9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the enormous success of the Melba Grand Opera Company and the Australian artists who have taken part in the present grand opera season, will the Prime Minister give consideration to the question of encouraging art in Australia, in order that we may be able to develop grand opera from an Australian stand-point?
– I have observed the great success of the present grand opera season in Melbourne. I shall give consideration to tho suggestion the honorable member has made.
– Is tho Acting Minister for Trade and Customs in a position to say whether an arrangement has yet been arrived at with the New South Wales Government for the distribution of Commonwealth wire netting in that State? If not, will he endeavour to give the House information on the subject before we adjourn to-morrow?
-I am not in a position at present to answer thu honorable member’s question. I shall try, if possible, to secure by to-morrow the information he desires.
– About a month ago I asked the Treasurer if he would nave prepared information concerning thewar pensions received’ by various classes of pensioners. Will the honorable gentleman see that the supplying of the information is expedited, and will he say when I may expect a reply to my questions?
– I told the honorable member, when he submittedhis questions, that it would take a considerable time, and would involve a considerable amount of expense to supply the information for which he asked. I have the reply to his questions in my hands now, and I may say that, in overtime alone, the preparation of the return has cost £163. On the 3rd April the honorable member asked the following questions : -
Inteeest on Current Accounts.
– On the lst August of last year, I asked the Treasurer the following questions: -
Yesterday, I asked the honorable gentleman the same questions, and so far I have received no reply.
– Is this a statement in explanation of a question to follow?
– Yes,sir. You will now see the purport of it. On the 28th of this month I asked the Treasurer if he had received a reply, and his answer was -
The suggestion to allow interest on current accounts was submitted for the consideration of the Acting Governor of tbe Commonwealth Bank, but he has not advised me as to his views on the matter.
Seeing that I have waited for nearly twelve months for a reply to my question
– Order ! I cannot allow the honorable member’s statement to go further. May I inform him that the purpose of a question is not to give information, but to elicit it. If the honorable member will ask a question I shall see that the Treasurer is given an opportunity to reply to it.
-I will ask my . question now. Is the Treasurer prepared to again communicate with the Acting Manager of the Commonwealth Bank with a view to elicit the information for which I asked on the 1st August last?
– On receipt of the honorable member’s question I communicated with the Acting Governor of the Bank.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has yet appointed any person to the position of Minister for Trade and Customs? When is it likely that the House will be informed of the allotment of the portfolio?
– As soon as tho portfolio has been allotted i shall take the earliest possible opportunity of communicating the fact to the House. wheat GUARANTEE.
– will the Prime Minister give consideration to the advisability of making provision for a guaranteed price for next season’s wheat, as has been done on previous occasions? Will he also consider the desirability of offering an increase on the guaranteed price for last season’s wheat?
– Representations on this matter have been made to me, and are receiving consideration at the present time.
Appointment of Deputy Commissioner, South Australia. - Formal Motion fob Adjournment.
– i have received from three honorable members intimations of their desire to move the adjournment of the House today; they are the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt), and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks). i regret to have to declare the notification from the last-named honorable member not sufficiently definite to comply with the Standing Orders.
– I am prepared to proceed with my motion.
– As the notification of the honorable member for Adelaide was the first to reach me, that honorable member is entitled to precedence. The honorable member’s intimation was that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the appointment of Major Bell to the position of Deputy Commissioner of Old-age Pensions and Maternity Allowances in South Australia.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- The subject of my motion is not new to the Treasurer, and ho must have expected some protest against the appointment of Major Bell. The honorable gentleman cannot blame me or any other honorable member for occupying the time of the House with a discussion of this matter, because he is responsible for the action I have taken. I do not think he will be able to convince the House that he was justified in appointing-. Major Bell to this important position. So far as I can learn, Major Bell is not a member of the Public Service, and the appointment of an outsider to such a post as he is now occupying is unprecedented. This innovation is causing, some perturbation among members of the Public Service, who have a right to expect that when vacancies occur they shall be given such consideration as their positions in the Service entitle them to. It is not in the best interests of the Commonwealth that discontent in the Service should be caused by an appointment for which there does not appear to be any justification. I hope that the Treasurer will to-day allay the misgivings that exist amongst Commonwealth public servants, but so far he has not been candid with either the House or the Service. He has not carried out his promises, and I think I might fairly charge him with having side-stepped his obligations. Honorable members on this side of the House believe that in the Repatriation Department there is a desire to appoint military officers to positions for which they are not qualified by knowledge and experience; That objection applies to Major Bell. Such a policy carries preference to soldiers to extremes, especially when public servants better qualified are sacrificed in order that appointments may be given to soldiers. We on this side of the House are opposed to the handing over of the administration of the civil pensions and maternity allowances to the Repatriation Department, and we do not think that that procedure is approved by the country.. The Repatriation’ Department is more or less ephemeral, because we hope that in time all soldiers will have been repatriated, and there will be no further necessity for a Department to attend to that work. There is no reason why appointments such as the one in question should be made to the detriment of permanent members of the Public Service, and the Treasurer will require to adduce very strong reasons to justify his action in this matter.I suggest that, so far, he has been rather dis ingenuous. On the. 27th March last the following questions and answers were exchanged between the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) and the Treasurer : -
– Can the Treasurer tell us. whether it is a fact that the old-age and invalid pensioners of Australia are to be handed over to the tender mercies of tho Repatriation Board? If so, can he give any reason for such a decision?
– If the honorable member will wait, the Government policy on this matter will be announced later.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he can tell us how many more years we shall have to wait for a statement of Government policy, seeing that it is about twelve months since we had one?
– I suggest to the honorable member that he should guess again.
Although the Treasurer promised in March to announce the Government policy, no announcement has yet been made, although a new policy has been initiated. The second answer by the Treasurer was unnecessarily flippant. There is no room for flippancy in connexion with such an important matter. I think it will be apparent to an unbiased mind that the Treasurer side-stepped his obligations. On the 1st April - perhaps a very appropriate date - the honorable member for Dalley again sought information from the Treasurer, and I quote the questions and answers in full: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice - 1.. Has the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department been handed over tothe Repatriation Board in the State of Western Australia?
– The answers to the honorable member’s; questions areas follow: -
In an important matter such as this, it was unreasonable for the. Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to brush the whole matter aside as ha did. He does not realize what may happen if he does not pay some regard to the wishes of members of the Public Service, who feel that their privileges are threatened. The Treasurer indicated that what had been done would be fully explained when the policy of the Government in connexion with this Department was outlined.
– The Government have not any policy.
– They are giving effect to a policy and explaining their policy later, as was done in connexion with the appointment of Mr. J. A. M. Elder as Australia’s representative in the United States of America. The appointment has been made, and we are informed that the question can be debated when the Estimates are under consideration. No one. was informed of the fact that Mr. Donald Mackinnon had been selected as Australia’s Commissioner at Washington until the appointment was made.
– Order !
– I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that Major Ball was appointed in similar circumstances. The Treasurer further stated -
I may perhaps add, for the information of the honorable member, that, on the retirement recently of the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, Adelaide, the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in that State was appointed also as Deputy Commissioner of Pensions. This does not mean that the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is placed in the hands of the Repatriation Commission. The administration is being controlled as formerly by the Secretary to the Treasury in his capacity as Commissioner of Invalid and Oldage Pensions.
That admission was drawn from the Treasurer by the persistency of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), and again I suggest that the last-mentioned statement was made simply to appease the honorable member for Dalley or other honorable members concerned in the appointment, and to create the impression that the position has not in any way been altered. The Treasurer knows that such is not the case. He knows that in South Australia the administration of the Pensions Department is not controlled as it was when in charge of Mr. Gardiner, who was Deputy Public Service Commissioner, and held a dual position.
– He was a very able man.
– Yes, and he retired from the position with honour. Although Major Bell has been appointed, the Department is still under the control of the Secretary to the Treasury but the posi- tion has been given to a man outside the Service, who had no right to be appointed. The Treasurer’s statement is of a character likely to lead some to believe that nothing irregular has been done, but the action taken is contrary to the usual practice, which is to transfer such officers from one State to another according to the importance of the work. A notification appeared in the Commonwealth Gazette on the 17th January, 1924, which was long before the honorable member for Dalley submitted the question. The Treasurer knew what had been done when the question was answered. He should realize that honorable members have their rights, and should be fully informed when information is sought. Instead of replying to the honorable member for Dalley in the terms he did, he should have referred him to the Commonwealth Gazette of the 17th January of this year, on page 394 of which the following notice appears: -
The Governor-General in Council has approved of the appointment of John William Bell, Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation, Adelaide, as Deputy Commissioner of Pensions under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1923, and Deputy Commissioner of Maternity Allowances under tho Maternity Allowance Act 1912, for the State of South Australia, vice Alfred Charles Clayer.
Alfred Charles Clayer is the man who has lost his job by the appointment of Major Bell, or, if such is not the case the Treasurer should inform the House as to the exact position. I have been authoritatively informed that Mr. Clayer has been deprived, by the appointment of Major Bell, of the promotion to which he was entitled on the retirement of Mr. Gardiner. Later I asked some questions relative to the appointment, which I shall quote, together with the answers. They are -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The replies are again characteristic of the Treasurer in dealing with this matter. The Treasurer admits in the answer to the last question that Mr. Clayer has had many years experience in the Service, and states that Major Bell was appointed in the interests of economy, hut he should show why economy should be effected at the expense of a reputable public servant. Some time later the honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) sought further information from the Treasurer. He asked the Minister the following questions : -
Again the Treasurer was economizing, because his replies were unnecessarily brief, and read : -
That is the information which the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) supplies to an honorable member on a very important matter. He has created a precedent in having made an appointment which is not justified by the Public Service Act of 1922. Those who work under the provisions of the Act are very jealous of their rights and privileges, and I am informed that the action of the Treasurer paves the way for the making of similar appointments in future. I am not raising this matter at the instance of Mr. Clayer. I have not spoken to that officer more than once. “When I went to the office to transact some business I was told to see him, and that is the only occasion on Avhich I have spoken to him. I have, however, conversed with other public servants, and I know that they expect honorable members to conserve the rights which they possess under the Act. If this appointment is not justified by the Act the Treasurer must explain why it has been made, and the reason for not referring it to the Public Service Board. The retirement of Mr. Gardiner enabled the Treasurer to put this policy in operation in South Australia, but prior to that it was known that some move was contemplated to bring the Pensions Department under the control of theRepatriation Department, and steps were taken to prevent its being done. The following is an extract from the Federal Public Service Journal, regarding a meeting that was held in Perth : -
Considerable discussion was evoked by the letter received from the general secretary regarding the rumoured amalgamation of these Departments; and, while the information supplied by the general secretary in connexion withthe amalgamation issue was appreciated, it was considered by several councillors that the proposed move represented the thin edge of the wedge for the ultimate merging of the two Departments into one. Moreover, it was pointed out that, apart from amalgamation, the suggested appointment of an outsider, in the person of the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation, to the. important position of Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, over the heads of better qualified permanent officers, constituted an injustice, and was directly opposed to the best interests of the Service. It was accordingly decided that the Central Executive he requested to strongly oppose the suggested appointment. It was further resolved to ask Mr. E. A. Mann, M.H.R., to arrange for all the Federal members at present in Perth to receive a deputation on the subject from this branch, and that all the Western Australian Federal members who are not present at that interview should be circularized.
The Treasurer must have been cognisant of that when he appointed Major Bell. It is generally believed in the Service that the action taken by the Western Australian branch prevented the making of a similar appointment there.
– That is generally supposed to be tho case. At any rate, this protest was made against action which eventually was taken in South Australia. The Government is not playing fairly with the Public Service; it is not adopting the right attitude if it desires to keep the Public Service satisfied. The Treasurer side-stepped the questions asked by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) in this House. He would have been more candid had he informed that honorable member that the appointment had been made, and explained to the
House the reason for giving the position to Major Bell. Does the Treasurer believe that Major Bell has a right to the position? I suggest that he has not. Until he returned from the war and the Repatriation Department was created, he had no knowledge of pensions work. Honorable members do not even know whether he is a clerical officer capable of carrying on the work of that Department. The fears exhibited by the “Western Australian public servants, subsequent events proved, were well founded. Yesterday, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the Treasurer the following questions : -
The Treasurer’s replies were : -
I think that the honorable gentleman could have been more candid than that. Judging by the nature of the appointment in South Australia, the probability is that another military man is ready to step into the position in Queeusland. If that is contemplated, tho Treasurer, this afternoon,, must show justification for it. I hope, however, that action will be taken by this House to prevent a repetition of what occurred in South Australia. I cannot believe that the Treasurer is able to make out a case which will justify the appointment of Major Bell, and that appointment should be at once cancelled. If, as is maintained by members of the Public Service, this appointment is the thin edge of the wedge to break down the present system of making appointments and giving promotion, this House should take action to compol the Treasurer to revoke the appointment and give the position to the officer who is entitled to it. Mr. Clayer entered the Public Service in 1881. He was transferred from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to the Pensions Department on the 18th March, 1911. I am led to believe that he is a capable officer, against whom nothing is known. Yet he has still to sit back. Another feature of the case merits earnest attention. I believe that if Mr. Clayer had been given this appointment, which 1 consider he was entitled to, all the other officers of the Department would have been promoted. They, therefore, are much concerned, and from their stand-point the matter is serious. I do not think that the Treasurer was justified in so coordinating the administration of our civil and military pensions. I do not propose to say anything about Major Bell’s administrative ability.
– I shall do that.
– I must say, however, in justice to the officers of the Pensions Department in Adelaide and to Mr. John (Gardiner, that whenever I have had reason to interview them, I have obtained most satisfactory attention. Unless the Treasurer gives some substantial reasons to justify the appointment of Major Bell, I hope that this House will indicate, in no uncertain way, that a mistake has been made which must be rectified.
– The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), has dealt with two matters, namely, the appointment of Major Bell to the position of Deputy . Commissioner of Old-age and Invalid Pensions in Adelaide, and, also, the general impression, which seems to- have been fostered by certain questions directed to me by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), that the Government propose to supersede the old-age and invalid pensions administration by repatriation administration. I shall reply briefly on both those matters. The Government’s intention with respect to pensions administration generally is exactly the reverse of what seems to have been suggested by the questions asked by the honorable member for Dalley. It is the intention of the Government gradually to place the payment of the permanent repatriation pensions, of which there are now a large number, in the hands of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Department. This will effect’ a considerable economy, for the oldage and invalid pensions system of payment’ is well established throughout the Commonwealth, and is a suitable channel through which to pay the permanent repatriation pensions.
– It was worth while moving tho adjournment of the House to obtain that assurance from the Treasurer.
– Ever since I have had charge of the repatriation administration I have been endeavouring to co-ordinate the work of the Pensions Branch with that of the permanent Pensions Department of the Commonwealth. For instance, when the lease of the premises occupied by the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Department in Sydney expired, we transferred the Department en bloc to the repatriation building, and thus saved £2,250 per annum in rent. Ultimately the problem Gases now being dealt with by the Repatriation Department will decrease, and it will be possible to pay all the permanent repatriation pensions through the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Department. Every week 100 repatriation pensions are being made permanent, and eventually they will all be paid in the way I have indicated. In working towards this end the Government are trying to arrange that such soldiers as are able to handle the work shall discharge the duties appertaining to both the Repatriation Pensions and the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Departments. I need say no more on this matter except that this has been the policy of the Government ever since I assumed control ‘Of repatriation work. One reason why that portfolio was placed in the hands of the Treasurer was that it was felt that that would lead to economy and more satisfactory service. The honorable member for Adelaide truly remarked, and I think all ‘honorable members in the House will agree with him, that- the permanent officials in our Pensions Department have rendered thoroughly satisfactory service in dealing with tike claims that have been placed before them. When I visited Western Australia in February, the honorable member for Perth (Mr, Mann) introduced a deputation of pension officers to me, and I expressed to them the view which I have now expressed to honorable members. I must confess that the relevance of the questions asked by the honorable member for Dalley has now dawned upon me for the first time. I did not appreciate the fact that a member representing a New South Wales constituency was dealing with an Adelaide case.
– I think the Treasurer knew it all along.
– I informed the honorable member for Dalley, in reply to his questions, that the Government policy would be announced at the appropriate time. When the honorable mem ber asked me whether the appointment of Major Bell had been made, by the Public Service Board, I replied that it had not, foi the reason that Mr. John Gardiner,, the ex-Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in South Australia, had not been so appointed. The administration in South Australia of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was in the hands of Mr. John Gardiner, the South Australian Public Service Inspector, from 1909 to 1923. He acted in consideration of an allowance of £100 per annum. There has never been a Deputy Commissioner in South Australia who devoted the whole of his’ time to pensions administration, and the administration has thus been far less expensive than would have been the case had a full-time public servant, drawing the usual fairly high salary, been in charge’ of the work. The South Australian method of administration having been found to be most satisfactory, it was determined to continue it, and Major Bell, the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in that State, was instructed to take up the invalid and old-age pensions duties in addition to his repatriation work. The appointment was peculiarly suitable, for invalid and old-age pensions work and repatriation pension activities have many features in common. Major Bell is discharging the duties for both Departments at the .remuneration he formerly received for repatriation work only. His salary is £650 per annum. Honorable members will realize that it is possible for him to do the work required by both ‘Departments on account -crf the repatriation work having declined so” considerably.
– Has he applied for the £100 per annum allowance which was paid to Mr. Gardiner?
– I do not. know. In consequence of the amalgamation Of the pensions work of the two Departments, considerable economy has been effected, notwithstanding that the system has been operative for only a short time. The savings are.: Allowance .to Deputy Commissioner, £100; salary of one assistant, £230 ; salary of one typist, £140 ; rent, £387. Total saving, £857.
– Surely the amalgamation has not saved rent?
– It has, for the work is now being done in one building instead of in two. Similar savings are practicable in other States, but cannot be effected immediately. I hope, however, that before very long we shall have the old-age and invalid pensions and repatriation pensions work amalgamated. When that time comes, savings, comparable with those which have already been made in Sydney and Adelaide, will result. No one will suggest that there has been any victimization through the new arrangement. No officer has been prevented from advancing in the Service. No new office has been created, because the position rendered vacant by Mr. Gardiner was not a full-time office.
– Why was the Public Service Board ignored ?
– Because neither officer was under the control ‘of the Board. The appointment was made by the Commissioner of Pensions, because, owing to peculiar circumstances, the administration of invalid and old-age pensions in South Australia was merely a part-time position.
– Will Major Bell become a. permanent officer of the Commonwealth Service ?
.- I heartily concur in the object sought by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) in raising this question to-day. If it has served no other purpose than to secure from the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) the information that it is the intention of the Commonwealth Government to transfer the activities of the Repatriation Department to the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Department, this afternoon’s debate has not been in vain.
– That transfer will relate only to the payment of automatic pensions.
– The Treasurer has claimed that the contentions put forward by the honorable member for Adelaide are not in accordance with the actual circumstances of the case he has submitted, but either he has been misinformed by his advisors, or the Department has displayed inexcusable ignorance. For instance, the Treasurer was quite incorrect in saying that in South Australia, repatriation matters have been transferred to the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Department. As a matter of fact, the Invalid and Oldage Pensions work in Adelaide has been transferred to the Repatriation Department in Pulteney -street, and it is now under the direct supervision of an officer who, for some years, has occupied and still occupies the position of Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation, and is paid his salary for that position. Therefore, in Adelaide the very reverse of what the Treasurer now tells us is the policy of the Government has taken, place. The administration of invalid and old-age pensions has been transferred to the Repatriation Department, and the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation is now the Deputy Commissioner of Invalid and Old-age Pensions. It is regrettable that the Treasurer, when replying to the questions asked by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), did not indicate the intentions of the Government in this respect.
