10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Accident to Aviators
– Has the Prime Minister received any further information about the accident to Mr. Cobham, and is there any truth in the statement published in the press that his plane was brought down and the mechanic killed by rifle fire? .
– The Government has received no official cablegrams about the matter. The only information that I possess has been obtained through the press.
– Some tobacconists in Melbourne are selling cigarettes at reduced rates, and one of them has complained to me that he has received 24 hours’ notice to end this practice, as otherwise his supplies will be stopped. The firm from which this intimation came is, I understand, that ofW. D. and H. 0. Wills. I recognize that there are always two sides to a question, but I ask the Attorney-General if he will make inquiries and consider whether something cannot be done to prevent any firm, large or otherwise, from refusing to sell its goods to shopkeepers who earn their living by retailing them?
– There is no provision in the Commonwealth law, nor, so far as I am aware, in the laws of the
States, that imposes a penalty for the mere refusal to do business upon certain terms. If the honorable member will supply me with the name of the shopkeeper concerned I shall make inquiries, and consider the matter.
Permanent Administrative Offices at Canberra.
Mr. MACKAY, as Chairman, presented the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed erection of permanent administrative offices at Canberra.
Ordered to be printed.
– Some time ago the Government decided to sell the freehold of hotels in and around Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory. Tenders closed some time ago, and I desire to know if any sales have been effected; and, if so, to whom?
– Tenders were received, but they are still being considered by Cabinet. The Government hopes to make an early announcement with reference to the matter.
– In view of the great loss sustained by the exporters of fresh fruits to Great Britain, due largely to the recent strike there, and the consequent loss of the purchasing power of the community, will the Government make some provision for compensating those who have severely suffered thereby?
– The Government will consider any representations that are made to it by the persons affected.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. Yesterday I asked a question in this House, and this morn ing the following paragraph in relation to it appears in to-day’s Age: -
As a rule when members of Parliament ask pointed and embarrassing questions of Ministers while the House is sitting they possess some information, apparently reliable, on which their questions are based. It might be interesting to know what prompted Mr. McGrath (V.) to ask the Assistant Minister (Mr. Marr) a question in the House of Representatives yesterday in regard to certain building operations at the Federal Capital. Mr. McGrath asked if the Assistant Minister would take care to ensure that in the erection of further buildings at Canberra the Government would not fall into the blunder which it had made in building the secretariat. The architect of that building, he said, had ‘been . paid a commission of £38,000. He hoped that in future the erection of all Government buildings would be carried out by the department’s own public officers. The Assistant Minister replied briefly that the first secretariat built at Canberra had been erected by departmental officers, and the second secretariat, which was in course of construction,, was being wholly supervised and built by the Department of Works and Railways. In neither instance had any money been paid to architects.
The Hansard report of my question and the answer to it reads -
– In the erection of further buildings at Canberra, will the Honorary Minister see that the same blunder is not made as was made in connexion with the erection of the secretariat, the architectural fees for which will involve an expenditure of £38,000? Will he see that Commonwealth officers are employed to supervise the erection of any further public buildings?
– The secretariat was erected by the officers of the Works and Railways Department. A second secretariat which is now being built is also being carried out by the officers of the same department. No architectural fees have been paid in connexion with either building.
The building to which I referred, and which has been termed the secretariat, was referred to to-day by the Chairman of the Public Works Committee as the permanent administrative offices. I asked the question knowing that, under the agreement in regard to that work, about £38,000 is to be paid to Mr. Jones, the architect of the permanent administrative building. I complain that I did not receive a proper answer to my question. I asked if the Government would take care not to make any further foolish blunders when erecting buildings at Canberra.
– I understood the honorable member yesterday to say that in the erection of the second secretariat building he hoped the Government would not make the blunders that had been made in regard to the first secretariat. The word “ secretariat “ was specifically used. I said that no fees were being paid in connexion with either of the secretariat buildings, and I still stand by that statement. Competitive designs were called for the building known as the permanent administrative offices.
-His design has been accepted.
– That is so, but until the erection of the building has been taken- into consideration by this or a future Government no architectural fees whatever will be paid.
Visit to Tasmania
– In reply to a request made by me on the 15 th May, the honorable the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) wrote to me stating that the Tariff Board would visit Tasmania at the end of June or early in July to inquire into certain matters affecting that State. Is the Minister yet able to inform me definitely when the board will visit that State?
– I understand that, apart from the letter mentioned by the honorable member, an arrangement was made by him with the Chairman of the Tariff Board. If he will place the question on the notice-paper, I shall be pleased to obtain an answer for him.
– Has the right honorable the Prime Minister received a report from Sir Arthur Robinson regarding the retention of the Phosphate Commission’s offices in Australia, and, if he has received it, will he make its contents public?
– The Government has not received the report referred to. The inquiry will not be opened until Monday next.
– In arranging the spring itinerary of the Navy, will the Minister take into consideration the request that has been made on several occasions that the Navy should visit Victor Harbour in South Australia? That harbour would hold the Australian Fleet, and if the request is granted an opportunity will be provided for thousands of persons to see the fleet who could not otherwise do so.
– I shall give the matter serious and sympathetic consideration.
– Can the spring cruise of the Royal Australian Navy be so arranged that a visit may be paid to Western Australian ports? I understand that the people of Western Australia would welcome such a visit, Does the Minister for Defence know of any special reason why the fleet should be at Melbourne from the middle of October to the middle of November?
– The honorable member for Parramatta, who had the honour of controlling the Defence Department for some time, must know that there are special reasons why the fleet should remain in Victorian waters during the period to which he refers.
Provision of Dome
– Is there any truth in the statement, published in some newspapers this morning, that the Government proposes to erect a dome over this building by way of recompense to the Victorian Government for the occupancy of the building by the Commonwealth Parliament?
– I have seen several suggestions about action that might be taken by the Commonwealth Parliament on vacating this building, which we have occupied since the commencement of Federation. That is a matter for determination by the Parliament itself. The Government has come to no decision upon it.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Government contemplates the appointment of a committee representative of all parties in this Parliament to consider what recompense should be made to the Victorian Parliament for having allowed the Federal legislature to occupy this building for the last 25 years. If such a committee is to be appointed, when will it commence to function?
– Even the completion of this building, by the erection of a dome in accordance with *the original design, as has been suggested, would be a matter of policy, and it is not customary for a government to indicate its policy in reply to questions.
– If the Government should consider the matter of compensating Victoria for the great advantage of having the Federal Parliament in Melbourne for many years, by providing a dome for this building, will it take into consideration also the claims of other States, including South Australia, which have not had the same advantage, for assistance in the completion of their Parliament Houses?
– The fullest consideration will be given to the claims of all States.
– I have received a number of letters indicating that the conditions imposed by the Government in connexion with the distribution of sugar in Western Australia are not being observed. Will the Minister state the position in that State?
– Prior to the making of the existing sugar agreement, the Government was asked by those interested in Western Australia to grant certain concessions on freight, and in other directions, to enable sugar to be retailed in that State at the price at which it is retailed in the capital cities of the other States, namely, 4£d. per lb. That price would allow a reasonable profit to the retailer, but in Perth and Fremantle the retail price of sugar has remained at 5d. Special concessions were given . to the grocers of Western Australia, so that they could retail sugar with a reasonable profit to themselves at 4½d. a lb., but as they have not sold it at that price the Sugar Board has withdrawn the concession. The action of the board has been confirmed by the Government, because it believes that concessions given for a certain purpose should not be continued unless that purpose is fulfilled. ‘
– Yesterday afternoon, I received a telegram from the representatives of the cotton-growers in Central Queensland asking me to endeavour to have the Tariff Board’s report on the cotton bounty tabled, and a decision registered by the Parliament as to whether the board’s recommendation that a bounty of 2d. per lb. be paid, should be adopted, instead of the bounty of $d. and ltd. per lb. announced by the Government. Will the Minister inform me when the report will be printed and made available to honorable members, and whether honorable members will be given an opportunity to register their views on the matter, and decide what tha bounty will be?
– I tabled the report referred to by the honorable member yesterday, which was the first available opportunity for doing so, and I shall endeavour to expedite the printing of it. The proposal of the Government is to pay l£d. per lb. on certain grades of cotton, and fd. on low-grade cotton. It is intended to place the proposals of the Government before the House at an’ early date, and honorable members will then have an opportunity to discuss the matter.
Attitude of Attorney-General
– My attention has been called to the fact that Sir Arthur Robinson, at one time a member of this House, having emerged from the peaceful seclusion of private life, and plunged again into the troubled waters of public controversy, has stated that the honorable the Attorney-General has retreated from the position previously taken up by him on some vital parts of the referendum proposals, I wish to ask the honorable the Attorney-General whether he has so retreated, and, if so, where he is now?
– It is inaccurate to say that I have retreated from any position I have taken up on the referendum proposals. The criticism of Sir Arthur Robinson, as published in this morning’s press, is based upon a completely mistaken idea of what I said in the speech which he has criticized. I find it difficult to account for that mistake, as the reports of my speech which I have read do not contain any statement oven resembling that which Sir Arthur Robinson apparently believes I made.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to indicate when this House will have an opportunity to discuss the agenda of the forthcoming Imperial Conference?
– I have indicated that I hope to be able to place the agenda of the Seventh Assembly of the League of Nations on the ‘table of the House, and to make a statement in regard to it during this week, and to take similar action in regard to the forthcoming Imperial Conference at an early date thereafter.
– And there will be an interval for their consideration?
– When does the Prime Minister expect to be able to table the report of the Board of Trade in regard to the assistance of the goldmining industry?
– I am not able to do so immediately, but I shall inquire into the matter.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) asked me a question in regard to a certain importation of potatoes from New Zealand, and, when replying, I inadvertently gave him to understand that the potatoes had been found to be without trace of disease when landed in Sydney, but on arrival in Melbourne had been condemned. I now find that the 25 tons of potatoes which were condemned in Melbourne were shipped direct from New Zealand, and did not come via Sydney. The potatoes which I had in mind were passed after examination in Sydney, but were not brought on to Melbourne.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the House all papers and reports in connexion with the recent importation into Sydney and Melbourne of potatoes from Kew Zealand?
– The papers are in current use, and it would be inconvenient to the department to lay them on the table of the House, but I should be glad to afford the honorable member an opportuinty of perusing the file if he so desires.
Postmasters : Accumulated Leave - Employees under Eighteen Years of Age - Sealing op Mail Bags - “ Sleeping Duty “ - Postal Notes, Australia and New Zealand - Geelong Post Office, Mail Matter Handled - Contracts for Telephone Construction Work.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The points raised are the subject of inquiries, which have not yet been completed. I hope to be in a position’ to furnish a reply at an early date.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon. notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable member is being obtained, and will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he open up negotiations with the Government of New Zealand with a view to making postal notes exchangeable between Australia and the sister dominion, and thus make the transfer of small sums of money between the two countries possible, at a minimum of cost?
– The exchange of postal notes between New Zealand and the Commonwealth was given consideration some years ago, but it was found to be impracticable to establish the service. The matter is again being investigated.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Twenty-seven, including one officer whose time is partly occupied on T.P.O. work.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice-
Is it a fact that contracts are being called in the Department from time to time for telephone construction work from private contractors, in competition with the departmental estimates, and in which the working conditions imposed on the department itself by an industrial award are not observed in the following particulars : -
As this puts the department in an unfair position to tender for their own work, will the Minister go into the question of stipulating in all future contracts that the departmental conditions should apply to the employees of private contractors?
– The practice of the department in cases where the line construction work is of a comparatively simple nature which can readily be carried out by a private contractor is to invite tenders. The condition imposed in respect of labour is that the contractor “ shall pay such rates of wages and observe the conditions as are recognized in the locality in which the work is carried out. provided that not less than the minimum rates laid down in the arbitration award for the Postal Linemen’s Union are observed.
Number of Men in Training.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information asked for by the honorable member is being obtained, and “will be made available as soon as possible.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions as are follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government has come to any decision in regard to making a grant to local government bodies in lieu of rates?
– This matter formed the subject- of consideration by the Government some little time ago, when it was decided that no action could be taken in the direction indicated.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions as are follow: -
Seagull. The Seagull itself has been improved from time to time since first designed. A new type of boat amphibian is being designed by the same firm for the Air Ministry at the moment. No other firm has been entrusted by the Air Ministry with the development of this type. The makers of the Seagull were the producers of the fastest seaplane the British Empire has ever possessed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
What is the present position in regard to the erection of the War Memorial Museum?
– A site for the building has been selected at Canberra. Architectural designs for the building were invited some time ago in Great Britain, America, and Australia. These designs are to be considered shortly by anAustralian board of adjudicators, who will select ten designs, which are to be submittedfor final adjudication by Sir Reginald Blomfield, the adjudicator nominated by the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Employment on Works.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the Federal Capital Commission has entered into an arrangement with the Trades Hall, Sydney, for the supply of labour for Canberra, and that only men showing a certificate from the Trades Hall can get work at Canberra?
– No. Owing to the difficulty in securing the services of plasterers for the construction of Parliament House, Canberra, the commission entered into an arrangement with the Plasterers Union, Sydney, whereby the union kept the commission supplied with plasterers for this work. It may be mentioned that the standard Government conditions of contract provide for first preference to returned soldiers, and thereafter preference to unionists.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the 24th
June, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions : - 1.What has been the total expenditure on soldiers’ homes, including administrative costs, purchases of timber areas, and all expenditure relating thereto?
I am now able to furnish the following information : -
The following papers were presented : -
Papua - Annual Report for the year 1924-25.
Ordered to be printed.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territorv (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1926 - No. 16 - Public Service.
Debate resumed from 25th June (vide page 3570), on motion by Mr. Hill -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. When moving the second reading of this bill, I said that, upon the first portion of the line, that between Grafton and Kyogle, a distance of 85 miles, approximately £675,000 had been expended to date. What I should have said was that the estimated cost of the work, if carried out on the daylabour system, between Grafton and Kyogle was approximately £670,000, and that up to the end of last month, about £320,000 had been expended on the work actually done.
.- I do not intend to oppose the bill, since its chief object is to approve of an additional expenditure of £500,000 on the necessary work of constructing a railway of the standard gauge from Grafton to South Brisbane. The main provision is in clause 4, which substitutes £4,000,000 for £3,500,000. The Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Act 1924 made the necessary financial provision for the Commonwealth Treasurer to borrow a sum not exceeding £3,500,000, together with such further sum as might be necessary to meet discount and flotation charges. We are told that the sum of £3,500,000 was only a rough estimate of the cost of connecting Kyogle with South Brisbane by a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge line. I understand that the estimate was made on data supplied by New South Wales and Queensland, and that no detailed survey and estimate were prepared at the time, in fact, had not been prepared up to the time of the passing of the act of 1924. In 1921, a royal commission, on information received from the States concerned, estimated that the line would cost £3,500,000. No detailed surveys or estimates were prepared until after the Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Act was passed in 1924, and the Railway Council, under the provisions contained in it, had them made. The rough estimate prepared in 1921 was the . basis on which the Government proposed the expenditure of £3,500,000 on the line, but the estimate prepared by the Railway Council shows that theexpenditure of an additional £500,000 will be necessary to. complete the work. It. seems to me that the Government made agrave error in not having a detailed survey and estimate prepared in 1924, long before the bill was submitted to Parliament.
– That is what we said at the time.
– Does the honorable member for Capricornia suggest that the building of the line should have been delayed ?
– I suggest nothing of the kind; the Government could have taken action months before the bill was introduced.
– The honorable membet surely means the Queensland Government.
– I mean this Government. This matter should have been taken in hand in ample time to” have proper information prepared for submission to Parliament. It should not be necessary for a government to come to Parliament twelve or eighteen months after the building of a particular railway was approved, and say, “ That .was only a flying survey, and a tentative estimate. It .is now necessary for Parliament to approve of the expenditure of an additional £500,000 on the work.” The Government, in this case, could have instructed its railway experts to go over the proposed route and make a careful estimate. Petty-minded, party politicians may try to throw the blame for the introduction of this bill on other shoulders, but the responsibility undoubtedly rests with this Government. I feel sure that some honorable members will take the opportunity that the introduction of the bill affords to enter upon a general discussion on the whole question of the merits of the Grafton to South Brisbane railway; and, in my opinion, the Government should have been sufficiently far-sighted and business-like to avoid that. I do not wish to lay any blame for this bill at the door of those who prepared the 1921 estimate, for it was made five years ago, and conditions have changed a great deal since then. My point is that it was the duty of the Government to obtain a reliable estimate for submission to Parliament in 1924. It has a Railway Department, and an able commissioner with a good engineering staff under him. and it could have had a sound and reliable estimate prepared. I understand that on the recommendation of the Railway Council the whole of this line is to be built under the day-labour system, and I am pleased to note that a saving will be effected by the adoption of that system.
