14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Finance 1933-34 - Treasurer’s
Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for year ended 30th June, 1934, accompanied by the Report of the AuditorGeneral.
Munitions Supply Board - Report for period 1st July, 1931, to 30th June, 1933; together with Report of the Commonwealth Government Clothing Factory.
Ordered to ho printed.
Customs Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 19.
Wine Export Bounty Art - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1935, No. 19.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General indicate to the House whether legislation will be introduced during this period of the session with the object of preventing interference with local wireless reception?
– Icannot give the honorable member the answer that he seeks; but if he has a specific complaint to make regarding a particular locality, and will lodge it with the department, investigations will be made into it.
– Recently, a contract for the supply of meat to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea went to the Argentina when preference ought to have been given to Australia. Can the Acting Prime Minister give any reason for the passing over of the Australian meat market?
– I am unacquainted with the matter raised by the honorable member, but shall make inquiries to ascertain what the position is.
– On the 12th February last, the Prime Minister was reported to have said that any attempt to curtail exports of meat from Australia must be strenuously resisted. Will the Acting Prime Minister state what action has been taken by himself, the Prime Minister, or any member of the Government, to oppose the placing of restrictions on the export of Australian products?
– Ever since this Government took office it has strenuously resisted any suggestion directed towards the imposition of restrictions on the export of meat from Australia, with the result that, up to the present, nothing has been done to hinder our sending forward the whole of the stocks available for export. The object of the delegation that is now proceeding to England is to make representations face to face with the British Government with a view to avoiding any restriction in the future.
– Has the attention of the right honorable gentleman been drawn to the statement reported to have been made in Melbourne recently by the Under Secretary for Employment to the effect that his refusal to join the Ministry was based upon the fact that a policy of restriction was inevitable, and it was desired that some one who claimed to represent primary production should be associated with any action considered necessary in that regard? In view of that statement and of the recent refusal to permit the export of mutton, how can the right honorable gentleman justifyhis answer to the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) ?
– I think that the honorable member for West Sydney has misquoted the statement of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment, which was that he had resigned from the Ministry to make room for the representation of those who claimed to speak on behalf of country interests, so that they might be in a position to deal with the question of restriction when it arose.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Both yesterday and to-day, the asking and answering of question have been interrupted on almost every occasion by the interjections of a number of honorable members. This is distinctly disorderly, and if the practice is continued I shall be obliged to call on the next business.
Mr.FAIRBAIRN.- Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to articles that have appeared in the press recently, directing attention to the entirely inadequate dry-docking facilities in Australian ports, particularly at Melbourne? In view of the grave danger thus caused to trade and to defence, has the Government considered the advisability of making available a sum out of the unemployment relief funds for the provision of more adequate docking facilities, particularly in Melbourne?
– The question asked by the honorable member involves a matter of policy, and therefore cannot be answered. His suggestion, however, will be given consideration.
– Is the Minister administering War Service Homes in a position to inform the House as to whether ornot a new policy has been evolved, to take effect after August, 1935, the date of expiry of the present policy, under which returned soldiers are permitted to pay according to their ability to do so, and still retain full security in their homes? Will the nature of the future policy be announced before the House rises next month, and will honorable members be given an opportunity to debate it ?
– I cannot say whether or not a pronouncement of policy will be made before the House rises; but I do know that consideration has been given to the extension of the provisions of the Relief Committee’s Report of 1932.
Expectancy of Life
– Yesterday the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) asked me a question concerning a reported statement by the chairman of the Repatriation Commission, Colonel Semmens, in reference to the premature ageing of soldiers. I have since received from the chairman of the commission some information which I propose now to supply to the honorable member.Referring to a statement which appeared in a recent issue of the Age newspaper, Colonel Semmens writes -
When asked yesterday regarding statements which have recently appeared in the press that ex-soldiers as a class died prematurely, and much earlier than those who did not serve in the Great War, I stated that I regarded it as necessary for the peace of mind of the soldiers themselves - and for that of their relatives and friends - that some authoritative statement should he made. I went on to say that the average age of a thousand men who served in the Great War, and who have recently died, was 49½ years, whereas the average age of death in similar age groups of men who did not serve as members of the naval and military forces was approximately the same. I said further that a consultant had said, “ My experience over the past twenty years has been such as to prove to me beyond all possible doubt that the propagation of statements as to early death and the incidence of disease in ex-soldiers has most serious effects, probably wide-spread, in increasing invalidity, incapacity and unhappiness among ex-soldiers. The diseases from which they died were similar in nature and incidence to those that commonly affect the civilian community at that period of life.”
I think it inadvisable to offer any comment beyond that which I made yesterday, namely, that, taking a general view, I do not agree with the opinions put forward, but as I have not yet had an opportunity to probe the statistics from which these somewhat remarkable deductions are drawn, I ask the honorable member to allow me further time to supplement what I have now said.
-I remind the right honorable gentleman that when a Minister desires to read a lengthy statement he should ask for leave to do so.
– Does not the Minister for Repatriation consider that the latest statement by Colonel Semmens that returned soldiers who had died had an average age the same as that of those who had not gone to the war, proves the incorrectness of his previous statement that the expectancy of life of ex-soldiers had not been reduced? Is it not strange that, if returned men who were passed as fit are dying at the average age of 49£ years, the average death age of those who for the most part were rejected as unfit for service should be the same ?
– My attention was not drawn to the previous remark by Colonel Semmens, but. it would appear to be reasonable- to deduce from the later statement that a war might be regarded as a kind of health resort, .and that the way to prolong life was to go to war. However, shall look into the matter.
– As I understand’ that the period for which the Australian Broadcasting Commission was appointed expires in June next, I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether he will supply me with the following information: - (1) How many meetings have been called up to date by the Broadcasting Commission; and (2) what has been the attendance at these meetings by the individual members i
– I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister consult the Commonwealth Bank Board with a view to the adoption of a competitive system of examinations for appointments to the junior staff of the bank ?
– The control of the Commonwealth Bank is vested entirely in the board, so that all I can do is-
– The right honorable gentleman could consult with the board.
– I cannot consult with the board; but I will submit the honorable member’s question to it.
– Is the Minister for Health in a position to state what action, if any, the Government proposes to take in respect of the treatment of paralysis by Sister Kenny?
– In reply to the honorable member, who was good enough to tell me yesterday that he proposed to address a question to me on this subject, I desire to state that the Government has the fullest sympathy with any proposal for the relief of the crippled, the paralysed, and those unable through physical disability to care for and support themselves. Sister Kenny is now in Canberra, and we are considering the evidence which she has submitted, and which is otherwise available as to the value of her work, and the possibility of adopting her methods over a wider field. The honorable member will appreciate that in this matter the Commonwealth has no constitutional powers and cannot act directly.
– I desire, Mr. Speaker, to address a question to you. Yesterday I was proceeding to put a question to the Acting Prime Minister, when you intervened and ruled, before I had had an opportunity to complete the question, that it was not in order. May I ask on what grounds you based your decision, since the question has a bearing on a very important matter?
– I would not, as Speaker, presume to judge whether a question addressed to a Minister by an honorable member was or was not, in his opinion, important. I ruled the question out of order on the ground that it had nothing whatever to do with the administration of a department by the Minister to whom it was directed.
– Is it possible for you, Mr. Speaker, to determine that an honorable member’s question has no bearing on the administration of any public department until the question has been asked?
– I had heard sufficient of the question to be able to judge that it was not one affecting the administration of any public department by the Minister to whom it was directed.
– Has it not been customary for previous Speakers to assist honorable members in the matter of directing their questions aright when they have been directed to the wrong Minister? Moreover, has it been brought under your notice that one Minister, when asked a question yesterday, was unaware that he was expected to deal with questions affecting the department concerned? In view of that confusion caused by the recent allocation of ministerial duties, would it not have been better to follow the custom of previous Speakers, and assist honorable members to direct their questions to the proper Minister, than to shut out their questions altogether ?
– I can only assume that the honorable member has misunderstood me. I did not interfere with the question asked by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) on the ground that it should have been directed to another Minister, but for the reason that it was not one affecting public ad- . ministration at all.
– I wish to ask - a further question, Mr. Speaker, largely for future guidance. I should like to know upon what authority or premise you based your ruling that the question asked by the honorable member for East Sydney did not come within the province or jurisdiction, of any public department? I ask this question with the fullest knowledge, obtained from my having been a member of a government, and as such having been associated with various departments, of public administration. In addition I have actually been associated with these departments when the appointment of High Court judges have been determined. For this reason I cannot understand why you should intimate that a question of the character asked by the honorable member has nothing to do with any department or with public affairs.
-The honorable member has indicated that he has had experience as a Minister, but even his experience as a member of the House should have guided him in submitting his question to the Chair in proper form. He is distinctly out of order in proceeding to argue his case and dispute the ruling of the Chair. If he or any other honorable member desires information which it is within the province of “the Chair to give, it will be given, but the Chair is not prepared to debate its ruling over and over again.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General state what progress, if any, has been made in the installation of automatic telephones in country districts?
– Originally, I think, four automatic telephones were installed in Victorian country districts. Since then contracts have been entered into for the installation of eight more. Two of these will be erected in Queensland and the rest in other States. Further contracts will be entered into.
– In June, 1934, I directed a question to the then Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill), relative to the holding of an examination for the position of telegraph messengers in Brisbane. The honorable gentleman then replied -
The position in regard to the recruitment of new staff has recently been closely reviewed, but it would be premature at this stage to hold examinations for permanent appointments in that State. In view of the improved business conditions however, it is hoped that it will bc possible to resume recruitment early next year. You may be assured that the matter is being closely watched and immediately circumstances justify such a course the necessary examinations will be held.
In view of that promise I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether steps have been taken bv the Government to resume recruitment, and on what date it is proposed to hold the examinations referred to?
– I shall obtain the information sought by the honorable member.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Defence whether it is the intention of the Government to encourage the establishment in Australia of factories capable of supplying aeroplanes and aeroplane equipment for use by the Defence Department as well as for civil aviation purposes ?
– Tes, as far as practicable.
– Referring to the subject of the manufacture of air craft in Australia for defence purposes, is it not a fact that firms with plants such as that of General Motors-Holden’s Ltd. are capable of building all the aeroplanes that would be required in Australia in the event of a national emergency?
-to-date nature of the plants possessed by the enterprises mentioned by the honorable member, I point out that unless they have the necessary machinery for the construction of aeroplanes, and the latest designs regarding them, they would not be competent to deal with such an important matter.
Statement by Mr. j. M. NIALL
– Has the attention of the Acting Treasurer been called to a statement published in the press on the 27th February, and reported to have been made by Mr. j. M. Niall, of Goldsbrough, Mort & Co., on his return from England, that there has been no improvement in Australia’s reputation in Britain during the last three years ? If so, how does the honorable gentleman reconcile it with the assertion he made last night that all is well so far as our financial position in Great Britain is concerned?
– I saw the statement in the press attributed to Mr. j. M. Niall. I do not consider that it has any bearing on the debate which took place in this House yesterday. As I stated then, the Government is of the opinion that the trade balance need cause no alarm in this country.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) asked me if I would take steps to prevent the Arbitration Court from becoming an instrument to make possible sweating conditions. I then asked the honorable member to put his question on the notice-paper. Although he failed to do so, I desire to inform him that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is charged with the duty of hearing and determining industrial disputes. It would be highly improper for any Minister of the Crown to place himself in the position of interfering in any way with the Court in carrying out its powers and functions under the Act. In this case, the parties agreed to arbitration, and the Court has made its award. I am not prepared to interfere with the Court’s decision in the matter.
– Yesterday, in hia statement regarding the wheat industry, the Acting Prime Minister said that the Government proposed to set aside £12,000,000 for the purpose of adjusting the debts of farmers. Can the right honorable gentleman say whether the
Government’s proposal apply only to wheat-farmers, or to other primary producers as -well? Further, can he say whether the Government has the money in hand, or proposes to float a loan to obtain it?
– The noticepaper contains a reference to a measure dealing with this subject, which will be fully explained later. The money will be made available to all primary producers at the rate of approximately £3,000,000 a year.
– In view of the many conflicting statements with regard to “ “Woolstra “, a German substitute for wool, particularly that made recently by the Premier of New South Wales following the receipt of a report from the representative of that State now in London, which, he said, would reassure Australian, wool-growers, is the Acting Prime Minister in a position to give the House any authentic information on this subject as the result of inquiries by the Federal Government?
– The Commonwealth Government is having full inquiries made regarding “ woolstra “, but at this stage I have no authentic information about it to supply to the House.
– Recently the Minister for Defence visited Adelaide and, at my request, inspected the drain near the Keswick Military Hospital, of which I have complained on numerous occasions. While there, he received a deputation representing the Unley City Council, the West Torrens District Council, and those whose property had been damaged by recent floods. Can the Minister now say whether further consideration has been given to this subject, also the future protection of residents of Anzac Highway and surrounding districts, and, if so, to what extent relief will be granted?
– The deputation urged that flood waters in the vicinity of the Keswick Military Hospital should be diverted without causing injury to adjoining property. I have already informed the honorable gentleman, in reply to his many representations, that the department will assume the responsibility for the diversion of the flood waters in this area. Instructions have been given for the work to be carried out with the utmost expedition.
– Is it the intention of the Government to give this House an opportunity, during the present sittings of Parliament, to discuss the advisability of appointing a royal commission to inquire into the Australian banking system, particularly with a view to deciding the terms of reference to the commission ?
– The intention of the Government to appoint a commission has already been made public, and the Prime Minister is endeavouring to obtain the best personnel available for the purpose.
Tariff Board’s Report
– Has the Minister yet received a report from the Tariff Board on motor body panels, and, if so, when is it likely to be made available to honorable members ?
– The report of the Tariff Board on motor body panels has been received, and is now being considered by the Government. If any variation of the existing tariff is decided upon by the Government, action will be taken to table the report.
– Has the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) made any further progress in the direction of carrying out the promise made by him to officers of the Waterside Workers Fede ration in Victoria that Cabinet would be consulted with a view to having suitable places provided for the engagement of the men employed on the waterfront?
– I shall answer this question. The Minister for Health carried out the promise given by him. When Parliament was in recess, he investigated this matter in Melbourne, and arrangements have now been made with the Melbourne Harbour Trust and the Victorian Government for three pick-up places to be provided. These, I believe, will meet all requirements.
– In regard to emergency relief work in New South Wales, is the Minister for Health aware that sometimes a returned soldier’s pension gives him. an income ls. above the statutory permissible limit, which, I understand, is £2 a week from all sources for a married man. Should a returned soldier, who is in receipt of a small war pension, which yields him slightly more than the permissible amount of income, be debarred from participating in relief work? Will the Minister suggest to the New South Wales Government that a war pension should not be counted as income in such cases ?
– I appreciate the importance of the matter raised by the honorable member, but I am not sure exactly what can be done regarding it. If the honorable gentleman will supply me with details of a specific case-
– I sent the right honorable gentleman a letter on this subject some months ago.
– I have received about 5,000 letters on such matters. However, I shall comply with the honorable member’s request.
– What steps does the Government intend to take to carry out the promise made from time to time that the Constitution will be completely revised?
-That matter is one of policy, and will be considered by the Government when the Prime Minister has returned from Great Britain.
Report of Tariff Board
– Has the report of the Tariff Board on agricultural machinery and parts been lost or destroyed? If not, will the Minister for Trade and Customs have it laid on the table, so that those who are keenly interested may be apprised of its nature?
– In view of the long parliamentary experience of the honorable member, I am surprised that he should ask such a question. The honorable member should know that ‘reports by the Tariff Board are never lost or destroyed. Nor are they tabled before they have been discussed in Cabinet, and the recommendations incorporated in a tariff schedule. The report to which the honorable member has referred is one of those which are now being considered by the Government.
– Is the Minister’ in charge of War Service Homes aware that yesterday the wife and children of an ex-soldier were evicted from a home in Hurstville? Has he noticed in one of the Sydney newspapers a photograph of ex- “ diggers “ removing this woman’s furniture, and is he aware that the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), when acting as Minister in charge of War Service Homes, gave an assurance to the House that no ex-soldier’s family would be evicted while he was Minister? Will the present Minister carry out the undertaking then given to the House?
– The case to which the honorable member has referred is dealt with in an answer to a question which he asked yesterday; but I do not consider that the best purposes are served. by mentioning the names of individuals in asking such questions.
– But the department has taken this family to the court.
– The honorable member is now giving further publicity to the case.. This case has been under consideration for over two years. Although the lady concerned is the wife of a returned soldier she is neither a tenant nor a client of the War Service Homes Commission. The soldier himself is the tenant, but he happens to be serving a sentence in a gaol in New South Wales, and the commission cannot deal with anybody except him. I have personally examined the papers in this case and I know that they have also been examined by Mr. Thorby and his predecessor in the administration of the War Service Homes Department. I have read the
Reports furnished by -the inspectors and ‘have formed the opinion that no greater consideration could have been shown to ‘anybody than hus been shown to ‘this person. ‘-The department went to considerable ‘trouble to find a home that would be suitable f dr this family, had the house repainted, and then offered it ‘to the woman at a -very considerable reduction in rent, in order to ‘allow :her to vacate the home she was ‘then ‘occupying. There would be absolutely ho chance ‘o’f [the soldier who -‘owned the house ever ‘being able to “meet his ‘commitments in respect of the property even if he were not ‘in his present position, for -the accumulated lia’bilities exceed the original cost of the property by -£300 or £4’00. I-t was only within the last three or four weeks that Che department, without being ‘under any obligation to do so, found a house ‘that would ‘have been suitable for this woman at >a ‘Cost Which ‘would have been within her capacity to pay. I repeat that the department -has shown every consideration in this case ‘as, in f act, it does in every -case. I have really been surprised at the length to which the officers go in order to .meet cases of .hardship.
OIL .EXPLORATION’. Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON:.- Will the Acting Prime Minister inform me whether the oil expert who is about to visit Australia for the purpose of assisting in the search for oil in this country will be as freely available to private individuals interested in -the search for oil as he will be to Government mining experts^? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that very marked differences of opinion exist as to the presence of oil in Australia between Government mining experts, both Commonwealth and State, and certain private persons who have backed their favorable view with hard cash? I wish to make sure, therefore, that these private persons will have as free access to the visiting expert as public officials will have.
– I do not quite understand what the honorable member means by “ free access “, but I assure him that no difficulties will be placed in the way of the freest possible consultation between the oil expert and people interested in the subject in this country.
Formal Motion for Adjournment. -Mr. . SPEAKER.-I have received from the honorable member for ‘the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) an intimation that he desires -to move the adjournment of the House this -afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The granting of -SO mining leases to persons associated with the Arnheim Land Gold Development ‘Company, N.L., a ‘concern founded on a dishonest prospectus and directed by persons whose presence -in the Northern Territory is highly undesirable.”
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I move–
T-hat the House do now adjourn. I am loath to delay the ordinary business of the House, but I feel that for the reputation of rnining in the Northern Territory and in Australia generally Parliament should deal promptly with an unsavoury scandal. I assure the Minister for the -Interior that I do not take this action in any hostile spirit. I do not doubt that he has the game objectives in view as I have, and I feel that what I am doing will strengthen his hand and help him in the future to give a fair deal to the genuine prospector and mining investor and a warning to scoundrels and dishonest promoters.
The Arnheim Land Gold Development Company was formed in February, 1933, the prime mover being John Bailey, who had been for years notorious from his* association with the sliding panel ballotbox scandals of 1923. One of the present directors, unle’ss he has resigned within the last two months, is Frank Green, of whom Mr. Justice Harvey, who sat as ‘a royal commission to inquire into the Bunnerong Power House scandals, and a contract entered into by the Municipal Council of Sydney for steam raising plant at Bunnerong Power House, 1’928, said in his report - -It does appear significant that immediately after the acceptance of the tender, Mi-, and Mrs. Green commenced to -invest in property-, and to become ‘much better off than they had been . . .
The story that Mr. and Mrs. Green tell to account for the possession of £1,500 at that time is possible, but very improbable. That Mrs. Green should for twelve years’, during which they were in necessitous circumstances, keep £1,500 in notes concealed under the floor of their house is the acme of improbability . . .
Mr. Green admitted in the box that he had for years been deliberately defrauding the revenue with respect to his income tax. No excuse is suggested by him. I have no doubt his only reason was that he would not be found out. Under these circumstances Mr. Green does not stand before the world as a person of so unblemished a character that a graft transaction is the last thing with which he would be likely to be associated . . .
Although I cannot say that the evidence is so strong that if a charge were laid against Mr. Green he would certainly be convicted, in my opinion it is most probable and I believe that moneys were paid to Mr. Green as Mr. Maling alleged.
Mr. Green was afterwards prosecuted but could not be convicted, I believe, because bis convicted accomplice, Maling, would not give evidence against him. This Prank Green is now the director of* honesty at the Arnheim gold-field and is reported to have sponsored a resolution demanding that the elected member for the Northern Territory should resign his seat.
The first premise of the prospectus of this company was that it had a lease of a mining area which had been worked for two years by Francis Birtles at a personal cost of £1,000. It was supposed to be on new ground, on a field unknown to anybody until the discoverer revealed it to the promoters under seal on the 6th February, 1933. It was stated in the prospectus that the assays showed from 6 ounces to 15 ounces to the ton. The promoters alleged that they had investigated Mr. Birtles’ statements, which included a prediction that the field would become one of the greatest gold-fields in Australia, and that the reef was ten feet wide on the surface. It later transpired that the company had no lease, though it claimed that one could be inspected at the office of its solicitor, who was also a promoter. The field, which it claimed to be new, had actually been discovered in 1920, and though it had been inspected several times for option-holders by competent engineers, it had been rejected. Mr. Birtles had never held any mining tenement in the Northern Territory. Two tons of ovc carrying free gold which were sent to Port Kembla in August, 1933, and reported by the manager to have been taken from two shafts sunk after the 9th. July, 1933, were declared by the warden to have been on the ground in 1922. Despite the fact that that ore assayed a rich yield of 4.31 oz. to the ton, it appears to have been passed over regularly by prospectors who were almost continually on the field during the intervening eleven years. If it had ‘existed, those prospectors could have dollied it and made a rich haul. In these circumstances, there must have been grave suspicion that salting had taken place. From the time the company was formed until the end of 1934, when it was alleged that permission to crush was refused pending application for leases, I cannot find a single statement on a material matter made by the company or its manager which was not fraudulently untrue. These are some of the statements which appear in the diary of events - 20th February, 1934. - Bailey says he has 1,000 tons of ore at grass and thousands more waiting for the battery. Permission given to buy machinery to fully develop the mine. 10th July. - Warden says there is not enough ore at grass to justify crushing.