– In April or March of last year, I told the Returned Soldiers’ League in Sydney what the Government intended to do.
– That may be so, but the Treasurer could certainly have given the House the advantage of this knowledge at a very much earlier date than he has. The appointment of Major Bell has given serious concern not only to officers in. the Commonwealth Service in South Australia, .but also to the Public Service of the Commonwealth generally. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has mentioned the case of Mr. Claver who has been in the service of the State of South Australia and of the Commonwealth since 1881, and it is possible other officers in the Commonwealth service are senior to Mr. Clayer, yet these trusted officials have been passed over and a position is filled by a man who is really only a “ Johnny come lately,” and is not temperamentally fitted to supervise the administration of invalid and old-age pensions. Feeling that I could not get sympathetic treatment for the cases that came under my notice concerning the Repatriation Department, I have not for the last two years personally interviewed and submitted claims to Major Bell, preferring to bring them under the notice of the Department in Melbourne. I was always able to go to Mr. Gardiner or Mri Clayer whenever I had a matter which concerned their department.
– Why would thehonorable member not go to Major Bell I
– Because in my early experience as a member of this House I had occasion to interview him, and I then realized that while he might have many excellent qualities, he was not temperamentally fitted to deal with claims for pensions. He may be a most admirable officer in other directions, but I hav6 always felt that I would not secure from him the sympathetic treatment which the cases I might have to bring under his notice would deserve. I knew that in Melbourne I would be dealing with men who would be more sympathetic. If I could not have sufficient confidence in Mr. Bell in matters concerning returned soldiers - and he is a returned soldier himself - how could I expect that he would deal sympathetically with invalid and old-age pensioners, and to properly administer a Department of which he had had no previous experience ? The appointment of Major Bell is unfortunate from the stand-point, not only of the Commonwealth Public Service, but also of those who are compelled to submit to him claims for pensions. I shall not put a single claim before him ; I shall have nothing whatever to do with him.
– He will not mind, I suppose.
– But we, and the people We represent, will mind.
– I can afford to ignore the interjection made by the honorable member for Franklin. It is in keeping with what I might have expected from him, and justifies the opinion I have formed of him. I repeat that I am not prepared to take cases with which I may be entrusted to Major Bell, but shall bring them to the Central OffiGe in Melbourne for consideration. Many of those cases, no doubt, should be determined by the local authority, but I have not sufficient confidence in the gentleman concerned to take that course. He has not had sufficient experience in these matters, and knows little or nothing about the Service. I feel that I should not be doing justice to those people who come to me concerning their claims for old-age and invalid pensions if I were to place them before the present Deputy Commissioner in Adelaide. This procedure will mean that, by the circumstances created by the Government, I shall be required to press additional work upon
Central Administration. The Government profess a policy of co-ordination in service and economy in administration. If what has been said this afternoon resultsin bringing soldiers’ pensions again under the administration of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Department, I shall heartily concur. But let that be done. The Government should not profess a desire for co-ordination and economy and by such appointments as the one under review act differently. That is what has been done in Adelaide, to the great concern and dissatisfaction of public servants throughout the States.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
Cost of Upkeep, Salaries, Etc
asked the Minister for Defence,upon notice - (a.) What is the total cost of upkeep, salaries, &c, of Duntroon Military College, Jervis Bay Naval College, Flinders Base Training School, and the Flying School at Point Cook, for 1921-22; 1922-23; and the expired portion of the present financial year; and (b) what is the estimated cost for the present financial year?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Note. - With regard to the Flying Training School, other Air Force units are also located at Point Cook, and to prevent duplication of staffs and equipment certain facilities provided by those units are availed of by No.1 Flying Training School. These include part use of workshops, stores accounting and issue, transport, &c. The present basis of organization of No. 1 Station, Royal Australian Air Force, Point Cook, therefore precludes the possibility of assessing the total cost of No. 1 Flying. Training School separately from that of the other units located at Point Cook.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is it a fact-
If so, in view of the great danger of the disease reaching Australia, what action, if any, has the Minister taken for the prevention of its introduction?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1. (a) Foot and mouth disease still continues in England, but with diminishing intensity. (b), (c), and (d) The accuracy of these figures cannot be tested by the official information available.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers are-
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will indicate to the House when the amendment of the Superannuation Act will be introduced in accordance with his promise during the discussion on the Estimates last year, so as to extend the benefits of superannuation to public servants taken over from a State Service and who at death or retirement have not been ten years in the Federal Public Service?
– As I informed the honorable member on the 2nd August, the claims of the officers referred to will receive consideration in connexion with the Bill which is being prepared to amend the Act. That Bill will be introduced as soon as possible.
asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice -
When will Australia accede to the decisions of the Convention of Paris relating to industrial property, as revised by the Washington Convention ?
– The matter is at present receiving consideration.
appointment of OVERSEER of POSTMEN.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
My attention was drawn to the fact that the wording of the specification in regard to the finish of certain upholstered furniture for the Canberra Hostel would involve the use of American leather. Before tenders closed firms were advised to quote for Australian hide in accordance with the Governments’ general policy to give preference whereever possible to Australian materials.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follow : -
Funds for Research Work
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 3,6, and 7. The Institute has functioned during the three years named by the honorable member to the extent of the amount provided by Parliament.
My Government, however, realizes that to enable the Institute to carry out suitable investigations into the various problems which confront Australian producers larger funds must be available.
The whole matter is at present receiving the most careful consideration of the Government.
2, 1021-22, £16,007; 1922-23, £20,907; 1923-24, £21,356.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am not in possession of the information desired by the honorable member, but I will make inquiries from the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, and will advise him of the result as early as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to apply to the Public Service the agreement of the Premiers’ Conference held in September, 1923, regarding public holidays?
– The Commonwealth Government originally raised this question with the States, and at the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held last year a motion was agreed to affirming the desirability of uniformity of public holidays throughout the Commonwealth. I am glad to say that with the exception of one or two days, e.g., Labour Day, which is at present observed on different dates in various States, the efforts to secure uniformity have been successful. Correspondence is still being carried on, and it is hoped that, as far as practicable, complete uniformity in this direction will be secured.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that the bankers did, at the deputation on the 1st April, inform him that the Japanese have been excluded from competition in wool buying?
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– These are matters of policy, which will be considered in connexion with the forthcoming Budget.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What were the precise terms of the letter written by the late Mr. Frank Tudor, M.P., on 8th July, 1920, to the Department of Repatriation regarding ex-No. 2088 Private William Holland?
– The letter referred to was as follows : -
Dear Sir, -
Ex-Pte. W. Holland, 2088, 57 Gotch-street, Northcote South, enlisted on 8th January, 1917 embarked on 19th February, 1917, and returned on 22nd December, 1917.
He was on the Ballarat when she was torpedoed, and later contracted asthma. He has been in the hospital” on and off ever since. Only recently he left the hospital after being there ten months.
Mr. Holland is in need of assistance. Will you kindly look into his ease to see what can be done for him.
Frank G. Tudor.
– On the 23rd May, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) asked the Prime Minister the following question: -
Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn “to the fact that the bottom has fallen out of a large tank containing 20,000 gallons of oil at the depot of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, in which the Commonwealth is financially interested; and will he ascertain whether this mishap was due to faulty construction ?
T am now able to reply to the honorable member’s question as follows: -
The Commonwealth has no” financial interest in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company; but the Commonwealth and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company both ha.ve interests in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. I am informed that the mishap referred to was an explosion which lifted the lid of a washer tank at the refinery and drew some rivets, and that it was not due to faulty construction.
– Yesterday a series of questions were addressed to me by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) regarding the s.s. Ferndale. I am now able to inform the honorable member that there has been no departure from the practice of calling this ship and the vessel previously launched by Australian names. Fordsdale is the name of a town in Queensland, and there are two towns in Australia named Ferndale, one in New
South Wales and one in Victoria. Regarding his further request that the launching of the Ferndale be postponed from the 12th to the 14th of June, I am advised that it would be impracticable to launch the vessel on Saturday the 14th, as the launching of vessels is governed by the phases of the high spring tide. High tide is very late in the day on the 14th June, and in the fading light very serious risk would be incurred with a ship of such large tonnage.
– On the 21st May, the honorable member for. Forrest (Mr. Prowse) asked the Minister for Trade and Customs the following question : -
Whether he will state -
The amount of duty paid on reapers and binders and parts for same imported into tho Commonwealth during each year since the last Tariff schedule on these items became operative?
The number of establishments manufacturing these items in the Commonwealth?
The value of these items manufactured in the Commonwealth during the same period ?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member” with the following information : -
24, £39,946 (ten months only).
Barrier “ Daily Truth “ Messages
– On the 27th March the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked the following questions : -
I promised that information would be obtained, and now furnish the following replies : -
– On the 14th May the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information: -
Harvester (stripper) . - 6-ft., £125; 8-ft., £158.
Header Harvester or Reaper Thresher 6-ft. header, for wheat, oats, and barley only, £190 6-ft. header, for peas only, £220; 6-ft. header for wheat, oats, and barley, and with necessary parts to convert into a pea header, £235.
Standard Header. - 8-ft., £192 10s.
Mallee Type. - 8 ft., with wood rim in each wheel andsand guards, £201.
Binders and Reapers. -6-ft, cut, with transport and sheaf carrier, £77;. 8-ft. cut, with transport and sheaf carrier, £06.
Mowers. - 34½ft. out, one horse, £26 12s..: 43/4-ft. cut, two horse, £33 5s; 6-ft. cut, two horse, £371s.
Hay Rakes- 8-ft., £181s.: 9-ft., £19; 10-ft.. £199s. 6d.
Ploughs. - Adjustable Mouldboard Ploughs- 2-furrow, fixed land wheel, £31 7s.; 3-furrow. fixed land wheel, £48 9s.; 4-furrow, fixed land wheel, £61 15s.; 5-furrow, fixed land wheel, £73 3s.
Stump- jump Mould Board. - With shortboard - 2-furrow, £48 9s.: 3-furrow, £51 6s.; 4-furrow, £58 8s. 6d.; 5-furrow, £64 2s. 6d.; 6-furrow, £72 13s. 6d. With long board- 2-furrow, £50 7s.: 3-furrow, £53 4s.; 4-furrow,. £60 6s. 6d.; 5-furrow, £06 10s.; 6-furrow,. £751s.
Light Sunnie Set Disk Plough. - 1-furrow, £19 19s.; 2-fnrrow, £24 14s.: 3-fuVrow,. £29 9s.; 4-furrow, £35 3s.
Set Disk Plough (heavy).: - 2-furrow, £30 17s. (1d.; 3-furrow, £35 3s.; 4-furrow. f39 8s. (id.; 5-furrow, £401s. 6d.; 6-furrow.. £53 4s.
Stump-jump Disk Plough - l!-furrowr £28 10s.; 2-furrow, £33 14s. 6d.; 3-furrow,. £39 8s. 6d.; 4-furrow, £47 10s. 5-furrow,. £55 2s.; 6-furrow, £61 15s.; 7 -furrow (on the 6½-in. cut only), £67 183. 6d.
Harrows. - Sunshine Diamond Harrows, 20 teeth per section, teeth3/8-in. square. on the l3/4-in. cut - 1-section, without bar covers. 3 ft. 2 in., £1 13s. 3d.; 2-section, set with bar, 6’ ft. 8 in., £4 5s. fid.; 3-section, 10 ft.,-£6 3s.6d.: 4- section, 13 ft. 4 in., £8 fis. 3d.; 5-section, 16 ft. 8 in., £10 9s.; 6-seetion, 20 ft., £12 16s. 6d.
Sunbury Stump-jump Harrow. - 16 teeth for section - 1-section, without bar, £21s. 5d. ; 2-section, with bar, £5. 4s. 6d.; 3-section, with bar, £7 14s. 5d. ; 4-section, with bar, £10 4s. 3d. ; 5- section, with bar. £12 14s. 2d.; 6-section, with bar, £15 6s. 4d.
Disk Harrow or Cultivator. -8-disk, 16-in., £16 12s. Cd.; 8-disk, 20-in., £181s.; 10-disk, 16-in., £1711s. 6d.; 10-disk, 20-in., £19 9s. 6d.
Sunda Cut OneWay Disk Stump-jump Cultivator. 10-disk, cut5 ft., £57 19s.; 14-disk, cut 7 ft., £69 7s.
High-wheel Spring (One Cultivators.- 15- tyne, 3 floats, cuts 5 ft., £24 4s. 6d.; 20-tyne, 4 floats, cuts 6 ft. 3 in., £28 0s. 6d.; 25-tyne, 5 floats, cuts 8 ft. 3 in., £32 6s.; 30-tyne, 6 floats, cuts 10 ft., £37 5s. 9d.; 35-tyne, 7 floats,, cuts 11 ft. 3 in., £42 15s.
Scarifier, High-wheel. - 25-tyne cultivator, 7’ ft. 3 in., £40 7s. 6d.; 20-tyne cultivator, 8 ft. 6 in., £45 2s. 6d.; 33-tyne cultivator, fi ft. 6 in., £40 17s. 6d.; 41-tvne cultivator. 12 lt., £06 10s.
Grain and Fertilizer Drills.
Grain and Fertilizer Drill, combined with the Tyne Cultivator. Sunsuntyne- 8-row, with 17 spring tyne* cultivator, 5 ft., £57: 12-row, with 25 spring tynes cultivator, 7 ft. 3 in., £70 15s. 0d.; 14-rovv, with 29 spring tynes cultivator, 8 ft. 6 in., £76 9s. Cd.; 16-rbw, with 33 spring tynes cultivator, 9 ft. 6 in., £82 13s.; 20-row, with 41 spring tynes cultivator, 12 ft., £08 16s. Sundelve- 8-row, with 17 rigid tynes cultivator, 5 ft., £57; 12-row, with 25 rigid tynes cultivator, 7 ft. 3 in., £70 1.5s. 6d.; 14- row, with 29 rigid tynes cultivator, 8 ft. 6 in., £76 9s. 0d.; 10-row, with 33 rigid tynes cultivator, 9 ft. 0 in., £82 13s.; 20-row,’ with 41 rigid tynes cultivator, 12 ft., £98 16s.
The exports of Australian manufactured agricultural implements and machinery from the Commonwealth during each of the years 1920-21 to 1922-23, inclusive, were: -
The following paper was presented : -
Audit Act - Transfers of Amounts Approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1923-24, dated 21st May, 1924.
Debate resumed from 19th July, 1923 (vide page 1325, vol. 104), on motion by Sir Elliot- Johnson -
That, in the opinion of this House, with a view to removing the uncertainty Which exists at the present time as to the authority for the publication of the Parliamentary Ilansard, section 3 of the Parliamentary Papers Act should lie amended to include ilansard among the documents authorized by Parliament to be printed and published.
.- When I spoke on this matter in July of last year I advocated that the absurd practice of using Roman characters for the numbering of the volumes of Hansard be discontinued, and that Arabic numerals be employed instead. That change having since been adopted, my object in speaking to the motion has been attained. I regret the absence at the moment of the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson), whose principal desire, in submitting the motion, was, I believe, to ‘ insure that parliamentary authority existed for the publication of Hansard. Parliament has never specifically authorized the publication of Hansard. The fact that we pay for Ilansard may be held to be parliamentary authorization, but that conclusion is open to very grave and great- doubt. Every member of Parliament should be free to express his ideas in Parliament. He should be free from the danger of charges of libel. He should be free of the terrible menace of clever legal minds, able to twist his words with the object of ruining him. This might be done if a member was opposed by a wealthy’ Combine or Trust. I hope that the House will support the motion of the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson), and end this absurdity for all time. It should be made quite clear that any man who comes into this House as a member may speak as fearlessly as can a member of the House of Commons - the Mother of Parliaments.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Marr) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 12th July, 1923 (vide page 1045, vol. 103), on motion by Dr. Maloney -
That this House is of opinion that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act should be amended in order to provide for a destitute allowance to be made to all inhabitants who are destitute, so that any person making a statutory declaration (to a postmaster, Customs officer, or other appointed Commonwealth official, a schoolmaster, a. union secretary, a magistrate, or other appointed individual) that he or she is insufficiently fed, clothed, or sheltered, shall be paid as soon as possible the sum of 15s. per week, and for each child 10s. per week, until relieved.
That the passing of the foregoing resolution be an instruction to the Government of the Commonwealth to bring in tho necessary amending Act.
– This motion was moved by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) about this time last year, before the House had had an opportunity of considering the Budget proposals for increases in the invalid and old-age pensions. It proposes that any person making a statutory declaration that he or she i3 insufficiently fed, clothed, or sheltered, shall, as soon as possible, and until relieved, b”e paid 15s. a week, with an additional 10s. for each child. Apparently the chief object of the honorable member for Melbourne is to provide adequate relief for all those who at the present time do not come within the operation of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. He desires to make it as easy as possible for needy persons to obtain allowances. I assume that the allowance would be granted in a similar way to the Compassionate Allowance formerly provided in the State of “Victoria. That was an allowance granted on the recommendation of a member of Parliament, a clergyman, or any other person of repute. Since then, the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act has been passed, and has come into operation throughout Australia. The motion proposes a distinct departure from established systems of pensions administration. The Government recognizes that the present system is faulty in many respects. It is built on a wrong basis, and in order to correct it, a Royal Commission to inquire about national insurance, old age, invalidity, and unemployment was appointed. That Commission 13 now taking evidence. I submit that this question can be properly considered by this House when the report of that Commission has been presented. I assume that we shall then go into the whole question of unemployment and invalidity. The experience of the Old-age Pensions Department is that it is very dangerous to grant pensions on the unsupported statement of persons that they are destitute. This is shown by the fact that since 1909, 47,000 claims have been rejected, and practically all of them were supported by statutory declarations. They were rejected because an examination of the facts proved that the statutory declarations were not accurate. It is reasonable to assume that the claims were lodged in good faith. Had they been dealt with by the method suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne, the full pension rate would have been paid in a large proportion of them, although probably many of the applicants were substantially well oft’. A grave objection to the honorable member’s proposal is that it would make the Commonwealth Government liable to serious imposition. Applicants for relief under the present system are compelled to disclose all their’ circumstances, and the Department has full power to investigate their .,tate111 ellts. Despite these provisions many claims are received from persons who misrepresent facts in order to obtain pensions to which they are not legally entitled. The adoption of a. system requiring the applicant merely to make a, declaration, would give rise to a large number of applications, many of which would, no doubt, be genuine, but some of which would be from applicants undeserving of assistance. It is proposed that the applicant himself should decide whether he is insufficiently clothed, fed, and sheltered. This is a very wide qualification to be decided by a personal opinion. A person might make an honest declaration that he was insufficiently clothed, fed, or sheltered, and might, nevertheless, be in a position of 1 average comfort. Deserving persons who find themselves in destitute circumstances can generally attribute their condition to one of three causes - old age, invalidity, or unemployment. Those who are destitute on account of old age are already provided for by old-age pensions. For those who are permanently invalided there is similar provision. There remain, therefore, those who are temporarily incapacitated, and. those who are unemployed. I submit that the House would be acting unwisely if it came to a decision on this motion before the Commission which has been appointed to inquire into the basis of insurance for unemployment and sickness, presents its report. We have no statistics sufficiently accurate to estimate the cost of giving effect to the motion. There are 210,000 persons’ over 65 years of age who are not receiving pensions. If a general invitation were extended to them to apply for pensions, and if only half of them applied, the cost would be over £5,000,000 a year. It is almost impossible to estimate what would be the cost of providing unemployment relief on the basis proposed. I should say that, at’ the least, it would be £10,000,000 a year, which would bring the Commonwealth liability for relief, in this form up to £16,000,000 or £17,000,000 a year, or £2 18s. per head of the population. Such an estimate does not take into account the cost of administration. Even at the present time the cost of administration is moderately heavy, but under a system such as that advocated, with the necessity for detecting cases of imposition by people not actually destitute, it would bc much heavier and more complicated. There would have to be au enormous increase of staff, and additional expenditure. The adoption of the proposal at Che present juncture would be a leap in the dark. We would not know where we should land. Until the subject has been investigated by the National Insurance Commission, which is doing very valuable work, I ask the House to allow the motion to be postponed.
