6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is it the intention of the Government to make statutory provision for a Supply and Tender Board to deal with Government supplies and public purchases?
– The matter is under consideration at the present time.
– Is it the intention of the Government to take over the lighthouses on our coast?
– I expect to be able to make a statement within a month as to the date on which the lighthouses will be taken over. When the lighthouses have been taken over, the dues will be collected by the Commonwealth instead of bv the States, and those now employed in the lighthouse service of the States will become Commonwealth employes.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs any further information regarding the stevedoring of the prize vessels now in Sydney Harbor?
– I have no definite information concerning the composition of the companies concerned; but I have obtained exact information regarding the cargo of the detained vessels. Many persons are of the opinion that that cargo was inwards cargo, and may contain things dangerous to Australia; that is not so. The Osnabruck, at the time of the service of the detention notice, was loaded with an outward cargo of Australian produce. The whole of that cargo has been discharged in Sydney, with the exception of a quantity of loose lead concentrates in powder form.
– That cargo should not have been discharged by a German firm.
– The men who were engaged on the work are not Germans-, and no union has been stricter than the Waterside Workers Union in excluding German workmen, even though they may have lived in Australia over twenty years, and have been naturalized many years.
– The profits go to Germany.
– There is- no profit in the transaction. The Altuna left Melbourne on the 11th inst. for Newcastle, with about 900 tons of cargo for that port. A large part of this cargo is material of heavy weight from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s works. The ordinary agents at Newcastle of the GermanAustralian line are Messrs. J. and A. Brown Limited, the well-known colliery proprietors and shipping agents. Some people consider that firm worse than Germans. The discharge of all the other German-Australian vessels was completed some time ago. As to the vessels of the Norddeutscher-Lloyd Company, the head office of which is in Sydney, the Hessen and the Greifswald are now discharging in that port. It is expected that the discharge of the Hessen will be completed today, and that of the Greifswald on the 14th inst. No exception has been taken by any person regarding the stevedoring of those vessels. The Cannstadt was at Brisbane when the detention notice wasserved, and had then on board an export cargo of wheat for Messrs. Darling and Company. That cargo has been discharged - Messrs. Darling and Company acting as their own agents. The Oberhausen was at Hobart, loaded with timber for an outward voyage, and that timber has been discharged by the Huon Timber Company.
– In view of a statement in one of this morning’s newspapers that it did not receive from the Navy Office information that was given to another newspaper, will the Minister responsible take steps to see that, in future, information intended for the press shall be given to the newspapers generally, and not reserved for a particular newspaper?
– I understand that that is the rule of the Department.
– When does the Minister of Home Affairs propose to issue the ordinary bi-monthly works schedule that we have been in the habit of receiving from this Department, so that honor able members may know what public works are being proceeded with ?
– I expect that the schedule will be out in a week or so.
The following papers were presented : -
Belgium - Grant to- Cablegram to Secretary of State for the Colonies transmitting Resolution authorizing payment of £100,000; also acknowledgment from High Commissioner.
Ordered to be printed.
Public Service Act- Promotions of W. J. Anderson, as Clerk in Charge, 3rd Class, Correspondence and Records Branch, New South Wales, and of J, T. Thompson, as Postmaster, Grade IV., 3rd Class, Longreach.
War Precautions Act - Regulations (Provisional) Statutory Rules 1914, No, 154.
– In connexion with the success of the Sydney, a large number of congratulatory messages, in addition to those already published, have come to hand. Amongst them is a telegram from the Governor of Western Australia conveying the congratulations of that State, and another from the Prime Minister of Canada, which reads -
Bravo, Australia ! All Canada congratulates you.
The Prime Minister of New Zealand has cabled as follows: -
Desire to extend to you as Prime Minister of Commonwealth, New Zealand’s heartiest congratulations on the brilliant feat performed by H.M.A.S. Sydney in destroying the Emden, which, since outbreak of war,has done so much harm to British shipping. While not only appreciating to the full the protection afforded to the British communities in the Pacific by the Australian section of the Imperial Navy, we are all proud of the splendid services rendered to the Empire by your fine ships and their gallant seamen.
Bill presented by Mr. Hughes, and read a first time.
– Yesterday the Attorney-General promised that to-day he would make a statement concerning the recent raids or examinations, or whatever he may choose to call them. Is the honorable gentleman prepared to. do so?
– I am not prepared to make a full statement, but am prepared to make any interim, statement of as many of the facts as it is advisable to disclose.
– I take it that the Attorney - General is replying to a question.
– Yes. As a result of inquiries set on foot under the emergency legislation recently passed, it had been ascertained that the control of the market in metals had long been - to a great extent - in the hands of the Germans, or of corporations which, even when British in name, were in fact controlled and chiefly owned in Germany. It was further ascertained that this control was, in great measure, continuing after the declaration of war, and there was reason to believe that a great part of the profits of the metal trade was finding its way into German pockets; whilst there was much doubt whether adequate precautions were being taken to prevent the products themselves, which are of a kind to be of service to warlike operations, getting into enemy territory. There were also reasons for believing that attempts to trade with the enemy were being made. In time of war, when the national safety is at stake, it is not always possible to consider private feelings; and it was thought proper that the information required should be obtained by the use’ of the emergency powers conferred by Parliament. The results of the inquiry cannot yet be stated, except to say that information has been obtained which justified the action taken. I hope shortly to make a fuller statement on the matter. In those cases where investigation discloses no grounds for action, the fullest publicity will be given to this fact, so that no citizen may remain unjustly under the shadow of suspicion of having in any way helped the enemy.
– Has any final report yet been received from Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice regarding naval bases throughout Australia, and particularly in reference to the Henderson Base at Cockburn Sound? If not, when is a report expected ‘(
– We expect that in the course of the. next week or two the final report of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice will be in Australia, dealing with the whole question of the naval bases in Australia.
Designs “for Parliamentary Buildings
– Is it a fact that the ex-Minister of Home Affairs at the end of June last called for competitive architectural designs for the Parliamentary building at the Federal capital ? Further, is it a fact that, although communications have been opened up with the Department by a number of architects in various parts of the world, and, although those architects are proceeding with the preparation of plans, the call for designs has been cancelled ?
– I cannot speak as to the dates referred to by the honorable member, but, owing to the war, the present Government have deemed it advisable to cancel the advertisements calling for designs. As will be readily seen, the war would confine the competition almost entirely to Australians and Americans, seeing that so many professional men of other countries are now at the front with the Allies.
– When will the competition be resumed?
– It was suspended owing to the war, and, at the time, we were in hopes that the question could be re-opened at an early date. But, of course, if the war continues for any length of time - though we all sincerely hope it will not - we shall have to consider what further steps are necessary.
– Does the Minister of Home Affairs wish the House to understand that, because England is at war, he assumes there is no architectural ability at Home fit to compete in the designing of our parliamentary buildings? Is the Minister aware that the ex-Govern r ment architect for New South Wales calculated, thirteen years ago, that those buildings could be put up as a nucleus at a cost of £250,000 in two years and a half. We are now in the fourteenth year of the existence of the Commonwealth 1
– I certainly did not assume that there were no architects in England, France, Belgium, or Germany not engaged in the war, but it did occur to me, as a matter of fairness and justice, that the younger or middle-aged men who are at the front should not be debarred from competing.
– Then the whole thing is to be hung up?
– I may say further that one of the judges was. an Austrian, another a Frenchman, and the third an Englishman, and I decline to be a party to one of the enemy adjudicating in such a matter.
– Does the Minister not think that it would have been possible, in view of the war, to arrange for the Board to consist only of subjects of allied or friendly nations?
– There is no doubt that the Board might be confined to Englishmen, Australians, and Americans, or entirely to Australians.
– In making any future arrangements for the competition, will the Minister see that the adjudication takes place in Australia, after the judges have visited Canberra, and not in London, as arranged by his predecessor?
– The whole of the arrangements will be carefully considered when the question is re-opened.
– In view of the probable protraction of the war over an indefinite period, will the Minister of Home Affairs consider the advisability of immediately reviewing the decision to postpone the competition for designs- for the Federal Parliament Buildings?
– The matter will be reconsidered at an early date.
– If the PostmasterGeneral carries out his intention to raise the telephone rates, will he take into consideration the position of those people who, in the country districts, have contributed considerably towards the cost of their private telephone lines?
– I shall certainly give full consideration to the cases referred to.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been called to tho fact that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company have raised the price of sugar £3 5s. per ton in New Zealand during the last three months? Knowing that the company are also anxious to raise the price of sugar in Australia, will the AttorneyGeneral suggest 1» the Federal Food Commissioners that they should communicate with the State Food Commis sioners with a view to the prevention of any further increase in price?
– I will call the attention of the Federal Food Commissioners to this matter, and request that they communicate -with the State Commissioners.
– I should like to ask the Postmaster- General whether, in the consideration of the new rates which it is proposed that telephone subscribers shall pay because of the failure of the Postal Department to make the telephone service pay, he will take into account the desirableness of not increasing the rates now paid by charitable and similar organizations throughout Australia ?
– The whole of the circumstances will be considered when we go into the question.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Owing to pressure of urgent business arising out of the existence of a state of war, an opportunity has not yet occurred for advancing this matter, but it will be taken in hand when the conditions allow.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he reconsider his decision in refusing the desire that the official war news received from the High Commissioner be posted up at the post offices in country places where newspapers are published - seeing that such official information is made available and posted up outside newspaper offices in Melbourne - so that the patriotic residents in the country may have the same facilities as those in the city
– The arrangement made with regard to the transmission of war news was not intended to be a concession to newspapers, but to afford a facility to the public at places where no newspaper is published. I see no reason for departing from that arrangement.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of his declaration, as recorded in Hansard, 25th August, 1909, that “Taxation on the necessaries of life, speaking generally and according to absolute fact, falls most heavily on the toiling masses, who have larger families, and who, themselves and their families, consume proportionately a larger amount of dutiable goods than the wealthy do,” will he take all steps necessary, without delay, to Buspend the collection of, or reduce the taxation on, the necessaries of life during the currency of the war, in order to reduce the cost of living to the toiling masses?
– The Government will, within its powers, protect all citizens during the war and at other times. Subject to the necessity to protect our national existence, the adjustment of the incidence of taxation will receive careful consideration.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What steps it is proposed to take during this financial year in regard to the erection of lighthouses on Eclipse Island, near King George’s Sound; and on Point D’Entrecasteaux, between King George’s Sound and Cape Leeuwin; and in obtaining the necessary lights and other appliances?
– It is not intended to take any steps during this financial year as regards providing lights at Eclipse Island and Point D’ Entrecasteaux.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Queensland (7) -
Coquet Island, Dhu Reef, Heath Reef, Tih Tih Reef, Chapman Island, Piper Island, Clarke Island.
Also two unattended lightships, one at Breaksea Spit, one at Proudfoot Shoal.
Northern Territory (3) -
Emery Point, Fort Point, Cape Don.
Tasmania (2) -
West Point, Cape Forestier.
It is proposed also to instal wireless telegraphy at Dent Island (Queensland), South Solitary Island (New South Wales), Cliffy Island (Victoria), and South Neptune Island (South Australia), and effect repairs to certain existing lighthouses.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he is aware that prosecutions have been initiated against persons who are not enrolled ; if so, will he consider the advisability of withdrawing same, as many persons were under the impression that the police called for the purpose of collecting the names for enrolment ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Enrolment is compulsory, and it is the statutory duty of the officials to prosecute in case of failure to comply with the law, the requirements of which have been notified throughout the Commonwealth. It is not proposed to interfere with the officers in giving effect to the law.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House the number of workers likely to be affected by the order for preference to unionists, issued by himself ?
– The number of workers affected will be those who may have applied for work and were not employed because of the order in question. It is impossible to say how many, if any, have been or will be so affected.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
3 and 4. They are all required to devote not less than eight hours time a day to their work. Many do much more. There is no objection to their looking after their private affairs when not required on duty. A few emergency officers are only employed when there is an extra rush of work, and paid for time employed.
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Commonwealth should forthwith take over the inspection and effective control of produce passing from State to State.
This motion has been moved in this House on previous occasions, and I am submitting it again to-day in order that I may get from the Minister of Trade and Customs a definite statement upon the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth in relation to the matter of the inspection of goods passing from one State to another. It has been said that the Constitution does not give us the necessary power to take over the inspection of these goods. On the other hand, section 112 of the Constitution provides -
After uniform duties of Customs have been imposed, a State may levy on imports or exports, or on goods passing into or out of the State, such charges as may be necessary for executing the inspection laws of the State; but the net produce of all charges so levied shall be for the use of the Commonwealth, and any such inspection laws may be annulled by the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
It is contended that, as this section gives the Commonwealth Parliament power to annul inspection charges, it also gives the power to take over the full control of the inspection of all produce passing from one State to another. But I am doubtful whether the Constitution gives us the necessary power. I do not think any honorable member who has given consideration to the matter will differ from me when I say that, if the Commonwealth would take over the work of inspection, the step would be in the interests of the producers of Australia in many ways. The producers of Victoria have suffered many disabilities through the existing system of inspection of produce despatched to other States. Frequently potatoes certified to in Melbourne as being free from disease have, on reaching Western Australia, been declared by the inspectors there to be affected by disease. In this way, great losses are inflicted, not only on the agricultural section of the community, but also upon the mercantile and trading classes. I contend that many of the disabilities under which the producers labour to-day would be overcome by substituting for the present method, by which inspectors in two different States may differ on the question of the freedom of certain produce from disease, a system by which the Commonwealth will take over the task of inspecting all Inter-State produce shipments. The Commonwealth could employ most competent men with a thorough understanding of their work, and thus, when an inspector in Victoria would certify that certain produce was free from disease, his certificate would be
Accepted in any other State. When the States federated, it was believed that a system of Inter-State Free Trade was to be brought about; but now we see that, by means of inspection dues and by inspectors in certain States refusing to admit goods from other States, the Federal Constitution is, to some extent, nullified.
– The step to which the honorable member refers was taken by a Labour Government. They raised the cost of living in Western Australia.
– I have no desire to enter into that aspect of the matter. I do not think that the Liberal Government in Western Australia led by Mr. Wilson came out of it too well. At any rate, I am satisfied that the Liberal Government in Victoria have come out of the matter very badly, because it has been largely responsible for the retaliatory acts of the Western Australian Government. It allowed the potato expert to certify that certain diseased potatoes were clean and permit them to be sent to Western Australia. Certain merchants had bought these potatoes at £1 per ton and sold them in Western Australia at £40 per ton, and it was proved that inspectors were acting in collusion with certain agents in Victoria.
– How long ago was that?
– The Minister for Agriculture in Victoria, in whos3 Department the inspection is done, did his best to hush up the matter, and we were unable to ascertain all the facts.
– When was it?
– When the honorable member was Premier of Victoria.
– That is about as true as many other statements you made during the elections.
– When the honorable member was Premier of Victoria, his Minister of Agriculture was the Hon. George Graham, and it was while he was in charge of the Department that this trick was done by an inspector and one firm in Melbourne.
– Do you suggest collusion on the part of the Minister ?
– I say that he was lax in regard to his duty. Full publicity should have been given to the matter.
– The honorable member should make that statement out of Parliament, and see what Mr. Graham would do to him.
– In view of Mr. Graham’s experience before J udge Hodges in the Chinn case, I do not think he would say anything.
– Mr. Graham came out of the Chinn case very well. The honorable member should be very careful about references to the Chinn case.
– The people of Victoria are somewhat to blame for the fact that Western Australia has charged heavy inspection dues on Victorian potatoes. Had this inspector, and this firm to which I have alluded, been prosecuted, and full publicity given to the fact that they had worked together with a view to introducing diseased potatoes into Western Australia, I do not think the Western State would have taken the action it did.
– The charges demanded by Western Australia were not legal.
– The Western Australian Government made a charge of 15s. per ton inspection dues. Last session, the honorable member for Wilmot and I brought up the matter in this House, and the then Minister of Trade and Customs was good enough to make representations to the Western Australian Government, so that we ultimately succeeded in having the fee reduced to 23. 6d. per ton.
– It was a duty falsely labelled “ inspection dues,” put on by the Labour Government of Western Australia.
– The honorable member for Wannon, who has by interjections raised the question of the increased cost of living in Western Australia, should be more careful. When the Liberal Government were in power in that State, they refused to allow any Victorian potatoes to go into consumption in Western Australia until they had first been peeled in bond, which raised the price of potatoes in Perth to £40 a ton. When the Labour Government took office, they repealed that regulation, and substituted an inspection fee of 15s. a ton.
– That is not correct.
– The potatoes were peeled under the Wilson Government. Later on, inspection dues were substituted by the Labour Government. If the various States are to be permitted to charge these excessive inspection dues, we might just as well not have Inter-State Free Trade, because the intention of the framers of the Constitution is defeated. I see no way out of the difficulty, except in the direction of the Commonwealth Government taking over the entire control of the inspection of Inter-State produce shipments. They should have the control of the inspectors and the appointment of them. When an inspector certifies that an article is true to name and free from disease, it should be possible to send that article from one State to any other in the Commonwealth. Until we arrive at that situation we shall have, year after year, the trouble we have experienced within the last twelve months. Some six months ago a shipment of potatoes from Melbourne, certified by a local inspector to be free from disease, was declared by a Western Australian inspector, upon its arrival at Fremantle, to be affected by some disease. The shipment was consequently returned. I am not going to say upon whose shoulders the blame should be thrown, but there can be no doubt that both the producer and the agent suffered a considerable loss. They acted in good faith. Believing the Victorian inspector to be competent, and acting on his certificate, they shipped these potatoes to Western Australia, where another State inspector declared that they were likely to introduce some disease into that State. I do not for one moment suggest that any produce likely to introduce a new disease should be admitted into a State. No one desires that; but there is abroad to-day an impression that if we have, say, a plentiful supply of potatoes here, while the supply in Western Australia, let us say. for the sake of argument, is somewhat limited, influence is brought to bear upon the inspectors to declare shipments of our produce unfit to enter. There is an impression abroad that it is not so much the quality of the potatoes as the desire of a few people to control the trade of a State that causes trouble. I shall not further discuss the matter. We are all agreed, I think, that we should provide for uniform inspection. The question is whether we have the constitutional power to give effect to this pro posal. If we have not, then, at the next referendum which the Labour party propose shall take place some time before the next general election the people should be asked to give us the necessary power. This question of inspection does not apply only to potatoes. I remember a casecited by the honorable member for Wilmot, who said that apples shipped to Sydney from Tasmania, and rejected as. diseased, were returned-
– They were potatoes, I think. I must have made a mistake.
– The illustration, given by the honorable member was that apples shipped to Sydney, rejected there, and returned to Tasmania, were placed in fresh cases and shipped once more to* Sydney, where they were passed by the inspector who had previously condemned them. Apples, potatoes, bacon, meat, and many other products passing from State to State are affected by this question of inspection. I trust that the Minister of Trade and Customs will give serious consideration to it, and that if we have the constitutional power he will arrange for the Commonwealth to take over as early aspossible the inspection of all goods passing between the various States.
.- I occupy a somewhat peculiar position today, since the motion submitted by the honorable member for Ballarat is identical with one that I have put before the House on several occasions during the last few years.
– But the honorable member was not successful.
– It remains to be seen whether the honorable member will be any more successful than I have been. This movement, in which I have taken an active part, has, at least, met with some success. Last year, when Western Australia was imposing the tremendously heavy inspection charge of 15s. per ton,, the Commonwealth Government intervened, on the suggestion of myself audi other members of this Parliament, as well as members of the Tasmanian Parliament, and the Minister of Trade and Customs was instrumental in having that charge reduced to 2s. 6d. per ton. IF Parliament had been in session at the time, the then Minister would have received more credit for his action than was actually accorded Mm. It was ir* 1910 that I first submitted this motion, to the House, and it was then well de- bated. The present Minister of Trade and Customs was at that time in office, and he promised to look into the matter and supply us with the fullest information. The information with which he did actually supply us, however, was really of no value, so far as the point at issue was concerned: We have not yet had, on the part of any Government, a straight-out stand on the constitutional issue. The issue, I admit, is a difficult one, but I do not propose to discuss it at length, because, asHansard will show, I dealt with it, fully in this House in 1913. I first took action in 1910; in 1913 I again brought forward this motion, but when we met early this year, private members’ business was not dealt with, owing to the peculiar situation in which we found ourselves prior to the double dissolution. In the circumstances I had to content myself by putting questions to the Minister, with the object of impressing him with the urgency of the matter. At the opening of the present session I gave notice of a motion similar to that now before us. The House, however, adjourned over the day on which it was set down for discussion, and consequently the notice of motion given by the honorable member for Ballarat has secured precedence. I hope that the Minister will look seriously into this question. I do not wish him to harass any State, but the time has arrived when the interests of the producers of the Commonwealth must be more carefully studied than they have been. In good seasons, when there is no particular pest or disease effecting our produce, we do not hear much complaint; but as soon as a disease makes its appearance in one State, producers in the rest of the Commonwealth complain if an attempt is made to land shipments of produce from it.
– Is that not reasonable?