Ctb November. - Company announces that it has been refused permission to crush until it has pegged out and applied for leases - a 48-hour job. 19th January. - Company announces in writing that the battery which was to be used to fully develop the mine is only a pilot battery for testing leases. 31st January. - The 48-hour job of pegging and applying for leases is completed, and it is announced that crushing has begun. Also, that the results will be available before the end of February. At intervals during February it is announced that crushing is proreeding^ - from a costean, although the battery is alongside three shafts in which the company has repeatedly said that it had ore on a ]0-ft. lode running from 2 oz. to 25 oz.
It appears to me that the company had only the proverbial “ three holes in the ground “. The Daily Telegraph, of the 13th March, 1935, published a report on the work at Arnheim Land as follows : -
Arnheim Land Development Company reports that new wells have been installed in Nos. 1 and 2 amalgamating tables and the plates of these two stamps are in good order. The company has commenced putting through these two stamps a sample of 100 tons of ore taken from the 39 chain costean. Nos. 2 and 4 amalgamating tables are now having the wooden wells installed, and, as soon as they are complete, the better-grade ore from the 39 chain costean will be put through these two stamps.
This, after six weeks of alleged crushing. It will benoted that the company reports having better grade ore. Yet during the six weeks it had ostensibly been operating, its shares had been permitted to fall from 9s. to 2s. 6d. If the company has good ore yet has let it remain on the field, and allowed its shareholders’ assets to waste, it. is just as dishonest as if it possessed no ore at all. Assays by the warden in June, 1934, from the dumps and No. 3 shaft showed nothing above 3 dwt. 19 gr. except in 3 cwt. of special ore segregated in a paddock, from which up to 5 oz. was obtained. The manager reported to his shareholders on the 24th July, 1934, that, up to the end of the previous month, he had done 2,000 feet of costeaning. On the 26th July, two days later, he reported to the warden that he had done only 734 feet of costeaning. Other figures in the two reports did not coincide. The same fraudulent prevarication went on all the time. In December last, the directors announced that they did not intend to proceed with the full development of the mine, but that they proposed to take up 80 leases for the purpose of further flotations. Further rascality, Mr. Speaker ! On the 24th January last and again on the 6th February, the Sydney Bulletin dealt with the operations of the company, and sufficient evidence was adduced to lead the Minister to compel the company to submit to a special investigation by assayers. The department was already in possession of information sufficient to show that the flotation constituted one of the biggest scandals that has over taken place in the history of Australian gold-mining. Yet, in spite of that, and knowing the flotation to be crooked from end to end, on the 12th February, before the departmental investigation was completed, it granted 80 leases to the company and its dummies. In two years this company has won only 8½ oz. of gold, and that from ore lying on the ground since 1922. The Government should cancel the leases, which should never have been granted to these arrant rascals. The department is in possession of a report by two officers whom it declares to be competent, but is delaying publication. Why this delay? Is it because it is sending Dr. Woolnough there to investigate the position? That gentleman has already been there and has reported in skeleton form on the Arnheim field. But what are his qualifications? Not only is he not a gold man; his reports on oil have also proved so baseless on previous occasions as to cost investors tens of thousands of pounds. On this subject the Sydney Morning Herald, in its issue of the 22nd October, 1931, published the following paragraph: -
Dr. Woolnough’s Hopes. “Queensland possesses oilfields; of this I have no doubt” said the geological adviser to the Commonwealth (Dr. W.G. Woolnough).
Dr. Woolnough specializes in oil; yet on that same day, 22nd October, 1931, the investing public took so little notice that oil shares were quoted as follows: Australian Roma Oil, No. 1, 2d.; No. 2, 2d. ; Roma Block1½d. How much notice will the public take of Dr. Woolnough’s gold reports, a subject on which he does not profess to be an expert? If a report by a practical gold-mining expert is required why does not the Government demand the release of Mr. Turner’s report on the field? The whole behaviour of the department in regard to territory mining is placing the Government under grave suspicion. The following paragraph, which appeared in a Darwin newspaper, gives some idea of how matters are viewed at Tennant’s Creek -
Our member asked questions and got answers that make us wonder if Cabinet members have got shares in the monopoly that is getting control of the field.
I cannot subscribe to that belief, but the Government has only itself to blame if prospectors arrive at damaging conclusions with respect to its treatment of the Arnheim Land Company’s affairs and other territory mining matters. I demand an urgent inquiry into the whole facts of the case and ask that Dr. Woolnough should waste no further time but should return from this futile inquiry into a crooked business. It appears that Dr. Woolnough’s visit to the territory has been inspired by the desire of the Sydney Stock Exchange to scale up the shares from the “present level of ‘-2s. 6d. to -their former level of 9s, trusting that !the sincerity -of the departmental officials and the honesty of the Minister for the ‘Interior will bring about that result.
I also ‘demand ‘a fu’ll “inquiry into the operations of a person named Chapman “whose occupation on the Granites ‘and Tanami ‘field, ‘has been ‘mainly that of a professional claim ‘jumper, jockeying out of their claims men who have spent the greater ‘part of their lives in the territory prospecting. He jumped the claim of Ted North, a friend of mine, and I am going to -see that -my friend gets his claim back. I do not propose to go into this matter in detail, further than to say that Chapman’s behaviour is an incitement -to violence, and that (already, I -am told, one pioneer has felt under the necessity of -escorting lim with a .rifle off a claim which he tried to jump. His operations in another .case seem, on prima facie evidence, to amount to the black-mailing of .a .group of prospectors whose English option-holders are being frightened away by his methods and .his inequitable demands. In regard to this, I have not heard his side -of the case, but I have seen enough evidence to convince me that an inquiry is urgently demanded. I ask that an inquiry be conducted by the police into this man’s operations, and that steps he taken to ensure that the gold he wins at Tanami is not sold with the output of The Granites field.
The whole mining -section of the Department of the Interior needs reorganizing. It is in a state of innocence which leaves it a prey to any cunning scoundrel versed in mining law and methods. It needs a -competent mining engineer at its head and a committee of the House should consider all grants given, .and decisions .should be publicly announced. It must be realized that, in order to develop mining in the ^Northern Territory, attention should be given to the provision of water and battery facilities at places like Tennant’s Creek, where hundreds of miners are located, and are dependent on foreigners, for the most part, for the meagre water supplies and for crushing accommodation. There are hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of gold in the Territory which can be got out by syndicates and small companies “if water ‘and ‘batteries a’re made availa’ble, but local enterprise should have ‘first call on the Government for help. Atpresent, ^nobody -is making anything out of mining an the territory -except a few gogetters and scoundrels, -and members of the iniquitous ^Sydney stock ^exchange w-h o (appear to have no .morals -when -there is ;a commission to be ensued. I was impressed last evening -by the able -speech df the deader -df the Opposition (.Mr. -Scullin) in the course of which he emphasized the importance of the gold.mining industry as a means .for rectifying our adverse trade balance, but gold.mining .in the Commonwealth is greatly cover capitalized. If governments -do not act quickly to ‘cur.b the speculation that is going on, we may ‘face .another disaster like that of 189.3, which was “brought about largely .by mining share inflation. I urge the Minister to .adopt the same measures as ‘have been adopted in Fiji to check the .rogue and the go-getter., and I promise Mm that if he does so he ‘will have -all the help and co-operation that I can give ‘him, ‘because I know that il will help the decent .prospector to capitalize his efforts. A sound mining policy would treble the population ‘of the Northern Territory in a very short time, and would -increase its income ten times over.. I ask for the support of every member of the House in my endeavour to elevate mining in the territory to as honorable a position as it occupies -in Fiji. I make this appeal for the good of Australia in general, and in particular for the benefit of the people of the Northern Territory.
.- The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) made personal reference to certain gentlemen with whom I happen to be acquainted, but I do not think that he made out a very successful case against them. However, 1 am not here to defend them now. I merely remind the honorable gentleman that some of those who were associated with the activities brought under review at that time cleared away to England when the commission was appointed to control Sydney’s municipal affairs, and they have since been knighted. I am not referring to the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), because he was not connected with the Sydney City Council. and, moreover, I am certain that he. would not associate himself with anything dishonourable.
The subject raised by the honorable member for the Northern Territory has for too long been in need of investigation. It has been reported in the press that the Commonwealth Government has approved of a scheme for the employment of a number of youths as mining cadets on The Granites gold-field, the scheme being recognized as part of the Government’s re-employment proposals. It is intended that 50 of these youths shall be employed by Mr. C. H. Chapman, at a wage of £2 a week, of which 26s. will go back to Mr. Chapman for food and shelter. The matter is referred to in a message published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 12th of this month. The message, which emanated from Canberra, is as follows : -
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) said to-day that Mr. C. H. Chapman’s proposal for the employment of at least 50 youths in prospecting and mining work in the Granites district of Northern Australia was being carried out as part of the federal employment policy. The Federal Government had made available money for advances on a £1 for £1 basis for mining development on the understanding that the works upon which the money was being spent would provide a reasonable amount of employment. Mr. Chapman had taken advantage of this offer to obtain an advance to enlarge his battery at The Granites. Other persons or organizations engaged in mining operations, both in the Northern Territory and in the States, could obtain similar advances.
Now, with regard to Mr. Chapman. I have first-hand knowledge from one who has had daily contact with that gentleman in the Northern Territory on ‘The Granites gold-fields, and I know something of him and his activities. Yesterday I asked the Minister for the Interior a question on notice regarding labour conditions on Mr. Chapman’s mining leases. It is well known, though the honorable member for the Northern Territory did not mention it, that Mr. Chapman is employing aborigines on his mining leases. These aborigines have come in from the back country, many of them having had no previous contact with civilization. The only recompense they get for their labour is the scraps from Mr. Chapman’s table. When labour of that kind is being used in order to comply with the eon- ditions of Northern Territory leases, it is time the Minister made some inquiries. As for the proposal to employ boys on the gold-fields, I regard it as a scandalous thing. The Government should seriously reconsider its policy before giving further encouragement or assistance to this scheme. A medical officer in Adelaide hasstated publicly that the boys who wanted to go to The Granites had no idea of what the living conditions there were like. The honorable member for the Northern Territory knows what those conditions are like, and many of us have read accounts of them. It is clear that The Granites gold-field is not a fit place for boys, and there is no doubt that the health, and perhaps the morals, of those who go there will be seriously imperilled. This medical officer stated that there were greater disabilities to be faced at The Granites than in any other part of’ Australia.
– What about Bailey?
– I do not know anything about Bailey. My association with him ceased many years ago. I am not blaming the Minister in this matter. My main object is to warn the Government that there are companies operating in the Northern Territory and on the Sydney stock exchange - Pitt-street miners - who are exploiting the people and robbing them through the medium of-
– False reports.
– Absolutely, false reports. And some of the leading citizens in Sydney, I regret to say, are associated with these operations. These are men whom we are supposed to regard with respect. To-day they are exploiting the people with propositions which are absolutely useless. Somebody asked me yesterday whether a certain Mr. Brown - I do not know if he is the Secretary to the Department of the Interior - had anything to do with the proposal to send boys to the Northern Territory, and I ask the Minister to look into that matter with a view to finding out to what extent some persons employed in the Public Service influence ministerial policy, so far as these “ brum “ mining ventures are concerned.
Before coming to Canberra on this occasion, I had an opportunity to meet in Sydney a prospector from The Granites. He gave me a history of this man
Chapman who holds nearly all the known valuable leases in The Granites to-day, and, while not himself complying with the proper labour conditions, will not allow a single prospector to work on the area he holds. Even those miners who oan do a little successful prospecting find that if they do not sell their gold to Chapman, they cannot secure any water, because he controls all the sources of water supply in that particular area. Such a condition of affairs should not be allowed to continue.
There is no more effective method of developing the Northern Territory than through mining. I claim that every encouragement should be given to legiti-mate mining. Chapman controls not only the only available water in this particular area but also the battery which is being subsidized by the Commonwealth Government. With a man in a position to dictate conditions such as I have described to legitimate miners in the territory, it is time the Minister called on him to work his leases under proper conditions, and to give an opportunity to legitimate miners to work in the territory.
– The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– In reply to the statement made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) it is to be regretted that the operations on the Arnheim Land Gold Development Company in the Northern Territory should have been discussed before my department has had time to complete its investigations in this matter. While I appreciate the honorable gentleman’s offer of co-operation, I regret his statement made a few moments ago that the department had granted leases to this company while knowing that its personnel were dishonest. I think that upon reflection he will realize that statement was unjustified. Honorable members will realize that the department and the Government must be in an unassailable position before any action could be taken which might have the effect of damaging the interests of any mining company or its shareholders. It is also most important from the point of view of the Northern Territory as well as for the
Commonwealth as a whole that any matters such as this in respect of which any statements are issued should be definitely beyond question.
With regard to the honorable member’s reference to the granting of 80 mining leases to persons associated with the Arnheim Land Gold Development Company, the legal position is -
The granting of gold-mining leases in the Northern Territory is governed by the Northern Territory Mining Act 1908 of South Australia (an Act of the State continued in force in the Northern Territory by virtue of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910-1919) and the regulations thereunder.
This act provides that gold-mining leases may be granted to any person or company (being at the time of the application for any such lease the holder or holders of a miner’s right) of Crown lands available for such leasing.
The terms of a gold-mining lease shall not exceed forty-two years and the maximum area which may be included in any one lease is forty acres. The act referred to does not specifically limit the number of leases that may be granted to any one person or company.
However, in 1920, by administrative action, it was decided to limit the total area which may be granted to any person or company under gold-mining leases to 640 acres.
The procedure as set out in the mining regulations generally prescribes the pegging of the boundaries of each lease, the lodgment of the necessary notices with the warden, the posting of notices on the areas to be applied for and the payment of the required fees.
After a lapse of 21 days from the date the application is lodged with the warden, and, assuming that no objections are received by him, the warden transmits his recommendation as to whether the application should or should not be granted to the Administrator at Darwin if, as in this case, the land applied for is situated north of the 21st parallel of south latitude.”
Generally the Government’s functions in regard to mining in the Northern Territory may be briefly stated as follows . -
To see that the mining laws are strictly and equitably administered and that the conditions imposed by those laws are faithfully complied with by all persons and companies engaged in the industry.
To prevent so far as possible any person or company engaged in mining from improperly using any information or assays obtained from the mining administration for the purpose of misleading the public.
It is not the function of the department or the Government to make investigations into the operations of any companies, mining or otherwise, for the purpose of advising shareholders or the public of the companies’ operations. If, however, the Government has any knowledge of a company operating within its territory wilfully misleading its shareholders and the public it will take whatever action the law permits in the general interest. “With regard to the honorable member’s statement that the Arnheim Land Gold Development Company was founded on a dishonest prospectus and directed by persons whose presence in the Northern Territory is. highly undesirable, I can only say that when the company issued its prospectus the department had no knowledge as to whether it was dishonest or otherwise, and even if it had such knowledge, it has no legal power at present to take action in view of the fact that the company is incorporated in New South Wales. I might, however, mention for the information of the House that steps have already been taken by the Government to amend the company law in such a way as to give the department power to deal with any bogus companies in the Northern Territory, and, at the <same time, to protect its officers whose duty it may be to furnish reports in respect of the operations of any company.
The Arnheim Land Gold Development
Company’s mine has been visited on three occasions by departmental officials in the Northern Territory, and the reports furnished, as the result of those visits, whilst not being in any way flattering from the point of view of a mine, were at least encouraging regarding it as a prospecting area.
I would also point out that until the 21st January, 1935 - less than two months ago - the Arnheim Land Gold Development Company had only an exclusive prospecting licence. In view of that fact it was quite reasonable for the officials of my department to regard its operations as a prospecting venture only. On the 21st January, applications were lodged by five persons for sixteen 40-acre leases each, which comprised the whole of the five square miles of prospecting area previously held by Mr. John Bailey in trust for the Arnheim Land Gold Development Company. These applications for goldmining leases were granted by the Administrator in accordance with the existing law.
In view of certain statements which appeared in the press some weeks ago regarding the operations of the Arnheim Land Gold Development Company, my department, during last month, instructed two of its officers to visit the company’s property and furnish a report with regard to its operations. This report has been received, but in order to place the matter beyond all doubt, arrangements have been made for Dr. Woolnough, the Government. Geologist, to make an inspection of the mine. The shafts are to be pumped out to enable that inspection to be absolutely thorough. Dr. Woolnough will also report upon the geological formations and structure included in the area before any official statement is issued.
I can assure honorable members that the Government will do everything possible to protect the investing public from victimization, but it will certainly not be stampeded into making any statement until it is in possession of all the facts and is assured that any pronouncement which may be issued is beyond question.
With respect to the remarks of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) the” subject which he discussed will, I understand, be dealt with in a motion for the adjournment of the House to-morrow. It has nothing whatever to do with the matter now before the House. I therefore propose to withhold any comment until to-morrow.
.- The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), has, in my opinion, allowed his prejudice against Mr. John Bailey to interfere with his judgment. . He conveyed to most honorable members on this side the impression that he was indulging in some sort of political vendetta against Mr. Bailey, and that his principal object in submitting the motion now before the Chair was to air his grievance. He takes great exception to the companies operating in the Northern Territory, and suggests that they should be displaced by other companies which, under his guidance, should be allowed to exploit the mineral wealth of that portion of the Commonwealth. I have not very great faith in any mining companies. Australian investors have bitter recollections of the operations of mining concerns in this country. The men who have been responsible for the development of the mining industry in Australia are the prospectors who, for the most part, are unable to persuade the Government to provide finance for the purchase of even two head of stamps. On the contrary the Tennant’3 Creek miners are advised that private companies will erect batteries. The honorable member for the Northern Territory also takes exception to a Mr. Green who, he asserts had given an undertaking to resign from some company but had not done so. On that point, I remind the honorable gentleman that during and shortly after his election he was reported to have stated that if, within six months, he did not have a vote in this House, he would resign. Since his coming here we have not heard him repeat that statement, nor have we had any evidence of his intention to resign, so really he can have no valid reason for objecting to Mr. Green, whoever he may be, for not having fulfilled his promise to resign.
The honorable member must, of course, be well aware of the position of the 400 miners at Tennant’s. Creek. For a considerable time now they have been appealing to the Government for a water supply and a battery for the treatment of ore. Under existing conditions they are forced to pay up to £1 per 400 gallons for water which has to be carted a considerable distance to the field. Is the Government waiting until the “go-getters,” so force fully described by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, squeeze out. the legitimate miners at Tennant’s Creek f The men there are hanging, on in the hope that something will be done to make the conditions easier for them in the not distant future. They are resisting attemptsto purchase their leases, and if they receive reasonable assistance they will do their part in developing the field, and produce real wealth. Up to the present they have been unsuccessful in their appeals to the Government for the establishment of a battery and the provision of water. I appeal to the Government to» grant the request often made by the exmember for the Northern Territory.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) has declared that the Government is desirous of protecting the investing public. Surely it is able to do this through its mining wardens, magistratesand mining inspectors, whose duty ife should be to warn investors against fraudulent mining companies that are according to the honorable member’s statement, operating from Pitt-street, Sydney. The men behind some of these ventures are simply robbing the public. They are worse than the men who, some years ago, were to be found at country race ani show gatherings with the thimble and pea and other spieling games.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory has told us that this Arnheim: Land Gold Development Company has not sunk shafts, but merely has three holes ins the ground, and that those behind the venture “ salted “ a dump and then showed a return of &i oz. a ton from a 2-tonj crushing. There is something wrong if the Government allows this state of affairs to continue. But the honorable member for the Northern Territory is not wholly blameless. Surely he had some knowledgesix months ago of what was being done. Are we to assume, then, that hitherto* he has condoned this nefarious practice,, and would not have mentioned it in thisHouse to-day if Mr. Green and Mr. Baileyhad not attacked him? If the charges made by the honorable member are correct it is the duty of the Minister for the Interior to order the arrest of these men on a charge of defrauding the public, and give the honorable member an opportunity to prove his charges. The-
Government should immediately appoint a royal commission to inquire into this matter. The Minister for the Interior (Mr.. Paterson) said that one of the functions of the department under his control is to arrange for the periodical inspection of mining fields, and that the officials of his department, “who have already paid three visits to Arnheim Land. have reported that it is . a good prospecting field. According to the honorable member for Northern Territory, certain companies are endeavouring to determine the value of the field by costeaning or trenching, which is the proper method. It would be interesting to know -what quantity of ore could be treated hourly with a battery of two stamps. Is an Empire battery installed ?
– It is a pilot battery.
– The quantity that such a battery could treat in one day mould not exceed that which one man could remove from the costean or trench. As an official report has sheen submitted to the department, it should be easy for the Minister to ascertain what is actually being done on the field. The Minister stated further that it is one of the functions of the department to see that lessees carry out their work in accordance with the law, and that when once a lease is granted they have to comply with certain working and other conditions. I understand that it is not the policy of the Government to grant a mining lease without imposing such conditions. If, as we have heard, that a man named Chapman is exploiting youths and proposes to work them under coolie-labour conditions, 4be Minister has again fallen down on his job. Is there no mining award in the Northern Territory? The honorable member for Northern Territory has suggested that a royal commission should be appointed to inquire into the conditions under which mining is being carried on in the Northern Territory, but I suggest that a similar tribunal should be appointed to investigate the manner in which certain officials of the department are performing their duties. I listened many times to the ex-member for the Northern Territory appealing almost daily to the Government to render further assistance to the mining industry in that part of Australia by establishing batteries and providing water supplies. He had great faith in the mining industry. Some of the electors said that Mr. Nelson had failed in his duty to his constituents. He did not fail; it was the Government that neglected its duty, and he did not get from the Northern Territory the public support to which he was entitled. The present member for the Northern Territory will fail also for the same reason that brought about the- alleged failure of his predecessor - he’ does not possess a vote in this House, and is, therefore, of no use to any government. The present Minister for the Interior has approved a scheme to send boys to The Granites gold-field to asssist in the working of certain mining leases granted some time ago, and in connexion with which it has been said that over £1,000,000 was lost by Melbourne investors. When the leases were granted, there were many who said that the prospect of obtaining gold at The Granites in payable quantities was hopeless, but later Dr. Woolnough, the geological adviser to the Commonwealth Government, visited. The Granites and said that it was “ a decent sort of a field “. Two years ago, it was condemned; now it warrants government support. An old prospector who has worked on the Granites has been compelled to leave the field during certain periods in the year owing to the absence of water ; but under the Paterson child slavery scheme it is proposed to send 50 Australian youths to assist in working this show for the benefit of certain investors.
