1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask theVice-President of the Executive Council whether the Government will, before the close of the session, bring in, and do its utmost to pass into law, a Bill to temporarily, pending the establishment of the High Court, confer on the State courts the needful powers to adjudicate on claims arising in connexion with the transferred services?
– The Government have already taken steps to introduce a measure which will give to the State courts jurisdiction to deal with all claims against the Commonwealth.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General when the uniform post and telegraph rates will come into operation?
– It is my intention at the present time to bring the Post and Telegraph Rates Act into operation on the 1st November.
– Idesire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council without notice -
– The action that has been complained of has been taken in accordance with the law. It has not been taken in any case in which it was considered unnecessary. I cannot promise, on behalf of the Government, that any such action as is suggested will be taken.
Senator DRAKE laid upon the table the following papers : -
Sittings of the Senate, and attendance.
Ordered to be printed.
Regulations under Excise Act and Beer Excise Act.
Sugar Regulation under Excise Act and Excise Tariff .
Additional Instructions to Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief.
Royal Assent reported.
– In order to enable me to bring before the Senate a question of urgent public importance, viz., the failure of the Government to provide any means to enable the seeking of legal redress against the Commonwealth, I move -
That the Semite, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 10.30 a.m.
I admit that the statement which has just been made by Senator O’Connor has, to a large extent, done away with the necessity for my taking this course. But, at the same time, I think it is only fair to Senator Drake that I should alford him an opportunity of making a statement which he has not been able to make, and which I have no doubt will relieve him in the estimation of a great many persons from the charges which have been made against him in the Parliament of New South Wales in connexion with what is very well known there as the Hannah case. Owing to some accident with the telephone wires, which ai-e under the jurisdiction, and I suppose are to be esteemed as the official property, of the Postmaster-General, a cab-driver wasseriously injured, his horse was killed, and his cab was damaged. Certain arrangements were made by which the Postmaster-General undertook, so far as he could, to permit the filial of the case for damages against the Government. The action was brought in the Supreme Court, and was defended by the Attorney-General of New South Wales on behalf of the Postmaster-General. The counsel representing the AttorneyGeneral took a point as to the jurisdiction of the court, and the Judge took another point, and finally decided that there was no process by which any citizen feeling himself aggrieved, and desirous of seeking redress against the Commonwealth, as represented by its Government, could proceed in any court. As that was the deliverance of a Judge of the Supreme Court, and as the matter has been referred to in both Houses of the State Parliament, and will, in the course of a day or two, be the subject of a very important public meeting, and, perhaps, a large display of enthusiasm and indignation, I think it is only right that a 45 i statement should be made by the PostmasterGeneral, with whom I have had no communication other than an intimation that I proposed to take this course, and even then that communication was made through Senator O’Connor. I am acting in no shape or way for the purpose of “playing jackal,” as the phrase goes, to the PostmasterGeneral. I bring forward the matter for two reasons. I think that the PostmasterGeneral has a right to put himself in a proper position before the public, who, in New South Wales at any rate, feel very indignant and greatly aggrieved at what is looked upon as a miscarriage of justice. I desire, primarily, to draw attention to the fact that, though the Government has been in existence for a year and nine months, less three or four days, and though Parliament, at its instance, has been manufacturing new crimes by the score - it is not necessary for me to refer to the different Acts - and conveying to the State courts the power of investigating and sheeting home charges which may be brought in respect of those new offences, the Government have been entirely quiescent in the matter of providing any similar method of redress for people who assume themselves entitled to compensation at the hands of the Commonwealth. There may have been, and may still exist, excellent reasons for the non-establishment of the High Court of the Commonwealth, and upon that point I do not desire to occupy any time. Probably it will occupy our attention next session. But while the Government have been careful to legislate so that the State courts can act against the citizens of the Commonwealth, they have taken no action of any kind, of which I am aware, to enable citizens of the Commonwealth to seek redress at the hands of the Government. I find a statement was made as to this case by the Attorney-General of New South Wales in the Legislative Council of that State ; and here I am not only speaking of the Attorney-General of New South Wales, but I am also speaking of the standing counsel for the Commonwealth Government. I learn from the official report of the proceedings of the New South Wales Parliament that the Commonwealth Government are paying, according to the Attorney-General of New South Wales, at least £1,000 a year for his action on their behalf in pursuing the citizens of that State. That is a statement made in both Chambers of the New South Wales Parliament, and apparently was not challenged by any Minister or by the Attorney-General himself.
– It is absolutely incorrect.
-Col. NEILD. - It is a very strange thing that this statement, when made by the Attorney-General of New South Wales, was not contradicted ; and that a Commonwealth Minister in this Senate should be left to contradict it now.
– I may tell the honorable senator that that is the amount paid to the Crown Solicitor of New South Wales for services rendered to the Commonwealth Government, not money paid into the private pocket of the Attorney-General.
-Col. NEILD. - But my honorable and learned friend will not deny the accuracy of the statement made by the Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales, who, I suppose, has full knowledge of the public funds of that State, that while the sums paid by the Commonwealth Government to the Crown Solicitor of New South Wales in respect of Commonwealth business eventually find their way into the consolidated revenue of the State, the sums paid to the Attorney-General of New South Wales as the counsel of the Commonwealth Government go into his personal pocket, and not into the consolidated revenue. I suppose my honorable and learned friend will not deny that.
– I should think that is self-evident.
-Col. NEILD. - Quite so. I find the Attorney-General of New South Wales - that is, the standing counsel, paid personally, and not officially, to represent the Commonwealth Government - stating in his place in the Legislative Council of New South Wales : -
He might mention that there were several large claims with respect to this State - that is New South Wales - which could not be pursued until the High Court was brought into existence.
Other speeches, and, perhaps, other parts of the speech of the Attorney-General of New South Wales, show that the words which I have quoted - “the High Court has been brought into existence” - may be varied to read, “ provision is made for the trial of suits against the Commonwealth in the courts of the different States.” It appears to me that the Commonwealth
Government has been strangely remiss in being in office for a year and nine months, and in being the only Government in any portion of the British realms - I might say the only recognised Government in the entire world - which has held itself to be an outlaw, to be outside the jurisdiction of any court in the world in regard to the seeking of redress on the part of any citizen. A lawyer might be able, perhaps, to find an excuse for such a state of affairs, for which I, as a layman, and as a public man of a quarter of a century’s experience, can find no excuse. It does seem to me that while the Government were busy manufacturing crimes, and passing legislation to enable the State courts to deal with offences against the Commonwealth, they should not have been remiss in providing exactly similar means, or in establishing a High Court, to enable citizens of the Commonwealth to seek legal redress at the hands of the Commonwealth administration where those citizens may consider themselves entitled to such redress. I have already said that the statement made on behalf of the Government this afternoon to the effect that the very complaint I am making is to be removed by the introduction of a short measure - which, in my view, ought to have been introduced many months ago - removes very largely indeed the basis of my complaint ; but my motion will afford the Postmaster-General an opportunity to relieve himself of the stigma which has been cast upon him by public speakers in other place’s, and in respect of which I believe that personally the honorable and learned gentleman is entirely entitled to our consideration and sympathy under the circumstances. Because, as I understand the matter, the Postmaster-General did all that was in his power to afford an opportunity for redress in the case to which I have referred. But the fact does remain that by some shuffling of the legal cards not only has the unfortunate cabman in Sydney been seriously injured, has had his vehicle smashed up and his horse killed by wires charged with electricity falling ; but the unfortunate man is practically ordered to pay the costs of the Postmaster-General in the action. I hope that the Postmaster-General, though he has obtained this decision in hisfavour, will not take any costs from the plaintiff. I do not know what the honorable and learned senator is going to say in his speech, but I hope to hear him say that he considers it is quite enough for the unfortunate man to have been seriously injured, to have had his cab smashed and his horse killed, and has to pay his own costs in these unfortunate proceedings, without having on the the top of all these misfortunes the Commonwealth Government claiming from him costs for his failure. I, therefore, with these fairly brief remarks on , thesubject-anditaffectsnotonlyNew South Wales, but every portion of the Commonwealth and every resident of Australia, be he a citizen or not, because any one transiently here would be unable to obtain redress under the existing state of affairs for any calamity which comes in his way at the hands of any servant of the Commonwealth Government - express the hope that the measure which the Vice-President of the Executive Council has mentioned this afternoon will soon be passed, and that the promise he has given on behalf of the Government will very soon find its fulfilment.
– I was not aware that the matter introduced by Senator Neild had been referred to in the New SouthWales Parliament.
– There have been lengthy debates about it.
– I do not read all the newspapers of the Commonwealth, and I have not had the pleasure of reading the debate in question, and perhaps I never shall have. I only mention the matter incidentally now in order that it may be perfectly understood that many points which have been referred to by the honorable senator are completely unknown to me, so that my remarks will have no reference to them. I can only speak with regard to the particular case which has furnished a peg for the honorable senator to hang his remarks upon. I know that a citizen of New South Wales had a claim against the Postal department in connexion with an accident. As to the merits of that action, of course, for very obvious reasons, I say nothing at all.
– Why do you not compromise it, and pay the man something ?
– Because there is a question of liability involved. It is the important question of whether the PostmasterGeneral or the Railways Commissioner for the State Government of New South Wales is liable. That is the real issue which had to be tried, and which, I presume, will at some time or other be tried. It was a principal concern of myself and this Government that the plaintiff in this action should not be prevented by any technical difficulties from pursuing his proper remedy, and instructions were given to counsel that no technical objections were to be raised on the ground of jurisdiction. I received from the solicitors to the plaintiff a letter asking me to make certain admissions, and those admissions were made on behalf of the PostmasterGeneral in the exact words that were proposed. When the matter came on for trial the Judge ruled that the court had no jurisdiction, and that the consent of the parties could not give it jurisdiction.
– The counsel for the Commonwealth Government nevertheless took the objection.
– I am informed that that objection was not taken by the counsel for the Commonwealth Government - that, so far as he was concerned, he raised no objection to the jurisdiction. But the Judge held that that consent did not give him jurisdiction to try the case. Clearly our counsel did not take the objection himself, because the Judge held that consent did not give the court jurisdiction.
– I suppose that counsel handed him the consent?
– Yes ; it was put in evidence.
– But the Judge held that the consent did not give him jurisdiction, and therefore declined to try the case. That is how the matter stands. With regard to all the rest of the honorable senator’s remarks, surely they have been met by the statement of my colleague the VicePresident of the Executive Council this afternoon that the Government intend tointroduce a Bill which will give the States courts jurisdiction in such cases. That I think is a sufficient answer.
– I think I can throw a little light upon this subject. I must say first that I think this attack, in the Senate, upon the Postmaster-General or upon the Ministry. is quite unnecessary, coming from the hon orable senator who has moved the motion for adjournment; because ifhehad studied his newspaper as carefully as he might have done, he would have read Mr. Bernard Wise’s very able explanation of the position in the New South Wales Parliament. In that statement Mr. Wise clearly set out the answer to the whole of the questions which have been raised by Senator Neild. I happened to be in Sydney at the time, and was very much interested in the case. The position appears to have been this : - That the attorney for the plaintiff endeavoured to set up a personal and individual liability on the part of the Postmaster-General to pay costs of the judgment if it went against him. That position Mr. Wise repudiated by the contention that the PostmasterGeneral certainly ought not to have thrust upon him the personal responsibility which was sought to be forced upon him as an individual, and not as Postmaster- General. Then, as far as the case was concerned, the Judge held that in the absence of a special Act giving federal jurisdiction to the State Courts - for which a provision exists in the Constitution - he had no right to try it. In that way the two apparently conflicting statements made here to-day can easily be reconciled. A great deal of nonsense has been talked in regard to the fees paid to the Solicitor-General and AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales. People seem to forget that these fees have to be charged in the accounts against the Government of New South Wales. The Commonwealth Government do not remain liable for them ; the State of New South Wales has to refund the amount, and therefore all the clamour on the part of the press and the public against the employment of the SolicitorGeneral and Attorney-General of New South Wales really amounts to nothing. It is only natural that the Federal Government should employ those gentlemen, because they are officials of the State, which has to compensate the Federal Government in turn. If any one refers to the accounts between the State and the Commonwealth he will see how the matter works out. There is another point to which I wish to allude, and that is that it is a misfortune that any one in the position of Senator Neild should encourage the idea that the Commonwealth is hostile to the States, and that the Commonwealth Government goes out of its way in employing a State official to pursue an action against an’ inhabitant of that State.
