14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - It is with regret that I inform honorable members of the death in Melbourne, on the 16th November, of the Honorable Jens August Jensen, a former member of this chamber.
The late Mr. Jensen commenced his parliamentary career in the Tasmanian House of Assembly in 1903, and had completed six and a half years of service in that House prior to his election to the House ofRepresentatives, in which he represented the division of Bass from 1910 to 1919. In 1922 he was again ejected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly, representing the division of Bass from that year until 1934. He held office as an Assistant Minister in the Fisher Ministry from September, 1914, to July, 1915, was Minister for theNavy in the Hughes Ministry from July, 1915, to February, 1917, and was Minister for Trade and Customs from February, 1917, to December, 1918. I move-
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of the HonorableJens August Jensen, a former member of the Tasmanian and Commonwealth Parliaments, and Minister of State, places on record its appreciation of his public services,and tenders to his widow and family its deep sympathy in their bereavement.
Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle). - I second the motion. For 30 years the late honorable gentleman engaged in the public life of Australia. He served in the Parliament of Tasmania before he entered the Federal Parliament, and upon ceasing to be a member of this Parliament was subsequently again elected to the Parliament of Tasmania. It must be apparent to those of us who did not know the honorable gentleman intimately thai he not only was concerned for good government in Australia, but was also very eager to play as prominent apart in it as opportunity enabled him to play. I convey to his widow and family, on behalf of honorable gentlemen of the Opposition, their sincere regret at the passing of a man who was in every way an Australian of the best type.
Mr,BARNARD (Bass). - I endorse the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Curtin). The late Mr. Jensen was associated with the Labour party for very many years, and from the very inception of the movement in Tasmania played a prominent part in it, being one of its first members in the Parliament of that State. His economics were learned in the school of experience. He had a brilliant mind, and a ready wit which made him an attractive public speaker. He did much to promote the advancement of the Labour movement throughout Australia, and assisted in no small degree in the establishment of the standard of living that the people of thiscountry enjoy to-day. In this respect his name will always be associated with the Labour movement, and will command a place in therecords of the nation. Having beenclosely associated with him, and having helped to secure him a place in the parliaments of the State and the Commonwealth.. I was fairly intimately acquainted with him and had a high admiration for him. I therefore join in the expression of sympathy for his relatives in their bereavement.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
Motion (by Mr.Lyons) agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit to the widow of the late Mr. Jensen the foregoing resolution, together with a copy of the speeches delivered thereon.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Norfolk Island - Annual Report foryear 1935-36.
Railways Act - By-laws Nos. 71, 72.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the press tins afternoon has published the substance of a proposed agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the United Kingdom in relation to the England-Australia air mail service, and that substantial features of the agreement are the provision of a 15-year term, the matter to be reviewed every three years, and the incurring of certain expenditure by the Government of Australia? In any event, I should like to know whether the agreement has yet been completed ? If so, can the right honorable gentleman tell us the nature of it? If not, when are we likely to be told about it?
– No statement whatever in regard to this matter has been given to the press. The agreement has not been completed, and I am unable to say exactly when it will be; consequently, any statement as to the text of it must be unauthorized.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether a decision has been arrived at in regard to the Commonwealth contingent for the coronation celebrations in London, and, if so, what percentage of returned soldiers will be included in it?
– by leave - As honorable members are aware, the Government proposes to send a defence contingent to represent Australia at the coronation ceremonies in London next year. Various suggestions have been submitted by organizations and persons interested. The Government, after having given full consideration to all phases of the matter, has decided to confirm its previous decision, viz., that a contingent of 150 men will be sent to England, comprising all arms of the service, provided that the presence of contingents from other dominions are part of the coronation programme. The Australian Imperial Force is to be represented in the contingent to the extent of not less than 50 per cent., and consideration is to be extended to ex-memhers of the Australian Imperial Force at, present in the Militia Forces - the selection to be made by the Defence Department in consultation with returned soldier organizations, and other bodies offering suggestions. This decision will mean, in fact, preference to returned soldiers in the militia, but will not prevent the consideration of the claims of returned soldiers with considerable service, not at present serving in the militia. The Government has decided to invite General Sir Henry G. Chauvel, G.C.M.G., KC.B., to lead the contingent.
– Can the Acting Minister for Commerce give the House an assurance that a statement will be made by the Government before the Christmas adjournment regarding the long-term meat agreement with Great Britain?
– Every effort will be made to inform the House before the Christmas adjournment of the details of the agreement.
-Can the Minister for
Defence state what stage has been reached in the negotiations by the Aircraft. Cor poration for the establishment of an aircraft factory in the vicinity of Adelaide?
– AsI have explained before, the choosing of a site for the aircraft factory is a matter entirely for the Aircraft Corporation. Offers have been made to the corporation by the Government of New South Wales, the Government of Victoria, and the Government of South Australia. These offers have been investigated by the corporation, but I have no knowledge of any decision having been reached.
– Some time ago, I asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether it would be possible to publish country telephone directories half-yearly instead of yearly. Has anything yet been done in regard to the matter ?
-I shall be glad to obtain the information, and let the honorable member know.
Impositionof Language Test
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether he has received the approval of Cabinet to his recommendation that, in future, all proposals for the application of a dictation test in a foreign language to British subjects seeking to enter Australia shall be placed before a full meeting of Cabinet?
– I have to inform the House that I have this day issued the writ in connexion with the by-election for the Darling Downs division, and that the dates fixed were those announced to the House on the 12th November last.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend section 5 of the Northern Territory Representation Act 1922-1925.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill lor an act to amend sections forty-five f, forty-five l, forty-five ac, forty-five ad, forty-five ae and forty-five ao of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1935, to repeal sections forty-five AF, forty -five an, and forty-five ao of that act and to enact other sections in lieu thereof, and to insert in that act a new section forty-five aoa.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
Motion (by Sir Henry Gullett) agreed to -
That lie have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of customs under Customs Tariff Proposals.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill hu now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is merely to validate, until the 7th December, 1936, collections of duties under the customs tariff proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the 22nd May, 1936. In accordance with section 226 of the Customs Act, it is necessary, for the protection of the revenue, that these tariff proposals be passed into law by the 21st November, 1936 ; otherwise, the proposals lapse. The proposals seek, among other things, to vary the duties on certain textiles. Honorable members are aware that negotiations with Japan have reached a stage where there is reasonable prospect of a settlement. In these negotiations, textile duties are necessarily under consideration. The Government, therefore, considers it inadvisable to ask Parliament to ratify the rates contained in the main tariff proposal while there is an immediate prospect of a settlement being reached. Honorable members will observe that validation is requested only until the 7th December. A promise has already been given to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that, Parliament will be given an opportunity to debate the items in the tariff schedule for a period of eight sitting days, should the two Houses require that length of time.
I particularly appeal to honorable members not to discuss, at this stage, the items incorporated in the schedule which is to be validated, or to discuss particular problems which have made it necessary for the Government to take this action. The Government undertakes to give eight full days to the two Houses of Parliament before the termination of the present series of sittings for the consideration of the trade diversion tariff schedules. This validation merely becomes necessary to enable the negotiations with Japan to go forward without debate proceeding’ on the subject possibly at the same moment. I inform the House that the negotiations with the Japanese delegation will be resumed again in Canberra to-morrow morning. I, therefore, commend the bill to the House.
.- For the reasons which the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) has stated to the House, the Opposition is agreeable to the validation of the schedules of the trade diversion tariff until the 7th December, 1936. I say to the country that at this stage the Opposition has the right to avoid any discussion on the merits or demerits of the tra’de diversion schedules, and I express the hope that the negotiations with the Japanese Government’s representatives will be speedily brought to a happy and successful conclusion. “We take this stand to-day without in any way prejudicing the right of any honorable gentleman to discuss, either in principle or in detail, the whole matter when it again comes before the House prior to the 7th December next, and subsequent to the validation measure which is now before the House.
.- I do not propose to oppose this bill - it would be useless to do so - but I enter my protest, not only against the imposition and collection of duties for a considerable time without expressed parliamentary authority, but also against the manner in which these proposals were brought forward. I feel very strongly on this, and I contend that it was one of the maddest things any government could ever perpetrate.
– It is most prejudicial for the honorable gentleman to engage in this debate.
– I feel that I am justified in view of the fact that the Minister has had about four months in which to ask the Parliament to discuss the trade diversion policy, but has waited until the eve of the adjournment of Parliament to introduce a proposal under which Parliament for the time being is “ gagged “, and is not allowed to say one word in regard to the matter.
– But the Minister has guaranteed the House eight days in which the policy can be debated.
– Honorable members, apparently, are afraid that something will be made public that should not be made public.
-Give the Government a chance.
– I do consider the Government, but I consider my party also when I see resolutions of this sort brought down. I cannot understand why an honorable member should not be able to rise, even to object to a bill, without having interjections hurled at him from every quarter of the House. My objective in speaking to-day is directly to try to give as much publicity throughout Australia as is possible to the action that has been taken by the Government at a time like this-
– Give us a chance.
– At a time like this when we know perfectly well the condition of affairs operating throughout the world, and particularly in Europe. Not for a single moment in the last twelve months have, we ever known that war would not bc declared. All the old troubles and dreadful conditions which preceded the last war exist to-day, and to bring forward resolutions which undoubtedly created very great enmity as far as one country is concerned and which tend to destroy the friendly relationship which exists between this country and the United States of America at a time like this is,to say the least, short-sighted. I draw all attention possible to this so that when this matter is brought forward the public will realize the issues and bring all the influences within their means to bear upon Honorable members of this House to ensure that it will be discussed not in the interests of a few corporations, but in the interests of the people of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I certify that the bill before me validates the tariff schedules until the 7th December, 1936. The bills in the possession of honorable members contain the date - the 14th December, 1936.
Bill agreed to and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Sir Henry Gullett) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of adjustments in duties of customs under Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Proposals.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. This bill is incidental to the main Customs Tariff Validation Bill, and is concerned with exchange adjustments. As in the case of the main bill, it seeks to validate until the 7th December, 1936, the Customs Tariff exchange adjustment proposals introduced in the House of Representatives on the 22nd May last.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
.- I ask whether this bill merely deals with incidental charges in connexion with the exchange adjustment?
– That is so.
Bill agreed to, and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Sir Henry Gullett) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of customs under Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Proposals.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, which is incidental to the principal Customs Tariff Validation Bill, is a formal measure to ensure that the preference on certain Canadian imports will be continued. It seeks to validate until the 7th December, 1936, the collections of d uties imposed on imports under the Canadian preference proposals introduced into this House on the 22nd May, 1936. At a later date, honorable members will have an opportunity to debate the proposals item by item.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the law relating to the imposition, assessment, collection and recovery of a tax upon the sale value of goods.
.- by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of thisbill is to remove from the act passed by Parliament last year to provide for the payment of service pensions to ex-soldiers certain anomalies which experience of the working of the system has disclosed. It is also intended to grant further benefits to certain categories of service pensioners,’ to clarify the law in relation to the re-appointment of persons to the entitlement and assessment tribunals, and to make such alterations of the rate and conditions of service pensions as are necessary to bring them into line with the recent increase of the rate of invalid and old-age pensions.
Before dealing with the bill in detail, I shall offer some observations on the scope, cost, operation and administration of the repatriation system so that the measure may be looked at in proper perspective. The amount of war pensions paid in the financial year ended the 30th June last was £7,520,228 and the number of war pensioners at that date was 258,282. As honorable members will recollect, legislation was introduced in the. closing months of last year to establish a system of service pensions to cover certain categories of persons not eligible for pensions under the principal act. The number of such pensioners at present is 3,848, and the amount of liability in this financial year in respect of service pensions is £111,S40. Honorable members will be interested to know that the total amount that has been paid in Avar pensions in Australia from revenue is £133,153,000. In 1931 the passage of our financial emergency legislation caused reductions in payments in many branches of the Public Service, and also affected the rate and amount of pension payable to the wives, children and other dependants of returned soldiers to a substantial extent, although the rate of pension payable to the soldiers themselves was not affected. In consequence of the passing of the financial relief legislation in 1933, 1934 and 1935, restorations have been made of the reductions made during the period of financial emergency. In 1933 an additional amount of £233,000 was made available to supplement the pensions of wives, parents, brothers and sisters of soldier pensioners. In 1934. the pensions of soldiers’ Avives were completely restored. Legislation to provide for an increase of the rate of service pension from 36s. to 3Ss. a fortnight and the rate of pensions to children of soldiers f rom 12s. to 15s.,has already been passed.
It is against this background that honorable members must look at the measure now before us, the purpose of which, as
I have said, is to remove certain anomalies in respect of service pensions which have been shown to exist during the past nine or ten months. I propose to refer briefly to these anomalies and I suggest to honorable gentlemen that a more detailed consideration of them be deferred until the bill is at the committee stage. As far as I am permitted to do so under the Standing Orders, I shall deal with the clauses separately. I pass by clauses 1 to 3, because they are either drafting amendments or amendments which do not affect in any way the rights of soldiers and their dependants to pensions. Clause 4 is an important one, because it amends the definition of “ income “ in the principal act so that “board and lodging received by a pulmonary tubercular, pensioner, while undergoing treatment for his disease”, may be disregarded.
– Is that all that the amendment in that particular clause actually does?
– Clause 4, read in conjunction with clause 9, provides that, when an applicant for a service pension is in receipt of an invalid or old-age pension, in assessing his income from other sources any payments received in respect of such pensions are to be ignored. In other words, in such cases the department under my control will ignore pensions payable by other departments and other departments will ignore the pension payable by my department. I should say that that is the main alteration of the principal act effected by this hill.
Clause 5 amends the principal act in such a way that there is no necessity for a nurse to have served in a theatre of war to become eligible for a service pension. Honorable members will understand that the principle on which the war pension payable under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act rests is that every member of the Australian Imperial Force, whether he served in a theatre of war or not, is entitled to such a war pension as would be the monetary measure of his disability, provided that he could trace his disability to war service. The underlying principle was that the disability must be due to war services. But the service pension rests upon an entirely different principle, and ignores altogether the cause from which the disability arises. The amount of war pension payable depends upon the extent of the disability, and is not affected by the recipient’s income from other sources. The amount of service pension, on the other hand, is not measured by the pensioner’s disability, but is limited by his income from other sources. Broadly, an applicant for a service pension must have served in a theatre of war. In cases of those who suffer from pulmonary tuberculosis, this condition does not apply. It is quite clear that this condition could not properly bo applied to nurses, and provision is made in this bill to exempt them. Clause 6 makes a nurse eligible for consideration, irrespective of age, if she embarked for service abroad and is permanently unemployable. That provision will commend itself to honorable members.
Paragraph 1 of proposed new subsecsection 3, section 45ae, empowers a posthumous grant of service pension in cases where an applicant dies prior to a decision being given on his claim. As the law stands at present, where an applicant for a pension dies while his application is under consideration, because he was not in receipt of a pension at the time of his death, his widow and children are not entitled to receive the service pension which they would have received had he lived. This clause enables the Commissioner to pay u pension to the widow and children of such a deceased applicant if he is satisfied that, had the applicant lived, a pension would have been granted.
Clause 1 amends section 45AF of the principal act so that, upon the surrender by an applicant of his invalid or old-age pension, a service pension may be paid to hia dependants as from the date of application. There is a radical difference between an invalid or old-age pension and a service pension. The one is confined to the individual, while the other extends to the wife and children. The wife of an old-age or invalid pensioner does not herself receive a pension because one is paid to her husband, but the wife and children of a service pensioner receive pensions because they arc dependants of the service pensioner. A soldier’s wife and dependants are also entitled to a service pension even if the soldier receives by way of invalid or old-age pension an income which excludes him from the maximum or indeed any service pension. This bill provides that, if such an applicant cares to surrender his invalid or old-age pension, he would then be entitled to receive the service pension, which would at all events be equivalent to the invalid or old-age pension, and, in addition, his wife and family would also be entitled to receive the pension. Provision is made in this bill for the posthumous grant of such a pension as from the date of application.
Clause 8 amends section 45 ag of the principal act by providing a simpler method of assessing the amount of service pension payable to a soldier not in receipt of an invalid or old-age pension, and whose wife receives an invalid or old-age pension. This presents a baffling mathematical problem, which I confess in many cases I have been unable to solve, but I believe, nevertheless, that it is soluble. At present, several reviews and adjustments are necessitated, and the adoption of the procedure set out in clause 8 will enable a decision to be given at once as to the amount of pension which may be paid. In fact this clause merely legalizes the present practice.
I have already referred to clause 9, which provides that, in assessing the rate of invalid or old-age pension payable to the wife of an ex-soldier, the Commissioner shall disregard the amount of service pension. This applies in like fashion to the Repatriation Commissioner. Each department, in assessing the income of an applicant, ignores the pension paid by the other. That is to say, if the husband is an old-age pensioner and receives in addition a service pension, and the two pensions added together give him an aggregate income of ‘ £81 18s. a year, the wife, who was not eligible under the principal act to receive a pension, is now eligible. The main objective is to ensure that the husband and wife in such cases do not receive less than they would if they were both in receipt of a pension under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act only. Sub-clause 2 of clause 9, to which I have already referred, purports to amend the Invalid and Old Age Pensions Act by empowering the Commissioner of Pensions to disregard the value of board and lodging received by a pulmonary tubercular service pensioner whilst undergoing treatment for his disease in a hospital, sanatorium, or similar institution. At present he can receive only 19s., but under this proposal he will be entitled to receive 31s. 6d.
Clause 10 repeals section 45an of the principal act so that, where a pension has been granted posthumously to the widow and children of a soldier, it may subsequently be varied in accordance with the circumstances of the widow. Upon her marriage, all pensions would be cancelled.
There is only one other clause to which I wish to direct attention. Clause 11 repeals section 45ao of the principal act, and empowers the commission to grant a pension of 6s. a week to inmates of an asylum for the insane, or other institution. The institutional rate of 6s. a week commences from the date of application where a man in an institution applies, but only from the first pension pay-day following admission where the pension is being paid upon admission. This does not apply to tubercular soldiers, who are. already provided for under clauses 4, 6, and ‘7 of the bill. It is a grant to persons who have been ignored under the Repatriation Act, and service pensions, and will provide them with an amount which at any rate will place them on a level with other persons by enabling them to obtain some small comforts.
-Can the right honorable gentleman give me an idea as to the amount by which this bill will increase the expenditure on pensions?
– It is very difficult to answer that question. I might venture to make a statement which, upon deliberation and inquiry, would be found not entirely to reflect the truth. Although admittedly the amount is not very great, it will nevertheless, in the aggregate, bring relief to thousands of persons. The position of the tubercular man will be improved by the difference between 19s. and 31s. 6d. a week, and in addition, he will be entitled to the free treatment that he was promised. The decision of the two departments that they will not take into account the pension income received, will help substantially. In the aggregate, the sum involved is a respectable one; but whatever it is, I am certain that these proposals will receive the approval of this House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
– by leave - I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
Section 5 of the Northern Territory Representation Act 1922-1925 provides that the member representing the Northern Territory shall not be entitled to vote on any question that arises in the House of Representatives. It has been represented to the Government that he should be entitled to vote on Northern Territory matters. Section 21 of the Northern Territory Administration Act 1910-1933 confers on the Governor-General the power to make ordinances having the force of law in and in relation to the Northern Territory. That section requires, however, that all ordinances shall be laid on the table of both Houses of the Parliament, and provides that they may be disallowed by resolution passed by either House after notice has been given in the prescribed manner. The Government considers it desirable that the member representing the Northern Territory should be entitled to vote on motions for the disallowance of ordinances of the territory, and this bill proposes to confer on him the power to vote on such motions and on any amendments thereof.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 13th November (vide page 1856), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
.- This bill, the second reading of which has been moved by the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), embodies the second proposal for an alteration of the Constitution that we have had to consider in a month. The earlier bill, which was negative in character, related to marketing. This is positive enough in character, and relates to air navigation and aircraft. The intention of it is, that the Constitution shall be altered by inserting in section 51, after paragraph vi, the following paragraph : - (vi.a) Air navigation and aircraft.
It is almost as simple, short, and inoffensive - if one may judge by appearances only -as the bill that we have already considered and disposed of. Naturally, I am not free, except in a passing way for the purpose of illustration, to refer further to the proposal in relation to marketing; but at least I am free to say that the submission was made to this House that it was in the highest degree desirable that that measure should not be complicated by association with any other matter; it was to stand alone. So simple, desirable, and necessary was it, that any addition or elaboration of it might have the effect of jeopardizing it. Now, however, we find that the proposal for an alteration of the Constitution which is to be submitted to the electors is not, after all, to be a simple one. The AttorneyGeneral admitted feelingly that it was true that further alterations might, and indeed were, necessary, but added that the point to be considered was, not only what was desirable but also what the people were likely to consent to and what could be effected. The High Court having given a decision, the Government, pursuant to what must now be regarded as established policy, brings down a fitting proposal for an alteration of the Constitution to remedy the defect disclosed by that most recent decision of that most august tribunal. Certain honorable members on the other side of the chamber arn itching to have alterations of the Constitution made.