– I rise to a point of order. The remark of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
If the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) is referring to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) his remarks are decidedly offensive, and must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw them. I shall refer to it as the Chapman Child Slavery Scheme.
– I do not think that the honorable member should be permitted to use that term, and, if I am in order, I ask that that also be withdrawn.
– If the honorable member for Kennedy is referring to some one who is not a member of this Parliament I cannot ask that the remark be withdrawn. The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- If the subject raised by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) is worthy of investigation he is to be commended for having brought it before the House, but I suggest to him that he would render a greater service to those interested in mining in the Northern Territory if he adhered strictly to the facts of the case rather than deal with personalities. In the statement which he read when outlining his case he referred to a man in Sydney named Green, and quoted the remarks of Judge Harvey who sat as a royal commission to inquire into certain contracts entered into by the Sydney City Council some years ago. In fairness to honorable members, the honorable member for the Northern Territory should have pursued his inquiries further, and ascertained whether, in view of the evidence elicited later, the remarks of the judge could be regarded as reliable. The reports of the proceedings in the New South Wales Parliament disclose some very interesting information concerning the particular inquiry referred to by the honorable member, in which an endeavour was made to reflect upon a man named Frank Green. It is true that Judge Harvey sat as a royal commission, but the honorable member for the Northern Territory did not tell the House that the judge was a personal friend of the informer Arnott, or that the judge was then a joint owner of a property known as Khancoban, on the Murray River, which at regular intervals was visited by him in company with the then Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Bavin, and this informer, Arnott, These three persons visited this place regularly, and engaged in fishing excursions. The then Premier of New South Wales was continually insinuating in the State Parliament that certain things were going on in the Sydney City Council into which a close inquiry should be made. Armed with information supplied to him while on these fishing excursion?, anil under the pretence of having an impartial investigation, he appointed Judge
Harvey, a personal friend of his own and; of the informer, to sit as a royal commission.
– That would not influenceJudge Harvey, and the honorable memberknows it.
– We are not now discussing whether the opinions or the decisions of Judge Harvey may have beeninfluenced in that way, but the honorable member will admit that it was not wise or discreet for the Premier of the State to appoint a man to inquire intoalleged happenings which had been narrated to him during fishing excursions. It is true that this informer the greatest crook, was allowed to go free without any reflection being cast upon his character. But further than that, as mentioned by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy), another member of the city council at that time made a hurried trip overseas, and has since been honoured with a knighthood by HisMajesty the King. It has never been suggested that that hurried visit overseas was not in any way associated with that particular inquiry. I welcome the opportunity to expose those who may be termed crooks, or to investigate the activities of any company such as that upon which the honorable member has cast certain reflections. But why engender heat over the subject? These are recognized business methods which are employed not only in connexion with mining but also in every other business undertaking or activity in our Australian industrial life. Companies are floated on “ crook “ prospectuses. Why do certain members of the community seek to be honoured by the King by having a knighthood conferred upon them? It is not because they desire to be addressed as “ Sir “, but because it opens up to them an avenue which leads to their becoming directors of different undertakings. Why are they sought as directors of such undertakings? Simply because, by the use of their names on a prospectus, the unthinking public may be gulled and induced to invest in the enterprise. In New South Wales an inquirywas held only recently into the operationsof a certain company, and it was found that a prominent member, not of the1 Labour party, but of the Nationalist party, had allowed himself to be appointed- as a director of it. I repeat that the reason why these men are sought for these positions i3 in order that the public may be gulled. The present Government was elected on a crook prospectus; it absolutely misled and fooled the people. The “honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) may have in his possession further information which the time allowed to him by the Standing Orders did not permit him to place before the chamber. AH that he has so far done is to make a request for an inquiry. He has not placed before honorable members any specific information that might have enabled them to arrive at a decision, but has merely said that it appeared that certain deposits sent to Port Kembla had been “ salted “.
I conclude by saying that my reason for participating in this debate was to suggest to the honorable member for the Northern Territory that he should not indulge in personalities, nor become hot under the collar, because a certain individual in the Northern Territory saw fit to remind him of the promise he made to his electors to resign his seat in this chamber if within a certain period he was not given a vote. He should not allow such matters to influence his judgment. “When he levels charges or makes insinuations against any member of the community who is not in this chamber and is unable to defend himself, let him quote fully. If he quotes Judge Harvey he should be prepared to admit that that gentleman was a personal friend of Mr. Bavin, the Premier of New South Wales, at the time that the inquiry was held, and also of Arnott, the informer; that these men possessed information in regard to what was happening in the Sydney City Council many months before the election of an anti-labour government, but saw fit to ask for the appointment of a royal commission only when Mr. Bavin wanted to use the information for his own political advantage, by discrediting the Labour party and thus influencing the electors to vote for the party that he led. We can dismiss that portion of the honorable member’s remarks in which he referred to Judge Harvey, because the New South Wales Hansard shows-
– Go to the Public Library in Sydney and read the report of the judge.
– I have in my hand the parliamentary record, and it shows that no further inquiry is needed. If the honorable member cares to peruse this volume later, he will find that every word which Mr. Lang said in regard to the association of these men on fishing expeditions was admitted by Mr. Bavin himself. That gentleman attempted to excuse himself for the appointment of Judge Harvey by saying that when the appointment was made he happened to be an inmate of a hospital.
I listened with- interest to the remarks of the honorable member concerning the other operations of the companies in the north. Although I have not made any inquiry into their operations, I suggest to the Minister that if the responsible officers whose duty it is to report upon these matters to this Parliament have been guilty of what the honorable member has suggested, the Government should take the earliest opportunity to remove them from their positions. In order that honorable members may judge as to the accuracy of the honorable member’s statements and of the particular reports to which he has referred, those reports should be immediately tabled in this House.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
IThe honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has touched upon a matter that could well have been discussed in this chamber on a previous occasion. I regret to say that in every State of the Commonwealth to-day, even in Western Australia, the one solid industry that at the moment Australia possesses is being manipulated by what are termed “ go-getters “, with the idea, not of helping the industry, but of obtaining wealth from the investing public.
– Has not that always been the case?
– lt has ; . but the position is worse to-day than it ha? been within my previous knowledge. As we are depending very largely upon goldmining to restore the finances of Australia, the federal authority should take a lead in putting a stop to the practice in its own territories. The matter might well be raised at the next conference of
Premiers, because it is the bounden duty of the States to see that the present position of affairs is altered as soon as possible. I say, with all due deference to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) that his remarks appeared to be confined to an attack upon one particular man.
– A personal attack had been made upon me, and I was clearing myself.
– The point is that the Northern Territory has on several occasions in the past been a happy hunting ground for the flotation of shows that have had very little prospect of producing results. Even to-day, in The Granites, there is probably only ohe show that has any possibility of proving profitable. The last issue of The Wild Cat Monthly, published by the Sydney Bulletin, contains a paragraph concerning one show that had been closed down there. The property was held under option by Arnheim Extended, N.L. (Prospecting Licence No. 78) at Yemelba, Arnheim Land. The paragraph quotes a report on the property by a mining engineer, which reads -
We have thoroughly prospected your area from end to end, and have opened up bY costeans and pits everything that looked like reef or lode, in quartz, ironstone or conglomerate, but nothing of value has been revealed. I am positive there is nothing in this area any good to the company. In my opinion, any further work or expenditure is not warranted, and would only be a waste of money. If we continued prospecting here for another twelve months, I am sure we would not find anything that would justify the expenditure of equipment and establishment of a mine on a large scale. .Before making this statement, I have been very careful to make sure of my grounds for doing so.
That illustrates what has happened in Central Australia and in the Northern Territory. There is also the case of the late Mr. Lasseter. I have not the slightest desire to reflect upon a man who i3 dead and gone, and who gave his life in order to convince those who were with him at the time that what he told them was true. I had considerable correspondence with, and saw, him long before he went to the north. He had the hallucination that he could find gold there. I feel sure’ that he genuinely believed that he could do so. I am satisfied, however, that he had never been in the territory, because the map which he had did not coincide in any particular with maps that I obtained from the Department of the Interior. All over Australia, individuals are floating properties of this kind, knowing full well that there is not the slightest chance of any gold being won from them, thus tending to destroy an industry which, if worked on honest lines, could do mort than any other industry to advance the welfare of Australia. I am fairly weB acquainted with the gold-mining properties of Western Australia, and ca® confidently assert that the industry show* greater promise ‘in that State than in any other. The mining share list published in yesterday’s Melbourne Herald contains 40 Western Australian gold-mining quotes. Of that number, I consider that only fourteen offer a safe investment,, while ten have yet to be investigated, and. sixteen have no chance of giving a return, being simply what are termed “duffers” or “duds”. There are 58 Victorian mining quotes. I am not so well acquainted with the- mines in that State; but any person who has had mining experience, and who knows that in the last two years the sum of £200,00© has been paid by way of calls in Victoria, while only one mine floated during thatperiod is paying dividends, will realize that the practice to which- the honorable member for the Northern Territory has referred is being conducted cm a grand scale in that - and other States. Its continuance cannot be tolerated. The Minister should raise the matter at the next Premiers Conference. He has- the power to take action in the Northern Territory, and thus give a lead to> the States. He could at least suggest to the different Premiers that ‘action be taken along the lines initiated recently, I understand, in New South Wales, although I do not know how effective it has proved. The present Mining Act of the Northern Territory is based on the South Australian Mining Act. It is said to be out of print, and I have heard men complain that they cannot obtain a copy of it, so they are compelled to ga on to the fields without knowing what conditions they have to observe. I have been informed that a mining companycan get 640 acres. In other places, a prospector can get only 24 acres. It will thus te seen that if a law of that kind prevailed in “Western Australia a mining company could lock up the whole of the Golden Mile, which is responsible for 50 per cent, of the gold production of Australia. It could barely fulfil the manning conditions of the lease, thus preventing any large quantity of gold from being produced. I shall give an illustration of the manner in which properties are being disposed of to-day, not only in Australia, but also in London, by persons who are regarded as big financiers. The last issue of The Wild Gab Monthly mentions the case of one company in “Western Australia, which upon flotation, brought in £200,000 cash and 400,000 first ^preference 5s. shares to the vendors - an additional £100,000. Thus £300,000 was given to the go-getters before st pick was put in the ground: Under such conditions, what chance “has gold-mining of making any -progress in this country? I had intended <to raise this matter on an Australianwide basis; but I am satisfied that it is impossible to deal with this serious question in less than three-quarters of an hour. The ten minutes that I am now allowed is absurdly inadequate. It is immensely important to Australia saa a whole, and I hope that the Minister will see his way to appoint a royal commission to go thoroughly into It and so to do a great service to the Common wealth.
Mr. HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) f4.26]. - In the course of a debate of this ][ind sweeping statements are sometimes made in which, quite unwittingly, perhaps, an injustice is done to an individual or reputations are besmirched without any desire to do anything of the kind. Having camped with Dr. Woolnough at Tennant’s Creek, where I introduced him ito some of the oldest and most experienced miners in Central Australia, J wish, in fairness to the Minister (Mr. Paterson) as well as to the Government (Geologist, to state that the men there were unanimously of the opinion that Dr. “Woolnough had done good work. They were satisfied with his reports on the field at Tennant’s Creek, and their only regret was that the Government had not given him the necessary time and assist ance to carry out his work in a thoroughly comprehensive way. I did not hear on man say that Dr. Woolnough was not a good geologist nor a capable mining expert. I also heard every one speak well of Mr. Bell, Director of Mines in the Northern Territory. During my short stay at Darwin I had unusual opportunities to get into touch with all sections of the people and without exception they expressed the opinion that Mr. Bell was an exceedingly honest man, interested in his job, and quite beyond reproach.
– No one has ever doubted that.
– I am not suggesting that the honorable member sought to reflect on Mr. Bell’s capacity, but fearing that some might conclude from what had been said that nothing good could come out of the territory, I thought I should mention these facts. It is unfair to suggest that Dr. Woolnough is incompetent as a geologist, or that he has not done his work properly in the Northern Territory. It is unfair also to blame the present Minister for all the sins of omission to which reference has been made, because he has only recently taken over the administration of the territory. But the general opinion in the Northern Territory for years has been that the Commonwealth has not provided anything like the assistance that should be forthcoming for its development. I spent two nights with the miners at Tennant’s Creek, and was told by them that a few hundred miles to the west of that locality there is one of the richest mica fields in the world. Experts informed me that there was only one other district comparable with it - a district in India - and that the world demand for mica was greatly in excess of the supply. A couple of German geologists and several others who have given a lifelong study to the production of mica told me that they were attempting to develop the mica industry in the Northern Territory. They agreed with myself and others that an award covering their operations should be made by the Arbitration Court and we found that, as a matter of fact, they were paying award rates and observing Arbitration Court conditions. They expressed a keen desire that the Government should send along a mining inspector to supervise the operations of groups of Italians there, who are working indiscriminately and, by reason of their lack of knowledge, spoiling more mica than they recover. They are known as “ gougers “. Their work consists principally of gouging, and they are not opening up any mines. Just as in the Antarctic ten whales are being slaughtered for every one that is captured by whalers, because there is no supervision over their operations, so on the mica fields in the Northern Territory, for the same reason, enormous waste is going on. I hope that the Minister will at an early date try to straighten out the supervision of the territory. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) seems to consider that the particular mining venture to which he referred is a “ dud “ - I do not know whether it is or not - but he stressed the point that it was worthless.Whether that be so or not, we should be careful not to create in the public mind the impression that there are not very rich deposits of gold in the territory. I saw several packets of ore, which had been knocked off the surface of the reef at Tennant’s Creek in the presence of Dr.Woolnough and myself, sent away to be crushed in South Australia. The miners challenged us to knock off, at any point along a reef extending over 30 miles, a piece of quartz in which gold would not be found. We did not cover the whole range of 30 miles, but at various points along the reef for a distance of five miles we struck off pieces of ore which, when dollied by the miners, showed gold in every instance. Packets of this ore were sent to South Australia to be crushed, because the Commonwealth had not suppliedthe miners with a battery. South Australia, which is almost insolvent, had to do this work for them at a State battery. The return was from 8oz. to 10 oz. to the ton, but it cost the miners 3 oz. of gold to the ton to send down the ore to be crushed. I am very anxious that it should not be thought, because of the speech by the honorable member for Northern Territory that there are not very rich deposits of gold in the territory. While I was at Darwin I met several officers of the company to which he referred, and their agents there are
Messrs. Jolly and Company. When the bond stores there were burnt down, they contained some hundreds of pounds worth of foodstuffs and machinery owned by the company, and it seemed to me that it was established on a reasonable basis.
According to experts, there are undoubtedly very rich deposits of gold in the territory. A number of gold-mining prospectors are squatting on their leases, waiting either for government assistance to crush their ore or for bigcompanymoney to open up their “ shows “. I know of several groups who have been offered from £10,000 to £15,000 each from mining investors in Sydney and elsewhere and who have been waiting several years for the development of their leases. I conclude by urging the Minister to endeavour to introduce effective mining supervision in the Territory, and particularly on the mica fields, so that the deposits may not be despoiled and in order that genuine mining operators may receive the assistance they deserve.
.- After having listened to the debate it seems to me that no one in this chamber has much faith in the application of private enterprise to mining operations. Either the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) is very innocent or wholly inexperienced.
– Many have said that.
– That was the impression I formed while listening to his speech. I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable member, but I understood him to say that he was personally interested in a mining venture in the Territory. If that be so, we have been treated to an ex parte statement by a representative of a rival company.
– I have money invested in a lease in the Northern Territory, and am proud of the fact. I am not associated with dishonest men like those to whom I have referred.
– I have no fault to find with any honorable member who says there are rascals and rogues associated with mining ventures, because my experience is that nearly every one connected with such ventures is a rogue or a scoundrel or a vagabond.
– A very sweeping statement !
– It may be; but that is the opinion of many who have had experience of limited liability mining companies. Connected with them are some of the biggest thieves and swindlers in the world.
– What about mining in Fiji?
– I understand that black labour is used in Fiji.
– What we need is a mining law to check the operations of rascals.
– On the statutebook of nearly every country there are more laws relating to mining than to any other subject, yet rogues and vagabonds seem to fatten on mining ventures. The more mining laws we pass the more intricate the law becomes, and the mining rogues and vagabonds employ rogues and vagabonds in the legal profession to assist them to defeat such laws. When a certain gentleman’s name was mentioned by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, there were loud guffaws from the Government side of the House, but as the debate proceeded the guffaws ceased, and honorable members opposite looked very glum. Over and above the rogues and vagabonds directly associated with mining ventures, are the rich thieves and vagabonds - the silk-hatted gentlemen of the Stock Exchange - in whose hands they are mere pawns.
– There are some on the Sydney Stock Exchange.
– And they provide much of the fighting funds of the honorable member’s party. That is why, when the honorable member proceeded to attack them, nearly all his -supporters left the chamber.
– They took it as a personal matter !
–Exactly, and they hurried out. I was astonished to hear the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) say that it was within his personal knowledge that about one-third of the mining companies in Western Australia had no hope of ever returning a shilling to their shareholders. If he has proof of that, he should give the names of the companies to the world.
– It is a matter of general knowledge, but one cannot adduce proof.
– I realize how difficult it is to do so. Probably what the honorable member meant to say was that, in his opinion, there were many companies that would never give any return to their shareholders. Quite recently the present Government passed a bill providing for a big bonus to these rogues and vagabonds. They are going to send men into far-off parts of the Commonwealth to risk their lives in making a geological survey so as to open up a wider field for thieves and vagabonds to carry on their machinations and float more companies. Since the Northern Territory is owned by the Commonwealth, why should not the Government remove the rogues and vagabonds from it and exploit the mineral resources of the Territory so that the people themselves may reap Bonn( return from them? That would be all right. It seems to me that most of the people who indulge in mining are prepared to jump one another’s claims, if given the opportunity. The history of mining in America and, indeed, in most countries, supports that view. I agree with the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) that the individual prospector is the only honest seeker for gold; yet he gets it in the neck every time. He endures privations in his search for gold; and when he finds it, the rogues, thieves and vagabonds who float the mining companies step in and reap the benefit of his work. Immediately we get away from the individual prospector, and come to the mining company, particularly the limited liability company, we find roguery, thieving and commercial piracy. Indeed, most of these companies cannot succeed without roguery. They start off with an attractive prospectus, containing such alluring prospects that the “ mugs “ of the country f ali over one another to buy shares. If £30,000 is subscribed by the “ mugs “, the promoters ask for £70,000 for their rights in the venture. .Should the mine prove successful, they do not disclose the fact to the shareholders; on the contrary, they circulate disquieting reports, so that thOSE who subscribed the initial capital dispose of their holdings, with the result that in course of time only the rogues and thieves are left in the company. That is the history of every limited liability mining company in this country, irrespective of whether or not the directors wear silk hats or have been honoured by the Ring.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory has abused his privileges as a member of this House; but that is nothing new. It is not an uncommon thins: for a member of Parliament to use his gold pass to travel over the railways of Australia to spy out mining fields. Indeed, some members go beyond the shores of Australia to find gold, neglecting their electorates meanwhile. . Others use their gold passes to travel up and down the country buying sheep and cattle, or engaging in other forms of private enterprise.
– The honorable gentleman is going beyond the scope of the motion before the Chair.
– There will be other opportunities to deal with that aspect of the subject. I say, in conclusion, that if the honorable member for the Northern Territory wants to take all the roguery and thieving out of mining, and establish the industry on an honest basis, he must advocate the elimination of private enterprise altogether from it. So long as private enterprise remains, roguery and thieving will continue to be associated with mining.
.- From the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) it would appear that most of the people whom he represents in this chamber are thieves and scoundrels. Apparently, Mr. Green is a scoundrel, also, it would appear, Mr. Bailey, as well as Dr. Woolnough, the Commonwealth Government’s geologist. The honorable gentleman, who claims to know all about the subject, referred to Dr. Woolnough as aja “ alleged oil expert.” I know Dr. Woolnough, and I take this opportunity to inform the House that had his advice in regard to the Roma oil-fields been followed, a number of persons who burnt their fingers in connexion with that venture would have been much better off. The day came when those who classed Dr. Woolnough as incompetent came to him for advice, because they had at last realized the value of his first report. There must have been some honest people connected with the Roma oil venture, otherwise they would not have sought the advice of a man of knowledge as Dr. Woolnough undoubtedly is. They approached him because they did not want to waste their own money or to take other people down. According to the honorable member for the Northern Territory, everything would be all right if the Minister would cancel the existing leases in the territory, and hand them to the honorable member himself. In that event he claims that gold-mining in the Northern Territory would be established on an honest basis, as it is in Fiji. Will the honorable gentleman tell us where mining is carried out honestly anywhere in the world? Mining ventures depend upon attractive prospectuses which set forth in glowing terms the wonderful possibilities of the field proposed to be worked. Investors are informed that they have only to pay in their cash in order to receive huge dividends regularly. The great Mount Morgan mine was found by a man who died in poverty ; Gympie is the result of the labours of a man with a dish and a cradle. These men received little or nothing for their discoveries, although after their death the world was told what wonderful men they wore. It ill becomes any honorable member in this House to blackguard people who cannot answer for themselves. Although new to this House, the honorable member who brought this matter up to-day evidently is aware that his utterances here are privileged. I suggest, however, that if he were to go outside Parliament and repeat the first sentence which he uttered here this afternoon, Mr. Bailey, whom he blackguarded, would give him an opportunity to prove his words. Had the honorable gentleman adopted other tactics, and brought his complaint of unfair and dishonest dealings before us in a different way, he would have been far wiser. After all, he is the representative here of those whom he described as scoundrels. He could have enlightened us regarding the wonderful possibilities of the territory and the dishonest dealings of some people without resorting to abuse. Anyone who reads his remarks to-day would be justified in believing that all the people engaged in mining in the Northern Territory are scoundrels who are trying to fleece the public. Yesterday I read a letter from a- resident of Tennants Greek in which the writer stated that 400 men were on the- field, and that before long he expected the number to be increased to 600. The letter went on to say that there wasno question of the “ real stuff “ existing, at Tennant’s Creek, but that the difficulty, was the. high cost of transport. The. writer stressed the need for assistance to crush the ore on the spot. The honorable member for- Northern Territory would have done better, even in his own interests had he urged that something be done to assist those on that field and on others, instead of saying that all the people engaged’ in mining in the territory are scoundrels and thieves. He went so far as to urge the Minister to cancel the existing leases and hand them, to him- and others, who would work them honestly. That is a pill somewhat difficult to swallow. A claim to be practically the only honest person in the territory reminds me of one of the characters in Hamlet, who’ said, “ The lady doth protest too much, methinks”! The honorable member was not justified in attacking as he -did persons who cannot reply to his charges. The Minister was also urged to investigate matters in the Northern Territory for himself. Mr.. Brown, the head of the Department of the Interior, visited the Northern Territory some time ago, and on his return submitted a report. Whether or not I agree with all that Mr. Brown said in that report, I believe that it contained his honest opinions. However greatly I differ from my opponents, I believe that they can be as honest as I am; and although I may oppose their views, I refrain from calling them blackguards and scoundrel’s. The honorable gentleman has not accomplished his purpose; he went about things in the wrong way, and the sum total of his remarks is that he has informed us that the men he represents in this House are blackguards and scoundrels.