-Col. Neild. - I did not say a word on that point.
– The honorable senator did not absolutely use those words, but that is the only inference to be drawn from his remarks. It appears to be entirely forgotten that in these matters the Commonwealth is simply the trustee for the States Governments, and that the only logical position is that the Commonwealth should employ States officials in conducting these actions.
– Before the honorable senator replies, I should like to say a word or two in regard to the general aspect of the question. No doubt the statement made just now by Senator Neild in regard to the amount paid to the Attorney-General of New South Wales was put forward upon the authority of some newspaper report.
-Col. Neild. - No ; upon the authority of the Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales.
– There has evidently been some misunderstanding. As pointed out by Senator Matheson, it is evident that the Commonwealth must have some one to carry on its legal business. At the present time it is ‘thought that it would be inexpedient to go to the expense of establishing a Crown Solicitor’s department for the whole Commonwealth. No doubt such a department will have to be established later on ; but until we know what the extent of the business will be, and how that business will be conducted and administered, we think it is much better to make use of the services of the Crown Solicitors in the different States, and to pay them for the time occupied by them in attending to Commonwealth business.
-Col. Neild. - Quite right.
-Col. Gould. - Is the fee paid to the officer or to the State ?
– To the SolicitorGeneral in New South Wales, but I presume it will go to the State, because the State Government employs the SolicitorGeneral and pays him a salary. I think it will be recognised that the general arrangement is a very sensible one, and that, at the same time, it is the most economical that could be adopted at the present time. No doubt cases are arising now, and probably there will be more in the future, in. which the interests of the States and the interests of the Commonwealth will be diametrically opposed to each other. In those cases other arrangements will have to be made until the
Commonwealth has a department of its own to carry on its legal work. The Crown Solicitor of New South Wales retained the services of the Attorney-General of the State, at the suggestion of the Commonwealth Government, as being one of the ablest counsel at the bar in New South Wales, and as one possessing a particularly good knowledge of federal constitutional law. We think we have employed the very best counsel that could be obtained for conducting the general legal business of the Commonwealth in New South Wales ; and for the services which he renders specially to the Commonwealth as counsel, the Attorney-General of that State is paid as any other counsel is paid. I find that the total payments for the year to the Government of New South Wales will be something like £300. By way of interjection, I mentioned just now a’ sum of £1,000, which I thought at the time was the total amount that had been paid to the Crown Solicitor. As a matter of fact, there has been no such amount paid. The sum paid is something like £300, and all that the Attorney-General, Mr. Wise, has received by way of fees is something like £67. As to Hannah’s case, I will only say that although the Postmaster-General gave every facility possible under the law for the trial of the case against him, as representing the Commonwealth, it must not be supposed for one moment that there has been any admission of liability on the part of the Federal Government. As a matter of fact, the case really involves a very important consideration which must arise, probably in many different forms, as time goes on. Where you have in a street electric power under the control of the State as to one set of wires, and under the control of the Government as to another set, and an accident happens, the question of who is responsible must arise. That question will be raised in this case. It is one of those cases in which the utmost care must be taken by the Commonwealth Government to see that it is made liable only for that for which it is reasonably liable, while, at the same time, it makes every endeavour to have the case fairly and properly put before the court. I hope that when the Bill passes to which reference has been made - and I trust it will be passed in a few days - the plaintiff will be in a position to have his case properly tried, and its merits properly investigated.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (In reply).The remarks made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council seem to throw some doubt upon one portion of my statement. I hold in my hand the Sydney Morning Herald’s report of the speech made last week by the Attorney-General of New South Wales in the Legislative Council of that State. In that report Mr. Wise is represented as having stated that -
The income of this State for the work would be about £ 1,000 for the year.
I did not say that £1,000 had already been paid. I spoke of £1,000 per an mim, and I am sure that the Hansard report will show that I made no allegation as to £1,000 or any other sum having been paid. I said also that the sura which the Attorney-General of New South Wales received was paid to him as counsel for the Commonwealth, and not as Attorney-General, and my honorable and learned friend plainly enough points out that, in the event of a conflict of State interests with Commonwealth interests, some other barrister would have to be employed. I have abundant evidence in the reports of the discussion of the case in both Chambers of the New South Wales Legislature that the matter is as stated by the Postmaster-General. I am sure that the indignation sought to be raised in opposition to what I have said - as if I had made a statement reflecting upon Senator Drake - is only spurious. I have said from the first what I said in a letter to the Vice-President of the Executive Council on Monday last, that personally I do not blame the Postmaster-General.
– Hear, hear. .
– My honorable and learned friend assents to that statement, and it seems most preposterous that my honorable and would-be learned friend, Senator Matheson-
– My indignation was not spurious.
.- Then it was unfortunate for the promoter of the indignation, because it was based upon false premises. I am sure the PostmasterGeneral does not consider that anything I have said this afternoon reflects upon him in the slightest .degree. I assert that the Attorney-General of New South Wales was authorized to act in the matter, and I have stated and re-stated that in my opinion the Postmaster-General did everything in his power to enable the case to be brought before the court. But, unfortunately, the counsel appearing for the Attorney-General - Mr. Garland - raised the question of jurisdiction in court. It is unfortunate that the plaintiff was induced to come into court, for it is plainly stated by his representatives that if the point as to jurisdiction had been taken in the pleadings he would not have gone on ; he would have recognised the futility of doing so. The point was not taken in the pleadings ; the plaintiff went into court, and the moment thecase was opened Mr. Garland raised the question of jurisdiction. The Judge raised a second question of jurisdiction, and the unfortunate plaintiff was double-banked. He was sat upon by counsel for the PostmasterGeneral, and the unfortunate part of the case is that the reports of the discussion go to show that this point was taken without authority. I do not believe for one moment that the Postmaster-General, having led the man on to trial, would have been guilty of directing that the point should be raised. The point was taken, however, and the unfortunate man, after being nearly killed, and having his horse destroyed and his cab smashed, finds himself in the position of an unsuccessful suitor. I think that in these circumstances every right-minded man will have a large element of sympathy for the plaintiff. The Postmaster-General has not given the assurance which I hoped he would have given, that the Commonwealth Government will not ask for costs against the man in view of the failure of his action. I hope it is not yet too late for my honorable and learned friend to give that assurance, because it would be only fair to refrain from making such a demand.
I beg leave to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator DRAKE laid upon the table
Estimates of revenue and expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1903; and Estimates of expenditure for arrears of the period ended 30th June, 1902.
asked the Postmaster General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1.No. Accumulated leave of absence is granted to Commonwealth Civil servants in Western Australia, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Act of that State.
asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to obtain this session an expression of opinion from Parliament as to the best half-dozen suggested federal capital sites, so that the fullest information may be obtained regarding them, to enable Parliament to select the site next session ?
– The following motion has been tabled in the House of Representatives by the Minister for Home Affairs : -
That, withaview to obtain necessary information that will enable the Parliament of the Commonwealth to select a site for the seat of Government, a committee of experts be appointed to examine and report upon sitesin the following localities : - Albury, Bombala, Lake George, Orange,Tumut, in relation to - Accessibility, Building Materials, Climate, Drainage, Physical Conditions and Soil, Water Supply with Rainfall, General Suitability, and such other salient matters as may be approved by the Honorable the Minister for Home Affairs. Such report to be submitted to the Federal Government by or before the 30th of April next.
– Will a similar motion be moved in the Senate?
– I cannot say that at present.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council,upon notice - 1 Referring tothe published statement of revenue collected under the Federal Tariff from the 9th
October to 30th June - how much of the ±’95,313 deducted from “drawbacks and repayments” arise under the Federal Tariff ? 2 Is not the total net revenue due to the Federal Tariff during the period named larger than stated by the amount of the “ drawbacks and repayments” arising under the State Tariff?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
What are approximately the average quantities of the various articles which are being delivered frets of duty to the tobacco manufacturers - as referred to in the. question answered on the 28th August - per month for the whole Commonwealth, or, if this cannot be given, for the two States of New South Wales aud Victoria, or for one of them ?
– The monthly average for the Commonwealth is estimated as follows : -
Sugar, 19,884 lbs. ; Liquorice, 21,706 lbs.; Glucose, 2,240 lbs.; Glycerine, 17,342 lbs.; Gum Arabic, 303 lbs. ; Block juice, 181 lbs. ; Essential oils, 42 gals. ; Flavouring essences, 32 gals. ; Tags, 2 tons; Starch, 200 lbs.; Cigarette papers, £171 value; Spices, 5,003 lbs. ; Vaseline, 18 lbs.; Dry ingredients, .146 lbs.; Spirits, 1,2S0£ gals. Tasmania has as yet no tobacco factories. It should be remembered that the extra weight given to the tobacco by the use of these goods is included in the weight for excise duty.
Resolved (on motion by Senator Drake) -
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would permit of the Supply Bill (No. 12) being passed through all its stages during the same sitting of the Senate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill for supply for September and October, but honorable senators will notice that the amount asked for is really to cover four months, because it covers the two previous months of July and August. It will be remembered that, owing to the peculiar circumstances of last year, it became necessary to ask for supply for the first two months of the financial year 1902-3 before the Estimates for that year were prepared. Those Estimates are now prepared and have been laid upon the table of both Houses, and in this Bill we ure asking Parliament to re-enact the votes for supply for July and August, in order that the interim Supply Bill may refer to the Estimates as’ now framed. Several requests have been made during the session that the Estimates should be framed upon some uniform plan, so that they might be more easily understood, and the financial affairs of the different States more easily compared. That has been carried out in the Estimates now submitted in a manner which I hope will give general satisfaction. We are now asking the Senate to vote supply for the two months just passed, and for this and next month, the total amount being £1,365,597.
– We are being asked to vote money twice ? .
– The honorable senator will see that the 4th clause of the Bill repeals the last interim Supply Bill in order that the whole amount required for the four months of the current financial year may be voted upon the basis of the present Estimates.
– The Bill now introduced is a Supply Bill for the year 1902-3, at the third month of which we have now arrived. The Commonwealth has passed through a half-year, it has passed through a full year, and it has now entered upon a third fiscal period, but up to this date the Government have never yet presented to the Senate an opportunity of entering upon a general discussion of the financial affairs of the Commonwealth.
– We had the Tariff, as the honorable senator knows.
– I know we have had the Tariff, and I know that when the Tariff was introduced into the other House it was accompanied by a financial statement made by the Treasurer. But when1 the Tariff was introduced here there was no financial statement made, and although we have arrived now at the twentieth month of the life of the Commonwealth we have had no financial statement presented to the Senate, and no opportunity has been given to enable us to discuss the financial affairs of the Commonwealth as a whole. We are now asked to vote a supply of money to cover the expenses for the 19th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd months of the existence of the Commonwealth, notwithstanding the fact that we have never yet had the Estimates for the preceding period placed before us, except so far as they have arrived piecemeal in these Supply Bills which have been submitted .more or less monthly. This does not appear to me to be quite the way in which the Government should treat the Senate. I hope that shortly, and at all events before the session closes, we shall have the Estimates for the year placed before us. I suppose there is very little use in debating the Estimates for the long period which has already elapsed, but we ought to be put in a position to consider the expenditure of the Commonwealth as a whole, and to express opinions as to matters of very grave importance. The question of loans, for instance, is one which is worthy of considerable attention, and which should be considered upon broad grounds. In this connexion there is one matter which I have in my mind, and which I think worthy of close attention. We know that the British Government is able to obtain money at a lower rate of interest than any of the British colonies, and it appears to me that there is no way in which the power and unity of the Empire can be better shown than by the outlying portions of the Empire having the advantage of the financial strength of the Empire. That is to say, the British Government might very materially strengthen Australia and other parts of the Empire by guaranteeing our loans.