– I certainly do not suggest that diseased produce should’ be admitted into any State. As a matter of fact, there is no trade or commerce in diseases. When produce is refused admittance into a State, and afterwards proved to be fit for consumption, trouble is caused, the producers naturally alleging that the refusal to admit it was due to the desire to preserve the market for local growers. Section 112 of the Constitution reserves to the States the power of inspection, but if the power is used unreason ably or unfairly, the Commonwealth may annul the State law under which it is so used. It was considered that the Western Australian inspection fee of 15s. a ton was excessive, and the honorable member for Ballarat, when speaking on my motion in 1913, specially called attention to it as affecting growers in his district. If that fee was more than the reasonable expenses of the inspection, the Government of Western Australia acted unconstitutionally in levying it, and was endeavouring to preserve its market for its local growers, contrary to section 92 of the Constitution. Honorable members can obtain some idea of the reserve police powers of the States under section 112 by reading the reports of eases which have come before the American Courts. A very valuable opinion was given on the matter some years ago by the honorable member for Angas in connexion with a South Australian question. Messrs. Quick and Garran, in their work on the Constitution, draw attention to a number of cases which can be consulted on this point. I shall not take up time now by referring to these cases in detail, nor by repeating what I have said on other occasions. My views are to be found on pages 2722 and 2723 of the Hansard reports of the debates in 1913. A great deal of produce now passes from State to State, and as the trade increases the importance of this inspection question increases. This Inter-State trade provides a great deal of employment in connexion with the growing, handling, and transport of the produce. At present producers complain that they do not know how they stand. When trouble arises their business is thrown into a state of chaos. They cannot then get merchants to buy their produce, and cannot continue their farming operations without selling it. This is not good for trade, nor conducive to the harmonious relations between the States. The Minister should obtain the best opinion from the law authorities as to the position of the Commonwealth in this matter, and he should also try to get the States to come to a satisfactory arrangement between themselves. If more common-sense were displayed, a good working arrangement would probably be arrived at. It is becoming easier each year to bring about such an arrangement, because the Directors of Agriculture of the various States meet annually to discuss questions of the character of that with which I am now dealing. A good deal of trouble has recently been caused by an increase in the price of bags. It has been suggested that there is a combine controlling the price. I am not aware of evidence to support that view, but if there is a combine the Minister should make himself acquainted with the facts and remove the evil. The honorable member for Darwin, when in Tasmania some time ago, urged the farmers to vote for the referendum proposals of the Labour party, because, for one thing, the carrying of those proposals would bring about a solution of the troubles arising from the inspection of produce passing from one State to another. I challenged his statement, and have never had proof of its correctness. Having obtained advice from competent constitutional authorities, I am confident that the position would be unchanged by the carrying of the proposals referred to, unless very strong and unfair action were taken by the Commonwealth against a State, action such as could hardly be expected of any Ministry. Nothing, therefore, is to be gained by postponing the settlement of this matter until the next referendum has been dealt with. If there were a special referendum on the question some good might result, but matters will not be affected by the carrying of the constitutional alterations proposed by the Labour party. I hope that, now that this matter has been introduced from a different quarter, the Minister will bend his energies to a serious effort, and obtain satisfaction for the deserving producers of Australia.
– I have no objection to the carrying of the motion. The inspection of. produce passing from one State to another is a matter which the Commonwealth could well control, but it would be a mistake to have a double control. I am not sure that even if the Constitution were altered the States could not appoint inspectors to prevent diseased produce from entering their borders. Inspection at the port of export is not always satisfactory. Of course, if frozen meat sent from Victoria to
Western Australia is good when it leaves Victoria, it will be good when it reaches Western Australia, providing that it is properly carried ; but that does not hold with vegetables and fruit, which may deteriorate on the voyage, and which must therefore be inspected at the port of import. I would be in favour of abolishing inspection by State officials and leaving the work wholly to Commonwealth officials. That is what has been done in connexion with the meat inspection in Queensland, but the meat that is inspected is exported overseas. It may be news to honorable members that Tasmania sends twice as much fruit to the mainland as she sends oversea. In 1911 her export of fruit was about 1,500,000 cases, of which about 1,000,000 cases came to the mainland, and the remaining 500,000 were sent overseas to the United Kingdom and to foreign countries. It is a mistake to suppose that the inspection charges which were objected to have been imposed by Labour Governments. Although it is a Labour Government that is now in power in Western Australia, it was an anti-Labour Government that imposed the inspection charge to which objection has been made. It is a mistake, in my opinion, to attempt to make party capital out of this question, because there are States in which antiLabour Governments have acted detrimentally to producers. When my predecessor was in office, there was, I think, a. statement read to the House which showed what fees were then being charged.
– It was shown that in Western Australia the charge was 15s. per ton, while in other States it was 6d. and1s.
– It is true that the other States had reduced their charges very considerably, but I do not think their importations of potatoes are great.
– Still, the inspection staffs have to be kept on.
– And that is how much of the revenue raised by the charges is spent.
– The matter cannot be gauged by the value of the imports.
– It cannot be contended that, because a man is engaged for only a couple of hours inspecting potatoes, therefore the charge should be proportionately small, because, but for the potato inspection, he might not be employed at all. If the Commonwealth itself had to undertake this work in all the States, it is quite possible that the fees would have to be increased, because there would have to be a Commonwealth staff in addition to the existing State staff.
– Would the States not consent to hand over all this work to the Commonwealth 1
– I believe that some of the States would.
– It is not the charges so much as the microscopical examination that is objected to. Potatoes are £3 and £4 a ton in the East, while in Western Australia they are £14, and the trouble is the doubt and uncertainty of the traders about getting their produce in at all.
– Several honorable members opposite have suggested that the States should be asked to hand over to the Commonwealth the whole work of inspection of Inter-State produce. I take it that the honorable member for Wannon feels that the present method of inspection is a violation of section 112 of the Constitution, which is as follows -
After uniform duties of Customs have been imposed, a State may levy on imports or exports, or on goods passing into or out of the State, such charges as may be necessary for executing the inspection laws of the State; but the net produce of - all charges so levied shall be for the use of the Commonwealth; and any such inspection laws may be annulled by the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
In Western Australia the inspection charges have been reduced from 15s. to 2s. 6d. per ton, or from 9d. to 1½d. per cwt. ; and earlier this year my predecessor asked that there should be a further reduction to 2s. per ton. The States are certainly not justified if their methods are such as indicated by the honorable member for Wannon; but even if the charges were done away with altogether, objectionable methods of inspection might still be adopted.
– The real difficulty is that the States operate under different laws.
– There is no doubt something in that suggestion. All the States are not in the same position in regard to fruit pests and so forth, some being particularly affected, while others are free; and certainly those which are free ought to be assisted by the Commonwealth in their efforts to remain so. When my pre decessor was in office there was a conference held, and I believe that at that time it was the intention of the Western Australian Government to send a potato inspector to Victoria to investigate the methods in that State, and ascertain whether the complaints made were justified. In view of the mutual jealousies of the States it would be far better if there were some central controlling body, and the Commonwealth is the only body possible. To that end I should be in favour of an alteration of the Constitution, but if that should mean duplication of officials, with the same system of inspection, we should not be much further forward.
– In the event of this motion being carried, will the Government be able to give effect to it?
– I do not think we will, without an alteration of the Constitution, but, of course, I speak as a layman.
– Then why waste the time of the House?
– Have the Government approached the States with a view to this work being handed over to the Commonwealth ?
– My experience of approaching the States with a view to their handing over any powers has not been very satisfactory in the past.
– Satisfactory arrangements were made in connexion with quarantine.
– Not in all cases.
– If there were Commonwealth inspectors, I presume they would be empowered to prevent disease being carried from one State to another ?
– Certainly; in that regard those inspectors would operate precisely as do the State inspectors.
– In some places there are men acting for the State and the Commonwealth.
– That is so; State officials do the work, and are paid by the Commonwealth.
– And it is a most satisfactory arrangement.
– I believe it is fairly satisfactory in some directions, though I have heard complaints from Tasmania as to the inspection of apples in some of the eastern States.
– It is better to have one inspector than two.
– Granted. There was a conference of Ministers of Agriculture in 1911, and certain charges were agreed to. In Western Australia the charges were to he 3d. per half-bushel case, 6d. per bushel case, 9d. per two-bushel case, and ls. per cental; while in each of the other States the charge was to be £d all round for bananas by the bunch, pineapples and bananas by the case or crate, and other fruit by the half-bushel, but not exceeding one bushel.
– The charges are a high protective duty.
– I am not sure that they are.
– In the case of bananas the charge is almost equal to what the duty was.
– The duty was ls. 6d.; but I believe that the only States importing bananas oversea are New South Wales and Victoria. Personally, I am not at all sorry that the honorable member for Ballarat has submitted the motion, which deals with the question that has been brought under our attention previously by the honorable member for Wilmot. I have stated the position as I understand it; but, as I said before, my opinion is that of a layman. If it is possible for the Commonwealth to control the work without this leading to duplication, I am in favour of an amendment of the Constitution to that end; but, otherwise, it would be better to try to arrange with the States for a more satisfactory method of inspection.
– This is a perennial question; but the discussions have undoubtedly resulted in a proximation of charges, and an approach to the ideal we all desire. The Minister of Trade and Customs has expressed the opinion that the Commonwealth cannot take control without an alteration of the Constitution ; and he has evidently forgotten that on the 14th August, 1910, he said in this House -
I consulted the Attorney-General as to whether we had the power to do what is proposed without an amendment of the Constitution, and I believe that, not only my honorable colleague, hut his predecessor, the honorable member for Angas, agreed that it was quite possible that we had that power, and could exercise it, by legislation, without an alteration of the Constitution.
Undoubtedly the Commonwealth has complete control over Inter-State trade and commerce. At the same time, there is reserved to the States a complete police*’ power to protect plants, animals, andi. people within their own areas. No matter what alteration of the Constitution” might be made, the people would resist very strenuously any attempt totake away that power. Our experiencein connexion with “small-pox has shown the absolute necessity of local assistance as well as Federal control. But, as regards this particular matter, I think the Minister is quite right in sayingthat we ought to get the State Ministers1 to meet together and to try to make their regulations approximate as closely as possible, not merely in regard to the question of charges, but also in regard to the methods of inspection, so that there might be mutual recognition of certificates. Wecannot escape from the fact that the States are very much concerned as regards the spread of disease within their own borders, and when we consider that a State like Western Australia or Queensland comprises an area equal to that of several of the other States put together^ we must recognise that to such States the prevention of the spread of disease presents a very big problem indeed. They have their own staffs for the preventionof such disease within their own areas,, and what we require to do is to link up the administration - I am speakingparticularly of New South Wales and Queensland - so that there may be mutual co-operation between the States to prevent the spread of disease. My opinion in regard to the charge fixed in Western Australia - and I expressed it at the time- - was that it was. excessive. Section 112” of the Constitution is perfectly clear that, the States can only make inspectioncharges on goods passing into or going out of States. I sent several despatches with a view to getting the Western Australian Government to let us know the exact cost of inspection. This we found them reluctant to give us. At last Mr. Bath, the then Minister for Lands, and I met in Melbourne, and we agreed that the Commonwealth and State officers should examine on the spot the whole of the charges and ascertain what the Western Australian Government were actually expending and receiving for inspection. The result of that conference was to reveal the fact that Western Australia was not merely charging a fee for the inspection of goods coming into the. State, but was debiting those goods with the cost of the prevention of the spread of disease within the State. The Western Australian Government were practically making the Inter-State traffic bear the cost of administration of the whole of their internal inspection. That was a wrong principle, and no State Government had the light to do that. They undoubtedly had a right to make any other regulations they thought necessary to prevent the spread of disease from Victoria to Western Australia, and I informed Mr. Bath that as long as the State of Western Australia was exercising those powers with all reasonable caution for the purpose of protecting its own farmers, no other portion of Australia had a right to complain. So long as those charges represented a just exercise of the inspection law they were legitimate, but no State had the right to set up a protective law under the guise of an inspection law.
– That was done.
– That was done in connexion with the inspection of apples, I know; but I managed to get those restrictions modified, and, in effect, the attitude of Western Australia appeared to be the same in regard to potatoes. Mr. Bath listened to my proposals, and he intimated that he was prepared to reduce the charge to 2s. 6d. On the figures submitted to me, I thought the charges should be reduced to 2s., and the last thing I did in connexion with this dispute was to send to the Western Australian Government a remonstrance to that effect.
– You sent a letter on the 4th August, and I wrote again on 6th November.
– As regards the suggestion that the Commonwealth should take over the whole of the inspection of the Inter-State trade throughout Australia, my own opinion is that it would be better for the Commonwealth at present not ti do that. That work should be done by the States, and the Commonwealth should continue to have, as at present, a sort of supervisory position over the inspection.
– That would be very unsatisfactory.
– I do not think it would be so. The honorable member is looking at the question from the point of view of one who is in a State which desires to export potatoes to another State. The producers in Victoria felt the pinch, rightly I admit, of the restrictive laws of another State. But one must also look at the question from another point of view when dealing with a proposition like this. Suppose that Victoria were threatened with the introduction of a disease from another State, say, for instance, the tick from Queensland, or the fruit fly pest from that State.
– Would not the Federal officers be just as strict as the State officers?
– They might be; but the whole system of the inspection and eradication of disease within a State is largely based in the first instance on internal administration. The States must have complete machinery within their own borders to prevent the spread of any disease from one part of a State to another part, and I think that the continuance of State inspection should be found to be the most effective system. They have something more than mere inspection; they have the power to follow a disease up and eradicate it. I -do not think it would be satisfactory to try to administer from one centre the whole of the inspection and eradication of diseases in Australia.
– Who has suggested that?
– I am merely saying that I do not think that system is advisable. The present system is better, but it requires more co-operation between the States in the direction of securing uniformity. I think it would be inadvisable for the Federal authorities to interfere unduly with the existing arrangement. I know that was the view which the present Minister of Trade and Customs expressed a few years back. He said -
I, for one, agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Darling Downs that the Federal Government should be very reluctant to interfere in matters of this kind.
We have already indicated in the Quarantine Act what our position is in regard to the spread of diseases. We have taken in that Statute a reserve power.
– How far could you make that power override the inspection laws?
– We could have additional inspection if we wanted it. The States have their own powers of inspection, and very few people would like to take away those powers.
– If the presence of disease was detected, could not the States requisition a Federal officer!
– If we care to do so, we can make laws regulating the InterState trade and commerce, and, as far as I remember, the quarantine power in the United States rests to a very big extent on the fact that the Federal authority has control over Inter-State trade and commerce. We undoubtedly have power to regulate the passing of goods from one State to another, but the States have additional powers as well. The Minister says that it is not wise to unduly duplicate the inspections. I say that it is not necessary to do that until we have absolute proof that the existing system is a complete failure. There have been several cases in which friction has arisen, but the trouble has not been so great as to lead to a break-down of the existing system. I think that the last Inter-State Conference of Fruit-Growers forwarded to the Department a resolution objecting to the Federal Parliament attempting to exercise the powers recommended in this motion. At the same time, I think that good will come from the ventilation of the views of this House, and the expression of opinion by members on all sides that it is highly improper for the States to exercise these powers for anything else than bond fide inspections for the prevention of the spread of disease affecting animals and plants.
– I sympathize with the honorable member who introduced the motion, and I think it is a good thing that the matter should be thoroughly threshed out in the House, and that an expression of opinion should come from every member. As .one representing a farming and grazing district, I think that the scope of the proposal might well have been extended, and I suggest that the honorable member should include after the word “produce” the words “ and stock,” because I think it would be well to have the one set of inspectors to do the work of inspecting both produce and stock passing from
State to State. Of course we are up against the Constitution. It would be well if the Government would take careful notice of this matter, and bring it before the next Premiers’ Conference. The subject might, with great advantage to» the producers, be discussed by the Premiers, and if we can get their sympathy and their undertaking to bring the subject before their respective Parliaments we might arrive at some scheme of co-ordination between the States* I recollect, some four years ago, attending a very influential Farmers and Settlers’ Conference in New South Wales, and resolutions very similar to this motion were introduced and agreed to by the conference unanimously. I remember also hearing of one case in which a farmer present at the conference had sent 6 tons of potatoes to Deniliquin from Millthorpe, near Orange. Before those potatoes could reach Deniliquin they had to pass through Albury, viti Echuca. At that particular time Victoria was suffering from the Irish blight, and, so far as the State of New South Wales was concerned, the whole of Victoria was quarantined, although the blight affected only the potato-growing districts, particularly Warrnambool. These particular potatoeswere not affected by blight, but just because they had passed through a few miles of Victorian territory they were considered to be blight-stricken, and were condemned. It is high time we had an alteration of that state of affairs. The same regulations apply to Queensland as regards stock. We know that only certain portions of Queensland are affectedby the cattle tick, but all cattle coming from that State into New South Wales have to be dipped. If these regulations were brought under the control of the Commonwealth, the inspectors would see that cattle and potatoes coming from affected areas were treated and came under the quarantine supervision. For that reason, I think that Federal control would be a good thing. The producers seem to be under great disabilities in connexion with the disposal of their produce. The different Chambers of Commerce in the respective States make varying regulations which are hard to conform to. Producers may be conforming to the regulations in New South Wales, but when their produce reaches Victoria or South Australia it comes under different regulations.
– You are speaking of prepared foods.
-Yes, and I think we can extend our sphere of usefulness in that direction. I would like the Minister of Trade and Customs to give some little consideration to the importation of sacks and jute goods from India. We pay exactly the same for wheat sacks from India, though there are four or five different qualities. Some sacks are very good, but others are very poor, yet all cost the same. If the Minister of Trade and Customs could arrange to have some uniformity in the quality of the imported sacks, the agricultural community would be very pleased. As the Minister has supervision over all imports, he could stipulate that all sacks should be properly labelled according to standard.
.- X base my support to the motion mainly on the report of the Royal Commission on the Fruit Industry, which travelled through the States, and of which I was a member. The Minister of Trade and Customs has now an excellent opportunity of introducing a reform in regard to the inspection of produce. At present we operate under six different State laws, and the work of inspecting produce cannot be carried out under six conflicting State laws without some infringement of the principle of Inter-State Free Trade. When the Fruit Commission visited Queensland complaints were made by banana shippers that other States were using their powers of inspection almost to the extent of excluding bananas. For instance, bananas certified to in the northern ports of Queensland as clean were condemned on reaching Sydney or Melbourne.
– I think the complaint is particularly against Melbourne.
– The biggest complaint made before the Royal Commission was by a grower who had sent down a large consignment to Sydney, which was apparently condemned because the bananas were carried in a vessel which also carried fruit supposed to be affected by fruit-fly. Complaints arc also brought against Victoria just as acutely. On the other hand, in Victoria there were grave complaints made about the inspection of potatoes sent to Queensland. The operation of conflicting State laws, and the lack of uniformity in regard to inspection, does not give people faith in the pre sent system. Probably double inspection is required in regard to half the amount of perishable produce sent from one State to another, in order that disease may not bf- transmitted from one State to the other; but in regard to the other half, especially in regard to certain classes of fruit, inspection and certificate given at the port of shipment should be sufficient.
– Do you suggest that there should be no double inspection unless the shipment is challenged?
– Disease is liable to be taken from one State to another, fruitfly particularly. In one State there is inspection under certain laws. In another State, at the port of entry, the form of inspection is very rigid and under a different set of laws. However, I do not think that the States will object to having their powers of inspection taken from them.
– They will object.
– The great bulk of fruit-growers would hail with satisfaction the establishment of uniform inspection laws. By accepting the present proposal the trouble will only be met half way. Under the various Vegetable Diseases Acts in the States there are varying forms of inspection of orchards; all sorts of liberties are taken in one State as against another; therefore a uniform system of inspecting orchards and dealing with diseases in orchards would be acceptable to the fruitgrowers.
– The Commonwealth has no power to do that.
– I recognise that if the Commonwealth takes over the task of inspecting produce, it will deal with the Inter-State shipments only, which is really the only part with which we can deal; but in regard to the export nf fruit trouble has arisen through the division of supervision among .the States. Chaos and confusion prevail in regard to the export of fruit to the oversea countries, as well as in regard to the inspection of perishable produce passing from one State to another, and, all this is brought about by divided authority. The only cure ii for the Commonwealth to assume control of the inspection, as well as the absolute control of the export of fruit. The Minister should lose no time in getting the view of the best authority as to whether we have the power under our Constitution. If we have the necessary power, then the Government should take the necessary action. I trust that the Minister will have the question thoroughly investigated, so that he will have some basis to go on. Another reason why the duty of inspection should be taken over by the Commonwealth is that the different States use their powers for the purpose of defeating the Federal principle of Inter-State Free Trade. I hope that the House will agree to the motion, and that the Minister will give the matter his immediate attention, and that if the Constitution empowers him to take over the duties of inspection the instruction of the House, by the passing of this motion, will be held to be sufficient warrant for him to take action at the earliest possible moment.