.- I listened carefully to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) in the hope that he would give to- the House information of value.
– Apparently,, it was too valuable.
– The honorable gentleman occupied hia time in abusing other people,, among, them, Mr:. Bailey,. Mr. G>r,een,, andi Dr. Woolnough. Ho. them proceeded to- make, it clear that, in his opinion,, the one honest man in Australia is the honorable member himself. In effect he told the Minister that if he cancelled the. existing leases, and handed them over to him, he, as. the one honest citizen of the Northern Territory, would see that all went. well. A book dealingwith, the formation, of companies and financial, matters generally, which I have been reading recently, contains referencesto Mr. Hooley, who robbed the British people of about £9,000,000. The writer, reveals the methods- adopted by some company promoters) and’ the huge sums offered in order to- obtain- titled men as directors, As much, as. £5j,000,. or even £10,000,, would sometimes be paid to get a duke or a lord as a director. The miners of the Northern Territory are as honest as are any other persons in the community, or, indeed, any member of this Parliament. They are not taking downthe public. The robbers are the Pitt Street miners,, who float the companies. It would be well if a royal’ commission were appointed to investigate their transactions, not those- of the men who aredoing the actual work in the field. On his. return’- from ai short visit to the Northern Territory, the honorable member for Melbourne P’orts (Mr. Holloway),, reported that the miners there were satisfied with the Government officials, and: spoke well of Dr. Woolnough and Mr. Bell.. The honorable member for Northern Territory is presumptuous in speaking so contemptuously of the Commonwealth’s geological adviser, Dr. Woolnough.
– Apparently, the troubleis that my information was too exact.
– The honorable member gave us no information. I listened carefully to. him, and the only impression his speech made on. me was that some persons now hold 50 leases in which the honorable member himself is interested, and that he. wants the Minister to give them to him. He said those who were in ought to be out, and those who were out ought to be in. I hope that the new Minister for the Interior will, look carefully into the subject of goldmining. The miners in the territory are satisfied with the treatment received from departmental officials. What they require from the Government is more expenditure on assistance to the mining industry.
– in reply - I appreciate the criticism that I have received - somewhat unduly in one quarter - with regard to my personal references ; but, apart from that, honorable members appear to approve of the case that I have presented. I propose to quote a letter published in the Darwin Standard, showing that certain mining friends of mine have been turned against me, because they are unaware of the rascality of the person who instigated their action. The quotation will indicate how certain rascals have tried to besmirch my name among miners who were my friends. The letter is as follows: -
Yemelba, 25th February, 1935.,
Would you be good enough to publish the enclosed resolution which was carried at a public meeting held here on the 24th February, 1935. Thanking you, I am yours faithfully,
That we leaseholders, licencees, miners, &c., at a public meeting held at Yemelba, Northern Territory, on the 24th February, 1935, express astonishment at the remarks of Mr. McAlister Blain, M.P., as published in the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 4th February, 1935, and the Darwin Standard, of the 10th February, 1935, re the employment of prospectors and small syndicates in the development of the mining industry in the Northern Territory; that this meeting further protests at the apparent total ignorance displayed by Mr. Blain in conditions governing mining in this area and request Mr. Blain to immediately return to his electorate for the purpose of explaining his complete change of attitude prior to his election to Parliament; that failing to comply with the above request this meeting is of the opinion that Mr. Blain should resign his seat in Parliament.
One of the signatories to that letter is “Frank Green, Director of Arnheim Land Gold Development “. If I did not take exception to the action of such rascals as he, I would not be worthy of the land that has given me birth. The miners referred to live in an isolated area, and have not had opportunity to ascertain the true state of affairs. They are doing Australia’s job in a part of the country which very few honorable members have ever seen or are ever likely to penetrate. When I reached Sydney, I showed a friend the names of those who had signed the letter, and he advised me to look up Green’s record. Those who may imagine that I am prepared to resign my seat at the behest of a person like Frank Green have a big surprise coming to them.
Question resolved in the negative.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board on the subject of the maturation period of whisky.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the orders of the day be postponed until after the consideration of notices of motion, government business.
.- I was notified that the Government intended to submit this motion, but I take this early opportunity to request that the members of my party be informed as to the intentions of the Government regarding the ruthless use of the “ gag “ during the present session. Will the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) indicate whether the Government proposes to give honorable members reasonable time for the discussion of the various measures brought down? I trust that it is not proposed to apply the “gag” as it was used last night. In the opinion of some honorable members, the action taken yesterday was unwarranted. If we have a satisfactory assurance as to the Government’s intention in this regard, we shall be more willing to agree to alterations of the order of business which may be considered desirable from time to time.
– The Government intends to give every reasonable opportunity for the discussion of measures brought before the House, and the machinery provided for the shortening of discussion will be employed only when it is found impossible to proceed with the business at a reasonable speed, or when obvious obstruction is taking place. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) spoke to me this morning on the subject of speaking on the ordinary adjournment” of the Blouse. He pointed out that this provides one of the few opportunities which private members have to bring matters before the Parliament. I stated that the desire of the Government was to enable honorable members to have a normal amount of rest from their work by adjourning at a reasonable hour at night, but that the Government would be prepared to allow a reasonable time for the discussion of general matters on the motion for the adjournment, say, half an hour, if necessary, each evening. I stated that if, for any special reason, an honorable member required an extension of that time, and the Government were consulted, and public business permitted, it might be found possible to terminate government business somewhat earlier than usual, to enable a few minutes extra to be granted for the consideration of private members’ business. On some occasions it will not be necessary to devote much time to adjournment motions; but the Government desires to consult the convenience of honorable members, so far as it can.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Dr. EARLE Page) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of certain sums of money to provide for the grant of financial assistance to the States in the making of payments to or for the benefit of farmers, and for other purposes.
“CUSTOMS BILL 1935.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend section 4 of the Customs Act 1901-1934.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
The purpose of this short measure is to apply the British preferential tariff to imports from the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Under existing customs and tariff legislation the benefits of the British preferential tariff are limited to goods of United Kingdom origin, except where specific provision has been made to the contrary. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which are administered under their own laws and have separate tariffs of their own, have hitherto not been regarded for customs purposes as constituting part of the United Kingdom. Consequently the duties imposed under the Australian general tariff are leviable on imports from the islands. Australia’s import trade from the islands is very small. Prior to January of this year there had been no recorded imports since 1929, when goods valued at £23 were imported from the Channel Islands. Following the Ottawa Conference the islands introduced preferential tariffs under which preferences practically identical with those granted by the United Kingdom to the various British dominions and colonies were conceded gratuitously to Empire countries, including Australia. These preferences apply to a wide range of products in which Australia is interested. The Guernsey administration in the Channel Islands group has intimated its readiness to grant an additional preference of 50 per cent, on Empire wines. By including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man within the definition “United Kingdom,” the small consignments of goods which occasionally reach Australia from the islands will become entitled to the benefits of the Australian British preferential tariff. It is proposed to make the amendment retrospective from the 1st January, 1935, as it is desired to avoid penalizing two small shipments which reached Australia this year.
Debate (on motion by Mr. FORDE) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Spirits Act 190G-1932, and to repeal the Spirits Act 1933.
Bill brought up., and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
It is proposed to amend the provisions of sections 3, 11 and 12 of the Spirits Act 1906-1932 in respect of the period of maturation in wood for Australian and imported whisky. Until October of 1932, the minimum age prescribed in the Spirits Act at which whisky could be sold for consumption was two years. During the debate on the tariff schedule in 1931, it was moved that the period of maturation in respect of Australian whisky be increased to three years, and, although the motion waa opposed by the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), the amendment was carried. This amendment of the tariff schedule necessitated the amendment of the Spirits Act, and, in October, 1932, sections 3 and 12 of the act were amended to bring them into line with the excise tariff with respect to the maturation period of Australian whisky. As a corollary, section 11 of the act was amended at the same time, so that similar conditions would be applicable so far as imported whisky was concerned.
During November, 1933, an act - No. 23 of 1933 - was passed to suspend the operation of the 1932 act until the 1st October, 1935. The question as to whether there is any necessity for increasing the maturation period for whisky from two to three years was submitted to the Tariff Board, and the conclusions of the majority report of the Board were-
The conclusions of the minority were: -
That the provision for three years compulsory maturation of whisky should be brought into force as provided (i.e. on 1/10/35) but early action should be taken to increase the period to four years, providing that three years’ notice be given before the four years’ period becomes operative.
The object of the motion adopted by Parliament in 1931 to increase the compulsory maturation period for whisky from two to three years was to protect the health of the consumers. The Tariff Board has, however, stated that no convincing evidence was submitted at the inquiry to establish that consideration for the public health called for an extension of the two-year period.
Opinions of the trade are divided as to the necessity for a longer period of maturation than two years. The interests supporting the longer period claim that whisky improves in quality during the third and subsequent years of maturation and that the cost of storage per gallon is low.
While the importance of quality is recognized, the object of the maturation provisions of the Act is not the fixing of a standard of quality but the safeguarding of public health by ensuring that no spirit shall be sold for consumption until it has been matured sufficiently to make it fit for human consumption. The evidence available indicates that a period of two years is sufficient to achieve that object. If, as stated, the cost of storage is low and the quality improves with a longer period of maturity then the enhanced quality of the product should be sufficient inducement for distillers to mature their spirit for a longer period than two years.
It is therefore proposed to amend the Spirits Act to provide for reversion to the two-year period of maturation for whisky which was in force from 1908 to 1931.
– Why was the three-year period adopted?
– It was enacted as the result of a snap vote on an amendment moved to the bill introduced by the Government. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will remember the incident.
– Yes. My attitude then was the attitude now adopted by the majority of the members of the Tariff Board.
– The majority report of the Tariff Board expresses the view that a two-year period is sufficient for maturation; the minority report favours four years. I have tabled the reports for the information of honorable members. There are two big companies in dispute over the subject, one favouring two years and the other four years. In the circumstances the Government does not feel justified in extending the period to four years, and, as the majority report of the Tariff Board indicates, the evidence available - is not sufficiently convincing to warrant any extension of the two-year period.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an Act to amend Section 9 of the Raw Cotton
Bounty Act 1034.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - T move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure does not touch the subject of the cotton bounty, but merely makes a slight alteration of section 9 of the principal act to provide that the time of payment of the bounty shall be advanced by one week, in order to facilitate the operations of the cotton-growers of Queensland who, like many other primary producers, are suffering under considerable disabilities. It has been represented to the Government by the cotton-growers that this minor amendment’ of the act would be a great convenience to those engaged in the production of cotton. I therefore hope that the bill will be agreed to without undue delay.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an Act to amend sections seven and two hundred and thirty-one of the Navigation Act 1912-1934.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill deals with two distinct and entirely different subjects. Clause 3 provides for the amendment of section 7 of the Navigation Act which defines “ coasting trade “ and clause 4 provides for the amendment of section 231 to provide that small coastal vessels engaged in interstate trade shall be equipped with wireless apparatus. Under the existing law they are not required to be so equipped.
Under the provisions of the Navigation Act the coasting trade of the Commonwealth in passengers’ and cargo is reserved) by section 288, to ships licensed to engage in that trade. Ships that obtain licences are required to comply with the prescribed conditions respecting wages and conditions, manning, accommodation for crew, and so on. Any British or foreign ship may obtain a licence upon compliance with the prescribed conditions. Theoretically, our coasting trade is open to all the ships of the world, but in actual practice it has been confined to locally-owned coastal ships. It has not been possible in practice, however, to keep the coasting trade, in all its ramifications, in watertight compartments. Provision was made in the original act for permits to be granted to unlicensed British ships to carry cargo and passengers on our coasts when it was shown that the licensed service was inadequate to meet the needs of the case. Many hundreds of such permits have been granted, some of which, known as “ continuing permits “, such as those which apply to trade from certain northwestern ports of Australia and Thursday Island, have been in existence almost since the Navigation Act came into force in 1921. Without some such method of relieving the pressure of the conditions created by the coast-wise provisions of the act, the objective of protecting local shipping would long ago have been defeated. But even the permit system was found to be inadequate, and another method of relieving the position was adopted in 1926, when the act was amended to provide that the GovernorGeneral, when satisfied that the tourist traffic between any portions of the Commonwealth was suffering injury or being retarded, could, if it were thought to be desirable in the public interest, by notice in the Gazette, permit British ships, of such size and speed as was specified, to engage in the passenger trade between particular ports. That provision was designed to meet the special circumstances of the Hobart tourist traffic, which had undoubtedly suffered considerably by the operation of the restrictive sections of the act. The exemptions provided for in 1926 have been granted year by year by Order-in-Council except for two years during the regime of the Scullin Govern.ment; but, for reasons best known to themselves, the overseas shipping companies did not avail themselves of the concession until 1932. For the last two complete tourist seasons, 1932-33 and 1933-34, overseas ships have carried 4,000 and 3,500 passengers respectively to Hobart from the mainland, and for the current season the traffic has been so satisfactory that it is expected that at the close of the Easter holiday traffic a similar number of passengers will have been carried by this means. I direct the attention of honorable members, however, to the fact that, notwithstanding the participation of the overseas ships in this trade, the Tasmanian business of the local shipping companies has been increased.
– What are the figures?
– I have not the figures by me, but it cannot be disputed that the participation of the overseas liners in this traffic has not caused any decline in the business of the local companies. As a matter of fact, their ships have been patronized more liberally than formerly.
– What are the figures?
– I cannot give the detailed figures, but I know that they are larger than formerly.
– Surely we are entitled to know the figures!
– When I look at the honorable member, I can see that an the places over there are not full.
– I want the figures. The right honorable member cannot put it over mo.
Order! The honorable member is offensive.
– I rise to a point of order.
– There is no point of order. I must ask the honorable member to withdraw his reflection on the Chair.
– I withdraw any reflection that I may have made on the Chair; but I want the right honorable gentleman to withdraw his reflection on me. He said that when he looked at me he could see that all the places over there were not full. That was a reflection on me, and I ask for it to be withdrawn, as it is offensive to me.
-I did not hear any offensive remark made, and I certainly can see nothing offensive in the remark mentioned by the honorable member; but I am sure that if the right honorable member for North Sydney has made an offensive remark he will withdraw it.
– I made a general observation directed at no particular person and expressed in general terms. It was my profound conviction, and there I leave it. If the honorable member desires to be excepted from my sweeping generalization, I shall except him.
Tasmanian business interests, while expressing appreciation of the exemption granted to Tasmania from the coastingtrade provisions of the Navigation Act, have, from time to time, made strong representations to the Government that the exemption should be placed on a statutory basis and should not be subject to withdrawal except by the decision of Parliament as expressed in subsequent legislation. The request was considered to be a reasonable one, and during the last session of the Parliament a bill was introduced to that end. It was not, however, proceeded with. In speaking to the motion for the second reading of the bill, my predecessor, the then Minister for Commerce, cited one very good reason for statutory rather than executive exemption. He said -
In order, too, that local interests may be induced to improve and develop the undoubted attractions and the tourist equipment and facilities of the island, including its hotel and other accommodation, it is absolutely essential, it is contended, that there shall be an assurance, not only of adequate, but also of permanent and attractive shipping facilities for their visitors. There is much point in this contention, for if tourists are to be specially catered for, as in other parts of the world, it is essential that there should be that guarantee. Business people cannot be expected to go to heavy expense in improving accommodation, nor the State Government to spend money in the provision of roads to the scenic beauties of the State, unless there is some assurance of an adequate return, necessarily spread over a lengthy period.
Those views explain clearly and concisely the principal reason for the introduction of the present measure, which is designed to give a measure of permanency to a concession hitherto dependent upon the personal views of a Minister or the government of the day. This hill gives statutory sanction to the provisions of the permits that have from time ‘to time been issued. There are, however, some differences to which I shall refer in a few moments.
While the present bill is not in exactly the same form as that introduced in August last, it has the same practical effect. Though it was believed that the former bill overcame all constitutional difficulties, it was subsequently found that it came into conflict with section 99 of the Constitution, which provides that the Commonwealth shall not by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue give preference to one State or any part thereof over any other State or part thereof. It was found on further examination that the bill was unnecessarily wide in its scope, and gave opportunities to overseas vessels to compete, not only on the routes where the local service is inadequate, but also on sections of the coast which have the advantage of an excellent and up-to-date passenger service by licensed ships.
The form of the amendment to section 7 proposed to be made by the bill, has been altered, chiefly, by the division of the proviso into two paragraphs, a and b, of which the latter is new. Provision is made in paragraph a, as in the former bill, for unlicensed British ships of not less than 10,000 tons and a sea speed of not less than 14 knots to carry passengers between any two ports in Australia not connected by rail. This absence of rail connexion is the key condition. Thus, to take Hobart as an example, a passenger may be carried from Sydney, or from Brisbane, via Sydney, to Hobart, or vice versa, Hobart having no rail connexion with those places. Similarly, a ship of the class specified can take passengers from Thursday Island or Darwin to any port in Australia. In every case, the voyage must be made in one ship without break of journey, transhipment, or second call at any port. But when the passenger has been brought to the port of destination, then paragraph b conditions his being carried further in the same ship and on the same voyage. He may be taken on, it will be seen, to the first port of call of the ship, which is either the first port of embarkation - a passenger brought from Sydney to Hobart, say, on a cruise, may be taken back direct to Sydney - or, alternatively, a port connected with the first port of embarkation by railway, say Melbourne, which has rail connexion with all the principal mainland ports. This will enable Brisbane and Sydney tourists, constituting the bulk of those who visit Hobart, to complete what is known as the “ apple trip “, a favorite holiday run when the liners are visiting Hobart in the apple export season to load fruit cargo for Great Britain, by continuing on to Melbourne. Paragraph b will, however, prevent passengers from east coast ports continuing on in the ship from Hobart, via Melbourne, to Adelaide and Western Australia, because those ports are connected by rail. The paragraph does not, however, apply when passengers land and make a stay at the first port of destination. They may then, under paragraph a, book thence by some following ship to any port at which the latter calls which is not connected with the port of booking by railway. Thus a tourist, after a stay at Hobart, or a resident of Hobart, will be able to travel by outgoing vessels covered by the exemption to any mainland port in Australia, that is, Melbourne, Adelaide or Fremantle. In this connexion the bill confers an advantage not enjoyed by Hobart under - the present system of exemption by Order-in-Council.
I desire at this stage to state that the amendment proposed by the bill is designed to remedy the disabilities suffered by Hobart in the matter of the tourist industry, but if it is- found at any time that any considerable abuse is introduced by such means, for example, as alterations of itineraries for the purpose of bringing ships under the exemption and not for legitimate trade purposes, and that consequently our shipping interests are being injured in respect of their trade between mainland ports, serious consideration will be given to the question of repealing the provision and leaving the matter of the tourist traffic to be dealt with from season to season by exemption order under Section 286.
I now turn to clause 4 which, as I have said, deals with an entirely different matter, that of the equipment of wireless on small vessels. As honorable members know, the Navigation Act, as it now stands, requires the installation of wireless and the carrying of a certificated operator on the following classes of ships -
Passenger ships, that is ships carrying more than twelve passengers irrespective of tonnage;
In recent years several small cargo steamers not equipped with wireless, and of under 1,600 tons gross tonnage, have disappeared at sea with heavy loss of life. As in most of these cases the disappearances have occurred in times of storm, the presumption is that the vessels were overwhelmed by the seas and foundered, but being without wireless, and there being no survivors, no definite information is available as to the actual cause of loss. These vessels have, moreover, not been able to send out the distress call asking for assistance. Recent examples are the Christina Fraser, a collier of 716 tons gross, which disappeared off Gabo Island, on the 23rd June, 1933, and the Coramba, an interstate trader, running between Melbourne and Port Fairy, which went down in the abnormally heavy weather of the 30th November last. The disappearances of the vessels were investigated by courts of marine inquiry, and in each case the court added to its finding a rider to the effect that in its opinion all sea-going vessels should be equipped with wireless apparatus. That public opinion is definitely in favour of such a course is evidenced by the fact that, following upon the loss of the Coramba, the Victorian Branch of the Seamen’s Union announced that, its members would refuse to man seagoing vessels which did not carry wire- less, and the press, almost without exception, gave support to the seamen in the attitude they adopted. I draw no distinction between passengers and crew; this is a measure designed to ensure the safety of human lives, independent of status or position. In December last, a regulation was issued under the Navigation Act requiring that, on and after a given date, every sea-going steamship, not already required to be equipped with wireless, should carry an efficient apparatus of an approved type which, when put into operation, would automatically send out, in the Morse code, wireless signals prescribed to be used for a ship in distress, together with the ship’s name and position, such apparatus requiring no attention by a skilled operator. This requirement represents the utmost that can be done without an amendment of the Navigation Act. Honorable members will realize that the International Convention does not prescribe the apparatus for vessels under 1,600 tons. Therefore’, this step will, if approved .by Parliament, place Australia in the forefront of the world. We shall introduce a new and very salutary reform.
The maritime organization, representing officers and seamen serving on the coast, strongly urged that an automatic device was not sufficient, and requested that in all cases a wireless operator be carried. At the request of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), I heard representations from the maritime organizations, and from the ship-owners. After several conferences, certain proposals were agreed to, and those proposals are substantially embodied in this bill.