.- The plea of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) for the postponement of this matter until the report of the Commission on Unemployment and Insurance comes before the House, is in accordance with the usual policy of the present Government, that all matters of an im-‘ port. ant nature should be held over. In effect, th3 Treasurer says, “ Let people de unemployed, and let starvation and distress take its toll of human life.” I contend that the appointment of that Commission was a deliberate attempt on the part of the Government to shelve this matter. They hoped that the Commission would not present its report during the life of this Parliament. The economics of the Treasurer are those of the stone age. They are the same as those of a British Prime Minister who said that assistance could not be sent to the starving Indians, because that would be against the laws of political economy. That is ai policy of £ s. d. - the policy followed by the financial institutions of the world. True economics take3 into consideration the human beings who constitute the nation. The people of a country should be considered before its finances. No nation is truly wealthy which has among its citizens both millionaires and paupers. It is only in having a sturdy and virile people that a nation oau be considered rich in the true sense of the word. This country is capable of supporting ten times its present population, but what do we find ? In our midst there are 10,000 persons unemployed, and little children who are unable to obtain sufficient food. We should not tolerate: any system which allows even one child to ask in vain for food . I commend the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) for bringing this matter forward. Parliament should pass the. motion, which would be a step worthy of emulation by other nations. I protest against the callous attitude adopted by the Treasurer when dealing with this important question. He attempted to brush it aside lightly by saying that some one might sign a false statutory declaration. We all know that perjury is committed every day of the week, but- do we abolish our law courts because of that? The motion reads -
That does not’ mean that relief shall automatically be given to any person who signs a statutory declaration. The statements contained in the declaration should first be verified, and opportunity should be afforded for any cases of imposition or malingering to be detected. Even if this motion fails to receive the support of the House on this occasion, I hope the day is not far distant when a Commonwealth Government, representative of the whole of the people, will endeavour to do something to relieve these constantly recurring periods of distress. In his book, The Case for Labour, the late Prime Minister (Bt. Hon. W. M. Hughes) stated definitely that unemployment and destitution are the direct result of the capitalistic system. He said, further, that the capitalistic system should pay for the distress it causes. I agree with Mr. Hughes that these evils are the fault not of the individual, but of the system which renders unemployment inevitable. It is all very well for people to say that industry cannot stand the burden of paying for unemployment. Industry can stand it. The millions of pounds paid out each year in dividends, and the huge wealth piled up in this country, bear eloquent testimony to the fact that industry can well afford to pay a special tax for this purpose. We cannot afford to wait until this roving Commission, which sits but a few hours a week, has finished its work. There is sufficient evidence already at the disposal of Ministers to enable them to introduce a Bill to-morrow to deal with this matter, if they desired to do so. But while the present Ministry is in office, it is hopeless to expect that anything satisfactory will be done. I am not con tent to wait, as the Treasurer has suggested. Of what use is that to the people who to-day are practically destitute? It is idle to tell destitute people that the Government intend to appoint a Commission to report, next year, or the year after, on the question of a destitute allowance. It is. wanted now, and if the motion is carried by the House, immediate effect should be given to it.
.- I desire to amend the. motion before the House. I move -
That all the words after “That,” line 1. bc left out, witha view to insert in lieu thereof the words : - “ in the opinion of this House the question of amending the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act to provide for the payment of a destitute allowance, be referred to the Royal Commission that is inquiring into national insurance, for report.”
The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) is to be commended for bringing this important question before the House, but, at the same time, it needs very careful consideration. From the remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), one would think that the Government supporters hadno consideration at all for the invalid and old-age pensioners of this country. Yet, during, the periods that Labour Governments occupied the Treasury bench, they did nothing to relieve the conditions of the pensioners. A Liberal Government passed the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– The Labour party compelled it to do so.
– A National Government increased the pension. It is all very well for the Opposition to criticize the Government. An ounce of fact is worth a pound of theory. We, on this side, have not abused the Opposition for their inaction. In considering this motion, we must ascertain whether our finances permit of an increased payment to old-age and invalid pensioners, who may, possiblyin the near future, obtain further benefits as a result of the deliberations of the National Insurance Commission. The motion proposes to allow statutory declarations to be made by certain officials who, in actual practice, are not concerned with public funds. It is not necessary to go outside the Public Service to find responsible men capable of deciding whethercertain persons should be given a destitute allowance. We might just as well include union secretaries among the secretary of a branch of any National party in Australia. But these men are not responsible officers. . For eight years I occupied the position of union secretary, so I know what I am talking about. I should not like to have the responsibility of deciding who should and who should not get an allowance. I, and other honorable members, have claims made upon our purses for various donations, and we assist as far as it lies in our power to do so. Among the officials mentioned in the motion are school-masters, who may be most excellent people.
– Does the honorablemember think it necessary to refer the question of a destitute allowance to a Royal Commission, because of his objection to school-masters ?
– I object to any responsibility in these matters being placed upon the various officials mentioned. We have no right to commit the people of Australia by decisions by irresponsible persons respecting the eligibility of. applicants for a destitute allowance. We must very carefully consider any proposed expenditure, since the general public and the press seem to think that the Government are throwing . money about, not knowing what to do with it.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– As the National Parliament of Australia, we are the custodians hot only of the public purse, but of the interests of the invalid and old-age pensioners. A decision by the National Insurance Commission on the question of a destitute allowance would be far more valuable than one that might be arrived at in this House this afternoon. The Opposition claim that they alone care for the invalid and old-age pensioners, yet they have failed to form a quorum during the debate on the motion.
– Honorable members opposite are responsible for the lack of a quorum.
– We did not call attention to the state of the House. Honorable members opposite should have been present to support the motion. All honorable members should take part in the debate and express their views on a question dear to their hearts. I give the Labour party credit for desiring to help the invalid and old-age pensioners, but they should at least concede that the Government’ have the same object in view.
– Not to the same extent.
– I do not claim that greater credit is due to this side of the House than ‘to honorable members opposite.
– The Labour party advocated a pension of £1 per week, but the Government made it 17s. 6d.
– I ask honorable members to refrain from further interjections.
– It is common knowledge that honorable members opposite hope to attain the Treasury bench after the next election. In that case, the motion, if carried, may later create a very awkward position by forcing the Labour party to borrow money to give effect to it. I believe that the mover of the motion will agree with me that this important question of a destitute allowance should be referred to the National Insurance Commission for inclusion, if thought fit, with proposals affecting invalid and oldage pensions, and national insurance, now being investigated by that body. It has been stated that the National Insurance Commission should make a world-wide inquiry, and that at least some of its members should be sent overseas in connexion with its investigations. I do not supportthat proposal, because we have in the Commonwealth sufficient data from various countries of the world to show what they have done along the lines of national insurance.
– Then why appoint the Commission ?
– To see to what extent the systems adopted in other countries might be followed in Australia. Every member of this House is hoping that in the very near future we shall have a report from the Commission, and shall be able to discuss the question in all its bearings. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) is a medical man, and I should like other medical men in this House to give expression to their views upon his proposal. I hope that my amendment will be carried, and that the matter will be submitted to the National Insurance Commission for its report.
– I agree with the honorable members for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) and Parkes (Mr. Marr) that the matter dealt. with in the motion is one of very great importance, and concerns a good many people. The question raised is so big, that I do not think the House should be asked to endorse the motion without investigation. I believe that the honorable member for Melbourne is very keenly interested in the people who would be assisted if his proposal were adopted, but he would be well advised to consent to the matter being dealt with upon a report from the National Insurance Commission. That Commission was appointed to review the system of old-age and invalid pensions, and to see whether it is not possible for us to give old, invalid, and destitute people the assistance to which they are entitled. I feel that it would be better and more in the in- terests of the people concerned that the amendment should be carried, and the Commission should report on this matter to the House. I could not support the motion without further information. It is not, I am sure, intended by the mover of the motion that monetary assistance should be given to any man or woman who displays no desire to work. I feel sure that the members of this Parliament will not do anything that would encourage people -to be lazy. . The honorable member for Melbourne is actuated by a higher motive than that. But whatever the object of the motion, the question it deals with is one which the Commission should investigate. We would, probably, as a result of its investigations, be furnished with some estimate of the number of people in the Commonwealth who are in a destitute condition through no fault of their own, and the probable expenditure involved. It may be said that the motion has appeared on the noticepaper for some weeks.
– It has been on the notice-paper for over a year.
– While that may be so, I feel sure that honorable members have not in the meantime given it the consideration which its importance deserves. I have not given it sufficient consideration to justify me in voting for it in view of the public expenditure which its adoption would involve. The question dealt with is really a branch of the question upon which the National Insurance Commission was appointed to advise this Parliament. If we dealt with it now, without further information, that might be regarded as a snub to the Commission.
– Order! The time allotted to Orders of the Day has expired.
– I call attention to tho state of the House.[Quorum formed.]
. -I move -
That, in view of the pronounced favoritism of those who possess the gift of distributionof public works -
This House declares that all architectural plans, designs, specifications, &c, of all works for the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Bank, the estimated cost of which amounts to £3,000 and upwards,shall be thrown open to the public competition of the architects of Australia.
Contingent upon this motion being carried, it be an instruction to the Government of the day to bring in amending legislation so as to control the policy of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in allotting architectural work and the like to one firm consisting of his relations and others.
It has long been held by the architects of Australia that every Australian architect should be given a fair chance to compete for the preparation of the plans for Government and other buildings and works in the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, because of nepotism, which I challenge any honorable member to equal in Australia since parliamentary procedure has existed here, one large institution in the Commonwealth has not adopted this course, and the architects of Australia have not been given a fair deal.
– The note printing office was a good example.
– The preparation of the plans for the note printing office was one of the most infamous jobs ever perpetrated in this State or in Australia, but I shall deal with that more particularly later on. In view of the fact that a majority of Protectionists has been returned to Parliament after Parliament of the Commonwealth, it is clearly the desire of the people that we should adopt a Protectionist policy, and that Australian work should, as far as possible, be done by Australians living in Australia. I have to thank the Institute of Architects, the Employers Association, and the President of the Chamber of Manufactures for much of the information I propose to submit in support of my motion. But I haveto thank the Age for having tried to expose these dealings, which I shall be able to prove by copies of sworn declarations setting forth the reasons for the nepotism practised by the late Governor of the Bank. To those honorable members who may ask why I speak in criticism of one who has passed away, I reply that, loving Australia, and desiring to see justice done, I have a duty to speak the truth. If anybody can impugn the accuracy of any statement I make, I shall take it as a personal favour if he will do so, and I shall, on proof, readily withdraw it. I desire to prevent a repetition of the improper practices of the past. The Age tried to get the information which would supply the key to the nepotism that it knew was being practised, but not even the then Prime Minister could supply the facts. The Governor of the Bank was made by this Parliament a dictator, and could do what he chose with the funds deposited in the Bank. Honorable members’ will agree that the continued silence of the late Sir Denison Miller, in spite of the efforts of the Age to have the facts made public, indicated his guilt. The first instance I shall quote is that of the Note Printing Office, in Victoria-parade, Melbourne. Plans of a new building for the note-printing works were prepared by departmental officers and submitted to the Public Works Committee. The estimated cost of the building, including all engineering services, was £4.4,200. In addition, there was an estimated expenditure of £1,600 for laying the electric mains, and £2,000 for moving and installing the machinery, making a total of £47,800. The investigations by the Committee disclosed the possibility of saving £1,000 by an alteration in the floors. That reduced the total estimated cost to £46,800. Shortly afterwards the control of the Note Printing Office passed from the Treasury to the Commonwealth Bank, and the result was that all the plans’ and quantities which had been prepared by the Department at great cost were thrown aside, and Sir Denison Miller’s relatives - the Kirkpatricks, his cousins, ‘and Mr. Miller, his son - were commissioned to prepare a new plan at a huge cost. I endeavoured to-day to get particulars of the additional cost that was entailed by that change, but the Minister could not supply them; he must wait upon the sweet will of the Acting Governor of the Bank. Notwithstanding that the Public Works Committee had recommended a building more complete than was asked for by the Note Printer, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank was not satisfied. Yet any architect would say that the recommendation of the Public Works Committee was justified. On the 13th July, 1922, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) asked these questions of the then Treasurer -
In connexion with the proposed erection of a Note Printing Office in Victoria-parade, Fitzroy, Victoria, will he inform the House-
What is the estimated cost of the proposed building?
Who prepared the plans of the building now proposed to be erected?
What sums have been paid, or are payable, in respect of the preparation of plans or taking out of quantities in connexion with the proposed work?
Is he aware that the Public Works Committee reported in 1919 that a suitable building could be erected for £43,200?
Were the plans and particulars furnished to the Committee made use of in designing the building now proposed ?
If not, why was the public called upon to pay a firm of private architects thousands of pounds for the preparation of plans and the taking out of quantities which were already available in the Commonwealth Department of Works and Railways?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1, 2, and 3. Since the recommendation was made by the Public Works Committee in 1019 that a Note Printing Office becrected in Victoriaparade, Fitzroy, the Australian note issue has been transfered to the’ Note Issue Department, of the Commonwealth Bank, and the site on which it is proposed to erect the new building has been purchased by the Bank with the object of building premises suitable for note printing. It is understood that plans of a new building have been prepared by the Bank’s own architects, - by the Governor’s own relatives - but no particulars, such as those asked for by the honorable member, have been supplied to the Government by the Commonwealth Bank.
Of course not; the architects would not have made as much money out of the public if they had used the departmental plans.
At that time we did not know the relationship of the Governor of the Bank to members of the firm of Kirkpatrick and Sons. In connexion with the War Service Homes an even greater infamy was perpetrated, as the result of which the soldiers of Australia were robbed for the benefit of Sir Denison Miller’s relatives. I find in a laudatory article published inthe Scientific Australian on the 5th March, 1.924, that the Commonwealth Bank had purchased 5,179 homes, and 987 building blocks, and had erected 1,777 houses. A question I asked the other day elicited the fact that for architectural services in connexion with those homes £48,917 was paid to the Kirkpatrick firm, and 2,892 separate plans were prepared. Any decent firm of architects in Melbourne, Sydney, or Adelaide would prepare twelve sets of plans at a fraction of that cost.
The Victorian State Savings Bank, which is erecting more buildings than the Commonwealth Bank ever erected, would have rendered the same service for approximately .£§,900. A fight took place between the Governor of ‘ the Commonwealth Bank,” the Auditor-General, Mr. Israel, and the then Commissioner for War Service Homes, Colonel Walker. I once attacked Colonel Walker because 1 thought he had done wrong, but in this matter he was absolutely right, and if he had had his way the unfortunate soldiers would have been saved at least £42,000, which was paid to Sir Denison Miller’s relatives. Could there be a graver instance of nepotism? But Sir Denison Miller was not ashamed of what took place, because he knew how difficult it was for members of Parliament or the public to learn the facts. I have to thank Mr. Ashworth, President of the Victorian Employers Federation, for evidence of the relationship of Sir Denison Miller to the firm of Kirkpatrick and Sons. Honorable members may think that because Mr. Ashworth is an architect he is biased, but he retired from active practice nearly two years ago. He is quite unbiased, and only a strong sense of duty has caused him to reveal these facts through the columns of the Press. He did not seek any cover of privilege, but openly accused the late Governor of the Commonwealth Bank of actions of which he should be ashamed. Let no honorable member think that I am making statements now which I would not have made to the late Sir Denison Miller. In- the presence of the then Treasurer (Mr. Higgs), I said to Sir Denison Miller things worse than I am saying to-day. I should not have waited till this date to discuss the matter in the House, but that I could not earlier get the information I sought. Mr. Ashworth said: -
Backed up by the national credit and handling the Commonwealth Government accounts, the note issue, and the war loans, .the growth of the Commonwealth Bank was natural and inevitable quite apart from the particular banker placed in charge. That the Governor of the Bank (Sir “Denison Miller) has some capacity as an. organizer may be admitted, but whether or not his capacity in that direction is exceptional is open to question. In most bankers of standing, organizing capacity may bo taken for granted. The more serious question arises is the Governor a really big banker and a big man ? Leaving Sir Denison’s standing as a scientific banker to ^experts (popular opinion on this question is worthless unless based oh expert judgment) the most important question of all remains - does he possess that keen sense of personal honour, so essential to the discharge of his high public trust? Any member of the public is entitled to ask this question if he can advance facts tending to show that the Governor is lacking in this indispensable qualification.
Sir Denison has appointed the firm of J. and H. G. Kirkpatrick as the Bank’s architects, the two Kirkpatrick members of the firm being his cousins and the third member - J. Miller - his son. It has been publicly stated that the firm is responsible for unbusinesslike procedure, loss, and delay in connexion with the new Melbourne Collins-street building of the Bank.
For seven months after it was available for building operations that valuable site was left unimproved. Inquiry would show that the blame lay with the bank’s architects, and not with the city architect, because .the plans were not fit for use. Would any private bank, which had the site and the money necessary for building, submit to seven months’ delay because of the fault of the architects?
Assuming this to be correct, what is the position of the Governor? On the one hand it is his duty to hold the architects responsible for their failure by dismissing them from the service of the Bank. On the other hand, personal interest in the members of his family may induce him to excuse the failure. ‘ No person holding a position of public trust should allow himself to be placed in such an invidious position. It is a fundamental legal maxim expressed in the law of agency and trustees of every description, including members of Parliament, that there shall be no conflict between interest and duty. Persons holding offices of public trust must be free from the most remote suspicion of using their positions to advance the interests of members of their family. I say without hesitation that the demoralizing example of Sir Denison Miller must be visited with stern public condemnation if high standards of public life are to be secured in Australia. …
Nepotism breeds irresponsibility, extravagance and inefficiency. Not least of the sins of the Hughes Government is that it neglected to ascertain and publish the facts underlying the aspersion of nepotism cast upon the .Governor of the Bank by questions asked in ParliamentNearly two years elapsed from the time these questions were first put to the Government hefore the information as given above was obtained and published by a private citizen. During this period the questions were repeated many times to the Government, and Sir Denison Miller was asked both publicly and privately to . supply the information. The facts, however, could not be obtained from either source. This is another example of the hush-up policy which has done so much to discredit the Hughes Administration.
