6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– The following letter appeared in Monday’s Brisbane Courier headed “ A Mother’s Complaint”: -
To-day I received a post-card from my son in Egypt, dated 12th March, in which he says he is hoping to get letters. As 1 have Written every week regularly since he left here last November, I should like to know what becomes of my letters. He also says he has written every week. Well, I have received in all two letters and two postcards. Who is responsible? In writing this, I am airing the complaints of hundreds of mothers, who, like myself, should certainly have the privilege of hearing from their Bona, who. arc fighting” for their country.
A footnote is appended saying that the editor had received other letters to the same effect. . I know from communications that I have had with the Defence Department that it is anxious to expedite the delivery of letters, but I ask the Assistant Minister of Defence if he will inquire whether an improved method cannot be discovered f
– The honorable member intimated that he intended to ask this question, and I have ascertained from the Minister of Defence that he is willing to confer with the PostmasterGeneral with a view to complying with the honorable member’s request. The letters passing between soldiers at the front and relatives here should have the quickest despatch possible.
– Following on the reply given to a question asked yesterday, that we have ample equipment, I ask the Assistant Minister of Defence whether the Government proposes to offer to the Imperial Government further contingents beyond those now undergoing preparation?
– This matter rests solely with the Prime Minister, to whom the honorable member should address hid question when the right honorable gentleman returns to Melbourne.
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question regarding a matter which affects not only Victoria but also other States of the Commonwealth, namely, the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to increase the Imperial duty on wine to 5s. per gallon. In view of the injury that this will do to the vignerons of Australia, does not the honorable gentleman deem it advisable to cable to the Imperial authorities protesting against what is proposed to be done ?
– Before such a cable is sent, action should be taken by the vignerons of Australia to proclaim the injury that they aro likely to suffer, and it should be made plain that a considerable portion of out citizens desire us to take action. It is the duty of the Government to give effect to the wishes of any body of citizens representing an important Australian industry such as wine making, but we cannot act on the request of one or two vignerons. It must first be shown that there is a consensus of opinion in favour of our interference. Once that is done- and it ought not to be a matter of difficulty to get it done - we shall be pleased to make representations to the Imperial Government.
– I have been approached on this subject by several bodies representing other States, and by representatives of the vine-growing interest in Victoria, and have been informed that on Friday next they intend to make a united request to the Minister of Trade and Customs. I ask the Acting Prime Minister, before determining on the form of a telegram to the Imperial Government, to wait until they have put their suggestions before the Government.
– I shall certainly await the result of the meeting.
– Ab the Imperial Government has requisitioned the whole of the Australian and New Zealand meat supply, and proposes to sell the surplus on the London market, to prevent an undue increase in the price of meat to the British public, will the Minister of Trade and Customs consider the advisability of making representations which will insure that the drain on our meat supply shallnot abnormally increase the price of the Australian product?
– The position is a difficult one, in view of the fact that, while we have power to prohibit wholly ot in part the export of meat, we cannot compel any person to put 1 lb. of meat on the local market. The export of meat to every country but Great Britain has been prohibited, except that at the request of the Imperial Government a small contract for supplying the troops of another country is being carried out. I am willing to consult my colleagues as to the advisability of making representations to the Imperial Government as requested.
– In order to allay public anxiety as to a shortage in the meat supply, will the Minister of Trade and Customs state definitely whether the requisition by the Home authorities refers only to the surplus at present in the frozen chambers - the surplus over the requirements of our own people- or to the whole of the supply ?
– I understand that the British Government made representations to the various State Governments. There are really only three States involved - Queensland, in the case of beef; New South Wales, to a lesser extent, in the case of beef; and “Victoria and New South Wales for mutton and lamb. Only in Queensland and New South Wales did the State Governments pass Bills dealing with the matter. In Victoria some arrangement was come to, but I understand that that arrangement has broken down, and that those interested are sending away supplies, or holding them, or doing what they like.
– Did all the States receive a request to take some action ?
– Yes, but the reply was that an arrangement had been made in Victoria- - an arrangement which, I understand, has broken down.
– The Minister has not touched the point I raised.
– I understand the position is as the honorable member for Wannon has stated - that the Imperial Government have requisitioned for any supplies we can let them have.
– That means the surplus only?
– I presume so.
– Why not say so? It is the whole point.
– Did the Minister observe in to-day’s newspaper a statement that in the House of Commons the Imperial Government had announced that they were going to take all the Australian meat they could get, and distribute the surplus, over and above their own needs, among the people of England ?
– I did see the statement, and, in the same newspaper, I saw a further statement by Mr. Runciman that there was a meat combine in Australia.
– There is no connexion between the two matters.
– The Minister is miles away from the fact !
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs state whether his Department is aware of any such combination in Australia as has been alleged with respect to the export of meat from any part of the Commonwealth?
– So far as I am aware it is not.
-Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that a number of persons have been fined for failing to enrol under the Commonwealth electoral law? Will the Minister also inquire whether a Mr. P. H. Morris, a magistrate at Allora, Queensland, has publicly advised all men and women to vote against candidates who are not in favour of putting an end to compulsory enrolment, “and has stated that no respectable “woman desired the right to vote, and that he felt inclined to apologize to every woman whom he had to fine? Will the Minister take steps to prevent this magistrate from acting judicially in Commonwealth cases?
– I have not seen the report of the magistrate’s utterances; but if they were as recorded they are grossly improper. I shall ask for a report on the matter, with a view to taking such action as seems in the circumstances necessary and proper. Police magistrates, as a rule, refrain from acting the Justice Shallow, but this gentleman appears to have failed to recognise the responsibilities and limitations of his position; and if the facts be as stated he must be taught them.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral see that men employed at Woodlark Island, who, in consequence’ of malaria, or any other tropical diseases, are unable to work, are invalided to their homes instead of being given a week’s notice of dismissal ?
– I am not aware that any men at Woodlark Island have received notice of dismissal. Those who have expressed the wish to be invalided home have had their hospital expenses and passages paid; everything possible is done for them. However, the work on Woodlark Island is nearing completion, so that it is not likely any further complaints of the kind will arise.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs been drawn to a statement issued by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company that it is necessary to make immediate arrangements for the importation of sugar to carry us over July and August? Can the Minister inform the House at what price that sugar will be available to the public of Australia after the duty has been paid ? Any further information regarding the matter will he acceptable.
– The honorable member for Melbourne asked me a question regarding the importation of sugar by New Zealand, in connexion with which I am now obtaining information. I understand that, in July and August, Australia will be in exactly the same position as is New Zealand all the year round, inasmuch as there will be no internal production of sugar, and all supplies will have to be imported.
– Is there any duty on sugar in New Zealand ?
– Speaking from memory, I think not.
– That fact ought to be taken into account.
– I am obtaining information as to how we stand in this regard, and I shall submit the information I receive to my colleagues, with a view to action being taken on behalf of the people of Australia.
– In regard to the borrowings by the States, subsequent to the outbreak of the war, can the AttorneyGeneral tell us whether there was any written agreement with the Premiers, and, if so, will that agreement be made available to honorable members?
– That is a point that, so far as the details are concerned, I should have preferred the honorable member to lay before the Prime Minister. I was at the Conference, and there was a general understanding which was, I think, reduced to writing, covering the point to which the honorable member refers. However, I must not be understood as saying so definitely, because I do not know absolutely whether that was so or not.
– Will the honorable gentleman communicate with the Prime Minister regarding the matter?
– Will the AttorneyGeneral be good enough to inform the House as to the number of patents registered within the Commonwealth by alien enemies, and also take into consideration the advisableness of having a list of such patents published in the Government Gazette?
– I am afraid I am unable to do as the honorable member requests. I am not in a position to say whether such a list can be supplied; but if the House desires I shall make inquiries with a view to supplying one. The preparation of such a list is obviously a matter of considerable difficulty; and I should be glad to have some expression of opinion from the House as to whether it should be supplied, seeing that I do not desire to ask the Department to enter on a work, the nature of which is in itself unimportant, unless the House so declares. I do not think the information will be found to be easily obtainable, though I think it ought to be. I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know next week whether such a list can be supplied. If it can be supplied I shall supply it.
– I wish to ask tha Postmaster-General whether any step is being taken to bring about the nationalization of the Atlantic cable, so that we may have at least one State-owned cable between England and Australia. If that were done we should be able to send lettergrams and other messages on our own terms, instead of having to ask for concessions from a private company.
– No very definite steps have recently been taken. I am altogether in sympathy with the honorable member’s proposal, but, owing to the war, I think, the matter has been somewhat delayed.
– And the next election is still a long way off, is it not?
– That has nothing to do with the matter. I shall ascertain from the Secretary of the Department what the position is.
– Seeing that the AttorneyGeneral has promised the honorable member for Indi that he will make a protest to the Imperial Government if a combined effort is made by the winemakers and growers, will the honorable gentleman also make a protest to his own Government against imposing addi<tional duties on exports from Great Britain ?
– That is a blow from the hand of a friend that I think merits one “ taking the count,” and I shall do so.
– J desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he wished to suggest in his reply to questions with reference to the duties on wine to be imposed “by the Imperial Government that, provided a sufficient agitation were created amongst vignerons in Australia, the Government would back up that agitation, or whether he meant to suggest that the Government would bring before the Imperial Administration the views of Australian wine-growers with reference to these duties.
– What I said was that we would voice the representations of the vignerons if we were assured that they embodied the general opinion of those engaged in the industry. As to our own attitude in regard to the matter, I think it would be grossly improper for us to attempt to dictate to the Imperial Government what form their fiscal policy should take.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether it is the policy of the present Administration to carry the mails in Western .Australia on a privately-owned railway line, and also to convey mails by conveyances along roadways running by the side of State-owned lines.
– I am not aware that there is any -such policy in operation, If what the honorable member says is true, there is no doubt an explanation bearing on the matter of cost in regard to it.
Despatch and Delivery of Mails : Death of Private Dancocks at Broadmeadows.
– Many weeks ago the present Acting Prime Minister promised that he would convene a conference between the Postmaster-General and the Minister of Defence in regard to ihe despatch and delivery of letters to troops at the front. We have been promised for many months a rectification of grievances in this regard, and I should like either the Postmaster-General or the Assistant Minister of Defence to make a definite statement to the House as to what are the arrangements for the delivery of these mails, and what is proposed to remedy the present intolerablestate of affairs. Can the PostmasterGeneral give me any information on the subject? I have relatives at the front who have not had a letter since they have been there.
– It does not follow from what the right honorable member has said that there is anything wrong with this end of the service. I shall obtain for the Leader of the Opposition’ detailed particulars regarding the system that is adopted. There has been the most complete co-operation between the Postal Department and the Department of Defence.
– I -wish to ask the Postmaster-General what has become of the suggestion that I made to the Acting Prime Minister many weeks agothat he should make one of the postal officials with the Expeditionary Forces, then in Egypt, responsible for the proper distribution of letters amongst. the troops, and should require him to place himself in close and intimate relation with the Egyptian Postal Department. Has anything been done in that direction ?
– The matter is one for the Department of Defence, and I believe it has made complete arrangements for the distribution of letters. The Department has been utilizing the services of experienced postal officers who are members of the Expeditionary Forces. I think that the point raised by the right honorable member has been attended to by- the Defence Department. There are some 2.00 or 300 postal officials in the Expeditionary Forces, and their services are being utilized for this special kind of work.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Defence, after conferring with the Postmaster-General, if he cares to do- so, inform the House in detail to-morrow precisely what steps are adopted to insure the delivery of letters to the troops.
– I shall be pleased to try to comply with the right honorable member’s request to-morrow.
– The Acting Minister of Defence yesterday placed before the House a report from the InspectorGeneral, Colonel Legge, with respect to the regrettable death of Private Dancocks at Broadmeadows. Will the Assistant Minister afford an opportunity for a statement from the relatives of the deceased and the nurse who had charge of him, to be put before the House, so that honorable members may learn of the glaring discrepancies in the statements of the two parties to this case?
– If the relatives of the deceased are dissatisfied with the treatment that he received while at Broadmeadows I am sure that the Minister of Defence will be pleased to meet them and to discuss with them every phase of the matter. If, after that has been done, they are still dissatisfied, I shall have no objection to the honorable member’s proposal; they should first see the Minister.
– It was on their representations to the Department that the report from the Inspector- General was obtained.
– I understand that the Assistant Minister of Defence has promised that the Department will consider the appointment of an outside board to deal with the case of Private Dancocks.
– I have not promised any outside inquiry.
– There are many cases that require similar attention because of the discrepancies between the statements of officers of the Department and the individuals concerned.
– May I ask the Assistant Minister of Defence when I am to expect a statement from him respecting the case of Mr. Harris, boot manufacturer, of Fitzroy, and the alleged onerous conditions under which he is supplying, or about to supply, boots to the Defence Department?
– I understand that the honorable member has had some communication with the boot manufacturer to whom he has referred, and that that communication has been forwarded to the Defence Department. I also understand that the Department has replied to Mr. Harris, giving reasons for its decision with regard to the contract entered into by Mr. Harris’ firm.
– Mr. Speaker, can any provision be made for binding the reports of the Inter-State Commission when they come to hand so that honorable members may be able to keep them together?
– I have no objection to seeing that the honorable member’s wishes are carried out if the House desires it.
- Mr. Speaker, as I understand that the printing of the reports of the Public Works Committee comes within your jurisdiction, I wish to point out that the report of the Committee upon the sewerage of Canberra makes reference to a number of plans and documents put in as evidence, but which are not attached to the report, and their absence makes the report largely unintelligible. Will you, Mr. Speaker, see that prints of diagrams are added to the reports of the Committee, so that honorable members will be able to follow the evidence with the same intelligence as members of the Committee?
– When a document is laid on the table and ordered to be printed, it is printed in the form in which it is laid on the table. If diagrams and plans are not attached to a report, we can do nothing in regard to them. Wo can only print what is laid on the table.
– What steps can be taken to have these reports presented in such a way that honorable members can understand them ?
– I shall make inquiries and see what can be done, and I shall inform the House to-morrow.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will have a return compiled showing
The number of naturalized Germans and Austrians who have gone or are preparing to go to the front as officers and privates?
The number of sons of naturalized German and Austrian parents who have gone or are preparing to go to the front as officers and privates ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
- Mr. Scrivener is now on furlough, and has tendered his resignation from the date of expiration of his leave. He will then have reached the age of sixty years, when an officer is entitled to retire if he wishes. Mr. Scrivener’s retirement was at his own request and desire.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Brewed from barley malt and hops exclusively, per gallon, 5d.
N.E.I., per gallon, 6d.
The standard gravity is 1055, and beer of a greater or less gravity is charged more or less duty, according to the proportion its gravity bears to the standard gravity, e.g., beer of a gravity of 1050 would pay 50/55ths of 23s., equalling 20s.11d. per barrel.
In addition to the above duty a surtax, as shown below, has been proposed, the operation of which has been postponed till 18th instant.
Beer, specific gravity 43 to 48 per barrel, 12s.; equals 4d. per gallon.
Beer, specific gravity 49 to 53 per barrel, 21s., equals 7d. per gallon.
Beer, specific gravity over 53 per barrel, 36s., equals 12d. per gallon. Total in Great Britain, 19.66d. per gallon.
The cabled reports which have appeared in the daily press are the only authority as regards the surtax.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act -
Award by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, dated 9th . April, 1915, on a plaint submitted by the Small Arms Factory Employees’ Association.
Statement of the Laws and Regulations with which, in the opinion of the DeputyPresident of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, the Award is not or may not be in accord.
Award of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in re the Small Arms Factory Employees* Association v. the Honorable the Minister of Defence of the Commonwealth - i Opinion of the Attorney-General.
Audit Act - Treasury Regulation Amended -
Statutory Rules 1915, No. 25.
Lands Acquisition Act-
Land acquired under, at -
Barellan, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Corrinial, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Manly, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Preston, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Windsor, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Alberton, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Brunswick, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Goulburn, New South Wales - For Defence “ purposes.
North Perth, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Provisional Regulation - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 22.
Debate resumed from 15th April (vide page 2361), on motion by Mr. Glynn -
That, with a view to securing as far as possible representation of parties in proportion to their strengths at the polls, the method of election by quota and transferable vote be adopted as the method of choosing senators.
– In resuming the debate on this important question I wish to place on record my appreciation of the cordial manner in which the honorable member for Angas received my criticism, which was given with no party bias, though I admit that I speak purely as one who is in favour of party Government, because I cannot seethat any other system is likely to be introduced in Australia, at any rate in our time. The motion of the honorable member for Angas refers to the proportional system as I know it in Tasmania. In that State we first introduced the Hare-Spence system, which was later improved upon by the late Mr. Justice Clark. That gentleman gave a lot of attention to the matter, and was assisted by Mr. R. M. Johnston in evolving the system up to its present form. As a result, there is in Tasmania a system of proportional representation equal, if not superior, to any system in the world. Recently I read that the authorities in England are about to send out a Commissioner to inquire into the working of the proportional voting system in Tasmania. Therefore, I think I shall be justified in taking that -system as the basis of my arguments on this motion. Since speaking on this subject a fortnight ago I have hadan opportunity of looking into some documents I had in hand, and I propose to quote somewhat fully this afternoon from a very valuable report submitted to the Parliament of Tasmania by Mr. H. E. Packer, the then Chief Electoral Officer in Tasmania; Mr. E. L. Piesse, LL.B., Assistant Deputy Returning Officer for the districts of Denison and Franklin; and Mr. J. F. Daly, who is now the Chief Electoral Officer of Tasmania. Mr. Piesse is a worthy son of a gentleman who did excellent work in this House. He is well known to a good number of politicians in Tasmania and throughout Australia owing to the attention he has given to the subject of proportional representation. I do not know if Mr. Piesse has any politics, but he is a great student, and I am inclined to think he has very little time to spare for practical politics.
– Is that the reason why he favours proportional representation?
