15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker. (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Consequent on the resignation of the Right Honorable Sir Earle Page as Prime Minister, His Excellency the GovernorGeneral commissioned me to form a Ministry.
The Ministry, which was sworn in on the 26th April, 1939, is as follows:-
Minister of State for Commerce. - Senator the Honorable George McLeay.
Minister of State for the Interior. - Senator the Honorable Hattil Spencer Foll.
Minis tor of State for Health and Minister of State for Social Services. - The Honorable Sir Frederick Harold Stewart, M.P.
Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister of State for Civil Aviation and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence. - The Honorable James Valentine Fairbairn, M.P.
Minister in charge of External Territories. - The Honorable J ohn Arthur Perkins, M.P.
Minister assisting the Treasurer. - The Honorable Percy Claude Spender, K.C., M.P.
Minister assisting the Minister for Commerce. - Senator the Honorable Philip Albert Martin McBride.
Minister in charge of War Service Homes. - Senator the Honorable Herbert Brayley Collett, C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D.
Minister assisting the Minister for Supply and Development. - The Honorable Harold Edward Holt, M.P.
The Honorable Sir Frederick Stewart will represent the Minister for Commerce in this House. The Minister for the Interior will be represented by the Honorable J. A. Perkins.
Attack on Photographer.
– In view of the two very dreadful accidents affecting aircraft and personnel of the Royal Australian
Air Force which have occurred since the House last met, will the Prime Minister direct the Minister for Defence to see that the request is made that a Justice of the High Court shall preside over the inquiry which must be held into the cause of the accidents, and also that it bo an open inquiry!
– The matter raised by the honorable gentleman is one that I shall immediately discuss with my colleague, the Minister for Defence.
– Has the Minister for Defence any report to make upon the alleged assault upon a press photographer, following the regrettable air force fatality last Friday? Will the honorable gentleman indicate whether it is proposed to formulate rules governing the behaviour of the personnel of the services and of the public generally in situations of this character?
– I have already issued a statement in regard to this incident, and, further, have communicated with the executives of the newspaper proprietaries stating that I shall meet them in consultation together with a representative of the Australian Journalists Association and members of the Air Board, with a view to having the position clarified.
-Will the honorable gentleman see that, in view of public concern, the inquiry embraces an investigation into the efficiency of the Avro-Anson aircraft, and the general procedure adopted in relation to training in those machines ? Will he also ensure that the inquiry is as public as possible?
– The last portion of the question has already been answered by the Prime Minister. The answer to the first two portions is, “ Yes.”
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior any information to give to the House on the reported statement that foreign pearlers are able to obtain oil supplies from government sources in the north of Australia at a price much lower than that at which Australian pearlers can obtain supplies from private sources?
– I have no information to supply at the moment, but I shall make inquiries into the matter.
– I inform the House that I propose on Tuesday next to make to the House a statement in regard to international affairs. The Government intends that, subject to the convenience of honorable members, the House will be provided with an opportunity to debate this subject immediately upon the conclusion of my statement.
– Will the honorable gentleman indicate in his statement whether it will be possible to issue a weekly authoritative, factual bulletin, either confidential or other, to members of Parliament, while the House is in session, dealing with major happenings of interest in relation to foreign affairs? The reason I ask this is that very divergent views have been expressed both in the newspapers and over the air.
– The right honorable gentleman’s suggestion will be taken into consideration.
Position of Mr. Essington Lewis
– Will the Prime Minister state whether there is any truth in the report that Mr. Essington Lewis, managing director of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, is to be appointed industrial administrator in control of the defence programme? If so, does the right honorable gentleman consider such an appointment to be in the interests of public morality, as this gentleman is the manager of a huge monopoly which undertakes extensive Commonwealth defence contracts?
Mr.MENZIES. - I am not aware of any such proposal as that referred to by the honorable member.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether Mr. Essington Lewis, general manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is a member of the National Defence Council, or is acting in an advisory capacity to that body, or to the Government, with reference to defence expenditure? If so, is it fit and proper that Mr. Lewis should continue in that position while general manager of the monopoly which will obtain much of the profit resulting from the Government’s defence expenditure?
– The position is that Mr. Lewis is a member and Chairman of the advisory industrial panel associated with the Defence Department, and as such, has given a great deal of his time in an honorary capacity in advising the Government on matters on which he is an undoubted and outstanding expert. 1 welcome the question because it gives me an opportunity to acknowledge the debt which the Government is under to him and other members of that panel for much expert advice, which could not be obtained from persons other than experts.
– Will the Prime Minister make available during the present sittings of the Parliament an opportunity to discuss proposed amendments of the Constitution?
– I shall do so.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that certain firms in Australia have been, and still are, making excessive profits under the shelter of the tariff? If so, will he take steps to rectify the position?
– Although some reports indicate that certain manufacturing companies are making excessive profits, the Government is convinced that the majority of manufacturers are making only fair and reasonable profits, and are not taking undue advantage of the protection afforded by the tariff. The Government, however, is examining the position in respect of the alleged misuse of the tariff with a view to action being taken if it be found that a case exists for reference to the Tariff Board for inquiry under section 15 (1) (h) of the Tariff Board Act 1931-1934, which provides -
The Minister shall refer to the board for inquiry and report the following matters: -
– Has the Minister for Defence given consideration to the development of Port Stephens as a Naval Base? If so, can he indicate the nature of the naval development which is to take place there ? If not, will he take an early opportunity to visit the district and personally investigate the excellent facilities offering at Port Stephens for naval purposes, in view of its great strategic importance in the defence of the Newcastle area?
– I shall provide the honorable member later with an answer to the first part of his question. I hope to visit the locality at an early date.
– In view of the recommendations of the Military Board and of the Inspector-General of the Commonwealth Military Forces with regard to universal service, and the Prime Minister’s oft-expressed opinion in favour of such a system, will the right honorable gentleman give the House an early intimation as to when the system will be introduced ?
– I shall take an early opportunity to. communicate to the House the policy of the Government on the matter.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce propose to withdraw the wrongful statement made by him in Sydney-
– Order ! The honorable member, when asking a question, is not in order in accusing a Minister of a wrongful statement.
– I refer to the statement which the Minister made in Sydney, before he became a member of the Cabinet, about the potato-growers of Tasmania,
– As I said nothing in Sydney or elsewhere which was contrary to fact, I have nothing to withdraw.
– Has the Postmaster-General read the remarks by the honorable member for Wentworth last session in favour of the reduction of postal charges, and the re-introduction of penny postage? If he has not done so, will he give consideration to the reduction of postal charges as outlined hy himself when he was a private member?
– I have read the remarks referred to, and I consider that the speech was an excellent one. I can assure the honorable member that I shall give consideration to the advisability of a complete investigation in regard to the matter.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development explain why the report of the Munitions Supply Board, signed on the 11th November last, and then in the possession of the Minister controlling the board at that time, was not tabled in this House prior to its rising on the 8th December? Almost four weeks was a reasonable period in which to make available to honorable members a report that by then was nearly five months old? Having taken over the control of the new Department of Supply, will the Minister assure the House that avoidable delays of this character in the submission of reports of such an important nature as those of the Munitions Supply Board will be obviated in future?
– I shall look into the matter and ascertain how the delay occurred. As to the future, I shall do my best to ensure that such reports are brought before the House with all possible expedition.
– At the end of last yeal’, a report was tabled in connexion with the disaster which befell the air-liner Kyeema. Will the Prime Minister state whether copies of that report can be made available to honorable members, as it contained serious allegations which should be considered by this House,’ so that similar occurrences may be prevented in future?
– I was under the impression that the report had been circulated. If not, I shall look into the matter.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a definite statement regarding the proposed appointment of ambassadors in Northern Pacific countries? Will he state when the appointments are likely to be made, and what is the precise nature of the duties of the appointees?
– I regret that I am not in a position to make a statement of any decision in that matter.
– It was announced in the press a little while ago that the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee, which was to carry out .investigations in regard to the manufacture of power alcohol and the production of oil from coal, had presented its report. Can the Prime Minister say when the report will be available?
– I regret that I cannot give that information, but I shall ascertain the present position in regard to the matter.
– Can the Minister for Defence give the House any information as to when the manufacture of the Bren gun will be commenced in Australia ?
– It is not yet possible to give the exact date., but it is confidently expected that next year the factory will be in production.
– “Will the Minister for Defence state whether officers of his department have recently made inquiries regarding the lack of adequate dry dock facilities in Port Phillip ? If not, will he have inquiries made into the matter in the near future?
– Inquiries will bc made.
– In view of the public demand for suitable meters for the checking of telephone charges, will the Postmaster-General make an early inquiry with a view to obtaining a suitable machine for this purpose?
– I have already had inquiries made in regard to this matter. The meters submitted to the department have proved unacceptable owing to their mechanical defects. If any honorable member can assure me that he can submit to the department a meter that will conform to its requirements, full consideration will be given to its use, and if it proves satisfactory no doubt it will be adopted.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation if it is intended to reestablish the Civil Aviation Board which was recently abolished?
– I have not had time as yet to make any decision regarding re-organization in my department.
– I ask the Minister for Supply what progress has been made in connexion with the manufacture of aeroplanes in Australia?
– .Insofar as the honorable gentleman’s question refers to the manufacture of Wirraway machines it should be directed to the Minister for Defence, at any rate for the meantime. In respect of the larger venture, the manufacture of Beaufort machines, all I can say is that the Government has it under active consideration, at the moment.
– On repeated occasions I have made representations to the Minister for Defence for assistance, either in the form of a grant or by the provision of a machine, in the training of aviation pilots in Tasmania, but so far I have not yet received a satisfactory reply. Can the Minister say now whether he intends to afford assistance in this direction, and, if so, what kind of assistance ?
– I have replied to the honorable gentleman’s question on this matter just as frequently as he has asked it, and on each occasion I have given him the same reply. If he desires it, I shall supply him with a further copy of that reply in duplicate.
– I wish to know whether the Prime Minister, since he has assumed his present position, has relinquished his very numerous company directorships. If not, what particular directorships does he still retain?
- Mr. Speaker, I had relinquished them months ago.
– In view of the fact that the Department of the Interior does not keep trace of aliens after they enter this country, but merely admits them, will the Prime Minister see that the migration branch is immediately transferred to the direct, control of the Department of Defence, where it rightly belongs?
– The suggestion made by the honorable member will be considered.
– by leave- lt is proposed that the House shall sit next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the following week.
– In view of the approach “of the winter months, will the Minister for Defence make available to the unemployed of Queensland all surplus military clothing as has been done in previous years?
– There will be no variation of the usual practice in this respect.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if it is a fact that for the last six months the Government has had in its possession a report on the possibilities of developing the shipbuilding industry in Australia? If so, will the Minister take early steps to release this report for publication? Furthermore, will the Minister indicate the Government’s policy on this matter, and state whether the encouragement of local shipbuilding will be undertaken as part of the general national programme which aims at making Australia self-contained for defence purposes?
– It is not usual for Ministers, when answering questions, to give information regarding Government policy, but in respect of that portion of the honorable member’s question which does not ‘affect Government policy, I can assure him that the fullest consideration will be given to the matter.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce whether he proposes to use his influence to have re-inserted in any wheat bounty bill that provision which he originally inserted when he was a member of the first Lyons Government, and which he strongly advocated as a private member of this House after it was withdrawn by the composite government, namely, that the wheat bounty shall be payable only to those wheat-growers who have non-taxable incomes? Is he still of that opinion, or does he feel that the hostility of the Country party may deter him now from doing those things which he formerly advocated ?
– In conformity with my position as a member of the Government, I shall duly put forward my opinion when this or any other matter of Government policy is being considered.
– In view of the general satisfaction that prevailed in the Australian Navy when lower ratings were permitted to have welfare committees, will the Minister for Defence consider the advisability of re-establishing those committees?
– I shall look into the matter, and inform the honorable member regarding it.
– Has the Treasurer seen the report of the Commonwealth Statistician in connexion with housing, in which it is stated that the average rent in Sydney for houses of from four to five rooms is £1 ls. 3d. a week? Will he instruct the Statistician to prepare a publication showing what data he examined in order to reach that conclusion? Will he also instruct the Statistician to prepare a list, to be presented to this Parliament, of four and five roomed houses in Sydney that can be rented at the figure cited ?
– I shall take an opportunity to discuss with the Statistician the matter raised by the honorable member.
– In the list of Ministers announced to the House this afternoon, there was no mention of any representative from Tasmania. Does not the Prime Minister regard this as a further injustice to the Cinderella State of the Commonwealth ?
– Let me reassure the honorable member by saying that I gave every consideration to his claims, but was reluctantly compelled to omit him.
– Will the Minister for Defence review the recent decision of the Defence Department when it refused to authorize the establishment of training centres in large towns in country districts, especially in Narrabri, which is the centre of a district with a population of over 10,000? Although the original application was made more than two years ago, and although as many as 35 letters have, in the meantime, passed between the returned soldiers’ organization at Narrabri and the Defence Department, nothing has yet been done in the way of establishing a training centre there.
– While I sympathize with the honorable member, I must inform him that there is no prospect of varying the decision at the present time. I think there is already a light-horse troop or .regiment quartered in the vicinity of Narrabri, and further than that it is not possible to go.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether his Government intends to go on with the national insurance scheme as passed by this Parliament, or does it intend to accept the advice of the Labour party and drop the scheme altogether.
– The position and intentions of the Government in regard to that matter will shortly be made the subject of a statement.
– Will the Minister for Defence state how many Wirraway aeroplanes have been completed and handed’ over to the department by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fisherman’s Bend, and at what rate it is expected that they will be handed over during the next twelve months?
– During the next twelve months, 100 machines will be completed and handed over. So far, one machine has been delivered,’ and is now undergoing flying tests. I speak subject to correction, but I believe there are four other machines on the line which will be handed over before the end of this month.
“NATIONAL INSURANCE GAZETTE.”
– I have here a copy of a publication called The National Insurance Gazette which claims to be published with the approval and cooperation of the National Insurance Commission at Canberra. In this journal there appears a full page advertisement informing members of the public that they may obtain complete health and rejuvenation at a cost of 3s. 6d. Does the Treasurer believe it to be proper that a journal carrying the imprimatur of the National Insurance Commission should publish stuff of that kind, which is undoubtedly a deliberate lie, and may be actually harmful in its effects?
– I have no personal knowledge of this journal, but I am informed that it is not, in fact, published by the National Insurance Commission.
– No, but it is published with the approval of that body.