– I hope that the House will not agree to the motion. I can quite understand honorable members who represent electorates in States where there is abundance of diseases amongst fruit and potatoes asking that some new control of inspection should be given, and I can understand their complaints about the administration of several of the States; but there is no doubt that, if the Constitution has been infringed by a State imposing excessive charges for inspecting produce, there is an ample power already possessed by the Minister of Trade and Customs. It has already been shown that, though the Western Australian Government imposed an inspection fee of 15s. per ton on potatoes, on representation being made to him, the Minister of Customs in the last Administration had the fee reduced to 2s. 6d. per ton. Apparently full power is vested in the Commonwealth to control a State imposing excessive charges. I am certain that States which are clean and free from diseases in vegetables and fruit would raise very strenuous objections to the control of shipments being vested entirely in the Commonwealth. Take, for instance, the occasion when Irish blight was somewhat bad in the eastern States, and there was an interdiction upon the entry of their produce into Western Australia. At that time I discussed the matter with Professor Lowrie, and he was most emphatic in the assertion that if Western Australia was to be kept clean, potatoes infected with Irish blight should not be permitted to enter the State.
– Could not Federal officers deal with that matter?
– But the State officers could do it better.
– The Commonwealth has no Department which could efficiently control a matter of this sort. To go into an avenue of this kind we would need an Agricultural Bureau, and experts on this particular question. A Bill for the purpose of establishing a Bureau of Agriculture was brought forward last session, but was not passed. Until we have an efficient Bureau of Agriculture under the Commonwealth, and officers who can advise us on all these subjects, it would be a very great mistake to ask that the Commonwealth should have the sole power of the inspection of perishable produce. The Minister has ample power now in regard to any State imposing excessive charges. On the other hand, I feel that any State is justified in attempting to prevent another State where there is a vegetable disease from sending to it produce affected by that disease. I hope that the motion will not be agreed to.
– This question has been discussed in the House on many occasions. While any State, by quarantine methods or by local Statutes, can prevent another State from sending its produce into that State, there is no Federation, and there is no Inter-State Free Trade. The essence of Federation is that there should be free interchange between all States of all their products. Why should the Commonwealth inspectors wish to allow diseased produce of any kind to pass from one State to another? If they did such a thing, it would be the mission of the Commonwealth to put them in gaol. But how are we to ascertain whether we have the necessary power unless we take over the work and allow the State concerned to go to the High Court and test our action? The only way in’ which we know that a law exists is by breaking it. When the Commonwealth Bank was first organized, it was said that it would have to operate under the State laws, and that cheques upon the bank would have to be printed with duty stamps upon them. The late AttorneyGeneral, however, upset that view. I heard able and eminent solicitors and barristers declare that the Commonwealth could not avoid paying this State tax upon the cheques of the Commonwealth Bank, and business men all over Australia were put to the expense of pay- ing this tax. , Now we find that the States have not the power to impose the tax. We are constantly finding that things that we thought were right are not right. The Commonwealth should take over this inspection of Inter-State produce at once, and declare that the States do not possess the power to carry out the work. Then let the States go to the High Court and test the matter. The Commonwealth should take over the inspection. Not to do this is trifling with the matter. Fancy Western Australia imposing an inspection fee of 15s. per ton !
– She now charges only 2s. 6d. per ton.
– That is because a good Christian State Government saw fit to reduce the charge. That State could have charged an inspection fee of £10 per ton.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs compelled the State Government to reduce the charge.
– It was reduced by the State Government. The Minister tells us that he has no power. I hold, however, we should take over the inspection of produce, and allow any State which feels dissatisfied to test our action in the High Court. Lawyers in the House will tell honorable members of a famous case in which a butcher was arrested for sending meat from Ohio into Minnesota without a licence, and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. On appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States of America, however, the conviction was quashed, and it was declared that the State of Minnesota had no power to interfere with. Inter-State Free Trade. The State of Tennessee also passed a law requiring representatives of life insurance companies from other States to pay a licence of 50 dollars. That, too, was declared by the Supreme Court of the United States of America to be a violation of Inter-State rights.
– Does the honorable member say that no State has a right to shut out diseased produce?
– No State has power to prevent the introduction of healthy produce from another State, and it is the duty of the Commonwealth to appoint inspectors to see that all produce passing from one State to another is healthy. Our Constitution is largely a copy of that of the United States of America. If it is not, then why do we want a referendum with a view of bringing it more into line with the Canadian Constitution, under which we have a centralized form of government? During theConvention debates, in which the honorable member for Angas took a prominent part, it was strongly urged that the States should surrender as little as possible of the power they possessed. They agreed to surrender, amongst other things, the power to impose Inter-State barriers, and out of the powers which they gave up the Commonwealth was formed. The Commonwealth is not a new territory; it is only, so to speak, an aggregation of the powers which the States saw fit to surrender. The Commonwealth, then, is simply the dome of the States, and no State has the right to interfere with the principle of Inter-State Free Trade. Past Governments have positively neglected a duty they owe to the people in failing to see that the powers of the Commonwealth in this respect are fully exercised.
– The trouble is that the States are operating different laws.
– Quite so. We have no Federation except in name, and shall have none until the old State politicians have been dead and buried forty or fifty years. There was really no Federation in the United States until after the Civil War. The arbitrament of war cemented the Federation. Prior to that one would hear a man say, “I am a Kansas man,” while another would declare “ I am a Ken tucki an.” In the same way most of the battles in this House are between Victoria and New South Wales, and occasionally Tasmania drops in. Why talk about the powers we havel Why not test them? When Roosevelt was President of the United States of America, he was interviewed by John Mitchell in regard to the great colliery strike in Pennsylvania, involving the employment of 400,000 men. It was pointed out to Roosevelt that the colliery-owners would not even meet the men to discuss the dispute, and he was asked to intervene. It was said that he had no constitutional power, but he declared that he would settle the question under the law of eminent domain. He sent for General Schofield, and arranged that the State of Pennsylvania should apply for the Federal Militia. He announced further that, as soon as this application was made, he proposed to dispossess both the owners and the workers; that the Government would take possession of the mines under martial law, and work them. The mine-owners very quickly settled the dispute. And so, I say, let us test our powers regarding these matters, instead of merely talking about them. Let us take action, so that, our powers may be tested. Why is it that a champion like Jack Johnson can lick all his opponents? Is it not because they are frightened of him before they start to fight? It was said that I had no power to do many things that I did do as a Minister; but everything came out all right. We had no power, we were told, to provide for preference to unionists; but I provided for it, and the principle has been firmly established.
– Order !
– I referred to that matter only by way of illustration. T hope that this motion will be carried.
Debate (on motion by Sir Robert Best) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28th October (vide page 410), on motion by Mr.
That, with .a view to securing, as far as possible, representation of parties in proportion to their strength at the polls, the method of election by quota and transferable vote be adopted as tlie method of choosing senators.
.- I have already stated the terms of my motion. The object in view is that the method of election to the Senate shall be such as will give representation to effective parties in proportion approximately to their comparative strengths as apparent at the polls. Our parliamentary institutions are, happily, democratic in principle ; but I do not think they are, as yet, absolutely democratic in operation. There is, perhaps, no word whose significance is more abused in application or so ill-defined as the word “ democratic,” and I certainly shall not attempt to define it to-day. I think I may say, however, that we can sometimes tell what a thing is by stating what it is not. We can at least indicate in that way what it is. 1 hold that democratic representation does not exist in a Parliament unless that “Parliament is really approximately a reflex of the popular mind. I think it was Burke who said, applying his principles rather to his aspirations than to reality, that the virtue, spirit, and essence of the House of Commons was that it was an express image of the feelings of the nation. So far as the best method of election can secure it, Parliament should reflect the leading lines - not all the lines, because some education has to be carried on before a party attains that magnitude which entitles it to representation - of popular opinion. We ought to aim at, not only majority rule, but minority representation. That principle of government has received the indorsement of not only thinkers and economists like Mill, and historians with the wide range of Lord Acton, but men like the Chartist, Ernest Jones, who, in 1867, in his celebrated reply to the great protagonist of Conservatism, Professor Blackie, said, pointing out the necessity of having a fair balance of all the parties in the State in Parliament, that Democracy meant the rule, not of a class, but of a nation - that it tempers one class by another. The freest and most democratic of Governments require the corrective of an intelligent and disinterested minority opinion. The check is more necessary really in the case of a Democracy than under an autocratic government. We can deal without much difficulty with the head of a State who thinks that he has in himself all power. There are very few instances - we have, perhaps, one at the present time in Europe, and Louis XIV. was another - of monarchs who thought that they were the embodiment of all political and human wisdom, or who, at all events, laid claim to embodying in themselves the general consensus of popular opinion. But I think I may say, without any invidious comparisons of parties, that almost every majority that comes into power believes that it contains in itself the very last word of human wisdom as conceived by the electors who returned it. It can be shown that a majority, almost from its traditionary methods, one might say, regards itself as above opinion, and as being entitled to press power to almost its furthest limits. It is necessary, therefore, that there should be a healthy minority in each House, and that representation should be based numerically on the apparent strength of the parties in the State. Bagot says that a popular Government is the most sternly stupid of all Governments to what is unheard by the deciding classes. I think that in the Commonwealth there is some danger of the dominance of majorities increasing, and of the weakness of minorities becoming more pronounced. Parties here are being cast on Continental lines. That involves an immense subordination of sometimes healthy individual opinion to the interests of party union.
– Does not the honorable member recognise that there are only two parties in this Parliament, whereas in some Continental countries there are half-a-dozen ?
– Had the honorable member been listening, he would know that I have already inferentially referred to that fact. I have said that parties here are drawn on Continental lines, and that that involves a tremendous subordination of individual opinion to the interests of party. In the circumstances, we require, more than do small communities, the check of a healthy criticism within Parliament. Let me, on this point, give a quotation from Lord Acton’s essays on liberty. Lord Acton is a man who writes in a temper we can all commend, whatever difference may exist between us as regards the method of applying our principles -
The one pervading evil of Democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or, .rather, of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, hy force or fraud, in carrying elections. To break off that point is to avert the danger. The common system of representation perpetuates the danger. Unequal electorates afford no security to majorities, equal electorates none to minorities. Thirty-five years ago it was pointed out that the remedy is proportional representation. It is profoundly democratic, for it increases the influence of thousands who would otherwise have no voice in the government, and it brings men more near an equality by so contriving that no vote shall be wasted, und that every voter shall contribute to bring into Parliament a member of his own opinions. The origin of the idea is variously claimed.
It really does not matter much what was the origin of a good thing, so long as we are privileged to enjoy it.
– We are satisfied with the present method.
– Yes; but the honorable member has an immense reserve of reason which he does not always make apparent, and I am trying, by appealing to it, to bring it into force. Any party that is large enough to have a quota of representation ought to get it. As regards the Senate, proportional representation would mean that, with six places to be filled, any party that had one-seventh of the total votes cast would be represented, or, with three places to be filled, any party that had a. fourth of the votes cast would be represented. In 1859 proportional representation was first mooted by Mr. Hare, in his celebrated work on representation, and his views were much discussed at the time. We always attempt, by some imperfect method, to attain a good thing, and the attempt was made in England to obtain a solution of the difficulty caused by the occasional disfranchisement of minorities or the too great representation of majorities by the establishment of three-member districts, and the casting of two votes. But in 18S5 these were abolished, and one-member districts were established. The Proportional Representation Society then commenced its propaganda, and this resulted in the Imperial Commission of 1908. That Commission presented its report in 1910. It stated that proportional representation was practicable, and, for second Chambers and municipal councils, sound; but the majority was against the present adoption of the system for the House of Commons. The minority took exception to that pronouncement as not being within the limits of the Commission’s authority. The Commission recommended the adoption of the principle for the Irish Senate, each of the Irish provinces to be a division. That recommendation was adopted unanimously by a resolution of the House of Commons, and has been embodied in the Irish Home Rule Bill, which has been passed into law, and is to come into operation when the war is over. There was also a resolution carried embodying the recommendation that any constituencies returning three or more members to the House of Commons in Ireland should vote on the principle of proportionate representation. In June of this year the Irish trade unions, which, happily, are very active now in connexion with., not only industrial questions, but also general questions of legislation and economics, passed a resolution, by 41 to 6 votes, declaring that proportional representation should be applied to all elections of the new Irish Legislature. The principle has been applied in South Africa to the elections of the Senate, which are on a smaller electoral basis than ours, and to many municipal elections, such as those of the municipality of Pretoria, Johannesburg, and several others. According to a pamphlet which reached me a few weeks ago, a resolution has been carried in the Dominion Legislature of South Africa affirming that the principle should be applied to all elections for the two Dominion Houses, some reasonable provision being made for a modification to cover what were thought to be the necessities of sparsely-populated districts. We have, therefore, the application of the principle to existing Legislatures within the British Empire, and the recommendation of its application to some of the most authoritative. I notice that Switzerland proposes to take a referendum this year - itmay have been already taken - as to whether the principle of proportional representation shall be applied to the Federal elections there. Honorable members know that they seldom refuse to accept sound constitutional amendments in Switzerland, whatever fate may be meted out to occasional legislative proposals submitted for approval.
– Like us, they take a long time to make up their mind.
– On some legislative matters. There is a wholesome check through the referendum on men who would recast the universe with a stroke of the pen, and disregard the element of time in the modification of all legislative matters. In 1897, when the constitution of the Senate was under discussion, I desired that the whole body should go for election at the same time, because that would give a better field for the application of proportional representation than could be obtained when only three vacancies had to be filled. We have some experience of the block vote in connexion with Senate elections, but before referring to that matter I wish to make two quotations from the report of the Imperial Royal Commission of 1910. It refers to- the magnitude of the disproportion which has actually been found to occur between the rela tive strength of the two main party “divisionsat the polls and in the House of Commons.
After an examination of the figures in. proof of that allegation, the report continues -
It is, therefore, beyond serious question, that majorities have borne in the past, and will, no doubt, continue to bear in the future, no constant relation to the. voting strength on* which they rest, beyond a general exaggeration.
That is as true of elections here as of elections at Home. Mr. Fisher Williamscalled attention to the matter in a recent book on proportional representation. Here are a few figures which are significant of the difference between the results of proportional representation and voting in single member districts. In 1900 the Conservatives in Great Britain obtained a majority of 134 by the single-seat system, but under the system of proportional representation their majority would have been two only. In 1906 the Liberals had a majority of 356, whichunder the principle of proportional representation should have been 114, and, in the December election of 1910, they had a majority of 126, which should have been 38. There might have been influenceswhich would have somewhat modified these results had proportional voting actually taken place, but approximately they are correct. Let us now consider theworking of the block vote in regard toour Senate elections. Generally it is truethat if parties are solid, and one has aslight numerical advantage, it will alwayscarry the Senate seats. A number of electors on the fringe of the two parties now seem to rule everything, because they direct the swing of the pendulum at almost every election. We have this peculiar position, that when parties are solid, and one has a slight majority, it must: win all the seats in the Senate, and when parties are nearly evenly balanced, the floating vote of those who care little for any party, and follow their impression of the public good on each occasion, carries the day. A majority may get into power on the determination of a small fraction of the people, and then control a representative majority in the other House.. Dividing independents equally between the Labour and Liberal parties, I find that, in 1910, 2,106,521 Senate votes were cast for Labour candidates, and 1,913,789 votes for Liberal candidates, giving Labour a majority of 192,732 votes, and the eighteen Senate seats that were in dispute. That was not a true representation of the public feeling, and was, therefore, not a democratic result. In 1913 Labour polled 2,895,043 votes for the Senate, and the Liberal party 2,857,152; Labour having a majority of 37,891 votes, eleven seats going to Labour candidates, and seven to Liberal candidates, which was proportionately unfair. At the last election Labour Senate candidates polled 6,234,878 votes, and Liberal candidates, 5,499,231 votes, a majority of 735,647 for the Labour party, which thus gained thirty-one seats, the other five going to the Liberals. Honorable members will admit that that was not a true reflex of public opinion as expressed by the numbers at the poll. About the others who did not vote we need not care twopence; if a man does not exercise the franchise it is not for him to grumble, and only in those who take an interest in the elections should we display any concern. The present system, both in the House of Representatives and the Senate, enables, as I said before, a very small number of the electors sometimes to change the whole character of the legislative power. Let me now refer to the Senate. As matters stand, the Senate does not realize any true conception of what a Senate ought to be. In operation, it is not a State House, and I never believed that it was to be a State House. The late Mr. Kingston and myself, throughout the Conventions, argued, and voted in accordance with our opinion, that the justification for equality of representation, in which I firmly believed, was not that the Senate was to work as a State House, but simply that the preponderance of numerical power, as expressed in its representation, should to some extent be modified by some State colour when occasion required. At the same time, we held that in effect it would operate not as a State House, but as a national or party House.
– The majority of the Convention were not with you.
– I know; but experience is more potent than the opinion of legislators. On the question of the powers of the Senate, Mr. Kingston, Mr. John Henry of Tasmania, a few others, and myself voted to deny the second Chamber the same financial power as was possessed by the popular House; and that, of course, is the principle of the financial relations of the two Houses. On the question of the double dissolution I pressed, against a somewhat reluctant Convention in three sessions that for reasons which are quite applicable to this question as to the powers of the Senate, the method for the settlement of a deadlock ought to be the double dissolution. I do not think I have ever spoken on the question of the double dissolution in the House; but it is strange that the proposal for it was pressed by me right to the end, and ultimately moved by, I think, Mr. Wise. I pointed out that the Senate, would really operate as a party House, and not as a State House; and, therefore, it was ridiculous for the smaller States to think that, unless there were to be a dissolution of the House of Representatives first, the power of the smaller States would be neutralized. However, this is what I said of the Federal system in one debate at the Convention : -
I say it is a mixed principle in its organization and a unification in its powers. In its essence it is a unification in its purposes.
That is the principle of Webster, and the principle of the interpretation of the Constitution. I went on to say -
Federation was a consolidation having imposed upon it the check of an Upper House with equal representation. … In my opinion the practical result of the operation of the Constitution will be a unification with a large measure of protection for local interests, through the principle of equal representation in the Senate…..
I believe that the legislation of the Federal Parliament will be mostly in matters of general policy, and not in one case in a thousand in matters touching State interests.
And I think that is about what it is. What I and Mr. Kingston also impressed on the Convention was that we should give all parties a fair representation in the Senate, to limit the financial powers of that House, and to prevent too great a pressure of numbers through the equality of representation.
– Does the honorable member think that the Senate is required at all?
– I am not going into a question which would take me beyond the limits of my subject, though I have my own opinion regarding it. The block vote presents us with a Senate that is a House of neither revision nor criticcism. There are thirty-one Ministerialists, who, I say, with the greatest respect, have on some points, to some extent, their opinions forestalled by the decisions of their party, or, at all events, by the preconceptions of the House of Representatives as registered in the motions and Bills sent up. On the other hand, there are five critics, animated by the most extraordinary fortitude, and with a hope, that is almost forlorn, of bringing the pressure of what they consider to be common sense to bear on the dissertations of Ministers and their followers. The result is that the Senate now seems to be nothing more than, I should be sorry to say, a mere debating society, but a Chamber for the re-statement of foregone conclusions. I was inclined to quote from a German authority, Prince Bulow, but I am rather afraid to do so under the circumstances. I speak with some respect even of our enemy; and I am not quite in agreement with some people, who probably have not read Prince Bulow’s works, as to the temper of some of his more recent writings. He is not a writer like Bernhardi, nor of the school of which Treitschke is the leading historian. Speaking of parties, Prince Bulow, in Imperial Germany, in 1914, said -
That the varied life of a nation, ever changing, every growing more complicated, cannot be stretched or squeezed to fit a programme or a political principle. … A large number of events in public life cannot be included even in the comparatively comprehensive programmes, nor can Conservatives and Liberals hold different views with respect to them.
This bears out what I said, namely, that the division of parties on Continental lines involves an immense suppression of individual opinion within any party. As to the methods of election, I suggest a single transferable vote. That is the method that is recommended by the Commission; and, perhaps, I might be justified in giving just one quotation from the report of that body. The principle is that each elector shall have only one vote, but that he shall mark his preference in numerical order from one to six. He will pick out his party first in order of preference; and there may be men outside of his party for whom, if he finds it impossible for the last choice in his party to get returned, he would like to vote.
But not a vote he casts for any one in that way can possibly touch or affect any others first on the list, so we have absolutely unfettered preference in regard to the elector’s own party, with the power of expressing preference for others outside. The surplus votes that are cast for those who first obtained a quota are transferred to others according to the preference laid down. This is the principle recommended by the Commission: -
The elector votes by placing the figure 1 opposite the name of the candidate he likes best, and is invited to place the number 2 opposite the name of his second choice, the number 3 opposite his third choice, and so on, numbering as many candidates as be pleases.
The Returning Officer ascertains the result of the election as follows : -
He counts each ballot-paper as one vote to the candidate marked 1 thereon; he also counts the total number of votes.
He ascertains the quota.
He declares elected the candidates who have received the quota.
He transfers in strict proportions the surplus votes of those candidates who have received more than the quota, and credits them to the unelected candidates indicated by the figures 2, 3, and so on, as the next preferences of the electors whose votes are transferred.
He declares elected those candidates who, after the transfer of surplus votes, have obtained the quota.