– It may be. The gentlemen who drafted the report were quite unbiased. Honorable members will remember that when I was speaking to this motion on a previous occasion I pointed out that this system of voting tended to bring about a clique form of government. In my opinion, the. usefulness of the system ceases when the whole political body is divided into two great camps - the “ ins “ and the “ outs,” or Labour and Liberal. The report to which I am referring deals with the Tasmanian election of 1912, which was one of the most important elections which, has “been held under this system, and it says -
It has been assumed, in preparing the table, that a voters’ party allegiance is shown by this No. 1 choice. All papers on which the No. I choices are given to Liberal candidates are assumed to be the ballot-papers of followers of the Liberal party, and so with the Labour party. The scrutiny showed that some electors gave their No. 1 choice to one party, and their No. 2 and higher choices to the other party; and in such cases it may be that No. 2 and the higher choices indicate the voter’s party, and that the No. 1 choice was given to a candidate of the other party for a personal reason. _ But it is thought that the assumption is a fair one for the purposes of this table, and the table contained in the Appendix.
– What is the meaning of the words, “ higher choice “ ?
– It is merely a term. I am of opinion that the No. 2 choice on the ballot-paper may not be of the same value as the No. 1.
– It is only used if the No. 1 choice is ineffective. The elector does not have two votes; he has an alternative choice.
– That is why the system is so unfair in electorates returning six members. My view is that the No.- 1 vote is the effective one. In the Tasmanian election of 1912, the proportions were obtained by the parties all right, but what was the result? A table in this report shows what the result was. For each electorate six members were required. In the electorate of Bass, the Liberal proportion of voters was 3.1, and the Labour proportion 2.9. The result of the election was that the Liberals returned three members and the Labour party three members. In Darwin, the Liberal proportion was 2.8, and the Labour proportion 3.2; but, again, each party returned three members.
– The parties were very evenly balanced.
– The report will allow that they were not very evenly balanced. In Denison, the Liberal proportion of votes was 3.1, and the Labour proportion 2.9, and again three members were returned on each side. In the electorate of Franklin, the proportions were: Liberal. 3.4; Labour 2.6. Once more the two parties each” returned three. members. In the electorate of Wilmofc, the Liberal proportion was 4, and the Labour proportion 2, and the Liberals returned 4 members and Labour 2. The total proportions of the five electorates were: Liberal. 16.3; Labour 13.7; and the Liberals returned 16 members, and Labour 14 members. The report says; -
The table shows that not only did each party obtain in the aggregate as nearly as possible the number of members to which it was entitled-
– Hear, hear! That is the point.
– The quotation continues -
But also that in each district the number of members obtained by each party was the whole number nearest to its proportional share of the representation for the district. It is clear, then, that the rules of the Electoral Act have produced proportional representation of the parties.
Then bitter complaint was made of the smallness of the majority. That is the great trouble. “ But the election has resulted in the larger party having only two more members than the smaller, and it is of interest to examine how far the system of the Electoral Act must necessarily produce such result.
In speaking on the subject previously, I stated that the system of- voting advocated by the honorable member for Angas would give greater representation in the Senate to the minority, and that “the consequence would be that an Administration would have so small a majority to support it that it would be difficult for it to get its measures passed. The report from which I am reading continues -
It is to bc noticed, in the first place, that in a small House, a narrow majority must necessarily occur when parties are nearly equal in the constituencies, and that if these were larger, the majority would probably be increased relatively as well as absolutely. If each district had returned ten members in place of six, making a House of fifty, one party would probably have had twenty-eight members, and the other twenty-two, giving the sufficient working majority of six.
I have spoken of the waste of votes caused by the proportional system of voting. This is what really occurred in Tasmania during an election under the proportional system of voting -
In preparing Table V., some 37,000 papers wore considered. Losses occurred from 1,650, or about 4i per cent., of these papers, owing to cross voting. In addition to these papers, there would be others on which there waa cross voting, which did not become effective owing to election or exclusion of candidates. The total amount of cross voting is, therefore, not shown in the table; but the table shows that there was cross voting, which resulted in loss on about one paper in twenty, and that the loss from each of such papers was about half a vote.
The most important objection to the honorable member’s proposal is the difficulty of counting the ballot papers. During the general election held in Tasmania on 30th April, 1912, there were six members to be elected for the constituency of Denison. The ballot papers numbered 16,600, of which 444 were rejected as informal, leaving 16,156 formal ballot papers. The quota was obtained by dividing the number of formal ballot papers by seven and adding one, which gave 2,309. I have here a fac simile of the sheet showing the counting on which the return was made. The final choice was arrived at only after the one hundred and thirtieth count. Two members were elected on the first count, because of the No. 1 votes cast for them. These were Sir Elliott Lewis and Mr. Woods. Two Labour men - Mr. Barker and Mr. Edmunds - ran very close together. Mr. Barker secured sufficient votes to keep him in the count, but not enough to reach the quota, even though he was elected. He was elected on 1,708 effective votes, Mr. Edmunds, who obtained 1,670 effective votes, being rejected. Therefore, even under the proportional system of voting, a number of persons remains unrepresented.
– Any number less than the quota cannot be represented; but this system gives a fairer representation than any other.
– It is claimed for the system that it gives representation to every voter, and that it certainly does not do. I particularly emphasize the difficulty in counting under the proportional system, and I trust that some honorable member will attempt to show that there are means whereby the count-‘ ing can be done more easily.
– I mentioned a method based on an Imperial Act, and I stated also that there could be a party block vote.
– I question whether that would work. Those whom I have named have given so much attention to this matter that I think that they must have adopted the best system obtainable. But honorable members can imagine how long it would take to prepare, for a State like Victoria, a return of Senate voting such as that which I exhibit in regard to’ the State voting for Denison. Tasmania has not found the proportional system the success which it was thought it would be. The system there has brought about a party deadlock.
– That may not be healthy for parties, but it may be healthy for the public.
– That is a matter of opinion. This may happen at the next election : Electors numbering 2,310 may return a candidate for Denison, and other candidates may be similarly returned for Bass and other electorates. The candidates so returned may afterwards combine, and thus sway the ma]0- rity If that happens, these candidates, who might be elected to support the closing of hotels, the handing of the railways over to private companies, or anything else, could effectively combine to force the Government to give them what they needed, the penalty for refusal being the loss of support and office.
– Does the Labour party in Tasmania favour the present electoral system there?
– No ; it intends to amend the Tasmanian Electoral Act.
– If it can.
– The member who gives the party a majority is an outandout Liberal of the old school, and ;f he is sufficiently progressive to enable tho progressive Labour Government to amend the Act, it will be done.
– What about the Tory Tasmanian Council?
– I dare nob prophesy in regard to what may happen in the Upper House. You cannot get progressive legislation through that Chamber. At present, neither party has a working majority in the Tasmanian Parliament, and I gather from the press that it is the intention of the Government to try to alter the electoral system of the State. The system of proportional voting is all very well in theory. On paper, it is a beautiful system.
– Does the majority of the electors understand it ?
– I question whether every honorable member of Parliament understands it. Honorable members can imagine the amount of calculating necessary to get out a return such as that for Denison. Sir Elliott Lewis got 2,732 votes, and was declared elected. When I stood for election in Tasmania I had to obtain 9,500 votes before being elected. Little parties can be formed all over the place, and so long as a candidate gets over the quota of 2,309, in he goes. I take it that this system is all right when there are many different sections desirous of returning members directly concerned with the temperance question, or the religious question, and so forth. But now that the parties are so clearly defined, it is not at all necessary. As an instance of how the people are divided into two distinct parties, I might cite one of the Senate elections in Tasmania, at which Colonel Cameron was a candidate.
Colonel Cameron had occupied a seat in the Senate, and might be described as one of the most popular gentlemen in Tasmania, for whom a personal vote could safely be relied on. But Colonel Cameron came out as an Independent candidate, and he did not obtain nearly, uie number of votes recorded for either the selected Liberal candidate, or the selected Labour candidate. I think that similar results could be found all over Australia at the present time; and it is for that reason that I think proportional voting now is of no earthly use. I admit that it would affect the representation of the State ; but of what value would that representation be? Any change in this regard could only have the effect of retarding business. We know how, in the case of the late Government, the party stuck closely to the leaders, who were thus enabled to hold office for a much longer period than any of us would have anticipated. The effect of proportional representation in the Senate would simply lengthen the sittings without having any effect whatever on the legislation.
– Would proportional representation apply to both Houses?
– I suppose so; but the difficulty would be in the grouping of the electorates; and my own feeling is that the party which had the greatest number of supporters in the cities would overwhelm the country vote. I have endeavoured to fit myself to discuss this question in the presence of such able men as the honorable member for Angas and others; and I hope that the motion will be thoroughly debated.
– Can the honorablemember say whether proportional representation has had any material influence on the disposition of parties in Tasmania ‘I
– To be candid, the system did help the Labour party when that party was first inaugurated, and it will help any party until it becomes so numerous as to form a deadlock. As a matter of fact, in Tasmania at the present time, the position of parties is such that it is impossible to bring about any change.
– Why should we, if people are so nearly balanced in opinion?
– In the case of proportional representation, an elector gives his No. 1 vote to a candidate who voices his opinion, while possibly his No. 2 vote goes to a man whom he does not know at all; and, altogether, I fail to see how, under the system, we could have that fair representation which the honorable member for Angas has led us to expect. I have an open mind on the question, and I shall listen to the debate with the greatest interest. I have every desire for the fair representation of all people in the community; but I fail to see how this plan is to bring it about, in view of the distinct party lines which now exist.
.- I had the pleasure of listening to the able speech of the honorable member for Angas in introducing the motion, and abo to the reply of the Minister of Home Affairs; and we have now had a contribution from the honorable member for Denison, who has seen the practical working of proportional representation in his own State, and apparently selected those points which are to the disadvantage, rather than to the advantage, of the system. It would be idle for any one to submit a proposal of this kind and claim that it represented a perfect system. No system is perfect, but any plan that aims at giving people representation in proportion to their numerical strength - except, of course, sections so small that representation cannot be given to them - is a step in the direction of affording the opportunity not only to exercise the franchise, but to voice their views in the legislative halls of their country. The Minister of Home Affairs, as one who has given this question a good deal of consideration, seems to take up a very anomalous position. He opposes this motion, but at the same time he is in favour of the initiative and referendum, which would greatly extend the power of a proportion of the people outside, though what that proportion is has not been definitely stated by the Labour party. However, if we take the figures in the case of some of the American States, or of Switzerland, we find that 8,000 electors may be able either to compel the introduction of legislation, or to demand a referendum on proposed legislation. The Minister of Home Affairs told us that he would not give to any minority outside the power of direct representation in this Parliament, but, as I say, he is at the same time prepared to permit the initiative and referendum, with the consequences I have indicated.
– There must be a ratifying majority.
– Ultimately that is so, but with the initiative and referendum a minority outside is given a great deal more power than would be given to it under proportional representation.
– There is no analogy.
– There may not be direct analogy, but the same principle is involved.
– I do not think much of the honorable member’s logic!
– As to that we oan agree to differ : but it struck me that the honorable gentleman’s attitude was most illogical. If a minority has a right to have its voice heard outside, why should not the same minority have the right to send representatives here, with a view, perhaps, to convert the majority? Is the initiative and referendum merely intended as a sop to the minority outside? If the Government really intended that the initiative and referendum shall give a small minority outside the right to move Parliament, it will mean that a minority will be able, to a great extent, to “ boss “ Parliament - to force the Legislature to occupy much time in considering, possibly, insignificant proposals sent from outside. At the last Senate election the total Labour vote was represented by 6,234,000 odd, and the Liberal vote by 5,499,000 odd, showing a difference of only about 735,000 out -of a 12,000,000 vote, and yet we have the astounding result of thirty-one Labour representatives and five Liberal representatives. I have always understood that the idea of the framers of the Constitution was that the Senate should be the guardian House of the States’ interests. In Victoria, except on one chance occasion, for a period of ten or eleven days, there has never been a Labour Government, and yet we have the remarkable fact that the Liberal party in Victoria has no direct representation in the Senate.
– You mean the Conservative party, which masquerades as Liberal.
– I do not mean the Wise party; I do not suppose that a party which produces only one representative throughout the State can expect to rule Victoria. When this motion was introduced by the honorable member for Angas, the honorable member for Maranoa offered some remarks on it; and if we do not always agree with the honorable member for Maranoa, we must admit that he invariably brings robust common sense to bear upon the questions before us. I think that he was drawing upon that store of common sense rather than upon the principles of equity, in relation to electoral law, when he said, “ Mr. Speaker, the system that gets me into this House is good enough for me.” The proposal that parties should be given something like equitable representation in this Parliament, according to their numerical strength, is one to which no true Democrat can object. The Minister of Home Affairs was at some pains to explain how such a system might be manipulated, and that the ideals sought to be achieved by it might never be reached. The honorable member for Denison, speaking to-day, pointed out that, at the present time, there is a strong wave of public opinion in favour of the abolition of the liquor trade. He urged that we might have a party springing up having that for its sole object, with the result that the country, if this system were in operation, might be under the administration of a minority party representing, for the time being, the opinion of the majority on that one question. Let us consider for a moment the argument so advanced. If the opinion of the Australian people were overwhelmingly in favour of the abolition of the liquor traffic, then, under this system, the people would have their way. And if Parliament is to be a true reflex of the mind of the people, it must give the people their wish. This Anti-liquor party, having wiped out what it believed to be a blot on the national life of the country, might consider that it had served its purpose, and we might once more return to ordinary party lines. I hold that no one need take alarm if, from time to time, the people change their views. We have no right to feel that we are permanently entrenched in public favour. My experience of public life is not a very lengthy one, but it lias been sufficient to satisfy me that, with many of us, the feeling grows that we are here for life - that we are permanent members of the Commonwealth Legislature. That, to my mind, is not a good thing for the country. A man can remain too long in a Parliament, and I believe in giving the people greater facilities than they have to-day to change their representatives without changing their principles.
– Then the honorable member would favour annual elections 7
– No; I am not very keen on such a proposal. I should prefer quinquennial elections, believing that a five years’ term would give a fair trial to any party that might be in power.
– In other words, the honorable member would like to be here for life?
– No; notwithstanding the work which the honorable member has done, I should not be prepared to give even him a life-term in politics. I subscribe to the principle of preferential voting for the reason I have just given, and because I think a party is often compelled in politics to carry a. man who has grown out of touch with it. There are men who have served their party well in years gone by, and who, although perhaps they have outgrown their usefulness, have still to be carried by their party.
– Is the honorable member now talking of the Liberal party 1
– No; I am speaking of political parties generally. I recognise that the principle of preferential voting for the House of Representatives, and proportional voting for the Senate, would do much to bring about that condition of affairs to which the honorable member for Angas has referred : that parties would then be rather inclined to look for points. of agreement in respect of which they could serve the whole community, rather than for points of difference. They would cease to try to set up policies in direct opposition to each other for no other purpose than to insure the maintenance of a strict party system. The Minister of Home Affairs alluded to the position of parties in the Old Country, and expressed the opinion that the party system is alone the basis upon which all political issues have to be determined. I do not share that view. Since the outbreak of war we have had to consider many measures of a non-party character, with the result that the House has been less shackled by party considerations than before, and we have consequently found honorable members in agreement on many questions regardless of the side of the House on which they sit. Bui where strict party lines are maintained, we never find honorable members from both sides coming together, even on questions concerning which their views are very much alike. This is a world of diversity- a world in which 1,700,000,000 souls exist, and in which no two persons are exactly alike. How is it possible, then, to imagine that a mould can be produced to fit the minds of half the people of this country ? Every day, by means of party principles, we are making greater exactions upon the people. We are asking the people more and more every day to make an abject surrender of their own personal opinions in order that they may join certain parties. They are asked to subscribe in advance to codes of politics which sometimes they may not have fully considered. The old idea of a deliberative assembly is, to my mind, the better one. In this House seventyfive men - drawn from every corner of the Commonwealth - are expected to meet to deal with the affairs of the country. The Commonwealth was divided into seventyfive electorates, so that each division might have its logical representation in the halls of Parliament, so that each might select as its representative a man who knew the conditions of life there, who knew its wants, and the conditions of its industries. In this way it was intended that the House of Representatives should contain the corporate wisdom of the whole nation rather than that it should consist of a collection of units on the one side, all subscribing to the one set of principles. The idea was that we should have here seventy-five men of diverse thoughts; that the doors of the halls of Parliament should be thrown open; and that with the press of the country present, and the light of day shining upon our deliberations, we should give expression to our honest opinions and pass measures designed to benefit the whole of the people. I regret to say, however, that we are stepping backwards in the matter of political representation. We are in the bog and the rut of party politics. The honorable member for Adelaide smiles, and is in disagreement, I presume, with the views to which I am giving expression; but he himself is tied and bound by the rules of his party. I do not wish to hurt his feelings in any way, but he must admit that before he could obtain a seat in this House he had to join his party, that he had to surrender his own views and to pledge himself to carry out the platform of his party.
– He took a part in forming the platform, and in framing the pledge, of his party, because he believed in it, and not because he was driven to do so.
– The honorable member himself had to sign a party pledge. Why did he do so 1 Was it that he could not trust himself ?
– Did not the honorable member for Wannon have to submit himself for selection?
– I gave no pledge, and was not asked to give one.
– But did not the honorable member have to submit himself to selection by his party?
– I did, but I gave no pledge. Did the honorable member for Adelaide sign his party pledge because he could not trust himself to stand by the policy of his party?
– I gave . the pledge because I had to - because it was already in existence.
– Order ! Will the honorable member connect his remarks with tho question before the Chair?
– My point is that when an honorable member is required in advance, before he is elected to Parliament - before he has had an opportunity to consider such a question as this - to pledge himself, he is placed in such a position that he is not free, to vote for such a proposal.
– The statement is not true.
– I do not know that the honorable member is entitled’ to make such a statement.