As I pointed out before, this bill sets out those proposals in broad outline, leaving the details to be covered by regulation. Honorable members will understand that we can legislate only for those ships engaged in interstate trade, not for those engaged in intra-state trade. It is provided that all steamships engaged in interstate trade, and not already required to carry wireless, must be provided with a wireless telegraphic installation having an effective range of 100 miles as a standard installation on the larger ships. This installation will be of a modified and cheaper kind than that required to be carried on vessels of more than 1,600 tons. The cost of such installations was discussed at the conferences, but I do not propose to commit myself one way or another in regard to that, because expense cannot be allowed to govern this matter. Therefore, even if, as now appears, the estimate submitted is rather below what will be necessary, this installation, in the opinion of the Government, is regarded as the minimum that can be accepted.
I desire now to set out in terms free from all technicalities what this installation is. It may be considered under three headings. The first provides for the installation of an automatic distress transmitter, having an independent source of energy, and being capable of being put into operation rapidly. It must work for at least six continuous hours with a minimum range from ship to ship of 50 nautical miles. It is worked by clockwork, and requires no skilled attention whatever. It is simple and reliable. It has been in operation now for many months, and the department and the ship-owners are satisfied that it is entirely dependable. Honorable members must realize that dependability must be the outstanding feature of this or any other wireless equipment. It must be able to send out signals, and call the attention of other ships and shore stations in all conceivable circumstances. Cheaper outfits that will work well enough under fair weather conditions are worse than nothing at all, because they create an illusion of safety which does not, in fact, exist.
In addition to this automatic transmitter, which has an independent source of energy - that is to say, it can work independently of the electric supply of the ship - there must be another installation which provides for two-way Morse communication. That, of course, requires an operator. The third provision is that vessels must carry a radio receiver for receiving telephonic messages from coastal stations or from other ships. The radio receiver is useful to enable the ship’s company to be informed of what the coastal stations or other ships are doing in response to signals of distress. By means of this apparatus coastal stations or other ships could send messages to the distressed vessel stating that such and such a ship was at a certain distance, and was hurrying to give help. This radio receives but will not transmit telephonic messages. The two-way Morse telegraphic instrument, however, will both receive and send.
– What wave-length i* stipulated ?
– The prescribed wavelength is 600 metres. Vessels under 1600 tons have been divided into two classes, namely, those over 750 tons, and those under 750 tons. Those over 750 tons are to carry an operator, who is defined in the bill as a person who holds a first or second-class certificate. What that involves is to be seen from the regulations. En effect, it means that such vessels must carry a professional operator. Vessels under 750 tons are to carry an operator or a wireless signaller, according as a Committee of Advice may recommend to the Minister.
It is provided that certain classes of ships may be exempt altogether, and about those exemptions there can be little controversy. Among the exemptions are vessels in tow of other vessels fitted with wireless telegraph installation; ships (not carrying passengers) on a voyage to a port for the purpose of undergoing at that port necessary repairs or periodical overhaul, and on the return voyage from that port; ships which are engaged in trading between ports not more than 25 nautical miles apart; vessels trading on the River Murray; and sailing vessels.
Although at the conferences which I attended there was no substantial difference of opinion as to the kind of installation or equipment which was to be employed, some difference of opinion emerged as the position became clarified, but that can be resolved very easily without in any way affecting this bill. One point in issue is whether the prescribed installations can be used for transmitting ships’ messages. Honorable members will understand that they cannot be used by the public for transmitting ordinary messages, but shipowners are in doubt as to whether they can be used for ships’ messages, for example notifying the head office that a vessel has reached an outlying port, or conveying other information of interest to its owners. Whether installations will be suitable for that purpose depends upon the terms of the Wireless Telegraphy Act, which prescribes the wave-lengths on which messages can be sent. But that is not material to the point ‘before the House.
The discussion at the conferences of ship-owners and representatives of the maritime organizations turned on whether an operator should be carried on all ships. Opinions differed widely, and the question was considered from every angle. The arrangement arrived at was, I think, a fair one, and will commend itself to honorable members of all sections of this House, because if there is anything which ought to be free from all suspicion of party it is a question of this kind. It was laid down definitely that ships from 750 tons to 1,600 tons should carry an operator, and that ships under 750 tons should carry an operator unless they were exempted from this obligation under a recommendation from the Committee of Advice. Honorable members will recognize, of course, that on some ships it would be very difficult to provide for the installation of the equipment let alone the accommodation for the operator himself. It is, therefore, obvious that there may be physical barriers to providing accommodation for an operator, that is to say, for an additional member of the crew. A further point raised by the owners, and one which seemed reasonable, was that under the manning provisions on some vessels having a crew exceeding a certain number, say 25, an additional cook has to be carried. It follows then that a ship having a crew of 25,- on being compelled to carry an operator, would have to make provision for 27 men, that is, allowing for the extra cook to be carried. I went into this aspect of the matter thoroughly, and as I was responsible for the drafting of the manning provisions in the original act, I approached it certainly full of sympathy with the men, but at the same time realizing that there are some things which cannot possibly be done. Then, of course, under the act every ship is compelled to carry adequate life-saving apparatus, and it might happen if the crew were increased by two that the boat accommodation would be insufficient to enable the boat to be permitted to go to sea. Under such circumstances, which I do not say are general, it seemed that the only way out of the difficulty was to constitute a Committee of Advice, all members of which would be practical men and thoroughly representative of all sections, to advise the Minister as to when and to what extent he should exercise his discretionary powers. This Committee of Advice, as honorable members will notice, is composed of the Director or the Deputy Director of Navigation, who will be chairman, a representative of the shipowners, and a representative of the maritime organizations. The composition of this Committee of Advice is substantially the same as that of the committee already established under the provisions of the act applying to the manning of ships generally. It has worked very well, and, as honorable members know, only yesterday, the committee, or rather the Maritime Council, was called upon to arbitrate in a certain case, and, I presume, its decision gave satisfaction. At any rate, no one has suggested that its decision was other than an honest one given by practical men, and that is all we can ask for.
I am not going to labour this matter any further, but will be content to point out that under section 4 we have sought to implement the proposals agreed to at the various conferences between the parties directly concerned. I am not aware that the bill departs to any extent from the understanding arrived at during those conferences.
The matters covered by the bill call for speedy settlement. It is most important that arrangements for the tourist traffic be definitely made before the holiday season commences. Honorable members have the assurance of the. Government that if it is found that any of the relative provisions are abused they will be repealed and we shall fall back as we have done since 1921 on the power of the executive to issue permits. In regard to the matter of wireless I need hardly stress the urgency of this measure, because unless, and until, this Parliament has assented to it no vessel can be equipped with these installations, and no ship-owner will be able to place his orders. This equipment is not made in a moment. I have been informed that twelve weeks at least must elapse from the time the order is placed until delivery is effected to the ships. I, therefore; urge the speedy passage of this bill. I know that honorable members are all agreed that so far as the measure affects the interests of the travelling public and the seamen, and Australia generally, it should be agreed to at the earliest possible moment.
Debate ‘(on motion by Mr. Hollo way) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend section three of the Sales Tax Procedure Act 1934, to insert in that act a new section twelve a, and to specify a date upon which that new section shall be deemed to have commenced.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to insert in the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 9) 1930-1033 a new section two a, and to amend sections four, six, nine and twelve of that act.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend sections three, twenty, twentysix, forty-five, forty-eight, forty-nine and seventy-three of the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 1) 1930-1934.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend sections seventeen, twenty-two and fifty-twok of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1933, to repeal sections fiftytwo a, fifty-twoc, fifty-twod, fifty-two e, fiftytwof and fifty-two m of that act, and to provide for the determination of certain debts due, orders made, and undertakings given, in pursuance of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1932 or in pursuance of that act as subsequently amended.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be nowread a second time.
It will be within the recollection of honorable members that in June last the Government decided to ask Parliament to repeal those sections of the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act which relate to contributions by certain specified relatives towards the maintenance of pensioners. At the same time the Government announced its intention not to proceed to administer those sections, and stated that such action would be validated at a later date. In July last, the Government introduced a bill for that purpose; but owing to pressure of what at that time was regarded as more urgent public business, the bill was not proceeded with before Parliament rose. The Government is taking this early opportunity - in fact the earliest opportunity - to repeal those sections of the act.
Perhaps I should recount the circumstances which led the Government to introduce into the invalid and old-age pensions legislation provisions in respect of contributions by relatives, and, at a later date, to seek to repeal them. The Prime Minister in his speech on the Financial Emergency Bill in 1932, referred to the fact that there were a number of persons in the community whose circumstances enabled them to make some financial provision towards the support of their pensioner relatives, but who in fact did not do so and were content to allow the whole burden of maintaining their old and indigent relatives to fall upon the Commonwealth. In seeking to correct that position the Government did not at any time intend to place a burden upon relatives who were unable to bear it. The amendments were designed to relieve some portion of the pension burden upon the Commonwealth by making it mandatory for certain relatives who were financially able to do so to make some contribution towards the maintenance of pensioners. It was clearly specified that only those in a certain stipulated financial position should be asked to make any contribution at all. Honorable members will agree that in view of all the circumstances the Government acted very liberally in the matter. The stipulations were these: A married relative without children had to be in receipt of an income of £312 per annum, or £6 a week, before being asked to make any contribution at all. In addition, there was an allowance of £50 for each child and a number of other specified exemptions so that a married couple with two children had to be in receipt of almost £8 a week before being asked to contribute one penny towards the maintenance of pensioner relatives. A single or widowed relative of a pensioner had to be in receipt of an income of £208 a year, or £4 a week, before being asked to make any contribution. The special exemptions were in respect to the education of children, contributions towards unemployed relatives, medical expenses and interest on and repayments of mortgages. All these things were taken into account as deductions and in the average case served to increase the minimum income received in the home pf a relative before he or she was asked to make any contribution at all towards the maintenance of a pensioner relative. There can be no doubt that at that time the Government acted in an extremely liberal spirit as only the relatives of pensioners who were in a fairly good financial position were asked to make any contribution at all. When this amendment was introduced the pressure of departmental work in administering other amendments of the act was such that the investigation had to be confined to relatives of those pensioners who were granted pensions after the 12th October, 1932. Subsequent to March, 1934, the section of the act relating to contributions by relatives was extended by administration to apply to those who were in receipt of pensions at the 12th October, 1932.
Since that time the operation of these provisions of the act has been very closely watched by the Government. Experience of the working of the act after March, 1934, demonstrated the liberality of the exemptions and showed that in practice only a small proportion of the relatives of pensioners were obliged to make any contribution at all. An investigation into the financial and other circumstances of pensioners’ relatives resulted in contributions of an annual value of only £6,700 being made, while the amount actually received up to the 21st June, 1934, the date on which the administration of this section of the act was suspended, was £2,486. In these circumstances, it became clear that the cost of administering this section of the law was unwarranted.
– It also proved that the Prime Minister was wrong in 1932.
– Not at all. It proved the liberality of the Government in fixing the relatively high income which had to be received before any ‘contribution was required from relatives, and also the extremely liberal spirit shown in previous years.
During the recent recess the Government has taken the opportunity to review the’ whole of the invalid and old-age pensions legislation, and particularly those sections relating to the property of pensioners which were introduced into the law by the passing of the Financial Emergency Act of 1932. Briefly these property provisions made pensions paid after the 12th October, 1932, a debt due to the Commonwealth. On a pensioner’s death the debt became a charge on his estate in priority to all other debts excepting a few which were specified. The “ white card “ which was introduced at that time, in effect, meant that pensioners were required to give an undertaking that they would not transfer or mortgage their property without the consent of the Commissioner. When this provision was inserted the Government was of the opinion that it would act as ‘ a deterrent to those who, although eligible for a pension, were, in actual fact, not in need of it. This belief was well founded, as during the period when the white card was in operation, the voluntary surrender of pensions numbered over 12,000, and new claims were reduced by 13,000. It is relevant at this stage to make a brief survey of the pensioners’ roll, and its increase from year to year. In the financial year 1929-30, the net increase in the number of pensioners was 14,000. In 1930-31 the number increased over the previous year’s figures by 22,000, and in 1931-32 increased again by 15,000. In 1932-33, the year in which the white card provision was introduced, there was a decrease of 6,400 in the total number of pensioners. That is the first and only year since the introduction of pensions in 1910 in which there has been a reduction in the number of pensions paid. Section 52s of the act, which is the main property section, was amended in December, 1933. The amount of pension paid after the 31st December, 1932, remained a debt due to the Commonwealth payable out of the estate of the pensioner on his or her death, but not a charge on the property of the pensioner. Furthermore, the debt had no priority over any other of the pensioner’s debts. At tho same time liberal exemptions were made in respect of a pensioner’s estate before the Government made any claim whatsoever. When the white card undertaking became unnecessary pensioners were free to deal with their own property as they wished without any restrictions by the Commissioner, although they, were obliged to advise the department of any transfer or mortgage of real property owned by them.
When I referred previously to the deterrent effect of this provision I meant its effect upon those who, although technically eligible for a pension, were in fact not in need of it. The effect was demonstrated by the fact that the pension roll diminished very considerably when the white card undertaking was introduced, and increased largely when it was removed. The increase in the pensions roll for 1933-34 was 11,512. In other words there was an additional annual charge on the budget of £750,000. That increase of £750,000 corresponds very closely with the estimate given by the then- AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) who, in replying to a question when dealing with the amending provisions, said that the increase was likely to amount to about £650,000. I have sought to indicate that the real deterrent was removed when the “ white card “ provision was repealed. The only benefit to the budget that remained was represented by the amount recovered from the estates of pensioners upon their death. When these facts became apparent to the Government the situation was reviewed from that angle.
Since I have had the privilege of association with the Department of the Treasury, I have introduced a scheme for the compilation of statistics concerning the circumstances of pensioners. It has now been in operation for something over a year, and the figures already collected and collated disclose rather interesting tendencies. They cover about 177,000 of the total of over 260,000 pensioners. The first point observed - and it is of considerable interest in connexion with the bill now before the House - is that about 70 per cent, of all pensioners have no estate from which the Commonwealth’s debt could be recovered. Of the remaining 30 per cent., 11 per cent, own their homes but no other property, the average net unencumbered value of each home being £285. A further 5 per cent, own other property, as well as their homes, the average value of such other property being £62. The balance of 14 per cent, do not own their homes, but own other property, the average value of which is £49. Honorable members will thus see that the field in which the Government might recover, at the pensioner’s death, the amount of pension paid, is a small one; and it is still further reduced by the fact that tha Commonwealth’s claim on the pensioner’s estate has no priority over other debts, as well as by reason of the numerous exemptions allowed. Perhaps it will be of interest briefly to refer to the exemptions that have had priority over the debt to the Commonwealth in this respect. First, there is the exemption of personal effects up to an amount of £50. Secondly, there is the exemption of property which, by will, passes to a relative who is either a pensioner, is in necessitous circumstances, or is living as a member of the pensioner’s family in a home owned by the pensioner at the date of his death. Such property has been completely immune from any claim by the Government at the death of the pensioner. Thirdly, friendly society benefits are exempt to the extent that they exceed funeral expenses. In addition, funeral expenses and all other debts have priority over the claim of the Common wealth. Further, there is what is known as the hardship provision, which empowers the Commissioner at his discretion to exempt either wholly or in part, property which passes from a pensioner to a person who, did the Government exact its claim, might be deemed to suffer hardship. I may say that in the last twelve months the hardship section of the act has been invoked on innumerable occasions, and has been administered - I think all honorable members will admit - in a most sympathetic spirit.
The property provisions of the act, which I have attempted to sketch, presented no real difficulty in administration in the early stages of their operation, while the debt due to the Commonwealth was relatively small. But the. position is now rapidly changing, and the size of the debt technically owing to the Commonwealth is mounting with the passage of time. Since the end of 1932 it has become increasingly difficult to administer the act, and the hardship section is becoming more and more invoked as time goes on. These circumstances have moved the Government to the decision to repeal section 52b.
– Will the repeal be made retrospective ?
– No. I have endeavoured to deal with the two principal sections that are to be repealed by this measure - section 52m, relating to contributions by relatives, and section 52e, which embodies the property provisions. It is necessary to repeal other related sections that were introduced in 1932, and are really ancillary to those two principal sections. Sections 17fa and 22GA deal with the transfer of property by a claimant for a pension otherwise than bona fide for value, to an amount of £100 or more, within five years of the lodging of his claim. A claimant who fell within the scope of either of those two sub-sections, became automatically ineligible for a pension. They are to be repealed, and in future pensioners who, in the opinion of the Commissioner, have transferred property otherwise than bona fide for value, will not, because of such action, be disentitled to a pension ; but the property so transferred will be taken into consideration in assessing the amount of pension they are to receive. Section 52a, which requires the furnishing of particulars in regard to a pensioner’s real property and relatives, will be inoperative when the bill becomes law. Section 52<j also is to be repealed. It has required the repayment of pensions received since the 31st December, 1932, by a pensioner who became the owner of property exceeding £400 in value - or £800 where both husband and wife were pensioners - to the extent by which the value of the property exceeded those amounts. Section 52d, which is to be repealed, required notice to be given of the transfer or mortgage of real property. Section 52f, the last of the sections to be repealed, made the contributions by relatives towards the pension deductible from any claim eventually made by the Government on the estate of the pensioner at his or her death.
It is also necessary to amend section 52k. It provides that, where a pensioner’s home is destroyed by fire, the Commissioner may give his consent to the insurance money being devoted to the building of another home or to other purposes, in which case the pension will not be reduced nor will the money be subject to the provisions of section 52c. It is to be amended in the interests of pensioners by omitting all reference to section 52c.
Consequently, of the amendments introduced in 1932, only three will remain. One is section 52b, which requires a pensioner to advise the Commissioner when he acquires property or receives income which affects the amount of pension payable. That is to remain, because it is necessary for reasons other than those arising out of the property provisions or the provisions relating to contributions by relatives. Section 52GA, which also is to remain, empowers the Commissioner to accept from a pensioner or a claimant for a pension, a transfer of any unencumbered property or of any interest under a will. The value of any such property or interest is not taken into account in determining the rate of pension. Section 52gb is a short machinery section designed to give effect to section 52<ja.
The bill provides that all debts due to the Commonwealth under the sections to be repealed, and all debts unpaid at the date that the bill becomes law, shall cease to exist.
– All those who have paid will be penalized.
– The bill is not to be retrospective in any degree, and no refunds are to be made by reason of the repeal of sections 52c, 52e or 52m.
The Government is proud of its record in respect of pensions. Not only this Government, but also governments in the past that have been composed of men following the same line of political thought, have been foremost in looking after the interests of the aged and the indigent members of the community, who, because of circumstances largely beyond their own control, have fallen upon evil days. The Government is happy to be in a position to introduce this measure, and I have pleasure in commending it to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Makin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for on act to amend the Fort Augusta to Red Hill Railway Act 1930.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members are aware that, in accordance with its pre-election policy speech, the Government has been considering for some time the subject of works associated with a uniform railway gauge. It arranged to convene a conference of Commonwealth and State representatives, and had gone so far as to fix a date for the conference, but impending elections in at least two of the States, and other difficulties, were in the way, with the result that the consideration of the general question had to be deferred. Meanwhile, it has decided to proceed with the construction of a standard guage railway line from Port Augusta to Red Hill, and to make the necessary adjustments to the existing railway between Red Hill and Adelaide, to enable trans-Australian trains to run without break of gauge from Kalgoorlie, in Western Australia, to the
Central Railway Station, Adelaide. This is part of the uniform railway gauge scheme recommended by the royal commission. The work of constructing the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill and the adjustments from there into the Adelaide Central Railway Station were approved by the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia under an agreement dated 18th September, 1925. That agreement was ratified by both the federal and State parliaments, the Commonwealth Act being the Railways (South Australian Agreement) Act 1926, and the State the North-South Railway Agreement Act 1926. The agreement provided for the building of a railway by the Commonwealth from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs and that railway was completed and opened for traffic on the 2nd August, 1929. It provided further for the Commonwealth building a railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill and for the provision of a third rail on the existing 5 feet 3 inch gauge line from Red Hill to the Central Railway Station, Adelaide - also at the expense of the Commonwealth - so as to give a continuous railway on a 4 feet 8£ inch gauge from Kalgoorlie to Adelaide.
It will be remembered that in 1930 an act was passed by this Parliament providing for the construction of the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill. In section 2 of that act there is a provision that the date of the commencement of the act is to be fixed by proclamation and there is a condition reading -
A Proclamation under this section shall not issue until the Governor-General has, by notification published in the Gazette, declared that all doubts as to whether the consent of the State of South Australia to the construction of the railway by the Commonwealth is in full force and effect have been removed.
Briefly, the position is: -
The agreement between the Commonwealth and the State is dated 18th September, 1925. Clause 5d of the agreement provides -
In approving and consenting to the said railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill the State may if it thinks fit provide that such approval and consent shall lapse and be of no effect if the construction of that railway is not commenced by the Commonwealth within a period to be specified by the Premier of the State not being less than three years from the date of such approval and consent.
I emphasize the words “ within a period to be specified by the Premier of the State “. Section 3 of the South Australian North-South Railway Agreement Act 1926, assented to on the 25th February, 1926, provides -
The State hereby consents to the construction and carrying out by the Commonwealth of the railways and railway works and operations which the Commonwealth undertakes by the agreement to construct and carry out; provided that if the construction of the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill referred to in the agreement is not commenced by the Commonwealth within such period (being not less than three years from the date of the commencement of this act) as is notified to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth by the Premier of the State within twelve months after the said commencement, the consent given by this section shall as regards such railway be null and void.
The act commenced on the 25 th February, 1926, and the State had the opportunity, should it have so desired, to notify the Prime Minister that the work must be commenced within a given period. The State could not select any period less than three years from the commencement of the act because the Commonwealth would need a reasonable time in which to make arrangements to commence the work. The State could, however, have named a period of three years or, say, four, or even five years or more. It did not, however, exercise the right reserved to it under Section 3 of the act, and on the 25th February, 1927, the stipulated period expired. The State then had no right to bind the Commonwealth to start the work within any particular time. From that date the Commonwealth had a full and unfettered right to build the railway. The Commonwealth Crown Solicitor has expressed the following view on this question -
In my opinion the Commonwealth has now a full and unqualified consent by the State to the construction of the railway at any time, and further legislation by the State is unnecessary.
The Commonwealth Attorney-General recently reviewed the legal position, and a copy of his submission has been forwarded to the Government of South Australia. He is definitely of the opinion that the consent of the State remains in full force and effect, that the Commonwealth Government has a right to proceed with the works at any time, and that it is competent for the Governor-General, upon being satisfied that the doubts have been removed, to declare at any time that the consent of the State is in full force and effect. As the Commonwealth Parliament in the Port Augusta to Red Hill Railway Act 1930 declared that certain doubts did exist, it is thought that we should now pass an amending act declaring that those doubts have been removed. The bill which I now submit to the House makes provision accordingly. It provides for the building’ of the railway to Red Hill only, but it also includes provision for rolling-stock.