– Guaranteeing our loans t
– Yes ; guaranteeing our loans. That is a suggestion that could not be earned into effect, except with very grave consideration, and under clearly and closely defined conditions. There would be very grave objection to anything of the sort being carried out in any loose way. But when we notice the staggering effect upon Australia of the millions of interest that have now to be paid, honorable senators must see that if any alleviation of that burden could be secured it would be a very great boon to Australia. This is a matter of importance and one worthy of being considered in detail. Then there is another matter which I think the Senate might consider closely. The PostmasterGeneral has to make a great many contracts, and the Defence department has also to make many contracts. We ought to watch the way in which those contracts are made, and we ought to see that they are on a thoroughly business-like footing, and that, so far as possible, they are removed from all political influence, and that for the money which it pays the Commonwealth shall get the fullest value possible. These are some few of the matters which might be mentioned, and, which, in my judgment make it desirable that we should, at an early date, have a general discussion upon the whole of the financial matters affecting the Government of theCommonwealth. I do not propose at this stage to delay the second reading of this Bill. But when we have the Estimates in chief before us, I hope there will be opportunity given for a general discussion upon them.
– I do not know that it is our special duty to go into old discussions upon various matters, but I point out to the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat that the discussion of one of the questions which he has mentioned - that of the Imperial Government guaranteeing our loans - would be a great waste of time. To discuss the other question relating generally to loans would also be a waste of time. That would include the question of whether it would be wise for us to borrow money to carry but public works, or dip into the Customs revenue, and so prevent the States getting as much as they otherwise would from that revenue, and thus put them into great financial difficulty. Surely the honorable senator does not imagine that the Imperial Government would be so foolish as to guarantee our loans unless they had some, voice in deciding what the loans should be raised for? To suggest that they would give us power to raise loans at our own sweet will, and that they would be willing to guarantee them under those conditions, is utterly preposterous. The honorable senator might, perhaps, bring forward a motion proposing that we should become again a Crown colony, in which the Imperial Government would have some voice as to what our loans should be raised for, and what works should be carried out with the money. If that were done, they might be expected to guarantee our loans, but they certainly would not do so under any other circumstances. But they certainly will not do it under any other circumstances, and therefore it is only a waste of time. What is the good of our debating questions of finance, when undoubtedly an opportunity will be afforded to us to discuss those questions- in a constitutional way ? In the Senate we cannot introduce any legislation relating to finance. All such legislation must originate in the other House, and when a Loan Bill is sent up by that House will be our time to discuss the question of whether it is wise to borrow money. What is the use of wasting our breath and our time until that opportunity is given ? Until a Loan Bill is sent up, I think we might as well hold our tongues.
– Is the honorable senator content with nothing but Supply Bills ?
– I do not know what else we can get. The honorable senator wishes to discuss everything connected with finance. Although I do not mean to say that the Senate should not exercise its constitutional power to discuss all matters connected with finance, I do not think that it should take the initiative except in the case of some question which an honorable senator may think of vital importance enough to bring forward on a special motion. If we are to go through the Estimates of Expenditure in precisely the same way as we went through the Tariff, we shall never be able to get on with the business of the Commonwealth. There is not the slightest necessity for us to adopt that course. Although we have full power to make any suggestions in respect to an Appropriation Bill, still I think we should be very chary about exercising that power, and so doing the work of the other House over again, unless, of course, there is some very strong reason for dissenting from any action taken by that House. It would be a foolish waste of time on’ our part to deal with the Estimates in that way. It would be a great deal better if it were stated in each Bill for how long the supply was intended to run. We cannot tell from this Bill how manY months’ supply it covers. In all the Supply Bills which I brought in, the period was stated, and therefore every one knew for how many months the money was being voted. From this Bill we only know that the money is to be voted for the financial year ending 30th June, 1903. We do not know how many months’ supply we are voting, except from the statement made by Senator Drake that it covers the months of July, August, September, and
October. I have not had an opportunity of going through the Bill, but I submit that the information which is contained in the schedule is of very little use to the Senate. Under the head of war vessels we have an item of £950 for salaries. We do not know whom the money is to be paid to, unless we take the trouble of looking np the previous Estimates. If the schedule merely stated that the Defence department wanted a sum of £10,000, and that the department of External Affairs desired a sum of £11,500, it would be quite sufficient for our purpose. We can gain little or no information from the schedule in its present form, for it merely states that the contingencies are so much and the salaries so much. It involves a lot of printing, and for the purpose of supplying information to the Senate it is practically worthless.
– I offer my congratulations to the Minister on one matter in this Bill. On several occasions I spoke very strongly and rather’ bitterly about large sums being voted nominally for salaries to volunteer regiments, whereas they were really contingencies. We now find that while £1,000 is being voted for contingencies to each regiment, there is only £30 voted foi- salaries, as it should be. I am very glad that that correction has been made, because it is only an act of common justice, and it is putting the business on a proper basis. But in view of the complaints which are made about the size of our printing bill, in view of the .drastic proposals which have been submitted to each House for lessening the cost of printing, I protest against the absolute waste of money in printing 40 odd pages of matter in this Supply Bill, when a couple of pages would have sufficed for everything which was required. The Bill itself occupies one page. The succeeding pages are filled with an abstract. I do not wish to make out that these things are better done in New South Wales, but just let me describe how Supply Bills are framed there.
– May I remind the honorable senator that when the first Supply Bill came up without a schedule the Senate refused to consider it.
– In one respect I suppose I stand corrected, but still that does not alter in any way what I am going to say. At that time we had no votes before us, but since then we have had twelve months’ votes ; and all we require to do in this Supply Bill is to vote a third of the amount of last year’s grant, and then, if you like, to show in n schedule any additional amounts which may be required. It is absolutely needless to print page after page of matter when the items involved represent simply a third of last year’s expenditure.
– But that would not satisfy Senator Pulsford.
– It satisfied Senator Pulsford in New South Wales, and I think it would satisfy him here. AVe have the Estimates in chief to refer to, and instead of having over 40 pages of printed matter in a Supply Bill, two or three would suffice.
– The honorable senator would not have known that the correction had been made which he desired.
– I admit that, but I do not think that even that, although it is a question of consequence, warrants the cost of printing 40 pages of matter.
– There may be a dozen other things like that.
– In several remarks Senator Neild has anticipated what I intended to say. I agree with Senator Playford as to the necessity of altering the form of the Supply Bill so as to show that it is intended to cover the services for a specific period, and then, in order to meet cases where the money had not been paid within the period, of requiring an adjustment to be made on or before the end of the current financial year. To a large extent I concur in the remarks which have been made about the schedule. It will be remembered that the first Supply Bill contained no schedule, but we were aware that a schedule had been circulated with the Bill for the information of the members of the other House, and that an attempt was being made to treat the Senate in the same way as the Legislative Council of a State. The Senate took a stand which was recognised as a correct one by the other House, and subsequently each Supply Bill was sent up ‘ with a schedule. But if the Estimates in chief had been dealt with, and certain salaries had been approved, the Supply Bill could very easily refer to the Estimates which had been passed, and indicate that the supply was based on the rates fixed in the Estimates for the previous year, subject to any deductions which might be made by Parliament in the Estimates of Expenditure for the current year. If that course were adopted it would get over the difficulty very speedily, and by reference to the Estimates in chief we could ascertain how the salaries, or the contingencies, which we are now asked to vote in a lump sum were made up. I think that if Senator Drake would bring this matter under the notice of the Treasurer, it would be the means of saving time in each House. Until Estimates in chief had been voted and passed by the Authority of Parliament, it was almost impossible to adopt this course. Senator Pulsford has spoken of the desirability, in order to save interest, of devising some means by which the Imperial Government could guarantee our loans. I hope that the day will never come when this Parliament will seek such assistance at the hands of the Imperial Government. These States, above all things, pride themselves on their right to legislate for themselves, and whenever they deem it advisable to go into the world’s market to raise a loan. If we introduced a system under which it would be necessary for us to say to the Imperial authorities, “We wish you to guarantee our loans in order that we may save a little interest,” then good-bye to that independence of spirit which has always been evinced, and, I trust, ever will be evinced by the Parliaments of these great self-governing States. If, for the sake of argument, we could save - per cent, or 1 per cent, interest by the introduction of that system, the saving would be very dearly bought. I hope that honorable senators, including Senator Pulsford, will see that such a scheme is not only impracticable, but undesirable. It was pointed out by Senator Playford in his speech that it would be necessary for the Imperial authorities to approve of the object for which the money was sought to be borrowed. Surely we are not going to come down to that ? While there may be a desire to economize, the money saved on such terms would be saved at the cost of the independence and of the best interests of the Commonwealth. I desire to refer to a reply which Senator O’Connor gave this afternoon to a question about the selection of the federal ‘ capital site. He read the terms of a motion which is to be submitted to the other House authorizing steps to be taken to make full inquiries with regard to certain sites, and in reply to an interjected question of mine he said he was not prepared to say whether the Seriate would be given an opportunity of discussing a similar motion. It has the same right to be consulted upon a question of this character as has the House of Representatives. I hope that the course of action taken will be to submit a motion similar in character to both Houses. I assume that the Government will realize the fact that it is desirable to consult the Senate with regard to the sites. Even if the Senate were absolutely in accord with the suggestion of the Government, we should always bear in mind that it is open to the other House, as it is open to the Senate, to suggest additional sites or the omission of suggested sites. I take it that it is probable that neither House will attempt to set itself in opposition to the other Chamber in regard to places that it might be considered desirable to investigate. It is, of course, desirable that we should confine the inquiry as far as we possibly can so as not to take in very unlikely spots, and should devote our time’ and consideration to the most likely places. But there is a feeling - and there has been for a long time past - that there is a desire on the part of certain people to delay the selection of the federal capital site. Some of ‘ the newspapers here have pointed out that it might be a. desirable thing, instead of selecting a federal capital, to have the capital alternating between Sydney and Melbourne during periods of five or ten years, as the case might be. But that is not a desirable course to adopt. As we are pledged to have a federal capital selected, we should select it at the earliest possible date. As this provision exists in our Constitution, it is only a fair and reasonable thing that it should be carried out in its integrity. I cannot fail to recollect that a gentleman occupying a very distinguished position in this State devoted a portion of a speech on one occasion to the contention that the money that would be expended upon the federal capital might be betterexpended upon irrigation and works of that sort. Although no notice was taken of the remark at the time, it struck me that it was an extraordinary incursion into the realms of politics on the part of a gentleman occupying the position of Lieutenant-Governor of a State for the time being. I regarded the remark as indicating the feeling that seems to exist in the minds of many people in regard to carrying out the provisions of the Constitution with any degree of expedition. I hope it will be realized that the question is one that must be dealt with speedily and determinedly, and that before the next session of the Parliament comes to an end it will be definitely decided where the federal capital is to be fixed. I realize that there has been a mass of business to be done, which has cast upon the Government a heavy task during these earlier stages of the federation, and which has rendered it impossible for them to deal with every matter of importance. I am prepared to believe that the Government have an honest desire to see this matter carried out with a reasonable amount of expedition, and that they will not give any opportunity for people to cavil at their want of action. I hope they will give an opportunity for the matter to be determined in the best interests of the Commonwealth. There are other matters in connexion with supply and the appropriation of money that might very well be debated, and there are several matters which I am desirous of discussing at some length. But I realize . that we shall soon have an opportunity upon the Estimates in chief and the Appropriation Bill of dealing with those matters, and that it may be more appropriate and save the time of the Senate to defer further remarks until then.
– Of course we as a Senate refuse to recognise that we act by any analogy with any Legislative Councils or Houses of Assembly. We allege that we possess as near to co-ordinate rights as the Constitution can give us ; and we have insisted upon the items being printed in the manner in which the items have been printed in the Bill now before us. In doing that, we only properly asserted ourselves. An ordinary Legislature passes its Supply Bills with reference to previous Appropriation Acts. We have not passed an Appropriation Act yet. We have passed nothing but Supply Bills, and until we have passed an Appropriation Act there is nothing to refer back to, even if the analogy existed with the course of action common in Houses of Assembly and Legislative Councils. An ordinary Supply Bill in a Lower House of Assembly does not contain any items. It refers to the provisions of Appropriation Acts, and to nothing else. Of course the Legislative Councils do not get the items, I because they are not in the Bills which the.
Lower Houses pass. But here we have a Supply Bill, having no relation to any Appropriation Act. The other House, as a matter of course, had the items before it, and they having the items, we insist on everything being before us. We have insisted on that before, and should do so again. I do not think there is any waste of money in having the details printed.