– I ask the honorable member for Cook to withdraw the remark, and I ask the honorable member for Wannon to confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– The honorable member said that we were pledged to certain electoral principles. That is untrue, but, as the expression is unparliamentary, I withdraw it.
– I had no intention of making any direct reference to the honorable member for Cook. This House cannot hope to reasonably reflect the evolutionary development of the political life of the country if the members of any political party, before . coming here, pledge themselves to any particular electoral system, and so render it impossible for them to assist in moulding a better system. I am not politically pledged to any electoral system that can be improved upon. I am free to vote for any suggested improvement that will be in the interests of the people, no matter from what side of the House it may come. My party gives me that freedom. The proposal made by the honorable member for Angas deserves the special consideration of the Opposition. It is democratic, in that it would give substantial minorities, subject to the quota to which the honorable member has referred, an opportunity to secure direct representation in the Parliament of the Commonwealth - in the only place where that direct representation can be of any use to it. Why should any party fear to allow any person to enter this Chamber, as the logical representative of a substantial minority, to represent the views of that substantial minority as they can never be voiced outside? I believe that this system will make for the enlargement of the political thought of Australia, and that it deserves well at the hands of the House.
.- I should not have spoken but for the remark made by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat - that in the matter of electoral reform the people of Australia were stepping backwards. To my mind, a proportion of those who are supporting this proposal for proportional representation are not sincere. I cast no doubt on the sincerity of the mover of the motion; but I believe that the Liberal party would not be in favour of the introduction of such a system, and that they would carry this motion only for party purposes. In South Australia we had the spectacle of the Liberal party, while in opposition, declaring itself in favour of proportional representation, although it was hard to determine whether they referred to proportional representation or effective voting. They declared that they would bring such a system into force, but when the time came to test their sincerity these gentlemen failed to do what they promised. They wished to make themselves secure, and one Liberal Minister declared that under the system which they proposed they would remain in power for fourteen or twenty years. Liberalism, we were told, was going to rule in South Australia, but, as on pre vious occasions, it over-reached itself, and the Liberal party, instead of being in power in South Australia to-day, is a forlorn crowd. It is hard to find any one prepared to man the Liberal ship there nowadays, because of the wrecked condition to which it has been reduced. Before taking office, the Liberal party in South Australia proposed to establish what it described as a sane system of representation, under which the people would not be hampered by the restrictive pledges which, it was said, Labour imposed upon its nominees. But the fact that when they had the opportunity to put the system in operation they failed to do so makes me more than ever believe that the proposal now before us is not genuine. According to the honorable member for Wannon, we are going backwards. As a matter of fact, it is only the party on this side of the chamber that has ever pushed anything forward in politics. The honorable member instanced the position of this House, and he claimed that there had been no Labour Government in Victoria, but, in my opinion, if you scratch a Liberal in Victoria, you scratch the same individual in any other State. Liberals are all the same, no matter from what State they come, and therefore, although they may be gathered together in this House from various States, they are the same set of individuals. The fact that in their own State Houses, which have far greater power in regard to the development of the States than has the National House, they do not relieve us from the dead hand of the past in the shape of the restricted franchise for the Legislative Council, is a strange commentary upon their protestation that they desire to relieve the body politic of the shackles which they claim the Labour party has placed upon it. I told the electors in the district’ that I have tho honour to represent that I should oppose this proposal when it came forward, not because I was not prepared to realize that a proportional representation system has not many merits, and perhaps would be good for the Commonwealth, but because I considered that before I should be ready to give away that for which the Labour party had fought in their backward progress - if I may use the paradox - in gaining their present position in the Commonwealth, the other party should first show their Iona fides, and in the State Legislatures urge reform in regard to that House which has been the bar to the progress of the community. If the Liberal party would show their bona fides in that direction, I am satisfied that a majority of honorable members on this side of the chamber would be prepared to meet them in the direction of making progress more stable, sound, and prolific by making it wider.
– Are you aware of the fact that on the agenda paper for your Conference which is to be held in Adelaide next month there is a proposal for proportional representation for the Federal Parliament?
– In all probability the matter will be proposed, but I have no hope of its being carried. I was at the Conference when proportional representation was placed on the platform of the South Australian Labour party, and I know how many supported it and why it finds its place on our platform.
– Your party will probably gain by it in South Australia.
– I hope sincerely that the anticipations of the honorable member are correct. The members of the Labour party in South Australia know my opinion in regard to effective voting or proportional representation and the spirit behind the movement. They knew my attitude when the proposal found its place on the platform of the Labour party in South Australia.
– It could only be put on the platform by a majority.
– The honorable member should not forget that a thin majority can often PUt something on a platform. Evidently the honorable member is quite prepared to accept what a thin majority might do in South Australia, but is not prepared to accept what a thin majority has done in regard to the constitution of the Senate. If he accepts the verdict of a thin majority in the one case, why should he not allow a thin majority to dominate the affairs of the Commonwealth as it does to-day ? I am not prepared to argue the matter of proportional representation from the stand-point of equity, because I believe that honorable members opposite are not sincere. Last session I heard the honorable member for Cook opposing a motion on the ground that those who had proposed it were; not sincere in their proposal. Whatever advantages we on this side of the House possess have had to be fought for over a long series of years. The Labour party has had to grow from nothing to the power it is to-day; and while it was coming into its own, there was ample opportunity for the other side to give way in the direction of proportional representation, and the recognition of minorities. But no; everything we have got has been wrested from the other side, and yet to-day we have an appeal to the f fairmindedness of the party now in powerto give away that for which it has had to fight in the past. In the other sphere of politics and activities governing our daily lives, our opponents in State Houses hang like grim death to the dead hand of the past, not giving away one iota. Even after a recent referendum of the people in South Australia, some of them are hoping to heaven that the hard-crusted Tories in that State will not listen to the voice of the people, and will turn the referendum down. The Honorable C. C.: Kingston, who admirably adorned this House, took a referendum on one occasion on the subject of adult suffrage for the Upper House, and the people carried it by an overwhelming majority; but the Tories of the Legislative Council would’ not accept the will of the people, and turned adult suffrage down. Yet to-day, because there are only five Liberals in the Senate - and one of them is only half aLiberal, because he was returned on the Labour votes in South Australia - we are asked to give away that power which is ours by reason of that just system of adult suffrage. We are asked to give back what we have wrested from the other party by sheer hard work in the direction of educating the masses, and showing them that we could do some good for them. Only last session the Commissioner of Crown Lands in South Australia made the statement that the Government had made the Liberals safe in South Australia for the next fourteen or twenty years; but that gentleman spoke without realizing what public opinion was in regard to reelecting him and his confreres. His Government repudiated the principle of proportional representation, and gerrymandered the electorates in such a way that they hoped to be in power for that period ; but they were mistaken. Again, going back to the move prior to that occasion, when the Democracy were allowed, as far as the then head of the Government would allow them, a say in regard to how they should be governed, they said, in no uncertain voice, that they were satisfied Democracy should govern, and that this reform should be brought about. But when the matter went to the House of privilege, the House by which the Liberal element will always stand, and for which it will always fight hard, it was turned down. They even tried, by gerrymandering, to further entrench the House of privilege by increasing its numbers, notwithstanding that the proposal was against the opinion of the general community, as far as could be ascertained without a vote having been taken on the question. This House of second-hand thought was increased in numbers, not with the idea of giving to the Democracy greater privileges and powers of self-government, but in order to preserve to those who had so long held the reins of government, if possible, even greater powers. To revert to what brought me to my feet, the charge of the honorable member for Wannon that we were going back in politics, I say that it is only because we are going forward that this reform is urged from the other side.
– I simply said that we were going back electorally.
– The honorable member asked me whether I believed in the pledge
– Are you quite sure that you are going forward or going round ?
– I am satisfied that the Labour party will, if we adopt this proposal, be giving something to the other fellow which he would never give to them; and until he gives up that which is not rightly his - the power of a priviledged House - the Democracy will be arrant fools if they give anything away.
– Suppose the principle were made uniform, would you approve of it
– He would give it consideration.
– Yes, I would give it consideration.
– Then set an example now by passing this motion.
– No. We have held no privilege but that for which we have fought and which we have gained. The Liberal element hold privileges to which they have no right, and which the dead hand of the past has given them. Let them, therefore, be generous and give way. Let the honorable member go to his Premier in Victoria and ask him to bring in a Bill for the reform of the Legislative Council. Let him ask the Liberals in South Australia to give support to the present Premier of South Australia when he asks for a redistribution of seats and incorporates a system of proportional voting. But they will not hear of it in South Australia, and the Bill would be kicked out of the Legislative Council, as was the referendum initiated by the Hon. C. C. Kingston. The honorable member knows full well that the Legislative Councils will not give way; and he knows, also, that to-day this motion is brought forward without any sincerity. I do not say that the honorable member for Angas is not sincere, for I have every confidence in his sincerity; but those who support him, and those who still support the State Houses of Legislature as they are constituted, ask for this reform with their tongues in their cheeks. The honorable member for Wannon asked me whether I signed the party pledge because I could not trust myself. I pledged myself because past experience has taught the Labour party that there are many who cannot trust themselves. The body politic is only human; and knowing that many are liable to fall - we have had some in this Parliament with which South Australia has had to deal - the party behind demand that all, good, bad. or indifferent, should sign the pledge, and accordingly we sign it. That we should be twitted with taking a retrograde step in politics is rather funny. We are told that the Labour party are hampered and leg-roped, and progress sideways like the crab, yet the Liberal element pay lis the compliment of copying us even in regard to the plebiscite. When I was secretary to the Labour party in South Australia, I had sent to me the pledge of the Liberal party. It was foolscap size, whereas our pledge is on paper about a quarter foolscap size. The pledge of the Liberal party in South Australia is nearly word for word th9 pledge of the Labour party.
– The honorable member must not proceed on those lines.
– I know that the pledge has nothing to do with the electoral question, though perhaps it is a phase of the life of our body politic; bub as the matter was referred to by the honorable member for Wannon I wished to reply to him. I have nothing further to say in regard to the motion other than that I am satisfied that it is not sincerely put forward as a wishod-for reform, and that it is brought forward for the purpose of regaining ground that has been lost by the Liberals. As we are asked to confer this favour on the Liberal element while they continue to withhold the franchise, so far as State Houses are concerned, I must oppose the motion.
– This is one of the very important questions we have to deal with; but I do not suppose that honorable members on the Ministerial side will assist in any urgent and necessary electoral reform, however good it may be, because they will argue, perhaps with much sagacity, that a system which has placed them where they are is good enough for them for the time being.
– I have always said that. If the system is good enough to put me in Parliament, it is good enough to keep me hero.
– I do not think that the existing system can, by any stretch of imagination, be considered satisfactory, because its results, if not unfair, are at least anomalous. For instance, in this House the Liberal members number thirty-three out of seventy-five, yet the Liberal party has only a representation of five members in the Senate. My own State of Western Australia returned to this Chamber three Liberals out of five representatives, and yet for a number of years the Western Australian Liberals have had no representation whatever in the Senate. That cannot, surely, be considered a fair or satisfactory system.
– You did not wish to alter it when you were in power.
– jl was always in favour of an alteration, because even when the Liberal party were in power the disproportion in the Senate was the same.
– We did not hear much from you on the subject.
– The honorable member must know that, having regard to the state of parties in this House at that time, it would have been foolish to have tried to introduce any reform of the kind. Although Western Australia has no Liberal representatives in the Senate, the votes cast for the two parties in that State on 5th September last were very nearly equal.
– Exactly the same position obtains in Tasmania.
– I am dealing with Western Australia, a State which I know. At the last election the Western Australian Liberals were within 3,000 votes of obtaining a seat in the Senate, and an additional 5,000 votes cast in our favour would, I think, have given us all the Senate seats. For years I have advocated that the States should not be regarded as single electorates for the election of senators. The Constitution gives power to divide the States into electorates for the purpose of electing members of the Senate; but that legislative power has never been utilized. Such a division of the States might not give a perfect system, but it would give far better results than the present system of treating each State as one electorate.
– Tell us your motive in advocating that course.
– I wish the honorable member would not interrupt. I have advocated that, for the purpose of Senate elections, each State should be divided into three electorates, because I believe that that system would give a better opportunity for the various interests in the State to be represented in another place, instead of being, as they are in more than one State, altogether swamped by the votes of one interest in a portion of the electorate. It is also very desirable that the electors should have an opportunity of knowing the candidates for whom they are voting. It is impossible for a candidate for the Senate to visit the whole of a State like Western Australia, and, therefore, the electors have to vote according to the party ticket, as I indicated many years ago would be the result of the present system. I then predicted that people would not vote for persons they knew or had seen, or even heard of, but for persons nominated by cliques, unions, and leagues. I do not regard that as a very effective system of repre- sen tat ion. Several of the States have, in connexion with the elections for the local Legislatures, departed from the system of bare majorities, and have adopted some system of preferential voting. Tasmania has practically boxed the compass by trying all sorts of electoral schemes, and the people are not satisfied yet. There is no doubt, however, that the preferential system is fairer than an electoral system by which the party which obtains merely a portion of the votes recorded - not a majority - can obtain the whole representation of a State in the Senate. Indeed, I understand that the preferential system finds a place in the Labour party’s machinery in connexion with the selection of candidates to contest elections.
– It is good enough for them, but not good enough for the nation.
– At present it does not suit the Labour party to advocate the preferential system in connexion with elections; but by-and-by, when they think that system will be to their advantage, they will be found advocating it. I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Control by Commission - Expenditure.
.- I move -
That the Government should at once place the Federal Capital Territory under a Commission, and that expenditure upon improvements in the Federal Capital should cease to be a charge upon the Consolidated Revenue.
It is not my intention to occupy much time in discussing this subject, which, at some time, has claimed the attention of every honorable member in the House. I think that, with the exception of very few of the Victorian members, we all desire that this Parliament shall, at the earliest possible moment, hold its sittings at the place which has been decided upon as the future home of the Commonwealth Parliament. I am of opinion also that when this Parliament does reach the Federal Capital, the business of the country will be conducted very much more expeditiously than at present. There will he considerably less inclination to linger over many of the subjects of legislation, the consideration of which is very protracted at the present time. There will be a considerable saving to the country in that way if in no other, and we shall find the Hansard volumes a little less voluminous than they are to-day.
– They will be made more voluminous.
– That remains to be seen. A good many of our anticipations in connexion with Federation have not been borne out in practice, and it may be found that my prediction in regard to the length of the debates at Canberra will not be fulfilled. If we proceed with the creation of the Federal Capital at the rate at which we have been progressing for a considerable time, it will be hardly within the lifetime of any of the present members that the Federal Parliament will be found sitting at the chosen Seat of Government.
– This motion will nob bring that date nearer. Something ought to be done in order to expedite the work there.
– Exactly, and I hope to convince honorable members that if tlie method I propose be adopted’ it will, in all probability, lead bo the establishment of the Federal Capital in a shorter period of time. Moreover, that system can be put into operation without incurring any very heavy additional financial obligation. I find that the actual sum expended on the Federal Capital last, year was £252,245, the largest expenditure which has been incurred on those works in any year since they were put in hand ; whilst in the current financial year an expenditure of £270,000 is estimated. Those sums may seem very large to those who do not desire to see any expenditure at all on the Federal Capital, but when we take into consideration the whole of the ultimate cost necessary to make that Capital site habitable, those sums represent a very small proportion indeed, and at such a rate of expenditure it will be a great many years before a sufficient sum will have been expended to make it possible for the Federal Parliament to hold its sittings at Canberra. Not only was this relatively small, though large, sum spent on the Capital site, but it was taken entirely out of revenue. Having regard bo the fact that this Capital is to last through the history of this great Commonwealth, the foundations of which we are laying to-day for the generations bo come, ib does nob seem fair that we should continue year after year baking out of the revenue of the country smaller or larger sums to build the city, and ultimately hand the completed Capital down to posterity as an absolutely free gift. It does not seem right that the taxpayers of today should have to bear the full burden of the establishment of this Capital city, lt must be perfectly evident to everybody that the time is rapidly, approaching when, if we are to seriously attempt the building of the city, we must abandon the endeavour to finance that work out of the Consolidated Revenue of the country, and if progress is to be made at the rate we desire, foat a loan for the purpose. Australia is rapidly drifting into a position where its credit resources, great as they are, will be altogether inadequate to the enormous charges to be made upon them. When we consider the enormous task of development that awaits the efforts of our infant nation - the railways that must be built to give communication to the vast areas that are now practically uninhabited, the variety and extent of the activities with which the Australian people desire to associate their system of government - it must be evident that, wherever it may be possible to shift the burden from being a direct charge on the credit of the country, by raising money by other means than the charging of that credit, we should do that. It will be a sufficient burden to charge on our revenue and credit in the near future the erection of a Parliament House, a GovernorGeneral’s residence, and the buildings necessary to house the heads of Departments and other officials who will be employed at the Federal Capital. That work will mean a quite sufficient charge on either our revenue or our credit, because it will cost a considerable sum. Were the building of the Federal Capital in the hands of private enterprise, which has been so much maligned, those responsible would, at the outset, endeavour, to put the whole thing upon a business basis. Were a syndicate of business men “to buy a large tract of territory to be cut up for the creation of a city, they would make the proposition finance itself. All parties are agreed that the land which constitutes the Federal Capital Territory 6hall not be sold, but shall remain for all time the property of the nation, and it must be evident that we have in the city site an asset of considerable value, and a business proposition which could be made to finance itself from the outset. As soon as the Seat of Government is ifr. Greene. transferred to Canberra, and the Commonwealth Parliament meets there, a considerable population will be attracted to the city. How large that population will be it is difficult to say. All sorts of estimates have been made. Obviously, however, the value of the land which, now constitutes the Capital site will increase enormously. That land will acquire a rental value which now it does not possess. Therefore, the sooner we are in a position to make use of the Territory, the sooner shall we realize the values which we shall create by establishing the Capital there. It is to the public interest to transfer the Seat of Government to Canberra at the earliest opportunity. The question that always presents itself to my mind in this connexion is, “ How can Parliament best make use of the land values which it will create by establishing the Federal Capital ?” In my opinion, the best way would be to vest the Federal Capital Territory in fee simple in a Commission, giving to tlie Commission the power to borrow on its. own bonds guaranteed by the Commonwealth. Of course, we should thus be charging the credit of the country, but only indirectly. If that were done, the Federal Capital proposition would finance itself.