– Not on the figures that have been quoted.
– The Government must have thought so, or it would not have approved of the adoption of the policy. The tender submitted by the Queensland Railways Constructional Engineer for that portion of the line which will pass through Queensland territory was £1,130,142, which included supervision charges, while the public tender for the work was £1,333,941, or £203,799 more than the departmental tender. In these circumstances it is no wonder that the Government adopted the proposal that the Queensland Railway Department build the line by day labour. If the department is able to do the work for less than its tender it will reap the advantage.
– But what will happen if it costs considerably more 1
– That remains to be seen; but, under the provisions of the bill, Queensland will have to bear any additional cost, or keep any sum saved.
– Has the honorable member ever known a case of the kind in which the estimate has not been exceeded ?
– I could point the honorable member for Fawkner (“Mr. Maxwell) to many instances in which Queensland Government departments have submitted prices for work for which public tenders have been called, and have been able to do the work by day labour with a substantial saving to the country, for there has been no contractor’s “ rake off.” It is highly desirable that the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway’ should be built as speedily as possible, having due regard to the stability of the line. The Commonwealth entered into an honorable compact to complete the work, and it must now be carried out. A conference of State and Federal Ministers, in July, 1920, decided that a commission should be appointed to report upon the unification of railway gauges, and in order to avoid parochial prejudices the commission was constituted of two experts fi om outside Australia, and one Australian engineer. The Commonwealth and States agreed to abide by the decision of the commission, the Commonwealth to pay one-fifth of the total cost of unification, and the five mainland States to pay the balance. The commission recommended that 4 ft. 8-£ in. should be the standard gauge. Considerable difficulty was experienced in getting al] the States to agree to a policy for the benefit of Australia generally, but finally an agreement was made between the governments of the Commonwealth, New South Wales, ana Queensland that the portion of the route between Grafton and South Brisbane should be converted to the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. That agreement was ratified by their respective Parliaments in 1924. Unfortunately, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia took a rather parochial view of the project, and refused to meet their share of the expenditure. The line was commenced; but now it is necessary, in accordance with the advice of the Railway Council, to provide a sum of £500,000 in excess of the original rough estimate. Under the amended agreement embodied in this bill the Commonwealth has to provide £800,000; Queensland. £468,000; and New South Wales, £1,288,088, whilst the Commonwealth will also find £935,439 in behalf of Victoria, £305,073 in behalf of South Australia, and £202,783 in behalf of Western Australia, making the total cost to the Commonwealth, £2,243,299. This House should not hesitate to approve of the bill, but 1 hope that the Minister in his reply will state definitely whether any alteration in the proposed route is contemplated. T read a statement in Smith’s Weekly that the route is to be varied to serve certain interests. I hope the Minister will definitely contradict that assertion.
– I have not read Smith’s Weekly, but I can say definitely that there has been no alteration of the route.
– An important consideration is that when this line is completed the railway journey between Brisbane and Sydney will be reduced by six hours, namely, from 26 to 20 hours. The route will be 100 miles shorter than at present.
– Does it take six hours to do 100 miles?
– At present the railway has to cross the Toowoomba Range, but when the new line is completed there will be a direct and fairly level line along the coast.
– The 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge will permit of faster travelling than is possible on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge.
– That will be another advantage to travellers.
– It does not take the train six hours to travel 100 miles even crossing the Toowoomba Range.
– No, not on fairly level country; but the railway experts have said that the journey from Brisbane to Sydney will be reduced by six hours. This is the first instalment of the unification of railway gauges, the need for which must be recognized by all members of this Parliament. For 25 years the standardization of gauges has been discussed at conferences of railway commissioners and engineers. Australia is not singular in having to deal with a break of gauge problem. Both England and the United States of America experienced the disability to travellers and the handling of freights caused by a succession of breaks in the railway gauges. The unification of gauges in England became a subject of public agitation as far back as 1846, and it was not until 1872 that this most desirable reform was brought about. One fact that should commend the line to honorable members is that it. will pass through some of the richest land in Australia, which is occupied, not by wealthy pastoralists, but by thousands of small primary producers who are engaged in dairying, and the growing of sugar cane, bananas, and other fruits. It will serve the smaller men who have established themselves upon the land, and will bring them into direct contact with the Brisbane market. If honorable members will consider this proposal from an Australian standpoint, they will not hesitate to vote for the bill. I hope that the other recommendations made by the royal commission in 1921 will soon be submitted to this Parliament with a view to connecting all the Australian capitals by a line of uniform gauge. For the reasons I have mentioned, I hope that the bill will have a speedy passage.
of the Commonwealth (Mr. Latham). That historic ceremony seemed to anticipate that this proposed additional expenditure will bo sanctioned by this Parliament. I do not intend to discuss generally the desirability of standardizing the railway gauges, because that principle has already been affirmed by the Commonwealth Parliament. I have studied the report of the Minister’s secondreading speech in order to ascertain why this extra £500,000 is required. The reasons furnished by the honorable gentleman do not seem adequate. Possibly, he could furnish some further information which would ease the minds of honorable members. The principal excuse advanced by him was that the estimate made in 1921 was approximate only, and based upon incomplete information. I notice that in the agreement made between the Commonwealth and the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland, a standard working week of 44 hours is mentioned. In 1921, the 44-hour week was not in operation, and possibly the original estimate was based on a 48-hour week. The Minister seemed to skim over this delicate point, but the increase of 14 per cent. in the expenditure almost corresponds with the percentage of extra cost that a reduction of working hours from 48 to 44 would mean. Possibly the 44 hours week is the real reason for the extra cost. The amount to be paid by the Commonwealth was, under the original agreement, £1,962,887, but under the amended agreement that has been increased to £2,243,299, a difference of £280,412. The Commonwealth is to pay more than half the total increase merely because two partner States have agreed to adopt the 44 hours week.
Mr.Foster. - And the Commonwealth is binding other States.
– Yes, because for the time being it is paying the shares of Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia. I am sorry that South Australia did not take a broad national view, and subscribe to the agreement as it should have done, because even now the Commonwealth is incurring expenditure in standardizing thegauge of one railway in that State. I wish to know from the Minister whether the increased cost to the Commonwealth of £280,000 is due solely to the operation of the 44-hour week?
– Not solely, but partly.
– And to a large extent?
– I do not say that.
– The agreement provides that the amount shall be increased or decreased as the cost of the work is affected by arbitration awards of State and Federal courts. I understand that this clause is common in contracts. Some time ago a contract for the North Shore bridge was let by the New South Wales Government to Dorman, Long and Company. Recently the crane drivers employed on that work went on strike, and, without parliamentary sanction, an arrangement was made to pay them a higher wage. As a result, the original estimate of the cost of the bridge has been considerably increased. If similar occurrences are possible under this agreement, 1 suggest that the South Grafton to Brisbane railway is likely to cost considerably more than £4,000,000. In that event we shall have another amending bill brought down to this House as the work progresses to meet the additional expenditure. I have no objection to the building of the line, but we should enter into a fair and reasonable contract for the proper carrying out of the work. The expenditure must be safeguarded.
– The trouble is that contractors will not tender for work if the conditions of contract are stringent.
– Exactly; but under the agreement any additional expenditure has to be approved by the council. Parliament is finding the bulk of the money, and, therefore, it should control the expenditure. The agreement requires revision, and I suggest that any additional expenditure in connexion with the line should be approved, not by the council, but by the Minister. If he acts wrongly we can draw attention to it in this House, but if the council acts wrongly we have no redress. I regret that in this bill, as well as in the original bill, no mention has been made of the construction of the bridge over the Clarence River at Grafton. That bridge is very necessary if the line is to be a success. At present the train from Sydney runs as far as South Grafton. The passengers are then transported by motor lorry and punt across the river, and the mail and luggage vans are taken across by ferry. The New South Wales Government gave an undertaking that the bridge would be constructed at the time the railway was opened. The tenders for the construction of the bridge closed on the 15th of June last; two tenders were received, one from Dorman, Long and Company, whose price was £16,000 below the departmental estimate, and the other tender from Jno. Grant and Sons, Limited, whose price was £750 below the departmental estimate. Yet the New South Wales Government has rejected both tenders, because it considers them to be excessive, and has decided to carry out the work departmentally. I suggest that there is something sinister in that action. When the 1924 bill was under discussion, I drew attention to the fact that no mention was made in it of the Grafton bridge, which was a very necessary part of the scheme for the unification of gauges. The through train journey will not be possible until the bridge has been built. At that time it was stated that we could accept the bona fides of the New South Wales Government. I then expressed my fears that it would not honour its obligations. In view of the suspicious circumstances surrounding the construction of the Grafton bridge, it is now apparent that that government does not intend to honour its promise. I suggest to the Minister that he should approach that government to see whether it intends to carry out its undertaking that the bridge will be opened when the railway is completed. The Queensland Minister for Works stated at Kyogle that he expected that the State’s portion of the line from South Brisbane to the border would be completed in March, 1929, nearly three years hence. The conditions of contract applying to the erection of the Grafton bridge provided for its completion within three years of the acceptance of the tender. As no tender was accepted, and as the New South Wales Government intends to carry out the work departmentally, apparently no time limit is to be imposed. I suggest that the State Government’s deficit of over £1,250,000 last year is prompting it to shelve its undertaking to the Commonwealth to complete the bridge within three years.
– The honorable member should know that the cost of that bridge would come, not out of revenue, but out of the loan account.
– I know that the honorable member becomes very embarrassed when the deficits of Labour Governments are mentioned. I suggest to the Minister that he ask the New South
Wales Government whether it intends to go on with the work.
– That government proposes to go on with the work at once, lt would have begun if the tenders had not been regarded as excessive. They were considerably higher than the departmental estimate.
– I am not breaking any confidence when I say that in discussing these tenders with Mr. Flannery, the Minister for Railways in New South Wales, before their consideration by Cabinet, he told me that he was very pleased indeed that they were both below the departmental estimate. One tender was for £499,250, and the other for £483,100. We cannot get away from those figures.
– The tenders were higher than the departmental estimate.
– Whom are we to believe - the Minister for Railways in New South Wales or the Commonwealth Minister for Works? I am referring to the Grafton bridge, and not to the figures given by the Minister respecting the construction of the railway. I shall be pleased to know definitely how much of the £500,000 additional expenditure is due to the operation of the 44-hour week, and whether the agreement definitely commits this Government to that principle.
– It would not make any difference whether the work was carried out departmentally or by contract. If there is any variation at all, either up or down, in wages or hours, it will apply.
– Under the agreement the Commonwealth has accepted the principle of the 44-hour week respecting the building of both sections of the line. I am not talking for or against that principle, but I want to know whether the Government is definitely committed to it?
– I regret that there has been such a large increase in the cost of constructing this line that the Railway Council have to ask the approval of this House for a further sum of £500,000; but, having; given serious consideration’ to all the circumstances, L shall support the ratification of the new agreements. I shall not at this stage repeat all f said last year in support of the construction of the line,, but I rise to urge that the line be constructed with the utmost expedition. I. was privileged to be present at the historic ceremony, at Kyogle, of turning the first sod in connexion with the construction of the line. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) was also present, and the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) performed the ceremony. It was then stated to me by representatives of the Railway Council that, if the proposals of the council were given effect, the first train would run over the line from Brisbane to Sydney in March, 1929. I understand that there is some anxiety at the present time as to whether that prophecy will be fulfilled, as there is some doubt whether the Loan Council will make the necessary money available. The council’s requirements for the first year amount to about £1,000,000, and it is suggested that the amount to be made available will be considerably less than that. In that event, the programme cannot be adhered to; and the completion of the line will be delayed. “Withholding the financial requirements of the council will not only delay the completion of the line, but will also add to its cost. Men will have to be dismissed, and purchases of material restricted. I hope the Minister will give the Blouse an assurance that he will do all he can to provide the council with the money it requires within the limits of the amounts approved to construct the line expeditiously. The need for unifying the railway gauges between the capital cities, and the national importance of this line, I stressed when supporting the proposal for the construction of the line last year. I take this opportunity of thanking the Minister for acceding to my request that preference should be given to returned soldiers in the construction of this line. I hope that he will make sure that the policy will be continued.
.- I am surprised that this bill has been brought forward by the Government. Tenders were called for the work in April, 1924, and the closing date for submitting them was the 1st September, 1925: In the advertisement calling for tenders it was not stated that “ the lowest or any other tender will not necessarily be accepted.” It is usual, when governments call for tenders, to include such a stipulation, so that there may be no moral or legal obligation to accept the lowest tender. It was not until the tenders for the No. 1 and No. 2 sections were before the Tender Board that the board decided that the New South Wales and Queensland Governments should do the work. That was a wrong procedure, and it will lead to contractors refusing to tender in the future. The Tasmanian firm of Cheverton and Company submitted a tender to do the work, on a 44-hours; basis, for £1,011,975 15s. That tender was below the departmental estimate, but it was not accepted. The firm spent £5,250 in preparing the tender, it paid 25 guineas for .the form on which to tender, and it lodged £10,000 deposit with the tender. That tender was rejected simply because the New South Wales and Queensland Labour Governments wish to do the work by day labour, so that no one will know the cost. In this country we have surely had enough experience of the day-labour system. The board acted unfairly and unreasonably. The Government, on the recommendation of Mr. Bell, who is a member of the board, now asks for a further £500,000.- Why should such a request be made after the tenders, which were lower than the departmental estimate, have closed ? The Minister distinctly stated that, if the cost was more than the estimates, the difference would be met by the State Governments. The No. 1 contract in New South Wales was for £1,059,868, plus departmental supervision of £32,000, making a total of £1,091,868. The No. 2 tender was £1,011,975, with departmental supervision of £32,000. The total of those two tenders was £2,135,843. The original bill provided for £3,500,000, and yet the Government is now asking for a further £500,000 to complete the job. It is a scandal to put contractors to the expense of tendering, and then to turn them down without reimbursing them for their expense. The Minister will have to satisfy me as to the necessity for this £500,000, as to the amount of the tenders submitted by contractors, and as to what the cost will 1-e to the New South Wales and Queensland Governments; and, if he cannot do that, I shall vote against the bill. The people of New South Wales and Queensland will have to pay the difference in cost between doing the work by contract and by day labour. The procedure does not reflect credit either on the Government or the council. Contractors look to a government - particularly the Commonwealth Government - to treat them fairly. The firm I have mentioned tendered in the belief that it would receive a fair deal. The Government has not paid a penny of interest on the £10,000 deposited by the firm, although it held the money for several months; and it has not repaid any part of the 25 guineas paid by the firm for the tender-form. The firm should have been allowed to do the work. If the Government can show that the firm is not competent to do the work, its refusal to accept the tender will be justified, but it has not attempted to do that. Having had experience as a contractor, I know what it means to be put to the expense of preparing tenders, and then, although the lowest, to have them rejected without reason. The Government should not hesitate to compensate the firm to which I have referred for the time and expense to which it has been put. A request to this effect has been made and refused. The bill should be rejected, because it’ will impose a further burden on the people of New South Wales and Queensland.
.- Most honorable members will regret the necessity for the bill. The public will be astonished to learn that reasonably correct estimates of the cost of the work were not submitted in the first instance. It is unnecessary to traverse the whole ground covered by the Minister in moving the second reading of the bill, but the Minister might well furnish additional . particulars showing who was responsible for the faulty estimates supplied. We understand that in this matter the Commonwealth Government is acting in co-operation with the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland, and that a railway council has been formed. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) endeavoured, I was going to say deliberately, to mislead the House.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Littleton
Groom). - The honorable member may not suggest that another honorable member deliberately attempted to mislead the House.
– May I say that he intended to mislead the House?
– There must be no suggestion of such an intention.
– At any rate, the honorable member knows that the estimates were provided by the State Governments.
– On a preliminary survey only.
– In any case the State Governments had no right to say that the work could be done for a certain sum of money, and to ask later on for an additional £500,000.