– They have had some ointment applied to the itches.
– I daresay; but I must take their public utterances at their face value, and assume in their favour that they desire comprehensive, and even radical, alterations of the. Constitution.
– The honorable member is quite right.
– But not in connexion with marketing; and, apparently, not even in connexion with the present proposal - aviation. At some later time, and in some other connexion, these comprehensive alterations are to be submitted. Meanwhile it has been suggested publicly - indeed, the suggestion has received the endorsement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) - that in order to minimize the special expenditure of public money on a referendum in relation to marketing, there might even be also a general election at the same time.
Mr.McEwen. - Why bring up that matter again?
– I bring it up again, painful though it may be to the honorable gentleman, and not less painful to myself
– It is not painful; we have derived a lot of amusement from it.
– I bring it up to test the mind of the Government as a whole, and of the Attorney-General in particular, on this immediate proposal to alter the Constitution in relation to aviation.It is evident at all events that that cloud of an impending election, which hung over us for a few days, has passed away. It is evident, also, that the proposition that marketing was to stand alone, and be regarded as sacrosanct, has also been substantially modified. It is now clear that the proposition to be submitted to the people some time next year for the alteration of the Constitution is to be a mixed one, even as are the opinions regarding it.
– There are to be two separate propositions.
– Technically, that will be so, and there will be two separate propositions to be assimilated and judged at the same time by the long-suffering voters. I should like to know whether the Attorney-General is really in earnest in regard to the alteration of the Constitution. Are these various propositions seriously submitted, or is this proposition in regard to aviation merely a face-saver for the Government because of its change of front in regard to the general election? It is important that we should appreciate the background of these proposals, and understand the foundation upon which they rest, together with the inspiration from which they spring, if there is any inspiration.
The Attorney-General introduced this bill in quite a clear and understandable way, but, at the same time, very briefly, and with the assurance that he apprehended no difficulty in the proposal being agreed to by the people. It was with him, apparently, a foregone conclusion that it should be accepted in this Parliament, and later by the people, almost as a matter of form. I should Saythat, during the few days that have passed since he moved the second reading of the bill, he is, if not a wiser man, at least a better-informed one regarding the acceptability of this proposal for the alteration of the Constitution. The Attorney-General quoted the views of the royal commission which sat upon the question of the amendment of the Constitution in 192S-29, and he read for the information of honorable members the views of the majority of the commission on the subject of aviation. The majority report of the commission, as most of us are aware, is favorable to aviation passing into the control of the Commonwealth Parliament. There was also a minority opinion of the commission, and the Attorney-General suggested that it might be passed over, but, at the request of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), he referred to it in an offhand way, remarking, “ If it is of any interest to the honorable member, I shall read it”. Well, it is of interest, because though it represents the minority view of the royal commission, it may very well be the majority view of the general public. Sir Hal Colebatch, a member of the commission, reported -
Iam of opinion that sufficient uniformity in regard toair navigation can be obtained by arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States, more readily than it has been obtained between contiguous countries on the continent of Europe.
That proposition is self-evidently true. He continued -
At the most, it may be desirable for the State Parliaments to transfer an aviation power, with certain reservations, to the Commonwealth.
At a later stage he reported -
In the near future transport by air will play an important part in the ordinary life of the community. Such features of air navigation as intra-state trade and commerce, industrial conditions, and the ordinary police power are hotter left to the States. The adoption of the recommendation of my colleagues would bring all these under central control, whilst similar matters in regard to other forms of intra-state transportation would remain with the States.
Honorable members who have taken any interest in the opinions I have expressed in this chamber on previous occasions, and even outside it, will be well aware that I do not adopt that view, at all events in toto, but I point out that, generally speaking, it is the” view that has been held by a majority of the electors of Australia, not directly, of course, in regard to aviation, but on questions of interstate trade and commerce and intercourse generally. I mention the matter now because it strengthens my point that the Attorney-General will be in error if he is led to suppose that this proposed alteration will be accepted by the people on his ipse dixit, without argument or opposition of any kind. As a matter of fact, during the short time which has elapsed since notice of this bill was given in the House, quite a strong body of opposition has developed in some of the States - notably New South “Wales - against the acceptance of the proposed alteration. Whether I support that attitude or not, the fact remains that, in connexion with this kind of piecemeal tinkering with the Constitution, it is deserving of very serious consideration. It is pointed out that, before long, there will be competition in transport between railways controlled by the States and commercial aviation services controlled entirely - if this proposal be accepted - by the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member has been reading the Labor Daily.
– Yes, I have, read it, and I have found that in the Labor Daily the view which I have just put forward is very strongly stated. It is the view, I have no doubt, of a majority of the industrial workers of New South “Wales, and it will inevitably be shared by large numbers of persons in the other States. In effect, the people who hold this view believe that, until the Commonwealth is invested with full and comprehensive powers and responsibilities in connexion with transport, it is undesirable to allocate the responsibility to the States and the power to the Commonwealth. Consequently, until the Commonwealth takes over control of transport matters throughout the whole of Australia, it is undesirable that the Commonwealth should be in a position to authorize competition with State railways by its super-control of aviation, when it has no responsibility for the affairs of the Railways Departments of the various States. “When honorable members tell us that alterations of the Constitution are inevitable, I suggest to them* that at least this proposal in regard to aviation is not one of the most urgent; indeed, it is not urgent at all, and certainly of no urgency compared with the extension of Commonwealth powers in regard to industrial matters.
– The safety of travellers is involved in this proposal.
– It is absurd to suggest that the safety of travel by air is in any practical sense involved in this question. I do not believe that for a single moment. Aviation was well established in 1920, when the Commonwealth first took this matter up as the result of a conference of Premiers, at which there was general concurrence between the States and the Commonwealth in the view that the Commonwealth should control aviation. Up to that time nothing had been done in this matter, and not much has been done by way of legislation since that date. It is true, as the Minister points out, that some of the States passed acts of Parliament. Some acts were not proclaimed. In any case, the provisions of the State acts did not propose to give to the Commonwealth any powers beyond those which are now declared by the High Court to repose in the Commonwealth. There would be no clash now if the Commonwealth chose on this question to enlist the sympathetic co-operation of those States. When I speak of the matter not being one of urgency, I submit that, not being a matter of urgency, and not being a matter in which, up to the present, there has been any friction of any serious kind between the States and the Commonwealth, it might very well be postponed at least until, by reason of its attractiveness according to his view, it might help the Attorney-General to have the people accept his proposals for wider Commonwealth industrial powers and trade and commerce powers. Tacked on to them, if it is to be really attractive, it would help them along to acceptance by the people. The Henry appeal case need not have become an issue at all, if either the Commonwealth Government or the predecessors of the Attorney-General had taken the trouble to legislate cautiously within the ambit of the Commonwealth’s powers, that is to say, within the powers of international convention, because the High Court apparently holds that legislation following meticulously along the lines laid down by an international convention is, in general terms, unassailable ; but they have not done so. The regulations which have been declared invalid by the High Court disregarded altogether the limitations imposed by the convention, and they roamed at large. They were another example of careless draftsmanship and a little bit analogous to the fiasco in more recent times of the Kisch case and the Freer incident, which are matters to which I must make only passing reference. The judgment of His Honour the Chief Justice, which I certainly have not had time to digest, if indeed my digestive powers are equal to that effort, in any circumstances, points out that -
The Air “Navigation Act 1920 in section 3 defines “ the Convention “ :us meaning the convention for the “ regulation of aerial navigation signed in Paris on the 13th day of October, one thousand nine hundred and nineteen “- and section 4 of the act is in these terms -
The Governor-General may make regulations for the purpose of carrying out and giving effect to the convention and the provisions of any amendment of the convention made under article thirty-four thereof and for the purposes of providing for the control of air navigation in the Commonwealth and the territories.
The act itself docs not contain any rules for the regulation of air navigation. Section 4 confers powers to make regulations for two separate purposes, which must be separately considered. These purposes are - ( I. ) the purpose of carrying out and giving effect to the convention and any amendment thereof duly made; and
the purpose of providing for the control of air navigation in the Commonwealth and in the territories.
The specification of the second purpose (with which I propose to deal in the first place) is based upon the assumption that the Commonwealth Parliament has power to legislate for the control of air navigation generally throughout the Commonwealth as well as in the territories including, of course, intra-state air navigation. I suggest that there was no warrant for that assumption at all. There is very clearly extended power in the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate in respect of aviation, but not to that extent. His Honour in an earlier part of the judgment points out how extensive is our acknowledged power in the Commonwealth Parliament. He says -
No question directly arises in this case as to the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to enact legislation for the purpose of controlling aircraft travelling interstate or between Australia and other countries under the trade and commerce power (Constitution section 51 (i)), or to control military and naval aircraft in every particular (Constitution section 51 (vi) ), or to subject aircraft to quarantine (Constitution section 51 (ix)), or to use aircraft in. the postal or other public services (sections 51 (vi) and 51 (xxxix) ), or to legislate, in any way thought proper by the Commonwealth Parliament, as to aircraft in the territories of the Commonwealth (section 122).
I merely quote that as indicating how very wide the Commonwealth’s constitutional power is in respect of aviation, save that it does not now, we are definitely assured, as we might have expected, include intra-state transport by air; nor was there ever, I submit, any just reason for the somewhat bold presupposition that seems to have existed in the minds of the federal authorities that it did so. However, in framing its regulations, the Government thought fit to go farther afield and to buy into this trouble which might have been avoided.
I admit that the authority of Parliament should come preferably from the people and not from any international convention, which means very indirectly, and with some uncertainty, from the people. An international convention can represent only in broad outline, if it even does so much, the views of the Commonwealth. While it is gratifying to know that the external affairs power of the Commonwealth is being liberally interpreted by the judgments of discerning and far-seeing jurists, as it has been, I have always advocated, and I still advocate, that the power should repose in a parliament readily responsive to the popular will and capable of effecting the wishes and supplying the needs, in the legislative sense, of the Australian people. The truth is that we are cluttered up with ill-assorted and, therefore, ill-working constitutional machinery. The people seem to like it; the State Governments and the Commonwealth Government alike seem loath to scrap it. I think that there is much to be said in favour of the view that the people who are responsible for this kind of thing should be allowed to suffer for their sins until, under the goad, they are at last driven by necessity, if not by reason, to do that which is obviously right. Unfortunately, there is always a substantial minority that wishes to do and tries to do that which is obviously right; and I am anxious that the minority should not be called upon to suffer for the sins of commission and omission of that narrow majority which persists in not doing right or in doing that which is obviously wrong.
It follows from what I have said on this bill and on numerous other occasions, that I cannot logically oppose a full measure of power to the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate in respect of aviation any more than I can logically oppose a full measure of power to it to legislate in respect of any other matter, subject only to those fundamental safeguards which I think have been indicated before as basic principles with the Labour party, namely, the duration of Parliament, the suffrage, religious liberty, and one or two other basic matters. But while I cannot logically oppose such a grant, neither can I be expected to manifest enthusiasm for piece-meal amendments so frequent and so ill-considered as to be likely to disgust the people, especially as this class of tinkering is liable to have unforeseen reactions upon the other parts of the Constitution, affecting existing State properties, the State tribunals and generally State interests and responsibilities, all of whichcould be provided for in a well-thought out and comprehensive scheme of constitutional reform, which this is net. However, I dismiss the matter by pointing out that it is the Government’s responsibility, and perhaps indirectly the responsibility of the majority which sent it here and is keeping it here, and, like other efforts of that singularly inept and incongruous corporation - I am now referring to the Government - it will probably end in fiasco. There I leave it.
.- I shall not detain honorable members long in discussing this measure for it seems to me to be one that should be supported not only by honorable members of all parties, but also by the community generally. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) in his second-reading speech, in referring to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Constitution in regard to the grant to the Commonwealth of the power over aviation, directed attention to the evidence of the president of the Aero Club of New South Wales, and also observed that the Premiers Conference in 1920 agreed that aviation powers should be vested in the Commonwealth. To those illustrations I wish to add the following remarks of the Chief Justice (Sir John Latham) contained in the recent judgment he delivered in the case The King v. Burgess ex parte Henry, better known as the Henry case : -
Uniform rules designed to secure the airworthiness of aircraft and the competency of pilots and uniform flying rules as to flight, the passing of aircraft in flight, and in particular ascent from and descent to aerodromes, are clearly desirable in the interests of all who use the air for flying. If the rules e.g., for landing upon an aerodrome, are not uniform, so that one pilot lands in a clockwise direction while another pilot, in the same place, obeying another set of rules, lands in an anti-clockwise direction, there is very grave risk of serious accident. Upon these and similar considerations the argument is based that in order to deal effectively with the subject of aircraft flying between the States, or between Australia and other countries, the Commonwealth Parliament must also have the power to deal with aircraft flying only within the limits of one State which use, as a matter of absolute necessity, the same air, and as a matter of practical necessity, the same aerodrome.
The illustrations which have been given indicate the difficulties of any double control of aviation and might well be used to support the contention that it is wise or expedient that there should be a single control of this subject matter.
I do not propose to take considerations of this kind any further save to express agreement with the arguments in favour of a Commonwealth power over aviation contained in the illustrations given by the Attorney-General and to endorse his contention in favour of an alteration of the Constitution for this purpose.
The only serious argument raised by ‘ the honorable member for Batman. (Mr. Brennan) against this bill was that its introduction had already roused some hostility in certain quarters. I suggest to the honorable gentleman that that opposition is as a gentle zephyr compared with the storm that would break if the proposals of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) for the alteration of the Constitution were submitted to the people. It is only to be expected that a general proposition of this kind will awaken opposition in some quarters.
I suggest for the consideration of the Attorney-General, however, the possibility of the power sought under this proposed alteration of the Constitution being affected by the operation of section 92 of the Constitution. At the time of the hearing of the Henry case the recent decision of the Privy Council in the case of James v. The Commonwealth had not been given, and the possibility of section 92 affecting the Henry case was not discussed. It was assumed at that time that section 92 did not bind the Commonwealth and therefore any possibility of a restriction of the aviation power of the Commonwealth arising from section 92 was not considered. The. Chief Justice, however, referred to this point in his judgment and remarked that section 92 had not been discussed during the argument. Mr. Justice Dixon also directed attention to the fact that at the time of the hearing of the Henry case, the Privy Council’s decision on section 92 had not been announced, and he inferred that it might now affect the aviation power of the Commonwealth. As aviation is a method of intercourse among the States and section 92 provides that trade, commerce and intercourse among the States shall be. absolutely free, I suggest, for the consideration of the Attorney-General, the question of whether any danger exists of possible complications in this direction in the future, should the aviation power be secured.
.- Aircraft and air vessels are instruments of trade and commerce. The power over trade and commerce in Australia is divided. The State legislature exercises the only power that exists over trade and commerce within the State. The power over trade and commerce between the States is divided among the States and the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has power over trade and commerce between the States, and the States have also power over such trade and commerce, but the power of the Commonwealth is paramount. If the Commonwealth Parliament legislates on this subject then to the extent of the inconsistency the legislation of the State Parliaments is overridden. Australia has followed the United States of America in the division of power over trade and commerce between the States and the national legislature, and tremendous difficulties have arisen in consequence. Some instruments of trade and commerce may be engaged in both interstate and intra-state trade and commerce at the same time. The same trains, for example, may carry goods from Sydney to Albury which would be considered trade and commerce within the State, and they may also carry goods from Sydney to Melbourne which would be considered trade and commerce between the States. The State would have exclusive power over the intra-state trade, but the States and Commonwealth between them would ;have power over the interstate trade. This has been a fruitful cause of difficulties. Certain American decisions which tend to subordinate the State power to the Commonwealth power have been declared by the High. Court in the Henry case to be inapplicable to Australia. The American decisions were to the effect that the intrastate operations of a train engaged in intra-State and interstate traffic might be comparatively unimportant, and that the federal legislation may therefore incidentally affect trade and commerce within one State.
– Based on the sort of doctrine that the hound goes with the hare.
– In Australia air vessels are operating under two sets, of laws if they engage in interstate trade.
If an air vessel be operating only within a State no difficulties arise, for it is subject exclusively to State law. If an air vessel be engaged only in trade and commerce between the States very little difficulty arises, for it would be subject to Commonwealth legislation, if any, and if there were no Commonwealth legislation it would be governed by State legislation. But if an air vessel be engaged at the same time in trade and commerce among the States and also within one State only, tremendous difficulties immediately arise in consequence of our attempt to distribute the legislative power over trade and commerce. As Sir William Irvine pointed out in his discussion of the alterations of the Constitution proposed in 1911, the arguments by the American constitutional lawyers on this subject resembled the famous metaphysical discussions of the mediaeval schoolmen, parodied by Alexander Pope, in the question of Marinus Scriblerus as to how many angels could stand at once on the point of a needle. This got people nowhere in the middle ages, and will get us nowhere to-day. It is desirable to frame uniform rules governing air traffic and the use of air vessels. Such vessels should not be subject to two sets of rules. Some authority should be constituted to regulate air traffic to make it as safe as possible, and also to make it practicable to use air vessels for military purposes if the need should arise. If our country must engage upon a policy of defence such vessels are much more likely to be useful for purely domestic defences than anything else. Those engaged in the development of a policy of defence without menace are likely to find an air vessel a safer instrument than a ship. The proposal now before us is designed to add to the legislature power of the Commonwealth over aviation, but not to deny any .power to the State legislatures in relation to the subject. The proposed alteration merely provides that the paramount power shall be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. If the Commonwealth Parliament legislates on this subject to that extent any State legislation on the subject must give way. Power to legislate will not be denied to the State legislatures.
– The Commonwealth legislation could nullify the State legislation.
– That is so, but just as the State legislatures are not denied power to legislate on insurance, marriage and divorce and a number of other subjects mentioned in section 51 of the Constitution, so they would not be denied power to legislate on aviation. But in the event of conflict, Commonwealth legislation would prevail over State legislation dealing with the same subjectmatter. The ‘Commonwealth Parliament already has considerable legislative power over aviation just as it has power over other means of transport. It may control instruments of transport under its power over trade and commerce. Section 98 of the Constitution provides that -
The power of the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping and to railways the property of any State.
The Commonwealth Parliament also possesses power over State-owned means of transport in regard to its postal operations. If it has not the power to use State-owned means of transport for postal purposes it, at any rate, has the economic capacity to make it unprofitable for the States to refuse it the use of them for postal purposes. I should think that the Commonwealth has undoubted power over State-owned means of transport for interstate postal purposes. Apparently, also, the Commonwealth has power to give effect to international conventions relating to air traffic.
– That does not suggest that it has power to operate services as it has power to operate our postal services.
– I do not understand the honorable member’s interjection. It is obvious that under section 98 of the Constitution the Commonwealth Parliament has considerable power at present over State-owned railways. For postal purposes at any rate it does in fact exercise substantial control over State-owned railways. It can, to-day, control the operations of the State-owned railways as a means to carry persons or goods between Sydney and Melbourne, Melbourne and Adelaide, Adelaide and Perth and Melbourne and Brisbane. To this extent definitely the Commonwealth Parliament has power over the State railways. It has never used this power to injure the State railways. I do not think that it can be suggested that the Commonwealth Parliament has even done anything to injure the State governments in respect of the operation of their railways. But it is undoubted that section 98 gives to the Commonwealth Parliament power in relation to trade and commerce between the States enabling it to control State railways, just as it could control any privately-owned means of transport.
It is said that if this additional power were granted to the Commonwealth it would enable the Commonwealth Parliament to control, say, the State railways of New South Wales to the prejudice of those railways and the people of that State. If that argument should succeed, and the additional power now sought is not given, the State railways of New South Wales will not be free from Commonwealth power. As I have pointed out, they will bo subject to the Commonwealth power to make laws for trade and commerce between the States and they will be subject to the postal power to which I have referred. That is to say, the legislature of the Commonwealth could, if it desired to do so, operate to the prejudice of the railway carrying goods and passengers, say, between Sydney and Melbourne. It could say: “Although you have refused to give us power over aviation within New South Wales, we have power over aviation between Melbourne and Sydney, and between Sydney and Brisbane, and we propose to run aerial lines in competition with interstate railways.”
It is suggested that if the Commonwealth is given power over aviation, it will use the power to run aerial lines in competition with railway lines, thereby destroying or impairing railway lines. The interesting thing about this argument is that it is a weapon borrowed from the Attorney-General’s own armoury. When he was AttorneyGeneral for Victoria, he raised this contention as an objection to the Commonwealth Parliament acquiring power over aviation. He then contended that if the Commonwealth Parliament had power over aviation, it would be able to force the
States to hand their railways over to the Commonwealth - a consummation which I say is devoutly to be wished. However, when we make such a suggestion as that, we are dealing only with fancies and not with realities or practical things. If that were a valid objection to giving aviation power to the Commonwealth, it would be just as valid an objection to giving the trade and commerce power to the Commonwealth. If the conferring of aviation power on the Commonwealth would enable the Commonwealth to set up aerial lines in competition with the State railways, the giving’ of the trade and commerce power to the Commonwealth also gives to the Commonwealth Parliament the power to set up aerial lines in competition with railways. In fact, it gives much greater power to interfere with State railways.