– The absurd drawbacks of Supply Bills are accentuated in regard to the Supply Bills we have dealt with recently, and are more particularly evident in the Supply Bill we have now before us. In this case the Bill contains items which are dealt with in the Estimates. In some cases the whole sum that is to be voted is dealt with in this Supply Bill. Yet we are perfectly well aware that this Bill was passed through another place in about five minutes without any debate whatever. These items are gone, and, as far as I can judge from the remarks of previous speakers in the Senate, any debate upon them is deprecated. I want to appeal to the Senate as to the position in which we are placed. We are simply helpless in regard to controlling the expenditure of this Government. The Government spend exactly what they like, bring their Supply Bills before us, inserting in some cases the full amount which appears upon the Estimates ; and yet we are asked to pass these Bills in about five minutes. I must say that I consider it a mere waste of time to bring the Supply Bills before us at all. It is merely turning representative government into a farce. I shall not take up time now in dealing with the items to which I refer, but when we get the Appropriation Bill before us I shall call attention to them. I hope that the Senate will then see that the matter is carefully considered. Certainly I regard it as a perfect farce that we should consider that under present circumstances we are properly controlling the expenses of the Commonwealth.
Senator DRAKE (In reply) - I only rise to say that I have taken a careful note of the remarks made by honorable .senators with regard to the form of the Bill. I think that we have certainly erred on the right side with regard to these Supply Bills, and particularly in regard to the Bill now before us, because, as this is the first Bill under the new Estimates, there are strong reasons for the details being attached to the measure. With regard to stating the actual period, it seems to me that if we are going to make a provision of the kind suggested, it would simply amount to giving details in a Supply Bill which would be of very little use to honorable senators. If we were to ask for Supply only for certain specified months, and at the end of that period payments were to lapse, it would simply mean that we should have to set out that the payments were, say, for July, August, September, and October, instead of the Minister explaining that the amount asked for was the sum which it was estimated would be required for that period. The suggestion of Senator Pulsford was an interesting one, and can be discussed at the proper time ; though I think the Senate would probably come to the conclusion that it would not be desirable to adopt it. Senator Gould has referred to the question of the capital site. I think that whatever he may have heard or read, he cannot allege against the Commonwealth Government any slackness in this matter. Taking into consideration the enormous amount of work that has devolved upon them, it must be admitted that they have done all that could be done up to the present time in the way of dealing with that matter. The honorable and learned senator would do well not to countenance any censure against the Government on this ground until he sees good reasons for it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 (Issue and application of £1,365,597).
– I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral what is the idea of the Government with regard to the suggestion made by Senator Playford and myself, about making provision showing that this money is to be for the service of the first four months of the present’ year, and to be subject to any reductions that might be made upon the Estimates for the current year1!
– I do not think there is any point in what the honorable and learned senator has said. I do not see any advantage in accepting the suggestion. Honorable senators will see that this is an advance on account which we are .asking for. If honorable senators will turn to the Estimates they will see that the total is £3,699,011 transferred expenditure, and £308,956 “other” expenditure, making a total of £4,007,967. So that all we are asking for now is something less than onethird of the total, seeing that the amount is for four months’ supply. What advantage would there be in putting in the Bill that the supply was only for four months, <md then making a proviso to the effect that supposing that the money was not spent in those four months, it might be spent at any time up to the 30th June, 1903?
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - At the present time I am not going to take upon myself the responsibility of moving a request in the direction I have indicated, if the Postmaster-General himself is not prepared to do so, because I do not desire to throw any obstacle in the way of the speedy passage of the measure. It is certainly worth considering whether it would not be well, in order to get over the objection, to embody a provision of this kind in any other Supply Bill to be submitted to us.
– I will speak to the Treasurer on the subject, so that if it is considered that any advantage would be gained from the adoption of the course proposed, that course may be followed in the future. It is perfectly clear, however, that no practical advantage could be derived from it.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2, 3, and 4, agreed to.
– I wish to call the attention of the committee to subdivision No. 1, of Division 22, Department of Home Affairs, where under the heading of “ other expenditure,” provision is made for a further expenditure of £2,500 on works and buildings. It represents part of the outlay upon the Sydney offices of the Commonwealth, to which reference has already been made. I do not propose to take up the time of the committee at any length, but T desire again to register my protest against the way in which money is. being poured out upon these offices. If honorable senators turn to the Estimates, they will find that provision is made for a further expenditure of £1,050 upon the offices in Macquarie-street, Sydney, during the current year. When in Sydney recently I, in company with Senator Charleston, availed myself of an opportunity to go over the offices, and I wish that other honorable senators had followed my example. An inspection instantly reveals the fact that money has been poured out like water upon furniture and decorations. The PostmasterGeneral smiles, but I should like to know whether he has ever been in the building ?
– Yes, I have been all over it.
– There is an apartment on the ground floor for the VicePresident of the Executive Council, and it is most simply furnished. Not a word can be said against it.
– He is one of ourselves.
– Yes ; and presumedly his tastes do npt run in the direction taken by those of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs. I wish simply to state facts, and do not desire to be led into making comments. On the first floor a large apartment occupying the whole front *of the building, and having two windows opening on to a balcony, is set apart for the Prime Minister. It is furnished in a way to which I take exception. We found there, among other things, four tall china pedestals, one on each side of the mantelpiece, and on each side of the book-case. Upon each of these pedestals there was a large china bowl, while there were two others upon the top of the book-case. The furniture was of the most extravagant and expensive kind. It was made of heavy, carved walnut or mahogany - I cannot say which - while on the walls there was a large number of extravagant prints of artistic subjects.
– Quite proper, I hope.
– Eminently proper, but quite out of place in the business office of a Minister. We saw, over the mantelpiece, a very fine mirror, consisting of heavy glass, encased in a finelycarved frame, .and covered again with heavy china vases. The impression conveyed to my mind, upon entering the apartment, was that it was the drawing-room of the queen of a theatre, or some very fanciful actress, and that the furnishings were absolutely out of .place in a business office. Nothing could be more extravagant than the way in which money has been poured out upon this apartment. What is the necessity for the expensive china bowls ?
– Perhaps they were presented to the Prime Minister.
– That is nonsense People do not present Ministers with china bowls. The bowls must have cost £2 each, and they would be cheap at that price. They are extremely handsome, but there is no necessity for them in the office of a Minister. On the same floor we also saw a room for the Prime Minister’s secretary, about which I have nothing to say. At the back there were two large rooms containing eight large solid mahogany desks for the use of clerks. We have been told that the Government have no intention of taking the Prime Minister’s staff to Sydney and what can be the necessity for these magnificent desks? We found exactly the same state of affairs on the second floor, where the Minister for Home Affairs is located, save that there were fewer bowls in his apartment. I am not certain, but I think we saw four bowls, and two china pedestals there. No business person setting up an office for himself in a business-like way ‘would dream of furnishing it with the things provided in these offices, and provided simply because they are paid for out of the money of the country. I know that it would be useless to move any request in regard to this item, but I feel that I should be lacking in my duty to the Commonwealth if I did not protest most strongly against the passion which these Ministers seem to have for giving wholesale orders. I do not say that the Minister directs all these things to be supplied. He gives a wholesale order to some furnishing firm to decorate the rooms. No restriction is imposed, and there is no regard for that economy which he would exercise in furnishing his own private office.
– Probably the Minister knows nothing about it.
– It is of that I. complain. I complain of the reckless and extravagant way in which money has been poured out, not only upon the department ‘ I have mentioned, but probably upon other ‘ departments, and for which the country : has to pay.
– I have had an opporttunity of going over the offices mentioned ! by Senator Matheson since the matter was lust discussed here, and I must confess that ‘ I did not consider the furniture and fittings were so elaborate as the honorable senator seems to think. I am glad to hear that he is quite satisfied with the simple fittings of the room occupied by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. His complaint i amounts only to this : That he found some little attempt at ornamentation in the way i of china vases in the room set apart for the I Prime Minister. Surely that is a very : small matter. There is always a certain j amount of decoration in the way of pictures, statues, and so forth, in the rooms furnished j for the States Ministers. I have seen them here and in the State offices of New South Wales.
– They are certainly not to be found in the Postmaster-General’s office.
– I. was trembling while the honorable senator was speaking. I thought my turn was coming next, for I believe that there is a china bowl, with a flower pot in it, placed in my office to gratify my aesthetic instincts. .But I think that the honorable senator is pushing the matter a little too far. No very great harm ca,n come to the Constitution or to the Commonwealth by allowing the rooms occupied by Ministers to be decorated to a certain extent.
– I wish to know whether the item “ Conveyance of Members of Parliament and others, £8,000 “ in the division relating to the department for Home Affairs, refers to the choosing of the site for the federal capital ?
– No ; it relates 011I3- to the conveyance of members to and from Parliament House and their homes.
– I should like to refer to the item immediately before that mentioned by Senator Walker, namely - “Expenses in connexion with choosing the site of the capital of the Commonwealth, £1,000.” There should be some expression of opinion by the committee as to the right of the Senate to have put before it the motion to be introduced in another place in regard to the selection of the site for the federal capital. I think we have an equal right to express our views upon such a matter. It would probably save a great deal of heart burning and local trouble if the Parliament were simply to direct that the Colonial Office be requested to send out a commission to report, if not to select a site.
– What has the Colonial Office in England to do with the matter ?
– Nothing, unless it is asked to take action. I believe that the capital of Canada was selected in that way.
– But the selection of that capital was left to the Queen in Council.
– I think it might be arranged in the way I have suggested. We might ask the Home Government to send out a commission either to select the capital or to choose two or three sites from which the Parliament could make a final selection.
– The Home authorities were allowed to select the Canadian capital, because of a dispute between the provinces.
– Disputes might occur between different districts in New South Wales, and they would be seized upon as causes of delay. There should be no further delay in determining upon the site of the capital. Some honorable senators do not seem to approve of my suggestion, but by adopting it we should certainly not give up our rights. We should only use our advantages to obtain a settlement of this very important question in the speediest way, and in a way which I think would be free from the possible trouble that may arise if the site be selected in the manner now proposed. At all events, I hope that the committee will insist upon the motion in regard to the federal capital sites being brought before the Senate as well as before another place.
– Notice was given only late last night in the other House of the motion which has been spoken of, and it really has not yet been taken into consideration.” ‘ With regard to the other matter mentioned, of referring this question to the Colonial Office, I think it would be very unwise to ask for any assistance in this matter from outside. The duty is cast upon this Parliament, and I think it is quite capable, with the material it has in the Commonwealth of Australia, of making a wise decision.
– I think honorable senators from New South Wales should take a broader view of this question, and should not be continually worrying the Senate about so trumpery a matter. Let them settle the question amongst themselves. There have been about twenty different sites suggested in New South Wales, and I should like to ask Senator Gould whether he would care to settle the differences between Orange and Albury, or Bombala and Yass. Let the honorable and learned senator try it and see how the people of New South Wales will meet him. The matter will work itself out in a proper way if it is only left alone. This continual worrying about the capital site is perfectly puerile. Every week we get some notice of a question upon the subject, and it is suggested that some grave injustice is being done to the grand old State of New South Wales because this matter is not settled. As to the proposal that the selection of the site should be referred to the Colonial Office, does Senator Pulsford really think that the people in the Colonial Office are such arrant fools as to accept such a responsibility ? Such a proposal would be objected to by all sections of the people. I can assure Senator Gould that, in Victoria, we do not treat this matter as one of vital importance. Honorable senators should bear in mind that the State of Victoria has subscribed something like £50,000, and has given up its own Parliament House for the convenience of members of the Commonwealth Parliament. Something should be allowed on that score. I have never heard the people of Victoria complain of that outlay of £50,000, and I should not have mentioned it had I not been so disgusted at the way in which this question is being continually brought before the Senate. Personally I should be glad if the people of New South Wales could take charge of the whole thing, and settle it at once, that we might have no more bother about it.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - We so seldom hear Senator Zeal that honorable senators will probably be grateful to me for having succeeded in bringing him to his feet, and extracting from him the few breezy sentences we have just heard. The mention of the federal capital seems to be something like a red rag to a bull to the honorable senator. I have risen again to point out that Senator Drake did not answer roy question with regard to the motion referred to; though the honorable and learned senator said that the matter had only been brought up in the other House last night, he did not say whether or not the motion would be placed before us.
– I cannot say off-hand ; I must consult my colleagues.
– The honorable and learned senator might give us some information upon the point. He might at least say that in his opinion the motion should be brought before the Senate.