– The Commonwealth Government should have provided reliable estimates at the outset, and it must take full responsibility for the present position.
– It should have been decided in the first instance that £4,000,000 was required. The Ministry naturally accepted the estimate of £3,500,000 when the railway council asked for that sum. I have no doubt that a number of honorable members scrutinized the original bill very carefully, and hesitated to commit the country even to the expenditure, of £3,500,000. The position is entirely unsatisfactory now that a further sum of £500,000 is sought. I hope that the Minister will apportion the blame among those responsible for the discrepancy, because the people have a right to know whether the fault lies with the Commonwealth or the State officials. Another wrong impression conveyed by the honorable member for Capricornia was that this was to be a day-labour job. I point out that the schedule to the new bill distinctly refers to the States of New South Wales and Queensland as contractors. I have a great deal of sympathy with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) in his complaint regarding the way in which private contractors have been treated in this matter. It appears to me that Queensland and New South Wales intended from the first that the work should not be let to private contractors. The history of the negotiations shows that those States determined from the beginning that the work should be done departmentally on the day laboursystem, no matter by what subterfuge. In such circumstances tenders should not have been invited.
– What if the private contractors’ price was higher than the departmental estimate?
– As it happened it was not.
– In Queensland it was.
– But, taking the work as a whole, the price of the lowest private tender was below the Government estimate. I am sure that the public will welcome this measure as a step towards the unification of our railway gauges, and I hope that the scheme will be continued with the hearty cooperation of the various States. The absurd position has arisen, however, that while we are asked to vote £4,000,000 in connecting New South Wales and Queensland by means of the standard gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in., South Australia is spending tens of thousands of pounds in converting 3-ft. 6-in. gauge lines to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge; I refer to a branch line which will connect with the proposed new railway between Port Augusta and Adelaide. It is a criminal waste” of public money to convert existing narrowgauge lines to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge when there is a proposal to complete the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge fromFremantle to Adelaide. I hope that the Minister will take note of the statements of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) and the complaint of the honorable member for Franklin, and that he will give a more satisfactory explanation of the additional sum of £500.000 asked for.
.- I am glad to know. that a standard gauge railway is to be built between Sydney and Brisbane. . In this case there isno obstacle in the way of unification, and it will be possible to travel, at any rate, from Albury to Brisbane without a change of trains. But the position in South Australia is quite different. In my opinion, it is immoral for any government, or railway department to call for tenders for a big work such as the construction of the line from Kyogle to South Brisbane, and to reject the lowest tender. It is a most unbusinesslike proceeding, and would not be tolerated by high-minded men unless there was an excell ent reason for it.
– Would not a saving of £200,000 on the job be a sufficient justification for rejecting the lowest tender?
– Yes, if there is no doubt that such a saving could be effected ; but I have seen many hundred thousands of pounds lost by carrying out large works of this character on the daylabour system. If, as the Minister suggests, a saving of that magnitude could be made, all I have to say is that he did not instruct the House as he should have done in moving the second reading of the bill.
– Does not the honorable member realize that the secret estimates of the Queensland and New South Wales Governments are now regarded as firm tenders?
– That has nothing whatever to do with the matter.
– It has everything to do with it.
– In carrying out a large number of works in New South Wales and Queensland, the State Governments, instead of saving money, have doubled their estimates in the end. I have received first-hand information concerning the losses sustained there. It may be possible to make out a good case for the granting of an additional £500,000 in the present case;but the House is entitled to full particulars. I know that the first estimate was necessarily an approximate one, and that when a complete survey is made there may be a big discrepancy between the first and second estimates ; but when an engineer submits approximate figures he generally makes allowance for unforeseen expenditure. It is possible that the additional cost of £500,000, which, at present, seems excessive may be satisfactorily explained; but I have a shrewd idea that the introduction of- a 44-hour week in New South Wales is largely responsible. As the Commonwealth Government has one representative on the Railway Council, and the States of New South Wales and Queensland have each one representative, it will be difficult for the Commonwealth to avoid the extra expense which will necessarily be involved by the introduction of a shorter working week. It is not surprising to find that a tender for this work has not been accepted, particularly as the Governments of the two States concerned favour the day-labour system. It is very difficult for persons other than railway engineering experts to thoroughly understand all the technicalities of the agreement, but having given it my closest attention I think the Commonwealth isadequately protected. I understand that the agreement was entered into before a 44-hour week was introduced in New South Wales.
– Yes, but the New South Wales tender was based on a 44-hour week.
– Yes, and that is, doubtless, largely responsible for the additional expenditure to be incurred. The Workmen’s Compensation Act of the New South Wales Government is one of the wildest and most outrageous measures ever passed in a civilized community, and, from the public viewpoint, is almost criminal. It is specifically provided in the agreement that the contracting parties shall observe the arbitration court awards of the States concerned, but I do not know if the agreement is intended to cover the extra cost that may have to be incurred by the Railway Council in consequence of the passing of the amended Workmen’s Compensation Act of New South Wales. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) referred to the conversion work now being undertaken in South Australia, which he said was involving that State in unnecessary expenditure; but I do not think South Australia will be willing to participate in a general scheme of unification for the next twenty years. In view of all the circumstances such a scheme is at the present moment impracticable, as the money required for such an important work, particularly in South Australia, can be spent on more urgent developmental works.
– It appears to me that any discussion on . this measure -is practically valueless, except so far as it may be a guide to the House in the future. I wish to remind honorable members of what transpired when the bill which it is now desired to amend, and under which these difficulties have arisen, was before the House in 1924. At that time many honorable members on this side of the chamber believed that there were insufficient data, and that the plans and details submitted were altogether inadequate to enable a proper decision to be reached. When the measure now being amended was before the House, I said -
I am inclined to the view that the proposal should be recommended by the Public Works Committee before it is carried out.
I further stated -
On reading the Public Works Committee Act one wonders how a Government could bring down a proposal for such an enormous expenditure as £3,500,000, without first submitting it to the body which has been specially appointed by Parliament to consider such matters.
Later I stated -
More details than have been provided as to the cost of the undertaking should be supplied.
I expressed the same opinion as a number of honorable members on this side of the House, who maintained that the details supplied were insufficient, and that the matter should be referred to the Public Works Committee before the House was asked to come to a decision. In fact, an amendment was moved by an honorable member on this side of the chamber, which I supported, to the effect that the question should be referred to the Public Works Committee.
– The honorable member might say who moved the amendment.
– I will leave that to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) who will have an opportunity of speaking.
– The honorable member might as well pillory a member of the Government.
– Seeing that I am not prepared to pillory myself, I am not prepared to pillory others. In introducing this bill, the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) explained that the estimate of £3,500,000 upon which the agreement was based, was prepared on data submitted by the States and checked by the royal commissioners; but that no proper survey of the sections had been undertaken either in New South Wales or Queensland, so that it could be regarded only as an approximation. This came as a something of a shock, even after the lapse of two years, to those who tried to delay the beginning of the work until full information could be obtained; and it was a further shock to hear the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) criticize the Government for rushing into the commitments. I think it should be said on behalf of even those members who advocated delay, that whilst in theory they agreed to the proposal as a step towards the unification of our gauges, they wished that the project, being a practical proposition, should be dealt with in a practical way. I thought that, if my memory serves me right, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) was one of those who were most insistent that the Government should begin operations without delay. I have taken the opportunity to refer to the speech that he delivered on that occasion, and I find that he appears to have changed his views remarkably since then. But, apart from his speech, J find that he voted against the proposal that the work should be referred to the Public Works Committee for inquiry and report. The honorable member began his speech well by saying -
I do not intend to lecture honorable members on this subject, as did the honorable member who has just spoken, because I believe that they are endowed with just as much intelligence as I have myself.
Subsequently the honorable member said -
I appeal to honorable members to put aside party politics and State rights, and to support the agreement.
But it was still later that he became enthusiastic on the matter, and urged that the work should be immediately pushed forward.
– My statement to-day was that the Government, long before it introduced the bill in 1924, should have had a proper survey made. I was not prepared, in 1924, to go so far as to have the work hung up for that purpose. The detailed survey should have been made long before the bill was introduced.
– If the honorable member desired more definite details as to plans and costs, he should have voted to have the matter referred to the Public Works Committee.
– The assurance we had from the Minister in 1924 was very different from his remarks to-day.
– My point is that as the honorable member followed the Government in 1924 he should be content to follow it to-day. If a mistake was made then, and I submit that one was made, the honorable member and the Government, and not the Government alone, made it. If the Government was wrong then, the honorable member was wrong with it.
– I wish to put the honorable member right on the statement that. I made to-day.
– I ask the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) not to interject.
– In his speech two years ago the honorable member also said -
I, first as an Australian, and secondly as a Queenslander, have very much pleasure in supporting the bill. I urge the Government to instruct the Railway Council, as soon as the agreement is ratified, to proceed with the work as speedily as possible.
– I did not desire any delay to occur. My contention to-day was that the Government, long before the introduction of that bill, should have had the detailed surveys made.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER. I ask the honorable member for Capricornia not to interrupt again.
– I wished to put that bit in, sir.
-HUGHE S. - Now let me put in this bit that the honorable member said in 1924 -
The railway will take approximately three years to construct, and will give employment for that period to at least 1,000 workmen. A railway should not be built specially for the purpose of relieving unemployment, but the construction of this railway will relieve unemployment in both New South Wales and Queensland. For some time past, the Queensland Government has been constructing a number of railways, some of which are nearing completion. Some of the men employed on them will shortly be out of work, and, as they are accustomed to railway construction, they could be re-employed on the Kyogle-Brisbane line.
From the point of view of the honorable member, that was a very good reason for pushing on with the work.
– I wish to say-
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER. I must warn the honorable member not to interject again. He knows perfectly well that he is out of order. He is really defying the Chair by repeatedly interjecting.
– The honorable member concluded his speech as follows : -
I appeal to all honorable members to vote in favour of the bill, which, as it sanctions a big national project, is above party, and is worthy of the support of all honorable members of this Chamber.
Having fortified my recollection of what transpired in 1924, I think I am entitled to say that if the honorable member had been fair to the Government he would have withheld his criticism. I do not wish to repeat the remarks made by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) and the honorable, member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), though 1 have a good deal of sympathy with what they said in regard to tenders. It certainly appears that the private contractors have not been fairly treated. I trust that the Minister for Works and Railways, in replying to the debate, will give honorable members a clearer statement of the position, so that they may judge for themselves as to the fairness of accepting certain tenders and rejecting others.
– I understood from the statement made by the Minister of Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) that by accepting the tenders they did the authorities were able to save about £200,000. That should be considered a sufficient justification for their acceptance ; if it is not, I do_ not know what would be. While, in the past, some mistakes’ may have been made in administering the day-labour policy. I wish to inform the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) that for 30 or 35 years all the railways constructed in Victoria have been built by day labour.
– This State has an excellent man in charge.
– Victoria has had several railway commissioners in that period.
– I am talking about her chief engineer.
– She has also had several different gentlemen in that office. The policy does not depend upon one man. It has been adopted for the reason that it results in big savings to the Government.
– It is a policy of day labour plus piece-work.
– It is a day-labour policy, and I am safe in saying that it has saved the State of Victoria hundreds of thousands of pounds which, under the contract, system, would have gone into the pockets of private contractors. In these circumstances, I am surprised to hear honorable members barracking in this chamber for the restoration of the contract system. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) appeared to have a grievance because the lowest tender was not accepted, but surely he knows, as I and every other honorable member does, who has had anything to do with public works, that a clause appears in every form of tender, which’ reads, “ The lowest or any tender not necessarily accepted.” That is inserted for the reason that otherwise persons quite incompetent to do the work, might submit a low tender for it, and consequently get it. In some cases, it is economical not to accept the lowest tender; it might even be desirable to accept the highest; but to suggest that in every case the lowest tender should be accepted, is foolish in the extreme. I know that, from my experience in municipal work; and every honorable member who has had any similar experience, or has been connected with shire councils, must also know it. In spite of all we hear about workmen slowing down, I am sure that no Victorian Government, irrespective of its political complexion, would revert to the iniquitous contract system of railway construction. In the light of the experience of the Victorian Government, surely no honorable member could think of going back to it. If, by constructing this line with day labour, we can save £200,000, by all means let us save it. The honorable member for Franklin is really not up to date with his facts respecting much of the work that is carried out by day labour in this and other States. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) should know that considerable savings were effected by the day-labour system on railway construction in Queensland.
– But we are not debating that point.
– I have been referring to the remarks made by the honorable member for Franklin, who specially directed his criticism against the day-labour system, even under proper supervision. I have nothing to say against the ability of the firms whose names have been mentioned. There is no doubt about their financial standing and their organization. The States of Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia will not make any direct contribution to the cost- of this section of the 4-ft. 8^-in. line.
– All the States will pay eventually.
– I suppose they will. The honorable member for Lilley was not 50 querulous in regard to the details of the “ scratch “ agreement when it came before the House some time ago. I am satisfied that if the Prime Minister had been putting his own money into a business venture of that nature be would have been mere careful about details. The honorable member for Lilley, who is thirsting for information to-day, accepted the assurance of the Prime Minister that the first agreement was sound, although it involved the expenditure of £3.500,000. I can only conclude that “ the whirligig of time brings in its own revenges.” I have in my mind’s eye the picture of the present Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) standing where the honorable member for Maranoa now sits, severely criticizing the bill and moving an amendment that the proposal be referred to the Public “Works Committee for consideration and report. I presume that, since lie is now a member of the Cabinet, he will support the measure. At all events, he turned the first sod a few weeks ago. When the bill was being discussed in 1924, the majority of honorable members asked for further information. The Government relied on the report of a commission of experts appointed to inquire into and report upon the unification of the Australian railway systems. There was no detailed survey of the route, although, as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) pointed out, the approximate estimate allowed a fair margin to come and go upon. I submit, however, that for that length of railway construction, it is difficult, in the absence of a detailed survey, to give anything like an accurate estimate of cost. I am not blaming the Governments of either New South Wales or Queensland. They have a right, as partners hi the agreement, to be considered. I am not greatly concerned about a deficit of £1,500,000 for a great State like New South Wales. For several, years, heavy expenditure has been incurred in the regrading of the New South Wales railways, and it is possible that, before many years have elapsed, that expenditure will result in the saving of many millions of pounds which otherwise would have been incurred in operating the system in that State. I take the view that where savings can be made ultimately, there is justification for the expenditure of even loan money on work of that nature. Credit is due in this matter to the MacGowan Government, which initiated a comprehensive programme of regrading work. I rose chiefly to combat the statements made by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook). I do not care whether a man is a big contractor or not. I believe in justice. I think I know what is in the Minister’s mind, because I heard him say, by way of interjection, that one reason why the public tenders were turned down was that they were £200,000 above the departmental estimate. It is only right that the Queensland and New South Wales Governments, which are so vitally concerned in this undertaking, should desire to save unnecessary expenditure, and I believe that, as a contribution to the unification scheme, the work now being undertaken will be carried out under the day-labour system well within the margin stated by the Minister.
– I thought that, in my second-reading speech, I had made the position abundantly clear to all honorable members, and that there was no room for doubt. I had gone to a good deal of trouble to get all the. information available, and did not overload my remarks with an undue amount of verbiage, which does not count for anythings. I endeavoured to put the case in a nutshell. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) asked to be supplied with information as to how much of this proposed increase of- £500,000 in cost is due to an increase in wages and the adoption of the shorter working week in New South Wales and Queensland. We can only say approximately that the increase in wages and the shorter hours are responsible for £150,000 of that amount. We must also take into consideration the increased cost of material in 1925-26 as compared with 1921. I was surprised at the remarks made by the honorable member for Franklin. He said that the tenders were opened before the sealed estimates were lodged. That statement was unworthy of the honorable member, and it was incorrect. The sealed estimates and the public tenders were lodged at the same time, and were opened at the same time. I can assure honorable members that there was nothing questionable about the’ action of either the New South Wales or the Queensland Governments or the Railway Council in connexion with the opening of the tenders and the sealed estimates. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) also expressed concern about the increase in the estimate of the cost of the undertaking. Perhaps it will clear up all misapprehensions if I state how the £4,000,000 is made up. The contract let to the New South Wales Government amounts to £1,045,806, and the contract to the Queensland Government £1,130,142, making a total of £2,175,948. To the amount to be paid for work in Queensland we have to add £75,000, representing the altered basic wage rate in that State. I may add that a similar charge would also have had to be added to the amount of the public tender. The total amount for the tenders, and the amount to cover the increase in the basic wage, would be £2,250,948. Honorable members may be interested to know how the balance is made up. Provision for the survey of the line, the acquisition of lands, for rails and fastenings, signalling and interlocking, railway station at South Brisbane, also for locomotive depot and transhipment station at South Brisbane, railway and watering stations en route, construction work from South Brisbane station outside that for which the contract has been let, accounts for a total extra expenditure in New South Wales of £112,000, which also includes extra expenditure for a 44-hour week; and in Queensland of £967,000, or a total of £1,079.000. For re-laying and strengthening the existing railway between Grafton and Kyogle the amount provided is £670.000. All these amounts, added together, make up the £4,000,000. Had a public ‘ tender been accepted instead of the sealed estimates, which became a firm tender on behalf of the States, the additional amount for which we should be asking would be, not £500,000, but over £700,000. The sealed estimates and public tenders were lodged and opened simultaneously. The acceptance of the sealed estimates will mean a saving of over £200,000, in comparison with the lowest public tender.