– Are not copies of the bill available?
– They will be made available at the earliest moment.
– Has the Government been in consultation with the Premier of South Australia ?
– We have been in constant consultation with him. This bill amends the act of 1930 so as to exclude section 2, and makes one or two other minor amendments. A cursory glance at clause 3 might suggest that there is going to be an increase in the estimated cost of this railway. Actually, the opposite is the case. Clause 3 reads -
Section five of the principal act is amended by omitting the words “ exclusive of rolling stock, shall not exceed Seven hundred and thirty-five thousand pounds “ and inserting m their stead the words “ inclusive of rolling stock, shall not exceed Seven hundred and eighty-nine thousand two hundred and fifty pounds “.
That suggests that there is to be an increase of some £54,000 in the cost of this line as compared with what it was proposed to expend in 1930. As a matter of fact, there is an actual reduction of £50,000. The explanation is that the clause includes the cost of providing rolling-stock - a sum of £104,000 - which was excluded from the corresponding provision in the original act. The sum mentioned in this clause is £54,000 more than the amount mentioned in the act which it amends, because that act excluded .the cost of the rolling-sock, whereas this bill includes it. Apart from the works authorized under this bill, there is still the work to be undertaken between Red Hill and Adelaide. When the whole of the works are completed, there will be a railway of a continuous 4-ft. 8-J-in. gauge between Port Augusta - indeed, between Kalgoorlie - and the Adelaide Central Railway Station.
– Will the Government go on with the conversion of the Kalgoorlie to Perm section?
– The honorable member is asking a little too much at present. Concerning the work between Rod Hill and Adelaide, it is proposed at an early date to confer further with the South Australian- Government.
As I have already stated, both tho Commonwealth and the State Parliament have ratified the agreement of September, 1925, under which the works will be undertaken.
There is little need for me to say much more except perhaps to urge that it cannot be too strongly emphasized that the trans-Australian railway is very seriously hampered owing to the narrow-gauge connexions on both the eastern and western sides. Overland passengers from Western Australia have to transfer from the Commonwealth train at Port Augusta to a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge train, and change again at Terowie into a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge train for Adelaide. So tedious is this section of the journey that many passengers leave the train at Port Augusta and travel to Adelaide by road motor. The journey by rail from Adelaide to Port Augusta now takes about one hour longer than when the through service was established over seventeen years ago. I understand that the journey in one direction occupies twelve, and in the other, thirteen hours. When this railway is built the distance between Port Augusta and Adelaide will be a few miles less than the distance between Albury and Melbourne. The journey from Albury to Melbourne occupies only four and a half hours, whereas from twelve to thirteen hours are occupied in travelling between Port Augusta and Adelaide, which are practically the same distance apart. That fact should induce honorable members to realize that there is urgent need for improving this section of the East- West railway line. The railway from Port Augusta to Adelaide takes a very circuitous route. Adelaide is almost due south of Port Augusta, yet over three hours after leaving the latter point the passenger, for Adelaide is farther north than he was at the commencement of the journey. Whilst the steamers trading between Western Australia and the eastern States have put on faster and more commodious and comfortable boats, and have moved with the times, the railway service has not improved; in fact, in some respects it is not the equal of what it was seventeen years ago, and there has been a gradual falling away of relative travel by rail and an increase in the relative travel by boat. As faster and newer types of steamers are introduced, there will be a still further decrease in the proportion travelling by rail unless railway transport is materially improved.
When the royal commission in 1921 considered the question of uniform railway gauge, they reported that the section between Port Augusta and Adelaide should be the first to receive attention. Their report stated -
Considering the main trunk line as a whole,- it may be pointed out that the section between Terowie and Port Augusta is the most undesirable section of the trans-Australian line.
Fourteen years have elapsed, and it is still the most undesirable section.
When the trans-Australian trains run without break between Kalgoorlie and Adelaide, a tremendous impetus will be given to passenger traffic. Two breakofgauge stations will be cut out. The change will permit of a complete rearrangement of the time-table, and with a speeding up on the trans-Australian railway, which will be possible on completion of ballasting on that line - now well in hand - passengers will arrive in Melbourne and Sydney one day earlier than at present. At the present time nothing would be gained by speeding up the trans-Australian train between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta, because it could not be speeded up sufficiently to enable it to reach Port Augusta a day earlier and thereby take advantage of the existing time-table between Adelaide and Melbourne. It would, however, be practicable to increase its speed sufficiently to enable it to arrive at Port Augusta at an hour which, combined with the saving of time between Port Augusta and Adelaide, would make it possible to save a whole day in the trip between Western Australia and the eastern States. With no break of gauge between Kalgoorlie and Adelaide, goods traffic should show an appreciable increase, while the transport of live stock would also be greatly facilitated. At present cattle from stations on the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs railway for the Adelaide market have to travel such long distances that it is necessary to spell them en route for from 24 to 36 hours. The cattle have to be loaded and unloaded twice - once at the spelling point and again at Terowie, the break of gauge station. When the proposed railway has been completed the cattle will be spelled at Stirling, a few miles from Port Augusta, where they will be transferred to the railway to Adelaide viii Red Hill. The spelling and transfer points will coincide, and, consequently, one de-trucking and one re-trucking of stock will be avoided. The building of the proposed railway will also greatly develop and facilitate the traffic in live stock to and from the trans-Australian railway. Not only will there be reductions of freight and the time occupied on the journey, but in addition the stock will arrive in better condition and realize higher prices. Moreover, the construction of the line will provide employment for hundreds of men for at least two years.
– How is it proposed to make up the loss, estimated at £50,000 per annum, which the construction of this railway will mean to the South Australian Government?
– I assume that that matter was taken into consideration when South Australia consented to the agreement and passed the necessary legislation in 1926. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Drakeford) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. HUNTER) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend section twelve of the Dried Fruits Export Control Act, 1024-1034.
Bill brought up, and read a first tine.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is purely a machinery measure, and has been introduced with the object of ensuring to any permanent officer of the Public Service of the Commonwealth who may be seconded for appointment as secretary to the Dried Fruits Control Board, the preservation of his existing and accruing rights as a public servant during the period of his service with the board. These rights are defined in section 6 of the Officers Rights Declaration Act 1928-1933, to the effect that an officer shall be entitled to appointment to an office in the Public Service of such status -and salary as may be determined by the Public Service Board of Commissioners, on completion of his employment in an unattached capacity. The Dried Fruits Control Board is a statutory body constituted by the Dried Fruits Export Control Act, and since the passage of that act in 1924, the position of secretary to the board has been held by an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service seconded for that purpose. In an investigation made by the Public Service Board, the legality of this action was called into question, the view being taken that when the act was framed the employment of a secretary from outside the Public Service was contemplated, and that the retention of a public servant in the position was anomalous. When organizations of this nature are established it is often essential that conflicting interests should be brought together, and the services of a capable secretary who at no time has been connected with any particular phase of the industry is a distinct advantage. For this reason, and because the officer concerned now possesses an expert knowledge of the duties involved, the Dried Fruits Control Board strongly urged that it be allowed to retain his services. In these circumstances, the Public Service Board has no objection to the Dried Fruits Control Board continuing to utilize his services provided that the act is amended along the lines of the bill now before the House:
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hunter) agreed to -
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Canned Fruits Export Control trol Act 1926-1934.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Mr. HUNTER (Maranoa- Assistant
Minister) [8.54]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is twofold - first, to amend the Canned Fruits Export Control Act by the inclusion of canned fruit salad within the definitions of canned fruits already prescribed in the act; and, secondly, to preserve the rights of any officer appointed from the Commonwealth Public Service as secretary to the board.
The Canned Fruits Control Board now exercises control over the export of canned apricots, peaches, pears and pineapples, and one feature of this control is the fixing, each season, of the minimum prices at which these fruits may be sold in the principal markets overseas. At present, however, the board does not exercise any control over what is known in the trade as canned fruit salad, which is a standardized pack consisting of not less than 75 per centum of fruit contents by weight of the kinds of fruit already prescribed under the act, namely, canned apricots, peaches, pears and pineapples. This pack is becoming increasingly popular in the British market, and imports from the United States of America alone amount to approximately 600,000 cases per annum. Exports from Australia have, so far, been largely of an experimental nature; but the board is convinced, as a result of these experimental shipments, that the British demand for the Australian product will increase rapidly. Fruit salad is canned by the main proprietary, co-operative, and State-controlled canneries engaged in the export trade, and the industry generally supports the representations which have been made to the Commonwealth Government by the Canned Fruits Control Board that the provisions of the act should be applied to this class of commodity.
The proposed amendment is necessary in order to give effect to these representations, and will enable the board to regulate the overseas selling prices of this product, and assist in the stabilization of the market, which might be somewhat difficult were control of this particular pack not vested in the board.
The provisions of clause 3, relating to the preservation of the rights of a Commonwealth officer appointed as secretary to the Canned Fruits Control Board,, are identical with those contained in the Dried Fruits Amending Bill, the second reading of which I have just moved. The position of secretary to the Canned Fruits Control Board has been filled by an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service since 1926, and as the circumstances which led to the drafting of clause 3 are the same as those referred to by me during the second reading of the Dried Fruits Export Control Bill, further comment on this clause appears to be unnecessary.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hunter) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Dried Fruits Act 1928-1933.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Mr. HUNTER (Maranoa- Assistant
Minister) [8.57]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The original Dried Fruits Act was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1928 at the express wish of the Governments in the four States which produce dried fruits, namely, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. These States had already enacted legislation for the regulation of trade in dried currants, sultanas and lexias within their respective boundaries. One of the principal provisions in each of the State measures was that which empowered the State authorities to determine the quantities of dried fruits which could be sold in the home market. The States, however, had no authority to regulate the interstate transfer of goods, without which it was not possible to ensure that the balance of the dried fruits, over and above that required for home consumption, would be exported overseas. In order to meet that position it was essential that Commonwealth legislation be passed to prohibit the interstate movement of dried fruits, except by licence, under which the licensee would be required to comply with certain - conditions, including the observance of export quotas fixed by the Minister for Commerce. The system of export quotas prevents price-cutting on the Australian market, and ensures that the producer will take his fair share of the less remunerative export markets. It provides for the burden of export being shared equally.
Two years ago the States again approached the Commonwealth Government and requested that the Dried Fruits Act be amended with the object of bringing dried tree fruits, namely, dried prunes, peaches, apricots, pears and nectarines, within its scope. Their request was acceded to, and parliamentary sanction to the amending legislation was obtained towards the end of 1933. That legislation stipulated, however, that growers of dried tree fruits be given the opportunity to decide, at a poll to be taken within six months after the commencement of the act, whether the regulation of interstate trade in those fruits was to continue. The poll was subsequently held, and 554 growers voted in favour of continuance, and only 225 against the proposal. The result of the poll indicates clearly that the growers are substantially in favour of statutory control.
Since 1928 the regulations promulgated under the Commonwealth act have provided for the issue by prescribed authorities - the State Dried Fruits Boards - of “ owner’s “ licences in respect of the owners who deliver fruit to a carrier for carriage into another State, and of “ carrier’s “ licences in respect of the carriers. The principal conditions which owners are required to observe under “ owner’s “ licences are -
The only condition which carriers are required to observe under “ carrier’s “ licences is that they shall not accept delivery of any dried fruits from the owner for interstate carriage unless the owner is the holder of an “ owner’s “ licence.
From the terms of section 3, it is not clear beyond doubt that an “owner’s” licence, as well as a “ carrier’s “ licence is contemplated by the act, although it is considered that the general scope and intention of the legislation justify provision being made by regulation for each such licence.
Section 3 requires that no person shall - (a) deliver dried fruits to any person for carriage into or through another State to a place in Australia beyond the State in which delivery is made; or (6) carry dried fruits from any place in one State into or through another State to a place in Australia beyond the State in which the carriage begins; unless a licence has been issued permitting that carriage of those dried fruits. In order to remove all doubt in this connexion it is considered desirable that express provision be made for the issue of the two classes of licence. The bill makes that provision. Experience over a period of seven years has definitely indicated that the two licences are essential for the successful operation of this legislation. For obvious reasons the owner of the fruit must take out an owner’s licence if he desires to trade interstate, and the carrier’s licence is regarded as an indispensable safeguard to prevent illicit trafficking in dried fruits between the States. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hunter) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Dairy Produce Act 1933.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The provisions of this measure are identical with those contained in the Dried Fruits Bill, which I have already introduced. During the period from January, 1926 to May, 1934’, a voluntary scheme known as thePaterson plan was in operation, and it had the effect of stabilizing the price of butter in Australia. The scheme, however, was not sufficiently binding to ensure the full support of manufacturers of butter, and consequently the Dairy Produce Act was passed towards the end of 1933. This was supplementary to legislation passed at the same time by the Parliaments of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. The powers given in the Federal Act were similar to those in the Dried Fruits Act, and were designed to regulate interstate trade, whilst the State acts provided for the regulation of trade within the respective States. In practice the authority set up by each State act fixes the proportion of the State’s production of butter and cheese which may be sold on the local market, and the Federal act, in effect, protects this allocation by regulating the movement of such produce from one State to another, ensuring that the surplus production of butter and cheese is removed from the Australian market.
The Dairy Produce Act was brought into operation by proclamation issued on the 2nd May, 1934, and provision was made under it for the taking of a poll of producers throughout the Commonwealth within six months from that date to decide whether or not the act should continue to operate. The poll resulted in an overwhelming majority of votes being recorded in favour of continuance. The figures were 50,747 in favour and 1,416 against. Regulations issued under the Dairy Produce Act provide for the granting by prescribed authorities in the various States of both “ Owners” and “ Carriers” licences on a basis somewhat similar to that on which licences are issued in respect of dried fruits. There is, therefore, no need for me to relate the circumstances which led to the preparation of this bill, in view of the similarity of the provisions of the two acts, and the details already given by me in moving the second reading of the Dried Fruits Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Barnard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 7 th December, 1934 (vide page 937), on motion by Mr. Paterson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- On the 7th December last, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) delivered his second-reading speech in respect of this measure to amend the Nationality Act 1920-1930. The principal act, as amended by this bill, if it becomes law, will be cited as the Nationality Act 1920-1934. The bill represents a further stage, though not a very generous and decisive one, along the road of uniformity in nationality laws. It would appear that the Government prefers to follow slowly, and somewhat reluctantly, rather than to lead decisively and courageously. Uniformity in our nationality laws is doubtless a consummation devoutly to be desired. International reciprocity in nationality laws is a contribution to international goodwill, as well as being, from its very nature, a practical convenience.
So far as the British Empire is concerned, we are all somewhat loosely described as British subjects, although we are not an empire in the strict sense, but a commonwealth of equal nations. We are recognized as such the world over, and by the League of Nations. The common bond is the Crown. Nobody, I think, has a desire to disturb this position, although, by virtue of our enlarged and admitted status, we in Australia are, for all practical purposes, independent. Ministers of the Crown are Ministers of the King everywhere throughout this commonwealth of nations, the King acting on the advice of Dominion Ministers in dominion affairs and not any longer on the advice of British Ministers. I am sorry to have to say that the Government has delayed - perhaps I may safely say shirked its responsibility - in putting the coping stone on Australia’s governmental self-sufficiency; but, no doubt, this will come at the hands of either the present Government or one that is less reactionary.
Australia, under its Constitution, declares its own national laws, none the less so because it has adopted the major part of the relevant legislation passed by the British Parliament on the same subject. We have not, up to the present time, had the honour of having a woman representative in the Commonwealth Parliament, more’s the pity. Were it otherwise, the Parliament would surely have removed the stigma contained in the definition of “ disability “, in which married women are grouped with criminals, lunatics and idiots. Women enjoy the franchise, and they help to return members. They are eligible to sit in Parliament, though, as I have already remarked, none has ever been returned to this legislature. They have free entry at last into all the professions, many of which they have adorned, and still adorn. They may own property, and, above all, they are subject to the laws of the country. They are under its sanctions and are bound to obey them; but, in the matter of nationality, as a kind of survival of worse and older times when the woman had- the status of a serf, she is still for all practical purposes a serf. One wonders why, in the present stage of our history, the nationality of a woman should be bandied about, irrespective of her own choice and birthright. She may have the misfortune to have contracted a marriage with a person in every material respect inferior to herself. She may have the misfortune to have contracted a marriage with a criminal person, who, nevertheless, controls her nationality, and either makes or unmakes it.
In the course of his second reading speech, the Minister said that we must get into step with Great Britain. It is certainly desirable that we should not be out of step with Great Britain in this matter, but it is more important to keep in step with social justice, and with the general trend of our . own laws in regard to the status, rights and obligations of women. It is a very difficult thing for the legislature of one country to move constantly in step with that of any other country, however friendly those countries may be; indeed it is impossible. I conceive that it is better to lead the way in doing the right thing than to perpetuate a wrong thing while waiting on the legislature of another country to lead the way. The intended effect of this proposed legislation is to legalize certain articles of the convention which sat at the Hague in 1930. These articles, though quaintly worded, are sound in themselves, and it is not likely that the Australian Labour Party, with equal rights for the sexes as one of the planks of its platform, will offer any opposition to their enactment. The articles read -
Article 8. - If the national law of the wife causes her to lose her nationality on marriage with a foreigner, this consequence shall be conditional on her acquiring the nationality of the husband.
Article 9. - If the national law of the wife causes her to lose her nationality upon a change in the nationality of her husband occurring during marriage, this consequence shall be conditional on her acquiring her husband’s new nationality.
Article 10. - Nationalization of the husband during marriage shall not involve a change in the nationality of the wife except with her consent.
The principles embodied in those articles, insofar as they relate to British subjects, are given effect to in this bill. It is a disturbing reflection, however, that it is only by virtue of quite recent legislation that a woman married to a British subject may retain her nationality, even though her husband may have elected to change his. That grave injustice has now, in a left-handed way, been removed, inasmuch as the wife may declare her desire to retain her nationality, though obviously the position should be that she should not lose it unless she elected to do so. Every country, Australia among others, is, of course, responsible for its own nationality laws. The United States of America in seeking either to limit or enlarge woman’s franchise - one hardly knows which - has declared by law that a woman who marries an American does not acquire his nationality unless she makes a declaration of her desire and intention to do so, and even then she must have to her credit a sufficient period of American residence - not less, it would appear, than twelve months.
– It is three years now.
– She may be stateless for three years.
– That is so. During that period she would be without any nationality. She would have lost her British nationality by her marriage to an American, but by reason of the American law would not have acquired American nationality. The late Hon. P. McMahon Glynn was the author of that piquant phrase that it is undesirable to have two nationalities in the one house. At the worst, I do not think that in a happy family nationality, as a legal conception apart from its practical side, would be likely to add another to the many possible causes of domestic discord; but the persons concerned may not be in the one house. In many cases, the husband is a deserter. In that unfortunate circumstance, he takes his nationality with him but he also leaves it behind him. I can see no escape from the fundamental justice of the claim that a woman born in this country as an Australian-British subject should continue to be so unless she herself takes the necessary affirmative action to shed her nationality. No other course is in my view defensible. The children’s rights should rest upon the same secure foundation.
– This bill is silent on that important subject.
– Yes. It is monstrous, I submit, that the innocent victims of an absurd law should be declared, in their own country in which they have been born, to be the subjects of a foreign power.
– Surely that is not so.
– The Minister, in introducing this bill, stated that representations by women’s organizations for equality of nationality “have received full consideration.” To my knowledge, they have been receiving the full consideration of this Parliament for the last twenty years, but nothing has been done in any practical way to give effect to their desires.
– The honorable member was himself Attorney-General for two years.
– That is so, and I am not trying to shirk my part of the responsibility. The full responsibility, however, attaches to the whole Parlia ment. I suggest that this polite evasion, of which we all have been guilty, will not serve any longer to deceive much less acute observers than the women who are to-day taking an active part in the agitation to secure equality with men in respect of nationality. “We have been told that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) will take this matter up in London during his present visit. I have had some little experience of how these problems are taken up for consideration at Imperial Conferences, and of how they are handled. They do not particularly affect votes, and so are postponed in soft words and graceful sentences designed for no other purpose than to obviate criticism and postpone a decision.
I do not propose to offer any opposition to the passage of the bill; but I think it deserves such criticism as I have offered. Although the Minister has chided me for not having done what I should have done in the past in this connexion, I promise him that, now that his Government is in office and in power - the Scullin Government was not in power - the Labour party will give him its whole-hearted support in endeavouring to make a belated but rational and considered contribution to the emancipation of women up to the point of complete equality in status.
– I feel that honorable members will appreciate my interest in this measure when I remind them that I had the honour to be one of Australia’s delegates to the Thirteenth Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva in 1932, when this subject was discussed probably as warmly and for as long a period as any other problem that came before the Assembly.
As the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) said, in introducing this bill, its provisions fall very far short of what we would desire. Countless thousands of women in every country have made it very clear that their objective is absolute equality of nationality for married women, and this measure does not reach that objective. Although I have sometimes wondered whether the introduction of the bill was necessary, at the moment, in view of the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) will discuss the subject of the nationality of women with the representatives of the British Government and other British dominions while he is abroad, I am satisfied that it should be proceeded with, because the parliaments of Great Britain, Canada, and New Zealand have already passed legislation to give effect to the articles of the Hague Convention, with which it deals. These articles, a proper appreciation of which is necessary for a true understanding of the measure, are as follows : -
Article 8. - If the national law of the wife causes her to lose her nationality on marriage with a foreigner, this consequence shall be conditional on her acquiring the nationality of the husband.
Article 9. - If the national law of the wife causes her to lose her nationality upon a change in the nationality of her husband occurring during marriage, the consequence shall be conditional on her acquiring her husband’s new nationality.
Article 10. - Nationalization of the husband during marriage shall not involve a change in the nationality of the wife except with her consent.
Although the parliaments of Great Britain, Canada, and New Zealand have enacted legislation to give effect to these articles, I understand that the Government of South Africa has so far taken no action whatever in that connexion. “We have always set as our objective uniformity in the nationality laws of the various dominions of the Empire, and, so far as possible, of Great Britain itself. Unless we can achieve some degree of uniformity in this regard, awkward situations must continually arise for many people.