The Hughes’ Government, to which- reference is made, was not only discredited, but defeated. I wish now to submit for the information of honorable members a letter from Raynes, Dickson, and Kiddle, dated the 21st November, 1921, to the secretary of the Taxpayers’ Association, Collins-street, Melbourne. It reads -
Re Sir Denison Miller and Kirkpatrick
Following our letter to you of the 5th inst., we wrote to our Sydney agents, Messrs. Bradley, Son, & Maughan, instructing them to obtain birth certificates of Mr. J. K. Miller and Messrs. John and H. G. Kirkpatrick, and on Thursday last received from them the birth certificates of Mr. J. K. Miller and Mr. John Kirkpatrick and a notification that there was no record of the birth of Mr. H. G. Kirkpatrick in the New South Wales records. In the meantime we had been in communication with Mr. Ashworth, and through him had ascertained that Mr. John Kirkpatrick’s mother and Sir Denison Miller’s mother were sisters. We, therefore, wired Messrs. Bradley, Son, &. Maughan not to proceed further with the birth certificate of Mr. H. G. Kirkpatrick, but to obtain as soon as possible the birth certificate of Sir Denison Miller. If his mother’s maiden name was Sarah Jones, or Johns, this will establish the relationship between Sir Denison Miller and Mr. John Kirkpatrick.
We forward the birth certificates herewith, from which you will see that Mr. J. K. Miller is a son of Sir Denison Miller.
If we can get the information as to Sir Denison Miller in time for to-morrow’s meeting we will immediately forward same to you.
That communication was followed, on the 23rd November, 1921, by another letter from the same firm to the Taxpayers’ Association, which is as follows: -
Referring to our letter to you of the 21st inst., we have now received Sir Denison Miller’s birth certificate from our Sydney agents, and beg to forward same herewith. From it you will see that Sir Denison Miller’s mother’s maiden name was Sarah Jones. This establishes the fact without doubt that his mother and Mr. John Kirkpatrick’s mother were sisters, and that Sir Denison Miller and Mr. John Kirkpatrick are, therefore, cousins.
I now submit extracts from the birth certificates of John King Miller, John Kirkpatrick, and the late Sir Denison Miller, as follows: -
I shall now quote from the platform of an organization of which the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) was once a very earnest and important member - I refer to the Liberal Union.
– Then I have been wrongly informed. I have before me the platform of the Liberal Union, paragraph d, of article 3, which reads: “ Investigation into the policy of the Commonwealth Bank.” The union’s manifesto also contains these words: “ Refusal to ascertain and publish the facts underlying the aspersion of nepotism cast upon the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank by questions in Parliament.” If a public inquiry into this matter were held, a gentleman of high repute in Sydney would prove that when Kirkpatrick was failing, and the Institute of Architects would not admit him as a member-
– Why !
– For certain reasons which would be given if an inquiry were held. Kirkpatrick asked this gentleman to go to his cousin, the late Sir Denison Miller, and to be advised by him. He went to the late Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, who requested this man to keep him on his feet until work could be given him. He did so, aud supported him to the extent of £1,500. Later, his helper went to the late Sir Denison Miller and explained the position, and the reply he received was: “ I am not answerable for his position.” This gentleman, whose name could be disclosed, said: “What am I to do with the £1,500 worth of IOU’s which I hold?” I produce two of these dirty papers which are available to any honorable member who cares to inspect them. They have never been honoured.
– Is that Kirkpatrick’s paper ?
– Yes, there are two IOU’s in the name of J. Kirkpatrick, one for £73 10s., and the other for £37 10s. I saw a roll representing in all £1,500, but I produce only two. The architectural work in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank’s activities and a large number of War Service Homes was given to this firm, although many reputable architects rendered service to their country, not only in Australia, but abroad, during the Great War. Every member of the firm of which Mr. Blackett, who was president of the Institute of Architects, was a member, enlisted for service overseas, and even the lady typist in the office served as a nurse. Their office was closed. Notwithstanding this, the members of this and other firms were not permitted to submit designs for the Commonwealth Bank in Melbourne and other constructional work undertaken by the Bank.
– The work has been done by men who have not even paid their debts?
– Yes, as shown by the dirty IOU’s which I have produced, and which have never been honoured. Why are Chubb’s safes exclusively used in the Commonwealth Bank? I intend to submit a list of those using safes made by a firm in Sydney ‘and Melbourne, which, I am sure, can make safes and locks equal, if not superior, to those manufactured by the firm of Chubb. Here, again, there is a relationship between the late Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and the Chubb Company in England. I now quote a letter dated the 2nd June, 1922, from Mr. Ashworth to Mr. B. F. Marks, of the Protex Safe and Lock Company Limited, Waterloo, Sydney, which reads - Dear Sir,
I understand from Mr. Nullum Barnett, architect, of this city, that you may be willing to furnish me with some information concerning the reason why the Commonwealth Bank gives to Chubb’s safes preference over the Australian article.
Is it true that some relationship exists between a prominent officer of the Commonwealth Bank and the manufacturers of the safes supplied to the Bank?
I also submit a letter from the Protex Safe and Lock Company Limited, Sydney, dated the 6th June, 1922, to the president .of the Victorian Employers Federation, Melbourne, which reads* - Dear Sir,
We have to own receipt of your letter of the 2nd inst. and note contents with much interest.
We cannot, of course, state any actual reason why the Commonwealth Bank gives preference, to Chubb’s safes over the Australianmade article. We can only presume reasons for this attitude, and our treatment by that institution certainly justifies our presumptions. In no instance has a single letter, which we have addressed to that Bank, been favoured with the merest acknowledgement, which is, we are glad to say, an unique experience.
When consideration is given to the fact that we attend to and supply all the safes and strong-room doors for the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, that we do the bulk of the work for the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney, and that we number among our clients the A.B.C. Bank, the Queensland National Bank, the Bank of Adelaide, the London Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Works and Railways Department (supply of all strong-room doors for post offices, &c), the Postal Department, the South British Insurance Company, the Queensland Insurance Company, the A.M.P. Society, the Perpetual Trustee Company, Grace Brothers Limited, Henry Jones and Company Limited, Taylor Brothers Limited, Prouds Limited, the Fresh Food and Ice Company Limited, the Coastal Farmers Co-operative Society, the Australian Gaslight Company Limited, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited (Waratah), the Fiji Government Treasury, the London Assurance Company Limited, &c, &c, the utter indifference shown by the Bank to our claim for even a hearing is hard to justify.
The matter is one that causes us some concern, most particularly when we know it is the stated policy of the Federal Government to give preference to Australian-made goods.
That is the point on which I want to rivet attention. The letter continues: -
In our case, as the list of the above-mentioned clients indicate, there cannot be any question as regards the security we can supply; in fact by reason of the patent “ Protex AntiExplosive Lock,” we can substantiate our claim to afford better security than any other maker can provide, also we can sell, quality for quality, at a much cheaper rate than any of the well-known English makers of similar lines. We are prepared to make any class of security up to the very highest grade of bankers’ requirements, and are always prepared to put our products up for test against those of the same class made by any other manufacturers. As an instance of the class of work we turn out we would mention that we are now supplying to an important citybank one main bank vault door, oxy-acetelyne resisting and drill proof, with lobby and watertight door, and one main bank vault door, oxy-acetelyne and drill proof, with lobby and water-tight door at rear. These doors are the very latest in strong-room door construction, and possess features for security that no other door in any bank in the city can show. There can be no question of our not being able to supply what the bank requires, because we are prepared to supply anything that they may require.
The bulk of our hands are returned soldiers, who we have engaged through the Department of Repatriation Vocational Department, whereby we have saved that Department considerable expense, and for which we think we should receive some little consideration at the hands of a Government institution. We ask for no consideration on these grounds, but it would be no less than our deserts.
We have given Mr. Barnett particulars for your information, which he will be able to give you verbally. If there is anything we can do to assist you in the event of your making any representations as to the attitude of the Bank in dealing with Australian concerns,’ we shall be pleased to assist you to the best of our ability.
Protex Safe and Lock Co. Ltd.
The following letter proves the relationship between Sir Denison Miller and the Chubb family: - 325 Collins-street,
Melbourne, 14th April, 1924.
Dr. Maloney. M.H.R., 513 Elizabeth-street, Melbourne.
As promised, I enclose article on Commonwealth Bank’s building policy; also a letter sent by me to the Protex Safe and Lock Company of Sydney, and their reply. The information that I had, when I sent the letter, went to show that a member of Sir Denison Miller’s family was married to a member of the Chubb family, and I received an incidental confirmation of this when in Birmingham. Mr. Chubb, the head of the firm, I believe, sat next to me at the hotel dining table, and when he learned that I came from Australia, made reference to Sir Denison Miller, and told me that the families were connected by marriage.
The significance of this fact, taken in conjunction with the Protex Safe and Lock Company’s letter, will not be lost on you.
I have shown as clearly as one can, what I set out to prove. This evidence has taken some years to collect. Not even the mighty power of the pressis sufficient to destroy the force of that admission. Imagine the way in which a good uptodate lawyer would handle this matter if he had the opportunity to cross-examine on it. Some honorable members may have read a book entitled The Circulating Sovereign, published by Mr. J. M. Scott, whose knowledge of finance must have impressed any one who has had the privilege of knowing or even of meeting him. In March, 1921, a public meeting was held in the Sydney Town Hall. At that meeting a committee was formed on which were Mr. Scott, Sir Joseph Carruthers, the late Mr. T. J. Ryan, and others. It was decided to call on Sir Denison Miller, the meeting believing that, as he had full control of the money power of Australia, his influence would be sufficient to solve the unemployed problem. Sir Joseph Carruthers was somewhat timid about calling on Sir Denison, considering that such action might constitute a slight on members of Parliament. He, therefore, did not accompany the committee at that time. In the July following, a public meeting was held in Martin-place, Sydney, and on Thursday, the 7th July, at 3.30 p.m., Messrs. Scott, J. K. Powell, Geo. Waite, H. S. Cohen, H. Pritchard, W. C. Atkinson, H. S. Humphries, and A. G. Huie waited on Sir Denison Miller. A representative of The Daily Echo subsequently interviewed Mr. Scott to obtainparticulars of his meeting with Sir Denison, and his report appeared in the issue of the 16th September, 1921, from which I now quote. He asked him - “ How many of the deputation were Australian Labour party members? “ Mr. Scott replied, “ Five, and I hope all good Australian citizens . . . but what has that to ‘do with it ? . . . Sir Denison Miller received us just as a good Australian might be expected to receive a deputation of citizens. Two lady shorthand writers from the bank staff were present, and recorded what happened. Each deputationist spoke to Sir Denison the thoughts, that each had. I was not interested in academic problems. We had certain machinery in existence, and I wanted an acknowledgement from Sir Denison of the power of that financial machinery, and an expression also from him of bis willingness or otherwise, to use the power already existing. I asked ‘ What is the power of the Commonwealth Bank to finance Australia ? ‘ He said, ‘ This bank is just as powerful as the Australian Commonwealth is.’ I said, ‘ Sir Denison, you did finance Australia for £350,000,000 for war purposes, and had the war continued, you could have financed it to another £350,000,000 for war, is that not so? Sir Denison replied, ‘ That was the case.’ Then, Sir Denison,’ I said, ‘ Are you prepared to finance Australia for £350,000,000 for productive purposes ? * He replied, ‘ Yes, I will do my best.’ I said,. ‘ Thank you, Sir Denison ; that is the point.’ I wrote down what had occurred, and read it back to Sir Denison, stating at the time that I only wanted what he would endorse, as the matter would be made public, and he replied, ‘ I will endorse that.’ “
Mr. Scott had had several interviews with Sir Denison prior to that occasion, and he had others subsequently. The tenor of those conversations was whether, in order to organize Australia productively, Sir Denison was prepared to advance the same amount of money that he claimed to have advanced for war purposes. His answer to one deputation was that if the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth approached him on the matter he was prepared to do it.
– He did not find that money for the war; it was the people of Australia who found the money for him.
– I agree with the honorable member; I am merely showing the power that that man possessed. On one occasion, when speaking on this matter,. I asked the then Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) whether the Governor df the Commonwealth Bank was entitled to claim that he was in. a position to take such action in opposition to the wishes of the Government.
– Order! I think the honorable member is slightly departing from the terms of his motion.
– I have no desire to run counter to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have proved my point up to the hilt. I wanted to show whether he was willing to help Australia to remove for ever the curse of unemployment. I must, in justice to Mr. “Walker, whom I attacked in this House, state that if his advice had been followed instead of that of the Commonwealth Bank, the unfortunate returned soldiers of Australia would not have been robbed of a large sum of money for the benefit of Sir Denison Miller’s relatives. I hope I have made that plain to the House. The fee of the State Bank is from £3 3s. to £4 4s. That charge is inclusive of plan and every other item. Any architect of standing will tell honorable members that the Bank has twelve complete sets of plans. If a. man wants a house built he is asked to choose one of those twelve designs. What was the practice followed by the Commonwealth Bank? If the Scientific Australian be accurate, it issued 2,892 plans, and built 1,777 houses. Cannot honorable members see how this practice benefited the Kirkpatrick crowd all the time? They drew £24 for every plan. Honorable members, surely, cannot support that kind of thing. Mr. Ashworth, in a statement in the Melbourne Age on the 9th June, 1921, said, on this matter - I was present at a meeting of the Victorian institute of Architects when the first plans for War Service Homes, prepared by Messrs. Kirkpatrick and Miller, and those prepared by the architects of the War Service Homes Department, were discussed. Every member who spoke condemned the Kirkpatrick and Miller’s plans and approved those of the Department.
In justice to Mr. Walker, I think I should read a letter written by him to the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth. It is as follows: -
War Service Homes Commission,
Headquarters, Melb., 18th Aug., 1920.
I am in receipt of yours of 6th inst., No. 20/8866, covering copy of communication addressed to you by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in regard to the payment of architects’ fees. My attitude in this matter was fully disclosed in the file bearing on the subject recently forwarded to you, but as you desire advice concerning the points raised by the Governor of the Bank, I should like to point out that the Conference referred toin the first paragraph was attended by the Hon. W. A. Watt, Senator Millen, Mr. Collins, and Sir Denison Miller, and at no time was I present. Sir Denison Miller states, however, that the Conference was attended by Mr. Watt, Senator Millen, and another Cabinet Minister. Although I was not present at this Conference, I do not think that the question of architects’ fees was dealt with ; but, if it was, I am quite sure that no arrangement was made by the Minister for 31 per cent, to be paid. Further on, Sir Denison Miller states that “ the Bank always understood that’ the architects’ fees were to be paid by the Commissioner, and not by the soldier.”
It-is ever so much easier to collect fees from a Government Department than from individuals. If the soldiers had known that they would have to pay £24 each for architects’ services, which they could have obtained in the .ordinary way for £4 ls. or £5 5s., they would have complained immediately. The letter proceeds -
In this connexion, I desire to refer to the notes of an interview between the Governor of the Bank and myself on the 31st July, 1919, in which the following remarks by Sir Denison Miller are set out : - “The charges would be revised .periodically, and, if it was found that, as against the soldier the charges are excessive . . . .” This statement was quoted to the Governor in my communication of 9th September, 1919, and was not questioned in any way by that gentleman in his reply dated 15th September,
As you probably gleaned from the file itself, the decision to charge the cost of preparing plans, specifications, &c, to the . soldier applicants was not departed from by me all through; and I cannot understand Sir Denison Miller’s present statements that I concurred in some other arrangement. On several occasions, as Sir Denison Miller mentioned, I had interviews with him on the subject, and when requested to pass the various claims submitted by the Bank’s architects, I refused and referred to my correspondence on the subject, also, stating that under no circumstances would I .permit the employment of architects On a percentage basis.
That shows that Mr. Walker was absolutely against engaging architects on a percentage basis. The letter continues -
This decision, however, Sir Denison Miller flatly declined to recognize, and on more than one occasion stated that under the agreement he had power to do what he chose in this matter. -
Sir Denison Miller was a dictator. Whenever it was a case of Miller against the Department, Miller had his way, and used his power for the purpose of benefiting his relatives. The letter goes on as follows : -
This attitude is directly opposed to that adopted by the Bank within the last few weeks, when a number of incompleted contracts were thrown back on the Bank by certain contractors owing to their financial embarrassment. These could not be completed without certain loss resulting, and this loss the’ Governor strongly contended should be borne by the Commission on the ground that the Bank was acting as its agent.
As ‘to the final paragraph of Sir Denison Miller’s communication, you will notice from the file which you have under review that from the very outset I strenuously opposed the charge of 3J per cent., taking the view that this was excessive. This view was brought prominently to the notice of Sir Denison Miller at several interviews and at one I mentioned, in explanation of my attitude, that 3) per cent, might be a fair charge by a private architect for the preparation of plans and specifications for a single house, but that 3) per cent, in respect of each of many plans and specifications of standardized design was exorbitant. This view I still hold, and although Sir Denison Miller declined to use the type plans and specifications prepared by the Commission, he, nevertheless, used type plans and specifications prepared by his own architects. As to the reasonableness of this charge you have not yet arbitrated, and I regret that I do not share the view that there is no necessity for its determination. The matter, to my mind, is of paramount importance, for as you have decided that the cost of preparing plans, &C, shall be borne by the soldier applicants, it follows that such applicants will be required to accept the charge of 3J per cent., which is considered excessive as compared with the Commission’s charge of lj per cent, for similar services.
It is very clear from that letter that Mr. Walker fought against the imposition of unreasonable charges on the soldiers. Sir Denison Miller charged the soldiers six times more for the architectural work in the construction of their houses than is charged by the State Savings Bank for work carried out under the Credit Foncier system. Sir Denison Miller’s relatives - Kirkpatrick and his son - benefited by this exorbitant charge.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– Lest ‘any honorable, member should imagine that this is the first time I have referred to this subject, I must remind the House that I attacked the administration of the Commonwealth Bank in respect to War Service Homes as long ago as the 4th November, 1920. For a long time I was unable to obtain any information from the Minister about the charges which would be imposed on the soldiers. On page 6200 of the 1920-21 Hansard my remarks respecting the Kirkpatrick firm are reported -as follows : -
I have been unable to get an answer from the Treasurer as to how much money has been paid to this firm. In all my 30 years of political life I have never seen anything so nearly approaching nepotism. Why cannot our brave returned men of the profession have an opportunity to compete for the design of the proposed new Commonwealth Bank in Melbourne? Why should this work be given to one particular firm ? I asked if any member of that firm had offered his services during the war. The Minister could not tell me. I do not say that he did not want to know, but, as head of the Department, I should like to know why he did not make an inquiry and And out.
As an old banker, I may be forgiven for reminding honorable members that one bank frequently grants to another bank favours of which the customers and shareholders of the respective banks know nothing. I admit that the Commonwealth Bank was established by a Government of which I was a whole-hearted supporter. Mr. King O’Malley was really the father of the Commonwealth Bank, but it was not established according to the plans he laid down. He desired to provide for a Board of seven directors. Each State was to have appointed one representative, and the Commonwealth Government was to have appointed the seventh member of the Board, who was to have been the chairman. Had that plan been followed, all the business of the bank would have been consequent upon an absolute majority decision of the directors, and the War Service Homes trouble would not have occurred. I hope that this Government will not appoint another Governor of the Bank while Parliament is in recess. 1 do not think they will do so. I hope, also, that the Government will see that all Australian architects have opportunities to compete in the preparation of plans for public buildings.
– The manufacturers did not have a chance to compete in the War Service Homes business.
– I think the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), who has much more knowledge than I of the matters to which I have been referring, can verify my assertion that injustice has been done. I thank honorable members for their courtesy in listening so attentively to my remarks. I am an Australian, and I love Australia. I want every Australian to be given a fair chance. I do not want to see bribery, corruption, or fraud practised by any Australian Government, nor do I wish to see again anything that in my 35 years’ experience of political life can be compared with this horrible case of nepotism.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Stewart) adjourned.