– Would you give the Commissioners power to sell the land of the Territory?
– It would be necessary for them to have, in form, the power tosell, but not the actual power to do so.
– You would put leaseholders in the Territory directly in touch with the Commission ?
– Exactly. It would’ be the Commission that would issue the leases. The Commissioners would be made a body corporate, like the Railways Commissioners of a State, and inthem the lands of the Territory would bevested in fee simple, to be leased to those who desired to settle there. I am not prepared to say how many Commissionersthere should be, but there should be at least three - a competent engineer, a competent architect, and a competent businessman ; the last named preferably a business man who had had very extensive experience in house and land agency. Werewhat I suggest done, it would not be long before we began to receive a considerable amount of revenue from .the Territory. Had the Territory been vested” in Commissioners during the last few years, we should have already received a considerable rental from it, and a large population would be permanently settled there. A large number of men, and many Government officials, have been employed in the Territory for years, but, although they have been occupying the land,I cannot see that the Government has received any return from it.
– None of them live there rent free.
– I do not refer to those who are living in official residences. I have in mind, rather, the men who are at present camped in tents there, whose wives and families live elsewhere. Had the Territory been vested in a Commission, their wives and families would be permanently settled there.
– I suppose that the honorable member’s Commissioners would commence to build the city without having a design?
– No. The interjection leads me to anticipate some of my remarks. An objection to the present arrangement is that each new Minister of Home Affairs seems to think that he has a special mission to alter the Federal Capital design, and he thus defers for years the accomplishment that we all desire.
– A very good thing.
– Yes; from the point of view of Victorian members, who would like to see the removal of the Seat of Government from Melbourne deferred until doomsday.
– The present arrangement suits them, because they live close to Parliament House.
– Yes1. They reside in Melbourne with their wives and families, and naturally do not wish to have to travel to some other city.
– That is not true so far as I am concerned.
– The honorable member has always been a loyal supporter of the Federal Capital project. With a Commission, we should have the thing on a business basis.
– It is on a business basis now.
– A” Commission would secure continuity of policy. The design of the Federal Capital has been interfered with by three or four successive Ministers, each thus causing months of delay.
– The last Government upset everything.
– After the last Government had straightened out the muddle created by its predecessor, the present Minister started all over again, and so we are no further forward than we were about three years ago.
– The House is the best judge of that.
– I shall not detain honorable members at any length, because I wish to see this motion put to a vote.
– We cannot have a vote to-day.
– I think we should, seeing that most honorable members must have fully made up their minds.
– The honorable member for Balaclava is going to move an amendment.
– That amendment could be promptly disposed of. We all know that there are Victorians who desire to see this Parliament permanently fixed in Melbourne; but, for better or worse, we have decided to go to the Federal Territory, and I desire to see the Federal Capital an accomplished fact at the earliest possible moment. If we continue under existing conditions - if we rely on the Consolidated Revenue for the building of this city - mone of us will ever see it. Here we have a means at hand to make the enterprise finance itself on a business basis. The only burden thrown- on this Parliament is the burden of building the actual Houses of Parliament, the buildings required for the officers of the various Departments, and, possibly, the Governor-General’s residence.
– The honorable member would exempt the public buildings from the control of this Commission?
– I should say we must do that. If Parliament adopts the scheme, which I have very roughly outlined, we should not only not regret it, but will be able to carry out all the necessary work within a very short time.
– I welcome any proposal to throw the light of day on this question of the Federal Capital. I believe that the heads of the Department have designedly endeavoured to stop the work going on there.
– That is absolutely incorrect
– We know that the heads of the Department stole the brains of other people, in order to make what was called a “ composite “ plan ; and, as a fact, neither the present nor any other Minister of Home Affairs could give the names of the men who entered into this competition, and whose ideas were filched by a certain Board.
– Were those men not paid for their work?
– I should say that only three, or, possibly, four, men who entered the competition received any payment; and not one of those concerned in the composite plan - I speak with reserve of Mr. Murdoch - could win an open competition in any city of Australia to-day.
– How do you know that?
– They have never done so.
– You cannot say what they could do.
– They had not the pluck to compete, although they had the opportunity. Some men in the Government Department have competed, and have received honour; but neither Colonel Owen nor Colonel Miller !has the brains to win a competition of this kind.
– It is not fair to attack officers like that in the House.
– They do not profess to be architects.
– Then why should they steal the ideas of other men, and put their names to, and claim credit for, a plan ?
– They are engineers and not architects.
-‘* Engineers “ is the best word to use regarding them. I believe there is a conspiracy to wait until the term of the gentleman who was selected by the late Government has expired, when those officers hope to rule supreme.
– Do not worry about that!
– I may say that the selection of that gentleman had my full approval. I know the great energy of the present Minister of Home Affairs - energy which has brought him forward against great odds; and I wish him to hold the scales of justice, and see that workmen in Adelaide, Sydney, and Melbourne are not deprived of employment at the Federal Capital.
– There are about 700 men there now.
– If there is room for 5,000 men, why not employ them - men who made the Minister, and who made me?
– It is a matter of voting the money.
– Is it the British Ensign or Union Jack that is floated at the Capital when “ His Excellency “ is living there? Why is the man, who is only temporarily employed, in his present capacity, not made Secretary of the Department if his position was such an important one in the Central Office?
– Colonel Miller is a good servant of the Commonwealth.
– He may be; but he made a predecessor of the present Minister tell a deliberate untruth in reply to a question I asked.
– Do not be too severe !
– I cannot be too severe on a man who has done the injury that this man has.
– He cannot reply to you.
– Why is he trying to crucify a man by means of this conspiracy ?
– The honorable member is all wrong.
– There is one part of the proposal before us with which I do not agree. This is too important a question to hand over to the untrammelled control of any body of men ; and I should like to know for how long it is proposed that this Commission should be elected. I take it that the members of the Commission would be elected by the members of this Parliament - by the Senate and House of Representatives combined - and not nominated by the Government, so that there might be no fear of the pulling of strings or gerrymandering. It is only in the United States that we find cities ruled by Commissions; and the plan is giving splendid results, owing to the fact that the sole object is the benefit of the whole of the city communities. Some 253 cities in the United States are thus controlled; and, as I say, the plan works very well, mainly because the citizens have the power to recall the Commissioners if they do not do their work properly. I strongly resent the suggestion that I de- sire the Seat of Government to remain in Melbourne. On the contrary, I desire to witness what I believe will be the greatest experiment in land tenure ever tried, not only under the British flag, but in the whole wide world. The nearest approach to anything of the kind is found in Hong Kong, where, with the exception of a few allotments, no one owns private land. There is a number of 999-year leases; but the large majority of the leases are for seventy-five years, and these represent the sole source of the revenue of Hong Kong. That revenue doubles itself every twenty years, and is unequalled in any other country. The Leader of the Opposition once said that he believed the Federal city could be built without its finally costing the community one single penny piece. With that view I agree; but I do not agree with the borrowing of money for the purpose. It may be a little dangerous under present circumstances to speak of another note issue, even with the splendid security that we have in Australia; but I ask the honorable member for Richmond whether it would not be worth trying what was successfully done at St. Helens, in Guernsey? In that town it was desired to build a market; and it was not so easy to borrow in those days as it is now. However, there was a very wise Governor in the island; and he asked why the brickmakers, stonemasons, carpenters, and other artisans of the community should not build the markets themselves. Some seven years later the work was carried out, and the money was provided by the issue of 4,000 of what were called market currency notes. These notes, the contractors, workmen, shopkeepers, and others agreed to accept, thus providing that circle which is always necessary in finance - there must be paying out and receiving in. Immediately the markets were built all the stalls were let, and every year so many of the notes were burnt. The result was that in ten years every note had been destroyed, and the people had a property producing a rent of £500 a year for ever. When peace happily comes, why should we not issue currency notes based on the value of the Federal Capital ?
– That would be borrowing money ?
– It would not. Why should we not issue notes, and earmark them for the purposes of the Federal
Capital. If, for example, the Parliament Houses would cost £1,000,000, the Government would have to pay £50,000 as a rental at 5 per cent, each year; and, if the plan I suggest were adopted, the whole of these notes would be redeemed and destroyed in twenty years. If a member of Parliament desired to have a villa or a house, he could get one built according to plans prepared in the Central Administrative Department, and the cost would be met by these notes, the occupant paying a rental of 5 per cent. In this case, again, the whole of the money would be paid in twenty years; and, of course, a member would not enter into such an agreement unless, in case of his leaving the Parliament, his successor would take up the property. The same plan could be pursued in the case of hotels, banks, shops, and so forth; and in twenty-one years the capital would be built, and yielding a large revenue, merely at the cost of printing the notes. The financial circle would be completed by the Government receiving the notes in the payment of taxes and rents, and issuing them to the public servants. I commend this suggestion to the honorable member for Richmond.
– lt would be the same system as that which John Law started in France.
– Not at all. The system which I propose is absolutely different. John Law had no security to offer. Finance was not as well understood in his time as it is to-day, although there was then in operation what I might describe as a kind of land boom finance. There has never been a commission of inquiry equal to that appointed by the United States Government, on which the keenest financial brains of the republic were represented, and which inquired into the great banking systems of the principal countries of the world. Surely no note has ever had such a backing as would be behind these notes of which I speak. Every penny raised by them would be spent in the Federal Territory on necessary buildings, tramways and carriageways generally. Every penny would be spent within the Federal Territory, the lands of which are nationalized for all time, so that there would be a magnificent security. And behind all this there would be the pledge of the only Government in the world that controls a whole continent. In the days of John Law, in -France, the word oi the King was law, and it would have been impossible for any man, even had he possessed ten times his ability, to establish a banking system based upon the foundation of security and justice. 1 hope for a change in regard to the building of the Federal Capital. The Minister, having sprung from the people, and since he is in office by the vote of the people, will take care, I hope, that justice is done to men of Labour sympathies in the Federal Capital who have been “crucified.” He will see, I trust, that they are not tyrannized over by men whom no union has any cause to thank. The secretary of a union is willing to give evidence that the honorable member for Darwin, when Minister of Home Affairs, had to order one of these men to do his duty by paying the members of his union the wages to which they were justly en -titled. Having regard to the expenditure of £252,000, to which the honorable member for Richmond has referred, I think that more than 700 men should be employed in the Federal Territory. It would be interesting to know what has been the cost of the Administrator’s residence. As to the expensive surveys to which allusion .has been made, I maintain that the only surveyors needed up there are those at present in the field. I have disposed of the question of the fee simple of the Federal Territory lands. I do not think that any Government will ever sell one foot of land in the Federal Territory; but should such an attempt be made while I am in Parliament it will meet with my vigorous opposition. Why should we not meet in the Federal Capital without further delay? Why should we wait until all the necessary permanent buildings have been erected? The Victorian Government did not take long to house the State Parliament - and to house it very comfortably - in the Exhibition Building when it was decided to hand over this huge edifice to the Federal Parliament. A temporary ParliamentHouse could be speedily erected in the Federal Capital, and there we might have day sittings. Once established there I do not think we should have as many deaths amongst members of the Commonwealth Parliament as have taken place. The gaps that have been made in our ranks have been caused largely by the long railway journeys, which many members have to make every week-end between Parlia- ment and their homes. Any honorable member who has reached, or has passed, the meridian of life is very foolish if, week after week, he travels a thousand or fifteen hundred miles in order to attend Parliament. Our late revered Speaker, Sir Frederick Holder, almost collapsed at the Spencer-street station on one occasion shortly before he passed through the shadows. When we meet in the Federal Capital we shall do more work than we do at present, and do it in less time, because we shall sit every day in the week.
– I think we shall be inclined to work three shifts in order to finish up with as little delay as possible.
– I think not. The scientific thought of the world is tending towards the view that if all the advantages of machinery, all the genius of inventors, were used for the benefit of the whole, instead of the few, the work of- the world could be done, in a twohours working day, better than it has been done in a working day of ten or twelve hours. We have machines that are capable of doing in eight hours more than a thousand men could do in the same time. I am looking forward to our occupation of the Federal Capital and to the working out of ideals there that will make Australia an example to every other country. We shall certainly set an example to the rest of the world in regard to land tenures. Queen Victoria during her lifetime helped to make experiments in land tenure that are at present only dimly understood. I have spoken of the experiments made in Hong Kong. Let me remind honorable members of another that was made at Norfolk Island. In accordance with a promise made by Labouchere - a namesake of the one-time editor of the English Truth - those who were conveyed from Pitcairn Island to Norfolk Island were allowed to rule themselves, and if a man from tlie mainland married a girl on the island, or an island boy returned from the mainland with a wife whom he had married there, the couple were allowed to take up an area of 20 acres, a house was built for them, and they were otherwise assisted. But New South Wales, to its discredit, on taking over the administration of Norfolk Island, broke the sacred pledge which Queen Victoria had given the ancestors of tho present occupants of the island, since they were evicted from the houses they had occupied for fifty years. If the original experiment in land tenure had been carried on, we should not have seen a church, preaching the gospel of Christ, monopolizing 1,200 acres of land on an island where there are only 5,000 acres available. The church to which I refer will not even teach the English language in its seminary on the island. It is teaching a dead language - the Motu language of the New Hebrides. Are not those who are converted worthy of being taught the language of the people whose flag flies over their island?
– A good many of the islanders receive employment through the mission to which the honorable member refers
– It has nothing to do with the islanders. Its seminary is simply a training school for missionaries intended for the South Sea Islands.
– But the mission is teaching the islanders how to farm their lands and is giving them other information of great value.
– No doubt that is so, but surely 1,200 acres out of 5,000 is a big area for a church to hold.
– The mission holds not more than 900 acres.
– When I was in Norfolk Island I was told that it held 1,200 acres, and I am reminded by the honorable member for Maribymong that the honorable member for Angas, one of the most accurate members of the House, also stated, when introducing the Norfolk Island Bill, that it held an area of 1,200 acres. The old land law to which I have referred has been abolished, but I hope that we shall put something equally good in its place. All these experiments in land tenure sink into insignificance when compared with that relating to the Federal Capital. I hope that the Government will “get a move on “ so far as Canberra is concerned, and that, having regard to the number of unemployed in each State capital, we shall soon have 5,000, instead of 700, men employed there. The unemployment in Australia would have been far worse than it is but for the number of men who have gone to the front, and I feel sure that honorable members will be prepared to support the Government in pushing on with public works in the Federal Capital, and so affording much-needed opportunities for employment.
Mr. SAMPSON (Wimmera) r5.20].I regret that the honorable member who has just resumed his seat should have made an attack on the Administrator of the Federal Capital Territory. I regret that he did not direct hia attack towards the Minister, who could defend himself on the floor of the House, and who is in a position to defend the administration of his Department.
– Could you name one unionist who could say other than whatI have said?
– A searching inquiry by the Minister into the administration of his Department, and the actions of his responsible officers, may be necessary ; but the motion submitted by the honorable member for Richmond is very timely, for some alteration in the control of the Federal Territory is absolutely necessary.
– And in the case of the Northern Territory also.
– Would the honorable member put them both under one Commissioner ?
– Both Territories require more efficient control than they are receiving. The Commission proposed by the honorable - member for Richmond might remove the Federal Territory from the divided control that now exists, and make the administration more efficient and continuous. I have always held the opinion that the Territory might be so managed as to return interest on the money spent upon it. In my opinion, it should have been treated as a separate administrative responsibility from the very first.; at least, it should have been removed from the control of a Minister to that of an independent board, which could have laid down a policy, and carried it on in the same way that Railways Commissioners carry on the important work of controlling State railways. That some drastic alteration is necessary is shown by the history of the work done by the administration in the Territory. An opportunity has recently been given for some investigation into what has bees going on, and some explanation is due from the Minister as to how far the conflict of opinion that has arisen between the architect for the Capital site and the officers of the Department, or even the Minister himself, has been adjusted, because I am satisfied that what has been going on has not been in the interests of the Commonwealth and taxpayers. In the first place, plans were invited from any architect in the world prepared to enter into the competition, and after the plans were received, an independent Board, composed of Mr. J. M. Coane, Mr. J. A. Smith, and Mr. John Kirkpatrick, was appointed to adjudicate on them. Two members of the Board, or a majority of them, chose three designs, and placed them first, second, and third - the first prize being awarded to the design submitted by Mr. Walter Bur ley Griffin, architect and landscape architect, Chicago, United States of America. A representation of each of the three designs appeared in a schedule, No. 9, issued by the Department of Home Affairs; and on the 27th June, 1912, the Minister appointed a Board of officers of the Department to investigate and report as to the suitability of the designs for adoption for the purpose of the lay-out of the city. This Board consisted of Colonel David Miller, Colonel T. P. Owen, and Messrs. C. R. Scrivener, G. J. Oakeshott, J. S. Murdoch, and Thomas Hill.
– It was a very good Board.