The Thirteenth Assembly of the League of Nations was requested by the Twelfth Assembly to ascertain from the governments of the various countries associated with the League their views on the desirableness of giving effect to these nationality articles of the Hague Convention. The reports received by the Thirteenth Assembly made it clear that the women’s organizations throughout the world were determined to press for uniform nationality laws. One committee alone represented 45,000,000 women in various countries.
– What committee was that?
– The; committee consisted of representatives ofT the following organizations: -
International Council of Women.
International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship.
International Federation of University Women.
World Union of Women for InternationalConcord.
The representatives of these organizations, some of which have branches ins Australia, were very serious in their agitation for equal rights for marriedwomen. I have no doubt that they werejust as earnest in their representations toprevious Assemblies, and that they are just as determined to-day to continue fighting for their rights. I have referred to only one committee representative of women’s organizations. There was1 another almost as strong, which consisted of representatives of the following organizations : -
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
Inter-American Commission of Women. Equal Rights International. All-Nations Conference of Women.
These constituted a separate committee* representing millions of women living ia the various countries which are member® of the League of Nations. The delegate* at the 13th Assembly recorded their, viewswith regard to giving effect to the articlesof the Hague Convention, or alternatively convening another conference tomake recommendations more in accord with the views of the countless million* of women whom they represented. Or* the 28th June, 1932, the Australian Government telegraphed to the Assembly as* follows : -
Australian Government is prepared toaccept principle that woman, on marriage, shall not lose her nationality or acquire new nationality without her consent, and to amend” nationality law accordingly, provided His Majesty’s governments in United Kingdom and British self-governing dominions areagreeable take similar action, so that uniformity of nationality laws throughout’ Empire may be preserved, such uniformity being of importance in interests of systemof Imperial naturalization now in force*. Question ratification Hague Nationality Convention under consideration.
That was in 1932. We are again considering the subject to-night. I quotenow from a communication addressed: abs the British Government to the ^Secretary-General of the League of Nations, and dated the 30th June, 1932 -
I am directed by secretary Sir John Simon to inform you that His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom recognize the importance of the subject of Recommendation VI. contained in the final act of the Conference ;for the Codification of International Law held -at the Hague in 1930, and they have carefully -studied the question whether it would not be possible -
1 ) To introduce into their law the principle of equality of sexes in matters of nationality, taking particularly into ^consideration the interests of the ^children ;
And especially to decide that, in principle, the nationality of the wife -shall henceforth not be affected without her consent either by the mere fact of marriage or by any change in the nationality of her husband.
T was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) on the rights of the children. He, like myself, has taken a keen interest in this subject, but he did not say in what way the difficulties could be overcome. If a wife is permitted to retain her nationality, irrespective of her ‘marriage to a foreigner, what will be the nationality of children born of the marriage? Many of the representatives at -.the Assembly contended that nothing would be more likely to bring about division in the family than arguments with respect to the nationality of children. The communication from the British Government continued -
They have given consideration to the report on the question of the nationality of women and the material included therewith.
As a result of this consideration, His Majesty’s Government iri the United Kingdom .are prepared to advise His Majesty to ratify, rin respect of the United Kingdom, the Convention on certain questions relating to the conflict of nationality laws, signed at The Hague on 1 2th April, 1930, as soon as the necessary domestic legislation has been passed. Articles 8 to 11 of the Convention appear to represent the greatest measure of agreement that is likely to be reached for the present in regard to the nationality of married women, and constitute an advance on the present situation. Whether His Majesty’s Government In the United Kingdom will be able to go further in the direction of giving effect to the principle of equality between men and women must depend upon the extent to which that principle receives the support of the governments of other countries, and especially those of the other members of the British (Commonwealth of Nations.
That, of course, is the position to-day. As I have said, the Governments of Great Britain, New Zealand and Canada have ratified the articles of the convention. Notwithstanding the desire of women all over the world that there should be complete equality of nationality, they will admit that this bill is a move in the right direction because it does remove* that condition of statelessness which was one of the greatest grievances voiced by women at Geneva. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) and also the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), said that even in this country a woman who married in Australia a citizen of the United States of America would not acquire his nationality; formerly the law required her to be domiciled in the United States of America for one year before she could become a citizen of that country, but I am informed that that period has been extended to three years. We can all appreciate the difficulties of the position. I know of a woman who was married to an American and was not able to get a passport to go to the United States of America in order to acquire the domicile that would enable her to become a citizen of that country. This bill will remove anomalies of that sort, and for that reason it should be acceptable to the House. I welcome the Minister’s assurance that it is not to be regarded as the last word. When the bill is in committee I propose to move an amendment which has already been accepted by the New Zealand Parliament, and will, if incorporated in this bill, at least make for uniformity between the two dominions. This amendment is designed to give to an Australian woman who, within twelve months of her marriage to an alien, signs a declaration that she wishes to retain her own nationality as an Australian, all political and other rights, powers and privileges, and render her subject to all obligations, duties and liabilities to which a natural-born British subject is entitled or subject. If this amendment is carried, such a woman will no longer be compelled to assume the nationality of her husband, but will retain all her rights and privileges so long, as she remains in Australia. The acceptance of the amendment will not in any way interfere with our desire for uniform nationality laws throughout the Empire. One of the consultative committees on the nationality of married women, which represented many millions of women at the 13th Assembly of the League of Nations, made the following recommendations : -
The representatives of the undersigned four organizations, members of the Women’s Consultative Committee on Nationality created by the Council of the League of Nations, unite in submitting the following statement in response to the opportunity for further observations from this committee graciously afforded by the last Assembly:
We wish, first, to reaffirm the principles set forth in our report to the Assembly last year, wherein we expressed our opposition to the Hague Nationality Convention because it differentiates between men and women, and wherein we urged the Assembly to submit to the governments a new convention founded upon the principle of equality in nationality. We wish also in this connexion to emphasize again the especial significance of the Hague Nationality Convention, as the beginning of the League of Nations programme for the codification of international law and the particular importance, therefore, of keeping the Convention free from inequalities based on sex.
We make these declarations with even greater emphasis this year, because we are face to face to-day with an emergency - namely, the imminent danger of the ratification of the Hague Convention. During the past year one additional government has adhered to this Convention, and several others, in replying to the League of Nations inquiry, have stated their intention to ratify. Only seven more ratifications or adhesions are needed to bring the Convention into operation. The longheralded code of international law would then be established with discriminations against women in its opening articles, and a new era would be opened with deplorable reaction.
Not only is there an emergency because of the danger of the ratification of the Hague Convention, but there is also an emergency in that women are suffering to-day as never before in recent times, from the disastrous consequences of unequal nationality laws. The recommendation by the Hague Codification Conference that the States should study “the question whether it would not be possible to introduce into their law the principle of the equality of the sexes in matters of nationality “ has not been carried into effect. The result is that now, in this time of economic distress, large numbers of ‘ women who have been deprived by marriage of their own nationality, are unable to get employment because they are classed as aliens even though living in the land of their birth. Some cannot carry on their professions because their licences have been taken away on the ground that they are aliens. Others suddenly find that various new restrictions applying to foreigners pre- vent them from going on with the trade or occupation in which they have been engaged for years. And it is not only in the matter of employment that women are finding it an exceedingly great handicap in these times to have their nationality changed without their consent. The woman who has been in government service finds she has lost her pension; the woman who is sick finds the State hospitals of her native country closed to her; the woman who is destitute finds she has no claim on her own country for help.
Many of these difficulties, of course, would not be experienced in this country; but they afford some indication of the unfortunate condition of statelessness which will be removed by the measure now before the House. I support the bill, and I hope that my amendment will be incorporated in it. While he is abroad the Prime Minister will be afforded an opportunity to discuss the whole problem with the representatives of the British Government and the dominions, and I hope it will then be possible for him to give effect to the promise made by the Commonwealth Government in 1932 that Australia would go as far as practicable’ to right the wrongs that have existed. The only problem that now remains, to my mind, is the position of the children. If, for instance, the father is an Australian and - the mother a German, what will be the nationality of the children? The honorable member for Batman says that they should remain citizens of the country in which they were born. However, this is a most difficult problem, and one upon which the representatives of the various countries have most definitely declined to agree.
– What would be the nationality of a child born in China to an Australian woman married to a German ?
– I do not know. I congratulate the Government upon having brought down this measure. It will not meet the wishes of many women in Australia, but the majority of them will appreciate the fact that it is designed to remove one of the greatest disabilities under which they labour so far as nationality is concerned, that of statelessness.
.- One of the difficulties about this important and interesting measure is that it is very hard to strip it of technicalities. However, in the course of my remarks, I shall endeavour to avoid technicalities as much as possible. What women in the world are asking for to-day is a return to the old principle to which nations subscribed before the ‘middle pf the nineteenth century. The British Common Law, which was also the common law of America, of Australia, and of the other settled British colonies, laid it down that a British national could not put off his British nationality. A British national could not cease to be a. British national. In 1844, a statute was passed which permitted a foreigner to acquire British nationality, and in 1854 an act was passed in the United States of America permitting a foreigner to acquire American nationality. However, both nations stood firmly on the position that their own nationals could not divest themselves of their nationality. It was not until 1870 in England, and 1907 in the United States of America, that British nationals on the one hand, and American nationals on the other, were permitted to change their nationality The English Nationalization Act of 1870 provided not only that persons might of their own will change their nationality, but that British women by marriage might acquire foreign nationality. In 1907 the same principle was applied by America. In 1922 there was passed in the United States of America what is known as the Cable Act, which reverted to the old position in that it provided that marriage had no automatic effect on nationality. An American woman who married a foreigner did not thereby become a foreigner, and an American man who married a foreigner did not by that act make’ his wife an American citizen. Thus, a British woman who married an American citizen would, under British law, cease to be a British subject, but, under American law, she would not become an American citizen. By an act passed last year, and which came into force on the 24th May, 1934, the American legislature has made the position more difficult in that it has provided that an alien woman married to an American may not acquire American nationality except after three years’ resi dence in America. Prior to the passage of that law only one year’s residence was required, as provided in the Cable Act of 1922. The position taken up by America in this regard is the same as that which has been adopted by Russia and France. In those countries a woman does not acquire or lose nationality by the act of marriage. In the very interesting Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, which has just been passed, the American position has been adopted, so that Ireland now becomes the only country within the British Commonwealth of Nations which lays it down that no person may acquire or lose nationality by the mere act of marriage. The English provision is the same as that which is about to be adopted in New Zealand, and which Australia is now being asked to adopt. I say that New Zealand is about to adopt it because, although the bill accepting the English law has already passed the House of Representatives in New Zealand, it has not yet passed the Council. A committee was set up to consider the matter, and the bill will again come before the Council for consideration when the committee presents its report.
Canada, in 1931, legislated on the lines of the New Zealand bill. Indeed, Canada was the first British country to adopt the plan laid down by the Hague Convention. It has not been adopted in South Africa, which still retains the 1927 act in which it is provided that a woman’s marriage to a foreigner automatically effects a change of her nationality.
Much misunderstanding and trouble have arisen out of the expressions of the Imperial Conference which have been read in England in a way in which the Dominions do not desire them to be read. The Imperial Conference of 1930 adopted a Report on Dominion Legislation to the effect that it was desirable that there should be uniform statutes on British nationality, and that no part of the British Empire should attempt to give extra-territorial operation to its own nationality legislation. It was recognized that any part of the British Empire might confer nationality for the purposes of that dominion only, but no part of the Empire - not even Britain itself - should attempt, without consultation with the other dominions, to alter the law of British nationality so as to make it apply outside its own territory.
In 1930, a proposition was made in the British Parliament that the principle of equality should be adopted. Aprivate member’s bill was introduced by Dr. Ethel Bentham and Captain Cazalet providing that a woman should not acquire the nationality of her husband without her consent, and that a woman should not lose her nationality by marriage without her consent. In opposing that bill the Government said, “ We are in favour of the bill; in fact, at the Hague Convention, we laid it down that the attitude of Great Britain was that women should not be deprived by marriage of their nationality without their consent, but we have the Dominions to consider. We are committed to the resolution of the Imperial Conference in this regard.” This point is dealt with as follows in a report prepared by the conference on the operation of Dominion legislation as follows- -
This report was adopted by the Imperial Conference of 1930.
But there is a difference between the position of the British Parliament and that of the Dominion Parliaments. The British Parliament, when it alters the law of nationality, has to consider that the Dominions have impliedly agreed to accept any such alterations as a standard for the Empire. Therefore, it is held in Britain that if they alter the law they alter it not only for themselves, but also for the Dominions, and they contend that, without the consent of the Dominions, they have no right to do that. They say that they abandoned that right when they agreed to the resolution of 1929. The position, however, isperfectly clear for us. We may alter the law provided we make it clear that the alteration shall operate only within our own territory, and the clause which the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) proposes to move, is an application of that principle. In New Zealand, it is proposed to adopt as a general rule the principle laid down by the British Parliament, namely, that a woman shall not be deprived of her nationality by marriage unless she thereby acquires her husband’s nationality. But, for New Zealand only, and in New Zealand only, it is proposed that a New Zealand woman may retain her British nationality notwithstanding that by marriage she acquires another nationality. That is to say a New Zealand woman who marries, say, a Dutch national will still retain the right to vote at elections in New Zealand. She will be still entitled in New Zealand to enter professions where British citizenship is a necessary condition and she will be entitled to own land, and so on. The New Zealand Government will also enter into reciprocal agreements on those lines with other parts of the Empire that have passed similar legislation. It is this proposal that the honorable member asks us to incorporate in this bill.
I sincerely hope that the Government will accept the proposed clause. There is nothing in it inconsistent with the spirit of the British legislation. The British Parliament would have gone further, but that it feared it would be forcing; on the Dominions a condition of equality that they do not want. That fear, I am sure, arose out of a misunderstanding of the resolution adopted at the Imperial Conference, but it is quite clear that we may make alterations to the law so long: as they apply only within Australia.
Until the war every part of the British Empire had its own nationalization laws. Each Australian colony had its own legislation before federation, and a man could be a British subject in one part of Australia and not in another. At one time tan American, Mr. J. G. Jenkins, filled :the position of Premier of South Australia. He was naturalized in that State, and though a British subject in South Australia, was a foreigner in all other parts of the Empire. After federation a Commonwealth law was passed which provided that a man might be naturalized in Australia as a British subject, but he meed not be a British subject outside Australia. Later the British courts held, in Markwald’s case, that a German who had been naturalized in Australia was mot a British subject in Britain. To avoid ^difficulties of that kind it was decided in this country to adopt the law as it existed an Britain, so that for British people throughout the Empire there should be only one standard of nationality.
– But even when this bill is passed there will not be one standard throughout the Empire.
– No; there will !be a different standard in South Africa, which stands by the old law, and a different one again in the Irish Free State, which has adopted the American principle. However, we shall be in the same position as Canada, and if the proposal of the honorable member for Lilley is accepted we shall be in exactly the same position as is proposed in New Zealand. It is important that we should get -arid of that condition of statelessness -which is the result of the varying policies -of the nations, some countries insisting that the marriage of a woman governs her nationality whilst others contend that marriage does not affect nationality. An Australian woman who marries an American should not cease to be a British national or an Australian citizen. She <does not, by marriage, under American law, become an American citizen unless she lives in the United States of America for three years and then applies for ^naturalization. Therefore it is desirable to make provision that in such cases a woman shall retain her Australian rights. This bill seeks to achieve that end, and because of that it should be adopted. However, I hold also that it is very desirable that the proposal of the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) should be accepted by the Government and incorporated in the bill. This amendment would make it clear so far aa the Commonwealth of Australia is concerned that we desire that a woman shall not be deprived of her nationality by marriage, but rather that she shall retain her right to vote, to enter the professions, and to hold land. In making such a provision we shall not give to it extra territorial effect, but we should be prepared, like New Zealand, to enter into reciprocal agreements with other countries on this matter.
Debate (on motion by Sir Littleton Groom) adjourned.
Relief Works in New South Wales: Conditions of Employment.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to raise a matter affecting the employment of men under the Commonwealth Relief Grant, not only in my own electorate, but throughout New South Wales. During the debate on the measure by which this money was made available to the States and local governing bodies honorable gentlemen on this side of the House expressed a fear that the Govern1 ment of New South Wales would use the amount allotted to it to evade a certain amount of expenditure on relief works from State funds. I recall that when I referred in committee to this probability the Acting Treasurer (Mr. . Casey) very excitedly declared that I was speaking irresponsibly and added that he would take no notice whatever of my statements. It is my intention now to prove that it was the honorable gentleman who was speaking irresponsibly on that occasion and did not understand what he was talking about. This money was supposed to be a grant for Christmas relief, but in my electorate the first expenditure from this grant was made less than a month ago. I suppose the Government of New South Wales thought it was a grant for Christmas 1935 instead of Christmas 1934. Every penny expended on the works to which I refer has come from the Commonwealth grant of £60,000 to the New South Wales Government. This grant was intended to supplement relief expenditure from State funds, but under the circumstances under which the New South Wales Government is expending it there has been nothing of a supplementary nature in the grant at all. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) also said that award wages would be paid on these jobs. Award rates are not being paid on works being done under this grant; furthermore, the New South Wales Government has refused to issue clothing, boots or any other form of unemployment relief to anybody who is employed on these works for which Commonwealth money has been allocated. Regarding the distribution of the dole, a returned soldier or anybody else who receives 6d. over the permissible income, which may be only a few shillings a week, is blackballed, and is not allowed to register for other relief work.
– Lang put the permissible income provision there, and kept it there.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about, or does not realize the point I am making. It does not matter who provided for permissible incomes. I am referring to the fact that when honorable members on this side of the House stated that the New South Wales Government would take advantage of the Commonwealth grant to evade its own liability, honorable ‘ members opposite said we were speaking irresponsibly.
– They are not taking advantage of the Commonwealth grant.
– They are. Men who get employment for a few weeks under the Commonwealth grant are stood down so far as general relief work is concerned, and cannot receive any issue of clothing or other articles which are ordinarily distributed for the relief of the unemployed. Everything which honorable members on this side of the House predicted would occur in connexion with the expenditure of this grant of £60,000 to the New South Wales Government has occurred. The position as T see it is that the National Government of this country has joined with State governments, which intend to use Commonwealth funds and the prestige of the Commonwealth Parliament to reduce economic standards in this country to the level of those of the coolie. Commonwealth funds are being expended to employ men under coolie conditions.
– Who put them on coolie wages in New South Wales?
– The honorable gentleman would not be capable of earning coolie wages anywhere. His presence in this House is a sad commentary on the vagaries of democracy, and suggests that democracy is a failure.
– Order !
Mi-. LAZZARINI.- The honorable gentleman does not like to hear the truth. He prefers to run about his electorate telling the people that these things are not true. I shall rake my voice in protest, as I have done to-night, at every opportunity I get, unless this injustice is rectified. The Commonwealth Government, in this matter, was either misled or fooled .by the New South Wales .Government, or it deliberately joined with the Stevens Government to help to depress the economic standards of the workers of New South Wales.
.- I asked a question of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) on this matter to-day. What the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has stated in connexion with this grant by the Commonwealth Government for unemployment relief in New South Wales is correct. I have had dealings with the State Government and the Commonwealth Government relating to cases brought under my notice by men who received three weeks employment under this scheme. Those men had received a full wage of £3 18s. 6d. a week, but after they had worked the three weeks, the State Government deprived them of their places on the roster for further employment on emergency relief work. The result was that -they had to stand down for a fortnight during which period they were not entitled to receive rations. At the end of that period those men whom the Commonwealth Government desired to assist by providing them with three weeks’ work at full award rates were in a worse position than if they had not accepted the work, because they were disqualified for other relief work and were not then entitled to the issue of clothing and boots for the year. When the Commonwealth Government made this money available for New South Wales a regulation was issued by Mr. Dunningham, the Minister for Labour and Industry, providing that a nian obtaining work at award rates, if only for one week within a period of three months, was debarred from obtaining clothes and boots which were distributed among the unemployed in that State. Thus, a man with a wife and family of five or six children was very heavily penalised for having accepted work for which the Commonwealth Government had provided the money. The officers of the Department of the Interior assisted us in every way possible to overcome the difficulties that had arisen. They got in touch with the Minister for Labour and Industry in New South Wales with a view to seeing what could be done. I do not know what has been the result of the negotiations but I sincerely hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) will see that men who received work under the Commonwealth scheme are not penalized indefinitely. Some of the men have not been employed since last Christmas. I have the names of a number who have suffered in this way. Particulars concerning them have been placed before Mr. Brown, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, and it is hoped that steps will be taken without delay to rectify the mistake that has been made. Advantage has been taken by the Stevens Government of the money made available by the Commonwealth Government to. penalize men who were called up for work under that scheme. I am not mentioning this matter because the charge is against the Stevens Government. All my life I have been fighting governments on behalf of the unemployed. I feel sure that the Minister for the Interior will give this matter his careful consideration and see what can be done to put it right.
– I support the remarks made by the honorable members for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) and Cook (Mr. Garden). It will be remembered that when the proposal of the Commonwealth to provide Christmas relief was under discussion in this House members of my party strongly urged that the works contemplated should be carried out by the Commonwealth Works Branch. We pointed out that the New South Wales Government had, during the last three years, misapplied the sum of at least £10,000,000 which had been subscribed by workers in industry for the purpose of providing work and sustenance for the unemployed, and contended that a government which was capable of doing that was capable of taking money from the Commonwealth and relieving itself of the expenditure of an equivalent sum on behalf of the unemployed in that State. That is precisely what has happened. The Commonwealth Government allocated over £60,000 for expenditure in New South Wales on what was termed Christmas relief works, but decided that the call-up should be through the State Labour Bureau. When the subject was being discussed in this chamber it was clearly understood by all honorable members that the money that was being granted by the Commonwealth Government was for the definite purpose ‘ of providing additional work for the unemployed in the various States. It was thought that, as the festive season was approaching, it was only fitting that the Commonwealth should supplement what was being done by the different State governments on behalf of the unemployed. I am sure that honorable members on both sides thought that whoever was fortunate enough to be called up under the Commonwealth scheme should not lose anything to which he was entitled from the State Government, but that the money which was being provided by the Commonwealth Government would provide additional comforts during the Christmas season. When the State Government started to call men up for work for which the Commonwealth was paying, it decided to apply the regulations governing ordinary relief work in New South Wales, with the result that men who obtained a fortnight’s work under the Commonwealth scheme, lost a fortnight’s food relief from the State Government. In other words, if the Commonwealth relieved the State Government of responsibility for the upkeep of a man and hi8 family for a fortnight, the State not only saved a fortnight’s dole payments while the man was engaged on works financed by the Commonwealth Government, but forced him to stand down and do without food relief for a further fortnight.