– -Will £500,000 represent the final additional commitment for the construction of the line?
Mr.HILL. - I cannot say that, but I can foresee no probable additional liability, provided that wages and hours remain for the work as they are now. The sealed estimates submitted by the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland constitute a firm tender. They will have to meet any losses that are made in the carrying out of the work, and, of course, they will have the benefit of any saving that is made on the estimated cost. We anticipate that the amount mentioned in this bill will cover the whole of the Commonwealth’s liability in connexion with this line.- The Government was shocked when the estimates were opened and found to be larger than we had anticipated, but, as custodians of the public purse,we had no option but to accept the estimates of the State Governments.
– What about the Grafton bridge?
– I have pointed out to the Government of New South Wales the desirability of the bridge being completed simultaneously with the completion of the railway. The New South Wales Government fully appreciates the position; plans and specifications have been prepared, and tenders have been obtained. I am informed on reliable authority that the tenders are considered too high, and that the Government proposes to proceed with the work by day labour.
– Are the monetary requirements of the Railway Council supplied through the Minister or the Treasurer ?
– Through the Treasurer.
– Is the council getting all the money that it needs?
– I assume that the Treasurer makes available such moneys as are required.
– Has the New South Wales Government given any undertaking as to when the Grafton bridge will be completed?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma.
In committee (Consideration of message of the Deputy of the Governor-General) :
Motion (by Mr. Hill) agreed to -
That is . is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to ratify the agreementmade betweenthe Commonwealth of Australia, Norris Garrett Bell, James Fraser,
James Walker Davidson, and the State of New South Wales, to ratify the agreement marie between the Commonwealth of Australia. Norris Garrett Bell. James Fraser. James Walker Davidson, and the State of Queensland, and to amend the Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Act 1S124.
Resolution reported ; and, by leave, adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
Clauses 1, 2 (as verbally amended), and 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Authority to borrow).
.,– During the second reading debate the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) quoted remarks I made on the principal act of 1924, and suggested that I had changed my views.
– The honorable member has changed his view of the Government.
– That is quite wrong. Thu honorable member pointed out that 1 did not support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), that the bill be withdrawn, and the proposal referred to the Public Works Committee. He is quite right there, and I would again oppose any step to delay the building of the line. I opposed the attitude of the honorable member in 1924 because I considered that his attitude, and that of the honorable member for Boothby, was dictated by parochial opposition in their own States to the construction of a line that would benefit mainly New South Wales and Queensland. The withdrawal of the bill, and the reference of the proposal to the Public Works Committee at that time, would have involved considerable delay in the commencement of construction, at a time when many railway works in Queensland were nearing completion, and hundreds of workers were likely to be seeking employment. Furthermore, I regarded the line as urgently necessary, and as having been too long delayed already. My statement this afternoon was that the Government was culpable in not having had the proposal fully investigated between the date when the agreement was reached with the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland, and the introduction of the authorizing bill in 1924. The
Prime Minister, in his speech in that year, indicated that Queensland had not passed a ratifying act, and that an agreement had been reached with the two State Governments twelve months before. Thatperiod should have been ample to allow of the preparation of a detailed estimate, so that the House could have been supplied with reliable information as to the cost of the line. The Prime Minister did not indicate to the House that the estimate he was then submitting was not reliable.
– Some «f us said at that time that the figures supplied were doubtful.
– All estimates are mere approximations, and many are exceeded.
– It is about time wc fixed the responsibility on some one for exceeding estimated costs.
– I do not intend to touch on that matter at the present time, but I may say, in passing, that although estimates are frequently exceeded, there are many cases in which the expenditure on works is less than their estimated cost. I merely rose to say that I opposed the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Kooyong, twelve months ago,, on the ground that to refer the work to the Public Works Committee for investigation would have held it up for for some months. My criticism to-day is levelled against the Government on the fact that during the twelve months that intervened between the signing of the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of the States of New South Wales and Queensland and the passing of the bill in 1924, more reliable estimates of what the line would cost were not prepared. There has been absolutely no change of attitude on my part. The onus is on the Commonwealth Government, and it is useless now to blame the States.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Second schedule).
.- On the second reading I drew attention to a peculiarity in the second and third schedules which this clause proposes to add to the principal act. Sub-clause <l of clause 4 of both, schedules reads as follows -
Council. - The amount of all additions and deductions to be made or allowed to or by the contractor under sub-clause (a) or (b) shall be determined by agreement between a person appointed by the contractor and a person appointed by the council, and in default of such agreement by the council.
There appears to be nothing wrong with that sub-clause, but it has to be read in conjunction with the interpretation clause which proposes to amend the definition of “ council “ to read as follows : -
The Railway Council, constituted by the Grafton-Kyogle to South Brisbane Railway agreement or (except in clauses 44 and 45 hereof) any person duly authorized by the unanimous decision of the council on its behalf.
Thus one individual, appointed by the unanimous decision of the council, may confer with the contractor and come to an agreement with him as to whether there shall be an increase or a decrease in the amount to be paid to him. But, in this case, the contractor is either the New South Wales Government or the Queensland Government. Although the Commonwealth Parliament will be finding more than half the money for the building of this railway it will have no say whatever in regard to any increases or decreases that may be agreed upon by the Railway Council or some person acting on its behalf. If occasion should arise to censure any increased expenditure in connexion with this work, this Parliament will be robbed of its power to hold any Minister responsible. I suggest that the Commonwealth Minister for Works and Railways should retain the power of veto, and be held responsible to this Parliament for any increased or decreased expenditure which may be brought about as the result of an agreement arrived at under sub-clause d of clause 4 of either schedule. Because of laxity in the drawing up of the agreement between the New South Wales Government and Messrs. Dorman, Long and Company, the contractors for the construction of the North Shore bridge, the State Government has recently been called upon to incur an additional cost to meet the claims of certain crane-drivers for wages exceeding the award rates. In many skilled trades it is impossible to get men to work at award rates, and the contractors for the North
Shore Bridge, behind the back of the New South Wales Government, entered into an agreement with the crane-drivers to pay them increased wages. It meant that the Government had to find the extra money, and it is quite possible that the same thing may occur in connexion with the building of this railway. In order to protect the Commonwealth, I suggest an addition to sub-clause d of clause 4 ‘in both schedules, as follows : -
Any such additions or deductions to be made or allowed to or by the contractors shall be referred to the Commonwealth Minister for Works and Railways for approval or otherwise.
In my opinion, the addition of these words would enable Parliament to place the responsibility on any Minister who did something which might not be within the scope of the agreement. I should like to hear the views of the AttorneyGeneral on the matter.
– The honorable member will recognize that there are obvious difficulties in the way of amending an agreement which has already been made, and which this Parliament, is now asked to ratify. At the same time, of course, before ratifying any such agreement, honorable members should be perfectly satisfied that it is in a proper form. The honorable member is afraid of the risk of further sums being’ required from the Commonwealth because of additions which may be agreed to by the council. In contracts for works of considerable magnitude, the most common method of dealing with additions or deductions on account of changes made during the course of construction because of deviations from the specifications, alterations of the conditions or changes in wages, is for the engineer in charge, who is supposed to exercise an impartial discretion, to give a certificate that the additions or deductions have been made for the various reasons I have mentioned. In this case, however, the Commonwealth is afforded an additional ‘ protection. No sum can be claimed or paid by way of addition on account of the matters referred to in sub-clauses a andb of clause 4 of the schedule unless it is’ agreed to by a person representing the constructing authority,which is in this case a railway council, representing not merely the,Commonwealth but alsothe States of New South Wales and Queensland. It is therefore difficult to introduce into the schedule aprovision which would give the Commonwealth alone a veto in relation to the operation of the agreement. The fact that nothing can be claimed by way of addition by the contractor unless there is an actual agreement between some one representing the contractor and some one representing the Railway Council, affords sufficient protection for the public interest which, in this case, is not only the interest of the Commonwealth, but also that of either of the States concerned. It would be rather embarrassing to insert an amendment on the lines suggested by the honorable member. It would not be in line with the general trend of the agreement, and at the same time it would not increase to any considerable extent the protection afforded by the agreement as it stands. In any case the words suggested by the honorable member would not strictly meet the situation. In order to make his amendment properly effective, he would need to add words to the effect that no additions or deductions should be made or allowed unless the Commonwealth Minister approved. Otherwise the sub-clause would, as it were, be loft in the air. Furthermore, the amendment would set up a most complicated procedure. A claim made by the Railway Council for a deduction, or by the contractor for an addition would be considered and agreed upon by the representatives of both parties, and over and above their agreement the Commonwealth Minister would have the power of veto. The suggested amendment is inconsistent with the general idea of an agreement for a joint enterprise between the three Governments. The honorable member could safely leave the agreement in its present form, because, in the case of a joint enterprise between three Governments, it is the only effective protection that can be devised against a contingency such as that referred to by the honorable member.
.- I referred to this matter because this agreement is different from any other which has come under my notice. In this case three Governments form a railway council, which is charged with the work of constructing two lines of railway.When two of those governments are acting as contractors under the authority of the Commonwealth, there is always the possibility of the public interests not being sufficiently safeguarded. I am not, in any way detrimentally, referring to those governments. The Railway Council representing the three governments concerned will decide on increases and decreases in costs incurred by the contractors, who will be two of the governments concerned.
– The State Governments may be placed in the position of being judges in their own case.
– For that reason I am suspicions of the agreement.We may have a repetition of the result of the strike for higher wages which occurred in connexion with the contract let by the New South Wales Government to Dorman, Long, and Company for the construction, of the North Shore bridge. I suggest to the Attorney-General that, under this schedule, public interests will not be properly safeguarded, the contractors and the Railway Council being, in effect, identical. This Parliament should have some say in the approval or otherwise of increased costs.
– Does not the honorable member realize that if there is any increased cost each State- will bear its share.
– The Commonwealth is to pay more than 50 per cent. of the actual cost of construction, and will, therefore, bear a greater portion of any increased cost than will either of the States. I therefore suggest that the committee should amend the bill to safeguard public interests.
– The point that the honorable member has made respecting the identity of the contractors and the members of the Railway Council is perfectly fair, but that circumstance is incidental to the particular method of carrying out’ the enterprise. It is a joint enterprise, for which funds are being found by the States concerned and the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) has argued that the Commonwealth should have the last say, but that argument could be used equally well on behalf of the two States.
– The Commonwealth has to meet 50 per cent. of the cost, and yet will be in a minority on the council, and might be outvoted by the other two parties to the agreement.
– That position exists respecting the other aspects of the construction of this line.
– The States, if they carry out this work departmentally, must be regarded as ordinary contractors.
– That is so, subject to variations under the agreement. But it would be introducing an entirely new element into the agreement to place the Commonwealth in a superior position as suggested. The whole of the enterprise is based upon the assumption that those who are to spend the money are desirous of obtaining the best value for it. The suggested alteration would, of course, make it necessary to cover the whole of the ground again, and to make a fresh agreement with a new clause, because one party cannot alter an agreement. Other matters might be reopened during the discussion, and I suggest to the honorable member that as three parties are finding the money it must be assumed that each of them will do its best to obtain full value for its share of the expenditure. The clause should be allowed to stand as it is.
– Why not let the Commonwealth have one voice and the States one voice?
– That might have been urged when the Railway Council was originally being constituted. But the original agreement which has been approved by this House provides for the constitution of the Railway Council, consisting of the Railways Commissioners of the Commonwealth and of the two States concerned. Paragraph 10 of that agreement provides that the council shall have the entire control of (1) the works contemplated by this agreement; and (2) the expenditure thereon; and, in effect, control of every other matter involved in the construction of the work. I suggest, however, that it is too late to review the constitution of the Railway Council.
– That is a novel provision.
– It was made in 1924. The work has begun, and any attempt to review the agreement, would, I suggest, give ground for serious complaint on the part of the other parties.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with . amendments; report, by leave, adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Hill) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- At this stage the Government might see fit to accept- ‘a few suggestions from me respecting its future policy. It is absolutely essential that the trans-Australian railway should be ballasted throughout. That work has been progressing slowly, with the result that the time taken in the journey from Western Australia to the eastern States is unduly prolonged. If this work were now put in hand, it would give employment to men, particularly in the district around Kalgoorlie. Recently the Golden Horseshoe mine was closed down, and from 300 to 400 men were thrown out of employment. By utilizing their services we could reduce the cost of ballasting considerably. There is also the unification of the gauge of that line from Kalgoorlie toFremantle to be Undertaken. I know that that work was to have been carried out by the Western Australian Government, hut, unfortunately, it is not in a position to do it, and while the Commonwealth Government is coordinating with the Governments of NewSouth Wales and Queensland to continue the trans-Australian line on a uniform gauge to Brisbane, it might consider the unification of the gauge of the line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, a work which must eventually be done.
– The honorable member is dealing with matters of future policy. He must confine his remarks to the bill.
– I agree with your ruling, sir, but I am glad to have been able to offer these suggestions to the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 21st May (vide page 2241), on motion by Mr. Latham -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Not being a member of the legal profession, I am unable to deal adequately with the legal technicalities of the bill. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) whispered to me that the bill is formal, and might readily pass the House without opposition. I should like to oblige him, but, after all, I believe that a big principle is involved in the bill, short as it is. The honorable gentleman may consider it proper to give pensions to those who are to occupy seats on the High Court bench. Although, in many respects, those who occupy judicial postions are different from ordinary members of the Public Service, there are yet quite a number of public servants filling distinguished posts who are contributors to the superannuation fund. No doubt the legal knowledge and’ other qualifications that are possessed by judges are a justification for paying them very high salaries. But admitting that, it appears to me that we propose to make very substantial provision for the years that follow their retirement. Many public servants are performing, perhaps, as important work as that which falls to the lot of those who occupy judicial positions on the High Court bench. In a democracy, the distinction between public officials should not be drawn so sharply as is proposed by this bill. I have not had the time, perhaps not the inclination, to ascertain whether such a provision as this is in operation in Germany, France, the United States of America, Canada, or even Great Britain. It would be reasonable to ask the judges to contribute to the superannuation fund. A number of public servants are at present making substantial contributions to that fund in order that they may, upon retirement, have the benefit of an adequate allowance. They will look askance at this proposal, and they will be justified in seeking a reason for being treated differently from others after they have devoted the best years of their lives to the Public Service. I have nothing to say against our judges; but can it not reasonably be contended that they are merely members of the higher grades of the Service? I understand that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) argued that we might not obtain the services of the very best legal talent unless we made some provision for pensions. I think I can safely say that judicial positions under the States have been filled by men who have been splendid ornaments to the bench. Sir Leo Cussen is a notable example. When he was appointed, pensions were not provided for Supreme Court judges in Victoria.
– They were. I did not say that it would be impossible to obtain suitable men for judicial positions under the Commonwealth; my point was that the States offered more attractive terms than were offered to High Court judges to-day.
– Their salaries are not greater.
– The provision of pensions makes the conditions more attractive.
– Has not the Commonwealth Parliament previously made a general pensions provision for judges of the High Court?
– Only in the case of the late Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith. In his case, special provision was made. It is the desire of the Government to avoid the necessity for taking similar action in future.