Hn eliminates the candidates lowest on the poll one after another by transferring their votes in accordance with the wishes of their supporters to the candidates indicated as next preferences. This process is continued until the required number of candidates, having each obtained the quota, have been declared elected, orthe number of candidates not eliminated is reduced to the number of seats still vacant, in which event the candidates not eliminated are declared elected.
That is the principle. The quota is the Droop quota, which enables the smallest number possible to get a representation in the Senate. The Droop quota is attained by dividing one more than the number of vacancies to be filled into the total number polled, and adding one to the result. In other words, if 240,000 votes are polled, and there are three vacancies - as usually occurs for the Senate - one more than the number of vacancies is four, and that, divided into 240,000, gives 60,000, which, with the one added, shows a Droop quota of 60,001. It is quite clear that any man who gets 60,001 votes cannot be beaten by any one else, and, therefore, that number returns one member. We have the effect that at an election where there are three vacancies, instead of the whole of the vacancies - as at the last Federal Senate election - going to one party, any party which has one more than a fourth of the total number of votes ‘ cast must get one of the seats. The question arises, what has to be done with the surplus over the quota? The Commission recommend transferring it to the persons who are next in order of choice, according to the indicated order, but transferring those surplus votes in the proportion in which there are second choices on all the votingpapers of the returned candidate, whose surplus is being dealt with. There are second choices expressed in the total of the voting-papers for the candidates who have attained a quota. This method is mathematically correct; but it is not necessary to explain it; we can tell the time without knowing the mechanism of the clock. But supposing, for instance, that there is a surplus over the 60,001 of 10,000 votes, and that amongst the next choices there is one man who has foursixths of these choices on all the votingpapers of the returned candidate, and another man has two-sixths. In such case this surplus of 10,000 is to be divided between these men in the proportion of four-sixths and two-sixths, which practically absorbs the total votes, and apportions them on a strictly mathematical basis. It is not necessary, however, to be so strict as that. Two Bills have recently been introduced into the British House of Commons, and these bear the democratic name of Snowden, together with that of Chiozza Money, Lord Robert Cecil, and others as backers of the Bills. One was for proportional representation for the House of Commons, introduced in 1913, and the other was applying the same principle to municipal elections. There they do not count all the surpluses, because there are times when the counting of the surpluses cannot make an appreciable difference in the order in which the remaining candidates, who have not obtained the quota, stand on the list. Therefore it is provided that -
A transfer of votes under this rule shall not be made unless the surplus votes of the elected candidate, together with any other surplus votes not transferred, exceed the difference between the total votes of the tworemaining candidates.
When, in 1909, I helped to draft a Bill to give preferential voting to the House of Representatives and proportional representation for the Senate, it was suggested that the method which is now incorporated in these Bills, and was previously incorporated in municipal Bills, might be adopted for economizing time in transferring the votes when it was impossibe for the result to be affected. To summarize, the short cuts were these -
The effect, I believe, would be to very greatly expedite the actual count. It may be said that if we apply this to the Senate we may delay unduly the counting of the Senate poll. I have mentioned that in Ireland they are to adopt the principle, and apply it to each province, and Ireland has a population about the same as that of Australia. In Tasmania, in 1901, the Senate candidates were elected as a whole on the principle of proportional representation. The election took place on the 29th March, and the poll was declared on the 5th April. That was pretty good counting, but, of course, the number of votes polled was comparatively small. The ballot-papers amounted to only 18,403, the ‘quota was 3,067, and the number of invalid votes was* only 419 - a very small proportion, I think, actually smaller than the average cast at the ordinary elections for the whole of the State. As a matter of fact, at the present time 85 per cent, of the results of the Senate are known on the Monday following the elections. I may mention, also, that in the application of this system to the State elections in Tasmania today, the proportion of the informal votes is comparatively small. I believe that at the last State election it was only 2.87, and even that number was chiefly due to the voter being compelled to record three choices. I do not believe in compulsion in this matter, and I can see that it works badly.
Mr.Laird Smith. - It brought about a dead-lock.
– It is a bad principle, and may defeat the end which it is intended to accomplish. However, the proportion of informal votes was very small, and the report says that even that number was largely due to compelling the elector to exercise three alternative choices. At the Federal election in Tasmania the block vote for the Senate contained 5.95 of informalities, and the vote for one House of Representatives 3.17 per cent., which was really greater than the proportion of informal votes cast under the proportional representation, system for the State elections. I do not think that in dealing with a principle one needs to elaborate the details, because the counting is intricate to the ordinary student although it involves no difficulty to the Returning Officer, who is well up in the rules. The elector has nothing to do with the count.
– Is it not a fact that No. 1 is the only valuable vote? The others are merely proportional.
– Every vote tells.
– But No. 1 is the valuable one.
– As regards the Senate, every vote from 1 to 6 tells. The only difference is that the elector has the power of recording his comparative preference, and there is not the power of disfranchising those who, on the number of votes they cast, are entitled to a share of representation.
– Do I understand the honorable member to say that the No. 3 vote is equal in value to No. 1 ?
– Of course it cannot be equal in value, because the first choice indicates the man whom, above all others, the elector wishes to return. The vote cast for No. 2 indicates the candidate who is next in his favour, and so on with No. 3 and those which follow; but every one of those votes tells either in the first quota or in the surplus transferred. Parties get the number of quotas they are entitled to. What the system does deprive partiesof is the securing of a greater share of representation than they are entitled to by the votes cast for them. The system will secure the representation in the Senate of all effective parties in approximate proportion to their numbers. I say approximate proportion, because, owing to the fact that parties must be of fairly large dimensions before they can get representation, we cannot have all parties represented proportionally. So long as the minorities are not large enough to get a. share of representation, they must follow the course of education until they can prevail upon the masses to adopt the minority view. In every case truth comes from the minority first, and all I ask is that we shall give the minority an opportunity. As Carlyle says -
The truth that was yesterday a restless problem, is to-day become a belief burning to be uttered.
Invariably the solid work of advanced reform is done by the men who are content to sit in patient opposition for years whilst educating public opinion up to effective proportions.
– Is not one minority entitled to representation as much as another minority?
– The honorable member surely does not think that one individual is entitled to the same representation as the bulk of the population?
– If you give the minority representation at all, you admit that every minority is entitled to representation.
– The principle must be tested by its application to facts. What we are dealing with is not the abstract right of individuals, but the right of a body of opinion to representation in a House of thirty-six members.
– The test is whether the majority is entitled to impose its will upon the minority.
– If the honorable member is affected by that fallacv, he must deny the justice of Parliament at all. The next thing the system does is to accommodate the pace of legislation to the state of public opinion by giving the Ministry the momentum of a big majority or the drag of a small one, as electoral opinion prescribes it. It regulates the power to act by the popular voice behind it, and, as Mill says, “It is among the very greatest improvements yet made in the theory and practice of government.” I have said that the system has the support of advanced thinkers of wide range and disinterested judgment like Lord Acton, men whose political perspective is more likely to be true than the vision of those who, like ourselves, perhaps see things chiefly in the light of party interests and personal preconceptions. Its advocates include men of action as well as of thought; so it comes to us with the recommendation of successful application as well as of great authority, and of what the Minister of Home Affairs, as Minister in charge of electoral matters, will regard as the final test of merit, unsophisticated common sense. Man, the dissenter of creation, who is happiest when at issue on problems incapable of final solution, or when confuting the plainest axiom of common sense, is such a mixture of opposites in opinion and conduct that to impute to him as a politician an omniscience which he invariably assumes, requires a degree of electoral credulity that is not likely to be manifested for many generations to come. He, therefore, requires the corrective of the opinions and points of view that, on matters of high importance to the Commonwealth, may not be quite his own. The method of election by quota and transferable vote is certain, in the case of the Senate, to conduce to the end in view. I therefore submit it for the consideration and the approval of the House.
.- I wish to most heartily second the motion moved by the honorable member for Angas. I notice that the honorable member restricts has remarks on the electoral system to the defects in connexion with the Senate. No doubt his reason for doing so is that the injustice of the present system is much more glaring in the Senate than it is in the House of Representatives. The system of electing senators as at present in vogue does not appeal to my sense of justice one little bit. At the present time the Labour party has a very large majority among the senators. On some future occasion we may see another party represented there in the same numbers, and it is quite possible, under the present system, that the whole of the thirty-six seats may be held by one party with a majority of only 500 or 600 votes throughout Australia. My view is, perhaps, not popular with many members of the Labour party inside and outside this chamber. Their argument, no doubt, would be - and it would be perfectly true - that the party to which the mover of the motion belongs would not be so eager to alter the methods of electing senators if they were in the same position in the Senate as that occupied by the Labour party today. However, two wrongs do not make a right, and because the present system does not appeal to my sense of justice, I am heartily in favour of altering it in the direction suggested by the analytical and logical honorable member for Angas. The present system is a farce. Some people hold that the majority should have all the representation- there is no choice under present conditions - that, if there are 1,000 voting, and 501 vote for one party and 499 against that party, the majority must have all the say, and the minority must be absolutely unrepresented ; but I do not hold with that view. It is contended that the system proposed by the honorable and learned member would permit faddists to enter Parliament; but the faddists of days gone by are the practical men of to-day, and if any fad is sufficiently entrancing to the electors to induce them to elect to Parliament persons expounding it, it is perfectly right that the faddists should be heard in the legislative halls, and that the fad itself should be legislated upon if in the Legislature the numbers of those in support of it are sufficiently strong. I do not wish to enter into details of thesystem which has been described so lucidly by the honorable and learned” member for Angas. I have heard more arguments upon this topic, both inside and outside legislative assemblies, than on any other subject. It is an inexhaustible question, and the arguments in favour of it are very numerous. I am most desirous of bringing about the reform which the honorable and learned member has advocated in regard to the Senate, because under the present systema considerable number of voters in Australia may be at any time without representation there. Such a state of affairs would not be conducive to the upholding of that Chamber. Therefore, I support the motion, and I hope that when the vote is taken the question will be resolved in the affrmative.
– We are indebted to tie honorable and learned member for Angas for the informative speech that he has delivered uponthis subject. He has demonstrated1 clearly that proportional representation is not a mere matter of an academic character, and shown conclusively, by the experience of it in various countries, that it is a practicable system. The fairminded speech of the honorable member for Boothby should commend proportional voting to the consideration of honorable members. It is a very old subject with me. In 1899 I introduced a measure into the Victorian Legislative Assembly for providing a system of electing members to the Commonwealth Parliament. It had become the responsible duty of the various State Parliaments to prescribe the means of electing the members of the first Commonwealth Parliament, and the Bill that I introduced had three objects. First of all, it provided for the limitation of election expenses; secondly, it divided the State of Victoria into single electorates for the election of members of the House of Representatives, and it proposed that the method of election should be the process of preferential voting; thirdly, it proposed that the candidates for the Senate should be elected by the system of proportional voting. I pressed this last matter very urgently on the attention of the Victorian State Parliament, but that body considered that the preferential voting and proportional representation were rather too academic, and that there had not been sufficient experience of them to recommend them, so far as the election of Commonwealth legislators was concerned. It is with great pleasure that I now find the same old subject recalled by the motion brought before the House by my honorable and learned friend. Above all things we should make our electoral law as non-party in its character as possible. The aim and object of both sides of the House should be to secure more perfect representation of the people, and thus make Parliament more effective, and to avoid persons sitting in Parliament elected by minorities. The outstanding object of the system of proportional representation, as has been well demonstrated by the various examples submitted by the mover of the motion, is the securing of majority rule, and the representation of substantial minorities, and the process by ‘ which this can be achieved has been demonstrated as mathematically and scientifically correct. If that object can be secured, we are more and more perfecting our system of re- presentation, and giving greater force to Parliament itself, making it in a higher degree a reflex of the people’s opinions. The anxiety of honorable members should be to secure a Parliament faithfully representing public opinion, and the voice of the people in proportionate strength. I think it will appeal to the minds of most men that it is obviously unfair that the whole of the representation should be secured by one party. while a substantial minority, almost equal in power to the majority, is practically unrepresented. But such a result is achieved by the block system, which only requires good organization and the preponderance of a very limited majority “to secure the whole of the representation. Such a system is a menace to representative government, and we should be very loth to tolerate such a condition of affairs. The honorable member for Boothby, speaking in a non-party spirit in regard to the matter, has demonstrated that he simply aims at perfecting representative government, and that should be the outstanding object of honorable members.
– Did- the Electoral Bill brought down last year contain any of the principles embodied in the motion?
– It did not; but as a member of the party then in power I was quite prepared, if that Bill had been dealt with by the Opposition in a more non-party spirit, to have moved the necessary amendments in order to secure the system which my learned friend is seeking to bring about by the motion now before the House. However, no matter what has been done in the past, we can all agree on these premises, that our chief aim and object should be the perfection of our electoral law, and if the fact that the system of proportionate representation is fair to the people, and has for its object the greater perfection of our system of representative government, is demonstrated, those who are now in a majority can afford to be generous and magnanimous by taking steps to achieve the object to which I have already referred. No honorable member on the Ministerial side would willingly bring down a Bill which would have the results that were attendant on some of the elections which have recently taken place. In a nonparty spirit, and merely by way of illus- tration, let me refer to the circumstances of the Senate during last Parliament. Speaking subject to correction, and roundly, for the two elections about 9,750,000 votes were recorded - that is, for the election of the 13th April, 1910, and the election of the 31st May, 1913, which two elections constituted the Senate as it existed during the last Parliament. The Labour party in those two elections had an insignificant preponderance of 30,000 or 40,000 votes; but the actual resuit of the election was that the Labour party secured twenty-nine seats as against seven seats which was the extent of the representation of the Liberals in the Senate, though the votes were practically equal. No honorable member on the Ministerial side would willingly introduce a law which would have that result.
– Proportional representation is always advocated by your party when in Opposition.
– Having regard to the menace to representative government as demonstrated by the figures to which I have referred, it is our duty to realize the difficulties brought about by the existing system, and secure a more perfect system. My friend has reproached me with the fact that our party has never, when in power, moved in the direction of securing a system of proportional representation. He is incorrect. The Liberals sought to introduce the system in 1902-3. The late Mr. Justice O’Connor then submitted to the Senate proposals for proportional representation, and I and a number of other members of the Liberal party supported him. It is, therefore, not correct to suggest that we have never attempted to bring this system into force.
– The Liberal party knew they could not carry it.
– We tried to carry it, but were unsuccessful. On the occasion of the last election the Leader of our party announced that, if returned, his Government would introduce a Bill to provide for proportional representation.
– That helped to defeat the Cook Administration.
– I think not. I wish to emphasize the point that we have realized the ineffectiveness of the present law, which has brought about results that were never intended.
– That is true.
– It is a matter of indifference to me as to which party, for the moment, benefits by the accidents of the present law. I am not dealing with this question from a party standpoint. I am merely supporting a system which I sought to bring into operation some fifteen or sixteen years ago - a principle which I have consistently supported ever since, and which I am glad of the present opportunity to indorse. If the results to which I have referred are the outcome of over-representation in Parliament, surely we cannot afford to ignore them. It is scientifically demonstrated, and experience has shown, that improvements can be achieved by the introduction of this system.
– Will not the initiative and referendum reduce the so-called abuses ?
– I do not think that question is involved. We are dealing with representation in Parliament.
– The initiative and referendum gives the people control over their representatives in Parliament.
– That is quite another matter. The honorable member will agree that the object of our electoral law is to mirror in Parliament the wishes of the people. That is a fundamental principle of our system of representative government, and if it can be demonstrated that there is a system which will enable us to more closely achieve that result, we should be prepared to give it a trial, more especially having regard to the menace caused by the obvious defects of the present system. I have pleasure in supporting this motion, and trust that it will be dealt with in the nonparty spirit in which it should be approached.
.- This question has been sprung upon the House, and I am afraid that few of us are thoroughly conversant with it. From what I have seen of the operation of proportional voting, however, I have come to the conclusion that it is rather conducive to the development of factions in the community. That is an aspect of the principle which does not appeal to me. Preferential voting per se is good, and stands altogether apart from the system of proportional voting, with which it is usually bracketed. I do not think it is the desire of honorable members that this Parliament shall become a greater centre of dissension than it is at present. But if we are to have here representatives of all the varying combinations of opinion in the Commonwealth - the Single-Taxers, the Quakers, the Temperance party, the Liquor Trade party, and others - our position will be very much worse than it is. Proportional voting is still more or less of an experiment. So far as I am aware only one State has adopted it,_ and whilst its operation in Tasmania does not appear to have made any material alteration in the state of parties there, from what I can learn it has led to considerable friction, has intensified public feeling at election time, and on the whole has done more harm than good. As a general principle proportional representation sounds all right, but in Parliament all opinions have to be resolved into the “ yes “ and the “ no “ stage, and the nearer we get to the highest common denominator of public thought outside the better. If we had all sorts of side issues specially represented in Parliament, I think we should have a considerably greater waste of time than now occurs. From a common-sense point of view it seems to me that we should give pause to any such change in our system of representation as is proposed by this motion.
– Why have a different system of election for the two Houses?
– It would seem a reasonable proposition that a system that is good enough for the election of members of one House should be good enough to apply to the other. I cannot for the moment see what is in the minds of those who advocate this change. They are probably dissatisfied with the result of the recent elections.
– This proposal was advocated before the last election.
– Am I to understand that honorable members on this side of the House have advocated such a change?
– One honorable member has.
– That may be; but I am not bound by individual opinion. Proportional representation is no part of the policy of our party. If it were, I, in common with my fellow members, would have to consider my position. When additions are made to our programme the members of our party may either accept or reject them, and any member who does not approve of a new plank in the platform is free to stand down. There has been apparently no unanimity of opinion amongst our supporters on this rather vexed question. I think that the system must tend to complicate an election, and that in itself is a serious drawback. It renders more difficult the ascertainment of public opinion. The varying parties have to be expressed, so to speak, on the ballotpapers, and the sorting out of candidates at election time, always a difficult matter from the stand-point of the people, would become still more difficult. I think that we should give the people as free and as untrammelled a choice as possible at the poll. If I had my way there would be no pre-selection by parties. Any party nian who desired to stand should be allowed to do so, and the public rather than any party should be allowed to do the sorting out. In this way we should eliminate one of the worst features of the party system.
– How would the honorable member carry it out? By preferential voting?
– By preferential voting without any pre-selection. All that 1 am urging at present is, however, that that would be preferable to proportional voting, since it would tend to simplification of the electoral system. Proportional voting on the other hand must inevitably complicate the system, and certainly would not tend to clear the atmosphere of Parliament. With enthusiastic supporters of various views coming into Parliament we would have no end to lectures of the kind to which the honorable member for Brisbane treated us recently. We do not desire to make this Parliament a mere talking ground for the advocates of a multiplicity of fads, and that is what it might become if proportional voting were adopted.
.- I listened very attentively to the honorable member for Angas, who has, no doubt, given this matter much study, and has devoted to it a great deal of research; but I must confess that the more he talked the more mystified I became.
– He had the honorable member “ out of his depth.”
– The honorable member has given me the very cue I wanted. Under the present electoral system I have been returned to this Parliament six or seven times, and a system that will do that for me is good enough for me to go on with. I do not desire any new-fangled ideas in regard to the exercise of preferences, and so forth. When- 1 stand for election to Parliament my one desire is to be returned, and that, I think, is the ambition of every candidate. The honorable member for Angas talked about the representation of minorities. What he desires, however, is the representation, not of small, but of only large minorities. According to his explanation this afternoon, under his scheme a body of, say, 300 men, holding a certain view, could hot secure the return of a candidate, whereas a body of 301 could do so. Wherein lies the fairness of such a system 1 It would be necessary for a party of 300 to make another convert in order to secure representation. The honorable member for Boothby talked about justice. What justice is there in political party warfare? We know the sort of justice that has been meted out to us by socalled Liberal Governments in the different States. I often marvel that our party is represented, to say nothing of being in power, in this Parliament, having regard to the opposition of the press and the slanders to which we have been individually and collectively subjected.
– No one would have the heart to vote against the honorable member personally.
– A few thousand have voted against me, not because of any personal feeling, but because they are opposed to my party.
– Would the honorable member blame them for that?
– No. I would vote for my party against a personal friend. If a pledged selected Labour man comes out he gets my vote every time.
– And he would, even if he were a Chinaman.
– Yes, or a blackfellow, in preference to the honorable member. I do not mean to be personal . What I wish to convey is that I would vote even for a blackfellow, if he were a selected Labour candidate, rather than for the honorable member as a Liberal. I would vote for the Labour platform, and I expect every advocate of our platform to do the same. The honorable member for Angas has forgotten that in the Commonwealth we have only two political parties. We, on this side, are Labour men; honorable members opposite are anti-Labour - the Conservative forces of Australian politics having come together with the express purpose of “ downing” Labour. It is only a short time since honorable members of the opposite party advocated the system on which the Senate is elected today. By the fortune of political warfare the Labour party is in a large majority in the Senate, and no party can carry on in this Parliament unless it possesses a majority in that Chamber. Honorable members recollect the crisis which preceded the last election, which is painful even for the victors to remember. We were told, when the dissolution took place, that we should not get back; but, though some of our comrades fell in the battle, we have got back very successfully. What would the system of proportional representation mean in Queensland? Under that system no Labour candidate for the Senate would have a’ chance in the electorates of Moreton and Darling Downs, which contain a more hide-bound and Conservative crowd than is to be found in Conservative Victoria or Conservative Tasmania. However good the Labour candidate might be, he would never be chosen by either of these districts to drag it out of the slough of despond in which they are now. The old system is good enough for us. If we keep on as we are doing, the Darling Downs division will before long return a Labour member to this House, and the present member will then not be sitting even in the cool shades of Opposition; he will be in the shade of a bunyah tree, on the top of the mountains near Dalby.