– I have to inform the House that, on Friday last, I issued the writ in connexion with the by-election for Griffith Division, and that the dates fixed were those announced to the House on the 20th April last.
– I have to inform the House that I have this day issued the writ in connexion with the by-election for Wilmot Division, and that the dates fixed were those announced to the House on the 20th April last.
.- I move -
That the Schedule to the *Customs Tariff* 1933-1938 as proposed to be amended by the Customs Tariff Proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the seventh day of December, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight, be further amended as hereunder set out, and that on and after the fourth day of May, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine, at nine o'clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Australian Capital Territory, Duties of diatoms be collected in pursuance of the *Customs Tariff* 1933-1938 as so amended.
This tariff schedule relates to the goods covered by the Customs Tariff Proposals No. 2 of the 4th May, 1938, with the exception of: -
Clothes washing machines
Electroliers, gasaliers, &c.
Gas cooking and heating appliances
Manufactures of paper, and
Pencils of wood which have been otherwise dealt with by Customs Tariff Proposals No. 6 of the 7th December, 1938. The schedule does not alter the existing tariff position. The collection of the duties up to and including the 4th May, 1939, under Customs Tariff Proposals No. 2 was validated by Parliament in November last. It was proposed to bring these duties before Parliament for ratification as soon as possible after the House met on the 19th April, but the unfortunate death of the late Prime Minister, which necessitated an adjournment of Parliament, has not permitted sufficient time for the items to be debated and passed into law before the 5th May, 1939. It has been necessary therefore to re-introduce the duties. It is proposed to bring these items before the committee for debate at an early date.
Debate resumed from the 20th June, 1938 (vide page 2327, vol. 156), on motion by Mr. Thorby -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- It is entirely appropriate, Mr. Speaker, that this minority Government should introduce as practically its first measure a discussion on a relatively unimportant bill which might have been introduced and dealt with any old time within the last ten years.
– Eight years actually.
– Accepted. I am very pleased to notice the genial face of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) at the table. I had feared that with the change of policy there might possibly be a change of Minister, but I have come to know that that is an old-fashioned notion of mine without any application in present circumstances. I am sure honorable members have forgotten all about this bill, when it was introduced, what it was introduced for, what it proposed to do and leave undone. So, having moved the adjournment of the debate, it is incumbent upon me to manifest some revived interest and to say something upon its second reading. The bill has made frequent returns to the notice-paper whenever any government having charge of it has felt itself gravelled for lack of matter to put before the House. It arises out of what is known to history as the Statute of Westminster and the enlarged status which Australia is presumed to enjoy by virtue of that statute, and which it does enjoy irrespective of whether that statute is ever adopted by this Parliament or not. If is a tardy recognition of the fact that Australia is now an independent nation. The bill applies only to that association of friendly powers conveniently designated a Commonwealth of Nations. The subject arises in. particular out of sections 3 and 4 of the Statute of Westminster, which read as follows: -
But there is also a section 10 of the Statute of Westminster in these terms : -
It will be remembered by those interested in the subject that on numerous occasions it has been declared to be the policyof this Government, and of its predecessors, that the relevant sections of the Statute of Westminster should be adopted. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has made quite a name for himself as an after-dinner speaker by proclaiming it as part of his fixed determination to ensure that this statute shall and must be adopted, and, in reply to the resolutions of various un-Australian and nonAustralian bodies deprecating the intentions of the statute, the right honorable gentleman has always reiterated his unbreakable resolution, despite the representations of these reactionary bodies, to submit a measure to Parliament for its adoption. The only fly in the ointment, or, to put it another way, the only blemish upon the career of the right honorable gentleman in this regard is that, notwithstanding his repeated promises in impressive afterdinner speeches, and his assurances both to lawyers and to laymen, that it is inevitable that this statute shall be adopted, he has never dared to attempt to introduce a measure for its adoption and thusput theofficial seal upon Australia’s nationhood. Truth to tell, the speeches of various Governors-General and the promises of various Prime Ministers notwithstanding, I do not believe that the right honorable gentleman really intends to introduce a measure of this description unless Under pressure.
This particular bill is no more necessary now than it has been at any time since 1931, but I ask the present Minister for Defence, in whose loyalty to Australia I admit I have a greater measure of confidence thanI have in that of the Prime Minister, if he thinksit appropriate that a measure dependent upon the adoptionof the Statute of Westminster, and, in fact, presupposing its adoption, should be introduced at this stage? Does the honorable gentleman think that we ought to put thecartbefore the horse in this way? Would it not be much more appropriate for the measure upon which this one is really dependent to be introduced first? Does he think it is desirable that a military law dependent upon the adoption of the Statute of Westminster should be passed before that statute, a purely civil law, has been adopted ?
– How does the honorable member think that we should proceed?
– By first submitting a measure for the adoption of the Statute of Westminster and afterwards submitting the bill which presupposes the adoption of that measure.
– Is the honorable member upset because the Statute of Westminster lias not been passed?
– I am not upset. I am thoroughly ashamed, however, that that measure which sets the seal upon Australia’s nationhood should not have been ratified long ere this. As to my being upset, God forbid that anything done by this Government, which the honorable member for Barton is supporting, if he is supporting it, should upset me. I suppose the honorable member is supporting the Government, though I can quite imagine that he does not know where he is at present. The members of the Labour party know exactly where they are, though I must admit that I find myself in some new company in this corner.
– Is the honorable gentleman enjoying it?
– As I am of a happy and sunny nature, of course I am.
If the second reading of this bill is agreed to I shall suggest some amendments in committee. I cannot congratulate the Government which introduced the bill on the scrappy and off-hand manner in which it was presented to honorable members. I do not blame the present Minister for Defence for this, nor, may I hasten to add, do I blame his predecessor (Mr. Thorby). That honorable gentleman is a layman and he had a typescript placed in his hand which he read off obviously without having the slightest conception of the importance of the delicate questions of inter national and domestic law with which the bill dealt. As was usual at that time, the honorable gentleman appeared in the House without having the support or the advice of the then Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), who was usually either touring or resting. Yet this is theoretically, though not in a practical sense, an important bill. In fact, it deals with questions of international law to a greater degree than it does with questions of defence. Defence is only incidental to it. Similar measures have been submitted to other parliaments in the British Commonwealth of Nations and, in some cases at least, have been passed. A similar measure was submitted to the British Parliament and was passed on a division both by the House of Commons and by the House of Lords; but in that case the measure evoked serious discussion in each House. Much strong legal argument was directed against it, and in both chambers, if my memory serves me right, a division was taken. Eminent legal opinion in Great Britain was, with a good deal of justification, against the bill. My reason, so far as I am concerned as an individual, for not asking the House to vote against at least the motion for the second reading of this bill is that I fear that such action might be misrepresented and be said to display antagonism to a measure which recognizes our enlarged constitutional status and our position as an entirely independent nation. I should not, for the world, have that thought to be the case. Under clause 6, which deals with “ Discipline and Internal Administration of Visiting Forces,” it is proposed that - (1.) The naval, military and air force courts and authorities (in this Act referred to as the “ service courts “ and “ service authorities “ of the United Kingdom, or, in the case of a Dominion force, the service courts and service authorities of that Dominion, may exercise within the Commonwealth in relation to members of the visiting force in matters concerning discipline and the internal administration of the force all such powers as are conferred upon them by the law of the United Kingdom or of the Dominion, as the case may be. (2.) The members of a service court of the United Kingdom or of a Dominion exercising jurisdiction by virtue of this Act, and witnesses appearing before any such court, shall enjoy the like immunities and privileges as are enjoyed by a service court exercising jurisdiction under a law of the Commonwealth, and. by witnesses appearing before such a court, or such immunities and privileges as are prescribed. (4.) For the purposes of any such proceedings, a certificate under the hand of the officer commanding a visiting force that a member of that force is being detained for either of the causes referred to in the last preceding sub-section shall be conclusive evidence of the cause of his detention, but not of his being such a member, and a certificate under the hand of such an officer that the persons specified in the certificate sat as a service court of the United Kingdom or of the Dominion, as the case may be, shall be conclusive evidence of that fact.
I do not expect honorable members to follow the reading of those provisions without careful study; they really mean that a visiting force, say, from Great Britain to Australia, will be under the discipline of Great Britain, and not of Australia. Similarly, a visiting force from Australia to South Africa will be under the discipline, not of South Africa, but of Australia. That means, further - and this is an important point - that there will be in Australia people who, as to their conduct and .behaviour as members of naval, military and air forces, will not be subject in a disciplinary sense to the law of the country in which they are for the time being resident; they will be subject to what, in a legal sense, is a foreign law, namely, the law of either another dominion or of the Mother Country, as the case may be. The first obvious objection” to such legislation is that, by agreeing to it, we waive our control over such persons so far as the administration of disciplinary justice is concerned. I am putting the case from the Australian point of view, but the position is the same if viewed from the position of Britishers in Groat Britain or South Africans in South Africa. I maintain that the bill threatens the liberty of the subject in that it deprives him of resort to that wellknown instrument of relief known as habeas corpus. Under this law a person who is a member of a visiting force may be seized and imprisoned without having available to him that timehonoured machinery of relief, by which a person in custody is enabled to call upon his custodians to show cause why he should not be set at liberty. It is more over the policy of the Labour party - and I support it wholeheartedly - that Australia should not interfere by military action in external quarrels. Therefore, there is no more justification for a special law in respect of visiting soldiers than there is for special legislation to control visiting civilians. The liberty of the subject is of sufficient fundamental importance, however, to justify my quoting from the speech of Lord Buckmaster in the House of Lords when a similar measure was before that chamber. He said inter alia -
– British forces in Britain or Australian forces in Australia will not be effected by legislation of this character.
– Tha t is. so, but it does affect visiting forces temporarily resident in either country. Lord Buckmaster’s argument is that any person who has set his foot on British soil is entitled to the protection of the British law. Mutatis mutandis, under this legislation, I agree for Australia members of visiting forces in Britain who hitherto were entitled to have resort to habeas corpus will no longer enjoy that privilege.
Lord Buckmaster went on to say -
Our forces over here are, as you all know, regulated by statutes which have been passed from time to time, of which the latest is the Army Act of 18S1. That statute regulates the powers which confer upon military officers the control and discipline of their troops. It sets out the nature of the tribunal, it states the way in which it should be constituted, it provides for the periods during which a man may bc detained before he is brought to trial, and it provides for the punishment of every class of offence from mere detention in the barracks up to sentence of death, and from all these sentences, whatever they may be, there is no appeal of any kind whatever to any civil authority. 1 want your Lordships thoroughly to realize that the Army Act has taken out of the civil power the whole of the jurisdiction relating to the control of soldiers who are under officers in this country, and has left them with an appeal only to the military authorities and not to civil courts.
If that matter stood alone, any excess or irregularity either in sentence or in procedure would be wholly incapable of being remedied, but law has provided - and I sincerely hope your Lordships this afternoon will see that it is maintained - a protection which I hope you will not think is archaic or uncouth because it comes down to us from a time when all the processes of the law were clothed in the imperial purple of the Latin tongue. There were two great writs - the writ of certiorari, and above and beyond all others, the writ of habeas corpus -
Lord Buckmaster then discussed the writ of certiorari, but I shall not follow him. He went on to say, referring to what had gone before -
While that is true of the civil courts, it is equally true of the military courts. But the writ of far greater consequences than that is the writ of habeas corpus, the great writ which any man can issue out on behalf of any person whom it is alleged has been unjustly dealt with. Of course, these writs are not issued until a case has been made to show that they should be issued, but let that case be made and the writ goes at once to the person in whose custody any person may be, directing him that he shall bring that person up before the Court of King’s Bench in order that it may be determined whether he shall remain in custody or not. I do not believe it possible to exaggerate the importance of that act. It applies equally to all military courts, to all naval courts and to all civil courts. I should like to read to your Lordships what the Chief Justice Coke, one of our greatest judges, said in a matter of this kind in 1861 when the question was whether a man had been detained too long before being brought to trial.
He then cited the remarks madeby Chief Justice Coke, as follows: - “ If a court martial acted without or in excess of its jurisdiction, the Court of King’s Bench could exercise its controlling authority by writs of prohibition or certiorari against the governor of the prison,or whoever improperly detained a person, by writ of habeas corpus. Writs arc issued in protection of the common law rights of a soldier against a military officer or a military court.”
I have read this more or less archaic matter merely for the purpose of illustrating, as His Lordship did in the House of Lords, how inveterate is this right to a writ which challenges the custody of a person in certain circumstances. On proper application being made, that writ has been issued repeatedly in this country. It is the final right of any person who claims that his liberty has been improperly restrained. So far as visiting soldiers are concerned - Australian soldiers in Great Britain, and British soldiers in Australia - it seems clear that they will be deprived of that elemental right by this series of acts passed in the various British dominions.
I would not in any circumstances agree to certain classes of punishment being imposed in Australia upon visiting troops. I think I speak for the Labour party as a whole when I say that we would sturdily oppose the imposition of capital punishment, the degrading punishment of flogging, or any such archaic method of so-called correction.
Mr.White. - The necessity to use such punishments would not arise. The offender would go back to his own country.
– That does not appear to follow. Under this bill, if a member of a force visiting Australia committed any offence against discipline, of whatever kind, or however serious, he would be dealt with by a tribunal set up, presumably, a court martial. It does not seem to be a stretch of imagination to say, therefore, that a visiting English soldier, perhaps bound to this country by matrimonial ties - at all events by long association - might be sentenced to death by a court martial set up in Australia by visiting British troops, and that, as Lord Buckmaster points out, the same thing might happen to a visiting Australian soldier in England, though 1 believe it is unlikely that any court martial formed out of Australian visiting troops would seek to impose such a penalty.
– There was no instance of capital punishment being imposed upon Australian soldiers during the Great War.
– I believe that that is true. In the committee stage I shall move an, amendment to provide that the bill shall not come into operation until the Statute of Westminster has been dealt with by this Parliament.
Quite candidly I cannot understand why this measure has been introduced, in anticipation of the adoption of these provisions in the statute mentioned. It cannot seriously be argued that the bill has any degree of urgency. If there were urgency, the Minister for Defence, or more properly, his predecessors in office, who are members of the same party, would stand condemned. It has been introduced for no other purpose than to stop a hole to keep the wind away. It is apparent that the Minister for Defence, not having quite recovered from the shock of having been unexpectedly sworn in, looked about for something to occupy the time of the House, and hit upon this old measure, which has been on the noticepaper for many months. I think that it should be dealt with seriously, and, if at all, in its proper sequence, following upon the adoption of those relevant sectionsof the Statute of Westminster. Notwithstanding the Minister’s associations, and the knowledge that evil associations corrupt good manners, I confidently believe that the honorable gentleman will make an intelligent rejoinder to the question: “ Why has that measure, upon which this one hangs, not been introduced? “ It is a non-party measure, and is sure of acceptance by both sides of this House. I even suggested to my leader his submission to the House on another occasion, at the end of the session, when the innocents were being slaughtered, that we would agree to its being passed without debate; but it was not passed. Why?