When inviting the people to give legislative power to the Commonwealth, we must realize that there is always the possibility of the Commonwealth Parliament abusing that power; but for abuses of power, the Parliament is responsible to the people, and no one for a moment could conceive it possible that the electors of New South Wales, the most important State in the Commonwealth, the pivotal State that makes or unmakes Commonwealth ministries, are going to sit still and see the Commonwealth destroy their railways by running aerial lines in competition with them. It seems to be the height of absurd fancy to say that this Parliament would establish aerial lines in competition with existing railway lines.
The power sought would be a useful one and should, I think, be given to the Commonwealth, but Ithink that the most desirable way to give it would be by way of reference under paragraph 37 of section 51 of the Constitution. In any case, it is a power the Commonwealth should have for the reasons advanced by the Attorney-General, and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). It is desirable to have a uniform system of regulation of aircraft, and for that reason, this power should be given to the Commonwealth.
Of course, when we give a power to any legislature, we have to face the possibility that that legislature will abuse the power. But the legislature is responsible to the people of Australia for such an abuse, and the legislature of the Commonwealth is much more responsible to the people of Australia than are the legislatures of the States. Both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament are elected by the people of Australia upon the fullest franchise that could possibly be conceded. The legislatures of the States, with the exception of Queensland, are not so elected. The States, with the exception of Queensland, are controlled by two Houses, one of which only is elected by the whole of the people. We know how the second chambers in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia, for instance, are constituted. I see very much less likelihood of the Commonwealth Parliament, democratically elected, abusing its power than there is of the State Parliaments abusing the powers retained by them, and I have always felt that it is desirable that large powers should be given to the Commonwealth Parliament. In speaking upon a former referendum, I said that every proposal to extend Commonwealth powers should conform to two tests. First, it should increase and develop the Australian nature of the union, and the national elements in it as against the provincial elements. The proposal in the hill now before the House does that. Further, it should give responsibility with power. This proposal also does that; it gives to the Commonwealth Parliament power to legislate for Australia, and with that power comes responsibility to the people. I cannot see any reason why this power should be denied to the Parliament of Australia, and I cannot see any substance in the objection made that the granting of it will enable the Commonwealth Parliament to destroy the railways of New South Wales or of any other State. If the Commonwealth had this spirit of mischief, whether these powers are given to it or not, if it desired to make the railways unprofitable for New South Wales, it could do so much more effectively by cutting out interstate traffic than, say, the traffic from Sydney to Broken Hill. No one really believes that this suggestion of danger to existing State-owned railways has any merit or substance in it. If the Common wealth Parliament asks the people for this power I shall do my best to have the referendum carried, and I shall tell the people, as I have told them on a previous occasion, that, when we give power to the Commonwealth, we have to face the possibility that the Commonwealth will abuse as well as use that power; but I shall also tell the people that every extension of the power of the Commonwealth Parliament is a diminution of the power of parliaments which are not as completely responsible to the people as is the Commonwealth Parliament.
.- Matters we are discussing to-day are no doubt very important from many aspects. Some of those aspects have not been mentioned by previous speakers, who have dealt purely with the legal position as to the powers vested in the Commonwealth and in the States to control aviation. But I see something much more important than this aspect of the powers possessed by the various Australian parliaments. We have in recent months witnessed in this chamber the attitude of the Commonwealth Government in regard to private enterprise and the control of air routes, not only those within Australia, but also international air routes. Some honorable members are particularly anxious to preserve the rights of private enterprise. When the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) suggests that opposition to this proposal comes from those who believe that the Commonwealth may run air lines in competition with State railways all over the Commonwealth, I agree with him that that proposition is absurd. If it were the intention of theCommonwealthGovernment to seek this power for the specific purpose of running national controlled and owned air lines from one end of the Commonwealth to the other, I would agree with the proposal. In my opinion, the use to which the Government will put thi* extended power is very important. Judging by experience, this Government will be prepared to use its extended powers to bolster up private enterprise as against State-owned and controlled railway systems. Because of that, as a member of the Labour party, I believe that we should say that this party will do nothing whatever to assist private enterprise in getting unfair advantages over State-owned and controlled railways. If the Commonwealth were prepared to accept the responsibility of taking over State railways, and in addition motor and air transport, I believe that a great deal of the objection towards this measure would cease to exist. But the Government is only asking for extended powers over one form of transport. The other forms, motor road transport and railways, are to remain under State control, a most unsatisfactory position. In New South “Wales to-day - and I have no desire at the moment to enter into a detailed argument as to the merit of State-owned as against privatelyowned concerns - it is generally recognized among the workers that they have a better chance of getting favorable consideration in regard to claims for wage rates and better employment conditions from State-owned and controlled enterprises than from those conducted privately. The experience of the trade unions of New South “Wales and of other States over a long period of years has been that arguments have been used before various tribunals against the claims of the workers that the railways have been operated at a dead loss to the State concerned, and therefore the workers employed on State railways have had to accept lower conditions and wage rates than those which operate in respect of similar work in other countries of the world. “We must examine the question of how the railways are to be affected by the power which the Commonwealth now seeks to acquire. In New South Wales, where the Government has taken steps to eliminate unfair motor competition with the State railway service, the financial position of the State railways is much sounder than it was previously, and, because of that, railwaymen feel that they are justified in renewing previous claims for better conditions. But what will happen to them if the State railways again began to operate at a loss by reason of air competition? We cannot shut our eyes to the possibility of that, although it has been sneered at here. It is said that the competition of air routes is of no consequence, and can have no real effect on the State railways. But that argument was used in New
South Wales against the competition offered to the railways by motor vehicles. When the motor bus first appeared on the streets of Sydney it was looked upon as a novelty. But it soon came into active competition with the tramway system. Indeed, so serious were the inroads of this competition that the Government had to take drastic measures to control bus services, and prevent them from running in direct competition with the governmentowned tramway service. Yet”, though an anti-Labour government succeeded the Government which first brought into force the Transport Act of New South Wales, it has not seen fit to interfere with it. The new Government realized the value of that legislation should the public transport utilities of that State return to the unsatisfactory condition they were in prior to the introduction of the Transport Act, thus creating serious . financial difficulties for the Government. If the representatives of the different States in this national Parliament were to adopt a broader outlook, and consider air transport not as it exists to-day but as it is likely to exist ten years hence, they would arrive at a better understanding of the viewpoint of those persons in New South Wales, who. are opposed to the present proposal of the Government. The railways in New South Wales have often been referred to as a socialistic enterprise, when as a matter of fact they are not, but are purely an example of State capitalism - a policy in which the Labour party does not believe ; but if it came to a choice between government-controlled and privately-owned enterprises, I believe that the Labour party Would decide without hesitation that it was far preferable to support the continuance of those that are government-controlled. Favorably disposed, governments in New South Wales have during their terms of office considerably improved the conditions of the employees in the railways and tramways services. In any ev,ent, their wage rates and working conditions are better than they would have been had private enterprise controlled those particular services. Members of the Labour party consider that the conditions .of the workers must be their first consideration. The taxpayer also is directly concerned in any proposition which affects the earning capacity of the railways. The railway systems of Australia have been constructed with borrowed capital, and the taxpayer, would have to make good any deficiency in revenue to provide the interest payments that annually fall due. If the railways ceased to operate profitably, the deficits on them could be made good only by three methods - taxation would have to be increased, and the wage rates and working conditions of the employees would be attacked. Railway fares and freights would also have to be raised, and that would affect very materially the primary industries of the State. The criticism levelled against the railways when they have been operating at a loss cannot be justified after a complete examination of the facts. In New South Wales they have been operated in such a way as to give service to the people. Had they always been so operated as merely to return a profit, the criticism of those who ai-e in favour of private enterprise as against State-controlled utilities might be justifiable. But the facts are that, over a long period, concessions aggregating millions of pounds have been given to primary producers, particularly when they have been stricken by drought, fire, or some other scourge. Their stock and other property have been transported, in many cases free of cost, and in other cases at very little cost. It will thus bpseen that governments have used publiclyowned facilities in order to assist those who are engaged in primary industries, and are stricken by misfortune. On this account, the railway service cannot be lightly regarded. Nor can it be suggested that there is no real danger to those particular interests in the present proposal of the Government. If the Government were now prepared to say that it; intends to establish State-owned and controlled air services throughout the Commonwealth, the proposition would be entirely different.
It has been contended ,that the granting of the power sought would enable the Commonwealth to legislate for the protection of human life, because it would be enabled so’ to control the construction of aircraft that it conformed to certain requirements, and to regulate the tests that aviators have to pass in order to obtain a certificate of competence. No one has any real objection to that, although, judged by past experience, the Commonwealth has not so far exercised very successfully the power that it thought . that it possessed. No honorable member will claim th’at it has succeeded in preventing the destruction of human life on the different air routes throughout the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, on the basis of the number of lines operated, the number of disasters in Australia compares rather unfavorably with those experienced in connexion with air lines that are operating in other countries. But, as I said earlier, in my opinion, the purpose of the Government is to use this power to protect the interests of private enterprise. The recent mergers that have taken place in this country would seem to indicate that some of those who hold large interests in air services are also interested in other transport services - for example, sea transport. An attempt is being made to establish what is practically a monopoly in the air services of Australia, and if the Government obtains this power it is not likely that these interests will be interfered with. Nor is it likely that those who have merged into a combine have been actuated by the belief that all possibilities of development in connexion with air services have been exhausted. They know that in” the next few years the development of civil aviation will be rapid. Force is lent to this belief by the experience of the United States of America, in which air transport has been developed to a very high standard, and the many companies operating railway services have been very seriously affected, and in some cases, financially embarrassed, by the competition from this source. To-day, aeroplanes are not only used for the transport of passengers, but are also able to lift heavy loads, and thus compete with the railways in almost every branch of their operations. I am not suggesting for a moment that for many years to come air services will seriously compete with the railway service in the carriage of goods. I point out, however, that the most profitable operation of the railways is the passenger service; and no one will deny that the climatic conditions in Australia, and the nature of the country, are favorable to the intensive development of air services in this direction. The capital for this development seems to be available, and the result of such competition must be to place in a very serious position ‘the State-owned and controlled railway services. Personally I am not greatly concerned about those who have invested capital in railway construction and live on the unearned increment, but members of the parties that sit opposite have always claimed that they are opposed to the repudiation of the payment of interest on that capital. But if the revenues of the States are so affected by the unprofitable operation of the railway systems as to make impossible the balancing of budgets, all of them, instead of only South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, will find it necessary to seek an annual grant from the Commonwealth. I think the House will agree that in a federation of six States, if three of them are on the dole, the remainder have to provide the revenue out of which the dole is paid; but if all six were on the dole, the Commonwealth would be placed in a very serious position, and would not be able to carry on for any lengthy period.
It may be argued, as it was in connexion with the marketing proposal, that the Labour party believes in an extension of the powers of the Commonwealth, and therefore should be prepared to accept any piece-meal proposal that is brought forward from time to time. I do not subscribe to that view. The Labour party must have a policy which appeals to the workers, not in the industrial areas alone, but also throughout the length and breadth of the continent, whether they be engaged in primary or in secondary industry, if it is to obtain sufficient support to enable it to form a government. A similar position exists in relation to constitutional reform. If particular sections are given piecemeal just what they require, immediately their interests are satisfied they will not be greatly concerned about the interests of other sections. As a member of the Labour party who believes in unification, I say that the less we tinker with the situation, the more likely are we, because of general dissatisfaction with the division of powers between the States and the Commonwealth, to secure the acceptance of a proposal to give all power to the Commonwealth. That is vastly different from, the proposition advanced by those whosay that the present proposal must beaccepted because it represents a step inthe right direction. If, by the taking of a certain number of steps in the direction indicated by the Government, th result would be to defeat the objective of the Labour party to obtain complete power for the Commonwealth, it would be far preferable for that party to oppose every proposal to tinker with the matter, and to await the opportunity to submit to the people the request for full power over everything, thus ending for all time the division of sovereignty between the States and the Commonwealth.
These are the particular objections that I and a number of my colleagues have to the present proposal of the Government. We shall do our best to compass the defeat of both this and the marketing proposal. I hope that some members opposite who favour the programme of the Government will indicate, not the power that the Government is seeking to obtain, but the particular direction in which it intends to use that power.
– All laws are good; it is the administration that fails to satisfy.
– If that were to be the basis of judgment honorable members on this side of the House would not be justified in supporting any proposals the Government brings down, because the policy of the Government has operated consistently to the detriment of the community in general, and of the workers in particular, ever since it has been in power. Because of that, and for the other reasons I have given, I hope the people of Australia will do as they did on many previous occasions when asked to grant a limited extension of powers to the Commonwealth; I hope that they will give a negative vote.
It has been suggested that there would be a general outcry throughout the country if the Government had accepted the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and agreed to ask the people for full industrial powers. I do not agree that there would have been any outcry, except from a few interested quarters. I am convinced that there is a general feeling that the Government does not really desire to alter the Constitution in any way which will be of benefit to the community as a whole. Those of us who mix with the people know that there is a very widespread desire to eliminate State governments altogether and bring about complete unification, so that there shall be in Australia only one sovereign power. If a proposal of that kind were put to the people I am sure it would receive their wholehearted support. In the past, the people have given a negative vote when asked to agree to a limited extension of the Commonwealth powers, because they have not been sure that they would be any better off if the Commonwealth possessed such increased power. In this instance, however, I am sure that, if the railway workers of New South Wales, for instance, understood that the Commonwealth was seeking to obtain complete power over industrial matters throughout Australia, so that the one set of wages and conditions would apply to all railway workers, they would vote to give the Commonwealth that power. They know that it would be of advantage to them if uniform working conditions prevailed throughout Australia, because they remember that the depressed conditions operating in some States have been used in the past as an argument in favour of forcing down their own conditions. Therefore, I am sure that they would welcome uniformity throughout Australia, not only in regard to aviation, but in regard to transport as a whole. The Commonwealth Government should ask for complete power over all such activities. State instrumentalities should enjoy only such powers as are delegated to them by the Commonwealth: If, however, the Government does not ask for complete power, and submits only the two questions proposed, the Labour members of New South Wales, and, I hope, of the other States, will tell the people that such piece-meal alteration of the Constitution would be of no benefit to them, and we will advise them to vote “No” to both questions.
– This bill has reference to a pro posal for the alteration of the Constitution with respect to air navigation and aircraft. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that he was in favour of the granting of complete power to the Commonwealth in regard to aviation, marketing and, indeed, all governmental functions. Many other honorable members in this Chamber are of the same opinion. I am prepared to go a long way. with the Labour party in regard to unification, and I go the whole distance with them in regard to the proposal for the passing over of industrial powers to the Commonwealth.
– But the honorable member has never voted for it.
– I have never voted against it.
– He who is not with us is against us.
– My views on this matter are well known. On one occasion when a vote was taken I was absent from Parliament, and-
The honorable member must confine his remarks to the subject before the Chair.
– We all know that it seems hopeless to ask the people to grant the Commonwealth full legislative power in all directions, however desirable that may be. At the present time each State has a separate company law, and this frequently results in confusion, and injustice to companies operating in more than one State. It has been suggested that if complete power were given to the Commonwealth it might be abused, but I have no fear of that. This Parliament is responsible to the people, and can be relied upon not to abuse the power entrusted to it by the people. 1 agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) in that, but I do not agree with him that the question of competition between air services and State railways is involved in the matter now before us. It is not a question of whether air services are better than railways ; it is one of who shall have power to make and administer laws in respect of aviation. At the present time, the railways commissioners of the various States have power to enter into agreements regarding the carriage of goods interstate. Sea navigation is subject to State law only so long as it remains intra-state, but when it moves from the waters of one State into those of another, it becomes subject to Commonwealth law. All honorable members will agree, I am sure, that it would be much better if the administration of all these matters were in the hands of the Commonwealth. The honorable member said that he would be in favour of Commonwealth control of an aeroplane flying from, say, Sydney to Perth, and that seems to me to be an argument in favour of Commonwealth control of aviation of all kinds. If the present proposal be not agreed to, each of the six State governments will have to make aviation laws of its own, and there is little prospect of those laws being in conformity one with another. We know that air carriage of passengers, mails and goods is coming increasingly into favour in all parts of the world, and particularly in Australia, which is peculiarly adapted to air navigation. We should not allow the fact that most of the railways in Australia were built by public money, and are under public control, to prevent us from taking advantage of the latest developments of science. Even since the inauguration of the Commonwealth in L901, tremendous progress has been made in the mechanical sciences, in proof of which it is only necessary to mention the development of such inventions as the gramophone, flying machines, submarines, wireless, motor cars and wireless telegraphy and broadcasting.
– And methods of killing.
– Yes, unfortunately. On two occasions the Premiers Conference has discussed the control of aviation, and all the States agreed that power to legislate in respect of aviation should be handed over to the Commonwealth.
– But they did not act upon that agreement.
– No ; and that is why it is necessary to place the present proposal before the people. Every member of this chamber, even including the honorable member for East
Sydney, agrees ‘ that the Commonwealth should have control of aviation, and though we could go further and ask the people for extended power in other directions,I do not believe that they would give it to us. Probably the people of New South Wales would agree to a proposal for the granting of complete industrial power to the Commonwealth, but would we be justified in believing that Western Australia would agree, having regard to its attitude on the question of secession? Would South Australia or Victoria agree? There does not seem to be any possibility of obtaining the consent of the people to a proposal for the granting of complete power to the Commonwealth while we in this House are unable to agree upon so simple a matter as the control ‘of aviation. Let us ask the people for what we think there is some prospect of our getting. Practically everybody is in agreement on the subjects of marketing and aviation, so let us, for the time being, confine the issue to those two matters. I hope, however, that the Government will, at a later date, afford us an opportunity to discuss proposals for the granting of other powers to the Commonwealth, and that steps will be’ taken to consult the people on those issues.
I regret that the. honorable member for East Sydney introduced the one note of discord when he said that the Commonwealth Government was asking for powers under this bill under which further private enterprises might be set up to the detriment of the people. In answer to that I repeat what I said in my opening remarks that in any democratic country the people have to govern themselves, and to elect their representatives. I am in favour of giving to the people the right to vote on the extension of full industrial powers to the Commonwealth, but if those powers are to he given they should be given irrespective of the party for the time being in power. The party of which I am a member happens to be in power now, and I regret that it has been accused of asking for powers over aviation which will be used in favour of some private enterprises, and to the detriment of the people generally. I hope that this legislation will have a speedy passage through this Parliament, and I am certain that the people will vote “ Yes even in those States which might be against the extension to the Commonwealth of full industrial and other powers at this juncture.
.- The proposal before the House originates in the desire of the Government to hold a referendum asking for the right to insert iti section 51, paragraph iii. of the Constitution the words “ air navigation and aircraft which would give the Commonwealth complete control over aviation. Recently the High Court gave judgment in what is known as the Henry case in which it said that the Commonwealth Parliament had power, first, to control air navigation under an international air convention provided that it strictly adhered to the terms of the convention; secondly, to legislate under the trade and commerce powers to deal with the aviation of an interstate character; and thirdly, to control aviation in its territories. The Commonwealth Government claims that there is a gap which it desires to fill by taking power to deal with aviation within the bounds of any given State. It has been said by the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) in support of the Government’s proposal that a Premiers Conference, as far back as 1920, carried a resolution that it was desirable to refer this power to the Commonwealth. The conference made the reservation that the States should retain the right to own and use aircraft for governmental and police purposes. It is interesting to note that, although it is alleged that the Premiers Conference was unanimous in deciding that this power should be handed over to the Commonwealth, no enthusiastic attempt has since been made by the States to carry out the decision. Queensland and Tasmania passed legislation in conformity with what the Commonwealth desired. Victoria and South Australia passed legislation which not only was not in conformity with what was desired either by the Premiers Conference or by the Commonwealth Government, but also was in a form totally different from that passed in Queensland and Tasmania. It is interesting to note also the lack of enthusiasm on the part of Victoria and South Australia in that, although they passed this legislation, it was never pro claimed. In New South Wales and Western Australia bills designed to implement the decision of the Premiers Conference were introduced, but were never proceeded with. I think that that can be taken as ample evidence of the fact that there was no great enthusiasm among the State governments for the proposal that they should hand over to the Commonwealth Government complete control of aviation.