– It was a good Board. It adjudicated on the plans. There is no evidence to show that it took into consideration more than the first, second, and third prize plans which had been purchased by the Commonwealth, and were Commonwealth property, and with which it had a perfect right to deal in order to evolve a more practicable and suitable design for the lay-out of the city and the carrying out of the works. Drawing out a plan and submitting it to a Department is different from taking a plan and applying it to the levels and lay-out of the Capital site generally. The latter is an engineering problem. Therefore, it might have been found quite impracticable to lay out the Territory on the lines’ suggested in the designs, and accordingly Schedule No. 16, issued by the Department of Home Affairs, says -
It was decided by Cabinet on the ‘28th July, 19.13, to invite Mr. Walter Burley Griffin, the author of the first premiated design, to visit Australia, with a view to conferring with the officers constituting the Departmental Board. Mr. Griffin accordingly arrived in Sydney on the 18th August, 1913, and proceeded to Can berra on the following day. To enable Mr. Griffin to form his own conclusions as to the Board’s departure from his plan -
I understand that the Board, after mature deliberation, took certain features from the different plans and embraced them in a report to the Minister. The schedule proceeds -
On the 25th August the Assistant Minister explained to Mr. Griffin and the Board the course he wished their deliberations to follow. Mr. Griffin’s plan was to form the basis of their discussion. . . . The Board had accepted Mr. Griffin’s design for the administrative block of the Capital when the joint deliberations were interrupted by that gentleman’s appointment as Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction.
– Would not that constitute dual authority?
– I am not discussing that phase of the question. We have arrived at the point that Mr. Griffin was appointed Director of Design and Construction at the Federal Capital, and conferred with the Board, in order that some proper design might be adopted. According to the terms of the agreement with Mr. Griffin, he was appointed to -
Public ways and parks.
Paving of roads and other ways.
Street and park planting.
Services and equipment.
Although Mr. Griffin, as stated in his agreement, was appointed Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction, evidence tendered to the Public Works Committee in Sydney a little while ago shows that he has been superseded in connexion with this important work. In reply to a question, Mr. Griffin told the Public Works Committee -
I do think most decidedly that, properly speaking, all the works at the Federal Capital come under my purview as Director of Design and Construction. I am unable, at the present time, to quote tho terms of my agreement with tho Department of Home Affairs. I had the agreement here yesterday, when I referred to its terms, but I did not bring it with me this morning. The terms of the agreement, however, may bc seen in Schedule 16 issued by the Department. Tho agreement sets forth that I shall prepare plans and specifications for the works, and it includes surveys and equipments. In my opinion, it means, not only that all works to be constructed there by the Government have to be designed by mo, but that the works have to be designed under my instructions, and carried out under my supervision. That is the position I occupy in the Department by my contract. The contract has not been carried out as regards the details that I require. The staff that I need, and the full information that I require to make my position effective have been withheld from me.So far, no plans of the proposed works have been submitted to mc from the Department, except in relation to the sewer.
I do not wish to go into the whole matter. Mr. Griffin dealt with it in detail, and pointed out that he had considerable difficulty with the Department of Home Affairs; that he had been denied the position he had been brought from America to occupy; and that the Department had not given him facilities to which his position entitled him for carrying out his work. There is divided authority at the Federal Capital. There are certain public works going on under the direct supervision of the Minister’s responsible officers, and, as Mr. Griffin claims, in defiance of the distinct terms of the agreement under which he was appointed. I pass no opinion upon Mr. Griffin’s merits as an architect and designer, and I cast no reflection upon the officers of the Department - they are very competent men - but it is not in the interests of the taxpayers, and does not reflect credit on the Parliament that we should have a great work going on in the Federal Territory under divided authority, and where there is conflict of opinion con tinuing between responsible officers of that Department.
– That is not so.
– It is the duty of the Minister to explain to the House what is the present position, and what are the future intentions of the Government in regard to this conflict. I quite agree with the honorable member for Richmond that some very drastic reform is necessary in connexion with the carrying out of the works in the Federal Territory. We do not know where we are going.
– Oh, yes, we do.
– We have big schemes proposed by one of . the responsible officers, and we do not know whether they have the indorsement of the Minister. Mr. Griffin has proposed the establishment of large lakes covering portion of the Capital Territory, and the utility of those lakes has not been considered by this House.
– I am not responsible for Mr. Griffin’s ideas.
– The Minister is responsible, seeing that Mr. Griffin has the supervision of the works in the Capital Territory.
– That is not correct.
- Mr. Griffin has already stated that it is, and the terms of the agreement with him have been read out. It is the duty of the Minister to say who are the responsible officers on whom he relies for the carrying out of the works in the Territory. We have already a proposal by Mr. Griffin to construct a lake, which would be the largest dam in any part of the world, and would probably cost anything from £5,000,000 to £10,000,000.
– Am I responsible for that?
– I desire to know where the Minister is fixing the responsibility in connexion with the officers of his Department.
– Do you say that Mr. Griffin suggests the construction of a lake that would cost from £5,000,000 to £10,000,000?
– Quite right. It is in the appendix.
– Is the Minister in favour of it?
– Do I understand the honorable member to say that this lake will cost anything from £5,000,000 to £10,000,000 ?
- Mr. Griffin says that the cost will be £1,000,000, but I think it will be nearer £5,000,000.
– Is that what the Works Committee think ?
– The Works Committee have not yet reported on that matter. I am mentioning this as an instance of how the proposals for works in the Territory are assuming enormous proportions, and yet we do not know where to fix the responsibility. We have the Director of Works declaring that he has no say in the construction of these schemes.
– I thought the responsibility rested on me.
– The responsibility rests finally with the Minister, but we had an officer before the Public Works Committee who complained that they are being ignored by the Minister and the Department in defiance of the express terms of an agreement.
– The House will hold me responsible.
– We can quite understand that while there is conflict of opinion between the responsible officers of the Department, the people of Australia are not getting value for their money. Up to the present time something like £750,000 has been expended on works in the Capital Territory, and yet there has not been put before Parliament a scheme showing a continuous policy of works for the next few years.
– We have a Works Committee to investigate that subject.
– I understand that, but I say that there is no continuous scheme before us. Before Mr. Griffin’s arrival a Departmental Board put forward one scheme, and now we have the Director putting forward another scheme, and we do not know what is the intention of the Government, or whether they are prepared to rely on the advice of Mr. Griffin or that of the other officers of the Department. It is time that the conflict which now exists between Mr. Griffin and the other Departmental officers was terminated, and the Minister should inform the House what are his intentions in that regard.
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN (Eden- bers who hail me as the “ Capital King “ seem not to know their geography. They think the Capital Site is in my electorate. They do not take enough interest in the business of the House to know that the people in the Capital Territory are disfranchised. Nevertheless, I think it my duty to speak up for them at times, because they are old constituents of mine,, and the fact of their not having votesshould not prevent me from standing up for their rights in this chamber. I am entirely in favour of the motion. There ought to be a Commission appointed. I have previously advocated the adoption of a system of management similar to that which is in successful operation in Washington, but I do not agree with those who say that we need architects and theorists on a Commission. We require practical business men, because the management of the Capital Territory is a business proposition. I only wish that I had control of a proposition of the kind, and, with my little business capacity, I would make it pay. The Capital Territory should be made to pay; instead of being a drag on the finances of the country, it could be made into a source of profit. I favour the creation of a Commission with powers similar to those of the Metropolitan Board of Works and the Sydney Harbor Trust, so that it could borrow money and expend it in a profitable way. Will the Minister tell us what he has done in. this matter!? I do not want him to tell us that Mr. Griffin has not this power or that power. The Minister is at the head of a great Department, and he should explain to the House why it is that an officer, speaking on oath, told the Public Works Committee that he had been unjustly treated. It is the Minister’s function to show that he really controls this work. At present the people of the country are being fooled. There are foolish people who think that the expenditure on the Federal Territory should cease, and some who think that the site is not yet decided, even though three-quarters of a million pounds has been expended on the Territory. At first I was not in favour of the present Capital Site, but I bowed to the decision of Parliament, and I am prepared to admit now that we have chosen a good site. But the work of creating the Capital is progressing at a snail’s pace, and the sooner somebody applies a spur to the Minister the better. It is of no use to say that there is no conflict between Mr. Griffin and the officers of the Department. There is friction, and the Minister ought to be able to tell the House whose is the fault. He ought to be able to tell us that the man or men responsible for the delay in the Capital works will be removed. I do not care who the men are; they should not be allowed to prevent progress. The Minister should have backbone enough to take control of the Department. On previous occasions we have heard talk of the india-rubber stamp period in the Home Affairs Department; has that state of affairs been revived 1 The delay in the Capital works has been astounding, and the expenditure has been extravagant. My constituency surrounds the Capital Territory, and if I consulted my own interests, I would not cavil at the expenditure, because my constituents say it is a good thing to have heavy expenditure there. But I am not afraid to do my public duty, and I Bay that it is a bad thing for the country that money should have been wasted in that or any other place.
– It is not wasted there.
– It is wasted. I have stated that before, and I have offered to prove my statement. Work has been carried out at an expense which ought never to have been incurred.
– Name one of those works.
– The roads of the Capital will cost three times what they ought to cost. On one of the main avenues a bank with a chamber suitable for one of the largest banking institutions in the city has been built. It is due from the Minister that he should give an explanation of what is being done. I believe he is full of good intentions, but I remind him that the way to a warmer place than Canberra is paved with good intentions. If the Federal Capital works are to be constructed on a business basis, they should not be made a charge on the revenue of the country. I ask the Minister why he blocked the efforts of his predecessor by refusing to withdraw the advertisement for competitive plans for the parliamentary buildings of the Capital ? On a previous occasion, when we asked for information, the Minister led us to believe that we would get it in a few days; no doubthe hoped that we would forget it in the meantime. Let him tell the House to-night what has been done. If the officers are in conflict, it is his business to settle the trouble. Let him answer the charge that Mr. Griffin has made. The honorable gentleman poses as a friend of the poor, and I ask him to explain why he finds it necessary to drag poor men, who hold a few acres of land, before the High Court, and ruin them, instead of appointing an arbitration tribunal to deal with the unfortunate land-holder who is required to give up his home. It is easy for the Minister to say to the poor settlers, “I will meet you in the High Court,” but whether the settler wins or loses, the action in the Court spells ruin for him. Within the last fortnight the Minister has dragged several poor men before the Court, and they are nearly ruined. Let the Minister explain to the House what is Mr. Griffin’s position, and what is Colonel Miller’s position. Colonel Miller has been at the Capital site for the last eighteen months or two years, and has been called the Administrator of the Federal Territory, while some other officer has been doing his work in the Department on a smaller salary, no permanent appointment as Administrator having been made, as it should have been. I will not attack the officers, many of them are goodofficials. The person primarily responsible for all that is done at the Federal Capital is the Minister, and the second responsibility is on those who, in this House, support the Minister. It is my intention to call a meeting of members who are interested in this matter in order to see if we cannot consider it apart from party points of view. This is a question that is above party, but it seems as if an earthquake will be required to move the Minister, and, if necessary, I will cause that earthquake, or know the reason why.
– I would like to say a few words on this burning question, as I recently visited the Capital site, and I am of opinion that excellent work has been done for the money expended. Let us consider what the much abused departmental officers have done and are doing. Tenders were called by the late Government for the construction of the channels and dams in connexion with the water supply for the city. Every facility was given to the contractors throughout Australia to tender for the work, and plans and specifications were provided. The tenders submitted were much higher than the departmental estimate. Fresh tenders were called for, the Government of the day actually promising to carry the material to be used to the positions in which it was to be placed. But again the tenders submitted were 25 per cent, higher than the departmental estimate. The work is now being done by day labour, under departmental supervision, and done effectively and well for 25 per cent, less than the price submitted in the tenders that were received. The last Government was prejudiced against the day-labour system, and stopped all works, so that tenders might be called for. The charges against the departmental officers have been based on hearsay evidence. The honorable member who made them was evidently misinformed. Why did he not ask the departmental officers what has been done, as I did ?
– More money was spent at the Federal Capital in one year by the last Government than was spent in any one year by the preceding Labour Government, or will be spent this year by a Labour Government.
– I am credibly informed that the last Government hung up big works so that tenders might be called for them.
– That is not true. The statement is answered by the interjection of the honorable member for EdenMonaro.
– Money may have been spent, but big works were hung up.
– On what was the money spent, if the works were hung up ?
– I do not know how the money was spent. I ask the exPrime Minister if it is not a fact, that as soon as his Government got into power it suspended operations with day labour?
– It is not a fact.
– Is it not a fact that the right honorable member’s Government called for tenders for the construction of the water supply works ?
– That is an entirely different question.
– Mr. Dan Freeman, of Tasmania, was the lowest tenderer, and his offer was 25 per cent, higher than the price at which the Department is now carrying out the work with day labour. The dam across the Cotter River is almost finished, and the supply of water is the purest that I have seen, coining as it does off granite country. The pipe-line is nearly finished, and there is a huge reservoir in course of construction. When it has been finished, the water supply works will be complete. There is also a station for generating electricity, which is one of the finest in the southern hemisphere, and equal, I think, to any in the world. Mr. Christie, the engineer-in-charge, explained to me the labour-saving machinery which has beon installed there, and it appeared to me better than anything I have seen in Switzerland, France, or Great Britain. He assured me that they would get 12 per cent, of the effective capacity of the coal used; and the honorable member for Henty knows from practical experience that it is considered good to get 6 per cent, of the effective capacity of the coal. I saw the mechanical stokers, the boilers, and the arrangements for consuming the smoke, to prevent smoke nuisance. The station will supply all the power needed at the Capital for many years to come. If succeeding Governments do not interfere, there will, I hope, be electrical railways on the Capital Site, and machinery will be installed for doing all the necessary work more cheaply than it can be done in any other part of Australia.
– How can a Government Department be confined to an estimate? In scores of cases estimates are exceeded.
– In this case that is not so. The engineers are willing to submit a statement.
– Which would be worth nothing !
– Everything is being done thoroughly at Canberra. I know a little about road construction. Often when a contractor should put 4 inches of metal on a road surface, he lays only 2 inches, and thus makes a little on his contract. At Canberra, however, the roads are being constructed as no contractor would make them. They have there the necessary material and the necessary men, and the roads are equal to any in Australia - good macadamized thoroughfares that will last for years. I saw a traction engine there drawing on the roughest of the roads 30 tons of material, and I understood the Administrator to say - I am not positive that my figures are correct, and, therefore, do not wish to bind him by this statement - that when tenders were asked for the moving of material from one part of the Territory to another, the price asked averaged £2 a ton, but that the Department is doing the work for 3s. a ton. I should like the Minister to ascertain whether I am correct in that statement. Why do honorable members say that nothing has been done at the Territory? The Public Works Committee did all that was asked of it. Mr. Griffin wanted to empty the. sewage round about the city at two or three places. Another engineer desired to take it a little further out. The Public Works Committee disagreed with both, and recommended the departmental scheme. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat was in favour of that scheme because he said that it is not advisable to waste water in Australia. He was in favour of the broad irrigation scheme suggested by Colonel Owen and Mr. Hill, engineers who thoroughly understand their work, and two of the most capable men in Australia.
– I rose, not to criticise the work of Mr. Griffin nor that of the departmental officers, but to draw attention to the need for putting an end to the division of authority that exists.
– The honorable member rose to make political capital of evidence given before the Public Works Committee in Sydney by Mr. Griffin. I have nothing to say against that gentleman; but, after hearing his evidence sympathetically, I formed the opinion that he desired to create another great department, of which he shall be the head. Regarding the sewering of the Capital, he suggested that the sewage should be distributed in various places; but that an expert should be brought from America or elsewhere to advise on the point. He wished to follow the American system of building up a department of experts, of which he would be the head.
– ‘Was it not the latest German system that he recommended?
– We are having enough of Germany now. The Imhoff system, which he recommended, is a German system.
– But Imhoff himself is not a German.
– I . do not say that he is. The system has been adopted by the Germans.
– Yes, and they are a scientific people.
– They may be. The Committee, however, was of the opinion that it is not desirable to waste a single drop of water in Australia. We thought that the effluent, after it had been treated as the Department suggested, should be carried away beyond the city, to be distributed. The officers are now doing the necessary work. The secret of the success of the Capital will be found in the fact that instead of the roads being made and then being destroyed again to lay down water supply pipes, everything is being done in its order, and all will be in readiness for the building of houses and the laying out of gardens when they are required. A great deal has been done at the Capital. An honorable member asked, “What about the lake?” I know nothing of engineering, but I understand, from my reading, that it is questionable whether a dam such as that proposed by Mr. Griffin could be made. The earth’s crust will bear only a certain weight of water. I understand from an engineer that the dam which Mr. Griffin suggests would be three times the size of the Burrinjuck dam, and bigger than any other in the world. He suggests the damming of the Murrumbidgee below the entrance of the Cottar, thus filling up a huge ravine, and giving a volume of water with a surface from 30 to 50 miles in length, and with an enormous depth. The pressure on the dam would be enormous, and the embankment required to’ support it would be colossal. I should not have risen but for the attack that has been made on capable departmental officers, whose ability should not be questioned by any honorable member of the House. They are men who have the courage of their opinions. They lay their schemes before the Minister and the people, and invariably these are adopted. A more careful inquiry than that of the Public Works Committee could not have been made. Practical men did their best in the interests of Australia, and with regard to their own reputation. They had the opinions of one or two of the most able engineers in Australia. The Chief Engineer of the State of New South Wales gave his views freely, and without charge.
If honorable members read the report of the Committee, they will ascertain what is being done. The country that we travelled over was granite country, and we found that millions of gallons of water are flowing down the Cotter, and that there can be no pollution of the stream.
– Has Mr. Griffin supplied the Minister with a plan of his dam ?
– The less Mr. Griffin is dragged into this debate,the better. He complained that he could not get the levels to enable him to proceed with the work; surely there should not te any difficulty in this direction. All practical men know that there is very little difficulty in this respect; and I venture to say that the Minister would have supplied the necessary surveyors to do the works immediately. The question is whether Colonel Owen or Mr. Griffin is to be the Director of Works - whether Mr, Griffin is to be allowed to go to Germany, America, Great Britain, and all over the world, for the purpose of bringing out experts to swell his own Department, or whether the work shall be left to such a man as Mr. Murdoch, whose suggestions were agreed to by capable architects in London in connexion with improvements he made in the design of the Commonwealth buildings in that city.
– Do the Public Works Committee propose to discharge Mr. Griffin ?