For the reasons that I have given, I reluctantly accept this bill in principle, because I believe that the value of its acceptance, or the importance of the principle involved in its acceptance, outweighs the danger - which, after all, is perhaps somewhat remote - of injustice being done to individual members of visiting forces in dominions other than those to which, as domiciled citizens, they really belong. At least I shall test the feeling of the House on the very simple amendment that the bill shall not become an act until after the passage into law of legislation adopting the relevant sections of the Statute of Westminster.
. - The honorable and learned gentleman (Mr. Brennan) who has just resumed his seat cast about in his mind to find some reason for the Government proceeding with this bill at this particular juncture. Perhaps, in view of the somewhat flattering remarks which the honorable gentleman has addressed to myself, I might reciprocate by saying that it was brought on at this particular juncture purely for the pleasure of hearing him speak upon it, the Government well realizing that he had secured the adjournment of the debate on the motion for its second reading.
As the former Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) said, when introducing the bill, its object is simply to apply to visiting forces from the United Kingdom and the dominions their local disciplinary codes while they are in Australian territory. So far the United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa have passed legislation relating to visiting forces, and it remains for the ‘Commonwealth of Australia to do likewise in order to come into line with them. Whilst such legislation is not in force in this country, although Australian forces visiting the United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa will continue to be governed by the law of the Commonwealth in relation to their discipline and internal administration, visiting forces from the United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa to Australia would not be able to apply their own law or to use the Commonwealth’s machinery in respect of their relations with the civil power and with civilians. Surely that is not a position which this House would like to arise ! Surely it is an obligation upon the Commonwealth to pass this complementary legislation so as to be able to conform to the action taken by those other dominions! That is all that this bill sets out to do.
The honorable gentleman asked whether I really think it proper that this bill, being dependent upon the Statute of Westminster, should be introduced prior to the adoption by the Commonwealth of the relevant sections of that statute. With all due deference to the legal knowledge of the honorable gentleman, I submit that this bill is not dependent upon the adoption of the relevant sections of the Statute of Westminster, but that thenecessity for it arises as the result of the enactment of that statute by the Government of the United Kingdom in December, 1931, and its subsequent adoption by Canada, South Africa and Eire. Consequently the British Army Act, which formerly provided for the discipline, the internal administration, and allied matters affecting visiting forces, is no longer law in any dominion which has adopted the statute, and therefore it is necessary for the dominions to make provision under their own laws for these purposes. This is merely complementary legislation by the Commonwealth of Australia ‘to bring it into line with legislation passed by other dominions. Beyond anything else, it is a reciprocal measure. The Imperial Visiting Forces Act has already granted to Australian forces in the United Kingdom, certain immunities which are no doubt expected to be extended to the forces of the United Kingdom when they should visit this country. Similar considerations, of course, apply to the other dominions. As I said by interjection - and the honorable gentleman agreed with me - the application of the Habeas Corpus Act has no effect insofar as it relates to Australian soldiers in Australia or to English soldiers in England. But it is perfectly true that the Imperial Visiting Forces Act will deprive a member of a visiting force from Australia of the right of habeas corpus proceedings whilst he is present in Great Britain. That is not denied. Similarly, this enactment will deprive a member of a British force visiting this country of a similar right whilst he is in Australia. That condition applies also in respect of the other dominions. Canada has, I understand, made provision for its own forces while they are out of Canada. But, so far as I have been able to ascertain, there is no provision in the Canadian act which extends the habeas corpus provisions to visiting forces whilst they are in Canada. The whole point of that particular provision is that the bill is entirely reciprocal in its nature, and that it brings Australia into line with legislation which has been passed by the United Kingdom.
The honorable gentleman foreshadowed a certain amendment that he proposes to move in committee, and also expressed repugnance to the idea of the death penalty, perhaps, being carried out in this country. The honorable gentleman will know better than I do what offences under the British Army Act permit of such a penalty being enforced. I imagine there are few offences; for example, desertion for a specified period, or cowardice. That is a matter of the application of the British Army Act to British forces should a situation requiring its application ever arise in this country. It is not for this Government, I consider, to interfere with the laws of Great Britain. “We have our own laws, which would operate in respect of our forces whilst, they were in Great Britain if we had accorded to us the privileges conferred by the Imperial Visiting Forces Act. As this is to be a reciprocal ‘act, we must expect to receive under British law, the same privileges or immunities as we would give under Australian law in this country.
– “Would an English soldier be executed for desertion in this country?
– It would be legally possible, if the honorable gentleman can conceive of such a situation arising. I am sure that neither he nor I can do so; nor would we desire it. I cannot say offhand what are the offences under the British Army Act for which such a penalty is prescribed.
I understand that the honorable member for Batman does not wish to divide the House on this measure. It is, perhaps, somewhat complicated from the legal point of view, but does not, I think, basically contain anything that is controversial. I do not believe that its passage should follow the adoption of the relevant sections of the Statute of “Westminster, but it is, I think, necessary because of the enactment of that Statute by the British Government eight years ago.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee: (Quorum formed.)
Clause 1 agreed to.
This act shall commence on a date to be fixed by proclamation.
.- I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “not earlier than tlie passing into law of an act adopting tlie relevant section of the Statute of Westminster.”
I gave my reasons for this amendment in the course of my speech on the motion for the second-reading of the bill. I then said, and I now repeat, that this bill will subtend upon the Statute of Westminster. It is true that the Statute of Westminster is an act of the United Kingdom; it is a British act, not an Australian act. But it has wide operations throughout the various dominions. In other words, as you, Mr. Temporary Chairman (Mr. Nairn), as a lawyer, are well aware, the source of authority for all legislation in the dominions is the British Parliament. With the movement of time, custom and practice, certain established constitutional law has hardened in the various dominions, and on that, much more than on pure law itself, is based our enlarged constitutional and national status. But, at least, theoretically, until we have adopted those sections of the Statute of Westminster by virtue of which Britain renounces its power to legislate for Australia, there is at least a shadowy, legal theory that Britain may still legislate for us as it did in the Merchant Shipping Act and in a number of other statutes which operate, not only in Great Britain, but also in the various dominions. Amongst these is the British Army Act. Theoretically, at least, Britain may still pass measures affecting our soldiers and affecting Australia in the name of defence. I admit that such a thing is, on practical grounds, unthinkable.
– It might have the same effect as the right of search of American shipping years ago.
– It might. When General Hertzog, of South Africa, was asked what would be the result if Britain amended or revoked the Statute of Westminster, and continued to legislate for the dominions, he said that the answer to such a question was “ laughter “ and rightly so. The answer to a ridiculous question is ridicule.
But we are here dealing with theories of law. That is why it will become necessary to adopt those sections of the Statute of Westminster on the thin and attenuated theory that Great Britain still has the inherent power to legislate for a dominion. Because that is so, and because, therefore, Britain still has its Army Act, because there is still in existence a legal theory under which that measure may be applied to Australia, because the Statute of Westminster ends that state of affairs, and because we, however, have not adopted that part of the statute as far as it applies to Australia, I say, undoubtedly, that the two things do hang together. The Minister who introduced the bills said that it had reference to the Statute of Westminster, and because one measure is dependent on the other, I think that would be only reasonable for the present Minister to assure us that this bill will not be brought into force until the relevant sections of the Statute of Westminster have been adopted. The Minister has disappointed me, in that he has given no information as to why the statute has not been adopted in this regard. Nor does he hold out any promise that it will be adopted. I have indicated what my mind is on this matter. I have done all it has been possible for me, as a member of the Opposition, to do in regard to it. I have repeatedly prepared speeches which have grown out of date from waiting, and then I have prepared further speeches on further ministerial assurances that the bill would be introduced, but they have grown hoary and out of date. I shall prepare no more speeches on the matter until the measure is actually tabled. At any rate, I stand by my amendment. [Quorum formed.]
.- I briefly support the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) in his contention that the adoption of the Statute of Westminster should have preceded this bill. The Commonwealth Government is the one Government of the British dominions that has failed to adopt this statute. I cannot believe that this is because there has been insufficient time in which to do it. I am afraid that at the back of the minds of members of governments formed in the past by the parties opposite was the fear that the adoption of the statute might be regarded as a reflection on their loyalty to the British Crown. I do notthink they believed that in their hearts, but they thought that the repercussion from an action which would be purely Australian would have a harmful political effect on them. Whatever weaknesses we have seen in the nationalist and. composite governments of the past, I was hopeful that during the tenure of office of the present Ministry, be it ever so brief, it would take a manly, Australian stand in this matter, and do something to show that Australia can stand on its own feet as well as any of the other dominions, not one of which, with the exception of Canada, is of such importance, as far as nationhood is concerned, as Australia. I challenge the Government to show that it has sufficient of the Australian spirit to adopt the Statute of Westminster, ‘ as long demanded by the honorable member for Batman.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has asked, in effect, for an assurance that the Government will introduce legislation to adopt the relevant portions of the Statute of Westminster. This Ministry has been in existence for less than a week and has not yet had an opportunity to consider the question of the adoption of the Statute of Westminster, but I can assure the committee that early consideration will be given to the matter. I cannot believe that the somewhat fantastic legal difficulties envisaged by the honorable member who submitted the amendment will ever arise. I would not dispute with him on purely legal grounds, but I reiterate that the enactment of the visiting forces legislation is not dependent on the adoption by the Commonwealth of the Statute of Westminster. The necessity for the bill arises from an enactment by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in December, 1931. The Government, considering that the argument presented by the honorable member for Batman has no force, cannot accept has amendment.
.- The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has said that the action taken in Great Britain eight years ago has made this bill necessary to-day. If this measure could wait for eight years, it could surely wait for a. few more months. I entirely agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and I support his amendment. The Minister promised that the question of the adoption of the Statute of Westminster would receive early consideration. Possibly he has some justification for making that assertion, but he did not say that the Government would take early action regarding it. Does the Government intend to take early action ? I remember very vividly a speech on this particular matter made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when he was Attorney-General, in which he expressed his personal opposition to the adoption of the Statute of Westminster by this Parliament. I am beginning to think that the so-called Loyalist or some other monthly journal bearing that kind of name, which is circulated free to every member of this Parliament, and, I suppose, to every member of every other British parliament, indicating that substantial funds are behind it, is having its effect. That journal not only opposes the adoption of the Statute of Westminster by Australia, but also claims that such action would be rank disloyalty for Australia and would practically amount to dismemberment of the Empire. Evidently it is making some impression on this Government. I am inclined to think that the attitude of honorable members opposite towards the amendment indicates that they are almost frightened of their Australianism, and that wherever possible they are content to allow Australia to be pushed backwards. If it is necessary to give British troops who should visit Australia carte blanche to do anything on Australian soil, I. remind honorable members opposite that the British Army Act still provides for the death penalty, whilst no Australian act contains such a provision. It cannot be denied that that act is one of the most brutal pieces of legislation that can be found in the archives of the world. The adoption of this legislation will allow the application of the death penalty in Australia, unless some safeguard be provided as would probably be achieved if we first adopted the Statute of Westminster. If it were possible I should like to see an amendment along these lines inserted in every piece of legislation brought down by this Government. Possibly in that way we might awaken some Australian sentiment in honorable gentlemen opposite who think more of travelling overseas and spending their time in Great Britain than of doing their work in Australia. If we could do that and make them, realize that they are elected to this Parliament in order to do an Australian job, we should probably have the Statute of Westminster adopted without delay.For these reasons I’ support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), whom I congratulate on his tenacity in endeavouring for years to get this Parliament to adopt that statute. For that work he should be commended, not only by members of this Parliament, but also by every one with any Australian sentiment in his breast. I am not satisfied with the mere statementby the Minister that the Government will give early consideration to the adoption of the statute. That assurance is thrown to us as a. sop; it is of no use to me; I want something more. We on this side of the chamber want the Government to take action in this matter. I urge the committee to realize the necessity for adopting the amendment, and I hope that when the vote is taken on it honorable members opposite will be sufficiently Australian to east a vote in the interests of their own country, rather than worry about the interests of any other country.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Mr. Brennan’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided. (Thetemporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Colony “ means any part of the King’s dominions other than the United Kingdom and the Dominions, and includes India, (as defined by section three hundred and eleven of the Imperial Actknown as the Government of India Act. 1935), Burma (as defined by section one hundred and fifty-eight of the Imperial Act known as the Government of Burma Act, 1935) and any territory which is under His Majesty’s protection, or in respect of which a mandate on behalf of the League of Nations is being exercised by His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom;
. - I move -
That the following words be omitted from the definition of “ Colony “ - “India (as defined by section three hundred and eleven of the Imperial Act known as the Government of India Act, 1935), Burma (as defined by section one hundred and fifty-eight of the Imperial Act, known as the Government of Burma. Act, 1935), and”.
This amendment has been proposed after consultation with the Governments of India and Burma, which do not desire that any provision covering their forces be included in the bill. The possibility of visitsfrom the forces of those countries is considered to be so remote that no advantage would be gained by covering them in this measure.
Amendment agreed to.
– I should like some explanation of the second paragraph defining “ court “. Does that definition include the ordinary court martial? There is a rather important, distinction between a service court and a court martial.
– It does include a court martial.
– -Wei. then, why does it not say so? It is the most loosely drawn clause I have ever seen.
– A similar clause appears in the United Kingdom act.
– There must be some relationship between this measure and the Defence Act of the Commonwealth. Incidentally, the latter, so far as I know, does not define a court of any description.
– I can assure the honorable member that the word “ court “ includes court martial.
– I move -
That in the definition of “Dominion” the words “Irish Free State” be omitted with a view to insert in Heu thereof the word “ Eire.”
– The purpose of the amendment is to bring this legislation into line with the legislation of the United Kingdom, which states that what was formerly known as the Irish Free State shall in future he known as Eire.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 (Discipline and internal administration of visiting forces).
– In this clause, also, the words “ Service courts “ are placed within inverted commas, hut there is nothing in the bill to define service courts. It is merely stated that a court shall include a court of inquiry.
Mr. STREET (Corangamite- Minister be expected to be a parliamentary draftsman, but I understand that this bill has been very carefully drafted. I believe that, of all the forms that might be used, those chosen are considered to be the most suitable in order to make this legislation conform with similar legislation passed by the United Kingdom.