– I voted against that provision being made. When the late Sir Samuel Griffith, Mr. Justice O’Connor, and Mr. Justice Barton were about to be appointed, the opinion expressed in this House in opposition to the establishment of any system for the payment of pensions upon their retirement was most pronounced. I admit that we have since made great strides, not only in the legal sphere, but also in every other walk of life, and that the services of an expert cannot now be procured for the remuneration that was given when federation was established. Mr. Chris. Watson, and other honorablemembers who were thorough believers in the principle of maintaining the independence of the judiciary and removing the fear of financial embarrassment upon, retirement, opposed the granting of pensions to judges. It was believed that the salary fixed was sufficiently high to allow of an adequate personal provision being made.
– That is an inducement to “ hang on “ to their positions.
– That was another reason which the Attorney-General ad- vanced in favour of this provision. He hinted that he had knowledge of a judge who had “ lagged superfluous “ on the bench. Why should not those who are receiving large salaries contribute to the Commonwealth superannuation fund? Rather than make provision for the payment of pensions, I would make the salary so attractive that the best men would be induced to accept judicial positions from the Commonwealth.
– That would not meet the. difficulty which arises from the appointment of judges with a life tenure.
– Even if a pension is available, can the retirement of judges at a certain age be demanded?
– No; but this proposal will make it possible for them to retire.
– The same considerations that now impel them to remain upon the bench will operate even if provision is made for pensions. A man who receives £3,000 or £4,000 a year may continue to hold his office even though he has lost some of the mental alertness that characterized him at the date of his appointment, because it may not suit him to retire upon half his salary. I believe that in ‘ some countries, judges are not appointed with a life tenure. The Constitution contains a provision, under which judges may be retired if a resolution to that effect is passed by both Houses of the Parliament. I wish to speak plainly without ‘being cruel to those who may occupy seats on the Bench. It would be the bounden duty of any government that believed that a judge had lingered too long on the Bench to ask Parliament to pass such a resolution. If it became known that the House contemplated the passing of such a resolution, the judge concerned would no doubt readily accept the inevitable and retire gracefully. If such a step were in the interests of justice and of litigants before the court, and would make for the better administration of the law, a government that did not take the necessary action would be recreant to its duty. I believe that there are in the legal profession in all the States young and rising men who would accept a position on the High Court Bench for the honour rather than the emoluments attached to it. The Attorney-General must know many men in his profession who regard a seat on the High Court
Bench as one of the highest judicial appointments in the Commonwealth. Some of our High Court judges have travelled to other parts of the world, and it only needs to be mentioned in legal circles that they are members of the High Court of Australia for them to be received with honour wherever they go. A parallel position is that of Governor-General of the Commonwealth. Our GovernorsGeneral as a rule draw incomes from sources in the Old Country, and they come here for the honour of the position offered them, not for the salary paid to them. On their return to the Old Country they enjoy greater distinction for having been Governor-General of Australia. These positions give a man an opportunity to establish a’ reputation he might not otherwise, enjoy. I do not wish to be personal to the AttorneyGeneral, but I believe that, financially, he would be better off if he were not Attorney-General. He is first legal counsellor in the community, and I have no doubt that, in his heart, he enjoys the distinction. In accepting the position he must have considered, not the salary, but the honour of it, and the opportunity it afforded to him to render service to his fellow-countrymen. I do not think the judges regard their positions primarily from the monetary point of view. I do not know that there has been a request from the members of the High Court Bench for pensions.-
– I said in my secondreading speech that this bill was not introduced because of a request from the judges. No request has been made to me.
– That supports what’ I have been saying. Many of our judges abandoned lucrative practices in order to take positions on the Bench, and it is safe to say that some of them are receiving thousands of pounds a year less than they would be receiving if they had continued to practice as barristers. They have for years, without any hint of pensions being paid to them, carried out theonerous duties of their office, and I believe that in the future equally gifted men will be ready to serve their country in the same capacity. The payment of pensions to judges without requiring them to contribute towards those pensions makes an undesirable distinction in the Public Service. I have no hesitation in comparing with the judges the men who administer the public departments. It is true that we place a Minister at the head of a department, and say that he controls it, and although he may do so from a ministerial point of view, by placing his signature to documents, the live factor is the administrative head. A Minister must be exceptionally well informed, and have more than the average backbone, to oppose the views of the head of a department and insist on his own views being carried out. Those officers contribute large sums to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, and they are carrying out duties not less important than those of judges of the High Court. I believe that I am expressing the general opinion of the community. While we do not accept the advice of the man in the street on every subject, we should accept it on this. Lf he is consulted he will say, “It is true that a position on the High Court Bench is one of the highest positions that can be given to a member of the legal profession, but the occupant of it ought not to be specially favoured by receiving a pension on his retirement. No provision should be made for him which is not made .for other members of the Public Service.” I could go to my. constituency and convince any class of audience that it is not right to make distinctions between members of the legal profession and others in the Public Service. After a judge has held office for not less than fifteen years, he will be entitled to a pension equal to one-half of his annual salary. Should he retire because of a permanent disability or infirmity, “he will, if he has served in the office for not less than five years, be entitled to an annual pension at the rate of 21-100ths of his salary. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) has indicated certain amendments to be moved when the bill readies the committee stage.
– The honorable member may not discuss them now.
– I understand these pensions will apply also to judges of the Arbitration Court.
– Parliament has already agreed to a bill providing for pensions for judges of that court. Those pensions will be payable to them, irrespective of the fate of this bill.
– That is unfortunate. I repeat that, in my opinion, no distinc tion should be made between the treatment meted out to different members of the Public Service.
.- I trust that the arguments which have been advanced by- the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) will cause the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) to recommend to Cabinet that the clause dealing with pensions be deleted from the bill. Surely the Attorney-General will agree that, if a scheme of superannuation is good enough for the ordinary public servant, it should apply also to justices of the High Court, who are in- a far better position to contribute towards a superannuation fund than is the average public servant. The granting of pensions to one section of the Public Service only sets a bad example. We on this side stand for equal opportunities for all. We do not desire that in Australia there shall be a privileged class; but that undoubtedly will be the result of legislation of this kind. The Attorney-General does not approve of trade union secretaries advocating special privileges for members of their unions; yet he must admit that those secretaries are acting in the interests of a group of workers whose remuneration is only an infinitesimal part of that which it is proposed shall be paid to these judges. I trust that he will not persist in advocating the payment of pensions to men receiving as much as £3,500 per annum. What special work is performed by a judge that entitles him to greater consideration than that accorded to the ordinary toiler in some useful occupation ? Judges are usually sons of wealthy parents, and, by attaining to judgeships, they are enabled to rise higher in the social scale than are ordinary manual workers. We have not yet arrived at the stage in which a superannuation scheme is provided for every worker in the country, but this bill proposes to pay large pensions to men already receiving high salaries without their being asked to make any contribution, towards those pensions. I submit that that is wrong, notwithstanding the example set by some other countries. It may be urged that, unless pensions are offered, the most suitable men will not be induced to apply for these positions. I admit that the AttorneyGeneral has a greater knowledge of the legal profession than I have, but I feel sure that there are men in that profession who would accept office without a pension in order to render a public service. So soon as special privileges are proposed, the bargaining element enters. That is undesirable. If a superannuation scheme were substituted for this system of pensions, we on this side should offer.no objection. “We believe that it would not prevent men of ability, integrity, and broad outlook from applying for the positions. Should the Chief Justice remain in office for fifteen years, he will receive, by way of salary, a total of £52,500, and each of the other judges £40,500. No retiring age is provided in the bill for these judges, so that, should they be still hale and hearty at the end of fifteen years’ service, they may continue in office and draw their salaries.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– This proposal is, in its way, just as objectionable to me as would be a proposal to set up in Australia an established church similar to the Church of England in the Old Country. Both this and that are relics of bygone ages which should not be introduced into Australia. While I yield to no one in my admiration for the work of the Anglican Church in England, I should object to its establishment in Australia as an institution of the State. As a matter of fact, that has not been attempted in any British colony or dominion except the West Indies, and establishment was abolished there in 1868. Some of the bishops of the Churchof England in England are entitled to a seat in the House of Lords. That privilege, in my opinion, should be discontinued. Just as we would not think of establishing a church on those lines in Australia, so we should not think of following the English custom of providing pensions for judges. The provision of a pension is not likely to influence gentlemen of high standing in the legal profession to accept judicial positions. I should be quite willing to provide a contributory scheme of superannuation for judges similar to that which applies to ordinary civil servants, and I trust that the Government will consider providing one in lieu of this proposal.
– I hope’ the bill will be withdrawn. I am astonished that a government that assured the people of its desire to economize should seek to provide big pensions for a chief justice, who will be in receipt of £3,500 a year, and other judges, who will be receiving £3,000 a year.
– Surely the honorable member is not preaching economy!
– I shall never preach economy of the kind that the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) advocates. His idea of economy is to cut1s. a day off the workers’ wages. He lives in the spirit of the times in his own State described in Marcus Clark’s book, For the Term of his Natural Life. We should effect many necessary social reforms before thinking of providing pensions for highly-paid judges. For instance, we should provide a pension for widows. Under present conditions if a family breadwinner is cut off his widow is obliged to go out and work for her children, when she should be able to remain at home and care for them. We should say to her, “ Your place is at home looking after your children; you ought not to be doing other people’s washing for a living.” What happens now is cruel in the extreme. But although proposals for the expenditure of £34,000,000 on migration, and for the payment of substantial pensions to judges in receipt of £3,500 a year, come before us we hear nothing from the Ministry about the introduction of a bill to provide pensions for widows. We should also liberalize the conditions governing the granting of invalid pensions before giving any attention to this proposal. Under present conditions it is not possible for even a totallyincapacitated person to obtain the invalid pension unless a medical practitioner will certify that he is permanently totally incapacitated. There are always hundreds, if not thousands, of men and women in the community totally incapacitated for months at a time, and actually destitute, who cannot obtain a pension because they are not permanently totally incapacitated. They cannot earn a shilling, and yet we are prepared to leave them to starve by the wayside. A man who breaks his leg is surely totally incapacitatedf or a time, yet he cannot obtain a pension, though judges who may have been receiving a salary of £3,000 or more a year for 20 or 30 years are to have a pension of £1,500 a year. I am not opposed to the principle of paying pensions. I believe that every person, on reaching the age of 60 years, should be entitled to a pension -without the stigma of charity attached to it.
– Pension by right.
– That is so. Every man who works produces sufficient to provide his wages and also a pension on reaching the age of 60. To-day the minority is living in luxury on the profits gained from the work of the majority, who have to struggle to make ends meet, and may not even accept pensions in their old age without the stigma of charity attached to them. Salaried judges should be placed in the same position as salaried civil servants. If the Government desires to provide pensions to needy classes in the community, I suggest that it should give some attention to the claims of members of Parliament, and treat them, from the pension standpoint, in the same way that it treats civil servants.
– And grant a life tenure ?
– If the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) does his work honestly, and guards the interests of his constituents well, he may have a life tenure of office, but at present he is only an apprentice. If he tears up any more Australian cloth in this House he is most unlikely to have a life tenure. Members of Parliament are not likely to get rich on their salary. At the moment I am not advocating the increasing of it,” but I sec the possibility of that being necessary after the transfer is made to Canberra. An honorable member who does his honest duty to his constituents is unable at the same time to engage successfully in any line of ordinary business, I know that, for I have tried to build up both a grocery and a fruit and greengrocery business, and have failed in both cases. It is impossible to devote the necessary attention to business details And after ten or twenty years in Parliament, it is very difficult for an honorable member successfully to take up outside occupations, or to pick up the tools that he left so many years be fore. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) can afford to smile, for I understand that he has an income of £20,000 a year. I do not complain of that, but I must say I envy him. No proposition has been made by the Government to provide a pension for members of Parliament. You, Mr. Speaker, know how difficult it is for even honorable members who hold Ministerial rank to make ends meet. I suggest to the Government that before it gives any further consideration to the provision of pensions for judges, or to the spending of millions of money in bringing migrants here, it should do its duty to our own people. It should say to widows with young families “ If it were necessary for you to be at home with your children before their father died, it is a thousand times more necessary for you to be home with them afterwards.” We should not force them to go out into the world to earn a living for themselves and their families^ The Government should also give “more consideration to those who fall by the wayside, and who, while not permanently totally incapacitated, are temporarily totally incapacitated. The invalid pension should be available to them. I am strongly opposed to the bill, and I trust that, even at this eleventh hour, the Government will with-‘ draw it.
.- I cannot claim the honour of representing the Leader of the Opposition on this occasion, but I remind honorable members that he had secured the adjournment of the debate and proposed to speak on the bill, and to oppose, on principle, its passage. I do not think that anybody will very strongly object to that portion of the bill which is designed to prevent the too early translation of the High Court to the airy and healthy, but somewhat bleak, plains of our new country residence at Canberra. It seems to me an act of mercy on the part of the Government to propose that, bv the easy method of proclamation, the High Court shall be enabled to function a little longer in more comfortable circumstances than would obtain if the head-quarters of the court were almost immediately, in accordance with the Constitution, transferred with the Seat of Government to the Federal Capital. In regard to the general question of pensions for judges of the High Court, it is a little . invidious to have to discuss the monetary rewards of those gentlemen while they are still in the flesh; indeed, it is embarrassing at all times to discuss anybody’s wages publicly. But the principle involved in this bill makes it necessary for members of the Opposition to be articulate, and to express fearlessly and firmly the views they hold. Members of the Labour party have a verydefinite mandate in regardto questions such as that raised by this bill, and unquestionably that mandate does not include large grants out of the public revenues to those who are most comfortably situated while so much remains to be done for those who are in real need of assistance. The judiciary constitutes a very important part of theFederal scheme, and the- High Court itself occupies an honoured place in the Constitution. I do not propose to use my position in this Parliament to give expression to anything which would derogate in the least degree from the honour which is due to the gentlemen who have the distinction of occupying seats in the highest court of the land. I am prepared to admit that their duties, although congenial, and well within their grasp and power, are fairly exacting, and have been rendered more so by the peculiarities of the Constitution under which they work. They have been appointed the umpires to determine in disputed cases just what this Parliament has endeavoured to say, what is the will of the people as expressed through Parliament, and what was the people’s intention when they approved of the written Constitution. Sometimes the judges of the High Court have been subjected to somewhat unfair criticism. On one occasion I listened in this chamber to strictures passed upon the judiciary by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), who asked whether the High Court or this Parliament was to rule in Australia. An inquiry of that kind could arise only from a misunderstanding of the position of the High Court in the constitutional scheme. If the position of the judges is clearly understood, however one may quarrel with their judgments on particular matters, one must, in fairness, acknowledge that they are endeavouring to do honestly - and for the most part are doing ably - the job for which they were appointed, and which, under the Constitution, either they or some other jurists must do, namely, as umpires, to interpret the meaning of the written laws we pass and the Constitution under which we work. They have, of course, other powers and duties with which I am not at present concerned. It is true that judges are recruited from a class of society in which I, as a legislator of the Labour party, am not at least primarily interested but those on the High Court bench have maintained a high . standard of rectitude and . ability that bears favorable comparison with that of the judiciary of any . other country. Although it might not be seemly to discuss the judges individually, I feel bound to say that the High Court, as at present constituted, is more liberal and Federal in its outlook, and more courageous in its federalism, than was the High Court of the earlier days of federation.
– That is arguable.
– The statement may be open to argument, but it is indisputable that the High Court as constituted to-day interprets in a wider sense the powers of this Parliament, which, incidental to the broader and more Federal outlook of the court, ‘ has been in a measure enfranchised.
– But the High Court has a duty to the States . as well as to this Parliament.