– The Committee have nothing to do with that matter - they have only to do what they are told by this House. I hope that conscientious men, who are working day and night, will not be abused purely for political purposes - because some honorable members desire to make a little capital out of the dispute amongst two or three officers. If there is any trouble - and I have yet to learn that there is - the Minister ought to be able to adjust it in a few minutes by getting the officers together, and telling Mr. Griffin who is to be the Administrator and the Director of Works.
.- I desire if possible, to confine myself to the motion that we are supposed to be discussing. If anything has influenced me it is the wonderful amount of detail that has been divulged by previous speakers. The question to me is whether the administration of the Department of Home Affairs, in the matter of the Federal Capital, is satisfactory, or whether it is necessary to have a change? During the last hour or so I think we have had sufficient evidence to show that, at all events, the attitude of the Department is not all that could be desired. There is a difference of opinion amongst the officers under the Minister, who is prepared to take the responsibility for everything - even for sitting down on the work that we wish to see progress. I have no doubt that these differences of opinion are precisely * those that we might expect to find in regard to any construction work.
– Does the honorable member not think that it would be as well if the Minister said a word? If I cannot defend myself here, I shall put my defence in the press; make no mistake !
– I shall not take so long as to deprive the Minister of an opportunity to teply. In my short experience in this House it has become evident to me that it is not only in connexion with the Federal Territory that there are differences of. opinion amongst the officers. I challenge any honorable member to tell me that their experience has not been the same as my own in regard to, say, the construction of postoffices. If we inquire about any postal construction works, we find ourselves referred to the Department of Home Affairs, then dodged to the Postal Department, and then to the Public Works Department of the State; and all through we find differences of opinion, with the ultimate result that the Department of Home Affairs is prepared to take all the responsibility. This leads me to the conclusion that the sooner the Federal Territory is placed under a Commission the sooner we shall have continuity of policy and continuity of administration. Under a Commission there would never be those differences of opinion that the Minister permits amongst his officers. The railways in Australia were put under a Commission when it was found that Ministerial supervision was not satisfactory; and I am sure all will admit that to-day we are getting better service on the railways than we could ever have enjoyed under political management. At any rate, I venture to say that under a Commission it would not be possible to have such evidence as the following from Mr. Griffin-
At the present time I occupy an anomalous position. The Minister has requested me not to proceed, pending the submission to him of certain details of the plan for his consideration. He has restricted my operations to the preparation of a plan of the streets for submission to him for investigation of details, I presume. That means the suspension of my authority as Director of Designs and Construction. I recommended that alternative schemes should be considered before the scheme proposed by the Department was finally adopted, because the responsibility for the character of the works executed rested upon me. I gained a knowledge of the character of the departmental proposal from seeing the plan of Colonel Owen.
The whole circumstances disclose an internal squabble, and show that, up to the present time, the Minister has not exercised proper control. I hope the Minister will not take my words as of personal application when I say that a successful man in his position is one who runs the Department, and does not allow the Department to run him. Under all the circumstances, I propose to vote in favour of control by a Commission.
– I do not think that the House has treated me very fairly this afternoon, considering that I have been left only a quarter of an hour in which to reply to, practically, an impeachment of my Department. But I suppose I shall have to do the best under the circumstances.
– That is not the intention of my motion.
– I am not speaking of intentions - I am a plain man dealing with facts. I regret very much the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne, who has reflected’ very strongly on officers of the Department of Home Affairs. Those officers were absolute strangers to me until I took office in the present Government ; but since I have been in this Department I have learnt to respect them as men of ability. I do not think it is fair or just for any honorable member to use the privileges of Parliament, as I have never done in my life, for the purpose of attacking Government officers nor anybody else.
– Why allow them to crucify a man?
– They do nothing of the sort. No one is allowed to, in the elegant language of the honorable member, “ crucify “ any person in the Department while I am there. There is a vast difference between a real grievance and the twaddle circulated by old women of the male sex. A Minister’s life is made a. burden to him by the twaddle of these old women. Much money has been spent on the Federal Territory by this Parliament; and I am happy to say that the Public Works Committee, which comprises honorable members from both sides, are of the opinion that this money has not been wasted, but well spent.
– Of course, the Minister will realize that–
– I realize that the honorable member wished to make a good party speech, and succeeded admirably.
– That is not the question. The Committee, so far, has reported only on specific works; and I am merely suggesting that we should cease the divided control.
– I am not much of a theory man, but a man of facts. The Public Works Committee have investigated this matter; their report has not as yet come from the printer. The gravamen of the charge that has been made has relation to Mr. Griffin, and I may say that, personally, I have neither sympathy nor antipathy regarding that gentleman. I never looked at thedepartmental plan, for the simple reason that I did not wish to lay myself open to the charge of being prejudiced; and, further, I realized that I could not under stand it. But a pretty picture is nobalways the plan of a city; and sooner or later this will be realized by honorablemembers.
– The Minister is expressing an opinion, although he says hedoes not understand the matter.
– I hold opinions, and pretty strong opinions, as a man of common sense.
– Without understanding the matter ?
– No; without being an expert. I claim to possess thesame common sense that hundreds of other men in Australia and elsewhere claim, without being experts. They havesufficient common sense to weigh up experts. However, the Government made. a grave error of judgment when they imported Mr. Griffin from the other side of the world. We have now got what is practically a fifth wheel to the coach.
– What are you going to do with him ?
– I shall tell the honorable member in a few minutes what is the position in regard to Mr. Griffin and myself.
– You say a mistake was made.
– I think so.
– Then you ought to rectify it at the earliest moment.
– That remains for the Government of which I am a member to determine. I do ‘not think that the trouble is so acute as to need the drastic step suggested; besides, Mr. Griffin is under agreement for three years at £1,000 a year.
– No agreement of any kind ought to interfere with the development of the Capital.
– I agree with the right honorable member. I referred this agreement to the Crown Law Department, and was advised that Mr. Griffin, in carrying out his duties, was subject to the control of the Minister. I, therefore, came to the conclusion that he was responsible to me in these matters just as I am responsible to my colleagues, and as the Government are responsible to the Parliament. Mr. Griffin desired to call in experts in matters relating to engineering. I considered the matter carefully, and obtained the best advice I could on the subject - that of the engineers of the Department, who, I hold, are competent to advise me in these matters. I recognise that my officers are not infallible any more than I am, and where I thought it would be in the best interests of the Commonwealth to obtain the advice of experts outside I should not hesitate to seek it; but I shall always call on my officers to advise me.
– They are paid to give the Minister advice, and if they cannot do so they should not occupy their present positions.
– No man is infallible; but I am satisfied with the advice so far given me by my officers. At the same time, the House must not assume that I am entirely bound by their opinions. When I took office I found that there was no plan of the amended pro posals for the design of the Federal Capital other than a small sketch plan about the size of a sheet of foolscap. I, therefore, asked Mr. Griffin to supply me with ono showing the levels of the dams, bridges, and main roads. I did not demand a complete plan showing every work to be carried out in the Capital ; but it was not until the 20th March last that I was supplied with the plan for which I had asked during my first week of office. Honorable members may ask why I did not obtain these levels from the officers of my own Department. But what is the charge made against me ? Is it not that I am prejudiced against Mr. Griffin? Had I called in the officers of the Department, they would have given me the levels and they would have been right, but it would have been said “ They are the departmental levels.” I therefore said to the distinguished gentleman whom the late Leader of the Opposition brought out here, “ Give me the levels.” The position I take up is that Mr. Griffin has a perfect right to advise me on all matters relating to the Federal Capital design, but I am not going to be led by the nose by him, or by my officers, or any one else.
– What levels did the honorable gentleman demand from this world expert that he could not supply ?
– I desired to be supplied with the levels of the lakes, dams, bridges, and main roads proposed to be constructed. The right honorable member ought to know the wise man’s plan.
– I think that the Minister is showing his venom against that man in every word that he utters.
– Order ! I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it if it is out of order ; I did not think that it was. The Minister says that he has no prejudice against this man. I reply that he is showing his prejudice against him in every sentence that he utters.
– The right honorable member can not make a speech at this stage.
– I withdraw and apologize.
– I have no prejudice against Mr. Griffin.
– I say that the Minister is prejudiced against him.
– I asked to be supplied with the levels of the four lakes proposed to be constructed. One of these is considerably higher than the others, and I wished to know where we were to obtain the necessary water supply with which to fill them. I am going to invite the House to refer this question to the Public Works Committee, because I think the time has arrived when a report should be obtained in regard to it.
– Do the levels supplied show that these lakes are impracticable?
– Practically; at least, so I am informed. We shall have to cut out one of these lakes unless the supply of water available is considerably larger than I believe it to be. The position is the same in regard to the railway lines. I asked the Engineer-in-Chief for Commonwealth Railways to report on the question of the railways, because I did not wish to be reckless, and to incur expenditure without knowing what we were to get for it. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7J/.5 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes), by leave, agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Crimes Act 1914.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill bc now read a second time.
We passed two measures last week, amending the Judiciary and High Court Procedure Acts, and it has since been found necessary, for the purposes of the Commonwealth, to also amend section 86 of the Crimes Act, so that conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth will also be an offence against the laws of the Commonwealth. The House must accept my assurance that the matter is one of urgency, that the Bill does not alter the substantive law, that it does not create an offence in respect to an act done which would not have been, and which was not, an offence when the act was done, but merely creates a Commonwealth Court before which the offence can be tried. The Bill simply gives effect to the alteration in the law made last week. It takes away from no man a right that he now enjoys so far as creating a new offence is concerned. It does give to the Commonwealth the right to take the matter before another tribunal, namely, the High Court, instead of, but not to the exclusion of, a State Court. I give the House that assurance, and make the positive, statement that the retrospective action of the measure does not create an offence where no offence punishable by State law existed. The punishment for an offence will not be affected by the change in the tribunal. The same kind of tribunal - that is trial by jury - and the panel from which the jury is drawn will be exactly the same if we take any proceedings under the measure - will be the same as for the State Court. Whether proceedings will be taken is not certain, but it is most important that the measure should pass without delay.
– I offer no objection to the passage of this little measure, but these Bills are multiplying until I am afraid we shall require a special codification of the law in order to put them in their proper setting. However, I understand that during war time things keep cropping up which require special powers to meet them, and that this is only another instance of the ineffectiveness of the present Federal laws to accomplish all tilings to make a State secure during war time, and see that the ordinary war precautions are carried out in their entirety. I understand that the Attorney-General now wishes to take power in order to deal more quickly with some pending cases than he would be able to exercise if he took them to a State Court. The honorable member knows best what he requires, and he must take the responsibility. We are not able to follow him through all the motives and reasons for this, among other things. In fact, he is not able to disclose the reasons for seeking this power. This is one of those cases in which we must trust the Government to use the power wisely and properly, with regard to matters arising out of the war. The Government require this power - otherwise they would not seek it in this peremptory and quick way - and I can offer no objection to the Bill. I presume that the provision that we discussed the other day in regard to the duration of this legislation for the currency of the war is provided for in th”e original Act of which this measure will form a part.
.- It is not clear to me that this legislation is for the duration of the war only.
– No, it remains permanently on the statute-book.
– I understood that the Crimes Act was a permanent measure. I ask the Attorney-General whether the Bill is to exist only so long as the war lasts.
– I have no objection to inserting an amendment with that object.
– We are expected to silently, and without complaint, legislate on the assurance of the Minister as to the necessity for any measure; and I am prepared to accept the assurance of the Attorney-General that this Bill is necessary, although it is the only occasion that I have ever seen when a Minister has given no explanation as to the need for the passage of a measure. I take it that certain reasons justify the’ Minister in preserving reticence, if not silence, on certain matters, and I am prepared to vote for the second reading of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 postponed.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Commencement).
– This is the clause which has the retrospective aspect. In times of peace we must be particularly cautious that we do not pass criminal legislation that has the taint of being retrospective; but in this case we must trust the Executive to see that they do not apply power given for purely war purposes, and practically as an addition to the war legislation of the drastic character that we are passing, to a case that cannot be considered as arising directly out of the war. The clause as it stands will cover an offence against the Commonwealth that may have no relation to war matters. I am sure that we do not wish to pass a clause that will allow people to be charged with an offence on a retrospective charge, or to be brought within the purview of this measure for an offence having no relation to the emergency brought about by the declaration of war. The question of the limitation of the duration of the Bill is not a matter of importance, as we need a provision of this kind for future offences; however, the clause gives exceptional power, and we must trust to the Executive to see that, so far as its retrospective action is concerned, it will only be applied as a part of the exceptional legislation we have been passing for war precaution purposes.
– The clause gives the Commonwealth special power to deal with a matter arising out of the war, and is intended for that purpose only.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed Clause 1 (Short Title and Citation).
Amendment (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to-
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ This Act shall continue in force during the continuance of the war and for six months thereafter, and no longer.”
Clause, as amended, and title agreed to.
Bill reported, with an amendment. Standing Orders suspended.
Report adopted, and Bill read a third time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I had no knowledge that the third reading of the Bill was to be taken now. Bills are being sprung upon us like mushrooms. I wish to urge again the point I put last night that a proposal that vests in the Minister power to place trade advantages in the hands of an individual to the disadvantage and exclusion of others, should be submitted to this House before action is taken. No reason has been urged for granting this power solely to the Minister. It comes in the same category as the granting of bounties, as it purports to be required for protective purposes, and should come under the control of Parliament like the granting of those and other trade favours. The Minister’s statement that a Board of Trade at Home controls all these matters is against his own case. Unfortunately for the Commonwealth, we have no Board of Trade here, divested of political influence. In England it acts as a great body controlling wisely and well the many industrial concerns of the State, and taking under its special control the conferment of these special advantages. Those powers are exercised there without any trace of favoritism. As we have no Board of Trade here, the powers ought to be exercised by the House, and there ought to be a distinct reference to the House before an exclusive trading privilege is given to any individual. It is not a question of the quality or validity of the patent. It is simply a question of who is to become the privileged recipient of all the advantages of a patent conceived and executed by somebody over the seas. No power of that kind ought to he exercised by the Minister on his own initiative and without reference to Parliament.
.- Will the Attorney-General explain what the position will be if a licence is granted for the full unexpired term of the patent, and, at the termination of the war, the rights of enemy subjects are restored in the British Dominions?
– It would not affect the licensee at all.
– Would it not be doing a great injustice to the patentee?
– Neither the position of the patentee, nor of the licensee, in relation to him, would be affected.
– Then I understand that the licence would continue to the end of the term. How does the AttorneyGeneral regard that, from the standpoint of the moral obligation of this Parliament to the licensee, or, rather, its effect upon peace or international negotiation by Great Britain ?
– The principle upon which this Bill rests is that there is to be no expropriation of private property, and it therefore follows that the licensee pays a royalty.
– I should like to know whether the royalty received by the Government in connexion with the granting of licences is to be paid into a trust fund or into the Consolidated Revenue? I understand that in Great Britain the royalties claimed by the Crown for the use of certain patents for which licences have been granted, are paid into a trust fund, with a view to a final adjustment after the war has ceased. I hope the AttorneyGeneral will give me an answer to that question.
.- It seems to me that a measure of this kind must necessarily be more or less roughandready. It is dealing with an absolutely unprecedented state of affairs, and of necessity imposes on the Minister of the day more or less liberty of conscience, and very considerable individual power, in acting on the merits of questions as they are submitted to him. The question raised by the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the submission of these matters to Parliament strikes me as being in theory a most desirable practice, when one considers the enormous responsibility of such a granting of patent rights; yet the proposal is hedged about with a certain amount of difficulty, because, after all, the House would find it very difficult to become seized of all the merits of a question concerning any particular patent. A patent might be of such a nature that very extensive machinery would be required for the proper exercise of it; and the question as to the best person or persons in a position to carry out such an enterprise is one which must necessarily be gone into very carefully by the departmental officers. But, whilst the power rests with the Minister, undoubtedly tha whole responsibility rests with him. If the House is not to share the responsibility, and the Minister is to exercise the exceptional power conferred by the Bill, on him will rest the responsibility of seeing that to no particular person or persons is given, to the detriment of other persons, a monopoly for his or their own individual enrichment. I have no criticism to offer with regard to the framework of the measure, but it does place a very considerable load on the Minister’s shoulders. I sincerely trust that the AttorneyGeneral will rise to the occasion, and that we shall see him bearing this great load of responsibility in a worthy manner.
.- Although I was not present, I understand that the House last night reached an agreement with the Minister which led to the embodiment of two sub-clauses in clause 3, by which certain objectionable features which had been commented on in the earlier stages of the Bill were eliminated or modified. But there are still two questionable provisions to which honorable members on this side of the House have directed attention tonight. The first question came from thu honorable member for Wimmera, who raised an interesting point which, if not carefully provided for in the Bill, may lead to complications after the declaration of peace. The whole of this legislation is to enable us to deal, in the interests of the community, during the currency of the war, with patent rights held by enemy subjects; but beyond that there may stretch arrangements for individual residents of Australia to utilize enemy patents. It is possible, however, that at the end of the war, part of the terms of peace may be the reciprocal restoration of all civil and patent rights. If that be so, in what position will the Commonwealth be in regard to an enemy patent of some importance, a licence for which had been granted for a period of ten years? Would the Minister then be competent, without subsequent legislation, to cancel the licence he had given to an Australian citizen to use the patent, or if he were not able to cancel it, would he be able to restore the rights to the original patentee? That is the whole question raised by the honorable member for Wimmera, and the Attorney-General would oblige members on this side of the House if he would dear up any doubt there may be in our minds as to the probable effect of this legislation in that respect.
– Are wo not to be consulted about the terms of peace?
– This is not so big a question as that. This is too small a peg on which to hang so large an issue, but we have already had the assurance of one of the principal Ministers of His Majesty’s Home Government that the Dominions will be consulted. Our position in regard to the patents will not be unlike that of the Old Country, because all parts of the Empire are making their patents legislation uniform. The other question raised by the Leader of the Opposition is wider and more important - that is, as to the enormous power which, during the currency of the war, this legis lation will place in the hands of the AttorneyGeneral, and whether it is not desirable to adopt at this stage of the measure an Ordinance which will limit the responsibility, powers, and duties of the Minister. It is suggested by the Leader of the Opposition that we should restore some authority to Parliament to decide these matters.