– This matter, I think, is of sufficient importance to warrant an inquiry in order to determine whether the proper thing has been done. I have had experience as a Minister of very awkward mistakes by draftsmen, so that legislation has had to be amended before it could be put into force at all. In this instance, where the definition, and possibly the constitution, of a court is concerned, there ought to be a proper assurance that all of these points have been, taken into consideration. For my part, I am not satisfied that they have been.
– With all due respect to the honorable member, I do not think that there is any great force in the point he has raised. However, if it will satisfy him. I shall have the matter further examined by the Parliamentary Draftsman, and if an amendment is necessary, it can be made in the Senate.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Relations of visiting forces to the civil power and civilians).
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause bo added: - “ (7) Notwithstanding anything contained in tl is act, no penalty shall be imposed inconsistent with or repugnant to the law of the Commonwealth or of . a State.”
When the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was addressing the chamber, the Minister indicated by interjection that the British Army Act was one of those that would apply in certain cases to members of visiting forces. The Labour party recognizes the need to maintain discipline amongst armed forces, but the people of Australia will not countenance the imposition in Australian territory of some of the penalties provided in the British Army Act. Speaking from memory, I believe that that act, which perpetuates many barbarities that ought long ago to have been removed from all legislation operating in British communities, provides for such penalties as the crucifixion, in which a man is tied to the wheel of a gun carriage, and exposed to the elements. Certain other sections nf the act provide penalties similar to the thumb screw, while others provide for the carrying out of the death penalty. The people of Australia will remember, as should the members of this Parliament also, that when our forces were abroad during the war an attempt was made to apply to them the provisions of the British Army Act, and the attempt failed only when the authorities found themselves. faced with the certainty of revolt among the Australian troops. Irrespective of what this Parliament might propose or authorize, I am certain that there would be a tremendous popular outcry against any attempt to apply to the members of British forces visiting Australia some of the penalties provided in the British Army Act. There may bc some people in this country who would like to see the provisions of the British Army Aci made to apply generally throughout the community. There is one member of this Parliament who was recently a member of the Government, who favoured the shooting of the Leader of the Opposition because he disagreed with him. When persons holding responsible positions in this Parliament are prepared to go to such extremes, it is not difficult to imagine that there may be in command of British forces visiting Australia persons who, because they would not be answerable to any authority in this country, would be prepared to go to any lengths in the punishment of those under them. I hope that the committee will accept my amendment and thus place upon such persons a proper restraint. We should make it clear that we will not tolerate the carrying out of penalties in Commonwealth territory which are repugnant to Australians, or inconsistent with the law of the Commonwealth or of a. State.
– I regret that I have not had an opportunity to consider this proposed new sub-clause. At first glance
I cannot see anything in it to which I would disagree, but I should like to have an opportunity to examine it more closely. In the circumstances, I ask that further consideration of the clause be deferred.
Clauses 8 to 12 agreed to.
Progress reported. [Quorum formed.’]
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide for an effective and continuous registration of aliens resident in the Commonwealth, so that not only will information as to the whereabouts and movements of individual aliens be recorded and kept up to date, but also the authorities will always have in their possession reliable data as to the . degree of concentration of the various classes of aliens in any particular locality.
Provision for the registration of aliens was first introduced into the Commonwealth law as a war-time measure by the War Precautions Aliens Regulations of 1916. Under those regulations, aliens were required to report any change of address, were forbidden to alter their names without permission, and, if called upon to do so, were compelled to produce certificates of registration or relative documents or to answer questions concerning their nationality and so on. Upon the conclusion of the war a special committee appointed to consider the matter reported favorably on the advisability of retaining a system of registration of aliens, and, as the result, the Aliens Registration Act of 1920 was passed by Parliament. This act came into force in 1921, hut within a year virtually became a dead letter, mainly because the services of some of the State police in whom the administration was largely vested ceased to be economically available. That act was suspended by the Aliens Registration Act
Suspension Act of 1926, and was repealed entirely by the Statute Law Revision Act No. 45 of 1934; but, although registration as such ceased to operate for the time being, provisions were embodied in the Immigration Regulations requiring aliens entering the Commonwealth to furnish comprehensive personal statements. These statements have served a useful purpose and will continue to be obtained.
During recent years, however, the necessity for an effective system of registration of aliens has become increasingly evident. The entry of foreign migrants into the Commonwealth can be checked and regulated under the immigration laws, but in or dar that the control over our alien population - those already here and those who may be admitted in the future - may be in any degree satisfactory, it is essential that a registration system, as provided in this bill, be put into effect and kept up to date. Not only is it desirable that a complete register of our alien population bc maintained in time of peace to avoid the _ hasty and expensive improvization of machinery for the purpose in the event of war, but also it is essential to a proper consideration of industrial and settlement problems that are bound to arise from time to time that the authorities controlling immigration should have at their command definite and up-to-date information as to the numbers and classes of aliens congregated in particular districts, as to the drift of aliens from State to State and so on.
In the administration of the registration system provided in the bill now before the House, it is intended to utilize the well-established electoral machinery of the Commonwealth. The system proposed to be employed in the maintenance of the registers of aliens will generally follow closely the system now employed in the maintenance of the electoral rolls. Similarly it is proposed to maintain a lexicographical index of registered aliens in each State or territory on the same lines as the index now kept in respect of electors. As in the electoral sphere, the unit for alien registration purposes will be the electoral subdivision. There will be for each subdivision a register containing particulars of the aliens registered as resident in the subdivision which will be maintained continuously up to. date by the Electoral Registrar in his capacity as Registrar of Aliens. Every alien, excepting consular representatives and others set out in clause 7 of the bill, will be required to make application for registration, to notify any change of address or name, and to apply for transfer of registration if he transfers his place of living to another subdivision. The ‘ Registrar will issue a certificate of registration to each registered alien, and will forward the alien’s application and any subsequent notifications relating thereto, such as change of address or name, to his Commonwealth Electoral Officer for placing in the index of aliens. The original application with any subsequent notifications attached to it will be preserved in the index and will, in effect, provide a complete record in relation to the alien’s registration.
In order to ensure that the information relating to aliens contained in the registers or the index shall not be misused by outside agencies, it is provided in the bill that those records shall not be open for inspection except for official purposes. As requirements necessary to the maintenance of effective registration, the bill provides that an electoral or other Commonwealth officer may require an alien to produce his certificate of registration on demand; or that he may require any person believed to be an alien to furnish information as to his name, nationality and so on, or to produce any document or other evidence in his possession relating thereto; and also that he may require the occupier of a habitation or other person to answer any question or to supply information relative to an alien or person .believed to be an alien ; and anyalien or person who fails to produce any document, answer any question or supply information, or who knowingly gives false or misleading information, will be guilty of an offence. The bill contains provisions, akin to those of the Electoral Act, prohibiting under pain of penalty, the making of any untrue statement by an alien in his application or other document; the witnessing of any such document by a person unless he has reasonable cause to believe the statements therein are true; and the forging of any signature to any such paper.
It also provides, for purposes of simplification and convenience in administration, that where an alien admits that he has failed to apply for registration or transfer of registration, or to notify change of address or name, within the required time, the Chief Electoral Officer, Commonwealth Electoral Officer or the Northern Territory Returning Officer, as the case may be, may, with the consent of the alien, and provided the alien has since remedied the failure, impose upon the alien a pecuniary penalty not exceeding five pounds, as he thinks proper. This provision is analogous to the provisions in the Electoral Act which empower the electoral officers to impose similar monetary penalties upon electors who, without a valid and sufficient reason fail to enrol within the prescribed period or to vote, and who consent to their cases being so dealt with. It may be anticipated that in the great majority of cases any failure of an alien to comply with the registration requirements within the prescribed period will be attributable to ignorance or forgetfulness, and while the imposition of a small fine may be necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the system, it is considered the circumstances would not warrant police court proceedings except where the alien proves recalcitrant.
Ordinarily an alien who does not intend to reside in the Commonwealth, and does not remain in the Commonwealth for more than60 days, will not be required to register under this proposed law, but section 21 of the bill provides that such exemption shall not apply during any time of war. Generally, the proposed law imposes no duty or hardship upon aliens that is not already imposed by the electoral laws upon British subjects, and in the belief that the measure will commend itself to all honorable members. I urge its speedy passage.
– What is the prescribed period ? Is it six months as in the Electoral Act?
– I think it is the same.
– That will not be of much use.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lazzarini) adjourned.
Election of Senators: Electoral Expenses of Members of the House of Representatives.
Debate resumed from the 7th December, 1938 (vide page 2806, vol. 158), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That a joint committee be appointed to inquire into and report on the law and procedure in relation to -
the choice and election of senators; and
the limitation of electoral expenses in connexion with elections for the Senate or the House ofReprcsentatives, and to make such recommendations as it thinks fit for the improvement of the law and procedure relating to these matters.
That three members of the House of Representatives be appointed to serve on such committee.
That the committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records, to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament, and to move from place to place, and have leave to report from time to time its proceedings and the evidence taken.
That a message be sent to the Senate requesting its concurrence and asking that three members of the Senate be appointed to serve on such committee.
.- To justify this motion for the appointment of a joint committee to inquire into, among other things, the law and procedure in relation to the choice and election of senators, the Government maintains that there is a widespread public demand for alteration of the Senate electoral system. The most amazing feature is that this alleged widespread public demand for a more satisfactory method of electing members of the Senate became evident only when the Government found, after the returns for the Senate election in 1937 had been received, that out of a possible nineteen, only three of its supporters had been elected. Alarmed by the swing of the political pendulum, the Government declared that heed must be taken of this alleged widespread public demand. I do not deny that for many years there has been dissatisfaction with the present method of election to the Senate in many sections of the community; what amazes me is the fact that for that long period the Government was unmindful of that dissatisfaction, and that it has taken heed of it only after a general election which indicated that the fortunes of the Labour party are improving, and that, if the present method remains in operation, that party must, after the next general election, have control of the Senate. It is only when that fact becomes obvious to the Government that ir, sees fit to heed the dissatisfaction and to propose some alteration of the system. The former Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen), in submitting this motion late last year, said that consideration would have to be given not only to the method of voting under the present system, but also to whether it was satisfactory to continue to elect senators from each State as one constituency or whether each State should be divided into three electoral divisions. The system of electing the senators from each State as a single constituency has operated since federation; obviously this system which the Government now says is unsatisfactory must have been equally unsatisfactory many years ago. I deny that the proposal to divide each State into three divisions is one that should meet with the support of those who desire equitable representation for political parties in the Senate. The Labour party believes that the Senate serves no useful purpose, and that it retards rather than forwards the wishes of the people as expressed in the activities of the popularly elected House of Representatives. The Labour party would prefer to see the Senate abolished. But that proposal is not before the chamber. What we have to consider is whether changes of the Senate electoral system are necessary, and whether we should have a committee to consider such changes. The Labour party has no objection to the appointment of committees to inquire into matters which warrant attention, but it is not satisfied that the Government can at this moment make out a case for some drastic alteration of the Senate electoral method.
Another aspect of this proposal is this : The then Minister, in submitting this motion, said that one of the reasons why we should alter the system in the Senate was the fact that on many occasions the majority had all of the representation and minorities none. That has frequently been the case since the chamber was established. In 1934 Labour party candidates polled 47.2 per cent, of the number of votes recorded; yet the anti-Labour Government won every Senate seat. Thus 47.2 per cent, of the electors were disfranchised. No proposal was made then by the Government to amend the legislation to provide for a more equitable method. No! The existing method suited it. But after the 1937 election, when the Labour party candidates polled 53 per cent, of the votes and won sixteen of the nineteen seats, the Government at once announced that the system had to be altered. If the Government sincerely desired to ensure that minorities obtain representation there would be a great deal to be said in favour of the proposal. If the Government wants the representation of minorities in the Senate it should apply the same principle to the committee that it proposes to appoint. Every body agrees thai it is right that minorities should have representation, but it would bc distinctly unfair to say that minorities should have greater representation than majorities. It will be agreed that the majority should have the greater representation. Fifty-three per cent, of the electors voted in favour of Labour senators at the last general election. It is not fair to ask us to agree that on the committee proposed to be appointed to consider methods of electing the Senate, the representatives of those 53 per cent, should be in a minority. The representation on the committee should at least be on an equal basis. The Government does not propose to adopt that fair suggestion. Whenever it ha3 introduced proposals for the appointment of a committee to consider any subject, it has given very little consideration to the minority. We quite realize that tlie opinion of the majority of the committee will eventually prevail. Therefore, we ask that in the appointment of it the Government shall at least be consistent. If, as the
Minister said when moving the motion, it is wrong to deny representation to minorities, we say it is a greater wrong for the Government to give a greater representation to the minority than to the majority on this committee. Consequently we cannot accept the proposal in its present form.
Several systems of voting have been tried in connexion with Senate elections. Prior to 1918 the system was, “ first pasthe post “. Electors voted by placing three crosses against the names of the three candidates they preferred. After 1918 the anti-Labour Government then in power altered the method. It decided that it would be in the interests of its political organization to have a socalled preferential election. In actual practice, this method, proved to be very little different from the “first past the post “ method. . In Australia the anti-Labour forces are divided into certain groups, whereas the Labour forces are a consolidated mass of electors. The purpose of the new scheme adopted after 1918 was to give to electors a preference as between Country party and Nationalist candidates, but the aggregate of votes for those two groups of candidates becomes effective against the Labour candidates. Under the old system of voting by crosses, once a candidate dropped out of the count he dropped out permanently; but under the so-called preferential system, candidates do not drop out permanently. At a certain stage in the count their votes are again valid. In practice, the system gives a definite advantage to the anti-Labour parties. That, as a matter of fact, was the whole purpose of it. It was designed to hinder the Labour organization from securing a majority in the Senate. To operate our policy we must have a majority, not only in this House, but also in the Senate. For this reason, we consider that it would be a distinct disadvantage to our organization, and an unfair advantage to our opponents, in existing circumstances, if we were to agree to an alteration of the method of election to the Senate, the main principles of which have been in operation ever since the consummation of federation. Go vernments of many political complexions have been in office during this period, but no serious attempt has been made to make any fundamental alteration in the system of electing the Senate. The Government has given no indication whatsoever of any desire to adopt a system of more equitable representation in the Senate. Had it indicated that it desired to ensure the fair representation of minorities, and that it wished to alter the system to achieve that purpose, we should have known where we stood. I challenge it to declare in clear terms what its real intentions are. Does it desire to give representation to minorities? As things are, the Labour party believes that it will have a distinct advantage at the next general election, for it will need to secure only a few of the seats on that occasion to have a majority in the Senate after the election. “We believe that the Government is making these proposals at this stage in order to destroy the advantage which the Labour party now holds.