By interjection, an honorable member of the Opposition questioned the Attorney-General as to whether the powers which are now sought could not be obtained as suggested by Sir Hal Colebatch, by the Commonwealth being given them by action of the State governments. The Attorney-General’s reply was that it would be too lengthy a procedure in view of the delay that had already taken place. I suggest that, if there were any enthusiasm among the States for this legislation, there would not have been the delay of sixteen years from the time when it was originally suggested, until now. The fact that the Premiers Conference did not set up any committee to frame the necessary legislation or make any suggestion as to the legislation which should be passed by each of the States is evidence that no definite plan was drafted for the purpose of transferring this power to the Commonwealth; and the fact that only two of the States passed the necessary legislation in conformity with the Commonwealth’s desires, that two others passed legislation not in conformity with the Commonwealth’s desires, and that the remaining two did not proceed with legislation after it had been introduced, is a clear indication that the States are not keen on transferring this power.
An aspect of this matter which was dealt with by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and very carefully avoided by those who take the opposite view, is that aviation is wrapped up in the general question of transport, and that there is a real danger of a situation occurring in this country similar to the situation in other countries where aviation has been developed to a greater extent than in Australia, in which privatelyowned aviation companies are active competitors with the publicly- owned transport systems. The Commonwealth Government desires to place a proposal before the people for an alteration of the Constitution under which it will take full control over aviation, but it does not propose to take any action to prevent the State transport systems from being subjected to unfair competition by privatelyowned air transport companies. In other words, the Commonwealth wants a certain power, but it ia not prepared to accept any of the responsibility with regard to the maintenance of Stateowned transport systems. It has been said by the Attorney-General that this proposal is designed to fill a gap in the Commonwealth administration left by the decision of the High Court. Lf we regard aviation as essentially a transport problem we must feel that, even the passing of this legislation and its acceptance by the people at a referendum, will still leave a gap which will not be covered by the powers which the Commonwealth is at present seeking. That gap is that, whilst the Commonwealth is taking over the general powers over aviation, it is not taking over any of the responsibilities of safeguarding the transport systems of the States. It appears to me that, once the power of complete control over aviation is given to the Commonwealth, the States will have no power to prevent undue competition by air transport against the State-owned transport systems. There is a tendency for aviation to be treated lightly because in this country up to the present it has not been highly developed. There was a similar feeling towards motor transport and motor omnibus transport in the State of New South Wales. There was a stage in the development of motor omnibus transport in that State when the services it provided were looked upon as merely an added convenience to travellers provided by private enterprise. But those services that were first looked upon in that way rapidly came to be regarded by the State government as a real menace to the Stateowned transport system.
To gain an idea of what can happen as the result of high development of aviation and motor transport one has only to acquaint oneself with the experience of the United States of America. In that country in 1920, the number of passen gers carried by the railway systems was 1,240,000,000. . In 1932, because of the active competition not only of aircraft but also of motor transport, the number of railway passengers fell to 478,000,000, and railway freights dropped by 50 per cent. At the same time railway employment fell from 2,000,000 to 970,000, and the railway systems and the general transport systems of the United States of America were in such a condition that Mr. Joseph Eastman was appointed as Federal Co-ordinator of Transport. As the result of his investigations into the transport systems of the United States of America, in June, 1932, the Transport Co-ordination Act, which dealt with all means of transport, was passed. In his report to Congress, Mr. Eastman pointed out that 74 railway companies, covering 42.000 miles of rails or one-sixth of the total mileage of that country’s railways, were either in the hands of a receiver or under the control of the Bankruptcy Court. After completing his investigations he made this significant report to Congress in January, 1934: -
Theoretically and logically, public ownership and operation, meets the known ills of the present situation better than any other remedy.
When an industry becomes so public in character that such legitimate regulation of its affairs become necessary, in strict logic it would seem that it should assume complete responsibility financial and otherwise.
The nationalization of air services is thus the only way to prevent the bankruptcy of ‘ the railways and to ensure that transport services fulfil their proper functions.
That report undoubtedly indicated what this responsible officer of the Government of the United States of America thought about the possible effect of aerial and motor transport on the national railway systems. He made it perfectly clear that, in his opinion, the Government should, in the public interests, assume complete control of the whole of the transport facilities of the nation.
One deep-seated objection that I have to the Government’s proposal is that it does not go far enough. If the Government would seek control over all transport facilities, I would support it. Unlike the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), I am not prepared to ask the people for a little extra power to-day in the hope that they will give a little more power to-morrow. In reforms of the kind now under consideration, the Government should act courageously. It should place all the facts before the people. If they then decline to clothe the national Parliament with adequate power they must accept the consequences of their failure. Although aviation is still in the developmental stage in Australia, it will undoubtedly, in the near future, become a real menace to the continued progress and development of the State-owned railway systems, just as, in recent years, motor traffic has menaced them. The competition of motor traffic became so serious in New South Wales that the Government, in order to protect the investment of public money in the railway and tramway services, and also to meet obligations already incurred, was obliged to introduce a drastic Transport Act. When it was suggested years ago that motor vehicles might, in the course of time, seriously affect the business of the State-owned railways, people scoffed at such an idea, but that day quickly overtook us. Even if complete power over aviation be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament we shall have no assurance that the interests of the railway systems will be preserved. The Commonwealth Government will not necessarily concern itself with the payment of the interest on the indebtedness of the State railways. In my opinion, the only proper thing for the Government to do is to intimate that it is prepared to accept complete responsibility for the transport services of the nation, and to seek an alteration of the Constitution which will make that possible. If the State parliaments vest full power over aviation in the Commonwealth Parliament, they will have sacrificed their power to maintain their own transport systems profitably. We have been told that various Premiers’ conferences since 1920 have considered vesting full power over aviation in the Commonwealth. This could have been done within three months, but sixteen years have elapsed, and it is still undone. Surely this is convincing evidence that the State parliaments are unwilling to hand this power to the Commonwealth unless the Commonwealth Government intimates its readiness to assume full responsibility
Mr. Rosevear. for the maintenance or protection of the State transport services.
Within a measurable period the State governments will be faced with a problem in relation to air transport similar to that which they have been facing in the last few years in regard to motor transport. In New South Wales, the competition of motor vehicles against the railway and tramway services became so serious that the motor buses were, under the provisions of the Transport Act, denied the use of the roads, except as feeder services to railway and tramway termini. It was only by the adoption of some such course that the Government felt that it could continue to meet its financial obligations in respect of both railways and tramways. We know, too, that the taxation imposed upon motor vehicles was heavily increased, the object being to put the railways and tramways, which were not so taxed, into a better position to meet the competition of the motor services. When the Lang Government introduced the Transport Bill, thimembers of the Opposition were loud in their condemnation of it, and virtually fought the following election campaign on the issue, promising the people that if they were given the opportunity they would repeal the act. An anti-Labour government was returned to power, but. although five years have passed since then, the Transport Act still remains on the statute-book, and the pledges given by the anti-Labour candidates at that election have remained unredeemed. The plain fact is that the honorable gentlemen who. during the regime of the Lang Government, bitterly opposed the transport policy of that administration, have since realized that only by some such means can the State-owned railway and tramway services be reasonably maintained.
Without doubt, aircraft will be used, as motor vehicles have been used, to wage unfair opposition against the railways. I do not think the aviation companies will open up new transport routes. Aircraft will be sent to centres where cargo is offering, and where a heavy passenger list is available. They will not be used to pioneer, as motor vehicles have done, new areas, but will simply “cut in” on the profitable business created by the railway systems. The only way to prevent this, in my opinion, is for the Commonwealth Government to assume full control over aviation and all other public transport services.
We have heard a good deal about the gap made in the legislative power of the Commonwealth in consequence of the decision of the High Court in the Henry case, and the Attorney-General, in his second-reading speech on this bill, said something about the need for one authority to determine the airworthiness of aircraft. I contend that the State authorities are as well qualified as the Commonwealth authorities to determine the airworthiness of aircraft. At any rate, the Commonwealth authorities could stipulate the standards to be observed, and I have no doubt that the State authorities would set upsimilar standards.
I am not alone in my fear that aviation will engage in an increasingly serious competition against the Stateowned railways and tramways, for on the 25th September, the Chief Railways Commissioner of New South Wales, Mr. Hartigan, declared in a speech at Goulburn that our air services must be coordinated with our railway services. This view was also expressed by the Deputy Commissioner of Railways foT New South Wales, Mr. Garside, in a speech at Werris Creek on the 7 th November. Those two gentlemen have taken a long-sighted view of this problem. Undoubtedly failure to co-ordinate the aircraft and railway services will react to the detriment of the railways. The giving of complete control to the Commonwealth would not, unfortunately, ensure such co-ordination.
The honorable member for Parkes said that the issue at the moment was not air travel versus railway travel. I admit it. Aviation has not yet developed in Australia to that extent, but surely we are willing to be guided by the experience of overseas countries where aviation is becoming a dominant factor in transport. Air travel in the United States of America has supplanted railway travel to a remarkable degree. That is true also of other countries.
For the reasons that I have given I am of the opinion that the Commonwealth
Parliament should seek full power over all the transport services of the nation. Because I fear that the vesting of only a limited power over transport in this Parliament will seriously impair the capacity of the State governments to maintain their railways efficiently I am not favorable to this bill. It will be of no service to the nation to repair a gap in the Commonwealth power over aviation if by so doing we make a gap of serious dimensions in the State power to deal with transport problems. I am not, therefore, prepared to. commend this measure to the electors. My attitude is consistent with that which; I have adopted when other proposals for the alteration of the Constitution have been under consideration. I have no enthusiasm for the policy which says, in effect, “ Ask the people for a little more power now, in the hope that they will give still more power subsequently”. If there is vital need for the Commonwealth to control this transport - agency there is even greater need for it to control all the transport services of the nation, and the Government should have the courage to say so. But it is not asking for that; it is asking for control in one particular direction, and is not accepting any of the responsibility for the maintenance of existing transport systems in the States. Unless and until the Government is prepared to ask for that power, I am not prepared to ask the people of Australia to give it power without responsibility.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I have no desire to occupy the time of the committee beyond saying a few words in regard to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). This appears to be an appropriate time to deal with it. The honorable member suggested that some provision should be inserted in the bill to exclude the operation of section 92. All I desire to say is that that matter has received some consideration, but the suggestion cannot be adopted for one or two reasons. In the first place, as the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) pointed out in his speech, a great number of powers that the Commonwealth now possesses are powers which more or less directly affect interstate transport, and in respect of all of those powers the Commonwealth is subject to whatever operation section 92 may have upon them. It would create an anomalous position if, in relation to this particular power, the Commonwealth were freed of the regulation that exists regarding its other powers. In the second place, the decisions of the High Court in relation to the control of transport in the face of section 92, are decisions which appear to be substantially untouched by that of the Privy Council in the James case, and, indeed, their Lordships, in giving judgment, said they did not intend their judgment to overrule any of the decisions of the High Court, with the possible exception of that in the Mc Arthur case That is a significant observation, because the great number of cases cited and elaborately discussed before the Privy Council were cases such as the Vizzard case, in which the High Court considered the effect of State transport or traffic laws upon interstate transport. The High Court has held that a vehicle engaged in interstate traffic, trade or commerce, is liable to the licensing provisions of a State, and similarly, that a vehicle engaged in such traffic is subject to the operation of what is, in fact, a transport regulation law of that State. In these circumstances, one of the effects of the decision of the Privy Council in the James case - an effect not perhaps very widely understood as yet - is to cut down much of what was at one time thought to be the operation of section 92. In these circumstances, it seems in the highest degree probable that, with general power over aviation, the Commonwealth would itself be in a position, notwithstanding section 92, to engage in a good deal of regulation of the kind referred to. Similarly, the State parliaments would still be in a position to exercise, subject to overriding federal law, some kind of control in relation to interstate aviation such as they now exercise in relation to interstate motor traffic. Because of that, I may add one further observation. The Privy Council, in its judgment in the James case, reminded, I imagine, all Australian lawyers of something which they were a little inclined to forget, namely, that each of the powers contained in section 51 as a Commonwealth power, also remains a State power. Those powers are essentially concurrent, and, while the Commonwealth has power to make laws in respect of interstate trade, so has each State, subject to section 92, and subject also to the overriding provisions on the same subject-matter by the Commonwealth Parliament.
– That applies to the great bulk of the powers.
– It applies to all of the powers in section 51. I have indicated these considerations because I was interested in the suggestion made by the honorable member for Fawkner, and 1 wanted him to know that the considerations he very properly raised had not been absent from my mind, and that the conclusion to which I came was that nothing ought specifically to be said about section 92 for the reasons I have stated.
.- I have been prompted by the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to refer to the possibility that the Commonwealth may, by subsidies, develop aerial navigation at the expense of the railways. The Commonwealth has all the power it needs to do that because, by granting liberal postal subsidies to aircraft and refusing that to railways, it could do the very thing of which the honorable member is afraid.
Bill agreed to, and reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave- put -
That the bill be now road a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 43
– The result of the division being, “Ayes” 50, “Noes” 7,1 certify that the third reading of the bill has been agreed to by an absolute majority of the members of the House as required by the Constitution.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 13th November (vide page 1857) on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I understand that the effect of this bill is simply to reduce from nine weeks to three weeks the time for submitting argument on behalf of a majority of those supporting and those opposing the bill. I should think that the time proposed is ample. But I am not so sure that the contemplated expenditure on the dissemination of these words of wisdom, is justified. If. however, the majority wish to support their votes by argument in the manner prescribed, by all means let them do so; I offer no objection. So far as I understand the position, the Labour party is not opposed to the reduction of the stipulated time.
.- In all proposals for an alteration of the Constitution, it is most important that there should be the fullest facility to place before the. people the arguments pro and con. I have always thought it desirable to ensure that the most complete case for the negative should be stated. The defect in the bill as it stands is, that it merely provides that if a majority of those voting against the measure so decide, the case for the negative shall be put to the people. If those who oppose it decide by a majority that they do not desire the negative case to be put, there i? no provision for its being put, and a disservice may thus be done to the public. I consider that those opponents of the proposal who do desire that the case for the negative shall be put to the people, should have the opportunity to put it.
– That will be done.
– Its submission will not be certain unless the . act is amended. For example, if those honorable members on this side who voted against the marketing proposal were to decide within a fortnight or three weeks that they would not collectively submit an argument against it, those opponents of it who so desire should have the opportunity to submit it. I know that some honorable members on this side are extremely anxious to have put ‘ to the people their arguments against that proposal. It is most desirable that every member voting against it in both Houses should meet and try to agree upon an argument. Possibly an appreciable number of those who voted against it do not desire to submit one; but that should not debar others who wish to do so. I. therefore, suggest that the act be amended. I hope that the further consideration of the bill will be deferred, so that I may In ve an opportunity to frame an amendment. I suggest that the Government itself should consider the submission of an amendment on the lines that I have indicated.
– The honorable member has made a perfectly fair suggestion, and I shall have an amendment drafted and proposed to meet his wishes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Debate resumed from the 13th November (vide page 1868) on motion by Mr. Hunter -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is designed to amend, in certain respects, the Public Service Act. There is a good deal in it with which, I think, all members will be in agreement. Its principal feature is the provision that, in certain circumstances, returned soldiers shall be given permanent appointment to non-clerical positions in the Commonwealth Public Service. Provision is also made for a number of formal amendments of the principal act.
Clause 2 of the bill deals with the alteration of the title of the Board of Commissioners, the new title being the Public Service Board. There is not a great deal of significance in that. Probably the Commissioners, in view of the many futile and expensive commissions that have been appointed, may desire the alteration. There is not much in a name. It is suggested that the purpose is one of convenience, and to observe the usual drafting practice. I, however, propose to show later that, while it is intended to invest the board with a very high-sounding title, it is to be shorn of some of its powers and responsibilities.
Clause 3 proposes to amend section 29 of the act. We are told that the purpose is to clarify the procedure in connexion with the creation and abolition of offices in the Commonwealth Public Service. More particularly are we told that the object of the proposed new wording is to remedy the ambiguity of the language of section 29. In dealing with this particular amendment, it is interesting to examine and consider the powers and responsibilities of the Public Service
Board. In all, eleven sections - those from section 11 to section 22 - deal with the creation of the board and define its very extensive powers. I desire to quote the principal of those powers in order to impress upon the House the very great responsibility and authority given to the Public Service Board, and to show the manner in which that authority and those responsibilities may be impaired by the Government’s present proposal. Among other things the Public Service Board is empowered -
Under section 29 of the act, power is conferred upon the Public Service Board to create and abolish offices. It would appear that the usual procedure of the board in the exercise of this power has been first to obtain a report from the departmental head concerned, and then to formulate its proposals in relation thereto. The initiation of action under this section, therefore, lies with the board itself, and not with the departmental head. Sub-section 1 of section 29 of the act contains these words -
The Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the board, after obtaining a report from the permanent head . . . do certain things. The proposed amendment is to delete the words “ after obtaining a report from the permanent head “, and insert in their place “ after the board has obtained a report from the permanent- head “. At first glance it does not appear that there is any great significance in the alteration. The Minister has stated that the amendment has been proposed merely for the purpose of ridding the section of a certain ambiguity of language, but I suggest that under the alteration, it would be quite possible to reverse the procedure which has been followed up to the present. As I have pointed out, the act now provides that the initial step in any of these matters shall be taken by the board itself, and this is as it should be. If we invest the board with these far-reaching powers, which amount practically to powers of supervision over the whole Service, we must, I think, leave to it authority to initiate proceedings, particularly in regard to the creation or abolition of offices, and the reclassification of positions. The words “ after obtaining “ in the act indicate that the board has made some original effort to get the report, that it has asked for it; but, under the amendment, it can be argued that this power of initiation may be taken away from the board, and handed to the department heads, so that it will have to await the pleasure of those officers before recommending that action be taken. If that analysis of the position is not correct, then I suggest that the new wording of the section is just as ambiguous as the old.
Clause 4 of the bill merely confers the benefits of section 42 of the principal act upon members of the Federal Capital police force, these being the same benefits as are enjoyed by members of the territorial forces, or the Commonwealth railway services, in that the board may appoint them without examination or probation to any office in the Commonwealth Service. That is not a very drastic departure from the present provision under section 42 of the principal act, but it is interesting to note that this particular section has been in operation since 1922, and that there seems to have been no previous desire to amend it in the direction now taken. I can see no objection to this privilege being extended to members of the Federal Capital police force, but I should like to know why it it is not to be extended also to members of the Northern Territory police force, who stand in exactly the same relation to the Government as do the members of the police force of the Federal Capital Territory. In the absence of any explanation, it would appear that some member of the police force of the Federal Capital Territory has been singled out for benefits under the proposed provision. Questions in regard to this matter have been asked on many previous occasions, but have not been answered.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 until 8 p.m.
– I desire to know why the same privileges should not be given to members of the Northern Terri tory police as are to be given to members of the Federal Capital Territory police under clause 4 qf the bill.
– The Northern Territory police are already provided for in the act.
– Clause 7 amends section 52 of the principal act, and deals with the matter of officers guilty of criminal offences against the laws of a territory of the Commonwealth. That is to say, convictions recorded against officers within the territories are to be treated in the same way as convictions recorded in other parts of the Commonwealth. There is a change of wording also, but there is nothing material in the clause.
Clause 8 is designed to facilitate leave of absence being granted to officers who undertake studies in connexion with their duties to the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth assumably will benefit. The amendment is a proper one, and is long overdue. Clause 9 of the bill gives power to presume the death of officers who cannot be traced, without awaiting the termination of the long legal procedure that is entailed in the presumption of the death of a person who in some mysteriously unaccountable way has disappeared. One can readily imagine the embarrassment and distress created in such circumstances, and the provision of the bill in this respect should meet with approval.
Clause 11 extends to a degree the element of preference that is given to returned soldiers. It makes provision for returned soldiers who have not passed the prescribed examination to obtain permanent employment in positions of a non-clerical nature in the Commonwealth Public Service. The division in which this privilege is to be bestowed upon returned soldiers might be termed the “ pick and shovel “ division of the Service, and, if this be a genuine desire to assist all returned soldiers, one may pardonably wonder why the same privilege is not extended to cover other sections of the Service. We know, however, that when a worth-while vacancy occurs, while preference is given to returned men in the “ pick and shovel “ division, it is not given to them in respect of the higher positions. This preference is to be extended to these men provided that they have had ,two years’ continuous employment, but it is worthy of notice that men who secure permanency under this provision cannot be promoted to a grade higher than the grade to which I have referred. Extension of the principle of preference to returned soldiers, under the New South Wales preference to returned soldiers legislation, has led to anomalies which very often act to .the detriment of sons and daughters, in this case particularly sons, of returned soldiers, whose prospects of advancement or whose prospects of entry into the Public Service are prejudiced. Scores of cases could be cited in which the principle of preference to returned soldiers has prejudiced the possibility of the sons of returned soldiers obtaining entry or promotion in the State Public Service. In the great majority of instances the persons debarred from employment in the Service were not old enough to go to the war, and often have fathers who were members of the Australian Imperial Force dependent upon them. It is a strange state of affairs that legislation created for the purpose of assisting rereturned men should, in many cases, act in the manner I have cited to their detriment. Another aspect which should be given some consideration is that the persons who will benefit from the proposed concession are middleaged men or men verging on old age. The fact that they are to be admitted into the Commonwealth Service will possibly close avenues of employment to younger men who have their life before them. There is not the slightest doubt that permanent appointments to the Service are rigorously restricted. At the 30th June of this year, according to figures supplied by the Public Service Board, there were actually less permanent employees in the Commonwealth Service than in June, 1931, when the depression was at its deepest point. The following table shows the fluctuation of permanent employment in the Service since June, 1931 :-
Therefore, in 1936 when it is said that all departments have been speeded up and when there is a greater expenditure from government revenues through the government departments, there are actually 200 less permanent employees than in the depression year of 1931. I adduce from these facts that the Public Service Board restricts the number of permanent appointments and the number of vacancies that occur from time to time. The least we should expect from the Government is that there should be an opportunity for young men to enter into the Service, yet it has decided to extend the preference principle by admitting middle-aged or elderly men who are returned soldiers.