– Senator Pulsford has drawn Senator Zeal by his suggestion that we should seek the intervention of the Home authorities in selecting the federal capital site. I do not suppose that the Federal Parliament is going to admit that it is incapable of determining a question of that kind. From my recent remarks upon the question of getting a guarantee from the Imperial authorities for our loans, it will be seen that I would not be in favour of Senator Pulsford’s idea of seeking outside intervention in the selection of the capital site. We know that in the case of Canada, under the Constitution, the Queen in Council was authorized to select the site. There was some difficulty between the great States there in the matter of the selection of the capital site, and there were manifest reasons, by legislation and otherwise, for the step taken in the case of Canada. But under our Constitution the whole power of selecting the site is left with us, and I am entirely at one with honorable senators who believe that this is a responsibility which we have no right even to dream of shirking for one moment. Senator Zeal has told us that he is disgusted, sick, and tired of hearing so much about the federal capital. The honorable senator has reminded us of the fact that the State of Victoria has given the Federal Parliament this magnificent building for our occupation during the time the Parliament may be sitting in Melbourne. I
Am sure that we all recognise that the State of Victoria has treated the Commonwealth Parliament very handsomely by the way in which it has made provision for their accommodation. I should be very sorry to belittle what has been done by the State of Victoria in this respect. At the same time, I am not blind to the fact that there is a desire on the part of- some parsons to delay the selection of the capital site.
– Who are they 1
.- Senator Zeal is one of them. Did not the honorable senator say just now that the question should be left alone and it would right itself, and that there is no hurry about it ? I say that very many of ‘ the people of New South Wales think that Parliament has been remiss, that there is a strong inclination on’ the part of certain members of the Federal Parliament itself to delay the selection of the site, and also that there is a widespread desire amongst people outside to delay the selection.
– From what did they draw that conclusion ?
– By reading the newspapers, and the remarks made from time to time by some members of the Federal Parliament. The honorable senator will find that the subject is mentioned in a leading article in the Melbourne Argus of this morning. One honorable senator wrote to the newspapers seriously suggesting that the matter should be allowed * to remain in abeyance, and that the honours should be divided between Sydney and Melbourne. I should be very glad to see that feeling allayed. The matter is one of considerable moment, and the question should certainly be settled with as little delay as possible.
– We hear a good deal of the federal capital site from time to time, and I can quite understand the anxiety of the representatives of New South Wales upon the subject. But as a Queenslander, and a neighbour of New South Wales, I may be permitted to say that they are a little too exacting in the matter. Senator Gould has said that the Government have been extremely remiss in regard to the selection of the site.
– I did not say they had been remiss. I said I believed the Government were honest in their desire to establish the federal capital as. early as possible; but that with such a large amount of business before them they could not have been expected to deal with everything at once.
– I am very pleased to hear these qualifying remarks from the honorable and learned senator, because I gathered from him that he complained of remissness on the part of the Government in not having dealt with the matter earlier. Taking into account the amount of work done by the Parliament and by the Government since the 9th May, 1901, there is no room for complaint of laxity on the part of the Government in the selection of the capital site. It must be remembered also that in that time members of the House of Representatives, as well as of the Senate, have visited various sites in New South Wales, and will be prepared, as the result of their inspection, to give their decision when the matter comes up forconsideration. Under the circumstances, I think, the Government have done remarkably well in meeting the claims of the people of New SouthWales in regard to the selection of the site. I think it is right that I should say on behalf of honorable senators representing Victoria that I have never yet heard one of them raise any strong objection to the selection of the site, or attempt to thwart honorable senators who desire its early selection. The people and Government of Victoria have behaved most handsomely to the members of the Federal Parliament in providing and equipping this Parliament House as they. have done for their accommodation. They have incurred an expenditure of £50,000 or £60,000 in providing accommodation for the State Parliament at the Exhibition-building. Under these circumstances we ought to feel grateful to them for providing us with these beautiful buildings. The Constitution distinctly provides that the capital shall be established in New South Wales, and, so far as I am concerned, there shall be no repudiation of that. But representatives from New South Wales ought to be a little patient. ‘ They have exhibited an impetuosity and childishness unworthy of large-minded men coming from a big State like New South Wales. They should be patient, and they should be practical. They should consider what we are capable of doing within ‘ a limited time, and what we are capable of doing with the means at our disposal, because, after all, that is the grave point. In constantly asking questions, throwingout innuendoes, andsuggesting that there has been remissness on the part of the Government and the Federal Parliament, they are driving the coach at. too rapid a rate, and may drive it against a stone wall. We have had a report from Mr. Oliver, supplemented by splendid maps, and two parliamentary visits of inspection. Surely there ought to be enough evidence available now without sending out experts to make further inquiries. Senator Zeal very wisely said that the people of New SouthWales ought to come to an agreement among themselves as to a site. There is continual contention among the various districts as to the site to be chosen. All the trouble is due to the rivalry in that State. It might be better for these sections to agree to settle the question by putting a few tickets into a hat. New South Wales might well allow the question to rest until the recess, when it can receive some attention from the Government. The number of sites should be reduced to two or three, and then possibly a unanimous decision might be come to as to which site is the best. I have not gone to see any site. I regret that I was unable to take part in the senatorial visit of inspection.
– The honorable senator is not impatient in the matter.
– No ; but I am content to be guided by the opinion of honorable members in both Chambers, and to place some confidence in the Government of the day, including Sir William Lyne, who, at any rate, has his eye to business, and will see that New South Wales suffers no harm. We have had a display of childish impetuosity which does not reflect great credit on the representatives of New South Wales, who should learn to exercise a little more patience. I now come to the suggestion of Senator Pulsford that we should seek the intervention of the Colonial-office - to do what? - to select the site at which the business of Parliament is to be transacted. In making that suggestion he is carrying his. imperialistic idea a little too far. The idea is really preposterous. I do not know of any persons who are less likely to form an accurate opinion on this question than are those who hail from the Colonial-office or from England. Australians, who are acquainted with the climatic conditions and understand the wants and requirements of the public, particularly in the big State of New South Wales, are far more likely to come to an equitable decision than are any persons hailing from the Colonial-office or placed under its authority. I shall be no party to any repudiation of the rights of New South Wales in this respect. The provision in the Constitution will be carried out in good season. No substantial reasons have been given for this continual nagging and these frequent complaints of delay and want of proper diligence on the part of the Government.
Senator WALKER (New South Wales). - After the interesting lecture we have had from the last speaker, as a representative of New South “Wales, I suppose I ought to sit down and to be quiet for the rest of the evening, and that is my intention in about two minutes. Had Senator Glassey been a representative of that State, and happened to live in Sydney, he would know that the people think that their representatives are not sufficiently persistent in bringing forward this question. I rose to say that the people of Victoria have treated us very handsomely. We have now had a session of sixteen months. Probably we shall continue to have long sessions until we get to the new capital. I believe that when the Parliament meets at the federal capital we shall stick to our business, and close each session within about three months. I hold that the senators from New South Wales have not been too persistent in standing up for its rights. The Senate is the States House, and it is our duty to see that the provisions of the Constitution Act are carried out as quickly as possible.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - During this discussion I have been wondering what this item of £1,000 really means. It gives rise to some very interesting reflections. I understand that the parliamentary visits of inspection are over, and under these circumstances the only conclusion I can arrive at is that it represents a sum which is going to be paid in case a motion is passed by the other House on the subject of appointing a committee of experts to inspect the sites. Senator O’Connor is unable to give us any ‘guarantee that we shall have any voice in dealing with that motion. We are now asked to vote the funds for the payment of the committee. If we recklessly pass this vote, which forms part of a larger sum of £1,500, we shall part with any right we possess to express our opinions about the appointment of the committee. Quite apart from the leverage which a suggestion to the other House that the item should not be passed would give us, it is absolutely unnecessary in this Supply Bill. The Estimates are to. be dealt with in the other House almost immediately, and the motion about which we hear is also to be dealt with almost immediately. In anticipation of the passage of that motion, is it necessary to vote this sum of £1,000 ? It cannot possibly be wanted until the Estimates have been passed. We should act very properly if we requested the other House to omit the item from the Supply Bill, so that it could be dealt with in the Estimates in due course, and concurrently, I hope, with the motion for the appointment of the committee of experts. To test the opinion of the committee, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to omit the item,. “ Department of Home Affairs : Expenses in connexion with choosing the site of the capital of the Commonwealth, .-fc’1,000.”
– This sum of £1,000 is asked for in anticipation of some expenditure being necessary in the work of selecting a capital, and it is intended, as the motion which has been tabled in another place shows, to appoint some experts to report on the qualifications of certain places. What we desire is that that work shall go on as speedily as possible, and, therefore, a vote of £1,000 out of £1,500 is asked for in this Bill.
– But you expect the Estimates to go through this month.
– We do ; but there is no reason why this money should not be voted in the Supply Bill unless honorable senators think that we should not go on with the work of selecting a site. If we are going on with that work, the money will be required, and it might just as well be voted now. The motion which has been tabled in another place may or may not be carried - probably it will be carried ; but in any case, if we are to go on with this work, there must be a certain amount of expenditure. This item has no connexion, with the visits which have been made, but it relates to certain steps which have to be taken before a site can be selected. We have had an excellent report from Mr. Oliver. A great many members of the Senate have had an opportunity of visiting the sites, and perhaps of making up their minds on the subject, but no selection can be made until we have expert evidence on the points which are mentioned in the motion -
Accessibility, building materials, climate, drainage, physical conditions, and soil ; water supply with rainfall, general suitability.
Whatever action may be taken it is absolutely necessary that there should be some funds available in order to obtain the opinion of experts on these points.
– That question did not arise in New Zealand. Three
Speakers were appointed, and they selected Wellington.
– Our Constitution contemplates something entirely different, because it provides for a transfer of the territory; and the general desire, I think, of most persons in the Commonwealth is that a site shall be selected which has not been the site of a principal town in New South Wales
– Will the Senate be asked to give its assent to the motion?
– Before giving a definite answer to the question, I should like to have an opportunity of consulting the Minister for Home Affairs. I have read the motion since Senator Pulsford spoke. It appears to me to be a motion of a perfectly harmless character, upon which the Senate might express an opinion as well as the other House. There is nothing special in that motion which would bring it more under the purview of the House of Representatives than of the Senate. But I should like the committee not to press me to give a positive answer with regard to that now.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral propose to postpone the item then ?
– Oh no: the” money will certainly have to be expended. I think that is admitted. Unless honorable senators are desirous that we should suspend this business altogether, and not go on with the work of selecting a capital, I see no reason why the money should not be voted, seeing that it must be admitted that it will be required. The particular qualifications that are enumerated in the motion are matters upon which the Senate must be informed upon good evidence before it will consent to the selection of any one of the sites. In view of the importance of the selection of a site that has those qualifications, the amount that is asked for is insignificant.