Notice of motion, “ No. 2, Dismissal of Corporal Randall “ postponed,
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Government should immediately commence the construction of that section of railway line Oodnadatta- Alice Springs, as part of it the North-South railway, and as recommended by the Public Works Committee.
The line which I think should be constructed would stretch’ for 297£ miles from Oodnadatta, the present rail head, which is 688 miles north of Adelaide. The many discussions that have taken place on the North-South railway have made honorable members fully acquainted with the’ reason which prevented the South Australian Government from continuing the railway line beyond Oodnadatta, and those honorable members who have been fortunate enough to go as far north as that inland town know that the line ends in one of the poorest parts of Central Australia. However, the country shows a wonderful improvement beyond the boundary line between South Australia and the Northern Territory, about 140 miles north of Oodnadatta, and although the rainfall is only from 6 inches to 8 inches per annum, a very slender reed for pastoralists to rely upon, ample water can be obtained at shallow depths throughout the country from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. I understand that at the latter place the evaporation is 94 inches as compared with S3 inches or 35 inches at Adelaide, but no attempt has yet been made in the neighbourhood of the Macdonnell Ranges, to conserve water as it has been conserved in the Riverina district of New South Wales and in the Wimmera district of “Victoria . As a matter of fact, I understand that in the whole of this area stretching for’ SOO miles, there has been only one dam constructed. The Commonwealth has’’ had control of the Northern Territory for about thirteen years, and it is not creditable to the administration that no attempt has been made to secure proper data of the rainfall and the possibilities of water conservation in this part of’ the Territory. It may be said that I.- am asking the Government to build a railway to a place where there is no settlement or any. possibility of having settlement, but having given tho matter a fair amount of study by reading the various Government reports, and having had an opportunity to discuss this country withmenwho have spent ten, fifteen and twenty years of their lives in it, and having seen the country myself, I have come to the conclusion that witha railway, the centre of Australia would become a wonderful asset to the Commonwealth. Sir Sidney Kidman, who is described as the cattle and sheep king of Australia, has assured me that he knows of no better climate in the world than that which is to be found in the Macdonnell Ranges. Some honorable members declare that no cattle king of Australia has ever lived on his land, but Sir Sidney Kidman was bred in the interior, and has spent about twenty years in the country of which I am talking. The Macdonnell Ranges, the height of which varies from 2,000 feet to 5,000 feet above sea level, cover an area of a greater size than the State of Tasmania. Over a period of twenty-eight years, prior to 1920, the average rainfall in this part was 11 inches. Phenomenal rains of over 22 inches have fallen during two seasons since-then, but those figures have not been taken into account in arriving at the average of 11 inches. Honorable members who saw the photographs displayed in Queen’s Hall last week will realize the possibilities of water conservation in the ranges. For the expenditure of a few thousand pounds the Government could very easily determine whether the country will hold water, and what the rate of evaporation is. I suggested last year that something should be done to secure this data, but the Government said that they had sufficient information on hand. It is remarkable that when the Departments are asked to supply accurate data of the rainfall in this portion of Australia, they cannot give the figures, except for Alice Springs, and, perhaps, the Hermannsburg Mission Station. I doubt whether there is sufficient data available in regard to the rainfall at Arltunga, in the eastern portion of the ranges, where there is a police station, and I am sure that beyond the Hermannsburg Mission Station, to the west, where there is land fit for selection, no attempt has been made to get this information.
– Do the ranges run east and west?
– They run for 400 miles from east to west, with a slight turn to the north-east, and they are 70 miles across. Central Mount Stuart is 2,600 feet above sea level. The whole of the country has a height of not less than 2,000 feet above sea level. The feed is excellent. I honestly believe that the statement made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, that the centre of Australia will carry, if not one sheep to the acre, at least one sheep to 3 aeres, was a fair one. Prominent pastoralists have told me that it is a fair estimate under ordinary conditions. The year when members of the Public Works Committee passed through that country was most exceptional, so far as that portion to the south of the ranges was concerned, but north of the ranges the season was an ordinary one. I understand that the rainfall has been nothing out of the ordinary this year, when a visit was made to that country by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), and the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), both of whom were astonished at what they saw. J ust to the north of the ranges lies Burt Plain, 95 miles across, and as far as the eye could see it was at the time of our visit covered with wonderful feed for sheep and cattle. But it is useless to talk about raising sheep 300 miles from a railway. The only way in which sheep can be made a success in the centre of Australia is by providing a railway, and enabling people to get their goods at reasonable prices. The main requirement for pastoralists who are breeding sheep is wire netting. I do not know that honorable members fully realize the cost of getting goods into the centre of Australia. The average cost of conveying goods from Adelaide to Oodnadatta is £10 or £11 per ton, and the minimum charge from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs is £17 a ton by camels, with a 50 per cent, increase for petrol or bottled goods. The carriers, who are mostly Afghans, give no guarantee that they will deliver what they are carrying in good order, but through Divine Providence things are mostly landed in good condition, although at Christmas time, 1920, the camel teams took it into their heads to lie down in the bed of the River Finke, and the flour and sugar they were carrying, particularly the sugar, were delivered in solid lumps. With £28 or £30 a ton for carriage added to the cost of the wire netting or wire required for fencing, honorable members can see how impossible it would be for a small pastoralist to make good in the interior. To-day I was shown by a gentleman who had casually picked up the first volume of the CommonweathHarsard, that there was a reference to the North-South railway in the first speech delivered by the first GovernorGeneral. We have been playing with this question long enough. We have already spent several millions on the Federal Capital, and have committed ourselves to the expenditure of many more millions upon that Capital. From a closer settlement and national production point of view, that expenditure will not benefit Australia very much. It seems to me that we can only find out whether the centre of Australia is excellent sheep country, as the experts say it is, by building a railway to it. We know already that it is excellent cattle country. Cattle have been driven from the Macdonnell Ranges, 325 miles, to Oodnadatta, trucked there, railed nearly 700 miles to Adelaide, and then railed’ on to Melbourne, where they fetched the top prices in the market. That has happened on more than one occasion. Those who have had experience with horses know that the finest horseflesh Australia can produce comes from the Macdonnell Ranges. Yet, while enthusiasts have been “battling.” in this Parliament for the expenditure of millions of pounds at Canberra, they will not face one of the greatest developmental propositions that has ever confronted a National Parliament. It is within the memory of many honorable members that exactly the same things as have been printed day after day by the metropolitan dailies of Australia concerning the proposal to build the North-South railway were printed by American newspapers in regard to the proposal to build a railway across the United States of America. They said that such a railway would never pay for axle grease, and so on. We all know the arguments that were advanced against the building of that line.. If we are to hold Australia as a white man’s country we must make a serious attempt to settle people in the interior, and we can only do that by giving them transport facilities. What other country has developed without the building of railways? Java, a fertile island, which is a little less than twice the size of Tasmania, has thousands of miles of railways, yet our Northern Territory, with its 523,000 square miles, is said to have been given a chance of developing with only 199½ miles of railway; and that I am sorry to say is at the wrong end of it. If the problem of developing the Northern Territory had been tackled from the south, by now there would have been a very fine settlement in and around the Macdonnell Ranges. I am sorry that the Government in power when the Territory was taken over by the Commonwealth made the unfortunate mistake of sending a huge staff of civil servants to Darwin, where they seem to be running over one another.
– They should be removed to Newcastle Waters.
– They should be removed inland, because now they seem to go to Darwin with the sole idea of staying there no longer than they can absolutely help. If they were stationed at Newcastle Waters, or, better still, at Alice Springs, which I think should be the administrative centre of the Territory, they would establish permanent homes, because the climate is so good there. I do not know of any other place in Australia with a better climate through the whole period of the year.
– Is it better than that of Sydney ?
– Sydney is at saa level; Alice Springs is 2,000 feet above sea level. There is an ample water supply a few feet below the surface. I saw a magnificent well there no deeper than 8 feet or 9 feet.
– Is that water suitable for all purposes?
– It is particularly good drinking water. In the winter, during from six to eight weeks of the year, you can break ice on the pools every morning. Then follow nice bright, sunny days, with a temperature of from 70 to 75 degrees. Pleasant conditions last for something like six months of the year. At times, especially during the month of July, the mean low temperature is lower than in Melbourne, but for three months in the summer, say from the last two weeks of November, through
December, January, and a portion of February, there is a mean temperature of 98 degrees, but, as the people who live there point out, it is a dry heat, so that 98 degrees at Alice Springs is infinitely preferable to 88 degrees in Melbourne. It is remarkable that if people who have lived there for a length of time move south, they soon want to get back again. We who are the custodians of the public purse should be prepared to spend £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 in an endeavour to develop this vast area. Apart altogether from its pastoral prospects, there is the possibility of opening up important mining propositions. I do not suggest that the railway should be built purely for mining development, unless, of course, it were definitely proved that a wonderful field was awaiting exploitation; but if we add to the prospects of the pastoral industry the possibility of important mining developments, I am satisfied that an excellent case may be made out for the construction of this line. For 400 miles north of the Macdonnell Ranges - for a distance certainly of 350 miles - every known commercial mineral excepting tin has been discovered. The farthest south that tin has been discovered is at Marranboy, 250 miles south of Darwin. Mr. Davidson, who was head of a prospecting party in 1901, stated in- a report to the South Australian Government that excellent “shows” had been found in Central Australia, but that in the absence of railway facilities anything under 10 ounces to the ton could not be made to pay. From the centre of the mineral fields to the nearest railway in Queenslaud the distance is 360 miles, over a long dry stretch of country.
– Is the honorable member referring to Arltunga?
– No, I am speaking of Hatch’s Creek, as the centre of the mineral field to which I refer. When war broke out Britain was very short of wolfram, a commodity essential for tho hardening of steel. This area sent away scores of thousands of pounds’ worth of this valuable mineral, the deposits of which are reported to be wonderfully rich. In addition to wolfram, there is also molybdenite, and any quantity of copper and silver-lead, as well as wonderful de posits of mica, some of which, according to recent reports, realized 32s. per lb. in the United States.
– The best in the world.
– I do not know if there are better fields, but there is very little better mica anywhere in the world than that found north-east of the Macdonnell Ranges. Unfortunately transport difficulties prevent the development of the field. It has been said, in criticism of the field, that the seams are not large. This may be correct, but the difficulties of marketing the product are increased by the unsatisfactory transport arrangements. There is always the possibility of the camels throwing their loads and shattering the mica, so that when it reaches its destination it is in small pieces, probably only capable of being cut into pieces 4 or 5 inches square, and worth from 5s. to 6s. per lb., whereas, if it could be marketed in squares of 12 inches or 15 inches, it would be worth from 30s. to 35s. per lb. Unless improved transport facilities are provided there is not much possibility of converting that wonderful mica asset into cash. At Arltunga, only 65 miles from Alice Springs, there is a hill of quartz known as the White Range. According to Mr. Brown, a former geologist of the South Australian Government, that hill would assay 7 dwt. to the ton, but, obviously, in view of the heavy expenditure that must be incurred in getting machinery through, it would be impossible to work a lowgrade proposition like that on a big scale. One company sent a boiler up to a place called Winnecke’s Depot, not far from Alice Springs, at a cost of £1,500, and it took the teams fourteen months to do the job. In view of these facts it is easily understandable that mining people in the south are not very keen about investing in Central Australian mineral “ shows,” but I am optimistic enough to say that, up to the present, we have only scratched the surface of’ Australia in regard to its mining possibilities. A railway line to Alice Springs would give a wonderful fillip to the mining industry in Central Australia. Who can say that before long we may not have another Mount Morgan, another Broken Hill, or, perhaps, another Coolgardie or Kalgoorlie? Silver-lead and copper have been discovered at Barrow’s Creek. This mining proposition would be within easy reach of a railway, if one were made to the Macdonnell Ranges, and I have been assured by gentlemen interested in that proposition that if the line went to Alice Springs, and if it were proved that the lode at Barrow’s Creek dips down, as they’ honestly think it does, they would be prepared to construct a light line from Alice Springs to Barrow’s Creek. This north-south railway, which has been promised to South Australia for so many years, will, be the connecting link with the north eventually. I do not assume that the House will authorize the construction of a line to Alice Springs, and then make a definite promise that it shall immediately go straight through to Daly Waters, the terminus of the projected line from the northern end. The Public Works Committee which,, in 1921, investigated the various routes, recommended that the line should be built from Mataranka to Daly Waters. The section from Emungalan to Mataranka was approved in 1916, but no construction work has yet been undertaken. The construction of a bridge over the Katherine River was also recommended in 1916, and has just been commenced. Following the construction of a railway to Daly Waters, the Committee approved of a low-level line being built from .Oodnadatta to Alice Springs of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge with steep momentum grades, secondhand rails, fastenings and sleepers at a cost, including the rolling-stock necessary for the working of the line, of £1,558,600. It also recommended that the line from Katherine River to Daly Waters should not be constructed unless the Government decided that it should be continued as far south as Newcastle Waters, or Powell’s Creek, and thence across into the Barkly Tableland. I said, when the authorizing measure was before the House, that I doubted whether the extension for a distance of only 161 miles would add another settler to the country. I may have been in error, but I am satisfied that it will not make very much difference to the settlers until the line touches the Barkly Tableland. No one realizes that better than the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and the Minister for’ Home and Territories (Senator Pearce), who went through the Northern Territory about twelve months ago. If the line were constructed from Newcastle Waters or Powell’s Creek - I would prefer Powell’s Creek - then towards the Queensland border net to ‘Camooweal, but to a point south, in my opinion, it would bisect better country. With that line constructed, and also the line to Alice Springs, the distance between that place and Powell’s Creek would be about 400 miles/ A future Parliament would then be able to decide, on the amount of settlement that had taken place, whether the connexion should be made by a direct line. I am satisfied that with the construction of the railway to Alice Springs scores of settlers would be prepared to take up land in the centre of Australia, and engage in sheep-raising. All they want is some encouragement in the form of facilities such as have been provided for graziers in every other part of the Commonwealth. Mr. Cavenagh, who has sheep at Arltunga, informed me that on one occasion, although he had to drive them 375 miles along the stock route to the nearest point on the railway line, he sent as many as 1,000 sheep over the route without losing a single head. This demonstrates that, generally, the s’ock-route conditions are very good. He also informed me that he got an average of 34d. per lb. for his wool - another indication that the country from the grazier’s point of view is good. Unfortunately, at the present time, sheep there have to be shepherded. That, as honorable members must know, is a heavy item of expenditure.
– What is the carrying capacity of the country of which the honorable member is speaking ?
– People in a position to judge state that the whole of the Macdonnell Range country will carry one sheep to three acres year in and year out. I may add that this part of Australia has never known a drought. Certainly there have been dry seasons, but never a year when rain has not fallen. That cannot be said of many other parts of Australia.
– And its natural grasses are reinforced by edible bushes.
– And in addition, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory has reminded me, besides the natural grasses there are several varieties of edible bushes, which are a remarkable standby during a dry season. The Minister (Mr. Stewart) knows the Depot Sand Hills country, 26 miles through. The layman with but a superficial knowledge of that country would think it was not worth the toss of a coin, but I saw cattle come off the Depot Sand Hills in good condition, notwithstanding there is no water available other than that which might lie in the sand for a few hours after rain. The stock subsisted on a little plant called parakeia, not unlike what is known in the south as pig-face. It is a plant with a remarkable water-content. The edible bushes mentioned are buck bush, blue bush, salt bush, goat’s head, mulga, &c. The whole of the country from the Territory border may be taken up by graziers. The time has arrived for this House to take a courageous stand in regard to expenditure for developmental purposes. We have authorized the expenditure of vast sums of money for the Murray irrigation scheme. We have spent something like £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 on the East- West railway, but the House does not seem to be able to make up its mind to spend money for the genuine development of the Commonwealth’s own territory. We have been invited by the Queensland Government to build the line down to Powell’s Creek, thence across the Barkly Tableland, and down through western Queensland to’ link up with the rail head at Bourke, New South Wales. I approve of the construction pf that line, but I do not think that the Commonwealth should undertake the expenditure and at the same time not build a railway line in its own territory to Alice Springs. The latter should be the first undertaking. In the United States of America no less than 150,000 miles of standard gauge railways have been built in the last 30 years, whereas in Australia a few thousand miles, at the most, have been constructed.
– Per capita of the population we have built as many miles of railways .as has the United States of America.
– I do not think that is so, for in the last 20 years very little railway extension has been undertaken in Australia. The time is now ripe for us to tackle the problem seriously. I have travelled over a great part of the Northern Territory, and, having studied the subject of its development for at least two and a half years, I say, advisedly, that the House would do well to proceed with the construction of a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. The country would certainly justify a railway. I am not forgetting the fact that when the Commonwealth Government took over from South Australia the Quorn-Oodnadatta line it made a definite promise to that State to complete the North-South railway. Some honorable members contend that in law the agreement with South Australia would not be binding on the Commonwealth.
– Others take the opposite view.
– Yes; but, apart from that question, I am submitting my motion on the strength of what I have sr-en of the country that would be opened up for settlement. I have discussed the matter with men who know good land when they see it. Sir Sidney Kidman recently told me that if the line were built, it would bring about the development of the central portion of Australia by sheep raising. I am aware of the fact that if the Government constructs a light railway there it would be necessary to go a little further and give the settlers some assistance; but I claim that this would be quite justified, and would be preferable to heavy expenditure such as has been incurred in other parts of Australia to assist men to produce crops for which no market can be found. Australian wool is a commodity for which the world is clamouring. Our flocks to-day number between 20,000,000 and 30,000,000 less than they did thirty years ago, and the flocks of the Argentine have decreased during a similar period from 65,000,000 to 34,000,000. When the late Lord. Forrest was once advocating the construction of the wonderful water scheme in Western Australia, somebody remarked that it would cost £1,000,000. Lord Forrest replied, “What is a million?”’ I borrow that phrase, and ask “ What is a million and a half to Australia when we have such, a vast area of splendid land in the interior?” I am sorry that so* many people decry the central portion of this continent. It is said that white people cannot live there, and that millions of pounds have been wasted on attempts to develop the country. I repeat that the money has been spent at the wrong end-of the Territory. Had we pushed the railway line through from the south there would now be something to show for the money that has been thrown away in the north.
– Not quite thrown away.
– I claim that much of it has been absolutely wasted. Look at the money that has been spent to no purpose at the Mataranka sheep station and the Daly River settlement, to which thousands of pounds worth of machinery, was sent before it was know whether the country could yield the products for which the machinery was intended. If half of that money had been devoted to developing the Territory from the southern end we should to-day have had a great deal more to see for our expenditure. -Surely it would be better to endeavour to settle the country from the southern end, where settlement already exists, than to send people half way round Australia, a distance of 6,000 miles from Melbourne, in the endeavour to develop the heart of this continent. The whole story of attempts at settlement in the north of the Territory has been a tragedy from first to last, from the time when the first effort at settlement was made at Raffles Bay in 1823, until the present time. Had railway construction proceeded from the southern end, Australia would have been millions of pounds in pocket, and there would have been a population in Central Australia to-day. I sincerely trust that honorable members will realize that they should not ask whether a railway into the centre of Australia would pay immediately. They should remember the experience of the private companies that built the transcontinental railways in the United States of America and Canada. Those were essentially lines of development. I am not sufficiently optimistic to think that the line I am advocating will prove a payable proposition at first, but I am at least certain that if it is built as far as Alice Springs, the loss to the Commonwealth on the whole line from Quorn to Alice Springs will be no greater than on the existing section.
– Let us take a vote on the motion before dinner.
– I should like that to be done, but I do not think that honorable members from South Australia will care to let the matter pass so quickly as that. I commend the motion to the sympathetic consideration of the House.