– Why does not the honorable member contest the ‘seat?
– If the honorable member for Darling Downs will resign his seat, and contest the Maranoa seat, I will resign the Maranoa seat, and contest the Darling Downs seat.
– Then neither of us would get back.
– Proportionate voting has no charm for me. What justice has the honorable member for Boothby ever received at the hands of the Liberals ? They would squeeze the political life out of him if they could. The present system, which has put the Labour party into the position in which it is to-day, is good enough for all time. This proposal is the thin edge of the wedge to secure elective Ministries.
– The honorable member for Bendigo advocated elective Ministries prior to the election.
– We are told that we cannot do this, and honorable members opposite hurl the decisions of the Hobart Conference at our heads; but, in the matter of electoral reform, we have more freedom than honorable members opposite. The position of the honorable member for Boothby on this question shows that. Honorable members opposite hold him up as a brand plucked from the burning; but they are not all in favour of the proposal before the House. A big majority of members on this side is in favour of the present system of voting.
– Suppose it were to put the Labour party out of office three years hence?
– Good luck to the other party, if it can do that. It has tried all the wiles, dodges, and chicanery possible. It has had tea-fights, and bun-scrambles, and tabbies’ meetings, and flag-wagging and band playing, but the Labour party has not been beaten.
– The honorable member and myself were given a walk-over at the last election to increase the Liberal chances in the Senate.
– A great mistake was made then, because the voting for the Senate in Maranoa was greater at the last election than ever before. The yarn that the High Commissioner used, to tell in connexion with the Tariff about puppies getting their eyes open after nine days, applies to this case. The Liberal party have been at their dodges too long, and the electors now see through them. Therefore, an intricate system of voting is proposed to confuse those who support Labour. If the system now proposed were applied to horse racing, no money would go to the bookmakers or to the totalizator.
– I think that proportional representation is a plank of the South. Australian Labour party’s platform.
– Then the members of that party should “have their heads read.” The system that has kept me in this Parliament since the beginning of Federation is good enough for me. Notwithstanding my liking for, and faith in, the honorable member, I cannot swallow his present proposal.
– I had not intended to speak this afternoon, because I thought that it would be fairer to read the report of the speech of the honorable member for Angas before addressing myself to this question, but as several other honorable members have spoken, it may be considered that a Minister should state the Government position. I cannot deal now with the figures which the honorable and learned member for Angas has used, but having been familiar with the discussion of this subject for the past twenty years, I have no difficulty in speaking upon it now. I have heard the honorable member for Angas express his views, on proportional representation on other occasions, and I have no doubt that he thoroughly believes in the principle which he has advocated, though I think that many of those with whom he is associated have only the interest of their party in view. I have known the honorable and learned member for a good many years, and have never been able to make him out. I have often thought that ho is a philosophic Radical, though he has got into bad company.
– I thought in the old days that it was the honorable member who was the philosopher.
– The honorable and learned member traced the movement for proportional representation from its inception in 1859, when Mr. Hare wrote his book on the subject. The Reform Act of 1867 provided for the representation of minorities, as I recollect well, being a youth at the time. Three or four of the constituencies of the House of Commons were allowed to return three members, two for the highest and one for the lowest votes polled. This arrangement was advocated by the late John Stuart Mill, but was denounced by that great tribune of the people, John Bright, who, like other Radicals of the day, had no time for it. The arrangement was favoured by the philosophical Radicals, the older and the younger Mill, and the group of men surrounding them. It was through the influence of J ohn Stuart Mill that the arrangement of which I speak was adopted, but it was repealed a few years later because of its absolute failure. Birmingham was one of the constituencies which returned three members under the system, but the Radical organization was so perfect that it secured the whole representation. The movement for proportional representation has increased of late years. Whenever the Labour party, the successor, in this part of the world, of the Radical party, makes an advance, the so-called philosophers try to sidetrack it by proposing some fad that will catch on with persons who think themselves of superior culture. However beautiful and academically perfect this scheme may seem, its object is to defeat the Labour party.
– Proportional voting for the elections of the Legislative Council of Victoria has never been advocated.
– No. This system is favoured in the Boothby division, and nearly every representative of that division has supported it. In that district there are certain sections of a philosophical turn of mind, though whether they are sufficiently numerous to be of effectual weight in South Australian politics, has never been shown ; but they certainly make a great deal of noise, and I recommend that the proposed methods of voting should be tried there as an experiment. The Labour movement, year by year, has been fighting its way every inch of the ground; and, rightly or wrongly, those who take part in that movement are regarded as the progressive party in Australia to-day. We hear a great deal of talk about party spirit and party rancour; but so long as we have right and wrong in the world we shall have the two parties, with, of course, numerous sections and sub-sections, though not of any great importance. The history of politics shows us that, though there is this great division in parties, it is the moderates by whom the work of legislation is carried on. In Prance we have the “Right” and the “Left,” with innumerable subdivisions, and here there may be differences of a similar character; but it is the moderate section that is always leading. My strong objection to the motion lies in the fact that it is the economic situation that always controls politics, and it has so governed the history of England for the last 800 years. We may talk about our constitutional history, but he who knows the economic history of the country holds the secret of the political situation. The dominating factor to-day is the great demand of the working community for recognition and justice; and if we change our system of representation, what do we put in its place? The honorable member for Angas said it would be desirable to extend the proposed system to the Senate, but the great object of those who support it, is to enlarge the choice of the community for the purpose of giving representation to various phases of thought in order to defeat the great national movement to which I have referred. There are certain classes of people who are prepared to further their own particular principles or fads, even at the sacrifice of the country. Would our temperance friends not be prepared to give preference to the drink question over national considerations ? Would not the liquor interests be prepared to do the same thing? Then there are others intimately concerned with religious matters who would put these in the front rank. What has proved the greatest evil in some of the Continental nations of Europe? Many of us recollect the formation of the kingdom of Italy, and believed strongly in its future greatness. No doubt the Italians are a great people-, but they would have been ten times greater if there had been that same party spirit we find in English politics. The best type of Italian statesmen found their way into the Chamber of Deputies, but the splitting up of the Parliament into various sections gave them little chance of doing much for the country, and the result has been a disappointment to wellwishers of Italy. We are told much about Switzerland and other places, but Guizot wrote many years ago that the European family of nations, as representing western civilization, would develop on the lines of their own nationalities. The British have built up their nationality on party lines, and though there are incidents in our history which are to be regretted, our statesmen to-day compare more than favorably with the statesmen of other
European countries. It is far from my intention to reflect on the brilliant men who have presided over the destinies of France, or even of Belgium for many years past; but I cannot say so much in the case of Germany. In the latter country there is great need in public life, not for the university man or man of culture, but for the plain man of common sense to act upon well-defined principles, moderating them according to the demands of the present generation. The adoption of this motion would mean the splitting up of our Parliament in the same way that Parliaments have been split up in Italy and other countries. We should have numerous small groups with various fads, and they would “ stand on velvet,” quite regardless, and careless of, whether the Labour or the Liberal party were in power.
– The people would get their logical representation.
– I cannot understand the frame of mind of the honorable member. We are safe if we follow on the lines laid down by our fathers, because these lines have proved the best, as compared with those of other nations in western civilization. In spite of black pages and mistakes in our history, we have not much to be ashamed of in our system of government.
– If the Labour party are right, they would survive under the proposed system.
– My friends opposite are quite willing to forget all the lessons of history for the sake of an academical fad. There is a section of the Conservative party which, to its credit, does not believe in the proposed change, but has sufficient knowledge and belief in the principle on which the British nation has been built up. The position is very simple. There is a growing demand on the part of the great mass of the people for a share in the increased production of the age; while, on the other side, there is a desire to see that they do not get it - to protect vested interests and existing conditions. Any argument is good enough for our opponents, so long as they can stem the rising demands of Democracy. I feel, however, that honorable members must have some respect for the history of civilization ; we cannot escape from it. In fact, I do not know any Australian who wants to escape from the glories of British, history, from its literature, and from kinship with Shakspeare and Milton. We are trained in that school, and we belong to it. But in a new country, with greater opportunities for development, we have been able to go further ahead than our British brothers, who are handicapped by their conservative position. The honorable member for Angas told us that Mr. Philip Snowden was one of the members of the House of Commons who backed the Proportional Representation Bill. I know that, and I regret the fact. I know that some members of the Labour party in England favour this principle, and I regret that also.
– They are not going to side-track their own party.
– They have not the same faith iu the ultimate success of their party as we have had in Australia. They think that under this proportional representation system they will get more representation than they have .to-day. We, in Australia, adopted the opposite policy. I know something of the Labour movement since it started in the early nineties, and I know that our policy was to go steadily on, whether we were in Parliament or out of it, and trusting that the people of the country would ultimately learn to have faith in us. It is the same with parties as with individuals. Some have not the patience to doggedly work and wait, but desire to make a short cut to their goal. So it was with the British Labour members, who thought to strengthen their party by a short cut through the adoption of proportional representation. They may achieve that end, but, in my opinion, it is not the safest and best course to follow. That is the explanation of their support of this principle.
– We are beginning to find out who are the real Conservatives.
– The honorable member need not be afraid of me. I believe in sticking to everything of the past that is good, but I will not stick to anything that is doing harm. When anything ceases to do good, it ceases to be useful, and must be removed. The honorable member for Angas is prepared to sacrifice all that has come down from the. past for the sake of an academic reform , and his reason is that the Senate at the present time is constituted in a way which does not suit honorable members opposite. That may not always be so. There is nothing to prevent the party of the honorable members now sitting in Opposition some day having a majority in the Senate. They could get a majority in that Chamber very easily by jettisoning their Toryism and adopting proposals of a democratic character to place before the country.
– To outbid your party.
– They may out- bid our party, if they like. Instead of asking for an alteration of our electoral system, honorable members should study the signs of the times. What is wanted is an alteration of the views of honorable members opposite. Some of them, I know, are prepared to go, not quite so far as we are going, but considerably further than they have gone hitherto. It seems to me an extraordinary procedure to quarrel with the people and alter the system of voting because the voters have turned down the views of the Liberal party. The remedy is to be found in honorable members opposite putting their own house in order, and if that were done it would not then surprise me to see the Senate in the hands of those honorable gentlemen. In the Labour party’s march of progress, as we clear the ground with successive reforms, there may be a feeling in the community that we are going too fast, and that Conservative feeling may tell in favour of the Conservative party. In my opinion, you can never destroy the Conservative party in Australia or elsewhere, but, as Disraeli said, they can be educated. There is no reason why they should always be the stupid party. My honorable friends must realize that the remedy is not in finding fault with the existingelectoral system, but in recognising public opinion as it is. I ask leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 7.45 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to enable the Electors to take part in the Initiation and Approval of Legislation.
Motion (by Mr. Spence) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Purchase Telephone Lines Acquisition Act 1911.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leavebe given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to Marriage.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Rules Publication Act 1903.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes for Mr. Mahon) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Extradition Act 1903.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
It is a small measure, giving some necessary powers to the Commonwealth Bank in order to increase its usefulness and promote the welfare of the people of Australia generally. If the Commonwealth Bank is to attain its true position among other banks in Australia, it must have the power to purchase the assets of other banks. Clause 2 of the Bill, therefore, provides that the bank may enter into an agreement with any corporation carrying on the business of banking for the purchase of the assets of that corporation, and for the transfer to it of thebusiness and liabilities of that corporation. Payment may be made either by debentures or in cash, or partly by debentures and partly in cash, or in such other manner as may be agreed upon between the Commonwealth Bank and the corporation.
– Have the Government any particular bank in mind?
– No; but there may be one or more.
– You can acquire all the banks if you wish to.
– If it would be in the interests of the people, I presume there would be no objection to that being done, but such a purchase cannot be made without the consent of the Treasurer.
– What is the limitation proposed f
– The Commonwealth Bank will be limited by the amount of its capital, and that, this Bill proposes, shall be £10,000,000.
– So that if you acquire more than one bank, they will be very small concerns.
– II is obvious that not many banks could be acquired for £10,000,000. The clause will enable the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, with the consent of the Treasurer, to take over any bank within the limit of the increased capital proposed in clause 3.
– That is, with the consent of the Treasurer only, and not with the consent of Parliament.
– Let me tell honorable members that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and the Government have been able to assist private banks. I am sure that honorable members do not wish me to say more than that. Assistance has been given to other banks, and I hope honorable members will leave the matter there.
– The Commonwealth Bank could not have given the other banks much cash.
– I do not wish to go into that matter. It is not in the interest of the Commonwealth to do so. The Bill is submitted in this form in the general interests. Clause 3 provides for an increase in the capital of the bank from £1,000,000 to £10,000,000; but, though such statutory authority is sought for enlarging its powers to that extent there is no immediate necessity for an additional penny of capital. It may happen that the Government may need to put some capital into the bank, but I think it very unlikely that such a step will be necessary. The whole of the people of Australia are shareholders in the bank. Any profit it makes is theirs; if it makes a loss the people of Australia must bear it. Happily,” so far, it has made a pro fit, and I think that in the future the profit will be greater. The bank works on the credit of the Commonwealth, but unless there is statutory power to increase the capital to £10,000,000 its operations will be greatly restricted in regard to taking over the assets of other going concerns which might not be operating as successfully for their owners as they would be if taken over and managed in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank.
– Would the idea be to buy out the shareholders of another corporation absolutely and take over the concern as a Commonwealth Bank?
– Negotiations will be possible up to a stage where the consent of the Treasurer must be obtained, and the transaction can take place without the matter being discussed in public. Clause 2 is limited to corporations. I understand that in some of these corporations the directors, or other controlling authorities, have the power to negotiate on behalf of all their shareholders.
– Do I understand that the idea is to buy the assets of a bank and take them over ?
– The language of the Bill is as wide as it can be properly made in order to enable a transaction to take place, if it is a good transaction for both parties. Clause 4 lays down the principle of priority of debts due to the Commonwealth Bank, “just as if they were debts due to the State itself. I am glad to say that the banking corporations take no exception to this proposal. They seem to think that it will give them mutual protection, though it gives the Commonwealth Bank, as a State institution, priority over other concerns.
– Have you been advised that you can do this as the clause is framed ? I have some doubt about it.
– I have been so advised.
– Is it not the creditors of these corporations who will be affected by the clause ?
– Those elected as the guardians of the shareholders of these corporations, and the people interested, I am happy to say, are not averse to the wording of this provision. I do not see how a creditor of a corporation can suffer, unless the people appointed by the shareholders to manage their affairs are abso-
Iutely incapable of dealing with what has been directly intrusted to their care. At any rate, if the transaction is between the Crown on the one part and vendors on another part, the latter are more likely to get a better and higher return if the Crown purchases. That is my opinion.
– But in the matter of priority of debts-
– On the second~reading of the Bill the general principles of the measure - whether the Bill is required or not - are discussed. If the details of a measure are to be now debated the proper course would be to omit the second-reading stage and immediately go into Committee. I therefore ask honorable members to refrain from these continuous interjections.
– When a Bill to amend the Australian Notes Act was submitted in 1912 it met with a rather hostile reception in regard to the proposal to reduce the gold reserve to 25 per cent., which was a good thing to do. However, that is not the point with which I am going to deal. During the discussion on that measure, Mr. Fairbairn, the then honorable member for Fawkner, pointed out a difficulty that might arise in regard to the banks during a financial crisis, and suggested that the Government, or some person nominated by the Government, should be delegated to step in and stop what might otherwise be a disastrous result. I suggested at the time that I thought the Treasurer, on the advice of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, should .be empowered to step in and give assistance and make the advance a Crown debt, because the parties interested could not be injured by the fact that an advance which, in nine cases out of ten, might tide them over a temporary difficulty and avoid a crisis, had been made. However, I think the proposal in the Bill now before honorable members is a better, clearer, and safer way, and if the corporations - and I understand that to be so - are prepared to accept it, the Commonwealth Bank will be in a position to lend them deposit money and have the advance regarded as a Crown debt. Thus the same end will be attained without any delay or trouble. I ask honorable members to give that phase of the matter very special consideration. Clause 5 specifies that a Savings Bank agency may be established anywhere within the British
Empire with the consent of the Treasurer. My predecessor at the Treasury, and the late Attorney-General, found some legal difficulty about the continuance of the branch of the Savings Bank in London. As a matter of fact, the right honorable gentleman told the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank that he had no right to continue the London branch, because, under the definition of the word “ place,” there was no real statutory authority for him to carry on that branch. In fact, He practically told the Governor of the bank to close the branch.
– Yes, because it was illegal. There was no power to establish a branch in London.
– But the Governor of the bank, by a rearrangement, was able to keep the Savings Bank going in London, greatly to the convenience of Australian people visiting Great Britain; and my friend does not regret it.
– I saw no necessity for it.
– It is simply a difference of opinion. I see great necessity for it. I am sure honorable members will be happy to know that during the recent financial crisis the Commonwealth Bank and the Bank of England were the two banks that were able to help people in London at that time, especially Australians. They were able to help when others were unable to give assistance by the payment of gold to travellers, and those persons were assisted in that way to return to Australia.
– I am referring to the Savings Bank Branch.
– I am referring to the Savings Bank Branch as well as to the general business of the Commonwealth Bank. We are sending away many soldiers to help to fight the battles of the British Empire, and by having a branch of the Savings Bank in London we shall enable these men to deposit money here, and to have it transferred to the London office free of exchange, and vice versa. It has also been arranged by the Governor of the bank that there shall be a branch of the Savings Bank wherever our troops may be, so that both deposits and payments may be made. If the direction of the late Government had been carried out there would have been no branch of the Commonwealth Savings Bank in London today. This proposed amendment of the law is necessary in order to put beyond doubt our power to establish branches in all parts of the Empire, and under it, with the consent of the Treasurer, the business of the bank may be extended to any part of the British Dominions. Clause 6 will empower the bank, with the approval of the Treasurer, to enter into an arrangement to take over a State Savings Bank. State Savings Banks have already been taken over.
– How many?
– The State Savings Banks of Tasmania and Western Australia have been taken over.
– They have not actually been taken over yet.
– Agreements have been entered into for their transfer.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I would remind honorable members that two debates cannot take place simultaneously in this House. I ask honorable members on both sides to cease interjecting.
– I am sure we are all agreed as to the wisdom of giving the Governor of the bank power, with the approval of the Treasurer, to take over the whole of the State Savings Banks if the State authorities themselves are prepared to hand them over. This Bill will not compel the transfer of State Savings Banks to the Commonwealth, but I think we should have the necessary legal authority to take them over if the States so desire. The principle embodied in clause 7 is a simple, useful, and beneficial one, calculated to bring relief to peopleof small means, and I think it will receive the united support of honorable members. It will enable the Governor of the bank to pay to the next of kin, within one month, instead of two months, as the law at present requires, any small amounts standing to the credit of deceased persons. This amendment will be a convenience to the Governor of the bank, and will certainly tend to the relief of those who have to administer small estates. The clause also contains subsidiary provisions as to the payment of such amounts to the Public Trustee or Curator of Intestate Estates appointed under a State Act. Clause 8 is consequential upon clause 3.
Under clause 3 power is given to increase the capital of the bank to £10,000,000, and under this clause authority is given to raise that amount by the issue of debentures.
– Does that mean increasing the capital to £20,000,000 in all?
– No. This clause simplv provides the means by which the increased capital may be raised. Clause 9, which may give rise to a difference of opinion amongst the lawyers in the House, reads -
After section fifty-eight of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “ 58A. A trustee, executor, or administrator may invest any trust moneys in his hands in the purchase of debentures issued by the bank, or on fixed deposit in the bank.”
This is to enable trust moneys to be deposited in the Commonwealth Bank.
– Have we the power to do that ?
– I think we have.
– Wherein lies the legal difficulty ?
– I am not going to seek the legal difficulty. Believing that we have the power under the Constitution, I think that we should give trustees the right to pay trust moneys into the Commonwealth Bank. It is for those who think that we have no such power to prove that it is non-existent.
– It is no use passing a clause expressing a pious resolution if we think we have no power to give effect to it.