The men affected are chiefly linesmen, the great majority of whom are paid at the rate of £197 per annum or £3 15s. 6d. a week. Obviously these men, in due course, would become old-age pensioners. By his appointment as a permanent officer the man of the average age of the group concerned, say, 43 years, will become a participant in the benefits of the Superannuation Act, whereby he will be required to pay 13s. 8d. a fortnight for a superannuation pension of 30s. a week when he reaches the age of 65. He may, however, be allowed to contribute for a pension of £1 a week by the payment of 9s. 3d. a fortnight. If he is single, and pays on the basis of 13s. 8d. a fortnight, by the time he reaches 65 he will have paid the Government £390 for the privilege of denying himself the ordinary citizen’s right to an old-age pension. Thus the Government is certainly on the right side of the financial fence in making these officers permanent, although they may be glad of the opportunity to earn their £3 15s. a week less deductions continuously. Yet if the preference to returned soldiers be genuine, this consideration loses some of its importance.
If there be a genuine desire to act fairly towards returned soldiers, the anomaly ventilated at the recent returned soldiers’ conference should be adjusted. This relates to the delay in making permanent officers who passed the clerical examination in 1922, but were not appointed until 1931 or thereabouts, although they were employed in a temporary capacity in the interim and although other examinations and appointments were made during that time. Obviously the appointment of thos officers was not delayed because their services were not required or because they were not suitable, since they are now permanent and have been continuously employed since passing the examination in 1922. It would be fair treatment if they were given credit for the years of service given by them in a temporary capacity and were saved the loss of accrued “ sick leave” and other benefits earned during their temporary service. It might be argued against what I have said in connexion with superannuation that the men will at least be guaranteed permanency, but against that I say that those who have been given a form of preference and those who were guaranteed permanency in employment have nothing to fear if the promises made to them were genuine. It will be seen, therefore, that this concession is not so great as it seems to be. The Government should consider the other aspects of this matter, namely, the restriction of permanent appointments by the Public Service Board and the difficulty of placing young men in positions in the Service, because the few available positions that do occur are to be filled by middle-aged or elderly returned soldiers who, in any case, before embarking for overseas, were guaranteed permanent employment.
Speaking by and large, there is not a great deal in the bill to which exception can be taken, but when the measure is at the committee . stage I shall certainly return to the points that I have brought under the notice of the Minister. The possibility of diverting to departmental heads some of the authority at present exercised by the Public Service Board should be carefully considered, and I hope that the Minister in his speech in reply will deal with that point.
– I have listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) on this bill. He has made a valuable contribution to the debate. I do not, however, agree entirely with some of his deductions. The honorable member dealt at length with the proposed amendment to section 29 of the principal act, and expressed the fear that if it were agreed to the Public Service Board might be shorn of some of the authority which it at present exercises; but I am confident that if he had read the section of the act carefully and compared it with the proposed amendment, lie would have had no fault to find with the view expressed by the Minister. Section 29 is undoubtedly ambiguous in certain directions. It reads -
The Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the. board, after obtaining a report from the permanent head -
Immediately a question must arise as to who is to obtain the report. Is it the Governor-General or the permanent head? Obviously, it would be ridiculous to suggest that the Governor-General should obtain a report of this nature. The proposed amendment, which omits the words “ after obtaining a report from the permanent head “, and inserts in their stead the words, “ after the board has obtained a report from the. permanent head “, is an undoubted improvement. The section if so amended will read -
The Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the board, after the board has obtained a report from the permanent head -
That, of course, was what was intended originally. In the circumstances, I feel that the fear expressed by the honorable member for Dalley is not well founded. All honorable members would resent any attempt on the part of the Government to interfere with the powers of the board, for it is realized that continuity of administrative effort rests entirely with the Civil Service. Governments come and governments go; but the Civil Service continues without interruption. The Public Service Board should, therefore, be permitted to retain the power vested in it under the principal act. On the 5th November last, I asked a question in the House in order to ascertain whether the board was making use of the power conferred upon it by section 17 of the act, and the reply furnished to me indicated conclusively that it was using its power judiciously and with good effect. The answer to my question indicated that more than 50 recommendations had been made by the board during the past twelve months, and on only one occasion was it : necessary for the board to use the power vested in it to refer a recommendation made by the permanent head to Cabinet for approval. In my opinion, the board is doing its work well, and it should not be deprived of any of the power it at present exercises so effectively.
The proposed amendment of section 42 increases the power of the board to appoint to any office in the Commonwealth Service, without examination or probation, “ any member of the Police Force of the Territory for the Seat of Government”. I consider that jealous care should be exercised over appointments to the senior branches of the Service. If the Public Service were divided into junior and senior branches, I should not object to certain appointments to the junior branch of it being made without examination, but every care should be exercised to ensure that only persons of the most desirable type obtain entrance to the senior branch of the Service. Under section 39 of the principal act, appointments may be made to the Service without examination subject to the qualifications set out in section84. It may happen that persons of an undesirable type may obtain appointments to minor positions in the Service and ultimately occupy high positions for which they are not at all suited. Care should be taken not to widen the powers of the board too much in this respect. Qualifying examinations should be necessary before appointments are made to any senior positions in the Service. Only by this means can we be assured that persons of the right type will occupy those offices.
– Does the honorable member suggest that undesirable persons are being appointed to positions?
– I do not; but wider power is being sought to permit the board to make appointments without examination in certain cases.
– So it should in certain cases.
– I disagree with the honorable member on the general statement. If our service could be separated into junior and senior sections, I should not object to appointments to the junior sections being made without examination, but appointments to senior positions should be jealously guarded. Only those persons with special qualifica tions, degrees, or the like, should be admitted without examination. “We have a parallel for a division of the Public Service in this way in the British Civil Service. Formerly appointments were made to the British Civil Service by the exercise of influence of one kind and another. I entirely disagree with that policy and I am glad that it has been discarded. Appointment to the Service should be on merit, and we should take care not to extend the power of the board to such a degree that unqualified persons may obtain positions and ultimately rise to offices of considerable authority.
The proposed amendment of section 71 of the principal act is designed to give power to grant officers leave for extended periods without pay. At present such leave may not be granted for any period exceeding twelve months, but it is proposed that that provision shall be omitted and that authority be given to grant extended leave: - “ (a) where the leave of absence is for the purpose of enabling the officer to pursue a course of study or undertake research work related to the duties of his office - for any period not exceeding three years; or
This is a desirable alteration. The Government should encourage public servants to widen their experience as much as possible and particularly to embark upon courses of study or to undertake research work that has relation to the du ties they perform. Eventually such study must react to the advantage of the service and to the whole community.
The proposed amendment of section 73 has relation to furlough rights. I regret that this section is not being widened a little more in order that certain anomalies may be corrected. The officers of our Repatriation and War Service Homes departments, who are practically in permanent positions in that such work will be required throughout the lifetime of the present staff, are still unable to enjoy certain benefits that accrue to permanent officers of the Public Service. About 1,328 officers are employed in these departments and all of them - except permanent officers of the Public Service who have been transferred to the Repatriation or War Service Homes departments - are denied furlough rights. These branches of the Public Service are maintaining the highest traditions of the civil service, and there can be no justification for denying the furlough rights enjoyed by other public servants to the officers who are doing this work. It would add to the harmony of our Public Service if this anomaly were rectified. All governments of the world which have appointed persons other than public servants to repatriation and war service staffs have recognized the justice of granting such persons adequate rights. Australia appears to be the only exception. Seeing that the officers of our Repatriation and War Services Homes departments are rendering such loyal and able service to the country, I contend that they should be given full furlough rights.
Attention should also be given to the claims of ex-soldier re-appointees to the Public Service. I refer to a group of men who resigned from or otherwise lo3t their positions in the Public Service and forfeited their furlough rights without compensation, but have since been reappointed to the Service. Although such men may have had ten years’ service at the time they severed their connexion with the Service, and although they may have been engaged in outside occupations for only six or twelve months, they find, on their re-appointment, that they have to work for another twenty years before they become entitled to furlough. This, I submit, is not equitable. The experience they gained in outside occupations in the commercial world and elsewhere doubtless makes their service to the public more valuable than it otherwise would have been.
– They must have been out for more than six months to get it.
– Some of them have been out for five years, and even longer periods, and they bring back into the Service the ripe experience of contact with commercial principles. They should be given credit of the prior service which they rendered.
– Would they be failures outside of the Service?
– No. Many of them have held responsible positions outside of the Service, and have probably been sought by the Public Service Board for re-appointment because of their greater capacity. No employee in the Public Service could not but be the better for contacting outside commercialism. I suggest that such a man would bring to bear upon his job in the Public Service an entirely different outlook.
Certain men who have left the Service had accrued to them sick leave which had accumulated over their period of service. On resigning or relinquishing their positions they surrendered that sick leave without compensation. When these men are re-appointed to the Service again they are not credited with the sick leave which accrued to them during their previous service, and when the strain of their war service is telling on them, in a desire to pile up a credit .of sick leave for future emergencies, they are afraid to take advantage of the sick leave regulations. It would be a gracious act on the part of the Government to credit such men with the sick leave which accrued to them in respect of their previous service, so that they may be able, without impunity, to take sick leave.
One other point which concerns exsoldier re-appointees, to which I wish to draw attention^ is the regulation governing seniority. We know that, in making promotions in the Public Service, not only seniority, but also superior efficiency is taken into account. Where two men have equal qualifications and, one has greater seniority the latter obviously secures the higher appointment. I suggest that when re-appointments of exsoldiers are made to the Service the appointees should be credited with the seniority which they earned during their prior period of service. I am sure that if this were granted the few men affected - they number about 250 - would not upset the board’s arrangements to any great extent. Their position may be compared with that of an officer in the general division employed as a telegraph messenger or postman, who, after passing an examination, has his permanent appointment ante-dated by approximately two years. Returned soldiers, however,, who may have had five years’ experience in a department, and whose services have previously been terminated, are, on re-appointment to the Service, started from the day of their re-appointment; they are thus definitely at a disadvantage to the extent of two years’ service, compared with the man who has not served his country abroad.
These are anomalies that exist with regard to returned soldier appointees, and I mention them because section 84 of the principal act, which is sought to be amended by the bill now before the House, would enable consideration to be given to officers of this particular type securing permanency of appointment. The honorable member for Dalley makes some comments with regard to this particular section, but his arguments had no point. He drew attention to the fact that the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act had a bearing in favour of* the men who went to the war. “While that may apply in general with regard to certain returned soldiers in the various preference acts, it has no bearing in this particular instance, because this bill applies only to those who have already been in the Commonwealth Public Service.
I have been interested in these cases because, since 1932, I think I have taken six deputations to six different Ministers endeavouring to have these men reappointed. Only four months ago I took a deputation to the Prime Minister, and 1 am hopeful that out of that deputation came this bill amending the principal act. Those ex-soldiers who were in the general division of the Public Servcie, were, as honorable members are aware, declared redundant in 1931, and a lot of them had a long period of service behind them, some of them as much as ten years. They did not receive appointments of a permanent nature. Though they had applied for it they had been considered in a temporary capacity only. Therefore, they had to suffer the axe when it was introduced during the depression years. Since then they have suffered considerably. Their number is not great. They served their country overseas, and during the depression their circumstances were very sad indeed. After being declared redundant officers, being postal employees and employees only, they found that they could not easily fill any niche in the commercial world; their choice of occupation was limited. They had a perfect right to reappointment, and I commend the Government for doing a real job of work in giving these men a chance to re-enter the Commonwealth service. But when the opportunity was afforded to do so by the introduction of the bill amending the principal act why did not the Minister also extend this privilege of reappointment to cover ex-clerical officers who are returned soldiers? I ask him to give some explanation for the failure to do so, because 1 feel that the men employed in a clerical capacity in the Public Service are in the same category as those employed in the general division. They have served their country, and are deserving of the same consideration as is granted to other returned soldier employees.
I have gone through this bill very closely, and I appreciate the significance of the powers which it confers upon the Public Service Board ; but I do not kno”w . how far the board can exercise those powers. One. little innovation which I think would have a big bearing in regard to advising the Cabinet in respect of the administrative technique would be to adopt the procedure which is followed in the British Civil Service. In that service the Secretary to the Treasury, who is also head of the service, from time to time groups together the heads of various departments for a conference to advise Ministers with regard to administrative technique and the like, and to give advice with regard to the reactions upon various departments of proposed legislation. We have an instance here to-day whereby the grouping together of the heads of departments may’ have resulted in recommendations which would have established certain sections of the public departments in their proper perspective. We have immigration laws, passports, and the like controlled by the Department of the Interior, whereas in other countries that section of the Public Service is controlled by the department which deals with external affairs, because that department has a more ready appreciation of the reaction of other countries to the application of immigration laws. If the administration of our immigration laws were placed under the control of the External Affairs Department the officers of that department would be in a better position to advise and apply those laws. Again, may I point out that recent action on the part of the Government in many cases may have been tempered considerably if it had taken the advice of the heads of the various departments in consultation with certain contacts overseas. Again, I refer to the External Affairs Department and the facilities it has for drawing information from British Embassies in foreign countries and trade representatives in the various countries in which we have trade commissioners appointed.
– Is the honorable gentleman referring to the Japanese wool position?
– No. The honorable member himself can stand on his feet and state his own opinions with regard to that. Here we have a very ready opportunity to get considered information from a body of men who can seek throughout the world for the reactions of other nations to our laws and can advise governments how far those reactions may bear on general policy. The heads of departments in conference assembled would act as a form of advisory council to the Government, and their advice would be invaluable. I suggest that consideration should be given to the representations that I have made in this regard.
I commend the Government for the action it has taken with regard to returned soldier ex-employees in the Postal Department. I feel sure that they are appreciative and know that the Government is endeavouring to make a return to them in some small measure for the sacrifices they have made on behalf of the country, not only in its service overseas during the war period, but also throughout the depression years. I do not fear that the Public Service Board is being shorn of any of its powers, as the honorable member for Dalley does. I suggest to the Minister that he should give consideration to the necessity for not unduly widening the powers of the board in connexion with appointments to the Public Service without examination.
.- I followed closely the speech delivered by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) and I can find nothing in the Public Service Act giving power to the Public Service Board to make appointments to the Public Service without examination.
– I invite the honorable member to read section 39 of the principal act.
– I have made inquiries, and I find that there has been very little alteration in that direction. I understand that there has been just a slight amendment of the position so far as appointments to the police force of the Federal Capital Territory and the Commonwealth Railway service are concerned. I do not know whether the amendment has been made for the specific purpose of providing a position in the police force at Canberra for some individual, but there have been appointments made to the Public Service in Canberra recently which call for some comment. Not so long ago, two boys were appointed to the Public Service who did not appear highest on the list of successful examinees. I claim that that sort of thing should be scotched immediately and that in future appointments to the Public Service the competitive system should be strictly adhered to and the candidates receiving the highest marks at the examination should be the first to be appointed to vacancies. I deprecate any attempt to push favored boys into certain positions.
I claim that there is nothing radically wrong with the Public Service Board. I listened to the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth, who claimed that there is a possibility that undesirables may be appointed to vacant positions in the Public Service. I do not think that there are any undesirables employed in the Public Service of the Commonwealth. The use of the word “ undesirable” would seem to indicate that the honorable gentleman considers that some one has been appointed to the Public Service who has a bad character. I personally would not permit the appointment of any undesirable person to the Public Service of the Commonwealth. The honorable member has made an attack on the Public Service which I cannot allow to pass. I hope that he will be invited by the Service to point to one undesirable in it. The already high efficiency of the Public Service has been raised appreciably since the introduction of the competitive examination system. It would not be improved by the adoption of the suggestion of the honorable member for Wentworth.
The Government claims that the action proposed under the bill in regard to returned soldiers is most praiseworthy, ft entirely ignores the odium that attaches to it because of the dismissals that have taken place during the last three years, by reason of which many men will not be able to benefit from this proposal because there is no chance of their re-entering the Public Service. The intention is to appoint to permanent positions only those who already are employed in the Postal Department and have had two years’ service. Others who, after eleven years’ service were dismissed, will receive no benefit. I do not know whether provision has been made for men who were dismissed from the Defence Department. They have no chance to obtain positions because they have to compete for them. Temporary clerks with eleven years’ service are walking around Canberra to-day with no hope of obtaining a permanent position. Is that proper treatment? Why does not the Government do what it promised to do? This legislation should apply to every man who has had the necessary service and is capable of discharging his duties. I should like the Minister to give expression to his views. It is evident that the Government does not intend’ to afford any considerable measure of relief. It is hypocrisy to claim that the interests of the returned soldiers are being promoted, when a number of them who have applied for positions are unable to get them. The Government has traded on patriotism for many years, and, realizing that it is losing support in the country, is seeking to regain the lost ground by pretending to do something for the unfortunate returned soldiers in the Postal Department. I realize that the Minister has a hard task to justify the policy of the Government, and that he will not be able to make a convincing reply in defence of this wonderful piece of legislation. I wish to see justice done. If the job is to be tackled, let it be done thoroughly. I urge the Minister to give to returned soldier temporary clerks with ten or eleven years’ service the same opportunities that are to be given to those who are working in the Postal Department. The honorable gentleman should also view cautiously the appointment of boys to the Public Service in Canberra. It would seem that members of the aristocracy of this city are able to secure positions for their sons, notwithstanding the fact that those boys have not headed the examination list. I have made representations to the Public Service Commissioner on behalf of a boy whose father, a returned soldier, died without a pension, leaving the mother and five children in extremely unfortunate circumstances. This lad is temporarily employed in the Commonwealth Public Service. He has passed the necessary examination, but being low down on the list is not able to obtain a permanent appointment. I trust that there will be no departure in tho future from the competitive system, which promotes the greatest degree of efficiency.
– With other honorable members who have spoken, I welcome the introduction of this measure. Although I do not entirely agree with all the views expressed by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), I was most interested in everything that he said.
The provision to which I should like particularly to refer is that which relates to the appointment to the permanent staff of the Commonwealth Public Service of ex-soldiers who were formerly on the temporary staff but lost their positions during the depression. In the Senate the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) said that the majority of the men affected by this provision, numbering about 200, are ex-employees of his department. When the measure is passed, those men at all events will be entitled to permanent appointment. I gather that quite a number of vacancies exist to which they may be appointed. They at least will have security of position, and will be able to look forward with every degree of confidence to their advancing years. I entirely agree with the honorable member for Dalley, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) and other honorable members who have spoken, that it is to be regretted that the Government did not find it possible to provide also for ex-soldiers employed in the clerical division who received their conge during the period of the depression.
– This preference applies only to pick and shovel jobs.
– It applies to workers in the general division. I hope that the Minister will be able to say how many ex-soldiers would benefit if this provision could be extended to those who were employed in the clerical division. It will be remembered that during the years immediately following the war many ex-soldiers were most desirous of entering the Commonwealth Public Service, and that the examination which ordinarily they would have had to pass was waived, a special examination being set for entrance to the clerical division. The position of the non-clerical workers was somewhat different, and I understand that there are still quite a few of those men who have been on the temporary staff in a non-clerical capacity for a considerable number of years, some of them practically since the termination of the war. Under the provisions of the act, those temporary employees who lost their positions during the depression not only were deprived of their means of livelihood but also forfeited their eligibility for permanent appointment at any time. I maintain that in the long run this latter loss probably imposed a greater hardship than did the first. I know of many desperate cases that were reported to the Public Service Board, of temporary employees who were dismissed. I believe that most earnest efforts were made to re-employ them, but that the provisions of the act and regulations absolutely prevented that from being done. It is in that respect that this measure appeals to me most, because it will overcome that particular difficulty.
