out through the organization in charge of the institution and the Commonwealth authorities.
. -In Queensland, very strict provisions govern the adoption of what are known as “ State children “. A “ State child “ may be a ward of the State born in wedlock and handed over to or taken over by the State, or may be a child born out of wedlock whom the State may claim as a ward. The Director-General of State children may have such a child either placed in an institution or, in certain circumstances, he may approve of the child being adopted. The procedure is very rigid and the most careful scrutiny is made of the prospective foster parents. Every control and supervision is kept over the child, even after its adoption. Will the Commonwealth operate in conjunction with such State organizations? Will the State department or civil institutions act as the Commonwealth’s agents ?
– So that the matter will not he confused, I point out that this hill deals with immigrant children only, and therefore the point raisedby the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) about children being placed in the care of the State would not apply. The Commonwealth, however, will co-operate very closely with the States regarding the standards required in the homes of foster parents and in the character of the foster parents themselves. I believe that it is more difficult to adopt a child than the average person realizes. The close scrutiny of the child by the prospective foster parents will not he as close as the scrutiny by the authorities of the prospective foster parents.
-Will theState be the agent or the Minister ?
– Yes,but the responsibility will be the Minister’s, because he must sign the approval for adoption.
Bill agreed to, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 24th November(vide page 3354), on motion by Senator Courtice -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator MCKENNA) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
The following paper was presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Immigration - D. W. Burbidge.
Senate adjourned at 4.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 November 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1948/19481125_senate_18_200/>.