– Does the Labour party believe in dividing the States into electorates for Senate purposes?
– We do not. We fear that if that be done the States will be divided so as to group the majority of the Labour voters in one electorate, and leave the other electorates with a slender majority of anti-Labour voters. If any redistribution of that kind he agreed to, methods characteristic of the redistributions carried out in certain States will be followed, with the result that although Labour candidates might receive a majority of the votes cast, the Labour party will not have the majority of the members elected. We believe that the motive behind these proposals is to preserve, for the anti-Labour forces, the control of the Senate. We are opposed to any system which will deny control of the legislature to the majority of the voters. Minorities should be properly represented, but we do not believe that minorities should have larger representation than majorities. For this reason we shall, at the appropriate time, propose certain amendments to the motion.
The Government proposes that the committee shall consist of three members of the House of Representatives and three members of the Senate. If that were agreed to, it would probably mean that Labour would have one representative from the Senate and one representative from the House of Representatives, and would be in a minority of two to four. We intend to propose that the representation of the House of Representatives shall be increased to five, and the representation of the Senate to four. We quite realize that, notwithstanding the favorable results achieved by the Labour party at the last Senate elections, the Government would not concede what we regard as our moral right to a majority of Senate representatives on the committee. We recognize that the Government will desire to control the committee. However, we are firmly of the opinion that, if we cannot have a majority of the Senate representatives, to which we consider we are entitled, we should at least have equal representation with the Government parties. If five members of the House of Representatives are to be appointed to the proposed committee, we think we should nominate two of them, and the anti-Labour parties two, leaving it for the Government to appoint the chairman. On that basis the Government parties would have five representatives and the Labour party four. We are definitely not prepared to accept the proposal as it stands, but we are willing to join, under fair conditions, in making an exhaustive inquiry into the whole method of election for the Senate, on the distinct understanding that we shall not be a party to any agreement or undertaking which is designed to take away from the majority of the electors, the right which Ave believe they should possess, to control the business of Parliament in both Houses. Under the present method of Senate elections, it is possible for the majority of the people to approve of a particular party at an election, only to find that, because only half of the members of the Senate retire at each general election, the will of the people may be frustrated. That has happened on many occasions, and it has enabled anti-Labour parties, which have lost the confidence of the people, to prevent the Labour party from giving effect to the policy which has received the endorsement of the people.
The Labour party will support any proposal which will make the continuance of such a state of affairs impossible. We believe, of course, that the Senate should be entirely abolished.
– That would require an amendment of the Constitution.
– I recognize that that is not the subject which is now under consideration. I merely wished to make our position clear. It appears that the Senate will continue for some time to come. That being so, Ave believe that Senate elections should be conducted under a system which will ensure that the majority of the people shall be able to put into that chamber a majority of members, so that the policy approved by the electorate may be carried into effect. I hope the Government Wil accept the suggestions that I have made for the enlargement of the proposed committee. If it does so, the Labour party
Will participate in the inquiry, and consider all proposals that are brought forward to achieve .the desired end. We are opposed to the motion as it stands.
– I favour the setting up of a committee, as proposed by the Government, to make recommendations for the improvement of the method of electing the Senate. Any one who gives a moment’s thought to the subject must realize that something should be done to improve the present system, under which a party which gains not more than 51 per cent, of the total votes cast throughout Australia may win the whole eighteen seats at any normal election, whereas a party which may obtain 49 per cent, of the total votes cast may be left entirely without representation.
– The honorable gentleman did nothing to improve the position while it favoured his own side.
– That is not so. I have again and again raised my voice against a continuance of the present system, quite regardless of its possible effect on my own or any other party. I do not think any one can justly defend the present procedure. As things are, Ave have witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of a great political party choosing candidates for the Senate because their names begin with the letter “ A “.
– That is not true.
– It is true.
– If the chief qualification for candidature for a seat in the Senate is a name beginning with the first letter of the alphabet, our whole democratic system of elections will be brought into disrepute and ridicule. Under the existing system Abraham has an advantage; Zachariah is at a discount. A candidate’s chance of election should be the same whether his name begins with a Z or an A.
– Does the honorable member seriously think that that happened ?
– I am stating facts. Does the honorable member suggest that it was merely a coincidence that the four gentlemen who were selected by the Labour party to contest Senate vacancies in New South Wales at the last election had names which began with the letter A?
– A Government candidate whose name began with A withdrew from the contest.
– I am not blaming any particular political party for adopting such a system in the choice of its candidates. I only say that the policy of choosing candidates with names which begin with letters in the first part of the alphabet has been singularly effective in enabling that group of candidates to have precedence on the ballot-paper. In elections for the ‘Senate that is a tremendous advantage. A previous Minister of the Interior who introduced this measure said that two methods had been under consideration1; he referred to proportional representation, and also to a proposal to divide each State into three electorates. However, the proposed committee will not be limited to any .method that has been proposed in the past, but will be free to make to the Parliament any recommendations that it chooses. I have to admit that the system of proportional representation, as applied to elections for the Senate, has some attraction for me, because under it no great party would ever obtain more than two out of three seats, whilst no great party, which happened at the time of the election to be in a minority, would ever obtain less than one of the three vacant seats. Under proportional representation it would be for ever impossible for any one party obtaining a comparatively narrow majority of the votes to win every vacant Senate seat. That, at least, would be put right. When the framers of the Constitution laid down certain general principles in connexion with Senate elections, they inserted a provision that senators should sit for a longer term than they provided for members of the House of Representatives. The Constitution provides that at the end of three years onehalf of the senators for each State shall retire, the other three to hold office for a further three years. As I understand it, the object was to obtain some degree of stability so that there could never be a complete over-turn of senators at any one election. There would be a greater degree of stability under proportional representation than under the existing system, for the reason that a particularly able and strong man, irrespective of the political party to which he belonged, would have excellent prospects of election, even though he were the only representative of his party, whereas to-day, under the existing system, Senate candidates are absolutely at the mercy of the latest political tidal wave. Able though the candidates in a group may be, should the political party to which they belong be under a cloud at the time of the election, all three must be defeated, and others will be elected. That would be virtually impossible under proportional representation, for under that system, no great party could obtain more than two of the three vacant seats in each State, nor could any other great political party fail to secure one representative for each State in the Senate. The absurdity of the present system can be made clear by an illustration. Let us suppose that an honorable member who wishes to carry out a business transaction with a shopkeeper is treated in the same way as an elector is treated under the existing system of election for members of the Senate. Let us imagine that be enters a shop with the intention to purchase a hat, costing, say, 25s. He tenders £2 and naturally expects to receive, in addition to the hat, 15s. in change. He would be greatly astonished if the shopkeeper offered him, not only his hat, but also the £2 back which he had presented in payment for it. Let us suppose, further, that he takes the shopkeeper seriously, and that he buys another article priced at 25s., for which be again presents the £2 which he offered when he bought the hat. Should the return of the whole sum be repeated a second time, he would believe that he was in fairyland,- and certainly not in this hard matter-of-fact world. Yet that is precisely what happens to-day under the electoral system which operates in connexion with Senate elections. A political party places the votes at its disposal on the electoral counter in order to secure a certain measure of representation in the Senate. Under proportional representation, some of those votes would ‘be definitely expended in electing one candidate, and the party would get back a certain amount by way of change. If the change were sufficient to entitle it to a second candidate, well and good; it would get a second representative. But it would not receive back the whole of its votes, undiminished in strength, with which to elect another candidate. Under proportional representation any votes over and above the number required to elect one senator - the change, as it were - would go towards the election of another senator. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that any change from the present system would be a disadvantage to the party to which he belongs. I can only say that, if proportional representation were adopted, it would be a mathematical certainty that the party to which the honorable member belongs would have a majority after the next election, unless there was a double dissolution. Fifteen of the sixteen sitting members of the Labour party in the Senate will retain their seats beyond the term of this Parliament, and under prc- portional representation, the Labour party, even if it were under a cloud at the time of the next election, could not fail to gain six more seats.
– Would the honorable member vote for proportional representation under those conditions?
– Another system which has been advocated is that each State should be divided into three divisions, each of which would return two representatives to the Senate; one of the two would retire at the end of three years, the other retaining- his seat for six years. I believe that that system has a good deal to commend it; it is, at least, worthy of careful consideration ‘by the committee which it is proposed to set up. The honorable member for East Sydney endeavoured to envisage what would happen in the event of a double dissolution. In such circumstances, I am of the opinion that proportional representation would result in a stalemate. When that system is applied to an even number of candidates - and the Constitution provides for six representatives from each State - it would almost certainly result in three Labour candidates and three non-Labour candidates being elected for each State, thereby giving 18 Labour and 18 non-Labour senators in a chamber of 36 members. I have endeavoured to direct attention to the good points associated with proportional representation, but I fear that it would not work out well in the event of a double dissolution. The system works better where there is an odd number of candidates than when there is an even number. If the number of senators seeking election for each State were odd the system would work satisfactorily, for then, even with the parties fairly evenly matched, the result must be that the slightly stronger party will secure the extra seat. Had I known that this motion would be brought forward this afternoon, I should have come better prepared to discuss’ it; as it is, I have been taken somewhat unawares. I can say, however, that I favour the proposal to set up a committee, and I emphasize that such a body will only make recommendations; the Parliament will have to decide whether it will adopt or reject such recommendations.
In my opinion, a very useful purpose may be served by the proposed investigation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lazzarini) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
In committee: (Consideration resumed from page 55) :
Postponed clause 7 (Relations of visiting forces to the civil power and civilians).
.- Having received an undertaking from the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) that he will propose a new clause which will meet the points raised by the Opposition, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
– In conformity with the undertaking given to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) I move that the following new clause be inserted : - 11a. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize any service court of the United Kingdom or of a dominion to impose on a member of a visiting force in respect of any offence any penalty exceeding the penalty to which a member of the defence force would under the law of the Commonwealth be liable for a similar offence.
I am advised that this clause meets the objections raised by the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan).
– Why strike out “ or service authority “ ?
– I am informed that the words are redundant.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Election of Senators: Electoral Expenses of Members of the House of Representatives.
.- This motion, which was submitted by the former Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen), might well be regarded as a proposal to appoint a committee to devise ways and means to defeat the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box. Whenever governments comprised of honorable members opposite in this or any other parliament of Australia have received a thrashing at the hands of the electors, they have always sought a way to thwart the popular will. There has been much talk this afternoon about the alleged undemocratic constitution of the Senate. The fact is that the procedure for electing the Senate provides for majority rule in exactly the same way as does the procedure for the House of Representatives. In this chamber, the majority, however slender, rules. If one candidate secures 22,500 votes at an election and another candidate gets 22,499 votes, the former is elected. There is no provision for representation of a minority. 1 recall the figures for the genera] election at the time” when the voters of Werriwa were so misguided as to reject me. Although on that occasion my total votes were 5,000 in excess of twice the number polled by the late Prime Minister in the division of Wilmot, he came back to this Parliament as Prime Minister, and I was defeated. Was that the expression of democratic rule? Hitherto I have not heard any honorable members protesting against that negation of democracy. Similar experiences have been recorded in other divisions of the various States. If Government supporters are honest in their attitude to this motion, and if they wish to establish democratic rule in its truest form - they should urge the “appointment of a committee to inquire into the whole of the Commonwealth electoral machinery. Such a proposal might have the support of the Labour party. It would, no doubt, require an amendment of constitution; but those who are continually bleating and talking about the defeat of democratic principles should be frank and be prepared to examine the electoral machinery for the House of Representatives as well as for the Senate. “We heard no talk of proportional representation for the Senate during all those years when the parties represented by honorable members opposite were being returned to that chamber with substantial majorities. Some one said, many years ago, that the Senate was a place where “ the hobnails of labour “ would never tread. The results of the last election proved that prophecy false. Now that the United Australia .party and the Country party are fighting as independent bodies, each, I suppose, feels that it is entitled to proportional representation. Possibly the Country party believes that it can win one or two more Senate seats.
I do not know whether the introduction of this scheme was part of an agreement arrived at before the coalition government was displaced by the present Ministry, or whether it is being brought forward now in’ order to retain the support of members of the Country party. The figures cited this afternoon by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) with regard to Senate elections could just’ as easily be used as an argument against the present system of voting for the House of Representatives. If Government supporters genuinely believe that our electoral system should be placed on a democratic basis, they should be prepared to consider an alteration of the whole of the machinery. The Minister who introduced the bill claimed that there was a substantial body of opinion in favour of dividing each State into three separate electorates.
– Quite right too.
– I should like to know where that substantial body of public opinion is. In the whole of my political experience, extending now over more than 20 years, I have never heard any one suggest that the States should be divided into three. It may have been mentioned during the Federal Convention, but many other proposals were also considered at that time. The original intention was that the Senate should be a States House ; that it should safeguard the States from unfair legislation which might be passed by the House of Representatives. If the States were divided into three it is conceivable that one section would return a Labour candidate, another a Country party representative, and the third one to represent the United Australia party. It would, however, be possible for Labour to get a majority of 20,000, 30,000, 40,000, or even 50,000, over its opponents in one section, and for the anti-Labour forces to get a majority of only 2,000, 3,000, or 4,000 in another. If these votes were taken in the aggregate, as they are now, Labour would probably obtain two seats in the Senate, whereas if they were separated, as has been suggested, Labour would secure only one seat. There is no widespread public opinion in favour of dividing the States into three, but there is definitely a growing opinion in favour of the abolition of the Senate, the uselessness of which has been demonstrated.
If the proposed committee were given authority to inquire into the state of public opinion regarding the Senate generally, some advantage might be gained from its appointment. The Labour party believes that the proper way to approach this question is to examine the whole system of majority rule as it exists in this Parliament. Despite the special pleading of the honorable member for Gippsland, no one can dispute the fact that under the present system there is absolute majority rule so far as the Senate vote is concerned. The honorable gentleman also spoke of the transfer value of votes. At present every elector in every State has three effective votes at ‘ a Senate election; his third vote is as effective as his first. The honorable member for Gippsland suggested that although three candidates might be offering, an elector should have only one effective vote, and in support of his argument he used a most confusing illustration of a man - probably a Scotsman - buying a new hat. I could find no analogy between his story and the method of voting for the Senate. Perhaps I am as slow in the uptake as the proverbial Scotchman.