In the case of ex-soldiers, the bill proposes to amend the section which demanded that the applicant for a per manent position should as a sine qua non of such appointment have to his credit two years of unbroken service at the time of making his application. When this measure becomes law all that will be required is that the applicant shall have had two years of continuous service prior to the date of application for permanent employment. I should like the Minister to make clear just what is meant by the word “ continuous “, as applied to the service of these men. There must be some men - the number does not matter - whose period ,OI two years’ service has been broken by ill health, accident, or other unforeseen circumstances, and who, for that reason, “would not be covered by the provisions of the bill now before the House. It is particularly hard that they should be victimized, as it were, because of their bad luck, and remain ineligible for permanent appointment. I should like the Minister to give an assurance that the provisions of the bill will be generously administered so that those who, through no fault of their own, have had their period of service broken, will not be debarred from the benefits of its provisions. If the measure is rigorously administered, it will result in some hardship and injustice to some who genuinely deserve to be given permanent employment. No doubt it will be argued that the-, number of such persons is small. That may be, and that is why I suggest that the provision be administered generously, because it cannot possibly result in the admission to the service of a large number of men who were never intended to be covered by the bill.
I should also like the Minister to explain just what is meant by the provision that officers shall be appointed to the positions, and in the capacity, in which they formerly served.. If this provision be rigidly insisted, on, hardship may be inflicted upon a man who has demonstrated his right to permanent employment. For instance, it may be that the department in which he was formerly employed is now fully staffed, or he may possess special, qualifications for a different position. Wall the Minister give an assurance that when, for any reason, a returned soldier cannot be taken on in his old department, he will not, because of that, be denied permanent employment in some other department?
I join with the honorable member for Wentworth in asking that special consideration be given to the claims of officers of the Repatriation Department and the War Service Homes Commission. In November of last year, I brought this matter forward, and I had hoped that, when the present measure was introduced, it would contain some reference to these officers. It seems unreasonable and unfair that officers who have rendered splendid service over a period of years should possess no rights in the Service, and should be denied the benefits of the superannuation provisions. I trust that this matter, and the others which I have mentioned, will receive the earnest consideration of the Minister.
– I support the bill. I do not think that any one can take exception to it, but we may all avail ourselves of this opportunity to make suggestions. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) mentioned some groups which are deserving of consideration, but there are other groups with even stronger claims than those. I have little sympathy with a man who voluntarily left a good position in the Service because he thought he could better himself, and then, upon his return, seeks to obtain the benefits of seniority just as if he had continued in the Service all the time. There are others who have much stronger claims to consideration than he. I should be surprised to learn that there are still many returned soldiers who were in the Service before they enlisted, who lost promotion while they were away, and who have never had it made up to them. I know that, in all outside crafts and callings, we did the best we could to ensure that those who had the period of their apprenticeship broken by war service should be given the seniority they would have enjoyed had they not gone to the war. I agree that returned soldiers who re-entered the Service after the war should be given the same ranking which they would have enjoyed had they remained in the Service.
There is one group in the Public Service which has been seeking redress for its grievances for a considerable time, but so far without success. I refer to those young men employed in the Postal Department who, upon reaching the age of 21 during the depression, were” given the choice of leaving the Service, or of remaining in the department in the position, and at the wages, of juniors. Some of them reached their majority in 1931, and for nearly six years have been paid at junior rates. At last it has been found possible for the Government to put them back on the wage they ought to have been getting all the time, but they have lost four or five years’ seniority. Not only have they lost the wages to which they were entitled from the time they became adults, but they have also lost promotion. I appeal to the Minister to look into their case and, if the facts are as I have stated, to take action to remedy an undoubted injustice.
– I was glad to receive the assurance of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Hunter) that the provisions of section 4!2 of the act will apply to members of the Northern Territory police force, as well as to members of the police force of the Federal Capital -Territory. This is as it. should be, because every opportunity should be provided to the police and the administrative officers in the Northern Territory to obtain transfers for a term to the south, where they may be mentally and physically regenerated and become familiar with other services. I trust that the department will circularize police officers in the Northern Territory, advising them of the opportunities for transfer thus presented. Only a little while ago I was approached by some officers who had spent the best years of their lives in the territory, with a request that opportunities for transfer in this way should be provided.
The police force of the Northern Territory is administered under the Public Service Regulations and a special Police and Offences Ordinance, but there seems to me to be a possibility that, under section 62, a3 it is proposed to be amended, it may be brought directly under the Public Service Act. That is not right, and if it should happen, the discontent with which the force is now seething will be still further increased.
At the present time, audit officers, customs officers, postal officers, and members of the garrison and of the cable service in the Northern Territory are required to stay in the tropics for only three years, and are then eligible to be transferred south. This provision, however, does not apply to members of the administrative staff, who may be required to remain in the tropics all their working lives. Those of us who have had experience of the tropics understand that white people should be able to leave them for more temperate climates at least for a term in every three years. The best thing, of course, would be to arrange for administrative officers in Darwin to be transferred, after a few years’ service, under a system of rotation, to Canberra, or other places in the south, so that they might benefit by the change of climate, and become acquainted with other officers in the Commonwealth Service, with whom they are now compelled to make contact by correspondence from a distance of 2,000 miles. At the present time, they are suffering under a strong sense of injustice, but the institution of a system of transfer and exchange such as I have suggested would be of benefit to these officers and the Service, and would do much to remove their grievances.
.- I listened with a good deal of interest to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), who placed the case very fairly before the House. With regard to the remarks made by the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron), I cannot say that this bill will confer any great benefits on returned soldiers. It has been my experience, as well as that of many honorable members, that the grown-up sons and daughters of the thousands of incapacitated returned soldiers throughout the country have not been able to obtain positions in the Public Service because of the operation of the preference principle. In many ways preference acts to the detriment, not only of the families of returned soldiers, but also of returned soldiers themselves. I n.m in favour of the reinstatement of all persons, whether they be returned soldiers or not, who have lost their Service positions in the last four or five years. An important aspect of the employment conditions in the Public Service is the case of boys who are induced to enter the service of the Postal Department as messengers at the age of fourteen or fifteen, and who, when they attain the age of sixteen, are dismissed because they are then eligible for permanent positions which do not exist. The two or three years that these lads sacrifice in the department’s service may mar their chances of obtaining employment in other walks of life. I have before me a letter addressed to the honorable member for Dalley from a constituent of his pointing out the injustice done to his son, who spent eighteen months in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and was then dismissed because there was no vacancy which he could fill, despite the fact that, during his service in the department, he was so interested .in his work as to become a qualified telegraph operator able to do an adult’s work. This boy lost his employment simply because, at the age of sixteen, he became eligible for appointment as a permanent officer and no vacancy existed for him.
– Did he pass an examination?
– Yes, but, possibly, because he was a little down in the list, he was refused an appointment. I think that that matter should be inquired into by the Minister. Consideration should be given to all those boys who spend valuable years in the department and then are forced to look for work, which, at that age, is difficult to find.
Reverting to the question of preference, I emphasize my opinion that this bill will confer no great benefits on returned soldiers. As a matter of fact not even the preference act of New South Wales has been beneficial to them, because it debars the grown-up sons and daughters of incapacitated men, who are dependent upon them, from obtaining Public Service positions despite the fact that the majority of them were not even born when the war began. That is an added reason why the Minister should take into consideration the dismissal of competent boys from the Postal Department.
.- I welcome this bill, which I consider would be better dealt with in committee. I rise mainly to draw attention to the provisions of clause 11, which I particularly welcome. It is designed to give permanent employment to - returned soldiers who have not passed the prescribed examination but -
I appreciate that provision because, in common with many other returned soldiers in this House, I have urged for a long period that something of its nature be done. I remind the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy), who suggested that the clause will not confer benefits on returned soldiers, that in another place the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) said definitely that about 200 returned soldiers in his department alone will be placed in the position of being able to secure permanent employment when this bill is passed. Many more returned soldiers in other departments who were unfortunate to lose their employment during the depression, when the Scullin Government was in office, will now also be eligible for permanent employment. I am certain that every one of those men will be grateful for the opportunity to obtain permanent employment, and will welcome the removal of the fear of unemployment. I regret, however, that the provision in this clause is restricted to the non-clerical section of the Service, and I should like the Minister, in reply, to explain the reasons for this restriction. I understand that many returned soldiers who were employed in the clerical section, and gave highly efficient service, lost their employment during the depression years, and I am certain that they would render valuable services if they were re-appointed. I have made representations for special consideration to be given to returned soldiers employed in theWar Service Homes and in the Repatriation Departments. In those departments there are returned soldier officers who, although they have been in the Service for 25 years, have been unable to obtain per manency. I hope that, in spite of the misfortune that has resulted to my many previous representations on this subject, of which those officers are fully aware, the matter will be reviewed at an early date, and that we shall hear that they, too, are to obtain the benefits of permanent employment which this bill confers.
. - in reply - As I said at the outset, this bill is more suited for consideration in committee than on the second reading, because it consists mainly of a series of amendments of the principal act which are designed to remove ambiguity. The only new matter of importance is the amendment contained in clause 11, which deals with returned soldiers. The Government did not set out to boast about what it was proposing to do for returned soldiers. It so happened that a certain number of men who had positions given to them under section 84 of the principal act had acquired eligibility to become permanent officers when, with the advent of the depression, they lost their employment. Now, when the good times have come again-
– What good times?
– At any rate, good times have come back to these men who either have been re-employed or are to be re-employed, as with the passage of this legislation they will be placed on the permanent staff. This amendment was devised solely for that purpose. The other matters which have been mentioned will be taken into consideration by the Government.
– Why confine this preference to the “ pick and shovel “ men?
– It is not preference to the “ pick and shovel “ men. In section 84, sub-section 9 of the principal act, reference is made to certain returned soldiers who have been temporarily employed continuously for at least two years. Many of these men were eligible for permanent employment when, with the depression, they lost their jobs, and therefore their prospects of permanency. This amendment merely restores the right to permanency to them. Several honorable members have referred to employees in the War Service Homes and Repatriation Departments, and their suggestion will receive consideration. The honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) wanted to know whether the men affected by this clause would be reinstated in the same positions as they occupied before their dismissal. I inform him that, if the positions that they formerly occupied are not now open, some equal positions will be found for them. They will be treated very liberally. None of them will lose anything in time by reason of illness.
– What about the temporary clerical staff who lost their opportunities of permanency?
– Officers on the clerical staff have not been singled out for ill treatment. Their position to-day is exactly the same as it was previously. It is well known that they all have an opportunity to sit for an examination of the standard of a State school examination, and, if they are successful, they become eligible for permanent employment.
– What about the furlough rights of the ex-soldier employees?
– That matter will be dealt with in committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Olause 1 agreed to.
In committee (Consideration resumed from page 1994) :
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Suction six a of the principal act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1.) the word “nine” (wherever occurring) and inserting in its stead the word “ three “.
.- I move-
That after the word “ amended “ the following words be inserted: - “(a) by inserting in paragraph(a) of sub-section (1.), after the word law’ (second occurring), the words ‘ and desire to forward such an argument ‘”
by inserting in paragraph (b) or sub-section (1.), after the word law’ (second occurring), the words ‘ and desire to forward such an argument”’; and (c)….. “
The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) earlier to-day raised a question as to the possibility of certain honorable members who voted against the proposed alteration of the Constitution not being disposed to take part in the formulation of argument against it for the purposes of a pamphlet. I then indicated by interjection that I agreed that it was desirable that those members voting against the bill and, in fact, desiring to submit arguments against it for the purposes of a pamphlet, should have the opportunity to do so. The amendment which I have just moved provides opportunity for the preparation of the case in favour of the proposed amendment being left in the hands. of the majority of honorable gentlemen who voted in favour of it and desire to submit arguments in support of it, and, correspondingly, for the preparation of the case against the proposed amendment being prepared by the majority of those honorable members who voted against it, and desire to submit arguments against it. I hope that the amendment will commend itself to honorable members.
Amendment agreed to.
.-I suggest to the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) that the clause be further amended to provide that a period of four weeks instead of three weeks, as stated, shall be allowed for the submission of the ca3e to be published in the proposed pamphlet. It appears to me that three weeks from, say, the 4th or 5th December will leave very little effective time for work in view of the near approach of Christmas. The case in favour of a proposed amendment will always be prepared under the direction of the Attorney-General, and, in any event, the preparation of an affirmative case must obviously be surrounded with less difficulty than the preparation of a negative cape. In the preparation of a negative case, it will almost invariably happen that conflicting interests and divergent opinions will have to be to some extent at least reconciled, and this must take time. The original act provided that more than two months should be allowed for the. preparation of the case to be published in the pamphlet. As any amendment agreed to in this bill will be an amendment of the statute law, I suggest that a curtailment of from more than two months to three weeks is too drastic. This amendment, if agreed to, will apply to the preparation of literature in connexion with all future referendums, and we should take care not to limit the time too severely.
– I can rarely hold out against the blandishments of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I, therefore, move -
That the word “three”, paragraph (c), be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ four “.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is a short but not unimportant measure intended to put into proper shape the acts interpretation law of the Commonwealth, and has already been passed in another place. The principal object of the bill is to incorporate in one enactment the provisions of two sets of act3 interpretation acts now on the statute-book, namely, the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, as amended up to 1932, and the Acts Interpretation Act 1904, as amended up to 1934. Curiously enough, these two collections of acts interpretation acts havegone along side by side almost throughout the period of federation.For the purposes of simplicity and effectiveness, it is now proposed to consolidate them into one enactment. The primary object of this bill is thus not to make any substantial alteration of the law, but mainly to amal gamate the provisions of these two sets of statutes. The opportunity is, however, being taken to make certain alterations of the law, which I shall briefly outline.
The Acts Interpretation Act 1901 provided that that act should apply to all acts of the Parliament and be binding on the Crown, but, in a case before the High Court, it was very strongly suggested by at least one learned judge that amendments of the 1901 act would not apply to acts passed before the enactment of the amendment, but only to acts passed after the amendment. That has given rise to difficulty and to the possibility of confusion, and, in order to avoid such confusion, it is being provided in this bill that all acts interpretation acts shall apply to all acts of Parliament unless some express provision appears in them to the contrary.
The second special provision relates to the commencement of acts of Parliament, and in respect of that, the amendment provided in the bill is of special interest to Western Australian members. Up to the present time, the general provision has been that an act of Parliament comes into operation on the date of its assent and, in some special cases, on the date of the proclamation bringing it into force; but the normal thing has been for an act to operate as from the date it receives Royal assent. The effect of that on an outlying State like Western Australia may be extremely inconvenient, because, by the time a copy of the act reaches that State and people have an opportunity to familiarize themselves with its contents and its existence, a great many people may have unwittingly broken the law. Therefore it is proposed in this bill that an act, assented to after the 31st January, 1937, is not to commence until the expiration of 28 days after the Royal assent is given. That will provide a much-needed breathing space for those in outlying parts of the Commonwealth. I propose, in committee, to move an amendment that there should be no such provision in cases of hills effecting alterations of the Constitution. The provision is unnecessary in such cases, because proposed alterations of the Constitution are notorious before they become effective.
– What about tariff schedules ?
– A tariff schedule operates from the date upon which it is tabled; this bill does not apply to that; it is a rule of convention rather than a statutory rule applying to a statute as such.
The third matter upon which some particular comment should be made in this bill relates to the certification of regulations. If honorable members will look at clause 13, they will see that it is proposed to insert a new section 48 in the Acts Interpretation Act. That provision was inserted in another place and provided, in effect, that no regulations are to be made in pursuance of the power to make regulations contained in some act of Parliament unless the AttorneyGeneral, the Solicitor-General, or an officer of the Attorney-General’s Department thereunto authorized in writing by the Attorney-General certifies that the regulation made is not in excess of the power conferred by the act under which it purports to be made. Honorable members will see that that places a fairly heavy onus on the Attorney-General, Solicitor-General or officer of the Attorney-General’s Department, and furthermore, the certificate that the regulation is intra vires will have no effect whatever; it will not be binding on any court. With very great respect, I submit that this provision, emanating from another place, is of a very undesirable kind, and I propose in committee to submit an amendment which will get rid of that particular test. In justification of the amendment, arrangements are being made whereby, after the new year, all regulations will be either drafted or revised by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, and that will no doubt in substance ensure that some attention will be directed towards the problem as to whether regulations are within the power or not. Honorable members will agree that the issue of some certificate by an officer of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department having no binding force whatever, would tend rather to mislead people than to assist them.
The fourth matter relates to the problem of giving regulations retrospective operation. There is no power under the existing law to make a regulation having retrospective effect even though that effect may be entirely beneficial. For example, in some cases, it appears on examination that payments made to public servants in administering some act have not been made in strict conformity with some regulation, and it is desired to validate those cases. Consequently, it is desired to have a regulation having retrospective effect for that purpose. The answer is made that there is no power to do so. But it is very desirable frequently to be able to make a retrospective regulation where you want to confer a benefit or to get rid of some anomaly. It is therefore proposed by a new clause 49 to give power to make regulations to take effect from a d’ate earlier than the date of gazettal, provided .that these regulations do not affect prejudicially the rights of any person or impose on any person liabilities in respect of something done or omitted to be done by him before the date of the gazettal. In other words, there would be no retrospective operation where it would impose retrospective punishment or liability; but there would be retrospective operation where neither of these things would be done.
– It is a sort of retrospective benignancy.
– That is so. The other matter specifically dealt with in this bill has relation to the voidance of regulations. The existing law provides that regulations are to be laid before each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days after those regulations are made, and each House has power to disallow regulations. In some cases a regulation may not be laid before both Houses of the Parliament within the period of fifteen sitting days, and it is desired to make provision that in that case a regulation shall, at the expiration of fifteen sitting days, cease to have effect. Thus if it is laid before the House, and if there is no motion of disallowance, the regulation becomes effective; if it is laid before the House and disallowed, by a motion in_either House of the Parliament, it becomes null and void, and if it is not laid on the table of both Houses of the Parliament within the prescribed period, it equally becomes null and void.
It is desirable that this provision be inserted to complete the control which Parliament has over regulations made under an act of Parliament.
– You could enforce a regulation for several days without having it laid on the table, and it would automatically go out after you had achieved your purpose.
– That would appear to be a theoretical possibility. That is, of course, an open possibility in connexion with all regulations, but so far no practical difficulty has arisen in relation to that point.
– Did not the High Court lay it down that if the Government will not lay a regulation on the table of the House, the Opposition can do so?
– The answer to that which was not mentioned by the High Court, but which is to be found in the cookery book is : “ You must first catch your hare “. It is more difficult for the Opposition to be in possession of a regulation than the Government. There may be some minor matters raised in committee. I shall deal with them as they arise.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a very short bill which is designed to secure such an amendment of the Bills of Exchange Act of the Commonwealth as will enable the Commonwealth, if it desires to do so, to accede to the Convention on Stamp Laws in connexion with bills of exchange and promissory notes. That convention was made at Geneva in June, 1930. Its main provision is contained in article 1, which reads as follows : -
If their laws do not already make provision to this effect, the High Contracting Parties undertake to alter their laws so that the validity of obligations arising out of a bill of exchange or a promissory note or the exercise of the rights that flow therefrom shall not he subordinated to the observance of the provisions concerning the stamp.
Just clarifying that sentence, the problem they were glancing at was this: Under some legal codes in some parts of Australia, if a cheque, bill of exchange or promissory note is not duly stamped in accordance with the stamps law, not only is a liability imposed on the maker of the document, but the document also ceases to be valid; it cannot be received in evidence; and the result is sometimes, through some oversight, easily coverable by a provision for penal stamping, that contractual obligations between people come to be unenforceable, with the result that very often there may be the grossest hardship and undesirable forms of dishonesty. What the convention was dealing with was, as I have said, in legal phraseology, an attempt to make provision whereby the “ rights flowing from bills of exchange or promissory notes should not be subordinated to the observance of the provisions concerning the stamp “. Article 1 continues; -
Nevertheless, the Contracting Parties may suspend the exercise of these rights until payment of the stamp duties they prescribe or of any penalties incurred. They may also decide that the quality and effects of an instrument “ immediately executory “ which, according to their legislation may be attributed to a bill of exchange and promissory note, shall be subject to the condition that the stamp law has, from the issue of the instrument, been duly complied with in accordance with their laws.
Each of the High Contracting Parties reserves the right to restrict the undertaking mentioned in paragraph 1 to bills of exchange only.