– Parliament is not a competent body to deal with them.
– There is an extreme difficulty about asking Parliament to settle the terms and conditions upon which each licence shall be granted. In the Mother Country there is a body to which is entrusted important issues of this kind, which, I understand, are dealt with by the Comptroller-General exercising his powers as head of the Board of Trade. We have not a precisely similar body in Australia, but we have in the Inter-State Commission a Board with somewhat analogous powers. That body is not popular at present with a certain school of fiscal thinkers. I believe it is called by some a Free Trade party, but whether that is so or not we will have an opportunity to decide when the Tariff is under consideration. Whether or not the InterState Commission was fitted for the work it was asked to perform by a former Government does not concern us at this moment, but the Act by which the Commission was created contemplated that body performing a similar work to that which we are now discussing. In Part III. of the Inter-State Commission Act, dealing with investigations, the wide powers given to the Commission to examine embrace, amongst other things, “the encouragement, improvement, and extension of Australian industries and manufactures.” There are a number of identified and related matters which this Commission may inquire into, and we may well ask them, in either their investigating or judicial character - whichever is the least injured by the recent decision of the High Court - to consider and recommend to the Minister, either the individual licensees who shall get these exclusive rights, or the terms and conditions upon which such rights should be granted.
– I think Parliament ought to settle that question.
– We have already decided under this Bill that the licences may run during the unexpired period of the patent. It is clear in some cases that the Minister will grant licences for one or two years, but if the utilization of any patents involves a large capital expenditure, it may be necessary, in order to encourage the manufacture of patented goods in Australia, to give double or ten times the period. Every application must be dealt with in view of all its admitted circumstances. Parliament cannot possibly deal with matters of this character. “Under the provisions of the law, as we are now asked to pass it, power to deal with these patents will rest with the Minister, and the question before us is whether we should leave the grave responsibility of deciding as to what individuals should enjoy these licences, and the terms and conditions under which they are to be operative, with the Minister. I think the AttorneyGeneral will, on more mature reflection, probably agree with some of us, that to unload that duty upon the InterState Commission would be a wise Ordinance. The Commission would discharge the duty after the complete investigation provided for in ‘ their Act without fear or favour - as the Minister himself would also do- but the Commission would naturally debate the principles of every action in a manner that the Minister’s own busy life would render it almost impossible for him to do.
– The very essence of the thing is discrimination.
– Yes; and it is a discrimination that is not only unpleasant, but is provocative of great danger if injudicially or loosely administered.
An Honorable Member. - Why do you think the Attorney-General should not have this power?
– I crossed swords with the Attorney-General last night, but I assured him then that I did not think he would pollute the fount of justice in his judicial capacity, or act upon wrong principles of discrimination, although the honorable gentleman did not seem to quite accept my assurance. My point is that the Minister should consider the advisability and the wisdom of entrusting certain of the discriminating powers with which he i3 now to be dowered, to the Inter-State Commission, in the hope that then the public will see that there is no politics in any of these discriminations, and that they will be exercised by a body outside of party, that each case will be examined carefully with the elaborate machinery available to the Commission, on its merits, and decisions and conclusions arrived at that will be equitable to all parties concerned. These are the observations that I recommend, with respect, to the Minister in charge of the Bill in the hope that either here or elsewhere some of them may recommend themselves to his judgment.
.- Yesterday evening I drew attention to the point as to what position a patentee would be in as soon as the war is over in regard to his rights under a suspended patent. These rights are not abrogated, but they may be suspended under this Act, and that is the point to which the honorable member for Wimmera has now called attention. The Attorney-General promised to look into that matter, so that I understand there may be an opportunity of something being done when this Bill is before the Senate. The honorable member for Parramatta raised a question as to whether it really was expedient to vest the whole of this administration in the Attorney-General, which, of course, will mean, under him, in the Comptroller of Customs. It struck me last night that perhaps, if there is a difficulty, it could be got over by making the provision regarding licences in the Act of 1909 - the principal Act - apply to this Act. For instance, if the manufacturer of a patented article lis not resident in the Commonwealth, an application may be made to the Commissioner by petition asking that the patent may be revoked. If the Commissioner thinks there is no justification, no prima-facie case made out, he can dismiss the petition; but if he thinks there is a prima-facie case, he can send it on to the High Court, and then the question of whether a licence shall be issued or not will be tested by a tribunal which is absolutely unfettered by any consideration except that of doing justice to the Department. That is the provision we have in our Act at the present time. We threshed this matter out last night, and I merely offer this suggestion to the AttorneyGeneral now for his consideration. There may be an opportunity of dealing with it in the Senate.
.- I desire to place on record my objection to the clause in the Bill which has been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. The power proposed to be vested iri the Minister to grant patent rights to applicants in the way suggested is one that is altogether too great. I do not wish to cast any reflection upon the Minister. I am speaking from a purely non-party point of view. The- same argument would apply, whoever occupied his position. I would not envy the Attorney-General if he took upon himself this power, as it may be responsible for a great deal of unpleasantness; but I think the Minister should explain to the House, in the event of his taking this power, how he would propose to deal with applicants. What will be his modus operandi? How will he give priority ? I think, nevertheless, in his own interests, and in the interests of the country, he will be wise to accept the advice of the Leader of the Opposition and delegate these powers to the Inter-State Commission. We do not know how many patents there are’ belonging to enemy subjects in Australia. I understand there are hundreds of them, and it would be quite impossible, as the member for East Sydney has suggested, that these questions should be threshed out in. the House. It would take us too long. The Minister himself could not go into the hundreds of questions and give them the consideration to which they are entitled. He would, therefore, be compelled to delegate his authority to some official in the Department. I suggest, therefore, in justice to himself, and in the best interests of the country, that the questions should be referred to the Inter-State Commission, which seems to be the proper body for dealing with matters of this kind.
– Does the honorable member think that the Inter-State Commission or the High Court would deal more expeditiously with matters of this kind than the Minister himself?
– Yes, I think so. Then, again, I think as much publicity should be given to these matters as possible. Supposing there are in question eight or nine patent rights of a different class, the facts should, I think, be published in the Commonwealth Gazette throughout the length and breadth of the country, so as to allow every manufacturer who wished to do so to apply for the licences.
.- I would not have made any observations on the third reading of this Bill but for the fact that our friends opposite seem to have some suspicion about the capacity of the Attorney-General and his Department to administer this Act. I am one of those who are not too anxious for the business of the country to be taken out of Ministerial control and put under any Commission. The public interest is best safeguarded by giving the control of public affairs to aMinister whom Parliament can call to account at once, if it thinks that his actions are prejudicial to the public good. It is tobe remembered that the Bill is to have force only during the currency of the war,, which we must all pray may be a veryshort period. My experience in connexion with patents makes me think that there are many now in force which, in any case, would lapse within six months, and others which may not have two years; to run. The honorable member for Wimmera talked of the granting of a monopoly. If a monopoly is to be granted by the handing over of patent rights to a licensee, surely Parliament, and no one else, should possess the power to control it; and the power of the Parliament cannot be exercised more quickly than through a Minister. The honorable member for Balaclava wishes to provide other machinery. If this power were given to the Inter-State Commission, Parliament, could discuss its actions much less freely, and would interfere only with more difficulty than will be the case if the administration of the Act is left to a member of the Government. I am not desirous of rushing things to the Inter-State Commission. We have been trying to get from the Commission a report on the Tariff, and it seems possible that some of us may be dead before that can be done. The House may be certain that the members on this side will take care that no monopoly shall exist a day longer than is needed to provide an opportunity for Parliament to deal with it.
– My reply to the honorable member for Wimmera is that all royalties will be paid into a fund, which will be at the disposal of the Government, to be distributed at the close of the war in accordance with the terms of peace and the circumstances of each pariticular case. Subject to those conditions of peace, justice will be done to the indivi- dual without respect to persons, whether he be German or English. No discussion should have arisen on this Bill as to the exercise of the power to licence^ seeing that that power is given under the Act of last year, whose provisions were copied from the British Act. Under this Act the power is exercised by the Board of Trade, whose President is a Cabinet Minister. According to the Patents and Designs Temporary Rules 1914, dated 7th September, 1914, which I read last night -
The Board may, at their discretion, grant in favour of persons other than subjects of any State at war with His Majesty licence to make, use, exercise, or vend any registered or patented design.
As the honorable member for East Sydney has pointed out, the measure is to have force only during the war, which we hope will be a very short period; but, whether it be short or long, I contend that the relations of Parliament and a Minister are more intimate than those of Parliament and any outside ‘authority. The procedure now is for the Commissioner of Patents to take the evidence of Applicants, and for me to come to a decision upon that evidence. I do not delegate the reading of the evidence to any one. I say, further, that any member is at liberty to read the evidence that has already been taken, and the orders that have been made in relation to it, at any time for which he cares to make an appointment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill relates to contracts, and particularly to contracts with an alien enemy, or for his benefit. It arises directly out of this dreadful war in which the Empire and its Allies are engaged, and it concerns us in a most vital way. Interests of a most important nature, and vast in their extent, are involved. And in the very nature of things, therefore, it is not only necessary but urgent. The Bill annuls contracts with enemy subjects or for their benefit. The necessity for such action arises directly out of the war. The effect of war upon contracts is to suspend some, and terminate others, according to their nature. Some of the contracts with which this measure deals are not contracts between the alien enemy and subjects of the Empire, but legally considered are contracts between British subjects. Nevertheless, they are contracts for the benefit of an alien enemy, although they are not affected legally by the war. Great uncertainty exists as to the result of the war on contracts, and it is to resolve that uncertainty that this measure has been introduced. It has been introduced for another and a still more important reason, namely, to afford the enterprise of Australia an opportunity to develop and expand itself at a time when, owing to this world-wide struggle, its efforts at development are in danger of being strangled.
I may now shortly state the legal position in regard to the effect of war upon contracts. I have said that the effect of war is to suspend some contracts and to discharge others, according to the nature of the contract. So far as concerns that part of the performance which would have fallen due to take place during the continuance of the war, it is clear that there is a discharge, and not merely a postponement of performance. The case is not like those in which the only outstanding obligation is the periodical payment of a sum of money. Where a part of the obligation of the contract having failed of performance, each party being disappointed of what he stipulated for under the contract, the substantial question is whether that partial failure of the contract affects the whole. The law practically leaves the matter on the basis of the expectation and intention of reasonable men (Brett, L. J., in Honck v. Muller). But a breach of one stipulation, even a material stipulation in a contract, does not, of itself, terminate the whole (Collins, L J., in Cornwall v. Benson; and Mersey Steel and Iron Co. v. Naylor). Where the parties to the contract are respectively aiming at a continuous and regular market for their ores, and a continuous and regular supply for their works, a substantial failure in this respect appears to go to “ the root of the contract,” and to be within the test suggested by Anson (Contracts, p. 325) : “I have lost all that I cared to obtain under this contract: further performance cannot make good past default.” Pitt Cobbett, p. 71, recognises that the rule of suspension does not apply to executory contracts in which time is essential, that in such cases the whole contract is terminated. Admittedly, a party to a contract cannot say, “I am compelled for the present, and for a term the length of which I cannot foresee, to suspend performance; but I may be able to resume performance before the contract runs out, so take the notice that I treat the contract as still subsisting, so far as concerns those acts of performance which may fall due after I am in a position to resume.” But where, by a term of Wie contract, definite provision is made for suspension on outbreak of war, and for revival and performance after the war of those obligations which were suspended during the war, and would have been performed during the period of the war, the position of the parties is clouded by uncertainty. That, shortly, is the legal position, so far as it is necessary to set it forth in connexion with this measure. 1 have said that this Bill deals with a vital matter, touching us intimately, affecting, as it does, vast and important interests. I admit, that it is perhaps without precedent, at all events, without precedent in a British country, but it arises out of conditions that are absolutely without precedent. But if this Bill is without precedent in a British country, it is not without precedent in other countries. We are unable to learn what Germany is doing in relation to contracts, or to private property generally; but if we are to believe what we hear, it is certain that the rights of persons under contracts with Germans, rights in regard to private property, including patent rights, for instance, have been swept aside. It is certain that contracts have been annulled, and I do not. think there is anybody in this country so credulous as to believe that, in the event of Germany being conqueror, contracts for the benefit of Britons will stand. If there be one who holds that opinion, he stands alone, so far as I am concerned, for I was never, nor am now, of that opinion. This Bill deals with exceptional circumstances arising out of the war, and cannot be looked at and judged, except in the lurid glow that arises from this dreadful conflict, in which the hosts of Christendom are arrayed for the pur- poses of mutual destruction. This is a world-wide war, and it is being waged for the purposes of a world power. This is not merely for the purpose of military power, although the means of achieving world power are necessarily military in their nature. But the war is waged by Germany for the purpose of achieving commercial, financial, and industrial domination of the earth. That is the great purpose to which she has devoted her tremendous systematized energies for nearly half a century. And I must remind honorable members of how nearly Germany was achieving this without any war at all. I think that that nation has committed the most fatal blunder in its whole history in entering the lists of battle when she could have achieved her whole purpose without (risk, and with comparatively little expenditure and loss of time.
– I am going to prove what I have said. I desire now to show what the position of Germany was at the outbreak of the war, and what it will be when peace is concluded, so far as we are concerned, unless by action we change it. Australia is a country infinitely rich, both potentially and actually. Its mineral wealth is almost boundless. It has been estimated that the value of the annual output of base metal in this country is not less than £13,000,000. And over this the control of Germany before the war was almost complete. I cannot do better, in order to develop this part of my argument, than refer honorable members to some remarks I made last year in the form of an answer to a question by the honorable member for Barrier. Honorable members will find the report of my remarks in Hansard of 10th December, 1914, page 1508. I then said -
Shortly stated, the facts show beyond all question that German capital and German influence exercise a monopoly of the base metal industry of the civilized world; that this monopoly is for all practical purposes so complete as to exclude effective competition; that it covers the whole sphere of the industry, limiting output, controlling markets, determining the channels of distribution, and fixing prices; that the war, by closing most of the channels through which the metallic products were distributed, and the markets in which they were disposed of, has very seriously affected the industry, throwing large numbers of working men out of employment, causing great loss of wealth production, retarding the development of our great resources, and seriously menacing the welfare of the whole community; that peace holds out no prospects satisfactory, or even tolerable, to British and Australian interests, since it would but revive that complete domination of the industry by Corman influence, which insures the building up of German instead of British and Australian interests.
Ho patriotic citizen can contemplate such a prospect without the most serious misgivings. This war will have been waged- in vain; the blood of our best and bravest citizens shed without purpose; the Empire will have endured tho dreadful horrors of modern warfare to no purpose, if, at its conclusion, when victory tardily, and at a dreadful cost, has been won, we are again compelled to pour into the lap of Germany the lion’s share of the wealth created by Australian enterprise and Australian workmen.
Before the war, German capital and influence had created a splendidly organized system by which it was enabled to levy toll upon the world. The cream of the profits arising out of the metal industry of the world - profits upon a turnover which, at a rough estimate, cannot fall short of £200,000,000 - found its way through various channels to the pockets of the great German financiers, thus strengthening Germany’s position commercially, industrially, and nationally, enlarging the scope of her operations in other directions, and maintaining and perfecting that terrific instrument of destruction by which she now seeks to batter all who darc withstand her, into submission, it’ is a humiliating but irrefutable fact that Australian capital, enterprise, and labour have materially aided the enemy in this dreadful conflict.
– I understood the honorable member to be quoting an answer to a question that was asked him by the honorable member for Barrier. If the honorable member is reading a reply to a question he is in order; but if he is quoting a speech delivered by the honorable member at a former period of this session he is not in order.
– What I am quoting was said in answer to a question, and I take this course in order to shorten the debate, seeing that the words are most suited to state the case. I am sorry the extract is so long, and I shall endeavour to make it as short as possible -
A few figures will clearly establish this position. The value of the metals, lead, zinc, copper, tin, produced annually in Australia, estimated upon an average price for the year 1!112, amounts to nearly £13,000,000, or, including silver and gold recovered in the extraction of these commoner metals, £15,000,000. Even upon a fair average price for the past ten years, the gross value is not less than £13,000,000. All this wealth was produced in Australia, but - with the exception of gold and silver - the industry was and is controlled by German influence, so that output, destination, and price were matters in which Australia had no say whatever.
I put this forward to substantiate my statement that the position of Germany in her efforts to secure world power had reached a point when it needed no mort than that she should press on in the direction she was going in order to achieve it. Without exaggeration, one may say that the control of the metal industry of Australia was dominated by Germany. I take the metal industry as typical, and, perhaps, as the one in which German influence is most marked ; but it is certainly not unique, because German influence is dominant throughout the many industries of Australia.
– You cannot seriously make that statement?
– Yes; it may annoy the honorable member, but it annoys me more than it does him.
– You cannot truthfully make the statement, surely !
– Cannot the honorable member let me say what I have to say 1
– It is such a gross exaggeration, that is all.
– I desire now to show honorable members exactly what our position is, so far as the metal industry is concerned. Most, if not all, of the mining companies of Australia have entered into contracts for the disposal of their products up to the year 1921, and many of those contracts contain clauses providing for suspension in the case of war and revival after the war, and operate in such a way that the period of the war is added to the original term. So that if the original term of a contract expired in 1921, and the war lasts three years, then the term of the contract is extended to 1924. That is the position in which many of the mining companies in Australia find themselves to-day. Whether these contracts, or any of them, are actually discharged by the war I am unable to say. That is a question which can only be answered when we consider the terms of each contract and the circumstances surrounding it. But, speaking generally, I am able to say that there is amongst all these companies uncertainty and doubt as to their position, and such uncertainty and doubt as to affect, not only their present operations, but to seriously hamper their future development.