– I think it is exceedingly important that in dealing with these Supply Bills we should adopt the usual course, now that we have arrived at this stage in our history. The usual course has been not to put in a Supply Bill any new lines whatever. “A Supply Bill should be based upon the previous year’s Estimates, and in all the Parliaments of which I have any knowledge - at all events iu South Australia - such Bills contain a clause to the effect that in the meanwhile no salaries and amounts 4Z l: 2 . should be paid in excess of the payments in the previous year. It was impossible to adopt that provision when the first Supply Bills were brought before us, because there were no Estimates upon which to base the items. But the first financial year has gone by, and we should now adopt the usual practice of never placing in a Supply Bill any sum in excess of the vote for the previous year. We ought not to have these new lines here at all. A Supply Bill should contain no schedule of any sort, but should simply say in a certain clause that the Government want a certain sum of money for a certain period of time, and that no money is to be paid out of the sum Parliament votes in excess of the vote for the previous year. But in this Bill we have a new line altogether. We have something that has never been before us previously, and we have had no opportunity of considering whether it is desirable that this money should be spent at all. We are giving the Government an opportunity of spending money without having considered whether that money is to be spent well and properly. Personally, I say most unhesitatingly that I entirely disapprove of the expenditure of this money upon the object for which it is to be voted. There is not the slightest necessity for it. We have had two visits by honorable Members of Parliament to the suggested sites for the federal capital, and other visits will be paid in the future. I myself shall undoubtedly visit three or four of the most important sites before I make up my mind as to the vote I shall give. We have also had a most excellent report from Mr. Oliver, who is as good an expert as could be obtained, and who has gone fully into the questions of water supply, area, the rainfall, the qualities of the soil, the readings of the thermometer, and various other matters of importance. We have abundant information, excellently prepared maps, and everything necessary to enable us after visiting the sites ourselves to come to a conclusion as to which of them should be chosen for the capital, lt appears to me that this £1,000 will be thrown away But apart altogether from the question of whether it is a waste of money or not, I say that the item has no right to be voted upon this Bill. We should “have time to consider whether we approve of this expenditure by debating a motion similar to that which is to be moved in another place. It is not for the other House to say by a resolution that a’ certain course of action, involving the expenditure of a considerable sum of money, is a right and proper course to be taken without obtaining the consent of Parliament ; and this is npt the way to get our consent. This is altogether an irregular and improper way of getting our consent. The vote ought not to appear in this Supply Bill at all. There is no urgent necessity for it. We hope that Parliament will be prorogued before the end of October, and there is no necessity for the appointment of the experts before that time. There is no violent hurry. We expect that the Estimates will be dealt with by the other place before a month is over, and then we shall have an opportunity of considering them. There will be plenty of time during the recess, if the ‘two Houses vote the necessary money for the purpose, for the. experts to be appointed. The whole matter can be dealt with under the ordinary Appropriation Bill for the year. There is not the slightest ‘necessity for it to be dealt with under this Bill, lt is a wrong practice, and the item should be struck out. There was considerable discussion in another place last night, where it was considered to be an objectionable practice altogether to have such an item in a Supply Bill, and if was only agreed to on the understanding that no action would be taken until a motion was brought before the House, affording an opportunity of discussing the whole question. But the Government have no right to expend one halfpenny of money for this purpose, unless we give our consent. I trust that in future no new lines will be put in any Supply Bill, and that the Government will give no authority for the expenditure of money which Parliament has had no opportunity of discussing. This is a highly objectionable procedure altogether ; the line ought never to have been in the Bill, and I shall vote in favour of requesting the other House to omit it.
– If the contention of Senator Playford were sound, and we were never to ask for a vote on account until the Estimates were considered, it would mean that we should not have an opportunity of securing a vote on any new line until the Appropriation Act was passed. The Appropriation Act is generally the final Act passed right at the end of the session. But we do not propose in this instance to initiate any expenditure without the authority of Parliament. We are asking that authority now. We had an item on the last year te Estimates of £3,000 for exactly the same purpose - “ Expenditure in connexion with choosing the site of the capital of the Commonwealth.”
– For the picnics.
– I do not call them picnics. The honorable senator shows his animus by the language he employs. The terms used in this Bill are exactly the same as on the last year’s Estimates - “ Expenditure in connexion with the choosing of the site of the capital of the Commonwealth, £3,000 “ - and what we are asking for now in this Supply Bill is £1,000 on account of £1,500 expenditure in connexion with choosing the site of the capital of the Commonwealth. It is exactly the same line.
– But we know that this is a special service.
– It is quite right that I should explain where theadditional expense comes in. The £3,000 has been expended in giving opportunities to Members of Parliament to visit the sites. Now, more money will be required in order to obtain the opinions of experts with regard to those sites. But it is an expenditure of the same character. That is to say, it is devoted to the same end - to enable Parliament to make a wise decision as to which site shall be chosen. What is the difference between what is now asked for and the £3,000 under the same heading in last year’s Estimates 1 The object is exactly the same. I cannot see that the mode in which this money is asked for now is open to any of the objections that have been pressed by Senator Playford.. I think that when he made his speech in regard to the practice to which he has been accustomed, he had not in mind the fact that £3,000 was spent last 3’ear under exactly the same heading.
– For a different purpose.
– No ; for the purpose of enabling Parliament to make a selection of a capital site. There was no special resolution last year. It must be borne in mind that the Estimates have not yet been passed.
– Not for last year?
– No. A full opportunity will be given of discussing this question when the Appropriation Bill comes before us. I ask those honorable senators who ure really in earnest, and who desire that ‘this matter of the selection of the capital site shall be pushed on as quickly as possible, not to refuse to vote this £1,000 on account. If it is admitted that- the expenditure is necessary, and must be undertaken, I cannot see that there can be any objection to it.
– The Government have not asked the opinion of the Senate.
– The opinion of the Senate is being asked now. We ask for the vote of £1 ,000, and we state what it is for.
– Why should the Government, submit a specific motion in the other House 1
– If we are going on with this work of selecting the capital site, I cannot see that there can be any objection to undertaking the expenditure now asked for.
– When this question of the capital site was raised earlier in the day I said that I was not in a position to give an answer. The reason was that we had not at that time considered the procedure which should be adopted. There are two ways in which a motion may be brought before both Houses of the Parliament. Either there may be motions introduced simultaneously in both Houses - that has been done sometimes - or a motion may be introduced in one House, and, when it has been dealt with there, may be introduced into the other House. We have also adopted that practice here in connexion with some matters. At the time I was asked the question to-day it had not been decided which course of action should be adopted in this matter. Since the question was asked I have had an opportunity of discussing the matter with my colleagues, and we have determined to have the matter dealt with in the House of Representatives first of all, because this is a matter of initiating expenditure. When it is dealt with there, the motion will be introduced here, and the Senate will have precisely the same opportunity as the other House has had of dealing with the whole matter. I make this statement now, because it seems to me that, although it really does not or should not necessarily affect the mind of the Senate in dealing with the provisions of this Supply Bill, yet it is a question that has been reasonably asked, and the Senate is entitled to know what course the Government intend to take. In this case, the only question before us is whether the Senate should deal with the item now and pass it, or whether they should wait until the formal discussion has taken place,- and then pass the item. The reason why we ask the Senate to deal with the matter now is this. A great deal of work will have to be done by these experts, and the sooner they commence operations the better. If we wait’ until the Estimates are passed, three weeks may elapse before the necessary statutory authorization is granted, although possibly the delay may not be so great. Considering the delay that has necessarily taken place hitherto in carrying out the inquiries it is not unreasonable to ask the committee, especially as another place has passed this item, to expedite the voting of this money by some three weeks in order to enable these inquiries to be commenced. I heard what Senator Playford had to say as to there being no necessity for the appointment of a committee of experts, but if the honorable senator reflects as to the nature of the very admirable work done by Mr. Oliver, he will see that that proposed to be done by the committee of experts is of an entirely different character. Mr. Oliver’s work was of a general exploratory kind, and he had to sift out from the large number of sites which were submitted to him a comparative few which he deemed worthy of the serious consideration of Parliament. In doing that work, Mr. Oliver saved the Federal Parliament, as well as the expert committee to be appointed, an immensity of labour and discussion.
– His work was like a flying survey.
– Yes. If all that work had been left to the committee of experts it would have- involved a great deal of- time and of expenditure. But by narrowing down the number of sites, Mr. Oliver has done beneficial work, and done it with a great deal of skill and wisdom. The work to be done by the expert committee is of quite a different character. I think every honorable senator will admit that there can be no question in regard to which it is more important that we should make sure that we have all the information which is available. We are to choose a site for a capital for all time, and we should have all the available knowledge, and all the detailed particulars possible, in regard to the different matters mentioned here. Those details should be obtained not merely by one gentleman, no matter how varied his talents, and how great his ability, but by a committee of experts who have special knowledge, and who should be able to present Parliament with exact information upon all these matters.
– Are they all to be selected from the mother State ?
– Nothing has been done in the past which should lead the honorable senator to suppose that any such partiality will be shown. The honorable senator may take it as a guarantee of the impartiality of the committee of experts to be appointed that it will be selected from as large an area as possible. We shall get the best men available, and, if it should be found that there is a larger number of the most suitable men in. South Australia than in New South Wales - and there seems to be a plethora of talent of all kinds in South Australia - they will be taken from that State. On the other hand, my honorable friend will admit that, if it is found that there is a larger proportion in New South Wales, they may very well come from that State. The main object which my honorable colleague will have in view will be to appoint the most suitable men for the purpose, and, if consistent with that desire, a selection can be made from the different States, the desirableness of that course will be kept in view. To that extent only can I be reasonably asked to go, and to that extent only the locality from which the experts come will be considered. The necessity of having complete and accurate and expert knowledge is so important that I think it would be a very poor policy indeed to neglect the opportunity of getting this information for the sake of the expenditure which we are now asked to make. After we have selected the site, and obtained the necessary information, the measurements, and surveys, and so on, made by these experts will still be available, and no doubt will be found useful as a basis to work upon.
– One thousand pounds will not pay for all that.
– I do not say it will, and this is a matter in regard to which there should be no false economy. These inquiries will be carried out under the eye of Parliament and the criticism of the press. and the Government may fairly be trusted to keep the expenses as low as possible. For these reasons, in addition to what the PostmasterGeneral has said, I ask the committee to pass this item.
– Can the Minister say when the committee will be expected to report 1
– The motion to be tabled in another place names the 30th April next. The honorable senator will see the wisdom of fixing the period within which the report shall be made. If the matter is to be ripe foi1 the decision of Parliament next session, as we all hope it will be, there ought to be a time limit fixed.
– How many experts are to be appointed ?
– The number has not actually been fixed. I think there will be six, but I cannot give any definite information on the point.
– If there are six, £1,000 will be only a drop in the bucket, especially if surveys are to be made.
– Of course everything depends upon the kind of surveys made. If they are made with the accuracy of a geodetic survey, any amount of money may be spent, but if a feature survey, giving all the information we want, is made, the expenditure may not be anything like so large. This is a matter which must be left to a very large extent to the discretion of the Government. We have fully and frankly shown what we intend to ask for, and I think the committee will see it is reasonable that there should ‘not be any greater delay than is necessary in getting to work. When the matter comes up for discussion, the whole question of policy as to the appointment of the experts can be fully discussed, and the Senate can pronounce its opinion upon it.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - The action which I have taken has been partially successful, because it has been the means of obtaining from Senator O’Connor an undertaking that the motion in regard to the appointment of a committee of experts shall be submitted to the Senate. But behind all that there is a point of principle involved. We are asked now to vote the necessary funds to provide for a committee of experts, whose appointment has really not yet been determined upon by Parliament. ‘ We have also the fact that a motion for the appointment of the committee is to be debated almost immediately in both Houses, and that the Estimates and the Appropriation Bill, which provide for the necessary expenditure, will be before us, we hope, in the course of a fortnight. Senator Playford has set forth very clearly what is the usual practice in these cases. I do not think it is wise that we should deviate from the ordinary practice in an important matter like this, and place money at the disposal of the Government in a lavish way. I hope the committee will support my request.
– The money will not be spent unless the motion with regard to the committee of experts is carried.
– I admit that; but we should be very careful to preserve all principles intact. , Senator O’Connor spoke just now as if I had raised an objection to the expenditure. I have not done so. In submitting the motion, I said the matter ought to be discussed in the proper form, and that this item should be dealt with on the Appropriation Bill. I repeat that assertion.
Senator -O’Connor. - If it is not carried now there will be no opportunity of passing an appropriation of this amount for the next three weeks, whereas if the motion for the appointment of a committee* of experts is not carried the money will not be expended.
– I quite understand that. Probably the expenditure will not lie authorized for three weeks, but? what is three weeks out of seven months.
– It would be very useful to the honorable senator if he wished to delay matters.