If honorable members wish to do something for the real development of a good portion of Australia they will agree to it at once.
– In seconding the motion I desire to express my appreciation of the manner in which the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) has championed a good cause. I entirely endorse his statement that without railways in the Territory the Commonwealth may as well put up the shutters there altogether. The present cost of transportation is so prohibitive, that it is impossible to carry. on the sheep industry on a profitable basis. The Commonwealth has lost £1,500,000 on the Quorn-Oodnadatta line since it took that section oyer from South Australia, and we shall continue to lose at that rate so long as the railway terminates at Oodnadatta; whereas, if it is continued to the centre of Australia, the present deficit will be converted into a profit. It has been argued that cattlemen would not send their stock by such a railway, but I have no doubt that station-owners generally would patronize it. I shall content myself on this occasion by supporting the motion, trusting that a quick decision will be reached.
.- I also wish to compliment the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) upon his attitude on this subject. He has probably given it more consideration than any other honorable member, and seeing that he comes from the State of Tasmania, he must be credited with dealing with the question purely from a national stand-point. On that account, his views are worthy of careful consideration, and he deserves the thanks of the House for his informative speeches on Northern Territory subjects. Over a long period, Governments have neglected their plain duty in regard to the Territory. For many years, the Commonwealth has failed to discharge its obligation to South Australia to construct the north-south railway by a direct route. A Bill at present before the House aims at the stabilization of the pastoral and other industries in the Territory. There may be endless debate, but the problem of the Territory cannot be solved by means of a Land Ordinance, or anything else, until we.have provided the necessary transport facilities, and until settlers are enabled to live there under conditions suitable for white people.
– Let us have a vote !
– I do not intend to labour the question. I heartily support the motion; but I had hoped that the honorable member for Bass would delay it until the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) had addressed the House on his recent visit to the Territory.
.- It would be a great pity if a motion such as this were allowed to be carried after such a short debate as has ensued. I, therefore, move -
That the debate be adjourned.
Question - That the debate be adjourned - put. The House divided.
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Dismissal of Mr. Charles Ellis
.- I desire to withdraw my motion relating to the dismissal of Mr. Charles Ellis from the War Service Homes Department. The matter has been settled to the satisfaction of the gentleman who brought it under my notice. With his concurrence, I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
– As the motion has not been seconded, the honorable member has leave to withdraw it.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 8 p.m.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Common wealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their investigation and report thereon : - Erection of building in Brisbane for accommodation of Commonwealth Departments (in lieu of the offices, the erection of which was reported on by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, on 28th October, 1922), upon a site embracing portion of the site referred to in the report of the Committee dated 28th October, 1922, and land adjacent thereto.
In December, 1910, a committee of officers was appointed to investigate and report upon the accommodation for Commonwealth requirements in Brisbane. It reported, in July, 1910, that offices were situated in rented premises all over the city, and recommended that they be concentrated in one building on a convenient site, and suggested that a building capable of expansion from time to time be erected on the Adelaide street site,which was already Commonwealth property. Although details of accommodation required for the various Departments were obtained, the proposal was held in abeyance owing to difficulties in connexion with the utilization of portion of the proposed site, which was required for defence purposes. Another proposal to erect the parcels post and postal stores building on the same land was considered, but this precipitated a civic movement in Brisbane to obtain the whole of the site for a city improvements scheme. The various bodies concerned in this project had a conference in 1915, and consideration was given to several designs prepared by Mr. Murdoch, Chief Commonwealth Architect, for the best use of the area in the public interest. The conference agreed, to recommend that a scheme be adopted which provided for an open square between Ann and Adelaide streets, flanked at each end by groups of buildings, one of which would be of a commercial character, while the other would provide for Commonwealth requirements’. Negotiations regarding this proposal were continued between the State and Federal Governments, but no definite action was taken in the matter, the war and the consequent difficulty over finance probably being the main cause of holding up the question. In 1919 a proposal wasput forward from Brisbane to utilize the whole area bounded by the four streets as a war memorial square, but the Commonwealth Government could not see its way to agree to this, owing to the difficulty in obtaining equally suitable sites for its own purposes. It agreed, however, to give further consideration to the scheme providing for a central square, flanked by Government buildings at each end, as such a square, whilst a benefit to the City of Brisbane, would, at the same time, prove of great financial value to the Commonwealth. The matter was then stated to be urgent, as the State Government announced its intention of building on its portion of the land at an early date. The Commonwealth Government then referred the matter to the Public Works Committee for investigation. After considering the various schemes that had been put forward, the Committee, in July, 1921, reported in favour of the proposal for the creation of a memorial square, 200 feet in width, supported on either flank by Commonwealth and State public offices respectively, and involving the Commonwealth in the cession of a strip of land 40 feet wide for the purposes of the square, at the same time providing valuable frontage and light for Commonwealth requirements. The Queensland Government also agreed to this scheme, which was endorsed by the Federal Parliament on the 6th December, 1921. Preparations were then ‘made by the Commonwealth, ‘in touch with the State Government, to draw lip plans for the building to be erected on the Commonwealth side of the square. These were passed by the Public Works Committee, and endorsed by the Commonwealth Parliament on the 25th August, 1923. Preparations to call tenders were practically complete, when, ‘at the request of a deputation which waited 0,n the Acting Prime Minister, directions were given for action to be stayed, pending further consideration of views pub forward by local authorities that the whole of the land concerned should be devoted to the memorial square. The question was the subject of further negotiations with the State Government, the Memorial Square Committee, the Brisbane Council, and others, and the Commonwealth took the view that it could not accede to the proposal to give up the whole of the land. After further consultation, however, an amended scheme was evolved, providing for a larger square, which would involve a rearrangement of the building proposals, by which the Commonwealth would receive special advantages in regard to building frontages and future accommodation for its activities, and at the same time the views of the local authorities would be met respecting the creation of a more suitable memorial square than that originally proposed. That is the reason why the Commonwealth Government, after having received the previous report, now asks that the matter be again referred to the Committee. I lay on the table, as required by the Act, plans, &c, of the proposed work.
– Did the House take any action with respect to the other report ?
– Is there any special urgency about this matter ?
– It is hoped that the Committee will deal with the proposal as soon as convenient.
.- The House should be informed, whether, at the time the Committee was dealing with this matter previously, any representations were made to it regarding the necessity of setting aside this area for the purpose of a war memorial square. If representations of that nature were then made, some explanation of the decision of the Committee against the area being 30 utilized, and in favour of buildings being erected on the site, appears to be necessary. I am not referring to the expense which may be incurred, because for a matter of this kind the amount is not great. I take it that the Government are now paying rent to different people in Brisbane for accommodation for Commonwealth offices, and for that reason it is probable that these buildings are urgently required.
– That is so.
– The House should be informed whether evidence regarding a memorial square was placed before the Committee when it held its former inquiry.
– This proposal was not placed before the Committee.
– I do not refer to the amended proposal now before us, but I desire to know whether evidence in favour of a certain area of this particular site being reserved for the purpose of a war memorial square, was placed before the Committee previously.
– Then we should know why the Committee opposedthat suggestion, and recommended that buildings should be erected on the area. We are all anxious to meet the Brisbane people, or those in other places, who desire a suitable area for the erection of a war memorial, but delays of this kind should be avoided, if possible. If these buildings are required, further delay is not in the best interests of the Commonwealth.
– I hope the House will not oppose the motion. The Leader of the Opposition will agree that already there has been too much delay in respect to this matter.
– That is what I am urging.
– As pointed out by the Minister, in 1910 a committee of officers was appointed, and asked to investigate and report upon the housing accommodation for officials in Brisbane, and whether buildings to accommodate them should be erected. The committee recommended the erection of a building in a- central position capable of expansion.. The Leader of the Opposition asks whether the desire of the people of Queensland to have a memorial square in Brisbane was placed before the Committee in 1921. Evidence to that effect was placed before the Committee, but at thetime the proposition was for a very small square. Since then the Government of Queensland has offered a larger area, and proposals to make a better memorial square have been brought forward. The proposal before us, if carried, will be to the advantage of the Commonwealth Government. We are not asked to supply a square, but have to consider whether the proposal will be of advantage to the country as a whole. This case is analogous to that of the acquisition of land for the building of a post office at Perth. In that instance more land was acquired than was necessary at the time for the building of the post office, but it has since proved to have been a sound investment. I hope there will be no opposition to the motion.
.- Is this the same site as that on which the Brisbane City Council are now erecting their new Town Hall?
– No; it is a different site. The Town Hall is in Albertstreet.
– In that case I offer no opposition to the proposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee 011 Public Works forinvestigation and report, viz. : - The erection of a building at Canberra for Departmental Secretariats, including provision for an Automatic Telephone Exchange and Post Office.
When the Seat of Government is transferred to Canberra, according to the scheme of construction now in progress, it will be necessary to provide accommodation for sections or secretariats of the various Departments, whose representation will then be essential. Honorable members probably know that the permanent administration offices will not be ready for occupation at the time when it is proposed to transfer Parliament to Canberra. At the initial stage, skeleton staffs of the various Departments will’ need to be transferred to carry on the work of Parliament. It is proposed to house these skeleton staffs principally in this building, pending the completion of the permanent administration office building recommended by the Public Works Committee, and for the design of which Parliament has directed the holding of an architectural competition. Plans of a proposed provisional secretariat building, to house these sections of Departments, have been prepared and are now submitted for the consideration of the Public Works Committee, in accordance with Statute. They provide the accommodation stated by the several Departments to be necessary for their operations at the time Parliament will sit. A district post-office and an automatic telephone exchange, in the official area of Canberra, will also be necessities when legislation commences, and to avoid the erection of comparatively small separate structures within this area, it is proposed to include this postal and telephone accommodation in the same building as the secretariats, in the manner indicated in the plans. The building has been designed to afford, when vacated by the Departments, official rooms of convenient size for members of Parliament, anticipating the probability of such provisionbeing found to be a necessity at Canberra. By such a system, of convenient, inexpensive subdivision of the floors, as planned, 54 rooms of a general unit size of 21 feet by 14 feet will be obtained, and the plan is arranged for one bath-room to every four rooms to be added when required. The plan also provides for caretaker’s quarters to bc arranged. A further building of similar size and design, but without post-office and telephone exchange, might possibly be erected at a site at the western side of the official area, to balance and correspond with the building now proposed. Such a building would afford 72 unit rooms, with bath-rooms, and caretaker’s quarters, on the scale ‘ provided for in the provisional secretariat building. Provided, therefore, that the policy becomes such that each senator and representative shall be provided with a room, a maximum of. 126 rooms will be obtainable in two buildings of the design proposed. Exclusive of the essential corridors, staircases, lavatories, recreation accommodation - the latter to eventually become caretaker’s quarters - heating chamber, and promenade roofs, the project now submitted would provide the following effective accommodation: - Offices, for secretariate, 19,712 feet; post-office, 2,518 feet ; automatic telephone exchange, 5,530 feet; totalling 27,760 feet. The probable cost of the building, not including equipment connected with the telephone installation, laying out of grounds; and engineering services outside the building, would be £39,000. As required by the Public Works Committee Act, I lay’ on the table the plans, &c, relating to this proposed work.
.- During last week I had the pleasure o’f visiting Canberra, and of seeing the expedition with which Parliament House is being erected. About onethird of the brickwork is already laid, and the roof is on the hostel. I gained the impression, during my stay there, that, in Parliament House itself, accommodation would be provided for members to the extent - I am speaking from memory - of one small room for each member.
– That is not so.
– Then I have misunderstood the position.
– Probably the honorable member is confusing it with the proposal to have in Parliament House a room for each Minister. There will not bc a room for each member.
– No; I admit that my mind is in some confusion. I left Canberra, with the idea that accommodation for honorable members - the rank and file of Parliament - would be contained :n the parliamentary building itself.
– Not by way of individual rooms.
– The buildings will absorb nearly 5,000,000 of bricks, and, I suppose, will ‘provide twice the area required for Parliament itself, including the Central Hall. I should like to know for whom the very many rooms in the Parliament House building are required? Referring to the motion before the House, did I understand rightly from the Minister that accommodation for honorable members would be included in this building, now to be referred to the Public Works Committee?
– It is proposed ultimately to use this building for that purpose.
– I am not quite satisfied with that reply, because I think accommodation for private members of this Parliament is long overdue. I hope that the Minister, in any proposal that he makes to the Public Works Committee, respecting accommodation for the rank and file of Parliament, will see that, at all events, it is quite adequate, and that we shall have the necessary privacy and plenty of room to interview constituents and visitors, instead of being relegated to corners as is now the practice here.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 28th May (vide page 963), on motion by Mr. Atkinson -
That the Bill bo now read a second time.
– It is something like ten months ago since I moved the second reading of this measure, and I am not surprised that, in the interim, some honorable members have forgotten its purport. There seems to be a general misconception on the part of honorable members, some thinking that the Bill, if passed, will consolidate all the present laws affecting lands in the Northern Territory, and bring new conditions into immediate operation. This measure certainly consolidates all the laws relating to the Territory, but it will not affect any of the present lessees, or, at any rate, those under the South Australian Act, unless they elect to surrender their leases and become subject to the Bill. To that extent only will there be a consolidation of the laws concerning the Northern Territory. This is a very necessary step making for improved administration, and disposing of many anomalies that at present exist. Any lessee who does not choose to come under the provisions of the Bill will continue his tenure until the expiration of his lease, when the land will revert to the Commonwealth, to be dealt with as the then Minister and the Lands Department think fit. I shall refer, briefly, to one or two statements that were made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). He seemed to have a confused idea of the real meaning of a number of provisions in the Bill. I, in common with honorable members who have carefully studied the Bill, have failed to read into it the meaning that the honorable member has given to its provisions. In the first place, he practically accused this Government of conspiring with the pastoral lessees of the Northern Territory to introduce this measure.
– The Government conspired with them to remit their land tax.
– There is no foundation whatever for that charge, as will be seen from a review of the history of the measure. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has been misled by certain documents which dealt with only the tag end of the arrangement that was entered into between the Minister of the day and the pastoralists. The need for the Bill arose in this way : When the Hughes Government was in office, Senator Pearce, who was then and is now the Minister for Home and Territories, felt that if the Government were to carry out a developmental policy in the Northern Territory, as they intended to do, and as this Government intend to do, it was necessary for them to obtain a greater control. of the leased lands. On the 2nd November, 1922, Senator. Pearce, when at Unley, a suburb of Adelaide, made a speech in which he outlined the policy now incorporated in the Bill. The Minister’s speech was published widely, and at that time created a stir in pastoral quarters. A deputation of representatives of pastoralists from the Northern Territory interviewed the Minister and put their case before him. They obtained a promise that when the draft Ordinance was prepared they would have the opportunity of seeing it, and offering such comment as they thought fit. That promise was kept, and the pastoralists made a number of suggestions. Although they did not secure the amendments that they desired - and they were very important amendments, too - they were quite satisfied nevertheless to come under the provisions of the Bill. If it is passed, I expect that a large number of the pastoralists will, as soon as possible, surrender their leasesor take advantage of the subdivisional clauses, thus bringing about the very object of the Ordinance - closer pastoral settlement so that sheep as well as cattle may be raised in the Northern Territory. While all this was going on, Mr. Massy Greene, whose name has been brought into the matter, was a member of the Hughes Government, but he had nothing whatever to do with the drafting of this measure. It was only after the last election that Mr. Greene appeared on the scene in association with the pastoralists of the Northern Territory. So far as the present Government is concerned, the terms of the Ordinance were practically settled before it took office, and only a few slight amendments were necessary to put it in the form in which it is now before the House. It is, therefore, quite a mistaken idea to suppose that any pressure was brought to bear upon the Government, or that it connived in any way at proposalsintended to enable the big land-holders of the Northern Territory to secure advantages at the expense of other people. I am sorry that the honorable member for the Northern Territory should have thought fit to suggest anything of the kind. He should have been better informed, and evidently sought the wrong source of information. The honorable member has said that all the cattle necessary to comply with the stocking conditions for a large run might be placed on one corner of it. If that is so it is due to a defect of the present law which we are trying to alter in this Bill. The most stringent stocking conditions are possible under this measure. The Land Board will have the power to frame them, and there can be no doubt that the pastoralists themselves expect under this Bill to be faced with more stringent stocking conditions. It is the experience of the Department that the improvements required under the existing law are actually a bar to settlement in the Northern Territory. If proper stocking conditions under this Bill are to be complied with, the pastoralist must necessarily improve his run. But he will, under this measure, be the judge of what improvements are necessary, and will not be bound by hard and fast improvements regulations, as under the existing law, requiring him to make a number of improvements which might be quite unnecessary for his purpose. As a matter of fact, the improvement conditions under the existing law are sostringent that they cannot be carried out in their entirety.
– They are as stringent as the stocking regulations are ridiculous.
– That is so. The Minister for Home and Territories has assured me that if the improvement conditions of the existing law were carried out in their entirety numbers of people in the Territory would have to abandon their holdings, and that because of the stringency of these conditions numbers of small men are prevented from taking up lands in the Northern Territory that are available for occupation at the present time.
– Have the improvement conditions of the existing law ever been complied with ?
– No. I have justsaid that if they were rigidly enforced the effect would be to drive many people off their runs and to prevent small men, for whom the honorable member is rightly solicitous, from taking up land in the Territory. Some people talk as if the Northern Territory were a kind of Eldorado, to which people ardently desired t.o go. As a matter of fact, there are only 181,000 square miles of the Territory leased at the present time.Two thirds of its area is still available for occupation, but so far from there being any rush of people to get land there, 11,000 square miles of previously-leased country have quite recently been surrendered to the Crown.
– Cartage at £40 per ton. accounts, in some measure, for that.
– That is so. If the honorable member would read the speeches delivered by the Minister for Home and Territories in another place or my speech in moving the second reading of the Bill, he would find that all these matters were referred to as difficulties which must be overcome if we are to secure the raising of sheep in the Northern Territory. No developmental policy is laid down in this Bill. This is a Laud Bill to provide land laws and a land system for the Territory. The developmental policy will follow in Bills for the construction of railways, roads, and other means of communication and transport. The Government must first get control of the lands in the Territory to make any developmental policy feasible.
– I have been saying that this is not a developmental Bill.
– Does the honorable member think that in a measure setting out the land system proposed for the Northern Territory provision should also be made for a railway, road, and general transport policy? The thing, is of course, ridiculous. We are dealing now with a land Ordinance, and I say that it is a very good Ordinance. The more closely it is studied the harder it will be for honorable members opposite to condemn it. That is shown by the fact that during the debate on the second reading no honorable member on the other side has made a concrete suggestion to better the provisions set out in the Bill. I challenged them ten months ago to consider the Bill fairly, take all the facts into account, the position and conditions under which an arrangement had to be come to, and then to produce a better scheme.
– When did the honorable gentleman issue his challenge?
– I issued it ten months ago, and no honorable member opposite has yet attempted to take it up.
– As soon as the challenge was issued the Government closed up the House.
– While the honorable member for the Northern Territory was making all these charges about collusion between pastoralists and the Government, he stated that the pastoralists’ committee had actually decided that no improvement conditions should be included in the new Bill. That statement is absolutely incorrect and has no foundation in fact. This will be clear to the honorable member if he will read the speech delivered at Unley by Senator Pearce on the 2nd November, 1922. That speech was. the beginning of the proceedings which culminated in the drafting of the measure now before the House. The honorable member for the Northern Territory told the House that when the time came for existing lessees to surrender portions of their runs they would be able, under this measure, to defy the Government. In support of his contention he referred to a manin the Northern Territory who had a store and desired a square mile of country for certain purposes, and said that when the lessee of the run was asked to surrender the area required he refused to give up an inch of his land. I ask the honorable member whether he was referring to the case of a man named Rankin.