Similar provision to the one proposed in this bill was inserted in the legislation of the United Kingdom, in order to enable the Government of the United Kingdom to ratify the convention. That provision was made in section 42 of the Finance Act of 1932. The existing provision in the Commonwealth law is in section 77 of the Bills of Exchange Act 1909. Section 77 provides, with reference to bills issued outside of Australia, that they shall not be invalid by reason only of the fact that they are not stamped ir. accordance with the law of the place of issue. That is to say. they preserve their validity, while leaving it open for the revenue law to be enforced in the case of the document. That provides for the case of bills issued outside of Australia, and what it is desired to do by the present legislation is to bring the Commonwealth legislation into line with that of the United Kingdom, and to apply a similar rule to bills issued in Australia, and thereby to make the same general rule apply to bills issued out of Australia but payable ..here, and to bilk issued in Australia and payable here. If that is done, our legislation will be in line with the British legislation, and the Commonwealth will be able to accede to the convention.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is the last of three short legal measures that I wish to launch. Its purpose is to make a small amendment of the trade marks law, of a kind that has already been made in the patents law and in the copyright and designs law. Et relates to the rights of a prospective proprietor of a trade mark under international arrangement, and proposes to extend the protection at present afforded to the proprietor to his legal personal representative or assignee. The present provision is contained in section 115 of the Trade Marks Act 1905. as amended to 1912, arid reads -
If, upon the request of the GovernorGeneral, the King is pleased to apply to the Commonwealth any law of the United Kingdom for carrying into effect any arrangement made with the government of any foreign state for the mutual protection of trade marks, then any person who has applied for protection for any trade mark in the United Kingdom or the Isle of Man, or in any foreign state with which the arrangement has been made, shall be entitled to registration of his trade mark under this act in priority to other applicants, and such registration shall have the same date as the date of the original application in the United Kingdom or the Isle of Man, or such foreign state as the case mav be.
That is known as giving priority to an application under the international convention. The effect is, that the date at which the trade mark is granted in Australia is made to coincide with the date in the United Kingdom or in the foreign country with which the reciprocal ar rangement has been made. But the section provides only that the applicant shall, be entitled to the registration of his trade mark. By an oversight, no provision was made with respect to the person who, in the case of the death of the applicant, is his legal representative, or, in the case of an assignment of the mark by the applicant - with the goodwill pf a business, for example - is his assignee. Consequently, this bill proposes to insert the words “ or the legal representative or assignee of that person “, in order to prevent the object of the section from being defeated.
I may say that at the -present time a provision similar to that which I am proposing is effective in the case of patents by the Patents Act 1921, and in the case of designs by the Patents, Trade Marks and Designs Act 1932. Therefore, this is the last of the three branches of industrial property to which this rule comes to be applied. With the passing of the bill an anomaly will be removed, and the law in relation to these international arrangements will be uniform in respect of each of the three departments - designs, trade marks, and patents.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Debate resumed from the 17th November (vide page 1918) on motion by Mr. Casey -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue he made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the execution by or on behalf of the Commonwealth of agreements between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to the construction, re-construction, maintenance or repair of roads, and to make provision for the carrying out thereof.
– I support the representations that were made last night by my colleague from Queensland, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that the provisions of the federal aid roads legislation should be so extended as to enable shelters or havens to be provided for small motor boats. To illustrate the necessity for these shelters, I would instance Moreton Bay itself. Under ordinary conditions,
I suppose that that bay is a veritable paradise for small motor craft; but it is comparable with the Sea of Galilee in the rapidity with which, its calm waters change to absolutely raging tempestuous seas.
I wish particularly to revive a matter that I have raised on several occasions in connexion with the fund that enables federal aid roads to be constructed and maintained, namely, that there should be a rebate of the tax on .petrol used for the purposes of civil aviation. I quite appreciate the fact that such a suggestion can be justified only on the ground that the encouragement of civil aviation is a great national responsibility. It is for that reason that I have felt it to be right and proper to urge the Government to grant this rebate.
– A portion of the proceeds of the tax is used on aerodromes.
– If there be no rebate of the tax, the new agreement that is to be drawn up should provide that a certain sum shall be devoted to aerodromes in the different States. I refer, not to the great airports upon which large sums are already being expended, but to the facilities for aviation that should be provided in country districts. Every honorable member has had requests for work of this nature to be undertaken in various centres in his electorate, in order that the burden which now falls upon the residents or the local authorities might be lightened. On more than one occasion I have had the experience of making a difficult landing. I landed once in a very progressive town in the electorate of the honorable member -for Wide Ray (Mr. Corser). The supply of petrol was almost exhausted before the landing could be made, because of the difficulty of moving a mob of cattle off the landing gound. Eventually the aeroplane itself succeeded in mustering them in a corner of the ground, and the landing was effected. A friend of mine almost met with disaster quite recently in endeavouring to make a landing on an emergency landing ground between here and Sydney. Darkness was overtaking him, and the ground was overrun by a mob of sheep. He was unable to land, and was obliged to continue his flight at. very great risk. The Governments of New Zealand and Canada grant a rebate on all petrol used in civil aviation, and I cannot help feeling that the case in support of the proposal is unanswerable, however feebly I may state it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), in his speech upon defence recently, indicated definitely that in his opinion aviation will, in the final analysis, play the greatest part in the defence of this country. Not very long ago, petrol used in aviation enjoyed a rebate of tax. In 1926-29, by tariff item number 229c 2, petrol for aviation purposes was dutiable at Id. a gallon under the general tariff, and a very definite reduction was made. I understand that the difficulty apprehended is one of administration, and that the oil companies which were given the responsibility of seeing that the petrol, with respect to which the concession was given, was used for aviation, said that they would rather make the payment than be put to the trouble of administration. I could never understand that. Administration appears to me to be quite simple and easy in Australia, where all the aerodromes and landing grounds are registered and every pilot has a log book in which his total mileage is entered. I have keen sympathy for those honorable members who have suggested that there should be a rebate with respect to petrol used in stationary engines, but I realize the difficulty that would be associated with the administration in that case. It is sometimes contended that many private owners of aeroplanes have their own landing grounds, hangars, and supplies of petrol. I do not think that any private owner would think of applying for a rebate of the tax on the petrol that he used. An aeroplane cannot land at any spot where there is a bowser and fill up with petrol; it has to proceed to a registered aerodrome. I urge the Government seriously to consider the inclusion of this provision. If it cannot see its way to grant a rebate, the sum of at least £500,000 should be allocated for the improvement of aerodromes in the country centres of the Commonwealth.
.- There are two or three phases of this matter that ought to receive the consideration of the Government. If provision for them is not made in the new agreement, at least cognizance should be taken of them. The first applies to petrol used in stationary engines. The proceeds of the petrol tax are largely used for roadmaking purposes. Primary producers who run stationary engines contribute to it, yet are not assisted in the conveyance of their produce to the rail head or to market by the provision of good roads. I consider that they are entitled to some consideration. It might be suggested that the shire councils are responsible for the roads in country areas. I point out, however, that they have not sufficient funds to undertake this work. Throughout the country districts, at least in Queensland, and particularly in the northern portion of that State, complaint is frequently made about the excessive cost of petrol, which is largely due to the tax that is placed on it. It is also asserted that the proceeds of the tax are mis-spent by the construction of roads in close proximity to a railway, or in raising the quality of roads that are already in good condition. The roads in country districts would be all right were it not for motor traffic, which considerably increases the cost of upkeep compared with what was formerly necessary. The users of stationary engines should receive some concession in regard to the tax, or, at least, should be provided with suitable roads to enable them to send their produce to market or to the rail head.
A few nights ago, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) made a plea on behalf of fishermen who use petrol in their launches. These men, and others who use launches for the carriage of their produce to market, have to pay the same tax on petrol as do those who use motor vehicles on the roads. Moreover, they usually have to build at their own expense jetties in the rivers for the convenience of their trade, and they are, undoubtedly, entitled to some consideration.
There can be no real objection to allowing the State governments to spend some of this money upon the construction and maintenance of subsidiary roads to enable country settlers to get their produce to market. For years these settlers have been paying petrol tax, and obtaining little or no benefit from it. The proceeds of the tax are spent upon main roads running parallel to the railways, and connecting great cities such as Sydney and Newcastle, and Sydney and Brisbane. I do not object to the building of those roads, but I say that some money, at any rate, should be spent upon roads in rural districts. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Curtin) said, when the new agreement is brought down, Parliament can only accept or reject it. If Parliament actually amends the agreement, it will be necessary to re-open negotiations with the States, and obtain their approval of the amendment. Consideration should, therefore, be given to the suggestions now being made, so that those found to be desirable may be incorporated in the new agreement.
Mr. SCHOLFIELD (Wannon) [10.18J. - I support this measure, but I hope that, before the new agreement is ratified, Parliament will be given an opportunity to discuss it. The proceeds of the petrol tax are divided into two parts; one part is earmarked for expenditure upon roads, while the other part goes into Commonwealth revenue. I support those other honorable members who have stated that this money, having been raised for expenditure on roads, should not be expended upon anything else. I cannot see why the proceeds of a tax on petrol should be used as a grant for afforestation work, for instance, or for any other public work not directly connected with roads and their maintenance. I agree, of course, that those who operate motor launches for fishing and other purposes are entitled to consideration, as also are those who operate aeroplanes and stationary engines. Primary producers use large quantities of petrol in stationary engines, and it is a stupid practice to tax the petrol they use, and then hand the money back to them in some other form. I realize, of course, that there are difficulties in the way of exempting them from the payment of petrol tax, and that such schemes as the colouring of petrol to be used in stationary engines have been considered and abandoned.
If the Commonwealth Government desires to make money available to the State governments for forestry purposes and for public works other than road construction and maintenance, it should do so by straightout grants, and should not make the scheme dependent upon the federal aid roads agreement. It appears to me that this is only the thin end of the wedge, and that if the principle is allowed to continue in operation, it. will not be long before the main roads authorities in the various States are unable to get enough money to maintain the roads under their control. I support the Government’s proposal to allocate a larger share of the proceeds of the petrol tax to the States. In the past they have not been receiving enough. I admit the right of the Commonwealth to impose a revenue tax on petrol, but the States were, undoubtedly, entitled to a larger share. I should like to see in the new agreement a direction to the States that some of the money should be spent on subsidiary roads. It would be better, in my opinion, if the Commonwealth were to make the money available directly to the shire councils, but there may be difficulties in the way of that. At the present time, shire councils in thickly populated areas, where there are many subsidiary roads subject to heavy traffic, have the greatest difficulty in keeping them in good repair, while councils which have few subsidiary roads, but long stretches of main highway, are able to keep them in good order. It would certainly be better if the Commonwealth could make direct grants to municipalities for the maintenance of these subsidiary roads.
– I regret that, in the distribution of the collections from the petrol tax, no provision has been made for aviation grounds. Aviation enterprises spend considerable sums of money on petrol, but they derive no benefit whatever from the expenditure of the petrol tax on the making of roads. A special grant should be made available to local authorities to enable them to carry out necessary improvements to aerodromes and landing grounds, which would be greatly beneficial to aviation. In the electorate of Wide Bay, the landing grounds at Gympie, Maryborough and Murgon, are in urgent need of further improvement, and in this connexion a considerable volume of correspondence has passed between interested parties in those centres represented by me and the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill). In spite of these representations the honorable gentleman has continually stated in a determined fashion that, because these grounds are not used for Commonwealth aviation purposes, no assistance other than the giving of advice can be extended to them. At the present time we are making efforts to encourage aviation, and localgoverning aviation bodies are endeavouring to give every possible assistance in that direction. That assistance should be supplemented by a grant from the proceeds of the collections from the petrol tax, or, alternatively, the States should be instructed in the new agreement, to allocate an amount of money for this purpose to local governing authorities.
At present efforts are being made to prepare young men for a career in aviation, and new services operating between large Australian centres are receiving every possible encouragement. In the circumstances, I hope that some special provision will be made for the allocation of portion of the proceeds of the petrol tax to civil aviation clubs or to localgoverning bodies to enable the improvement of those aviation grounds in which the Defence Department is not interested on the score that they play no immediate part in the defence system.
– This measure, in itself, is not controversial. It provides simply for an extension for six months of an agreement which has been in existence for many years. Some cognate matters have been discussed by honorable members, and perhaps I, myself, was responsible for their introduction when I forecast that p. further measure would be brought in before many months had elapsed. At this juncture I propose briefly to reply to some of the points raised by honorable members.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) and the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) mentioned the possibility of money being set aside in the future to provide for the safeguarding of fishing fleets, the creation of safer ports and harbours for them and the provision of beacons, &c. In the further measure which will come before this House, I expect, in the early part of the next year, honorable members will see that the States have it in their entire control to spend any of the proceeds of the additional 4d. a gallon on petrol, which is estimated to yield £600,000 per annum, on any suggested works.
– Does that mean that the Treasurer has concluded the agreement?
– No, the agreement has not yet been drafted, but the proposals were discussed by the Commonwealth Government with the State Governments at the Premiers Conference in Adelaide recently.
– Will the suggested works be specifically defined?
– The States will not be bound to spend the money in any particular direction. The wording will be to the general effect that the money may be spent on works, roads or forestry, and honorable members will recognize that these definitely cover a wide range of possible activities.
– Does not the Treasurer suggest that fishing havens should be included?
– That point may be considered, but it is fairly covered by the word “ works “. I think that, from the debate upon this subject, which will probably ensue early next year, the States will derive a general impression of the nature of the works that are required. I hope that when the fishing fleet of the electorate of Wentworth sails out from Rose Bay, it will do so under safe conditions.
The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) and others pleaded that the proceeds of the petrol tax should be used simply for roads, but I venture, with all respect, to remind the honorable member for Echuca that two-thirds of the tax is imposed for general revenue purposes, and only one-:third has been used in the past for the construction of roads.
– I mentioned that point.
– But the honorable gentleman proceeded to point out that any further sums of money taken from the petrol tax for the purpose of grants to States should be specifically earmarked for roads. I venture to think that he is not quite justified in that contention, bearing in mind the fact that two-thirds of this tax is for general revenue purposes. The hypothecation of the proceeds of any particular tax for a definite purpose is rather a dangerous road to tread. For instance, there is no difference, in effect, between a tax on petrol and the excise on beer.
– There is a vast deal of difference when the money is expended, under a roads agreement.
– But the money is being; spent at the present time on roads.
– Will the title of the new agreement include the words “ roads agreement “ ?
– The title has not been decided, but the agreement will not relate exclusively to roads. The honorable member for Echuca began his remarks by developing a thesis in connexion with the general .relations between Commonwealth and State finance on which I should be only too glad, on some more appropriate occasion, to follow him. I hope that, in the future, the House will be given some opportunity to discuss this matter, because it can stand some development in this chamber. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) questioned at first my interpolation to the effect that there was no restriction imposed on the use of this money for roads purposes, and that is the fact, as the honorable gentleman later recognized. Any restriction existing in capital cities in respect of city roads resides in the relations between State Governments and local municipal councils in the city areas.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) referred to the necessity to remake and maintain the road leading to the Commonwealth Munitions Factory, situated in the Shire of Braybrook. I am not without some knowledge of this subject, and I assure the honorable member that in the new agreement to be submitted to Parliament next year provision will be made for the care of roads leading to and about Commonwealth establishments. I hope, therefore, that the trials and tribulations of the Braybrook shire in regard to the munitions factory will very soon be ended.
Certain other aspects of this subject were referred to briefly by honorable members last night, but as I doubt whether you, Mr. Chairman, would regard it as an appropriate occasion for me to enlarge upon what was said, I shall reserve my remarks on those subjects for a future occasion.
.- I was glad to hear the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) say in reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) that although the Federal Aid Roads Agreement has hitherto been strictly interpreted as relating to roads, there are prospects that the proceeds of the petrol tax will in future be diffused ever a somewhat wider area. I was interested also, to hear the Treasurer intimate that in the new agreement to be introduced next year, provision would be made for the care of roads leading to Government establishments. I wish, however, to direct attention to two other matters of considerable importance.
Many millions of pounds have been spent since the war on soldier settlements in this country, and many areas made available for this purpose have not been serviced Avith proper roads. When representations have been made to various governments that money should be spent on the roads leading to and through these areas, difficulties have been raised; but I submit that as the Commonwealth Government has made large sums of money available to the States to develop soldier settlements, it is reasonable to request that a proportion of the revenue from the petrol tax should be devoted to the provision of adequate road services to such areas. Although I appreciate that soldier settlement areas may not fall strictly within the definition of government establishments, it is high time that something was done to provide the soldier settlers with decent roadways so that they may bring in their supplies and take their produce to market under fair conditions.
The Treasurer was significantly silent as to the likelihood of a proportion of the proceeds from the petrol tax being used to provide new aerodromes and improve existing landing facilities. As the largest commercial aviation company in Australia, Airlines of Australia Limited, has its head-quarters in my electorate at Lis more, honorable members will not be surprised to hear me revert to this subject once more. This company operates machines which travel about 27,000 miles each week, and in this travelling substantial quantities of petrol are used. The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), who is in charge of civil aviation activities on behalf of the Government, will appreciate the necessity for good landing grounds in different parts of the country. If he would bring his influence to bear upon his colleague, the Treasurer, I think it might have a good effect. The Lismore Municipal Council has spent between £6,000 and £7,000 in equipping the municipal aerodrome at Lismore, but another £10,000 needs to be spent to make it thoroughly efficient. At present, practically all the machines which enter and leave Lismore, use the aerodrome of Airlines of Australia Limited. This is hardly fair. I trust that provision will be’ made for a proportion of the revenue from the petrol tax to be expended upon the improvement of aerodromes and landing grounds. I agree with the contentions of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) on this subject. It shoul’d be borne in mind that other people than motorists and owners of launches contribute to the petrol tax.
I urge the Treasurer to give favorable consideration to the submissions that I have made to him to-night in the interests of soldier settlers and the commercial aviation companies of Australia. Although this subject has probably been discussed in other places, an assurance from the Treasurer that it will not be overlooked in the drafting of the new agreement would carry considerable weight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Menzies do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 70 (11 o’clock rule) be suspended for the remainder of this sitting.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917-1925.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Paterson and Mr. Menzies do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Paterson and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 17th November (vide page 1899) on motion by Mr. Thorby -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill does not alter any major principles, but contemplates an amendment of the principal act so that trade commissioners and assistant commissioners may be appointed for such periods and on such conditions as are prescribed by regulations. Under the principal act the conditions are as determined by the Governor-General. This necessitates that the details of each appointment and the conditions of service shall be stated in each case in a minute to his Excellency. I understand that the Government desires to have regulations gazetted to provide a general basis in regard to salaries, holidays, &c. Therefore, I think that the bill provides for an amendment of the act which would be an improvement on the present practice.
The change would be of distinct convenience from an administrative point of view. The bill also seeks to overcome certain vagueness in the act in regard to the right of public servants appointed as trade commissioners or as assistant trade commissioners to re-appointment in the Public Service, but excludes from re-appointment to the Service officers who areover the retiring age for officers generally.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate ; report adopted.
Bill - by leave- -read a third time.
In committee (Consideration resumed from page 2007) :
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Alterations of Staff).
.- Sub-section 1 of section 29 of the principal act provides that the GovernorGeneral may, on the recommendation of the Public Service Board, and after obtaining a report from the permanent head of the department, do certain things. It has been stated that the object of the clause is merely to clear up ambiguity in regard to the language of the sub-section to which I have referred, but it appears to me that the principal act merely indicates the procedure to be followed by the board in carrying out its functions. It is proposed under the clause to amend the sub-section by omitting the words “ after obtaining a report from the permanent head “ and inserting in their stead the words “ after the board has obtained a report from the permanent head “. It appears to me that under the sub-section the initiative rests with the board, which can demand a report from the permanent head.
– The words in the amendment have the same meaning.
– In my opinion, they have not. It seems possible that under the amendment, the initiative might rest with the permanent head. The position appears to be that at present the board has the initiative, but under the wording of the amendment it could lose it. In any case, if that is not a correct analysis of the possibilities it appears that as far as ambiguity is concerned the original wording of the act is just as clear as the wording of the amendment. I should like to have the Minister’s assurance that that is not so.
– I can assure the honorable member that this bill does not contemplate any departure from existing procedure. [Quorum formed.~ The object of this amendment is merely to make the wording of section 29 of the principal act more clear. As it now stands that section reads as follows : -
1 ) The Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the board, after obtaining a report from the permanent head -
That wording may be construed to mean that the Governor-General himself may obtain a report from the permanent head and proceed to create an office in the Public Service. If the amendment is accepted the section will read -
If this amendment is agreed to there can be no possibility of mistake as to who should obtain the report from the permanent head.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Section sixty-two of the principal act is amended - (a)…..