– The honorable senator is foolish. I have no desire to cause delay, but I wish to see our business carried on upon a proper basis. I do not think we should go out of our way to deal with the question on this particular item. If a motion agreeing to the appointment of the committee of experts be passed by both Houses, there will be nothing to prevent the Government appointing the committee, and therefore Senator O’Connor’s argument as to delay falls to the -ground. On the other hand, if another place defers the passing of (his item, appearances will be preserved, we shall maintain a proper principle of practice, and every one will or should be perfectly satisfied.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - I wish to draw the attention of the committee to the administration of the Customs department, especially in relation to the prosecutions which are being conducted in regard to which I asked a question this afternoon, and received a reply which, in my judgment, is very unsatisfactory. The newspapers in the various States have been publishing from week to week reports of cases in which merchants have been charged with passing false entries, and in which the presiding magistrates have said that there have been nothing but clerical errors on the part of the defendants, who have been fined the minimum under the Act; and called upon to pay only the minimum court fees. I have here a newspaper, published on Friday last, containing reports of three cases such as I have referred to, which came before the stipendiary magistrate in Sydney. In each of these three cases the minimum fine of £5 was inflicted. I see that in one case Mr. Cargill, who was acting for the Minister of Customs, said - “There is absolutely no allegation that there was any intention to defraud.” When the prosecuting solicitor goes out of his way to inform the court that there is absolutely no allegation of fraud, surely it is time for Ministers to take notice of what is going on 1 This admission from the prosecuting solicitor was brought about by a statement from the bench that the merchants seemed to be “hunted like sparrows.” I have no wish to waste time in this matter, but I do very earnestly desire to press upon the attention of Ministers the importance of at once taking steps to relieve even themselves of the opprobrium which must necessarily attach to their acts. Surely they have some respect for what we call honour, and yet here they are dragging into the courts almost every day. of the week men whose honour is unimpeachable, and charging them with falsification, and we have magistrates dismissing the cases with the imposition of the minimum fine provided by the Act. That is not a state of affairs which can be allowed to go on. Only a few months ago I expressed the opinion to merchants to whom I spoke in Sydney, that were I placed in such a position and were such a charge levelled against me I should decidedly prefer to be imprisoned to paying a fine.
– The honorable senator is of the stuff of which martyrs are made.
– I hope that a few merchants will have the pluck to go to prison instead of paying the £5 fine, and then perhaps Ministers will wake up to the evil of the course they are pursuing.
– People ought to be more careful.
– I -jan tell t)he honorable senator something that occurred in New South Wales a few years ago. I had occasion to dispute some Customs returns. I inquired of the Collector of Customs in Sydney, and he replied several times that he would have the matter looked into. He did have the return looked into, and he told me that he found that a clerk had brought down £71,000 as £171,000, and this mistake of £.100,000 had been carried on from the first to the second, third, and fourth quarters of the year, and appeared iri the final total of the import of the goods in question for the year. That mistake of £100,000 was made by a Customs clerk, but I am sure that he did not suffer in his salary or his position on account of the error he made.
– His figures ‘should have been checked.
– I dare say they should ; but a gentleman who has occupied the position of Minister of Customs as Senator Playford has done must know that it is impossible for business to be conducted, and entries to be made out, without a certain proportion of errors arising. In the case to which I have referred, a merchant had paid more money than he ought to have paid as the result of a mis-description of goods involving a higher rate of duty, and in another case less had been paid as the result of a misdescription involving the payment of the lower rate of duty. The merchant was charged with falsification where the error resulted in the payment of the lower rate of duty, but nothing was said in the other case, though one mistake is as liable to be made as the other. I know of another case in Sydney where entries for goods were passed by the Customs, and the importing firm finding out after everything had been settled that an error had been made, sent word to the Customs authorities, informing them of the error and of their desire to correct it and to pay in some small amount. What did the Customs authorities do ? They levied a prosecution upon them at once. Such things are simply infamous. They might be done under the regime of the Czar of Russia or of some other despotic power, but surely men of British blood and race will not put up with them very much longer. I hope Ministers will awake to what is going on, and will have these matters rectified.
– I desire to. raise the question of the treatment of rifle clubs in Western Australia and throughout the Commonwealth. From advices received by representatives of Western Australia, it appears that different treatment is accorded to members of rifle clubs and members of other branches of the defence force. We have been given to understand that the same facilities for rifle practice are not given to members of rifle clubs as are given to the members of other branches of the defence force.
– I should think not.
– We have practically decided to have rifle clubs and to consider them part of our defence force, and that being so they should be given equal facilities for rifle practice with other members of the defence force.
– In what respect are their facilities short?
– I give the case of the Karakatta rifle range at Perth as a case in point. When members of the rifle club go to the range on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons for rifle practice they find that there is no room for them at the range. They have to stand aside for members of the defence force, who are given preference in every case.
– And who have duties cast upon them that members of rifle clubs have not.
– No effort is made by the Defence authorities to supply additional targets, and the result is that members of rifle clubs are denied facilities for practice. If the Defence department cannot afford to provide more targets they should; at least see that members of rifle clubs are given some opportunities for practice and that the existing targets are not monopolized by members of the defence force. Another grievance is that members of rifle clubs are not given the supplies of ammunition to which they are entitled by regulation in Western Australia. At Esperance a rifle club was formed some time ago. The members were promised ammunition time after time,’ but from latest advices they were still without it, though there has been plenty of time to have ammunition sent there. These men are willing to practise rifle shooting in order to be able to defend their country. They form the best class of defence we can rely upon in my opinion, and yet they are being practically denied any opportunity of becoming proficient rifle shots. I fancy that this is an evil resulting from the fact that we have professional military men at the head of our military system. It seems to me that they have not shown any cordiality towards rifle clubs, and have exhibited rather a spirit of jealousy towards them.
– That has not been my experience.
– It is the experience in Western Australia, and there is great dissatisfaction upon the subject throughout that State at the present time. Complaints are coming forward from many centres in Western Australia that members of rifle clubs are not supplied with ammunition and rifles, and are not given proper facilities for rifle practice.
– A higher price by 50 cent, is charged for ammunition in Western Australia than in any other State.
– That is also a complaint. Only last week a Mr. Sparrow, who is a member of the National Rifle Association of Western Australia, was in Victoria upon business, and he was asked by members of the association to convene a meeting of Western Australian representatives in order to lay these facts before them. Unfortunately, the particulars as to the price of ammunition and other information forwarded to him by the association had been delayed, and he was not able to give us precise information, but the position, as he put it before us, is that members of rifle clubs in Western Australia are charged 50 per cent, higher for their ammunition than members of clubs in the other States ; that “they have great difficulty in getting ammunition and rifles, and that they are denied equal facilities for rifle practice with other branches of the defence force. If the Commonwealth does not wish to encourage rille clubs let that be said plainly, but if we believe that they are essential for the defence of the country, let us give them the ammunition they require and every facility for rifle practice. I hope that some inquiry will be made into the matter by Ministers in order that these grievances, may be remedied:
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - There is an item of £3,000 under the heading Miscellaneous, in Division 177, to which I desire to call the attention of the Postmaster-General and honorable senators. If honorable senators take the trouble to turn up the Estimates which have been circulated, they will find at page 196, that this sum of £3,000 includes a sum of £1,906 for expenses in connexion with the choosing of the site of the federal capital of the Commonwealth. That is to say, expenses in connexion with the two trips of inspection that were made some time ago. So far as I can gather, this amount of £1,906 is in addition to the sum of £3,000 voted last April or March for the expense of those trips. Honorable senators will remember the discussion which took place at that time. First of all, when a sum of £2,000 came up in a Supply Bill, and we were told that £1,000 of that amount had been spent upon the senatorial trip, and that another £2,000 would be required for the trip to be made by the members of the House of Representatives, everybody considered that the vote proposed was very much larger than it ought to be. We were told at that time that there had been some amount of leakage in connexion with the trip made by honorable senators, but that matters would be very much better arranged, and economies would be effected in connexion with the trip to be made by members of the House of Representatives. But we find now that, instead of the £3,000 then voted being sufficient, there is an additional sum of £1,906 required, and that, as a matter of fact, the trips of inspection made by the members of the Federal Parliament have cost the country £5,000. I would ask honorable senators what we have to show for it 1 I do not suppose that any one has obtained more knowledge than he had when he read the reports furnished by the Government of New South Wales, and the best possible proof of that is that it is necessary to appoint a committee of experts to do certain work which ought to have been done before the trips were made. The result of this policy will be that the members of the Senate will have to inspect the sites which the experts may recommend. I know, from what I have heard, that no one in the other House has the least conception that the two trips have cost £5,000. The item appears under the head of “Miscellaneous,” and it is impossible for any honorable member to know what it refers to unless he looks up the Estimates. I know that if I move a motion for a request to amend the item it will not be carried, because there is an objection in the Chamber to requesting an alteration of an item in a Supply Bill. On several occasions a motion for that purpose has been negatived. This item might very well be referred back to the other House for further consideration, in order that the attention of its members might be called ‘to the expenditure.
– Surely the honorable senator does not suggest that the power of suggestion should be used simply to call the attention of the other House to an item ?
– I believe that it would lead to a large amount of discussion in the other House, and that its decision might be reversed. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item, “ Department of Home Affaire, Miscellaneous, £3,000, “ by £500.
I can withdraw the motion if the committee is not with me, or if any other suggestion is made.
– If I had known that this question was going to be raised, I should have taken steps to obtain all the details of the expenditure. It is not so large as Senator Matheson supposes. It is not so much as £5,000, because the total amount, as given on page 24 of the Estimates, is £4,017, and this item relates to arrears : £3,000 was put down on the Estimates, but only a portion of that sum has been spent. The vote of £1,906 which is now asked for will complete the amount.
– This is not a revote.
– To a certain extent, it is a re-vote which is necessary to meet the whole of the expenditure which was incurred on the trips. No doubt the expenditure was much more than was contemplated or intended, because it was the first time that a trip of the kind had been organized. Perhaps if we had possessed the complete knowledge which was obtained afterwards, the trips might have been conducted at less expense. As it was, the expenditure was just over £4,000 instead of £3,000, as was anticipated. This money has all been expended on the trips, and therefore I would ask Senator Matheson not to press his motion.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - In every Supply Bill it has been the practice to draw our attention to any re-votes. For instance, in this Bill, at page 27, our attention is drawn to a re- vote of £75 in the Attorney-General’s department. So far as any Member of Parliament could see, this item of £1,906 stands as a freshvote to meet arrears. But if that is not the case, the Bill is very loosely drawn. Senator Drake has said that it was the first time a trip of the kind had been organized. I would remind honorable senators that it was preceded by the senatorial trip. All the pitfalls had been revealed, and we were told that the second trip was going to be carefully handled by the Minister for Home Affairs, that the greatest economy would be exercised, and that, proportionate to the number of persons to be carried, it would cost very much less than did the senatorial trip. We find that nothing of the sort has taken place, and yet Senator Drake solemnly gets up and says that it was the first time a trip of the kind had been made, and that in future we shall benefit by the experience of the last trip. What was the benefit of the experience gained by the senatorial trip? Did that trip do any good ?
– I think it did.
– Yet we find that the expenditure based on the cost of the first trip has exceeded the estimate by nearly £2,000.
– Senator Matheson has drawn my attention to a small item of £75, which is marked as a re- vote. I am informed that the vote lapsed absolutely, and that the item is therefore marked as a re-vote. But that practice is nol adopted with regard to ordinary amounts which have been voted to pay a series of accounts. The honorable senator is wrong in saying that the estimated cost of the trips has been exceeded by £2,000. It has been exceeded by only £1,000. The amount of £4,017 includes a charge for the use of a special train - £900, I think - which has not yet been paid. It is still a question between the Treasurer and the Government of New South Wales whether we are entitled to pay that amount. It may not have to be paid : it depends upon whether the State Government insist upon being paid for the use of the special train. The expenditure on the trips was really not very much more than the estimate.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - Under the head of Department of Defence, I observe an extraordinary item of £5,731. It is an amount apparently due to Queensland on account of expenditure during the year ending 30th June, 1901. It is a contribution by three States to the defence of Thursday Island. As the Commonwealth took over the responsibility on the 1st March, it had to defray only the expenditure for three months of that year. Although the defence of Thursday Island costs £7,000 a year, yet the Commonwealth is liable in some peculiar manner to the Government of Queensland in the sum of £5,731. Apparent])’ the intention of the Commonwealth is to debit New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia with the amount. It would be most interesting if the PostmasterGeneral would explain how this arose.
– The honorable senator will see that the amount to which he has referred is what is due to Queensland for the period ended 30th June, 1901. We took over the Defence department on the 1st March, 1901. Under the Commonwealth Constitution,’ we took over the liabilities of the various States, and these amounts were owing to Queensland at the time of the transfer by the various States. New South Wales owed to Queensland £2,881 ; Victoria owed £2,484, and Western Australia £366. We took over those liabilities and made them good to Queensland.
Bill reported without requests : report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Drake) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - Before the third reading of the Bill is carried, I wish to bring under the notice of the Senate a very serious state of affairs that has arisen in the administration of the Customs Tariff. It appears that duties which stand in the Tariff at 5 per cent. are being disregarded by the Minister.