– I am informed that a man named Rankin made such an application, and the lessee to whom the Government referred it signed the necessary papers surrendering 2 square miles of his run. I point out to the honorable member that if the pastoral lessees come under this Bill they will have to comply with its provisions. When the time comes, the Government of the day can take the necessary steps to put the provisions of the Bill into operation, and it will be nonsense for people to talk of refusing to surrender portions of their holding if the law says otherwise. I wish now to refer to an important objection which the honorable member raised, but which I do not think he can sustain, in connexion with clause 58, which permits lessees to subdivide their runs, and lease portions of them to incoming lessees. This is the provision under which honorable members opposite claim that it will be possible to foster dummying. I admit that dummying is very difficult to deal with. Some people are so very ingenious that if they are bent on dummying they seem to be able to evade what ap- pear to be very tightly drawn laws. But I do not think there will be very’ much danger of dummying under this measure. The honorable member seems to think that it will permit lessees to nominate others for subdivisions of their runs, and later to take them over again. He suggested that this kind of thing might go on for years.
– What I contended was that lessees could nominate their successors.
– I say that they cannot do so under this Bill. One reason for my statement is that the nominee for a subdivisional area must be approved by the Minister.
– The Minister must give his approval, unless something detrimental to the nominee is known.
– So long as the person who is nominated to take up a subdivisional lease is a good man, what does it matter ?
– The honorable gentleman is begging the question.
– I am not, because the land must be put to a proper use. The subdivisional lease will be subject to the provisions of the ‘Bill. It will’ contain the powers of resumption, liability of compliance with stocking conditions, and with all the covenants set out in the Bill, and the tenure of none can extend beyond the 30th June, 1965. In order to remove all possibility of dummying, I propose, at the Committee stage, to submit an amendment to sub-clause 2 of clause 58. The provision as it stands is permissive; it says that the lessee may do certain things, and I propose, by an amendment, to make it compulsory upon him to do them.. We are endeavouring to tighten the law as much as possible, and I do not think there will be any more effective law in Australia for the prevention of dummying. I intend to propose a similar amendment to clause 31, which deals with mortgagees.
– Evidently the criticism in this House has done some good.
– The Government are bringing forward these amendments quite spontaneously, and not as the result of criticism. . This Ordinance is mainly a re-enactment of the present law with a few alterations relating, amongst other things, to the re-appraisement of rents, which will enable us to get higher rentals than are collected under the South Australian laws,
– That is only in respect of some leases.
– All leases that come under the Ordinance, will be subject to re-appraisement.
– But the pastoralists may decide whether or not they will come under the Ordinance.
– If they do not choose to take advantage of this Ordinance they will continue to be governed by either the South Australian law or the existing Commonwealth Ordinances, under which they hold their leases.
– If pastoralists do not - elect to come under this Ordinance will the Government enforce the stocking and improvement conditions 1
– If this .Government is in power it. will do. so. Clauses 50 to 63. comprise the new features of the land policy, and under those clauses the period of certain leases, will be extended, but. none may extend beyond the 30th June, 1965. At the present time the greater portion of the land that is most favorably situated in relation to stock routes and water supplies is held under the old South Australian laws, and two-thirds of those leases have a further currency of from seventeen to twenty-ona years. In respect of them we have no* power of resumption, and the lessees may , continue to hold them as they do at. present. We hope they will elect to sur- render or, alternatively, subdivide their holdings so that new settlers may come in. If that is done each original lease will support four or five lessees instead of one.
– Will the Commonwealth have any control of such subdivisions?
– Subdivision is fairly well safeguarded by clause 58.
– The lessee will be nominally under the control of the Government?
– The lease of the subdivision will be granted by the Government, and will be subject to all theconditions of this Bill. Apart from the need for a general developmental policy, which has no place in a land Ordinance, the principal subject of discussion has been the length of time for which the land will be tied up under the conditions of this Bill. But I would like to impress upon the House that under it the Government will get control of the land sooner than, it would if the existing tenures were undisturbed. If the lessees choose to surrender, the Commonwealth will by 1935 regain control of an area of about ‘ 24^000 square miles, whereas if we wait until the existing leases lapse only about 3,800 square miles will revert to the Crown by that year. It is necessary for us to get the land under proper control before we can launch a large developmental policy, and by the provisions of this Bill we shall make a fair area of land available for settlement more rapidly than if we wait for existing leases to expire. The lessees may surrender immediately if they so choose, and we have an assurance from representative pastoralists that they will take advantage of the provisions of this Bill in regard to surrender and’ subdivision. The fears of some honorable members that the subdivision clauses will facilitate dummying are groundless. The Government hopes that the provisions for subdivision will expedite the settlement of people who are prepared to engage in sheep-raising. The Minister for Home and Territories was confronted with the fact that all the big South Australian leases, and the 42-year leases under the Commonwealth Ordinance, look up the land for a long time. Honorable members opposite seem to expect the pastoralists to surrender their leases and get nothing in return.
– Are there not resumption’ conditions in connexion with all existing Commonwealth leases?
– There is power of resumption after 21 years, but some of the leases of second and third class land are for a period of 42 years, and still have a currency of many years. The Minister in setting out to frame this measure was confronted with the facts that this huge area is locked . up, that the population of the Territory is decreasing instead of” increasing, and that there is dire necessity for better means of communication and transport
– Those facilities will not bo provided by the policy contained in this Bill.
– In a land Ordi nance, the honorable member should be cc-utent to find a system of land tenure. Let us first get control of the land, in order to prepare the way for a general dev elopmental scheme. Railways, roads, and other facilities may follow. Without some means of getting control of the land, honorable members would not be prepared to vote for a big developmental scheme for the Territory. The Minister for Home and Territories is anxious to develop the Territory, but he is not prepared to embark on a big works policy until he gets more control over the land and greater power to compel its utilization.
– Did not the Honorary Minister say that two-thirds of the Territory is not selected?
– That is so, and the tragedy of the situation is that nobody seems anxious to select it.
– But the honorable member said that the Minister was anxious to get control of the land.
– Yes , and this Ordinance will provide adequate means of dealing with the land that is at present unutilized if we can get people to apply for it. We are endeavouring, by means of this land policy, to prepare the Territory for development by roads, railways, and other facilities. I have no objection to the appointment of a Committee to report on the best means of developing the Territory, but I do not think that such an inquiry would help in the formulation of. a land system. The Northern Territory, like other portions of Australia, must have a pastoral era before it can be ready for subdivision and closer settlement.
– It must first suffer land monopoly!
– We are endeavouring to break up the existing land monopoly. Having received certain assurances from the pastoralists, I expect a large number of leases to be surrendered under this Bill. Later, when we are in possession of complete information as to the best means of developing the Territory, this Government will submit a policy of works to the House. The Bill is mainly one for consideration in Committee, and without occupying more time in the discussion of general principles, I urge the House to agree to the second reading.
Question - That the Bill be now ‘ read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority …. … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Schedule (An Ordinance relating to Crown Lands).
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 - (1.) There shall be a Laud Board of the
Northern Territory consisting of three members appointed by the Minister, of whom one shall, if the pastoralists of the Northern Territory nominate, in the manner and within the time specified by the Minister three persons, be appointed from among those persons nominated.
– The Committee is entitled to more information concerning Part II. of the Schedule which relates to administration. This clause, as I interpret it, provides for the creation of a Land Board, consisting of three members for administering the Act. I move -
That all the words after “members” to the end of sub-clause 1 be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ one of whom shall be a pastoralist elected by the pastoral lessees in the Northern Territory, two to be appointed by the Minister.”
As the clause is framed at present, the three members of the Board are to be appointed by the Minister. One of these is to be selected by the Minister from three persons nominated by the pastoralists; but the clause does not provide the manner in which they are to be elected or nominated. I am concerned with the smaller pastoralists, holding from 700 to 1,000 square miles. I have received a telegram from the secretary of the Pastoralists Association, asking me to endeavour to make it perfectly clear that that association wishes to have some voice in the appointment of its representative. Honorable members will agree that it is only fair that the people in the Northern Territory should have a definite voice in the appointment of their representative. There is nothing clear in the clause as to the procedure to be followed, but if my amendment were adopted the pastoralists themselves could by popular vote elect their own representative.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ popular vote “ ?
– That each pastoralist should have one vote. Under the clause some one may nominate a panel of three from which the Minister will select one. If my amendment is carried, a true reflex of the opinion of the small as well as the large land-holders in the Northern Territory will be obtained.
– Where are the headquarters of the association to which the honorable member refers?
– At Darwin.
.- I am surprised that the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Atkinson) has not risen to respond to the request of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). The proposition submitted by the honorable member is a reasonable one. What objection is there to the pastoralists selecting their own representative on the proposed Land Board? Why should a panel of three be submitted to the Minister from which he may select one who might possibly be the one least desired by the pastoralists. If we are to look after the interests of land settlement in the Northern Territory - and that has been the argument put forward by honorable members opposite - surely those immediately concerned should be allowed to nominate their own representative. When the Minister can appointtwo members it is unfair to give him the right also to select one of three suggested by the pastoralists. One of these men may be more concerned with the welfare of the big pastoralist than with that of the smaller man. A vote should be taken, as is done when appointments are made to any other Board .
– This is the practice adopted in connexion with the representation of returned soldiers on the Repatriation Commission.
– That does not necessarily justify its continuance. Experience brings to light the defects of any practice.
– Surely there are in the Territory three good men who may be picked.
– Three good nen may be picked, but the one selected from the panel by the Minister may not work iu the best interests of the small holders, who comprise the big majority of the lessees in the Northern Territory.
– There would still be two other men on the Board.
– That is what I am contending; those men will watch the interests of the Government. Probably they will know as much about the NorthernTerritory as I do; and I have never been there.
– How does the honorable member propose that this man should be elected ?
-By the vote of those who hold pastoral leases in the Northern Territory.
– Theman selected might be a boodleier.
Mir. CHARLTON . - That is what I am afraid of. I did not care to use the word, but the honorable member has put it into my mouth. This amendment should be accepted to- obviate that possibility. If the names of three men arc submitted the Government may appoint a man who is a boodleier.
– What is a boodleier?
– One who works in his. own interests rather than in the interests of the community generally. Unfortunately a few such persons exist. I do not wish to mention names, but in the Northern Territory there are men who hold very large areas. If such a one were nominated with two others the Government might regard the size of his holding as a justification for appointing him to the Board. It is not always the man with the largest interests who is most likely to assist development. Invariably the man who has a less interest is more concerned with the development of that interest; because the wealthy man can afford to sit back until railways are constructed, and then derive the benefit of the unearned increment. If we are anxious to develop the Territory we must have on the Board some one who has been chosen by the people whose interests are directly affected. At Parliamentary elections the people indicate their choice of a representative. Why should not that principle be applied in this case, in order to conserve the interests of those who take up pastoral leases? Why should the lessees submit the names of three persons and allow the Government to decide who shall be appointed to the Board ?
– Is not the Government responsible for the expenditure, and should not it have a say in the matter?
– The Government will have a say, to the extent that it will have as its representatives on the Board two of the three members. How, then, could the Government’s interests bo jeopardized? Those two members may not have an intimate knowledge of land matters or of the conditions obtaining in the Territory. If ever it was necessary to appoint a practical man, possessing a knowledge of the Territory and of the conditions, that necessity exists in this case. In order to develop the Territory there must bc appointed to this Board one who will be able to give sound advice. I submit that no genuine objection can be taken to this amendment. It would not destroy the Bill. On the contrary, it would improve it. Surely, whatever differences there may be regarding the principle underlying the Bill, we ought to bc able to improve it in the interest of the Territory. N© party significance attaches to the amendment; the honorable member who has moved it is not connected with any party. What is the object of our considering the Bill in Committee if we are bound to accept the clauses as drafted by the Government? Although we recognize the justice of the amendment, are we to be compelled to reject it merely because the Minister is not prepared to accept it? This is not a vital amendment, so far as the position of the Government is concerned, although some members may think that the contrary is the case. Every one being desirous of developing the Territory as soon as possible, what objection can be raised to having on the Board a man who will be in touch with the majority of the lessees and qualified to advise the other members of the Board? Which is better, to have on the Board a man who possesses the confidence of a majority of the settlers, or one who is representative of only one-thind of the settlers? The latter could possibly afford to put up with unsatisfactory conditions because of his wealth, and the fact that if the conditions were bettered a greater degree of settlement would take place, and he would suffer in consequence. What satisfaction would it be to the lessees to have on the Board a man in whom they had no confidence?
– He would be nominated by them.
– I differ from the honorable gentleman. The lessees, as the clause stands, have to nominate three persons, and from these the Minister selects one. The representative of the lessees should be chosen collectively by the people interested. That can be done only by submitting to a vote the names of those nominated. If, after such an election, the successful man were appointed by the Government, the lessees would have confidence in the Board, and would work under its decisions. If the appointment were made of a man who was unacceptable to the majority of the lessees, the Board would be damned from its inception, and nothing but complaint would be heard. Honorable members of the Country party have often claimed tho right of the primary producers to be represented on certain Boards.
– Did they nominate a member of the Tariff Board?
– I am beginning to realize now that I was correct when I said that that position was not. intended for a member of the Country party, but that it was found necessary to appoint an additional member as a sop to that party. The honorable member admits that that was done.
– I did not say that.
– That is the only inference I can draw from the honorable member’s interjection. Nobody can justify this clause as it stands. It might as well be contended that, in the filling of a casual vacancy in this Chamber, three men should be nominated, the Government to select one.
– The Labour party does not allow three Labour men to stand for any one seat; it, therefore, restricts the choice of the people.
– The honorable member is endeavouring to draw an analogy which does not exist. He knows very well that each party submits to the electors one representative, leaving it to the electors to decide who shall represent them. I now ask for that principle to be applied to the lessees of the Northern Territory.
– Does the honorable member mean all lessees or only pastoral lessees ?
– I mean pastoral . lessees. I am not asking that this amendment be accepted because itf may bring us any gain politically; no such gain would follow. Surely the lessees have the right to nominate their own representative. The Minister can- not lightly brush this matter aside, or vote the amendment out, without replying to the arguments advanced in favour of it. Debate must take place on an amendment such as this in order that honorable members may judge whether the measure would be improved by its acceptance. I submit that this amendment is an improvement on the clause as drafted, and should commend itself to any one who desires to do justice to the lessees in the Territory. We want to see the Territory populate’d, and not to expend public money unprofitably. A representative who is in direct touch with the lessees of the Territory, and who is approved by them, will be able to give great assistance to the other members of the Board. A practical man is needed on Boards of this kind.
– I cannot see that the clause will inflict any great hardship on the Northern Territory pastoralists, nor can I see that the amendment by the honorable member representing the Northern Territory would improve it. Under the Government proposal the pastoralists are entitled to nominate three of their number from whom the Minister will select one. The passing of this Bill will mark the beginning of a new era in the Northern Territory, and it is desirable that in the early stages of its administration the responsible Minister shall have a large measure of control.
– Why should the pastoralists nominate three men? .
– Because it is advisable for the Minister to retain considerable authority. If three men are nominated, he will have more opportunity to satisfy himself that a man of the right type is appointed. Honorable members must give the Minister credit for possessing some common sense. If he ascertains that one of the three men nominated possesses the confidence of the lessees to a larger degree than the others, he will undoubtedly appoint that one.
– What is the definition of “pastoralist”? Does it mean all lease-holders ?
– Not necessarily.
I have not the details at my hand.
– How will the pastoralists vote in this matter? Will it be a case of “ one man one vote “ ?
– I suppose that the selection will be made as prescribed by regulations. I expect it will be “ one man one vote.”
– If the Minister will accept a reasonable amendment to the clause we shall make good progress, but if he does not, he will get no further with the Bill to-night.
– I cannot accept an amendment under duress. If the honorable member chooses to adopt the attitude that he will hold up the business of the country because of personal pique, that is his affair. The Government will not be stampeded. I consider that no advantage will be gained by accepting the amendment. It will not improve the Bill. The interests of the smaller pastoralists have not been overlooked. If the Leader of the Opposition will look at clause 11, paragraph d, he will find a provision that precludes any likelihood of a pastoralist in a big way of business accepting a position on the Land Board. The clause provides that a member of the Board shall be deemed to have vacated his office if - (d)he. in any way, directly or indirectly is interested in any land, other than as a place of residence for himself or his family, in the Northern Territory, or in any matter which may arise in connexion therewith under this Ordinance, or engages in any live-stock transactions for the sake of gain or any other business.
It will not pay a pastoralist engaged in large stock transactions to become a member of this Board. We shall be wise to pass the clause as it is. If experience proves the advisableness of adopting a proposal such as that contained in the amendment, the measure can be amended. I ask honorable members to study paragraph d of clause 11, for it will remove from their minds any suspicion that the proprietors of large interests in the Territory will accept seats on the Land Board.
.- I regret exceedingly that the Leader of the Opposition has attempted to threaten honorable members on this side of the Committee. His interjection a few minutes ago amounts to a threat. I have a good deal of sympathy for the proposal contained in the amendment. All honorable members have emphasized at some time in their public life that we are a Democratic community, and I fail to see that any reasonable objection can be taken to the amendment before the Committee. It is preferable, in my opinion, to the provision in the Bill. Since looking at the paragraph quoted by the Minister I am beginning to wonder whether any practical men will be able to accept a seat on the Board. Paragraph d of clause 11 appears to preclude every one other than a swagman from accepting a seat.
– That paragraph will have to be amended.
– I think it will. The last line of the paragraph contains the words “or any other business.” I hope the Minister will reconsider his attitude, for the amendment is reasonable. In my opinion, a man holding comparatively small interests in the Territory would be a desirable member of the Land Board if he possessed the confidence of a majority of the pastoralists.
– I am astonished that the Minister (Mr. Atkinson) has adopted such a hostile attitude towards this amendment. Senator Pearce who fathered this Bill in another place is not in attendance to advise his colleague. Evidently he has given instructions that the Bill must be bludgeoned through this Committee in its present form. We might reasonably have expected the Minister who piloted this measure through the other Chamber to be here to listen to the opinions of honorable members of this Committee. It would have been courteous to do so. This is a most important Bill. I am surprised at the proposition contained in the clause now before us. It may very well happen that, though the names of three pastoralists are submitted to the Minister, one of the nominees may possess the confidence of his fellows to a much greater degree than either of the others. I doubt very much whether it will be possible to submit the names of three suitable men . in view of the provisions of paragraph d of clause 11. Even thehonorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) finds’ fault with that paragraph, and questions whether a practical man will be found to accept’ a seat on the Board. Why, therefore, should we put the settlers to. the trouble of discovering’ three such men? Many of the smaller’ lessees in the’ Territory have resided on their holdings for many years, and are more or’ less out of touch with affairs in other parts of the Commonwealth. It will not be easy for them to find three men who will be willing to accept the heavy administrative responsibility . which will be placed upon themembers of this Board. Honorable members -on this sideof the Committee are only acting according to their customary policy in supporting this amendment. We always contend that the people most concerned by the administration of a Board such as this should have direct representation upon it. Let us suppose for a moment that three names are submitted to the Minister. Probably he will have no personal knowledge of any of them. Therefore, he will have either to leap in the dark or else obtain information from some outside source. From whom could he obtain information that would be of value to him?