– Trustees, I think, will be glad to place trust moneys on deposit with the bank, and to have behind them the security of the Commonwealth. The last clause of the Bill is designed to tighten up the provisions of the principal Act in regard to the proper discharge of the duties of officers of the bank. It will do away with any loophole through which an unfaithful servant might escape. It is a purely machinery amendment to make it quite clear that the principal Act will cover embezzlement as well as larceny. To summarize the provisions of the Bill, let me say that it provides that the Commonwealth Bank may, with the approval of the Treasurer, establish branches of the Savings Bank anywhere within the British Empire, and so put it beyond the power of any Government, by its interpretation of the word “ place,” to refuse to allow such a branch to exist in London or in any other part of the Empire. The Bill will also enable the capital of the bank to be increased from £1,000,000 to £10,000,000, and will permit the Governor, with the consent of the Treasurer, to enter into arrangements for the transfer of the business of otner banks, and to carry on the general business of those banks in accordance with the principles of the Commonwealth Bank. It gives, further, the power to issue debentures to the amount of the increased capital.
– Would that be done without the sanction of Parliament?
– I think the Executive will have to accept the responsibility, and that the matter should not come before Parliament.
– Why is it necessary to purchase the business of any bank? Is that not against the whole spirit of the Commonwealth Bank Act?
– I do not think it is opposed to the spirit of the principal Act, or co the policy of those who brought the bank into existence. Power should be given to purchase any banking institution in Australia that is prepared to sell.
– It is mere commercial competition.
– The bank may ultimately take over the lot.
– Why should any banking corporation be precluded from disposing of its assets in any market? If the State thought that it could make a good purchase, and a banking corporation believed that it could make a good sale, why should the first-named party be restricted from entering into an arrangement believed to be in the interests of both ?
– There is no reason at all.
– Is progress to be blocked because of a superstition that the State ought not to do this or that? The day for such a superstition, I hope, has passed. In my opinion, thisprovision will be in the interests of the whole people. There is room, I admit, for a difference of opinion. I am not going to be dogmatic and say that all wisdom lies with those who advocate this principle, but I think that it is one of the best provisions of the Bill.
– A short cut to nationalization by administration.
– This kind of nationalization follows the lines which our party would adopt in regard to all its national ization proposals. It proposes that we shall have power to purchase the goods and chattels of an institution as a going concern, the seller being given a free option, and no coercion being exercised. I hope that there will not be much discussion upon this measure. It is more technical than drastic, and does not involve any new principle.
– The proposal to increase the capital of the bank is fairly drastic.
– If we wish to be in a position to help in a crisis like the present, now is the time to make the necessary provision. I hope the Bill will be speedily passed.
– I understand that there is an agreement that the debate shall be adjourned.
– There is no such understanding.
– The Leader of the Opposition is unwell.
– If he is unwell, then I must agree to the adjournment of the debate.
– I move-
That the debate be adjourned.
– The right honorable member commenced to speak before moving the adjournment of the debate. I mention the matter because I wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that it is not in order to do that.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
– There was no arrangement that the debate should be adjourned. I have allowed the adjournment because the Leader of the Opposition is ill.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The measure is a temporary one, the need for which has arisen out of the war in which the Empire is now engaged. Its duration is limited to the continuance of the present state of warfare and six months thereafter. The Bill follows substantially a similar Act passed by the Parliament of Great Britain since the war began. The Bill will enable regulations to be made by the Governor-General to apply to those cases in which persons entitled to the benefit of patents, designs. or trade marks are alien enemies. The regulations may avoid or suspend, in whole or in part, any patent, design, or trade mark registration ; they may avoid or suspend any application made by an alien enemy under the principal Act, and they may enable the Minister to grant licences for the use of any patent or design for its whole unexpired term or for a shorter period. The object of the Bill is to prevent the hindrance of trade which might otherwise arise through any patent, trade mark, or design being held by an alien enemy. Trade with alien enemies is subject to certain exceptions prohibited by law, and it may, therefore, be difficult, if not impossible, for the community to obtain the benefits of patents that have been granted to alien enemies. As it is impossible either to trade with an alien enemy, or to manufacture locally any patent held by such a person, legislation such as has been introduced is necessary. It is proposed, when the Bill has become law, to frame regulations which will give full power to the Minister to decide in the public interest under what circumstances licences shall be issued, for what period, upon what terms, and in what way. These licences may remain in force for the whole term covered by the patents they affect, or for a shorter period. The measure will not interfere with the principles upon which our patent law is based, and is not an amendment of the principal Act; it has arisen wholly out of the present war, and is limited in its duration to the continuance of that war. A word in explanation of its effects may now be permitted. There are many misconceptions of its purpose. An idea surprisingly prevalent in the community is that the measure is to encourage, or, at any rate, permit, a modified form of piracy. That is not so. This is not a Bill to legalize looting. It is not proposed to allow the property of any man to be plundered. The only object of the Bill is to protect the interests of the community. Where those interests are already protected, the measure will have no application ; where they are not protected, that is to say, where it is not possible for the community to take advantage of patent rights, licences will be issued under proper conditions to approved persons for the use of them. Royalties will be imposed under these licences, the amount depending on the circumstances of each particular case. We are at war with Germany and with Austria, but we do not propose to violate any principle of international law, or to sanction the expropriation of private property. A fund will be created from the royalties received which may be used to compensate at the conclusion of the war, and to the extent demanded by the circumstances in each particular case, the original patentee for the use of his patent. I do not put this provision forward on the low ground that we should do unto others what we hope they may do unto us; I put it on the higher ground that a civilized community has no right to take away private property, which inheres as much in a patent as in any other form of property. Civilized warfare does not interfere with the property of individual enemies; this is now one of the settled principles of international law. What we propose is in proper cases to offer facilities for the use of patents now possessed by alien enemies, so that persons may manufacture or produce or use locally articles protected by these patents, which the community would otherwise not be able to obtain. The period and conditions of the licences must be such as will induce persons to set . about the manufacture of these articles in this country, and the circumstances of each case must be considered separately. These circumstances differ very widely. By way of illustration, I may mention that a drug, aspirin, the ingredients of which are simple and not expensive, is at present made almost, if not wholly, in Germany. It has a great vogue, and is sold at a reasonably high rate. A licence to manufacture it locally could be issued only with the greatest possible circumspection, because it is necessary that users of the drug shall be guaranteed that the quality and effects of the local article will be the same as those of the imported article. Again, where the manufacture of any article which is protected by a patent is costly, requiring plant which no man would think of obtaining unless he was assured of a reasonably long tenure, such inducement must be offered as will encourage persons to invest their capital in the necessary plant, and engage in the manufacture. Such persons must have a term which will enable them to recoup themselves for their outlay.
– How is the royalty to be based ?
– The royalty will be high or low according as the profits to be made and the expenses of manufacture are high or low. I have been told by persons who wish to manufacture lysol locally that it can be made for Jd. or jd. per bottle, and that it is now sold from 7d. to 9d. per bottle, which gives a large margin of profit. The manufacture of lysol does not require an expensive plant, and the royalty upon that manufacture should therefore be large, while the term of licence need not extend to the whole period of the patent. On the other hand, there are cases where the patent rights cover a manufacturing process of an extremely costly and complex characer; under such circumstances the royalty must necessarily be low. I am not doing more than stating the principles which will govern the application of this measure. I have not in my mind any definite ideas as to particular cases; I am only endeavouring to outline the difficulties, and to show how impossible it would be to embody any schedule of royalties in the measure.
It is proposed to take power under this Bill to make regulations, and the basic - principle on which we shall act is to prevent any hindrance to trade arising from the existence of patents in the hands of alien enemies with whom there can be no dealings during the war, and to provide that the licence may remain in force after the expiration of the Act during the period for which the patent, trade mark, or design is issued. The duration of the licence will, in each application, have regard to the particular circumstances of the case. I only wish to emphasize once more that this, measure does not sanction any attempt to plunder any individual of what rightly belongs to him. Its object is to create means whereby the community may take advantage of patent rights and benefits of processes which they are now denied. At the same time, in order that the community may have the benefit we desire, we must have regard to the nature of the patent, the amount of capital necessary to manufacture it, and so forth.
– A licence may be granted to more than one person in connexion with the same patent?
– I have no doubt that that may be done. I shall be glad during the discussion of any assistance from honorable members, but I remind them that this measure follows substantially in all essentials the British Act. The Patent Acts of the Commonwealth follow the Patent Acts of Great Britain, and it is most undesirable that there should be any variation in this measure from that passed by the British Government. We are endeavouring, as far as possible, to have uniformity in the method by which we propose to deal with such property, and each case, of course, will be decided on its merits.
.- I think, with the Attorney-General, that we ought not to make any alteration in a Bill that copies almost word for word the second Act passed with the same object in view by the Imperial Parliament. I do not know, however, that the Attorney-General is quite correct in saying that our present Patent Act is absolutely in line with the Imperial Act. As a matter of fact, in relation to licences, there is a substantial difference, not of principle, but in some details. I think I had charge of the last amendment of the Patent Act, and I remember there was a great deal of discussion on the question of licences. We eventually came to a compromise, which the Board of Trade subsequently admitted was an improvement on the Imperial Act. It is, however, correct to say that our legislation is modelled on the Imperial Act, and might almost be said to be a copy of it. In regard to the Bill before us, I may say that I have seen both the Acts passed in England, one on the 7th August, and the other on the 28th. The first was evidently a bit of hasty drafting; but as to the second, the Bill before us is practically a copy, with the exception that in clause 3 there has been an advantageous division of paragraphs, and the word “King” is substituted for “His Majesty.” The law is, I think, that when war breaks out patents are not cancelled, but there is a suspension of the right of action for infringement. I have not seen the report of the English debates, and, therefore, I do not know the reason for the passing of the Imperial Acts; but if what I say of the law is true, it seems to me that both in the United Kingdom and here any one might take hold of a foreign patent and carry on business under it. Therefore, unless we cover the effect of the right of action for infringement, any one may use a patent. I speak subject to correction, but I think I am right.
– I do not think so; it would be most dangerous.
– I have seen an English legal opinion which stated that the effect was to suspend the right of action for infringement; and, if that is so, the patent remains, and this Bill seems to be based on the assumption that a patent does remain. If the patent is abolished, a non-existing thing cannot be licensed; but it is proposed to grant licences to persons who, following the regulations, show cause for the granting of a licence. I have here the Board of Trade regulations under the Act, and I assume that these regulations will be adopted here. They provide for an application by a person declaring, in the terms of the Act, that some one is in possession of a patent which belongs to an enemy subject, and that he desires to manufacture under it, and gives his reasons. On the application the Board of Trade may issue a licence for whatever time they prescribe, but not longer in duration than the time prescribed by the “Act, which is six months after the cessation of the war. It is assumed right through that there is a patent in existence, and there is nothing in the British Act, or in this Bill, to restore a defunct patent.
– If what the Honorable gentleman says is right, it might be necessary to pass legislation to prevent persons, other than those licensed, from doing certain things.
– At first it struck me that that might be necessary, but I do not think it is. Paragraph a, in clause 3, gives power to make regulations- for avoiding or suspending, in whole or in part, any patent or licence the person entitled to the benefit of which is the subject of any State at war with the King.
That assumes that war has not destroyed the patent.
– Or has not even suspended it.
– Quite so, but the right of action for infringement is gone. It may be, therefore, as it is not declared that the patent is dead, that paragraphs a, b, and c are intended to prevent people from using patents, there being no right of action for infringement, or it may be declared that the patents are suspended or avoided subject to any licence granted.
– The sound principle is that the patent rights are not voided, but that as they are held by alien enemies, there is no’ opportunity for the community to get the benefit of them ; no one can use them.
– 1 am not sure about that. The patentees or licensees are out here, and if they are alien enemies, or citizens in the position of alien enemies, they have no right of action for infringement. What the Bill seems to drive at is the granting of licences to carry on patents, the right of action in respect of which is suspended, and any profits are, as a matter of fact, denied to the alien enemies who are the owners. However, it is really of no use to do more than endeavour to give some little helpful criticism.; and I think we ought to pass the measure as it is, unless it proves to be susceptible of amendment in the light of such criticism. We have to accept the principle enunciated by the Imperial Government. This Bill, to some extent, is a variation of ,the law that, in war, we must, subject to military requisition, respect the property of the enemy subjects on land, though not on sea. The right of manufacture under a patent is property on land, and is, therefore, something outside the ordinary* laws of confiscation. The position is anomalous; and requires special legislation, but we cannot do better than adopt the principle laid down by the Imperial Parliament.
.- So far as I understand, the Attorney-General said that his intention is to provide a fund into which royalties can be paid during the pendency of the war - not only of the licences. - for the benefit of patentees whose patents are for the moment suspended by the mere fact of the war.
– The patentee can be compensated or paid for the use of the patent during the term of the war, or during the term of the licence.
– As to the term of the licence I can see reason for the payment after the termination of the war, but it is proposed to provide a means by which royalties may be paid in time of war.
– It is proposed to so arrange matters that the royalties may accumulate during the war, and be paid after- wards; and, if that be so, we are undoubtedly providing our enemy with funds. It is true that the actual money is held back, but by the fact of providing a fund which a patentee may anticipate by loan in a neutral or other market we provide him a means of taxation in his own country.
– The honorable member wishes to be a pirate during the war !
– This is no question of piracy. We all know that, during a war, it is an act of treachery to send any money to an enemy country, even if one owes the money. Here we do not propose to send the money to the patentee, but it is proposed to accumulate a fund. It seems to me that a patentee may go to a money lender in any part of the world and say, “ Funds are accumulating for me in Australia. What will you lend me in anticipation ?”
– I will explain that point.
– I hope it is capable of explanation.. If you are creating something on which an alien patentee can borrow money, and the asset is good, as undoubtedly the credit of the Australian Commonwealth would be in a matter of this kind, that is practically tantamount to supplying the enemy with money. The alien patentee can borrow on the fund which we are now providing for him. We do not desire any of our enemies to be borrowing against what we are doing here in time of war, and perhaps using that fund to the detriment of our own people.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3. (Extension of power to make temporary rales.)
– I hope and trust that immediately this Bill receives the assent of the GovernorGeneral, the Attorney-General and his officers will see that the regulations are drafted. There are many articles and ingredients needed in Australian industries at once. Prices have gone to an exorbitant height, and because we have been dependent on the enemy for certain ingredients, the manufacture of many articles is being prevented. I hope the Attorney-General will not be too gentle in his attitude, but will act as quickly and firmly as possible to give Australians an opportunity of operating under the provisions of this measure, so that an impetus may be given to industries which are now in a parlous condition, on account of certain material not being available.
– In explanation of a remark I made on the second reading, I desire to say that what I intended to convey was that the rights and remedies of the alien enemy in regard to patents, as in regard to other matters, are suspended during the war. First of all, it will be essential that voidance shall be made, and, subsequently, that the necessary licence shall be given. It will be observed that the regulations last only during the term of the war, and for six months afterwards. But, according to paragraph d, something done under these regulations may last for years after that period. I hope that it will be made clear that the mere fact of the regulations having become void in the meantime will not interfere with the extension of the term which is granted under the regulations, valid at the time the licence was granted, but void perhaps during the subsequent operation of the licence. The position is that the licence may extend for three, four, or five years beyond the term of the existence of the regulation; and I wish it to be made clear that that subsequent term wherein the licence continues is not going to be prejudiced by reason of the fact that the regulations have, in the meantime, come to an end. It would be an appalling condition of affairs if, when the rights and powers of our present alien enemies have revived, the patentee could subsequently go into Court against the man who possessed the licence, and claim that the regulation was void, and that, therefore, the licence was no longer in existence. The licensee must have the benefit of absolute security to induce him to invest capital in any enterprise of the kind. I think this is probably attained; but I ask the Attorney-General to consider and satisfy himself on the matter.
– I think it is a well-settled principle that a right given under an Act is not rendered void by reason of that Act being repealed or ceasing to operate. Here we have a Statute which authorizes licences to be issued during a certain period to do certain things. Let us suppose that this Act will last for six months, and that rights are given to A, B, and C for seven, five, and three years respectively. The Act terminates, but the rights given to those persons remain during the remainder of the term for which they were granted. For they were rights granted under the law by a properly-constituted authority, and those rights are not in any way impaired by the Act disappearing, as it were, by effluxion of time. It was one of the conditions of that authority that it should bo only a temporary authority, but with the right to issue licences for periods much longer than the lifetime of the authority itself. If a trustee with power of appointment has made an appointment his authority lapses, but that does not determine the rights and length of tenure of the appointee.
– I merely drew attention to the matter in order to make absolutely certain.
– Yes; but what we have to consider is: Had the authority, when it made the appointment or granted the licence, power to do so? Clearly it had. Every right that existed under the Patent Act is subject to patent law. The Legislature says, in respect of, say, patent 1456, that a licence to manufacture under that patent shall be granted for a term of years, which must be not greater than the period for which the patent has to run. Subject to that limitation the licence is good.
Now I come to the question raised by the honorable member for Wentworth as to the possibility of a patentee fattening on our credit. We must look at the subject in proper proportions, and, quite apart from anything else, the amount of royalty which can be in any case drawn by an alien patentee under this proposed Statute is so insignificant, when compared with the colossal expense of this war, that it is as a grain of sand is to the greatest of the Pyramids. But, applying it even in its insignificance to the circumstances, suppose the patentee in Germany, or some neutral country, says to a money-lender, “ There are some royalties heaping up for me in Australia : will you lend me money on them?” I do not know whether the honorable member for Wentworth ever approached the money-lender, but I venture to say that if he had he would never take this gloomy view of the possibilities of the enemy tapping this country’s credit by such means. The money-lender is not yet born who would lend on such security. First of all, no patentee will be able to say what is his share in the royalty. He has no statutory or legal claim to a penny. He will have what is allotted to him, but nothing will be allotted; not even an indication of what he is entitled to expect will be given until after the war. There is, say, a pool of royalties, and it may be that one patentee is entitled to a cup full, another to a jug full, and a third to none at all. It all depends on the circumstances. Honorable members must recollect that every man’s right to property must be modified by the circumstances in which he finds himself. A man may be a property-holder in Louvain, and a shell breaks his house down. It is very unfortunate, but the mortgagor of that property will find it very difficult to get any sort of satisfaction out of the position. It is the fortune of war. The property right in patents is in the same position; it must stand the hazard and uncertainty of war, and the patentee under this Bill can never know whether he is going to get anything or nothing. The first object of introducing this measure is not to safeguard the interests of the patentee, but to safeguard the interests of the community, and consequently we must, first of all, consider what is sufficient inducement to encourage the local manufacturer to make the articles covered by these patent rights. In regard to the suggestion of expedition made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, I quite agree with him that this is a thing which, if it be done at all, were well to be done quickly. The honorable member may rest assured that the regulations will be drafted and made available as soon as the Bill becomes law, and applications will be at once received and considered on their merits. There will be no delay other than that which is necessary to inquire into the bona fides of every application, because we must be assured that, in the issuing of a licence, the public welfare will be safeguarded, and that the- applicant has the capital, the ability, and the intention to turn out an article which will satisfy the consumer.
.- When I spoke on the second reading I had not had an opportunity of studying the Bill, and I was under the impression that the measure was providing that these royalties would be paid ultimately to the alien patentee. I find, however, that there is no such provision in the Bill, and that all the alien patentee would have an opportunity of borrowing on is the word of the Honorable the AttorneyGeneral. I admit that that word would not be a borrowing proposition before any money-lender in the world; so that difficulty is disposed of. There is this other point, however, that there is bound to be a certain amount of soreness in regard to the royalties that will be claimed, especially in the case of licences granted for a period exceeding the duration of the war. In those cases I think that, to safeguard the Government from any charge of bad faith or piracy, the AttorneyGeneral ought to be careful to see that he does not entirely base the question of the royalty to be paid on the evidence of those who are seeking the licences. - I am not concerned about the alien patentee; during the currency of the war, I have not many prejudices in favour of the enemy patentee - but where a licensee must spend a considerable amount of money in order to erect machinery for the manufacture of a certain article, he must be in a position where he can say that he has given a fair trial to the question of royalty, and this should be taken into consideration in assessing the amount of royalty.
-l]- - Will licences be granted only until the end of the war ?
– They can be granted until the end of the patent.
– But at the end of the war the patentee resumes his natural rights as the owner of the patent
– In other countries, but not here.
– I wish to be clear that the regulations will safeguard men who have put money into the manufacture of articles which require the erection of expensive machinery, so that when the war is over the patentee will not be able to come in here and demand a higher royalty than that paid in other countries.
– I thought I had made that position clear. I am obliged to’ the honorable member for asking me this question, because, for the benefit of the community, the provision should be made perfectly clear as to the rights of a licensee under the Bill. Those rights may, and in many cases will, extend to the full term of the licence. If the licence extends beyond the war, the licensee’s rights will not be affected by the fact that the war no longer exists. The licence will give to him as ample protection as the patent afforded to the original patentee or his assignee. When J first mentioned the mat£er, I took the case of a man engaged in some manufacturing process where the patent was comparatively small, but where the amount of capital to be invested was relatively large. Such a man- would ask of what avail was the investment of £20,000, or even £5,000, if he was to have the right to manufacture the article for six months only, and the original patentee could then step in. Therefore we must give the licensee such tenure as will induce him to invest his capital in the manufacture of the article, and such assurance that he may rest satisfied that he will have all the rights the holding of the patent could give him if he were the original patentee o-.- his assignee. The licence will give that right, and the regulations will provide for licences of that nature. Lysol i3 a typical article. Its manufacture requires the expenditure of very little capital, but there are tremendous profits. In the case of this article, there is no reason why a licence should be issued for any great length of time. We should discourage persons from manufacturing anything where there is a margin of apparently 1,000 per cent, profit. I think I have made it clear that, in regard to the items which involve the investment of capital, there will be security of tenure during the currency of the war and thereafter during the balance of the period for which the licence is issued.