These regulations operate differently in different localities. In the Waterloo municipality, for example, some of the men who were called up were on ordinary relief work, and when they went back to re-register, they were put on a different card system, with the result that they may not be called up for the next two years. They were on what is known as the “ C “ card in the State Labour Bureau; but, when they applied for reregistration, they were put on the “ F “ card. Even some of the men on the “ C “ register may have to wait six months before they are called up, and, as I have explained, those on the “ F “ register will probably have to wait for two years, simply because they have received a fortnight’s work for which the Commonwealth Government found the money. Some of the municipalities in New South Wales adopt the work-f or-the-dole scheme. In those districts, if a man was called up under the Commonwealth scheme, and had a fortnight’s work, he could only get back on the register for relief work provided there was a position vacant - he would have to wait till some one who was working for the dole got a permanent job. Then, if he was lucky enough, he would be drafted into that man’s place on the register. We have brought these matters under the notice of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart), who communicated with the Minister for Labour and Industry in New South Wales and received a reply in the following terms : -
In reply to your letter of the 18th instant, relative to a complaint received by you from a number of Labour members of the Federal Parliament concerning the loss of employment by emergency relief workers whilst engaged by the Commonwealth Department of Public Works, I have to advise you that those workers who were employed on the works referred to did not lose in any case more than two weeks’ employment under the emergency relief work scheme before they wereentitled to be re-employed. The statement by the members that in some districts the men had to stand down for six or eight weeks before they were re-employed under the scheme, is not correct.
In the case quoted by Mr. Rosevear, M.H.R. - a man under classification B5 - his total earnings whilst employed by the State for one month would be £6 17s. By employment with the Commonwealth Public Works Department for two weeks, he would receive £7 16s., and if he did not earn any other moneys during the following two weeks before being reemployed under the State scheme, he would be 15s. better off.
I do not challenge the accuracy of the statement in the second paragraph. Classification B5 includes a man with a wife and five children, and when he is employed by the Commonwealth Government for a fortnight, the State Government is, in effect, relieved of the responsibility of rendering him any assistance for a further fortnight. If he were working under the control of the State authorities he would receive £6 17s. for a month, but after working for the Commonwealth for a fortnight he would receive £7 16s., and as Mr. Dunningham said, he would be 15s. better off. I remind honorable members that for every £7 16s. of the Commonwealth relief grant expended in New South Wales £6 17s. is a subsidy to the Government of New South Wales, and 15s. is the only additional relief to the unemployed in that State. Further, as a result of having a fortnight’s work provided with Commonwealth money, a man and his dependants have been deprived of the clothing allowance which, ordinarily, would have been provided. That has been admitted by Mr. Dunningham. Although the amount voted was insufficient I believe that the intention of the Commonwealth Government was good. Honorable members on both sides of the House thought that the Commonwealth grant was to be used in providing additional relief to the unemployed, but in consequence of a New South Wales regulation which applies to ordinary relief schemes, 15s. is the only additional benefit which an unemployed man receives. I trust that the Minister will confer with the representatives of the New South Wales Government and state quite plainly that the Commonwealth unemployment relief grant was intended to assist the unemployed in that State, and not to benefit the Government of New South Wales.
.- I would not have spoken on this subject but for the manner in which the position has been misrepresented by certain honorable members opposite. In reply to an interjection I made the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) stated ‘quite definitely that prescribed rates of wages were not being paid by the Government of New South Wales. He knew at the time that he was stating the case falsely, and that has been proved by the subsequent admission of two of his own colleagues, who said that the arrangement made with the State Government in respect of pay has been kept. I said at the time that .he was misrepresenting the position; but, unfortunately for the honorable member, he does not know when he is making an incorrect statement. The honorable member should not deliberately make false statements to suit his argument. He should show some respect to the Parliament of which he is a member.
– Order! The honorable member is out of order.
– I have received complaints from men who have been deprived of the customary issue of clothing, but documents in my office will prove that after I have made representations to the authorities clothing has been made available. Honorable members opposite, who have deliberately misrepresented the position, know that all the unemployed in New South Wales are not engaged on relief work, and that a very large number are receiving rations. It was understood that the amount allocated by the Commonwealth Government to New South Wales was not to assist men who were then participating in relief measures, but to help those who were not being employed on such work. Only on Friday last, I received from a State Minister a reply to representations I had made on behalf of a man with a wife and four children who has had no work, but has been on food relief since last October. I pointed out that I knew of a man with two children living in the Hurstville district who had been given employment, while this man whose claims I was advocating had failed to obtain it. I realize that the speeches made by honorable members opposite to-night are merely propaganda for the Labor Daily to-morrow. The view that they take is, that on the floor of this House they can say what they like about the Stevens Government, and not be contradicted. This is purely a State issue, which should be dealt with in the State Parliament. It is raised here because Labour members in the State House have not the ability to fight the battle of the worker. The only State in Australia that has been compassionate to that party is New South Wales. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and his colleagues are well aware that the Government which they supported in the New South Wales Parliament did not assist the workers by means of relief projects, but preferred to issue dole tickets. It was the United Australia party in this House which made it possible for the Governor of New South Wales to force the lawbreaker of Australia out of office in that State.
– Order ! I cannot allow the debate to proceed along the lines at present being followed. This House is not in the least concerned with the attitude of the Labour party in New South Wales.
– I was merely replying to the assertion that the New South Wales Government had not acted honorably towards this Parliament in the expenditure of the money made available to it for relief work. Honorable members know that only recently 5s. a week was added to the wages of relief workers in New South Wales.
– That is not true.
– The arrangement is that married men shall receive an extra 5s. a week. The assistance given by the Commonwealth to the New South Wales Government encouraged that Government to expand its operations in the direction of affording relief. During the three years that this Government has been in office, it has made Australia a better place to live in, and has given the workers more employment and greater comfort. The only object of honorable members of the State Labour party in this House is to prevent the passage of legislation designed to confer benefits on the people. We have not been in any sense negligent in the discharge of our obligations, nor has the Government of New South Wales. I say, without fear of contradiction, that no government could have done more than this Government, in conjunction with the State government, for the workers of New South Wales. We have brought them out of penury and suffering. Instead of living under starvation conditions, and having to rely on a dole ticket, they now earn what they receive. When a vote is taken in New South Wales, it will express overwhelmingly the* approval of the people of the relief afforded the unemployed by the Stevens Government.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The majority of those who have spoken have dealt with the allocation and the use of the money that has been made available for the relief of unemployment in New South Wales. There i3 one aspect of the matter that ha9 not yet been alluded to. In New South Wales some of the unemployed found that it was unprofitable to accept the employment provided by the State authorities out of Commonwealth funds. Yet, those who on those grounds declined to accept what was offered were threatened that they would be debarred from obtaining food relief. Thus, by using the power which it possessed to inflict misery upon the wives and children of the unemployed, the State compelled those men to work under “ scab “ conditions. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) omitted to tell this House that the Stevens Government robbed the unemployment relief funds of an amount of £10,000,000, so that it might balance its budget. The deficit in its accounts was growing at such an alarming rate that the Commonwealth had to supplement the amount advanced to it in order to tide it over its difficulties pending the holding of the State election. The honorable member ‘ for Barton was guilty of a deliberate misstatement in connexion with the amount added to the wages of relief workers. It is true that the State Government made provision recently for a slight increase.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable mem’ber for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has said that the Government of New South Wales robbed the unemployment relief funds of £10,000,000. That is not in accordance with fact. In any event, I submit that it is out of order to make on the floor of this House any accusation against a State parliament.
– The honorable mem. ber has not sustained his point of order.
– The honorable member for Barton stated that the political bribe which the Stevens Government was offering to the unemployed of New South Wales represented 5s. a week. In no circumstances will any man receive such an amount; it varies from 2s. to 4s. a week. I want the unemployed to receive treatment equal to that which less than two years ago honorable members of this chamber meted out to themselves. When we dipped our hands into the coffers of the Treasury, and restored the cut in our allowances to the extent of £75 a year, the Government should have done as we urged and given a little more consideration to the position of the unemployed. I tell honorable members, including the honorable member for Barton, that I want to see the day when the unemployed will not be satisfied with the damnable conditions under which they arc now compelled to exist.
– If the honorable member will not speak in terms that are appropriate to and in conformity with general custom, I shall not allow him to continue.
– What he said was in keeping with the language understood in his electorate.
– I was attempting to get down to the level of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), so that he might understand me.
– Order! If the honorable member offends again I shall not allow him to continue.
– On a point of order,. I draw your attention, sir, to the unparliamentary interjection, made by the honorable member for Wentworth, which provoked the rejoinder made by the honorable member for East Sydney.
– What was the remark ?
– He said that the honorable member’s language was in keeping with that understood in the honorable member’s own electorate.
– The Chair has dealt with the matter, and I ask honorable members to observe strict silence while the honorable member for East Sydney is addressing the House.
– The unemployed of New South Wales have received no benefit from the allocation of Commonwealth moneys for the relief of unemployment, but the State Government has.. The. money voted by the Commonwealth Government for this purpose has simply relieved the State Government of portion of its direct responsibility. Added to the £10,000,000 of which the unemployed in that State have already been deprived - I refer to moneys collected by means of an unemployed tax but which have not been devoted to the specific purpose for which they were raised - this Commonwealth grant is helping the State Government to tide itself over a difficult period.
Another matter which I desired to bring before the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Casey), had he been attending to his duty here, relates to the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department. Regulations issued under the act are affecting very harshly recipients of pensions. One of these regulations provides that if a pensioner enters a hospital or State institution his pension shall immediately cease for a period of 28 days. I understand that thi3 is designed to ensure that a pensioner upon being discharged from a hospital or State institution shall have something to enable him to carry on until the pension payments are resumed. I know of many cases where pensioners before they came under the act were contributing to benefit societies, which provide for a hospital fund, and when they entered a hospital or State institution that institution was compensated out of the fund for their upkeep. In other cases they had been contributing to the hospital fund established in New South Wales, in recent years, for the same purpose. Notwithstanding this the Pensions Department withholds the payment of the pension for 28 days and then pays at a reduced rate until the discharge of the patient. Naturally pensioners in such cases are of the opinion that if their upkeep is being provided for out of the hospital fund or by a friendly society to which they have contributed there should be no deduction from their pensions. Then again we find that when a pensioner dies in one of these institutions the pension money withheld for 28 days is confiscated by the department. Quite a number of these old people die leaving debts behind them. Many of them have been unable to provide for their burial expenses, yet when the department is asked to make this money available to meet their funeral expenses, instead of relatives in poor circumstances having to pay them, it absolutely refuses to do so, on the ground that regulations issued under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act forbid it. I ask the Government to rectify that anomaly.
The Assistant Treasurer some time ago made an announcement in this House which is directly misleading so far as many invalid pensioners are concerned I refer to his statement that invalid pensioners in some instances were permitted to earn a few shillings a week. When I wrote to him in order to obtain confirmation of that statement I received from him the following letter in reply: -
Dear Sir. - With reference to the attached copy of correspondence forwarded by yon on the subject of earnings of invalid pensioners, I have to inform you that cases have arisen from time to time in which invalid pensioners have received occasional payments of a few shillings per week for small services rendered, notwithstanding that the medical evidence indicated that they were permanently and totally incapacitated for work.
In these cases the payments have not been held to disentitle the persons to pension on the ground that they were not totally and permanently incapacitated.
Recently when cases came up for review it was found that many invalid pensioners, unaware of the inaccuracy of the Acting Treasurer’s statement, had sought light employment. In some cases they had been recompensed by the payment of a few shillings a week, and because of this, when the annual review of pensions took place, they were deprived of their invalid pension. I know of a lady who had been in receipt of an invalid pension for twelve years, and to whom a relative had made a small contribution, not by way of payment for services rendered, but really to assist her. The amount was not so large as to interfere with the rate of pension. Recently the Pensions Department reviewed her case. During the twelve years that she had been in receipt of a pension she had not been examined by a doctor. The department apparently thought that her health had improved and sent her to a doctor for examination with the result that her pension was cancelled. Her case was brought before the head of the department with the result that she was called upon to undergo a further examination. I am glad to say that the opinion expressed by the second medical man was contrary to that of the first, and that her pension has been restored. There are many cases, however, where that has not been done. I urge the Minister to make it clear to invalid pensioners that if they are able to earn even 6d. a week, then under the policy adopted by this Government, their pensions will be cancelled. I ask him to make a statement on these lines so that pensioners will realize the actual position. I ask him also to take an early opportunity to deal with the other two matters to which I have referred - to decide that the full rate of pension shall be paid to those who enter hospitals or State institutions where their upkeep is provided for either by a friendly society or from the State Hospital Fund and that where a pensioner dies in such an institution the 28 days’ payment now withheld shall be made available to his relatives for the payment of his burial expenses or other debts.
.- I wish to refer to the allocation of unemployed relief funds provided by the Commonwealth Government. In Queensland the Commonwealth Government spends the money through its own department. The Commonwealth Works Department had its own registration card, but evidently different methods were adopted in New South Wales. In Queeusland there is a Labour government and in New South Wales a United Australia party government, and it would appear that the policy of the Commonwealth Government in these matters varies according to the policy of the party in power in a State. The Commonwealth Works Department had 4,000 men registered in Queensland for the Christmas relief provided by the Commonwealth. Of that number 150 men obtained employment. The expenditure is still dragging on. It has been suggested in the press recently that the Government intends to make £100,000 available for winter relief. If that relief money is to be expended at the same rate as the Christmas relief money we shall be spending the winter relief money next Christmas. I ask the Government to do something for these people who have been out of employment for such a long time. Proposals are made front time to time for the relief of wheatgrowers and primary producers generally, but, after all, they have their homes and their land, and can provide themselves with food and earn a few shillings, whereas for the last five or six years numbers of workers and their families have had to live on the dole. Although willing to work many men have not been able to get a job. Notwithstanding all its promises the present Government has done little or nothing for the unemployed. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to accept the responsibility for dealing with the national problem of unemployment. During the depression wo have been fortunate in having industrial peace throughout Australia, but how much longer the workers will stand by and see their families in a state of semistarvation, I do not know. It is pitiful to visit a Labour bureau when three or four jobs are advertised, and see 3,000 or 4,000 Britishers trying to obtain work which will last for perhaps only a week or two. Even when money is made available for relief by the Commonwealth Government the State Governments use some of it to balance their budgets, so that some politician may make a name for himself as a great financier.
– Is there not a Labour government in Queensland?
– Yes ; but no State government, whether Labour or Nationalist, is in a position to do much. The Commonwealth Government controls the finances of this country, and it is the only government which can do anything effective to relieve those in distress. The present Government was returned to power about six months ago, yet when Parliament adjourns at Easter to about September, it will have sat for only about 41 days in twelve months. The doors of Parliament have remained almost continuously closed while 400,000 men have remained out of work. Unless something is done for these people who are in a semi-starving state their position is likely to become worse instead of better, because the lack of markets for our exportable surplus, due to restrictions, will cause additional unemployment. Already the cessation of mutton exports has thrown 500 men out of work. The fall in the prices of weat and wool, in addition to causing further unemployment, has forced a number of landholders into the hands of the banks and other financial institutions. Australia has been a good customer of Britain, but when there is a choice between Australian goods and goods from Argentina the latter country is given the preference in the British market. Some time ago we were told that we could expect a great deal from the Ottawa agreement. Even the men camped on the billabongs of this country begging food from their fellows were led to expect something from Ottawa, but all they have received is the restriction of exports with the prospect of still further restrictions. The outlook of the people of Australia is not so bright as it was seven years ago; yet this Parliament will adjourn before Easter and its members will disperse all over the Commonwealth, and some will travel to Europe with practically nothing done.
– The honorable member himself will be in England.
– At least, I shall go as one with an Australian outlook.
– Does the honorable member propose to wear a top hat when in England?
– Having seen the. honorable member for Martin (Mr.McCall) wearing a top hat I hope that if I elect to wear one I shall look better in it than he did in his. If not I shall get rid of it at a loss. I remind the honorable member that clothes do not make the man. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) told us last night that, notwithstanding the unfavorable trade balance :it the moment, the Government expected to end the year with a favorable trade balance of £19,000,000 and a surplus. If the outlook be so bright I urge the Government to do something for the 400,000 people now out of work who have made great sacrifices during the last six years. If Parliament does something before it adjourns to remove the prospect of starvation from our workless people, it will perhaps have justified itself.
– Listening to the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, one would imagine that, in the few months in which the present Government has been in office, it has done nothing to provide money for the relief of unemployment; but over £2,000,000 has been voted for that purpose by this Parliament. The sum of £176,000 was provided out of revenue for Commonwealth works, and £200,000 was allocated for a similar purpose out of loan funds. We voted £1000,000 to assist the States in various works, £330,000 being granted to assist them in afforestation, and a similar sum to help metalliferous mining and to enable further employment to be given in. the gold-mining industry. In addition to all this, the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has given notice to-day of his intention to introduce another relief measure.
I shall direct the attention of the Acting Treasurer to the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). A considerable amount of time has been taken up by a recital of certain anomalies which ave said to hav.e occurred in New South Wales in respect of relief work. The Commonwealth Government provided work for a number of weeks at full wages, and it will be admitted that this must inevitably assist local-governing authorities, which are in charge of relief work. As a Commonwealth Parliament we oan do no move than that; we cannot dictate to the States as to how they shall administer their relief machinery. If anomalies occur - and honorable members appear to have established, prima facie, that there are some anomalies - they can be properly ventilated only in the parliaments of the States concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative. “
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
With regard to the subsidy provided in the present contract upon the introduction of the vessel Taroona -
r. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Except in adverse weather an average speed of at least sixteen knots is to be maintained in both directions between Gel li brand Pile Light and Low Head.
y asked the Minister in charge of War Service Homes, upon notice -
Will he supply details of the relief scheme under which war service homes purchasers pay according to their incomes, including the rates under the scheme?
– The relief scheme referred to is based upon the recommendations of the War Service Homes Committee of Inquiry. These, with certain explanatory modifications, were accepted by the Government. A copy of the committee’s report will be supplied to the honorable member.
y asked the Minister in charge of War Service Homes, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Homes are not sold to civilians unless an eligible person is not available.
y asked the Minister in charge of War Service Homes, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will he supply the details of the circumstances surrounding the recent resignations of Mr. F. Hatherley and Madame Greig from the Austral inn Broadcasting Commission?
– The commission will he asked for information on the subject.
Australia’s Gold Reserve.
s’. - The information is being obtained from the Commonwealth Bank and will bc furnished as soon as possible in answer to a series of questions asked by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) regarding Australia’s gold reserve.
Petersham Telephone Exchange.
r. - The information is being obtained and will be furnished as soon as possible in answer to a series of questions asked by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) regarding the Petersham Telephone Exchange.
r asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
What were the amounts of surplus moneys returned to the Treasury and/or to other funds from the munition factories in Victoria and New South Wales respectively for each of the years ended 30th June, 1033, and 1934?
– No surplus moneys were returned to the Treasury or to other funds from the munition factories in Victoria and New South Wales for each of the years ended 30th June, 1933, and 1934. The unexpended balances available in the factory trust accounts on those dates were retained therein.
r asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Commonwealth Public Service Officers’ Furlough
e. - The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible, in answer to a series of questions asked by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) regarding grants of furlough to Commonwealth Public Service officers.
Gold-Mining Assistance by New South Wales GOVERNMENT
asked the Minister representing the Minister in Charge of Development, upon notice -
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.. I have no information in this regard. The allocation to New South Wales in connexion with the mining industry included an amount of £5,000 for prospecting, which may be expended at the discretion of the State Government, subject to the condition, which applies to all States, that the purpose of the
Commonwealth Government in making available moneys for assistance to the mining industry is to provide reproductive employment, and that the scheme will be an addition to other measures for re-employing men.
r asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
In order to expedite the finalizing of the report of the Petrol Commission, will the Government consider the necessity of notifying the commissioners that funds available for fees are not without limit?
– The joint report of two of the commissioners is now in the hands of the Government. The other commissioner (the chairman) has intimated, in reply to recent inquiries by the Government, that he expects to present his report to the Governor-General within the next few days.
r asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– This information, so far as it is available, will be given when the bill to repeal the property sections of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is being dealt with in committee.
d asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of (a) the fact that for the past eight months of the current financial year the excess value of exports over imports was about one-fifth of the sum required to meet overseas commitments; (b) the rapid depletion of available funds in London; and (c) the increased difficulties in this regard consequent on the proposed action of the British Government to restrict Australian meat imports, does the Government intend to repudiate in regard to overseas payments, or reverse the tariff policy which has, to a large extent, brought about the present situation, or does it intend to re-introduce the policy of the BrucePage Government of financing imports by overseas borrowing?
– It is not the practice to reply to questions relating to matters of policy, but if the honorable member will examine the Hansard report of the speeches by the Acting Prime Minister and other Ministers of the Government made in this chamber last night, he will realize that the present position does not justify his fears.
Wheat Bounty: Payments in South Australia.
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows’: -
Newnes Shale Oil-field.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister in charge of Development, upon notice -
Hashe received any report from the general manager, Mr.R. Crichton, and the manager, Mr. R. J. Conacher, of Scottish Oil (Shale) Limited, of their investigations of Newnes shale oil-field; if not, can the Minister indicate when the report will he received, and when action by the Government in this most important matter will be taken ?
– Immediately prior to their departure for Great Britain Messrs. Crichton and Conacher, when conferring with the Commonwealth Minister in charge of Development and the Minister for Mines of New South Wales, stated that the voluminous data regarding the various shale oil propositions in the Commonwealth requiredfurther technical examination by them. Tests in Scotland would be undertaken, and further information in regard to the cracking of the oil was needed before they would be in a position to furnish their final views regarding the development of the shale oil industry in the Commonwealth. Arrangements have been made for Mr. L. J. Rogers, the Commonwealth fuel advisor, to arrive in Scotland about the middle of April, so that he can make available to Messrs. Crichton and Conacher the detailed results of his investigations in America. The report when available will be presented to Sir John Cadman, the chairman of directors of the AngloPersian Oil Company Limited, who arranged, inconsultation with the Governments of the Commonwealth andNew South Wales, for Messrs. Crichton and Conacher to visit Australia. It is hoped that the report will be available in time for Sir John Cadman to discuss it with the Prime Minister while he is in England.
s asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Central Australia : Granites Gold-field.
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows :
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 March 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19350314_reps_14_146/>.