– He could get it from the
– The Pastoralists Association is responsible for nominating the three men. If, as the honorable member for Corio suggests, it will be requested to give additional information respecting one man, it might just as well select one man in the first instance.
– Either the Minister will have to get additional information from the Pastoralists Association or else he will have to make a leap in the dark.
– I venture to say that the opinion of the honorable member for Corio carries no weight with the Government. The Minister says that the reason why three names are to be submitted, and the selection of one is to be left to the Minister administering the Act, is that it is desirable that he should retain a large measure of control. I fail to see how that end will be attained by nominating three men. The appointment of this Board is a matter of considerable importance. The Minister has given us no indication whatever of the remuneration these men will receive. How much will the Board cost per annum ? The honorable member for Corio has pointed out that under paragraph d of clause 11 only a swagman will be qualified to accept a seat on the Board. It is quite probable that the advice of an honest swagman would be more valuable to the Board than would that of many of the men who hold large interests in the Territory. A swagman would be more desirable than the Kidmans and the Jowetts who, no doubt, will be’ pulling strings to give effect to their own will in the administration of the Northern Territory land laws.
– The honorable member would prefer a swagman to them ?
– I remind the honorable member that he supported a leader in’ this Chamber who for years carried his swag, and frequently slept under bridges and in the open air. I refer to the ex-Prime Minister, the Bight Honorable W M. Hughes. Many swagmen have risen to the highest positions in the land, and it is no disgrace to them that at ohe. period in “their life they carried a swag.
– I have never suggested that it was adisgrace to any man that he carried a swag.
– In view of what has been pointed out, we cannot accept the Minister’s assurance unless he tells us. that it is his intention to strike out that objectionable provision which will block a small leaseholder from becoming a member of the Land Board.
– It will also block a big leaseholder.
– But I object to the presence of big leaseholders. It should be our endeavour to place small men on. the land.
– Surely the honorable member does not want aman on the Board who is interested in stock and other matters that may come before the Board for decision.
– There are small land-holders on Lands Boards in New South Wales. They are appointed to these Boards because they are practical men. There is nothing to be feared from the presence of a small land-holder on such a Board. It is the big land monopolist who would withhold land from settlement that we have to guard against. As a matter of fact, this Ordinance should make impossible the recurrence in the Territory of any of those evils that have manifested themselves in the States. The aggregation of large estates in the Territory is an evil we can prevent. by having on an administrative Board, such as this Land Board will be, small practical men, who will be sympathetic “ towards other small men whose, claims come before the Board for consideration. We should also provide for balloting for lands. Grave dissatisfaction exists with the system of allocating the western lands of New South Wales by other means than the ballot, and there is grave suspicion as to the bona fides of many men who have been allotted land under the method adopted. The balloting system is the fairest, and if it be applied in the Northern Territory there will not be the same risk as is likely to occur if the Land Board is given power to allot land to applicants. Although a big land-holder in the Territory may not secure a position on the Land Board, a person may be chosen who has big land interests iti Queensland or New South Wales, and whose interests bring him mostly into touch with the sons of wealthy men seeking holdings in the Territory. In such a case the small man would have very little chance of getting sympathetic treatment. Why cannot the Government trust the lessees to make their own choice? The only conclusion one can draw from the stand they are taking ap is that they are afraid, that the man elected by the lessees may belong ti» a political party opposed, to them. The method of having three men selected by the lessees, and the Minister, who probably knows none os? the three, making a choice from among them, is absolutely opposed to all democratic principles, and in practice will be found to be entirely against the best interests of the Territory. It is certainly opposed to the opinions of the men already there. But, of course, it is only what we expect from the present Government, because, whenever it has been a case of trusting the people or of “putting something over them,” they have never been prepared to trust the people, and on every occasion have put something over them. They have never accepted responsibility, but have passed it on to Boards, the salaries of the members of which are a heavy burden on the taxpayers.
– The Government, and not the lessees, will be responsible for administering this Ordinance.
– Of course, we expect the Government to do something at some time. So far, this Government has been mainly noted for the fact that it has kept the doors of Parliament closed. It has been doing nothing, and doing it very well. Ministers are certainly entitled to certificates of merit for the consistency with which they have done nothing since they were elected. It is not the desire of honorable members of the Opposition to delay the passage of the Bill more than is necessary, but we must let the Government know that they must preserve the rights of the men in the Territory. These people are allowed to have a representative in this House, but the Government are not prepared to give him a vote. They tax the people of the Territory, but will not allow those taxpayers to have a vote here - a case of taxation without representation, if ever there was one. No one can say that the honorable member for the Northern Territory has identified himself with any party, or with the utterances of any party here, in this House. He has merely asked for a fair deal for the people he represents. When the Bill to enable the Northern Territory to have representation in this House was being debated, one of the reasons advanced in favour of it was that the representative of the people there would be able to advise the Government and the House generally on matters concerning the Territory of which the Government and the House might be” ignorant. There are other matters about which Ministers know nothing, but they certainly know very little about the Northern Territory; and yet the whips are cracked when the honorable member for the Northern Territory gives his opinion as to what should be done, and the Government express their intention of forcing a Bill through contrary to his advice. TheY have taken up this attitude because of certain conversations at Scott’s Hotel with representatives of big pastoral companies who do not want any one else in their vicinity. The same evil was experienced in Queensland until there came into power a Labour Government sufficiently strong to break it down. The Commonwealth Government have; acceded to the dictates of a few interested individuals, and framed this Bill in accordance with the desires of those people. They have inserted a clause which absolutely prevents the voice of the people of the Territory from being heard, and they declare that the Bill will be passed whether it meets with the wishes of the honorable member for the Northern Territory or not. That honorable member might just as well not have been elected if his advice is not to be taken in connexion with the only Bill which may bring about some good for the Northern Territory. He is the only person in this Parliament who thoroughly understands the Territory. Having been forced to earn his living there for a great number of years, his opinion should carry the utmost weight in this House.
Mr.E. Riley. - He was elected by the people of the Northern Territory.
– Yes, after a keen contest, in which the big pastoralists spilled oceans of money in order to prevent him ‘ from coming to this House. Yet the Government flout his suggestions on this Bill. If they carry on in this way, the effect of their legislation will be that nothing will be done for the Territory; and it will remain as it is to-day until a Labour Government repeals the obnoxious provisions of this Ordinance. When that is done, no doubt, we shall hear the cry of repudiation, as it was recently heard when a strong Government in Queensland took steps to right a wrong committed by a corrupt Administration of the past which sold the birthright of the children of the State for many years ahead.
– Repudiation was the only name for what was done in Queensland. ,
– We would expect the honorable member for Riverina, who is a big pastoralist, to sympathize with his fellow monopolists in Queensland. As a matter of fact, the honorable member admitted in this House that he repudiated the taxation he owed to the Commonwealth .
– Yes, and the honorable member used his vote here to avoid having to pay the taxation which had been passed by this Parliament in the interests of the people generally.
– I speak without any feeling in the matter. I realize that gentlemen of the type of the honorable member are disciples of private enterprise with themselves as that private enterprise. They believe in using their ability to increase their own bank balances, which is quite in keeping with their policy of self first, self second, and, if there is anything left, self third. The people can come in afterwards. We claim that it is right for the Government of the country to protect the interests of the people. In all ages Tory Governments have been ready to sign away the rights of subsequent generations. In this Bill the thin end of the wedge has been inserted in the form of a provision which will prevent the people who are most interested from having representation on the Land Board.
– Will not the Government accept the amendment?
– No. I sympathize with the Minister- (Mr. Atkinson) because the steam-roller has been put over him. He has been told that he cannot accept any amendment. It is another exhibition of the “ strong man act “ on the part of Senator Pearce who piloted this Bill through the Senate, but is not in attendance to be consulted by his colleagues when this very important measure is under consideration in a Chamber that is more truly representative of the people of Australia than is the other. If he were here to-night he might be able to allay our fears, but as he is. not here the only thing the Minister in charge of the Bill can do is. to stolidly declare that he cannot accept any amendments. The manner in which the Government conduct their business is open to censure. Only a few days after the Bankruptcy Bill had passed its first and second readings, and had gone through Committee in another place, the Minister in charge of it came down with no fewer than 49 amendments, most of which had been suggested at the instigation of an outside body. And yet Ministers and their supporters talk about domination of the Labourp arty by outside bodies ! As the result of theMinister’s action even supporters of the Government in another place demanded that the debate be adjourned till they had had an opportunity of considering the effects of the amendments. To a great majority of honorable members on this side of the House administrationin the Northern Territory means nothing personally, but we take the view that as the honorable member for the Northern Territory is in close contact with the people most affected by this measure, his views should receive careful consideration. TheMin-ister ister has” merely told us that he cannot accept- the suggested amendment. He gave no adequate reason for his decision, notwithstanding that the honorable member for the Northern Territory emphasized that he had received a communication fromthe secretary of the “association most concerned stating that they wanted the amendment.
– What does the honorable member mean by his reference to the association most concerned.” Are there two associations?
– I mean the Northern Territory Pastoral Association.
– I can well Understand that the’ only association which the. Minister has in mind is that which -met at Scott’s. Hotel while this measure wasunder consideration.
– I think that theadmission by the honorable member for Northern Territory is a very strong argument for leaving the clause as it is.
– But the Minister has advanced no reason for not accepting the amendment.
– I said I did not think it was an improvement on the clause.
– If the Minister is. determined not to see any. improvement, of course it will be impossible for me to demonstrate in what way the suggested amendment would be an improvement on the existing provision in the Bill. I Hope, however, that reasonable and helpful criticism from this side will receive due consideration. I can assure the Government that it will facilitate business in this House. As a land-holder all my life I can give th.e Minister an assurance that the suggestion is a reasonable’ one. The pastoralists of the Northern Territory are not here to speak for themselves. Therefore, the Minister should accept the amendment and provide for the representation of the small land-holders on the Board.
– Why the small, rather than the large, land-holders?
– For the very adequate reason that the history of land settlement in Australia shows that when large land-holders have been appointed to membership of Land- Boards, they have, generally speaking, taken a prejudiced and jaundiced view of the rights of small settlers. As a result, the curse of land monopoly has been perpetuated throughout Australia” and the small men’ have been unable to obtain justice . from the Land Boards. There was a great dealof corruption in regard to land administration in New Sou th Walesbefore Labour made its influence felt. Large tracts of. valuable country were given by Tory Governments . and’ Tory Land Boards to their friends for practically nothing.
– Under this Bill the small holder will have a vote as well as the large land-holder.
– But the Billprovides that the small land-holder shall not secure representation on the Board .
– I never said that
– The Bill does. In clause 11 of the Ordinance there is this provision -
A member of the Board shall be deemed to have vacated his office if -
he, any way, directly or indirectly; is interested in any land, other than as a place of residence for himself or his family, in the Northern Territory, or in any matter which may arise in connexion therewith under this Ordinance, or . engages in any live-stock transactions for the sake of gain, or any other business.
That provision will prevent any holder securing representation on the Board if he owns more land than is necessary for the residence of himself or his family. It is a negationof the principle of justice.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am surprised at the speech of the honorable member (Mr. Cunningham) who has just resumed his seat. ‘ He assumes that the large land-holders are vile persons, whose one desire is to dominate the
Land Board and do an injustice to other residents in the Northern Territory. The Territory has already cost the Commonwealth £8,000,000. There are only about 3,000 souls there now, and I doubt if there are 200 lease-holders. I doubt also if the honorable member for the Northern Territory represents twenty lease-holders. I suppose there are not more than 1,000 electors in the whole of the Northern Territory. I am getting fed up with all this talk on the part of the honorable member about “Darwin, Darwin, Darwin.” I want the Government to stand up to their responsibilities in the interests of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, and to have a voice in the determination of who shall be their representatives on the proposed Board. I do not want to see any “sundowners “ on it, because, in my opinion, a man with any brains would hot be a “ sundowner.” I want on the Board men of broad vision, men who have endured the hardships of the Northern Territory, men who have tackled the difficulties of pioneering in the home of the dingo, and have made their holdings reproductive. That class of man is not usually found among the party opposite. Its sentiment does not lend itself to the building of “men of the bull-dog breed,” who have made Australia’s name. I hope that the Minister will reject the amendment.
.- I wish that I could say as much in as short a time as the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. I have listened to many feeble replies from Ministers, but the answer given to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is about the weakest I have ever heard. The amendment in no way detracts from the value of the clause; it simply alters the method of electing a representative of the pastoralists. The only reason given by the Minister for objecting to the amendment is that he wants to reserve some control.
– I stated that the amendment would not improve the clause.
– The honorable gentleman also said that he wanted the Minister to be able to exercise some control. In what way, I ask, can the Minister do that? He may as well put the three names in a bag and pick one of them out, unless he is to be guided by information from interested sources, and it seems to me that that is just what the Government wants. It desires to retain sufficient control to enable the Minister to appoint a representative that will suit the big interests which the Bill is designed to protect. No threat was contained in the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition. He simply indicated that if the Ministry intended to oppose reasonable amendments it must be prepared for a fight over the Bill. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) indicated, by interjection, that he considered the amendment an unreasonable one, since the representatives of the soldiers on the Repatriation Commission were elected in a similar way to that provided in the Bill. From the Ministry’s point of view, a more unfortunate comparison could not have been made, for it is a moat telling argument in favour of the amendment. The fact that only to-day the association of small pastoralists in the Territory requested the honorable member for the Northern Territory to press his amendment is ample evidence of its importance. The reply of the Minister in charge of the Bill confirms my impression that the measure was not drafted by the Government, but by representatives of the big squatting interests of the Northern Territory at Scott’s Hotel. This is not the first time that legislation of this kind has been practically drafted by outside bodies.. It shows that the Government desires to be in . a position to veto the appointment of a person who may be nominated, but of whom they do not approve. They wish to be able to appoint a representative who will, perhaps, be in the employment of the big interests, or who, for some reason or other, is prepared to work for them. The clause deliberately destroys what might be termed a democratic feature of the measure. The Minister will have the final word as to the personnel of the Board, so that a small lessee, conversant with the needs of the smaller men in the Territory, can be precluded from appointment. I have no doubt, therefore, concerning the source from which the measure has emanated, and in whose interests the Government is acting. I fail to see how any one can object to the appointment being made by election. Members of this House are elected. The people whose interests will be affected by the operations of .this Board should have the right to elect their representative. If the Minister persists in his refusal to accept the amendment, his action will he tantamount to refusing to accept a basic democratic principle. He has said that if one man stands out from the others by his votes, the Minister will exercise his common sense and appoint him.. If that assurance can be accepted, the Minister’s objection to the amendment falls to the ground. He evidently wants to get control of the three men on the Board. He wants Government interference by a Government that does not believe in Government interference. He wants to appoint two men, and to say who out of another three shall be the third man. With the clause as it is, and with clause 11 in the Bill, there might as well be no reference to1 the representation of the interests of the Northern Territory. We might as well say that the Board shall be appointed by the Minister. The members might as well be appointed in Melbourne’, Sydney, or Timbuctoo. It will be a Board that will perpetuate the chaos and blundering of the past. The speech made by the honorable member for the- Northern Territory is clear evidence of the necessity for a representative of the Northern Territory to be in this’ House. No one in the House knew anything about the requirements of the Northern Territory until the honorable member came here. His sole object is to enlighten and assist the Government and honorable members in determining questions of this nature. He has given us his opinion, and has substantiated that opinion by a telegram from the only organization, concerned, and yet the Minister tells him that he does not know anything about the subject. If. that is the attitude of the Government, what is the good of. having a representative of the Northern Territory? This is not a party political question. It does not relate to a principle which has been well fought out on the hustings. It is merely a matter of administration, of detailed work, and- the Government will render the Bill valueless if it fails to meet the wishes, not merely of the honorable member for the Northern Territory, but of the people there. This debate has tended to confirm the suspicion that I have felt for a long time, that the Bill is nothing more than an attempt to assist Ves’tey’s and other big landed interests in the Northern Territory. The Government, having taken its instructions from those interests, has determined not to budge an inch, whatever proposals may be put forward. It Will have to answer for the consequences.
.- I cannot recall a debate in which there havebeen so many suggestions of ulterior motives as there have been in the discussion of this Bill. It is astounding that charges of “boodling “ and* corruption should be levelled by somehonorable members- against others. I am astonished- thai; honorable members oppo=site have remained so immaculate in acountry in which’, according to them-, there is so much wickedness. I am inclined to think, however, that they are protesting too’ much;- in fact, after hearing the speech of the honorable member for the Northern Territory, I am convinced that they are. I ask honorable members to consider for what purpose the Board will be appointed. We are not electing a committee for at cricket or a football club’, but- are considering the appointment of a Board- to perform important duties in the Northern Territory. If honorable members will look at clause 13 of the Bill, they will see that the Board, under the control of the Minister, will be charged with the general administration of this Ordinance relating to the Crown lands of the Northern Territory. Who has to accept the responsibility for the administration of the Territory ? I say the Minister and the Government have to do that. My objection to the clause is that the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) has definitely promised that if three names are supplied’ to him, he will select one of them. Only specialists should’ be appointed for this work. They must beable to classify land, and they must be men of undoubted probity. The Minister will have to depend upon them, and’ their responsibilities to- him will be very’ great. He, and he alone, should accept the responsibility of appointing them.
– Under this clause, oneman can run the whole show.
– I do not think so.
– At any rate, he will ‘ be appointed by the Minister.
– If I had my way, I would strike out all the words after theword ‘ ‘ Minister “ in sub-clause 1 . A Bill will probably be introduced shortly toappoint a Board of Governors for the-
Commonwealth Bank. Do honorable members opposite contend that members of that Board should be elected?
– What will be the cost of the Board proposed in the Bill 1
– I do not know. The Minister stated that the control of the Northern Territory would be placed’ under a Board. I find it difficult to understand why two Boards should be considered necessary. The Board will have an enormous amount of work to do in classifying land, and the Minister will have to look to it for advice in opening up and developing the Territory. I have been pleased with the recent reports of the Minister concerning his efforts to develop that country. I am not so optimistic as he is regarding the success of closer settlement, but I believe that he is on the right track. If a Board is to be appointed, the Minister should be responsible. I cannot understand why the Minister should be willing to transfer his powers’ to others.
– Does the honorable member contend that pastoralists from the Territory should be appointed?
– The Minister should endeavour to obtain men with large experience.
– Clause. 7 provides that the pastoralists may nominate three persons, but clause 11 stipulates that they may not be persons who have any interest in land in the Territory. Three men from Bourke-street could be appointed.
– The object of the Minister is to prevent any person who has any interest in land or stock transactions within the Territory from being appointed to that Board.
– That means that & practical man from the Territory cannot be on the. Board.
– No. It is neither necessary nor .advisable that a man from the Territory should be appointed. The Board will ‘have similar functions ‘ to those of a Court. It will take evidence, and will make recommendations as to the persons to whom leases should be granted ; and it would be improper to have on that Board any man who is directly or indirectly interested in’ land there.
– That is the kind of man who will be nominated.
– Men with knowledge of that type of country should be appointed. If anything goes wrong, the Minister will have to accept the responsibility; it is he who will bc charged with maladministration. The Board will act similarly to Judges and magistrates, and its members should be highly qualified. They should have a knowledge of land to be able to classify it. If any mistake has been made, it has been in the direction of allowing the pastoralists to make three nominations. The responsibility should rest with the Minister. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) considers clause 13, which sets out what the Board will be required to do, he must conclude that its members should be appointed by the Minister.
House adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 May 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240529_reps_9_106/>.