– -The honorable member ought to know.
– If the honorable member had his way there would be no electors; he would “shoot them, bash their brains out against a wall, or throw them downstairs.”
Clause 3 of the motion reads -
If this committee were set up no doubt it would conduct it3 inquiries all over Australia, and, like many other committees and commissions, it would pile up the cost to the taxpayer by collecting voluminous evidence, which would ultimately find its way into the archives and never be read by any one. In its travels it would probably put up at a wayside hotel and ask questions of a s wagin an in the bar. It would, no doubt, also visit some of our tourist resorts, and to ensure that the Government obtained some value for its money, it would examine witnesses for an hour or so, and then spend the rest of the time seeing the sights. That has been going on for a long time. The archives of this Parliament are full of records of the proceedings of committees and commissions which have piled up heavy costs against the nation without achieving practical results.
When one takes a trip in a motor car one prefers an experienced driver, and, if it be necessary to amend the law with regard to Senate elections, this Parliament should have the courage to do it, because it has had long experience of the operation of that law. However, governments formed by the parties opposite have not had the courage to initiate legislation with regard to this matter. During my experience in- this chamber they have always shelved their responsibilities and “ sheltered behind commissions, committees and boards before giving effect to any proposals likely to disturb the public mind, or to cause violent political reaction. The people are tired of parliamentary government as carried out by the parties opposite. When I ask for the expenditure of public funds to provide increased postal facilities in my electorate, I am informed that all the money available is required for defence purposes. That being the position, there is no justification for the expenditure of thousands of pounds on an investigation such as that now proposed. The matter should be left in abeyance for the time being. In my opinion, there would be no justification for the appointment of such a committee at any time, because the elected, representatives of the people should deal with this Matter and take the responsibility for their action.
.- I had hoped to hear some concrete proposal by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) for the reform of the system of voting for the election of the Senate, but all I heard was an attack by him on his fellow members, and a suggestion that the proposed inquiry would result in unnecessary expenditure. My experience of committees appointed by this Parliament has not led me to form that opinion of my fellow members. I commend the Government for the present proposal, and my only criticism is that it has been delayed too long since the last election. I have heard nobody express satisfaction with the way in which the Senate elections are now conducted. After every election the press teems with criticisms of the present system, which is condemned by leader writers, newspaper correspondents, and public bodies alike. The present method does not give to the community confidence in this Parliament, and without such confidence this Parliament cannot function as it should. Reference to the debates at the conventions held prior to the establishment of federation shows that the present method of electing senators is merely provisional. Section 1 of the Constitution provides -
The Senate shall be composed of senators for each State, directly chosen by the people of the State, voting, until the Parliament otherwise provides, as one electorate.
That method has been varied only slightly. In the first instance, the vote for senators was recorded by a cross placed in a square opposite the name of each candidate and the candidate first past the post was declared elected. After 1918 the method was changed. The candidates were grouped according to the political parties they were supporting, and there was a compulsory exchange of preferences, but this system has not given results satisfactory to any section of the people.
The honorable member for Werriwa was unable to show that any body of public opinion favours the present system. In the original draft of the Constitution, it was proposed that senators should be directly chosen .by the people of the State voting as one electorate. Many notable Australians took part in the lengthy debates which occurred at the convention at the time, and finally a compromise was reached, because the States, or Colonies as they were then known, objected to the original proposal. They were in favour of proportional representation, and the subdivision of the States into single Senate electorates ; but that was not accepted by the Convention, and it was decided as a compromise that, until the Parliament otherwise provided, each State should vote as one electorate. For nearly 40 years this tentative method has been tested, and, by examining the records, we find that with 51 per cent, of the electors voting for the candidates of a particular party the whole of the eighteen senators to be elected at any one time may be returned .by that party, whilst 49 per cent, of the electors may possibly not return a single senator. Nobody in Australia can justify the continuation of such a system. The appointment of a select committee, representative of all parties in this House and in the Senate, would bo the ideal way in which to have this matter investigated. Such a committee would report its findings to the Parliament, but its recommendations would not be binding. The Parliament should have the considered opinion of such a committee of its fellow-members, after they had taken evidence and made the fullest inquiries.
– From whom would the evidence be taken?
– That matter would rest with the committee itself. I should have no hesitation in malting up my own mind as to what should be done, but I suggest that the recommendations of such a committee would be helpful in our discussion of the problem.
– Does the honorable member favour electorates for the Senate or the State voting as one electorate?
– The whole matter should be examined by the proposed committee. If I were to express a considered opinion on the matter, the honorable member would ask me why, having made up my mind, I was suggesting an inquiry by a committee. It seems to me that the present proposal does not go sufficiently far. In my opinion, the Senate should have wider powers and functions than it now has. It is not playing the part in the public life of Australia which it could and should play. After almost 40 years’ experience of Commonwealth activities, this National Parliament should now give consideration to the reform of the Constitution, so that, after an appeal to the people, additional powers may be secured.
The honorable member is going beyond the terms of the motion.
– I merely mention that that reform, like the proposal now before the House, has been too long delayed. In recent years we have witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of a political party selecting its Senate candidates because their names began with the letter A, thus enabling those names to be placed at the head of the ballot-paper. This was done at the last election by the Lang Labour party in New South Wales.
An examination of the names of sitting Senators will show that we are fast acquiring an A. B. C. Senate. A system which permits that to happen cannot give confidence to the people, and the sooner a reform of the method of voting for senators is effected the better it will be for the Parliament as a whole.
– This motion is fraught with grave dangers and difficulties, and has all the elements required for the introduction into our democracy of the gerrymandering of electoral boundaries, and changes in election methods at a time and in a manner favorable to the parties which happen to be in power. The worst feature of the proposal is that members of Parliament themselves would form the select committee which would determine the method to be adopted.
– The committee would merely submit a recommendation.
– But the recommendation would come from a committee comprised of members of this Parliament. This would not be fair, because on the committee would be a majority representative of the party which happened to be in power. The party now in power would be in a position to put the recommendation of the committee into effect at a time which would best suit itself. The recommendation would be determined on party lines, and the Opposition would have no opportunity to have effect given to its views. The present system has ‘been in vogue since 1919. Almost from the inception of federation, defects in the system of voting for the Senate were discovered. At one election almost 100 per cent, of one party’s nominees would be elected, and on the next appeal to the people the pendulum would swing to the other extreme. It is difficult to recall a period of any length when we had anything like a balanced upper cham’ber. However, no attempt was ever made to straighten out this tangle when the results were suitable to the party now in power. We know that history repeats itself in this respect. All of us are aware of the periodical swing of the political pendulum. Time alone seems to work this out ; it is something apart altogether from politics. To-day it is obvious to every Australian that unless something extraordinary occurs to interrupt this cycle a sweeping change in -the party representation in this Parliament will take place within the next few years. Therefore, this proposal is brought along by this Government, a dying government, which has had to gamble and barter in portfolios for the last three or four years in order to retain power.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– This Government is now seeking to discover another method of electing the Senate in order to save itself from the landslide which is bound to take place in the near future. If a change is essential, if all of us come to the conclusion that the present system is wrong, that the electoral boundaries are wrong, and that the pioneers of federation made a mistake when they decided that a certain number of senators should be elected on the aggregate vote in each State - and I do not think they were wrong, because to me it seems to be the most democratic system they could evolve - well, then, let us refer the problem to an impartial body for investigation, and not to a committee which will virtually he a government body in that the Government will have a majority of the representation on it. If we adopt this motion we shall, in effect, refer the matter to a committee which will already have its mind made up in favour of the Government before it even begins its deliberations. This proposal cannot be described as fair, reasonable, logical or scientific. Despite the proposal that two or three members of the Opposition shall be appointed to the committee, this is a purely party manoeuvre. The deliberations of the committee will develop into arguments between the representatives of the three parties, because the representation on the committee will be apportioned on party lines. The Country party will be given two or three representatives and the Labour party a like number, hut the Government will have a majority because everybody knows that there are really only two parties in this House. Everybody can now see through the thin veil of pretence that there are three parties in this Parliament. However, on paper it is handy to have a third party so that the Government oan allocate representation on a committee of this kind on the basis of three parties, knowing all the time that the voting will be on the basis of two parties. I oppose this proposal, lock, stock and barrel. I have no objection, however, to seeking advice from an impartial body as to a better method of electing the Senate, but to ask this Parliament to appoint a committee of this kind, on which the Government will be assured of a majority of votes, is to insult the intelligence of honorable members on this side of the House.
– Any proposal which deals with the election of the Senate must be of vital importance to the small States, and, therefore, I intend to make a few observations on this matter. I do not suggest for one moment that a select committee, or a joint committee as is proposed in this instance, would not be able to conduct a very detailed inquiry into the method of electing the Senate, but after the committee had sat for, perhaps two or three months, I should be extremely interested and surprised, if it were able to produce any proposal which would contain a novelty in the way of electoral methods, and I should be still more surprised if it were able to arrive at a unanimous recommendation in regard to so important a matter as the election of the Senate. I am bound, therefore, to regard any proposal of this description as one which is likely to produce at least two reports. Practically every method of election that we can think of has been tried out. At present the Senate is elected by the. famous Chinese puzzle method. In other parts of the world they have what we know as the “ Mary Ann “ ballot. We have not yet tried that system here, but, perhaps, some of our friends opposite may some day want to try it. It has been tried rather successfully in certain parts of the United States of America. One honorable member referred to the fact that in New South
Wales the qualification for election to the Senate is that a man’s name shall start with the letter A. In South Australia candidates have succeeded because their names start with Mac. Pour out of the six honorable senators representing that State have that qualification. Thus, New South Wales is. not alone in exploiting alphabetical advantages.
This matter is of very vital importance to the small States. Many members of both chambers think that a satisfactory solution of this problem would be secured if we were to divide each State into three electorates. That is the most awful proposition of the lot. It is even worse than the present method. I shall not stand for a method by which at each appeal the election of six senators would be absolutely controlled by the six metropolitan cities of Australia, or a method by which election would be determined not by the electors in Senate electoral districts, but by a party decision in the State concerned. The framers of the Constitution had a very definite objective in view in constituting the Senate as they did, and, I am sorry to say, Ave have got a long way from the ideal they set up. I believe that the only sane and sensible method of electing the Senate is by proportional representation, under which every party, provided it Avas of sufficient importance as a Statewide body, would get representation according to its strength. It was never intended that small factions should receive representation in the States House of this Parliament. The House of Representatives is elected on a district basis, and it Avas the intention of the framers of the Constitution that small bodies of opinion which might be confined to rather limited geographical areas should be represented in this chamber. The question of State representation, however, is another matter. It is expected that in the other chamber Ave shall have men of experience and judgment, and, preferably, men who have had experience in the parliament of the State which they aspire to represent. I am afraid that in some cases we have fallen away from those ideals. I do not see that the proposal before the House will produce a solution. We can inquire into the problem ; we can inquire into anything on earth; but having appointed a committee of inquiry to hear the multifarious views and investigate all the methods of electing the Senate that could be put forward - including even the proposal that the ballot-paper should be in the shape of a cart wheel, every name starting from the hub, in order to get over the present difficulty of precedence on the paper, it is too much to expect the party representatives on the committee to arrive at a unanimous decision. Even then the matter would have to be referred back to the executive of the day to bring down a measure to give effect to the committee’s findings. I think that every honorable member realizes that there is no necessity to appoint a joint committee to tell us how we should vote in respect of the method of electing the Senate. We have already made up our minds on that point, and I should say that very few of us have not devoted some time to the study of election methods. Therefore, all the labour and burning of midnight electricity by any committee which might.be appointed will not produce anything very much in the way of enlightenment for honorable members of this chamber. There ate many ways in which money could be better expended and many avenues in which human endeavour could be better exerted than by going on with this proposal. I do not propose to vote for it because I do not think that it is necessary. It is a matter for the two chambers themselves to decide. The Government, having made up its mind in favour of a certain proposal should introduce a bill to give effect to it. In that way we should get the decision which we should ultimately have to come to even after a .committee had investigated the problem. This is a matter which, I suggest respectfully, might be held over for a little while.
– I agree with the suggestion put forward by honorable members on this side that this matter should be postponed, and I was glad to hear the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) express a similar view. However, in case the House should decide to proceed with the inquiry I propose to move an amendment which will provide a better method of representation than that which is embodied in the motion now before the House. I want to refer to another aspect of representation. To-day the Senate represents considerably more electors than was the case when it wa3 inaugurated. In 1903, 36 senators represented a total of 1,893,586 electors. Since then the number of electors has increased, and I suggest that the number of electors represented by individual senators warrants re-examination. One remedy provided for in the Constitution, and one which I think is desirable, is that the number of senators may be increased. In 1920 the number of electors represented by senators jumped to 2,760,216, in 1925 to 3,302,016, in 1934 to 3,902,677 and on the 31st March, 1938, to 4,093,576. Thus, to-day, we have 36 senators representing more than twice as many electors as was the case in 1903, whilst it is estimated than in 1941, when the next general election will be held in the ordinary course of events, 4,250,000 electors will be represented by senators. What applies to the Senate in this respect applies also to the House of Representatives, because in 1903 the average number of electors represented by each honorable member in this House was approximately 26,000 whereas at the last general election it was nearly 57,000. I submit that to-day individual members of both this chamber and the Senate are obliged to represent far too many electors to be able to do the work effectively. I do nOt think that any honorable member in this House, particularly any one who represents ‘ an industrial electorate and is in close touch with his constituents, will claim that he is able to handle effectively all the various matters brought forward by the electors whom he represents nominally. There are weighty arguments in favour of deferring the proposed inquiry, but if the House decides to proceed with it, I have an amendment to move. I do not put it forward in a frivolous spirit merely for the sake of suggesting something different from that which the Government proposes. I am sure that many honorable members on the Government side believe that better representation should be afforded. The present proposal provides that three members of the House of Representatives shall be appointed to serve on the committee. Under such an arrangement the Opposition in this House would have only one representative on the committee, while the Government would have two. That would not be in proportion to the strength of the parties. At the present time, in a House of 73 members, the Opposition has 29, while the Government parties make up the remainder. I suggest that the number of representatives on the committee should be increased, and to that find I move -
That the word “ three “, paragraph 2, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ five “.