– That duty remains. The fact is that the late Chief Justice Sir Samuel Griffith, great law-giver and eminent jurist as he undoubtedly was, took a view which in the clash between Federal and State authorities was usually favorable to the pre-eminence of the State. I have already admitted that the views of the judges were in each case honestly held and quite free from any conscious political or other bias, although, unfortunately, it is quite impossible to get rid of that unconscious bias which is caused by environment, training, and the sphere in which one is educated and developed. It is undoubted that in a number of ways recent decisions of the High Court have, in effect, reconstructed the ambit of the powers of this Parliament. I need only instance the recent decision regarding State instrumentalities, and that other judg- ment in the Engineers case by which the doctrine of implied prohibition was
Bet aside. Both those decisions enlarged, in effect, the powers of this Parliament. Even in the more recent Cinema, case, in which the High Court again overruled in part an earlier decision of that tribunal, the powers of the Federal Arbitration Court were incidentally widened. Of course the High Court does not, and cannot in fact, deliberately enlarge or diminish the powers of this Parliament. All it can do is interpret what Parliament has enacted, but the views of the learned judges are very important in their effect upon the Commonwealth Parliament’s constitutional power to legislate. For that reason, their decisions .are of vital concern to us who labour, sometimes so ineffectually, under constitutional limitations, some of which we are even now endeavouring, as the Labour, party on previous occasions endeavoured, to remove, by means of a referendum. So I submit that the exacting and responsible duties of the High Court are rendered more difficult by the limitations which we have imposed upon ourselves, in a measure to our own undoing, and by the resultant complications which the High Court must unravel as best it can. I have endeavoured to put on record my view as to the eminence of the justices of the High Court in the judicial world, and as to their faithful discharge of the very onerous duties resting upon them. But I cannot find any principle upon which this Parliament should agree to the payment of substantial pensions to these members of the Public Service any more than to any other members of the Public Service, or to those persons referred to by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), who, by virtue of their special and peculiar necessities, have claims upon the government in any civilized society. The Attorney-General said that our judges were the only persons in the Commonwealth Public- Service not drawing pensions, and he contended that they should be the first to whom pensions should be given. I presume the honorable member was referring to the fact that by virtue of recent legislation a superannuation scheme is applicable to the various grades of the Commonwealth Public Service. That is a scheme to which I lent and would lend again my full support, because I think it sound in principle; and I should be quite agreeable if it were proposed that our judiciary should participate in such a scheme. But surely the Attorney-General knows that in the early days of this Parliament the propriety of granting pensions merely for length of service, and for which members of the Public Service would qualify after ceasing to belong to it was hotly debated and decided against for very good reasons. At a later date, on the 19th December, 1918, we were discussing a proposal to give a special pension to the then Chief Justice of the Commonwealth, Sir Samuel Griffith, I ventured some remarks which I think are applicable to the present circumstances. I said -
Bearing in mind the question of pensions to the aged and the invalid, I contend that the only ground on which pensions of any kind are justifiable in a civilized and progressive community is to make provision for those exceptional cases of sickness, invalidity, and weakness which cannot be provided for by any just system of distribution of the world’s good things. I say this, quite recognizing the fact that it may be ‘suggested for a moment that I aim giving only half-hearted support to old-age and invalid pensions. I give these pensions a full measure of support, because they represent just those exceptional cases for which any civilized community must make provision, even though the wealth of the community were distributed with ideal fairness.
The cases I referred to. include, of course, by implication, widows and infants not otherwise provided for ; in a word, they include all persons who through no fault of their own find themselves unable to make adequate or, perhaps, any provision for themselves. I claim that it is the first duty of a properly ordered nation t” take such cases to itself. This may be described as socialism, but if any test, humanitarian or christian, is applied to it, it will be admitted that any society which pretends to be ordered and decent cannot overlook the claims of such persons upon it. In the course of the Fame debate in 1918 the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) made a very useful contribution from which I shall quote. He said -
A distinct and definite offer was made to him of the highest legal .position in tlie Commonwealth. There was no monetary inducement for him to accept the offer - indeed, the acceptance of it meant a financial loss to him. But one remembers that the position he was offered was one of very great honour, such as no man would lightly set aside. I, for one, have no doubt that Sir Samuel Griffith, conscious as he was of his mature powers, and keenly alive to the important duties that would attach to his new position, felt that in accepting it he would be able to render very valuable service to the Commonwealth. That conviction, 1 believe, was largely the determining factor in inducing him to accept the position.
The terms of the offer that was then made to him- because it was a distinct and definite offer -were very specific. ‘Sir Samuel Griffith was offered the position of Chief Justice of tlie Common wealth at a salary of £3.500 a year, and no pension.
On those terms Sir Samuel Griffith accepted the position, and the same remark applies to the present occupants of the High Court bench. A further quotation from the speech of the honorable member for Fawkner is more applicable to my present argument, because he went on to say -
The fact that the Chief Justice occupies a high and responsible position entitles him to no more credit for faithfully doing his duty than is due to the humblest servant of tha State who renders honest, conscientious service. If that be so, I should like to know on what ground this proposal of the Government can be justified. That is “my difficulty. It is such a proposal as this that brings us hard up against a painful fact - a fact that, to my mind, is a standing reproach to our social system. I mean the fact that there are in our community men and women who are engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle with poverty, and who are living continually within measurable distance- of actual want.
I use that quotation in support of the policy adopted by the Labour party in regard to matters of this kind, that pensions should be payable only to those who are unable through no fault of their own to make provision for themselves, and that it is the duty of society to see that such persons are maintained out of the common purse.
– The honorable member will recognize that the value of the salaries received by the justices of the High Court has greatly depreciated in recent years.
– I quite recognize that, but the honorable member’s interjection, while it might fairly be used in favour of an increase in salary, cannot be used in favour of setting up . the entirely new principle of granting pensions, not as a reward for .services rendered, in the sense that a salary is, but as compensation given at the public expense for an indefinite period after the services have ceased. The two things are quite different. I have never moved in this House for a reduction of salaries, nor have I ever, to my recollection, supported any proposal to reduce a salary. The Labour party, of which I am a member, has always taken the stand that it is sound economy to pay good salaries and good wages to workers. The honorable member will see that the proposal before the House is to resuscitate a system which found great favour in older and more unregenerate days than the present, but which, with the coming of the new Commonwealth, and the birth of new ideals, was properly discarded by our earlier statesmen, including Labour- statesmen. Referring to the first portion of the quotation I have made from the speech of the honorable member for Fawkner, the present judiciary has undoubtedly entered into a contract with the people. It is no doubt true that all the justices, in accepting positions on the High Court bench, made certain financial sacrifices, but after all they are not the only persons who have made financial sacrifices to serve the public. It is to the credit of the British race that the allurements of public office have always been sufficiently strong to induce men to make sacrifices in order to serve the public. As the honorable member for Ballarat has indicated, many men have made personalsacrifices upon entering this Parliament; others who came into this Parliament and gave promise of distinguished public service to the Commonwealth, have had to relinquish their seats because of the financial sacrifices involved in retaining them. Though some may have listened to the observations of the honorable member with a cynical smile on their lips, I venture to say that when those who to-day are giving their whole lives to their political activities are called hence - I hope that it will be a long time before they are - there will be little for the collector of taxation to gather from many of their estates in the way of probate duties. The Attorney-General himself is a standing example. He ha3 made substantial monetary sacrifices hy coming into this House, fired by ambition, no doubt, and the feeling that he can do something for his country according to his view. For this he will certainly receive no thanks from the members of the Opposition, and nothing in the way of a pension should anything unforeseen happen to him. I am not free at present to refer fo amendments which have been foreshadowed for consideration in committee, but for the present, at all events, I am opposed on principle to the second reading of the bill. It is wrong to apply to one small section of the Public Service, a new principle of reward that is not applied to other members of it. That is quite out of harmony with the policy of this party, which stands for pensions and State aid for those in need. I should bo quite prepared to join in with any scheme of superannuation similar to that applying to the Commonwealth Service, but I am not prepared to revive a system which was condemned many years ago by the Labour party for reasons which still hold, and by men of other schools of thought, and which has ceased to operate in the Commonwealth Public Service. Therefore, I am opposed to the second reading of the bill.
– I admit without hesitation that I am not at all enthusiastic in supporting this measure. I am sorry that we are practically forced to support the bill owing to the position in which the Government is placed. It would have been better if the Government had placed the whole position before Parliament, and allowed honorable members to reconstruct the arrangements for the payment and retirement of judges. We know that it is difficult to persuade capable legal men to give up private practice to take a position on the High Court Bench, because they realize that by so doing they have to make considerable financial sacrifices. The judges should be paid a commensurate salary. I am not at all averse from paying a high salary so long as efficient service is rendered for it. The age of retirement should be fixed, as in most other cases, at 65 years.
– The High Court judges are appointed for life.
– That is the difficulty with which we are faced. When the judges are incapable of rendering effective service to the community they should be retired. I know that the judges of the High Court, if practising in the ordinary way, would be able to obtain enormous fees. They are rendering good service to the community, and the general public would be quite satisfied if commensurate salaries were paid to them. Unless we fix a retiring age, it is possible that the judges of the High Court may continue to occupy the Bench until they become decrepit. The Attorney-General should have introduced a measure giving honorable members an opportunity to make drastic alterations in the present system of appointing High Court judges, and to provide for their retirement at a certain age.
– That cannot be done under the Constitution.
– That is so. The Government must be faced with considerable difficulty, otherwise it would not have introduced the bill in its present form. A few months ago the -New South Wales Parliament went through the same procedure, and although the majority of its members supported the Government, yet individually they had no liking for the principle of pensions for members of the judiciary. I am loath to support the bill. The High Court has acquitted itself with honour. No one will question the ability of the judges, nor the efficient manner in which they carry out their duties. I am sorry,, indeed, that Ave have to support a mea. sure of this kind, particularly as I have not hesitated to express my opinions outside. I do “not wish to be inconsistent, and if honorable members opposite can show me in what way the bill can be improved, I shall have no hesitation in supporting them.
.- I have listened with interest to the speeches on the bill, and I should be lacking in my duty as a representative of the people of Australia if I did not say definitely that I am opposed to it. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) stated that he was loath to support the bill. I feel sure that he is totally opposed to the principle of paying . pensions to highly-paid public servants like the justices rf the High Court. I have no wish to say one word against those gentlemen personally, because we in Australia are fortunate in having a judiciary’ that is above reproach. The judges of the High Court are undoubtedly in the front rank in their profession. They are men of high integrity, and, therefore, it is very unpleasant for any honorable member to discuss .their financial position in this House. But the Government’s proposal to pay huge pensions to High Court judges, men who are in receipt of incomes of from £3,000 to £3,500 a year, shows that Ministers do not view, this matter from a true perspective. The judges of the High Court have undoubtedly done good work for the country; but, in cricket phraseology, “ they have been on a good wicket.” They have trodden the primrose path in life. They have not experienced th°, trials and tribulations of the working man, trying to keep a wife and family on a small wage. It is reasonable to assume that the judges of the High Court, prior to their elevation to that position, practised at the bar as first class barristers. Such men, between the ages of 30 and 70 years, would make an average income of about £3,000 a year, and over the 40-years’ period would have earned about £120,000. A man earning £6 a week during the same period would have received only £12,000. There is no talk of a general pension fund for the worker when he retires from his occupation, or for his widow.
– They have the old-age pen sio a only.
– That is so; and before they get it, they have to prove that they are destitute. The High Court justice is not asked, under this bill. to do that. There is no government proposal about a. widow and ciphans’ fund, or a motherhood endowment scheme, to assist those who are in dire distress. The members of the judiciary have had the opportunity of attending universities to receive the legal training necessary to enable them to become barristers and judges of the High Court. They have had a particularly rosy existence compared with that of the average man, who has to battle for a living without the opportunity of getting the higher education and a profession. I object to the policy of “greasing the fat pig,” and helping those who are comparatively affluent. A man can devote himself to no more noble work than the service of his country; but I do not th ink that he is deserving of a large pension just because he has accepted a position on the High Court Bench. No doubt the judges of the High Court consider that they occupy a -high and distinguished posi tion, and they accepted it knowing what it entailed. The Attorney-General informed us that no member of the High Court Bench has suggested that they should receive a pension, yet the Government intends to give huge pensions to the judges who have been fortunate enough to receive large emoluments for a great number of years. A man who devotes himself to the public service of his country performs a noble work, whether he occupies the position of shire councillor, municipal councillor, member of a State or member of the Federal Par? liament. He willingly abandons his previous income in most instances, whatever it may have been prior to entering public life. There have been instances of, men sacrificing business and other interests in order to enter Parliament. The Attorney-General himself is an instance. No doubt he could earn considerably more if he were practising his profession outside. I know that a great many men who have been prepared to serve their country in that way have not asked for a pension. They have been prepared to undertake public duties because they recognized that they were receiving one of the highest honours which the people could confer upon them. When the late Sir Edmund Barton was Prime Minister of Australia, the proposal was advanced to pay pensions to High Court judges. What was its fate? Hansard, at page 1245, Vol. XIII., shows that the proposal was supported by twenty honorable members, and opposed by 29. A division upon the same matter, taken in the Senate on the 6th August, 1903, resulted in its being defeated by fourteen votes to three. I feel sure that if the question were now decided on non-party lines a majority of honorable members would vote against it. Unfortunately, judges in several States of Australia are appointed for life. That is the position of the, judges of the High Court of Australia. Many men retain their mental faculties unimpaired up to a late age, but others are not fit for the onerous duties that they are called upon to perform after they have reached the age of 70 years. A public servant is forced to retire at the ago of 60 years or not later than 65 years. Why, then, should judges of the High Court not be compelled to retire at the age of 70 years at least) I have read with interest some remarks that were made many years ago in this House by a gentleman who has since earned very great distinction; I refer to MajorGeneral McCay. Speaking on the question of pensions, he voiced the followingopinion -
I tlo not see why a judge, with a salary of £3,000, should get a pension, any more than a post-office messenger, with a salary of .(100 or £200. A judge has a better chance of providing for his old age than the average working man.
I bring those remarks under notice because some honorable members are greatly inclined to study the interests of persons who occupy high places, yet they are loth to consider the needs of those who are more lowly placed. On the 10th September, 1924, 1 moved in this House that the old-age and invalid pensions be increased from 17s. 6d. to £1 a week. That proposal received very short shrift from the Government. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes) will remember that he hotly opposed the increase, stating that the finances of the country were not in a sufficiently strong position to warrant it. I have no doubt that to-night he will record his vote in favour of giving pensions to judges who are in receipt of salaries from £3,000 to £3,500 per annum, so that when they desire to retire they may receive an annual pension of £1,500 to £1,750. We must treat all classes equitably. ‘ Barristers and judges have less difficulty in earning a competence than had those unfortunate people who, in the evening of their lives, are granted only £1 a week, when they prove they are destitute. The following honorable members voted against the motion that I moved in 1924: - Mr. Atkinson, Mr. Bruce, Mr. D. Cameron, Mr. Cook, Mr. Corser, Mr. DuncanHughes, Mr. F. Francis, Mr. J. Francis, Mr. Gardner, Mr. Gregory, Mr. Hurry, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Lister, Mr. Mackay, Mr. Mann, Mr. Manning, Dr. Earle Page, Mr. Paterson, Mr. Pratten, Mr. Seabrook, Mr. Stewart, Mr. Whitsitt, Mr. Hunter, and- Mr. Marr. Only the members of the Labour party, who sit on this side of the House, supported my proposal. On the present occasion, I have not the slightest doubt that every honorable member opposite will vote to give pensions to highly paid judges, although at that time they would not agree to increase the old-age and invalid pensions The view of the Government was expressed in the following statement : -
In view of the state of the finances, an increase in the rate of old-age pensions is at the present time not considered justifiable.
That was cold sympathy for the aged and infirm people who were anxiously desirous of obtaining an increase. The same Government now admits, through the mouth of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), that judges of the High Court have not asked’ for a pension; but that it thinks it a fair thing to give it to them. Major-General McCay spoke correctly when he said that a High Court judge had no more right to expect a pension than a telegraph messenger. Sir William Irvine is a very distinguished member of the legal profession, and a man for whom I have a high regard. Some years ago, when the Labour party urged that a pension should be paid to women on attaining the age of 60 years, and to men on attaining the age of 65 years, Sir William - then a member of this House - said that the granting of such a pension was calculated to sap the fibre and independence of the people. Yet he accepted the position of Chief Justie of Victoria, which carries pension rights. Evidently, he did not think that his fibre and independence would be sapped. The Chief Justice of the United States of America receives a salary of £3,125 per annum.
– No. His salary was raised this year.
– He does not receive a pension ; nor do the assistant judges in the United States of America, who are in receipt of a salary of £3,020 per annum. The Attorney-General, in his second-reading speech, said that permanent officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, -with the exception of their Honours the justices of the High Court, were entitled to pensions. I remind him that those pensions are payable in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Superannuation Act, under which public servants are compelled to contribute to a superannuation fund. Those contributions, in many cases, impose a . heavy burden upon the officers concerned. I should have no objection to High Court judges receiving the benefits of a superannuation fund ito which they had contributed. The AttorneyGeneral further said -
To secure the. impartiality and independence of the judges, fixed tenure, not necessarily life tenure, is essential.