– Does the honorable senator think that that has anything to do with this Bill, which concerns the appropriation of revenue?
– I claim to be entitled to refer to it in connexion with the administration of the Customs department.
I do not know whether I am out of order or not, but I hope I am not.
– The general rule is that all debateshallberelevantto the subjectmatter of the Bill before the Senate. Inasmuch as the Senate has no opportunity of discussing general grievances, that rule has been relaxed so far as concerns the second reading of Bills which the Senate may not amend. But that relaxation of the rule does not apply any further. I think that we ought not to apply it any further. If I had applied the standing orders strictly, I should have ruled that on the second reading of a Supply Bill, no matter could be discussed unless it related to the subjectmatter of the Bill. However, as I have said, that rule has been relaxed, and honorable senators have been permitted to discuss general grievances on the motion for the second reading of a Supply Bill.
– That is the general practice.
– That is not the general practice The general practice in lower Houses of Legislature has been that, on the motion to go into Committee of Supply, general grievances may be discussed - not on the motion for the second reading of a Supply Bill. That is quite a different thing. But inasmuch as we, as a Senate, do not go into Committee of Supply, by consent of the Senate I have permitted general matters to be brought up on the motion for the second reading. I do not think, however, that that rule should be relaxed any further.
– If we are to have a ruling of that sort enforced in the Senate, it will absolutely destroy the usefulness of this Chamber so far as concerns the administration of the finances. I have had a long experience of parliamentary life myself, and in the Lower House of Legislature with which I am acquainted honorable members have a right, not only on the motion for going into Committee of Supply, but also on the motions for the second and third readings of Supply Bills, to refer to all matters, and to embrace everything that can be considered as being in the nature of a grievance. Senator Pulsford, as I take it, now contemplates alluding to the administration of the Customs department in regard to which provision is made in this Bill, in respect of salaries and the different requirements of the department.
– This Bill has nothing to do with the Tariff.
– But the Bill provides for the salaries of the officers and for the administration of the department, and therefore I submit that the department comes under review. It would only be a fair and reasonable thing to allow the honorable senator to allude to the administration of a department.
– Yes ; upon the motion for the second reading.
– I take it that the third reading is another stage on which honorable senators are allowed to urge their objections to the administration of a department affected by the Bill, and to give their reasons for what they urge. If this Chamber is to be of use in connexion with financial matters, the fullest opportunity should be permitted to honorable senators to discuss those matters on a Bill of this character. Otherwise we shall have the adjournment of the House moved day after day in order to discuss matters that could be much better discussed in connexion with such Bills as this ; or we shall have to make provision to have one day per month upon which to discuss grievances, which honorable senators may consider necessary to ventilate, in connexion with the administration of the affairs, of the country. To admit that we are not to have the fullest opportunities in connexion with these matters would be a derogation of the power of’ the Senate in questions of finance.
– Your ruling is, sir, that on the second reading only, reference may be made to matters such as Senator Pulsford is desirous of bringing forward. The practice has been to allow, in committee, reference to be made to these matters. That goes considerably beyond what you have already laid down ; and the question is whether it should not go a little further, and be extended to the third reading of Supply Bills. It appears to me that, having conceded so much, both in regard to the motion for the second reading and during the whole time a Bill is in committee, surely it is not too much to ask for the opportunity of dealing with matters of complaint upon the motion for the third reading. I quite agree with Senator Gould that, unless that is conceded to us, the exercise of the powers of the Senate in financial matters - which is, to a certain extent, surrounded with difficulty - would be made considerably more difficult. We want, instead of having our hands in any way tied, to have the fullest scope possible for dealing with matters of finance.
– I do not take quite the same view as does my honorable friend who has just sat down. We have to estimate our position by analogy with that of the other House. That is the stand that I have always understood we intended to assume and maintain. In the other House, on the motion to go into Committee of Supply, it is competent for any honorable member to ventilate any grievance he likes. But after honorable members have ‘ ventilated their grievances on the motion to go into Committee of Supply, and after the Bill has been introduced, their right to ventilate general grievances is ended, and they have to go through the Bill just as they go through any ordinary Bill.
– That has not been our practice in Victoria.
– Nor ours in New South Wales.
– It has been our practice in South Australia, and I am sure that it is the practice of the House of Commons. There they ventilate grievances on the motion to go into Committee of Supply, and when the Bill is introduced, they deal with it with just the same restrictions and limitations as apply to any other Bill which does not relate to supply at all. Any other course would be disastrous, and the progress of legislation would be hopeless. No other practice would, I am sure, be contended for in the House of Representatives. They would never contend that after a Supply Bill had been introduced the general right to ventilate grievances remained. That right is exercised once for all before the Bill is introduced, and in committee it is dealt with like any other Bill. In the Senate we do not go into Committee of Supply, and we have insisted, and intend to insist, on due opportunity being given to us to ventilate every ‘grievance in the same way as grievances are ventilated in the other House. We do that on the motion for the second reading. That is the time we ourselves selected. When we have passed the second reading of the Bill it is in the same position as in the other House, and we deal merely with the particular subjects contained in the Bill. On the motion for the third reading every honorable senator cun undoubtedly discuss every item in the Bill, and everything pertaining to every item. He can contrast items that seem to show incongruities, can point out inconsistencies between one portion of the Bill and another, and can indicate what he regards as absurdities. The powers of honorable senators are absolutely limitless in that respect ; but they must not discuss general grievances outside the scope of the Bill. The grievances discussed must all be within the four corners of the Bill. That is, I respectfully submit, the position that the Senate intended to assume, as I understand it.
– The Standing Orders Committee, of which Senator Gould is a member, in their proposed new standing orders, adopted the following rule with regard to Bills which the Senate may not amend : -
Tl,e question ‘ ‘ That this Bill be now read a first time” may be debated, and the debate need not be relevant to the subject-matter of such Bill.
That rule was provided for the specific purpose of allowing general grievances to be discussed. But to say that any grievances can be discussed at any other stage of the Bill seems to me to be going altogether too far. I do not think that Senator Pulsford is in order in discussing at this stage matters which are not relevant to the subject matter of the Bill.
– May I ask whether that ruling would extend to an honorable member desirous of discussing the administration of a department for the service of which money is provided in the Bill?
– That is the point. I do not desire, to refer to general grievances, but to grievances concerning the adminstration of the Customs department, for which items are included in the Bill.
– I am exceedingly anxious to give the Senate similar opportunities to those which the House of Representatives has of discussing every matter, but I do not think we should go further than the House of Representatives them.selves go. The question of whether honorable senators should be able to discuss the administration of a department, the salaries for which are voted in the Bill, is very difficult to answer. Under the circumstances, seeing that we have not got any definite standing orders, I think I shall allow Senator Pulsford to bring forward the matter he wishes to mention ; but I must ask him to confine his remarks as far as possible to the subject-matter of this Bill, and not deal with any other grievances.
– The matter to which I wish to direct attention is one of gravity, and I think I am warranted in bringing it before the committee. It affects the Customs administration of the Tariff, passed only a few weeks ago. I find that whilst the Tariff provides that there shall be a duty of 5 per cent, on corduroy, drills, galateas, moleskins, and denims, the Customs have decided that a duty of 15 per cent, shall be paid, and that that rate of duty is being collected at the present time.
– I submit that the honorable senator is out of order in discussing this matter.
– I wish to allow every possible latitude, and to err, if I err at all, on the side of allowing the freest possible discussion. I therefore do not feel disposed to stop the honorable senator.
– At page 12 of the Customs Tariff Act, we have under the heading of piece goods -
Velvets, velveteens, plushes, galloons, ribbons, lace, lace flouncings, millinery nets, and veilings - all kinds and materials, ad calorem, 15 per cent.
I will not trouble the committee with all the items, but merely point out that some of the duties which were passed by Parliament are now being ignored, I understand, by the Customs authorities, and that the Czar of the Custom-house, Mr. Kingston, has ruled that other duties shall be levied. People are being compelled to pay those substituted duties without having any power of redress. They have no power to appeal from the Czar of Trade and Customs, because there is no High Court. The matter is a serious one, and the traders of the country have an absolute right to have these questions decided. Just as the Minister has promised to-day that a Bill will be introduced to allow of the temporary adjustment by the States courts of claims by private citizens against the Commonwealth, so I think the Ministry should make an arrangement whereby disputes in regard to duties may be settled. The Minister for Trade and Customs should not have the power, at his own sweet will, to levy duties which are disputed at the present time. This is an important matter, and I earnestly ask the Vice-President to give it his consideration. It should be dealt with in a way that is fair to the Customs and fair to the traders of Australia.
– I expected the honorable senator to make a statement of some particular grievance.
– I have done so. My complaint is that goods which are free under the Tariff are being made liable to duties, and that goods which are liable to a duty of 5 per cent, under the Tariff, are being subjected to a duty of 15 per cent. If that is not a grievance, I do not know what is.
– That is a very general statement. It simply means that there is a difference of opinion between the importers and the Customs authorities. That is not unusual. How is the matter to be settled 1 The Customs Act provides the way. Section 167 sets forth that -
If any dispute shall arise as to the amount or rate of duty, or as to the liability of goods to duty, the owner may deposit with the Collector the amount of duty demanded, and thereupon the following consequences shall ensue : - (1). The owner upon making proper entry shall be entitled to delivery of the goods. (2). The deposit shall be deemed the proper duty, unless by action commenced by the owner against the Collector within six months after making the deposit the contrary shall be determined, in which case any excess of the deposit over the proper duty shall be refunded by the Collector to the owner with five pounds per centum per annum, interest added.
That is the provision which we made to meet cases of this kind. Why should not the persons who consider they have a grievance follow the provisions of the law ? If there is a dispute between the. Customs authorities and an importer, surely the Customs officials cannot be expected to refrain from collecting the duty in question. If they did, where would their remedy be? On the other hand, if the duty is deposited, and there is any real doubt about the question, it can be submitted to the court and decided by it.
– What court ?
– Any court.
– Surely we have a right to discuss the matter.
– The honorable and learned senator misunderstands me. I am not objecting to a discussion of the matter here. I am courting discussion, and, if I may . say so, I am thoroughly in accord with the position which the President has taken up in this matter. What I would point out is that if there be a difference between the Minister or the Customs officials and an importer as to what rate of duty should be collected - or, in other words, a difference of opinion as to the interpretation of the law - it can be settled only by a court of law. The process by which such questions are to be brought before the court is laid down. The essence of it is that the duty in dispute shall be paid in the first instance ; and if the court decides that the duty has been improperly charged a refund will be made. If, on the other hand, the court decides that the duty has been properly charged it is to be retained. What is to prevent those who think they have a grievance from taking action 1 Proceedings may be taken in any court. Perhaps the honorable senator thinks that in these matters the position is the same as in the case of an action against the Commonwealth. In these cases, however, the collector of Customs and not the Commonwealth has to be sued. The Commonwealth cannot be sued except under certain provisions of law, and in order to meet that difficulty we are introducing a Bill in another place. In. matters such as those referred to by Senator Pulsford, it is provided that the collector shall be sued. The section says -
The deposit shall be deemed the proper duty, unless by action commenced by the owner against the collector within six months after making the deposit, the contrary shall be determined.
The collector in Melbourne may be sued in Melbourne, and the collector in Sydney may be sued in Sydney.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - There can be no doubt that Senator O’Connor is absolutely correct in saying that there is power for a person feeling aggrieved in regard to any duty to have, his grievance rectified by a proper tribunal. But if there are well founded and general complaints in regard to the administration of a department, surely Parliament is the proper place in which to bring forward i those complaints. I admit that it would be hardly worth while to bring forward a single grievance, but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that, rightly or wrongly, complaints are to be heard right and left in regard to the administration of the Customs.
I therefore submit that it is dearly within the rights of every honorable” senator to bring the question up for our consideration, although a law court is the proper place in which to have the dispute determined. In these circumstances, I do not think Senator Pulsford is open to any animadversion for bringing this matter forward at the present time, although the question can be ventilated when we have the Appropriation Bill before us. No doubt it would be better to deal with it then, more especially as we know that the measure will be before us within a reasonable time. If we did not expect to receive it for another six months, the position would be different ; but in the present circumstances I think it would be well to allow the matter to stand over until the Appropriation Bill is before us.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 6. 14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 September 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020924_senate_1_12/>.