The position in which they are placed, indeed* threatens to paralyze every effort, not only to develop their business, but to divert trade from Germany to Britain and its Allies. They are unable, for example, to enter into any contracts with any one, but the agency through which German influence operates for the sale of their products. Naturally, manufacturers in Great Britain are unable to enter into contracts for the purchase of such products. Yet before a group of capitalists can be induced to invest £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 in the manufacture of spelter, or the zinc of commerce, they must be assured of an ample and regular supply of the metal they require. That is precisely what cannot be assured to them under existing conditions. The companies of Australia, and the capitalists of England, are unable now to come to the point where it is possible to divert to British or friendly channels the metal which flowed sometimes to Germany, to Belgium, to France, or to other countries, the lion’s share of the profits from which went to Germany. They are unable to do so, not only because of the contract relating to the supply of metal, but also because they have contracts which give the exclusive selling agency to one firm which for all practical purposes is German. We may now deal in detail with the extent to which the control over lead, zinc, copper, and tin by German influence goes. The position before the war was this: Practically the output price and sale of all lead was governed by the Lead Convention; zinc by Aaron Hirsch and Sohn, Beer Sondheimer and Co., and the Metallgesellschaft j copper by Aaron Hirsch and Sohn. Upon the outbreak of war the Lead Convention was reconstituted nominally without the German element, but, to all intents and purposes, the control of lead to-day is exercised by the same people as before the war. The same element is dominant, and it is through that channel, and that channel alone, that every pound of lead is purchased by the Admiralty and the War Office. There is no other means of obtaining lead except through the one channel.
I should here state exactly how the control of the metal industry has been brought about. It originated through the opera-
A/r. Hughes. tions of the firm of Merton, of FrankfortonMain. The ramifications of this firm or group are world-wide in their nature. It is represented in almost every civilized country, and its methods are typical of the German character. They are systematic and thorough. They resort in this regard to the same methods ;n the devolpment of their business as they do for the development of their national power. That is to say, they take upon themselves the national cloak of the country in which they find themselves established to disguise the purpose which they have at heart. This German group have their head-quarters at FrankfortonMain, and exercise power in every country in the world. They have daughter companies - off-shoots - in America, Africa, and Australia. The Metallgesellschaft, which is one of the first forms in which the Merton combination expressed itself, dominates the market in America, Africa, and Australia, through daughter companies. The Australian Metal Company, for example, under which name the German group operates here, is a company registered in Australia. This brings me to what I mentioned at the outset, that in form we have not to deal only with contracts between an alien enemy and a British subject, but with contracts between persons who are nominally British subjects - between a company registered in Australia and another company also registered in Australia. The Australian Metal Company, to all intents and purposes, is the Metallgesellschaft, and the Metallgesellschaft is a German combination working in conjunction with the Merton group. The Merton ‘group in Frankfort-on-Main working conjointly with the Merton group in London, dominates the metal industry. It is impossible in England to buy lead except through Merton’s in London. The companies of Australia have a contract with Merton, through whom their selling is done. They cannot sell to anybody but Merton’s, and Merton, although registered in England, and a naturalized citizen of that country, is, for all practical purposes as much German as is the Merton of Frankfort-on-Main. The Metallgesellschaft,, Merton’s, and other firm names by which the combination expresses itself are only various forms through which this group of German capitalists exercises its great power.
– Would it be possible to prove in a Court the connexion asserted by the honorable gentleman, and which I have no doubt is genuine?
– I do not know whether it would or not. If we are to say here only what we could prove in a Court, I ask the honorable member for Wentworth what his position would be, and where would any of us be if we had to do that? The facts I am giving now are derived partly from official and partly from other sources. If honorable members ask me, in connexion with a particular statement, whether I have the information from an official source, I shall be prepared to tell them. When I say, for example, that Merton’s is the sole selling agency for lead, that is official. My statement that the Australian Metal Company is, for all practical purposes the Metallgesellschaft is based on official information. The Australian Metal Company has contracts with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, by which the latter contracts to supply it with its metallic ores until 1921. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company has also contracted with Merton’s, of London, to sell through them, and through them alone. All these are official facts. Now this contract is typical, and is, in form, not an enemy contract at all, but one between British subjects’. Yet this British nationality is in many cases only a cloak. It is iu this case, as the list of shareholders of the Australian Metal Company shows. The directors of that company aro Messrs. G. E. Schuster, G. Schwarz, C. L. Budd, A. Beker, C. R. Euler, and R. Merton. The authorized capital of the company is £50,000, in 5.000 shares of £10 each, and the shareholders are as follow : - J. A. Amschel, 7 Gracechurch-street, London, 20 shares; S. Baer, 1 share; C. L. Budd, 10 shares; Deutsche Gold and Silber Schoide Anstalt, FrankfortonMain, Germany, 200 shares; C. R. Euler (Bockenheimer Anlage), Frankforto.uMain, 10 shares; A. Merton, of the same address, 10 shares; Merton Metallurgical Company . Limited, 1,440 shares; Metallgesellschaft. FrankfortonMain, 1,490 shares; and Metallbank and Metallurgische Gesell, A. G., FrankfortonMain, 980 shares. There are also a number of minor shareholders. The greater number of shares are held by Germans. The company is controlled by
Germans, and for all practical purposesthe company is German. The LloydZieitung, a German newspaper, in its issueof 8th July, 1913, published an articleby Professor Robert Liefmann, of Freiburg, under the heading of “ The International ‘Organization of the Frankfort Metal Trade,” of which the following translation of an extract may be quoted -
Last] j’, there belong to the Merton concern^ two more companies which bear testimony to the international character of the concern by their very name, viz., the African Metal Company and the Australian Metal Company, of London and Melbourne. These two companies are sub-companies of the Metallgesellschaft and of Henry R. Merton and Company, and transact for the latter firms the purchase and sale of metals in Africa and Australia. They are, therefore, agencies which were given the titles of independent companies chiefly for legal reasons.
The Merton group lias companies all over the world. I shall not burden honorable members by reading a full list of them. ‘ They are in every civilized country, and everywhere serve the purposes of Germany under the cloak of the nationality in which they find themselves. The latest development is the War Metal Company, which is a combination of various German companies, formed witl the object of providing metals for carrying on the war. In that combinatior the Merton group, the Metallgesellschaft Aaron Hirscn and Beer Sondheimer an veiy prominent.” Let me now repeat the position in regard to lead, zinc, and copper. The lead trade is largely dominated by the Lead Convention, which, before the war, was composed of Mertons, the Metallgesellschaft, and the Broken Hill Proprietary. After the outbreak of war it was reconstituted, and it now consists of the Broken Hill Proprietary,. Mertons, and another firm.
The position in regard to zinc is very similar. Zinc, as honorable membersknow, plays a most important part in themetallic wealth of Australia. It istreated here, and sent away in the form of concentrates, which are manufactured into the spelter or zinc of commerce. The persons or firms who control the zinc trade - that0 is to say, who decide how much zinc Australia shall produce - as well as what the price shall be, are Aaron Hirsch, Beer Sondheimer, and the Metallgesellschaft. The position is practically the same in regard to copper, so far as the firm of Aaron Hirsch is concerned. This, then, is the position of Australia, and the extent of the German control. I want honorable members to grip hold of th© fact that nothing but the sharp edge of legislation of this sort can cut the tangled web of contracts that binds the Australian companies and Australian commerce to German influence. There is a positive network of contracts, and the Australian companies are helpless unless we come to their rescue. Let me give one illustration. In this city we have the offices of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, which is tied up with a contract with the Australian Metal Company. The Australian Metal Company said to it, “ We give you notice that we propose after the war to hold you to your contract,” and that contract continues until 1921, plus, of course, the period over which the war extends. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company has given notice of its intention to annul the contract; but whether that notice is good or not in law neither I nor any one else can say. Take yet another case. Negotiations have been going on for some months with a view to encouraging the manufacture of copper rod, wire, barrel, and sheet copper in Australia. Magnificent opportunities exist in this country for the development of the copper industry. Do honorable members realize that in this matter we have to deal with a company one-third of whose shares are held by Aaron Hirsch? Do they realize that there is practically no one else in Australia to whom we can say, “ Will you establish this industry? “’ And this company is not the only one in which’ German influence lies covered by an Australian registration. There are contracts which fetter the limbs of Australia at the present juncture, in a hundred, aye, in a thousand, different ways, and in this regard we are acting, not against the interests of any companies, but for their benefit. Many of them not only approve but welcome this measure. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company - I think it is only fair to say this - has given three months’ notice to Merton’s, London, under the new agreement, to terminate the selling contract. That is very good, as far as it goes; but we must lee that no contract is made during She . war by an Australian company with an agency of- Germany, under what- ever name it may disguise itself. To sever the contract with Merton’s, if it is to be renewed with some other agent under whose personality German Protean influence hides itself, will not benefit us. The Government will use every power in its possession to prevent German influence dominating Australian trade. To show how keenly the ‘Australian companies are alive to the importance of this legislation, and in what light they regard it, I may give the House the view taken by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company of the matter. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company has given an undertaking -
That is the sort of evidence which, I submit, should weigh with honorable members, and which we advance as the justification and necessity for the Bill. Yet, although this company is desirous of giving effect to its undertaking, it cannot do so, unless we help them, for it is bound hand and foot. The company may give the notice, but that notice does not terminate the agreement. And this applies generally. In South Australia we find that a firm like Elder, Smith, and Company was tied round with contracts. It has broken the contracts, but it has not broken them legally, and it may be still liable, or will be liable after the war in the Courts to such litigation as the* immensely powerful interests that are at the back of these German concerns can bring against it. Do honorable members realize that we are speaking now of influences that have behind them literally hundreds of millions of pounds, that their power manifests itself not merely through Germans and naturalized Germans, but through persons of our own race ? Where there is such tremendous power it manifests itself in every direction. I said a little while ago that we were resolute in our determination not to permit any Australian industries to be fettered by any influence that was German in essence. We are not to be imposed upon by any subterfuge. There are firms in London now working in close conjunction with Merton’s who are British in origin as well as in name, yet they are in all essence Germans. They are the conduit pipes through which the profits go to Germany ; they are the wires by which the German influence is transmitted and through whom it effects its purpose. We have ample proof in the Department to show that these three firms - some of whom are British in origin as well as in name - are to all intents and purposes German in essence.
I come now to refer to another point of this matter. I have already said that the position in respect to lead is that the companies are tied up with long-dated contracts, and that remark applies also to zinc and copper. There is on foot a proposal, to which we take no sort of exception, to amalgamate -certain mining companies here for the purpose of more effectively treating and smelting Australian metals. We welcome that from our present point of view, and for our present purpose, but we declare that, so far as German influence is concerned, we shall look to the amalgamation to give the same sort of undertaking that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company has given in regard to its relation with German influence and capital.
Coming, now, to the Bill itself, the objects of it are two : to provide for the continuance of the Australian output during the war and to prevent the renewal of German control after the war. The difficulty in doing this arises out of the very nature of the case. First of all, the trouble is to know under what law the contracts are to be enforced - whether by Federal law or ‘ by the law of one or more of the States, or by Imperial Courts. There are some of these contracts made in England which can be dealt with by Australian law; there are some contracts made in Australia which can be only dealt with by English law; there are some contracts made in one State which could probably be dealt with by the Federal Courts. The law in relation to interpretation and enforcement of contracts need hardly be stated, but, generally speaking, it may be said that in the interpretation of a contract the law of the country in which the contract is made, or in which it is proposed to bt> carried out, prevails.
The Bill provides for the annulment of enemy contracts. The main provisions are in clauses 3 and 4. Under clause 3 they become null and void ipso facto. The Bill also provides in clause 4 for another class of contracts, namely, those contracts suspended by the war. These contracts are terminable only at the option of either party. A party may find himself unable to discharge his contract, or to fulfil his obligation. For example, he may be under a contract to ship goods to England, but he cannot get freight. He may b”> under an obligation to do things which the war has prevented him from doing. Clause 4 gives him the opportunity to terminate the contract.
Dealing more particularly with contracts with the enemy covered by clause 3, and the difficulties of determining precisely under what law a contract is to be dealt with, the Government have been in frequent communication with the British Government. The matter has been the. subject of very lengthy cable communications, of which I have a number with me, but to which, owing to the nature of them, I am unable to give publicity. Generally, I may say that the British Government have been keenly alive to the importance of the position, and are very anxious to know exactly what we propose to do as to action by the British Parliament. They have stated that they are giving the matter most careful consideration. A cable containing the text of this Bill has been sent to London, for the information of the British Government.
– When was it sent?
– The measure has not been drafted very long, but to all intents ‘ and purposes the scope of it was sent about a fortnight ago, and the substance of what was then sent does not differ in any material particular from what has been sent since the Bill was drafted. We have every reason to believe that the British Government are not only sympathetic in this matter, but also keenly alive to the importance of it. We have approached each of the States, and I am in a position to say that every State of the group, through its Premier, has promised to introduce complementary legislation, that is to say, it has promised to. limtrpduoe legislation to give effect to our legislation, so that it will be State law as well as Federal law, and companies will be protected both in the State Courts and in the Federal Courts from any . consequence of litigation which may result from acting as though a contract were annulled.
– Have the Imperial ‘Government signified their approval of the text of this measure?
– No; we have had no communication from them since the last cable was sent, about a fortnight ago.
– I think that about two months ago the Imperial Government disapproved of this kind of legislation, so far as giving help in the matter was concerned.
– I have noticed that the Secretary of State for the Colonies informed a deputation that he looked upon the matter with disfavour, but that lias not been the tone of the cables from His Majesty’s Government to us. That is all I can say. T am perfectly satisfied that in our case legislation is not only justified, but also necessary. Control by Germany of industries in ‘Great Britain may not be proportionately as great as it is in Australia. I say most emphatically that, upon a fair review of the position, a measure such as this is absolutely essential if we are to do our part as citizens towards developing the resources of Australia, and freeing our commercial, financial, and industrial population from the effect of contracts tying up their enterprise and preventing the proper development of the Commonwealth. I say, further, tfiat at the present ‘time the persons “under contractual obligations arc unable to say where they are; they are unable to make any move to look for fresh markets, because they do not know to what extent their present contracts bind them. I emphasize the fact that, as the State Governments, through the varions Premiers, have pledged themselves to introduce this legislation, all actions for breach of contracts made iu Australia, or made el°f»where to he executed in Australia, will be covered by a full and satisfactory defence.
The necessity for this legislation is very plain. Persons under contracts affected by the war do not know where they are.
The Zinc Corporation made, for example, an effort to obtain a pronouncement in the English Courts, but failed because the enemy defendant was not represented. A Bill had subsequently to be passed by “the Imperial Parliament to enable such cases to be dealt with. Most of the contracts to which this Bill will apply are governed by Australian law; whether Commonwealth or State law it is difficult to say. With regard to Broken Hill products, for example, the mine may be situated in one State, the contracting parties may be in another State, and the contract may be formed in a third State. Personally, I believethat the Commonwealth has jurisdiction to deal with this matter under the heading of Defence, but if not the States will have jurisdiction under the heading of Contract. The Bill is not confined . to metal contracts. What applies to metals applies all round. The Bill has two main clauses dealing with enemy contracts and contracts that are suspended during the war. In regard to the former, the Bill term i.n ates these contracts altogether, and the difficulty of identifying them is set : it rest by the certificate of the AttorneyGeneral. That is to say, though it is not necessary to do so, a copy may be filed with the Attorney-General, and his certificate is proof that the provision applies to it. One exception is made. There are German life assurance companies operating in Australia, and therefore contracts of life assurance are excepted. The contracts dealt with in clause 4 are made terminable at the option of either party - that is to say, suspension for the indefinite period of the war creates such a deadlock that power to terminate them is necessary. Notice of termination made before the passing of the Bill is to be as good as if it is made afterwards. I urge on honorable members the importance of the Bill and the necessity for its early passage into law. Every effort ought to be made to develop new industries and strengthen old ones. Since the trade with Germany and Austria, exports and imports, prior to the war, covered nearly £15,000,000 annually, it is clear that the closing of these channels has created conditions which nothing but the most determined activity on our part can remove. We must, therefore, do whatever is possible to free persons from obligations under contracts made ‘before the war for Che benefit of alien enemies, and to find them new markets. Although the Bill applies to all contracts, it is specially applicable to metallic products which are tied up by long-dated contracts which threaten to hamper vitally all effort to deal with this great question. I have omitted to touch upon the position of the tin industry. Lead, zinc, and copper are controlled by contracts which run as far as 1921. Tin is controlled by similar influences, though not to the same extent. Tin is an industry capable of great development here. At a meeting of the Y-Water Tin Mining Company, New South Wales, held yesterday, it was stated that their tin was being sent to be smelted at Mount Bischoff, and the arrangement was found very satisfactory. The practice hitherto has been to send most of the tin to Singapore, where it is smelted by coolie labour. Singapore is largely dominated by Merton’s. Why should not all tin be smelted in Australia? This instance affords another reason why we should do all in our power- to enable mining companies to have their products treated in- Australia. The Bill will enable men to free themselves from obligations undertaken prior to the war which they cannot possibly fulfil during the war, and which, in 99 cases out of 100, they do not intend to go on with after the1 war, unless compelled to do so. The measure is one suggested by common prudence, and ought .to bo supported by every patriotic citizen. It is one which the circumstances call for,, and that all parties, so far as I have been able to ascertain, approve. I commend it to the House. 1 admit that it deals with difficulties by cutting through them ; but there is no -other way to deal with the matter than by the sharp edge, of such a law as this.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.
– As a personal explanation I wish to urge the AttorneyGeneral’ to. allow this matter’ to go over until- Wednesday next before a final decision is arrived at on it. There is no urgency about it, and- it ought to be thoroughly canvassed, as much in the interests of. the Broken Hill miners as of the. companies themselves.
House adjourned at 0.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 May 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150506_reps_6_76/>.