– We all agree as to the necessity for giving to the licensee absolute security, but under the Bill as framed it is possible for the patentee’s rights to revive subject to any licences issued. There may be some technical difficulty in regard to the licence. I suggest to the AttorneyGeneral that, in order to avoid the friction of two rights to manufacture the one article at the same time, he should provide by regulation for avoiding or suspending in whole or in part any patent during the currency provided for in the licence. This will give the licensee absolute security, and avoid contingencies which might otherwise arise.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
– I move - That this Bill be now read a second time.
There is nothing in this Bill to cause honorable members alarm. It does not interfere with the principle of the main Act. Its object is to make certain alterations which have been found necessary from the experience we have had since the main Act was passed in 1906. The Bill is really not one of policy at all, but is to amend the machinery for dealing with acquisitions of land by the Commonwealth, the payment therefor, and the transactions of the legal and official business in connexion therewith. The principal Act - the Lands Acquisition Act - was passed in the year 1906, and numerous transactions thereunder have shown that it is to the interests of the Commonwealth, and also of the public, that the machinery of the Act shall be amended to make it more workable, and the procedure thereunder less cumbersome. We have all heard of the law’s delays. This Bill is an attempt to provide improved methods which it is hoped will tend to shorten some of them in connexion with the Commonwealth’s land transactions. To do away with them altogether is more than any one has yet been able to accomplish. It will be seen that this Bill touches on the vexed question of the Commonwealth acquiring what are known as “park lands”; but I want it to be clearly understood that the measure in no way gives the Commonwealth any right to forcibly acquire any of the people’s parks; it merely allows the Commonwealth, when the State or municipality is desirous of leasing or selling any recreation lands, which their rather stringent Acts allow them to do, to accept transfer. Under the present law, however desirable it may be, or however willing the State may be to lease, the Commonwealth cannot accept a lease or even a permissive occupancy. We are tied in regard to the acquisition of park lands. A superficial view of the Bill would lead one to believe that we were asking that the Commonwealth should acquire park lands by compulsory acquisition, but such is not the case. It sometimes happens that for a rifle range or drill hall, or for other defence and national purposes, a small portion of park or recreation lands held by a local authority or by a State is required, and though the State or the local authority is perfectly willing to lease the area for some short period, and although the terms are eminently suitable for the Commonwealth, tlie transaction cannot be carried out. By the provisions of the Bill now before honorable members we may carry out such a transaction, but only with the State’s consent. There is no compulsion about the matter. The Commonwealth will merely be allowed to accept when the State or municipal authorities are willing to lease or sell.
– If the local authorities have not the power to grant the lease, what then happens?
– The lease cannot be granted, that is all.
– Is that made quite clear ?
– In South Australia this power is given.
– But frequently an area held by a municipal authority is reserved by an Act of Parliament for a particular purpose, and the consent of the State Parliament would be required. The consent of the local authority might be at variance with an Act of Parliament.
– The basis of the Bill in this respect is not compulsory acquisition, but mutual agreement between the contracting parties. If the local authority has not the power to grant a lease to the Commonwealth, it can go to the State Parliament and get the necessary power.
– ?This Bill does not abrogate State legislation in any way?
– I am not a lawyer, but I do not think we have the power to do so without the consent of the State. An important provision of this Bill relates to cases in which exorbitant claims are made by the owners of property that we are compelled to acquire for public purposes, lt is proposed that where an exorbitant claim is made, and the amount awarded by the Court is considerably less than that which the owner seeks to recover, he shall pay the costs. Where there has been some blame on the part of the Commonwealth, then the costs will be in proportion to the margin of difference. This, I think, is a wise proposal. The average individual ought to know what is the honest value of his property, and if he places an honest value upon it the Crown should be willing to acquire it at his valuation. It is a matter for regret that many persons think that the Government have a right to be plundered when they seek to acquire land for public purposes.
– There are also many who suffer heavy loss by the acquisition of their property.
– I am aware of that.
– In a case reported in to-day’s papers the Court allowed very much less than the amount demanded by the owners of the land.
– This Bill will protect the interests of the public. In the case to which the honorable member has referred, a claim was made for £20,481. Mr. G. B. Appleton. a leading Melbourne auctioneer, valued the property at £610. Mr. Hartley, estate agent, of Melbourne and South Melbourne, valued it at £778, and Mr. Hiscocks at £575.
– It does not cost more to put in a big claim than to make a small one.
– Under this Bill a man who makes an exorbitant claim will have to pay the costs. The valuation of this property for land tax purposes was only £409. The Department offered £850 for the land, and the Court awarded £1,431, although the amount claimed was £20,481.
– But the Court had a valuation upon which it acted.
– A property which the Court determines to be worth only £1,400 could not be worth £20,000. Such a demand is out of all reason. If the owners had asked £4,000 or £5,000 for it, I should not have made special reference to the case, for I know that different valuers have different opinions, and that a man who did not wish to part with his property might consider it far more valuable than did an ordinary valuator. But when an exorbitant demand is made and disallowed by the Court the person making that demand should be called upon to pay the costs of the appeal to the Court. I hone that the second reading of the Bill will be speedily passed, and I promise honorable members that I shall do my best to answer any questions that may be raised in Committee.
– As the Minister has indicated, this Bill deals with matters of detail, some of which will require explanation in Committee. It also raises one or two general principles relating to the acquisition of land by the Commonwealth, and to these I desire to refer. When the Lands Acquisition Bill of 1906 was introduced in this House a vigorous debate took place upon the question of the preservation of the park lands of the people.
– The echo of it reached Adelaide.
– The voice of protest first came from Adelaide. A question had arisen regarding the acquisition of part of the park lands of that city, and the citizens were in a state of revolt. A most emphatic protest was made in this House against acquiring for Commonwealth purposes a single acre of any of the parks dedicated to public use. I feel that unless its administration is carefully watched we may have under this Bill serious inroads upon some of the public lands of Australia. My view is that throughout the Commonwealth our park lands are altogether insufficient. It is not for us to say who is to blame for this, but instead of the Commonwealth acquiring any park lands’ for public purposes at the present time, I should prefer the acquisition of private lands with a view to extending the breathing spaces of the people. Much attention is being given at the present time to the question of town planning, and I sincerely hope that one of the first considerations in laying out any town will be the adequate provision of public parks for the people. The point that we have to consider more particularly in connexion with this Bill is the acquisition of park lands by the Commonwealth.
-We cannot acquire any freehold?
– Under this Bill we shall be able to acquire freehold as well as leasehold land. Under section 13 of the Act of 1906 the Commonwealth may acquire any land for public purposes, by agreement with the owners, or by compulsory process. The word “land” is defined as including -
Any estate or interest in land (legal or equitable), and any easement right, power, or privilege over, in, or in connexion with land, and also includes Crown land, but does not include public parks vested in or under the control of municipal or local authorities and dedicated to or reserved for the recreation of the people, or such other lands dedicated to or reserved for the use and enjoyment of the people as have been specified fay proclamation.
Reading section 13 of the Act of 1906 in the light of that definition, we find that under it the Commonwealth may acquire any land, except park lands, by agreement with the owners or by compulsory process. When this question was being considered on a previous occasion the point emphasized was that the acquisition of any extensive area of public lands for Commonwealth purposes should be by a specific Act of Parliament, so that those interested might have the fullest opportunity to enter a protest if they desired to do so. The Lands Acquisition Act was drafted accordingly. This Bill, however, proposes to omit from the principal Act the definition dealing with park lands, and to add a proviso to section 13, so that it will read that the Commonwealth may acquire any lands for public purposes by agreement with the owner or by compulsory process -
Provided that public parks vested in or under the control of municipal or local authorities and dedicated to or reserved for the recreation of the people, or such other lands dedicated to or reserved for the use and enjoyment of the people as have been specified by a Proclamation of the proper authority of the State in which the land is situated shall not be acquired by the Commonwealth by compulsory process.
– Then how could a public park be acquired?
– By mutual consent.
– The Minister, under this Bill, seeks power to negotiate privately with the trustees of park lands. Sometimes these lands are vested in the municipal authorities, or are under a State authority. If either of those authorities had no power to dispose of the lands sought to be acquired, the hands of the Minister, even under this Bill, of course would be tied.
– In South Australia the authority of an Act of Parliament must be obtained.
– In some of the States trustees of public lands have power to grant leases. I do not offer any strenuous opposition to this measure, but I think we should take care to provide in it that full publicity shall be given to any proposal to acquire public lands so that the people in the districts concerned may have an opportunity to protest before the agreement is completed. In that respect there is a serious defect in the Bill. I am sorry to say that trustees of park lands sometimes seriously impair the rights of those for whose benefit they were set apart. Let us insert in this Bill a provision requiring that before any of these arrangements can be entered into public notice shall be given in the district concerned, so that local residents may know what is proposed, and, if they so desire, enter a protest against it. I think that, some time ago, in connexion with the building of the transcontinental railway, it became necessary to acquire some public lands in South Australia. I mention that by way of illustration. The Commonwealth constructing authority may desire to invade public reserves when it might easily acquire private land. Though that might be a little more expensive it might be better for the people of any particular district for expense to. be incurred than to have their park areas reduced. Another point to be considered is the calculation of costs. Clause 15 seems to me tobe very arbitrary. About nothing is there a wider diversity of opinion among experts than about the value of land. A land-owner who makes a bonâ fide claim against the Department, and supportsit in Court by the sworn opinions of licensed auctioneers who have valued the land, ought not to be penalized. I know that outrageous claims are often made against the Government. The land of Western Australia is, of course, exceedingly valuable, as the honorable member for Swan knows ; but when I was head of the nome Affairs Department a claim in connexion with the acquisition of land for forts there was reduced from about £10,000 to £3,500. The experts, nevertheless, were honestly of opinion that the value of the land was much in excess of the departmental valuation. When a case goes iuto Court, tne question of costs should be left to the Judge; there should not be an arbitrary rule applied, such as that provided for in clause 15. That clause says -
If, in any proceedings under the last preceding section, the amount of compensation awarded to the claimant -
is equal to or greater than the amount claimed - the costs of the proceedings shall be paid by the Commonwealth ;
is less than the amount claimed, and is equal to or less than the amount offered by the Commonwealth - the costs of the proceedings shall be paid by the claimant; or
is less than the amount claimed but is greater than the amount offered by the Commonwealth - the Commonwealth shall pay the proportion of the costs of the proceedings which the excess of the amount awarded over the amount offered bears to the excess of the amount claimed over the amount offered.
The Judge will have no discretion, and the claimant may suffer serious injustice after having acted on the best expert advice. The Minister spoke of a claim for £20,000, which went into Court after the Commonwealth had offered £850, and £1,431 was awarded; but Mr. Justice Isaacs, who heard the case, gave the claimant costs. Having heard all the evidence, and having weighed the equities of the case he had regard to the fact that the land was being resumed compulsorily. I admit that something should be done to prevent excessively high claims. It is the object of the Department to avoid litigation if possible, but it should pay consideration to claims that are honestly made. No member is in sympathy with attempts to bleed the Government, but when a claimant supports his claim with bonâ fide valuations, he should receive consideration. Valuations cannot be disclosed during the process of negotiations.
– Both parties should show their hands afterwards.
– We always let it be known what our valuations are.
– That is not always the case. The valuations may be disclosed when it seems likely that an agreement has been reached.
– In the case that has been mentioned£850 was offered.
– Yes; but the Department has its own way of making an offer. The Crown may have obtained five or six valuations, and may consider them all too high, or it may base its offer on the lowest valuation.
– In many cases we offered more than the valuation.
– That would be to avoid litigation, which is a right thing to do. It is a laudable thing to try to prevent the making of excessive claims, but the method proposed is exceedingly drastic, and calculated to work injustice. I hope that the Minister will carefully reconsider the matter. I ask him not to go very far with the Bill to-night, so that he may give attention to the questions which I have brought under his notice. No doubt other honorable members have criticism to offer respecting other provisions of the Bill.
.- I do not make a practice of opposing measures, but I feel it my duty to oppose this Bill. In framing it, the Minister has listened too much to his officers, and has had too little regard to the public interest. For a number of years, I have had a deep regard for the rights of the public in park land. In no part of Australia has too much land been reserved for public parks. Many of our local governing bodies are not elected on an adult suffrage, but are chosen on a property qualification, and, unfortunately, the persons who obtain seats in their councils are not as anxious as they should be to preserve the parks for the people. With a view to saving the rates, they are glad to make the parks as small as possible. Were the brother of the honorable member for Wentworth a member of this House, he would support me in opposing the proposal to allow municipal councillors to barter away the rights of the people in their parks. The Sydney municipal council has no proper regard for the rights of the people in their parks. They have given a large portion of one of the parks to a bowling club, and. allowed the erection of a three-storied building, which shuts out a fine view of the harbor. In another part they have permitted the erection of a building which a Melbourne alderman referred to in my hearing as a dead-house. When the attention of the councillors was directed to the matter, they expressed surprise, authority for the erection having been given without their being properly aware of the fact. The Bill allows local governing bodies to permit the Commonwealth to acquire public lands, and they may do this in order to increase their revenue. But none of our municipalities can afford to reduce the area of their parks and reserves. What is needed in Melbourne, Sydney, and our other big cities is better town planning, and bigger breathing spaces in congested areas. In Great Britain millions of pounds are being spent in providing parks and reserves for the public. No one can foresee the future of our cities, and this Parliament should give no encouragement to local bodies who are inclined to dispose of the public reserves. We are a National Parliament, and should have more lofty ideas than those which _ characterize the ordinary municipal council. I hope that this Bill will not be allowed to go through to-night, unless the Minister is prepared to withdraw the provision to which I have taken exception. The only object of seeking to acquire such land ,can be to save a few pounds, in view of the fact that, public reserves are likely to be disposed of at a cheaper rate than would private property. Most people take a pride in the beautiful surroundings of their own locality; and I can only conclude that the Minister has not given this matter sufficient thought, or he would not think of depriving the people of places of public resort in such a way. I guarantee that not a member of the British Parliament would vote for such a proposition, in view of the fact that in municipalities all over the Old Country, and in other parts of the Empire, town-planning and other schemes for conserving the health of the people are being inaugurated on the principle that the first duty of public bodies is to preserve the public health.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question before the Chair ? The honorable member is now discussing municipal administration, which has nothing to do with the Bill.
– 1 admit I am a little enthusiastic on the question of reserves, and I am merely endeavouring to illustrate my main argument. If I cannot do this in a way sufficiently clear to enable you, Mr. Speaker, to intelligently grasp the point, I am sorry.
– Whatever the honorable member may say he must not be disrespectful to the Chair, but must conduct himself in a way becoming a member of Parliament. I once more ask the honorable member to confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– I may, perhaps, be a little forceful, but I have no desire to be offensive to the Chair. With all due deference, I am endeavouring to point out that to take away the public reserves from the people will be dangerous to public health.
– In doing that the honorable member will be quite in order, but he has been discussing what members of municipal councils may or may not do.
– I do not wish to argue with the Chair, but merely to point out that, in view of our past experience, some of these municipal bodies and other trustees of public land, may not have sufficient backbone to resist the offer of Commonwealth money for lands that should be put to other uses, and that this is not in the public interest. The Government would not be able to get a foot of any public reserve in Melbourne, if I know the spirit of the municipalities which govern that city, but I am sorry to say that I have some fear in. regard to the municipalities of my own city. I have a letter in my possession from the brother of the honorable member for Wentworth commending me for my action in a matter–
– The honorable member is now going beyond the question before the Chair.
– As I said before, I am merely endeavouring to illustrate an argument regarding a question of great public importance; and I believe my remarks will prove sufficient to defeat this attempt, unintentionally as I think the attempt is, on the part of the Minister to interfere with the rights of the people in the parks. As to the matter of compensation, I think that an owner of property required by the Government should have the right to say what he thinks that property is worth, a similar right, of course, being reserved to the Government.
– The owner’s value is very often a sentimental one.
– That is so; and I know that if I had a piece of land which my father had left me, and on which I was making a living, I should look for some compensation on being deprived of it.
– Fair compensation will be given.
– “Fair compensation” depends on the point of view.
– The Act does not allow for sentimental compensation.
– I do not suppose that any Act of Parliament does so. There ought to be a court, or other tribunal, as in other affairs of life, to see that justice is done to owners, because, under the Bill as it stands, I can see the possibility of hardship.
– There are public rights as well as private rights.
– I do not dispute that fact, but the public interest does not require the perpetrating of injustice to individuals. Any Parliament who passed such a measure as this would fail to obtain any credit from the people; and it is clear that those who were responsible for the provisions in a previous measure insuring protection to the public in the matter of parks and so forth, had a much greater knowledge of the small-mindedness of some municipal bodies than have those who drafted the measure before us. A national Parliament should, above all things, uphold those rights and privileges which were acquired for us, many of them, by those who first colonized Australia ; and so long as I can raise my voice I shall be an advocate for the strict preservation of our public reserves and open spaces. This is one of the most serious matters that could claim the interest of any Parliament or people, and I hope that the House will assist me in endeavouring to get this proposed amendment of the original Act struck out of the Bill. I am sure that the Minister, after further consideration, will realize that the course I have suggested is a wise one, and will agree that we should not interfere with these reserves that have been left to the people for the benefit of the present and future generations. I have given the Ministry an opportunity of withdrawing that portion of the Bill, and I am not alone in this House in the views I have expressed; whilst, so far as concerns those who sent me here, I can truthfully say that I know of no city in the world whose representative’s action would be so well indorsed as mine will be indorsed by the people of Sydney. The cities of Australia possess some very fine reserves, but the cities of Great Britain have a greater amount of air space in proportion to their area and inhabitants than those of Australia. Sydney’s open spaces are less by thousands of acres than the open spaces of London. Melbourne is somewhat better provided for, but even this city is far behind London in that respect. We will be neglecting the teaching of modern opinion if we allow this measure to pass in its present form. It would ill become a party whose aims are the welfare and comfort of the people, to pass a measure of this kind.
– I also desire to protest against the proposal of the Minister of Home Affairs. I do not know whether the Minister knows it, but this matter has often formed the subject of much controversy in this House. One occasion I remember well, when the people of South Australia protested most strongly against a somewhat similar proposal, and the Bill was withdrawn. I have had a large experience of -the creation and conservation of reserves in my own State, and what the honorable member for East Sydney stated is in accordance with the experience of others. I know that in Western Australia I found it necessary to provide that no reserves of a certain class, such as parks and town reserves, should be alienated in any way without a specific Act of Parliament. That, I think, is a very safe course for Parliament to follow. We do not want a general law to apply to any interference whatever with the Crown reserves and open spaces throughout the Commonwealth. There will be a few cases, not many, where some interference will be necessary, as, for instance, when some piece of land is required for public purposes, or when a reserve has to be invaded for particular reasons, but in all such cases we can have a specific Act passed. That is what I advise the Government to do, instead of having a general law applicable to all reserves in Australia. That practice is followed in all the States at the present time. There is no reason at all why the Parliament of Victoria should not, for instance, take a piece of the Fitzroy Gardens for some public requirement or build a road through them, but before that can be done the Victorian Parliament must pass a specific law for the purpose. Parliament ought not to be able to take away a reserve under any general law. I have made reserves in my own State, with the very good intention of preserving them for the people, but I found them invaded and whittled away by applications from churches, schools, mechanics’ institutes, military bodies, and sporting clubs, until we found that reserves which had been intended for the enjoyment of the people for all time, were being fast depleted. Because of that, I introduced a law which enacted that a certain class of reserve could not be touched except by specific Act of Parliament, just in the same way as, in Western Australia at any rate, the Government cannot close a road without specific parliamentary enactment. If the Commonwealth requires any piece of land for a public purpose, surely the State can legislate to allow it to be acquired : and all we shall then have to do will be to acquire this land from the State on the terms agreed upon. To pass a general law to give us the right to enter upon any Crown reserves or parks would be a very great mistake. This proposal would enable the Government to acquire lands reserved for parks and recreation purposes by lease for 999 years.
– Hear, hear!
– Then the Government might as well have the freehold. My own experience has taught me that, unless we have the most stringent conditions preserving to the people their parks and reserves, those open spaces will disappear. One Administration will take off a piece, the next Administration anotherpiece, and so on, until the reserve or park lands are completely spoilt. There is no reason for this general provision, because when the Government desire to do anything in the way of acquiring land, they can do it by specific Act. I appeal to my honorable friends to make it as difficult as possible to interfere with the Crown reserves, park lands, &c., established for the recreation of the people. Let both Commonwealth and State Parliaments be put to a good deal of trouble when it is intended to invade the rights of the people in regard to public parks. I do not think the Minister will be able to carry this Bill, because it is contrary to public policy throughout the whole of the States. The people view with great jealousy and anxiety any interference with their park lands and reserves, which are so necessary, and which have been set aside for the recreation and enjoyment of our population.