I agree that the tenure should be fixed, say, ending at the age of 70 years. I do not think that the Attorney-General will seriously contend that it is necessary to offer pensions to members of the Bar to induce men of integrity to accept positions on the High Court Bench. Those are very coveted positions. Numbers of lawyers in Australia, who for many years have been earning from £4,000 to £5,000 annually, and are deriving a further income from investments, would gladly sacrifice their . incomes as barristers to be elevated to the very distinguished position of judge of the High Court of Australia. The present justices have chosen the primrose, ‘ not the thorny path of life. Their lot is cast in congenial surroundings compared with that of the great mass of the people. I read interestedly the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) upon this matter in 1918, and I should like to know what his present views are. I do not think that he would take up the attitude that has been adopted by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins), who proposes to vote for the bill, although he is opposed to pensions for judges. In 1918, the honorable member for Fawkner strenuously opposed the granting of a pension to the late Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith, the then retiring Chief Justice of the High Court. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has quoted an appropriate extract from the speech of that honorable member, and I could make a number of other quotations from it, but suffice it for me to repeat his remarks on soldier men who ought to get higher pensions! On that subject he said -
There is another class in our community - our soldier men, who have been fighting another kind of battle in the great world war. To them we have incurred a deep debt of obligation. I have the honour to be president of a pathetic little association composed of men who lost their sight in the trenches. They are- on the very threshhold of life, and will have to face many years of darkness, as they are fine, healthy young fellows.
Many of them have just married, and yet Uley will never have the pleasure of looking into the face of wife or child. They are handicapped to the end of their lives as wageearners. Some of us have been trying to have their position improved, and we have made a proposal that they shall receive a pension of £4 a week; but we are practically told that the country cannot afford this.
The honorable member for Fawkner is a member of the learned legal profession, and he opposed the payment of pensions to judges. The Government is deserving of the severest censure of the people for coming forward with this proposal at a time when we are told that the condition of the finances is not good, when the Commonwealth is asking the States to make great financial sacrifices, and when the Government says it can do nothing more to assist the States because of its own Obligations. Such a proposal is the negation of the democratic spirit of Australia.
.- T did not intend to speak on this subject, because I felt that the speech of the AttorneyGeneral in presenting the bill made quite clear the reasons for it, and I thought the House would be satisfied with his explanation; but the invidious comparisons made by honorable members of the Opposition have impelled me to rise. Socialism is very nice until it is applied to oneself. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) stated that a judge with a salary of £3,000 a year would draw £120,000 in 40 years ; and he then spoke of the poor wretch who received only £6 a week, or a total of £12,000 in the same period. He should bear in mind, however, that if he continues a member of this House for 40 years he will receive £40,000, or £28,000 more than the “ poor wretch “ who is paid £6 a week. Will he divide the extra amount he receives with that man ? It is clear that he was speaking only to the gallery. Twenty- three years ago Parliament assessed the value of the judges at £3,000 a year, and of the Chief Justice at £3,500; but to-day those salaries are not worth more than half what they were worth in 1903. The awards of industrial tribunals, presided over, sometimes, by the judges themselves, have been a factor in decreasing the value of money. But the working man who received £3 a week in 1903 is now receiving £6 a week, because of the increased cost of living. The judges have a lot of back pay due to them, for if their value was properly assessed in 1903, they are under-paid now. Every increase in the cost of living has affected their income as it has the income of other citizens, and an increase of pay is long overdue to them. I agree with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) that . this matter should have been considered, and the salaries of the judges increased, long ago. The speeches delivered when the salaries of the judges were fixed would probably be applicable to-day if those salaries were £6,000 or £7,000 a year. To obtain men of the right age and the requisite qualifications, the country must pay substantial salaries. I do not think the people of this country desire that men of high standing, to whom tribute has been paid by honorable members on both sides of the House, should be compelled to leave the bench in want or remain there when afflicted with old age and infirmities. Honorable members have admitted that the judges give a high standard of service, and we have laid it down as a principle, which we have observed in practice, that outstanding merit should be paid for. That principle is recognized, even in the Tanks of labour., for the general president of a union is paid much more than the man who uses a pick and shovel. We have selected from our midst men to fill these high and honorable positions in which strict impartiality is expected of them, and we cannot be niggardly in our payment of them. It is inappropriate to drag “myself” or “yourself” into the consideration of this matter, much less to make comparisons with the man who works merely with a pick and shovel. This country has provided as well as any country for old age; we have established arbitration courts to . ensure proper remuneration to the workers; we have recently passed a Superannuation Act for the benefit of civil servants; and we have appointed a commission to inquire into national insurance. The judges stand on a plane by themselves, but from the mere stand-point of justice, the House must recognize that the salaries paid to them have depreciated in value during the past 23 years.
Mr. MAKIN (Hindmarsh) “9-26].- The speech of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) would have been more convincing if he were more consistent in his utterances and his behaviour. and if we felt that he spoke from his heart. He based a claim for increasing the salaries of members of the High Court bench on the fact that the cost of living has materially increased since their salaries were fixed 23 years ago.
– Does the honorable member deny that the value of the judges’ salaries has decreased ?
– I do not deny it, but the honorable member denied it by his actions and utterances in a matter that directly concerned’ honorable members a few years ago; I refer to the occasion when we sought to improve our salaries, and pointed out that the conditions of life had changed materially since the amounts then paid were determined upon. The honorable member bitterly opposed the proposal and voted against it. Although he denounced honorable members for seeking to improve their status and make their salaries commensurate with the circumstances of the time, although he accepted the doubtful honour and glory for the self-righteous refusal to dip his hand into the public treasury, and although he received all the limelight and advantage that accrued to him thereby, vet he accepted the extra payment. On other grounds also I challenge the right of the honorable member honestly to advocate the views that he has ju3t expressed. The honorable member loses no opportunity to display his antagonism to setting up tribunals to consider the wages and conditions of the working classes.
– That is grossly untrue.
– Whatever attitude the honorable member may adopt, I am sure that other . honorable members will confess that my statement is substantially true. I do not join issue with the honorable member as to the desirableness of reviewing the salaries paid to judges on the High Court bench; hut consideration of that matter, which, by the way, is not before us. and also the question of providing pensions for judges, which is the matter before the Chair, should he deferred until after the proDosed constitutional session has been held. It would be much more fitting for us to consider the application of a pension scheme to the indee* after we have determined the advisableness or otherwise of fixing a retiring age for them. If this bill is agreed to a most unwarranted discrimination will be shown in favour of the judiciary against many worthy citizens of the Commonwealth who are receiving the old-age pension. Before, a person can obtain the old-age pension he must submit to an inquisition into the most private affairs of his life. He is asked to state, not only his own financial position, but also that of all the members of his family. He must disclose every minute detail of his financial position, including any amount that he may have to his credit in a banking account, and also whether, at any period in his life, he has made gifts to other people. It is proposed in this bill to entitle judges to u pension equal to half their salary, without inquisition, whereas the poorer classes of the community are obliged to submit to a humiliating examination to obtain the pension of a mere £1 a week. The whole situation recalls to my mind the text in the Good Old Book, “Unto every one that hath shall be given, and lie shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” No honorable member could justify voting for this bill while the aged and infirm in our community, many of whom have rendered faithful service to the country for many years, are treated in the present niggardly manner. It is an indictment of the Government that it should have introduced the bill under present conditions. Even most estimable and thrifty persons in the community who at great sacrifice over a period of many years have made their homes their own, and in the eventide of their life go to live with a son or daughter, have deducted from their pension an amount equal to the rental value of their home. That is absolutely unfair in my opinion; and in comparison with this proposal for pensions for the judiciary, it is intolerably unjust. We should place our pensioners in a more congenial and comfortable position before giving any consideration to pension schemes for judges. Only after we have righted the wrongs that exist may we justly provide a superannuation scheme of universal application. But, apart altogether from that consideration, our first business in relation to the judiciary is to consider the fixing of the retiring age. Before my election to this Parliament, I was a Government servant, and, as an ordinary workman, I should have been obliged to retire on reaching the age of 65 years, and so would all my fellow workmen. The Government was of opinion that, when we reached that agc, we would cease to give a fair return for our wages. If it is equitable to fix a retiring age for the lower grades in the Public Service, it is equitable to fix one for the judiciary. We should deal equitably with every class in the Commonwealth employment, and give as careful consideration to the humblest as to those the highest in the service.
.- I should not have participated in this debate but for the remarks made by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). He is in much more favoured circumstances than the great majority of our people, for he has an income larger than the salary received by the Chief Justice of the High Court. Unfortunately, his success seems to have robbed him of whatever humanitarian ideals he may have possessed. I have been trying for many years to get the Government to liberalize the conditions governing our invalid and old-age pensions, and to. make women who have been resident in Australia for 20 years eligible for a pension when they reach the age of 60 years>. and men when they reach the age of 65’ years without any restrictions; but the honorable member for Forrest has resisted every effort that I have made in that direction. The last three persons that I opened my door to before leaving Sydney this week urged me to endeavour to obtain some consideration for them from the pensions administration. The first of those three cases was a man who, prior to and during the war, was employed by the New South Wales Railway Department at Darling Harbour; but after the war he, being only a . temporary employee, was dismissed to make room for a returned soldier. He next obtained a position as steward on a boat travelling between Australia and New Zealand, and after several trips developed lung trouble. He applied for an invalid pension, and the medical officer certified that he was eligible, but the Pensions Department declared that his illness had not originated in Australia, and therefore he was not entitled to a pension. Yet I am informed that that man never even went ashore in New
Zealand; hia home was in Sydney, and there is little doubt that his sickness was due entirely to his earlier employment in Darling Harbour. Another case is that of a returned soldier who to-day is totally incapacitated. I have written repeatedly to the Repatriation Department to explain his circumstances, but he can get no pension because his sickness is said not to be due to war-like operation’s. It is unquestionable that prior to the war he enjoyed perfect health. The Minister for Repatriation has promised to investigate the case personally, but I am afraid that this man has little prospect of receiving a pension. Another claimant with whom I have dealt during the last few days is a man over 70 years of age. He is not living with his wife, but because she had received from her son a sum of £300, the pensions of husband and wife have been halved. Instead of worrying Parliament to give pensions to men receiving salaries of £3,500 a year, the Government should exert itself to remove the injustices suffered by the aged and invalid who are really in need. I esteem the members of the High Court Bench, and I am sure that as men of high principle they will not thank the Government for this gratuitous pension scheme. When the High Court was established less than onethird of the members of this House belonged to the Labour party. At that time Parliament was opposed to the payment of pensions to either judges or public servants, but the party to which I belong has at all times maintained that all persons in the employment of the State should receive payment commensurate with the work they perform. I am sure the judges of the High Court have as much business capacity as I possess, and I am sure that if I had been appointed to the Bench at a younger age I could have taken out an endowment policy which would provide me with sufficient to live upon when I retired. The judges were appointed on a definite contract, and I cannot understand why. the Government should, without having received any request from them, propose to vary it.
I am not one of those who believe in hurrying men off the Bench merely because they have attained a certain age. If they still enjoy good health, and are in full possession of their mental faculties; their accumulated knowledge and experience must be of immense value to them in the performance of their duties. We have heard amazing statements about the enormous salaries earned by gentlemen in the legal profession. Before I can be satisfied that those salaries are as high as they are represented to be, I shall want an opportunity to peruse the bank books of some leading lawyers.
– I do not think they overstate their incomes in the taxation returns.
– But those returns are probably nearer the truth than the statements which have been made regarding their earnings. Some years ago I saw the bank book of a learned counsel in New South Wales who took an active part in the Labour movement. It showed that for some years his income varied from £5,300 to £6,000 per annum, but in the first year after he declared himself favorable to certain proposals by the Labour party, it declined 50 per cent. The Attorney-General has not convinced the House that the unusual course proposed in this bill is justified. The justices accepted their positions .without any expectation of pensions; but, possibly the Attorney-General, in submitting this measure to Parliament, is influenced by the consideration of his own prospects in the legal profession. Having regard to the pitiable oases I have mentioned, I would ‘be a traitor to the class I represent if I did not oppose the bill. If the Government is sincerely desirous of paying pensions to those who deserve them, it should attempt to remove the unfair limitations associated with the present pension scheme, so that all good citizens who reach the prescribed age, and all invalids, shall ‘be entitled to the ungrudging assistance of the Commonwealth. I have noticed that many old people have a fear that, unless they retain an amount in the bank for their funeral expenses, they will not be buried, or, at best, will be put into paupers’ graves. Yet, because of small balances to their credit in the savings banks, their pensions are substantially reduced. I hope that one effect of this debate will be to- remove from the pensions scheme the ungenerous limita-tions with which it is now hedged.
.- By interjection, I have been informed that I am an apprentice to politics. Perhaps that is the reason why I am still in doubt as to whether this debate relates to the judiciary, old-age pensions, or the working conditions of seafaring men. I trust, sir, that if my remarks should wander a little from the bill, you will extend to me the same leniency as has been shown to other honorable members.
– The honorable member must not reflect upon the Chair.
– I had no intention to do so, and if I erred unwittingly, I apologize. Honorable members have discussed old-age, invalid, and war pensions, all of which they seem to regard as relevant to this bill. In 1908, the first oldage pensions bill was introduced by the honorable gentleman who is now Speaker (Sir Littleton Groom) ; but the government of which he was a member went out of office before the scheme was put into operation. During the succeeding six months, a Labour Government controlled the affairs of the Commonwealth, and had an opportunity to inaugurate the pensions scheme ; but did not pay out one shilling. The Deakin Ministry, in which Sir William Lyne was Treasurer, came into office early in 1909, and the first old-age pension was paid on the 1st July following. Labour was returned to office in 1910, and although the conditions of which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) spoke with such fervour and, I concede, sincerity - a concession he is not prepared to make to his opponents - existed then, the Labour party, quite consistent with its earlier records, did nothing to remedy them. It was once more returned to power in 1914. and held office for five years, but did nothing to increase the pensions until two months before an election. The increase it granted was based on the increased cost of living. In 1919, when a Nationalist Government came into office with the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) as Treasurer, the old-age pension was increased by 2s. 6d. per week, making it 15s. In 1923 the present Government raised it by another 2s. 6d. a week, and in 1925 again raised it by 2s. 6d. a week, bringing the pension to its present rate of £1 a week. The position summed up is that the first pension was paid by an anti-Labour government, and all the increases, with the exception of two, have been given by anti-
Labour governments. Prom the remarks of honorable members opposite one would imagine that they are the only persons here who have any thought for those in our community who are unfortunately circumstanced. I should raise no objection whatever to the claim of honorable members opposite that they are sympathetic with such persons, if they would only back up their sympathy with works; but when, unlike us, they do not back up their sympathy with works, I think it is time the boot was put on the right foot. In 1909 the amount involved in the payment of invalid and old-age pensions was £2,900,000; in 1919 it was £4,037,000; this year it will probably be £8,000,000. Nearly every increase has been given by “ dreadful “ National governments, which, we are told, would let men and women who have met with misfortune, starve rather than help them. It is regrettable that such accusations should be made by honorable members opposite, even in ignorance, but the record of honorable members on this side of the House easily disproves them. A good deal has also been said about the manner in which this “ dreadful” Government has treated returned soldiers, but that is another accusation which cannot be sustained. The personnel of the Ministry itself disproves it. The Prime Minister is a returned soldier, and there ar« other returned soldiers in the Cabinet, including the Minister for Defence, who has earned the Victoria Cross, and has a long record of distinguished service. I am not at all surprised that honorable members are going out. of their way to curry favour with the soldiers, for undoubtedly the returned soldier votes for us. The history of Australia teaches us that our judiciary has maintained the high traditions of British courts of justice. It is undoubtedly a fact that every man who has taken a seat on the bench has not only made a monetary sacrifice, but has given up many social activities previously enjoyed by him. A judge is, as it were, cut off from the rest of society. He is obliged to abandon many social pastimes in which he indulged with pleasure to himself and with profit to the community. An honorable member opposite has intelligently interjected, “ What rot ! “ but if he takes the trouble to inquire he will find that every judge on taking a position on the bench has given up some social activities in which he previously took a part.