If that be agreed to I shall then propose that the Senate shall have four representatives - two from the Government and two from the Opposition - making a total committee of nine, instead of seven. At the last Senate elections 53 per cent, of the electors voted in favour of Labour candidates. I understand that my proposal has received some consideration from members on the Government side of the House, and that there is no real objection to increasing the number on the committee. Even if the number of appointees from the House of Representatives were increased to five, the Government would still have a majority on the committee. The Government would have three representatives from the House of Representatives, and the Labour party would have two. Each party would have two representatives from the Senate, making nine in all, of which the Government would have five representatives and the Labour party four. For my part, however, I am not convinced that there is any need for this committee. My personal view is that I would prefer to have a committee appointed to examine the whole subject of representation, not only as it concerns the Senate, but also as it affects the House of Representatives. Our object should be to ensure that Parliament shall be able to do its work in an effective way.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Spender) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill he now read a second time.
This bill is introduced in order to remove some doubts that have arisen in regard to the validity of dealings in land in the Australian Capital Territory, and to alter certain provisions in relation to the commencing date of ordinances. The leasing of land in the Territory is carried on by virtue of powers conferred by ordinances made under the provisions of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1933. During the life of the late Federal Capital Commission there was no question as to the validity of these ordinances, as all lands in the Territory were vested in the commission and ceased, therefore, to be the property of the Commonwealth. After the commission was abolished these lands once more vested in the Commonwealth which, in its dealings with land, is bound .by the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1936. Whereas the provisions of this act are suitable for dealing with ordinary lands within a State of which the Commonwealth is the registered proprietor, it was not designed to apply to the position which has arisen in the Australian Capital Territory, where the Commonwealth is holder of the sovereign rights, and is required to implement a land policy and operate a system involving the granting of original titles. The ordinances developed during the life of the Federal Capital Commission provide the proper system for doing this, but the Attorney-General has now indicated that there is some doubt as to whether such ordinances are valid, in view of the application of the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1936, to the Commonwealth.
As the integrity of lease-hold titles in the Territory is of great importance, it is a vital matter that there shall be no uncertainty in relation to them where dealings in land have occurred under the terms of the several ordinances, either through the Minister or by the commissioner for housing. This bill has, accordingly, been designed to remove any such doubts, and to validate, if necessary, any transactions that have occurred since the abolition of the Federal Capital Commission in 1930.
In regard to the commencing dates of ordinances, it should be explained that a practice has grown up providing that an ordinance shall take effect from a date fixed by notice published in the Gazette, subsequent to the gazettal of the ordinance itself. The question has been raised as to whether this is adequate compliance with the provisions of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1933, which require that an ordinance shall take effect from the date of its notification in the Gazette, or from a later date specified in the ordinance. The existing practice is convenient as it gives time, where required, after the gazettal of an ordinance, to complete regulations or other machinery involved in its working before actually fixing the date of its operation. It is, therefore, desirable to make legal provision according1 v. and also to validate the commencing dates of any ordinances brought into force in the past in the manner indicated.
Another amendment in this regard is designed to admit of an ordinance being made, and having a commencing date prior to the date of its notification in the Gazette. This is at times desirable, especially when an ordinance has been drafted to remedy some long-standing difficulties or anomalies; some such cases may not he rectified if the terms of the ordinance cannot be made to apply prior to the date upon which it was gazetted.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
This bill has for its main object the clearing up of doubts as to the validity of grants of land and leases of land made under the ordinances of the Northern Territory. Since the abolition of the Northern Australia Commission, the lands of the territory have again vested in the Commonwealth which, in its dealings with land, is governed by the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1936. At the same time, various ordinances dealing with land administration of the territory have continued in force, and the Attorney-General has indicated that there is some doubt as bo whether their provisions are valid in view of the position under the Lands Acquisition Act. Authority is given, under section 57 of the Lands Acquisition Act, to the Attorney-General to execute instruments and documents in relation to land to which the Commonwealth is a party. Under the ordinances of the Northern Territory, such instruments and documents have been executed by authorities other than the Attorney-General, and the validity of such instruments and documents may, therefore, be open to question.
In order that no doubt whatever may be thrown upon transactions in relation to land in the Northern Territory, this bill makes provision for a suitable amendment of the Northern Territory Administration Act 1910-1933, by excluding them from the operation of the Lands Acquisition Act in regard to their disposal and the execution- of instruments and documents relating thereto.
In addition to providing definitely for future dealings in land to be undertaken in accordance with the ordinances and regulations of the territory, it is also thought necessary to declare valid all grants and leases that have, already occurred under the existing laws of the territory, so that all doubts as to the propriety of action taken may be removed, and the effectiveness of documents and agreements placed beyond question.
Another purpose of the bill is to make provision in regard to the commencing dates of ordinances. It has become customary to provide that an ordinance shall take effect from a date fixed by means of a notice in the Gazette, and the question has arisen as to whether this is sufficient compliance with the requirements of the Northern Territory Administration Act 1910-1933, which stipulates that an ordinance shall take effect from the date of its notification in the Gazette, or from a later date specified in the ordinance. The existing practice is convenient, and allows time after the gazettal of an ordinance to complete machinery for its operation, if desired, before actually fixing the date upon which it comes into force, and it is therefore considered desirable to make legal provision for - this procedure, and to validate the commencing date of any ordinances brought into force in the past in the manner indicated.
The amendment in this respect also contemplates giving authority for the making of ordinances having a commencing date prior to the date of notification in the Gazette. This is often needed for adjustments of difficulties and for equitable reasons, especially where an ordinance has been made to rectify a longstanding grievance or an anomaly; the rectification of a particular case is notpossible in some instances unless the ordinance has a retrospective operation.
The remaining amendment, which is purely formal, is for purposes of correct citation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short measure, which has come from the Senate, to improve the administrative machinery of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and to remove some anomalies which experience in the administration of that body has revealed. Honorable members will be aware that a decision was reached some time ago to extend the scope of the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to cover “problems relating to secondary industry. The main purpose of this measure is to provide for representation of secondary industry on the council. When the council was constituted in 1926, provision was made for the establishment of committees in each State to provide the council with a Commonwealthwide service of advice. These committees comprise representatives of State governments, of industry, and of science. Under existing arrangements, each committee can be represented on the council only by its chairman or, if the chairman does not happen to be available, by its vice-chairman. The committees, thus, at present are each directly represented on the main council by only one individual. This representation proved quite adequate when the council’s activities were confined in the main ro the problems of primary industry. Expansion of its activities into the realm of secondary industry will necessitate “some enlargement of the council to include one representative of primary industry and one representative of secondary industry from each State committee. Other amendments included in this bill are of a machinery character, and do not affect the main structure of the act. They are amendments which have become desirable as a result of experience in administration.
Briefly, the purpose of this measure is to amend the act in four respects : -
First, to reconstitute the council in order to obtain adequate representation of secondary industry. With this object in view, it is proposed that the chairman and vicechairman of each .State committee shall be members of the council, one to be representative of primary industry and the other of secondary industry.
Secondly, to give the council power to acquire property by purchase.
Thirdly, to appoint permanent staff without necessarily prescribing all the conditions of employment.
Fourthly, to empower the council to employ’ casual and temporary employees for periods of not more than twelve months without ministerial approval.
I have explained the purposes of the fi,rst amendment. “With regard to the second, as the act stands at present the council has power to acquire property by gift, grant, or bequest, subject to the approval of the Minister, but, through an oversight the word “ purchase “ was omitted from the act. In point of fact, the council has exercised this authority since it came into being. Property, equipment, stores, &c, have been purchased ‘by the council to enable it to discharge its functions. The power to make these purchases has not been questioned by the Auditor-General, but the purchase of fixed property, such as land, buildings, &c, has been questioned. The purpose of the amendment is, therefore, to place the matter on a proper statutory basis.
In connexion with the third amendment dealing with the appointment of permanent officers, the act provides that they shall be engaged for such periods and shall be subject to such conditions as are prescribed. This bill renders optional the prescription of conditions, the words “or as the council, with the approval of the Minister, determines “ being added to the original provision. Honorable members will appreciate that the work carried out by officers of the council is very diversified and highly specialized. It is very desirable. therefore, that there should exist a certain amount of flexibility in regard to the terms and conditions under which these officers are employed. There are entomologists following the course of varied problems, in respect of which it is difficult, if not impossible, to lay down any definite conditions of employment; similarly there are research workers on problems of animal health, plant economy, cool storage, and so on, where conditions of employment must be regulated in accordance with the progress of experiments. In a number of cases it is necessary to send officers overseas to search for predators for pests in Australia; to investigate problems shared in common with other countries; to conduct research where special facilities are available for the purpose, and generally to maintain contact with scientific research throughout tie world. It is quite impossible to prescribe conditions which would be applicable to all the varied circumstances connected with the employment of these officers. Salaries of officers have, however, been prescribed by regulation, and. it is proposed shortly to submit to Parliament regulations covering other main conditions of employment such as recreation leave, sick leave, furlough, travelling allowances, &c, which will correspond closely with regulations under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. I assure the House that the council does follow very closely Public Service conditions, a.nd it deviates from Public Service practice only in exceptional circumstances. Regulations already issued under the act provide that officers shall be engaged for such periods, and shall be paid such salaries and allowances, and shall be subject to such conditions as the council, with the approval of the Minister, determines. These regulations are inconsistent with the principal act, and the purpose of the amendment now proposed is to regularize the matter.
In regard to the fourth amendment, the council has not hitherto had power to employ temporary or casual employees without the prior approval of the Minister. It frequently becomes necessary to take on employees of this kind when dealing with investigations. Such matters as the handling of fruit in connexion with cold storage, fruit picking at the dried fruits station at Merbein, and the planting out of tobacco seedlings or other kinds of seedlings in connexion with plant investigations all call for temporary and casual labour. In addition it is often necessary to employ at short notice for short periods such persons as typists, telephonists, messengers, caretakers, watchmen, office cleaners, &c. The present machinery is cumbersome and it is now sought to improve it.
The results of the work which has been carried out by the council are already well known to the House. The investment in research which Australia has made through the council has paid princely dividends and the improvements in production have benefited producers, consumers, and the nation as a whole. To mention in passing only a few of ite accomplishments, I would refer honorable members to its successful approach to problems in connexion with blue mould in tobacco, black disease in sheep, chilling of beef for export, and the production of paper from Australian hardwoods. The amendments contained in this measure are sought by the council to improve the efficiency of its administration. I commend the measure to the House, confident that members will warmly support every step to facilitate the work of a body which is giving great and valuable service to Australia.
.- I congratulate the youthful Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) on the introduction of his first measure. If all the bills he introduces into this House are of the same non-contentious nature, he will have a happy time as a Minister. As this bill gives effect to a decision made some time ago to extend the scope of the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, it has the support of the Opposition. Its main purpose is to give representation on the council to secondary industries as well as to primary industries. Primary industries have enjoyed this concession for a considerable time, and I think that the representation of secondary industries is a reasonable improvement.
– And just.
– Yes, it is a just provision. I have always appreciated the work of the council. It has in its employ some highly skilled scientists who have done great work, particularly on behalf of primary industries. I hope that in the future, work will be extended to secondary industries with equal success. The journal which the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research publishes from time to time is highly interesting, and I believe that it is much sought after by primary producers who believe in the scientific improvement of their industry. I hope and believe that its sphere of usefulness will be expanded concurrently with the widening of the scope of the council. The other amendments are of a machinery character and have been fully explained by the Minister.
– I join with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) in supporting this measure. Everybody agrees that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is one department of the Commonwealth Government’s activities which is serving a useful purpose, and is giving adequate results to the public for the money-
– Little money.
– Yes, the little money expended on it. I agree that if we cannot do it now we should, at the earliest opportunity, give further aid to the operations of this body. I was associated with it when I was a Minister for a short period, and I know most of the staff. For them I have the greatest respect and ‘admiration. There is a lesson to be learned from the work that they are doing, and it is my duty to put before the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) and other members of the Government the other side of the picture. All agree that the leaders of the staff have done wonderful work for agriculture, horticulture, and viticulture in Australia. They are just as expert as any other men in the world engaged in the same branches of scientific research. That fact has been admitted in Europe when our officers have been there. It could almost be said that they have made two blades of grass grow where only one grew before. We now propose to extend the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to secondary industries. We are right in doing so. I hope that the new activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will quickly help us to make Australia wholly selfsufficient. Such investigations will teach us more about rationalization and organization of industry, and how to prevent waste of materials, time and energy. Quickly and surely, science will make it more and more possible for the captains of industry in Australia to produce more with the expenditure of less energy, less time, and less and less human labour. This gets right down to the basis of the economic problem - the greatest problem of all in this and every other country - of what we shall do with our skilled and unskilled labour. No matter how much progress we make in other directions, we are hampered by the load of unemployed labour that we have to carry, because governments will not legislate to meet the changed circumstances, and alter the methods of rewarding labour and dealing with .the conditions under which it is employed. Those methods and conditions should change with greater momentum every month and year we live.
I congratulate the Assistant Minister on being where he is. I believe that his economic training has been in an uptodate school. He studied economics with what we call the “ red wing “ of the Melbourne University. I expected the honorable gentleman to become one of the most progressive members on the Government side of the House. If =he develops in this way, I am sure that his work will receive the approval of the Opposition. I ask him, however, to preserve a proper balance in his administration. ‘ While, on the one hand, it is proper that we should do our utmost to improve our methods of production, on the other hand it is desirable that we should reduce the hours of labour. On the last three or four occasions when representatives of Australia have participated in International Labour Conferences at Geneva, resolutions in favour of a shorter working week have been adopted. These have been implemented in many countries. It is high time for such action to be taken in Australia. It has been possible to reduce hours of labour because of the wonderful changes that have been effected, in production methods. We were all glad to hear the Assistant Minister say to-night that it would be necessary to increase the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and also enlarge its plant and the area under its control. The honorable gentleman also said that the employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, though not actually under the
Public Service Act, would be granted Public Service conditions, such as annual leave, and the like. That being so, I cannot understand why successive Ministers have flatly declined to grant annual leave to half a dozen or so skilled engineers, electricians and other workers in our own workshops who have been employed for terms upwards of twenty years in the Government service. I have asked three Ministers in succession to grant annual leave to these men and each has refused it. Seeing that such leave is granted to persons engaged in similar work in State government and semi-government institutions, and also to men employed in most big industrial undertakings run by private employers when they have an unbroken service of twelve months, it is difficult indeed to understand why employees in our own workshops should be refused th« concession.
I am glad that this bill has been introduced, and I give it my whole-hear te<3 support. I know that the Director of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is a wonderful man, and most conscientious in his work. I have seen some of the marvellous results which have followed the adoption in agriculture of improved methods recommended by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and I am delighted to think that the council is now to turn its attention to secondary industries. I repeat, however, that the Government should bear in mind the justice of granting better conditions to the workers so that they may enjoy some of the benefits that flow from the more rapid and easy methods of production now in vogue. These blessings should extend to all sections of the community, and there should not be any fear that in consequence of the adoption of new and better methods men and women may be displaced from their employment. I urge the Minister to pay close attention to the points that I have raised, and I sincerely hope that along with the adoption of improved production methods will come shorter working hours for the people, thus making such progress a blessing rather than a curse.