– I rise only to correct an impression which seems, for some curious reason, to be in the mind of the right honorable member for Swan, that one of the objects of this measure is to give the Commonwealth greater power to interfere with the parks and reserves in the different States. I assure the right honorable gentleman that this Bill is to prevent the Commonwealth doing that. I agree with everything he said, except his statement that the measure enlarges the Commonwealth’s powers. It curtails those powers severely. Section 13 of the original Act reads -
The Commonwealth may acquire any land for public purposes -
by agreement with the owner; or
by compulsory process.
Clause 4 of the Bill proposes to amend section 13 by inserting at the end thereof the following proviso: -
Provided that public parks vested in, or under the control of, municipal or local authorities, and dedicated to, or reserved for, the recreation of the people, or such other lands dedicated to, or reserved for, the use and enjoyment of the people as have been specified by a proclamation of the proper authority of the State in which the land is situated, shall not be acquired by the Commonwealth by compulsory process.
Honorable Members. - What about clause 2?
– I am talking about public parks.
– Clause 2 deals with public parks.
– And that clause gives you power to negotiate with the local authorities.
– Clause 2 provides for an amendment of section 5 of the principal Act, and section 5 is the definition section. I do not wonder at any man not being able to understand this Bill, because it is a triumph of the draftsman’s art, in that it does in such little space what, to make it comprehensible, would require almost a volume. I can assure the honorable member that the Bill does not increase our power to take park lands. On the other hand, it circumscribes our power so much that it prohibits us from taking them by compulsory process. This is a measure that has been long required.
– I had a long and earnest conversation with the Leader of the Opposition the other night, and he agreed with me that this measure was required.
– That fact does not influence me.
– The experience of the Department is that the law as it stands is most unsatisfactory, not only to the Department, but also to the States and to private individuals. If “the measure falls short in any particular of bringing the principal Act to the point desired, by all means let us amend it, which we can do in the Committee stage.
.- The Attorney-General has given us the strongest reasons why we should have the opportunity of some slight adjournment before reaching the Committee stage, because it is obvious from his remarks that he has not grasped what is intended by the provision of the Bill to which the honorable member for East Sydney has taken exception. The definition section of the principal Act governs the provision in clause 4 that the AttorneyGeneral quoted. The definition says that “ land “ means land that is not the land of any municipality or corporation, and section 13, amended by clause 4, is entirely governed by that definition. If we take away from the definition the particular qualification with regard to park lands, then section 13 is given a comprehensive nature which it did not have in the original Act. Therefore, the Bill really enlarges the power over park lands given by the original Act in the way feared by the honorable member for East Sydney. The fallacy of the proposal put forward by the present Minister of Home Affairs is that the right to barter away the lands of any municipality does not properly vest in the council for the time being in existence. It is well known that in many municipali- ties the representation on the council may be of an absentee character. The council may be representative of owners of property who are not residents in the area. I go further, and say that the right to barter away any public or park lands in a municipality should only be very tenderly and very delicately submitted even to the residents in the area as a whole, because these lands are vested in posterity, and no person in the municipal area has the right to barter away the lungs of the municipality that is yet to be. I hope that the Minister will recognise that view of the matter, and not give the right to any municipality to barter away any part of its property. Of course, departmental officers may take another view, but I take the broad view to which the honorable member for East Sydney has subscribed.
– You did not take that view when dealing with the Norfolk Island Bill.
– I hope that my friend will consider what this power will mean in regard to a municipality. In many cases the local authority lives from year to year; generally speaking, it is elected from year to year, and in any one year a municipality may be so badly needing a windfall as to be glad to have the right to sell its park lands.
– Does the honorable member know the law in respect of municipalities and their power to sell ?
– I do not, and I am sure that my friend does not. To be an admitted authority on the land laws of Australia would tax a man of even greater ability than the present AttorneyGeneral. The Bill, purports to allow a municipality to barter away the right of its future citizens, and there is temptation inherent in short-lived bodies to gain revenue by the sale of assets in a time of financial stringency. I do not wish to see this temptation put in the way of any municipality, and therefore ask the Minister to give most serious consideration to the question of meeting the views of some of his own colleagues. I have a considerable amount of sympathy for the proposal put forward in the Bill in regard to excessive claims. Claims against the Commonwealth are very often excessive. I saw that during my term of administration. I believe that if we could find some fair way of limiting the rapacity of the percentage of persons who by making unfair claims unduly protract the settlement of land acquisition, “we should not only deal out justice more readily and more rapidly, but should also enhance the reputation of the Lands Department. Very often men stir up trouble and say that this Department is hopelessly inept because it will not accept a claim which, on the face of it, is utterly unwarranted. But I do not know that the question can be so readily dismissed as suggested in the clause in the Bill. The largest question that enters into differences of opinion iu regard to the value of land is the matter of severance, the assessment of which is difficult, and very often can only be properly done by hearing evidence on both sides. A large number of claims against the Commonwealth are, and must be from their very nature, knowingly bogus. The vast majority of claims are justly intended, but a large number are bogus; and I do not think that those who make bogus claims should be permitted to make them without in some way suffering for them. I have sympathy with my friend in that regard, but I ask him to consider most carefully the question of park lands, and see that, in passing this Bill, we are properly guarding the welfare of posterity.
– After the perfervid appeal of the honorable member for East Sydney, I hope that the Minister will see the unwisdom of proceeding with the Bill in its present form.
– You can make any amendment you like in Committee.
– I do not propose to occupy very much time. In Committee I shall not be able to deal with the general principles of the measure, and I speak now because I wish to say a few words on the general principles involved. I certainly cannot agree with the view taken by the Attorney-General that the Bill restricts the provisions of the original Act. He surely has not read the Bill. We were told that one of the reasons why the Bill has been brought forward is that the provisions of the Act are not sufficiently wide to give powers which, in the opinion of the Government, are necessary for the Commonwealth in connexion with the acquisition of land. Yet now we are told by the Attorney-General that, as a matter of fact, the Bill really restricts the Commonwealth powers, and in support of his argument the honorable and learned gentleman quoted clause 4 of the Bill, which deals “with portion of the measure only. The Attorney-General carefully ignored clause 2, which enlarges the definition of “ land,” and deliberately includes public parks and land dedicated for the recreation of the people, which were excluded from acquisition by the original Act. The Attorney-General’s sophistry is too transparent to deceive anybody in the face of this clause. I regard the Bill as a very dangerous measure. I do not see that there is any necessity for it, and I hope that the Minister Will see the propriety of withdrawing it altogether. I can see dangers to the public interest and to public rights in the Bill in its present form. There will be opportunities and powers for encroachment upon and diversion from their special purposes, of reserves which are supposed to have been dedicated to the public for their use for all time for recreation purposes. Many private firms, in submitting their estates for public sale, in order to obtain, higher prices, and to sell the ground profitably to themselves, hold out as an inducement the fact that a certain portion of an estate has been reserved to the people for public recreation for all time. But these promises, these declarations, will go for absolutely nothing if by this Bill we empower the Commonwealth to make an arrangement, not by any Act of Parliament, but by private treaty with the trustees, be they private trustees or public trustees or municipal councils, to acquire lands which the public have fondly but delusively believed were to be absolutely inalienable and preserved for their use and recreation for all time. The definition in the original Act provided that public parks vested in or under the control of municipal or local authorities, and dedicated to or reserved for the recreation of the people, or such other lands dedicated to or reserved for the use and the enjoyment of the people, as have been specified by proclamation by the proper authority in the State in which the land is situated, should not be acquired by the Commonwealth by compulsory process. This provision deals only with the question of compulsion, and does not preclude acquiring these lands in other ways. I have had experience of what can be done by trustees of public reserves in New South Wales.
Reference has already been made to this by the honorable member for East Sydney, and he has not in the slightest degree overstated the case when he says that there are some of these bodies who display only too much willingness. to barter away the rights of the public in respect of portions of reserves of which, in the interests of the whole community, they have been appointed public guardians. Most of the representatives of New South Wales are familiar with the struggles we have had from time to time to preserve from encroachment in this way Hyde Park, one of the all-too-few public reserves in the city of Sydney. Time after time attempts have been made by the Railway Commissioners to obtain slices of that park for railway extension purposes, and we have found the trustees at times apparently disposed to lend a willing ear to such proposals. Repeated and emphatic public protests alone have saved Hyde Park from being destroyed and. built upon. If the Commonwealth Government is empowered to make private arrangements with trustees, as proposed by this Bill, there will be no safeguard to the right of the people to the full enjoyment of public parks and recreation reserves. Encroachments have already been made upon several of our public parks in Sydney. As the result of negotiations’ between the trustees and private individuals, areas have been shut off from public use and given over to bowling and other recreation clubs. In this way the greater part of a small park in the constituency of East Sydney has been dealt with, and we are now asked to allow the Commonwealth to continue this sort of thing on a much larger scale. There is no limit to the powers with which it is proposed to clothe the Commonwealth Government in regard to the acquisition of public parks. I hope that the House will seriously listen to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Darling Downs, and to the exhortations of the honorable member for East Sydney, who has earnestly drawn attention to the dangerous character of some parts of this Bill. Coming to the question of compensation, if the Commonwealth is going to plunge owners of small areas into costly litigation-
– There is not very much dispute so far as small areas are concerned.
– I happen to know that disputes extending over years have arisen with owners of small areas proposed to be acquired for military purposes, although the amounts involved are certainly comparatively trifling. These people have received notice that the Commonwealth propose to take over their land, and they have had the greatest difficulty, not only in obtaining a settlement, but in securing what, in my opinion, is a reasonable valuation. The valuations placed upon these areas by the Commonwealth are far below those made by private valuers familiar with values in the vicinity, and the unfortunate owners have been subjected to a long process of waiting and harassing, with the apparent object of wearing down their patience and forcing them either to go to law or to accept what the Commonwealth is willing to pay. Under clause 15 the Commonwealth will have power to harass small owners in that way to an even greater extent than is at present possible. If the Bill be carried they will have no option but to submit to payment of costs arranged on an arbitrary basis which, in some cases, would involve the grossest injustice. I have in mind the case of a few working men in my own constituency whose wages constitute their only income, but who, as the result of thrift, managed to acquire small blocks in what is now known as the Liverpool training area. They bought these areas with the object of devoting their week-ends and spare time to the cultivation of small orchards or the establishment of poultry farms. Their land has been taken over by the Government, and for two or three years they have been deprived of their use. Inone case the whole sum does not amount to £200, yet these unfortunate men have been harassed for months, and are quite unable to secure what they regard as a fair settlement. I see in this Bill all the elements of injustice and hardship to deserving men. I am sure that the general sentiment of the House is against encouraging anything of the kind. I hope that the Minister will withdraw the Bill for the time being, in order that it may be recast in a form that will be more acceptable to the House. It is true that certain amendments may be made in Committee, provided that the Minister is prepared to accept them. Wa know, however, that, as a rule, amendments which do not come from the Government side of the House are regarded by Ministers as conceived in a hostile spirit, although they may be quite free from party taint, and moved with no other thought or purpose than to do the right thing in the public interest.
– The Government de- aire to meet the feeling of the House.
– This Bill has no party complexion, and if the Minister will not recast it, I trust that he will at least accept, in the spirit in which they are offered, any proposals to improve it. I sincerely hope that he will agree to make such amendments as are necessary to safeguard the interests of the people in public reserves, and also the interests of owners of private lands which the Commonwealth may seek to acquire.
– I understood the Attorney-General to urge that this Bill would not extend the powers of the Commonwealth in regard to the acquisition of park lands. I am firmly of opinion, however, that it does.
– That can arise only from the operation of the definition clause. If it does, then, when we come to that provision, we shall make such an amendment as will, perhaps, meet the wishes of the honorable member. We do not intend the Bill to extend the power.
– I have a certain amount of sympathy with the object which the Minister has in view, because I know of cases where a municipality has been prepared to give to the Department of Defence an area just sufficient for the erection of a drill hall, and being part of a very large park of, perhaps, 200 or 300 acres, believing that the erection of the drill hall there would be a convenience, since the drilling of the cadets could be carried on in the adjoining park. And yet, under the principal Act, the Department has been unable to acquire that piece of land. I believe that, in all probability, that difficulty was in the minds of tha officers of the Department and of Ministers when this proposal was formulated. It must be evident that under clause 2 the definition of “ land “ is so amended as to admit of park lands being taken over. Section 13 of the principal Act provides that the Commonwealth may acquire land by agreement with the owner or by compulsory purchase, and as the proviso only prevents the Commonwealth obtaining park lands compulsorily, it does give to the Commonwealth power, by agreement with those controlling park lands, to acquire them.
– It gives the Commonwealth the same power as any ordinary citizen has.
– Exactly ; but I hold, with a number of honorable members who have spoken, that we should be careful in extending in any way the opportunity of States, municipalities, or individual trustees to trade away public areas existing in our great cities. These are all too small at the present time. They ought to be extended, but can be added to only at great expense.
– Do not forget that in this case the trustees would be selling to the people, and not to private individuals.
– Quite so; but they would be selling public lands for purposes that would deteriorate very considerably their present value as breathing spaces for the people. Any of these lands acquired by the Commonwealth would be used for building purposes. We desire to avoid as far as possible the encroachment of buildings on our public areas.
– These lands would be acquired for defence purposes.
– I know that it is desired to acquire them for defence purposes, and principally in country districts, where these breathing spaces are not so much required as they are in our large cities. I think, with the right honorable member for Swan, that, instead of taking the general power proposed by the Bill, it would be much better for the Minister to come down to the House with a Bill setting forth in a schedule the various lands which he desired to acquire. It would not involve much loss of time.
– I have signed conveyances for thirty or forty within a few months. That is by no means uncommon.
– I am aware of that. But the properties to be acquired could be set forth in a schedule. The member for the district would probably be acquainted with all the circumstances, and, if there were any objections, the municipality concerned, or the people, would probably acquaint him with them. Thus the Commonwealth could obtain all the land that was required, and that it was desirable that it should get, and the door would not be opened to allow municipalities to trade away park lands of which they are the trustees. It would be better- for the Government to withdraw clauses 2 and 4. I admit that a difficulty exists at the present time, because two or three have come under my own notice, but it could be got over by the introduction of Bills from time to time. Not many municipalities have the power, or are willing, to trade away park lands of which they are trustees; but I hope that nothing will be done which will facilitate the curtailment of public recreation areas. Clause 15 provides an arbitrary method of determining who shall pay the cost of any proceedings connected with a resumption, and is therefore bad. The Judge who has to decide what is fair compensation for the owner of land is the person who is qualified to say which party shall pay the costs of the hearing. The payment of costs must be taken into consideration in the determination’ of compensation. If the clause is passed, the result will be that a Judge who, with the law as it at present stands, would have ordered the Crown to pay costs will add the amount of the costs to the compensation he awards to the owner of the land. Certainly that is the way in which I should act were I to adjudicate on a case of this kind.
– If honorable members will let us get the Bill into Committee pro forma, we shall consider the representations that have been made.
– Why not agree to the adjournment of the debate?
– Any proposed amendment will receive fair consideration in Committee. This is purely a machinery Bill.
– The House is agreed as to its principle.
– The provision relating to the alienation of park lands is serious.
– This is purely a departmental Bill.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney deserves our thanks for the speech which he made to-night. He fought for a principle of which the Attorney-General seems to have failed to grasp the significance. After listening to the At torney-General’s explanation it seemed to me that he entirely overlooked the purport of clause 2. We all regard it as necessary that park lands should be held sacred, especially where they are situated in cities, or close to growing populations. By allowing the Bill to pass as it stands, we shall make it possible for public bodies to do what we object to. The public interest in the maintenance of the integrity of public reserves must be safeguarded. Under the Lands Acquisition Act the Commonwealth cannot acquire park land from municipalities and other local governing bodies, but by altering the definition of “ land “ in the manner now proposed it will be able to do so.
– Only certain of such lands.
– Those in whom park lands are vested should have as little power as possible to part with them. At present we cannot acquire any park lands, but, after the passing of this Bill, we shall be able to do so, though not compulsorily. This Bill strikes at a very important principle, which ought not to be violated.
– If the people in whom the lands are vested and the Commonwealth Government agree, where is the harm?
– There is very great harm when we have regard to the great open spaces in our cities.
– This proposal does not concern the cities so much as the country.
– The Bill contains no limitation, and, so far as we know, part of the Fitzroy Gardens or the Treasury Gardens might be taken.
– Under this Bill the land will be sold to the people.
– And the injury is done to the people.
– The honorable member says that it is wrong to take a piece of land that is vested, say, in 2,000 people, and vest it in 5,000,000 people?
– The 2,000 may be very vitally interested, but the municipal council or trustees could sell the land although 90 per cent, of the people interested might object. The difficulty ‘ could easily be got over by introducing a special Bill when any particular piece of land was required. The Department does not move like lightning, and there would be plenty of time to lay any proposal before Parliament. The Attorney-General says that it will be easy to amend the Bill in Committee, but I cannot see how clause 2 could be amended short of striking it out altogether. I do not suppose that there is a city better provided with open spaces than is Melbourne, the people of which can congratulate themselves on the fact that they have been able to retain them; and it would be a disaster if public rights were to be invaded in this connexion.
– What would happen to a public body that sold land against the will of the people?
– The only punishment that could be inflicted would be to defeat the municipal councillors at the polls; and that would be poor satisfaction for the, perhaps, irretrievable loss of the land. I am told that even in the Melbourne public parks, pieces of land here and there may be found set apart for the exclusive use of members of tennis clubs and so forth, although these are scarcely noticed in the large areas.
– What is going to happen to the defence of the country if land for drill halls is not obtainable?
– It is to be hoped that drill halls, of which we require many, will be provided more quickly than in the past; and the necessary land can be obtained by the introduction, as I have said, of special Bills. If this proposal were to go to a vote at this moment, and members voted according to their convictions, it would be rejected.
.- I also advise the Government to strike these objectionable clauses out of the Bill. I have reason to appeal in that way because I have heard honorable members on the Opposition side speaking in such a fashion that, if they had belonged to the Adelaide City Council or the Legislative Council, and had cut out the iniquitous system of plural voting, we would have dad more green spaces in Adelaide than we have to-day. When it is a matter of parting with the breathing spaces of the citizens, patriots do not always rise to the occasion. At the time referred to by the right honorable member for Swan, Adelaide would have lost several acre’s of her park lands if the proposal had not conflicted with the interests of the picture shows, who did not want to see the White City established in opposition to them. Consequently the whips were cracked, and because certain people had financial interests at stake, they opposed the Bill. These park lands are vested in the control of councillors, who often, through financial stress, will listen to proposals whereby they can tide over the difficulties of the year.
– The Federal authorities treated the Adelaide people well when they handed over to them the defence ground.
– I am not aware that the Federal authorities have done much. If my memory is correct, the present park lands were dedicated to the citizens when South Australia was made a selfgoverning Colony, and were provided for by Colonel Light, who was intrusted with the laying out of the city. The encroachment on the park lands is mainly for bowling greens; the clubs pay a minimum amount to the City Council, and they are able to whip up the plural vote, which is strong enough to overwhelm the opinion of the poorer citizens whose children wish to use these breathing spaces. The ballot on the question as to whether these lands should be alienated from the citizens is generally taken on an afternoon when all the workers who use the park lands are unable to record their votes. Notwithstanding that the State Parliaments and trustees of park lands have been recreant to their trust, we should see that the National Parliament keeps its hands off the people’s breathing spaces, which mean so much to the rising generation. I know that we roust make provision for the training of our military forces, and we have been told how necessary it will be for every man in the community to become an efficient fighting unit ; but I believe that it is possible for the Military authorities to get whatever lands are required without encroaching on the park lands, which belong to the people. By clause 2 the Minister has absolutely cut away any restriction of his power, and clause 4 merely states that he shall not acquire land by compulsory measures. This looks as if it were a subtle kind of arrangement, inasmuch as it takes away any limitation placed upon the Minister by the definition section of the original Act. and gives as a quid pro quo tie restriction in regard to compulsory purchase. We all know how municipal bodies like to make their finances appear as buoyant as possible during their term of office, and they grab at every means to that end. As their term of office is usually brief, they have not much to answer for to either their constituents or their consciences, because their consciences are in some matters beyond trivial considerations, and as such they regard the encroachment upon the park lands, although it is of such great importance to the growing population. Instead of giving the Government any further opportunity to encroach on the people’s parks, we, as members of Parliament, will not be doing our duty unless we impress on the Minister our earnest care for the people who have sent us here. I do not see how the Bill can be amended, except by striking those objectionable clauses out altogether. I ask leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I may mention that the first measure to be taken to-morrow morning will be the Bill for the amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. After that we will deal with . the Banking Bill. The first-named Bill is a small but a very urgent matter, rendered necessary by the fact that the recent decisions of the HighCourt have practically left open no road by which the unions may seek relief in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
– You cannot expect to pass that Bill through tomorrow.
– Very well; it will be brought on the first thing to-morrow, and then we shall deal with the Commonwealth Bank Bill. Honorable members are getting very threatening in their attitude.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 November 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19141112_reps_6_75/>.