– Can the honorable member name one single sacrifice a judge has made?
– I am not here to do that: but without mentioning names I know of several judges who have made persona] sacrifices in money and other directions.
– Can the honorable member name one?
– Every judge on our Bench to-day has done so. Some honorable members have said that a salary of £3,500 a year spread over a number of years represents an enormous sum of money; but I can refer them to the remarks of other honorable members opposite who have shown that if we want big judges, men who will be above suspicion, and who will rightly interpret the law, we must pay them salaries commensurate with their ability. We have also to bear in mind the fact that the justices of our High Court are called upon to do a tremendous amount of travelling. They are away from their homes for months at a time. I trust that one of the amendments foreshadowed will find a place in the bill, if it is legally possible. Honorable members opposite have referred to the great sacrifices our Attorney-General has made in devoting his time to the service of the Commonwealth, andI am prepared in regard to a bill like this to accept the assurance which he has given, supported as it has been by several honorable members opposite.
– When I interjected during the speech of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons), I wanted to know what a barrister lost by becoming a judge. Surely the honorable member will recognize that a judge holds a position of the highest honour in the community. A member of the State judiciary acts for the Governor when he is absent. A judge has privileges that no barrister has. I have yet to learn what he cannot do. One of the most learned judges of Victoria was at one time president of the Melbourne Cricket Club. No other profession in the world has the advantages enjoyed by the legal profession and the judges.
– What about the medical profession ?
– What doctor has the chance of getting £5 a day as an old-age pension ? When the first Chief Justice of the Commonwealth sought the old-age pension, was it not clearly proved that he had earned something like £100,000 from the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments. Is it not a fact that at that time the oldage pensionerwas asked to live on 12s. 6d. a week? It matters not what party instituted the old-age pension; what we are concerned about is whether the payment is sufficient. Its purchasing power does not equal what Denmark gave her citizens 30 or’ 40 years ago. Her oldage pensioners were paid an amount equal to 10s. of our* money, and in those days that would buy far more than 20s. will buy in Australia to-day. I have the greatest regard and reverence for the High Court Bench. I have four beloved friends who grace it. One of them is the best son, father, husband and brother that I have ever known in my life, and I can give no greater honour to any man than that. Not one of the High Court judges, with the exception of two, has ever tried to simplify the law. The two exceptions are Mr. Justice Higgins and Mr. Justice Isaacs. They did throwout ideas that might simplify the law, especially regarding the legislation which was recently passed, and which is to be submitted to the people by referendum. I do not wish to say anything harsh of the judges of the High Court. I was familiar with the literary work of the late Sir Samuel Griffith, and I was the only member of this House who knew that he had translated the great Italian poet Dante Alighieri into the English vernacular. That work so impressed me that, if he had lost his money by injudicious investment, I was willing to contribute towards a pension for him a sum equivalent to what I annually paid in income tax, provided that other honorable members did the same. According to the division list that was taken on the measure providing for a pension for Sir Samuel Griffith, 25 members voted for it, and onlyfourof them are at present in this House. Eight members voted against the bill, and five of them remain, including the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell).
Old-age pensions are granted under miserable conditions. Will the AttorneyGeneral inform me what salary is received by the Chief Justice of the United States of America?
– According to my information he is receiving about 20,000 dollars a year.
– That is, roughly, about £5,000. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) quoted figures in this House showing that tha Chief Justice of the United States of America received £3,125, and the assistant judges £3,020, without pensions. The salary of the Chief Justice of 118,000,000 Englishspeaking people has since been increased to £5,000. That, surely, is an argument against the payment of pensions to the judges of the High Court. Amongst those who voted for the bill, which did not grant pensions, were Sir Langdon Bonython - and the honorable member for Angas may follow his example - Dr. Carty Salmon, and a great number of others. Is it the Government or this Parliament that pays the salaries of the judges? No. The people outside pay them by taxation, and yet they have ho voice in this matter. Would any honorable member dare to facethe electors and ask them to endorse this bill ? I dare any honorable member, from the Prime Minister to the honorable member for Angas, to contest the Melbourne constituency on . that issue. We have no right to vote away the people’s money without their sanction. It would entail no more than the printing expense to place this question among those to be submitted to the people by referendum. Honorable members may recall that my request for an old-age pension was turned down. I was also turned down when I volunteered for enlistment during the first week of the war.. I have received many letters from old-age pensioners, including the following: -
Edward-street, South .Burnie, Tasmania, 24th September, 1920.
In an issue last year of the Sydney Bulletin I read a brief notice of myself (quite a kindly one), noting me as probably the oldest doctor in Australia. I am 85 years of age, still practising, and I would like to have a pension, if possible. I have suffered, and have been laid up, and the only income I have - my little prorperty - I had to part with to pay my debts after a long illness. The only thing I have is a small pension of £47, left me by a former grateful patient. Up to last year, I could fairly well earn my living.
At 84 years of age, he was doing his best to alleviate the sufferings of humanity, yet he could not obtain a pension. Prior to coming to Australia, he had a hard struggle in England. No one except those who have undertaken the work of a locum tenens in some of the manufacturing .towns in England can imagine how hard the work was in those days. He went to the West Indies, and subsequently was in. Rockhampton and Brisbane, Queensland. His letter goes on to say -
I have had many severe accidents and illnesses,’ and attribute my tenacity in life to heredity -
I think he is right. A strong father and mother generally ensure a long life in their children. He continues - and to a happy disposition to view seriously only the bright side of life.
I sent him the following reply -
Yours welcomed. I applied for the old-age pension, for two reasons ; one to show every old man and woman in Australia that there was no disgrace attached to it; the second, so that I could criticise more severely the contemptible action of the Government of that day in giving one man £5 a day. What I would suggest to you is this, that if you apply for a pension, they will deduct £1 from every £10 you are receiving, and you can get the remainder. Go, friend, apply for your pension; there is no disgrace in it.
I repeat what I said when the former bill was brought in - that if the Government will give to old-age pensioners £5 a month, I shall have no more to say. I hold in my hand documents that are the lineal descendants of the accursed peor-house system in England. They contain questions that every old man and woman must answer, no matter how honorable their lives have been. Their poverty is not a crime. I suppose that Christ did not leave sufficient to pay for His burial if He had hal to be buried.” The personal form contains nine questions, and another that must be filled in by a friend who has known the claimant for not less than twenty years contains ten. The questions are of a most private and searching character. In all, 84 have to be answered. Fancy compelling a judge to answer any of the following questions :-r-
How long have you known claimant?
In what places have you known claimant?
Are you related to claimant?
Could the claimant have been absent for any considerable period from Australia without your being acquainted of tlie fact?
What are the incidents that assist you in recollecting the length of your acquaintance with claimant ?
How frequently have you seen claimant during the last three years?
What is the nature and the value of property of all kinds which you believe claimant to be possessed of ?
How has claimant been maintained latterly?
The answer to the last question would be, “ On a salary of £3,500 a year.” Then follow these questions -
If claimant is applying for an invalid pension, in your opinion is claimant permanently incapacitated from work?
What income and property has claimant’s wife or husband?
What would a judge think if he were asked to state the income that his wife had? A dear friend of mine the other day had both’ his legs broken. He was totally incapacitated. Yet, unless he is incapacitated for life - and no medical man can certify to that - he cannot get any assistance from, the Commonwealth. Consider the case of a washerwoman whose duty compels her to stand at a tub, or of a poor woman whose work entails the use of a sewing machine. The breaking of a leg in either of those cases would render the unfortunate woman incapable of earning her living, yet she would not be entitled to the invalid pension. Here are some more questions -
Where were you born (name the place and country. If you have documentary proof of age, it should, if practicable, be attached to this page) ?
When were you born (give exact date it possible) ?
If not born in Australia, when did you first arrive in Australia?
From what port did you sail for Australia?
What was the name of the ship?
At what port did you land?
Were you a passenger, or immigrant, or member of the crew?
Fancy asking a judge if he were a member of the crew of a ship !
Since you first arrived in Australia have you visited New Zealand or any other country; if so, how long altogether were you away from Australia (give particulars, including dates of departure from and return to Australia) ?
Mr. Justice Williams has resided in England for upwards, of twenty years since his retirement, during the whole of which time he has drawn his pension. The agreement into which he had entered made provision for a pension, and he is entitled to draw it. Other questions are as follow -
Are you single, married, widow, or widower?
If you are married, what is the full name of your husband ot wife?
Where and when were you married?
If you are a widow or married woman, what was your maiden name?
What are the names, dates of birth, places of birth, and places where births were registered, of your children ?
What are the names and addresses of your children now living?
That question is asked with the object of finding out whether any money is being sent to the poor old man or woman. The ensuing questions are -
Have you, or has your wife or husband, at any time applied for a war pension; if so, when and where?
Have you, or has your wife or husband, at any time applied for an .invalid or old-age pension; if so, when and where?
Were you born a British subject?
Are you a naturalized British subject; if so, when and where were you naturalized? (Paper and other evidence must be produced to the magistrate.)
– An additional hardship is that lue whole of the process must be gone through again in a searching cross-examination before a magistrate at a later date.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I have yet to learn that this is not a bill to provide an oldage pension for judges when they retire from the Bench. All who accept money from the people should be required to answer the same questions. Here are some of the questions asked of old-age pensioners -
How much per week are you earning now?
By whom were you employed during the last twelve months?
How much did you earn during the last twelve months?
Did you receive board or lodging besides money wages?
How much did each of your children not living with you contribute to your support during the last twelve months?
How much did each of your children living with you contribute towards the maintenance of the home during the last twelve months?
Do you keep a shop or lodginghouse or boardinghouse, or conduct business of any kind, or have you an interest in any shop or business?
What is the nature of the same, and what profit did you make during the last twelve months ?
Has any one agreed to maintain you in whole or in part, or to make any payments to you in consideration of property you have transferred ?
During the last twelve months did you receive free board or free lodging, or both ?
What other income have you received during the last twelve months? [Reply should include rents after deduction of repairs, &c, dividends from banks or companies, interest on money lent or in banks, and any other income. The nature and amount of income in each case should be stated.]
– I must ask the honorable member not to proceed on those lines.
– I ask the House to accept my statement that there are 89 abominable questions asked of old-age pensioners, whose only crime is that they belong to the poor. No member of this House, when fighting an election, would dare to support such an inquisition. Ought we to ask these questions of oldage pensioners who claim £1 a week, and not ask them of judges who are to receive £5 a day ? The infamy of it ! The insult to their intelligence as honorable men ! I charge them, as men of honour, with being as bad as the Government that brought in this bill if they accept this pension. I speak strongly, because I feel so. I work among the poor, and I know them. “What is the law of the country? We speak of courts of “justice”; but is it not known that, if you have a long purse, you can buy the most accomplished lawyer to discover technical legal points that will often secure a verdict against those who have a just claim? Is there any simplified court in this country like the Court of the Prudhommes in France and Belgium? The procedure which we call law and justice in this country is not justice. When I look at some of the results of it I feel angry, and I speak as I feel. Think of that old hero of 85 years of age! Would any honorable member, before his constituents, say that it is fair to give that man 12s. 6d. a week, and the Chief Justice £5 a day ? A plague upon it ! The honorable members who register their vote in favour of this pension will be accused by all who study the division list in Hansand of not having done their duty humanely or justly. This proposition should be placed before the people who pay. It is merely a surreptitious way of giving away the people’s money in large sums. When I spoke on this subject before, I referred to some of. the unfortunate soliders and the sufferings of their mothers. My remarks are reported on page 9887 of Hansard of the 19th December, 1918 -
Many of these soldiers of ours enlisted when they were only eighteen years of age, and that is very often the most expensive time of a boy’s life. As a rule, boys of from eighteen to twenty-one years of age can take very little into their homes, but when they reach the age of twenty-five they are able to give substantial help to their people. «
– This would have been a fitting opportunity to make provision for the unmarried mother of a soldier to whom the honorable member and I have referred in this House more than once.
– Yes. I am proud to think that the laws of Australia no longer contain what was an impertinent insult to thousands of innocent children. Thanks to Mr. Andrew Fisher and those who supported his Government, the word “illegitimate” has been erased from all our Commonwealth laws.
– I think the honorable member himself was more responsible for that than Mr. Andrew Fisher.
– Every supporter of the Government at that time helped in the reform. Every honorable member on the Government and Opposition side felt that it was an injustice to have that vile word used by our departments. I have discovered only one department that again used it, and that was the Defence Department. I complained of it, and the offence was not repeated. Many members younger than I may live to see what I venture to prophesy, that when the people have the real power of the referendum, initiative and recall - the power to initiate laws and to recall a member of this House if he breaks his word - such a bill as this will be impossible. If the people had that power no government would dare to bring in a bill to provide huge pensions for men who are being paid large salaries, particularly if it was at the same time neglecting to provide for those whose faces are made thin by want, compelling them to live on £1 a week, and allowing combines and profiteers to grab a portion of even their little needs of food and clothing. A bill like this should be placed before the people, and the people’s views of it should be respected. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) spoke of the amount of salary a member of this House would draw in 40 years. I have sat in this Parliament and in the Victorian State Parliament for 37 years. When I first entered political life I owned 30 houses. I thank God that I do not own one of them now. I made each tenant the owner of the house he occupied, and I am proud of it. I have endeavoured, during my life, to set aside a quarter of my income to help those who are not as well off as myself ; and when parliamentary salaries were increased I set aside a third of my salary for the same purpose. I regret that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) spoke as he did. He is reputed to be one of the wealthiest wheat-growing farmers in Western Australia. I know of only one, Mr. Hedges, who was at one time a member of this House, who is better off than he is. In these circumstances, it ill became him to speak as he did. I can only conclude that it was through lack of thought and consideration that he censured the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) as he did. Rather than die a. vervrich man, I would prefer to die like a mangy dog in a gutter. If God be God. I would rather face him as poor as the Christ who died on the Cross than heaped up with wealth, while there is starvation, misery, and wretchedness in the world.
– This bill is founded upon general considerations of apublic character. It is not supported by the argument that the present members of the High Court have theright to pensions. I agree entirely with honorable membersof theOpposition..who have said that the present members of the High Court accepted their positions subject to well-understood terms, and have no right to claim anything more from the Commonwealth than the terms of their contract give. Accordingly, it is not on any contractual grounds, or on grounds affecting the individual right of members of the High Court, that the bill is supported, but, as I have said, on general considerations of a public character. Under the Constitution the judges of the High Court must bold office for life. It is important that honorable members should understand that the present judges did not, by their own decision, confer upon themselves a tenure for life as some persons in the com munity appear to think. They were in fact appointed to their positions without any limitation as to time, and, according to well-known legal principles, were thus appointed for life. The decision of the High Court given in 1918 that High Court justices must be so appointed, only affects future members of the Bench. Accepting, as we must, the position that justices of the High Court under the present Constitution are necessarily appointed for life, Parliament must face the position that the efficiency of the court may require that it should be possible for judges to retire from their positions with dignity and a relative amount of ease; thatthe provision of pensions is desirable from this point of view is so obvious that it hardly requires to be pointed out. I spoke of these matters in introducing this bill, and I do not propose to repeat now what I said then. While I do not suggest that members of the legal profession who accept positions on the Bench are actuated solely by pecuniary considerations - for I know, in fact, that that is not the case - yet it must be recognized that the judicial positions available under the Commonwealth Government, shouldbe at least as attractive as those which are available under the State Governments. Unfortunately, at present that is hardly the case. Where there are alternative opportunities of dignified public service, it is not surprising that men who are willing to serve their country as judges are more ready to accept positions under the State Government than under the Commonwealth Government, for the reason that the State positions carry pensions with them, and Commonwealth positions do not.. This bill has been introduced, not for the purpose of honouring any supposed obligation to the present members of the High Court, but in order to assist Parliament to discharge its duty in providing that the important work of the High Court may be performed as efficiently as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
In committee (Consideration ,of message of the Deputy of the GovernorGeneral) :
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue bc made for the purposes of a bill for an act for the purpose of amending the Judiciary Act 1003-1920.
Resolution reported, and, by leave, adopted.
Message received from the Senate; intimating that it had agreed to the amendments recommended by the Deputy of “the Governor-General.
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 July 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260707_reps_10_114/>.