– Clause 7 which amends section 62 of the principal act contains a serious provision giving an important power to the board. Section 62 of the principal act provides -
If he is convicted the board may inflict several punishments upon him, the most serious of which is dismissal. I propose an amendment to clause 7 to amend section 62 by providing that these penalties to which I have referred shall not apply to a person found guilty of a-i offence unless it is one punishable by imprisonment. As it stands the section empowers the board to dismiss a public servant who is convicted of an offence punishable merely by fine. I think that is an extreme power to confer upon the board. The State act which contains a provision nearest to this is the Queens land Public Service Act of 1922, but it has this interesting and important distinction that the powers of dismissal and of otherwise punishing an officer cannot be exercised on every conviction but only on conviction for an indictable offence. The Queensland criminal code divides offences mainly into two classes, indictable offences - the serious crimes and misdemeanours punishable by a jury - and simple offences, punishable by summary conviction. The power to dismiss an officer who has been convicted does not apply in Queensland in the case of an officer who has been summarily convicted of an offence. Under the Commonwealth Public Service Act the board has power to dismiss an officer convicted of an offence against a State law the only punishment for which is a fine. I concede that the board should have power to deal with persons who have been convicted of serious offences. I think the test of whether an offence is serious or not is whether the law awards imprisonment as a penalty for it. I should like to see the section in the Commonwealth act approximate the Queensland provision. I propose that after the word “ punishable “, sub-section 1, the words “ by imprisonment “ should be inserted. That would mean that the power of the board to dismiss or punish an officer would not apply in cases where he has committed an offence for which he can. merely be fined. If the offence were intrinsically serious he could be dealt with under section 55. The difference between sections 55 and 62 is that under the former an officer cannot be punished without a hearing and the right of appeal, whereas under the latter he can be dealt with without a hearing, even without a hearing on the question of proper punishment. We go a very long way beyond the law of the States in this respect. I refer particularly to the-
Queensland law which gives power such as this but rnakes it exercisable only in cases where a man has been found guilty of an offence by a jury. The legislation of Tasmania and also that of Western Australia is to the same effect. The other States provide that a man who has been found guilty of a felony or of infamous conduct, mustbe dismissed. That is the position also in New Zealand. Every person with a sense of fairness will agree that the power to dismiss a public servant should not be exercised in cases in which he is guilty of only a minor offence, punishable by a fine. I submit that the power to dismiss should be limited to cases in which the offence is one punishable by imprisonment. There are some summary offences punishable by imprisonment. The plan of our Acts Interpretation Act is not that of the Queensland Criminal Code. The consequence of a summary conviction under our law in one case may be a mere fine. In another case the penalty may be imprisonment. As we are here dealing with offences against State laws, territorial laws and Commonwealth laws, I have thought it undesirable to use technical language - as the Queensland act does - and, therefore, suggest that the test of the gravity of an offence should be whether it is or is not punishable by imprisonment. I therefore move -
That after paragraph (a) the following new paragraph be inserted: - ” (aa) by inserting in sub-section (1.) after the word ‘ punishable ‘ the words ‘ by imprisonment’; and”
HUNTER (Maranoa - Assistant Minister) [11.7]. - The Government cannot accept the amendment. The clause deals only with criminal offences. Section 62 of the principal act reads -
Where an officer is charged with having committed any criminal offence . . .
The power to suspend an officer under sub-section 1 of section 62 is merely discretionary. It is not thought desirable that this power should be so limited that it cannot be exercised in cases in which the offender, although not liable to imprisonment, is charged with an offence of which a serious view is taken. It is necessary that the board shall have a wide discretion.
.- My objection to the clause is that the board is to be given a discretionary power under which it : may terminate a man’s employment. The words “ criminal offence “ . in section 62 mean nothing special because they do not imply any special quantum of guilt. Any breach of the law for which a penalty is imposed, and however the offender may be punished, is a criminal offence. I am unconvinced by the Minister’s attitude, although I thought that it would be that of the Public Service Board. I have considered this subject for some time, and have compared the Commonwealth law with the laws of the States. The Commonwealth goes further than the States have gone. It is undesirable that a man who has been convicted summarily and fined should be liable to have his livelihood taken away, without his having any right to be heard before such action is taken ; yet that is the position under section 62. Section 55 provides that a man may be charged with disgraceful or improper conduct ; but, in such cases, before he can be dismissed he has to be charged and heard; and moreover, he has the right of appeal from the decision of the person who first heard the case. Under section 62, if convicted of only a minor offence, he may be dealt with by the board without any hearing at all. It is not sufficient to say that the board will not take a serious view of a minor offence. It has the power to do so. Thatshould not be, when a man’s right to employmentis concerned. In my opinion, and I believe in the opinion of most honorable members, the board should not have a discretionary power to terminate a man’s employment in cases in which the offence is only of a minor nature.
– What about subsection 5 of section 62?
– That subsection provides that a man may not be dealt with twice for the same offence. It reads -
This section shall not prevent an officer from being dealt with under some other provision of this act, but an officer shall not be punished under this act twice in respect of the same offence or matter.
I hope that the committee will agree to the amendment.
.- The amendment of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is not such as the committee cannot accept. A public servant should be entitled to as much consideration as a private employee would receive from a private employer.
– He should at least have the same rights as a proved criminal.
– The average private employer would take a view similar to that indicated by the honorable member in respect of minor offences.
– If the average employer would take that view, would not the Public Service Board do so?
– The section includes the word “ may not “ shall “.
– Although there is nothing mandatory about it, the board may deprive a man of his livelihood.
– If the board acted unreasonably, it would be liable to censure.
– That would not help the dismissed officer. The dismissal of a public servant would not be in the nature of a public scandal like the recent prohibition of the entry of a certain lady into Australia. He would be merely turned out of the Service, and only his immediate associates would know of it. In any case, he would have no right of appeal against the decision of the board. We should take a reasonable view of these things. An offence which is not punishable by imprisonment cannot be other than of a minor nature of which a private employer would probably take no notice. Yet, if the offender is a public servant, he may lose his employment and, moreover, be denied the right of appeal. The committee should either give to him a right of appeal against the decision of the board, or limit the power of the board to suspend him in circumstances such as those indicated by the honorable member for Bourke.
– This provision has been in force for many years.
– That does not necessarily mean that it is right. Modern thought is different from that of even a few years ago. There was a time when a man was liable to be hanged for stealing a sheep; it is not so to-day. The present generation has a different conception of offences, both minor and serious, from that of the past. I shall support the amendment, and I hope that it will be agreed to.
– On a previous occasion I referred to this subject when I made special reference to the Northern Territory Police Force and the Public Service. The remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) have disclosed a new aspect of this matter. However, if the Attorney-General had control of the Northern Territory Police Force and redrafted the existing ordinance, members of that force would have no complaint. They have asked me to see that they are not disinherited of any privilege, and my remarks also apply to every member of the Public Service. I pointed out previously that although the police cannot be dismissed under the Public Service Regulations, they can be dismissed without appeal, under the Police and Police Offences Ordinance. Now it appears, as I suspected previously, judging from the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke, that they can also be dismissed under this provision. It looked so innocent to me that I immediately suspected it could be bureaucratically administered. I ask, therefore, either that the Assistant Minister agree to the amendment, or that the Attorney-General instruct the SolicitorGeneral to redraft a new Northern Territory police ordinance - not under the Public Service Regulations - and apply it to the Northern Territory Police Force in the same way as the Federal Capital Territory ordinance now applies to the police force of the Federal Capital Territory.
Question - That the new paragraph proposed to be inserted, be inserted (Mr. Blackburn’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Permanent appointment of returned soldiers).
– I wish to have a ruling from the Assistant Minister (Mr. Hunter) in respect of section 84 (9) c, which states -
Returned soldierswho have been temporarily employed continuously for not less than two years, but have not passed the prescribed examination, and in respect of whom the Chief Officer certifies that their duties have been performed in a satisfactory manner.
In respect of this particular provision, I have made repeated representations to the Ministry and the board with regard to a section of returned soldiers who are employed as cleaners in the Postal Department. Some of these men have served continuously for periods from ten to twelve years. They have repeatedly applied for permanent appointment under this section, but their applications have been refused, notwithstanding the fact that the act provides that they are entitled to such consideration. The board has contended that it should be allowed discriminatory power either to reject or to grant these applications. In view of the fact that this section is now being amended, and an entirely different construction may be placed upon it, will the Assistant Minister assure me that these men who are eligible, in conformity with the act, for appointment as permanent officers, will be so appointed?
– Not if they are cleaners. The position of cleaner is not created on the permanent staff.
– That is not laid down in the act.
Clause agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Hunter) agreed to-
That the following new clauses be inserted: - “ 12. Section ninety-seven of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (2.) all the words from and including the words ‘ both Houses of the Parliament ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days of that House after the approval of the regulations by the Governor-General ‘ “. “ 13. Section one hundred and eight of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (2.) all the words from and including the words ‘ both Houses of the Parliament ‘ and inserting in their stead the words each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days of that House, after the approval of the regulations by the Governor-General ‘ “.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported: with amendments; report - by leave- adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I am sorry that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) is not present to listen to my presentation of a matter that I wish to place before him. When the Repatriation Act was amended to make provision for service pensions, it was understood that every ex-soldier suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, from whatever cause, would be eligible for the pension. It now appears, however, that either with or without the knowledge of the Government, the department is denying the pension to certain ex-soldiers who are suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis if, in the opinion of its medical referees, the disease has been arrested, and, therefore, is no longer active. I think it will be agreed that if the matter is to be arguable by different medical authorities and the department, a very unsatisfactory position will be created for the returned soldier, and the opportunity will be given to the Government and the department to withhold relief in many deserving cases. I want the Government to indicate whether this action of the department is taken with its approval, and, if not, whether it will see that the practice ceases, and that every ex-soldier suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, no matter what may be the origin of the complaint or what stage it has reached, shall receive the pension. If the matter of the activity or the arrest of the complaint is to be open to argument, there will be private doctors who will assert that it is still active, while, on the other hand, the departmental medical referees will claim that it has been arrested. In fairness to these men, and in view of the belief held by every honorable member, I hope that the Government will immediately issue the direction that, in every case, an ex-soldier suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis shall be granted a service pension.
.- I desire to refer to answers that have been given to questions that I asked, upon notice, in connexion with the Mackay post office. The questions and the answers to them are as follows : -
Answer. - A preliminary sketch plan has been prepared and is now being considered by the department.
Answer. - It is not practicable at this juncture to indicate when the work will be commenced.
Answer. - It seems unlikely that the alterations will bc completed during this financial year.
My particular reason for raising the matter is that over a year ago I was given t,.> understand by the department that this work would be proceeded with. It was inspected, and approval was given to it. The existing building has been in use for a long while, and there is not sufficient room in it either for the employees to do their work properly or for the public to transact their business in reasonable comfort. Recently, the Minister in charge of war service homes (Mr. Hunter) travelled through the north, and in a number of places the more or less tentative promise was made to me that works would be put in hand, including the Mackay post office. Letters were sent to the parties interested advising them of the intention of the Government. A couple of days ago, however, I received from the secretary of the Mackay Chamber of Commerce a letter to the effect that no move was being made to proceed with this work, and that inquiries by him had elicited the reply that there was no definite information as to when it was likely to be started. I was hopeful that it would be completed before the hot, wet season arrived, but apparently the people of Mackay will be lucky if it is commenced during this financial year. As with the Cleveland wireless station, it will be undertaken “ some time in the future “.
– On several occasions during the last two years I have referred to the South Melbourne postal garage, and at least a year ago money for work in connexion with it was appropriated, and the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral promised that it would be proceeded with. The delay is serious. At least £50,000 worth of vehicles is housed in the building, and the transport staff attached to it is regarded as the most efficient in this country. The majority of them have been awarded medals for the protection of property which is the pride of the people of Melbourne. The drivers of the cars accommodated in the building are able to avoid damaging their vehicles when outside the building, but in this dilapidated garage it is at times impossible to avoid marking the cars under their control. Employees who have obtained medals for efficiency in handling cars in the city streets, cannot possibly manoeuvre them successfully in such an unsuitable building, which is constructed of piers taken from the original Princesbridge. Some of the piers which have been eaten away have been plugged up with oil drums filled with cement. Moreover, petrol, which at times leaks from the vehicles, remains on the floor and, should an outbreak of fire occur, the whole building would be destroyed. In consequence of a suggestion made by the Postmaster-General, I interviewed the Director of Works, who said that he had received information to the effect that money had been available, and that he was awaiting instructions to proceed with the work. Believing that the work was to be proceeded with immediately, I notified the officer in charge of the garage, but I am surprised to find that it has not yet been started. I trust that the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral will ask that Minister to stand up to his promise, and have the job commenced.
.- I bring under the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) the general unsuitability of the rooms which are being constructed in the additions to the Hotel Kurrajong, Canberra. On Friday last, in company with other honorable members, I visited that building, and, when inspecting the additions now almost completed, for the accommodation of honorable members and public servants, I was surprised to find that some of the bedrooms measure only 13 feet by 8 feet. For many years I have been associated with local-governing bodies in New South Wales, and I know that such bodies would not permit rooms of that size to be erected.
– Are all of the rooms of the size mentioned?
– No. Such, rooms would not be passed by local-governing bodies or the health authorities in New South Wales.
– Is the honorable member sure that the measurements mentioned are correct?
– The measurements were supplied to me by a person living at the hotel. The passages are also a disgrace, owing to inadequate lighting. I have seen the Chairman of Committees in this chamber enter a passage from one of the rooms in the main building, and it was so dark that it was difficult to distinguish his presence. If the Government is endeavouring to build a city which should be a credit to Australia, it should, particularly as ample land is available, provide healthy and well-lighted rooms, similar to those available in the capital cities.
– They are mere dog-boxes.
– I believe that some racing greyhounds are provided with rooms larger than those at that hotel. I am not personally concerned in this matter, because I may not avail myself of the accommodation being provided; but I do not think honorable members or public servants should run the risk of having their health impaired by being compelled to sleep in rooms of such small dimensions. Moreover, the bedrooms will sometimes be used by visitors to Canberra, who will not form a very favorable impression of the capital if they are compelled to sleep in a room only 13 feet by 8 feet 6 inches. A liquor licence should also be granted to the hotel, so that those who patronize the building may have facilities similar to those enjoyed by members residing at other hotels in Canberra. I suppose it is too late for any alterations to be made to the size of the rooms, but I trust that the mistake in this instance will be avoided in the future. I invite honorable members to inspect the rooms, and compare them with the accommodation provided in the capital cities.
– Many of the residents of the Hotel Kurrajong have spoken to me in terms of praise regarding the accommodation provided at the hotel, and of the attention they have received. Therefore, I was surprised to hear the .remarks of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy). I do not doubt his veracity, of course, but I hope that it will be proved that there has been some mistake in regard to the figures he quoted, because 8 ft. 6 in. is certainly somewhat narrow for a bedroom.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) raised the matter of a new post office garage at South Melbourne, and I am bound to say that I have considerable sympathy with him. He has, to my knowledge, raised it on numerous occasions, and I was under the impression that the work had at least been started. I remember saying on a previous occasion that £5,000 had been placed on the Estimates for this work. When I learned that the honorable member wished to bring up the mattter again to-night, I had inquiries made, and now find that £16,550 has been provided on the current year’s Estimates for the building, so that the original proposal has evidently been considerably elaborated. The final plans and specifications are now in course of preparation, and tenders will be called immediately they are completed. I made inquiries of the Department of the Interior, which is concerned with the constructional side of the undertaking, and find that the plans are being prepared by the Works Director of Victoria, who has not been able to complete them owing to extreme pressure of work. It is expected, however, that tenders will be invited in January.
I have noted the remarks of the honorable member for’ Herbert (Mr. Martens) regarding the need for improved post office accommodation at Mackay. The honorable member is generally very reasonable in his statements on such matters, and I assure him that I shall take the matter up, and see whether relief cannot be afforded. I shall obtain a copy of the Hansard report of his remarks, and forward it to the proper quarter.
– I shall bring under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.49 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice - 1.Was consideration given by the Government architects to the outstanding qualities of Tasmanian red granite for the constructional materials in connexion with the War Memorial at Canberra, and the proposed building to house the various departments of the Commonwealth ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Will he consider the question of appointing a select committee representing all parties in the Federal Parliament to investigate and report on the various constitutional needs of the Commonwealth which have arisen since the inauguration of federation?
– In view of the elaborate and comparatively recent inquiry into this matter by the Royal Commission on the Constitution, and the fact that any proposal for the alteration of the Constitution must be put forward pursuant to section 128 of the Constitution, the Government can see no good purpose in the appointment of a select committee.
Commonwealth Loans : Yield to Investors.
Mr.Curtin asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the difference in the yield to the investor in the Commonwealth loan about to be floated compared with the yield to the investor in the loan floated in November, 1934?
How does the difference, if any, compare with the difference in the federal basic wage, comparing November, 1934, with November, 1936?
y. - The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
The following statement shows the yield to the investor in respect of each of the loans floated in Australia since 1932 and the federal basic wage at the time each loan was issued: -
k asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the High Court judgment in the Henry case, can he state when it is the Government’s intention to ratify the 40-hour week convention and other conventions of the International Labour Conference?
– The Government has already announced its policy in regard to the 40-hour week, and this policy has not been altered as a consequence of the Henry case. In regard to the ratification of other International Labour Conventions, this matter was discussed at the conference between Commonwealth and State Ministers in Adelaide, and action has since been taken by the Commonwealth Government to obtain the cooperation of the States with a view to the ratification of eighteen further conventions.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he intimate whether the Government intends to make an amount of money available as a special Christmas cheer gift to persons who have been unemployed and to old-age and invalid pensioners?
– The matter raised by the honorable member has already been, and is still, under the consideration of the Government.
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
To eliminate the possibility ofunnecessary inconvenience and expenseby paying fares to Australia, as well as return fares in the event of a person being declared by the Minister to be undesirable, will the Minister obtain information, infuture, about the domestic affairs of all passengers to Australia so that they can be passed or rejected before embarkation ?
– The answer is in the negative.
Royal Commission on Petrol and Mineral Oils.
Mr.Forde asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is he in a position to inform the House when an opportunity will be provided to permit of a discussion of the report by the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the petrol and mineral oil industry?
s. - I refer the honorable member to the reply given by the Minister for Commerce on the 5th November, viz., that the stage at which this item will be reached on the business paper will depend upon the passage of Government business.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What was the average sick leave granted during each of the years ended the 30th June, 1932, and the 30th “June, 1936, to each of the following classes of officers employed in the General Post Office, Sydney: - (n.) Telegraphists, (6) Telephonists, (c) Clerks, all sections, (d) Postmen, and (e) Mail Officers?
– The information is being obtained.
s asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for the. Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The average cost a mile for fuel consumption in connexion with the petrol driven’ buses is 2.609d. These buses have been in use for a number of years. The petrol used is duty free.
Intra-state Shipping: Wireless Apparatus.
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’squestions are as follows: -
Wireless Broadcasting: Address by Mr. John Lawson, M.P. - Canberra Reception.
– On the 17 th November, the honorable member for EastSydney (Mr. Ward) asked the following question, upon notice: -
Whether any fee was paid to the honorable member for Macquarie for his address delivered over an A class broadcasting station upon his impressions during his travels abroad?
I have now ascertained that the honorable member was paid the customary fee for his talk.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In view of the poor radio reception in the Federal Capital Territory, brought about by prevalent atmospheric and static conditions which prevent Canberra residents from obtaining even moderate reception of broadcasts from national stations, will consideration be given to the question of the early establishment of a national broadcasting station within the Federal Capital Territory?
– The development plan provides for the erection of a national broadcasting station which will give very considerable improvement in the reception conditions at Canberra. It is not possible to say, at the moment, when the station will be available.
r asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
k asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– As mining, except within the territories controlled by the Commonwealth, is a State function, the Commonwealth. Government is not in a position to furnish the information desired by the honorable member. Inquiries will, however, be made and any information which may be obtainable will be furnished to the honorable member;
k asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In the event of the figures in the probate of a deceased person’s estate suggesting to the Taxation Commissioner that income may have been omitted in the income tax returns of the deceased, for how many years before such decease can the Commissioner require or demand evidence?
– Under sections 263 and 264 of the Commonwealth Income Tax Assessment Act 1936, and sections 96 and 97 of the former acts, the Commissioner of Taxation is authorized to require the production of evidence in respect ofany past year or years which he may consider necessary to enable him to give effect to the provisions of the law.
s. - On the 23rd October the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) asked me a question, upon notice, concerning, inter alia, a paper read . before the Institute of Public Administration by Sir Herbert Gepp. I have now had an opportunity of reading the paper referred to by the honorable member, and am able to inform him that the suggestion made by Sir Herbert Gepp regarding the appointment of an economic research and advisory council will receive consideration.
Referring to the proposal to print Sir Herbert. Gepp’s paper and other papers read before the institute, I desire to inform the honorable member that copies of these papers have been obtained from the secretary of the institute and have been placed on the table of the Library for the information of members.
Singapore Naval Base.
– On the 6th November the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) invited attention to a statement by a British newspaper proprietor to the effect that, in order to raise to the highest degree the defence value of Singapore to the dominions and British territories in this part of the world, it was necessary that assistance should he given by those dominions and territories.
It is pointed out that, though Australia has not contributed directly to the cost of the base, it undertook, in the five years’ programme ended 1928-29, an expenditure of £7,500,000, which included two 10,000-ton cruisers, and two submarines, and’ was part of the naval security which hinged on Singapore. The United Kingdom Government is fully aware of our contributions to the common defence.
It is not considered necessary to consult the Council of Defence as to the need, in the case of Australia, for a more complete development of the defence value of the base. The Singapore base is, for all practical purposes, available now as a naval base, though not yet completely developed. The defences have already reached an advancedstage.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 November 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19361118_reps_14_152/>.