.- I congratulate the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) upon his elevation to the Cabinet, and also upon his introduction of this bill. I have been a consistent supporter of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I regret, however, that so far we have had jio indication that it is proposed to provide certain necessary research laboratories. I had hoped last year when we agreed to the expenditure of an additional £250,000 for research purposes that some of the money would have been devoted to the establishment of laboratories, but I have been amazed to learn that practically the whole of that amount has been swallowed up in capital expenditure. I hope that the Assistant Minister will be able to give us some information about the steps that are being taken to establish research laboratories.
– Provision is being made at present for the establishment of a standards laboratory in Sydney and an aircraft laboratory in Melbourne.
– Those are steps in the right direction.
I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Melbourne Ports refer as he did to Sir David Rivett, the Director of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Last January I had the privilege of listening to a lecture on “ Science and Society” which Sir David delivered at the Science Congress in Canberra. The lecture was reported in the press, but I wish to cite two or three paragraphs from Sir David’s manuscript which I feel sure will be of deep interest to honorable members. The lecturer said -
I am asked to open a discussion on the problem presented to-day by the relations between science and society. This’ is not the first discussion which this very serious topic lias evoked; nor will it be the last.
I suggest that we take for granted a great deal that has been said in the past and that will be repeated frequently enough in the future. Only a few minutes are available to me, and I shall assume that it is unnecessary to harrow your feelings at length by depicting the vile and filthy misuse that men are willing to-day to make of the control over nature, or rather (and more accurately) of that capacity to direct natural processes towards specific, chosen, purposes, which has been put into their hands by the patient, unselfish, intellectually honest labours of hosts of ordinary scientific workers, thousands of mediocrities and a few score of outstandingly brilliant leaders and path finders.
He went on to refer to members of parliament, and subsequently made a plea to scientific men to give service in the legislatures of the country. Seeing that Sir David made these remarks while still in the heyday of his career, and did not wait until he was about to retire before expressing his mind on the subject, I am sure that honorable members will admire his courage and assess his statements’ highly. In this connexion he said -
Is it not imperative then that men of science should themselves play a huge part in the adaptation of their own work to ensure the health, in the widest sense of the word health, not only of the specific community in which they live, but of tlie wider community which makes up the single unit of the human race?
Now I ask you for a moment to transfer your thoughts to the building near by where the rules governing* this Commonwealth are formulated, and to scrutinize the lists of the formulators Having done so, I beg you to repress sternly any desire to sneer at the capacity of- the elected members of our Parliament. One of many lessons I myself have learned in recent years is never more to indulge in jibes at our legislators. One marvels at their courage and deeply sympathizes with them in their difficulties; more need not be said.
I want to know whether, after scrutinizing that list, you can honestly say that scientific men are carrying their weight in this community. How many men with reputations as scientific workers, and as exponents of the scientific habit of mind, are to be found across there? Very few indeed!
There is one main way in which scientific men in Australia can effectively use their weight in relation to this problem of science and society. That is by the broadest minded of them getting right into the legislative and administrative arenas; facing squarely these difficult problems which at present we leave to the small groups of capable men that emerge from the large number of so-called elected representatives of the people; struggling on through a morass of conflicting interests, jealousies, human misunderstandings where laboratory principles and practices are of little direct avail - but where only the absolutely honest and straight attitude of the scientific man, supported by the best available knowledge, can be expected to indicate the right and proper road.
– Sir David Rivett is making a good speech for the honorable member.
– I am directing attention to his remarks because I believe that what he said will be of very deep interest to honorable members who had not the privilege of hearing his lecture or of reading a full report of it. The final paragraph to which I direct attention reads as follows : -
It is an unattractive prospect, and I know scores of so-called scientific men who had better stay where they are: but I know, and you know, many who, if they would, could help greatly in solving the practical problems which beset us on all sides in our social life, problems which science may help to solve or help to make still more difficult according to the manner of its application ; which means according to the manner of men who do the applying.
I sincerely hope that such scientific men as can do so will offer their services in the legislatures of this country. I also hope that those who find that they cannot do so will, at least, do their best to help any national planning authority that may be set up by the Government to provide scientific advice for those who need it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Glauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Appointment of officers).
– I join with other honorable members in giving general approval to this proposal to extend the scope of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but I also utter a word of caution. Some honorable gentlemen have waxed almost lyrical in their praise of certain officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. There is no doubt that excellent work has been done by the council in its investigations of primary production problems, but I point out that the chief executive officer of this organization is a chemist, and not an engineer. We must remember that fact when we consider the wisdom of authorizing the council to extend its operations to secondary industries. I concede that some distinguished engineers are associated with the council,- but numerous officers of tho Customs Department are well equipped to supply the information necessary to enable many of our secondary industries to he developed on more scientific lines. As with all government and semigovernmental activities, it is necessary to keep a watchful eye on the expenditure of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, for a huge outlay could easily he made by this organization.
– There is a little bit of outside political patronage.
– Last year an additional £250,000 was made available to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and I think we ought to exercise some caution on the taxpayers’ -behalf in authorizing other heavy expenditure. I am in favour of doing everything possible to encourage the adoption of scientific methods in industry, and I am glad that the investigations of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in connexion with the eradication of prickly pear by means of the cactoblastus and in regard to other matters have proved so effective. But State Departments of Agriculture are also carrying out experimental work of this nature. There should be the closest possible liaison between the council and Commonwealth and State departments engaged in these activities. The council is inclined to act independently of other departments, and I should be sorry to see any increased tendency to isolation. I suggest to the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) that whatever is done under the provisions of this measure should be done in close consultation with the Customs “Department. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs I rarely, if ever, received any offers of co-operation from the other departments, notwithstanding that the Customs Department frequently made available to them the services of its skilled officers. If the best results are to be obtained at the least cost, there must be greater co-operation between departments.
– This amendment does not increase the number of officers in any way, nor does it enlarge the scope for the appointment of officers bythe council. The effect is simply to deal with the conditions under which the officers now employed, and to be employed in the future, shall work. It is merely a machinery measure.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 10 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill- by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from the 7th December, 1938 (vide page 2841, vol. 158) on motion by Mr. Perkins (vide page 2820) -
– With the exception of a few items which have been included in Customs Tariff Proposals, No. 6 of the 7th December, 1938, for the purpose of removing anomalies in the tariff, the whole of the items appearing in the schedule are covered by Tariff Board reports which have been circulated to honorable members.
These proposals affect 97 items and subitems in the following manner : -
Some of the increases and decreases of the British Preferential Tariff are quite nominal, the proposed rates approximating the previous rates, less exchange adjustment. This schedule, in general, represents the results of Tariff Board recommendations submitted during 1938, and in practically every case the proposed British Preferential Tariff and Intermediate Tariff rates are the rates recommended by the Tariff Board ; the proposed General Tariff rates are slightly higher than the proposed Intermediate Tariff. This margin between the Intermediate Tariff and the General Tariff is made for the purpose of treaty making, and in the interests of those countries which have completed treaties with Australia and are entitled to most favoured nation tariff treatment.
The increases, on the whole, are in relation to goods the manufacture of which has recently been established in Australia or has been undertaken on a more extensive scale, and reflects the policy of the Government in giving encouragement to the extension of Australian industries. Goods of this class include -
Clothes washing machines, the demand for which in Australia is considerably increasing.
Weatherproof braided aerial cable.
Articles of cut glass.
Motion picture posters.
The secondary industries of the Commonwealth are consistently expanding, and each year a part of this story is told in the tariff schedules placed before this House. Although the extensions of industry reflected in any individual schedule do not appear to be outstanding, the cumulative effect of the encouragement given by the Government to the establishment of industries has been to accelerate and broaden the base of industrial development.
The output from Australian factories for the financial year 1937-39 was valued at approximately £502,000,000. This figure is a record, being 20 per cent, higher than the maximum figure recorded prior to the depression.
Most of the reductions are of a minor nature, ‘and apply to goods the manufacture of which has been well established in Australia for some years. The duties proposed have been found adequate by the Tariff Board after exhaustive inquiries. The proposed reductions reflect the increased efficiency in production. In effect, the Tariff Board has found in these cases that Australian costs of production more closely approximate overseas costs than was the case some years ago.
Our secondary industries were established for the purpose of satisfying the wants of the home market. To-day there is a fair export trade in their products. The Government is anxious to see this trade further developed, and believes that there is scope for such expansion.
The fact .that the older established industries can function satisfactorily with lower duties is a healthy sign; it may ultimately open prospects for a diversified export trade.
When the individual items come up for discussion, I hope to be able to supply honorable members with helpful information. I add that it is necessary for this schedule to be dealt with by both Houses by the Cth June.
The following papers were presented : - i
Munitions Supply Board - -Report for year 1937-38; together with Report of the Commonwealth Government Clothing Factory.
Postmaster-General’s Department - Twentyeighth Report, for the year 1937-38.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Treasurer’s Statement of combined accounts of Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank at 31st December, 1938, together with certificate of the Auditor-General.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Commerce - R. Brownell, C. S. Kentwell, P. D. M. Scott.
Interior - W. M. F. Gamble.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 31.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 28.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, Nos. 20, 27, 29, 30.
Prune Bounty Acts - Report on working of the Acts, together with return showing amount of bounty paid for 1935 and 1936.
States Grants (Fertilizer) Act (No. 2) 1938- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1939, No. 25.
War Service Homes Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 32.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 24.
House adjourned at 9.38 p.m.
The. following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Did the Prime Minister tender any advice to tlie British Prime Minister as to the advisability or otherwise of an agreement being entered into with Russia?
– The Commonwealth Government was kept fully informed of the negotiations taking place between the United Kingdom and certain countries, including Russia, to form a united front against aggression, and indicated to the United Kingdom Government its support of the efforts being made to this end.
National Co-ordinating Council for Physical Fitness.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answersto the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The Honorable Sir Frederick Stewart, Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services, chairman: the Honorable H. E. Holt; Mrs. Clarence Weber, M.L.A.; Sir Raphael Cilento; Brigadier F. P. Derham; Colonel W. H. Rockliff ; Dr. C. T. Madigan; Mrs. E. A. Waterworth; Mr. F. Buss; Mr. A. Curlewis; Mrs. F. J. Davey; and Dr. J. H. L. Cumpston. 3. (a) To act as a co-ordinating agency to ensure the improvement of the state of individual physical fitness throughout Australia on a national basis; (b) To co-operate with State governments, State departments, local authorities, and any State council for physical fitness for the following purposes : -
the high importance of right nutrition at all stages of growth and development;
Loans for Public Works.
Mr.Curtin asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
With reference to his reply to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition on the 3rd November, 1938, seeking the amount of loan money requested by the State governments for public works and the amounts allotted forcertain years, will he communicate with the State Premiers with a view to securing their permission to make available such particulars, and will he supply the information where a favorable reply is received?
s. - The honorable member’s request will be submitted to the Loan Council for consideration at its next meeting.
n asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice-
. How much hasbeen paid to approved societies to date under the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.£ 44,800 to 31st March, 1939.
Common wealth Loans.
Mr.Curtin asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The following table gives the information desired: -
It has been the invariable practice of the Treasury topubl ish particulars of subscriptions to loans only where the subscriber has given consent to publication. This question was accordingly referred to the Commonwealth Bank, which has advised that the Bank Board does not consider it to be in the public interest to disclose the amount of its subscriptions to individual loans, except when, in its opinion, special circumstances make it desirable to do so.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The amounts shown above in respect of both questions are exclusive of expenditure on works for Civil Aviation and Empire Air Mail purposes.
n asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Nominations have recently been received from accountancy societies for the appointment of an advisory panel to advise on the scheme of profit and costing control for the production of munitions by private industry in an emergency and it is hoped to announce the names of the members shortly.
n asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
It is impracticable to state at present what proportions of the foregoing amounts will be expended in each State, as the expenditure depends on the locality in which orders are placed for various items of plant which arc being obtained by public tenders, but for which final orders have not yet been placed.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he table, for the informationof honorable members, the whole of the report of the Inspector-General of the Australian Military Forces ( Lieutenant-General Squires) ?
– As the report contains information of a secret nature, it is not in the public interest, considered advisable to make the whole of the report of the Inspector-General available.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Two destroyers, Tribal class; (6) Twelve motor torpedo boats. (Special highspeed engines will need to be imported.) ; (c) Two escort vessels; and (d) Three seaward defence vessels.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– As the Wirraway type of machine has not yet been handed over for official tests, exact performance figures are not available, but there is no reason to believe that the maximum speed set down in the departmental specifications will not be attained. The specified figure is higher than that for somewhat similar type aircraft manufactured in tho United States of America and delivered to the United Kingdom Government.
Aeroplanes from Great Britain and America.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice. -
– It is considered undesirable to disclose the number of aircraft on order from. Empire sources. Such details would give a valuable lead to the aircraft productive capacity of the Empire, and possibly also the extent of aircraft reserves held. Information of this nature, taken together, is an indication of a nation’s air power. There is not the same objection to disclosing numbers of aircraft ordered from foreign countries, and this information has already been made available to honorable members. It may be added that a similar policy is maintained by the United Kingdom Government.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions ‘are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questionsare as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– This is a matter which is at present under the consideration of the Government.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he furnish a statement showing the ownership of B class broadcasting stations in the various States, and bring up to date the return quoted inHansard on the 25th August, 1937?
– The information desired by the honorable member will be made available as soon as practicable.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. I have seen the statements referred to.
y asked the Minister in charge of External Territories, upon notice -
Has the Government yet come to a decision as to the site for the capital of New Guinea?
– Pending completion of investigations that are to be made as to the possibility of a combined administration for the Territories of Papua and New Guinea with one chief administrative centre, it is not proposed that a separate site should be selected for the administrative head-quarters of the Territory of New Guinea.
y asked the Minister in charge of External Territories, upon notice -
When will work on the construction of the road between Salamaua and Wau be commenced ?
– Tenders for the construction of the road from Salamaua to Wau will be invited as soon as a detailed survey of the route is made. The Administrator recently visited Salamaua in connexion with the organization of the survey work, which will be expedited as much as possible.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
Canberra: Expenditure on Golf Club and Recreation Ovals.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 May 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390503_reps_15_159/>.